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Merry Christmas from the Vatican
December 24, 2010 8:15 AM   Subscribe

Pope’s child porn 'normal' claim sparks outrage among victims. Pope Benedict XVI said this week that as recently as the 1970's, pedophilia was "theorised as something fully in conformity with man and even with children,” but conceded that in 2010 it's gotten pretty bad, and brought "humiliation" on the church. Understandingly, victims feel differently.
posted by rodmandirect (101 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wait what?
posted by Big_B at 8:18 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


he's saying that all those priests were abusing kids because moral relativism and free love in the 70's made them do it.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:25 AM on December 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Stay classy Pope Benedict XVI.
posted by Sailormom at 8:25 AM on December 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Does anyone have a link to the full speech? It's really hard to tell what's going on from a news report & an oped. By the way, Thomas Doyle is not a victim per se, but a very well-known author, canon lawyer, and advocate for victims' rights (as well as a prominent plaintiff's witness in civil trials). Speaking out against the Catholic hierarchy is what he does.

I think it's important to get a little bit extra context with a hotbutton issue like this.
posted by facetious at 8:29 AM on December 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's pretty clear that in the Popes social circles paedophilia is not abnormal and therefore okay.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:30 AM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Let us all remember the saying judge not, lest ye be judged. This is important, I think. The Catholic Church never judges people, so let's not judge them here.

TE GUSTAN HAMBURGESAS??
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:34 AM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


"It was maintained — even within the realm of Catholic theology — that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a 'better than' and a 'worse than'. Nothing is good or bad in itself."

Bullshit. I was told that if I died with a mortal sin on my soul I would go straight to Hell. I'd say that would count as 'bad'.
posted by bwg at 8:34 AM on December 24, 2010 [16 favorites]


Of course it wasn't considered an absolute evil. That's why they had to have all that coverup going on and shuffling child-raping priests around from parish to parish and hushing people up. BECAUSE IT WAS TOTALLY NORMAL, MAAAAN. IT WAS THE 70'S.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:35 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember the 70s. In the company I kept, it was never considered normal. He obviously hung out with a different crowd than I did.
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:37 AM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


This guy isn't a very good pope.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:38 AM on December 24, 2010 [54 favorites]


So, let me see if I understand this, correct me if I got some part of Catholic dogma wrong, but, so, the pope is God's representative on Earth. The pope is infallible. So, the pope is an ex-nazi pedophile-sympathizer, so this means that the Catholic God is OK with Nazism and traumatically molesting young children, and actually approves of such by choosing an earthly representative who approves of such? The Catholic God hates safe-sex but has no problem with pedophilia?

They let these "Catholic" people operate schools?! It seems like the only problem the Catholic church has with sexual assault is that they got caught.
posted by fuq at 8:43 AM on December 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


Just for the record:

Condoms: bad, a sin
Child rape: normal
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:43 AM on December 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


This pope requires a special prayer; you do the sign of the cross, but stop at the "The Father" part. I call it a Catholic facepalm.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:47 AM on December 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I like to think that the pope we had back in the late 70s would have excommunicated this awful person.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:48 AM on December 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wasn't this the Pope that was supposed to offer us a decade or so (however long until he dies) of relative stability due to his conservativism?
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:49 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Pope is only considered to be infallible when speaking "ex cathedra", which has happned approximately seven times in the history of the Church.

Catholic teaching DOES NOT hold that the Pope is free from sin or even from error.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papal_infallibility
posted by DWRoelands at 8:52 AM on December 24, 2010 [11 favorites]


So, the pope is an ex-nazi

To be fair, he was a Hitler Youth, I'm not sure we can condemn someone for something they did as a child and probably at their parents behest.
posted by Max Power at 8:54 AM on December 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


FPP needs "popefail" tag.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:56 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh look, Christians are contradictory.
posted by Evernix at 8:59 AM on December 24, 2010


he's saying that all those priests were abusing kids because moral relativism and free love in the 70's made them do it.

That is indeed what he is saying, and that is indeed what he says about most things. Isn't it funny how he constantly decries moral relativism, while simultaneously claiming it as an excuse for his own misconduct? Infallibility dependent on fallacy. Lovely.

What he's conveniently ignoring, of course, is that a) if the clergy were all about free love, you'd think they might be put off by the vows of celibacy, and b) the problem dates back much further than he's letting on.

(All that said, I give 'Zinger a pass on the Nazi stuff. It's not like he had any choice in the matter.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:04 AM on December 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Pope Benedict XVI said this week that as recently as the 1970's, the porn 'stache was "theorised as something fully in conformity with the adult film industry".
posted by bwg at 9:05 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


To be fair, he was a Hitler Youth

To be extra fair, that was just for starters. But, yeah: Conscription.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:06 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


My hobby is playing devil's advocate, so I'm going to try to come up with a favorable interpretation of the Pope's words. Here goes:
"In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorised as something fully in conformity with man and even with children"
The 1970s were a dark and perverse time. Some Catholics fell victim to a sin that was considered less extreme by society's former standards.
"It was maintained — even within the realm of Catholic theology — that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a ‘better than' and a ‘worse than'. Nothing is good or bad in itself."
The evil of the 1970s reached even into our theology, which we have since corrected.
The Pope said abuse revelations in 2010 reached “an unimaginable dimension” which brought “humiliation” on the Church. ... “We cannot remain silent about the context of these times in which these events have come to light,” he said, citing the growth of child pornography “that seems in some way to be considered more and more normal by society” he said.
Yeah, we messed up, but society is what changed. The only reason you see our response to the abuse as unacceptable is a shift that occurred in your secular morality.

