They are hysterically trying to pin everything on the Pope, when in fact he is almost completely innocent. The great crimes and misjudgments took place in the local archdioceses, primarily liberal archdioceses who are on the spot and are responsible in every way for the actions of their priests. The Pope has a church of a billion people to look after, and he cannot be expected to know everything about every priest. It’s just a fact. Even now, a staff of 40 people in the Vatican is supposed to watch out for 400,000 priests.
This is not to say that the Vatican is blameless. They took too long to figure out what was going on. However, this latest series of stories is pretty blatantly an attempt to shift the responsibility of the enormous troubles of the local, liberal bishops to the Vatican. Notice the dog that is not barking – they don’t really have much in the way of recent cases, so they have mined cases from 30 years ago for things to throw at the Pope.
The reason they don’t have much in the way of recent cases is because the Pope has been responsible for dealing with this matter since 2001, and has been very successful in fighting it. In fact, from hundreds or thousands of cases per year at its height when the liberal bishops were in charge, there were only six credible cases of priestly abuse last year.
For some reason, the media wants you to ignore the people who really committed the crimes, and focus all your anger on the Pope. There is a reason for this.
In short, the media prefers that the liberal faction take over the Catholic church. Pope Benedict is appointing new, conservative bishops who will not stand for any sort of abuse, and he is getting rid of the old liberal bishops in America who stood by while the abuse was going on.
That’s why they are going after him. They are turning it around on him, making it look like he is the problem, when in fact, it is very clear that the liberal bishops were the ones who encouraged this problem, allowed the problem to fester and grow, hid the problem and moved priests around.
It’s as if they tried to put Elliot Ness in jail for the crimes of Al Capone. Everyone agrees that Pope Benedict has done more than any one man to deal with child abuse in the church.
Here is a short summary of the media’s case against the Pope:
1) In 1977, when the experts all said that child abusers could be healed by psychiatric treatment, and they did little harm to their victims, he approved a request that a priest from another diocese be allowed to come to the big city of Munich to get psychological treatment. At this time, no one in the world, let alone the church, understood the effects of teenager abuse. Seven months after the Pope left for Rome, and unbeknownst to the Pope, another priest allowed the man back into a parish. All evidence shows the other priest, Father Gruber, made all of the bad decisions, and there is no evidence the Pope knew anything about it. When the man was later convicted of abuse in 1986, the courts gave him a slap on the wrist – 3 years of probation. The truth is, everybody was lax on this matter at that time.
2) In 1974, a priest in Milwaukee abused a hundred deaf children. He was removed from all contact with children, he was told he would have no more priestly duties, and was told to go home to Superior Wisconsin. The local police were aware of the problem, but did nothing. The local bishop did not inform the Vatican. In 1996, almost 20 years later, his activities are first reported to the Vatican, his archbishop asks to defrock him. The trial is started, but the man is dying. Because he is dying, someone in the office run by Cardinal Ratzinger, the future pope, allows the trial to be suspended, because it is likely the man will not be able to participate meaningfully. 4 months later the abuser is dead.
Interestingly, the local bishop in this case was gay, was constantly fighting with the Vatican, wanted to revamp the church to approve of homosexuality, had a secret gay lover, paid off said gay lover with $450,000 of church funds, called abuse victims “squealers”, was reprimanded by the Wisconsin supreme court for his behavior, and said that sometimes those kids are awfully aggressive sexually. Yet, in these recent stories, the media portrayed Archbishop Weakland as the brave hero, fighting the Vatican to get abusers dealt with. When he recently wrote a book, the New York Times wrote a glowing review of it, ignoring most of his sordid behavior.
3) In 1978, in Oakland, a priest abuses several kids. the local bishop removes him from all contact with children, he is removed from all priestly duties. He is reported to the police, and is tried and convicted. He is given no jail time at all, because in 1978, people don’t understand the severity of the effects on the children. He serves three years of probation, during which he works in an office job. After his probation is over, the guy wants out of the priesthood, and he wants to be able to marry in the church. He petitions Rome to be allowed out of the priesthood in 1981. The way the request looks to Rome, at first it just looks like he is a normal priest who wants out. Then, after several more letters, finally they have a sentence or two obliquely saying he did something with kids. Then, later on, when the Vatican does not act fast enough, they are more explicit, saying the guy “took liberties” with kids. Finally, at some point they come right out and say it. Since in the early 80’s no one there has heard much about child abuse, there is no one place in the Vatican for these requests to go, it bounces between several departments. Then, the Vatican says they lost the file, could they send the letters again. In fact there is no “file”, only about 4-5 letters, none of which go into great detail. Ratzinger is not in charge of the child abuse cases for the Vatican, and won’t be until 2001. However, somehow the case makes its way to him, probably not until 1985. At that point, he requests more information. In 1987, he defrocks the guy. Critics complain about the two year wait. But in fact, the guy had been removed from all contact with children, and was removed from all priestly duties, and had been turned over to the police, and had been convicted and had served his term of probation. So from the Vatican’s view, there was no rush to grant his request to leave the priesthood, it was merely a technical matter.
The complicating fact here is that the local bishop, a man now hailed by the media as a hero, let the abuser back in contact with kids in 1985, unbeknownst to the Vatican. He served as a youth lay minister in a school. However, the teachers there wrote the local archbishop, telling him to get the sexual abuser out of there. The local archbishop did nothing. This local archbishop was later accused of doing nothing in several cases of child abuse. Now, it looks like somebody wants to shift his problems in the 80’s to the Pope.
This priest abuser did abuse again, in 1995, long after being removed from the priesthood. And he was convicted for it in 2004. Yet the media stories tend to blur everything together and imply that he abused again because the Vatican did not defrock him. Nothing could be further from the truth.