A Followup on the Pope Protest

I’ve got a brief question for Julian Baggini, William Oddie, and everyone else – atheist or theist – who’s bemoaned the lively protests of Pope Benedict’s visit to the U.K.:

Do you believe the pope is not guilty of helping to protect child abusers (and if so, how do you respond to this evidence) – or do you simply believe that, because he’s the pope, he should be immune from any consequences for his actions?

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Nathaniel

    While of course the whole child molestation thing is bad and all, think of the delicate Christian sensibilities we are offending. Why, if we keep speaking up, they could think of us as… meanie head atheists! We can’t have that.

  • David Anderson

    Nathaniel
    I have read your comment several tines and I can´t work out if you´re serious or trying to be funny. If you are being funny, I´m obviously not clever enough to see the humour. If you are serious, you need to do some more thinking.

  • http://www.martiananthropologist.com Martian Anthropologist

    But… but… don’t you UNNERSTAND??!!?? He’s the “man of God”! Much like when King David sinned with Bathsheba and killed her husband, we cannot criticize or choose to stop following God’s leader on Earth just because of a few brats who don’t like being raped and abused. It doesn’t matter if God’s leaders do wrong… they are chosen by Jesus!

  • Katie M

    @David-I think he’s being funny. At least, I hope so-it made me laugh :)

  • Nathaniel

    Of course I am serious! Nothing is more important than making sure people aren’t offended. Especially when it comes to children! Christian children are already have a hard enough time with jerk headed angry atheists like you criticizing their deep seated belief drilled by their parents. Not like the Catholic church. They know how to take care of their children.

  • http://bridgingschisms.org Eshu

    Regarding William Oddie, I concur completely. But as regards Julian Baggini’s comments, I can only think that you heard he was an “accommodationist” and laid into him without even bothering to read his post, because he made his position quite clear:

    I certainly thought the charge sheet against the pope was a robust one. He is guilty as charged on his opposition to condoms, abortion and equal right for homosexuals, and on the lamentable response to the child-abuse scandal. But it does not follow from the fact that you feel strongly about something and have a right to speak about it, that you therefore should always make as much noise as possible.

    For my own part, I thing that the last thing we want is it to turn into an “Us and Them” situation.

    Whatever we do there’s a danger the media will try to turn out message into “We hate religion”. Tedious though it is, I think we need to spend a lot of effort making clear what exactly we have a problem with. I.e. Freedom of religion is a good thing, but NOT at the expense of the rights of children, women, homosexuals, etc.

    When the “We hate religion” minority jump on the bandwagon and are in danger of turning the whole thing into a divisive publicity failure, I can understand Baggini’s reluctance to join in.

  • javaman

    I bet that when Ratzinger dies the church will nominate this sick bastard for sainthood, I got a great idea ,how about, Ratzinger being the patron saint for sexually abused and raped child ?

  • Zietlos

    Facetious is the word, I think, though I may have spelled it wrong. :)

    He is clearly NOT guilty, after all, only one who is without sin can become pope. Hence, the pope must be without sin. Therefore, he has never done and never will do wrong. Right?

    Simple logic! America is a Xian nation. The pope leads large numbers of Xians. The pope supports pedos. Therefore, America supports pedos.

    Simple logic. :)

  • elfstone

    But it does not follow from the fact that you feel strongly about something and have a right to speak about it, that you therefore should always make as much noise as possible.

    Oh… so does it follow that you should make as much as noise as possible sometimes? Which times would those be? Is there some kind of measurement… like you can make much noise about genocide but slightly less about child abuse?
    Those columnists are just irrelevant cry-babies…

  • http://www.kurmujjin.com kurmujjin

    Act with integrity, act from center and say what you feel you need to say.

    I think it is good for the Pope to see the protests.

    Abusing children is just wrong. Protecting the institution at the expense of those abused children is just as wrong.

  • http://orandat.wordpress.com Orandat

    @javaman “I bet that when Ratzinger dies the church will nominate this sick bastard for sainthood, I got a great idea ,how about, Ratzinger being the patron saint for sexually abused and raped child ?”

    I think you have it backwards. He should be the patron saint for child rapists. They would pray to him for protection from the authorities.

  • bbk

    Eshu, I have sat here for 10 minutes trying to make sense of what you wrote. Any way I look at it, your comment is damning to your position. We have nothing to be ashamed of. If someone has a problem with these protests sounding atheistic, they’re more than welcome to gather up some theists to protest even louder and harder. The way I see it is that if the media wants to paint the protesters as god haters, then it only serves to make religion look even worse.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Hi Eshu,

    I don’t think I’ve mischaracterized Baggini’s stance at all. He clearly says that he thinks the pope is guilty of serious evils. Yet he also said that he was against the protests (“it does not follow from the fact that you feel strongly about something… that you therefore should always make as much noise as possible”). He refused even to sign a letter expressing his objections formally. This post is an invitation to him to explain that.

  • http://www.kurmujjin.com kurmujjin

    Ebonmuse,

    Have you sent anything via email to either of the two authors? They might not read the blog. A direct invitation might get them to comment here.

    For my part, I think Baggini’s stance is against the “johnny-pile” concept. The NFL ruled against piling on as unnecessary roughness and penalizes the practice now. There was a time when “johnny-piles” were fairly common. Players got hurt.

    That said, acting in accordance with belief is important, integrity is important.

    I think the adverse consequences that Baggini anticipates might have more to do with the tenor of the protest than the content. There is much to be said for civility.

  • paradoctor

    I think the reasoning is not that the Church is innocent, but that it’s “too big to fail”. Why court chaos?

    It’s a kind of temporal NIMBY. The too-big-to-fail RCC will cause a huge mess when it crashes… so don’t help it crash, yet.

  • TommyP

    The protests made me very happy. I wish they could always do such wonderful protests.

  • http://www.process.org doug mesner

    “When the “We hate religion” minority jump on the bandwagon and are in danger of turning the whole thing into a divisive publicity failure, I can understand Baggini’s reluctance to join in.”
    Disgusting. Because we don’t believe in the superstition we should not comment on the real crime of child abuse? We should give a pass on their vile crimes for fear of “publicity failure”?? I think you have it exactly backward. Who could trust somebody who would protest the superstition, but not the child raping? Not me. Those protesting the protests have really lost all credibility.

  • Dan L.

    As far as making apologies for Baggini goes, I’d love to see him look a child abuse victim in the eyes and tell that person he or she is “piling on.”

    If Baggini thinks the pope is guilty (which he said), then it’s hard to see why he wouldn’t condemn the pope unless, as Ebon Muse mentioned, he thinks the pope should be automatically immune to those moral and legal strictures to which most of the rest of us are subject.

  • me

    That link doesn’t point to evidence, but mostly hearsay. I find it much more plausible to believe that the people involved thought they were doing the best they could given the situation, and just happened to be misguided and poorly educated on the issue. The Boy Scouts have the same problems from the past, back when an acceptable solution was to ‘not talk about it’. The fact remains that the rate of priests abusing children is far lower than even public school teachers. I am not trying to defend them or the way it was handled, just pointing out that there are ‘fundamentalists’ on both sides of this unwilling to admit the weakness of their stances.

    The idea that one has to be ‘without sin’ to be pope is totally absurd. Perhaps, just perhaps he was trying to do the best he could to protect ‘the church’ however misguided that was. This does not make him a criminal, nor does it invalidate protests however.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    I think you just summed up the argument in as concise a form as possible.

  • suzabelle

    My perspective has been hewn and pruned through 38 years as an
    employee of a large, well established, politically moderate, organized
    “Christian Religion.” Christain clergy people scare the beejeebers out
    me. I am terrified to ever step foot inside of a “Christian” place of
    worship. I have witnessed, first hand, “Christian” clergy people
    committ horrendous atrosities against the very ones they were supposed
    to be “shepherding.” I don’t believe their actions were illegal, but
    most definitely sick, demented, spiteful, hateful, and evil.

    1.To Me: you stated “The idea that one has to be ‘without sin’
    to be pope is totally absurd. Perhaps, just perhaps he
    was trying to do the best he could to protect ‘the church’
    however misguided that was. This does not make him a criminal,
    nor does it invalidate protests however.”

    Not reporting the crime does indeed make him complicite and therefore
    guilty of child abuse himself. (gotta wonder is the guy isn’t an
    abuser himself.)

    2. To whomever stated something in regard to having a pope that did
    not die in office: The traditional way for the Catholic Church to
    handle getting rid of a sitting pope is insider asassination. Then a
    coverup to make it look like natural causes. If the pope suddenly dies
    in the next few years, I will know in my heart that is what happened.

