Lest anyone think members of organized religions are above reproach, take note.
In his new book "God and His Demons," Michael Parenti confronts both Old and New Testaments saying:
"The god of the Holy Bible - so much adored in the United States and elsewhere - is ferociously vindictive, neurotically jealous, intolerant, vainglorious, punitive, wrathful, sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, sadistic and homicidal. As they say, it's all in the Bible. Beware of those who act in the name of such a god. Were we to encounter these vicious traits in an ordinary man, we would judge him to be in need of lifelong incarceration at a maximum-security facility. At the very least, we would not prattle on about how he works his wonders in mysterious ways."
In fact, 'biblical Jesus qualifies quite well as founder and forerunner of an intolerant Christianity."
Leaving child molestation implied but unaddressed, the Bible deals with sexuality in broader terms, including incest, adultery, homosexuality, and rape - children vulnerable to all except adultery.
Jesus also preached love your enemies and return good for evil, a message saying child molesters deserve forgiveness, not punishment, that's an open invitation for pedophiles, an epidemic now raging in the Catholic church but one with longstanding roots.
In his Pastoral Psychology Volume 45, No. 4, 1997 article titled, "Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church: An Historical and Contemporary Review," Paul Isely said:
"Although the recent revelations of clergy sexual abuse (13 years ago) suggest an unusual and recent epidemic among the Catholic church, the historical record suggests this difficulty has plagued the church over the centuries." Though times change, human nature doesn't, and when constrained by celibacy vows, it's expressed in other ways.
Isely said while criminal and civil cases successfully challenged church negligence, judicial decisions tend "not (to) hold churches (or the Vatican) liable for the sexual acts of their clergy."
Further, despite high-profile press coverage and litigation, earlier "research on priest offenders is virtually nonexistent, (and) claims of unprecedented treatment success with clergy offenders has not been supported by published data. Given the recidivism rates of sex offenders, the Catholic church should reconsider its policy of placing known sex offenders back into active ministry" - a longstanding practice by transferring them to another diocese or country, giving them a fresh crop of kids to abuse....and get away with it.
In 2004, John Jay College of Criminal Justice's (JJCCJ) Professor Karen Terry et al published a report commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, based on Catholic diocese surveys. It learned that under age 18 child molestation occurs in:
"more than 95% of dioceses and approximately 60% of religious communities. Of the 195 dioceses and eparchies that participated in the study, all but seven have reported" at least one case of an offending priest. "Of the 140 religious communities" surveyed, only 30 reported none, but not reporting them doesn't mean they didn't happen. Given the reluctance of victims to come forward, it's virtually certain many other incidences took place.
Covering the period 1950 - 2002, study findings included:
- diocese and eparchy allegations made against 4,692 priests and deacons "for incidents that took place while these men were serving in ecclesiastical ministry;"
- religious community allegations made against 647 priests; dioceses reported another 282 for a grand total of 929;
- all regions averaged from 3 - 6% of priests accused;
- over 80% of victims were boys, mainly aged 11 - 17;
- over 10,000 children were harmed;
- these estimates don't "describe the extent of the problem;" more important is the incidence of sexual abuse and how many priests were accused annually;
- the most prevalent abuse period was 1960 - 1984, lower subsequent numbers reflecting the declining percent of priests ordained annually; and
- most important is not knowing the number of abuse cases never reported and not reflected in survey results.
A Global Problem
Priest child abuse accusations occur globally, especially in Europe, North and Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines, areas with large Catholic populations. Cover-up is commonplace, Ireland one of many examples revealed by the 2009 Murphy Report stating:
"The Commission has no doubt that clerical child sexual abuse was covered up by the Archdiocese of Dublin and other Church authorities. The structures and rules of the Catholic Church facilitated that cover-up. (In addition), State authorities facilitated that cover-up by not fulfilling their responsibilities to ensure that the law was applied equally to all and allowing the Church institutions to be beyond the reach of the normal law enforcement processes."
The report held four archbishops culpable, but top Vatican officials share responsibility, including Pope Benedict XVI, his predecessor, Jean Paul II, and others before him - complicit for decades of cover-up to put Church interests ahead of child safety and well-being, the unacknowledged Church policy today.
Pope Benedict XVI
When he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2001, he opposed reform, John Allen saying in his biography titled, "Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican's Enforcer of the Faith:
"Ratzinger today believes that the best antidote to political totalitarianism is ecclesial totalitarian-ism. In other words, he believes the Catholic Church serves the cause of human freedom by restricting freedom in its internal life, thereby remaining clear about what it teaches and believes."
As cardinal and pope, he opposes liberal morality, including ordaining women, homosexuality, contraception, abortion, diluting top-down authority, and Vatican II's softening of traditional orthodoxy on salvation outside the Church, ecumenical relations, and liturgical rites, saying two forms functioning together is impermissible.
