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The mob should lay off. The pope is completely innocent

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-On Sunday I appeared on The Big Questions on BBC1 to discuss whether the pope should "resign". It quickly descended into a heckling circus where calmly reasoned argument fell victim to unfocused outrage. Afterwards, two representatives of the Protest the Pope Coalition told me menacingly I had "no right" to defend Benedict XVI's record on abuse.

But shouting down the truth doesn't make it go away. I don't defend the pope because I think it is the duty of a good Catholic; I defend him because he is completely innocent of the charges made against him, and because the media has merged with the mob and misreported the facts.

The three recent stories from the US cited by Richard Dawkins and his mob as "proving" that the pope should be arrested under international law – the horrible cases of Murphy in Wisconsin, Teta and Trupia in Arizona, and now Kiesle in California – have this in common: the abuse took place in the 1970s; the police were informed and acted; the priest was suspended by his bishop; requests for dismissal from the clerical state ("defrocking") were sent to Cardinal Ratzinger's department in the Vatican, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and some time later the priests were defrocked – except in the case of Murphy, who died during his trial.

Suspension and defrocking are two separate actions. The first can be done by a bishop, with immediate effect; the second is a lengthy process that involves Rome. Suspension – meaning a priest is no longer able to function as a priest – say mass, hear confession, act as chaplain etc – is the key action that a bishop has to take against an abusive priest to prevent him having contact with minors. If, in any of these "smoking gun" cases, the bishop failed to suspend an abusive priest immediately, he did wrong. But such failure would have had nothing to do with Cardinal Ratzinger, whose only involvement was when a request for defrocking landed on his desk.

The time Rome took over each defrocking says nothing whatsoever about cover-up or collusion. It says only that defrocking was then a complex and elaborate procedure that took too long. However, what prevented the abuse was not the defrocking but the suspension by the bishop. There is no link between the length of the defrocking process and the priest's opportunity to abuse. In fact, in the case of Kiesle, most of the abuse for which he was convicted took place after he was defrocked, when his bishop had no more control over him.
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TAGGED: --, ABUSE, RELIGION


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