THE Pope, before stepping down, said the Catholic Church “had faced stormy weather” and “at times it felt like the Lord was sleeping”.For victims of sexual abuse this was a sickening distortion of the truth.
The Church, which claims to support family values, has turned a blind eye to the abuse of children in their care for generations.
The institutional response was not to hand over priests to the police, but to relocate abusers thus allowing them to simply carry on. When victims, usually practising Catholics, have spoken out they are described as being “motivated by greed”, whilst their abusers receive plaudits for past good deeds.
Before becoming Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, Joseph Ratzinger was the second most powerful priest in the Vatican, in charge of an organisation once known as the ‘inquisition’, the ultimate enforcer for any priests that broke the rules.
He did that job for 23 years, yet controversially issued an “order to all bishops to abide by an oath of strictest silence in dealing with crimes of sexual abuse”, as well as setting a time limit of 10 years from the date of commission of the sexual offence for a prosecution to be brought before the Vatican.
As Pope, Ratzinger invoked “diplomatic immunity” to avoid prosecution for “complicity in a cover up” in legal actions around the world, but this immunity was also extended to other high-ranking church officials.
A nine-year investigation into widespread abuse of tens of thousands of children in Ireland’s industrial schools, prisons and orphanages run by the Catholic Church found the primary motive of the church was “to maintain secrecy, avoid scandal, protect the reputation of the church, and preserve its assets”. The welfare of children and justice for victims never featured.
Slave labour, sadistic, physical, sexual, emotional abuse, ritualised beatings and rape of children was found to be endemic.
The report said: “Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from.”
Of course the Church and many priests do good work, providing a haven in a heartless world to the vulnerable, sick and the poor, which is why the abuse of trust by some priests and nuns has created the greatest crisis in the Church’s 2,000-year history.
A decade ago, Church leaders in a campaign to keep the anti-gay Section 28, described homosexuality as a “perversion”, comparing gay people to “Hitler’s Nazis”. The comparison was grotesque considering that Nazi Germany targeted one million German gays, sending thousands to their deaths in concentration camps.
A decade later the language hasn’t changed much.
Cardinal O’Brien described gay marriage as an “abomination, a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right” and for him “abortion was the equivalent of two Dunblane massacres a day”.
Yet with each scandal of child abuse, rape and gay sex, many priests are shown to be hypocrites saying one thing in public and doing another in private.
For too long, a toxic cocktail of secrecy, repression and guilt has given abusers the freedom to rape and abuse.
Any new Pope should ask what Jesus would have made of all of this and stop focusing on people’s sex lives and deal with injustice and poverty.