The Vatican Public Relations machine has lifted its skirts a tiptoed into the winter sunshine. Two weeks ago, the PR men caught our attention with Condomgate and last week they issued a statement indicating that the pope would be happy to ride a solar-powered electric Popemobile. All very cosy and light!
Yesterday they decided to have a “go” at rewriting history in the first stage of making Pope Ratz into everyone’s favourite “Onkel”.
It seems that in 1988, Das Pope wanted to find quicker ways to permanently remove priests who had raped children. Suddenly, the official line is that that the then Cardinal Ratzinger’s initiative had been blocked by Church Law and the conservative Church hierarchy which implemented it.
The law to which the Vatican PR men are referring is that which only allows for removal of offending priests when they askto be laicised (defrocked). That law was last modified in 1983 but is soon to be amended so that when a priest is accused of child rape, he can be dealt with reasonably quickly. Apparently, all those years ago, Ratz asked for a “quicker and simpler” procedure rather than what was (and still is) available – a lengthy church trial. There aren’t all that many priest-trials anyway but apparently, the powerful Cardinal Ratzinger was overruled on the grounds that a priest’s ability to defend himself would be compromised.
The documentation which kick-started Ratzinger’s rehabilitation was published last week in L’Osservatore Romano, in an article explaining an upcoming revision of the 1983 Code of Canon’s Law penal section. It seems that the Holy See finally recognises that the Code has too many loopholes to make it a deterrent to priests who have been entered by Satan and encouraged to perpetrate such heinous acts against children and parishioners.
The Vatican “Max Cliffords” are now seeking to portray Benedict as having done more than anyone else at the Vatican to crack down on paedophile priests. However, in 2001, he had requested that all abuse cases should be referred to his former office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which to many observers suggested “containment” and suppression of information rather than any serious attempt to deal with the problem.
For many years, the Cardinal’s office had been hearing from bishops who were rarely allowed to deal with priests without the rigours of Vatican procedure. Fortunately for the Vatican, the majority of bishops preferred inaction and neither various popes or more recently, Cardinal Ratzinger had a single bishop removed from office even after it had been revealed that the bishops had been complicit in many hundreds of cover-ups.
Sexual abuse victims’ representatives say that a single letter does not excuse decades of inaction or Pope Ratz’ continuing inaction in removing guilty bishops.
It is generally agreed that the pope should be judged by his actions and not by that single letter which , in fact, achieved nothing. As the clerical abuse scandal erupted earlier this year, Benedict was mired by accusations that as prefect of the congregation, he repeatedly refused bishops’ requests to have abusers removed. In reality, he has had ample opportunity to unilaterally declare changes but has continually failed to do so. When it suits the Catholic church it is a democracy and can bring all of its substantial bureaucracy to bear upon an issue and guarantee that it takes years or decades for any change to be effected.
At the time, Ratzinger was following laws and rules introduced by his predecessor Pope John Paul II, which largely left punishing such priests in the hands of local bishops, who often decided against conducting church trials because they found them too cumbersome and could lose them Vatican “brownie points”.
John Paul had also made it tougher to leave the priesthood, hoping to stem the tide of thousands of priests who left in the 1970s to marry. That was during the time when heterosexual rather than paedophilic sex was fashionable.
The priests who remained and who abused children were simply moved to other parishes where they would continue their perversions. The consequence in many countries – notably the USA was that victims sued the local parishes. That resulted in many Catholic dioceses being bankrupted.
In a March 1988 letter to Ratzinger, Cardinal Jose Rosalio Castillo who had headed the Vatican Commission which implemented the 1983 code, said that simplifying the procedures “would endanger the fundamental right of defence” of the priest whilst at the same time straying from the church’s legal-based system. That is to say, a priest’s and the church’s rights took precedence over the victims’ rights.
As the Catholic church’s victims have become braver and thus more vocal, the Vatican has been forced to streamline its own system and procedures so that a priest could be removed without the need for a church trial. Pope Ratzinger’s PR men are now making capital of the changes by portraying their man as an “I told you so” hero.
Monsignor Juan Ignacio Arrieta, the No. 2 in the Vatican’s legal department, said that very soon, proposals for revisions of the penal part of Code of Canon’s Law will be sent to Vatican consultants and advisers. So far, the study has taken over two years and there is no time-limit or target for any changes being implemented. Theoretically, it could take years for any modifications to become law.
Meanwhile the VaticanPublic Relations opportunists have begun to rewrite history and possibly the process which will ultimately have Pope Ratz declared a saint. It seems that the pope’s image is far more important than the physical, psychological damage which was and continues to be inflicted on innocent children by the perverts in dog-collars masquerading as messengers from God.