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Here’s a crazy idea: What if the Pope is innocent?

Does anyone remember the Catholic s-x abuse scandal at the Vienna Boys Choir? According to The Age of  March 19, the choir “has been caught up in accusations that pedophile priests systematically abused their choristers.” The same day’s Australian reported that “the crisis over sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has intensified” as a result of the choir scandal.

The Australian story was a beat-up, The Age’s an outright fabrication. The Vienna Boys Choir is a private organisation, and the complaints of abuse were made against teachers and older choristers, not priests. Once this became apparent, the media dropped the story: the choristers’ suffering ceased to be interesting without a church angle. But there have been no apologies, retractions or Media Watch denunciations.

If ordinary Catholics elected popes, I would not have voted for Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The urbane Carlo Martini, of Milan, was much more to my taste than the Panzer Kardinal from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. And while he has not started the heresy hunts feared by his critics and desired by his supporters, Pope Benedict XVI has made some very poor decisions.

One of the worst was to approve the lifting of the 1980s excommunication of four bishops, one of whom is a Holocaust denier. In his rather lame apology, Benedict conceded that he could have found out the bishop’s views simply by consulting the internet: “I have learned the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will have to pay greater attention to that source of news.”

So it is understandable that many observers have treated the rash of negative stories about Benedict and child abuse as examples of the same problem. The impression that the Vatican has its collective head in the sand has been reinforced by daft comments blaming homosexuality for child abuse and comparing criticism of Benedict to anti-semitism. But where is the evidence that the Pope is guilty of anything worse than bad PR?

Smoking guns

Bestselling atheist author Richard Dawkins wants the Pope prosecuted for aiding and abetting child abuse. His “smoking gun” is the case of the Californian priest Stephen Kiesle, who actually asked to be defrocked after s-xually assaulting two children in 1978. Ratzinger wrote to Kiesle’s bishop, who supported the request, in 1985 saying he needed more time to give the matter “careful consideration”.

Why did Ratzinger need to consider the request, Dawkins asks? And why didn’t he report Kiesle to the police? The answer is that Kiesle had already been reported to the police, convicted and sentenced. After completing his sentence, Kiesle left the priesthood and wrote to the CDF asking to be formally defrocked. Every year, some of the church’s 410,000 priests quit.

They don’t need Vatican permission: they can simply walk out. But they do need to be laicised if they want to get married in a Catholic church. Ordinarily this is not a problem, but it was in Kiesle’s case, because his bishop cited the sexual assaults as a factor in favour of laicisation.

Ratzinger’s reply to the bishop has been misrepresented by selective quotation. It begins by referring to “the matter of the removal of all priestly burdens from … Kiesle”, making it clear that the CDF was being asked to grant a favour, not a punishment. Ratzinger then says “it is necessary to consider the good of the universal church together with [i.e. not just] the petitioner [Kiesle]”, and that the CDF “is also unable to make light of the detriment that the granting of the dispensation can provoke within the community of Christ’s faithful, particularly regarding the young age of the petitioner.”

The “detriment” is the problem created by rewarding a convicted pedophile with permission to marry, which also explains the reference to Kiesle’s age.

Kiesle was defrocked 15 months later, and married shortly afterwards. He abused another child in 1995 and was sentenced to six years’ jail. So Ratzinger’s concerns were well-founded. The suggestion that Ratzinger covered anything up or endangered children, however, is completely groundless.

What about the case of Father Lawrence Murphy of Wisconsin, though? Didn’t Ratzinger cover up for him? The first answer is that the documents in the Murphy case show that Ratzinger played no part in any of the decisions. The second answer is that his underlings in the CDF didn’t cover anything up or endanger any children either.

Murphy abused deaf children at a Milwaukee residential school in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1974, some of his victims complained to the police, who declined to prosecute: it is not clear why, but they may have been barred by the statute of limitations. Murphy was dismissed from his post at the orphanage and went to live with his mother in Superior, at the opposite end of Wisconsin.

Murphy’s victims did not rest, and in 1996 persuaded the Archbishop of Milwaukee to begin proceedings to defrock him. Unfortunately, Murphy had a cunning canon lawyer. He argued that the proceedings were invalid, because they had been started outside the church’s statute of limitations, and that Murphy should have been prosecuted in Superior, where he lived, not Milwaukee. The Milwaukee ecclesiastical court accepted these arguments, so the Diocese of Superior began proceedings against Murphy. It wrote to the CDF seeking an extension of the time limit for prosecutions; Murphy sent a letter opposing the request and pleading poor health.

The CDF replied, saying there was no need for an extension of time, as there is no time limit for prosecuting offences such as Murphy’s. It also asked whether, given Murphy’s health and the difficulty in prosecuting offences from so long ago, less formal disciplinary measures would be appropriate. The Bishop of Superior replied that he intended to proceed with the prosecution, but by this time Murphy’s health had deteriorated, and he died three months later. In the meantime, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee abandoned the earlier proceedings that had been found to be invalid.

There was no cover-up by Ratzinger or the CDF: Murphy had been reported to the police a quarter of a century earlier. And no more children were put at risk, because Murphy had ceased priestly duties. All that happened was that the proceedings against Murphy were transferred from Milwaukee to Superior, the CDF queried whether a prosecution was still appropriate under the circumstances, and Murphy died before a verdict was reached.

A pattern develops

There is a pattern developing here, but it is one of media misrepresentation, not of cover-ups by the Pope. In fact the current “scandal” started in the same way. Newspapers reported that two priests in the German diocese of Regensburg had been jailed for child abuse, one in the 1950s and another in the 1970s. Amid attempts to suggest that the Pope’s brother, who directed the Regensburg Cathedral choir, might have known about the abuse, the media missed the central point. The two priests were prosecuted by the police, convicted and sent to jail. It then emerged that Catholic and Protestant clergy in other parts of Germany were also jailed for s-xual assaults on children.

