Friday, March 19, 2010

The Attack on Pope Benedict XVI

Damian Thompson has an excellent story in the Daily Telegraph explaining what is going on behind the scenes in the current uproar over sex abuse cover-ups in the Roman Catholic Church. He begins:
"After a week of disastrous publicity for the Roman Catholic Church, it's a fair bet that if you conducted a word-association test in the average British high street, the results would be as follows:

Catholic priest? "Paedophile." Pope? "Nazi."

The reputation of the Church internationally has never been lower. On Wednesday, St Patrick's Day, Cardinal Sean Brady, Primate of All Ireland, apologised for helping to persuade two boys – aged 10 and 14 – to sign letters agreeing not to tell the police that a priest, Brendan Smyth, had abused them.

This was 35 years ago: Brady was just one priest involved in the internal church process, and the story has been in the public domain for years. But what difference does that make? Smyth, now dead, went on to be exposed as a notorious sexual predator. Cardinal Brady said last December that he would resign if he was implicated in decisions that led children to be abused. Now he says he'll go only if the Holy Father orders him to.

Pope Benedict XVI will have to make up his mind what to do about Cardinal Brady. But it won't be easy to find the time, because clerical child-abuse scandals – previously mainly confined to the English-speaking world – are bursting out all over Europe. And sections of the media are doing their best to implicate the Pope in one of them.

Did Joseph Ratzinger, when he was Archbishop of Munich in 1980, enable a priest already facing allegations to work in a parish and subsequently abuse boys? A headline in The Times on Saturday left readers in no doubt: "Pope knew priest was paedophile but allowed him to continue with ministry."

The story was explosive, and not just because it directly implicated the spiritual leader of a billion Catholics. The Pope is visiting England and Scotland in September. He will meet the Queen at Holyrood House, Edinburgh, and beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, the great English theologian, at a public Mass in Coventry. And he will offer "guidance on the great moral issues of our day", according to Cardinal Keith O'Brien, leader of the Church in Scotland.

Moral guidance? From a man who (according to The Times) knew a priest was a paedophile but allowed him to continue in ministry? If that were true, no wonder 28,000 people have signed a petition to the Prime Minister objecting to state funding of Benedict's visit.

At which point, everyone needs to take a deep breath. Because a narrative is being formed in the public imagination that is horrifying, packed with salacious detail and very neat, in that it describes a Catholic conspiracy to hush up child abuse stretching right to the very top. The problem is that it's partly fiction.

Many Catholics – and I am one of them – believe that the Pope has been stitched up over this Munich case. The then-Archbishop Ratzinger did not allow a priest he knew to be a paedophile to continue in ministry. He gave permission for the priest – a revolting pervert called Peter Hullermann, who was accused (but not convicted) of forcing an 11-year-old boy to perform a sex act on him – to receive counselling in Munich while suspended from priestly duties.

Without Archbishop Ratzinger's knowledge, Hullermann was later transferred to parish duties. By the time he was convicted of sex offences, the archbishop had become Cardinal Ratzinger and had been working in the Vatican for several years. So the Times headline was, in the words of the leading Catholic commentator Philip Lawler, "grossly misleading, downright irresponsible".

The future Pontiff could have been more vigilant, but to bracket his delegation of decisions with Cardinal Brady's complicity in a cover-up is unfair. As unfair, indeed, as branding an elderly Bavarian cleric a "former Nazi" because he was drafted into the Hitler youth and served briefly in the German army during the war.

The fact is that sections of the media will not be happy until they have implicated the Pope in sex-abuse scandals – and if the dots don't quite join up, never mind: it makes good copy and the Successor of Peter isn't going to sue, is he?

Read the rest here.

Thompson makes the valid point that it appears that there are moves afoot to "get Benedict" and in his blog today he expands on this point by stating that there are elements in the Curia who despise Benedict and are open to collaborating even with secularists in order to discredit him. He writes:

"The world’s cardinals . . . may have elected Joseph Ratzinger pope by a large majority, but the Vatican is stuffed with curial officials, some of high rank, who resent the fact that Benedict has always been his own man. He has an inner circle, of course, but it’s small – and it’s not made up of canapĂ©-chomping ecumenical back-slappers. Also, even some “conservative” curial officials from the JPII era are horribly snooty about the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, and resent its liberation by this great pontiff."
Thompson notes that no one has done more to fight the abuse of minors in the Catholic Church than Benedict. We won't understand the public campaign of vilification of him until we understand that this is exactly why he is so hated by liberal Catholics.

Much of the cover-up was perpetrated by homosexuals and liberal, "spirit of Vatican II" sympathetic bishops who tolerated and even encouraged a culture of homosexuality within the priesthood. It is no coincidence that most of the abuse cases so far documented have involved priest and boys. Where there is homosexual activity going on and a ready supply of altar boys, the temptation for some homosexual priests is very strong and easily rationalized. We need to remember that those who are self-righteously indignant about the Church's cover-up of the sex abuse scandal are the same people who want the Church to declare cohabitation, divorce, married priests, women priests, contraception, abortion and homosexuality normal and good. And once society has done all that, the next step will be a gradual lowering of the age of consent until sex with boys, which today is no more unthinkable than homosexuality itself was 50 years ago, is also normalized.

It is worth noting that this pope has done something radical and far-reaching in its effects in decreeing that candidates for the priesthood who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies should not be allowed to go forward for ordination. This is the basis for a needed moral renewal of the priesthood and if this does occur as a result of the sex abuse scandal then good will have been brought out of evil.

Sex abuse is bad and it should not have been covered up. But to attack a pope who has done more than anyone else to stop such abuse is unconscionable. Anyone who really wants to combat sex abuse, should attack those who deride chastity and self-control and who argue for sexual permissiveness in the so-called "spirit of Vatican II."

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