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The Easter Surprise
April 1, 2010 9:24 PM   Subscribe

As ongoing investigations into the sexual abuse of children, cover-ups and avoidance of justice climb the hierarchy of the Catholic church to implicate Pope Benedict himself, the head of the Vatican's tribunal has taken the unprecedented step of publicly reinforcing the Pope's status not as father of the church but as a head of state - and thus immune from prosecution.

Lawyers in the US have stated that they intend to prove that the Vatican itself, rather than local bishops, was negligent in addressing claims of sexual abuse by its priests, if not directly engaged in conspiracies designed to avoid prosecution. Christopher Hitchens, among others, has called for the Pope to be arrested.

No Pope has ever been placed on trial - unless you count Formosus, who had the unique defense of being dead at the time. Popes have, however, been imprisoned or resigned: Pope Leo V was deposed, jailed, and likely strangled; Pope Pius VII was imprisoned by Napoleon.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul (324 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Won't anyone think of the children?
posted by Hildegarde at 9:33 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


It all makes a strange kind of sense.
posted by unSane at 9:35 PM on April 1, 2010


Well that's reassuring.
posted by Artw at 9:38 PM on April 1, 2010


Miss me yet?
posted by strangely stunted trees at 9:46 PM on April 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Fight the real enemy
posted by nola at 9:46 PM on April 1, 2010 [14 favorites]


the Pope's status not as father of the church but as a head of state

He's got the huge broadcast antenna on one of the largest hills in Rome, and he really does run that joint, so I'd say he's the head of state. How exactly does that matter? It didn't help Mussolini.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:55 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I bet the Paedo Pope is kind of missing the days when people would just drag up his form nazi status.
posted by Artw at 9:55 PM on April 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


Yup, nothing signifies complete innocence so well as an assertion that one is not subject to human justice.
posted by clockzero at 9:56 PM on April 1, 2010 [83 favorites]


Can a Pope be impeached?

Bottom line is no.
posted by Brian B. at 9:57 PM on April 1, 2010


What does it mean that I'm laughing at this, even though it's a deadly serious situation that involves the abuse of children? Is it that the Pope being up to no good is inherently funny? Or maybe it's just that human nature is so horribly predictable.
posted by shii at 9:58 PM on April 1, 2010


I should say, he's certainly the head of state in the Vatican, and that's its own state.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:58 PM on April 1, 2010


Worst supervillain ever.
posted by Doug Stewart at 9:59 PM on April 1, 2010 [14 favorites]


Christopher Hitchens, among others, has called for the Pope to be arrested.

When you say "among others", I suppose you also mean Richard Dawkins, Dan Brown, Bill Maher, and Martin Luther?
posted by KokuRyu at 10:01 PM on April 1, 2010 [11 favorites]


The Bad Popes has a new candidate?
posted by lalochezia at 10:07 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Worst supervillain ever.

He seems to be doing an adequate job of villainy. Don't count him out yet.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:14 PM on April 1, 2010


When you say "among others", I suppose you also mean Richard Dawkins, Dan Brown, Bill Maher, and Martin Luther?

Admittedly, this is just a wild guess, but probably also some parents.
posted by vorfeed at 10:15 PM on April 1, 2010 [20 favorites]


Bora Horza Gobuchul: "unless you count Formosus, who had the unique defense of being dead at the time"

Excuses, excuses.
posted by Riki tiki at 10:21 PM on April 1, 2010


In a follow-up to nola's post: Isn't Sinead O'Connor overdue a massive grovelling apology from absolutely everybody?
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:22 PM on April 1, 2010 [117 favorites]


taken the unprecedented step of publicly reinforcing the Pope's status not as father of the church but as a head of state - and thus immune from prosecution.

How unprecedented? Are you suggesting that no Pope has claimed sovereign immunity from civil discovery before? Or are you using "unprecedented" in a sloppy, unconventional sense?
posted by Slap Factory at 10:28 PM on April 1, 2010


He features prominently in alignment posters for "Lawful Evil." He looks like Emperor Palpatine, somewhere on his second blast of Force Lightning. He's doing the South Park "I am above de law!" bit.

It's like they wanted to pick an obvious guy as a lightning rod for the troubles of the Catholic Church.
posted by adipocere at 10:31 PM on April 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


This entire situation has a lot of similarities to the Watergate scandal, except the priests weren't ordered to be pedophiles. Even if the initial acts were vile, the cover-up was the more damaging part in the long run for everyone. Richard Nixon was arguably the most powerful person in the world at that time, and certainly not immune to hubris.

Pope Benedict XVI may weather this storm, but the damage done to the Catholic Church will outlive him.
posted by Saydur at 10:37 PM on April 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


Great song. Great performance. Great TV moment. I've probably thought of the phrase "Fight the real enemy" once a week or more since first hearing about it. It's like a mantra for me.
posted by wobh at 10:39 PM on April 1, 2010


The guy can get away with anything. Disgusting.

Sinead was right. Maybe we should get T-shirts made.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:41 PM on April 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


The Sinéad thing from the 92, hadn't thought about that in a long time, but it reminded me: that episode inspired a few lines in a song I wrote at the time, and included on one of my records, in 1993...

i tear up a picture of the Pope each and every day
but he tears up a picture of me too, so it's all OK
still i'm living just outside of what the holy law allows
i've got this job in the slaughterhouse for sacred cows
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:50 PM on April 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


It's interesting to see all this anger coalesce around Benedict; he's never been as popular as his predecessor, and he is (as Kate Beaton puts it) "ultra German and scary." But given how long many of these abuse scandals have been brewing, isn't it almost certain that John Paul II presided over similar coverups and relocations?

I know the Vatican had to fend off the likes of Sinéad O'Connor back in the '90s, but the recent headlines have reached a different level entirely. Does anyone know if JP II has been brought in for the same level of criticism as his successor, now that we're talking about things like impeaching the pope?
posted by cirripede at 10:52 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


While probably not the punishment that the abused want, I reckon the South Park retaliation is one that should stick.

Instead of "is the Pope Catholic?" the expression should now be "Does the Pope help paedophiles get away with their crimes?"
posted by Silentgoldfish at 10:54 PM on April 1, 2010 [10 favorites]


Slight derail - the MSG footage linked from Saxon's link is hardcore. O'Connor stared down an entire arena. Next time I'm having a bad day I'm going to imagine Kris Kristofferson whispering "Don't let the bastards get you down" in my ear.
posted by Roman Graves at 10:57 PM on April 1, 2010 [19 favorites]


Here's the thing about Catholicism, and about a lot of organized religion as I know it: Good things are God's work. Bad things are the fault of the individuals who perpetrate them... EXCEPT!

...except whether or not those actions are considered "bad", or whether that person should be held accountable for their behavior, depends almost entirely on how closely it aligns with the Church's interests.

If you are a pro-choice politician, even if you've been involved in zero abortions and in fact have actively worked towards reducing abortions through improved sex education? Well fuck you, because the Church objects to prophylactics, and even if it didn't... abortion is a useful wedge issue to drive fundraising. If you advocate tolerance of gays within the Church? Well fuck you, because blah blah bleebleblah wedge issue fundraising.

If you're an Episcopalian priest who objects to ordination of gays and women into the priesthood? Welcome aboard! We value your irrational biases much more than WHETHER YOU'RE ACTUALLY A MEMBER OF OUR CHURCH.

Once you understand that, you understand the Church's response to these allegations. The damage to the church from exposing a corrupt priest is a lot more obvious and direct than the damage caused by allowing them to be corrupt.

This is not some reactionary granola atheist understanding of the Roman Catholic Church. I grew up in it. I take my mother to church every week. I'm godfather to two amazing kids and I've actually come to value that as more than a token relationship.

While my personal religious views aren't written in stone (so to speak), I have faith that the RCC is salvageable... that it can be a force for good in the world, that it can be a source of moral guidance. The problem is that it has to abandon the vast majority of its medievalist doctrine in order to do so, and there's nothing it fears more than progressivism.

So I begrudge no one their animosity towards Catholicism. Benedict/Ratzinger was an awful selection for Pope: "yeah he's ultraconservative abut he's already 78 so you can deal with batshitinsanity for a few years, right?" And now it comes out that the buck stopped with him for protecting pedophile priests from justice in the secular system? It's inexcusable and if he cared about the institution at all he wouldn't even have accepted the papacy in the first place.

But I guess I can only ask that you see it as you see any corporation, as you see any government, as you see any religion: made up of mostly well-intentioned people being misled by small-minded politicians. I don't donate money to the Church and I don't think anyone else should until they show that they're taking this shit seriously, but please don't assume that Catholics are bad people just because they keep bad company.
posted by Riki tiki at 11:03 PM on April 1, 2010 [40 favorites]


the damage done to the Catholic Church will outlive him

The Catholic Church actions over the years VS the words in that big book you'd think would have been damaging enough. Yet - they keep going on and on.

Wrap anything in religion and you'll have some people doing really nasty things and being defended for the actions.

Note how other power structures (religions this week) have the powerful abusing the weak. Why should 'the church' be any different than any other power structure? Because they have some 'Holy Book'?
posted by rough ashlar at 11:07 PM on April 1, 2010


When you say "among others", I suppose you also mean Richard Dawkins, Dan Brown, Bill Maher, and Martin Luther?

Probably a few rape victims, too.
posted by rodgerd at 11:09 PM on April 1, 2010 [14 favorites]


I don't donate money to the Church and I don't think anyone else should until they show that they're taking this shit seriously, but please don't assume that Catholics are bad people just because they keep bad company.

Quoted for truth. And I'll go further - not only are there fantastic awesome lay Catholics, but fantastic awesome Catholic priests who have lead all but saintly lives in the service of others, asking for nothing. They deserve the utmost respect, and should not be smeared by a brush too broad.
posted by VikingSword at 11:12 PM on April 1, 2010 [13 favorites]


exposing a corrupt priest is a lot more obvious and direct than the damage caused by allowing them to be corrupt.

Tends to deflate a 'we are better than you so listen to us' 'tude if you admit you are flawed.

If you don't have an admission on the record, the matter becomes he-said-she-said - they are haters/believers in a conspiracy/et la. Sorrta like Tobacco VS health was and Monsanto VS liver damaging GMOs (last months court case) is.

it can be a source of moral guidance.

Ya know, science can now readjust your moral compass so do ya really need "the church"?

(I await the observation that the default configuration for bluetooth headsets is for the right ear and therefore part of some grand plan)
posted by rough ashlar at 11:22 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


so I'd say he's the head of state. How exactly does that matter?

Here are some legal doctrines The Vatican will probably try and use; unfortunately (in my opinion), they've worked in the past and may work here:

Act of state doctrine: a principle recognized and adhered to by United States federal courts. Its aim is not to protect other nations' sovereignty by intervention from the U.S. but rather to protect the US Executive's prerogatives in foreign affairs from being frustrated by a decision issuing from U.S. courts. Its invocation can depend on whether the Executive Branch instructs the court to dismiss the case. Common sense would suggest President Obama and the State Department would be wary about alienating Catholics (often very important voters) by bringing the Pope to trial.

Political question doctrine: A dispute that requires knowledge of a non-legal character or the use of techniques not suitable for a court [such as delicate diplomatic issues--for example, bringing a head of state (who just so happens to be the head of a Church that millions of American voters belong to) to trial] or explicitly assigned by the Constitution to Congress or the president. Judges have the authority to invoke this, which would end the trial. This was invoked to dismiss Alperin v. Vatican Bank--but that was later overturned, and then the case was dismissed under sovereign immunity.

Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA): establishes the limitations as to whether a foreign sovereign nation (or its political subdivisions, agencies, or instrumentalities) may be sued in U.S. courts—federal or state....The FSIA provides the exclusive basis and means to bring a lawsuit against a foreign sovereign in the United States; lots more details at Wikipedia.
posted by sallybrown at 11:24 PM on April 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's interesting to see all this anger coalesce around Benedict; he's never been as popular as his predecessor, and he is (as Kate Beaton puts it) "ultra German and scary." But given how long many of these abuse scandals have been brewing, isn't it almost certain that John Paul II presided over similar coverups and relocations?

Well, not only did John Paul II preside over the under-the-rug-sweeping of similar acts, including those committed by Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, but he also seemed to imply that pedophile priests, while gravely sinful, were somehow less than fully culpable because they had been prey to the mysterium iniquitatis (mystery of evil), especially in the corrupt United States, which is where many of the cases originated that were reported during his papacy.

But no, John Paul II does not seem to have received the same level of criticism as Benedict XVI. I don't know whether that's as much because he was a more "popular" pope as it is because some of the minimizing and blame-deflecting that went on during his papacy only came to light (or under scrutiny) after his death.
posted by blucevalo at 11:41 PM on April 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


More detail: Vienna Boys’ Choir caught up in sex abuse scandals by Roger Boyes, Berlin Correspondent of The Times.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:16 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


John Paul II let the infamous Bernard Law take up residence in Rome, and allowed him to remain a cardinal, which let him participate in the 2005 papal conclave which elected Ratzinger.
posted by benzenedream at 12:17 AM on April 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


If they want to be treated as a sovereign state, then we should treat them as such. If a country is supporting heinous acts, even if by simply covering them up and protecting those who commit them, then the country should be shut out. Impose U.N. sanctions and prohibit anyone from leaving the Vatican or receiving aid from outside. Given that it would be difficult to grow a tomato in there, I doubt it would last long.
posted by MysteriousMan at 12:19 AM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, lazy and ignorant shots at Catholic doctrine like "The pope is infallible, therefore you are all wrong!" (favorited, too!) are a little tired.
posted by phaedon at 12:26 AM on April 2, 2010


American courts aren't the only courts in the world. No one outside of the USA gives a flying leap about FSIA.

Yes, fine, head of state immunity is a real doctrine in international law. But there have been movements afoot to limit this doctrine when it's abused to prevent culpability for heinous crimes for years. The thing about head of state immunity is that it goes away when the person leaves office if the crimes in question were committed before he assumed office (so that state acts don't get mixed up in it). The Pope has his position for life, so if there's any case where the doctrine demands to be stripped it's this one, because otherwise there will be NO responsibility for what Ratzinger did, if he in fact committed any crimes.

Plus, it's not like the Vatican is taking any steps to deal with the problem. Ratzinger is still a German citizen, right? Forget the USA - if the Vatican won't address the problem then Germany gets first crack.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:30 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Noted Italian exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth, commented this week that the recent defamatory reporting on Pope Benedict XVI, especially by the New York Times, was “prompted by the devil.”

Speaking to News Mediaset in Italy, the 85-year-old exorcist noted that the devil is behind “the recent attacks on Pope Benedict XVI regarding some pedophilia cases.” "

posted by Pope Guilty at 12:33 AM on April 2, 2010


And anyway, we kidnapped and imprisoned Manuel Noriega, so it's not like the US has a history of caring about the whole head of state thing.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:34 AM on April 2, 2010 [8 favorites]


pedophile priests, while gravely sinful, were somehow less than fully culpable because they had been prey to the mysterium iniquitatis (mystery of evil)

I would be very interested in more information on this concept. That has to be the biggest cop-out I've ever heard! Did this defense actually work in any practical sense?
posted by Kirk Grim at 12:36 AM on April 2, 2010


If the Pope's lawyers call FCI Miami today they can talk to prisoner number 38699-079 who goes by the name of Manuel Noriega.
posted by vapidave at 12:36 AM on April 2, 2010


With the Lateran Concordat of 1929 the Vatican became an absolute monarcy (notice who is the Italian signing party) and stand alone state putting it is a rather “special” group of nations.
In 2005 the U.S. declared the Pope immune From a Molestation Lawsuit however UN judge Geoffrey Robertson thinks otherwise. One of the stumbling blocks is that according to the Code of Canon Law the Pope cannot be removed from office— for any reason, even poor health or psychological trauma. That's because, according to church law, there is no higher authority than the pope.
So as MysteriousMan suggests play by their own rules and isolate the Vatican.
posted by adamvasco at 12:47 AM on April 2, 2010


I can't even begin to imagine the fallout of arresting the pope, however deserved it may be. That would be one interesting news day.
posted by maxwelton at 12:56 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Though it might be a good opportunity to erase our national debt via bail.
posted by maxwelton at 12:58 AM on April 2, 2010 [21 favorites]


So, um... what's up with the Catholic church and paedophilia? Seriously. Is it just because they don't allow their priests to fuck, that they attract dudes that wouldn't want to have normal sex lives anyway? Seriously. Other religions don't seem to have this kind of problem.

I'm not even shitting you here. I've been hearing about this crap in the media for the last decade. Will somebody with some inside knowledge of Catholicism please spill the beans?

And yes. I know. Not all Catholic priests are paedophiles. Most of them are not. But seriously, because I'm asking here -- why Catholicism? And is it only an American thing, or does the Catholic church have this problem in other places?
posted by Sloop John B at 1:26 AM on April 2, 2010


Won't anyone think of the children?

Well - some Catholic bishops certainly will!
posted by WalterMitty at 1:41 AM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't even begin to imagine the fallout of arresting the pope

they put the pope in jail
didn't get my vatican mail
they've cancelled midnight mass
tonight the choirboys get a pass
the put the pope in jail
but the devil gonna go his bail
he don't wanna be left in the lurch
cause the devil, see, needs the church
fact is, they're one and the same
they just go by different names
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:41 AM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


And is it only an American thing, or does the Catholic church have this problem in other places?

There's a huge scandal inIreland right now. Check the news.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:42 AM on April 2, 2010


Ireland, Poland, Germany, you name it.
posted by bardic at 1:56 AM on April 2, 2010


Crimes against humanity cannot be considered an internal affair of a nation.

Here an important step forward was taken with the establishment of an International Criminal Court to try such crimes, regardless of the place or circumstances in which they are committed.
We must thank God that in the conscience of peoples and nations there is a growing conviction that human rights have no borders, because they are universal and indivisible.

- From the message of his Holiness Pope John Paul II for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace

I wonder if Benedict XVI is aware of his predecessors views on head of state immunity...
posted by knapah at 2:02 AM on April 2, 2010 [9 favorites]


Sloop,

To some extent, there's the matter of very (very) deep pockets, and the apparent institutional cognizance of, and defense of, a small number of abusers.
posted by effugas at 2:02 AM on April 2, 2010


So, um... what's up with the Catholic church and paedophilia?

There are plenty of other churches with paedophiles, and even some with a history of cover ups (allegedly: seventh day adventists & jehovah's witnesses). For a partial list, see http://www.reformation.com/.

I have not done any kind of statistical analysis on whether the Catholic churches' position on married priests (excepting converting priests from other religions with a waiver to stay married) has increased the ratio of molesters, but my feeling is that since the primary motivation of paedophiles who know their proclivities is secrecy, that not having to maintain a sham marriage as a beard would be a relief, and the barrier to entry for people with normal sex drives would change the ratios a little bit from the population as a whole.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:32 AM on April 2, 2010


So is it too soon to declare the Vatican a rogue state? And come to think of it, with Iraq taken down the "Axis of Evil" could use a new member. Just sayin'....
posted by happyroach at 2:34 AM on April 2, 2010


I, too, am shocked and horrified that an organization with such a loving, enlightened history could take part in such a thing. I mean, this is the CATHOLIC CHURCH!
posted by ford and the prefects at 2:40 AM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Can the ICC prosecute?
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:43 AM on April 2, 2010


Doing the Vatican Rag. re Doing the Vatican Rag
background and connections.
posted by hortense at 2:44 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Vatican was told 50 years ago to act against paedophile priests.
posted by adamvasco at 3:00 AM on April 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


isn't it almost certain that John Paul II presided over similar coverups and relocations?