The core of the American and Irish scandals was the fact that clerical child abuse was covered up. Instead of being prosecuted by the police, offenders were sent for therapy, pronounced cured and returned to duty, often to re-offend. The Boston Globe won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing the cover-ups in Boston: no beat-ups were needed because there was a genuine scandal. But the evidence from Germany undermines suggestions of an international conspiracy to avoid police prosecutions.

Only one of the “smoking guns” against Benedict involves a priest who was not reported to the police. This was Peter Hullermann, who s-xually assaulted three boys in the German diocese of Essen in 1979. The documents in the case have been released to the media, including the minutes of a meeting with the victims’ parents. These record that the parents did not want the case referred to police, to protect their children. Perhaps this was really a cover-up, but alternatively the parents may have had a sincere desire to shield their children from further trauma.

Hullermann was sent for therapy in Munich, where he was allowed to return to parish duties against the advice of his treating psychiatrist. These decisions were made by the Munich personnel director, a Father Fahr, and the diocesan vicar-general, Father Gruber. The decision to accept Hullermann required the approval of Munich’s diocesan council, which consisted of Archbishop Ratzinger and his senior officials.

Fahr did not attend the council meeting, but sent a memo stating that a young priest needed “medical-psychotherapeutic treatment in Munich” and a place to live with “an understanding colleague”.

The diocesan council approved the request. Gruber later wrote another memo recording Hullermann’s return to parish duties and copied it to Ratzinger, but it did not mention the psychiatrist’s advice. Neither memo provided any information alerting Ratzinger to the fact that Hullermann was a pedophile. Some years later, after Ratzinger had left Munich, Hullermann was transferred to another Bavarian diocese, where he re-offended.

This does appear to be a case of gross, if not criminal, negligence by Munich diocesan officials, and a cover-up as well. But Ratzinger was a victim of the cover-up, not a participant. The documents show that he was kept in the dark about Hullermann, and Gruber has confirmed this (Fahr is dead). While Gruber might be suspected of covering for his boss, the same cannot be said of the psychiatrist, who is still angry about the affair. But he also says Ratzinger knew nothing about what was going on.

The case against Ratzinger rests solely on claims that he should somehow have known what happened, when the documentary and witness evidence confirms that he didn’t. It may be worth mentioning that in 1980 the Archdiocese of Munich had 2.2 million parishioners, 1700 priests, 750 brothers and 5800 nuns: even a micro-manager could not keep track of everything.

Unpopularity is not a crime

So how much evidence is there against Benedict in total? None at all. It is true that lots of people, including many Catholics, dislike the Pope. But being unpopular is not a crime. Indeed, the real test of the integrity of a legal system is the ability to be fair to those we dislike, to judge them on the evidence rather than our prejudices. Evidence, a concept Richard Dawkins used to be very keen on when he was a scientist, does not mean op-ed pieces in newspapers or blogs, but facts tending to suggest guilt.

But instead of judgement on the evidence, we get reportage such as that of Johann Hari, a staff writer for Britain’s Independent. Hari says there has been “an international conspiracy to protect child-rapists”, and that “Joseph Ratzinger was at the heart of this policy for decades”. Hari’s smoking gun is a 1962 Vatican directive called “Crimen Sollicitationis”, which is analysed in chapter four of the Murphy Report, the inquiry into the mis-handling of clerical sex abuse in Dublin that reported last year.

The Vatican document, which actually dates from 1922, provided procedures for prosecuting priests accused of various offences, including child abuse. The scandal in Dublin arose because these procedures were not followed. “The penal process of canon law was for a period of years set aside in favour of a purely ‘pastoral’ approach, which was, in the commission’s view, wholly ineffective as a means of controlling clerical child sexual abuse.”

Compare Hari’s take on the same question: “Here’s what we are sure of. By 1962 it was becoming clear to the Vatican that a significant number of its priests were r-ping children. Rather than root it out, they issued a secret order called ‘Crimen Sollicitationis’ ordering bishops to swear the victims to secrecy and move the offending priest on to another parish.”

The Independent is a respected newspaper, but Hari’s smear is worthy of Julius Streicher’s Der Stürmer. This is not another clumsy comparison with anti-semitism. While Jews were Streicher’s main target, he also ran a long campaign against the “immorality” of the Catholic clergy. This campaign climaxed in 1937, when the government closed most of Germany’s Catholic schools. More than 200,000 Catholics left the church, many religious orders were shut down and hundreds of priests sent to concentration camps.

In the end, 21 clergy out of a nationwide body of 20,000 were convicted of child abuse. Some were probably guilty, but Streicher and Goebbels convinced Germans that there were thousands of abusers, all linked by a conspiracy directed from the Vatican.

The historical analogy should not be pressed too far. The current attacks on Benedict are not being co-ordinated by anyone. Some media players are activated by malice, but most are just following the herd, chasing the biggest “scalp” around. But Der Stürmer is relevant because it reminds us of the importance of journalistic standards. Smear campaigns are wrong, even when directed against people we don’t like.

Paul Mees is senior lecturer in planning at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria. His new book Transport for Suburbia: Beyond the Automobile Age (Earthscan, 2010) is not about religion.

  • 1
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    A beat up? In the media? I find that very hard to believe.

  • 2
    David Sanderson
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Attempting to prosecute the Pope is very misguided - futile and easily characterised as persecution. Redress is most appropriately gained by exposure and public campaigning.