(You know what? I can't find a way to make this not sound slimy and evasive.)
posted by skymt at 9:08 AM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


the telegraph's article on this is a little clearer

“We know of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and our corresponding responsibility,” he said. “We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustices that occurred.

“We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our message, in our entire way of configuring the Christian being, that allowed such a thing to occur.”

However, Benedict said the fault lay not only with the Church but also with the “context of our times”, in which child pornography, drug use, sexual trafficking were to some degree considered permissible.

“There exists a market of pornography regarding children that seems to be increasingly accepted as normal by society,” he said.

“The psychological devastation of children, in which human beings are reduced to a marketplace article, is a terrifying sign of the times.”


so it would seem that he's placing blame on the church and society at large - but his tone of standing above it all when he was in fact, an enabler of this by negligence and cover-ups, is pretty disingenous

it wasn't your just message that had something wrong with it, pope, it was your practice - which is a fair summary of the 2000 year history of the catholic church
posted by pyramid termite at 9:17 AM on December 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


What an awful, awful human being.
posted by EarBucket at 9:19 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


As requested, a link to the full speech.

As I read it, at least, ennui.bz pretty much nailed it. He's not trying to excuse pedophilia or claim that it's normal, but he is trying to shift blame onto the permissiveness of society as a whole.
posted by moss at 9:20 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here is the full text of the pope's Christmas address.

I'm not at all a Catholic apologist, but I thought there could be no way that was what he actually said. Barring the unlikely possibility of extensive translation errors, the full speech is actually worse. I cannot quite believe it, but it seems his point regarding child pornography is that if the corrupt world just didn't tempt Catholic priests with our sexy images of little kids (not to mention our drugs and our moral equivocation), none of this ever would have happened!
posted by lesli212 at 9:24 AM on December 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


When I read the front-page introduction, I thought the Pope was exhibiting some sociopathy - i.e. - "humiliating" for the Church with no thought of the victims. That would be almost 'Cheneyish.'

Pyramid Termite above puts it in better context.

The pope in this situation does not bear direct guilt for the crimes committed under him, but does bear responsibility for enabling if indeed he supervised transfer or perps and denial that the crimes happened. For public officials who oversee atrocities, we use Arendt's term "desk murderer," while the Pope, if culpable, might be called a "tiara rapist."
posted by Tokarski at 9:26 AM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


So, to review:

Homosexuality between consenting adults: "objectively disordered"
homosexual practices: "sins gravely contrary to chastity."
Child Porn: "Therozied as something fully in conformity with man and even with children"

Words fail me.
posted by FfejL at 9:27 AM on December 24, 2010 [15 favorites]


Holy shit. (literally.)
posted by XMLicious at 9:36 AM on December 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Note to Catholics: if you have a problem with child pornography and "a rigid, secretive, all-male Church hierarchy fixated on self-preservation at all costs", maybe Catholicism isn't for you.
posted by clarknova at 9:36 AM on December 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


In order to resist these forces, we must turn our attention to their ideological foundations. In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children. This, however, was part of a fundamental perversion of the concept of ethos. It was maintained – even within the realm of Catholic theology – that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a “better than” and a “worse than”. Nothing is good or bad in itself. Everything depends on the circumstances and on the end in view. Anything can be good or also bad, depending upon purposes and circumstances. Morality is replaced by a calculus of consequences, and in the process it ceases to exist. The effects of such theories are evident today. Against them, Pope John Paul II, in his 1993 Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, indicated with prophetic force in the great rational tradition of Christian ethos the essential and permanent foundations of moral action.

what i get from this is that he's trying to say that it was false ethos and even false doctrine within the church that was responsible for the corruption that child abuse represents

i think he's been quoted out of context and selectively here

BUT, there is something that disturbs me even more about what i've quoted here, which goes to the heart of the matter - he's talking about ethos, theories, encyclical letters and the great rational tradition of the church

it's an intellectual response to a spiritual and action-based problem - he thinks that by pointing to the right ideas, by proclaiming the right words, that things can be set aright again

no, it's not enough - you must DO the right things - which means if you have priests who are molesting children you must allow them to be prosecuted and you must take away their position of authority, not just lecture them and give them encyclical letters to read and tuck them away in some other obscure part of the world

this guy's going to drone on endlessly and not DO anything

also, his idea that the roman empire protected peaceful coexistence between peoples is laughable
posted by pyramid termite at 9:38 AM on December 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


I can't find the full text of the speech anywhere, but I imagine it's possible that the pope is referring to the fact that there was actually a serious movement to lower the age of consent in multiple Western European countries as well as the USA which started in the late 1970s. There's actually a substantial body of literature from that period that tries to argue for lowering age of consent laws as a way to respect the rights of children.

(The German Wikipedia is slightly better than the English on this--but most of my literature citations here are not available on the Internet. If people are interested I can post some later.)

This is, of course, not a justification for his comments, which from the snippets we've seen seem to be seriously historically confused: I'm pretty sure that sexual relations between priests and children were not what people like Michel Foucault, the Dutch Pacifist Socialist Party, or the founders of NAMBLA had in mind when they advocated for lowering or even abolishing the age of consent.

Furthermore, I am certain that the roots of sexual abuse in the Church lie elsewhere, and if anybody from the Church looked at the stuff these people were writing and used it to justify their own actions to themselves, then that was a reprehensible move then that is no less reprehensible now.

But this isn't actually coming out of nowhere.
posted by besonders at 9:41 AM on December 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by ericb at 9:42 AM on December 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


this guy's going to drone on endlessly and not DO anything

Oh, the perfect representative for God then!
posted by fuq at 9:42 AM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have carefully considered the context and the possibility that I have misunderstood something due to translation error, lost context, or paraphrasing. And I will also make the following statement with the caveat that I am assuming that the writer of the article did not make this up out of whole cloth.

