Thursday, April 8, 2010

Shooting the messenger

Is the pope beyond criticism? It's a question that bears asking after the virulent attacks by those associated with the Vatican against media and others who questioned the actions by the church and, particularly, Pope Benedict XVI in handling past incidents of child molestation by Catholic priests. Recent news reports might not provide the absolute "smoking gun" to show that Benedict was personally involved in a coverup of the sexual abuse cases, or at the very least of incompetence through inattention, but some of those guns seem very, very, very hot to the touch. The responses by those connected with the Vatican and Benedict paint a picture of some sort of anti-Catholic plot that really doesn't exist. And some of the statements defending them are ridiculous. On Tuesday, Italian Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, an official of the Holy See, claimed Benedict and the church are targets of a hate campaign, and Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz, leader of a Vatican discipline commission, says Benedict has become a target because of his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. The most unhinged remarks came from Benedict’s personal preacher, who likened criticism of the pope to the historic suffering of the Jewish people. All of these defenses seem to have the same goal: to launch a potentially chilling attack aimed at quieting those who would do no more than seek the truth in these cases while pointing out that the man holding the most powerful religious position in the world, during his years before assuming that post, might not have done all he could or, worse, deliberately looked the other way when rapes and other sex crimes were being committed against children. One would think that rank-and-file Catholics, as well as church leaders, would want answers. But very often, the response seems to be to blame those who raise the questions.

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Blogger MJ said...

Let me preface this with saying that I am Catholic.

I'm very interested in hearing whether Ratz knew about these allegations and tried to cover them up. On the other hand, he seems to be taking genuine steps to root out abuse since become pope in 2005. I realize this might not satisfy some, but there is a saying in business: What have you done for me lately.

If Pope Benedict is doing everything in his power to now fix the problem, then I think previous actions (or lack thereof) should be somewhat muted. I do not condone the abuses of priests, but hopefully our pope is taking the necessary actions to fix the problem.

April 8, 2010 at 4:56 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

If the Pope was aware of even one single incident and he did nothing about it, then he is just as guilty as the molester. It's no different than a wife letting her husband molest or physically abuse one of their children and looking the other way. Guilty is doesn't matter if he's the Pope, a parish priest, a doctor, teacher or hobo. It's wrong. There is no gray area in my book on this topic.

It's interesting to note that most die-hard Catholics don't want to discuss it. My mother, a very devout woman and dedicated Catholic, has nothing to say about this topic. She and others like her seem to think this is like talking badly about the can't do it for fear of something terrible happening to you.

April 8, 2010 at 5:54 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

I agree with priguy... I don't care how much good he's done in the past 5 years, if he committed a crime of concealment prior to that, he belongs in jail.

Do the priests that he roots out go to jail? Or do they just lose their job as priest?

If the CEO of my company covered up or otherwise facilitated my raping of children, I'd assume it wouldn't matter if he did great things for the child-rape community recently... people would be calling for his head, and rightfully so.

But he has a direct line to the sky wizard!

Then god is an ******* that protects men involved with systemic sexual abuse of children. Oh, wait... that's pretty standard, isn't it? Allah is pretty big on it, so why not Yahweh?

The dissolution of organized religion can't happen fast enough, as far as I am concerned.

April 9, 2010 at 10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off, I'm beyond believing that God rewards the just and punishes evildoers in this life. Whether there is eternal punishment ... well, no one knows and no one may ever know. So saying that God "allowed" priests or any clergy to molest children is not a valid point in my book. It's too convenient to blame God for the foibles of man, and it just more proof that man is always trying to remake God in man's own image.

The onus for failing to punish is on those men in power in any church, not just the Catholic church -- who had full knowledge of these crimes, yet "handled" the perpetrators either by transferring them to another parish or by demoting them. If the current pope or any pope knew of such abuses at any stage of his career and did nothing, he is culpable and should be punished by the penalties that would be meted out to anyone covering up child abuse.

One defense I've heard for transferring a priest accused of child abuse rather than defrocking him is that by removing him from the priesthood, the church would be removing him from the chance to do good as a priest after he "repented." Baloney.

