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Posted by on Mar 15, 2010 in Religion | 3 comments

The Pope And The Ever-Widening European Priest Sex-Abuse Scandals

Suspending the priest at the center of a German church sex-abuse scandal more than 30 years after the church first heard of the child molestation allegations hardly ends the scandal that is enveloping Pope Benedict XVI:

In 1980, Benedict, then archbishop there, approved Father Hullermann’s move to Munich after he was accused of sexually abusing boys in the Diocese of Essen, though on Friday a deputy took full responsibility for allowing the priest to return to full pastoral duties shortly thereafter. Father Hullermann was convicted of sexually abusing children in the Bavarian town of Grafing in June 1986 by a district court in nearby Ebersberg, church officials said Friday.

Hundreds of victims have come forward in recent months in Germany with accounts of sexual and other physical abuse from decades past. But no case has captured the attention of the nation like that of Father Hullermann, because of the involvement of the future pope, then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, but also because of the impunity that allowed a child molester to continue to work with altar boys and girls for decades after his conviction.

Der Spiegel, today:

Hardly anyone in the inner circle of the Vatican is better informed on Catholic sex scandals than His Holiness the Pope. Joseph Ratzinger was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formally known as the Inquisition. Reported cases of abuse automatically landed on his desk. Since 2001, as the Church’s most powerful cardinal, and subsequently as the pope, Ratzinger has spearheaded the Vatican’s ongoing efforts to shed light on this troublesome issue.

Nevertheless, sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has continued to regularly generate headlines. First, there were the waves of scandals in the US and Ireland. Now, hardly a day goes by in Germany without a new story on further allegations of abuse.

By the end of last week, some 200 presumed victims had contacted Ursula Raue, a Berlin attorney engaged by the Jesuits to handle abuse cases — and complaints are pouring in from all areas of the Church. Some 150 people have come forward with stories of abuse at the monastery school in Ettal, and roughly 15 former choirboys have grievances relating to the Regensburger Domspatzen.

Read on for some sadly graphic details. The Vatican says celibacy has nothing to do with it. Hardly plausible. It is precisely the repression of the proclivity that causes the deviant, deep, dark, shame to be acted out in an illicit double life. That and the protection racket headed by the man who would be pope. Christopher Hitchens:

Very much more serious is the role of Joseph Ratzinger, before the church decided to make him supreme leader, in obstructing justice on a global scale. After his promotion to cardinal, he was put in charge of the so-called “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” (formerly known as the Inquisition). In 2001, Pope John Paul II placed this department in charge of the investigation of child rape and torture by Catholic priests. In May of that year, Ratzinger issued a confidential letter to every bishop. In it, he reminded them of the extreme gravity of a certain crime. But that crime was the reporting of the rape and torture. The accusations, intoned Ratzinger, were only treatable within the church’s own exclusive jurisdiction. Any sharing of the evidence with legal authorities or the press was utterly forbidden. Charges were to be investigated “in the most secretive way … restrained by a perpetual silence … and everyone … is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office … under the penalty of excommunication.” (My italics). Nobody has yet been excommunicated for the rape and torture of children, but exposing the offense could get you into serious trouble. And this is the church that warns us against moral relativism! (See, for more on this appalling document, two reports in the London Observer of April 24, 2005, by Jamie Doward.)

Meanwhile, in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady has admitted he was at meetings in 1975 where two abused children signed vows of silence over their complaints against Fr Smyth. Smyth is believed to have abused at least 20 children over a 40 year period. With that…

Pope Ratzinger is wriggling off the hook – at least this hook, this time – for his own involvement in a cover up. It’s odd to me that people are searching so intently for Ratzinger’s smoking gun, when as head of the Congregation for the Indoctrination of the Faith, he wrote to bishops telling them that breaking the seal of secrecy on church investigations of sex abuse was punishable by excommunication. That’s the smoking gun that destroyed not just the childhoods and perhaps lives of one or two children in Ratzinger’s direct responsibility, but thousands of children around the world who deserved better from the one, true Church.

The Irish adult voices of raped children are joined by American ones; people now grown up who were raped and abused by Fr. Smith when he was sent away from these shores and off to where he wasn’t known and could start again. A Connecticut woman poignantly asks why she was repeatedly raped by a priest who had been sent to America instead of to the police. An Irish woman asks why no one went to the police. If they had, she might have been saved. Many might have been saved.

The flood of allegations is also coming from Holland, Austria and Italy. Others following this story include Crooks & Liars, James Wolcott and, of course, Andrew Sullivan here, here and here.