    Suzabelle

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    The fact remains that the rate of priests abusing children is far lower than even public school teachers. I am not trying to defend them or the way it was handled, just pointing out that there are ‘fundamentalists’ on both sides of this unwilling to admit the weakness of their stances.

    Nice try. What we object to is the cover-ups the shuttling priests around to facilitate them raping and abusing more children and all the other immoral actions revolving around this, that apparently go to the highest levels of an organization that has the gall to claim that it has some sort of moral authority.

    Perhaps, just perhaps he was trying to do the best he could to protect ‘the church’ however misguided that was. This does not make him a criminal, nor does it invalidate protests however.

    Yes, he placed the church in front of morality and the parishioners that were being abused, which is neither moral nor legal in this case. Why do you think that protecting the church is somehow a good thing as you seem to imply?

  • http://steve.mikexstudios.com themann1086

    Shockingly, covering up a crime is a crime. Who’d a thunk it?

  • http://pandasthumb.org RBH

    “me” wrote

    The fact remains that the rate of priests abusing children is far lower than even public school teachers.

    Can you point to evidence for this claim? And to go a bit further, to any evidence regarding repeat offenders? A significant part of the criticism of the Pope is that church policy under his direction hid the offenders from civil authorities and condoned, if not encouraged, the transfer of offenders to new assignments with no information to protect the children in those new assignments, thereby enabling repeat offenses as a direct consequence of Ratzinger’s policy.

  • Jim Speiser

    Let’s get some perspective here. One of the abusers that came to Ratzo’s direct attention was this McCarthy pond scum. This guy raped(!) 200(!!) deaf(!!!) BOYS (!!!!!…) Try as I might, I cannot think of anything more fiendish, with the possible exception of some aspects of the holocaust. If I were a Roman Catholic office holder, and this came to my attention, my first reaction (after falling to my knees and sobbing in genuine grief) would be to wonder if the Church were under attack from the Devil himself. I would seriously consider this a possible demonic manifestation, and I would be terrified that the Holy Roman Church was in great danger. Yes, I would move to protect the Church, alright…but I wouldn’t do so by trying to sweep it under the rug. Instead, I’d be on the phone to His Holiness, urging him to purge the Church of this Satanic influence by (1) immediately defrocking this monster, and (2) going public to expose the danger. By NOT doing so, by instead ignoring the problem, Ratzo implicitly declared that the Roman Catholic Church condones serial homosexual rape of disabled children. How is that “protecting his church”? And how is it “piling on” to point to this and say that it stinks to high heaven (pun intended)? And what difference does it make that I am an atheist saying so, when I would have the same reaction if I were a theist?

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Bottom line: those who claim moral ascendancy ought to practice moral leadership.

  • stag

    Well, the challenge has been set…

    The evidence amassed in the link amounts to these simple allegations (the rest is just padding, such as quoting put-out-to-pasture liberal theologians with an axe to grind, or criticizing the practices of local bishops who undeniably did mishandle sex abuse cases):

    1)”For over 25 years, Ratzinger was personally in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the part of the Vatican responsible for enforcing Catholic canonical law across the world, including on sexual abuse.”
    2)The case of Fr Hullermann
    3)The case of Fr Kiesle
    4)The case of Fr Murphy

    I respond as follows. Pope-critics, quite high by now on moral indignation, might not have the presence of mind to weigh the evidence objectively. Nevertheless I offer it in hope.

    1) While he did head up the congregation for the doctrine of the faith for about 25 years, responsibility for child abuse cases was only devolved to the said congregation in 2001 – Ratzinger only had about 5 years of responsibility for this, rather than the alleged 25. It SHOULD go without saying of course (sadly it does not) that the bishops had to first refer the case to the congregation for Ratzinger to be able to act. His record in this work is unblemished (Evidence to the contrary? Innocent until proven guilty?). He is best remembered for devising a form for bishops to complete every time an allegation was made – a simple procedure that would probably have prevented the delay in cases like Fr Murphy’s.

    2) Hullermann was accused in 1980. Ratzinger removed him immediately from active ministry and sent him to see a therapist, treatment that was considered potentially effective 30 years ago. He did not immediately go to the police, a decision I would agree to be imprudent, given what we know now, but hardly a tell-tale sign of malicious villainry… perhaps more of naive “mercy”. Anyway, He was appointed to Rome in 1982. Seven months later, Fr Hullermann was re-introduced to active ministry, against the advice of the counselor. So there is an incident of real, callous negligence on the part of the Church authorities here. Unfortunately for pope-bashers the world over, it was not the work of Ratzinger. Too bad!

    3) Kiesle was in fact defrocked 2 years after the correspondence took place. This delay, while certainly lamentable, was typical of the Church’s response to child sex abuse cases: too slow, too ponderous. But think about it: if it was a case of protecting or “covering” for child abusers, would Kiesle have been defrocked at all? If that were so, would it have happened before the s*** hit the fan in the media, and all hell broke loose? All Ratzinger expresses in the letter is a desire to consider all the options. Too slow, too slow!, we might insist; yes, but hardly the zenith of wickedness. (They take time in the secular world too, incidentally, where Kiesle had nine whole years of freedom between molesting in 1995 and a criminal conviction in 2004. Is this also a “cover-up”?) Let us note, finally, and most importantly of all, that Ratzinger was NOT ACTUALLY IN CHARGE of defrocking priests at the time, since the CDF only assumed that authority in 2001. In this case, I do think the current pope did not perhaps express the urgency we might want to see. But it’s hardly jaw-droppingly wicked. It would be, maybe, if his delay was prolonging the endangerment of children. But it was not. This was purely about an ecclesiastical penalty, which in the event was (eventually) imposed. If this is the best evidence the prosecution can muster, it must be getting desperate.

    4) The Fr Murphy was a case of shocking incompetence both from civil and ecclesial authorities. But Ratzinger is only connected to the case by the most tenuous of links. Murphy was nearing death when he heard of the case. He could no longer harm children, having also already been suspended. There was thus no imminent child protection issue. It was decided, quite sensibly, that rather than initiate the painful process of laicization – painful not for Fr Murphy but for the boys who would be required as witnesses – to simply let Fr Murphy die, which he did, not “years later” as the linked article lies, but two months later. The most astonishing thing in the reporting of this case (it was outed in the New York Times) is that the journalists responsible never bothered to contact the presiding judge in the case, Fr Thomas Brundage, about what actually happened. Call me a killjoy, but I prefer facts to sensationalism.

    So there you have it. I consider the concrete “evidence” provided by the link thoroughly rebutted. No doubt I will be accused of being partisan, and valuing the party line over little children. But that is hardly fair. Why do the facts always have to agree with your prejudice?
    I concede, as I have already, that the pope may be accused of naivety in Munich, and perhaps, perhaps, reproached for complacency in the Kiesle case (which, to reiterate, as far as Ratzinger’s role went, was not about child protection). However, this is not the same as criminality, nor malice, nor base hypocrisy. You have not proven him guilty. He is therefore innocent for the time being.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    I’m not going to reply to every single point you’ve raised, stag, but there are several things you’ve said which are factually inaccurate:

    Ratzinger removed him immediately from active ministry and sent him to see a therapist, treatment that was considered potentially effective 30 years ago… Anyway, He was appointed to Rome in 1982. Seven months later, Fr Hullermann was re-introduced to active ministry, against the advice of the counselor.

    This is false. Hullermann was assigned to therapy, it’s true – but he was allowed to resume his pastoral duties not seven months, but five days later. A subordinate of Ratzinger’s, Gerhard Gruber, was responsible for this decision, and we know that he copied Ratzinger on the memo saying so. Ratzinger didn’t countermand this decision, so either he agreed with it, or he ignored the memo. If the former, he is culpable. If the latter, he’s still culpable, because how could it possibly excuse him to say that he didn’t care enough to follow up on what had become of a known pedophile under his jurisdiction? Hullermann went on to molest more children, which could have been prevented if Ratzinger had reported him to the police as he should have originally done.

    Kiesle was in fact defrocked 2 years after the correspondence took place. This delay, while certainly lamentable, was typical of the Church’s response to child sex abuse cases: too slow, too ponderous.

    What you don’t mention here is that Ratzinger ignored, for four years, multiple letters from the diocese pleading with him to defrock Kiesle. And when he finally did deign to write back, he said that proceedings had to be slow in order to safeguard “the good of the Universal Church” and that any action had to be considered carefully in light of “the young age of the petitioner” – which is a reference to the pedophile priest, not his victims. Evidently, he was more concerned about hanging into a young priest in the rapidly graying ranks of the priesthood, rather than stopping him from raping any more children.

