Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Not too long ago, I discussed Sarah Palin's inadvertent, but thought-provoking invitation to us to consider the viability of the Bible as a source for moral guidance. Yesterday, through a damning Christopher Hitchens piece, I learned that none other than Pope Benedict is doing the same thing regarding the absurd notion that morality is a simply a matter of following orders.
Discussing Cardinal Ratzinger's personal role in covering up allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergymen, Hitchens pulls no punches.
Very much more serious is the role of Joseph Ratzinger, before the church decided to make him supreme leader, in obstructing justice on a global scale. After his promotion to cardinal, he was put in charge of the so-called "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" (formerly known as the Inquisition). In 2001, Pope John Paul II placed this department in charge of the investigation of child rape and torture by Catholic priests. In May of that year, Ratzinger issued a confidential letter to every bishop. In it, he reminded them of the extreme gravity of a certain crime. But that crime was the reporting of the rape and torture. The accusations, intoned Ratzinger, were only treatable within the church's own exclusive jurisdiction. Any sharing of the evidence with legal authorities or the press was utterly forbidden. Charges were to be investigated "in the most secretive way ... restrained by a perpetual silence ... and everyone ... is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office … under the penalty of excommunication." (My italics). Nobody has yet been excommunicated for the rape and torture of children, but exposing the offense could get you into serious trouble. And this is the church that warns us against moral relativism! (See, for more on this appalling document, two reports in the London Observer of April 24, 2005, by Jamie Doward.) [emphasis in original]This should come as no surprise to anyone who noticed, as I did when Ratzinger became Pope, that the same man who took time to condemn the Harry Potter series and non-reproductive sex between consenting adults also kept Bernard Cardinal Law safe from legal authorities.
What does it tell you that Ratzinger would level the kind of threat he did about reporting something that (as far as I can tell) is immoral even by the expressed "standards" of his church? It might mean that he doesn't really take hellfire seriously himself or that he regards the purpose of morality as something other than helping one live one's life. Perhaps both.
The question any Catholic should ask himself is, what's in this for me? The Pope has already told you through his actions. Why follow his edicts, or those of anyone else?