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Is the Church protecting sinners or criminals?

By Bob Kasango

The troubling history of the Catholic Church and abuse of children has Pope Benedict embroiled in yet another pedophile scandal. This time it started with Pope Benedict himself when as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and his handling of the case of a priest accused of pedophilia.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the archbishop in Munich at the time, was copied on a memo that informed him that a priest, whom he had approved, sending to therapy in 1980 to overcome pedophilia, would be returned to pastoral work within days of beginning psychiatric treatment. The priest was later convicted of molesting boys in another parish.

The scandals involving Catholic priests and their habit of having sex with little boys has hit the fan. The leftist media is licking its chops over this, convinced that Catholicism represents all of Christianity, and this is yet another opportunity for them to continue on in their quest to destroy religion.

I am not a Catholic and, and I have a few doctrinal differences with the Catholic Church but I respect the Catholic Church and faith. I have many Catholic friends and I believe they love the Lord greatly, but the Church was doomed to fall into the trappings of this kind of scandal from the very beginning when they decided to force priests to be celibate.
The Vatican vehemently argues that there is no co-relation between celibacy and sexual deviance and the Pope has expressed strong views in this regard. Clearly the issue facing the Catholic Church is not about whether gay people or celibacy cause pedophilia. It is, however, about the church’s egregious neglect to address the issue of sexual violence by priests against children for decades. The problem is that Pope Benedict, by admission of his biographer“ David Gibson, ‘is not the type who opens up for self-reflection.

The Catholic faith is on trial, at least in the media. All of the Catholic Church should not be painted in the same light as the dirty Catholic priests who seem they can’t sexually control themselves. The parishioners too should not be demonised. This is a problem with the church leadership, not the people. This kind of scandal is yet another kind of problem that merges when an organisation, such as the Catholic Church, has a large political power structure within the church structure.

Not only have these priests acted like monsters, and destroyed the lives of these children for the rest of their days, but that anyone, much less Church leadership, is willing to look the other way when the priests do this kind of thing.

Why is the church looking the other way, and not defrocking these monsters? Is it because of the secrets these priests may know? Is it that the leadership would rather keep these pedophile priests in the church, salaried as a priest, so that they can keep them silent? It’s like a family trying to protect a wayward member, refusing to see the sick, vile truth in order to protect the family name. My Lord, how can anyone look away when it comes to what these monsters do to children?

Some extremists are blowing it up as a representation of all Christianity. There is nothing Christian about the scandals nor is there anything biblical about forcing priests to be celibate, and covering up their despicable actions.

The Catholic Church says 4% of their priests are sexual predators. I believe it is 8%, or 10%. But why is that percentage so high in the church? I understand that these monsters exist in life, but why is the number of cases so high in the Catholic Church? Could it be because of the celibacy rule, and these predators think they can get away with it because the church looks the other way and is willing to protect them?

Pope Benedict XVI’s latest apology for the scandal – an issue that the Roman Catholic Church should have engaged years ago – is strong on forgiveness but far short of the full accountability that Catholics need for repairing their damaged church.

With the scandal spreading across Europe, Benedict apologised to Irish Catholics recently for the ‘sinful and criminal’ sexual abuse of thousands of children across decades. But he made no mention of the need to discipline diocesan leaders most responsible for shielding hundreds of priests from criminal penalties by moving them from parish to parish to continue their crimes. The Pope’s choice of diction is instructive “ for the first time he has employed the word ‘criminal’ in his description of the actions of these monsters under his authority. The Catholic Church has mostly considered the actions of these monstrous priests as a ‘sin’ and not a ‘crime’ for which they should face penal sanctions. Rather they have been transferred from one parish to another and may be required to repent of their ‘sin’. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he was head of the Vatican body investigating these abuses by priests, he argued that it would be wrong to hand the accused priests to secular authorities. In his persuasion, and he wrote confidentially to bishops around the world in 2001, the issue should be investigated with “utmost secrecy’ within the church and as much as possible, avoiding public and media attention.

In not adopting a zero-tolerance policy for abusive priests, the Catholic Church closes its eyes toward justice. However, when it is forced, like now, to open its eyes in the face of its own institutional crimes and sins, the Catholic Church still will not take full responsibility for its evasive policies and wayward clerics.

Viewed as a sin and not a crime by most clerics, pedophilia maintains itself in ecclesiastical institutions like the Catholic Church through a culture of silence, deception, and shame, and it is believed to be overcome by daily offerings of prayers and penance” but not prosecution.