    As for “too slow, too ponderous”, let me cite another example that shows the cause of the delay wasn’t just church bureaucracy: in 2006, when a Zambian archbishop defied the Vatican’s rule on celibacy and ordained four married men as priests, Ratzinger laicized him six days later. Again – less than a week to respond to someone breaking the rule about priestly celibacy; over four years to even begin considering action against a child molester. I think this stands as a clear example of the church’s priorities.

    It was decided, quite sensibly, that rather than initiate the painful process of laicization – painful not for Fr Murphy but for the boys who would be required as witnesses – to simply let Fr Murphy die…

    Yes, clearly the church was motivated by a desire to spare children further suffering. (That was sarcasm, if you couldn’t tell.) It’s too bad that concern was absent during the decades in which Ratzinger and his fellow church officials gave sex predators free rein. Why does their concern for the well-being of children only appear when it comes to having them testify against a pedophile? Do you really think there’s no value in establishing the truth of what happened, even if the guilty party is beyond punishment?

  • stag

    Thanks for your reply Ebonmuse.

    Firstly, I acknowledge my error re. Fr Hullermann’s resumption of pastoral work, not a malicious one, but simply a case of forgetting a specific detail. A fairly incriminating one, you might say. But hang on a minute. It is likely that Ratzinger never saw the fateful memo (this according to the judicial vicar of the Munich Archdiocese, Fr Lorenz Wolf, although the contrary is “not impossible”. Until we have proof, then, what sense is there in throwing about accusations?). So the unforgivable crime amounts to having “failed to follow up”.

    Let us contextualize that failure. A bishop from a neighbouring diocese calls Ratzinger one day to ask if one of his priests, Fr Hullremann, can stay in a Munich presbytery while he receives therapy. We can only speculate about the exchange of information between the two men that day. We have no right to assume, however, that Ratzinger was made fully aware of the nature of the therapy, or the precise nature of the problem it was intended to ameliorate. (In fact, since it also involved diagnosis, it would seem that this last issue was by no means perfectly clear to either of the parties – although clearly his own bishop, at least, had some idea…). What we do know is that Ratzinger says, Yes, he can stay and receive therapy. The arrangements are made; but Munich is a huge diocese, with over 750 parishes and 1700 priests: Ratzinger himself is occupied with any amount of other things. Specific arrangements are therefore made by the vicar general – that is, after all, what delegation is about.

    On the basis of these facts, I see no grounds for a serious case to be made, especially considering our lack of information about Ratzinger’s precise knowledge of Hullermann’s condition, and hence the real danger he posed. This might also explain why he did not go to the police. Sure, we could praise him for following up, but to demonize him for failing to do so is unfair. There are too many unknowns to put together a coherent case.

    Regarding the second case, I would like to know where exactly you are getting your information that Ratzinger personally ignored multiple pleading letters for four years. The information I am privy to entitles me to say that the diocese recommended that Kiesle be laicised in 1981, and a couple of times subsequently, and that Ratzinger wrote to the diocese in 1985. That’s it: nothing to indicate serial willful deafness by Ratzinger. Any number of explanations could account for the gap, including the possibility that Ratzinger himself was not aware of the case for much of the time (given that the first communication was made BEFORE HE TOOK OFFICE in Rome, the possibility of a letter getting lost, and the 3-and-a-half year gap in communications FROM BISHOP CUMMINS HIMSELF). Of what further factual, authentically-sourced information are you in possession to justify your grave and serious accusation that Ratzinger – personally – was deliberately ignoring the case?

    The laicisation of Fr Kiesle (as I said before and repeat with a deep sigh) WAS NOT A CASE PERTAINING TO CHILD PROTECTION. Disciplining aberrant priests, and removing them from active ministry, is the duty and responsibility of the local bishop, not of the CDF, not of Ratzinger. Hence your acerbic sucker-punch, “rather than stopping him from raping any more children”, bespeaks either ignorance or malice. I hope it is the former. Laicisation is reserved to Rome, but this concerns sacramental faculties or powers, not the actual exercise of them in a local parish context. It goes without saying that, since the sacrament of Holy Orders requires a grave and serious decision, revoking its ecclesial efficacy through laicisation is equally grave and serious. It seems to me that Ratzinger’s letter says in effect, in the typically elaborate register of Church correspondence, “We are dealing with your case”. The bishop had to wait 2 years from this letter until the laicisation of Fr Kiesle – a fairly speedy conclusion, relatively speaking, of a slow and ponderous process.

    Re. the final case, then: You ask, “Do you really think there’s no value in establishing the truth of what happened, even if the guilty party is beyond punishment?”. Well, yes…. but truth was not the issue. The issue was laicization, presumably on the basis of the TRUTH (accepted by all relevant parties) that Fr Murphy had indeed abused children. This is not about truth, but about ecclesial punishment: the removal of priestly faculties, ie. laicisation. What was to be gained – what, I ask you, is to be gained – by initiating this lengthy and involved process for the sake of a man who is very ill (and in the event died within a couple of months)?
    So, when you write, reflecting on this case, “It’s too bad that concern was absent during the decades in which Ratzinger and his fellow church officials gave sex predators free rein”, it is clear to me that you have confused the issue. You are manipulating the facts, sir, or creating them, to fit your own narrative. For what “concern” are we talking about here? Concern for the welfare of children? Well, it is obvious in this case that the diocesan bishop was the one responsible for ensuring that – which, at length, he did, by removing Fr Murphy from active ministry. In what way, then, pray tell, does this particular case (a laicisation case) exemplify the lack of concern allegedly shown by RATZINGER for the welfare of children over the preceding “decades”? Are you not implicitly accusing him for failing to act in areas where he actually had no jurisdiction?

  • Scotlyn

    stag – I would really, really love to hear you put your case exonerating the current Pope, and former Head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, from any liability for his Church’s failure to value and protect the children of the faithful, as much as it valued and protected its own skin, face to face before any of the thousands and thousands of people injured in the process. Let them tell you to your face you haven’t a clue.

  • stag

    That’s great, Scotlyn, but surely we need reliable evidence before we condemn someone? This post, and countless other media and web commentators, have presented alleged evidence against the pope. Now, lots of people were already angry before this “evidence” emerged, often justifiably so, and this has made things really blow up.

    But the fact that people are justifiably angry with the Church has nothing to do with the evidence in question. Like any other alleged condemnatory evidence, it should be subjected to careful scrutiny. Otherwise, we risk sacrificing potentially innocent people to the public demand for blood. For this reason, I respect Ebonmuse’s reply to me, since he took me up on the facts, for the most part. For the same reason, I have no respect for your answer, since its primary concern is not the actual truth of the matter.

    Of course they would tell me I haven’t a clue. But does the very fact that they are victims and that they are angry make them correct in the object of their anger, ie. the pope? No.

    I thought atheists were supposed to only entertain beliefs supported by sufficient, properly tested evidence. Well, I am only asking you to be faithful to your own principles.

    The problem with many people – I am not necessarily saying you – is that they cannot conceive that things might have happened differently than the values and assumptions that underpin their narrative dictate. For many, it goes without saying that the pope is wicked and villainous: the verdict is already given. It is very easy to unconsciously make the facts conform to such a verdict.

  • Wedge

    *The problem with many people – I am not necessarily saying you – is that they cannot conceive that things might have happened differently than the values and assumptions that underpin their narrative dictate.*

    You are the one in this conversation who has demonstrably gotten facts wrong. Think about that for a moment.

    The issue was laicization, presumably on the basis of the TRUTH (accepted by all relevant parties) that Fr Murphy had indeed abused children.

    Concern for the welfare of children? Well, it is obvious in this case that the diocesan bishop was the one responsible for ensuring that – which, at length, he did, by removing Fr Murphy from active ministry. In what way, then, pray tell, does this particular case (a laicisation case) exemplify the lack of concern allegedly shown by RATZINGER for the welfare of children over the preceding “decades”? Are you not implicitly accusing him for failing to act in areas where he actually had no jurisdiction?

    And here’s one of the places you go completely off the rails. The issue was not laicization. No one cares, at all, whether or not he was officially defrocked. We care that he was placed in a position to continue molesting children. We don’t give a damn about slow church procedures for the discipline of priests.

    I don’t know how you can be missing this: child abuse is a crime which must be reported. It is not an internal matter. It is not a matter of priestly discipline. As human beings, as citizens of the various countries, EVERYONE involved had legal and moral obligations to report these crimes to the relevant authorities.