W. T. F. ?
posted by randomkeystrike at 9:48 AM on December 24, 2010


WikiLeaks Task Force.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:54 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


This guy isn't a very good pope.

Seems pretty average, really.
posted by brundlefly at 9:55 AM on December 24, 2010


"But this isn't actually coming out of nowhere."

I don't think anyone is claiming that this wildly bizarre, intellectually weak, and boldly offensive statement is coming out of nowhere. Such people did exist, and such articles were published. I think what we're saying is the the place it's coming from was and is nearly universally rejected as ridiculous and awful. Then and now.

And even if we were to be much more charitable, I have a really hard time believing that the pope actually thinks that sexual child abuse was seen favorably even in the context of the 70s. This is attempting to rewrite both history and reality. It is, straight up, making excuses for priests who abused children.

Seriously. That is actually the topic here right? Priests who sexually abused children. ANY rationalization of that should lead to him being punched right in the face.
posted by y6y6y6 at 9:58 AM on December 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Someone should ask Bill O'Reilly, who opposes Park51, the "Ground Zero Mosque" if he thinks catholic churches near schools.
posted by delmoi at 10:03 AM on December 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


I have to conclude that Pope offers this excuse because the Pope sexually abused children himself.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:04 AM on December 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Now that I've read the full speech, yeah, this is just as intellectually weak and morally indefensible as I suspected.

He's trying to place the blame on "1970s moral relativism" for infecting his precious Church instead of admitting that the problem was within the Church itself, which has been actively covering this up and perpetuating the problem for years. Fuck that. At least NAMBLA's honest.
posted by besonders at 10:08 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Church- continuously proving they need some Jesus more than anyone.
posted by yeloson at 10:10 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The author of this address doesn't seem to be trying to make a causal connection between the abuse in the church and the permissive society. The paragraphs in question are introduced: "We are well aware of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and of our corresponding responsibility. But neither can we remain silent regarding the context of these times in which these events have come to light." Much of the actual abuse, as I understand it, occurred before the 70s. In that case, he wouldn't be trying to shift the blame to the 70s for "infecting" the church, but rather trying to shift the attention, as in "Yes, it's bad in the church, but it's bad, like, everywhere, what with sex tourism and rampant porn and Michel Houellebecq and so on, so... y'know." It's possible he's just trying to make the old point, in so many words, that the hierarchy dealt with reports of child abuse, through the 70s 80s and 90s, according to the accepted clinical norms of the time. I tend to agree with pyramid termite, though, that the intellectual pseudo-history is not very convincing, nor his call to a renewed sense of moral absolutes: the church is getting so much flak in part because the public, secular and non-secular alike, including the children of the 70s, already *do* treat and have been treating child abuse as wrong in itself. One might even be able to make a case that one of the reasons child abuse has come to be treated as practically wrong-in-itself is precisely because "morality has been replaced by a calculus of consequences."
posted by flechsig at 10:17 AM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well... the Pope was presumably hanging out with bishops and a lot of other Catholic church higher-ups in the 1970s right? And there is pretty overwhelming evidence that those guys thought pedophilia and child porn were normal and ok, right? So this makes perfect sense.
posted by rusty at 10:20 AM on December 24, 2010


Merry Christmas, Catholics!

Don't open what the Pope got you.
posted by maxwelton at 10:21 AM on December 24, 2010 [10 favorites]


Not excusing the church's thoroughly criminal inaction on allegations of abuse. Prosecutors who talk about racketeering charges against the Vatican are spot on, imo.

But there's no question that society's views on pedophilia have changed since the '70s. Can you imagine, in 2010, that a major American city would put a statue in its downtown business district featuring a nude boy and girl with clearly visible gentalia? As a parent I love that statue but I don't see that getting approved in 2010. Roman Polanski drugged and sodomized a 13-year-old girl in 1977. If that happens today, the punishment is swift and terrible, and certainly he never works again. Mick Jagger sang about rough sex with a 13-year-old in 1969, nobody batted an eye. Go back to Jane Austen - 16 year old girls marrying older men were the norm. Clearly there's at least some element of "evil" in pedophilia that's a construct of this particular point in time.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:22 AM on December 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


In other words, the Pope would have us believe the morality of kiddie-fucking is defined by context (society) and not by God.

The morality of consensual adult homosexuality, however, is an affront to God, and society must not allow them to marry.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:24 AM on December 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


He's trying to place the blame on "1970s moral relativism" for infecting his precious Church instead of admitting that the problem was within the Church itself, which has been actively covering this up and perpetuating the problem for years. Fuck that. At least NAMBLA's honest.

This seems like a salient point to me. He blames priests individually:
priests who twist the sacrament into its antithesis, and under the mantle of the sacred profoundly wound human persons in their childhood, damaging them for a whole lifetime
and in quoting from the vision of St. Hildegard:
And Christ’s wounds remain open because of the sins of priests. They tear my robe, since they are violators of the Law, the Gospel and their own priesthood; they darken my cloak by neglecting, in every way, the precepts which they are meant to uphold; my shoes too are blackened, since priests do not keep to the straight paths of justice, which are hard and rugged, or set good examples to those beneath them.
And he blames society as a group or organization with the "1970s moral relativism" stuff, but he does not blame the church as an organization; in fact the church is portrayed as the victim.
posted by XMLicious at 10:25 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


In order to resist these forces, we must turn our attention to their ideological foundations

So... the world is corrupt and full of child sex, and the Church is powerless to resist? The center of moral authority is moved along with the sway of general popular opinion (and, you know, that NAMBLA was ever popular)? And, that, the idea of adults sexing children -started- in the 1970's... this is the analysis from the same organization that has existed through the Dark Ages and still uses Latin regularly?

