Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Old habits die hard

Back in the good old days of the Middle Ages, the Roman Church had the responsibility of policing itself, which is to say that it did whatever it damned well pleased. To put it another way, the ecclesiastical authority was not subject to the temporal authority.

The list of penitent criminals from those times to today is enormous, since the punishment of choice for temporal crimes was to hie to a convent. (Crimes against the authority of the church, such as heresy, of course were another matter and could result in a proper grilling.) Once you were safely in the bosom of Holy Mother Church, the temporal authorities would leave you in peace.

But the rash of pedophilia and sex orgies in the churches, seminaries and monasteries has put the Church in the greatest conflict with the temporal authority since Henry VIII, especially in the U.S., though this may have something to do with the increased role of anti-Catholic evangelicals in the cultural life of the nation.

In any case the Church has resisted mightily this intrusion upon its authority, and if certain dioceses hadn't been forced into bankruptcy or near-to, it is doubtful that it could have been brought to heel at all. But just because it has given in on matters of prurience doesn't mean it has given in on the more respectable crimes of mass murder and genocide, especially when committed in the name of the Faith.

That may be the case of Ante Gotovina, a Croatian general. According to Molly Moore in the Washington Post, Gotovina

is accused of overseeing the murders of at least 150 Serbs and the forced expulsion of tens of thousands near the end of the 1991-95 civil war.

In Croatia, which is overwhelmingly Catholic, Gotovina is regarded by many as a hero who helped liberate the Krajina valley from largely Orthodox Serb rebels in 1995. He is the top-ranking Croat being sought by the U.N. court.

Carla del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of Balkan war crimes for the International Criminal Tribunal has, in apparent frustration with the Vatican, gone public with her charge that Gotovina has been hidden away in a Croatian monastery and that the Vatican could determine his whereabouts any time it wished. (It should be noted that the Croatian government denies that Gotovina is in Croatia, but then how would they know?)

Stephen Castle for the Independent reports that

Ms Del Ponte told The Daily Telegraph she has information that he "is hiding in a Franciscan monastery and so the Catholic Church is protecting him. I have taken this up with the Vatican and the Vatican refuses totally to co-operate with us."

The Vatican on the other hand, has insisted that del Ponte say in just which monastery Gotovina is residing. Del Ponte's position is that if she knew that, she wouldn't need to ask.

... Ms Del Ponte's spokeswoman, Florence Hartmann, said: "We are asking for full co-operation from every segment of society: the Church, the military, the politicians. Every segment of society is obliged to respect the law. No one is above the law and we are asking for co-operation from everyone."

You just can't get more feudal than that, except for the omission of the peasantry.

A Vatican spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, .... added that the chief prosecutor was trying, improperly, to use the Vatican as an enforcement tool.

A statement released in the name of the Vatican's foreign minister said that

... the secretary of state is not an office of the Holy See that can collaborate as an institution with courts.

APB: Be on the lookout for a man wearing a brown habit with hood. May have a rosary dangling from his cincture.

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