  • 3
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    [Unpopularity is not a crime] ???
    Oh yes it is!

    It’s also a mortal sin, a hanging offence and in extreme cases,
    it’s been known to draw the ultimate punishment.

    The soft cushion and the comfy chair!!!

  • 4
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Yeahhhhh, and what if he’s not?

  • 5
    Greg Angelo
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Having recently finished reading a book involving the appalling sexual abuse of children in the custody of the Christian Bros in Ireland, I have little sympathy for the appalling bastards within the Catholic Church who abused their trust and satisfied their sexual needs by sodomising and beating children. I have even less sympathy for the church officials including the then Cardinal Ratzinger (and now Pope Benedict) for whom protecting the church’s image from damage was apparently more important than the stretched anal sphincters and corrupted psyches of the abused children. Whilst I accept that the Vienna but boys choir was not part of the Catholic Church, and there is no direct evidence of child abuse admissible in court at present in relation to this choir, this in no way detracts from the culpability of Vatican officials in covering up child abuse within the church. This includes the current Pope Benedict.
    The following two quotations in relation to Vatican cover-up of child abuse are readily available on the Internet. I would suggest that before people run around defending the Catholic hierarchy that they seriously researched the subject.
    “The Vatican moved to defuse criticism after the German justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, said Monday that a Vatican secrecy rule has played a role in a “wall of silence” surrounding sexual abuse of children. She cited a 2001 Vatican document – drawn up by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – requiring even the most serious abuse cases to be first investigated internally.”
    (Huffington Post :April 23 2010)
    “Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.
    The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.
    The documents emerge as Pope Benedict is facing other accusations that he and direct subordinates often did not alert civilian authorities or discipline priests involved in sexual abuse when he served as an archbishop in Germany and as the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer.”
    (New York Times: 24 March 2010)

    These two quotations are merely what is readily available from a quick Google search and I have not deeply researched the subject. However anybody who is an apologist for any person involved in a cover-up of child abuse deserves to be condemned even if not personally involved themselves. At no stage should the church be above civil law. Pederasts should be handed to police authorities regardless of their religious status.

  • 6
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    This story is just like the one about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
    I prefer the words of an earlier pope: “Don’t do it”.

  • 7
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Letter from the pope:

    Apparently some of my employees have been raping your children.
    Sorry about that.
    Also, the managers of those workers refused to take action when the rapes were reported.
    Sorry about that.
    Anyway, I’ve written to the workers and the managers and told them not to do it any more.
    So it’s all better now.

  • 8
    Paul Mees
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Greg Angelo’s comment illustrates the point I was trying to make. Editorialising in the Huffington Post and NYT does not count as evidence, and nor do Google searches. The 2001 document Ratzinger helped prepare can be read on-line and does not say what Sabine Leutheusser claims it does (or at least what the HPost says she claims). As for the post from the NYT, I thought I had explained what really happened in Wisconsin in my post — which was based mainly on the documents on the NYT site, which do not in fact support the story they ran. To answer someone who claims there has been a media beat-up by quoting some of the media beat-ups is not very convincing.

  • 9
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    What if the Pope was innocent?

    Actually 13 of them have been.


  • 10
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    All well and good. If Ratzinger’s defense is as watertight as suggested, then he should have no trouble demonstrating so in court.

    I’ll also note that like the MSM, Dawkins has been portrayed as the driving force behind the movement to have Ratzinger stand trial. While Dawkins certainly supports the move, it is Geoffrey Robertson that is putting forth the case. Of course Robertson is a little harder to portray as the bully, what with his lifelong career as a campaigner for human rights and all.

  • 11
    Paul Mees
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Gibbot — In order to have someone tried in court, you need prima facie evidence of guilt, not editorials downloaded from the internet. If there is no such evidence, then the “defendant” doesn’t have to answer the charges. Geoffrey Robertson understands this: as far as I am aware, he has only been asked to advise on whether the pope has diplomatic immunity. For what it’s worth, I don’t believe anyone should be protected from prosecution by diplomatic immunity.

  • 12
    David Sanderson
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Gibbot, that is a bit obtuse. Putting the Pope before a court would be humiliating and discrediting and that is really the point of these efforts - not a conviction.

    Geoffrey Robertson may be admirable in many ways but, like the Pope, he is not infallible. It is counter-productive to attempt to do something that would anger millions of Catholics and lead to even more of a defensive reaction. The idea is to push the Church to be more open and accountable, not drive it into a corner where it will be justifiably able to claim religious persecution.

  • 13
    John Bennetts
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 3:44 pm | Permalink


    While not disagreeing with your second paragraph, your first is unsupportable.

    You are supporting a “guilty until proven innocent” approach which belongs, along with the Roman Catholic Church, back in the Dark Ages.

  • 14
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    I agree, put the pope on a ducking stool.

  • 15
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    You realise of course that in his inauguration the Pope has to be paraded over the heads of the Cardinals with no underpants on and his dress spread so they can confirm that he has the “balls” to govern the Catholic Church? (ever since the embarrassment over Pope Joan).

    So maybe peeping at male genitals is an institutionalized practice?

  • 16
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    @Paul Mees - Surely if there is no prima facie evidence, then the court will not issue a warrant.

    @David Sanderson - What puzzles me is why it is not Catholics themselves that want this issue fully brought to light. If I were a member of an organisation that was being tainted with criminality within its ranks I would be the first to demand complete accountability - as high up the food chain as the trail led. I don’t think anyone could see Robertson’s actions as an attack on Catholics in general, though maybe I’m wrong there.

  • 17
    Paul Mees
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    @Gibbot: “Surely if there is no prima facie evidence, then the court will not issue a warrant”. Indeed, and they won’t, but that doesn’t stop the smear campaign.

