Helpless in the Vatican The Failed Papacy of Benedict XVI

AFP

Part 7: Protecting Believers from Doubt


This conviction may have been rooted in the widely held belief in the treatability of sexual offenders. The emphasis was placed on the notion that "it was God's duty to protect ordinary believers from all doubt," says Jesuit priest Eberhard von Gemmingen.

The archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, recently offered a deep look into the inner life of the Vatican. When the serious abuse of boarding-school students by Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër came to light in 1995, the officials close to then-Pope John Paul II blocked an investigative commission. The "diplomatic faction" among the pope's courtiers, Schönborn said, tried to blame everything on the media -- against the will of the current pope. "At the time, Ratzinger said to me, sadly: The other party has prevailed."

In his pastoral letter to Irish congregations, Benedict XVI went further than any pope before him. "In her (the Church's) name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel," he wrote. But it was not the admission of personal failure many had hoped for. Benedict criticized some bishops, but not the entire, authoritarian, fossilized "system of bishops." He also failed to take the opportunity to go on the offensive, to speak in the first person and to write about his time as archbishop in Munich.

"Critics will ask: Can Benedict XVI credibly demand greater accountability from bishops, if his own record as a diocesan leader reflects the same pattern of neglect?" writes Benedict biographer John Allen.

Going on the Offensive

Meanwhile, the Vatican seems to have emerged from its state of shock. After the days of awkward silence on a constant stream of new revelations, the Vatican is now going on the offensive, and the pope's defenders are becoming as aggressive as his critics.

Benedict's helpers, old, often retired bishops, armed with microphones and contacts to editors-in-chief and television producers, are stepping up to defend the pontiff. According to a Vatican expert at La Repubblica, the wall they are building around the head of the church is as thick as the wall surrounding the Kremlin.

They are embarking on a defensive war of sorts, a term Antonio Riboldi, the former bishop of Acerra, used when he said that a "war is underway between the Church and the world, between Satan and God." Anyone who attacks the pope has been instructed to do so by the Devil, claims Father Gabriele Amorth, who has been the Vatican's chief exorcist for 25 years.

Shortly before the Easter festivities, Church officials complained about the "stubbornness" of the "anti-Christian hate campaign" in the media, the sole purpose of which, as they argued, is to discredit the pope.

Praying for the Pope

The French bishops, who are in a significantly better position in the abuse affair than their German or Irish counterparts, because they took steps early on to ensure that the relevant offenses would be handed over to civil courts, are sending expressions of solidarity to Rome, and bishops are asking Catholics the world over to pray for the Holy Father "in these difficult times, so that God's grace will sustain him."

German Cardinal Walter Kasper, who has always had a somewhat distant relationship to Ratzinger, conceded, in an interview with the Milan-based newspaper Corriere della Sera, that the church had been silent on instances of abuse in the past, at least in some cases." Calling upon the Vatican to put its house in order, he said that the path to renewal is "irreversible, and that's a good thing." But he too is convinced that the attacks on Benedict "exceed the limits of fairness and decency."

When the pope spoke on Palm Sunday, it sounded as if he were expressing defiant words of comfort for himself. The Christian faith gives us "courage not to be disturbed by the chatter of prevailing opinions," he said to a crowd of 50,000 supporters on St. Peter's Square. Was he saying that the cover-up charges are nothing but the gossip of disbelievers?

'We Have Betrayed the Name of God'

Before giving the sermon, Benedict XVI did something he had avoided on Palm Sundays in previous years. He had himself driven across St. Peter's Square in his popemobile while the faithful cheered and waved their palm fronds. It was no different a little over 2,000 years ago, when Christianity's founder entered Jerusalem. But papal spokesman Lombardi was quick to prevent any improper comparisons from being made. The pope, said Lombardi, had no intention of entrenching himself, but wanted to make himself visible, even to the faithful at the back of the crowd.

One of his closest confidants, on the other hand, has distanced himself from such defiant gestures. On Wednesday, Vienna Archbishop Christoph Schönborn, in a penance service in the city's St. Stephen's Cathedral, offered a confession of guilt: "We confess that we have obscured and betrayed the name of God which means love."

It was, at last, the confession the whole world had been hoping to hear from the German-born pope.