    YES, we are blaming Ratzinger for not acting. It has nothing to do with ‘jurisdictions.’ EVERY adult in a situation where child abuse is witnessed or suspected has the moral and often the legal obligation to report it to the authorities.

    Why are you acting like this is a matter that every should have been handled by the church without reference to the governments of which these children were citizens?

  • Scotlyn

    Stag, Ebon has addressed the specific allegations in relation to the Pope’s personal actions, and I have not, that is true. And you yourself prefer to restrict yourself to a discussion of what a particular individual knew, didn’t know, did and didn’t do. This may never be known in the case of the Pope himself. But the Pope stands at the head of a church which has for generations, in Ireland at least (some of the victims coming forward are in their 70′s and 80′s), protected the clerical perpetrators of torture, rape, starvation, beatings and killing of children and pregnant women entrusted to their care.

    The question that the Pope, and all of the Catholic Church’s leadership have to answer is this:

    “I was hungry and you did not feed me, in fact you protected those who withheld food from me,
    “I was small and defenseless and you did not protect me, in fact you protected those who beat me and raped me,
    “I was homeless and orphaned and you did not care for me, in fact you hid the fact of my death, and protected those who killed me,”

    (paraphrase of Matthew 25:41ff, which continues)

    “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    Their own Scripture condemns them (if they truly believed it). There has never been a time since those words were written, that people have not known how to distinguish a person who was hungry or thirsty or needing care. There has never been a time since those words were written, when people did not know that it was wrong to starve, beat, torture, rape and kill. And, according to this passage, if they believe it, ignorance will not save them from eternal punishment.

    The Church hierarchy as a whole stands condemned BECAUSE no voice within it (certainly not the Pope’s) could be heard to speak out even once for “the least of these.” Instead, the institutional pattern of moving perpetrators on to “greener pastures” every time the locals started to complain, swearing victims to secrecy, publicly attacking and discrediting those who dared speak out about abuses, while seeking the forgiveness and charity of the faithful for those who beat and raped children continued and continued and continued, generation after generation.

    The Pope has still made not one single move to indicate that he regrets the actual harm done to real flesh-and-blood people, by the actions of generations of churchmen who hurt and damaged “the least of these”, AND by the actions of the generations of churchmen who chose to protect their Church from scandal, rather than protect “the least of these” from further harm. His personal individual responsibility for individual cases (the facts of which yourself and Ebon have discussed above) is neither here nor there, apart from lending weight to the conclusion that the Pope’s personal approach never differed in any significant way from that of the overall institutional pattern.

    If he personally never lifted a hand to a child, or said a word one way or another in relation to in any particular case, as the HEAD of a Church that likens itself to a MOTHER, he currently carries the full weight of that institution’s responsibility on his shoulders – the actions of every clerical child rapist that was protected by his Church are on his head. AT LEAST until such time as he takes the necessary positive remedial actions. Throw open the Vatican’s files of complaints going back generations, and bring an end to the secrecy. Report all lodged complaints to the civil authorities, and stand up in court as a witness to any known and relevant facts. Dissociate itself from the convicted. And beg, abjectly, for the forgiveness of “the least of these.”

    The point I wished to make above was this. You personally clearly find it incredibly easy to identify with the Pope and worry that he is being unfairly condemned (although he is not in any court apart from the court of public opinion, and even there he’s hardly in danger of being “sacrificed”).

    And yet, you find it more than difficult to identify with any of the people who might have been raped, beaten or tortured – in your books they cannot think straight because they are “angry.” You cannot see such people as real, or feel their pain as real, or you would not be able to write what you have.

  • stag

    Wedge:

    You write: “You are the one in this conversation who has demonstrably gotten facts wrong. Think about that for a moment.”

    Well, I have thought about it for a moment, and I would like you to demonstrate to me exactly which facts I have got wrong. Ebonmuse did that a few posts back, and I acknowledged my mistake. Could you extend me the same courtesy?

    You say: “I don’t know how you can be missing this: child abuse is a crime which must be reported. It is not an internal matter.”

    I am not missing that. All I am alleging is that in these particular cases – and here we are dealing with the Fr Murphy case in particular – Ratzinger was not the one who had that responsibility. Why not? BECAUSE THE CASE DID NOT COME TO THE ATTENTION OF ROME UNTIL TEN YEARS AFTER THE EVENTS AND FR MURPHY WAS ALREADY SUSPENDED. How, how, how, can you hold a man guilty when he had NEVER EVEN HEARD OF THE CASE, OR OF FR MURPHY? In fact, in this case, the civil authorities WERE informed. Do you know what they did? NOTHING. That’s right: NOTHING. (Exactly the same as Bishop Weakland, who was later disciplined for his inaction.)

    These, Wedge, are the facts of the case. I’m sorry if you don’t like that, but that’s what happened. Now, I hope you will have the good grace to stop holding Ratzinger to account for something for he was no more culpable than you or I.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Considering the awfully slow response of the Church over the course of two decades, and the active transfer of known pedophiles without accompanying warning, and the absolute refusal of the Church to report felonies to the competent authorities, the only logical conclusion is that the Church’s first priority was always PR.

    For shame.

  • Scotlyn

    Wedge:

    Why are you acting like this is a matter that every should have been handled by the church without reference to the governments of which these children were citizens?

    Well said. But to this I would also add “the governments of which the churchmen were citizens.”

  • stag

    Thanks, Scotlyn (#33).

    Your assumption that I am not identifying with victims of abuse is baseless. In fact, I do. But I visited this site a few days back, and I saw 2 articles dedicated to criticizing a man whom I saw as being unfairly victimized. They were followed up by comments calling for his arrest, for his resignation, and generally calling him for a foul and deceitful villain. I’m afraid my sense of fairness kicked in there. You see, while it might be right and good to criticize someone actually guilty of these crimes, I have seen no convincing evidence (although allegations abound) that the man in question – the pope – is actually guilty.

    In a different thread, where people were belittling the plight of the victims and gnashing their teeth at the media, I might choose to emphasize the opposite point of view. But since I think what is lacking on this thread and on this site is a fair treatment of the pope, that is what I am writing about.

    While I agree with you that the whole thing has been terrible and has seriously undermined the moral credibility of the church authorities in some parts of the world, and by extension in its entirety, yet I would take you up on this: “The Church hierarchy as a whole stands condemned BECAUSE no voice within it (certainly not the Pope’s) could be heard to speak out even once for “the least of these.”

    Is it just to condemn people, Scotlyn, when they are not guilty? No. Then why condemn the whole hierarchy of the Church? In Ireland, there have been independent investigations, with damning findings for the Irish bishops. Are the bishops of the whole world implicated in this? Why would you possibly think so? We know about cases in Belgium and Germany too. Those guilty should be condemned. But the innocent should not be condemned alongside them! This, again, unsurprisingly when one thinks about it, offends my sense of fairness.

    You also recommend that the pope “throw open the Vatican’s files of complaints going back generations”. As far as I know, the Church is committed to cooperation with civil authorities in these matters. If police ask to see files, I expect they will be allowed to see. So, aside from these specific criminal cases, to whom is he to “throw open” the files? To the world’s media, which has already been responsible for so much misinformation and exhibited a disgraceful lack of journalistic integrity (I cited a good example in my first post re. the Murphy case)? That, I think, would hardly be wise. To whom, then?

  • Scotlyn

    Stag, there is no evidence of real open-handed co-operation with civil authorities as such – the Vatican’s well-chosen bastard phrase is “co-operation with civil authorities in their area of competence” – ie, they can keep attend to their own business and keep their noses right out of ours. They have to be continually dragged to participate in any judicial process. They are certainly not instigating any such, nor are they handing over any of their members unless a significant body of external evidence has built up in files other than those the Vatican controls.

    This is the Pope’s analysis of the child abuse “crisis,” in his pastoral letter to the Irish last year:

    In recent decades, however, the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society. Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values… Significant too was the tendency during this period, also on the part of priests and religious, to adopt ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel. The programme of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it. In particular, there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations. It is in this overall context that we must try to understand the disturbing problem of child sexual abuse, which has contributed in no small measure to the weakening of faith and the loss of respect for the Church and her teachings.

    Do you see how he is slyly implying that a culture of clerical abuse which was endemic in Ireland throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, is really down to increasing secularism and the Vatican II? In fact is the other way around. If Irish people still adhered as strongly to Church teaching, no one would have had the courage to speak out against its clergy. Increasing secularism reduced the level of religiously-induced fear, both of priests in particular and of hell-fires in general, and gave the Church’s victims a newfound voice.