    @Gibbot2: “I were a member of an organisation that was being tainted with criminality within its ranks I would be the first to demand complete accountability - as high up the food chain as the trail led.” Indeed, and we do. But at least some of us sympathise with Richard Dawkins when, in an earlier, saner, moment, he said (in “The God Delusion”, of all places): “I dislike the Roman Catholic Church. But I dislike unfairness even more.” The smear campaigns are actually distracting attention from fixing the problem, which the current pope, unlike his predecessor, is actually trying to do (notwithstanding his poor performance in other areas where I disagree with him).

  • 18
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    don’t be ridiculous Paul, the Pope hasn’t been Innocent since 1724

  • 19
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Paul, your article has given me pause for thought.

    I believe Benedict was a dangerous clown long before his current crisis – I’m thinking of two well known incidents in particular

    1. The consideration he gave to a Nazi bishop over and above the consideration he gives to every woman; married man and gay on the planet.
    2. His ignorant and murderous comments on AIDS and condoms in Africa.

    I confess, in his case, I tend to believe the hearsay.

    Here’s the conundrum for you. Even if you are right and there is no evidence linking Benedict directly to any criminal activity, he remains culpable. The paedophilia is widespread, systematic and, but for the energy of the liberal press, would still be shunted from parish to parish. This has all happened on Benedict’s watch as either Pope or head of the Inquisition that looks intothese problems. In any other organization, he’d be forced to stand down.

    Rather than use your considerable legal skills to quibble in his defence when no-one can touch him, why don’t you use them to seek justice for victims of these heinous crimes?

  • 20
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    He’s the leader of an organization that perpetuates the greatest lie ever hoisted onto the human race. Could he be innocent? Doubt that!

  • 21
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Paul, if you want to argue that your op-ed is more factually accurate than the NYT’s or Huff’s op-ed, then you may want to give links to documents and quotes that support your argument, rather than just arguing “no he didn’t”.

  • 22
    Darren Holmes
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    I don’t see the link. If the christain faith, and the Catholic Church at it’s core, are living a great lie, what makes you think they know it? If you believe something to be the truth, you cannot be perpetuating the greatest lie. The astounding thing for me in this discussion, is that the real facts are not sufficient news and scandal. To editorialize and misquote just to satisfy a strange desire to make the issues around child abuse in the Church even worse than they undoubtedly are, is just wrong.
    The modern Catholic Church is a soft target for journalists and editors who are not too fussed about the accuracy of a scandalous story. The Church and the public deserve better. And so do the many genuine victims of pedophile priests.

  • 23
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    Nailing Ratzinger for the Catholic church’s centuries of abuse of children is about as likely as getting the CEO of Goldman Sachs for being an amoral giant vampire squid…nice idea, but utterly unrealistic considering just how these organisations work. Sure, we’d all like to believe that the head honcho knew there’d been perverts and sadists and child abusers lurking in the cloisters since, well, almost since Jesus was a boy, but nup, he didn’t. Can’t prove it, so nah, nah, ne nah, nah to you!

    But we ‘think’ he did. And let’s face it, he’s from a long line of godfathers (or is that the ‘other’ Italian organisation?) who’ve claimed, amongst other incredible things, yes, infallibility.

    So he’s infallible, but he just managed to overlook centuries of flagrant and widespread vile behaviour to children. Didn’t ever get a whisper in the Vatican corridor about certain ‘impious’ goings on in churches all around the globe? Not once? Never turned a blind eye?

    It’s go gloriously impossible to believe, you’d almost call it an ‘article of faith’ for those of us who find this cabal of menfrocks a two thousand year old freak show; a realm of mumbo jumbo, guilt and fear and outright weirdness.

    Ok, who’s for the new cult, based on the ‘belief’, (because, well, we just ‘must’ believe it), that old Ratzo’s as guilty as sin, his organisation is rotten to the core, and the whole frescoed edifice is peeling away to reveal the centuries of depravity that masqueraded as pious belief?

    Isn’t ‘belief’ a wonderful thing?

  • 24
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    a timely and worthwhile article, though i’m certainly no fan of the catholic church (although i am christian). the response has been especially instructive, as it is noticeably devoid of any genuine counter-argument.

    @paerobinson - i’m intrigued by your suggestion that paul should concentrate on seeking justice for the victims. i trust we should extend this to the legal system more broadly and dispense with defence counsel when we all reckon the defendant ‘done it’? i think the idea that the guilty within the church should be held responsible was quite clear in the article.

    @phil - intriguing. an unsupportable presupposition followed by an utter dearth of logic terminating in an unnecessarily smug conclusion! but hey, i’m sure it felt better for you to get it off your chest.

    @christopher dunne - not sure if you’re being disingenuous or simply ignorant, but your rather juvenile characterisation of what constitutes “belief” needs a bit of work. it was quite a refreshing post though, it’s been *ages* since us theists have been told we’re not only wrong but stupid.

  • 25
    Alexander Berkman
    Posted Saturday, 24 April 2010 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    oh non existent god please save me from your followers

  • 26
    Posted Saturday, 24 April 2010 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    Oh damn, there goes the Bishop of Bruges too, (he just resigned citing a little bit of boy abuse in his past).

    Another frock hits the pavement:

    Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Bruges conceded in an Easter homily this year that as the Vatican leadership confronted persistent accusations of abuse, “the reputation of church leaders was given a higher priority than that of abused children”. (source: NY Times)

    And that ladies and gentleman, gives us faith in our belief that Ratzo, head frock, knew too.

    (If they don’t need ‘evidence’, then why should we? I mean, they would like us to believe in an imaginary big sky daddy with no proof of such a things existence, but we only have to believe in what most intelligent observers would conclude is beyond doubt.)