...really?

You don't get to both argue against the evil of moral relativism and simultaneously use it as an excuse that you were "caught in the times".
posted by yeloson at 10:26 AM on December 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Some day this man is going to stand up to speak at a podium, get a funny look on his face, and a geyser of cockroaches and rats is gonna erupt from his mouth like an old EC horror comic.
posted by fleetmouse at 10:34 AM on December 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


Putting aside the issue itself for a moment...

This incident, like the incident a couple of years back about the quote about Islam, shows how out-of-touch Papa Ratzi is with the modern age. Now, granted, men in the upper reaches of the Church tend to think in a much, much longer time frame than most of us do, allowing them to not be particularly concerned with the fleeting demands of the present, and also granted that Papa Ratzi has spent his entire career in an ivory tower like no other and hasn't much experience of the real world at all, but --

I'm shocked that there isn't (it seems) some P.R. guy hired just to go over statements like these, and say "Your Holiness, now you may actually be right about X*, and this is a beautiful argument you've constructed, but you know, this argument is probably too subtle for most people to grasp, and it's going to be taken out of context, and lots of people are going to be upset, and it's going to go over like a lead balloon, so maybe we should put this one aside..."

JPII had a media dept., and he worked it well. Benny doesn't seem to have one, by the looks of it, or doesn't use it, preferring to rely on the Rightness of his Message or something. And that shit don't fly no more.

These were probably known problems going in, but he wasn't supposed to live this long. As usual, I have greater hopes for the next guy.

*Not to suggest that Benny is actually right in this case -- not at all.
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:41 AM on December 24, 2010


I think there is a lot of confusion. The structural problem was that, as the contrasting article noted, the heirophants didn't listen to the priests who complained; and the priests didn't listen to the laity. Plainly, the church didn't have controls around their priests, and created a system of secrecy that was poisonous. In general, it sees itself as above civil law, and there are historic reasons for this.

And now the hierarchy will probably blame liberation theologians.

That said, there is a legitimate, separate, question about how the market or culture sexualizes children, and the proper response of religious institutions.
posted by john wilkins at 10:44 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The morality of consensual adult homosexuality, however, is an affront to God, and society must not allow them to marry.

It really would not be politically expedient for the Church hierarchy to change their view on gay rights just now. Even though they are seen as moral leaders, there is a degree of politics to what they do. They have a conservative constituency in developing nations that is not ready for that message. They do a ton of good work around the world and jeopardizing that for gay rights could be seen as a net loss at this time.

The Church does evolve its views over time however, they even changed their view on evolution, the day will come when they finally get around to doing the right thing.

As for cultural and social pressure and how it relates to the Church, it would be nice if the church would fall to the pressure to let women be equals and priests to marry. Society everywhere should be ready for that.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:44 AM on December 24, 2010


This reminds me of an analogy an Orthodox priest once made to me about why attending church was so important. He told me to think of the church as a house. Outside the house is a world full of demons. So long as you stay in the house, you're safe. But if you stay outside too long, a demon could attack you.

It struck me as very strange that God's supposed limitless power was confined to the walls of the church, but I see now that this Orthodox priest had even more faith in his god's power than the Catholic pope does, whose god is apparently powerless to stop the "permissive" and sordid secular world from creeping into the hearts of its own clergy.

Which is assuming he actually believes the pernicious influence of the outside world caused priests to abuse children, and that he's not just making a pathetic blame-shifting rationalization.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:46 AM on December 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


"In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children."

Here's some unsolicited advice from yours truly: ignore passive-voice statements. Translate them as "blah blah blah," and then say, "Well, that's meaningless, so I can ignore it." You'll throw some babies out with that bathwater, but most of them will be baby trolls.

WHO theorized it? A bunch of priests? An academic? Some guy selling porn? Most ideas have been theorized by somebody. It's been theorized that the world is flat. It's been theorized that I shit five-dollar bills.

Seriously, just ignore statements like that. They have no content -- just not-very-good rhetoric pretending to be content. Same goes for "there's a school of thought that..." and "it's been said that..."

Tell me who said it and what his qualifications are. Or shut up. You're wasting oxygen.
posted by grumblebee at 11:17 AM on December 24, 2010 [24 favorites]


Even though they are seen as moral leaders, there is a degree of politics to what they do.

To a degree?

They were out front promoting and working for the passage of the anti-gay Prop 8 in California. They have deep connections with the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).

Other overtly 'political' actions taken by these 'moral leaders':
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.

Religious Charity to End Adoption Program in Boston over Gay Rights.
These 'leaders' are actively involved in seeking legislation to impose their 'morals' on a pluralistic, secular society. I say: "Fuck 'em. Tax 'em to Hell."
posted by ericb at 11:54 AM on December 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Christopher Hitchens || The Great Catholic Cover-up
"Very much more serious is the role of Joseph Ratzinger, before the church decided to make him supreme leader, in obstructing justice on a global scale. After his promotion to cardinal, he was put in charge of the so-called 'Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith' (formerly known as the Inquisition). In 2001, Pope John Paul II placed this department in charge of the investigation of child rape and torture by Catholic priests. In May of that year, Ratzinger issued a confidential letter to every bishop. In it, he reminded them of the extreme gravity of a certain crime. But that crime was the reporting of the rape and torture. The accusations, intoned Ratzinger, were only treatable within the church's own exclusive jurisdiction. Any sharing of the evidence with legal authorities or the press was utterly forbidden. Charges were to be investigated 'in the most secretive way ... restrained by a perpetual silence ... and everyone ... is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office ... under the penalty of excommunication.' Nobody has yet been excommunicated for the rape and torture of children, but exposing the offense could get you into serious trouble. And this is the church that warns us against moral relativism! (See, for more on this appalling document, two reports in the London Observer of April 24, 2005, by Jamie Doward.)