  • Scotlyn

    Stag, I didn’t say I condemned the entire hierarchy of the Church – I said it stands condemned itself within the terms of its own scriptures – because “whatever ye did not do to the least of these, ye did not do for me.” And what no single voice within the hierarchy did during the long years of secrecy and unchallenged hegemony, was to speak out on behalf of “the least of these.” You are correct in saying no human court would convict on this basis (they can be thankful for that). But the Court of Divine Judgment which they purport to believe in, does unequivocally condemn them for the prolonged failure to speak and act on behalf of generations of “the least of these.”

  • Wedge

    Well, I have thought about it for a moment, and I would like you to demonstrate to me exactly which facts I have got wrong. Ebonmuse did that a few posts back, and I acknowledged my mistake. Could you extend me the same courtesy?

    I am not trying to be discourteous. I am pointing out that you have gotten facts wrong and Ebon has not; yet you are accusing atheists of being so rabidly out to get the pope that we will ignore the facts. I am asking you, which of us is ignoring them?

    I am not missing that. All I am alleging is that in these particular cases – and here we are dealing with the Fr Murphy case in particular – Ratzinger was not the one who had that responsibility.

    You are trying to deal only with the Fr Murphy case, because you can twist it to suit yourself. You are ignoring Ratzinger’s own words in the Kiesel case, where he says that the good of the church and the young priest are more important than the priest’s acknowledged child molesting; you have sidestepped Ebon’s response to your ‘well, the church was slow and that’s a pity, but that’s how it works’ argument. And you have tried to mitigate the church’s responsibility by pointing out that sometimes the authorities ignore the cases too.

    The Catholic Church, as a whole, has provably held and acted on policies designed to protect itself and its priests, no matter what the cost to children being abused by repeat offenders.

    Ratzinger, as part of the Catholic Church, pursued this policy (as shown most blatantly in his letter about the Kiesle case; you call the delay lamentable while ignoring Ratzinger’s own clear words that the priesthood and the reputation of the church were more important to him than the rape of children), and whether it was his jurisdiction or not, was morally guilty of not doing what was reasonable and right to protect children. Seriously, if you knew multiple people in your company–no matter how large–were routinely raping children and then hiding behind company resources, would it be something you shrugged off because it wasn’t your direct responsibility? I couldn’t. It’s not like these were accusations of shoplifting or dipping into the community funds.

    Ratzinger is now the head of the Catholic Church. He is still pursing a policy of downplaying and denying the vicious treatment of children, buying off the Irish government, calling the accusations ‘petty gossip,’ etc.

    You complain that Ratzinger is being condemned unfairly. He is being condemned based on his own words and actions, which have been appalling. YES, the entire hierarchy should be held to account, because the cover-up has been worldwide, continuous, and official policy.

    Ratzinger is the head of the organization; that means in general that he is responsible for its policy; in particular, for his own actions leading up to the position he is in today which contributed to that policy; and his inaction and callousness in facing the consequences of that policy.

    If you want me to believe he is an innocent man, explain the Kiesle letter; his use of the words ‘petty gossip’ to describe accusations of the rape of children; and his lack of action in stopping further outrages (a mild directive calling priests to report abuse where required by law has got to be one of the biggest slaps in the face I’ve ever seen).

    Ratzinger and the Catholic Church are being protected by years of superstitious awe and privelege. We are not calling for him to be ‘condemned’ (whatever you mean by that–it’s not like he’s ever going to be put on trial or go to jail or suffer anything other than a mild drop in popularity, so why you’re so gung ho to protect him I have no idea). We are calling for people to stop treating priests and officials of the Catholic Church, no matter how high up, as beyond the law and beyond suspicion.

    Yes, they should open their files. Yes, they should stand up and publically declare that no abuse of children will be tolerated anywhere. Yes, they should throw them out, and not whine about how old (!) or needed or victimized the priest are. Like decent human beings, they should be actively trying their best to do everything possible to clean house.

    Not whining about how put upon they are, just because several hundred or even thousand kids have been raped, abused, and broken by people who should have been trustworthy.

    If the Catholic Church wasn’t continuing to be so damn reluctant to act like CHILD RAPE IS A PROBLEM, people would have a lot more sympathy for them. And Ratzinger should be leading the charge. Instead the fucker is trying to downplay and shrug it off. Damn straight, any and all potentially criminal complicity in his past should be investigated. Don’t worry. He’s got all the money, prestige, and lawyers in the world to protect him.

    I’m not Catholic, never have been, got nothing against the church. Around here, it’s all Mormons. And I’m well aware that child predators will pop up in any environment that deals with kids. It’s the church’s reaction that is so sickening, and so sick.

    Ratzinger is head of the church. He has, at best, a shady history on this subject and has made disgustingly callous comments in writing which make it clear that he considers the good of the church to be more important than the lives of children. And he has done next to nothing to make sure it does not go on.

    Damn straight he’s guilty.

  • stag

    Wedge,

    You say you are pointing out I have got facts wrong and Ebon has not. Which facts? I rebutted Ebon’s reply to me: let’s see if he comes back with anything else. It is not enough to assert I am mistaken: you need to show me where, and you need to PROVE it, since the burden of proof is with you, after all.

    I am not necessarily saying you are ignoring facts deliberately. I am saying you are either a) not factually informed, or b) not interpreting the facts you are in possession of correctly and justly.

    “You are trying to deal only with the Fr Murphy case, because you can twist it to suit yourself”, you tell me. No, I was focusing on it because it was the one you quoted to me in your post. But your language is telling. HOW, in my reply, did I “TWIST it”? I’ll tell you why, Wedge: I’m “twisting it” because you don’t like what I’m saying. Those who accuse the pope are not “twisting it” because you like what they say. But what I said was the actual historical truth. Really.

    You then say, re. the Kiesle case, “you [I] call the delay lamentable while ignoring Ratzinger’s own clear words that the priesthood and the reputation of the church were more important to him than the rape of children”.
    Right: give me the source: the source, please, of “Ratzinger’s own clear words” to this effect. (And I know about “the letter”, by the way.)
    I call the delay lamentable, but do not specifically blame Ratzinger for this, since you have NO EVIDENCE, NOT A SHRED OF EVIDENCE that truly entitles you to impute blame to him. You have suspicion and conspiracy theory, yes: but what is that without real and tangible evidence? Nothing. Zilch. Atheists should be among the first to admit that.

    You then continue, “…and whether it was his jurisdiction or not, [Ratzinger] was morally guilty of not doing what was reasonable and right to protect children.”
    Forgive me, but I am getting a little impatient. This is a senseless statement. It is like saying, “Even although he was not responsible, he is to be held responsible”. But you are convinced – there will be no shaking your conviction, I forsee.

    Next up: “Seriously, if you knew multiple people in your company–no matter how large–were routinely raping children and then hiding behind company resources, would it be something you shrugged off because it wasn’t your direct responsibility?”
    What evidence can you produce that either Pope John Paul II or Benedict XVI, as head of the Church, knew specifically those people in the Church who were doing these things for years before the floodgates were opened in the media? Remember, the authority in the Church that deals with these things is the diocesan bishop, not the pope. Presumably, the pope would have to know about it in order to act. So prove to me that he knew about it (good luck with that one. And remember – the burden of proof is on you.)

    You then state, oblivious to your own ignorance, “[Ratzinger] is still pursing a policy of downplaying and denying the vicious treatment of children, buying off the Irish government, calling the accusations ‘petty gossip,’ etc.”
    Where, ‘today’, do you see evidence of that policy? When has Ratzinger “denied” that this has happened, recently or indeed ever? Give me a quotation. You are sure that “one exists somewhere”. But it doesn’t. The phrase “petty gossip” was not used by Ratzinger, but by Cardinal Sodano (a figure I have somewhat less admiration for). But hopefully this will reveal to you, as well as to the interested reader whoever he may be, that you do not really know much about this at all.

    Next: “You complain that Ratzinger is being condemned unfairly. He is being condemned based on his own words and actions, which have been appalling. YES, the entire hierarchy should be held to account, because the cover-up has been worldwide, continuous, and official policy.”
    And rightly I complain! Why, you have indulged in a constant stream of trumped-up, outlandish accusations against the pope without bothering to bring together any serious body of evidence! Consider Ebon’s post as the prosecution’s case. I responded as the advocate. The prosecution then attacked my response, an attack to which I responded at some length with facts and reasonable arguments. That is where things stand. Unless someone comes back at me with facts to refute what I have said, I will consider the pope publicly exonerated (and, even better, on an atheist website!).