    Do you see how wonderful a thing belief is?

  • 27
    Posted Saturday, 24 April 2010 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    “@phil - intriguing. an unsupportable presupposition followed by an utter dearth of logic terminating in an unnecessarily smug conclusion! but hey, i’m sure it felt better for you to get it off your chest.”

    Obviously Ryciu, you haven’t made the effort to study the history of religion’s origins. When you do, you can be smug as well and the weight of your delusion will no longer be on your chest. Try it, but I doubt you have the will. It’s amazing how much knowledge is out there these days on this subject if you care to look. Be brave and open your mind to realty, it’s true enlightenment.
    However, you do demonstrate that knowledge of the English language is not a sign of heresy (being able to choose).

  • 28
    Posted Saturday, 24 April 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    i) @C Dunne:
    “Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Bruges conceded in an Easter homily this year that as the Vatican leadership confronted persistent accusations of abuse, “the reputation of church leaders was given a higher priority than that of abused children”. (source: NY Times)”

    - Again, you are using media reports of the Archbishop of Bruge’s homily to make a point where media reports are what is in question. It doesn’t stand. When was the Archbishop talking about? At what time? In the c20th, which much of the article discussed; or in the last 10 years? And was the Archbishop giving some kind of “insider information” concerning events to which he had no privy, or are you just reading him that way - perhaps like the NYT. Or worse, are you reading the NYT as reading him that way?

    And that ladies and gentleman, gives us faith in our belief that Ratzo, head frock, knew too.”
    - No, it gives us no evidence at all. It gives us evidence that one Archbishop resigned on the basis of his understanding of matters. He may have had no insight beyond his own diocese and sphere of influence. To insinuate that he “knew the Pope’s mind” or whatever your remark implies is as groundless as many of your other assertions. Throwing them out there is fine - even throwing the standard abuse at religious believers that you do is nowadays acceptable in a public forum: but it gives no insight. Please refrain.

    @Phil - “Obviously Ryciu, you haven’t made the effort to study the history of religion’s origins. When you do, you can be smug as well and the weight of your delusion will no longer be on your chest. Try it, but I doubt you have the will. It’s amazing how much knowledge is out there these days on this subject if you care to look. Be brave and open your mind to realty, it’s true enlightenment.”
    - Actually, Phil, I have, and suspect I am much more qualified in this matter than you. Aside from that, you are simply backing one version of things; Phil was backing another, and at least doing so elegantly. It isn’t really good enough to sit and pretend that you have a set of insights to which everyone else must bow. You clearly have less than you think - or so your comment suggests. Certainly Paul Rees had the discipline to mount an argument - and not make suggestive slander, which has been the character of most of the anti-religious attacks here.

    Thanks for the work, Paul: a nice set of analyses. Cheers.

  • 29
    Posted Saturday, 24 April 2010 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    @rysiu You are mistaken. I’m firmly in favour of all defendants having legal counsel – including the Pope. The legal system you ascribe to me is a pre-secular legal system. One of the crucial issues in this whole Catholic Paedophelia scandal is the reach of secular law. The problem isn’t that the pope can’t get legal council. The Pope is a powerful boy who can probably get anything he wants. What many people are wondering is how far does Papal privilege extend? At what point does the Pope come under the same legal ambience as the rest of us? I belong in the faction that says we should all be equal before the law.

  • 30
    Posted Saturday, 24 April 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    @Greg Angelo
    Posted Friday, 23 April 2010 at 3:08 pm

    I heartily agree!

    The fact is, that during my lifetime, the catholic church had a policy of protecting, covering up the sexual assaults of children by priests. As the ‘head’ of the ‘company’ the pope must take responsibility, and in at least 3 countries, this pope did not. I have no sympathy for him one bit, and in fact, I’d add the name of the Australian bishop who used the media to castigate the traumatised parents of two little girls, both raped at the ages of 5 and 6 - one committed suicide and the other still a young woman is damaged for life as a result of a suicide attempt!

    George Pell has even admitted, that the policy of ‘shutting up’ victims and not acknowledging blame was advised by insurance companies? What sort of moral code was practiced by him and the church over decades?

    For these reasons, plus the attitudes to condoms, contraception in general, attitudes to women(only baby making machines?) and the use and abuse of children is sufficient reason/s for the whole damned lot of them to be put on trial - for crimes ranging from murder/sexual assault, abuse of duty of care(re HIV & AIDS) - the list goes on! If I’d followed the ‘rules’ on contraception yrs ago, I wouldn’t have been alive to raise the 3 children I already had. The misogynist attitudes of the cc just fill me with great anger!

    One of my sisters was molested by a priest, a brother was abused by a so-called christian brother, and I was bashed by a nun! All crimes! Not one person was arrested or charged with those crimes, let alone stand trial! Their colleagues must have known what they were doing. Certainly in the case of the nun, it was no secret! Of course, my parents should’ve taken action, but they were fed the same BS as is going on now!
    These bastards stock in trade was harrassing and terrorising kids about ‘their’ sins. I can still recall the tirades from the pulpit about hell and damnation, and this was the modis operandi of the nuns etc as well. Terrifying kids re their ‘sins’? Wow! if only we knew then we’d have had a field day; accusing them of hypocrisy would’ve appealed to me! I remember feeling scared to death for eating a piece of devon on a Friday, as I’d forgotten what day it was. I must have been all of 9 or 10? I was scared to cross the road in case a car hit me and I’d go to hell!