Not content with shielding its own priests from the law, Ratzinger's office even wrote its own private statute of limitations. The church's jurisdiction, claimed Ratzinger, 'begins to run from the day when the minor has completed the 18th year of age' and then lasts for 10 more years. Daniel Shea, the attorney for two victims who sued Ratzinger and a church in Texas, correctly describes that latter stipulation as an obstruction of justice. 'You can't investigate a case if you never find out about it. If you can manage to keep it secret for 18 years plus 10, the priest will get away with it.'"
posted by ericb at 11:56 AM on December 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


I was referring to their internal politics, but I fully agree with you on taxing them to hell.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:57 AM on December 24, 2010


Catholics Are the New Mormons
"Catholics are strutting around boasting about their role in repealing Maine's gay marriage law. At least they're taking responsibility for it. Catholics are the new Mormons—which sucks for me because I was raised Catholic. Can I unbaptize myself? Can I do it in a hot tub? How many guys will it take?"
Maine's Catholic Church Donations To Anti-Gay Campaign Top $550,000.

Where Is The Catholic Church's Mystery Money For The Anti-Gay Campaign Coming From? The Mormons?

The Catholic Church Has Become An Anti-Gay Political Operation In Maine.

"Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in Maine continues to close churches while the numbers of both priests and parishioners continues to decline."*
posted by ericb at 12:05 PM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's been theorized that I shit five-dollar bills.

damn it, i knew i should have become a plumber
posted by pyramid termite at 12:21 PM on December 24, 2010


also, his idea that the roman empire protected peaceful coexistence between peoples is laughable

But it's part and parcel of the push the present Pope and political allies like Tony Blair have on at the moment - Wikileaks documents the Pope's representations to keep Turkey out of the EU and have the EU formally defined as a Christian super-state. Blair gads about explaining that atheists and proponents of the secular state are morally the same as suicide bombers.

There's a big push amongst a number of factions in the West who aren't horrified by those parts of the Islamic world where the government and religious structures are tightly coupled, but deeply, deeply envious. Pushing the idea that child rape is somehow the fault of the secular society is consistent with that objective, if not anything resembling reality.
posted by rodgerd at 12:35 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a tiny kernel of truth in what the Pope says here. Perhaps things were different in the US, but in Western Europe there used to be, at least up to the 80s, some sort of blindness towards child abuse, though it had little to do with liberal permissiveness. This is kind of forgotten today, but the death in 2008 of the French writer Tony Duvert, whose body of work consisted in a long, detailed apology of paedophilia, reminded people that 40 years ago a man who claimed to have had sex with hundreds of children could be celebrated as a prominent writer, including by the very conservative newspaper Le Figaro, and awarded a prestigious literary prize for a fantasy about child brothels. Another data point would be the light sentences received by the members of the "ballets roses" network, a scandal that briefly rocked the French Republic in the early 60s.
This should require an in-depth analysis, but it really looks that the society didn't think that child abuse was such a big deal, the way rape was not such a big deal, or the way bashing Arabs could have mitigating circumstances. This does not mean that the Church is not fully responsible for the cover-ups, but it certainly operated in societies that showed a certain leniency toward such crimes. The rape victim, adult or child, was still a potential suspect until recently, and rapists could get away with a slap on the wrist (There's a thorough discussion of French society's moving attitude to rape, including child rape, in Vigarello's A history of rape: sexual violence in France from the 16th to the 20th century).
posted by elgilito at 12:43 PM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


The National Catholic Reporter is the official unofficial paper of the Catholic left in the U.S. Here's their take on this particular piece of the awfulness. It's by no means a defense, but interesting since they understand the insider subtext of these pronouncements.
posted by TheShadowKnows at 12:50 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


This should require an in-depth analysis, but it really looks that the society didn't think that child abuse was such a big deal, the way rape was not such a big deal, or the way bashing Arabs could have mitigating circumstances.

Pretty sure having sex with a child was still considered a sin, though, and the Pope blaming "society" sounds like the kind of shallow buck-passing defense the Colombine shooters used.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:07 PM on December 24, 2010


And he blames society as a group or organization with the "1970s moral relativism" stuff, but he does not blame the church as an organization; in fact the church is portrayed as the victim.

the issue has never been "why do priests diddle little kids?" unless you were coming at it from an explicitly anti-catholic agenda. the problem has been the church's response which seems to have been to cover up abuses, protect and then try to rehabilitate abusive priests without any sense of responsibility for 'lapses.'

the whole question of "why" dodges the actual ethical issue which is: "what do you do in response to evil."
posted by ennui.bz at 1:09 PM on December 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


elgilito - That's some healthy revisionism you're going for there. And I hope you'll admit it's wild conjecture and cherry picking on your part rather than a careful sociological conclusion.

But even if we take it 100% as speculated - 100% - I find it completely unbelievable that anyone (other than select perverts) at the time would have found anything acceptable about a Catholic priest having sex with a young boy.

And even if we go the extra strange step and accept the idea that people in the 70s found it justifiable when such priests raped young children, the churches policy of simply moving those priests to a different church exposes it all as a lie. They knew it was happening. They knew it was wrong. And there was an internally discussed policy to cover it up. For decades.

I have no idea how you logically get from, "some French author was a celebrated pervert", to "people were ready to accept priests molesting children". Kinky French authors aren't compared to Catholic priests outside the context of perversion.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:20 PM on December 24, 2010


France does not equal Western Europe. Nor did it in the 1970's.
posted by tigrefacile at 1:26 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Did we all miss Roman Polanski somehow? As someone who was a sexually abused child herself in the 1970s, and who has written a lot about social attitudes toward the sexual exploitation of children, yes, I can say both from personal experience and from research that there was far more social tolerance for the sexual exploitation of children in that era, at least in Europe and North America, than there is now.

