What is happening in Germany with respect to the Catholic Church's sex abuse crisis right now is what happened in America after the first revelations came out of Boston. Instead of the Boston Globe, we have the Süddeutsche Zeitung. What's staggering to me is the Vatican response - which is the same as the Boston church's first reponse. Even now, even after all we have learned and seen this past decade, their response is to say it is primarily part of a campaign to vilify the Pope. Yes, despite hundreds of claims of sexual abuse against children, it's the Pope who's the real victim here:
In a note read on Vatican Radio on Saturday, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said it was “evident that in recent days there are those who have tried, with a certain aggressive tenacity, in Regensburg and in Munich, to find elements to involve the Holy Father personally in issues of abuse.” He added, “It is clear that those efforts have failed.”
Again, it is the reputation of the church and the Pope they care about first, not the welfare of children. In today's developments, the entire question of whether celibacy might have something to do with the stunted sexual and emotional development of priests (you think?) - let alone whether the repression and oppression of homosexuality contributes to psychological damage - has been ruled out of bounds of legitimate discussion by the Vatican:
Several prominent prelates -- in Germany and at the Vatican -- shot down any suggestion that the celibacy rule had anything to do with the scandal, a point echoed Sunday by the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano. "It's been established that there's no link," said the article by Bishop Giuseppe Versaldi, an emeritus professor of canon law and psychology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. "First off, it's known that sexual abuse of minors is more widespread among lay people and those who are married than in the celibate priesthood,'' he wrote. ''Secondly, research has shown that priests guilty of abuse had long before stopped observing celibacy."
First: blame others before taking responsibility; second: a total non-sequitur. Has it occurred to Versaldi that the repressed, contorted sexual teaching of the church leads so many priests, gay and straight, directly into dysfunctional and, yes, disordered sex lives, alone or with others? Does he realize that forcing gay Catholic kids to hate themselves and then to seek refuge in a celibate priesthood as a cover for their unconquerable nature is just asking for later breakdowns and acting out, with teens and kids as the victims? Does he understand that straight men, denied any relationships with women their own age, can get stunted emotionally, fail to see women as equals, and are thereby less capable in many cases of proper pastoral care and sexual misconduct?
But what staggers me is once again the immediate, visceral circling of the wagons - when what is being revealed - again! - is a pattern of criminal abuse, aided and abetted by a powerful elite, led by the Pope himself. If this were a secular institution, the police would move in and shut it down.
We need a statement from the Pope explaining what he knew and didn't know about the abuse of children - and the protection of child-abusing priests - under his direct authority in Regensburg and Munich. His position does not render him above the law - or above taking personal responsibility for the crimes he was duty-bound to discover and prosecute and for the priests he did not remove from their positions of power.
(Photo: Pope Benedict XVI speaks to a priest during a visit to the San Giovanni della Croce Parish in Rome on March 7, 2010. By Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty.)