By Mike Whitney
Pope Benedict should do everyone a favor and resign. By hanging on, he’s just making matters worse. Who does he think he’s fooling anyway? Everyone knows that he was involved in the sex-scandal cover up. Does he really think that a few papal apologies will make a difference? He was in charge and knew everything that was going on. That makes him responsible. His best option now is to “man up” and face the consequences. He needs to arrange a press conference, tell the truth, and resign. End of story.
It’s clear that the problem isn’t going to go away. In the last week, three more incidents have surfaced adding more fuel to the fire. In Wisconsin, Father Lawrence Murphy abused as many as 200 boys at a Milwaukee school for the deaf. One of the victims, Arthur Budzinski, has been all over TV telling his story and blaming the pope. It’s pretty heart-wrenching stuff, too. According to Budzinski’s daughter Gigi:
“The pope knew about this. He was the one who handled the sex abuse cases. So, I think he should be accountable, because he did nothing.”
This is bad. Anyone can see that the Vatican was shuffling predators from one spot to another trying to keep the details out of the news. Maybe Benedict thought he was doing the right thing? Maybe he thought he was just being loyal or protecting the church from litigation? Who knows what he thought; it’s beside the point. The bottom line is that people’s lives have been ruined and someone has to pay.
Here’s another bombshell which appeared in the Associated Press last week:
“In a signed statement last year, the 67 former pupils at a school for the deaf in Verona described sexual abuse, pedophilia and corporal punishment from the 1950s to the 1980s. They named 24 priests, brothers and lay religious men at the Antonio Provolo Institute for the Deaf.
One victim, Alessandro Vantini, told the AP last year that priests sodomized him so relentlessly he came to feel “as if I were dead.”
“How could I tell my papa that a priest had sex with me?” Vantini, 59, said through a sign-language interpreter. “You couldn’t tell your parents because the priests would beat you.” (“Sex abuse scandal in US, Italy taints papacy”, Nicole Winfield, AP)
67 victims here, 200 victims there; this is industrial-scale sex abuse, a veritable pedophile conveyor belt!
Naturally, the Vatican has circled the wagons and is lashing out at the media. But it’s a hopeless cause. As the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger (as Benedict was known at the time) took steps to silence priests who wanted to reveal what they knew. In a 2001 letter to the bishops, Benedict “ordered them to keep sexual abuse allegations secret under threat of excommunication – updating a noxious church policy… that both priests accused of sex crimes and their victims “observe the strictest secret” and be “restrained by a perpetual silence.” (Washington Post)
This is obstruction of justice, and Benedict should be prosecuted. No man is above the law; not even the pope. Religious freedom isn’t license to rape children.
Benedict’s letter helps to illustrate a larger point, too. It shows that the sex abuse scandal isn’t really about sex abuse at all. It’s about the people in positions of authority who violated the public’s trust. That’s the real story. It’s about people who pretend to be “spiritual advisers”, but don’t even do the right thing when a child is sexually molested. And, these are the people who are giving advice on issues like homosexuality and birth control?
Benedict has also been implicated in a German case involving Father Peter Hullermann who was suspended from his duties but then, allowed to return to work “without restrictions” as a priest in Munich, even though a psychiatrist described him as a potential danger.
According to the New York Times: “In September 1979, the chaplain (Hullermann) was removed from his congregation after three sets of parents told his superior, the Rev. Norbert Essink, that he had molested their sons, charges he did not deny, according to notes taken by the superior and still in Father Hullermann’s personnel file… “Reports from the congregation in which he was last active made us aware that Chaplain Hullermann presented a danger that caused us to immediately withdraw him from pastoral duties.”
Hullermann was allowed to return to his parish work on Feb. 1, 1980. He was finally convicted in 1986 of molesting boys in Bavaria.
Can you see a pattern here? These are more than isolated incidents. It’s like some gruesome papal crime-ring; Ratzinger’s Sopranos.
A few weeks ago, Benedict issued an apology to Catholics in Ireland for decades of cruelty and abuse. In the papal communique Benedict opined, “I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.”
Benedict’s comments are predictably insincere. He knew exactly what was going on. As Catholic theologian, Hans Kueng points out:
“There was not a single man in the whole Catholic Church who knew more about the sex-abuse cases than him, because it was ex officio (part of his official role)… “He can’t wag his finger at the bishops and say, you didn’t do enough. He gave the instruction himself, as head of the Congregation of Doctrine of the Faith, and repeated it as Pope.”
Sinead O’Connor, Irish musician and abuse-victim, was so incensed by Benedict’s fake empathy, she wrote a fiery article for the Washington Post where she said:
“Irish Catholics are in a dysfunctional relationship with an abusive organization. The pope must take responsibility for the actions of his subordinates. If Catholic priests are abusing children, it is Rome, not Dublin, that must answer for it with a full confession and a criminal investigation. Until it does, all good Catholics… should avoid Mass. In Ireland, it is time we separated our God from our religion, and our faith from its alleged leaders.”
This case goes way beyond the sleazy details of one man’s repeated attempts to conceal the criminal activities of serial molesters and child rapists. The real issue is whether people in positions of power are to be held accountable for their actions and whether the law really applies to everyone equally and without exception. That’s what’s at stake here. Ratzinger needs to be indicted, prosecuted and – if found guilty – sentenced to prison.