That said, it's completely ridiculous of the Pope to blame anyone but the sexually abusive priests and the hierarchy that covered up their crimes. Paul Shanley didn't sexually exploit teens because of NAMBLA; he joined NAMBLA because he was a sexual abuser of teens. The Archdiocese of Boston didn't cover up his crimes because of Roman Polanski; they covered up his crimes because they wanted to maintain control.

This is especially hypocritical on Ratzinger's part, since he is always prosing on about how the Catholic Church is a force for moral good, blah blah blah. If that were true, I would think that he would want to hold his employees past and present to a higher moral standard than movie directors or NAMBLA members or whoever.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:29 PM on December 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I suspect the pope is well intentioned, but it is painful that he constantly comes across as a stone cold blame dodging motherfucker. A good PR firm could have helped the church immensely. Hell, the church hiring a good PR firm would even help the victims of the church.

This may actually be a small step up from blaming homosexuals, which appears to be the default religious conservative take on child molestation scandals.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:35 PM on December 24, 2010


See also.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:36 PM on December 24, 2010


"what do you do in response to evil."

Which, sadly seems to be what a lot of people do: redefine evil based on whether it was your group that did the thing or a convenient outside group that did it.

At least modern satanism is open about gauging all things in light of self interest.
posted by yeloson at 1:37 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Go to Hell.

By none other then MeFi's own Uther Bentrazor
posted by bwg at 1:46 PM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's a tiny kernel of truth in what the Pope says here. Perhaps things were different in the US, but in Western Europe there used to be, at least up to the 80s, some sort of blindness towards child abuse, though it had little to do with liberal permissiveness.

I'm going to agree with this, in the broader sense that sexual attitudes in general were fucked up. See: Polanski. See: William Burroughs (fucking venerated, in spite of the fact that he got his kicks out of paying Arab boys to fuck each other in front of him - see his collected letters). See: rape within marriage being perfectly legal in all English-speaking countries (US States started criminalising it in the 1970s, the UK got there in 1991). See homosexuality being illegal (legalised in late 60s in England, Canada, but not till 80s in Scotland, New Zealand). Going further back, the age of consent was incredibly low in the 19th century (11 or 12 in many US states, younger in some European countries).

I've certainly seen news reports of girls who reported being sexually abused and were ignored by the police (this is in New Zealand).

It seems pretty clear to me that attitudes towards sexual abuse generally have changed, and improved, a lot in the past few decades. I wouldn't expect the Church to be any better than any other group of people really.

That said: Ratzinger really really needed to just take the damn blame and say 'terrible things were done, we are so sorry and we're going to do everything in our power to make recompense to the victims and punish the offenders'. I'm not holding my breath.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:07 PM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


"See: Polanski. See: William Burroughs"

No. I don't see. At all. Comparing Catholic priests to Polanski and Burroughs seems doable to you?
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:12 PM on December 24, 2010


Useful information in this article:

"The history of child molestation in the Catholic Church goes back centuries. The first official decree on the subject was written at the Council of Elvira, held around A.D. 305 near Granada, Spain. The precise history is complicated, but the council is traditionally believed to have set down 81 rules for behavior, the 71st of which is: "Those who sexually abuse boys may not commune even when death approaches." It was the harshest one-strike policy: If you're caught abusing a child, you are not only laicized, but permanently excommunicated—damned for all time."

So much for the Church not thinking sexually abusing children was bad until recently.

"The other major condemnation of clerical sex abuse was The Book of Gomorrah, completed by radical church reformer Father Peter Damian (a Benedictine monk, as it happens, who became a cardinal) in 1051. He appealed directly to the pope about the abuse of children, as well as consensual sex among clergy—in howling language: "O unheard of crime! O outrage to be mourned with a whole fountain of tears!... What fruitfulness can still be found in the flocks when the shepherd is so deeply sunk in the belly of the devil!""

So much for nonsense about the gosh-darn "permissive 70s" making the Church bad.
posted by williampratt at 2:18 PM on December 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


Comparing Catholic priests to Polanski and Burroughs seems doable to you?

Actually, comparing Catholic priests to William Burroughs is surprisingly doable in my head.
posted by fuq at 2:35 PM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Did we all miss Roman Polanski somehow?

You mean the guy who was tried and convicted, and escaped prison by fleeing the United States and holing up in countries that don't have extradition treaties for any crimes with the US? I'm not sure he's your great counter-argument.
posted by rodgerd at 2:42 PM on December 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


So, the Pope is a dues-paying member of NAMBLA?
Also, instead of think of the children, blame the children?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 2:49 PM on December 24, 2010


just had a long talk with my partner about this, debating the relative merits and negatives of the pope continually trying to save face, and failing, when there isn't any face left, as opposed to growing a new one and starting over. we debated the why he can't say that question, and eventually came to the conclusion that the most like explanation is a different question altogether. it's why he won't say it. and the most likely answer to that seems to me to be that he is one of these child-abusing, morally rotten, pathological assholes.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:10 PM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I imagine that this sort of thign is what a German discussing child molestation by a "permissive" 70s society is talking about.