Church heads covering up for their own isn't any different from politicians, Teamsters, football teammates or bowling buddies looking the other way when a coworker or friend does something horrid.

And I've had it with Christians of any denomination claiming that they are being "persecuted for their faith" whenever someone justly points out a situation such as this. What's right is right -- doesn't matter what faith you are. Child a molestation is wrong.

April 9, 2010 at 12:51 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Re: Anonymous- I understand your point about God "allowing" this or that to happen... but since I don't believe in God, I will point out that the God of various religions is no God I'd want to believe in based on stuff like this. It's all an extended, and exhausted fairy tale that has gotten way too much legitimate spotlight time for way too long. Religion is a construct of man, as is God.

April 9, 2010 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Speaking of smoking guns:

AP EXCLUSIVE: Future pope stalled pedophile case

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The future Pope Benedict XVI resisted pleas to defrock a California priest with a record of sexually molesting children, citing concerns including “the good of the universal church,” according to a 1985 letter bearing his signature.
The correspondence, obtained by The Associated Press, is the strongest challenge yet to the Vatican’s insistence that Benedict played no role in blocking the removal of pedophile priests during his years as head of the Catholic Church’s doctrinal watchdog office.
The letter, signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was typed in Latin and is part of years of correspondence between the Diocese of Oakland and the Vatican about the proposed defrocking of the Rev. Stephen Kiesle.
The Vatican refused to comment on the contents of the letter Friday, but a spokesman confirmed it bore Ratzinger’s signature.
“The press office doesn’t believe it is necessary to respond to every single document taken out of context regarding particular legal situations,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi said. “It is not strange that there are single documents which have Cardinal Ratzinger’s signature.”
The diocese recommended removing Kiesle (KEEZ’-lee) from the priesthood in 1981, the year Ratzinger was appointed to head the Vatican office which shared responsibility for disciplining abusive priests.
The case then languished for four years at the Vatican before Ratzinger finally wrote to Oakland Bishop John Cummins. It was two more years before Kiesle was removed.
In the November 1985 letter, Ratzinger says the arguments for removing Kiesle are of “grave significance” but added that such actions required very careful review and more time. He also urged the bishop to provide Kiesle with “as much paternal care as possible” while awaiting the decision, according to a translation for AP by Professor Thomas Habinek, chairman of the University of Southern California Classics Department.
But the future pope also noted that any decision to defrock Kiesle must take into account the “good of the universal church” and the “detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke within the community of Christ’s faithful, particularly considering the young age.” Kiesle was 38 at the time.
Kiesle had been sentenced in 1978 to three years’ probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges of lewd conduct for tying up and molesting two young boys in a San Francisco Bay area church rectory.
As his probation ended in 1981, Kiesle asked to leave the priesthood and the diocese submitted papers to Rome to defrock him.
In his earliest letter to Ratzinger, Cummins warned that returning Kiesle to ministry would cause more of a scandal than stripping him of his priestly powers.
“It is my conviction that there would be no scandal if this petition were granted and that as a matter of fact, given the nature of the case, there might be greater scandal to the community if Father Kiesle were allowed to return to the active ministry,” Cummins wrote in 1982.
While papers obtained by the AP include only one letter with Ratzinger’s signature, correspondence and internal memos from the diocese refer to a letter dated Nov. 17, 1981, from the then-cardinal to the bishop. Ratzinger was appointed to head the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith a week later.
California church officials wrote to Ratzinger at least three times to check on the status of Kiesle’s case. At one point, a Vatican official wrote to say the file may have been lost and suggested resubmitting materials.

April 9, 2010 at 2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But the future pope also noted that any decision to defrock Kiesle must take into account the “good of the universal church” and the “detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke within the community of Christ’s faithful, particularly considering the young age.”

What a crock.

Hooray for the priest who said not defrocking his brother priest would do more damage.

April 9, 2010 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

Whether one considers priests and the pope as "men of God" is irrelevant. I think that once a crime of any kind is committed, particularly one as heinous as molestation, the whole "men of God" thing becomes moot.

April 10, 2010 at 5:16 AM  

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