Monday, April 12, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI Needs to Resign

I hinted in my post last week about the Catholic Church's ever-growing sexual abuse scandal that Pope Benedict XVI might want to think about resigning to save face.  With new revelations that the Associated Press has obtained a letter from the pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, which advises against laicizing priest Stephen Kiesle, who pleaded no contest to charges of lewd conduct for tying up two boys in a church rectory and molesting them, I believe that Pope Benedict XVI has no other choice.

The timeline of the whole affair is troubling.  Kiesle pleaded no contest to the charges in August of 1978.  In July of 1981, Oakland Bishop John Cummins sent a letter to the Vatican stating that Kiesle wanted to leave the priesthood and suggesting that the Vatican grant the child molester his wish.  In November of that year the Vatican asked for more information.  The following February Cummins gives them that information.  The letter from Ratzinger does not come until November of 1985, despite numerous requests for updates and even a personal meeting at the Vatican by Cummins.  By this point, Kiesle was already back working with kids for the Church, volunteering as a youth minister at St. Joseph's Church in Pinole, California.

So after waiting more than four years to get back to Cummins, Ratzinger wrote the letter that pressed for caution when it came to defrocking priests who had tied up and molested boys.  While Ratzinger felt that the charges against Kiesle were of "grave significance," they had to consider "the good of the Universal Church" and "the detriment that granting dispensation can provoke with the community of Christ's faithful."  If this does not make clear where the Church's priorities lie you're not paying attention.

Even after all of this - not being forceful enough over the Irish scandal, the Peter Hullerman debacle, continued law-evading techniques of priests, wildly inappropriate comments by high-ranking clergy, and a letter with the pope's signature saying, in essence, do not defrock this pedophile priest - will people continue to defend Ratzinger's record?  Have I mentioned where Kiesle is today?  He is a sex offender living in Walnut Creek, California, recently released from a six year prison stint following a no contest plea to a felony charge of molesting a young girl in 1995, eight years after he was finally defrocked.  He did face 13 counts of child molestation, but 11 were thrown out due to the invalidation of a California law extending the statute of limitations.

So even with all of these cover-ups and the glaring lack of stern action when it came to dealing with pedophiles who victimize children, there are those who say, "You don't know what you're talking about; You're just anti-Catholic and hateful; The pope can't resign, do you know what that would do to the Church!"  Take this quote from Nicholas Cafardi, canon lawyer and professor at Duquesne Law: "The people who are calling for this [the pope's resignation] have no idea the seriousness of what they're asking."  I don't think Cafardi understands the seriousness of institutional sexual abuse at the hands of priests and the massive cover-up that followed.  Pope Benedict XVI's fingerprints are all over two attempts to keep child molesters employed with the Church and to keep their crimes out of the public eye for "the good of the Universal Church."  I don't see it as unreasonable to call for him to step down given these disturbing revelations.

As the AP article says, the Vatican views criticisms against the Church as "a hate-fueled campaign against the entire church and its theology."  I'll admit part of my calls for Pope Benedict XVI's resignation comes from hate, but the hate is not for the Church or its theology.  It is a hatred of child molesters and those who prey on children.  It is a hatred of those who have the power to stop such despicable behavior, but allow it to continue nearly unchecked.  It is a hatred of bold-faced hypocrisy and desperate, white-knuckled grasps for power.

Another classic excuse for the actions of the Church is embodied by William Portier, an expert on Catholic theology and the church at the University of Dayton.  He states that because the view of those who molest children has changed over time (from a matter of confession, to a mental illness, to a crime), it may seem odd what Ratzinger did by today's standards, but he acted "according to protocol" back then.  I'm no expert on social mores concerning sexual molestation of children, but it's been a crime for a while now (both Hullerman and Keisle were charged with crimes) and I don't think it's been socially accepted since the time of the ancient Greeks, never mind 25 years ago.

I do not take lightly the seriousness of demanding the resignation of a sitting pope.  I also do not take lightly child molesters being allowed nearly unfettered access to children despite their propensity for molesting said children.  There's no denying Ratzinger was personally involved in moving pedophile priests around to avoid bad press "for the good of the Universal Church."  The question now is will he own up to it and resign?

Photo - Pope Benedict XVI (Official Vatican Website)

1 comment:

  1. The Church will fall:

    The waves of accumulating scandal shaking the ramparts of the roman catholic church will look a mere trifle compared to the 'perfect storm' that is shortly coming. For these growing, worldwide sexual scandals and endemic institutional corruption, having destroyed virtually any remaining 'moral' authority, while betraying thousands of children and the faithful, only reflect a far greater betrayal of humanity itself and is setting the stage for the 'churches' worst nightmare: the questioning of it's very origins! And that has already started on the web. But not by any atheist ravings. We may very well come to 'remember' the church as two thousands years of accumulated hubris and theological self deception, retailing a counterfeit copy of revealed truth.