29 March, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI's knowledge of alleged priestly abuse of minors is not new

by Jorge Reyes

There is a palpable level of frustration for the Catholic faithful with the latest allegations of child abuse by Catholic priests not only in the United States but worldwide.

What's interesting to observe is that unlike the previous Pope John Paul II, this time around the heat may be proving too damaging for the current pope, Pope Benedict XVI.

While opening Holy Week celebrating Palm Sunday, he made vague references to the controversy brewing over how much he actually knew about a priest accused of molesting deaf boys in the United States while he was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and if he personally did anything to cover it up.

Revelations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, again, is nothing new.

A 2004 John Jay Report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is illuminating. The report was based on secret interviews done with US priests accused of child abuse and with their alleged victims. Between 1950 and 2002, there were 10,667 allegations of child sexual abuse. 3,300 of these were not investigated because the priests in question had died. Of the remaining 7,700 accusations, 6,700 were substantiated against 4,392 priests. However, according to the report, only 384 of these priests were prosecuted, 252 convicted, and 100 sent to prison.

The total number of allegations and the miniscule total number of successful prosecutions are astonishing. While the numbers tell only one side of the story, implied is the level of secrecy, cover-ups and civil settlements made by the Catholic church to its victims.

Again, some more numbers may be in order.

To give but one example. Between 1992 and 2002, the Boston Globe reported that the Archdiocese of Boston secretly settled child abuse claims for at least 70 priests. That is only part of a much larger, and tragic, story for dioceses in the United States have paid more than 2.6 billion dollars to settle out of courts cases stemming from priestly impropriety with minor boys.

But back to Joseph Ratzinger, or Pope Benedict XVI.

Absent from all the recent scandals about how much he may have personally done to cover-up allegations of priestly abuse while he was cardinal and archbishop is a 2005 case from Texas that has received almost no media attention these days.  (In fact, in 2005 in didn't receive much attention either, which is a shame.) 

Juan Carlos Patino-Arango was a seminarian who, while studying in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houaston in Texas, was accused of molesting three boys. Eventually the case was settle though the seminarian was indicted on a felony charge of indecency with a child.

If you think that's all, you're in for a surprise because for the first time in recent history, Joseph Ratzinger, our beloved Pope Benedict XVI, was personally named and accused in the lawsuit of conspiring to cover up the molestation charges.

Lawyers for the Pontiff immediately went into action, asking then President George W. Bush to grant the pope diplomatic immunity because, as the memo says, he is a head of state. Bush granted the immunity.

At issue, I think, is not that a head of state be granted diplomatic immunity, but that once again the pope seemed to be so close to the secrecy and conspiratorial proceedings in child abuse cases that has damned the Catholic Church in the eyes of many.

Attorney Daniel Shea, who identified his clients in legal documents as John Does I, II, III, told newspaper reports that then Cardinal Ratzinger, who at that time was heading the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was personally involved in the conspiracy to hide the crime of the seminarian. The attorney pointed out to a letter written in 2001 by the cardinal to bishops asking them that during church proceedings of sexual abuse molestation cases, to make handle them with “pontifical secret.”

Which brings us to the present church scandals of which the now Pope Benedict XVI seems to be embroiled in. How could he not have known about the abuses perpetrated by priests against children?  I ask this question not to jump on the bandwagon of the many vocal critics of the pope in particular or of the Catholic Church more generally.  I think the problem is more endemic than that since it is a structural one, where secrecy above transparency is a cardinal rule; where millenia of medieval, scholastic church dogma trumpets modernism; and where priests, all of whom pledge to be celibate, seem to find a escapist mechanism to deal with their repressed sexuality by overwhelmingly abusing defenseless boys.

Until the church makes badly-needed changes to its modus operandi, we will continue to hear the sporadic  allegations of child abuse stemming from and by an institution that can least afford to sustain such stigma in modern times.  How much the Catholic Church can continue to operate without doing irreparable damage to its legitimacy at a time when all these scandals seem to be so close to the see of power itself is one to observe with an admixture of fascination and disbelief from now on. 

* John Doe I, John Doe II and John Doe III v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Glaveston-Houston, et al. Civill Action No. H-05-1047, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas Houston Division.


mimilove188 said...

I can't believe the Pope wears Red Prada shoes!

Anonymous said...

They're all a bunch of Queens, inverted homosexuals. That's why they love boys, hardly girls.

Anonymous said...

How can the pope not have personal knowledge of these pedophiles? Of course he knows. That's why the Catholic Church has tried to silence these kids with hush money for decades.