This is an organization whose members purport to take an active interest in the welfare of those who place their trust in the Roman Catholic Church, but it is clear that it is a purely self-interested group that cares far more about how it looks to the outside world than caring for those who follow it. If there are two things I would ask the pope were I allowed this, they would be these:
1. Why on earth would you lie about condoms not being an effective public health care policy in the fight to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa?
2. Why is it that it is secular institutions – and not the Church – which creates public and open inquiries into the alarmingly large number of cases of sexual abuse by priests?
To Catholics who might read this, I ask: Do you feel safe allowing priests around your children without supervision? And don’t give me the lame “Oh, but the priests at our parish would never do that”. Parents of children who were abused thought that too. And the even more lame “Only a small percentage of priests commit the crime of pedophilia” doesn’t wash either. Why put your children unnecessarily in harm’s way? Why enter a lottery you don’t want to win?
We’ve seen a pope who, while known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (archbishop of Munich), approved treatment of confessed child abuser Peter Hullerman and then simply returned him to active duty as a priest. Six years later Hullerman began a prison sentence for child molestation. A decade later, while Ratzinger was head of the Vatican office charged with investigating accusations of pedophilia (once called the Inquisition, no less), intervened in the defrocking of Lawrence Murphy who sexually assaulted 200 boys at a Wisconsin school for the deaf. Two hundred! Murphy wrote to Ratzinger pleading “I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of my priesthood.” Ratzinger, showing vastly more consideration to this monster than to its victims, complied. Murphy spent not one day in court, let alone prison, for his heinous crimes. The man who would be pope took away even the meager justice of defrocking from those Murphy assaulted. No closure for the victims yet again. Ratzinger similarly resisted defrocking California priest Stephen Kiesle, urging “as much paternal care as possible” for the sexual predator. Kiesle began serving a six-year sentence in 2004 and is a registered sex offender.
More recently, the Vatican has finally said law enforcement should be notified. “Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed,” the Vatican guidelines said. Ya think? Why did any of these bishops need to be told this in the first place?
Jeffrey Lena, the Vatican’s U.S. attorney, has argued that there was nothing in the canon law that guides the church that precluded reporting.
“It’s beyond dispute that the canon law does not mandate non-reporting,” he said. “These guidelines may help clarify that point for people who are less familiar with canon law.”
Let me say something here: When it comes to reporting crimes – especially those involving abuse! – why the fuck would anyone even consider “canon law”? Who cares? This is exactly the kind of thinking that got the Vatican into this mess in the first place! And why is it that where a physician has knowledge or or even suspects incidents of sexual or physical abuse is mandated BY LAW to notify law enforcement agencies and the clergy is not? That must change. The Church has policed itself for far too long and is completely unworthy of any trust in this matter.
And now some high-up clown in a funny hat, the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has come out to say that it is homosexuality and not celibacy that is to blame…
“Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and pedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relation between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true,” he told a news conference. “That is the problem.”
Let me get this straight… He was told this so it must be true? Told by who? What published studies can he point to which actually show a link between homosexuality and pedophilia? These people must get stoned on all that incense.
Nor is this at all relevant. I wouldn’t care if there were indeed a relationship (there’s not) between the two. This is a smoke screen. The problem lies with covering up sexual assault and not dealing properly with those committing the crimes. Heck, they coddle them. There is only one appropriate and morally justifiable action to take, and it’s nothing to do with the centuries old “how will the Church look”. The perpetrators must be brought to justice for the sake of the victims and the victims themselves aided through their pain. Defrocking is an afterthought. It’s not even a real punishment.
Robert Cornellier, whose brother was assaulted in the 70’s has some great advice. In a Canada AM interview, he said
“It’s a PR reaction because the world is reacting to what has come out in the past weeks,” he told Canada AM from Montreal. “I say to the victims, don’t go to the bishop or the clergy, go to the police, that’s the only way people can get some kind of justice”
Amen. This is particularly relevant in light of the FACT that children in Ireland who were abused were coerced into vows of silence. The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland – Cardinal Sean Brady – was present during these blatant attempts at hiding these crimes. This link has an overview of allegations of abuse and cover-up in a number of countries. The sheer magnitude of the whole thing when seen together like this makes me sick.
And now it’s the media’s fault. An interesting defence. Is it the media’s fault that priests assaulted children? No. Is it the media’s fault that the Church failed in its moral duties to bring these cases to light and willingly make restitution to the victims? No. And the pope’s weak apologies are hardly worth mentioning. Much more than an mere apology is needed. “So sorry. Too bad you are going through a rough spot. Stiff upper lip, old chap! Ta ta!” I sense nothing sincere or contrite in the pope’s apologies.
I’m not talking necessarily about financial restitution, though that should be an option. Counseling for the victims – no matter how long ago the assault occurred! – would be nice. And these should be given without resorting to legal action. Getting anything out of the Church – no matter what its representatives did to their victims – shouldn’t be like a modern-day Sisyphus story thousands of times retold.
A recent Vatican editorial says the claims were an “ignoble” attack on the Pope and there was no “cover-up”. I don’t actually believe that there was a cover-up in the sense that there was some arch-conspiracy from the get-go. I do think that there were many incidents of cover-ups resulting from a shared mindset that the image of the Church was paramount, even over the welfare of those its representatives harmed. And that is where the insidiousness of all this lies. While it may not be written down anywhere, it is a de facto doctrine that how the Church looks takes precedence rather than the welfare of its flock. This leads to poor and sometimes criminal actions aside from the sexual assaults by officers of the Church. To describe them as “well-meaning” would be misguided and can only be viewed as such from within the Church itself, not from outside. It’s just another (and ongoing) example of how religion poisons everything. But to say that the pope was not involved and didn’t share this mindset that pervades the church hierarchy is demonstrably nonsense. I urge the Vatican to get out of this damage control activity and just do right by those it wronged.