Nationwide Scandals in America
In America alone, scandals hit many dioceses, several declaring bankruptcy, including Portland, Oregon, Tucson, Spokane, Washington, Davenport, Iowa, Fairbanks, Alaska, San Diego, and Wilmington, Delaware. Boston considered it, but sold assets to avoid it. In July 2007, AP reported that the Los Angeles Archdiocese announced a $600 million dollar settlement to about 500 plaintiffs, "by far the largest payout in the church's sexual abuse scandal." The Catholic News Service at the time cited $660 million.
Other large payouts included $100 million in 2004 by the Orange, CA Diocese for over 90 claims, Boston agreeing to pay $85 - $100 million or more for 552 cases, Covington, KY a similar amount for 360 claims, and numerous smaller ones throughout the country to settle claims that keep mounting.
Earlier Scandals - Hidden Canadian and American Holocausts in Church-Run Schools
The grassroots Truth Commission into Genocide in Canada reveals the 1880s through the 20th century systematic rape, torture and murder of tens of thousands of Aboriginal children in church-run residential schools. According to its Secretary, Kevin Annett, a former United Church of Canada minister until fired and expelled for exposing these ugly truths:
"The government and the multinational corporations wanted the Indian land, and so native children from as young as three years old were forcibly taken from their families and sent to residential schools (including Catholic ones), where they underwent 'acculturation' programs. Between fifty and one hundred thousand ended up dead, murdered by the church and the government."
In charge were Catholic, Anglican, and United Church of Canada authorities complicit with the federal government.
In his book "Kill the Indian, Save the Man: The Genocidal Impact of American Indian Residential Schools," Ward Churchill documented America's hidden holocaust, begun under Captain Richard H. Pratt (a former prison warden), architect of US residential schools as superintendent of the prototype Carlyle, PA Indian Industrial School in 1879. His objective - "kill the Indian, save the man" in every child, but he and others did both for five generations.
Half the children didn't survive, the result of extreme cruelty, torture, beatings, systematic rape and other sexual abuse, malnutrition, disease, forced labor, no contact with family members or cultural traditions, and despair-driven suicides. Survivors were permanently scarred, one in 2000, Sharon H. Venne, saying:
"Genocide is genocide, no matter what form it takes and no matter what you call it."
Canada adopted America's model. In both countries, genocide never stopped. It's hidden on reservations plagued by broken promises; extreme poverty and neglect; low life expectancy; epidemic disease levels; high levels of alcoholism, suicide, infant mortality, unemployment, and incarceration; stolen resources; and lost lives in the name of progress - genocide as jurist Raphael Lemkin defined it:
"the destruction of a nation or of an ethnic group" that corresponds to other terms like "tyrannicide, homicide, infanticide, etc." (It) does not necessarily mean the destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings....It is intended....to signify a coordinated plan (to destroy) the essential foundations of the life of national groups" with the intent to eradicate or substantially weaken or harm them. "Genocidal plans involve the disintegration....of political and social institutions, culture, language, national feelings, religion, economic existence, personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and" human lives.
In legal terms, the 1948 Genocide Convention used the same definition, binding principles today, but systematically violated by America, Canada and numerous other nations with impunity.
Milwaukee - Epicenter of Today's Crisis
On March 26, New York Times writers Laurie Goodstein and David Callender headlined, "For Years, Deaf Boys Tried to Tell of Priest's Abuse" saying:
About 200 boys at Milwaukee's St. John School for the Deaf "were deaf, but they were not silent" about decades of Father Lawrence C. Murphy's abuse. Then and later "They told other priests. They told three archbishops of Milwaukee. They told two police departments and the district attorney. They used sign language, written affidavits and graphic gestures to show what exactly (he) did to them. But their reports fell on the deaf ears of hearing people."
We now know then Cardinal Ratzinger got letters about him in 1996 from Milwaukee's Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland, saying the deaf community needed "a healing response from the Church." He did nothing, "then equivocated, and when Father Murphy died in 1998, he died a priest" instead of in prison where caught and convicted lay felons are sent.
Marquette University Professor of Moral Theology Daniel C. Maguire's March 28 consortiumnews.com article headlined "Why Pope Benedict Must Resign," saying:
Despite a "lifetime of child rape, (Father Murphy was buried) with full priestly honors. Pope Benedict XVI now faces a major hypocrisy test. He has been accepting resignations from bishops around the world who failed to take action against priest rapists. It is now no longer in dispute that he himself is guilty of the same criminal negligence...."
A secular official would be forced to resign and face criminal prosecution. His ecclesiastical obligation is to do it. "He has no moral right to hide behind Vatican walls." Today's "perfect storm" includes the pope, "a Vatican cardinal, two members of the Papal Apostolic Delagature, three Milwaukee archbishops, and (what's usually overlooked) the collusion of the local police and District Attorney."
Except for the press, especially the Milwaukee Journal, perhaps none of this would have come out. Yet the Vatican remains in damage control, AP reporting on April 1 it's "lash(ing) out against sex abuse coverage," in particular The New York Times for some rare journalistic integrity, notably on Laurie Goodstein's March 24 article headlined, "Vatican Declined to Defrock US Priest Who Abuses Boys," saying:
"Top Vatican officials - including the future Pope Benedict XVI - did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church...."
