The Pope’s Martyrdom Complex

Lately, it seems that every time the Pope shows his face, it’s to scold a country that’s giving people more rights than the Catholic church would prefer them to have. Just consider this report from his recent trip to Spain:

Pope Benedict XVI criticized an “aggressive” anti-church sentiment in Spain that he said was reminiscent of the country’s bloody civil war era as he began a two-day visit Saturday to rekindle the faith.

…Benedict told reporters en route to Santiago that the anticlericalism seen now in Spain is like that of the 1930s, when the church suffered a wave of violence and persecution as the country lurched from an unstable democracy to civil war.

The reference was striking, given the scale of violence back then, when poverty-stricken and disgruntled Spaniards burned churches and murdered priests and nuns whom they considered obstacles to much-needed change. The church claims 4,184 clergy were killed by the government, or Republican side, which accused the church of backing fascist Gen. Francisco Franco.

Nowadays, the church finds itself fighting laws supported by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s Socialist government that have allowed gay marriage, fast-track divorce and easier abortions.

It’s emblematic of the church’s attitude toward the outside world these days that it’s developed such a ridiculous and disproportionate sense of self-pity, one that equates expanded rights for gays and women with the bloody slaughter of a fascist regime. (It did my heart good, however, to see Spain’s Prime Minister Zapatero shun the Pope, relegating him to a brief meeting at the very end of his trip. I wish more world leaders would do the same, or better yet, ignore him altogether.)

Still, it seems the gods have a sense of irony, because lately, every time the Pope wags his finger at us, we find out that he’s using his other hand to push child molesters behind the shelter of his gold robes. It’s happening in yet another conservative Catholic country, this time in Chile, where it’s emerged that church officials sheltered a suspected pedophile for years.

The story in Chile is the same as those that have come out of other countries: bishops and cardinals ignored numerous accusations against the Rev. Fernando Karadima, refused to open an investigation, and coerced and shamed witnesses to get them to recant. One church official went so far as to pressure a victim to drop his request for an annulment – because the trauma of being sexually abused by Karadima had destroyed the man’s marriage, and the church didn’t want that to become publicly known.

Meanwhile, in Rome, the Vatican called out paramilitary police to block a march by victims of clergy sex abuse:

Participants, who reported having been raped or otherwise molested by Catholic clerics as children, flocked to Rome for the candlelit march. They came from a dozen countries and held signs with slogans including “Hands off children.”

…At a briefing before the march, participants stood up one by one to tell how their lives had been destroyed by the abuse they suffered as children. Many recounted years of drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders and other psychological and emotional problems.

This trail of shattered lives is what came of the Pope’s indifference – of his continued indifference, since as this story shows, he’s still determined to do no more than the bare minimum. Permitting survivors of sex abuse to actually protest publicly at the heart of his power is obviously something that this pompous medieval princeling would never allow.

And finally, there’s this:

Belgium’s Catholic primate Tuesday faced accusations of homophobia and calls to resign for saying AIDS was justly deserved and elderly child-abusing priests should be spared.

…In a book released last month, Leonard said of HIV carriers: “When you mistreat the environment it ends up mistreating us in turn. And when you mistreat human love, perhaps it winds up taking vengeance.”

But when it comes to child-raping priests, Leonard’s views on vengeance suddenly do an about-face:

Priests who abused children in their care, Leonard went on television to say, must be made aware of what they did, “but if they’re no longer working, if they have no responsibilities, I’m not sure that exercising a sort of vengeance that will have no concrete result is humane.”

Leonard’s spokesman, who took the job only three months ago, resigned after these remarks with the memorable explanation: “Monsignor Leonard at times acts like a motorist driving on the wrong side of a freeway who thinks all the other motorists are wrong.” He’s one of the rare Catholics to show a sense of conscience over the lives destroyed by the church’s secrecy, arrogance and clinging to false dogma. If the church continues its obstinance, though, I have hope that he’ll be far from the last.

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About Adam Lee

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


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