    “Ratzinger is the head of the organization; that means in general that he is responsible for its policy”… Is it Church policy to abuse children and cover for the abusers? No, these are abuses. What was lacking in terms of policy was an adequate structure of prevention, which is being remedied. One should note, in the interests of fairness, that these structures were lacking right across the gamut of institutions both civil and religious, until recently.

    “If you want me to believe he is an innocent man, explain the Kiesle letter; his use of the words ‘petty gossip’ to describe accusations of the rape of children; and his lack of action in stopping further outrages”
    The letter in no way facilitated child abuse or an abuser of children. If you disagree with that, it is because you do not understand. or have not considered properly, the difference between removal from active ministry and laicisation, and what is at stake in each. This provides us with a perfectly reasonable explanation. “Petty gossip” has been covered. And his lack of action to stop further outrages is only in your imagination. Give me an example, or show me in what this consists.
    Will you now consider him innocent? Thought not.

    You boldly state: “We are calling for people to stop treating priests and officials of the Catholic Church, no matter how high up, as beyond the law and beyond suspicion.” I’m in! But you have the small matter of convincing me that your suspicion is well-placed.

    “Yes, they should open their files.”
    I commented on this in an earlier post.
    “Yes, they should stand up and publically declare that no abuse of children will be tolerated anywhere.”
    Which has been done on many occasions.
    “Yes, they should throw them out, and not whine about how old (!) or needed or victimized the priest are.”
    Which has not always been done – but the blame for that falls squarely on the shoulders of the diocesan bishops and NOT the pope. Whenever active cases have been reported to Rome, the response has been swift.

    “If the Catholic Church wasn’t continuing to be so damn reluctant to act like CHILD RAPE IS A PROBLEM…”
    The Church is well aware of this. But how many other institutions are to the same degree? If you people were REALLY concerned ONLY about the welfare of children, then you would be focusing on other groups and institutions who have worse rates of abuse. Like protestant churches for example. Or like teachers and doctors. Don’t believe me? I’m not surprised.

    “Damn straight, any and all potentially criminal complicity in his past should be investigated”. Let the Inquest begin! “Criminal complicity” – for goodness sake, man, grow up!

    “Damn straight he’s guilty”. In this whole tirade, I have not found a shred of evidence to back up your conviction. Not that I expect it to change for that small inconvenience.

    Phew. I am out of steam!

  • Wedge

    Unfortunately, I really don’t have time to reply today…and probably won’t tomorrow.

    But seriously, to call a demand for investigation into complicity in child abuse an inquest–just how much evidence do you think is necessary in order to investigate something?–shows how idiotic your defense is. Again, what the hell are you defending the pope from? Suspicion that he put the church ahead of victims? And you really don’t think there’s enough evidence for this?

    Give me a break. I’ll look up the evidence and line it up for you when I get a chance.

    But I think people like you, who want to make sure that their special guy doesn’t get any mud splashed on him, should stop and think about how many people have suffered specifically because people like you want to stop all INVESTIGATION and decide that not only is the pope innocent–we can’t even be allowed to suspect him or to call out that hey, just maybe, he’s been enabling rapists to continue raping.

    No one is undergoing an inquisition. He’s not even being held accountable. I think he should be.

  • stag

    Look, Wedge, you are allowed to suspect if you want. But you are not just doing that: you are firing around accusations like nobody’s business. I am also happy for investigation to take place. But I would like it to consider ALL the facts, because often what seems incriminating at first glance is shown to be innocent in view of further information. Failing to properly appraise facts in this whole affair has been widespread.

    I am defending the pope from groundless and sometimes palpably, manifestly false accusations. Accusations are flying around left, right and center on this site and elsewhere. Accusing and vilifying a person, in the absence of any semblance of good, credible evidence against them, is a horrible thing to do.

    Some people think they do have good evidence (Hullermann, Murphy, Kiesle), partly through irresponsible journalism, so through no great fault of their own. I am trying to disabuse them of that notion.

    So I am not, per se, against your ever-so-righteous crusade. But, please, do proper research, and learn which sources you can trust. (For example, don’t come back to me saying, “The New York Times says…”!)

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Firstly, I acknowledge my error re. Fr Hullermann’s resumption of pastoral work, not a malicious one, but simply a case of forgetting a specific detail. A fairly incriminating one, you might say. But hang on a minute. It is likely that Ratzinger never saw the fateful memo (this according to the judicial vicar of the Munich Archdiocese, Fr Lorenz Wolf, although the contrary is “not impossible”. Until we have proof, then, what sense is there in throwing about accusations?).

    Because, as I wrote in my original post, this situation is custom-made for the lawyer’s phrase “knew or should have known”. Ratzinger was in charge; Hullermann was under his jurisdiction; therefore, inescapably, the responsibility is his. That applies regardless of whether he acted intentionally, with malice, or unintentionally, with negligence. I scarcely think it makes a difference, and certainly not to the children whom Hullermann went on to rape after he was returned to the priesthood.

    Your defense appears to be that Ratzinger was either lazy or incompetent, such that he didn’t care to ask why a priest under his jurisdiction was being assigned to therapy, didn’t check into the outcome of that therapy, didn’t read his mail telling him that the priest had returned to active duty, and didn’t bother to follow up on the result himself. I invite readers to consider whether that comports with what we know about his character and management style. As conservative Catholic Andrew Sullivan points out, via a rather startling anecdote, Ratzinger had a notorious reputation as a micromanager.

    Regarding the second case, I would like to know where exactly you are getting your information that Ratzinger personally ignored multiple pleading letters for four years.

    Certainly: we have the actual letters. We also know, contrary to your ludicrous “lost in the mail” defense, that he was aware of what was going on, because we have replies from him during this period.

    It goes without saying that, since the sacrament of Holy Orders requires a grave and serious decision, revoking its ecclesial efficacy through laicisation is equally grave and serious. It seems to me that Ratzinger’s letter says in effect, in the typically elaborate register of Church correspondence, “We are dealing with your case”. The bishop had to wait 2 years from this letter until the laicisation of Fr Kiesle – a fairly speedy conclusion, relatively speaking, of a slow and ponderous process.

    And yet, as I pointed out and you ignored, in 2006 a Zambian archbishop named Emmanuel Milingo defied the Vatican and ordained four married men as priests. Six days later, the Vatican announced that Milingo had been laicized.

    Clearly, this is not an intrinsically “slow and ponderous” process, in contradiction to what you claimed. Apparently, whether it happens quickly or slowly depends entirely on what priority the Vatican gives to the case. And again, it took over four years to take action against a child molester; less than a week to laicize someone for ordaining a married man. Can you really fault us for interpreting this as a clear statement of the church’s priorities?

    Also, leaving aside for the moment the issue of Ratzinger’s complicity, there’s a much broader issue that needs to be addressed here. I want to emphasize Wedge’s excellent comment at #32: child rape isn’t a minor matter of priestly discipline for the church to deal with internally. It is a felony, and anyone who’s aware that it’s going on needs to report that fact to the civil authorities.

    But in countries throughout the world over a period of decades, as far as I’m aware, the church didn’t do this even once – not once. Every single time this happened, their response was consistent: hush it up, maybe shuffle the pedophile through some therapy sessions, and then pack him off to a new parish and turn him loose without telling anyone there about his past. Every church official who knew this was going on had an obligation to turn the predator in to the police, and every single time, they failed to do so. This applies to Ratzinger, in the Kiesle and Hullermann cases, as well as to a broad swath of other church higher-ups.

    Why has no one been punished for this? Child molestation is a crime, and conspiracy to cover up a crime is also a crime. Ratzinger is the Pope now. If he wasn’t aware of the conspiracy back then, he damn well certainly is now. He knows exactly who did what, and if he doesn’t know, he has the power to find out. He could name names. Why isn’t he doing this? Why isn’t he urging the arrest and prosecution of the men within his own church who colluded to cover up child rape?

  • stag

    Thank you, Ebonmuse.

    You have replied to some of my points. May I take it that those not dealt with – particularly the fatal conflation of laicisation and removal from active ministry and its implications for the second and third cases – have been conceded? If this is the case, I think explicit recognition of that would be appropriate, especially considering that you have, contrary to fact, on your popular and influential website, criticized the pope for endangering children in these cases.

