Friday, April 09, 2010

The Pope again

Future pope stalled pedophile case

LOS ANGELES – The future Pope Benedict XVI resisted pleas to defrock a California priest with a record of sexually molesting children, citing concerns including "the good of the universal church," according to a 1985 letter bearing his signature.

The correspondence, obtained by The Associated Press, is the strongest challenge yet to the Vatican's insistence that Benedict played no role in blocking the removal of pedophile priests during his years as head of the Catholic Church's doctrinal watchdog office.

The letter, signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was typed in Latin and is part of years of correspondence between the Diocese of Oakland and the Vatican about the proposed defrocking of the Rev. Stephen Kiesle.
The Church hierarchy was long overdue to get smacked around. The surprise is how long it took for Europeans to follow the American lead. Western Europe is more secularized than America & there's more open anti-church sentiment. But maybe that feeling had become indifference.

Sexual abuse is tragic enough. But to be victimized by a priest already known to his clerical superiors as a pedophile, or suspected of being one, is an unbearable outrage & betrayal.

The Vatican can't discern the difference between the mystery of the Eucharist & mystery of the Church bureaucracy. It believes both ought to be mysteries.

It won't destroy the Church. If the scandal takes down several generations of Bishops & Benedict's credibility, it's not so terrible a thing. Or the first time the Church has scandalized itself. Bishops are replaceable. Great popes are rare enough in Church history & intelligent Catholics know the difference between a Pope as the Earthly head of the Church & a specific Pope.

There are other long term effects. Because of huge legal settlements, Catholic charities & social services with no direct connection to sex abuses & coverups receive less & less funding directly from the Church, & the scandals handicap their appeals for donations. Dioceses can't afford to carry struggling parishes & schools that may be the last hopes for their neighborhoods. The increasingly reactionary institutional church makes more & more Catholics feel unwelcome to practice their faith within Catholicism. Those Catholics lapse out or become Anglicans, & the experience can be heart-wrenching.

Until there's a changeover in the hierarchy, assuming even that would bring about a change in attitude & policy, hope for reform in the Church will depend on the ideals & stubbornness of laity, nuns, parish priests, & Catholic intellectuals. The future is with the very Catholics the hierarchy blames for the Church's problems.

I write about this mainly because the story is everywhere in the news.

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