The beloved sainted John Paul II transfered the Bernard Law, bishop of Boston, to the Vatican in order to keep him out of US court. So yeah, he was just as nose deep in this as Joey the Rat, aka Bennie the Dick.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:01 AM on April 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


if he cared about the institution at all he wouldn't even have accepted the papacy in the first place.

I think he could have probably justified it to himself no matter what his background was. I mean we are talking POPE here-- kinda like a cross between Chief Supreme Court Judge and President For Life. Plus the POPEMOBILE. Plus cool Secrets of the Vatican. Plus POPECLOTHES. Plus all that reverence from your colleagues as well as the sweet, sweet nun love from around the world. And I am just guessing here, but I bet the POPEBED is magnificent!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:12 AM on April 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Pay no attention to child rapists, worry about the eeeevil atheists, says Australian Bishop.
posted by rodgerd at 3:13 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the second link:
On Wednesday, one of Benedict's top aides, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, called the sex scandal accusations "a pretext for attacking the church."
It's just so mind-boggling. After decades and decades of this, Cardinal Jose Saraiva and many others like him still think that a systematic, international conspiracy to preserve power and wealth at the expense of thousands of raped and brutalized children is a mere—a pretext, prima facie not important enough to cause an international outcry and calls for, you know, justice to be served.

The people at the top of the Vatican just don't get it, and never, ever, will. It must be terrible to be a Catholic, hoping to change the system from within but knowing that it's run by amoral monsters who don't even understand that normal people object to the rape and brutalization of children, and who insist on their right to power for the rest of their life.
posted by No-sword at 3:19 AM on April 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sloop John B: "So, um... what's up with the Catholic church and paedophilia? Seriously. Is it just because they don't allow their priests to fuck, that they attract dudes that wouldn't want to have normal sex lives anyway? Seriously. Other religions don't seem to have this kind of problem.
"

It seems apparent that the subversion of human sexuality is almost always going to end badly. While I have no doubt that pedophilia is an occurrence far too common in many situations where adults are put in position of authority and ability to abuse, I would bet that it is more prevalent in Catholicism (unless somewhere in the world there's another group with similar circumstances).
posted by Red Loop at 3:26 AM on April 2, 2010


I was an altar boy, and the reason I ended up out of the church several years later was that my priests weren't better men. They were fine people, but they weren't better than the laity in any way, neither in their ability to understand God's will nor their care for others nor their ability to inspire faith. They were just leaders arbitrarily selected by a far-off authority, and some could hack it better than others, but generally, as I got older, the concept of the spirit visiting those who took holy orders seemed more and more self-serving than true.

Then I saw Deliver Us From Evil and I realized that I was incredibly lucky to have gotten out of that rotten world as early as I did. The Catholic Church's biggest problem isn't sexual -- it's how ruthlessly its power hierarchy acts to reinforce its sway over parishioners trained to ignore the church's role as a storehouse of money and influence.

Basically, there's going to be a certain number of pedophiles no matter what -- but the Church created Ratzinger and many administrators like him, and is institutionally responsible for their crimes. They would not be so morally execrable if they had not been taught that one must defend the faith above all else.

PS: Sorry Sinead! "Drink Before the War" was like my favorite song when I was 11.
posted by Valet at 3:32 AM on April 2, 2010 [11 favorites]


OK, well you know what happens to corrupt heads of state? Someone declares war on their petty ass little "state."

I mean, we had weaker evidence on Saddam Hussein than on Pope Pious the Pedophile Protector.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:48 AM on April 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Having just finished Barbara Tuchman's "The March of Folly", it seems like the Catholic hierarchy hasn't changed much since the days of the Renaissance.

The Roman Catholic Church isn't actually all that rigid on matters of doctrine. Sure, priests can get tossed out far more quickly for heretical leanings than for molesting children, but if they kiss the right asses and not make a big fuss about it, then they will usually be okay. What Holy Mother Church seems most determined to protect is the power of the institution itself. During the Renaissance, the things that the papacy fought without mercy wersn't the corruption of its priests or of itself, but any belief system or position that questioned the nature of authority within the Church - whether Cathars or Conciliarists. This conflict has gone on since the Donation of Constantine was forged, and has continued ever since - the emergence of Ultramontanism and papal infallibility in the 1800s were solidly in this tradition.

I think that this has everything to do with how the Church is handling this latest eruption of The Scandal. In 2002 and 2003, I thought that the Church would have to do something, would have to change in some way. Not new policies or public apologies, but something more fundamental. I was completely wrong. It's the same old, same old. And I think this, too, is likely to end up the same way.

Benedict XVI could resign, and it wouldn't make a difference. The Church, I believe, will do virtually anything to preserve its institutional structures of power. Celibacy and even the male-only priesthood would be tossed out the window without a second thought before, say, the Catholic church began allowing parishioners to choose who their priests were. I think there are large elements that would be willing to risk every Catholic church being completely emptied of the laity as long as they could preserve the hierarchical power structure of the Church that gives them purpose and meaning in their lives. Jesus Christ, who some might naively think has something to do with why people should bother with things like "churches" in the first place, is only really necessary as a legitimizing force for the hierarchy - we speak for Christ, therefore, we are special.

The worst nightmare of the hierarchy isn't people leaving the Church. They don't care all that much. It's the idea that the nature of the hierarchy could be changed. That's what they will fight for. They'll give in on whatever policies you'd like. They might even sacrifice a pope or two. But more needs to change than the face of the man on top.
posted by jhandey at 4:35 AM on April 2, 2010 [20 favorites]


a head of state - and thus immune from prosecution.

It's long past time to end that as a defense for inhuman behavior.
posted by DU at 4:37 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, it's kind of interesting he would adopt a legal defense. Isn't enough to just say "an invisible man in the sky told me to do it" like for everything else?
posted by DU at 5:18 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK, well you know what happens to corrupt heads of state? Someone declares war on their petty ass little "state."

I mean, we had weaker evidence on Saddam Hussein than on Pope Pious the Pedophile Protector.

Let's please not promote starting wars here.
posted by Dojie at 5:28 AM on April 2, 2010


If only there would be oil beneath Rome. People wouldn't be talking "court action", they'd be talking "regime change" instead.
posted by DreamerFi at 5:44 AM on April 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


Sloop, As to why catholicism, I read/heard (cant recall where) some reasoning why this is so prevalent in the catholic church along the lines of:

Good catholic boy one day hits puberty
Finds he is attracted to other boys
Decides to become a priest to get away from the whole sex thing and to purify himself
Gets into a position of power over young boys
Can't control himself
.

The reasoning was that if it was entirely a problem with celibacy, you would not expect young boys to be overwhelmingly targeted. (There may be other explanations for this though, such as young boys were more accessible .)
posted by batou_ at 5:51 AM on April 2, 2010


I am not going to paint all catholics with this ugly brush, but I do think they have some ability and should feel obligated to show their anger at this by ceasing their donations to the church. Hit them where it hurts! It is probably the only way anything will ever be done about this.
posted by batou_ at 5:57 AM on April 2, 2010


Other religions don't seem to have this kind of problem.

I rather doubt that's true.

In the US, at least, a big difference is that the RC Church is far and away the largest denomination and it's nominally at least a single coherent hierarchy.

There are other hierarchically-organized churches, but none nearly as big as the RCC, and none so coherently hierarchical, so other hierarchical churches just don't have the same exposure. There just aren't nearly as many Lutheran or Mormon or Anglican or Orthodox priests to go around molesting kids.

And so many protestant churches are nonhierarchical. If your local Baptist minister starts molesting the congregation's children, there is no higher authority to move him to another parish. There's the local congregation, and law enforcement, and that's it.

And as well, someone who was molested by an Episcopal or Orthodox priest or minister might not feel efficacious enough to do anything about it because they can't see others standing up and speaking about it and getting some measure of justice. There may well be a persistent and serious problem with pedophilia in the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention or in the LDS Church that we don't know about because the victims remain afraid to speak out.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:00 AM on April 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Good catholic boy one day hits puberty
Finds he is attracted to other boys
Decides to become a priest to get away from the whole sex thing and to purify himself
Gets into a position of power over young boys
Can't control himself


This only works if you believe that homosexuals are automatically pedophiles.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:01 AM on April 2, 2010 [12 favorites]


I just want to link directly to the Madison Square Garden video where O'Conner was booed off the stage because of the way she stares down the crowd of 30,000 angry, seething idiots. You can almost see a slight smile on her face, as if she knows just how monumentally stupid these people are going to feel when they realize just how wrong they are (in, oh, ten or twenty years). Fucking awesome.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:05 AM on April 2, 2010 [17 favorites]


If the Vatican wants to be recognized as a state, can we invade them and impose democracy?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:15 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


"This only works if you believe that homosexuals are automatically pedophiles."

No this works if you believe that some sexually repressed homosexuals (or heterosexuals for that matter since some of the victims are girls) can become pedophiles.

Maybe it is because I was being too brief, and paraphasing someones else's line of reasoning, but if you want to read it yourself it is here on Andrew Sullivan's blog. He has been doing a good job covering this for the most part.
posted by batou_ at 6:16 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


That catholic league guy, you know the one who shows up on TV and has aneurysms about chocolate Jesus and whatnot. He's claiming that because the boys were like 13-14 the priests were not 'pedophiles' but rather just gay.
posted by delmoi at 6:20 AM on April 2, 2010


OK, well you know what happens to corrupt heads of state? Someone declares war on their petty ass little "state."

It might almost be worth it to see these guys spring into action.
posted by availablelight at 6:21 AM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Next time I'm having a bad day I'm going to imagine Kris Kristofferson whispering 'Don't let the bastards get you down' in my ear.

Kris Kristofferson? Don't get him pissedofferson.

posted by kirkaracha at 6:23 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's nothing particularly religiously-related about crime and coverup. Powerful institutions from police departments to governments to corporations do it all the time.

The reason religion enters into it (besides the particular egregiousness of this crime being both committed and apparently condoned by a group ostensibly working in the name of God) is that even those outside the institution will defend it vociferously.

NBC refused to re-air Sinead's SNLs protest. 30,000 fans booed her. Would 30,000 randomly chosen people have booed someone who protested against Dow Chemical? And if they had, or had they booed an anti-Bush protestor, would we have used any other word to describe it than "religiously"? As in "fans of Dow defend it religiously".

Hopefully the US's (and world's) unnatural love for Rome is beginning to crumble. And hopefully the identically-based and equally-irrational love for Israel soon follows.
posted by DU at 6:23 AM on April 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


I rather doubt that's true.

I used to think that, too, but I now think there's something almost unique to the Roman Catholic Church.

With the Episcopal Church, for example, recently a priest was accused of sexual misconduct, and he was put on trial by the diocese itself - open to the public. Going east, Metropolitan Herman of the Orthodox Church in America was deposed by an internal rebellion among the laity, monks and clergy over a financial scandal.

They're individual examples, but try to imagine for a moment either happening in the Roman Catholic Church - a public ecclesiastical trial? The laity and "lower" clergy forcing a hierarch out of office (the Orthodox Church's hierarchy is organized quite differently from the Roman Catholic - each national or autocephalous church is basically its own authority. The Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople is more like the Archbishop of Canterbury for Anglicans - he's first among equals and might be a nice guy, but he's not an absolute monarch or anything near a pope. Nobody higher-up fired Metropolitan Herman, or could have fired him, in the way that the pope could fire any one of his archbishops).

It ain't gonna happen - at least until the whole Catholic understanding of the hierarchy is changed. I think it has a lot to do with the notion of the priest as an alter Christus, another Christ. Whatever canon law or the Catechism has to say about it nowadays, that's what he has been in practice in the minds of not only a lot of ordinary Catholics, but of members of the hierarchy themselves. No other Christian branch outside of people like the Branch Davidians, with the possible exception of the LDS, has made those sorts of semi-divine claims in regards to its leaders.

I have no doubt there are scandals waiting to erupt (and let's not restrict that to religion - every week while living in the Pacific Northwest, it seemed, there was another news story about yet another schoolteacher in the Seattle area having sex with a student. It got to the point that I wondered if there were any teachers that weren't having sex with students), but Catholicism has a lot to answer for. No other institution makes the claims that it makes for itself - not only about the divine nature of its authority, but its absolute power. A priest who advocates too loudly for abortion rights will have Rome swooping in like a hawk - nuns, too, as witnessed by the recent "Apostolic Visitation" directed at American nuns by the Vatican. Rome will not hesitate to act.

So why did it hesitate to act when it came to children? Rome claimed to have the power. Rome claimed to have the authority. Rome hasn't hesitated to do it before for things less heinous and, dare I say, damnable.

So why not for children?

I know Jesus is sort of beside the point here, but didn't he say when talking about people misleading and harming children something about millstones and about how it would have been better for some of these people that they had never been born?
posted by jhandey at 6:24 AM on April 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


It seems apparent that the subversion of human sexuality is almost always going to end badly

As explained to me by an gay ex-monk:

I always had the urges. Thought they were unclean and got into the Church because I figured I'd be denied access and God would take good care of his servant.

Add to it you have had many years of the events going on AND "protection" for your actions - I'm guessing there is an attraction effect here VS other places these ppl could have ended up as say TV repair men.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:25 AM on April 2, 2010


I know Jesus is sort of beside the point here

Has he been the point with many of the actions of the church over the years?
posted by rough ashlar at 6:30 AM on April 2, 2010


If your local Baptist minister starts molesting the congregation's children, there is no higher authority to move him to another parish. There's the local congregation, and law enforcement, and that's it.

My mother's church, Los Altos United Methodist Church had a youth director in the early 70's that molested a couple of teenagers. As soon as there was an inkling* that something was wrong, the church fired him. I was surprised that they were able to fire him without any formal complaints or evidence, however their (to me, overly-sensitive and) speedy reaction was not enough. 25 years later, two people came forward and brought a lawsuit against the church for hiring him in the first place. The lawsuit was settled out of court and left the present day congregation (most of whom were not members at the time) financially crushed.

*What was the inkling? I can't recall, but I remember there was no presumption of innocence nor was there any criminal proceedings. The guy was just fired. Presumably the parents involved did not want their children questioned by the police or anyone else.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:34 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Other religions don't seem to have this kind of problem.

Wasn't there a sex abuse scandal involving a Hasidic Rabbi in Brooklyn just recently? I thought I heard something about it on NPR a couple of months ago...
posted by backseatpilot at 6:47 AM on April 2, 2010


...not only are there fantastic awesome lay Catholics, but fantastic awesome Catholic priests who have lead all but saintly lives in the service of others, asking for nothing. They deserve the utmost respect, and should not be smeared by a brush too broad.

i would think there is a point where good people would choose not to associate or be represented by a corrupt organization. on this issue, i don't think it is enough to consider oneself a 'good' catholic simply because one does not molest children, particularly when one has chosen to remain silent or evasive on this issue. (and these are the 'good' catholics the pope gives comfort to when he refers to the scandal as 'petty gossip'.) personal spirituality aside, it is a choice to invest church hierarchy with moral authority and to accept that such is unassailable on a divine basis. you cannot disavow yourself of the actions of the church by saying you disagree with certain aspects of it when you accept, as terms of membership, that your disagreement carries absolutely no weight in the organization.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 6:49 AM on April 2, 2010 [11 favorites]


One summer afternoon in the late 1990s, my wife and I were by an Italian poolside in the Alban Hills, south of Rome. We watched a group of touring British choirboys, aged ten to 13, relaxing in the water after performing a sung Mass at St Peter's Basilica. Frolicking with them was Joe Jordan, a seminarian who had accompanied them, uninvited, from Rome. After watching his behaviour, involving boisterous tickling and handy-horseplay, my wife, who was a teacher in London schools for 14 years, said: "That young man has a problem: I wouldn't let him near a child unsupervised."

The following year Jordan was ordained a priest and appointed to a parish in Wales. In 2000 he was sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court to eight years' imprisonment for sexual abuse of minors in Doncaster and Barry, near Cardiff. When I asked Jordan's seminary rector why it had taken my wife a few minutes to identify what he and his colleagues failed to recognise over a period of five years, he said: "Oh, Joe was a devout man. There was no indication of any kind of problem." Jordan's hidden problem was not only his own, and that of the boys he abused, but a problem with recruitment, screening and formation of Catholic priests the world over. Now it is a problem of the Pope's.


The Pope, the people and the paedophiles by John Cornwell

posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:53 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wasn't there a sex abuse scandal involving a Hasidic Rabbi in Brooklyn just recently? I thought I heard something about it on NPR a couple of months ago...

Yes, and it wasn't the first.

Other religions don't seem to have this kind of problem.

Wrong.
posted by availablelight at 7:01 AM on April 2, 2010


If Hitchens is involved I'm immediately against it even if it's a good idea <>.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 7:02 AM on April 2, 2010


>I was an altar boy, and the reason I ended up out of the church several years later was that my priests weren't better men. They were fine people, but they weren't better than the laity in any way

Valet, you say you left the church because you found that the clergy weren't any better than the laity. Me, I wouldn't want to be in a church where the clergy were expected to be better than the laity. This idea, that the clergy are 'better' than the rest of us, is arguably what was responsible for the whole mess in the first place, by setting the clergy on a pedestal above ordinary mortals.

The idea that the clergy are better than the laity doesn't actually have much basis either in Catholic doctrine or in Catholic history. (There's an excellent article by the historian Eamon Duffy, 'Scandal in the church: some bearings from history', which makes this point very well.) One of the aims of Vatican II was to bring the clergy down from their pedestal and give the laity a much bigger share of the church's ministry. Sadly, there's still a long way to go on that front.

It's easy to respond to the present scandal by saying that the Catholic clergy need to be held to higher standards of behaviour. The risk is that this may play into the hands of conservatives in the church who want to turn the clock back to the days before Vatican II when the clergy were a caste apart. I don't want to see the clergy held to higher standards than the laity, I want to see them held to the same standards. Then, perhaps, we might start to see some real change.
posted by verstegan at 7:21 AM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


So what do you do when virtually every person in a position of authority in an organization has either a) participated in, or b) turned a blind eye to, pedophilia? This isn't going to be solved by dethroning Ratzinger; pretty much anyone who steps up in his place is going to have been just as complicit.

What I fear is that The Church will allow this to get to a fever pitch, roll a couple of heads (maybe even the Pope's), and get a new lease on life with a new Head of State who is every bit as much an enabler as his predecessor.
posted by Pragmatica at 7:23 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's good to see Sinead vindicated because I've always loved her and the reaction to the pope picture thing was appalling. But it's also really sad that she was. All those kids.
posted by Mavri at 7:24 AM on April 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


What percentage of pedophiles are atheists? Just curious.
posted by mareli at 7:29 AM on April 2, 2010


I just want to link directly to the Madison Square Garden video where O'Conner was booed off the stage because of the way she stares down the crowd of 30,000 angry, seething idiots. You can almost see a slight smile on her face, as if she knows just how monumentally stupid these people are going to feel when they realize just how wrong they are (in, oh, ten or twenty years). Fucking awesome.

And then she breaks down in tears once she leaves the stage. I haven't watched that in years. The way she handled it was incredible. (And go Kris Kristofferson.)
posted by Mavri at 7:31 AM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


i would think there is a point where good people would choose not to associate or be represented by a corrupt organization.

This.

I consider Desmond Tutu to be a good person, but if I were given an opportunity to ask him anything today, I'd ask him about his silence on this issue.
posted by DreamerFi at 7:32 AM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


jhandey makes good points about the differences between how other institutions handle sexual misconduct. But that's not got anything to do with whether church dogma or doctrine CAUSES this to happen. It's only got to do with how the church authorities HANDLES cases when they arise -- and the way the church authorities have handled this is fucked five ways to Sunday. And a change of cast is desperately called for.