    In the US, well over $800 million has been paid out in compensation; but there’s no compensation for those who are dead via suicide! Too many stories of cover ups around the world, including here!
    Forget that the person in question is the pope. What if an employer allowed a worker to get away with sexual assault in the workplace, and bullied the victim and then tried to cover it up with shut up money? There’d be an outcry, and rightly so! How come no priest, bishop or pope hasn’t been charged with covering up major crimes, or have they? Perverting the cause of justice?
    Everyone is covered by the same laws of the land - and that should also include popes!
    I find it repugnant for people to offer defence or excuses for this pope and his predesessors behaviour/s - sickening in fact!

  • 31
    Posted Saturday, 24 April 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    3752: (Nice nic there mate. Can I just call you Cipher?)

    You asked me to “please refrain”?

    Would that be how the kids asked their frocked molesters? Did they ask so politely?

    Let’s hope so, we’d all at least hope that the holy church could teach the little urchins some manners.

    Or did you mean like “please refrain from making complaints about being bug-gered by the Bishop”?

    Or are you just peeved that finally the wider public is looking into this stinking organisation and getting the smell in their nostrils, and would like it to “please refrain”.

    Which is it Cipher? Please explain?

  • 32
    Posted Saturday, 24 April 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Here’s another bit for you Cipher:

    In an interview in his native Colombia, Dario Castrillón Hoyos, who headed the Vatican department that deals with the clergy, said that a letter he wrote to the French bishop in 2001 was the product of a meeting in the Vatican.

    It was a meeting of cardinals. Therefore the current pope, who at that time was a cardinal, was present,” he said.

    After the letter came to light, Castrillón said the last pope, John Paul II, had approved it and recommended that it be circulated – as it was – to all Catholic bishops. “The law in nations with a well-developed judiciary does not force anyone to testify against a child, a father, against other people close to the suspect,” Castrillón told his interviewer. “Why would they ask that of the church?”


    …so it wasn’t ‘company policy’ to hush it up? And Ratzo never knew such things happened?

    Pull the other one, it sings Agnus Dei!

    You can believe in divine trinities and miracles, but appear not to be able to believe in the obvious?

    Oh ye of little (but highly selective) faith!

  • 33
    Posted Saturday, 24 April 2010 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Hi Christopher,

    I’m a little disapppointed by your tone, as usual.

    My faith? Don’t believe I mentioned I had any.

    Anyway, as I say, while you are swinging the cudgel as you are, I hope you’ll stop to have a think. No-one feels any less than you do about the horrors inflicted on people: I suspect the disappointment I’ve had here is watching your obviously voracious energies wound up and screaming on something that requires the kind of systematic and analytic approach to it that Rees has given. The reason I’ve been disappointed with your commentary is that it is only screaming: it is not insightful, it is not instructive, and it offers nothing more than a stack of media citation to support your view. Rees’ analyis is doing nothing more than showing you up - I’m sorry to say it.

    @Liz45: Your story is horrific. Of course. I’m sorry to hear it and I think everyone else here is too. No-one would wish to be able to tell the tale you have. I hope that your energies concerning the injustice experienced in the church may be applied to seeking compensation - I cannot imagine what it must be like to hold those kind of experiences. You are right to be angry.

  • 34
    Posted Saturday, 24 April 2010 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    @Liz45 - I hope, furthermore, that your outlining of these things can contribute to the investigation and reform of practice. Surely that it what is sought here.
    Take care, kind regards.

  • 35
    Posted Saturday, 24 April 2010 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    That’s it Cipher, put it all down to the nasty media actually quoting the Archbishop and the story told by Dario Castrillón Hoyos.

    Silly me, to ever think there might be any other worldly authority except for the one brought down from on high by the celestial menfrock cult!

    So, even when newspapers quote these people, we are not allowed to accept that they may be telling the truth if it conflicts with the company rules?

    Oh, “please refrain” dear Cipher, I’m splitting my sides with mirth. Because I have ‘belief’ in the sinister nature of the Catholic Church, and my ‘faith’ is unshakeable.

    You see, faith is a truly wonderful thing.

  • 36
    Posted Saturday, 24 April 2010 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Matey - get some insight and some courtesy. One seriously thinks perhaps there is more going on for you than your anger here gives out. Cheers.

  • 37
    Posted Saturday, 24 April 2010 at 10:35 pm | Permalink


    Cipher, your pompous patronising cracks me up.

  • 38
    Paul Mees
    Posted Sunday, 25 April 2010 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Quite a few of these responses seem to confirm my point (as 3572 has noted), which was that some people dislike the pope so much that they don’t need evidence to be convinced of his guilt: Christopher Dunne actually seems to be proud of this!

    MS has made a valid point, however, which is that I should have provided links to the documents and articles quoted. These were in my first version, but I cut them out in a vain attempt to get under 2000 wds. I’ll post them when I get back to work on Tuesday (they are on my computer there), but in the meantime:
    - the Kiesle documents are on the LA Times website in a PDF (search under his name); the LAT site also has a translation of the 1985 letter (which was in latin)
    - the Murphy documents are on the NY Times site (headed “The predator priest who got away”)
    - I got my quotes in the Munich case from the NY Times and Time Magazine reports: they did not copy the documents, only quoting them (with lots of added “editorialising” and beating-up in the case of the NYT); the Time article also has an interview with the psychiatrist; there is also an interview with Gruber in the Wall St Journal of 21st April.

    The reference to Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos is accurate, but incomplete. He is an absolute disgrace, but this is why Ratzinger persuaded the previous pope to take resposibility for defrocking priests guilty of abuse off him and transfer it to Ratzinger’s CDF in 2001. Since then, the pace of defrockings has accelerated rapidly. Castrillon Hoyos was also the main person responsible for the debacle over the holocaust-denying bishop. Ratzinger should have sacked him as soon as he became pope in 2005 (he is now retired, but in my view should be made to hand back his red hat).

