John Lilburne's journal about about Alistair Cooke and his Letter from America on the Catholic Church, the sexual abuse scandal and the Code of Canon Law.


About John Lilburne



0955 K Tue 30 Apr 2002

I have listened to quite a few of Alistair Cooke's Letters from America over the years. I have a lot of respect for him and the long term perspective he provides. I think I had a tape recording of him talking about the TV coverage of Vietnam, "this is something new under the Sun". Others I recall are about General George Marshall, Germaine Greer opposing abortion, and that Sydney would do a good job of the Olympics.

This week's talk highlights how newsworthy the Catholic Church has become. Particular when he is talking about the Code of Canon Law and of Vatican watchmen: "If they hear of a priest somewhere who wants to change the form of a mass ...".

He presents himself as an outsider and makes it clear that he is on a learning curve. I disagree with the paragraph:

So that when the Pope finally spoke, at that cardinals assembly, he first helped the bishops - the field commanders of all the parishes - by in effect saying now they have a duty to report cases of paedophilia to the civil authorities.

The Pope did not say that in the speech. He made no change on the issue of reporting. He talked of "a purification of the entire Catholic community" being urgently needed, but he was not as specific as something like: "there is mandatory reporting to civil authorities".

Alistair Cooke presents lots that incorrect and unfair in this Letter, for example:

In all this we've heard nothing, except from the Pope, of grief for the child victims.


And then we came on the realisation that the Catholic church is a law until itself, or rather is controlled by a body of law known as "canon law".

... why bishops and cardinals should be exempt from the punishment that would face any non-Catholic citizen ...

That Catholic citizens are not subject to the laws of a country is obviously ridiculous. But there is also the Code of Canon Law that applies to them.

Nevertheless it is helpful to be getting there perspective of respected and generally well informed non-Catholic on these issues.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 30 April 2002.

Other sites:

Alistair Cooke's Letter from America - The Catholic Church and child sex abuse

The Pope's speech to the US Cardinals