Monday, April 12, 2010

Pope's moral authority destroyed

As an atheist, what the Roman Catholic Church does or does not do or say amongst its own flock is of peripheral interest to me. What is of interest is when those working for it commit serious criminal offences, and the Church and by implication the Vatican State seeks to cover it up.

There can be little doubt that many people in the Roman Catholic Church are deeply concerned about the litany of cases of child abuse committed by priests. Furthermore, the extended efforts by many in the church to cover up the cases, to demand silence from the victims and then to shepherd the abusers to new flock, which naturally they abused -given the sanction for abuse was simply to be sent somewhere fresh.

To some Christians it appears a new crusade is being fought, primarily by atheists, to destroy the Church. They will see it as unfair, in that there are clergy in all churches who are abusers. Nobody suggests for a moment that the Church has a monopoly on child abusers. However, it is never a defence to a crime to point out that your neighbour commits the same crimes. Particularly when you hold yourself up as a source of moral authority, guidance and trust.

Pope Benedict XVI has spoken strongly about the incidence of child abuse, and many Catholics will have seen his recent statements as showing some contrition and interest in remedying the situation.

However, the basis upon which he can do this now looks wanting. The New York Times has found a letter signed by the then Cardinal Ratzinger. The letter is about a 38 year old priest, who tied up and abused two young. The Cardinal said that "the case needed more time and that “the good of the Universal Church” had to be considered in the final decision. In other words, he put the good of the church above prosecuting and expelling this sadistically abusive priest.

The New York Times continues...

"John S. Cummins, the former bishop of Oakland who repeatedly wrote his superiors in Rome urging that the priest be defrocked, said the Vatican in that era, after the Second Vatican Council, was especially reluctant to dismiss priests because so many were abandoning the priesthood."

Now the priest concerned had already been convicted of child abuse a few years beforehand, apparently not enough for the Church to judge someone unfit to be a priest. The Pope to be considered it a bigger priority to think of the good of the church, that it retain a recidivist sadistic child abuser as one of its own, that to remove him.

Despite the efforts of Bishop Cummins who wrote to the Cardinal in February 1982: “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.”

"Cardinal Ratzinger requested more information, which officials in the Oakland Diocese supplied in February 1982. They did not hear back from Cardinal Ratzinger until 1985, when he sent the letter in Latin suggesting that his office needed more time to evaluate the case."

More time? He already had THREE years, he had been convicted in 1978. In 1985 he started volunteering at a youth ministry.

The Pope should explain himself, explain why he thought the interests of the church itself were greater than the interests of children or indeed their parents, who trusted the church.

Given the Pope is now implicated quite seriously in engaging in the same sort of suppress and deflect behaviour that has been highlighted most recently in Ireland, does he not have some sort of moral obligation to confess his own failings?

How can anyone, objectively looking at the Roman Catholic Church, seriously believe that its leader can hold moral authority in damning those who have done what he himself has done?

How can people venerate a man who has preferred to protect the reputation of his employer than the safety of children?

1 comment:

Andrew said...

You make a very good argument indeed ... at least you would do if it were based in fact and not suspicion.

Have a look at and see what the Pope was actually writing about:

"This was not a case in which a bishop wanted to discipline his priest and the Vatican official demurred. This was not a case in which a priest remained active in ministry, and the Vatican did nothing to protect the children under his pastoral care. This was not a case in which the Vatican covered up evidence of a priest's misconduct.

"This was a case in which a priest asked to be released from his vows, and the Vatican-- which had been flooded by such requests throughout the 1970s -- wanted to consider all such cases carefully. In short, if you're looking for evidence of a sex-abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, this case is irrelevant."

venerate the guy or not ... either way let's all do it based on facts and not the sneaking suspicion that there's just got to be something dirty about the church!