Pope Emeritus Benedict on Sexual Abuse: ‘I Never Tried to Cover Up These Things’

I guess writing for La Repubblica has become the trendy thing to do among the papal set lately.

Just a couple weeks after Pope Francis’ published response to the paper’s open letter made headlines, his predecessor (Benedict, now called Pope Emeritus) has written a letter for the same publication, in which he takes on critiques from Italian mathematician and atheist Piergiorgio Odifreddi — including, naturally, criticism of the Catholic Church’s handling of clerics’ sexual abuse of minors.

On that subject, Benedict defended the Church, insisting that the percentage of abuser priests is comparable to the percentage of abusers in any other profession. (Though you really would think a divinely-led institution could manage a little better than the rest, no?)

Perhaps in reaction to speculation that he retired in a bid to evade responsibility for abuse cover-ups, a meme that ran rampant around the time of his resignation, Benedict made a point of explaining that he had nothing to do with concealing sexual abuse in the priestly ranks:

As far as you mentioning the moral abuse of minors by priests, I can only, as you know, acknowledge it with profound consternation. But I never tried to cover up these things.

Careful Vatican-watchers may smell a rat at this point since, prior to his papacy, Benedict ran the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the sector of the hierarchy responsible for handling allegations of clerical abuse. Yet a spokesperson for SNAP (Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests) notes that

… over a clerical career that lasted more than six decades, we can’t think of a single child-molesting bishop, priest, nun, brother, or seminarian that Benedict ever exposed.

So was he just not doing a good job back then? Is he fudging the truth now? Or does he just insist on a really fine distinction between actively covering up abuse and merely failing to expose cases under his jurisdiction?

For people who endured abuse at the hands of trusted clerics, that’s a distinction without a difference.

About Sara Lin Wilde

Sara Lin Wilde is a recovering Catholic (and cat-holic, for that matter - all typographical errors are the responsibility of her feline friends). She lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where she is working on writing a novel that she really, really hopes can actually get published.

  • Andrew B.
  • baal

    It’s not “moral abuse”. It’s physical and psychological harm and damage to children.

    • Sven2547

      Seriously. Calling it “moral abuse” puts it in the same category as wearing condoms, as far as they’re concerned.

      • Olive Markus

        Which is, scarily, a huge part of the problem.

    • Bitter Lizard

      I don’t like it when people shy away from the term “rape” in these cases. Even “abuse” is euphemistic.

  • The Other Weirdo

    On that subject, Benedict defended the Church, insisting that the
    percentage of abuser priests is comparable to the percentage of abusers
    in any other profession.

    Wait! Just wait one damn minute here. It’s a profession now? Like janitors, programmers, pr0n stars and warmongers? I thought it was a calling from God Himself™. Is that like Christianity isn’t a religion, but the oldest corporation in the world?

    • Scott_In_OH

      I’ve seen this rationalization (that “the percentage of abuser priests is comparable to the percentage of abusers in any other profession”) from Catholic apologists in blog comments a thousand times. I didn’t know Benedict said it, too.

      It makes me furious:

      1) As Sarah Lin says, an organization blessed and guided by an omnipotent and benevolent God should do a lot better at not raping children than organizations that aren’t so guided.

      2) As many have pointed out, the response of the “holy” organization has been much worse than at “unholy” institutions. If, say, a janitor at an elementary school were found to have raped children, that person would be lucky to get life in prison. The administrators at the school would either be sacked or have to show that they were changing procedures to make sure this never happened again. And if any of them said, “We’ll handle it. We don’t need the help of the police or the courts,” they would be thrown in jail as fast as the rapist.

      There are so many parts of these crimes and cover-ups it’s hard to know what’s the worst. But one of the things that sets me off the most is this preposterous excuse that “we’re no worse than anyone else.”

      • UWIR

        And children aren’t generally raised to believe that janitors are in charge of whether they get into heaven or not.

  • Bitter Lizard

    Benedict ordered that every sex abuse case go across his desk, meaning that he had access to more knowledge about rapist priests than anyone else in the world, and didn’t turn a single solitary one of them into the authorities. Nor did he do shit about Father Lawrence Murphy, who raped two hundred deaf children.

    Nothing says “Christian” like raping two hundred deaf children.

  • Art_Vandelay

    More from that letter…

    There is, moreover, science fiction in a big way just even within the theory of evolution. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins is a classic example of science fiction.

    Awesome. I missed this guy.

    • baal

      I get the feeling that Palpatine has been grinding his teeth everytime Francis makes nicey-nice in public.

    • Gus Snarp

      I love when people make comments on that book that clearly demonstrate that they never read it or understood it and have absolutely no idea what it’s about.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins is a classic example of science fiction.

      By which he supposedly meant that parts of it are speculative. But Dawkins freely admits which parts are speculative, never tries to claim any of it is God’s will, and never threatens to excommunicate anyone for disagreeing with him.

  • the moother

    Uncle Benny is immune to the eighth commandment, it seems.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHRDfut2Vx0

  • Art_Vandelay

    Hmmm…

    The letter, ‘concerning very grave sins’, was sent from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that once presided over the Inquisition and was overseen by Ratzinger.

    It spells out to bishops the church’s position on a number of matters ranging from celebrating the eucharist with a non-Catholic to sexual abuse by a cleric ‘with a minor below the age of 18 years’. Ratzinger’s letter states that the church can claim jurisdiction in cases where abuse has been ‘perpetrated with a minor by a cleric’.

    The letter states that the church’s jurisdiction ‘begins to run from the day
    when the minor has completed the 18th year of age’ and lasts for 10
    years.

    It orders that ‘preliminary investigations’ into any claims of abuse should be sent to Ratzinger’s office, which has the option of referring them back to private tribunals in which the ‘functions of judge, promoter of justice, notary and legal
    representative can validly be performed for these cases only by priests’.

    ‘Cases of this kind are subject to the pontifical secret,’ Ratzinger’s letter concludes. Breaching the pontifical secret at any time while the 10-year jurisdiction order is operating carries penalties, including the threat of excommunication.

  • Tainda

    Never did anything to prevent it either.

  • viaten

    ‘I Never Tried to Cover Up These Things’
    Yeah, OK. How about knowing about it and doing nothing?

  • Gus

    Or does he just insist on a really fine distinction between actively covering up abuse and merely failing to expose cases under his jurisdiction?

    Probably that one. Leave it to a highly educated theologian to carefully mince words and parse meanings so that they’ve always got an out.

    Meanwhile, if anyone has any doubt that the first Pope to resign in centuries, and the first Pope to resign ever when there wasn’t a serious controversy going on regarding who was actually the pope, resigned because the Church was bleeding memberships in wealthy nations in huge numbers at least in part due to ongoing revelations of horrible misconduct by priests that was not exposed, passed on to law enforcement, or even stopped by church leaders including that Pope, then they’re an idiot. I don’t actually think it was to evade personal responsibility, but because they knew the Church was dead in the water in terms of getting any kind of positive reputation back as long as he remained the head.

  • Stev84

    The “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” was known as the “Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition” until 1904.

  • SeekerLancer

    Good thing he’s still around to say horrible things to counteract the positive PR Francis is getting.

  • TiltedHorizon

    “insisting that the percentage of abuser priests is comparable to the percentage of abusers in any other profession”

    Considering the often touted claim that religion is source of morality one has to wonder why occurrences of “moral abuse” in the church is ‘comparable’ at all. Shouldn’t it be underrepresented or non-existent?

    • The Other Weirdo

      Not just “religion”, but their particular brand of religion, it is most especially blessed because all others are false, natch.

    • Maggie Winnike

      What they seem to forget is that whatever the profession the percentage of people who rape children should be zero. Then again I feel like the percentage of people who rape children out of the population of the entire world should be zero.

  • 3lemenope

    On that subject, Benedict defended the Church, insisting that the percentage of abuser priests is comparable to the percentage of abusers in any other profession. (Though you really would think a divinely-led institution could manage a little better than the rest, no?)

    “Come join us! We are an ancient order of healthy wealthy mendicants with magical transmutation powers and an inerrant moral guide!”

    “But you seem to be just as good or bad as the religion next door.”

    “Well, we don’t actually have magical powers or access to moral truth. Those are all metaphors.”

    “So why would I join again?”

    “Because we have magical powers! Did I tell you about the magical powers?”

  • GubbaBumpkin

    2010:

    Pope Blames Child Abuse Scandal on Secular Society

    Pope Benedict XVI told Vatican officials Monday that they must reflect
    on the church’s culpability in its child sex-abuse scandal, but he also
    blamed a secular society in which he said the mistreatment of children
    was frighteningly common.

    Let’s remember what the clergy child abuse scandal was really about.

    Child abusing clergy were allowed to commit their crimes due to the trust assigned to them as clergy, and then the Catholic hierarchy did their best to cover up the crimes and move abusing priests from parish to parish to avoid prosecution.

    The cover-up is worse than the crime. The attempt to blame this problem on “secularism” was anything but classy. Fck you, Benedict.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    I don’t believe the pope caught a fish that big.

    (I don’t actually believe anything the pope says.)

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      “I am inspired in my daily life by Darth Sidious.”

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Everyone, please keep this shit in mind when responding to the theists who show up once or twice a month to bleat about how offended they are that we hold Ratzinger responsible for child rape. The fact that it’s been very public knowledge for at least several years that he, personally, covered it up, and that it was an open secret for decades within the church is a prime reason I’m not gentle with them. They have no excuse for not knowing it by now, and even if they didn’t bother to learn it before, they have no excuse for not being outraged when they’re shown that their entire current hierarchy is complicit in protecting these criminals, down to their own church level. Their local priests may be good people in most ways, they might do many decent and generous things, but they know more about the situation than the laity, and yet they are coercing money from those people and eventually sending some of it up the line to bishops who have had direct, publicly exposed hands in enabling evil and then attacking the victims.

    They may not want to quit the church after that, but the only other moral choice in that case is to desperately want to clean it out. When they keep defending it, and especially making excuses for Ratzinger – I’m talking to people like you, Andre Villenevue – they are the child rapists.

    • Olive Markus

      Perfectly said.

    • Bitter Lizard

      Catholic parishioners are knowingly subsidizing an organized child rape operation. It’s as simple as that.

  • ORAXX

    The catholic church has all the appeal of a rotting corpse.

    • baal

      and golden rings on it’s dead fingers.

  • The Other Weirdo

    As far as you mentioning the moral abuse of minors by priests, I can
    only, as you know, acknowledge it with profound consternation. But I
    never tried to cover up these things.

    Well, that sounds familiar. I wonder where I heart that before. Oh, yeah, now I remember:

    I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Man, Bill Clinton is still preferable to almost every conservative White House contender since he left office, but after that, I wouldn’t vote for him for Mayor of Wasilla… even discounting that the Republicans basically held the nation hostage for two years in order to “get” him over a court case in which they illegally interfered.

    • UWIR

      I fell into a lifeboat.
      – Roberto Bosio

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    Bullshit. He was in charge of the coverup. what a lying piece of shit. Seriously, how can anyone still be Catholic after all that? I understand that they believe what they believe, but how can they still go to a church run by monsters like that?

  • LesterBallard

    Fucking scumbag. It’s not that there were abusive priests, you piece of shit, it’s that you hid the abuse, covered it up, which allowed it to continue, just to protect your shitty institution.

  • Robster

    The vile smelly mess that is the Roman catholic church is headed by the pope and that nasty piece of work, ex-pope Benny held that position throughout the recent years exposure of the legion of child molesting catholic clerics, so ex-pope Benny is where the buck stopped.

  • Yoav

    Darth Benny probably agree with Yoda when it come to trying and when covering up child raping priest have clearly took the do option.

    • Yoav

      Got tired of you over at crossexamined? Can’t say I blame them.

      Your copy pasta wasn’t even an original text from Hally it was a second or third hand claim that Halley said something, that’s not the same thing.
      And in the quote Halley is making an assertion not providing evidence, now based on your own performance you clearly can’t tell the difference between the two.

      The claim whoever you copied your post from make is that archeological evidence support some sort of mass child sacrifice being practiced by various Canaanite cultured, however actual archeologists seem to repetitively fail at actually finding any of that.


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