POPE BENEDICT & THE BISHOPS – WHAT DID THEY KNOW AND WHEN DID THEY KNOW ABOUT CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE?

POPE BENEDICT & THE BISHOPS – WHAT DID THEY KNOW AND WHEN DID THEY KNOW ABOUT CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE?

There has been a flood of international allegations of priest sexual abuse in the news.

Allegations of clergy sexual abuse began making the news in 1985 and since then the allegations have waxed and waned until the latest European complaints have surfaced. What makes the German allegations significant is the role played by the present pope, Benedict. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and in his Benedict.2 previous position as an archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1981, Benedict played a central role regarding the handling of allegations of priest sexual abuse. The German allegations also involved the Regensburger Domspatzen boy’s choir led by Msg. Georg Ratzinger, the pope’s brother. For thirty years his brother led the choir, but the brother also claims to have been unaware of any sexual abuse.

I plead guilty to not being an admirer of Joseph Ratzinger. He was the late Pope John Paul’s "junk yard dog" when it came to bringing priests and theologians into line. He was responsible for stifling theological debate and discussion as well as protecting power exclusively in the position of pope. See my posts of April 3, 2007 https://paulluverajournalonline.com/weblog/2007/04/pope_benedict_s_1.html as well as posts about him on March 14, 2007, July 11, 2007 and April 21, 2007. However, the main line news about his past action and present position regarding clergy abuse merits objection consideration.  

U.S. Dominican priest, Thomas Doyle, an advocate for victims, said that the bishops have been engaging in "denial and blame shifting" since the earliest days of the scandal. David Clohessy of the Chicago based group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said:

"The significance of the spreading crisis in Europe is that on one hand every additional country where the scandal erupts makes it harder for church officials to shift blame on, for example, a sexually loose culture or overzealous prosecutors or money hungry trial lawyers."

When I read this quote I immediately thought of the Seattle Archbishop Alex Brunett, using the Catholic Northwest Progress profess regret for the sexual abuse that happened in the Seattle archdiocese while at the same time blaming trial lawyers who represented the victims. In more then several articles in the publication he made professions of regret with a promise to make things right but they were always coupled with evasion for full responsiblity using the allegation that trial lawyers were really to blame for the crisis Bernard law or other factors excused the situation. There has been, in general, by bishops, a lame attempt to shift blame away from the leadership in the church for their role in this tragic situation..

Theologian Hans Kung, in the March 19th issue of the National Catholic Reporter http://ncronline.org/ said, in an opinion piece, that the abuse is rooted in clerical celibacy. He argues that the rule of celibacy "contradicts the Gospel and the venerable Catholic condition" and should be abolished. He points out that for centuries celibacy was not a rule for the priesthood. For the first millennium of the church, it did not exist. It was introduced in the West for the first time in the 11th century by Pope Gregory VII over the vigorous opposition of the clergy. Thousands of priests protested the new edict. Kung argues that "compulsory celibacy is the principal reason for today’s catastrophic shortage of priests." His solution for the shortage of priests? Simple: abolish the celibacy rule and allow women to be ordained.

Kung notes that from 1981 to 2005 the secretive Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, headed up by the present pope, Joseph Ratzinger, claimed the exclusive right to deal with complaints of sexual abuse by clergy. Kung says as recently as 1981, he sent to all the bishops around the world notice that serious crimes were put under "papal secrecy" restrictions.

The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/28/world/europe/28church.html?hp

 has reported that when Ratzinger was the archbishop of Munich he allowed a pedophile priest, sent to his archdiocese, to continue working as a parish priest where he again molested children. The paper has also reported that when a U.S. priest was accused of abusing as many as 200 deaf children at a school for the deaf U.S. Bishops asked the Vatican to remove him from the priesthood. These requests went directly to Ratzinger in his position at the Vatican and he took no action allowing the priest to continue in the priesthood. He also played a major role in moving Boston’s Cardinal Law to a position at the Vatican when he was faced with a storm of protest for his cover up of priest abuse cases there without any sanctions imposed.

What’s disturbing is the failure of the pope and U.S. Bishops to admit their role and acknowledge responsibility for their past cover up and denial when they knew about priest sexual abuse. Instead, they have apologized for "any mistakes that may have been made" as if they had no part of it. They have refused to offer transparency. They attack groups representing the abused. They attack the lawyers who represent the abused and they lobby legislatures for relief and oppose any change to the statute of limitations to allow the abused a remedy. As to Pope Benedict, the question that is unanswered is what did he know and when did he know it.

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