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A criminal matter, not a spiritual one

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Q:A senior Vatican priest last week compared outrage at Pope Benedict's handling of sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church to the persecution of the Jews. Church leaders disavowed the comments, but went on to complain about a "vile," anti-Vatican media campaign aimed at weakening the papacy and its authority. Is the news media being fair to the pope? Is the media biased against the Catholic Church or its hierarchy? How would you advise the pope?

A form of madness seems to have gripped the Vatican. An organization which for 2,000 years has been preaching the sinfulness of all mankind and the universal need for confession and repentance is acting as though it thought itself immaculate, the innocent victim of others' malevolence. And this despite having spent decades covering up child rapes committed by its own priests and monks, protecting them from the consequences of their devastating actions, and leaving them free to rape over and over and over again.

In 2001, then-Cardinal Ratzinger, in his then capacity as Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (what used to be called the Inquisition), wrote a letter clarifying and reinforcing the infamous Crimen Sollicitationis, which made it an excommunicable offence to breathe a word of child rape allegations outside the church. (And let us not underestimate that word 'excommunicable': to a victim of Catholic indoctrination, excommunication is tantamount to a sentence of eternal damnation.) Under Ratzinger's leadership, rape victims like this one were bullied into silence, called liars, and accused of being simply out to fleece the church for money. The Ryan and Murphy Reports are clear: the Roman Catholic Church consistently put its own reputation, its own status, its own survival, before concern for the children it had flogged and starved and raped, and then tried to prevent investigators finding out that it had done so.

It is hard to conceive anything more heinous than this. And yet, unbelievably, the Roman Catholic Church continues at every turn to demonstrate that it simply has no concept of the extent of its own corruption. For sure, we have had the apologies, and pretty half-hearted affairs they have been too, for the most part. The Pope's recent letter to Irish Catholics was shockingly complacent: it describes the 'problem of child sexual abuse' as "disturbing". And why is it "disturbing"? Because it "has contributed in no small measure to the weakening of faith and the loss of respect for the Church and her teachings". Not, you notice, because it inflicted agony on young bodies, not because it caused lasting psychological damage to impressionable minds, and not because it constituted cynical and brutal exploitation of the young and vulnerable on the part of the perpetrators. No, indeed: let's get our priorities right: it is disturbing because it has led to a loss of respect for the Church. And what, according to the Pope, was the cause of this 'disturbing' behavior? Well, it's obvious, isn't it? Those priests and monks and nuns had been infected by secularism!

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