The Trial of the Catholic Church: A Tale of Moral and Financial Bankruptcy
The potential financial bankruptcy of the Catholic Church is rivaled only by the apparent moral bankruptcy reaching from parish priests all the way to the Papal offices of the Vatican. Tens of thousands of cases have emerged in dozens of countries from Asia to Europe and from Australia to the Americas. No country seems immune, and the vulnerability of the victims seems only contingent on the number of clergy.
Over the past week, stories have surfaced of sexual abuse that was actively hidden and aided by the current Pope while he was archbishop of Germany. Joseph Ratzinger, archbishop of Munich and Freising, now Pope Benedict XVI , ignored repeated warnings regarding a priest accused of sexually abusing boys. While Ratzinger was in charge, the accused priest, Peter Hullerman, was briefly transferred to Munich for therapy.
Dr. Werner Huth, a psychiatrist from Munich, told the New York Times; “I said, For God’s sake, he [Hullerman] desperately has to be kept away from working with children… I was very unhappy about the entire story.” His warnings, which he states were repeated to Benedict’s senior aids, went unheeded(1). Soon after, he was allowed to return to parish work and interact with children. In 1986, Hullermann was finally convicted of sexual abuse yet was still allowed to continued working with altar boys. He was finally suspended, just this month.
As in Boston, where Cardinal Bernard Law was caught actively lying about what he knew, and what he did to cover up the abuse, the Catholic Church is rallying in protection of the Pope, directing attention instead on underlings, and treating the institutionalized pedophilia as isolated and unfortunate incidents(2). Pope Benedict XVI has admitted that the Church has been “severely shaken” by repeated allegations of high-level cover-ups of sexual abuse(3) ,but his recent letter of apology to Irish victims, released March 20, 2010, was poorly received and deemed inadequate(4). The letter promises an internal Vatican investigation and a year of penitence.
Adding insult to injury, Bishop Brennan, of County Wexford, Ireland, asked Irish Catholics to help pay the 10 mil Euro ($13.5 mil) settlement to some of Ireland’s more than fifteen thousand abuse victims. The Church admits complicity in the cases having actively hidden information from authorities for more than thirty years in order to protect its priests from prosecution and the Church from embarrassment(5). As the catholic Church is very involved and influential in Irish politics and governance, Irish authorities were also culpable in the cover-up and depraved indifference to the continued abuse of the children.
In one such case, Father Bill Carney, accused of abusing thirty two named victims and suspected of many more, is still free(6). Named in the Murphy report, Ireland’s official report into the sexual abuse allegations, Father Carney pleaded guilty to two cases of sexual assault in 1983 before being allowed to continue as a priest and predator, victimizing the youth of his parish for several more years. The Murphy Report states that the Church handling of the situation was nothing short of catastrophic with no obvious concern for the welfare of children. In addition, there was no attempt by the Garda, the Irish Police, to arrest him because the Catholic Church has so much power and influence in Irish government. The lack of separation between Church and State limited the peoples right to investigate and prosecute. In 1992 the Church finally acted defrocked Mr. Carney. Mr. Carney refused to comply with this judgement. The Catholic Church paid him 30,000 pounds to go away quietly.
These revelations follow closely on the heels of massive scandals in Canada, and most famously, the United States Boston Diocese. While the media coverage of the Boston diocese debauchery put the first cracks in the wall of protection that the Church provided its pedophiles, a multitude of cases around the world, and scores of others throughout the United States, including over a thousand in Los Angeles alone that cost the Church $660 mil in settlements, are tearing down those walls and eroding the very foundation of the institution. Receiving less attention in the media are recent cases in at least nineteen other countries spanning the globe with victims numbering well into the tens of thousands, thousands of which are in Australia alone(7).
Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, The Czech republic, France, Haiti, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, The Philippines, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom are all among the other countries trying to salvage the lives of so many of their youth destroyed by the systemic and institutionalized atrocities perpetrated by the Catholic Church(8). These are not isolated incidents. The actions of the Church have been purposeful and coordinated in perpetuating the illegal actions of their colleagues. The complicity, at all levels of the administration, has been criminal rather than only immoral and unethical. They have acted with depraved indifference to the victims while aiding and abetting the perpetrators before, during and after the execution of the offenses.
With the number of victims equal to the casualties of an international conflict, the war waged on the children of the world by the Catholic Church has been utterly one sided without any chance of defense by the innocent and hapless victims. With hundreds of additional allegations surfacing in Europe since the start of the year, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said the scandal of abuse in the country’s churches and schools posed a “major challenge” that could be resolved only through a full and frank inquiry into all cases(9).
