The U.K. Observer has produced evidence that the new Pope Benedict XVI was directly involved in obstructing justice in the investigation of pedophile priests. The article, “Confidential letter reveals Ratzinger ordered Bishops to keep allegations secret,” details how Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger “issued an order ensuring the church’s investigations into sex abuse claims be carried out in secret.” The order was sent to American bishops in May 2001 and “asserted the church’s right to hold its inquiries behind closed doors and keep the evidence confidential for up to 10 years after the victims reached adulthood.” (18 years old)
What right would that be? The right to protect the Catholic Church from the lawsuits of psychologically damaged victims? Or the right to ignore the laws of the host nation in which the pedophile priests were serving? The letter was signed by Ratzinger and came directly from his office at the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which serves as the papal thought police, bringing errant priests and progressives into line with Catholic doctrine.
Ratzinger’s edict states unequivocally that the “church can claim jurisdiction in cases where abuse has been perpetrated with a minor by a cleric.”
Really? Now, what jurisdiction might that be? Certainly nothing in the Federal penal code allows a cardinal or anyone else to willfully eschew the known laws of the land and bury the facts related to criminal investigations.
Ratzinger’s letter is such an egregious violation of the law it simply boggles the mind. But, that’s just the half of it. Ratzinger claimed that the church had the right to bury these cases for 10 years after the minor has “completed the 18th year of age.”
This goes well beyond simple loyalty to one’s church. These are the calculations of someone whose moral judgment is so abysmal he shouldn’t be trusted in anything.
Is that too harsh? How else would you describe someone who cooks up a plan to obstruct justice and deliberately perpetuate the suffering of innocent children? Ratzinger’s action can only be described as vile and inexcusable.
It would be interesting to see how Ratzinger would explain his behavior in terms of his frequently espoused theories on “moral relativism”. In the real world, there are few moral absolutes, but child abuse certainly rises to that standard.
To show how serious Ratzinger took the sex abuse scandal, he issued the warning in his letter, “Breaching the pontifical secret at any time while the 10 year jurisdiction order is operating carries penalties, including the threat of excommunication.”
This is terrible. It shows the current Pope acting like a Mafia chieftain, binding his subjects to silence (“Omerta”) and threatening to throw them out of the church if they fail. It also shows that his plan to obstruct justice was neither reflexive nor simply a “moral lapse”; it was a well-thought out conspiracy designed to intimidate church leaders and force them to shut up and hide the evidence.
At the same time the Observer was releasing the details of Ratzinger’s letter, the new Pope was carrying out his first official act: lambasting the Spanish government for allowing marriage for homosexuals.
The Vatican described the new bill, which will become law in a few months, as “profoundly iniquitous” and said that Catholic officials should be prepared to “lose their jobs rather than cooperate with the law.” (BBC)
Unbelievable. How can the marriage of two consenting adults committing themselves to a life together be “iniquitous”, while the concealing of known sex predators who have ruined the lives of countless children be acceptable?
Ratzinger has established a new benchmark for ecclesiastical duplicity. His disparaging remarks about women (she should “follow the roles inscribed by her biology”) and gays (they are inherently disposed “to intrinsic moral evil” and their rights can be “legitimately limited”) are already part of the public record. This new chapter only adds to his (already) dismal legacy.
Ratzinger is the worst thing that could have happened to the Catholic Church. The world needs a counterbalance to the militaristic chauvinism of Bush. Another Pope John XXIII would have been nice: a warm, conciliatory pontiff, extending the hand of friendship and goodwill the other religions. Regrettably, Ratzinger is the polar opposite of the affable architect of Ecumenical Council II. He’s already established himself as the pitchman for “traditional values”, discipline and papal authority. It’s only a matter of time before the hair shirts and chastity belts are retrieved from the subterranean Vatican vault.
Conspiracy Theory: the Bush and Ratzinger Collaboration
Sidney Blumenthal’s recent article “Holy Warriors” draws some interesting connections between Bush and the new pope. As Blumenthal notes, “Bush pleaded with the Vatican to pressure the bishops to step up their activism against abortion and gay marriage in the states during the campaign season. About a week later Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sent a letter to the US bishops, pronouncing that those Catholics who were pro-choice on abortion were committing a grave sin and must be denied Communion. He pointedly mentioned ‘the case of a Catholic politician consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws.’”
To understand how extraordinary Ratzinger’s letter was, we need to ask ourselves “when was the last time a pope actively campaigned on the behalf of a presidential candidate?”
How about never!
Is there any doubt that Ratzinger’s remarks were intended to assist Bush? His criticism torpedoed the Kerry campaign and handed a larger percentage of the Catholic vote to Bush. That margin of difference may have been critical in determining the outcome of the election.
So, why would Ratzinger throw his weight behind Bush and exhibit his disloyalty to “one of his own”? (Kerry is a Catholic) Was it because of his unshakeable commitment to principle and moral righteousness? (Certainly, his attempts to subvert justice disprove that theory.) Or did it have something to do with the American sex abuse scandal?
Call it a hunch, but I think that Ratzinger’s political maneuverings prior to the presidential election were a quid pro quo for favors promised by the Bush administration to overlook legal issues pending in the US. Ratzinger knew he had the papal election in the bag, because, as Al Jazeera noted, “Pope John Paul appointed all but 2 of the men who elected the new pope.” The fix was in. He knew he had the votes, but he also knew that he had to avoid being implicated in (covering up) the sex scandal or lose his shot at becoming pope.
One thing is certain, if justice had been served in Boston, Cardinal Law would be in leg-irons right now picking up soda cans and candy wrappers on the Mass Pike and Herr Ratzinger would be staving off extradition to the US on charges of obstruction of justice.
Instead, he’s the new head honcho of world Catholicism, blowing kisses to the adoring crowds while, at the same time, condemning the ravages of liberalism. This is an arrangement that works for Bush, too. With a reactionary ideologue in the swivel chair at the Vatican, Bush is assured that his Catholic base will stay put and the carping from Rome about Iraq will be at a minimum.
Pope Benedict XVI elicited his dark vision of humanity during the papal ceremonies on Sunday. He said, “We are living in alienation, in the salt waters of suffering and death, in a sea of darkness without light. The net of the Gospels pulls us out of the water of death and brings us into the splendor of God’s light, into true life.”
How often have we heard this same ominous Hobbesian vision articulated by autocrats attempting to ratify their own personal agenda. Ratzinger’s worldview may be his own bleak projection of reality, but his imposing position in the church hierarchy suggests that we may all feel its repercussions.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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