But not the abolition of the church altogether, as some are calling for -- it ain't the church, it's the people in charge now. To those asking "why do people still stay in the church even though the people in charge are fucked" -- well, lots of people stayed in the U.S. when George Bush was in office, because they still believed in America itself, they just didn't like the guys in charge. And -- they voted out the idiots in charge and changed things that way instead.

The years since Vatican II have been somewhat wacky for the RCC -- there are quite a few traditional Catholics who haven't acknowledged any of the popes since 1963, and some actually have elected their own alternate popes. There are left-wing groups as well (speaking of Sinead O'Connor, she was ordained as a priest by one such group), and some have their own leaders as well. So even though historically there hasn't been call to impeach a pope before, I think we may be seeing the beginnings of a movement to do just that -- and a hell of a lot of other groups who will weigh in on who to replace Benedict with.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:35 AM on April 2, 2010


If Hitchens is involved I'm immediately against it even if it's a good idea .

Even a drunk, angry clock is right twice a day.
posted by device55 at 7:36 AM on April 2, 2010 [20 favorites]


So, um... what's up with the Catholic church and paedophilia? Seriously. Is it just because they don't allow their priests to fuck, that they attract dudes that wouldn't want to have normal sex lives anyway? Seriously. Other religions don't seem to have this kind of problem.

Alas, it's not explained away so simply. Other religions most certainly do have this kind of problem. There is a high incidence amongst non-Catholic clergy. There are far fewer accusations and convictions being made, but it's still a serious problem.

In a way, you are correct that the church attracts people who are unable to have "normal" sex lives. I've commented about this before on MeFi. Pedophilia is not uniquely Catholic, and it is certainly not unique to Catholic clergy. However, a trait of pedophiles (there have been profiles done,) is that they tend to seek out careers and social positions which will allow them access to children with few restrictions or oversight. This is why we so often hear that a teacher, sports coach or clergy member (among other professions) has been caught with a stash of child porn, or has been accused/convicted of molestation.

So, it's a logical assumption that pedophiles most likely seek out employment within the Catholic Church because it aggressively protects them. As an institution, it has been slow to act when incidents have been reported and has actively worked to suppress evidence which would incriminate their members. They shuffle accused predator priests from parish to parish, rather than protecting their congregations.

Here are a couple of resources to non-Catholic religious clergy sex offenders:

The Awareness Center has an Alleged and Convicted Sex Offender Registry Page for Jewish Communities. Clergy Abuse: Cantors, Rabbis and other trusted officials.

reformation.com has a great deal of information about abuse by Protestant Ministers

And then on the Catholic side, the Survivor Network for those Abused by Priests has a priest database.
posted by zarq at 7:40 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


More info: General profile of a pedophile
posted by zarq at 7:40 AM on April 2, 2010


The case is not altered.
posted by unSane at 7:41 AM on April 2, 2010


Other religions don't seem to have this kind of problem.

Errrrp. Thanks for playing.

The Scientologists, Mormans, A Jewish sect all had similar charges last month.

based on this 'joke'
"Welcome to the Catholic Sexual Abuse Automated Hotline.
"If you were sodomized by a priest, press 1."
"If you were sodomized by a Bishop or above, press 2."
"If you were forced to engage in oral sex, press 3."
"If you have photos, please stay on the line and the next available lawyer will be negotiating a settlement with you as soon as possible."

I wonder if the sub $99 cameras that can be hidden as pens et la are why the sudden uptick - people now have evidence?
posted by rough ashlar at 7:46 AM on April 2, 2010


Oh -- and the guy who runs the Catholic League is a fuckstick. *folds arms and nods*
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:54 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's also worth noting that in general non-Catholic organizations have a better track record of cooperating with authorities. They're also less likely to try and hide accusations or criminal charges from congregations, etc.)

This is a marked difference from what by now seems to be an official Catholic Church policy of shuffling priests away from their accusers.
posted by zarq at 7:58 AM on April 2, 2010


And is it only an American thing, or does the Catholic church have this problem in other places?
Scope and nature of Catholic sex abuse cases.

Roman Catholic sex abuse cases by country.

Examples:
Catholic sexual abuse scandal in the United States.

Catholic sexual abuse scandal in Canada.

Catholic sexual abuse scandal in Ireland.
posted by ericb at 8:04 AM on April 2, 2010


To those asking "why do people still stay in the church even though the people in charge are fucked" -- well, lots of people stayed in the U.S. when George Bush was in office, because they still believed in America itself, they just didn't like the guys in charge. And -- they voted out the idiots in charge and changed things that way instead.

setting aside that individuals cannot become politically autonomous (one can be religious without joining a religion; one cannot be alive without being in a country), the U.S. has mechanisms for citizen disagreement and its exercise such that it can and does effect change. look for people to try to leave when they can no longer vote out the idiots in charge.

my catholic friends have tended to respond to questions about this and other distasteful church policy by indicating that they disagree but, you know, waddaya gonna do? not only have none of them come close to entertaining the idea that their disagreement within the church could change things, but none have even expressed a desire that it should.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 8:06 AM on April 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


" 'We found out there was no skin-to-skin contact, that it was through clothing.' So he's telling me, 'On a scale of 1 to 10, this was maybe a 2 or a 3, so what's the big fuss?' "


The school hired Reichman back. That was in July 2008 — one week after Joel Engelmen turned 23 and could no longer bring a criminal or civil case against the rabbi.


----------------------

Stolen Innocence: Rabbi Baruch Lanner, the charismatic magnet of NCSY, was revered in the Orthodox Union youth group, despite longtime reports of abuse of teens.

---------------------

On the Rabbi's Knee: Do the Orthodox Jews Have a Catholic-Priest Problem?

--------------------

In a sad example of what happens to the powerless when you elevate certain men in a top-down, sanctioned-by-god system, one father actually flew all the way to Israel to find a rabbi who would grant him permission to report a serial molestor to the police....who had victimized his son:


When his 6-year-old son told him one day that Rabbi Kolko had sexually abused him, the father said he resolved to go to the police because he knew that the Brooklyn hierarchy had protected the rabbi in the past.

But first he made a detour. [!!!] “I booked a flight to Jerusalem,” he said. “I made an appointment to speak with a very prominent rabbi” who had written sympathetically about abuse victims.

“He told me it would be O.K. to report this teacher to the police,” the father said. “He told me that if I reported him I would not be committing a sin.”


Power + secrecy + insulated culture + religion of the "chosen" = rocket fuel for bureaucratic evil against the weak.
posted by availablelight at 8:06 AM on April 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


Comment of the Day: How Are You Still Catholic?
"What I don't understand is how anyone could still consider themselves Catholics in the face of this. One or two incidences in a vast, moneyed, unwieldy organization means bad apples. $2 billion dollars paid out in the U.S. alone to abused victims (most of whom were CHILDREN) of these 'men of God' with hundreds (and countless thousands in the past) more emerging around the world means something is seriously fucked in the midget state of Vatican.

The CEO, an ex-Nazi in Prada boots, is complicit in allowing a man who abused 200 DEAF CHILDREN for decades to live out 'the dignity of his days' — unmolested, by, you know, law enforcement. Because he had 'repented' — whatever that means when you are morally bankrupt — and his health was failing in a way it should have long ago had there actually been a benevolent God.

It's just mind-boggling to me. These are supposed to be the most sacred people — the most holy — the most trustworthy — the most good. They are your direct line to the Lord. And they are fucking the small children.

How could one believe in any earthly manifestation of 'religion' after that? How? I genuinely want to know."
posted by ericb at 8:07 AM on April 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


my catholic friends have tended to respond to questions about this and other distasteful church policy by indicating that they disagree but, you know, waddaya gonna do? not only have none of them come close to entertaining the idea that their disagreement within the church could change things, but none have even expressed a desire that it should.

Some do and have been trying, like Father Lasch:

"Kill Jeremiah, execute Jesus and kill the prophets who speak truth to power. The more things change, the more they remain the same."

He's a former Pastor of St. Josephs Church in Mendham NJ, who has been pushing the Church to address the scandals.
posted by zarq at 8:20 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had never seen the Madison Square Garden footage linked from Saxon's link. That is powerful stuff.
posted by tizzie at 8:26 AM on April 2, 2010


In a sad example of what happens to the powerless when you elevate certain men in a top-down, sanctioned-by-god system, one father actually flew all the way to Israel to find a rabbi who would grant him permission to report a serial molestor to the police....who had victimized his son

For whatever it's worth, the few Orthodox Jews (laypeople, not rabbis) I know whom i've asked about this think he's a fucking idiot who doesn't deserve to be a parent. Rabbis are people and are not supposed to be worshipped or held above the law in any way.
posted by zarq at 8:27 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


"After watching his behaviour, involving boisterous tickling and handy-horseplay, my wife, who was a teacher in London schools for 14 years, said: 'That young man has a problem: I wouldn't let him near a child unsupervised.'"

Why is this woman a teacher and not head of some pre-cog justice department handing out punishment for crimes not yet committed?
posted by Mitheral at 8:28 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


> my catholic friends have tended to respond to questions about this and other distasteful church policy by indicating that they disagree but, you know, waddaya gonna do? not only have none of them come close to entertaining the idea that their disagreement within the church could change things, but none have even expressed a desire that it should.

Some do and have been trying, like Father Lasch [snip] a former Pastor of St. Josephs Church in Mendham NJ, who has been pushing the Church to address the scandals.


Right. My point is that up to this point, yes, there have been people who took the "yeah, but whaddyagonna do" response, but that now we'll start to see less of that, and more people taking the "that's it, I still don't know what we're gonna do, but we've gotta do SOMETHING" approach.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:37 AM on April 2, 2010


Christopher Hitchens, among others, has called for the Pope to be arrested

Christopher Hitchens is becoming the Lady Gaga of public intellectuals.
posted by mecran01 at 8:39 AM on April 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


Right. My point is that up to this point, yes, there have been people who took the "yeah, but whaddyagonna do" response, but that now we'll start to see less of that, and more people taking the "that's it, I still don't know what we're gonna do, but we've gotta do SOMETHING" approach.

I sure as hell hope so.
posted by zarq at 8:54 AM on April 2, 2010


I consider Desmond Tutu to be a good person, but if I were given an opportunity to ask him anything today, I'd ask him about his silence on this issue.

Desmond Tutu is an Archbishop of the Anglican church, not the Roman Catholic Church.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 8:55 AM on April 2, 2010 [12 favorites]


My point is that up to this point, yes, there have been people who took the "yeah, but whaddyagonna do" response, but that now we'll start to see less of that, and more people taking the "that's it, I still don't know what we're gonna do, but we've gotta do SOMETHING" approach.

while i appreciate those who make an effort, i guess i don't have a clear picture of what someone within the church can expect to accomplish, given that one's membership in the church carries an implicit acceptance of the unchallenged authority of the leadership. it would seem that efforts at reform would necessarily question that authority--and how far will that get? looking at the issue of child sexual abuse, how far it has come and for how long, the church is still skirting responsibility at the highest levels, and in a way reminiscent of the most cynical corporate PR. if that has not been enough, to this point, to create widespread dissent amongst its members, i don't see a path to change now.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 8:55 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


For those people asking why, my understanding is that, although there is a sexual element, pedophilia is more about power than other issues. Please, correct me if I'm wrong.
So, the logic follows that someone who is attracted to an authoritative position might be more inclined to it.
posted by annsunny at 9:04 AM on April 2, 2010


Yeah, the hierarchy has made it abundantly clear that they are answerable only to themselves. The only people who are allowed to be drivers of change are those who are insisting that there will be no change.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:05 AM on April 2, 2010


If Hitchens is involved I'm immediately against it even if it's a good idea .

I can tell. Hitchens is for thinking for yourself.
posted by tzikeh at 9:05 AM on April 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


DreamerFi: I consider Desmond Tutu to be a good person, but if I were given an opportunity to ask him anything today, I'd ask him about his silence on this issue.

Blue Jello Elf: Desmond Tutu is an Archbishop of the Anglican church, not the Roman Catholic Church.

Also, it seems highly unlikely that Desmond Tutu would have stood by silently while defenders of his Church blamed priestly pedophilia on homosexuality.
posted by zarq at 9:15 AM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Verstigan: I've heard plenty about Catholic doctrine and what is and is not Church law, but with all due respect, you're being an apologist. The power to transform bread into the Body of Christ is an awesome power. It is given expressly and exclusively to a small group of men chosen by an even smaller group of other men. If these men are disobeyed, they have the power to withhold the blessing of the Eucharist, a sacrament required for the soul to enter into Heaven.

It boggles my mind how you can dress a man in ancient clothes, stand him on a four-foot altar in front of gold and marble statuary above a group of people who are instructed to kneel, and ring bells as he turns crackers into God, and then turn around and argue that technically, the teaching of the religion is that these men are just like everybody else.

You can have as many Vatican IIs as you want, and play as much insider politics as you like in the hopes of making incremental change. I choose instead to renounce the Church as foul at heart.
posted by Valet at 9:25 AM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


My girlfriend's best friend is a former priest. He's in his mid/late-30s, lives with his mother, is very smart and nice but VERY weird. The shit he has said about his time in the priesthood is insane. First off, he said that pretty much all the priests he knew were gay -- not that being gay is weird, but apparently, according to his experience, the priesthood is a refuge for closeted Catholics who feel tremendous guilt about their sexuality. They go into the priesthood to try to "reform" or "convert" themselves. It's no wonder to me that a lot of these people, with the intense pressure to hide/suppress their sexuality and probably carrying around a lot of guilt since their childhood, would find themselves tempted to act out in unacceptable ways. Combine that with a sense of immense power and influence over your parish and untouchability from any but God, and you've got a powder keg of pedophilia about to burst. My gf's friend also said that the drug use among priests is insane. And not just pot or alcohol; he says that when he was in the priesthood, he and his peers did just about every drug you can get -- acid, meth, crack, heroin, you name it. On a regular basis. And not just the younger priests, the ones in their 60s and 70s too. There are plenty of other crazy stories -- like the octogenarian priest who had to wear a diaper because he was incontinent. He came and sat down next to this guy while he was watching TV and just whipped it out and started masturbating. It's just one anecdotal data point -- and I guess he could be making it up, but I believe him because he seems like an honest guy to me -- but if it has any relation to the larger situation of the church, well, it isn't surprising that things are and have been so fucked up for so long.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:30 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


if that has not been enough, to this point, to create widespread dissent amongst its members, i don't see a path to change now.

Until now, each incident may have been dismissed by some Catholics as an aberration. I have a friend who is a devout Roman Catholic and outspoken supporter of the Church, who has spent the last 10 years telling me that the problem isn't widespread and that the media is run by anti-Catholics who blow the scandals completely out of proportion.

But it's now become apparent even to her that that this is a serious, widespread problem within the Church, that is not restricted to a handful of priests and parishes. Reports are coming in from Brazil, Ireland and other countries in such volume that she's unable to dismiss them all. It's been rather sad watching her become so angry and disillusioned, as reality has sunk in.
posted by zarq at 9:30 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


BTW: I didn't mean to imply a connection between homosexuality and pedophilia, although it probably looks that way in my post, as I think pedophilia is as much (or more?) about power as it is about which gender one is attracted to. Just that the suppression of sexuality -- whether straight or gay or bi or other -- will result in people doing fucked up stuff.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:33 AM on April 2, 2010


So what do you do when virtually every person in a position of authority in an organization has either a) participated in, or b) turned a blind eye to, pedophilia? This isn't going to be solved by dethroning Ratzinger; pretty much anyone who steps up in his place is going to have been just as complicit.

What I fear is that The Church will allow this to get to a fever pitch, roll a couple of heads (maybe even the Pope's), and get a new lease on life with a new Head of State who is every bit as much an enabler as his predecessor.


This is why I think it is absolutely necessary to dissolve the RCC as an organization, because the failures of the RCC are structural - they are built in. There are political systems and organizational systems that by their very nature promote abuse and make accountability impossible - in such cases the system needs to be abolished and the organization dissolved. This is what is not understood by those who say "calling for the dissolution of the RCC is going too far" - it isn't, when the problems are systemic and in the very fabric of how the power structure is built.

So what about the countless good Catholics and good priests? Right now they are forced to work within a structure that takes away from their efforts and twists it toward malign ends. By dissolving the RCC you are not destroying the good priests - rather, they will now have an opportunity to do good work outside of the corrupt organization, and so it is a good thing. The good people won't stop being good - but now will be able to work toward a greater good, without propping up a monster.

There is really no other way out of these systemic problems than the extirpation of the RCC.
posted by VikingSword at 9:33 AM on April 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think it's hilarious that the Pope -- the freakin' Pope -- is using the same defense as the bad guys in Lethal Weapon 2.
posted by brundlefly at 9:51 AM on April 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


It seems that the last several Popes were well aware.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:53 AM on April 2, 2010


Here is a narrative re-cap of the events and media reports on the current scandal, as well as analysis of the sources, from the British Catholic Herald: The Pope and the abuse scandal: a guide for perplexed Catholics.
posted by jsonic at 10:24 AM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


he says that when he was in the priesthood, he and his peers did just about every drug you can get -- acid, meth, crack, heroin, you name it. On a regular basis. And not just the younger priests, the ones in their 60s and 70s too.

There are a lot of things I disagree with and dislike the Church about, particularly the vexing "we've been covering up for monsters for a couple of decades" thing, but...

At least once, I would go to watch a methed/ cracked out priest on acid try to deliver a mass. At the very minimum, I bet it would be fast and colorful.

I'm imagining a long screed against the evils of the spiders that are currently crawling all over him and the demons that have been promoting tooth decay in his mouth.
posted by quin at 10:25 AM on April 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Desmond Tutu is an Archbishop of the Anglican church, not the Roman Catholic Church.

I stand corrected.
posted by DreamerFi at 10:28 AM on April 2, 2010


Keep in mind the intra-church big picture; Ratzinger is the spearhead of a counter-revolution in the church, a militant right-wing putsch dedicated to undoing all of the reforms of Vatican II and installing an ultraconservative hierarchy as controlling as any in church history. He was literally the guy in charge of the office that enforces orthodoxy, the same folks who brought you the Spanish Inquisition. It's no accident that he was in the Nazi youth; he was the worst-case scenario right-wing candidate for Pope.

Lots of hierarchical organizations have problems with covering up child abuse (the Boy Scouts have 1,200 files on abuse incidents and kept the info from police), and generally the more repressive the group, the worse the incidents. Have we forgotten the polygamous Mormon sects and their 14 year old brides already? There were riots in India recently against yet another guru abusing followers. Etc. etc. Can you imagine the abuse among fundamentalist Islamic authorities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, etc that we don't know about?

Child abuse is so horrible people don't want to face it. The perps know this and exploit this natural denial as a shield. I'm concerned that this attitude of "No it's only Catholics" is just another variant of denial, that's going to make it harder to see other abusers out there. There are a BILLION catholics, and tens of millions of priests and bishops -- lots of them in open societies with decent press and Internet for word to get out, so you hear about it. But don't kid yourself that this isn't happening in other faiths and organizations.
posted by msalt at 10:37 AM on April 2, 2010 [13 favorites]


News report from the Financial Times: "An advance text of the prayer to be offered on Friday night revealed that the Pope would ask Jesus on the anniversary of his crucifixion to 'purify our inner eye and enable us to recognise, free of all hypocrisy, the evil which lies within us.' The Vatican said the Pope would only lead the procession for two of the 14 Stations of the Cross."

Keep in mind the intra-church big picture; Ratzinger is the spearhead of a counter-revolution in the church, a militant right-wing putsch dedicated to undoing all of the reforms of Vatican II and installing an ultraconservative hierarchy as controlling as any in church history.

