Saturday, March 20, 2010


For the past decade, the Catholic priesthood has become synonymous with pedophilia. That is unfortunate, because the odds are that the majority of priests do not sexually abuse children. However, enough of them have done so that now, we laypeople out here are highly suspicious of Catholic priests. Reportedly, the U.S. dioceses have paid up to $2 billion in victim settlements in the past eight years. Who can forget former Archbishop Bernard Francis Law of Boston, whose complicity in covering up sexual abuse of children by priests resulted in his resignation? For those who haven’t thought much of Law since his resignation, you should know he is currently serving in Rome as an “archpriest,” which means he is the authority over several parishes. He is also a member of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which the Catholic Church defines as the body that "promotes the pastoral care of families, protects their rights and dignity in the Church and in civil society.” Law is typical in the church, in that even priests who have personally fondled children or raped them are currently still the in the papal fold. They are often just moved to different geographic locations and placed in lower profile positions.

Just to put the issue of sexual abuse by priests in perspective, watch and listen to the courtroom testimony of Father Patrick Gerald O’Donnell of Spokane, who admitted sexually molesting more than 30 teenage boys, many of them inside the church rectory.

Is it just me, or does there seem to be some dangerous disconnect between the Vatican and societal morality? Lately, the church’s morality has been called into question throughout Europe. Among the most high profile issues that Pope Benedict XVI has to deal with right now is alleged misconduct on the part of his own brother, George Ratzinger. Ratzinger has publicly admitted that sexual abuse of members of a boys’ choir occurred in Regensburg, Germany. Ratzinger directed the school where the abuse happened for three decades. For his part, the Pope says he knew nothing about it. Oh, apparently the Pope also knew nothing of Ratzinger’s common practice of slapping children in the face to discipline them. Are you buying any of this? No, I didn’t think you were. The Pope thinks we’re buying it. That has to do with powerful, egotistical leaders in religion, industry and government worldwide who believe their own b.s. and somehow convince themselves that you will believe it, too.

Does it sound a little Richard Nixonish to you? It does to me. When illegal behavior was taking place in all of the ranks that reported to then-President Nixon back in the early 1970s, Nixon’s initial position was one of complete ignorance. Of course,later we found out that he knew everything and even helped to keep it quiet. Does the Pope know everything, and how much has he done and is he currently doing to keep it quiet? Nixon resigned. Should Pope Benedict resign? Some say absolutely he should. It’s not the first time a Pope has had to step down. Okay, it last happened 600 years ago, but who’s counting years when supposed holy men across the globe are raping children?

Not the 53-year-old Austrian man who recently went on the radio to detail his own sexual abuse at the hands of Austrian priests decades ago. His story is quite telling, because the alleged abuser, Bruno Becker, offered the victim 5,000 Euros ($6,790) to keep quiet about it, calling the payment compensation, rather than hush money. That, of course begs the question: How does the church decide how much cash to ante up for prolonged and repeated incidents of molestation? Did Becker just pull that figure of 5,000 Euros out of thin air? And if so, is there truly anything arbitrary about child rape? Is oral sex worth more Euros than say, genital fondling? Who gets the highest payment? Those who experienced penetration? Is there a sliding scale? I think not, and clearly the church thinks not, because the church is currently shaking in its holy boots as one report after another surfaces about priests using boys for sexual gratification. And so far, the church has been quite mixed in its reaction to European reports.

For example, the spokesperson (read: PR flack) for the Vatican, Federico Lombardi, was arrogant enough to make the following comment in the midst of the mounting reports of abuse: "All objective and informed people know that the issue [of child sexual abuse] is much wider, and to focus accusations only on the Church leads to a skewed perspective." So, if I’m hearing this correctly, Lombardi is saying, ‘everybody’s doing it, so don’t pick on us.’ Again, is it just me, or is there an incomprehensible disconnect between the Vatican and the world at large? Let’s pull numbers out of the air like the church does: If say, oh, I don’t know…10% of child sexual abuse happens through the church and 90% happens everywhere else, should that 10% get a free pass? Lombardi is desperate, and therefore, we know the Pope is desperate. Kind of like Richard Nixon was desperate when he knew he could no longer hide the illegal activity of his administration.

By some estimates, there are more than 14,000 known victims of sexual abuse by U.S. priests since the 1960’s by up to 5,000 priests. And that’s just one country. How many children have had to live with their own dirty little secrets worldwide, many who will never feel able to come forward with their stories? Right now, for example, the Dutch Catholic church is relying on an independent commission to investigate more than 200 claims of reported sexual abuse by priests. In addition to Ratzinger’s school, priests in two other Catholic schools in Germany stand accused of beating and sexually molesting students. In Ireland the issue has become so pervasive that the Irish government issued a report that clearly details widespread sexual abuse of children by priests over the past three decades. Pope Benedict recently called Irish bishops to Rome to reprimand them. A nice high-profile p.r. move, but who is being held accountable and will anybody go to jail?

That’s the billion-dollar question. Why aren’t the rapists being put away for life like other rapists? If U.S. Congressmen raped children, would they be simply reprimanded? If executives with Microsoft, AIG or Bank of America raped children, would they just be reassigned to another city in a different position? If Harvard University teachers raped children, would they merely be called into the Chancellor’s office and slapped on the wrist? What is going on here with the Catholic Church and why are not hundreds or perhaps thousands of priests worldwide being tried in courtrooms and sent to prison with all of the other pedophiles and rapists?

And, finally: What is it that attracts pedophiles to the priesthood, and is this really the bigger issue at hand? If there is a silent, clandestine understanding somewhere that the priesthood has an immoral sexual component that has been covertly perpetuating child rape for decades and decades, perhaps the gig is finally up. The buck stops with Benedict. For my part, I am just egalitarian enough to be fully ready for this criminal sin to be stopped now. If the Pope is complicit in this dangerous sham, he needs to resign now. His successor needs to take on the international crimes of sexual abuse by priests as job one. And governments, worldwide, need to prosecute priests in the exact same judicial manner they treat all other pedophiles and rapists.

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