Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pope Benedict and the sex-abuse scandal

Pope Benedict XVI arrived at Andrews Air Force Base yesterday for a six-day tour of Washington and New York. This is his first visit to the United States since becoming Pope in 2005.

Before he arrived he did touch on the Catholic Church’s sex-abuse scandal. Aboard the papal plane, the Benedict told reporters he was "deeply ashamed" of the scandal and assured Catholics that seminaries will not tolerate pedophiles. Of course, he failed to say anything about those in the church hierarchy who did tolerate various sexual abuses of children by priests and did not placate critics from such organizations such as Bishop Accountability and SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) who complain he has done nothing about the issue since becoming Pope.

Christopher Hitchens has these thoughts in Slate
…Why is the Vatican continuing to shelter Cardinal Bernard Law?

It will be remembered that Law resigned his position as head of the Archdiocese of Boston in late 2002. He had little alternative. A series of lawsuits and depositions and disclosures had established beyond doubt that, as my Slate colleague Dahlia Lithwick phrased it, "Law was not only aware of egregious sexual misconduct among his subordinates but was apparently engaged in elaborate efforts to cover up incident after incident of child rape." (I pause to praise her for employing that latter term instead of the grubby all-purpose euphemism abuse.) To be specific, the cardinal admitted in a deposition that he knew that the Rev. John Geoghan had raped at least seven boys in 1984 before he approved Geoghan's transfer to another parish where other boys were at risk. Further disclosures revealed that the Rev. Paul Shanley, who at one point was facing trial for 10 counts of child rape and six counts of indecent assault and battery, had been moved from ministry to ministry in what amounted to an attempt to protect him. Law himself lied to a West Coast bishop about Shanley's history and certified in writing that another rapist priest, the Rev. Redmond Raux, had "nothing in his background" to make him "unsuitable to work with children."

A vast majority of Americans told the polls at that stage that they favored prosecution of any clerics who had knowingly failed to act on the exposure of child rape in the church. In certain jurisdictions it nearly did come to that, but in Massachusetts, as Lithwick dryly pointed out, there was no mandatory reporting law. In other words, a person with information about child rape was not obliged to come forward with the facts. Or that, at least, was the shame-faced excuse of the Massachusetts district attorney. However, suppressing information about a crime can also be a crime in itself, and Cardinal Law and seven of his bishops were at one stage subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury.

The whole question became moot after his resignation because Law thereupon abruptly moved to Rome and took up a series of positions in the Vatican. He resigned only as head of the Boston archdiocese he had so gravely outraged and was allowed to retain his cardinal's hat. He was appointed as archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and made a member of the congregations of Oriental Churches, Clergy, Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Evangelization of Peoples, Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Catholic Education, and Bishops, as well as the Pontifical Council for the Family! He took a full part in the conclave that selected Ratzinger as the successor to John Paul II.

So, I think that we are entitled to hear, as the vicar of Christ and holder of the Keys of Peter favors us with his presence, whether he regards his brother Bernard Law as an honored guest in the holy city or as someone who has been given asylum. And even if we cannot get a satisfactory answer, it is essential that we hear the question. Will the press do its job, and will our elected representatives remember their responsibilities to so many thousands of tortured and exploited children? Some of us will be watching and keeping an account.
You can read the entire piece here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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