Sunday, April 11, 2010
The attacks leveled against Pope Benedict XVI get curiouser and curiouser.

Just so everyone is on the same page: first Benedict was accused of stopping a Church trial against a priest in Wisconsin. When that fizzled (because the priest died and the trial was apparently still ongoing) there were charges that he didn't act quickly enough to laicize priests (never mind the fact that the priests were indeed removed from ministry).

This past weekend, the AP thought they had found the smoking gun: a 1985 letter bearing Ratzinger's signature purportedly stalling the laicization of a priest. The AP got the story all wrong. Turns out the facts of the case exonerate Ratzinger entirely. For the record, Cardinal Ratzinger did not have authority over sex abuse cases until 2001. This case occurred in the late 80's. The rule of thumb on all these stories is that the local bishop is the first person responsible for punishing priestly offenders and the one charged with protecting his flock from these menaces. To imagine that the Pope has the ability or the manpower to oversee and police the actions of every cleric around the globe is an infantile delusion. He is not Santa Claus. If the Pontiff had such powers, do you actually think there would be so many teaching and liturgical lapses throughout the Church? Phil Lawler does a great job examining the AP story here: http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/otn.cfm?ID=632

It should be said that mistakes were most certainly made in dealing with priestly offenders and that the process of laicization was absurdly poky. But why is the media attacking the man in the Vatican principally responsible for streamlining the laicization process? Why go after Ratzinger--one of the few high-ranking Vatican officials who vociferously pursued these sex offenders?

There has been a coordinated push from the media and certain plaintiff attorneys (IE Jeff Anderson) to create a global narrative that implicates the Pope in every case of priestly sexual abuse since the Lord was in swaddling clothes. There are several reasons for this: 1) They want to drag the Vatican into litigation because they have already drained the coffers of many dioceses after years of court battles. 2) It serves the ends of those who despise the Church's moral voice on issues ranging from marriage to abortion.

Now the story line is starting to read like a Feydeau farce. The latest turn involves atheists who plan on arresting the Pope when he visits Britain in the fall. This from Sunday's Times of London:


Richard Dawkins, the atheist campaigner, is planning a legal ambush to have the Pope arrested during his state visit to Britain for crimes against humanity.

Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the atheist author, have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.

The pair believe they can exploit the same legal principle used to arrest Augusto Pinochet, the late Chilean dictator, when he visited Britain in 1998.

The Pope was embroiled in new controversy this weekend over a letter he signed arguing that the good of the universal church should be considered against the defrocking of an American priest who committed sex offences against two boys. It was dated 1985, when he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which deals with sex abuse cases.

Benedict will be in Britain between September 16 and 19, visiting London, Glasgow and Coventry, where he will beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman, the 19th-century theologian.

Dawkins and Hitchens believe the Pope would be unable to claim diplomatic immunity from arrest because, although his tour is categorised as a state visit, he is not the head of a state recognised by the United Nations.

They have commissioned the barrister Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens, a solicitor, to present a justification for legal action.

The lawyers believe they can ask the Crown Prosecution Service to initiate criminal proceedings against the Pope, launch their own civil action against him or refer his case to the International Criminal Court."

There is only one problem with all of their saber rattling: they have not one shred of evidence connecting Pope Ratzinger to the shielding of priestly sex offenders. These atheists, certain reporters, and plaintiff attorneys want the Pope to stand trial for things he didn't say or do. Will they ever be held accountable for the libels and slanders that they have generated? It isn't that anyone is suggesting that the media should turn a blind eye to the rank abuse that took place in the Church or that leaders shouldn't be held accountable. But surely, basic fairness requires that all other institutions including public schools, other religious groups, boys and girls organizations etc. (where abuse is actively occurring) should be held to the same standard. All victims deserve justice, whether they were abused by a cleric or a layman. To single out the Church without exploring the higher incidence of sexual abuse that took place (or is taking place) in some of these other organizations, only lends credence to the charges of bias and diminishes the suffering of those abused outside the Church.

If there is compelling evidence against the Pope, bring it forward. Thus far we have seen nothing but fanciful misrepresentations, bully tactics, and calls for justice from people with either a monetary stake or an ideological ax to grind.

Tell me what you think at raymond@raymondarroyo.com

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