Last Thursday started out like any other morning, got to work, sat down, and immediately logged onto Twitter (five points to hard working me). For whatever reason, as it seems every other day there’s another Catholic abuse scandal, I opened this link. In this article was what really was the usual Catholic child abuse scandal story; predatory monster of a priest, children abused, abuse being discovered and then covered up by the Church. What shocked me was my reaction to it which put mildly, was utter rage. Of course anger is the kind of reaction that one should feel at the mere mention of child-abuse however after these numerous child abuse scandals, I hate to admit it but I had become jaded.
This article lays out the story of Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy (accused of abusing over 200 deaf boys), though it never outright make the accusation, certainly makes the implication that in 1996, Murphy on the verge of getting a canonical trial was let off after interference from the then Cardinal Ratzinger or his office. This occurred after Murphy wrote to Ratzinger pleading that he was old and had repented. The NYTimes is at pains to point out that in these documents (that were compelled from the Catholic Church through a court order) there is no reply from Cardinal Ratzinger. Even if somehow I could overlook this instance this is not the only case to come to light recently in which the Pope himself is implicated in a cover-up. Perhaps even more damning, is the German case . However, it was this case which ignited my fury.
What shocked me about my reaction was that recently I have had a chance to get to know a rather staunch Catholic, Mpumi Nqgula, who’s really spoken honestly, fairly & (surprisingly for me) calmly about Catholicism & the Church. After speaking to her, my opinion of the Catholic Church had slowly come to change. From being rather anti-Catholic, mainly because of the churches handling of abuse cases, Mpumi, (to borrow from marketing speak) having been the perfect ‘brand ambassador’ had, if not entirely changed my mind on the Church, then certainly softened my attitude towards it.
My views on the Pope though never particularly developed, were vaguely distrustful. With the title of ‘Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’ when still Cardinal Ratzinger, or the more popular monikers, ‘The Panzer Cardinal’ or ‘God’s Rottweiler” which hardly lent him a more cuddly air, could I be blamed? However Mpumi explained a lot to me about what the Pope’s former role entailed, introduced me to some of his writings; essentially rehabilitating the Pope’s image to me. So when the Pope released his letter of apology to the Irish Catholics (which in my mind, could be seen as an apology to the wider world), I was receptive to it and saw it in a generally positive light.
However in that one article, whatever little faith I had in the Catholic Church to clean its own house up was totally lost.
This case, made everything that the Church had previously said on these scandals, particularly the Pope’s ‘apology’ to the Irish congregation, strike as disingenuous. In that apology, he essentially utterly & totally absolved Rome of any and all charges that itself was involved in these cover-ups, chiefly when he wrote, addressing Irish Bishops in particular, “It cannot be denied that some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse.”
Let me make it clear, not for a second am I saying that the Pope himself made the call to have the would-be trial against Rev. Murphy called off. As the Times points, out his former office, tasked with dealing with clerical sexual misconduct, received thousands of cases over the years he was in charge. However, clearly, within that office, in 1996, the prevailing view, regardless of official policy, was that this is a private matter for the Church to deal with.
A view that these actions should not be dealt with as the odious crimes that they were, but rather as sins; sins to be absolved by penance.
A view that would have had to had to have been signed off of by the man in charge; the man who is now known as, “His Holiness The Pope, Bishop of Rome & Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of Saint Peter, Prince of The Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of The Universal Church, Servant of the Servants of God, Primate of Italy, Archbishop & Metropolitan of The Roman Province, Sovereign of Vatican City State, Benedict XVI.”
What I ask is, how can we be expected to take the Pope’s apology to be sincere, when it would seem to be clear that Pope Benedict himself was complicit in these cover-ups as a matter of policy either actively, or, by allowing his office to let priests off, passively? In my view, there is more than enough evidence that this rot, and that is what it is, rot, went beyond the Bishops (as Rome would have us believe) and went right up to the top, to the Churches highest echelons.
The Vatican has already accepted the resignation of one Irish Bishop over his being implicated in the cover-up of abuse with numerous others offering there’s. Perhaps it’s time for Pope Benedict, to take a moment, forget the titles, the pomp and ceremony, and look at his Church. Besides the victims of these abuses, the other true victims of these scandals are your everyday Catholics, your Mpumis, who day in and day out have to defend their church from what are undeniably fair charges. Perhaps the Pope should forget the hierarchy and take an example from those below him, and resign. If not as an apology to those who have been harmed because of his actions, then to save whatever credibility his Church, still has.
The plain fact is this. With him still in power, no matter how much the Church apologises, no matter how many Bishops resign, no matter how many abusers are defrocked and jailed, this stench, this pall, will remain over the Church for perpetuity.
Note: Thanks must go out to Mpumi for helping me in explaining some of the Church structures, terminology etc. Oh yes, and there’s no need to excommunicate her for doing this as she did not know what I was writing about.