Keep in mind that reports and documentation of molestation cover-ups have been found to go back to the papacy of Paul VI, who was the engine behind continuing the Vatican II reforms. This is not to deny the ultraconservatism of Benedict.
posted by blucevalo at 10:52 AM on April 2, 2010


I'll briefly repeat myself.
And then I'd like to add that I would LOVE to see a schism or a major round of house cleaning in the top ranks of the Church. I love my local parish, but hate that it is part of the corrupt larger Catholic organization. The only reason Kermit the Bishop hasn't come and crushed our little liberal outpost is because we're such a cash cow for the diocese, and that makes me feel sick sometimes.
posted by charred husk at 10:57 AM on April 2, 2010


No but guys just think about all the good things they do
posted by Damn That Television at 10:57 AM on April 2, 2010


And then I'd like to add that I would LOVE to see a schism or a major round of house cleaning in the top ranks of the Church. I love my local parish, but hate that it is part of the corrupt larger Catholic organization. The only reason Kermit the Bishop hasn't come and crushed our little liberal outpost is because we're such a cash cow for the diocese, and that makes me feel sick sometimes.

but why should they change if you'll be a cash cow no matter what?
posted by fallacy of the beard at 11:05 AM on April 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


not being snarky, just genuinely curious as to the thought process here...
posted by fallacy of the beard at 11:06 AM on April 2, 2010


Their new defense: criticizing the Church on the basis of protecting pedophiles is just like the Holocaust.

So, y'know, stop criticizing them. You mini-Eichmanns, you.
posted by aramaic at 11:07 AM on April 2, 2010


Other religions don't seem to have this kind of problem.

I rather doubt that's true.


It isn't. Most other religious organisations have barely a fraction of the wealth and power, temporal and theological, that the Roman Catholic church does.

Consider: The context of rape and torture of Irish children. The entire child welfare system for orphans had been handed over to the Church. The Irish government ladelled taxpayer money out to the Church as the exclusive administrator of child welfare. Where, then, would abused children go? Ireland made divorce and contraception illegal for decades after other EU nations because of the influence of the Church in public life. In the last decade an Irish government fell because it was discovered a minister of that government had been sitting on information about a pedophile priest in order to help that priest escape prosecution. In the last decade!

In France the Church sheltered Vichy war criminals in monasteries into the 1970s. Men who were due to be put on trial in the French courts as traitors and war criminals were moved around a few monks for thirty years, and, even in a country which is generally more aggressively secular than many in the US have trouble coping with, the state did not want to be seen kicking in the doors of a Catholic shelter, not even to claim men who had sent hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens to slave labour and death camps.

The Jewish, Orthodox and Protestant Christian groups mentioned above simply don't have that kind of power in the West. Perhaps some of the Eastern Orthodox groups, who enjoy close ties to governments in Russia, Serbia, etc, might be able to exercise that level of privilege with regards to nominally secular authorities, but can you really imagine a Anglican parent finding the local police, for example, flat out refusing to even investigate allegations of child rape? Or a government minister sitting on paperwork needed for prosecution?

What other religious group in a Western nation would wield that kind of power, not just over its followers, but de facto and de jure over the secular state? No wonder the Church's main focus these days, not least through Tony Blair, is to paint the secular state and atheists as (per Blair) "worse than suicide bombers", a form of genocide, and so on. The erosion of that power is the main danger to that power.
posted by rodgerd at 11:19 AM on April 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


Pope Benedict's personal preacher has compared criticism of the pontiff and Church over child abuse to "collective violence" suffered by the Jews. What the fuck is the matter with these people?. They are totally and utterly divorced from the real world. The sooner some legal prosecutions start the better.
posted by adamvasco at 11:25 AM on April 2, 2010


Yeesh. So glad to be reformed during Holy Week this year. I don't envy any of my RC clergy brethren come Sunday.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:32 AM on April 2, 2010


This is why I think it is absolutely necessary to dissolve the RCC as an organization, because the failures of the RCC are structural - they are built in. There are political systems and organizational systems that by their very nature promote abuse and make accountability impossible - in such cases the system needs to be abolished and the organization dissolved. This is what is not understood by those who say "calling for the dissolution of the RCC is going too far" - it isn't, when the problems are systemic and in the very fabric of how the power structure is built.

Such a radical change would probably have to come from within. I believe it would be practically impossible to impose it externally, especially since the organization wields such powerful political influence in so many countries. Most Catholics would no doubt view a non-Catholic attempt to break up their Church as an attack on their beliefs, and oppose it wholeheartedly no matter what the circumstances.

So what about the countless good Catholics and good priests? Right now they are forced to work within a structure that takes away from their efforts and twists it toward malign ends. By dissolving the RCC you are not destroying the good priests - rather, they will now have an opportunity to do good work outside of the corrupt organization, and so it is a good thing. The good people won't stop being good - but now will be able to work toward a greater good, without propping up a monster.

Their efforts would probably be diminished without the force/money/power/efforts of the Church behind them, as it provides them with the ability to do good works on a larger scale than most.

I used to volunteer at soup kitchens with several groups in NYC, including at St. John the Divine. We used to cook for and feed hundreds of people in several shifts each weekend. The Church donated their kitchens, space and served as a collection point for food, clothing and supplies for those in need. Often, Church staff would pitch in and help if we were short handed.

Efforts like that require manpower and dedicated resources. Now, SJtD obviously does not provide a unique service, but theirs is one one of the largest in the City. If the Church were disbanded, those community services / resources and others they provide might also disappear. At the very least, they would become similar to other non-catholic churches in the area, who have smaller and more limited programs.

I am wholly in favor of removing the ability of the Catholic Church to act unilaterally and be "above the law" when it comes to criminal investigations. They should not be allowed to hide and protect predators, period, and the organization should be forced to embrace transparency. But I wonder if that will ever be possible, and I also hope that if it does happen one day we won't also throw out the baby with the bath water.
posted by zarq at 11:42 AM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sinead O'Connor wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post on 3/28- here- she is an amazing woman.
posted by drhydro at 11:53 AM on April 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


I have no doubt that unfortunately, the RCC as an organization will survive for many generations yet, and horrific crimes will continue to be committed by their hierarchy. But what I'm hoping is that the protected status they've enjoyed will be stripped away. That's the best we can hope for from this atrocity, and sadly may not even get that. Regardless, what I do see is that at least their image is getting irreparably damaged - and I do have some anecdotal evidence.

One great way to monitor public consciousness and image of anything is through the way jokes are told and reacted to, because jokes depend on the acceptance of certain stereotypes - it's a great gauge. Look at how Irish jokes evolved - from nasty racism to affectionate trifles. Or how various professions are portrayed. Here's a great test of the evolution of the public perception of the RCC and the attendant stereotypes. A joke I've been telling for decades now - always looking to see what the reaction is, and I've learned a ton about sociology through the years thanks to this:

A local Police Chief, the head of the local legal Bar Association and a Catholic Bishop are touring a newly opened orphanage. Suddenly, a fire breaks out, and rapidly spreads through the orphanage. The Cop cries out: "SAVE THE CHILDREN!"; the Lawyer looks around and heads toward the exit screaming: "FUCK THE CHILDREN!"; the Priest stops in his tracks and asks with great hope: "DO YOU THINK WE HAVE ENOUGH TIME?"

Now, the image of the lawyer as someone who is more concerned about his personal well-being rather than the defenseless, has not undergone any evolution (indeed from the time of Shakespeare and probably before) - everybody accepts (for the purpose of the joke) that this is what lawyers are like. It trades on a well-known image of lawyers. The cop is more complicated. Once upon a time, it was unquestioned that the cop would valiantly help others in need at the cost of his own safety - but interestingly, as the years go by more and more often I see people challenge that part of the joke, by commenting afterward that "not the cops I know" or something along those lines. I think the image of the cop has undergone a lot of change under the influence of constant reports of grievous abuse of power - and that is reflected in people's reactions - being a cop is seen as not a calling, but just a job and don't think it rings true that a cop would go beyond the call of duty or even to the call of duty if his personal safety were involved. And finally the priest. Once upon a time, there would be a bit of a puzzle for folks - especially those who were not Catholics - "why would a priest say that" or even not know what the "enough time" referred to. These days people immediately get the joke, and there is laughter and knowing looks even among those who are not Catholics. I think that says a lot - jokes depend for their effectiveness on common assumptions images and stereotypes. The image of the priest as child molester is now firmly in the public mind. Quite an evolution.

Same with the line "The Roman Catholic Church is the biggest pedophile ring in the world" - it shocked once upon a time. These days, not so much, because the evidence has become too overwhelming.

And that is the hope I have for this scandal. That the moral force of the RCC has been destroyed, and more importantly that their political power has diminished. Now, when they want to take away rights from gays, women or minorities, people will think "so this is coming from the Pedophile Ring Organization" before accepting what the RCC says at face value. And in view of the RCC being the enemy of mankind*, this can only be good.

*Enemy of mankind: over 50% of Mankind is female - and the RCC wants to control women and discriminates against them and puts them in an inferior position through countless ways, most prominently through the denial of contraceptives and fighting against abortion among many other measures. They are against sexual minorities, in particular gays. They are responsible for millions upon millions of minority deaths due to AIDS especially in Africa because of their policy on condoms etc. And so on, and so on. The Roman Catholic Church: The Enemies of Mankind©.
posted by VikingSword at 11:55 AM on April 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


fallacy of the beard: "but why should they change if you'll be a cash cow no matter what?"

My hope is that the destruction of or separation from the Vatican's structure would cause enough chaos in organization that whatever was left would be much less centrally powered. Of course, that's probably just a pipe dream - Kermit the Bishop probably wouldn't go anywhere if the American Catholic Church were to schism.

My dream would be for our parish to break off and be its own entity like so many other Protestant churches, but I know that will never happen. Theological issues involving apostolic succession aside, a good portion of the parish are cradle Catholics who couldn't imagine being anything else. For them, being Catholic isn't some religion they chose it is the culture they were born into. Their reaction to all of this seems to be either disbelief, confusion or helplessness.

So, yeah. Probably not going to happen but a guy can dream. My guess is that governments will have to force the Church to obey the law - which by their own teaching they should be doing anyways.
posted by charred husk at 11:56 AM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


adamvasco: Pope Benedict's personal preacher has compared criticism of the pontiff and Church over child abuse to "collective violence" suffered by the Jews. What the fuck is the matter with these people?. They are totally and utterly divorced from the real world. The sooner some legal prosecutions start the better.

I'm sorry, I must have read that link incorrectly.

There's no way that the Pope's own personal preacher just said that some people speaking out against the Church's attempt to protect Priest child molesters was as unforgiveable as the violence suffered throughout history by Jews, much of which was done to us by his own fucking Church.

No, I can't imagine he would have said that.

Father Cantalamessa must have been misquoted.

After all this is the same Church that didn't bother to renounce their two millennia vilification of Jews until the 1960's. It's the same Church that has actively promoted antisemitism for it's just about its entire existence.

No one could be that stupid. Or tone deaf.
posted by zarq at 11:57 AM on April 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


And this:
Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, of the American Jewish Committee, called Father Cantalamessa's comments "an unfortunate use of language", AP news agency reported. "The collective violence against the Jews resulted in the death of six million, while the collective violence spoken of here has not led to murder and destruction, but perhaps character assault," he said.
"An unfortunate use of language."

Rabbi Greenebaum's been a diplomat for far too long. The Reform movement should replace him with someone capable of speaking truth to power.
posted by zarq at 12:03 PM on April 2, 2010


The cluelessness continues in Boston. Amazing.
posted by Melismata at 12:09 PM on April 2, 2010


...the prayer to be offered on Friday night revealed that the Pope would ask Jesus...

I love how the father, son, and holy ghost are just letting him twist in the wind.
posted by birdherder at 12:09 PM on April 2, 2010


Sinead O'Connor wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post on 3/28- here- she is an amazing woman.

This is a great link posted by drhydro - truly remarkable. Everyone should read it - it comes from someone who to this day is a sincere believer. Really puts things in perspective.
posted by VikingSword at 12:12 PM on April 2, 2010


"Here's a roundup of the scapegoats so far."
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 12:44 PM on April 2, 2010


They are totally and utterly divorced from the real world.

Not at all. It's about providing ammunition and talking points for the faithful (as well as useful idiot atheists like the ones who pop up on mefi to prove how open-minded they are to spew vitriol over the usual two-minute-of-hate figures).

It's nothing to do with how non-Catholics might view things, but rather to make sure there's some nice, easily digested points that can make the unease and disquiet go away. Persecution has always been a successful call, since it plays to an archetype popular amongst some Christians who can always remember 100 AD but can dismiss the Cathar genocide or the present child rape scandal as old news.

Regardless, what I do see is that at least their image is getting irreparably damaged - and I do have some anecdotal evidence.

Perhaps in the West, but I doubt that much of this is really penetrating in the modern Catholic heartlands of Africa and South and Central America. It may derail the present Popes plans for a reconquista of Europe, for example (not that it's slowing the likes of Tony Blair or the efforts in Aussie I linked to above), but the core of the faithful is outside the West these days. That's not even unique - look at the pain the Anglicans are having trying to meld together their Western progressives with their African anti-gay regressives.
posted by rodgerd at 1:15 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Their efforts would probably be diminished without the force/money/power/efforts of the Church behind them, as it provides them with the ability to do good works on a larger scale than most.

I used to volunteer at soup kitchens with several groups in NYC, including at St. John the Divine...
(zarq)

When DC was working on passing its gay marriage bill, the Catholic Church threatened to slash social programs in the city. This only relates to you point that in both cases it is a damn shame that Catholic peoples' good works are being held financially/structurally hostage to the corruption and political posturing of the organization.

(though on a side note, St. John the Divine is an Episcopal cathedral.)
posted by heyforfour at 1:19 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


When DC was working on passing its gay marriage bill, the Catholic Church threatened to slash social programs in the city. This only relates to you point that in both cases it is a damn shame that Catholic peoples' good works are being held financially/structurally hostage to the corruption and political posturing of the organization.

The threat was appalling. I always thought of Catholic Charities as a separate entity from the Church, but it isn't, really.

(though on a side note, St. John the Divine is an Episcopal cathedral.)

Um... seriously?

OMG, you're right. I never realized. I spent 15 years volunteering there, but didn't notice. I feel like an idiot!
posted by zarq at 1:28 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sinead's description of the RCC hold on Irish schools and child welfare programs sounds very much like what they had going on in Canada with Indian Residential Schools. Canada's Residential School system was a horror show.

Crucifixion as a means to save mankind was a complete Fail. If "God" really wanted to save mankind, Christ would have been an immortal who lead the first church that inspired its followers to always do good. Sure as fuck can't leave that mission up to the likes of Saul/Paul, the corrupt Popes, or Pat Robertson.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:04 PM on April 2, 2010


St. John the Divine is an Episcopal cathedral...

...and where one of my favorite musicians, Paul Winter (and his consort), is an artist-in-residence.
posted by ericb at 2:34 PM on April 2, 2010


To further the where you gonna go discussion, what churches are closest to RCC without acknowledging the authority of the pope/bishop of Rome? Has anyone made the jump from RCC to Assyrian, or is that to great a divide?
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:43 PM on April 2, 2010


When DC was working on passing its gay marriage bill, the Catholic Church threatened to slash social programs in the city.

D.C. Catholic Charities Ends Benefits For All Spouses After Gay Marriage Legalized.

Same-sex Marriage Law Forces D.C. Catholic Charities to Close Adoption Program.

And, related: Religious Charity to End Adoption Program in Boston over Gay Rights.

Fuck 'em. (No, not the children. The Catholic Charities).
posted by ericb at 2:45 PM on April 2, 2010


rogerd: What other religious group in a Western nation would wield that kind of power, not just over its followers, but de facto and de jure over the secular state?

Are you kidding? Or just blinded by anti-RCC rage? The Mormon Church, its schimsatic variants, pretty much every evangelical and fundamentalist sect, and a number of charismatic preachers (Pat Robertson), and mixed religious/political groups (Focus on the Family, etc.) all have more political power in the U.S. and most have more extreme anti-woman, anti-gay agendas than the RCC. Most seem to have more control over their followers than the RCC, too; look how many ex-Catholics and Catholics who ignore church teachings are in this discussion.

None of those religions have sway over an entire country the way the RCC does in Ireland, (though LDS has more sway in Utah, which isn't much smaller). But those are pretty unique examples in the Western world. And none of this means that child molestation is unique to the Catholic church.
posted by msalt at 3:35 PM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


None of those religions have sway over an entire country the way the RCC does in Ireland, (though LDS has more sway in Utah, which isn't much smaller).

Or, you know, have their own entire state, like the Vatican. And speaking of sway, you bet the RCC has huge sway not just in Ireland, but in Italy and Poland among many others. And for sheer revenue stream from all over the world, I don't think any single organization matches the single organization of the RCC. Money. Power. Influence. I'd say they are in a category of their own.
posted by VikingSword at 3:43 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thankfully the Catholic Church's sway has been diminishing here in Ireland for a while now. This whole outrage is merely speeding that process up.
posted by knapah at 4:01 PM on April 2, 2010


If it didn't have such an immoral, evasive bent to it, I would be perfectly happy to accept this pope-as-dictator view.
posted by The Potate at 4:10 PM on April 2, 2010


This scandal is having a very broad impact - into ecumenical areas:

"Church in Ireland ‘has lost all its credibility’, says Archbishop of Canterbury"

'In a rare breach of ecumenical protocol, Dr Rowan Williams criticised the Catholic Church over its handling of the paedophile priests crisis and made plain his anger over the Pope’s plans for a new ordinariate to tempt dissatisfied Anglicans over to Rome.

His comments will add to the cloud gathering over the Pope’s four-day visit to Britain in September, when he is expected to give an address in Westminster on moral values in society. More than 10,000 people have signed a “Protest the Pope” petition on Downing Street’s website against the £15 million cost of the visit, which is to be shared by the Government and the Church.

The Vatican’s troubles mounted yesterday when Pope Benedict XVI’s personal preacher likened the criticism of the Church over the sex abuse scandal to “collective violence” suffered by the Jews."


More reaction from Germany - outrage and revolt of ordinary Catholics:

""We are learning daily about the methods of education in Catholic institutions in Austria in the 1960s and 1970s," said Holger Eich, working a hotline for the Austrian group Platform for Victims of Violence by the Church. About 174 cases have come forward in the past fortnight.

"These methods can be summed up in one word — sadism," Dr Eich added.

Public opinion in the German-speaking Catholic world has rarely been so nakedly hostile to the Church. The German and Austrian Church leaderships thus decided that they should use Easter to apologise and admit mistakes rather than wait for a declaration from the Pope.

Archbishop Zollitsch told of the Church's "mourning, outrage and shame . . . wounds have been ripped open that can no longer be healed".

The new candour of the Church could, the Archbishop said, mark a new beginning. "That is something that we all so desperately need."

John Allen, the Vatican commentator, said yesterday that the crisis had taken an enormous financial toll. The current estimate is that dioceses, religious orders, and other Catholic institutions in America have paid $2.5 billion (£1.6 billion) in settlements, with perhaps another $1 billion on the table in pending lawsuits. Seven dioceses and a religious order have declared bankruptcy.

Mr Allen wrote on the Washington Post website: "This crisis has taken a terrible toll on the Catholic Church and I suspect it's far from over. While the crisis has erupted in the United States and parts of Europe, it really hasn't yet reached the southern hemisphere ... Latin America, Africa and Asia . . . where two thirds of the 1.1 billion Catholics today live.”


