Ratzinger as ‘micromanager’ of embarasing scandals



by Selvam Canagaratna

"The Papacy is none other than the Ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof."

- Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651)

[Full disclosure: I was born into a Roman Catholic family.]

Pope Benedict’s surprise ‘resignation’ on February 11 prompted columnist Binoy Kampmark to recall, in CounterPunch magazine, the observation of British historian and essayist Thomas Macaulay: "There is not, and there never was on this earth, a work of human policy so well deserving examination as the Roman Catholic Church." 

Kampmark’s own opinion: "Such a complex organism certainly demands close scrutiny, and when something as unusual as a Papal resignation is announced, the cat is certainly bound to find itself among unsuspecting pigeons."

James Carroll, author, former Catholic priest and a regular columnist for the Boston Globe said the media claim that the only other papal ‘resignation’ on record happened nearly 600 years ago was a ‘misnomer’: "Pope Gregory XII was, in effect, fired by a reforming church council."

In the age of WikiLeaks, the Pope’s sudden resignation immediately whipped up a storm of speculation, all of it based on what is already common knowledge of the unsavoury facts relating to priestly pedophilia in the worldwide Church, including the purposeful and highly secretive way in which then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, doubtless convinced he was doing God’s will, put into effect beginning 1977 the Vatican’s most comprehensive cover-up of on-going institutionalized criminality. [The abdication/retirement/resignation – take your pick – was probably prompted by Pope Benedict’s late realization that though God works in mysterious ways, a ruthless cover-up of the ugly truth is not one of them.]

After all, it was not for nothing that, for the past three decades, Ratzinger came to be known, and feared, in Vatican circles as ‘God’s Rottweiller’.

Of the many and varied comments I have read on the burgeoning scandal, the one that keeps the focus unerringly on the principal character responsible for the Church’s current predicament is the article written by Christopher Hitchens a year before his death in December 2011:

"[On] the most recent revelations about the steady complicity of the Vatican in the ongoing – indeed endless – scandal of child rape, a spokesman for the Holy See made a concession in the guise of a denial. It was clear, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, that an attempt was being made "to find elements to involve the Holy Father personally in issues of abuse". He stupidly went on to say that ‘those efforts have failed’.

"He was wrong twice. First, nobody has had to strive to find such evidence: It has surfaced, as it was bound to do. Secondly, this extension of the awful scandal to the topmost level of the Roman Catholic Church is a process that has only just begun. Yet it became in a sense inevitable when the College of Cardinals elected, as the Vicar of Christ on Earth, the man chiefly responsible for the original cover-up.

"There are two separate but related matters here: First, the individual responsibility of the Pope in one instance of this moral nightmare and, second, his more general and institutional responsibility for the wider lawbreaking and for the shame and disgrace that goes with it.

"The first story is easily told, and it is not denied by anybody. In 1979, an 11-year-old German boy identified as Wilfried F. was taken on a vacation trip to the mountains by a priest. After that, he was administered alcohol, locked in his bedroom, stripped naked, and forced to suck the penis of his confessor. (Why do we limit ourselves to calling this sort of thing ‘abuse’?) The offending cleric was transferred from Essen to Munich for ‘therapy’ by a decision of then-Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, and assurances were given that he would no longer have children in his care. But it took no time for Ratzinger’s deputy, Vicar-General Gerhard Gruber, to return him to ‘pastoral’ work, where he soon enough resumed his career of sexual assault.

"It is, of course, claimed that Ratzinger himself knew nothing of this second outrage. I quote, here, from the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a former employee of the Vatican Embassy in Washington and an early critic of the Catholic Church’s sloth in responding to child-rape allegations. "Nonsense," he says. "Pope Benedict is a micromanager. He’s the old style. Anything like that would necessarily have been brought to his attention. Tell the Vicar-General to find a better line. What he’s trying to do, obviously, is protect the Pope."

"This is very familiar to American and Australian and Irish Catholics whose children’s rape and torture, and the cover-up of same by the tactic of moving rapists and torturers from parish to parish, has been painstakingly and comprehensively exposed. It’s on a level with the recent belated admission by the Pope’s brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, that while he knew nothing about sexual assault at the choir school he ran between 1964 and 1994, now that he remembers it, he is sorry for his ‘practice of slapping the boys around’. [Harmless sadism, huh?]

"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 reminding them of the extreme gravity of a certain crime. But that crime was the reporting of rape and torture. The accusations, claimed 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." (emphasis added). 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!

"Not content with shielding its own priests from the law, Ratzinger’s office even wrote its own private statute of limitations. The church’s jurisdiction, claimed Ratzinger, "begins to run from the day when the minor has completed the 18th year of age" and then lasts for 10 more years. Daniel Shea, the attorney for two victims who sued Ratzinger and a Texas church, describes that stipulation as an obstruction of justice. "You can’t investigate a case if you never find out about it. If you can manage to keep it secret for 18 years plus 10, the priest will get away with it."

Binoy Kampmark quotes Barbara Dorris from Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP): "No matter how tired or weak Pope Benedict may be, he still has two weeks to use his vast power to protect youngsters."

Kampmark’s wry comment: "What do you expect when the wolf is asked to reform his harmful ways to sheep?"

[Joseph Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict XVI, the secret enabler of ghastly criminality against children worldwide for over three decades is, apparently, as a Head of State (Vatican City), beyond justice on earth. If you were the parent of a victimized child, would you be elated at that prospect?]

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