Still evil and full of shit, but I think he's wrongly blaming his church's own evil on something real, instead of wrongly blaming it on something completely made up.
posted by edheil at 3:30 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's just about trying to blame the crazy liberal 70's. It's partly that, but even more important, it's a way of saying that this hasn't been going on for centuries. In such an old institution, with the pedophilia scandal now international, the obvious questions is "how long has this been going on for?"
posted by Edgewise at 4:05 PM on December 24, 2010


It wouldn't matter if there was man-boy sex in the streets in the 1970s. Sexually abusing a child has always been a sin in the eyes of the church, and a grave sin at that. The pope here is engaging in a dishonest argument about why this happened. It happened because it was allowed to happen, it was kept secret, and the church continues to fight any sort of transparency or accountability to this day.

With this statement of his, the pope conveniently dismisses the controversy and points his finger right back at us. We are to blame. We and the permissive society that we allowed to exist, which corrupted those pure-hearted priests.

The pope isn't "right" about this. He in fact couldn't be more wrong.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:08 PM on December 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


You mean the guy who was tried and convicted, and escaped prison by fleeing the United States and holing up in countries that don't have extradition treaties for any crimes with the US?

I mean the guy who was generally characterized as having been railroaded by the media of the US and Europe, and who gave interviews in mainstream media publications that said things like "Everybody wants to fuck young girls," yes.

I mean the various people, from Burroughs to Paul Bowles to Allen Ginsburg to a bunch of other less famous pervs who wrote and spoke about how awesome it was to hire child prostitutes, and the literati who celebrated how special that was.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:52 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I totally agree that the Pope is being dishonest and hypocritical, but everyone who is saying that the sexual exploitation of children by adults was taken as seriously in North America and Europe in the 1970s as it is in those places today is mistaken.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:53 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh please........

More like, "....but everyone who is saying that Catholic priests having sex with children was taken as seriously in North America and Europe in the 1970s as it is in those places today is mistaken...."

Right? The pope wants to make this about relaxed sexual attitudes among beatniks and hippies and borderline folk. It's not about that. Even marginally. Tying Polanski's sexual behavior to Catholic priests is a non-starter. Were they all such Polanski fans that they failed to read the Bible?
posted by y6y6y6 at 5:19 PM on December 24, 2010


The real truth is that it's the children's fault for tempting the priests to abuse. If they didn't fluant their tender, virgin backsides and purse their lips just so, Father Molester wouldn't have to fuck them!
posted by five fresh fish at 5:28 PM on December 24, 2010


I mean the guy who was generally characterized as having been railroaded by the media of the US and Europe,
I must have missed that general characterization. Perhaps we read/listen to different media?

and who gave interviews in mainstream media publications that said things like "Everybody wants to fuck young girls," yes.
Pedo says "Everybody wants to fuck young girls," so it must be true, at least of the '70s? I must be missing the point somewhere.
posted by coolguymichael at 6:43 PM on December 24, 2010


This is all a lot of balderdash. The abuse is not "in the past", and has certainly not been ended back in the 70's or 80's by the biggest pedophile ring in the history of the world.

Doesn't matter where you look in the world, wherever the RCC has spread its tentacles, there is evil, rape and abuse:

Chilean Abuse Charges Raise Questions About Church

"On Wednesday, a judge ordered that Father Karadima, 80, once an unmatched spiritual leader with several bishops and dozens of priests as disciples, be interrogated in relation to charges of sexually abusing at least four young parishioners.

Many in Chile expect the Vatican, now investigating the charges, to rule on Father Karadima’s case any day, possibly imposing sanctions from expulsion from the priesthood to a prohibition against contact with young people.

As the scandal widens over Father Karadima’s actions, it has raised damaging questions about why the Chilean church hid the allegations for so long. This conservative nation has been shaken since the matter became public this year, staining respected church figures who protected Father Karadima.

For years, church officials, including Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz, archbishop of Santiago, tried to shame accusers into dropping claims, refused to meet with them or failed to carry out formal investigations, according to interviews and court testimony.

The Catholic Church’s handling of abuse claims here offers a revealing look into how it has approached accusations against priests around the world. From Europe to the United States to South America, sexual abuse claims have caused a rippling crisis for the church, which for years tried to play down the concerns but more recently has shown a willingness to investigate and punish offending priests."

"The cardinal sent back a note, saying he was praying for Mr. Murillo, but failed to open a preliminary investigation. He chose not to do so, the cardinal said in an e-mailed response, because “unfortunately, I judged that the accusations were not credible at the time.”

But the Rev. Marcelo Gidi, a canon law expert, said that according to the Chilean church guidelines, a simple report of alleged abuses should have been enough. “Even if a church official hears of abuses through the news, there must be an investigation,” he said. “What should be judged as ‘credible’ enough to open an investigation is the good faith of the accuser, not the accusation itself.”"


On and on and on and on. They continue to cover up and will continue to cover up, because an organization that's fundamentally flawed structurally, cannot help but continue to exhibit its flaws. What it needs is radical reform - a reform so fundamental, that in effect the RCC needs to be abolished as an organization with far-ranging investigations and the pursuit of charges of criminal conspiracies. Many in the hierarchy of power, need to end up in prison. Lay Catholics need to have a chance to gather again, into a new Church, established along organizational principles where accountability would prevent any future criminal conspiracies. Most importantly, the secular state needs to treat the RCC like any other association, and no special outside the law status should be given to it. As it stands now, the unreformed RCC will continue to be a cancer on society.
posted by VikingSword at 10:42 PM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]



Pope Benedict refused to allow Vatican officials to testify in an investigation by an Irish commission into alleged child sex abuse by priests, according to U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, The Guardian newspaper reported.

Benedict was also reportedly furious when Vatican officials were called upon in Rome, The Guardian reported Saturday.

The Murphy Commission of Inquiry into sexual and physical abuse "offended many in the Vatican," according to a cable dated February 26, 2010.

"The Vatican believes the Irish government failed to respect and protect Vatican sovereignty during the investigations," it said.