  • 39
    Posted Sunday, 25 April 2010 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Paul Mees
    Posted Sunday, 25 April 2010 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Quite a few of these responses seem to confirm my point (as 3572 has noted), which was that some people dislike the pope so much that they don’t need evidence to be convinced of his guilt: Christopher Dunne actually seems to be proud of this!”

    No Paul Mees, you’re wrong. Most of the anti views of the present disgraceful situation stem from people like me who’ve known and been disgusted by the behaviour/s of the cc for decades. What’s happening now is no surprise to me. Nor is your behaviour any surprise. The cc must be really ‘packing it’ when they bring in barristers etc to try and do a PR job - you can’t - it’s too late for that! The fact is, that I’ve seen and heard the bulls**t for decades and your intervention doesn’t surprise me at all. It just makes me shake my head in disbelief, that after who knows how many abuses, ruined lives, destroyed human beings, bastards like you still don’t get it! Let me spell it out….

    The Catholic Church and all of its apologists need to be put up against the wall and at best, have tomatoes thrown at them; preferably charged with aiding and abetting, at the very least, and …. THEN, they should have to listen to the accounts of every abused person. THEN, they should be forced to use their billions to at least attempt to make amends - unlike now, when the arrogance and lack of decency is just a foul stench that it permeates through every country in the world!

  • 40
    David Sanderson
    Posted Sunday, 25 April 2010 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    I’m not a Catholic and I consider many Catholic ‘positions’ odd and unhelpful but I think the venom and extremism against the church displayed by some of posters here to be unbalanced and shameful.

    Paul Mees has tried to conduct a civilised discourse but has been assailed by people who have a purely destructive bent driven by spite and prejudice.

  • 41
    Posted Sunday, 25 April 2010 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Paul. An excellent and well-argued piece. Could you give me the paper or website references for The Age and Australian reports please?

    btw, the spite spewed out by some of the posters here just goes to show how many are driven by hate and not reason.

  • 42
    Posted Monday, 26 April 2010 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    @David Sanderson - “I’m not a Catholic and I consider many Catholic ‘positions’ odd and unhelpful but I think the venom and extremism against the church displayed by some of posters here to be unbalanced and shameful. “

    May I suggest, that if you or one or more of your children had been raped or assaulted by these criminals, then you may feel much different. How would you then feel, if those responsible, far from being treated like the rest of us, were protected from the law and efforts were made to bully the victimes, force them into silence on receipt of compensation(shut up money, I call it) and now, we have their barristers trying to make breaks for them - still!

    One representative of the pope has tried to blame homosexuality for these crimes, another blamed celibacy, and so it goes on. There are many men, who for a variety of reasons are celibate, but they don’t use that to justify raping kids. And there are heaps more hetrosexuals who commit these crimes than homosexual men. As a woman, I’d feel much safer on the streets if all hetrosexual men were removed, and only homosexual men were allowed out after dark - believe me! I wouldn’t have to make sure that my car door is always locked for instance!

    The “venom and extremism” as you put it is an understandable reaction from people who’ve been fed BS for decades, and by an organisation that still doesn’t get it! Crimes of a horrific nature including the rapes of little 5 and 6 yr old girls have been treated in a disgraceful manner by the cc. These little girls were Australians,(not that that fact makes the crime worse?) and a current bishop castigated those parents during world youth week. One of those little girls committed suicide in her early 20’s, the other is disabled from trying! Tell me what part of being ‘venonous and extreme’ were their parents who only wanted to speak to the pope? Why wasn’t the cc treated like you or I if we committed these crimes - there is a decades old history of protection by the heirarchy, and the pope’s recent comments re the current revelations was to refer to them as ‘petty gossip’? No wonder people are enraged. The culture of the church HAS NOT changed, and it’s obvious that it doesn’t intend to! We’ve all heard the nonsense attempts at remorse so many times, only to find out, that there were even more of these occurrences than we realized?

    @Josephine - Perhaps you can explain, why did the pope sound so contrite during his visit to Australia and I seem to recall the US as well, but recently referred to the issues raised recently as “petty gossip”? If a sexual assault had been committed against you, and those responsible for the perpetrators protected them, how would you feel?

    As a woman and perhaps a mother, how do you think you’d feel if one of the thousands of abused children was one of yours? As a mother, I’d be screaming very loud I can assure you. Due to my experience of physical cruelty by nuns, I determined that my kids would never go to a catholic school. When I found out, only a few yrs ago of the sexual abuse of my brother, as a mother of sons, I was thankful that they weren’t exposed to that criminal/s!

    In fact, I believe, that some pedophiles choose to become priests as they know they’d a) be in a position of trust, and b) have access to children. Nothing has happened to change my mind about this, and I’m sure many others agree with me!

    I’ve just finished reading a book called, “Suffer the little children” about a group of nuns in Belfast that committed horrific abuses against little girls in their care. These crimes happened in the 1950’s - not a century ago? I don’t know when they stopped, but I suggest you and Paul and David read it! I obtained it from my local library - in the Biography section. A little who was locked in a room after being belted with a cane and then because she’d wet herself(after being left locked in a tiny room for hours) had her genital area scrubbed with a scrubbing brush, and her long hair was used as a mop! Having her hair literally pulled out by these abusers was a regular practice. Tell me what sort of monsters do that? This was not an isolated case - not at all! Watch the movie “Sister Magdalene” (I think?). These children were not educated, and these 3 sisters were exposed to this type of cruelty for years - one was only 6 wks old when detained and didn’t escape for yrs! The middle sister suffered all sorts of psychological and psychiatric illnesses for yrs, and finally took this Order to court after she read where women in Scotland had done it and succeeded!

