Friday, March 26, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI and child abuse

It seems obvious from reading this latest news story that the current Pope, in his position as Pope and even before becoming infallible, had the primary interest of the Church in mind rather than the victims of abuse.
In other words, people as victims aren't as important as the reputation and the survival of the Church. 
Those who know their history will be aware that the Catholic Church survived the great schism when there were three popes ruling at the same time. The Catholic Church survived the upheaval of the Reformation.
The Catholic Church survived the discoveries of Galileo, the earth orbited the sun even if they did try to suppress this information. So why feel threatened by a scandal that can no longer be suppressed or hidden?
You can read the Pope's long winded speach in which he clearly puts blame on the Irish sector of the Church for the  crimes of child abuse and the failures of these authorities to do anything. The latest news item indicates the Pope himself was really behind the cover up.
 The question is this, how much longer can we go on being shocked by revelation after revelation of child abuse by clergy of the Catholic Church whilst statement after statement is released expressing sympathy, grief and dismay at what has occurred without any real attempt at disciplinary action against those involved?
Or is it the failure of the legal system to step in and put the offenders on trial for their crimes? Nobody would dare to suggest that the clergy are above and beyond the law.


A few words from Christopher Hitchens...

Almost every week, I go and debate with spokesmen of religious faith. Invariably and without exception, they inform me that without a belief in supernatural authority I would have no basis for my morality. Yet here is an ancient Christian church that deals in awful certainties when it comes to outright condemnation of sins like divorce, abortion, contraception, and homosexuality between consenting adults. For these offenses there is no forgiveness, and moral absolutism is invoked. Yet let the subject be the rape and torture of defenseless children, and at once every kind of wiggle room and excuse-making is invoked. What can one say of a church that finds so much latitude for a crime so ghastly that no morally normal person can even think of it without shuddering?
It's interesting, too, that the same church did its best to hide the rape and torture from the secular authorities, even forcing child victims (as in the disgusting case of Cardinal Sean Brady, the spiritual chieftain of the Catholics of Ireland) to sign secrecy oaths that prevented them from testifying against their rapists and torturers. Why were they so afraid of secular justice? Did they think it would be less indifferent and pliable than private priestly investigations? In that case, what is left of the shabby half-baked argument that people can't understand elementary morality without a divine warrant?
One mustn't claim all that much for secular justice either, since Cardinal Brady and many like him have neither been dismissed by the church nor prosecuted by the civil power. But this dereliction on the part of the courts and police has mainly occurred in countries or provinces—Ireland, Massachusetts, Bavaria—where the church has undue influence on the bureaucracy. When are we going to see what the parents and relatives of the devastated children want to see and need to see: a senior accomplice of the cover-up actually facing a jury?
Pope Benedict's pathetic and euphemistic letter to his "flock" in Ireland doesn't even propose that such people should lose their positions in the church. And this cowardly guardedness on his part is for a good and sufficient reason: If there was to be a serious criminal investigation, it would have to depose the pope himself. Not only did he, as Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, protect a dangerously criminal priest in his own diocese of Munich and Freising in 1980, having him sent only for "therapy" instead of having him arrested. (The question of the priest's later reassignment to assault more children, which the church continues to obfuscate, is irrelevant to the fact of Ratzinger's direct and personal involvement in the original crime.) Not content with this, Ratzinger later originated, as a cardinal and head of a major institution in Rome, a letter that effectively instructed all bishops to refuse cooperation with any inquiry into what was fast becoming a global scandal.
Eighteen of Germany's 27 Roman Catholic dioceses are now facing government investigations after a breach in what Germany's justice minister has rightly described as "a wall of silence." That wall was originally constructed by the man who now heads the church. The wall must be torn down. The fish—the ancient Christian symbol adopted by those who regard human beings as a shoal to be netted—absolutely rots from the head. I don't think the full implications of this have even begun to sink in. The supreme leader of the Roman Catholic Church is now a prima facie suspect in a criminal enterprise of the most appalling sort—and in the attempt to obstruct justice that has been part and parcel of that enterprise. He is also the political head of a state—the Vatican—that has given asylum to wanted men like the disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston. What, then, is the position when the pope decides to travel—as, for example, he intends to do on a visit to Britain later this year? Does he have immunity? Does he claim it? Should he have it? These questions demand serious answers. Meanwhile, we should register the fact that the church can find ample room in its confessionals and its palaces for those who commit the most evil offense of all. Whether prosecuted or not, they stand condemned. But prosecution must follow, or else we admit that there are men and institutions that are above and beyond our laws.


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3 comments:

beamish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
beamish said...

I remember when off-color jokes involving altar boys and child molesting priests were being whispered way back when I was in grade school in the mid 1970s and even then the jokes were much older. All humor is based in honesty and cruelty, and often cruel honesty.

It's not a new thing, this culture of sex abuse by the Catholic Church.

Jeannie said...

It's a wonder to me that the Catholic Church manages to hold on to any adherents.

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