The Pope Is Not Above the LawThe crimes within the Catholic Church demand justice.
By Christopher Hitchens
Pope Benedict XVI . Click image to expand.Pope Benedict XVI One by one, as I predicted, the pathetic excuses of Joseph Ratzinger's apologists evaporate before our eyes. It was said until recently that when the Rev. Peter Hullermann was found to be a vicious pederast in 1980, the man who is now Pope had no personal involvement in his subsequent transfer to his own diocese or in his later unimpeded career as a rapist and a molester. But now we find that the psychiatrist to whom the church turned for "therapy" was adamant that Hullermann never be allowed to go near children ever again. We also find that Ratzinger was one of those to whom the memo about Hullermann's transfer was actually addressed. All attempts to place the blame on a loyal subordinate, Ratzinger's vicar general, the Rev. Gerhard Gruber, have predictably failed. According to a recent report, "the transfer of Father Hullermann from Essen would not have been a routine matter, experts said." Either that—damning enough in itself—or it perhaps would have been a routine matter, which is even worse. Certainly the pattern—of finding another parish with fresh children for the priest to assault—is the one that has become horribly "routine" ever since and became standard practice when Ratzinger became a cardinal and was placed in charge of the church's global response to clerical pederasty.
So now a new defense has had to be hastily improvised. It is argued that, during his time as archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany, Ratzinger was more preoccupied with doctrinal questions than with mere disciplinary ones. Of course, of course: The future Pope had his eyes fixed on ethereal and divine matters and could not be expected to concern himself with parish-level atrocities. This cobbled-up apologia actually repays a little bit of study. What exactly were these doctrinal issues? Well, apart from punishing a priest who celebrated a Mass at an anti-war demonstration—which incidentally does seem to argue for a "hands-on" approach to individual clergymen—Ratzinger's chief concern appears to have been that of first communion and first confession. Over the previous decade, it had become customary in Bavaria to subject small children to their first communion at a tender age but to wait a year until they made their first confession. It was a matter of whether they were old enough to understand. Enough of this liberalism, said Ratzinger, the first confession should come in the same year as the first communion. One priest, the Rev. Wilfried Sussbauer, reports that he wrote to Ratzinger expressing misgivings about this and received "an extremely biting letter" in response.
So it seems that 1) Ratzinger was quite ready to take on individual priests who gave him any trouble, and 2) he was very firm on one crucial point of doctrine: Get them young. Tell them in their infancy that it is they who are the sinners. Instill in them the necessary sense of guilt. This is not at all without relevance to the disgusting scandal into which the Pope has now irretrievably plunged the church he leads. Almost every episode in this horror show has involved small children being seduced and molested in the confessional itself. To take the most heart-rending cases to have emerged recently, namely the torment of deaf children in the church-run schools in Wisconsin and Verona, Italy, it is impossible to miss the calculated manner in which the predators used the authority of the confessional in order to get their way. And again the identical pattern repeats itself: Compassion is to be shown only to the criminals. Ratzinger's own fellow clergy in Wisconsin wrote to him urgently—by this time he was a cardinal in Rome, supervising the global Catholic cover-up of rape and torture—beseeching him to remove the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who had comprehensively wrecked the lives of as many as 200 children who could not communicate their misery except in sign language. And no response was forthcoming until Father Murphy himself appealed to Ratzinger for mercy—and was granted it.
And in Kentucky, people are suing to hold the Vatican responsible:
VATICAN CITY – Dragged deeper than ever into the clerical sex abuse scandal, the Vatican is launching a legal defense that it hopes will shield the Pope from a lawsuit in Kentucky seeking to have him answer attorneys' questions under oath.
Court documents obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press show that Vatican lawyers plan to argue that the Pope has immunity as head of state, that American bishops who oversaw abusive priests weren't employees of the Vatican, and that a 1962 document is not the "smoking gun" that provides proof of a cover-up.
The Holy See is trying to fend off the first U.S. case to reach the stage of determining whether victims actually have a claim against the Vatican itself for negligence for allegedly failing to alert police or the public about Roman Catholic priests who molested children.
The case was filed in 2004 in Kentucky by three men who claim they were abused by priests and claim negligence by the Vatican. Their attorney, William McMurry, is seeking class-action status for the case, saying there are thousands of victims across the country.
"This case is the only case that has been ever been filed against the Vatican which has as its sole objective to hold the Vatican accountable for all the priest sex abuse ever committed in this country," he said in a phone interview. "There is no other defendant. There's no bishop, no priest."