    Regarding the Hullermann case: Hullermann was under Ratzinger’s jurisdiction, yes. However, it was not his responsibility to either check up on the outcome of the therapy, or to follow up on the result (which was impossible given that the results only arrived after he had been assigned to Rome). This was the responsibility of the bishop of Fr Hullermann. Again, we might praise Ratzinger for going beyond the call of duty (if he had done); but to blame him for not doing so is to apply a higher standard than is reasonable. Then, he did not read his mail, a routine correspondence from the vicar general. Supposing, as it must be supposed, that he could not have known the contents of the memo by any other means than reading it, we can lay at his door – so far – the heinous charge of failing to read his (undoubtedly copious) mail. Finally, he – perhaps – did not know the exact nature either of the problem or of the therapy. If he did know, he should have had an active concern that Hullermann was not active in the parish in whose presbytery he was living. Perhaps he gave instructions to this effect (presumably NOT to Gruber, who wrote the memo): we don’t know. However, the actual implementation of any such instructions would not be his job, as the Archbishop. If he did not know, should he have pressed for more information? Yes, he should have, in my opinion. (Recall, however, that the issue of abuse of minors did not benefit from anywhere near the levels of general awareness as it does today.) But does this constitute a crime against humanity at its most vulnerable? Hardly, I think.

    So, while you may – and I do not deny it – find some material for (at least potential) criticism here, it is a gross exaggeration, in the face of the evidence you have presented on this thread about Fr Hullermann, to accuse Ratzinger of grave dereliction of responsibility and criminal negligence. It IS conceivable – but the burden of proof still lies with the prosecution.

    Regarding the second case, on the question of evidence, you assure me that you “have the letters”. Are they all addressed to Cardinal Ratzinger? I can tell you for a fact that the first one was not, since he was not in the job yet. Then there was another, addressed to Ratzinger – no reply. Then another – this time there was a reply, but saying that no further information could be given at that time (Why not? I don’t know. Neither do you). Then a three and a half year lull. Then a letter in 1985, to which Ratzinger responded. This time the bishop got a more detailed reply. The fact that he received it may be due to the fact that unlike the previous times he actually forwarded it to the Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S. to be put in his diplomatic pouch. These letters would be more likely to be considered than the general flood of mail in the offices of the CDF. So: One letter sent to his predecessor. One letter “lost”… wherever. One letter given a cursory, “standard” reply (did Ratz even see it?). One letter given a more detailed reply. That accounts for them all. On this perfectly credible account, can you categorically state that Ratzinger deliberately ignored the case? No, of course not. This is clutching at straws – especially bearing in mind the importance of distinguishing between laicisation and removal from active ministry.

    The contrast with Archbishop Milingo is easily explained IF we keep in mind that in each case we are dealing with laicisation and not child protection. The urgency of this case consists in two things: firstly, the eminent status of the offender within the Church, and secondly the extremely public nature of his misdemeanours. People knew about it, all over the world. So to prevent scandal – in the legitimate sense of the phrase – urgent action was needed. It had to be a priority case, for the sake of the Catholic faithful across the world who were scandalized.

    You offer me no comeback on the third case: but I don’t want to just let it go like that. If you recognize that what I am saying is in fact true, that you have perhaps made a mistake (I say that with regard especially to cases 2 + 3) then in the interests of justice (not to me but to your faithful readership and in general), I think you should say so.

    The broader issue is for civil prosecutors to decide, I suppose. I say that not wanting to callously dismiss it; but I posted here in order to stand up for someone I see as being unjustly accused. That is what I am focused on in this thread. Some other bishops have been justly accused by Church law and disciplined accordingly. The civil law will decide if they should also answer to its rigours. I should point out that there are plenty cases of bishops and priests who did contact the civil authorities. Sometimes their response – as in the cases of Kiesle and Murphy – was even more abject than that of the Church. It is just that – as you seemed to indicate – one just doesn’t hear about these things.

    I wonder why…

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    While I honestly don’t have time to respond to all this yet again – and I think my points stand well enough on their own, in any case – I’d like to call special attention to this:

    The contrast with Archbishop Milingo is easily explained IF we keep in mind that in each case we are dealing with laicisation and not child protection. The urgency of this case consists in two things: firstly, the eminent status of the offender within the Church, and secondly the extremely public nature of his misdemeanours. People knew about it, all over the world. So to prevent scandal – in the legitimate sense of the phrase – urgent action was needed. It had to be a priority case, for the sake of the Catholic faithful across the world who were scandalized.

    You’ve essentially just said that the church considers protecting its public image to be a higher priority than protecting children from rape. And that’s what I and the other commenters have been saying all along. I appreciate your taking the time to confirm it.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    So far as I’m concerned, the refusal of the Church to turn over offenders is telling. So much for “render unto Caesar” and all that, huh?

    Aren’t priests required to report suspected cases of child abuse, by reporting laws?

    If the Church will not co-operate with authorities by reporting cases of molestation, then I think they’d ought to be prosecuted as well. After all, “aiding and abetting” is a crime as well. Of course, this won’t go to Ratty’s level, because he’s not in our jurisdiction; but the many Cardinals and Bishops who have colluded to keep the molesters out of legal jeopardy are no different than any other safehouse operator hiding a criminal.

  • stag

    Well, Ebonmuse, thanks for the debate.

    I will return to see if you decide to post anything that either
    1) deals with the points I raised, rather than dismissing them as “all this” (which is rich: you ask in your original post for responses to the evidence you have proffered, then when someone responds to it point by point in detail, you say, I have no time for “all this”).
    2) acknowledges that the conflation of laicisation with removal from ministry, which I exposed at the root of your accusations re. Fr Murphy and Fr Kiesle, dramatically affects the credibility of those accusations. Here, especially, your points emphatically do not “stand well enough on their own”.
    May I note in passing that your statement in the post above (#46), “You’ve essentially just said that the church considers protecting its public image to be a higher priority than PROTECTING CHILDREN FROM RAPE”, shows clearly that you still have not really spotted the problem. I showed clearly, for anyone who has the “time” to check their claims against the truth, that “protecting children from rape”, in connection to the Kiesle scandal, is a strawman argument of a particularly pernicious kind.

    Since you felt it appropriate to hit the ball back into my court – not without a degree of smugness – regarding Milingo, please allow me to point out that concern for public “image” is not at all the same as concern to avert real scandal within the Church. Scandal can cause damage to faith, which the Church – unsurprisingly – sees as a good thing and worthy of being preserved. The potential for loss or damage to faith in the Milingo case was actually considerably greater than in the Kiesle case, because, as I indicated, it was worldwide news, and involved a well-known bishop. You assume that this can only be a case of cynical self-interest on the part of the hierarchy, but actually what they were doing was trying, as best they can, to take care of their flock, which must involve counteracting scandals to faith. If this is about “priorities”, this is top of the list – and there is nothing wrong with that for a community of faith, as long as it does not simultaneously undermine justice. And since – as I have repeated ad nauseum (well, I am certainly sick of repeating it; perhaps it is acknowledging it that makes you sick…) the Kiesle case was not about child protection – no-one is being treated unjustly by fast-tracking a case that has caused scandal the world over.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    If scandal damages faith, let us hope we find every kiddie-fiddler in that corrupt organization. Not only can we then deliver justice, but free millions from mental slavery.

  • Scotlyn

    Re Ebon @ #46 – What he said!

    Stag, your arguments here are firmly in line with the current PR spin of the Vatican.
    One brief they are sticking to right now is this. Anyone seeking to discuss the implementation of institutional protocols to cover up and hide the fact of abuse, to transfer abusers from parish to parish, to suppress the public release of pertinent information, to resist co-operation with civil authorities pursuing allegations, to force accusers to swear secrecy, to protect (even insure) the accused, etc, must be DEFLECTED into a different, “few-bad-apples” type of discussion focussing on actual cases of abuse, provable guilt, etc. The Church is now (at long last) prepared to acknowledge the few bad apples (they have no choice).

    But they are mightily threatened by any talk of a wider institutionalised culture of covering up crimes and enabling criminals, so this kind of talk, they will not countenance or engage in, much less apologise for. Nevertheless, such institutional cover ups and enablements, are amply documented in many reports – just one example was this investigation into a randomly selected sample of cases, now known as the Murphy Report.

    Andrew Madden, Irish campaigner for truth on clerical abuse, wrote at that time:

    Archbishop Martin you have told your fellow Bishops that they must come out and answer questions raised in the Report – there are no questions raised in the Report, each chapter concludes with findings, findings of fact. It doesn’t ask Bishop Murray if he thinks his actions were inexcusable, it tells us they were. It doesn’t accuse him of behaving inexcusably, it tells us he did. Archbishop you have no right to tell Bishops that they should respond to this Report and if their responses are acceptable to you and your priests then maybe things will be okay. Things are not okay; you are not the one to judge their actions, Judge Yvonne Murphy has done that and on the basis of her findings I say your fellow Bishops, as named here, should resign. And if they don’t, you should resign before your meeting with them next week. In the meantime stop trying to undermine the Commission of Investigation and its findings.

