Learning From Pilate

Pope Bennie XVI has come and gone, leaving behind him a trail of public and private apologies for the sexual misconduct of Catholic clergy and religious, for having disrespected Islam, etc. Nothing particularly exciting about that. Popes have been apologizing for past and current abuses ever since Paul VI issued the first in what has become a continuing series of papal mea culpas. Paul VI may have been the first, but his successor set a record for papal apologies:

During his long reign, Pope John Paul II apologized to Muslims for the Crusades, to Jews for anti-Semitism, to Orthodox Christians for the sacking of Constantinople, to Italians for the Vatican's associations with the Mafia and to scientists for the persecution of Galileo.

He apologized so often, in fact, that an Italian journalist compiled a book of more than 90 papal statements of contrition.

Yet the pope never apologized for the most shocking behavior that came to light on his watch: sexual abuse of children by priests and the church's attempts to hush it up. To some alleged victims, that is a puzzling omission and a deep stain on his legacy -- Alan Cooperman, Debate continues over pope's reaction to sex-abuse scandal, Washington Post, Apr. 2, 2005 © 2005 The Washington Post Company

The imperial popentate of Catholicism didn't wait until he reached the USA to begin apologizing for the sexual abuses of American “other Christs” (alter Christos).

Before he even arrived in the US, Pope Benedict XVI apologized for the pedophilia scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church there for the last four years. But German commentators say that more needs to be done.

The pope said he was "deeply ashamed" about the child sex scandal in the US Catholic Church. -- Mark Waffel, Pope's Pedophilia Apology 'Not Enough', Spiegel Online, April 17, 2008, © SPIEGEL ONLINE 2008

There certainly is plenty to be ashamed about.

Well over 4,000 priests have been accused of molesting minors in the US since 1950, reports said, and the Church has paid out more than $2 billion, much of it just in the past six years. Dioceses have been driven to bankruptcy because of the costs. -- Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, Popes Apologizing, Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 24, 2008, © 2008 Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Now that Pope Bennie has apologized might we expect that there will be any real changes in the makeup of the Catholic priesthood or the ways that deviant priests and religious will be handled? Not really. For decades, Mama Church has been assuring the world that she is going to clean up her priestly hierarchy. Before he became pope, Bennie was known as Cardinal Ratzinger , the Prefect of the current incarnation of the Inquisition – The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. From that powerful position, it is claimed that he:

. . . played a leading role in a systematic cover-up of child sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests, according to a shocking documentary to be screened by the BBC tonight.

In 2001, while he was a cardinal, he issued a secret Vatican edict to Catholic bishops all over the world, instructing them to put the Church's interests ahead of child safety.

The document recommended that rather than reporting sexual abuse to the relevant legal authorities, bishops should encourage the victim, witnesses and perpetrator not to talk about it. And, to keep victims quiet, it threatened that if they repeat the allegations they would be excommunicated. – Anonymous, Pope Led Cover-up of Child Abuse by Priests, “The Evening Standard,” Sept. 30, 2006, © 2008 Associated Newspapers Limited   [Read the article]

“Keep quiet or we'll make you pay.” Sounds like coercion to me.

Two thousand years ago, when Palestine was under the thumb of Rome, much of what little power Rome did not arrogate to herself was granted to the leaders of the Jewish community. These table scraps of autonomy were in large degree exercised by the Sanhedrin. When it came to capital crimes, only the representatives of the Roman Emperor were empowered to exercise the death penalty. This explains why the Jewish mob had Jesus dragged before Pontius Pilate; they wanted Him to be condemned to death. Pilate was reluctant to deliver Jesus over for execution, but the Jewish crowd was growing unruly.

Pilate found a way out of his dilemma, or so he apparently thought. He would not personally pronounce a death sentence over Jesus; he thought to distance himself from responsibility by allowing the mob to decide whether Jesus should live or die.

When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. -- Matthew 27:24

The Roman Catholic Church also seeks to distance herself from responsibility for the horrific crimes laid at her doorstep. How many times have we seen bishops, cardinals and popes tendering public 'apologies' for misdeeds of some “members of the Catholic Church,” but never accepting that, just as they are speaking for and on behalf of, the Catholic Church, so did those others for whose deeds they apologize act for and on behalf of the Catholic Church. Just as washing his hands did not magically separate Pilate from any responsibility in the death of Jesus, modern day Catholic spokesmen-apologizers cannot magically separate the Catholic Church from responsibility for misdeeds done in her name.

For some time now, news media have been provided plenty of grist for the mill of public outrage by revelations of sexual misconduct on the part of some Catholic priests and religious. Apparently, that ethereal body calling itself the Catholic Church has found a way to wash its hands of responsibility for the despicable sexual crimes of her priests, bishops and religious: She simply declares that homosexuals and abusers of children should not be ordained. For example:

Bishop William Gregory, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, revealed that the extent of the problem is greater than previously known, saying that the Catholic Church is locked in “an ongoing struggle to make sure that the priesthood is not dominated by homosexual men.”USA Today, April 25, 2002

Well, there's one way out: claim ignorance. Bishop Gregory's argument requires us to believe that the Catholic leadership was not aware that the Catholic priesthood was increasingly being considered as a good career choice for homosexual males. Yeah. Sure.

Somebody in the Vatican must have noticed something was going on in the dark corners of the Catholic priesthood, for in 1961, the Vatican sent a directive to bishops which read, in part:

Advancement to religious vows and ordination should be barred to those who are afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality or pederasty, since for them the common life and the priestly ministry would constitute dangers. -- Nothing Extraordinary, "Inside the Vatican," Copyright © 2004 - 2008 Dr. Robert Moynihan, Editor, Inside the Vatican Magazine

he powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith apparently had some idea of the growing number of homosexuals in the Catholic priesthood:

Even when the practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten the lives and wellbeing of a large number of people, its advocates remain undeterred and refuse to consider the magnitude of the risks involved. The Church can never be so callous...she is really concerned about the many who are not represented by the prohomosexual movement and about those who may have been tempted to believe its deceitful propaganda. — Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, The Vatican, 1986

As the news media reported a seemingly endless series of sexual abuse allegations against Catholic priests, bishops and religious, a spokesman for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expressed an unequivocal opinion:

Persons with a homosexual inclination should not be admitted to the seminary.—Archbishop Tarcision Bertone, secretary, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, The Vatican, Catholic News Service, March 6, 2002

As the scandals continued, more and more Catholic personages jumped on the “Get The Homosexuals Out Of The Priesthood” bandwagon:

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia: We feel a person who is homosexual-oriented is not a suitable candidate for the priesthood even if he had never committed any homosexual act…what the Church considers an aberration, a moral evil.Detroit News, April 27, 2002

Just in case someone failed to understand the Vatican's public position concerning homosexualality and the priesthood, the Vatican issued yet another statement in the clearest of language:

People with (homosexual) inclinations just cannot be ordained. — Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, New York Times, March 3, 2002

And there you have it. When you next read about allegations of sexual misconduct having been made against a Catholic priest or religious, you will know that the Catholic Church has no part in the responsibility for the alleged offender's deeds, even though she may have sheltered and protected him for years. How can you know this? It's simple: Vatican policy bans homosexual priests.

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