People are leaving in disgust:

"Holy Father, I can stay no longer in this Church of Disgust"

"It is simply not possible, having read the papers or watched the news over the past couple of weeks, to stick with the programme. Like many of my generation, I could hardly be described as a good, or even decent, Catholic, but I’d managed to hang on in there, in the vaguest way imaginable.

Vague because it’s hard to pay lip-service to a faith that you feel hates you; a faith that would rather let you die in childbirth than have an abortion, won’t let you take the contraception necessary to prevent said abortion, hates gay people despite having many homosexual priests; a faith that talks ignorant nonsense about HIV and Aids, that would rather watch people die in Africa than let them use a condom; a faith that is unbelievably slow to say sorry about the fact that some of its members are habitual rapists of children.

I mean, you know, at some point you just give up. Not one of these things is defensible taken individually. Collectively, they are beyond comprehension."


Call the Police:

"The Pope’s first prescription for curing the Church in Ireland is a programme of adoration before the Eucharist. This may indeed provide spiritual comfort to Ireland’s remaining churchgoers, though whether it will provide much succour to those who have long since abandoned the Church that tormented them is more open to question. A simpler prescription might have been that canon law is no equal to crime or to rape. If you suspect abuse, the Pope might better have told the people of Ireland, don’t worry about canon law — just call the police."
posted by VikingSword at 4:55 PM on April 2, 2010


you bet the RCC has huge sway not just in Ireland, but in Italy and Poland among many others. And for sheer revenue stream from all over the world, I don't think any single organization matches the single organization of the RCC. Money. Power. Influence.

Money, sure. But power and influence? You're cherry picking small countries from a world-wide organization, and I'm not so sure about Italy either, though Poland still sounds solidly Catholic. All together, those 3 countries have about 103 million people (out of 6.82 billion worldwide).
posted by msalt at 4:57 PM on April 2, 2010


All together, those 3 countries have about 103 million people (out of 6.82 billion worldwide).

Compared to?? Remember the original statement by rogerd: "What other religious group in a Western nation would wield that kind of power, not just over its followers, but de facto and de jure over the secular state?" that YOU objected to. And then you gave the "counter-examples" of Mormons, Pat Robertson and Evangelicals and fundamentalists. Not. Even. Close.

Sorry, not within a country mile.
posted by VikingSword at 5:00 PM on April 2, 2010


Viking Sword - as someone whose boyfriend was stopped and searched tonight for "walking fast" and "looking nervous" I heartily agree with your comments regarding the police.
posted by meosl at 5:07 PM on April 2, 2010


meosl - look at the bright side, at least your boyfriend was walking and was forcibly searched by a cop, rather than lying down and forcibly cavity searched by a priest :)

Joking aside, I think that if there is any sliver of a silver lining in all this abuse of power by authorities, whether cops or priests, is that hopefully it will make people more willing to be skeptical and questioning of authority. Small consolation, I know. Maybe one day we can get our act together and set things right - perhaps the last king and the last priest can attend :)
posted by VikingSword at 5:33 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ratzinger And The Cases Of Father Teta And Father Trupia
posted by homunculus at 5:48 PM on April 2, 2010


I wonder if one of our areligious tech bajillionaires would care to help out the RCC by purchasing its seckrit assets. There's a booty of treasure in the Vatican's deepest, darkest storerooms. The things we'd all learn about the past two millenia of European history would be... awesome. Simply awesome.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:52 PM on April 2, 2010


IANARC, so I have no business discussing theology, but in terms of morality, I'll swap you Dick Cheney for Joseph Ratzinger. The American neoconservatives are also counter-revolutionaries. The two give me about the same vibe. Fortunately, an ex-VP does not have formal powers (though he continues to exert influence).
posted by bad grammar at 5:57 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


By "swap," which will never happen, the U.S. gets to put Ratzinger on trial, while Europe's International Criminal Court gets Cheney (and hopefully Bush).
posted by bad grammar at 5:58 PM on April 2, 2010


"We are learning daily about the methods of education in Catholic institutions in Austria in the 1960s and 1970s," said Holger Eich, working a hotline for the Austrian group Platform for Victims of Violence by the Church.

Like I said, it's the Indian Residential School system. No amount of depravity was too much for those sadistic fucks. Same thing happened in Australia to their aborigine. Same thing is currently happening in Latin America and Africa.

And even the old pope knew it. He apologized by email… but nothing was changed.

I hope this recent uproar blows the fucking doors off the churches. You can bet your sweet ass that the problem of religious leaders using their parishioner's desperate need to keep a lid on things as a means to commit the most outrageously atrocious acts without fear of consequence is happening in every religious organization.

There's obviously a need for spirituality or religion in most human's lives, as evidenced by all human history. What is also needed is the ultimate rule of secular law, openness of the operations of religious organizations, no secrecy.

Shine the light everywhere. And apply the law without consideration for religion, sex, race, political view, everything. Secular law, now.

GRAR.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:05 PM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


No other Christian branch outside of people like the Branch Davidians, with the possible exception of the LDS, has made those sorts of semi-divine claims in regards to its leaders.

FTFY
posted by flug at 6:09 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Vikingsword: then you gave the "counter-examples" of Mormons, Pat Robertson and Evangelicals and fundamentalists. Not. Even. Close.

If you think the pope had more sway in the U.S. during the Bush Administration than conservative Christians did, or has more power now in Utah than the Mormon church, well I doubt any data could convince you otherwise. The RCC is a big obvious target, but it's also a rapidly crumbling relic.

Religions with real power over government keep it quiet.
posted by msalt at 6:31 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


To further the where you gonna go discussion, what churches are closest to RCC without acknowledging the authority of the pope/bishop of Rome? Has anyone made the jump from RCC to Assyrian, or is that to great a divide?

I would have though the Greek Orthodox church would have been obvious, particularly given it's arguably closer to the founding of Christianity, and to use texts that have been less mangled by translation.

msalt: So, on the one hand I'm Or just blinded by anti-RCC rage? , but on the other hand one of those religions have sway over an entire country the way the RCC does in Ireland,.

So I'm right, you're telling me I'm right, but you need to spew venom at me, anyway. Wake me up when you can find an actual counter-example.
posted by rodgerd at 6:53 PM on April 2, 2010


If you think the pope had more sway in the U.S. during the Bush Administration than conservative Christians did, or has more power now in Utah than the Mormon church, well I doubt any data could convince you otherwise. The RCC is a big obvious target, but it's also a rapidly crumbling relic.

No, I wasn't carefully picking 8-year timeframes or quibbling over a particular U.S. administration. I was responding to your incredulous attack on rogered's statement:

"What other religious group in a Western nation would wield that kind of power, not just over its followers, but de facto and de jure over the secular state?"

To which you responded:

"Are you kidding? Or just blinded by anti-RCC rage? The Mormon Church, its schimsatic variants, pretty much every evangelical and fundamentalist sect, and a number of charismatic preachers (Pat Robertson), and mixed religious/political groups (Focus on the Family, etc.) all have more political power in the U.S. [...]"

The Mormon Church does not have more influence in the U.S. than the Catholic Church. There are 68,115,001 registered Catholics in the United States (22% of the US population) according to the Official Catholic Directory 2009. Estimates from recent years generally range around 20% to 28%. Based on Pew Research Center surveys conducted from January 2006 to September 2006, 25.2% of the American population claim to be followers of the Catholic Church (of a national population of 300 million residents).

There are 13 million Mormons in all of the world.

There is no comparison between the power of the Catholic influence and Mormon influence on political life in the U.S. - NONE. And while we did have a Catholic president, Mitt wasn't helped in his candidacy by his Mormonism.

The RCC does pretty well vs protestants also - there are more than four times as many Catholics as Southern Baptists and more than 8 times as many as Methodists (7,853,987). Though the key point here is that there are many branches of protestant denominations - and not a single unified organization like the RCC, and none can match up to that size.

What is however the giant unmentioned elephant in this ludicrous argument, is that bringing in the U.S. (or even a particular 8 year administration!) completely misses the point, thanks to the U.S. explicit legal structure of separation of state and church which makes it less subject to what rogerd referred to as "de facto and de jure [power] over the secular state". This in stark contrast to many European countries which don't have such a de jure explicit separation.

In other words, rather than rogered being "blinded by anti-RCC rage", you need to read a bit more closely and get at least your basic numbers lined up, because the strength of your attack is completely unmatched by even a sliver of a plausible argument.
posted by VikingSword at 6:56 PM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


If I were to go as hardcare as you've been implying, VikingSword, I'd be unable to vote for any candidate, even here in super-lefty Canada. In reality, though, I'm way better off voting for the Nominally RC Candidate A, than the True Believer Candidate B.

A lot of self-identified RCs are pretty damned agnostic. That can't be said of Mormons.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:18 PM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Or maybe that isn't what you're saying. Regardless, it's scary how many religious loons the US keeps electing.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:20 PM on April 2, 2010


I just want to link directly to the Madison Square Garden video where O'Conner was booed off the stage because of the way she stares down the crowd of 30,000 angry, seething idiots. You can almost see a slight smile on her face, as if she knows just how monumentally stupid these people are going to feel when they realize just how wrong they are (in, oh, ten or twenty years). Fucking awesome.

I don't see a slight smile on her face. I see a lone person hurling the force of her rage (which must've felt so goddamned small) against a seething mass, knowing it's likely to be ineffectual, and waiting before she's out of their sight to break down.

She is Joan of Arc in that moment. God would be proud.
posted by Devika at 7:22 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The Pope's Penis"
by Sharon Olds

It hangs deep in his robes, a delicate
clapper at the center of a bell.
It moves when he moves, a ghostly fish in a
halo of silver sweaweed, the hair
swaying in the dark and the heat -- and at night
while his eyes sleep, it stands up
in praise of God.


He's just a man, a living breathing shitting human like all the rest of us. Sinead was right to tear up Pope JPII's picture, and she's right now when she says that Catholics should stop listening to these men who hurt children. Stop giving them money, stop going to church, stop letting them claim they represent God. There are millions of you. Fight for your religion if you believe what it stands for. Take back your faith before more (like me) leave for good.
posted by sallybrown at 7:29 PM on April 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


It seems like war should be a catharsis, where you can rush out into the fray and kill or be killed. Everyone can give up his/her life for the cause. Afterward it would be that all the lives lost were sacrificed to the good of the ultimate winner.

But I think for most people they just sit around waiting for it to be over, as things get progressively worse, as less and less resources are available for general prosperity, and they aren't allowed to express themselves freely, or they could face sedition charges, and so on.

It just seems so exciting, "war!", you might as well wish for a black and white television instead of plasma.

I guess this comes out of my sense that if I'm living inside of Sinead's war then I wish I could go jump on a landmine or throw grenades at someone. Either way I'd be good.

But it also seems like a lot of modern losers of war are stuck in a psychological limbo, a Guantanamo or Supermax scenario. As much as I'm against the death penalty, personally I would prefer it.

"Killin's to good for em sez I"
posted by nervousfritz at 7:38 PM on April 2, 2010


Point of order, VikingSword -- when you speak of how much "power" the RCC has over "the United States," are you referring to how much influence the RCC has over the government, or how much influence the RCC has over the population?

I think those are two somewhat different things. And I think that may be why you're getting some blowback.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:04 PM on April 2, 2010


But if the RCC has influence over the (voting) population of the U.S., then someone could argue that the RCC has commensurate influence over at least the elected parts of the U.S. government, as long as we think that elected officials act to keep or gain voter support.
posted by sallybrown at 8:11 PM on April 2, 2010


Oh, and the RCC has influence because the government is drawn from the U.S. population. It's absolutely not proportional, but you've got things like this:

For [Rep. Dale E.] Kildee, who spent six years in seminary as a young man, support for the bill was contingent on its banning federal funding for abortion. He studied the text. He absorbed criticism for waffling. He consulted like-minded colleagues. But he was not sure what to do until he took the question to his priest, who, despite other church leaders' opposition, told him the bill was true to his antiabortion commitment....But the final assurance came from Kildee's priest, who was so well-versed in the legislation that he could cite page numbers. "He agreed that this is the correct vote," Kildee said.

And 6 out of the 9 Supreme Court Justices are Catholic.

That is absolutely not to say that all these people follow the full tenets of the RCC or would, like Kildee, ever take a political question to a priest. Lots of Catholic politicians and judges are pro-choice and/or pro-death penalty. But personally I agree with Justice Sotomayor that the culture you are raised in influences who you are. Insiders (or even those of us who grew up that way) view their Church differently than outsiders.
posted by sallybrown at 8:33 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Point of order, VikingSword -- when you speak of how much "power" the RCC has over "the United States," are you referring to how much influence the RCC has over the government, or how much influence the RCC has over the population?

Well I didn't bring in the U.S. into this - that was the work of msalt in his/her incoherent attack against rogered post. I did respond to that on rogered's behalf (unprompted) - and my point being that whatever way you slice it, the influence of the RCC is greater, both in population voting patterns and direct political power. The numbers have it - voters, it's obvious. But also elected officials and government workers. There are far more of both who are RCC than Mormon. It's odd that anyone would contest this.

I think those are two somewhat different things.

Sure. But both are in favor of the RCC, as happens. /shrug/

And I think that may be why you're getting some blowback.

Nah, "blowback" is from one person (msalt) - and indirect at that, considering that his/her original puzzling attack was against rogered. There's not much controversy, really, from my point of view - the facts and numbers are ridiculously stacked on one side of this mini-tempest.
posted by VikingSword at 8:35 PM on April 2, 2010


The numbers have it - voters, it's obvious. But also elected officials and government workers. There are far more of both who are RCC than Mormon. It's odd that anyone would contest this.

I think the source of contention, though, is that the RCC members in the government are less inclined to let their religious views inform their politics than are members of more conservative evangelical Christian groups. Sure, there may be more Catholics in Congress, if you want to look at sheer numbers, but most of them are more likely to take a moderate stance or to not mix their personal religious views with public policy decisions (in other words, sure, Ted Kennedy may have been Catholic, but he didn't say "because I am Catholic, that means I must oppose abortion rights"; instead, he separated his private church from the state office). On the other hand, there are fewer members of evangelical/conservative Christian denominations in Congress, but they are MORE likely to let their religions pulpits dictate their secular positions.

Because I would also disagree that the RCC has that much power over the U.S. government proper; not as much as the more evangelical "Christian Right" groups have had.

Realizing that this is a tangent, though, but there's my two cents.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:45 PM on April 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think the source of contention, though, is that the RCC members in the government are less inclined to let their religious views inform their politics than are members of more conservative evangelical Christian groups.

But what about elected officials who may not themselves be Catholic but whose constituents are, and who then (in order to represent their constituents and/or gain the votes of their constituents) vote in ways that reflect that influence? If there are many more Catholics than there are Mormons, Catholics as a voting bloc would hold more sway even if they are less intensely obedient.

It's hard to separate because many of the Catholic beliefs that really impact political issues (abortion, for instance, although generally not evolution) are in agreement with evangelical/conservative Christian beliefs.
posted by sallybrown at 8:53 PM on April 2, 2010


EC - fair enough, difference of opinion, though you make some valid points (political commitment of elected officials RCC vs protestant and/or Mormon), my response would be that there are also committed Catholics (Scalia!) and if you gather the numbers, you'll still get in absolute terms more committed Catholics than Protestants, but now we're getting into soft areas of "seems to me" and anecdotal evidence, so I'm gonna drop that. Regardless, on a world scale it's still RCC all the way compared to ANY religion, so rogered's original point still stands, in spades.
posted by VikingSword at 8:56 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


But what about elected officials who may not themselves be Catholic but whose constituents are, and who then (in order to represent their constituents and/or gain the votes of their constituents) vote in ways that reflect that influence? If there are many more Catholics than there are Mormons, Catholics as a voting bloc would hold more sway even if they are less intensely obedient.

But, see, you're looking at Catholics as a single unified bloc -- and they tend NOT to be. The number of total Catholics is far greater than the number of Catholics who let the church affect their views. Most -- at least in my experience -- really don't all that much. Other Christian groups may be smaller in number -- but are more cohesive in mindset.

It's hard to separate because many of the Catholic beliefs that really impact political issues (abortion, for instance, although generally not evolution) are in agreement with evangelical/conservative Christian beliefs.

Well, then, how do you know that what you're seeing isn't the evangelicals after all?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:58 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I totally agree that Catholics (more and more, especially) tend not to be a unified bloc, even though they're often still viewed as a coalition:

There are 47 million Catholic voters, and while they are too numerous and varied to speak of as a monolithic Catholic bloc, they have long been a kind of holy grail for presidential candidates. The winner of eight out of the past nine elections has captured a majority of Catholic votes (they voted for Al Gore in 2000), and there are large Catholic concentrations in key states like Florida, Ohio and New Mexico.

But I would imagine that in a situation where government officials were debating whether the Pope should be brought to trial, the officials with majority Catholic districts would feel very nervous about speaking out in favor of sending the Pope to jail. And if the lawsuits in progress proceed and eventually reach the federal level or the Supreme Court, I would think the Justice and/or State Departments would weigh in through amicus briefs in favor of dismissal (likely using the political question and/or act of state doctrines). Trying to send the Pope to jail could be a total election killer.
posted by sallybrown at 9:20 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


But I would imagine that in a situation where government officials were debating whether the Pope should be brought to trial, the officials with majority Catholic districts would feel very nervous about speaking out in favor of sending the Pope to jail. And if the lawsuits in progress proceed and eventually reach the federal level or the Supreme Court, I would think the Justice and/or State Departments would weigh in through amicus briefs in favor of dismissal (likely using the political question and/or act of state doctrines). Trying to send the Pope to jail could be a total election killer.

....But why would individual states' representatives be called upon to decide something that's a matter of international law?

Sure, you may see individual congressmen weighing in on the situation -- but not in any official decision-making capacity. When it comes down to who actually makes the decision to try the Pope, it'd be the U.N. making that call, because this is an international matter. And the UN representatives are appointed, not voted on. So your average congressman wouldn't be called upon to decide this matter anyway, and there is no "voter" to respond to in this instance.

So, where's the influence in this instance?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:50 PM on April 2, 2010


I found this a very interesting and strange analysis.
posted by hortense at 9:51 PM on April 2, 2010


So, where's the influence in this instance?

I definitely don't know enough about the way the ICJ and ICC work to comment on those.

But right now the Vatican is being sued civilly in the U.S., and because our Constitution grants the political branches of the government the authority to conduct foreign policy / diplomatic relations, the judiciary usually considers and sometimes even explicitly asks for the political branches' opinions about whether a suit involving another country should be dismissed.

Typically these suits are barred by sovereign immunity, but our Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act created (very complicated) exceptions to immunity. The plaintiff in John V. Doe v. Holy See is invoking the FSIA to bring his claim. Even if the Vatican can be sued under the FSIA (which a court will decide), that suit can be dismissed for a variety of reasons, one of them being the Act of State doctrine ("the courts of one country will not sit in judgment on the acts of the government of another, done within its own territory.").

From Wikipedia: The Court in Banco Nacional de Cuba v. Sabbatino...reasoned that because the Executive had exclusive authority to conduct foreign affairs with other nations on behalf of the United States, disputes arising from the official actions of foreign sovereign powers should not be settled by the Judiciary because those decisions could interfere with the Executives' conduct of foreign affairs....In response to the outcome of the case, Congress enacted...the "Second Hickenlooper Amendment,"....one provision of the Amendment instructs the courts to continue applying the [Act of State] Doctrine [which would bar the case] wherever the Executive tells them to. Essentially, under this Amendment, the Executive has the authority to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the Judiciary has the power to hear a case. The judiciary has interpreted the Amendment narrowly so that it can continue to apply the Act of State Doctrine in many cases.

It's definitely a muddled doctrine, but because of that the political branches almost always weigh in.