FIONA EHLERS, GREGOR PETER SCHMITZ, ULRICH SCHWARZ, ALEXANDER SMOLTCZYK, PETER WENSIERSKI

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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Norberto_Tyr 04/07/2010
1. We do not have to pick on the Pope just because he is German
Unfortunately all this corruption and corrosion affected the church as it affects everything. Polansky is in gaol in his Swiss chalet, and there are numerous cases of pedophilia outside the church. The issue is more general. For example there is the industry of sex tourism; today a conservative paper will show photographs in the main page that would be considered pornographic 20 years ago. The truth, is that the West (whatever this means today, not Christianity any more) have lost its moral compass, it has been utterly subverted, and the Church is not an exception. I am not a moralist, I believe that an adult have their own right on his / her sexuality; the issue here is about minors, education, mass media, the right of the parents to educate their own children in the way they want to be educated. It is clear that this is impossible today due to peer pressure, the sate educational system, and fundamentally, mass media permeating all. We all have a right to live with the people we want surrounding us. Why ? Because this is the only way we can educate our kids in the way we want to be educated. But, this is impossible now, the state chooses the people we MUST live with based on the obscure and fallacious argument of ‘multiculturalism’. In the past, believing that Jesus Christ was God was the main tenet of the Western society, today this is irrelevant, the principal mantra is multiculturalism. This is wrong. If I want to educate my children as Christians, it is very difficult if my neighbors are atheists mocking about the Virgin Mary’s virginity, Christmas (Santa Claus, a Coca Cola advertising), and the Holy Spirit. It is very difficult to ask our teenagers to be chaste if their neighbors and ‘friends’ run sexy parties every week, and the TV, movies (‘I like to movit movit…’), and the whole mass media entertainment actively encourages them in the opposite direction with the complicity of the secular environment imposing the use of prophylactics and sexual education in the manner and WHEN they decide. There are serious studies proving that early ‘sexual education’ greatly reduces the age of the first sexual experience in kids (average). The real issue here is the obvious and colossal fact that we cannot place the fox with the chickens in the same cage. It does not matter how much education in tolerance we give to the incumbents, it is nature, it is as simple and natural as it is sex. The problem, as things are now, is that the fox, if he is expelled, will cry foul and appeal to the sacrosanct MULTICULTURALISM to avoid having to go and hunt (and be hunted) by himself.
sribeiro 04/07/2010
2. Should I continue to think of you as credible?
I signed Der Spiegel newsletter under advice of a Professor, who told me this was a credible and important newspaper because of its good journalism. Sadly, I find it very difficult to see this in previous week’s news on the Catholic Church and the Pope and the sexual abuses question. In fact, each day you have a new text on the subject that gives the impression that Catholic Church is the meanest institution on earth and that the Pope is the devil in person. If this was the only information source I had, it would seem like the whole world is against the Church and the Pope is some kind of a mafia chief felt in disgrace within its organization and that he will be replaced anytime… In fact, haven’t been able to find in this newspaper one text – only one – presenting the Catholic Church’s and the Pope’s defence, point of view or even an independent study on the issue as to let your readers know the other side of the story or just plain facts on child abuse worldwide and over the years; percentage of catholic priest involved in these cases; what this Pope has in fact done and is doing in order to address the problem, etc.. I find it difficult to believe you do think these problems are only felt within the Church, or mainly in the Church – DS journalists do know better. Then why, if I may ask, this one-sided, inequitable, way of presenting the news on this subject? I’ll have to go back to my Professor and discuss this with him – is DS really reliable? Should I take it for granted that the news you publish are in fact news… or just opinion articles, and not what democratic free societies consider news (even if formally they look like news, and are put in the news, not opinion, section)?
plotinus 04/07/2010
3. ...unless they make him an offer he can't refuse
Zitat von sribeiroI signed Der Spiegel newsletter under advice of a Professor, who told me this was a credible and important newspaper because of its good journalism. Sadly, I find it very difficult to see this in previous week’s news on the Catholic Church and the Pope and the sexual abuses question. In fact, each day you have a new text on the subject that gives the impression that Catholic Church is the meanest institution on earth and that the Pope is the devil in person. If this was the only information source I had, it would seem like the whole world is against the Church and the Pope is some kind of a mafia chief felt in disgrace within its organization and that he will be replaced anytime… In fact, haven’t been able to find in this newspaper one text – only one – presenting the Catholic Church’s and the Pope’s defence, point of view or even an independent study on the issue as to let your readers know the other side of the story or just plain facts on child abuse worldwide and over the years; percentage of catholic priest involved in these cases; what this Pope has in fact done and is doing in order to address the problem, etc.. I find it difficult to believe you do think these problems are only felt within the Church, or mainly in the Church – DS journalists do know better. Then why, if I may ask, this one-sided, inequitable, way of presenting the news on this subject? I’ll have to go back to my Professor and discuss this with him – is DS really reliable? Should I take it for granted that the news you publish are in fact news… or just opinion articles, and not what democratic free societies consider news (even if formally they look like news, and are put in the news, not opinion, section)?
The pope *is* a mafia chief, but he won't be replaced anytime soon. .
endovelico 04/07/2010
4. Why?
Catholic priests come often from very strict families, where sex is, at best, an undesirable subject. Future priests often repress their sexuality beyond what would be advisable. Once they grow up and become priests this excessive sexual repression means that they have never dealt properly with their sexuality. In many cases, sooner or later, this will lead to adults trying to "fix" their unsolved sexuality by focusing on the age group which should have had their attention when they were children or teenagers. Child molesting is not a consequence of priest celibacy, but of excessive sexual repression as youngsters. It's a cultural problem which has no quick solution. And the question is: would normal children, with a normal sexuality, ever become interested in becoming priests in a Church which sees sexuality as disgusting? If not, then I'm afraid child molesting is going to remain a problem for the Catholic Church.
goliah 04/07/2010
5. This church has no future...
"The waves of accumulating scandal engulfing the roman catholic church will look a mere trifle compared to the 'perfect storm' that is shortly coming. For these growing, worldwide sexual scandals and endemic institutional corruption, having destroyed virtually any remaining 'moral' authority or presumption to understand human nature, are just setting the stage for the 'churches' worst nightmare: the questioning of it's very origins! And that has already begun on the web. Not by any atheist ravings, but with first wholly new interpretation for 2000 years of the Gospel and moral teachings of Christ. Redefining everything from the nature of faith to the Resurrection, for the first time in history, however unexpected, the world must now measure for itself, the reality of a new claim to revealed truth, a moral tenet not of human intellectual origin, offering access by faith, to absolute proof, an objective basis for moral principle and a fully rational and justifiable belief!* This is not reformation but revolution. We may very well come to 'remember' the church as two thousands years of hubris, theological self deception, retailing a counterfeit copy of revealed truth. Check it at: http://www.energon.org.uk "*
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