Monday, February 11, 2013

The Pope Goes and the World Turns

Now you decide it's time to go...
Back before Pope John Paul II died, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- the current Pope Benedict XVI -- had been the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 1981 and as such was in charge of much of Church doctrine. He was quite harsh and conservative in his approach and earned the nickname "God's Rottweiler." If you want to get to the core of what made Ratzinger controversial -- and understand his legacy as pope as well -- read this from Wikipedia:
Ratzinger's 2001 letter De delictis gravioribus clarified the confidentiality of internal church investigations, as defined in the 1962 document Crimen Sollicitationis, into accusations made against priests of certain crimes, including sexual abuse. This became a target of controversy during the sex abuse scandal. As a Cardinal, Raztinger had been for twenty years the man in charge of enforcing the document. While bishops hold the secrecy pertained only internally, and did not preclude investigation by civil law enforcement, the letter was often seen as promoting a coverup. Later, as Pope, he was accused in a lawsuit of conspiring to cover up the molestation of three boys in Texas, but sought and obtained diplomatic immunity from prosecution.
 There you have it. As God's Rottweiler, Cardinal Ratzinger was a major player in the worldwide coverup of the Roman Catholic Church's pedophilia scandal, which has continued in one form or another until this day. As Pope Benedict XVI, he oversaw, at least from a distance, a continuing coverup.

The irony, if you want to call it that, is that as the man in charge of Church doctrine before becoming pope in 2005 and in his role as infallible head of the Church since then, Benedict XVI inveighed against birth control, homosexuality, and inter-religious dialogue, all the while protecting those in the Church who committed the most heinous of crimes, child sexual abuse.

I'm not a theologian, but as a former member of the Church, I understand the "sanctity of the confessional," that sins confessed to during the sacrament of confession are by practice allowed to remain private between sinner and confessor. In this way, asking for forgiveness from God is encouraged. The problem lies in what to do with priests who confess their sins -- as well as Irish nuns who brutalized girls and women in the Magdalene scandal and who no doubt confessed theirs. Throw them to the dogs, to the vagaries of the police and the courts? God forbid.

Victims of pedophilia barred from seeing the Pope: They knew who to blame.

Unmarried Irish women, who got pregnant, languished in church-operated laundries run by nuns, sometimes for life. The practice continued into the 1990s.

So now Benedict XVI steps down -- the first to do so in six centuries -- claiming ill-health. True, he is and was ill-suited to lead his Church, at any time.

I'm an atheist and as such have no use for religions of all kinds, but most especially for those that are essentially fundamentalist ones. Under Benedict, the Roman Catholic Church had grown increasingly just that, when historically the Church had been closer to a true church of Christ, meaning its doctrine followed Christ's New Testament teaching of mercy and love in ways that the stricter and, yes, more hateful, evangelical, fundamentalist Christians never did.

God's Rottweiler is perhaps now permanently defanged and declawed. The Roman Catholic Church remains a powerful force in the world and so for that reason I hope a more conciliatory and inclusive new pope will be named. He won't be my leader, but still it wouldn't hurt.

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