    FINALLY, If I know a bank has been robbed and don’t disclose this to the police, I can also be charged with a crime, and treated as harshly as those who physically robbed the bank! If I know that a crime is going to be committed, and remain silent, I’m in a similar position. Some(many?) priests who abused kids were protected, and then went on to commit more crimes. I believe, that those who protected them should also be charged, not have their barristers do a ‘spin job’ on the whole filthy and immoral business! Keep in mind, that this is the same church that has oppressive rules against others - homosexuals, people who use contraception, the use of condoms to avoid sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV etc. What bloody hypocrites? And then to read more bloody tripe is insulting!

  • 43
    Posted Monday, 26 April 2010 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Paul Mees et al:

    You don’t ‘get it’, do you?

    An organisation, a cult, to be more technically descriptive, that has promulgated fear and guilt for centuries, based on ‘belief’ in the utterly impossible, without any tangible evidence whatsoever, is now hiding behind the defence that “there is no evidence” that Ratzo knew of the egregious and ubiquitous crimes that have been committed by it forever?

    Go look up the word ‘irony’!

    People like Liz45 probably don’t need to as they’ve experienced the stinking hypocrisy of this cult directly.

    What she knows, and I know, and millions of us who have the capacity for thought (unpolluted by the menfrocks), is that the proposition that Ratzo is truly “innocent” is as unlikely as the resurrection, or any of the other mumbo jumbo that’s the stock in trade of this brainwashing cult.

    I’m happy to go with the likeliest possibility, ie Ratzo’s in it up to his mitred head, but now has been forced into the open by worldwide public opprobrium.

    Like the recanting on Galileo, it’s way past time.

    So if the citizens of the world have a ‘belief’ that the Pope is culpable, then job done, because he can’t pretend to be the head of an organisation (anointed by god, no less!) and then duck responsibility for its crimes.

    Here’s a crazy idea: what if the overwhelming majority of the world ‘believes’ this organisation is truly dysfunctional? Now, there’s something I can truly ‘believe’ in!

  • 44
    Posted Monday, 26 April 2010 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Josepine: “hate and not reason”? LOL

    Reason” doesn’t get much of a look in at cult central, and hasn’t for nearly two thousand years, but nice of you to drag it out to hide behind whenever the ugly underbelly of this organisation is exposed.

    Reason” is suddenly a convenient fig leaf after all these centuries of burning people for using it?

    Oh the irony!

  • 45
    David Sanderson
    Posted Monday, 26 April 2010 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Hate and bile is so easy Christopher. Real thought and considered argument is a lot harder and there is precious little of that in your extremist ranting.

  • 46
    Posted Monday, 26 April 2010 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Pompous patronising is so easy David. Real insight and a healthy moral outrage is a lot harder for those who’ve been brainwashed by a cult.

  • 47
    Posted Monday, 26 April 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and on that ‘hate’ thing: how come an organisation that’s persecuted people for centuries, for not ‘believing’, being different, having independent thoughts, being women even…gets to define outrage at its egregious abuses as being ‘hate’?

    So typical of the kind of twisted sophistry this cult uses: critics are full of ‘hate’, but the cult’s vicious persecutions and brainwashing is what exactly?

    Nup, it’s hate. This cult hates freedom: of thought, of sexuality of the pulsing life force that makes us truly human.

    A cult of self loathing eunuchs, poncing about in frocks tells its victims to shut up for decades and anyone who dares criticise it is only inspired by ‘hate’?

    Now, that’s I what I call sophistry, and a total perversion of language.

  • 48
    David Sanderson
    Posted Monday, 26 April 2010 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Christopher, I am not part of the ‘cult’ and escaped the ‘brainwashing’ that excites your hatred by never attending any church or Catholic school. Nevertheless I have no sympathy for anti-clerical extremism. The church does have significant ills but that does not make your hysterical denunciation fair or reasonable.

    You appear to mistake your violent beliefs for a “pulsing life force”. It is nothing of the kind and indicates only your severe lack of balance.

  • 49
    Posted Monday, 26 April 2010 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    anti-clerical extremism”, “violent beliefs”, “severe lack of balance”?

    You amuse me David, because you take blunt criticism of this manfrock cult as excited by hate, but I think it’s the product of rational moral outrage at the violence and horrible persecutions it’s dished out for centuries.

    I don’t ‘hate it’, am not in the slightest ‘excited by hate’ nor otherwise consider myself lacking balance. In fact I’m actually restoring some balance to the rorting of reason and logic this cult has exercised for a thousand years or so, (as well as the blatant sadism it’s inflicted on countless millions over those centuries).

    You see David, it’s all about perspective, and mine is that this cult needs to be called out for what it is, ie a cult, and I won’t be cowered by it’s adherents or apologists for telling the truth.

    Go back and read Liz45’s account. Multiply that by hundreds of thousands, look back over the centuries of persecutions and patriarchal tyranny and the millions inflicted with guilt and shame over their very human faculties, and then tell me that I lack ‘balance’.

    And I’ll try and keep a straight face when you do!

  • 50
    David Sanderson
    Posted Monday, 26 April 2010 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Any very large long-lasting institution will inevitably have many sins and crimes that stain it. Australian governments have many crimes and stains, most obviously the treatment of the aboriginal peoples. It would nevertheless be unjustified and counterproductive to denounce those governments in the hysterical, hateful style that characterises your outpourings.

    That is the severe lack of balance that I am talking about but experience demonstrates that those who are as unbalanced as you are the most unable to perceive these flaws therefore I have no expectation that I will be able to convince you.