With the vast number of repeated sexual abuse cases reaching epidemic proportions, the unyielding anti-contraception and anti-abortion doctrine of the Church, affective not only in spreading deadly diseases but also in increasing the number of children, may appeal to a hidden agenda rather than simply doctrinal dictate. In the Philippines alone, a predominantly Catholic nation, hundreds of priests have committed sexual abuse against innumerable children in their care. In one case alone, twenty priests from a single parish were found guilty of such crimes(10). Twenty priests in one parish! It is difficult to accept that others in the institution were not aware while this was happening on such a large scale. According to the record, the Church offered the Filipino victims an apology with a promise that it will never happen again, much like in the case of Ireland, Canada, America etc. Despite the hundreds of church officials implicated, only a few dozen actually face any charges.
The abuses are not only committed by priests, bishops and cardinals. Horrific acts of physical and psychological abuse, as well as sexual abuse have been committed by nuns, in addition to their complicity in hiding and covering up the actions of others. Homes for unwed mothers and orphans are rife with reports of inhumane cruelty, with ritualized debasing of the defenseless inhabitants(11).
Increasing numbers of disenchanted Catholics have responded to the Vatican’s growing crisis of credibility by ‘deregistering’ from the Church. A growing number of individuals are joining a movement of ex-Catholics, called Count Me Out, who have chosen to leave what is swiftly becoming a defunct and discredited organization. The lack of responsible leadership, and demonstrated depravity of its agents, has crushed the once oppressive authority of the now archaic institution and annihilated its moral capital(12). “The ordinary person is concerned about the culture of secrecy, something that has been confirmed by the drip, drip of revelations. People will be less inclined to listen to the church on a wide range of social issues now,” says Lorcan Price, a practicing Catholic(13).
Thus far, the Catholic Church has played the role of co-victim, aligning themselves with the abused against the pedophiles they worked so hard to protect. “We are visibly seeking to heal our wounds caused by sexual abuse and moving forward as promised,” stated Bishop W. D. Gregory after the $85 mil Boston settlement in 2003 (14). The recent letter from Pope Benedict to the Irish victims was seen as focusing too narrowly on lower-ranked Irish priests and neglected the responsibility of the Vatican in the scandal(15). Even while dealing with recent sexual scandal within the very walls of the Vatican, there seems to be a concerted effort to avoid and evade(16).
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on settlements in the small fraction of cases that have been adjudicated, and perhaps billions on out of court settlements in order to keep the Churches proclivities quiet. Members are leaving the Catholic Church in droves, taking their tithes and offerings with them, and the Church faces crippling financial burdens as charges and civil suits mount world wide at an unprecedented rate. The financial impact that the Church has struggled with over past settlements could be minuscule in comparison to the demands for justice and compensation just now being discovered.
With the recidivism rate of sex offenders well above 50% (17) a conservative estimate due to the lack of reporting, trust in the institutions rehabilitation is in serious doubt. As members of the clergy have been repeated relocated internationally, and actively protected by the Church administration, responsible action dictates that any activities involving interaction between officials of the Catholic Church and minors of either gender should be suspended indefinitely pending the full prosecution and settlement of all reported cases globally. Public funding of any such programs operated by the Catholic Church must also be suspended until such an investigation and prosecution has been completed.
The Catholic Church is not in decline, it has fallen off a cliff. It is a cliff of its own design, but it is a cliff none-the-less. The people of the world, their political representatives, their law enforcement and their courts, must execute their responsibilities and demand full accountability and compensation from not only the individual perpetrators of these heinous crimes but the entire organization, including the Vatican, that both protected and aided these pedophiles. Letters of apology, hush money, and empty promises will no longer suffice. The Catholic Church, and Pope Benedict IVI, must stand trial.
1 – http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/03/19/earlyshow/main6314082.shtml
2 – http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2010/03/21/abuse_coverup_must_have_consequences/
3 – http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/03/19/earlyshow/main6314082.shtml
4 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ukVQli1HTE&feature=player_embedded
5 – http://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/parishioners-asked-to-help-fund-sex-abuse-compensation-448349.html
6 – http://www.atheistmedia.com/2010/03/bbc-newsnight-how-paedophile-priest-was.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+AtheistMedia+(Atheist+Media)
7 – http://brokenrites.alphalink.com.au/nletter/bccrime.html
8 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholic_sex_abuse_cases_by_country
9 – http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/mar/17/catholic-church-abuse-germany-ireland