For example, from the Washington Post:
Two federal appeals courts in recent months have allowed sexual abuse lawsuits against the Vatican to proceed in Oregon and Kentucky. Vatican attorneys have asked the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the Oregon case. Attorneys for both sides in the Oregon proceeding were in Washington two weeks ago making their arguments before a roomful of U.S. government officials, who could wind up weighing in if the Vatican -- considered a foreign country with immunity to lawsuits -- is found a liable party in an American case.

So I would be crazy to claim that a case against the Vatican would never come to trial (even just in the U.S.) because of RCC's influence in government, but if you think the RCC does have some influence on government officials (which I think it does, both because of the constituent issue and because many government officials are members of the RCC), and you know that government officials would have some influence on court decisions involving the RCC, I think it's fair to argue that the RCC's influence would impact the cases.
posted by sallybrown at 10:35 PM on April 2, 2010


There is no comparison between the power of the Catholic influence and Mormon influence on political life in the U.S. - NONE. And while we did have a Catholic president, Mitt wasn't helped in his candidacy by his Mormonism.

The RCC does pretty well vs protestants also - there are more than four times as many Catholics as Southern Baptists and more than 8 times as many as Methodists (7,853,987). Though the key point here is that there are many branches of protestant denominations - and not a single unified organization like the RCC, and none can match up to that size.


Note what you said: we had "a" Catholic president, no matter how many Catholics there are in the nation, and he wasn't helped in his candidacy by his Catholicism either. Compare that to the number of Baptist or Methodist or Episcopalian or Presbyterian or Unitarian presidents - we've had four or more of each of those denominations (going into the double digits for a few.) Heck, going by formal affiliations, we've had more Dutch Reformed, and (counting, oddly enough, Nixon) Quaker presidents than we've had Catholic presidents. I don't even know anything about the Disciples of Christ, but we've apparently had 3 presidents who were affiliated with them. Did you know we've only now got our first Catholic Vice President? There are currently a bunch of Catholics on the Supreme Court, and Congress has finally reached something resembling proportional representation of religious, but any broader look at US political history provides a really different picture, and one that doesn't support your claim.

Also note that while the RCC may be a "single organization," calling it unified in any important political way - in the US, at least, and that's what you're talking about - is really just not correct. Look at any set of polls; while Catholics voters and politicians may on average skew a little right on abortion and contraception, and a little left on war, the death penalty, and social justice issues, they're pretty internally divided, and by no means do they act as a unified bloc. (This is partly because Catholic beliefs fit the US liberal/conservative paradigm worse than beliefs of some Protestant churches, and partly because there are too many Catholics from too many different ethnic and cultural and linguistic backgrounds to really form a unified whole. Some Catholics head towards the conservative side, like most of the current Catholic Supreme Court justices, while some - like JFK or Kerry or Biden- end up on the liberal side.) Furthermore, for most of the history of the Catholic Church in the US, it was associated with poor and undesirable immigrants, and was the subject of a lot of discrimination from xenophobic, nativist groups. Anti-Catholicism played a pretty visible role in the formation of and relationships between the 13 original colonies, and remained widespread for centuries. The Church in the US has never had the power or influence it had in places like Ireland (and thank God for that.)

So no, while I agree that Mormons haven't historically been influential outside of Utah, I don't think you can honestly argue that the sheer number of Catholics in the country has in reality resulted in anything remotely resembling proportional political power for the Church hierarchy or for the much larger and much more heterogeneous group we call "Catholics." The scandal - and the disgusting acts of the Catholic hierarchy - speak for themselves, and are completely sufficient on their own to justify calls for protest and reform and trials and punishment. There's no reason to overstate your case (tangential though this part of your argument may be) by inflating the current and historical political power of Catholic beliefs or of the Church proper in the US.
posted by ubersturm at 10:39 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mormons own two Senators, whereas, Catholics arguably have weak to strong influence with the whole Senate. Still, this is child abuse. If there's any strong evidence against the RCC, or individual Bishops/Pope, it would be political suicide to stand against prosecution. Personally I think the RCC, and the Pope would be better off if there were a criminal trial at this point. They've mishandled the PR situation so badly that only some acquittals by jury could save their reputation. If they hold themselves above secular law, everyone will (as we've already seen) suspend their presumption of innocence. That's just human nature, as is the insular defensiveness of the Catholic reaction to the allegations.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:44 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Viking Sword wrote:
A local Police Chief, the head of the local legal Bar Association and a Catholic Bishop are touring a newly opened orphanage. Suddenly, a fire breaks out, and rapidly spreads through the orphanage. The Cop cries out: "SAVE THE CHILDREN!"; [...]

[...] Once upon a time, it was unquestioned that the cop would valiantly help others in need at the cost of his own safety - but interestingly, as the years go by more and more often I see people challenge that part of the joke, by commenting afterward that "not the cops I know" or something along those lines.
Maybe you should try substituting "an atheist" for "a local police chief" in your joke.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 11:14 PM on April 2, 2010


Maybe you should try substituting "an atheist" for "a local police chief" in your joke.

Are atheists assumed to be automatically virtuous now?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:39 PM on April 2, 2010


EmpressCallipygos said what I was trying to say, much better. Any idea of the RCC as a monolithic conservative power in U.S. elections is fiction -- Catholics voted for Obama, the pro-choice candidate 54-45%, and Gallup reports no difference between Catholic and non-Catholic voters on either abortion or stem-cell research, despite the church's extreme positions. So however many million Catholics there are, they don't have sway.

This wikipedia page captures the nuances pretty well. (By the way, they say Ratzinger is the one who started the whole "deny communion to pro-choice politicians" move in 2004, and the church backed off in 2008 after criticism.)

As for Mormons, I was talking specifically about Utah (which has 2/3 the population of Ireland, by the way.) But who would you say had more influence on California's recent gay marriage proposition, the Mormons or the RCC?
posted by msalt at 11:40 PM on April 2, 2010


I think the Knights of Columbus were influential in recruiting the Mormons into the prop 8
movement early on because of their superior fund raising effectiveness.
posted by hortense at 12:26 AM on April 3, 2010


I just read this reply on reddit here and it made quite a few seemingly good points. I just thought it should be shared/criticized/debunked/agreed with.

The United States conference of Catholic Bishops were the ones that commissioned the John Jay Report from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The study covered 97% of all Catholic dioceses within the United States.
Under the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the USCCB requires dioceses faced with an allegation to alert the authorities, conduct an investigation and remove the accused from duty. Essentially adopting a "Zero Tolerance Policy"
40% of priests with allegations brought against them have gone through therapy treatments, rehabilitation, been removed, or defrocked.
Of the 4,392 priests against whom the accusations were deemed to be credible, 3,300 were not investigated because the allegations were made after the accused priest had died. Police were contacted regarding 1,021 of the remaining 1,092 priests.
2/3 of allegations and victims came forward after 1993. The final third was after 2002. These are for allegations mostly from the 60's, 70's, and 80's.
The number of alleged abuses increased in the 1960s, peaked in the 70s, declined in the 80s, and by the 1990s had returned to the levels of the 1950s
It's estimated that 4% of priests have participated in some form of sexual abuse. This number is equal or less than teachers, cub scouts, other church congregations, etc.
Sexual abuse among society at large is about 8%.
The Catholic Church has spent 1.5 Billion in America from abuse cases. 87% has gone directly to victim compensation and treatment.
149 Priests were responsable for 27% of all allegations.

Sources
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_for_the_Protection_of_Children_and_Young_People

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/31/nyregion/31priest.html?_r=1

http://www.religioustolerance.org/clergy_sex20.htm

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3142511.ece

http://www.usccb.org/ocyp/charter.shtml

http://www.bc.edu/schools/law/lawreviews/meta-elements/journals/bclawr/44_4/04_FMS.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Jay_Report

http://www.usccb.org/nrb/johnjaystudy/

http://www.psychwww.com/psyrelig/plante.html
posted by psycho-alchemy at 2:39 AM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Deposition: Levada defends decision on Ore. priest. Levada was archbishop of the Portland Archdiocese from 1986-95. He now is head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome and has become a central figure in defending the Vatican in its handling of abusive priests.
posted by adamvasco at 2:49 AM on April 3, 2010


4500 calls to Germany's RCC Abuse Hotline on its first day.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:59 AM on April 3, 2010


Ratzinger And The Cases Of Father Teta And Father Trupia

More Evidence Emerges That Pope Helped Shield Pedophiles Before He Became Pope.
posted by ericb at 2:06 PM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Has there been any talk about who could replace Benedict if he were to step down (when pigs fly...)? I mean, I would think all potential Popes would be high up in the hierarchy and would thus face the same problems Benedict is now. I know Maureen Down's suggestion of a nun as pope was in jest (and nuns can be pedophiles too), but wouldn't the Church have to go pretty far down the chain of command to find someone untainted, if it's even possible?
posted by sallybrown at 2:14 PM on April 3, 2010


Is there been any talk about who could replace Benedict if he were to step down (when pigs fly...)?

I think "when pigs fly" is correct. I believe something like three Popes have resigned, the last of which occurred just a few months before the battle of Agincourt in the Hundred Years War. And that was negotiated not because of scandal but in order to end the schism of the anti-popes.

I'd love to see an anti-pope in Boston, out of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Seán Patrick O'Malley is pretty conservative, though, so I doubt he'd be willing to help a hypothetical American Catholic Church maintain apostolic succession, which one presumes would be a rather high priority. Maybe one of the other American cardinals is more theologically liberal.
posted by Justinian at 2:38 PM on April 3, 2010


Do they not even resign for age? The guy's in his 80s, right? I was hoping it was like the Supreme Court, so he could wait for a month to let the controversy die down, then quietly declare ill health prevents him from carrying out his duties.
posted by msalt at 3:11 PM on April 3, 2010


Do they not even resign for age?

Not in the past 600 years, it looks like.
posted by sallybrown at 3:19 PM on April 3, 2010


Do they not even resign for age?

I remember some discussion re the last Pope as his health deteriorated but he was determined to struggle on to the end... in fact I'm sure I remember reading about plans for what would happen if he ended up totally incapacitated.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:47 PM on April 3, 2010


Would an American Catholic church (or a liberal Catholic church for that matter) have to build all its churches from scratch? I think everything is in one bucket as far as the RCC goes, so a splinter church would have no assets. I'd think that would put a damper on enthusiasm for schism.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:16 PM on April 3, 2010


Here are examples from the NYT of what happens when the archdiocese decides to close a church and parishioners disagree. I'd say this means any schism would have to start from scratch. And it would also be hard to leave the Church if your children are enrolled in a parish school.
posted by sallybrown at 4:52 PM on April 3, 2010


An American-centred RCC is even scarier than a Vatican one. Talk about putting a religious finger on the button. I wonder how strained Israeli relations might become.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:19 PM on April 3, 2010


Pope celebrates Easter Vigil as Vatican denounces 'defamation operation' against him

'Defamation Operation' would be a good band name.
posted by homunculus at 5:37 PM on April 3, 2010


40% of priests with allegations brought against them have gone through therapy treatments, rehabilitation, been removed, or defrocked.

What a useless statistic. How many of those were treated/rehabilitated, and how many were removed/defrocked? Of those who were "treated," how many went on to abuse again?
posted by naoko at 5:40 PM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


An American-centred RCC is even scarier than a Vatican one. Talk about putting a religious finger on the button. I wonder how strained Israeli relations might become.

There's no reason for a conservative schism from the Church of Rome. So any American-centered RCC would necessarily have broken away from Rome in order to permit married clergy, sin-free birth control, or other such things.
posted by Justinian at 6:50 PM on April 3, 2010


There's no reason for a conservative schism from the Church of Rome.

Says you! The number of people who want female ordination is much larger than the people who are horrified at the presence of female lectors, eucharistic ministers, and altar servers.... but wow is the latter group passionate. For a start, read up on the SSPX and the self-dubbed "Traditionalist Catholics".
posted by moxiedoll at 7:30 PM on April 3, 2010


but wouldn't the Church have to go pretty far down the chain of command to find someone untainted,

Any male Catholic can become pope. Seriously - the Pope is selected by what is presumed to be the guidance of God acting directly; a lay Catholic could (in theory) become Pope. Gregory XVI was promoted from a monk to the Papal Throne, for example, in the 19th century.
posted by rodgerd at 7:58 PM on April 3, 2010


I vote for Robert Silverberg, Sixtus the Sixth.
posted by Iax at 11:01 PM on April 3, 2010


As expected, Benedict made no reference to the ongoing scandals in his sermon and blessing in St Peter's Square on Easter Sunday. But "the only oblique reference to the scandal came in a surprise speech by the dean of the Vatican's College of Cardinals, Angelo Sodano. 'Holy Father, the people of God are with you and will not let themselves be influenced by the petty gossip of the moment, by the trials that sometimes assail the community of believers,' Sodano said. Sodano's remarks were believed to be the first time in recent memory that the protocol of a papal Easter Sunday Mass was changed to allow someone to address the pope at the start. 'The Church is with you,' Sodano told the pontiff to the cheers of thousands of people in a rainy St Peter's Square." (via).

"Petty gossip of the moment", huh?
posted by aqsakal at 6:46 AM on April 4, 2010


aqsakal: you mean the fascist leaning Angelo Sodano, Opus Dei member and Pinochet fan.
From Counterpunch: -
The Pope later named another Opus Dei member, Angelo Sodano, as Secretary of State of the Vatican. Sodano had been the Vatican's ambassador in Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship, becoming a close friend and advisor to the dictator. He was responsible for the Pope's visit to the Pinochet dictatorship in 1987. During this visit, the Pope never called publicly for liberty or democracy in Chile. By contrast, when John Paul visited Cuba he was publicly critical of the Cuban regime. But he remained silent when he visited Pinochet. Later, when Pinochet was detained in London (awaiting extradition to Spain at the request of the Spanish Judge Baltazar Garzon), the Vatican, under Sodano's influence, asked the British Government to let Pinochet return to Chile. This same Sodano had referred to liberation theologian Leonardo Boff ­ one of the most popular priests in Latin America ­ as "a traitor to the Church, the Judas of Christ."
posted by adamvasco at 7:17 AM on April 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Pope Benedict seems to be adopting Slobodan Milosevic's strategy -- extreme, aggressive attacks on outsiders while declaring yourself an oppressed victim, to consolidate control of a rapidly shrinking empire.
posted by msalt at 7:42 PM on April 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


msalt: or maybe adopted it from Berlusconi, just across the Tiber?
posted by aqsakal at 11:57 PM on April 4, 2010


Legal immunity cannot hold. The Vatican should feel the full weight of international law.
posted by adamvasco at 2:18 AM on April 5, 2010


Did Mussolini play the victim card like that? I don't know much about him. Interesting.

Meanwhile, the Vatican is allowing a priest from India to evade an arrest warrant for molesting a 14-year old girl by staying in India.

The Vatican official in charge is Cardinal William Levada, who was recently accused of allowing another abusing priest to return to service without telling his parishioners. Levada is another highly conservative cleric who was rapidly promoted as the right-wing faction led by Ratzinger consolidated control over the church over the last 20 years. It's interesting how the same names keep popping up. I wouldn't be surprised if his motive was ideological; allowing people "on his team" extra lattitude, or being more inclined to help them out.
posted by msalt at 9:28 AM on April 5, 2010


msalt Mussolini + the Vatican anything for the vote; politics as usual.
posted by adamvasco at 1:29 PM on April 5, 2010


Actually it was a little more ambiguous, according to that Wiki page you link to. They say the Vatican signed a concordat with Mussolini that resulted in recognition of the Vatican state by Italy, but also opposed several of his actions; Pope Pius publicly attacked Mussolini's later laws against Jews; and as the Facist regime crumbled, Radio Vatican was a leading source of dissenting news.
posted by msalt at 11:05 PM on April 5, 2010


Pope Vows To Get Church Pedophilia Down To Acceptable Levels
posted by homunculus at 5:51 PM on April 6, 2010


Priests will have to give up boys for Lent.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:38 PM on April 6, 2010


Actress: "Do you want to have sex?"

Bishop: "I can't. It's Lent."

Actress: "Well, get it back, then."
posted by unSane at 7:28 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ratzinger himself prevented justice in the name of the church.
posted by DU at 11:37 AM on April 9, 2010


From that last link: while Ratzinger stalled defrocking, Kiesle continued to volunteer with children, according to Maurine Behrend, who worked in the Oakland diocese's youth ministry office in the 1980s. ... "He admitted molesting many children and bragged that he was the Pied Piper and said he tried to molest every child that sat on his lap," said Lewis VanBlois, an attorney for six Kiesle victims who interviewed the former priest in prison. "When asked how many children he had molested over the years, he said 'tons.'"

Meanwhile, the Boy Scouts molestation lawsuit went to trial. The troop in question was a Mormon troop (as many as half of all Boy Scouts are Mormons now, so that's not surprising). Basically you have two different organizations working simultaneously to minimize bad publicity by covering up this information. The national Boy Scouts organization has files on over 1,000 scout leaders they have removed for molestation, but did not make this information public or refer any of them for prosecution.
posted by msalt at 1:39 PM on April 9, 2010


Signed letter shows Pope Benedict resisted defrocking molester priest

"The press office doesn't believe it is necessary to respond to every single document taken out of context regarding particular legal situations,"
posted by five fresh fish at 4:10 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


The letter in this California case doesn't say what the AP, NY Times, etc. think it says. Ratzinger refused to accept a petition for laicization for this priest. That is, they refused initially to do him a favor, by removing the burdens of the priesthood and allowing him to marry.

Whether or not to dismiss him from the priesthood is never even brought up.

I have yet to see any evidence yet on how he actually left the clerical state.

But basically, the priest is saying "I quit" and the Vatican is saying "You can't quit."

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had jurisdiction over these kinds of resignations at the time, but it didn't have jurisdiction over dismissals for sexual abuse (except in the case of it being done in confession.)

The local diocese obviously really screwed up this case by letting him work with children even after he was convicted of child abuse, but Ratzinger's refusal to laicize the priest is not a refusal to punish at all. In fact, the Church should have had more control over the priest when he wasn't laicized.
posted by Jahaza at 10:03 PM on April 9, 2010


But basically, the priest is saying "I quit" and the Vatican is saying "You can't quit."

NPR expanded upon this point this morning -- at the time, there was a kerfluffle going on inside the church concerning priests who wanted to leave the priesthood. The pope at the time did indeed want to make it a bit more difficult for priests to just quit -- so Ratzinger was going along with that.

However - adhering a little too strictly to the letter of the law isn't ever a good idea, to my mind; they weren't asking if he could be laicized because he was just having an "oh, I've decided I want to try being a lumberjack instead" change of heart. They were trying to be laicized because they were afraid of the potential for scandal. But it seems that Ratzinger only read the "wants to be laicized" part and said, "nope, we don't do that for just anybody."

---

I've been thinking a lot about the different church leaders' reactions to this scandal, and I keep coming back to some of the things I was taught by the church as a child. Particularly, I keep thinking of the Sacrament of Contrition (a.k.a. "Confession"). Yes, you can be forgiven your sins. But -- your being forgiven depends on two things.

1. You have to make a full confession of what you did, and

2. You have to really honestly be committed to not doing it again.

Today, I see a lot of the church leaders making excuses and making justifications and saying that the media is turning this into a witchhunt and wondering why people don't let it go and move on. And I can't help but think -- the reason why so many of us aren't willing to let it go is because, just like we learned we were supposed to do, we're waiting for these particular church leaders to make a full confession -- and we're waiting for them to demonstrate proof of their commitment to not doing it again.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:26 AM on April 10, 2010


... the reason why so many of us aren't willing to let it go is because...