The only way I can make that statement make any sense is that the Vatican regards not just the Vatican, but the Catholic Church itself, as well as all constituent Catholic churches, as sovereign and extraterritorial, with crimes committed by priests against Catholics as being purely internal affairs which are no business of other states.

This is not merely a matter of conspiracy, of the highest levels up to the leader of the organization being corrupt, but of the Church regarding itself as outside and above the laws of man. They are rejecting the very idea that members of the Church hierarchy are criminally liable, that they are subject to be prosecuted and punished when they commit crimes. This is not merely a crime- it is a challenge to the legitimacy of all laws other than those of the Church.

The failure to aggressively prosecute these crimes, in light of this, should be taken as an act of treason against the nations in which the crimes were committed, as it represents complicity in an assault not on individuals but on the very notion of laws.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:48 PM on December 24, 2010 [10 favorites]


1- I'm pretty sure he was giving a REASON, not an EXCUSE.

2- Regardless, popes are priests, priests are human, humans screw up. The church teaches what people should strive to be and try to avoid. The screwups and crimes of some priests don't invalidate the church's teachings.
posted by gjc at 10:50 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


because an organization that's fundamentally flawed structurally

Cite?
posted by gjc at 10:51 PM on December 24, 2010


because an organization that's fundamentally flawed structurally

Cite?


2000 years of history - enough? If an organization is unable to stop the systematic rape of children for 20 centuries, rape that's been covered up continuously for as long as the church has existed, qualifies as a structural flaw. It was not limited to rare cases, it was not limited to any particular era, or any particular region. It was present wherever there was a presence of the RCC. When it's on such a scale that virtually every parish (Peter Adriaenssens said cases of abuse, mostly involving minors, had been found in nearly every diocese) in a given country is involved ("Sexual abuse of children reached all parts of Belgium’s Roman Catholic Church"), you have a systemic, structural problem - this is the very definition of structural problems, or else organizational structural problems don't exist anywhere and the terms are meaningless.
posted by VikingSword at 11:05 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


God's will is ineffable. Kids, on the other hand, continue to be quite effable in those countries where the Church is growing fastest.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:59 PM on December 24, 2010


God's will is ineffable.

I could have a crack at effing it.
posted by telstar at 5:15 AM on December 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


No. I don't see. At all. Comparing Catholic priests to Polanski and Burroughs seems doable to you?

I wasn't doing that. I was saying that society's reaction to those who committed sexual abuse, whether of children or adults, was far more lax in the 70s than it is now. Burroughs and Polanski are examples of people whose acts of abuse were treated lightly. The police story I cited later on was an example of another institution covering up abuse. The Church wasn't the only one doing it, though it is deeply shameful and wrong that the church did (re-read my last paragraph).

I'll bow out now because there's no way anyone's mind is being changed by this, and Sidhedevil's posts subsequent to mine express things far more eloquently than I could hope to.
posted by Infinite Jest at 6:06 AM on December 25, 2010


I totally agree that the Pope is being dishonest and hypocritical, but everyone who is saying that the sexual exploitation of children by adults was taken as seriously in North America and Europe in the 1970s as it is in those places today is mistaken.

Well, like that post in askme illustrates, perhaps the current trend is toward unnecessary paranoia... so, yes, it's taken more seriously now, but that isn't always positive.

I think you could see it as a children's rights thing, because in the past it was left up to the guardians of children how they wanted to treat them - most obviously in terms of discipline, but on some level that extended to other behaviors - it was seen as the judgment of the guardian what was acceptable or appropriate, rather than a societal norm or absolute. BUt now it's widely agreed the kid has the right to (at least a basic degree of) socially defined proper treatment from the start, which trumps any right the parent has to "bring the kid up as he pleases"...
posted by mdn at 11:41 AM on December 25, 2010


Okay, i haven't read what he said, but it was: my parents remember that most 'sexual liberationists' didn't see paedophilia as any different from other kinds of free love. My mum also remembered hippies thus: 'i couldn't stand them, they all lived on other people's money, and kept getting the bus to mexico to buy drugs, sometimes they never came back. They never washed, and they stank, and they all had dozens of neglected children.' So free love plus no condoms. I suppose if you're high you probably don't remember to take the pill. She described some other unpleasant personal habits in detail too. The main difficulty in drug dealing seems to have been the hassle of spending weeks on the bus to mexico and back to san francisco, where my parents lived then.
She remembers trying to call police over a man who used to break his wife's bones and always being told off for calling about a domestic. Morality changes. As a comedian here said, 'at the start of the twentieth century, the church of england was anti gay rights and pro fox hunting, at the end it was pro gay rights and anti fox hunting. Doesn't look like the eternal word of God does it?'
Child abuse became an issue in the seventies, when 'women's groups' set up to discuss women's issues, women-only, discussing-yourself, personal-is-political, often ended up with people telling each other about their childhood abuse: then survivors' groups started.
I saw a documentary on survivors from abuse in the past, 40s/50s, and they had usually told their mothers and been supported and/or told their husbands and been supported, but this support stopped at the personal: mother never leaving you alone with father, or sleeping in your bed with you. It didn't affect the formal, legal framework.
posted by maiamaia at 2:14 PM on December 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


What a fuckwad.

This is why I hate organized religion. People like him ruin it. I'm guessing he was one of those who molested.
posted by stormpooper at 8:59 AM on December 26, 2010


Where are the Freemasons when you need them? We need a good ole' fashioned conspiracy theory Pope assassination.
posted by helmutdog at 11:22 PM on December 26, 2010


He'd just get replaced with another Pope who blames child molestation on homosexuals. That appears to be the narrative at the bishop cardinal level of the RCC.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:01 AM on December 27, 2010


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