Pope Benedict should be prosecuted for abuse handling
Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 16:08
The time has come to stop letting the abusers and torturers of children, and their accomplices, escape justice. If you think that is an noncontroversial sentiment, you haven’t been paying attention.
Take the case of Robert Finn. Recently found guilty on the charge of shielding pedophile priest, Shawn Ratigan, from the authorities. Finn’s case is unique in that he is the first sitting American bishop in the decades-long Catholic abuse scandal to face punishment. How many years, you may ask, will his Excellency spend behind bars for his craven and contemptible crime? Zero.
You read that right. In what is being hailed by journalists and advocacy groups alike as a major step forward in confronting this evil problem, Finn was sentenced to two years probation. The sinister deviant did not even face a public trial.
And yet, how can we be surprised? We have seen in recent years the terrible practice of moving pedophiles from parish to parish, allowing them to destroy young lives with impunity, by bishops and high church officials. The Church, pathetic public statements of regret aside, would rather pretend this problem didn’t even exist.
Indeed, in 2005, it elected the man chiefly responsible for the cover-up to the highest office. Pope Benedict, when going by the less ostentatious name of Joseph Ratzinger, made it the mission of his long career to ensure stories of the rape and abuse of small children never saw the light of day, let alone were reported to the authorities.
What we know is this: in 2001, in his role as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Roman Inquisition, Ratzinger sent a letter to every bishop within the Church, outlining steps for dealing with claims of abuse, including strict punishments up to and including excommunication for (wait for it) officials who went to the authorities. Asserting the stupefying notion that the Church ought to be able to investigate matters such as the sexual assault of minors on its own, Ratzinger sought to shut down any further embarrassment of the Church at the expense of tormented children.
But worse yet, in 1980, Ratzinger himself in his role of archbishop personally oversaw the transfer, from Essen to Munich, Germany, of a priest accused of kidnapping and raping an 11-year-old boy. The priest was sent to “therapy” for his wicked crime, but not long after, returned to pastoral duty. He promptly resumed molesting children.
I could go on.
Various insipid defenses have been offered up for Ratzinger’s role in the affair, including an attempt by a subordinate to throw himself under the bus and accept full responsibility for the move back to the congregation. Even if this were true, and if Ratzinger were stupid enough to allow such a thing to happen right under his nose, he still bears responsibility for not informing the authorities in the initial case, and his much-touted record of working within the Church for reform cannot excuse his protection of pedophiles from criminal investigation.
So, this is the state of things: a bishop, given a slap on the wrist for protecting a child molester, and a church run by the greatest friend to abusers of them all.
Something must be done. Benedict and his bishops, despite their insistence, are not above the law. We must urge our state D.A.’s to investigate not just priests and parishes but dioceses as well. We will undoubtedly net at least a few more of these villains this way. As for Benedict, we must, at the very least, put diplomatic pressure on the Vatican to answer these charges, which until now it has not satisfactorily done. In 2010, a proposal was put forth to consider detaining Benedict for questioning upon his pastoral visit to England. Such a proposal, with precedent in the house arrest of the vile dictator Augusto Pinochet in Britain in the 1980s, merits consideration.
When the Sandusky abuse scandal broke out at Penn State earlier this year, it became clear very quickly that the sainted Joe Paterno had a hand in covering up for his lieutenant. Now Paterno’s name lies in infamy, his statues torn down, and only his well-timed death saved him from seeing his full and ultimate shame. Must we wait for this cowardly old man’s death as well, or will someone take up the call and, finally, stand up against the silence of this Church for the children?