...sexually abusing children is illegal and immoral and we want to see the offenders LOCKED UP IN JAIL.
posted by ericb at 7:04 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


>... the reason why so many of us aren't willing to let it go is because...

...sexually abusing children is illegal and immoral and we want to see the offenders LOCKED UP IN JAIL.


Eric, I think it's obvious that you can take it as read that I meant that too. Come on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:59 AM on April 10, 2010


The Third Strike
posted by homunculus at 11:38 AM on April 10, 2010


The "surely this"ing that I'm seeing a lot of, particularly in homunculus' link, is silly. "Surely this" only applies to individuals or organizations who care about public opinion, or who are answerable to it. The Catholic hierarchy is not answerable to any but itself and has a marked and repeatedly demonstrated indifference to the opinions or needs of any who are not hierarchs. If anything does change because of this scandal, it will be a wonderful, nearly miraculous thing. To expect change is to invite disappointment.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:03 PM on April 10, 2010


Jahaza: That is, they refused initially to do him a favor, by removing the burdens of the priesthood and allowing him to marry. Whether or not to dismiss him from the priesthood is never even brought up. I have yet to see any evidence yet on how he actually left the clerical state. But basically, the priest is saying "I quit" and the Vatican is saying "You can't quit."

That's not what I see in the evidence. While the priest himself petitioned for laicization, him wanting to marry is pure speculation -- I haven't seen that in any of the several articles on this incident, and given that he tied up and raped 11-13 year old boys, doesn't ring true.

Here's what Ratzinger wrote: This court, although it regards the arguments presented in favor of removal in this case to be of grave significance, nevertheless deems it necessary to consider the good of the Universal Church together with that of the petitioner, and it is also unable to make light of the detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke with the community of Christ's faithful, particularly regarding the young age of the petitioner.

Ratzinger's own words make it clear: the discussion was about removing this priest for his crime, not a sinmple request or favor, and Ratzinger said no because he was worried about creating a scandal among the public and parishioners. No concern for victims, past or future, no order to stay away from kids in the meantime.
posted by msalt at 12:31 PM on April 10, 2010


As you may know, our scumbag archbishop Mahoney here in Los Angeles (who covered up for rapist priests for decades) is retiring. His replacement, handpicked by the Rat, is one archbishop José Gomez from Texas. Apparently there's already a lawsuit naming Gomez as covering up for a priest who raped a 16 year old boy at gunpoint. The kid became suicidal as a result of this experience, and that's how it came out.

Gomez claims he did all he could, but let's see what happens next and with more revelations. Drip. Drip. Drip. Rape at gunpoint? I guess it's Texas and guns. I mean, I expect rapes from RCC priests, but maybe only in Texas would it happen at gunpoint.

I wonder how Catholic parents feel in Los Angeles, now that Gomez is easing himself into the churches here, transferred by the practiced hand of the Rat.
posted by VikingSword at 1:03 PM on April 10, 2010


That's not what I see in the evidence. While the priest himself petitioned for laicization, him wanting to marry is pure speculation -- I haven't seen that in any of the several articles on this incident, and given that he tied up and raped 11-13 year old boys, doesn't ring true.

Because you're misreading it in exactly the same way as the NY Times and the AP. And perhaps because you haven't read all the documents. It's right there in the second sentence of this statement by the bishop: "He wishes to return to the lay state and to be relieved of all the obligations of the priesthood, including celibacy."

The response from Cardinal Ratzinger uses similar language in the first sentence: "dispensationis ab omnibus oneribus sacerdotalisbus" that is "dispensation from all of the burdens of the priesthood". "All" includes celibacy.

It is possible for priests to apply to be dispensed from the clerical state without seeking dispensation from celibacy. Such a request is granted more easily, because it doesn't weaken the promise of celibacy which is seen as being under pressure in society in general.

Here's what Ratzinger wrote: This court, although it regards the arguments presented in favor of removal in this case to be of grave significance, nevertheless deems it necessary to consider the good of the Universal Church together with that of the petitioner, and it is also unable to make light of the detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke with the community of Christ's faithful, particularly regarding the young age of the petitioner.

Ratzinger's own words make it clear: the discussion was about removing this priest for his crime, not a sinmple request or favor, and Ratzinger said no because he was worried about creating a scandal among the public and parishioners.


No, Ratzinger's words don't make that clear at all. This is not about removing the priest because he comitted a crime, because, as you admitted, he asked to be dispensed. Removing him wasn't under consideration at all by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Furthermore, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith didn't (and wouldn't for almost 20 years) have jurisdiction to remove him for this crime. That responsibility rested with the local bishop. If the Bishop wanted him removed from the priesthood, he should have convened a trial and prosecuted the case, not petitioned the Vatican.

This letter is doing largely the opposite of what you think it is. The local Bishop is trying to sweep it under the rug by aiding the priest in seeking a dispensation. Ratzinger is saying he can't be dispensed, but remains the responsibility of the local Bishop and under his jurisdiction. The scandal that they're seeking to avoid is scandal in a specific moral sense of people being led astray by thinking that vows and promises are not substantial or taken seriously. This priest is seeking to be released from his vows and the Vatican is making that difficult on purpose. They'd rather have him live a retired life of penance. Removing him as a penalty is not an option for them under the rules at the time (though it is now). Ratzinger can't punish him he doesn't have the power to do so. That's up to the local Bishop.

No concern for victims, past or future, no order to stay away from kids in the meantime.

Actually that's there too... "Interim Excellentia Tue ne omittat oratorem paterna qua pollet cura sequi"

It's bureacratic speak, but he's telling the local Bishop to keep an eye on the priest. Fr. Joseph Fessio writes of this section:
A final, minor but significant point of translation. The translation being used by the media of an important part of Ratzinger's letter is: "your Excellency must not fail to provide the petitioner with as much paternal care as possible". This has been rightly interpreted by some to mean that Ratzinger was saying that the bishop should keep a watchful eye on the priest. The original Latin makes that even clearer: "paterna...cura sequi" which means "to follow with paternal care". We get the word "persecute" from the Latin "per-sequi". "Sequi" is much stronger then "provide".
This is clearly a case where the local civil authorities (three years of probation for child rape!) and the local ecclesiastical authorities both screwed up. But there's simply no evidence that the Vatican screwed this one up.

This priest should have been defrocked. The local Bishop should have held a trial and made that happen. Instead he helped the priest petition the Vatican to be released from his promises as a favor to the priest. The Vatican refused to do this. The AP story is wrong to say "The future Pope Benedict XVI resisted pleas to defrock a California priest ...according to a 1985 letter bearing his signature." The AP is wrong because there was no plea to defrock the priest (that is remove him as a punishment), but only a request to remove him as a favor.
posted by Jahaza at 4:13 PM on April 10, 2010


So that isn't a case of the Pope being evil; it is probably a case of the Bishop being evil. Works for me. It's not like there isn't enough on the Pope to put him on the ropes.

I hope this is a net gain for secularism. Personal faith and inspiration is great, but the organizations are always corrupt beyond reasonable. Smaller is better.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:08 PM on April 10, 2010


Bishops don't want the statue of limitations changed. Justice for the victims would be far too expensive.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:22 PM on April 10, 2010


Jahaza: I defer to your superior knowledge of Latin and church procedure, but I don't think your interpretation of these events is backed up by the evidence at hand, even so. Consider:

- you interpret Kiesle's wish "to be relieved of all obligations of the priesthood, including celibacy" to mean he wanted to get married. But you offer no evidence. Apparently he did get married after he was finally laicized, but he also pleaded no contest to molesting yet another teen (a 14 year old) in 1995, years after his marriage. Given his clear record as a chronic predatory sex offender of kids in that age range, it's more likely that he wanted to get married (and possibly to quit the priesthood) as a way to better hide his crimes. Priests were getting a bad name by then, in significant part because of his own actions.

- you declare that the Bishop was trying to sweep the scandal under the rug by removing Kiesle from priesthood, and Ratzinger was trying to prevent that. I think I'm speaking charitably in calling that interpretation strained. How did leaving Kiesle in the priesthood expose the scandal? How would a public announcement that he was leaving the priesthood after widely publicized convictions have swept it under the rug?

-- You say that by "scandal", Ratzinger meant the disrespect to the sanctity of ordination that would result from a convicted molestor priest being allowed to resign, not publicity about child abuse. Again, no evidence, and Bishop Cummins didn't see it that way. I have read the documents, and Bishop Cummins says explicitly that "there would be no scandal if this petition were granted and, given the nature of this case, that there might be greater scandal to the community if Father Kiesle were allowed to return to the active ministry." Rev. George Mockel says the same 3 years later in a memo to Cummins after Ratzinger's reply is received.

And that's exactly what happened. While Ratzinger stalled laicization, Kiesle returned to his same diocese as a volunteer youth minister and molested more teens. Scandal? Here we are.
posted by msalt at 10:29 PM on April 10, 2010


Kiesle lives ten minutes away from where I'm typing this comment. He's in the same gated retirement community as my grandmother, a lifelong Italian Catholic who's totally willing to admit the pope is full of shit sometimes. This news is obviously not going to make her happy, nor the other residents of Rossmoor.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:21 AM on April 11, 2010


[Richard] Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, the atheist author, have asked human rights lawyers to produce a case for charging Pope Benedict XVI over his alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.
posted by Anything at 4:26 AM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wish Hitchens would go away. And Dawkins is rapidly becoming just as much a maroon. Their anti-religion hobbyhorse is really tiresome.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:37 AM on April 11, 2010


So do you agree or disagree with their intention to produce charges against Ratzinger?
posted by Anything at 8:11 AM on April 11, 2010


I guess I disagree. I think Ratty needs to be prosecuted. I do not think Dawkins and Hitchens are the ones who should be doing it.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:31 AM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Turns out that USA Swimming has a bit of a pedo problem, too. And the Boy Scouts, as I believe was earlier mentioned.

WTF is wrong with people?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:32 AM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


And Dawkins is rapidly becoming just as much a maroon

Completely off topic, but I've never seen 'maroon' used that way, and I'm not quite sure what you mean, fff - deserving of isolation, maybe? (Not sure why I'm surpised to find a new use of a word that somehow manages to mean runaway slave, the purple-ish red colour, a person left alone on an island and those fireworks that make a loud noise!)
posted by a little headband I put around my throat at 9:54 AM on April 11, 2010


Maroon = moron, or so thinks Bugs Bunny.
posted by lukemeister at 10:03 AM on April 11, 2010


Sigh. My slang is so woefully OLD. I'll bet alhipamt is younger than Bart Simpson (who is, what, twenty-five by now?)
posted by five fresh fish at 10:06 AM on April 11, 2010


I have seen 'maroon' used to me 'moron' in many online discussions. Right up there with 'moran.'
posted by ericb at 10:19 AM on April 11, 2010


...and 'me' used to mean 'mean.'
posted by ericb at 10:20 AM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Isn't Sinead O'Connor overdue a massive grovelling apology from absolutely everybody?

Everybody? C'mon. I know lots of people who supported her at the time (sure, it was maybe 0.01% of Americans).

The week after Sinead's SNL performance, I went and bought Am I Not Your Girl (which admittedly, I probably was going to buy anyway ...)

I knew she was right, and I knew she was right to say "fuck the pope." The fact that the RC Church has gone NOWHERE on this issue in 20 years is telling.

Good luck to Dawkins, Hitchens, or anyone else who tries to prosecute Church leaders. A quixotic effort, but I appreciate that anyone with power cares enough.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:38 AM on April 11, 2010


I'll bet alhipamt is younger than Bart Simpson (who is, what, twenty-five by now?)

I can barely remember being 25, sadly, and my slang is positively ancient (I say 'crikey Moses' when surprised). Perhaps it's an American thing?

Anyway, yes; paedos bad, Pope bad.
posted by a little headband I put around my throat at 11:27 AM on April 11, 2010


Dawkins writes:
Needless to say, I did NOT say "I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI" or anything so personally grandiloquent. You have to remember that The Sunday Times is a Murdoch newspaper, and that all newspapers follow the odd custom of entrusting headlines to a sub-editor, not the author of the article itself.

What I DID say to Marc Horne when he telephoned me out of the blue, and I repeat it here, is that I am whole-heartedly behind the initiative by Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens to mount a legal challenge to the Pope's proposed visit to Britain.
posted by pw201 at 11:36 AM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Guardian's headline is more accurate: Richard Dawkins calls for Pope to be put on trial
posted by homunculus at 1:15 PM on April 11, 2010


I enjoyed Graham Linehan's response to the headline "Dawkins and Hitchens to arrest the Pope"

(It's a series of tweets, so you have to scroll to the bottom and read upwards. It would make a good Big Train sketch, I think.)
posted by Grangousier at 1:35 PM on April 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


It may be paranoid, but it seems like there may be a spin agenda behind identifying the move for prosecution with Dawkins and Hitchens. "bring the pope to justice, isn't that what those god haters all want to do?"
posted by idiopath at 4:40 PM on April 11, 2010


I hope this is a net gain for secularism.

Meanwhile, in Asutralia..., it's all the fault of not enough god. Pell who, we note, can find time for Church retribution against politicians who don't vote the way he wants,beat up on liberal Catholics, and ascribe genocide to atheists, but can manage little more than an oblique reference to child rape in the Church.

(Of course, his own record on investigating allegations of rape isn't so impressive.)

In fact, it rather appears cross-church co-operation on demonising the secular state and atheism is becoming de rigeur across the ditch. I guess blaming the Jews for everything got old hat.

I guess I disagree. I think Ratty needs to be prosecuted. I do not think Dawkins and Hitchens are the ones who should be doing it.

Seems no different to the efforts to get Pinochet. Who else, other than citizens, do you think is going to?
posted by rodgerd at 5:03 PM on April 11, 2010


I suppose. It's not realistic to think that any politician would do it, and no one in the Church is showing sign of demonstrating that Things Have Changed.

I think the dam hasn't quite burst yet. The recent shocks in Europe are going to find reverberation in Africa and Latin America. When this all ends up coming to a head, I suspect a Truth and Reconciliation movement be the only realistic option for the Church.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:31 PM on April 11, 2010


Seems no different to the efforts to get Pinochet.

Really? No different at all? Who is it the Pope is accused of ordering to be killed?
posted by Jahaza at 7:10 PM on April 11, 2010


Yes, jahaza, that's exactly what he was saying. [rolls eyes]
posted by five fresh fish at 7:26 PM on April 11, 2010


How is it not what he's saying? Pincohet was accused of torture, kidnapping and murder. That's why he was arrested in Britain. Clearly this case is different. The accusations against Pope Benedict are very different and don't involve the same kinds of issues that allowed Pinochet's arrest despite the State Immunity Act 1978.
posted by Jahaza at 7:55 PM on April 11, 2010


Yeah, an ongoing conspiracy to cover up thousands of rapes and silence their victims is, uh, oh wait that's actually pretty terrible NEVERMIND GUYS
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:18 PM on April 11, 2010


I will harpoon the Pope and wrestle him to shore*!

* I will not in any literal way do this.
posted by Artw at 8:19 PM on April 11, 2010


NY Times Op-Ed:

"I, too, belonged to an inbred and wealthy men’s club cloistered behind walls and disdaining modernity.

I, too, remained part of an autocratic society that repressed women and ignored their progress in the secular world.

I, too, rationalized as men in dresses allowed our religious kingdom to decay and to cling to outdated misogynistic rituals, blind to the benefits of welcoming women’s brains, talents and hearts into their ancient fraternity.

To circumscribe women, Saudi Arabia took Islam’s moral codes and orthodoxy to extremes not outlined by Muhammad; the Catholic Church took its moral codes and orthodoxy to extremes not outlined by Jesus. In the New Testament, Jesus is surrounded by strong women and never advocates that any woman — whether she’s his mother or a prostitute — be treated as a second-class citizen.

Negating women is at the heart of the church’s hideous — and criminal — indifference to the welfare of boys and girls in its priests’ care."

"The Vatican must realize that the church’s belligerent, resentful and paranoid response to the global scandal is not working because it now says it will cooperate with secular justice systems and that the pope will have more meetings with victims. It is too little, too late.

The church that through the ages taught me and other children right from wrong did not know right from wrong when it came to children. Crimes were swept under the rectory rug, and molesters were protected to molest again for the “good of the universal church.” And that is bad, very bad — a mortal sin.

The church has had theological schisms. This is an emotional schism. The pope is morally compromised. Take it from a sister."

posted by VikingSword at 8:31 PM on April 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah, an ongoing conspiracy to cover up thousands of rapes and silence their victims is

Yeah, if the Pope did that it would be pretty terrible. Good thing he didn't.

VikingSword, Dowd accepts uncritically the AP reporting that, riddled with errors as I've pointed out above.

Dowd's quarrel with the Church is about her views of Catholic teaching. The sex abuse scandals are a stick for her to beat on it, not her primary concern. She wouldn't like the Pope regardless.
posted by Jahaza at 10:27 PM on April 11, 2010


Yeah, if the Pope did that it would be pretty terrible. Good thing he didn't.

As posted upthread, the Pope was in fact involved in the coverup, and the position of the Vatican- one he could change if he wished- is along the lines of "Fuck you, go away, we don't owe you anything and are above the law". He is complicit in...

Dowd's quarrel with the Church is about her views of Catholic teaching. The sex abuse scandals are a stick for her to beat on it, not her primary concern. She wouldn't like the Pope regardless.

...oh, haha, you're just a shill who makes excuses for rapists by claiming that people who have a problem with the mass epidemic of pederastic rape in the Roman Catholic Church don't really care about the rapes and are using them as an excuse to attack the Chuch. Gee, I wonder what Jesus thinks of rapists and people who provide both legal and rhetorical cover for them? I bet he thinks they're awesome.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:40 PM on April 11, 2010


...oh, haha, you're just a shill who makes excuses for rapists

You're WAY out of line. You cannot point to one place where I have made excuses for rapists. Your personal attack is completely outrageous.
posted by Jahaza at 10:53 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's so distasteful, Jahaza, is that the apologists for the RCC employ every kind of casuistry to split hairs, and tortured logic to find sliver-thin excuses for a massive breakdown in the simple duty to report outrageous crimes involving child rape that has been going on for decades and decades as far back as we can search. And the RCC itself still cannot find a way to unambiguously and without qualifications condemn these clear-cut odious crimes. Instead, we are treated to "clever" attempts to diffuse the blame by citing "the moral breakdown of society at large" in which they sweep the crimes of these monsters into one big "regrettable" bundle. Or blame "American society" for the failures of these priests - until that stopped working when reports poured from all over the world. The pope urges the Irish to join the church in turning to god and prayer. Fuck that shit - accept your goddamn responsibility! And the apologists are really enablers. What does it take other than simple human decency to UNEQUIVOCALLY condemn the crimes that the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH OFFICIALS have been committing against children! Yeah, instead, we get more weaseling.
posted by VikingSword at 11:13 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


You are deflecting attention from the rapes in favor of attacking Dowd's motivation for bringing up the rapes. This is no different from the people in a previous thread who were asserting that those taking the Church to task were doing so out of Know-Nothing-Party-style anticatholicism. If you're looking for something outrageous, you might start with the effort to smear those who attack the Church's handling of this scandal as dishonest people with hidden agendas.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:16 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


"A bill in Connecticut's legislature that would remove the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases has sparked a fervent response from the state's Roman Catholic bishops, who released a letter to parishioners Saturday imploring them to oppose the measure.

Under current Connecticut law, sexual abuse victims have 30 years past their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit. The proposed change to the law would rescind that statute of limitations.

The proposed change to the law would put "all Church institutions, including your parish, at risk," says the letter, which was signed by Connecticut's three Roman Catholic bishops."

posted by Pope Guilty at 11:34 PM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Consequences of the Catholic Church's claim of statehood.

