“I am personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of the sins of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign… One comes to the conclusion that it is intentional, manipulated, that there is a desire to discredit the church.”
– Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (2002)
Pope Benedict XVI—formerly known as Joseph Ratzinger—has decided to call it quits. His failing health has led him to pack up his bags and hang up his pope hat. Ratzinger will be remembered as the Pope that navigated the Church through its child rape scandal and turned its ire against liberal doctrine and politics, including everything from unregulated markets and capitalism (it “marginalizes God”) to social and political acceptance of homosexuality (it’s “intrinsically disordered”) to technology, secularism , and “arbitrary freedoms.” His genocidally stupid anti-condom crusade went so far as to claim that their use “aggravates the problems” of AIDS (condoms reduce HIV incidence by 80 percent).
The Pope can freely badmouth capitalism, insult gays, and even give horrific health advice, if he so chooses, but protecting rapists and pederasts crosses a line no civilized society should tolerate. The unrepentant Ratzinger argued just two years ago that the cases must be seen in the “context of the times,” the sexual revolution. He theorized that that it was because “pornography regarding children” was “accepted as normal by society.” Maybe only by priests?
From 1981 to 2005, Ratzinger held the position of Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [see update]. He repeatedly failed to act and refused to change procedures to prevent future abuse. In fact, under the Pope’s administration, the Church fought every attempt to make public the criminal rape allegations made against their priests. Perhaps, the creepiest part of his failure to act (on behalf of victims) was how Ratzinger dealt with each case as a public relations problem or a “sin,” but never a crime.
Speaking in the UK in 2010, he told reporters, “It is difficult to understand how this perversion of the priestly mission was possible.” The evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that not only did Ratzinger understand it, he directly facilitated it.
The Pope’s Knowledge
Fortunately, courts have forced the Church to release thousands of documents, proving the existence of the Pope’s personal involvement in the protection of pedophile priests. As early as 1976, the Church commissioned a secret study that revealed as much as six percent of its clergy were currently engaged in sexual abuse (other estimates range from 9 percent to 7 percent to 5.6 percent, the Church’s estimate). “The National Conference of Catholic Bishops has had a summary of our study on file since September 1986, before any public statements were made about our study or its findings… we were the codifiers of problems well known in the inner circles of the Church,” Rev. Richard Sipe, the study’s coauthor, wrote in 1992.
[see update] Ratzinger protected Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, a Mexican priest who founded the Legionnaires of Christ, which was a highly profitable Church organization. Maciel gave large gifts to the Vatican during his decades long reign of terror, and after rejecting appeals for an investigation in 1998, Ratzinger told Father Alberto Athie that Maciel had brought many “benefits” to the church. His secretary replied to the nine victims, saying that they had reviewed the case, but considered the matter closed. After the case became public, he finally reopened it six years later in 2004, determining that Maciel had raped dozens of boys, and sentenced him to “prayer and penance” for his crimes (see picture right).
As Archbishop in Germany in 1980, Ratzinger approved “therapy” and relocation—the standard protocol during his reign as head of the cover-up efforts—for a pedophile priest who may have raped as many as 100 children. The Church initially tried to throw all the blame on a Ratzinger underling for the move, but confidential memos proved that his office was involved, and that he had presided over the therapy decision at a meeting in January 1980. He claims that he was not aware of the memo or the problem, and that it all happened without his knowledge, but Ratzinger’s micromanagement style doesn’t seem to align with that assessment. Plus, according to Vatican scholars, it was established Church protocol to not transfer a “problem priest” without Archbishop approval.
In 1982, Ratzinger—now in charge of the Church’s internal investigations for “confessional rape”—received a letter notifying him of the sexual crimes of Father Stephen Kiesle. Kiesle was already suspended and wanted to be defrocked, but Ratzinger failed to respond for three years before replying to his defrocking request. In a letter to the Bishop, he wrote that the crimes were of “grave significance,” but he should “consider the good of the Universal Church” and the priest’s “particularly … young age” of 38—never mind the young ages of the 11 and 13-year-old children he raped. Kiesle, whose early record was expunged by law enforcement, was eventually defrocked, and then continued his career as a rapist for the next couple decades.
Refusing to Make Changes
Despite his direct knowledge of the extent of the criminal activity within the Church, Ratzinger denounced the Church’s detractors. “I am personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of the sins of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign… to discredit the church,” he said in 2002. He used misleading data to understate the problem and thought the only problem was the pedophilia, but that was not the main problem. The main problem was the cover-up.
