e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


guts or gall

On his way to the U.S., Pope Benedict answered pre-screened questions including one about clergy pedophilia. I didn't think his staff would allow discussion of the topic, given how tightly they control the Pope's conversations and also given how the discussion opens the Pope up to criticism. The headlines emphasize the Pope's words aboard his plane, where he said he's "deeply ashamed" of the scandal.

I suppose it's gutsy on the part of the Pope and his inner circle to engage questions about the scandal. Or maybe he has no choice. Maybe omission of the scandal from his agenda would be the bigger, more glaring sin.

Before becoming Pope, "Joseph Ratzinger" (his given name) headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office that oversaw the Vatican's response to the scandal (despite the scandal being outside the CDF's jurisdiction, but how Ratzinger's office took control of vatican response is another story). Noone has ever held Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, accountable for the mishandling of the situation, for his "leadership" that emphasized a "public relations" tone, a tone that U.S. bishops clearly picked up on.

An example of this leadership? The British press uncovered evidence that Cardinal Ratzinger ordered bishops to handle allegations of sexual abuse internally and keep the allegations from law enforcement. Ratzinger situated the church's jursidiction within the context of a "pontifical secret" and threatened to excommunicate diocesan officials who tattle to the cops. Nice.

So forgive me if I suggest it takes some gall for the Pope to speak with moral authority about the scandal. Though, I can see why he says he's "deeply ashamed." It will be interesting to see if the U.S. media downplays the Pope's history with the scandal as much as they've downplayed, say, the church's condemnation of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. On yesterday's Diane Rehm show, Rehm mentioned the pedophilia memo but the panelists quickly changed the subject. Will others bring up what seems to me to be a relevant piece of context? We'll see.


Eddie Rogers said...

A Google Alert brought me to your blog. The Pope had not choice but to say that he is ashamed. I doubt that any changes will be made. A two thousand year organization which had for quite a few centuries absolute power on the Western World will not change easily. Remember that the Cardinals were once parochial priests and had a flock of altar boys to help him. In 2002 the Church was caught off-guard and it cost them a billion dollars. They have regrouped and once again a veil of secrecy covers all the Church's actions. These veil is more deceitful and powerful than the Iron Curtain in the 50's. What Ratzinger has done is to give Sanctuary to all the child molesters that wear a frock in the Catholic Church. Thanks for the comments on your blog. ER

bdegenaro said...

Eddie: Some canon law experts speculate that Pope Benedict could be heading toward making some significant changes in how the Vatican handles priests convicted of abuse (see several stories on the NY Times' frontpage right now). Holding bishops accountable, though, is doubtful. Changing the whole ethos of "secrecy" is also doubtful, unfortunately. But at least the Pope expressed shame. That's a start. A good sign.