Some Holy Week this is turning out to be.
This is the most sacred week in the Christian calendar, traditionally the week of palms and hosannas and preparation for the commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Well, there were palms this past Sunday, but instead of hosannas, the members of the church of St. Peter were distracted by yet more heinous news on top of heinous news. Not only was Europe rocked by yet another scandal involving Roman Catholic priests sexually abusing young children, but then came the double-whammy last week from the pages of The New York Times (much of the legwork in the States by Laurie Goodstein and in Rome by Rachel Donadio):
- Pope Benedict XVI, as Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, Archbishop of Munich, was aware in 1980 that a known pedophile priest in his diocese was being returned to pastoral duties; he was eventually convicted of molesting more boys in another parish. The Vatican still affirms that Ratzinger had no knowledge of the transfer.
- Documents (provided to The Times by Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul, Minn., lawyer who has pursued the Vatican for years) showing that Ratzinger, as head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — essentially the Vatican’s top moral watchdog — decided not to defrock a priest who allegedly molested more than 200 boys at a Wisconsin school for the deaf for a quarter-century. Ratzinger, to coin a cliche, turned a deaf ear on his victims and instead listened to the plea of the now-dead priest for leniency because he was old and ill.
- News this week that popes decades ago knew about these horrible acts. The newly elected Paul VI in 1963 was told about pedophile priests in America by a New Mexico priest who treated them. Also, canon law criminalizing sexual abuse goes back to 1917; Vatican procedures for treating such abuses was outlined in 1922 and updated in 1962.
And “God’s Rotweiler” — so known for his tenacity as John Paul II’s bad cop, ensuring the clergy toed his predecessor’s right-wing party line — responded to this crisis by turning into God’s weasel.
And is the church, as an entity, rotted beyond repair? The true holiness this Holy Week is the sight of the gaping holes and fissures that have opened in the rock upon which Peter built God’s church. And from these openings have unleashed a stench that won’t clear for years, if not generations. (more…)