"The practice of treating the Catholic Church as a state has been bad for women's equality and gay rights. Now, the unfolding sexual abuse scandal reveals another dark side of the Holy See's status."

"That the Holy See is often treated as a state is deeply troubling, for several reasons. For one thing, the Catholic Church isn't truly a sovereign nation; to allow it to play one on the international stage perverts the meaning of statehood.

Moreover, the church's claim to statehood gives it even more political influence than it would otherwise wield and grants outsized power to only one of the world's many religions. And its claim is particularly worrisome now that the church -- embroiled in a disturbing scandal that has reached from Boston to Berlin -- is claiming the sort of immunity enjoyed by prime ministers and presidents. "

posted by VikingSword at 11:38 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you're looking for something outrageous, you might start with the effort to smear those who attack the Church's handling of this scandal as dishonest people with hidden agendas.

You called me "just a shill who makes excuses for rapists". This is where you apologize. Then we can talk about whether I've been unfair to Maureen Dowd.
posted by Jahaza at 11:54 PM on April 11, 2010


Vikingsword, I don't know how people get published in the LA Times who can't use Google. The authors of that article write:
Yet it is surely the most unusual government of the world, given its minute size and lack of any standard government functions, such as the administration of justice, education of the young or provision of defense. It even relies on Italy for its water, police and firefighting services.
But the Vatican has its own police force, courts, and firefighters.
posted by Jahaza at 12:11 AM on April 12, 2010


You called me "just a shill who makes excuses for rapists". This is where you apologize. Then we can talk about whether I've been unfair to Maureen Dowd.

Nope, sorry. I've explained why I called you that. If I thought that was inaccurate, I would apologize, as would be proper. I believe that that's an accurate assessment, however, and I am far more interested in reality than in your contemptible, disgusting attempt to play the victim while you are engaging yourself in the business of complicity.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:37 AM on April 12, 2010


disgusting attempt to play the victim

Hey, at least he's not blaming the Jews. That always ends well.

Seems no different to the efforts to get Pinochet.

Really? No different at all? Who is it the Pope is accused of ordering to be killed?


I guess tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of rapes, the systematic torture of orphans in Ireland, the determined and well-documented efforts to cover up those rapes while facilitating rapists by moving them from position to position, well, they're nothing much. I'm glad you've made your position of indifference to child rape and torture evident.
posted by rodgerd at 2:43 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey, at least he's not blaming the Jews.

"Bishop 'blames Jews' for criticism of Catholic church record on abuse."

Unbelievable.
posted by ericb at 6:41 AM on April 12, 2010


Unbelievable.

Sadly, no, it's not. It's par for the fucking course.
posted by zarq at 7:54 AM on April 12, 2010


Conservative Catholic Ross Douthat has an editorial in the NYTimes: The Better Pope".
So the high-flying John Paul let scandals spread beneath his feet, and the uncharismatic Ratzinger was left to clean them up. This pattern extends to other fraught issues that the last pope tended to avoid — the debasement of the Catholic liturgy, or the rise of Islam in once-Christian Europe. And it extends to the caliber of the church’s bishops, where Benedict’s appointments are widely viewed as an improvement over the choices John Paul made. It isn’t a coincidence that some of the most forthright ecclesiastical responses to the abuse scandal have come from friends and protégés of the current pope.

Has Benedict done enough to clean house and show contrition? Alas, no. Has his Vatican responded to the latest swirl of scandal with retrenchment, resentment, and an un-Christian dose of self-pity? Absolutely. Can this pontiff regain the kind of trust and admiration, for himself and for his office, that John Paul II enjoyed? Not a chance.

But as unlikely as it seems today, Benedict may yet deserve to be remembered as the better pope.

posted by zarq at 8:05 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


To be fair, RCC priests and bishops do not bugger boys exclusively: apparently they are also into raping nuns in Africa.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:42 AM on April 12, 2010


"Pedobear" And The Pope
posted by homunculus at 11:02 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


> You called me "just a shill who makes excuses for rapists". This is where you apologize. Then we can talk about whether I've been unfair to Maureen Dowd.

Nope, sorry. I've explained why I called you that.


You may indeed have explained why. But frankly, from where I'm sitting that explanation doesn't hold much water.

It is indeed possible to both think "the church as an entity is not all bad" AND to think "but this, that, and the other are things that SORELY need fixing". Defending the parts that AREN'T broken is NOT the same thing as "being a shill who makes excuses for rapists." Period.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:44 PM on April 12, 2010


Connecticut bishops fight sex abuse bill

Classic.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:39 AM on April 14, 2010


AP: Vatican Enters 'Full-Fledged Damage Control Mode' Over Abuse.
posted by ericb at 11:08 AM on April 14, 2010


Predator priests shuffled around globe -- "Transfer of abusive clerics was called 'the geographical cure.'"
posted by ericb at 8:51 PM on April 14, 2010


Defending the parts that AREN'T broken is NOT the same thing as "being a shill who makes excuses for rapists." Period.

No, but deflecting attention away from the rapes and attacking people who attack the hierarchy and the Pope for their complicity in the rapes is, in fact, "being a shill who makes excuses for rapists." Period.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:49 AM on April 15, 2010


No, but deflecting attention away from the rapes and attacking people who attack the hierarchy and the Pope for their complicity in the rapes is, in fact, "being a shill who makes excuses for rapists."

Making this claim repeatedly doesn't make it any more true.

Every time someone steps into one of these threads with anything even slightly positive about the Catholic Church or any criticism (including pointing out factual errors) of or critical questions about the attacks on it, you and your co-horts jump in with ad hominem attacks accusing them of "defending rapists" or being "on the side of the child rapists" or making "excuses for rapists" or trying to "deflect attention away from the rapists." It's really quite disgusting.

If you're interested in an actual discussion of this issue, I'd suggest dropping the ridiculous over-the-top accusations and attacks. Of course, if you're just trying to create a safe space to rant without all that pesky interference from people who might not already agree with you 100%, then carry on, you're doing just fine.
posted by Dojie at 10:09 AM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


You can make things up about the content of this thread all you want, Dojie, but anybody who's interested in reality rather than in making this about sides (or indulging in that most favored of Christian pasttimes, pretending to be persecuted) can read the thread. You need to be able to edit or delete comments within the thread before you can make statements like that and have them appear to be anything but dishonesty.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:44 AM on April 15, 2010


I'm not sure what you claim I'm making up. I've read this thread, as well as this recent thread, and this MeTa that resulted from it, and it has happened in all of them. To be fair, I don't think there were any actual accusations of supporting pedophiles in this thread, although it was implied a couple of times.

I'm not interested in making it about sides and I'm not claiming persecution. I'm saying that no one here or in the other threads has defended rapists. No one. Accusing people of doing so is distasteful, disingenuous, and completely counter-productive to creating a healthy atmosphere for discussion. People generally aren't going to be interested in getting involved in a conversation if they think they're likely to be subject to specious attacks like this. For example, I started to post to this thread a number of times and decided it wasn't worth the grief. And now that I did, I've been accused of dishonesty. Which is fun.

You need to be able to edit or delete comments within the thread before you can make statements like that and have them appear to be anything but dishonesty.

I have absolutely no idea what that means.
posted by Dojie at 12:08 PM on April 15, 2010


He means that anyone who read the thread would know you were talking out of your ass, and that iif you wanted to appear to NOT be talking out of your ass, you would need to edit the comments so that it wasn't blindingly obvious to everyone that you were talking out of your ass.

Hope that's clear.
posted by unSane at 7:28 PM on April 15, 2010


Nice try, unSane, but you can't disprove an accusation of over the top ad hominem attack by making another over the top ad hominem attack.
Yes the RCC has a shocking record of tolerating and covering up pedophilia.
Yes, their recent defensive statements are adding insult to injury and undercutting whatever credibility they have left.
But that does not make them the enemy of all mankind. That's a pretty clear example of the anti-Catholic sentiment poking through VikingSword and rodgerd's comments. Nor does it make "you're a shill for rapists" acceptable.
posted by msalt at 9:51 PM on April 15, 2010


It's the pederasty plus all the other things that make them the enemy of all mankind in some people's eyes. You have to admit, it is getting awfully difficult to see where Roman Catholic charity makes up for all the Roman Catholic abuse.

The Canadian Residential Schools, for instance, were pretty much an attempt at genocide: their goal was to eliminate the Indian culture entirely. And they largely succeeded. Plus, of course, they beat and buggered a lot of them. But charitably, I suppose.

Are there any resounding Roman Catholic success stories? Without dark secrets of shuffling abusers from place to place? Where offenders have been prosecuted?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:42 PM on April 15, 2010


Nice try, unSane, but you can't disprove an accusation of over the top ad hominem attack by making another over the top ad hominem attack.

Wasn't trying to do anything of the sort; Dojie was pretending to be stupid and not know what Pope Guilty meant. Felt I should explain. Carry on.
posted by unSane at 10:50 PM on April 15, 2010


Are there any resounding Roman Catholic success stories? Without dark secrets of shuffling abusers from place to place? Where offenders have been prosecuted?

In 2,000 years of Western history? Of course, there are tens of thousands. For the tastes of this crowd, perhaps the Catholic Workers might be a good example. But this doesn't sound like a serious question.
posted by msalt at 11:04 PM on April 15, 2010


It's the pederasty plus all the other things that make them the enemy of all mankind in some people's eyes.

Worth noting that the pedastery affects only Catholics. Their own faithful. That distinction seems important. As much as Mssrs Bill O'Reilly and O'Donohue would like to think otherwise, Catholics aren't all mankind. ;)

Your point on "all the other things" is debatable. They've been a force of great evil as well as much good. Perhaps one outweighs the other. But to dismiss either would be disingenuous.
posted by zarq at 11:12 PM on April 15, 2010


I'm perfectly serious. Let's hear some non-scandalous RCC success stories.

Your example: "Catholic Worker houses are not official organs of the Roman Catholic Church." No priests involved, at least not under the responsibility of the RCC.

Even Mother Teresa's mission turned out to have a dark side. The church protects hell out of its official members.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:13 PM on April 15, 2010


To dismiss either might be disingenuous, but I think the same can be said for getting too upset when someone with a stick in his craw makes possibly hyperbolic claims about the organization.

And I say "possibly hyperbolic," because I'm having a hard time seeing how the generational damage inflicted upon victims, and the children of adult victims, and non-Catholic cultures, and the repression of science for hundreds of years, and the psychic damage to recovering Catholics… is outweighed by the good of the Church. What the heck has the Church done that was good?
posted by five fresh fish at 11:18 PM on April 15, 2010


What the heck has the Church done that was good?

I'm truly the wrong person to defend them. I could play devil's advocate as an intellectual exercise, but it would be mental masturbation rather than a proper defense.

At various points in its history the Church has been an agent of torture, forced conversions, ignorance, mass murder, holy (and unholy) wars, death and destruction. Its officials have turned a blind eye to atrocity, destroyed knowledge that had been passed from generation to generation for centuries, and also helped perpetuate and encourage many hatreds. All in the name of pious righteousness.

Arguing against that is difficult. And often, the examples one could give only balance things out. For example, prior to the Renaissance, the Church allowed the laity to fall into illiterate, uneducated ignorance. Now, Church chartered and supported schools teach hundreds of thousands of kids an education across the world. So how does it all balance out?
posted by zarq at 11:34 PM on April 15, 2010


Back on topic: A Vatican cardinal in charge of clergy around the world congratulated a French bishop in a 2001 letter for not denouncing a sexually abusive priest to the police.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:19 AM on April 16, 2010


Your example: "Catholic Worker houses are not official organs of the Roman Catholic Church." No priests involved, at least not under the responsibility of the RCC.

This is why I felt your question was and is not in good faith. Any example, you will find some reason why it doesn't count. I could mention anything from Thomas Merton's writings (I love his abridged Chuang Tzu) to the work that St. Francis Church does for the homeless here in Portland as we speak. I suspect you'll disqualify each.

Are you really saying that no priest has done a single good act in 2,000 years?
posted by msalt at 12:38 AM on April 16, 2010


This is why I felt your question was and is not in good faith. Any example, you will find some reason why it doesn't count.

He asked about the Church and you gave an example of something without clerical involvement. Of course he dismissed it- it's irrelevant to the topic of discussion. Go ahead and answer his question instead of giving an irrelevant answer and calling him a jerk just it isn't accepted.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:31 AM on April 16, 2010


Does a single priest count as an "official organ" of the RCC? I'd have presumed that it takes more than one person to constitute an organ.

Instead of continuing to utterly fail to provide an example, and blaming me for you inability to do so, you'd probably have been better off to not respond at all. The only thing you seem to be accomplishing is demonstrating that there aren't any examples of RCC organizations that didn't devolve into orgies of power and sex abuse.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:55 AM on April 16, 2010


Instead of continuing to utterly fail to provide an example, and blaming me for you inability to do so, you'd probably have been better off to not respond at all. The only thing you seem to be accomplishing is demonstrating that there aren't any examples of RCC organizations that didn't devolve into orgies of power and sex abuse.

The loosely organized Catholic Charities, USA includes various Catholic Charities that are associated with and run though Archdiocese throughout the US. They would be a decent example of a Catholic organization with clear ties to the Church that has consistently provided services to the poor with a minimum of scandals and power struggles. They also do not proselytize, although they do restrict their services to those their religion finds acceptable. (They don't offer abortion services, for example.) I am unaware of any sex scandals that relate to Catholic Charities (although it's perfectly possible they exist.)

Two of them, in Boston and DC, came under fire recently when they opted to stop providing benefits to spouses of married employees as well as to cease their adoption service programs rather than comply with new gender equality / antidiscrimination laws. Other than that, I think they've been an excellent model. They're also the second largest social services provider in the US. The federal gov't being the first.
posted by zarq at 9:27 AM on April 16, 2010


Now you're throwing out anything done by an individual priest, and group actions by Catholic non-priests and group actions by multiple priests if it's not under the direct hierarchy of the Church. No doubt you'll exclude any projects run by Catholic orders such as the Jesuits because they don't count as arms of the RCC.

I just mentioned the work of St. Francis Church here in Portland with the homeless, something I'm familiar with off the top of my head because I drive by it most days. You ignore that of course, as well as the entire Catholic education system, the St. Vincent DePaul society, various Catholic hospitals, etc.

There are a BILLION Catholics in the world now, and the organization is 2,000 years old. You're trying to argue that there is not a single one of these not involved in "orgies of power and sex abuse." Can you really not see what an extreme conspiratorial view that is? The KKK in its most fervent period of anti-Catholicism in the 1920s never made such a statement.
posted by msalt at 9:30 AM on April 16, 2010


The only thing you seem to be accomplishing is demonstrating that there aren't any examples of RCC organizations that didn't devolve into orgies of power and sex abuse.

One of the clearest signs of extremism in any argument is the urge to paint one's opponent in terms of absolutes.

The Church and its agents have done many good and evil things throughout its history -- this should be completely obvious to anyone who looks at the organization with a critical eye. The question should not be whether they have done any good. It should be whether the evil they've done outweighs their humanitarian contributions.

For example: Mother Teresa's proseletyzing and deathbed baptisms may diminish the work she and her organization(s) did for the poor, but it doesn't eliminate it entirely. And it certainly didn't undo all her good deeds.

And the fact that an Catholic organization may or may not exist that didn't devolve into abuses of power or sex means very little.

In the larger scheme of things, would humanity have been better off without the Church? Would we be better off without it now? I think these questions require more thought than a flip, absolutist answer.

One of the reasons I've enjoyed reading VikingSword's comments on this subject so much is he's obviously thought about it a great deal.
posted by zarq at 9:42 AM on April 16, 2010


You're trying to argue that there is not a single one of these not involved in "orgies of power and sex abuse."

Where am I arguing that? I'm asking for examples of good Catholic charities. All you seem to want to do is attack me for asking, instead of just providing some examples already. Is it so hard to provide examples that you have to speak up to attack me, instead of staying silent and allowing someone who can provide examples to do so?

Zarq is at least offering some good examples. Your St. Francis Church may also be a good example; I haven't got around to googling it.

Your Catholic education system doesn't seem like a good example, as there are a bajillion people who have come through it and have endless tales of horror, plus it seems to be the main source of "recovering Catholics."

The Catholic hospitals are undoubtedly a good example. An excellent example. Thank you.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:05 AM on April 16, 2010


Here are a few Catholic organizations that have certainly not devolved into "orgies of power and abuse." Granted, you may be able to find a number of bad acts committed by individual members of these groups. That's going to happen in any group made of human beings, but the kind of systemic problems we're talking about are just not happening in these groups.

Catholic Relief Services


The Catholic Worker Movement

Catholic Medical Mission

St. Vincent de Paul Society

These all came up in a very quick google search. I'm omitting Catholic Charities because of the ill will over two local chapters' gay marriage response, although to the best of my knowledge, Catholic Charities is pretty clear of this sort of scandal. I'm also not about to start listing the thousands of ministries run by individual diocese or parishes or Catholic hospitals that do incredible amounts of good in their communities. And of course, this is setting aside the fact that Catholicism is actually a religion - not a charitable organization. Millions of believers certainly believe the Church has been a source of good in their lives.
posted by Dojie at 10:10 AM on April 16, 2010


Personally, I think that any large organization tends to get corrupted over time. And by corruption, I don't mean bribes or sex abuse; I simply mean drifting from your original mission, concentration of power in a hierarchy, accumulation of secrets, etc. The Catholic Church happens to be just about the oldest organization on earth. It's certainly due for a fall or a drastic reorganization, especially given its rigid hierarchy.

But this tendency is not unique to Catholics, and affects non-sex-abuse institutions as well. Take hospitals; I used to work for St. Vincent's in Portland. They do a lot of good work, but like all hospitals I know, they suck up huge amounts of money, tend to grow year in and year out, attract empire-building administrators, swallow up houses and neighborhoods around the hospital, etc. You don't need an evil pederast conspiracy for this kind of thing to happen; it's the nature of institutions -- colleges, governments, religions, etc.
posted by msalt at 10:31 AM on April 16, 2010


Here are some links on St. Francis' work in Portland:
1 2 3

Here is a list of the outreach projects at a different, but typical Catholic Church just outside Portland.
posted by msalt at 10:39 AM on April 16, 2010


no priest has done a single good act in 2,000 years?

Are you really saying that one good act would counterbalance all the wrongs the Catholic Church has perpetrated?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:20 PM on April 16, 2010


The CRS certainly seems to kick ass, and it appears to fit the kind of thing I was wondering about. From my quick look around their site, it looks like it's run under the control of the Church. It certainly is a relief to see some good news about the Church's doings.

Whatever those organizations are doing that is keeping them out of scandal, is what the main body/clergy of the church needs to be doing.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:53 PM on April 16, 2010


Oh, and thanks for the links. The CWM has my curiousity piqued; it sounds like it could have originated in Tommy Douglas's Saskatchewan, not New York.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:56 PM on April 16, 2010


Now it's the fault of porn. It's not the fault of those who commit the crime. Nope.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:24 AM on April 17, 2010


That's so precious. "Internet porn reached back fifty years and made me abuse altar boys."
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:05 PM on April 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Before I go rob some banks, I'm going to help an old lady across the street.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:45 PM on April 17, 2010


Here's another plum of a letter
posted by five fresh fish at 2:23 PM on April 17, 2010


A Church Mary Can Love
posted by homunculus at 8:25 PM on April 17, 2010


Vatican says US lawsuit against Pope 'without merit'
posted by homunculus at 2:03 PM on April 23, 2010


Abused girls will be the next big wave of claims.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:59 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


This says it succinctly.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:12 PM on April 27, 2010


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