John Allen recently published an interview with Fr. Borys Gudziak, Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Ukraine, about what the Rector believes is a new repression of freedom, especially for Catholics there, on the part of the government. The interview may be read here.
The situation sounds alarming, and we should be praying and helping the Ukrainians out of a sense of solidarity with them.
As well, however, after the interview, Mr. Allen makes a point that has needed making since the 2010 onslaught of the bigotry on the "paedophilia" and Catholic priest controversy.
Catholic bloggers are by now "arm-in-arm" in the Western world, in total agreement that the Church should always and everywhere cooperate with the state in handing over (and perhaps deposing automatically) priests accused of child-abuse. There can be no dissent from this corrected procedure, and Cardinal Ratzinger led the charge in instituting these better policies.
I don't disagree with the sentiment inspiring such agreement, but I do think it is incomplete. In countries where the justice system is not corrupt it probably works, and is therefore good, but what about a system where the government is using the justice system to repress the Church, Her teachings, or even unjustly targeting political enemies?
While far from perfect, on the whole the US criminal justice system does not appear to me to be systematically corrupt; I cannot say as much for our civil law, where tort reform is sorely needed, and is only kept intact by lawyers who profit from it greatly, and support politicians who protect it.
A policy of automatic cooperation with the justice system in a country relies very heavily on that civil justice system being "just" and not corrupt. Turning over accused clerics to the civil authorities, if it is an automatic policy of the Church in any place, can be used by a corrupted justice system as a tool in its policies of intimidation. Canon Law has known this for a very long time, and it is that concern which was in the back of the minds of men like Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos and Pope John Paul II.
This is another instance where the virtue of prudence -- especially "prudence of government" -- rarely receives the consideration it deserves. Instead, we favor adopting "general policies", which have two effects: 1) they give the appearance of being "good citizens", but 2) they give decision-makers "cover" even when they do not exercise prudence. This is not dissimilar to how government regulations have the "unintended" consequence (by whom, may I ask?) of allowing business corporations to use the "I followed all the rules" defense when something bad happens. This latter effect, I believe has a name: "positioning". Is that a synonym for "posturing"?
In this world, one must truly be careful of what he wishes for, as he may get it.