FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Decline of the Church?

by SAUL LANDAU

Scandals distract the public from focusing on key issues. Sometimes, however, they also provide insights into the character of leading cultural and political figures — and their institutions. When the story finally broke — after perhaps centuries of cover-ups — about priests abusing youthful members of their flock I smirked, not of shock, but from recognition.

As kids we would tease Catholic school students. “Hey, did the priest check you for hemorrhoids and hernias today?” The Catholic kids didn’t laugh. Indeed, prevailing street wisdom assured us that such jibes contained basic elements of truth — although we had no proof. Some Catholic school kids hinted at perverse behavior, but Church intimidation stopped them from telling. Several generations later the story poured out when thousands of the formerly abused told their stories.

Priestly misbehavior ranged beyond the United States. Recently, scandals emerged about Irish and German priests diddling — or worse — the young and vulnerable. As in the United States, the church hierarchy ignored or covered up the criminal activity of its errant cadres. Cardinals and Bishops routinely reassigned the accused priests to other parishes no matter the evidence against them; some got sent to religious rehab classes from whence they went to new parishes to resume intimate contact with the youth of their flock.

Over the decades, Cardinals and the Pope himself, before and after his coronation, received detailed reports of this widespread affliction. The U.S. Church paid off some formerly abused parishioners. But as the media made details public, the Vatican refused to assume full responsibility. Instead, the church elite tried to finesse the facts until the media’s repeated reports made it impossible. Did high church moguls have a duty to report the priestly criminals to the police? Their answer, by deduction: it is more important to maintain the Godly reputation of this ancient institution than to reveal the depths of perversity within its ranks and take serious steps to combat this rampant behavior.

The scandal has reached the Pope. Given the rigid hierarchy of the institution, one has a hard time believing that German Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, did not know of the pederasts inside the German Church, and those elsewhere as well. The defenders of the Pontiff can no longer rely on the power of their word as high priests to combat decades of lying and many thousands of angry victims as well.

In what seemed like an act of desperation, the pope’s personal preacher, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, in an April 2 sermon in St Peter’s Basilica, compared attacks against the Church and pope over sex abuse to “collective violence” against Jews. He said he got this idea from a letter from a Jewish friend.

This remark, however, came from a “Church that for centuries prayed for the conversion of the Jews, who were held collectively responsible for Jesus’ death.” (Reuters, April 4, 2010) I was seven when a group of Catholic kids surrounded and beat me. Their motive? “You killed our Lord, kid.” The local parish priest had so instructed them.

Then, the Vatican did not remove bad priests, nor stop Reverend Lawrence Murphy from abusing 200 U.S. deaf boys between 1950 and 1974. The Vatican and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, according to the New York Times, received warnings about Murphy’s pedophilia but neither informed police nor defrocked him.

On Easter Sunday at the Vatican, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, told the pontiff: “Holy Father, on your side are the people of God.” Sodano dismissed the abuse and cover-up charges as “petty gossip.” (New church definition of sodomy?) (Frances D’Emilio, AP, April 5, 2010)

The ongoing revelations of sexual abuse and the failure of church governors to act responsibly have landed in the Pope’s lap – where they belong. The Catholic Church teeters on the edge of losing its holy image and its moral credibility.

In England, some lawyers claim the principle of universal jurisdiction allows for prosecution of the Pope. Under this concept judges can issue arrest warrants for visitors accused of serious crimes, like genocide, torture and crimes against humanity. Do systematic cover-ups of abuses by pedophile priests count as such a crime?

A 1998 precedent exists. England arrested former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet on a Spanish warrant for crimes against humanity. British police kept Pinochet under house arrest until 2000, when the government released him because he was ruled physically and mentally unfit to stand trial.

No such claim will assuage the more than 10,000 people who have “signed a petition on Downing Street’s web site against the pope’s 4-day visit to England and Scotland in September.” (AP, Paisley Dodds, April 4, 2010)

The traditional Easter Sunday ritual offered the Pope his chance to address the grievances of tens of thousands of sodomized parishioners. Instead of speaking to charges that he had participated in moving priests to different parishes rather than staining the Church’s reputation by turning them into the police and defrocking them, his Holiness blamed the “vile” media attack.
Has the decline of this powerful Church begun?

SAUL LANDAU is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow whose films are available (roundworldproductions.com). He is the author of A Bush and Botox World.

 

WORDS THAT STICK

SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.

More articles by:
June 30, 2016
Richard Moser
Clinton and Trump, Fear and Fascism
Pepe Escobar
The Three Harpies are Back!
Ramzy Baroud
Searching for a ‘Responsible Adult’: ‘Is Brexit Good for Israel?’
Dave Lindorff
What is Bernie Up To?
Thomas Barker
Saving Labour From Blairism: the Dangers of Confining the Debate to Existing Members
Jan Oberg
Why is NATO So Irrational Today?
John Stauber
The Debate We Need: Gary Johnson vs Jill Stein
Steve Horn
Obama Administration Approved Over 1,500 Offshore Fracking Permits
Rob Hager
Supreme Court Legalizes Influence Peddling: McDonnell v. United States
Norman Pollack
Economic Nationalism vs. Globalization: Janus-Faced Monopoly Capital
Binoy Kampmark
Railroaded by the Supreme Court: the US Problem with Immigration
Howard Lisnoff
Of Kiddie Crusades and Disregarding the First Amendment in a Public Space
Vijay Prashad
Economic Liberalization Ignores India’s Rural Misery
Caroline Hurley
We Are All Syrians
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail