Friday, March 19, 2010

Peter, or Pilate?

Last night I recorded a short podcast calling for Pope Benedict to resign.  The mainstream media is beginning to report just how close Benedict is to the Catholic sex abuse epidemic. I am not Catholic (I was for a while but that's a long story), nor do I believe the Pope posseses any unique divine authority (either everyone has it or nobody does). I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, though, and I also recognize that the Catholic Church is a political and social entity, as well as a voice (however divided) in the public square. Catholics form a part of the interfaith coalition that includes my fellowship. And not a single sex abuse survivor, nor a single rank-and-file Catholic, deserves anything less than an end to Ratzinger's rule. The man covered up the rape of boys. Demanding shared standards of public and institutional accountability is important as we struggle to replace centuries of arbitrary and hypocritical authority. I would be interested in listening to anyone who thinks these standards should not apply to the pontiff in this case.

And no, I am not buying the desperate and vague denials from Church authorities and catholicculture.org. In the fantastically unlikely scenario that Benedict wasn't aware of both incidents and subsequent actions that had already reached the level of scandal, then he can hardly be trusted to oversee the world church--unless, like Greg Kadra does in his regurgitation of catholicculture.org's defense, you minimize, by rhetorical omission and a casual re-post, the human beings involved in the scandal.  If you take sexual abuse seriously, you demand the resignation of every Catholic official from the Archdiocese of Munich on down at the time these rapes were continuing with impunity, in the midst of loud complaints.
...the practice of protecting offending priests at the expense of the victims reportedly involved the Pope himself. When he was an archbishop in Germany, at least one known offender was moved from one parish to another. A Germany psychiatrist told the New York Times in a story published Friday that he repeatedly warned the diocese Benedict then headed about the priest in question. "I said, 'For God's sake, he desperately has to be kept away from working with children,'" the psychiatrist, Dr. Werner Huth, told the Times in a phone interview from Munich.
If you're a halfway decent leader, you step down even if your chief deputy is willing to go down for you.  (That close, but not a whit closer?  Really?)

On last night's podcast, I read from this Times Online story and this excellent short post by Andrew Sullivan (with whom I frequently and enthusiastically disagree). This is not merely about the magnitude of what was covered up. It's about justice--procedural, legal, organizational, international, and theological. If this Pope continues to sit, no one should be surprised if the decay of the Catholic Church shifts into overdrive.

Several Popes have resigned. Apparently a Pope "can't be fired," but I bet that's not categorically true. By the way, Federico Lombardi--I know you're just doing your job, but that job is to spin in order to protect your boss from accountability in a child rape epidemic. And it's the height of unChristian cynicism to blame those who are criticizing Ratzinger-Benedict, to treat this as a PR war, dude.  If religious institutions feel justified in demanding a suspension of normal rules of public discourse and conduct, demanding their special metaphysical status, to be afforded special rights in the public square, why do they so often act like run-of-the-mill corrupt corporations?

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