    (He was addressing himself here to Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, who received praise at that time for being the bishop who apparently was taking child protection seriously.)

    Stag, the Pope may not be PERSONALLY guilty of hurting a child with his own hand – if evidence of such should ever be brought to court, I hope no one would consider him above the law. But, I have not heard of any such evidence. And perhaps, in some nitpicky way, it could be argued that he PERSONALLY did not “know” (please define “have sex,” Mr Clinton) about the abuse carried out by the certain others mentioned above, and therefore cannot be blamed for not acting on what he did not know (although the pre-ponderance of the evidence Ebon has gathered here, seems to show that, at the very best, he did not depart from the institutional script).

    But, say that is all true and above board, STILL, the Pope presides over a church which HAS been found to have consistently covered up crimes and enabled criminals to continue committing new crimes against new victims in the new pastures it kept providing for the criminals. So, the Pope may or may not be “guilty” (in a court of law sense), which is the only sense you are prepared to discuss, and for the sake of argument, I will grant you that.

    But he is ACCOUNTABLE (in a “the buck stops here” sense). And that accountability includes the weight of the full burden of every single wrong done, every wrong covered up, and every wrong not averted, by any cleric, anywhere, until such time as he has taken the necessary steps, as head of that institution, to put that wrong right…and he hasn’t done that yet, not by a very, very long shot. Even though NOW he IS privy to all of it, since he has the key to every one of the Vatican’s filing cabinets.

    Nevertheless, the good news is, the Pope no longer matters very much, he is in more danger of simply becoming an irrelevance than he is of being jailed – the Irish people will certainly never abjectly defer to him again in the way they did for generations before. As our Minister for Justice said in response to the Murphy Report:

    “This is a republic — the people are sovereign — and no institution, no agency, no church can be immune from that fact…the era where evil people could do [evil things] under the cover of the cloth, facilitated and shielded from the consequences by their authorities, while the lives of children were ruined with such cruelty, is over for good . . . a collar will protect no criminal”.

    (See the pertinent article by historian Ronan Fanning The Age of Our Craven Deference is over)

  • stag

    Hi Scotlyn. Hopping swiftly from one thread to the other…. Honestly, this site will be the death of me. Nah, I will give up shortly.

    So you are Irish? Nice. How do you do St Patrick’s Day… a day to “celebrate Irishness”? (Only kidding.) I come from Scotland myself. I am running on frustration on this thread. I can’t see why none of the intelligent people here seem capable of discerning where the evidence leads (or, more accurately, does not lead). I honestly think you are not appraising it well. Anyway…

    “For the sake of argument”, you grant the pope’s innocence. Good! I will take it! At this stage, I will take anything.

    As for the “guilty – perhaps, but accountable – definitely” line, as you said on another thread, I don’t and I won’t buy it.

    You say “STILL, the Pope presides over a church which HAS been found to have consistently covered up crimes and enabled criminals to continue committing new crimes against new victims”. That is true, Scotlyn, with reference to Ireland. but Ireland is not the universal Church. Over in Scotland, we didn’t have nearly that level of abuse, nor of institutional corruption and bishop-facilitators. In Italy, where I am staying just now, it is the same. Now, the pope does indeed preside over a Church: the universal Church, which, as such, has only been found guilty of criminal acts against minors and institutional cover-up in certain geographical areas, Ireland being probably the worst hit, and in certain diocese.

    Now, sorry, but I have no reason to believe that the pope was or is guilty of negligence, in his capacity of univeral pastor and leader of the Church, regarding Ireland. if he was, why did not the intrepid Judge Murphy not name and shame him, too? Because he had nothing to do with it. The Church is not some overblown multinational, Scotlyn. It operates on the principle of administrative subsidiarity. Each local Church, each diocese, is the Church in the full sense, and the bishop has full responsibility as its pastor. He reports to Rome only once every 7 years. He is responsible. The buck stops with him.

    Then, you say, “that accountability includes the weight of the full burden of every single wrong done, every wrong covered up, and every wrong not averted, by any cleric, anywhere, until such time as he has taken the necessary steps, as head of that institution, to put that wrong right…”. How many wrongs do you think that would be? How old is the pope, how many places can he be at once, how many wrongs can he right, do you think, in an honest day’s work? Then what will happen to all his other work?
    Obviously this is impossible. He can only take the steps his office permits, which, precisely because it is universal in authority and – in a specific sense – jurisdiction, cannot give due attention to each case of wrongdoing. The wisest thing for him to do would be to delegate dealing with abuse cases to someone who will be able to concentrate his energies on it better. But fundamentally, it is the bishops who are, in their local Churches, responsible for ensuring child safety. In Scotland, they are taking this very seriously. Also in England. Also, as far as I am aware, in Italy.

    “Even though NOW he IS privy to all of it, since he has the key to every one of the Vatican’s filing cabinets.” This is a tester for my patience. The Vatican only systematically took control of child abuse cases in 2001, and the system of compulsory referrals was introduced (by Ratzinger) shortly after that. Why then do you think the pope, with his heavy, clanking set of keys, is privy to “files” on “all” wrongs committed and cases covered up by bishops? What a piece of fictional stereotyping that is: “He knows, that leering old villain, but he’s not telling us”. This Big, Bad Cover-Up is going on only in your head, not in the Vatican. You think that because that was what happened in Ireland, the Church in Rome must, must be implicated. Well, as I said to Ebon, I await the proof. I have heard a lot of bluster, a lot of indignation, a lot of anger (justified, beyond doubt), but precious little fact.

    “the good news is, the Pope no longer matters very much”. His recent visit to the UK, when he was basically a permanent fixture on the BBC, and the reception he received, above all by the state, convinced me otherwise. I think this expresses a wish more than a fact. The pope will always matter.
    In Ireland, less slavish, blind, fevered obedience and submission to the unimpeachable Catholic Church can only be a good thing in the long run. Ireland has grown up, and I applaud her. But she has grown from childhood to adolescence; from dumb submission to fiery but immature “rebellion”. She still has to make the transition to psychological adulthood in her relationship with the Church.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Wow, reading the posts by Stag makes me sad. I can’t believe there are people out there that not only defend the actions of the church but do so with such callous disregard for the children that have been harmed and subsequently further harmed by the actions of this church and this pope.

    Stag, your defense seems to be that the pope doesn’t have the ability or the power to deal with abuse, doesn’t and never had the knowledge of it, and can’t do anything to facilitate better responses. This is a load of crap. The pope does have the ability and the power to do something about this, but he’s not doing anything at all. In fact, he’s blaming everything and anything besides himself and the church.

    Of course, this fits quite well with your defense of the Milingo issue. He can act quite fast to protect the image of the church when such a horrible thing as ordaining a married man happens, but apparently his hands are tied and he can’t do anything for four years or more when such triffling instances of child abuse come to light. Nice own goal.

    I know you’ll claim that I’m not dealing with the facts, and I’m not, because Ebon already has and you’ve ignored most of them (and sidestepped a lot too) all the while claiming that you’ve addressed them.

  • Wedge

    Yeah, what they said.

    I’m a terrible debater, mostly because I don’t bother unless I’m genuinely passionate about something–and then I get mad. Stag can look at all of this above, and his response is to say that the pope can’t be expected to be responsible for his organization. That apparently the Irish are too childish in their relationship with the church, so it’s their own damn fault their kids get raped and beaten. Hey, it’s not like the Church hierarchy can be bothered to fix the problem–they’ve got the whole world to worry about!

    Stag is showing, exactly and in detail, what is disgusting and vicious about the Catholic Church’s response to the abuses.

    You think that my outrage and passionate anger at the pope and the organization he heads and represents, in regards to what has happened under their watch, shows that I need to grow up?

    How fucking sad.

  • http://politicalgames.posterous.com/ themann1086

    Even now, the Church’s response is “turn allegations over to a higher church authority”. No. They need to be turned over to the proper civil authorities and the Church needs to give its full cooperation in investigations. For fuck’s sake, this is law 101!

  • Frances Morey

    The pope who attempted to lift the world wide ban on contraceptives and clean up the Vatican Bank lasted 33 days. Pope John Paul I, in 1978.


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