Instead of acting, Ratzinger and other officials' "highest priority was protecting the church from scandal," no matter how many boys were harmed. Better them than the church, the way it's been for centuries.
On April 2, Goodstein and Susan Saulny headlined, "Exiled Pedophile Priest May Have Continued Abuse," saying:
According to interviews with victims and new church documents, Father Murphy "also used his family's lakefront cottage as a lure in his sexual advances, bringing youths from the school (and the Northwoods region) into his home beginning at least in the early 1960s."
Times spokesperson Diane McNulty added:
"The allegations of abuse within the Catholic church are a serious subject, as the Vatican has acknowledged on many occasions. Any role the current pope may have played in responding to (or covering up) those allegations over the years is a significant aspect of this story," and a serious black mark on his name and position as head of the church.
Yet as Professor Maguire states:
"....the Vatican is still engaged in cover-ups of these crimes by attacking the press, trying to kill the messenger" and conceal a scandal that's a "public relations disaster." Calling criminal priests "only a few bad apples - and the failure to report the crimes to law enforcement - is the (real) scandal," especially with a culpable pope.
Protecting the church, not its victims, is a criminal offense. Enforced celibacy (a "gift of the Holy Spirit") is also at issue for letting perversions replace natural sex and cause harm to thousands of young children, not priests who prey on them without accountability or public penance for their crimes. Nor Ratzinger, as cardinal or pope, for directing cover-ups from the top and getting bishops to order kids to keep quiet or be excommunicated.
When he headed the influential Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the church's department charged with promoting Catholic teachings on morals and matters of faith, Ratzinger was nicknamed "God's pit bull" for his role as enforcer. He cracked down on liberal challenges to conservative Catholicism, and in 2001, sent an updated version of the notorious 1962 Crime of Solicitation, asserting strict instructions to cover up sex scandals. It was so secret that bishops were ordered to keep it locked in a safe at all times, and say nothing.
Ratzinger also introduced a new Exclusive Competence principle, ordering all child abuse allegations handled by Rome. Former Vatican lawyer Father Tom Doyle explained it saying:
"What you have here is an explicit written policy to cover up cases of child sexual abuse by the clergy and to punish those who would call attention to these crimes by the churchmen. When abusive priests are discovered, the response has been not to investigate and prosecute but to move them from one place to another. So there's total disregard for the victims and for the fact that you are going to have a whole new crop of (them) in the next place. This is happening all over the world."
Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, Goes Public
On April 3, AP reported Williams (speaking out for the first time on Ireland's Roman Catholic church scandal), telling the BBC (for airing April 5 on its "Start the Week" program):
For "an institution (to be) so deeply bound into the life of a society, suddenly....losing all credibility - that's not just a problem for the church, it is a problem for everybody in Ireland, I think." He added that church officials protected child abusers for decades in many countries, choosing to sacrifice children to preserve their credibility.
International Criminal Court (ICC) Authority to Prosecute the Pope
The ICC is empowered to prosecute individuals for crimes of genocide, war, against humanity, aggression, abortion, homosexuality, and sexual slavery, very likely including pedophelia. As a result, according to ICC authority, Brigham Young Professor Richard G. Wilkins, offending priests and church officials are liable to criminal prosecutions under the Court's mandate, including the pope.
The ICC complements national judicial systems, but may act when they don't. Some experts believe the Vatican is a state, the pope its head. Others like noted jurist, UN Justice Council member, and president of the Special Court in Sierre Leone, Geoffrey Robertson, told the AP on April 3:
"The Vatican is not a state. It was a construct of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini."
Robertson believes it's time to challenge the pope's immunity, Britain's the place, and said so in a London Guardian April 2 article headlined, "Put the pope in the dock."
"Legal immunity cannot hold. The Vatican should feel the full weight of international law. (Pedophelia is) a crime against humanity. The anomalous claim of the Vatican to be a state - and of the pope to be a head of state and hence immune from legal action - cannot stand up to scrutiny."
Robertson's argument is powerful, expert, important, and convincing, and imagine the possibilities if high church officials and the pope are prosecuted - long indeed though the odds.
Their predecessors aside, might George Bush, Dick Cheney, all culpable Bush administration officials, Barack Obama and all of his, then find themselves in the dock for high crimes so severe and so many it would take volumes of indictment material to list and explain, and perhaps years for full accountability, let alone for a start to make equitable restitution.
A Final Comment
Because this scandal is longstanding, widespread, and in the open, the church worries most about losing its moral authority. Its main concern should be top to bottom reform, new leadership, and a changed mindset that compromised priests and complicit officials, including the pope, be fully accountable for crimes demanding punishment.
No longer are cover-ups, ducking the issue, defending the indefensible, forgiveness, or immunity permissible, nor should judicial authorities allow them.
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