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Hitchens on Pope Benedict XVI

In the wake of Pope Benedict XVI announcing his resignation, Slate has republished an essay written by Christopher Hitchens in 2010 about the child sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. It includes this passage about the crucial role the pope played in covering up that abuse around the world:

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. In it, he reminded them of the extreme gravity of a certain crime. But that crime was the reporting of the rape and torture. The accusations, intoned 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.” (My italics.) 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! (See, for more on this appalling document, two reports in the London Observer of April 24, 2005, by Jamie Doward.)

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 church in Texas, correctly describes that latter 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.”

The next item on this grisly docket will be the revival of the long-standing allegationsagainst the Rev. Marcial Maciel, founder of the ultra-reactionary Legion of Christ, in which sexual assault seems to have been almost part of the liturgy. Senior ex-members of this secretive order found their complaints ignored and overridden by Ratzinger during the 1990s, if only because Father Maciel had been praised by the then-Pope John Paul II as an “efficacious guide to youth.” And now behold the harvest of this long campaign of obfuscation. The Roman Catholic Church is headed by a mediocre Bavarian bureaucrat once tasked with the concealment of the foulest iniquity, whose ineptitude in that job now shows him to us as a man personally and professionally responsible for enabling a filthy wave of crime. Ratzinger himself may be banal, but his whole career has the stench of evil—a clinging and systematic evil that is beyond the power of exorcism to dispel. What is needed is not medieval incantation but the application of justice—and speedily at that.

Which never happened, of course, and likely never will. Because the arm of the law is not long enough to reach into such a powerful religious organization.

Comments

  1. pianoman, Heathen & Torontophile says

    Watched “Mea Maxima Culpa” last night. Utterly speechless at what I saw in that documentary. Not only what this particular priest (Murphy) did, but also in his methodical pyschological games with these children to prevent them from having the courage to tell their parents.

    The Vatican’s role in this is despicable. And yet there are legions of catholics who either refuse to acknowledge that or continue to offer apologetics to this sickening pope!

  2. Sastra says

    I have Catholic friends who call anything but the mildest criticism of their church “Catholic-bashing.” But oh, I think there are times when a little bashing is necessary. Hitchens made it into an art form.

  3. says

    …a clinging and systematic evil that is beyond the power of exorcism to dispel.

    Yeah, exorcism only seems to work on uneducated teenagers from poor families.

    Then again, has anyone TRIED to exorcise a rich or powerful person?

  4. Moggie says

    pianoman:

    And yet there are legions of catholics who either refuse to acknowledge that or continue to offer apologetics to this sickening pope!

    At least they’re consistent! The abuse long predates Ratzinger’s tenure, and successive popes have allowed it to continue. JP2, for example, presumably approved of Ratzinger’s ruling referred to by Hitchens: he neither overruled it, nor eased him out of his Inquisition gig. And yet JP2 continues to be remembered with much respect and affection, even by people who are otherwise critical of the church.

  5. otrame says

    yet JP2 continues to be remembered with much respect and affection, even by people who are otherwise critical of the church.

    As a woman (whose name I simply can’t remember, sorry–I am getting old) said shortly after JPII was made pope (paraphrased, but pretty accurate, I think): He seems like a nice enough guy, but never forget, young woman, that he is your enemy.

  6. Rip Steakface says

    …Damn. I knew that Ratzi had a lot to do with the mass coverup, but I didn’t know he was that dedicated. Talk about committing great evil in the name of… of what? Covering your organization’s ass? Shit, not even any corporation has been this… this evil. At least corporations have the explicit motive of greed – all the Church has is the iron law of institutions!

    Fuck the RCC. Fuck them hard. I’ve known a great many good Catholics (often, they’re the most respectful and approachable of the Christians around here, along with listening the best – they’ll hear out an argument, unlike the fundies, who will just shout you down), but their leadership can now officially fuck off.

  7. says

    “Then again, has anyone TRIED to exorcise a rich or powerful person?”

    I think that the process begins with delousing their wealth which should all be turned over to the examining authority (I volunteer for that job) at the time of the exorcism.

    “yet JP2 continues to be remembered with much respect and affection, even by people who are otherwise critical of the church.”

    When I still had some lingering symptoms of Cath-O-Lickism I thought that JPtheDouche was a major league a-hole. The last pope I remember with ANY respect or affection is John XXIII.

  8. martinc says

    Imagine if it weren’t the Catholic Church … a CEO of a large company is discovered to have written an email to all staff: “If anyone leaks to the police the fact that George from Accounts Payable was caught having sex with a 10-year-old in the photocopy room, they’re fired. We’ll deal with this internally” … would a single religious person in the world stand in the way of that CEO going to jail, going directly to jail, not passing Go and not collecting $200?

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