The Tuesday Ear Tickler award is Solemn Charge’s weekly recognition of teachers who “Tickle the Ears” of those who “no longer endure sound doctrine”. In the spirit of 2 Timothy 4 2-4, this award serves to identify theological or doctrinal errors, dissent or hostility toward the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, or writing that undermines the purpose of each human soul – to know love and serve God so as to enjoy eternal happiness with Him in Heaven. I make no judgment of the writer’s intentions. Usually the winner of this award was raised in the 60’s so that right there is a mitigating factor toward their culpability for their actions. I do judge concrete actions and the quality of ideas, however…

Today’s award goes to Thomas Fox of the hotbed of confusion known as the National catholic Reporter. Thomas comes out with guns blazing against Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura (the Church’s Supreme Court). Before we dive into Fox’s award-winning piece, let us first read some of the spot-on analysis given by Cardinal Burke (originally published at Catholic Culture with my emphasis in bold): 

The years of a lack of knowledge of the Church’s discipline and even of a presumption that such discipline was no longer fitting to the nature of the Church indeed reaped gravely harmful fruits in the Church. For example, I think of the pervasive violation of the liturgical law of the Church, of the revolution in catechesis which often rendered the teaching of the faith vacuous and confused, if not erroneous; of the breakdown of the discipline of priestly formation and priestly life, of the abandonment of the essential elements of religious life and the devastating loss of fundamental direction in many congregations of religious Sisters, Brothers and priests; of the loss of the identity of charitable, educational and healthcare institutions bearing the name of Catholic; and the failure of respect for the nature of marriage and the time-proven process for judging claims of nullity of marriage in ecclesiastical tribunals.

“From the above considerations, it should be clear that the knowledge of and respect for canonical discipline is indispensable to the Church’s response to the call to a new evangelization,” he added. “Liturgical law must enjoy the primacy among canonical norms, for it safeguards the most sacred realities in the Church.”

It seems like a pretty simple and straight-forward assertion: a culture that thinks it is not subject to the laws of the Church breeds many types of sin. It should surprise no one, however that because Burke made reference to the “Spirit of Vatican II” generation’s lack of moral compass that at least one of the writers at the Nation Catholic Reporter would respond in an emotional and dismissive manner. In order to save you from wasting 5 minutes of your life, I will present to you the key points Fox tries to make. The full version is here. Prepare the violins (my emphasis in bold):

What makes the cardinal’s seemingly inadequate analysis all the more shocking is that he holds a critical position of authority within our church. As head of our church’s highest court, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, any inability – or unwillingness – to face, examine and respond to the scandal, now over a quarter century old, only adds to the crisis and feeds an already widespread pessimism that our church leaders are not up to the task.

As is generally the case the Reporter, Fox starts off with a personal attack on Cardinal Burke, claiming that he and others in the Vatican are inept. The widespread pessimism that he refers to would not be fed by an attack like that, now would it? Reengage the violins:

To start with let’s note here the obvious: preying sexually on children violates much more than canon law. More fundamentally it violates God’s laws and every notion of decent human conduct in cultures throughout the world. As one NCR commentator recently wrote: It violates “the laws of the heart and soul, laws of human love, consensual adult expressions of that love, secular laws, criminal laws, and every other law--even if canon law never existed.”

I did not see anything to the contrary in Burke’s piece. To make this point is to create a straw-man argument which Cardinal Burke did not disagree with. That does not stop Fox from making an emotional plea and creating a position to rail against out of thin air. Fox goes on to point out that bishops would ignore the problem, sweep it under the rug and perpetuate the problem. Again, Burke would agree. That of course would be a violation of Canon Law and the due care for their flock that a bishop is tasked with. The points made are against the straw man, not Burke’s argument. Fox continues:

[Burke]… might ask how church law has allowed his fellow bishops to cover up the scandal rather than bringing to public. He might examine how church law has played a role in driving many Catholics, disaffected by the scandal, from the church.

Again – was it Church Law that caused this issue or the blatant disregard for it? Fox does not seem to have read the relevant Canon law. It appears that he is under the impression that the Church codified the cover-up in Canon Law or at least did not address it. I would like to ask him for a source on that.

I can provide some points for Mr. Fox to consider. First, it should be pointed out that a majority of the cases occurred in the 1960s, 70s and 80s (Source). 100 points to anyone who can identify a major Church event that happened just prior to these years. That’s right Vatican II. Now do you think it is a coincidence that a loosening of moral standards and an increase in priests and bishops who in the words of Frank Sinatra “did it my way” had anything to do with this? Nah, that would not make for a printable article at the good old Reporter. Second, Canon 2359§2 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which was in effect until the code was updated in 1983 stated:

If they engage in a delict against the sixth precept of the Decalogue with a minor below the age of sixteen, or engage in adultery, debauchery, bestiality, sodomy, pandering, incest with blood-relatives or affines in the first degree, they are suspended, declared infamous, and are deprived of any office, benefice, dignity, responsibility, if they have such, whatsoever, and in more serious cases they are to be deposed.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law states in canon 1395 §2:

A cleric who in another way has committed an offence against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, if the delict was committed by force or threats or publicly or with a minor below the age of sixteen years, is to be punished with just penalties, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state if the case so warrants

Furthermore, in the motu proprio Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela, (2001), John Paul II established that violations of the sixth commandment against minors are a grave crime and subject to the investigation of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith. So I ask Mr. Fox, what basis do you have for asserting that Canon Law permits the abuse of children and the concealment of that abuse?

I hereby award Thomas Fox with the Tuesday Ear Tickler Award for Tuesday, September 4, 2012.