Earlier this year I wrote a fair amount about the Catholic church, and more particularly, the Vatican, and its astonishing failings with respect to priests who raped children (one, two, three, four). But then I laid off, for various reasons, mostly to do with some of my best friends and all. As it turns out, my friends who are members of the church feel wretched and angry about it: wretched because by implication, they support the church, and angry because they feel that their church is being taken from them by a group of men who are entrenched in positions of privilege and wealth in the Vatican. Moreover, most of my friends who are Catholic live in New Zealand, where my understanding (somewhat untutored) is that the church has not tried to cover up, and has worked hard to hold priests responsible for their crimes.
For a long time, the Vatican has tried to avoid responsibility for child-raping priests, and has worked hard to distance Joseph Ratzinger, who likes to be known as His Holiness Benedict XVI, from complicity in cover-ups. It wasn’t Ratty who moved priests on, and neglected to hand them over to civil authorities, or so they said. But that is wearing thinner and thinner. Given the great uncovering that is going on in Catholic churches all over the world, and especially in Western countries, I’m sure that it’s only a matter of time before he is found to have very dirty hands indeed. Moreover, his failure to hold priests and bishops responsible continues. Not only is Cardinal Law, formerly of Boston, and now of the Vatican, still sitting pretty in a sinecure in Rome from whence Ratty refuses to dislodge him to face a grand jury back in the USA, but now he won’t even accept resignations from bishops who have been shown to have failed in their duties.
Ratzinger seems to be a most unholy man. Refusing these resignations is extraordinary: it is a tacit endorsement of the bishops’ efforts to cover up the crimes of child rapists who were harboured by the church. It’s a slap in the face for Diarmuid Martin, the archbishop of Dublin, who is trying to clean up the diocese. I’ve no doubt that there is a great deal more he could do, like selling some of the church’s property in order to pay compensation to victims. But no he must be wondering why he should bother, if the man who increasingly seems to be at the centre of the evil will not even accept mea culpas from those who did wrong. And it’s a covert wink and nod to other bishops around the world. “Don’t worry,” Ratty is saying. “I’ll look after you.”
What is Ratty trying to cover up?