Cardinal George Pell was given column inches in The Australian to defend “man of immense compassion and goodness”, Pope Benedict XVI, yesterday. It’s sickening stuff, watching Pell bend over backwards, forwards and every which way to defend the hierarchy in the Catholic Church from its complicity in covering up the crimes committed by pedophiles. (Sometimes I wonder why the church doesn’t just rename itself the Pedophile Protection Society. That seems to be its main function these days.)
Among the usual claims about the church and its practices, Pell makes this statement.
When complaints are made under these procedures, often dating back decades, victims are always encouraged to go to the police. That is what we would prefer. But victims often value their privacy. This issue is too sad and too serious for misinformation to be circulated, adding to victims’ pain.
I smell a large rat.
When a crime is committed against another person, there are at least two people who know about it. There is the victim, and there is the perpetrator. The victim IS NOT the only person who can go to the police. There is absolutely nothing to prevent a priest who has admitted abusing children from going to the police himself, confessing his crimes, and asking for the judgement of the court. All of this can be done without revealing the victim’s name, at all, and without even needing to put a victim on a stand. After all, if a priest confesses to his crimes, then there is no need to cross-examine the other witness(es), to determine the truth of the matter. Simple affidavits would do.
And that’s what the Catholic church tells other perpetrators they should do.
When I was preparing for my first confession, and first holy communion, I was given a great deal of instruction about the nature of confession, and god’s forgiveness of my sins (as if a tiny child can sin!), provided that I was contrite. The nuns and priests filled us with tales about the need for genuine contrition, but also, at the same time, that god could and would forgive the greatest of sins, even murder.
For those great crimes, priests would withhold absolution, until the perpetrator had gone and confessed his or her crime to the police, and subjected themselves to the process of the law of the state. “Yes,” the priest would say. “I will pronounce absolution for your sins, but first, you must surrender yourself to the police. When you have done that, I will come and pronounce absolution.”
Pious cant, no doubt. But pious cant that was spoonfed to young children, as something that applied to all members of the church.
Except, it seems, the priesthood. Evidently none of them have to turn themselves in to the local police in order to receive absolution.
I will believe that Benedict is genuinely concerned about child abuse, genuinely concerned about right the wrongs done by men who pretend to be holy and good, genuinely concerned to follow the law of the land (Pell’s words), when he directs all priests who have been found to abuse children, by the church’s own procedures, to go directly to the police. Until then, it’s just more obfuscatory cant.
Perhaps the first step could be to require Cardinal Law to leave the Vatican, and return to the United States.
And unfortunately for Pell, and his trusting belief in the sanctity and goodness of the (alleged) holy father, it’s starting to look very much as though the smoking gun linking Benedict directly to cover ups has appeared: Warned About Abuse, Vatican Failed to Defrock Priest.
Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.
To date, Benedict’s defenders have claimed that he really just didn’t know that a priest in his diocese had simply been moved on to another parish. That seems incredibly unlikely, but it might just be possible (‘though as I have said before, if you believe that, then I’ve got a rather nice painted ceiling in a spiffy basilica in Rome to sell to you). But this time, letters were sent directly to him about abuse committed against boys at a school for the deaf by an American priest, the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy. The priest was “moved on”, and later on, when a secret church process against him was started, it was stopped…
after Father Murphy personally wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger protesting that he should not be put on trial because he had already repented and was in poor health and that the case was beyond the church’s own statute of limitations.
If you believe that Ratzinger himself did not order the cessation, if you believe that Ratzinger himself was not complicit in the cover up, if you believe that he is “a man of immense compassion and goodness”, then I say that you are so wrong that it is hard to find words to describe your gullibility and sheer foolishness. And if you happen to be Cardinal Pell, then I question whether you have any moral authority left. And I certainly question why The Australian, or any other newspaper, should be giving you space to mouth your increasingly flimsy and silly excuses for Ratzinger’s behaviour.