Saturday, March 27, 2010

How is Ratzinger getting away with it?

How is Ratzinger getting away with it?

Terry Sanderson
By Terry Sanderson

People are watching the unfolding Catholic abuse scandal with bewilderment – confused as to how priests who committed the most barbaric and depraved acts against children, often on a huge scale, were just permitted to walk away unpunished. They want to know how top Vatican officials can simply remain silent in the face of accusations about conduct that would get anyone else jailed.

The latest and most damning evidence of the Pope’s personal involvement in cover-ups comes from the New York Times which has uncovered documents that show that when the present Pope was plain old Cardinal Ratzinger, Inquisitor-in-Chief at the Vatican, he was repeatedly made aware of the activities of an horrendous serial abuser, Father Lawrence C. Murphy of Wisconsin, and did nothing to stop him.

Murphy is said to have abused over 200 boys at a school for the deaf. Appeals for help to the Vatican from the bishop involved were ignored by Ratzinger.

And yet still the world seems incapable of holding any of these people to account. The Vatican has wrapped itself in a cloak of unaccountability that permits it to shield those responsible – like Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, who is wanted by the authorities for questioning on matters related to the cover up of child abuse. He now resides in the Vatican, having been given sanctuary and a top job there by the former Pope and enjoys the patronage of the current Pope, having been asked by him to conduct a funeral mass for the former Pope.

How was Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, the former head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales permitted to walk away from his own cover-up scandal involving the vile activities of Father Michael Hill who violated numerous children, and was moved from diocese to diocese by the Church so that his evil activities could continue? Newspaper investigations into that case were peremptorily halted when the Church accused the media of “persecuting” the Cardinal. Why didn’t the police take up the investigation? Why wasn’t Murphy O’Connor ever made to answer?

And it seems still those who wish to make the Vatican listen are treated as the enemy. On Thursday, members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an American advocacy group, held an impromptu news conference in St. Peter’s Square, holding up pictures of Father Murphy and calling on the Vatican to take responsibility.

“They’re not holding themselves accountable, and these documents show they were very involved in the case,” said John Pilmaier, the group’s Wisconsin director.

Twenty minutes into the news conference, the Rome police told the group that it did not have a proper permit, and brought organizers in for questioning. They were detained for two and a half hours. “We’ve spent more time in police custody than most of these pedophile priests have,” Mr. Pilmaier said.

Now the Vatican is trying to protect itself with its age-old trick of blaming the messenger. After the New York Times published its evidence, a senior Vatican official said there was a concerted campaign to damage the Catholic Church and its supreme leader. “It’s obvious the New York Times has its mind made up. You have to ask why they didn’t print a story earlier this month on the conviction of a Jewish rabbi in Brooklyn on eight counts of sex abuse.” The official also referred to a libel case against Oprah Winfrey that involved sex abuse allegations that was settled quietly on Wednesday. “But then why the Front Page for this story? They are targeting the Pope. There’s a blood lust for attacking the Catholic Church. We have to look at these cases one by one. There is plenty of embarrassment to go around: district attorneys, school teachers — take your pick.”

But the Catholic Church, unlike all these others, seeks to tell us relentlessly that it is the ultimate moral authority, that it cannot be wrong on matters ethical, and that all other codes are inauthentic or wrong. Yet, as our Executive Director repeated last week at the UN, the Vatican is in breach of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. These are the reasons why it deserves special treatment and special attention. And why its sins – which it so readily condemns so readily in others – are magnified by its own claims to the moral high ground.

And despite all this, we still have our Prime Minister saying that the Pope is welcome here and that his visit will represent a “joyous” event for the country.

But it will not be joyous for the thousands of people whose lives have been deeply scarred by the activities of priests who this Pope, directly or indirectly, has helped to escape justice. It will feel more like a kick in the teeth to them.


libhom said...

Religious leaders get away with all things that secular people would be thrown in prison for.

RMolineaux said...

There is a hidden issue behind the church's coverup policy: civil prosecution of clergy. Since medieval times the church has attempted to maintain immunity of its clergy from civil prosecution.