While pedophilia is a sin within a theological view, it is also a crime within a legal view. After all, these men are sex offenders like any other. If found guilty, they should be placed on sex offender registries as most legal regimes require.

While the pedophile needs forgiveness both by God and the church for his transgression, he also needs to be held culpable by society and the state for his crime.

With its pedophilic priests, the Catholic Church protects both sinners and criminals by foisting its crime on gay people. If the Catholic Church ever goes to itself for penance, it may one day confess its own criminal acts.

There is no escaping the scandal for Pope Benedict. At a personal level, the latest scandal was triggered at a parish in his native Germany, and his own brother who headed a renowned Bavarian choir at a school where young boys were allegedly molested, has been dragged in. Meanwhile U.N. Judge Geoffrey Robertson argues that the pope should be tried in U.S. courts for being an accomplice to sex crimes. Vatican attorneys have argued that the Vatican is a state and that the pope, as the designated head of that state, has immunity from prosecution in foreign courts, a contention Robertson says ‘cannot stand up to scrutiny.’ But even if such a claim passed legal muster, Robertson argues, the pope still wouldn’t be shielded from international legal prosecution:

Head of state immunity provides no protection in the International Criminal Court (hence its current indictment of President Bashir). The ICC statute defines a crime against humanity to include rape and sexual slavery and other similarly inhumane acts causing serious harm to mental or physical health committed against civilians on a widespread or systematic scale if condoned or tolerated by a government or a de facto authority.

If acts of sexual abuse by priests are not isolated or sporadic events but part of a wide practice both known to and unpunished by their de facto authority – the Catholic Church – then under the command responsibility principle of international lawthe commander can be held criminally liable.

German Catholics are questioning Benedict’s role nearly 30 years ago when, as archbishop of Munich, he allowed the transfer of a molester priest. That priest had managed to remain at work until recently when he was suspended as the scandal grew with news media scrutiny. There are also questions about Benedict’s directive as a Vatican cardinal in 2001 that bishops worldwide were to keep pedophilia investigations secret under threat of ex-communication.

The Vatican insists this was to protect the innocent and never intended to encourage what has been established as a widespread failure by church officials to alert police to the criminal abuse of children.

It is hard to see how Vatican officials did not draw the lessons of the grueling scandal in the United States, where more than 700 priests were dismissed over a three-year period. The Times of London ran a piece about how the pope, while he was still a cardinal, was personally warned about a priest who had molested as many as 200 deaf boys. But church leaders chose to protect the church instead of the children. The report illuminated the kind of behaviour the church was willing to excuse to avoid scandal.

The first case, involving the Rev. James R. Haley ” who was silenced in 2001 after he accused Bishop Loverde of Arlington, Virginia – USA of sheltering homosexual priests” remains unresolved at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy.

The pope’s expression of ‘shame and remorse’ for the Irish scandal is not to be doubted. But what are most urgently needed are criminal sanctions against these predator priests and their protectors.

There are Catholic faithful who expectedly have come out to defend the Catholic Church and its leadership – they are performing a cheap parlor trick of turning the Catholic Church into the victim here and frankly, it is disgusting. The victims are at the centre of this issue, not the Church. Father Walter Covens, a French Catholic priest writing in L’espresso says, “As for the foremost accusers, those most armed with stones to throw at the Church, none of them is without sin.”

This is not an attack on the Catholic Church. It is about holding the men who lead the church accountable. And that includes the Pope.

In the wonderful novel ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini, Baba tells his son Amir: “There is only one sin and that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft… When you kill a man, you steal a life. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth.”

Men, not God, not the Church, stole innocence and trust, privacy and possession of one’s body and spirit. Can there be a more heinous crime?

The perpetrators stole innocence and purity, trust and love, and beautiful childhood souls like they were nothing more than trinkets of idol pleasure.

But the greatest theft came from the cardinals and bishops and authorities. They stole in silence just like a thief in the night. They were soundless accomplices to the murder of souls.

They stole truth from those who needed its protection most. They stole the right to be heard and to be believed. They stole love and hope and the sanctity of the church. They stole from God.

To defend any of this is to steal the last vestige of dignity and honor and justice from those who deserve it most.

There is only one sin and that is theft. The victims have been left defenseless and helpless. Let down by the State and the Church and their only hope is that: Where earthly justice does not reach, the hand of God can. Thou shalt not steal.

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