He played dumb at the very time that he drew up Church regulations to keep all rape accusations hidden from the public. He wrote in a 2001 letter to all Church bishops that all abuse cases “perpetrated with a minor by a cleric” are under Vatican (his) jurisdiction and are “subject to the pontifical secret,” which if violated can carry the risk of excommunication (eternal hellfire).
Despite his disingenuous, belated apologies, Ratzinger never repented in action. Consider the symbol of the scandal, Cardinal Bernard Law. Law presided over the rape of hundreds of children at the Boston archdiocese, which had already secretly settled at least 70 cases of rape (many were never made public) by 2002. It was the Boston Globe’s excellent reporting in 2002 that finally exposed the Church’s systematic cover-up and many other cases of abuse. He knew that one priest was raping boys since 1980 and still permitted transfer after transfer to avoid detection. In another case, he misled the San Bernardino diocese in order to transfer a known pedophile there. Ratzinger and his boss, John Paul II, harbored him in the Vatican, appointing him to head a basilica there in 2004, as calls for his arrest for obstruction of justice mounted.
This pope has not led any purging of those complicit in the Vatican’s decades-long rapist protection racket. Rather, the Pope is surrounded by them. He has allowed Ireland’s Sean Brady to continue to serve as cardinal despite having discovered in 2009 that Brady forced two boys to sign oaths of secrecy after they were raped and that Brady presided over a massive molestation regime that included at least 320 victims. The good cardinal blamed his decision to overlook the violations on “a culture of silence about this, a culture of secrecy” (no kidding).
The 2,500 page report of the Irish Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA) documents, in excruciating and horrifying detail, the decades of systematic torture, rape, and abuse experience by Irish children in the care of the church, including and especially orphans and the disabled. The unwillingness of the church to publicly acknowledge the problem resulted in many victims who, brave enough to come forward, were branded as liars and returned to their attackers to be beaten and raped again. Page after page after page, CICA recounts the sadistic tortures inflicted on helpless children, covered up by officials at all levels, even rumors of which should have sparked immediate criminal investigation. Instead, reports to the Vatican were met with stonewalling and silence.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano denounced the idea that Ratzinger protected pedophiles as “petty gossip” at Rome’s 2010 Easter Mass—a phrase Ratzinger himself used the week before. But the fact that Sodano would come to Ratzinger’s defense is more than appropriate. Sadano pressured Ratzinger to stop the investigation into Maciel in 1998 and was revealed by fellow Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn to have obstructed the investigation of Austria’s Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer. “The charges were ignored by the Church hierarchy,” reported the BBC in 1998, until the Austria priesthood begged the Vatican to take notice. Pope John Paul II finally sent Groer into “exile” where he still served as a church official until his death.
The list of men who were integral to the massive criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice, yet still occupy high-ranking positions in the Church could extend for several pages. Ratzinger fought public disclosure to his bitter end. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles finally lost its battle for secrecy this month, disclosing files on 124 rapist priests. Its cardinal, Roger Mahoney, who was never reprimanded by the Church despite shuttling pedophiles all over the country to avoid detection, will actually help elect the next pope.
“The days of cover up are over,” Cardinal Schoenborn said in 2010 when denouncing Sodano’s “petty gossip” remarks. But even with Ratzinger’s departure, it’s not at all clear that’s true. Not only will Cardinal Mahoney vote for the next Pope, but Cardinals Sodano and Brady as well. Moreover, the Pope has appointed more than half of the current cardinals, so it’s probably too soon to start counting on any major changes. Moreover, the Vatican will be immune from lawsuits and transparency, as long as the U.S. and E.U. continue to accept its bogus claim to be a “state” (based on Mussolini’s agreement with the Holy See) and defend its “sovereign” rights in court.
“I would have taken this to my grave,” Rev. Felix Alarcon explained in 2004. He said that without having been asked about it, he never would have addressed the sexual abuse he had received as a child at the hands of his priest, Marcial Maciel. How many others (100,000?) are out there, who understandably decline to come forward? We may never be certain, but we do know that Mr. Joseph Ratzinger bears more than a little moral responsibility for the brutal atrocities committed against them by the “shepherds” of his flock. The world should stand appalled.
Update: A New York Times article by Laurie Goodstein contributed to the original draft of this article. In it, she claimed that Ratzinger stopped the canonical trial of a Wisconsin priest who had molested 200 deaf children. This was a lie. The priest died before the trial finished. This casts doubt on two statistics she used in her report, and as we could find no independent confirmation for them, we have removed them from this post. She stated that, of “thousands” of priests accused of abuse, the Ratzinger/John Paul II administrations failed to defrock more than sixty percent that were reported to its office from 2001 to 2010, preferring to invoke “administrative or disciplinary provisions.” It’s not clear how often pederast priests were defrocked under Ratzinger.
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