“Hello Fr. George: I had a doubt if excommunication of mafia is also extended to those co- cooperating directly or indirectly by running illicit businesses like gambling dens and bootlegging. — With prayers [Priest friend from India]”
We’ll have to see the language, which I imagine will be quite filled with legalese. As it is, more than fifty prosecutors, bishops, United Nations representatives and victims of organized crime have just tried to come up with a new legal doctrine concerning “the question of excommunication for corruption and mafia association.” “New” is right.
The novelty in this is that Pope Francis is seriously thinking of moving forward on entirely handing the Church’s own judicial processes of imposing excommunication over to the State regarding the Mafia, so that the opinion of the State as to the guilt of someone in, say, racketeering (a conviction), is what effectively imposes and declares the excommunication. Or is there to be an “administrative process” in some Vatican “Pontifical Council for the Excommunication of the Mafia” whereby the poor fellow has his State conviction rubber stamped by some Vatican office worker? What a sick joke against both justice and mercy. This seems to be insanity, real evil, putting the fox in charge of the hen house.
The State is often the enemy of the Church in various countries. What do you do if you are a kind of Henry VIII and you have a troublesome cleric like John Fisher or a troublesome Chancellor like Thomas More? Just trump up charges of racketeering and the poor fellows will be not only be convicted by the State but also excommunicated by the Church based solely on that secular conviction. It’s no longer Saint John Fisher but damned John Fisher. It’s no longer Saint Thomas More but damned Thomas More. The Church would no longer has any voice in the public square with this kind of pressure for ecclesiastics to be sycophants of the State. The U.S. Department of State is having a celebration, along with so many governments in other countries.
But there are so many insurmountable problems that I doubt Pope Francis will be successful in moving forward with this kind of legislation for State sponsored Catholic excommunication, this delegation of investigation, prosecution, conviction and sentencing to the State. If he is successful, I can only imagine the immediate wholesale convictions of racketeering followed by death sentences for church leaders in countries that are terribly annoyed with the Catholic Church (and there are many which are just that violent). And what’s the Church to do if all those church leaders are also said to be excommunicated?
Some important personal anecdotes:
(1) For quite a long time I lived in the same house as the head legal liaison between the Italian Department of Defense (Ministero della difesa) and the Holy See. He approached me with the request that I agree that he might arrange an assignment for me as pastor in a parish in Southern Italy so that he might better deal with the Mafia in that region, my anti-Mafia activities apparently being known to some. I knew exactly where he was going in the conversation and got him to admit easily enough that his purpose was to go ahead and put listening devices in my confessional box so that they might have evidence to convict whatever mafia went to confession. The Mafia do go to confession, but not with the purpose of being forgiven, but so as to shut the priest up, for the priest would then feel obliged by the seal of confession even if he otherwise heard the information outside of confession as well. This liaison was quite blunt about this, quite open, even telling me the procedures they use to set this already well established policy into practice. This happens all the time. In these USA the FBI has done this numerous times in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. I asked him what would happen if I actually did my bit as a priest and did not give the mafia guy absolution, but told him to get his wife and kids and skip the country taking nothing with him so as to get out of the mafia altogether and then get absolution elsewhere. The response was that I would, of course, be shot right through the confessional screen. Of course. I declined. He was upset as he had revealed much about the level of respect Italy has for the Church (and me): none whatsoever.
(2) A good “friend”, one of the very top anti-Mafia investigators in Italy for DIA (Direzione Investigativa Antimafia) wanted me to spy for him on who else but the Cardinals who are resident in Rome. He was offering me all sorts of favors toward this end, even putting local law enforcement at my beck and call, regardless of how long I might take them away from their duties. The thing is, I did know very well and have been in the houses and various main offices and back offices and off to the side offices of many of the Cardinals. I declined. He was upset as he had revealed much about the level of respect Italy has for the Church (and me): None whatsoever.
(3) A bishop in southern Italy, a close friend with no fear in publicly and continuously denouncing the mafia in his diocese, was threatened with death numerous times to no effect. Finally the mafia, in this case the ‘Ndrangheta, got a hold of the Pontifical Family to pass along the message that if the bishop was not moved by the next morning he would certainly be found dead. He was moved to another diocese that very night. In other words, the church revealed that it will not back up the pastoral initiatives of those who stand up against the mafia, but will just do the expedient thing, showing what respect there is for actual courage: none whatsoever.
(4) A mafia priest, a pastor in a large parish in the western region of Rome, has constant contacts with the Pontifical Family, making personal visits. He’s got many of the big political mafia bosses in his parish. They are taken care of very well by the parish, favored members of the parish. What does that say? (I did try to do something about this at one time. Response? None whatsoever that I know about.)
(5) My own case worker (let’s call him J.J. for short) in the U.S. Department of State surely has everything to do with this legal conference of Pope Francis and is likely the instigator and provider of legal language for much of it. He has everything to do with the law, with the United Nations, with the Hague, with this kind of legal maneuvering by teams for or against individuals on an international level in such manner that international relations between countries are affected. I smell a rat in all this. There is a difference between the Holy See and the Vatican, a difference which, if not protected, will bring damage to Vatican City State fairly quickly. This conflation of prosecution of the Mafia by Church and State could well be a precedent. This effort has been going on for many years in many ways also by way of powerful ecclesiastical figures who bow down to those at the United Nations and other diplomatic / legal organs… Maybe the legalese will provide a way out of this conflation. Maybe not. We will see. What are the tangible benefits? None whatsoever that I can figure out. Everything can go wrong; nothing and no one is better off with this sort of action. Quite literally this would set up the Holy See / Vatican City State for extortion by the U.S. State Department, forcing what the DoS would call “policy” decisions, or assignments of bishops, or whatever. Not a good position to be in.
(6) A little test of all this before any promulgation of any decree by Pope Francis might well be in order. What I have in mind is to […].
(7) I should mention the Archdiocese of Malta, where C.S. resides, and also the little town of Salem, New Hampshire, USA, where E.A., “thick as thieves” with C.S., is continuing to serve out his prison sentence…