Benedict XIV: Papal Infallibility to Moral Frailty
by Sandhya Jain on 31 Mar 2010 15 Comments

The Promised Land is a far horizon; what beckons is a treacherous infamy. The imperious Pope Benedict XIV, once the awesome Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and head of Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (read Inquisition, 1981-2005), is at the receiving end of an Inquisitorial Flock demanding his Shepherd’s baton.


Perhaps the alleged Nostradamus Prophecy is coming true, and the end of the Catholic Church is nigh.


And not a day too soon, in my opinion, as the wrack and ruin accompanying the rise and spread of the Roman Catholic Church over two millennia in Europe, the Americas, Canada, Australia, Africa, is now creeping dangerously into the Asian landmass, home to the world’s great ancient and living civilisations.


Given the intimate relationship between church, empire/kingdom and trade/monopoly, the historical timing of the demand for the Pope’s resignation (read virtual defrock by outraged public opinion) is apt.


It accompanies the decline of American post-Second World War global hegemony, the irreversible economic decline of the West despite all manoeuvres to stave off the coming collapse, and America’s military inability to control a Stone Age people like the Afghans despite its shock and awe armoury. [The Fall seems likely to adversely affect all of Abraham’s offspring, their being too inextricably intertwined with each other to disengage safely, but that need not detain us here].


Cannibals of the Creation


In just the last two decades, the Catholic Church’s (and other church denominations) history of sexual abuse of men, women, minor boys, minor girls, married women, youth, even the physically challenged, have been spilling out of the cupboard, shattering its carefully constructed visage as an army of Christ dedicated to the mission of taking the Word and the Light to the dark corners of the world (read Asia).


As every continent and country, virtually every parish, shudders with anguished screams of victims of priestly lust, what has unravelled is an edifice of Apostolic continuity in perpetuating crime and cover-up. At the epicenter of the conspiracy of silence is the Vatican itself, and its crimes are millennia-old. The Soviet Gulags may look like a teddy bear’s picnic once Vatican Archives are opened for public scrutiny; that may happen in this very century. Bliss will it be in that dawn to be alive…  


It’s ironic but apt that the Abrahamic Civilisation – where the God of the Creation made everything in creation a consumable for Man’s enjoyment, and forgot to forbid Man from eating his own kind like some of the lower animals – is falling prey to its own cannibalistic tendency! Priests and Bishops with ‘power’ over their flock literally feasted on the lambs, using their minds and bodies as consumable delicacies and raping, abusing, sodomising with impunity any and all who took their fancy. The institution of Confession – far from aiding the spiritual evolution of the faithful, proved a potent instrument of blackmail of the isolated and atomized individual, and perpetuated the most horrendous traumas a religion can impose upon its own folk – and for no real or imagined crime(s).


With hindsight, it is easy to see why Sigmund Freud, father of modern psychology, viewed every psychological problem of his patients as evidence of a repressed sexual fantasy. What he meant but could not openly say in that era, was that they were victims of sexual abuse at the hands of those they dared not accuse in public. He must have helped them come to terms with the abuse and have closure or at least some solace in their personal lives.


That Western psychology has more or less stuck to this path with minor modifications vindicates my view that Freud invented psychology as a method of helping Church victims of sexual abuse to speak to non-priests about their traumas. It is not surprising that when victims of the church began to go public about their anguish in recent decades, the method by which they established their claims in court was via the psychiatric clinic – through childhood regression, hypnosis, counselling, and so on.


What a denouement – the church is the Original Revolution that has devoured its own children! Her other victims she cares little about, but now, with Biblical precision, her own children shall rise and call her wretched, the flesh-devouring witch of a childhood tale…


The Pope must go


Pope Benedict is up to his holy ears in the sex scam hush-up policy; hence the rising chorus for his resignation. The scandal gets murkier by the day. Even the rape of the patriarch Noah by his own son, or the rape of Lot by his own daughters, indigestible as those Biblical truths were, cannot match the dimensions of the current problem.


Only last week, three separate stories suggested Benedict’s direct role in the conspiracy of silence. Father Lawrence Murphy of Wisconsin abused nearly 200 boys at a Milwaukee school for the deaf. Arthur Budzinski, a victim, went public with accusations against the pontiff. His daughter Gigi, said: “The pope knew about this. He was the one who handled the sex abuse cases. So, I think he should be accountable, because he did nothing” [Mike Whitney,, March 29, 2010]


For years now, reams have been written about how the Vatican moved sexual predators from parish to parish, refusing to call the police and give justice to the victims, refusing the defrock the guilty and spare the innocent, and using its doctrinal superiority to perpetuate what must be the worst mass crime in history. It’s a fit case for the Criminal Tribunal at The Hague – if it can be persuaded to prosecute white Christians, that is.


Throughout its long history of sexual abuse, the prime concern of church authorities has been to avoid litigation, specifically, to avoid paying for its crimes by handing over the guilty to the law and giving compensation and therapy to its victims.


In 2009, 67 former students of the Antonio Provolo Institute for the Deaf in Verona signed a statement describing the sexual abuse, pedophilia and corporal punishment they suffered from the 1950s to the 1980s – yes, 30 years, a lifetime! They named 24 priests, brothers and lay religious men. (“Sex abuse scandal in US, Italy taints papacy,” Nicole Winfield, AP)


As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger was in charge of the escalating crisis, and his response was to silence priests who might talk. He wrote to the Bishops in 2001 to keep sexual abuse allegations secret under threat of excommunication of both the accused priests and the victims of sex crimes; he demanded “a perpetual silence.” (Washington Post)


[Is this is the Cross – or dagger – that he wants to plant in Asia?!]


Benedict has been implicated in the case of Munich priest Father Peter Hullermann, who was suspended in 1979 and rehabilitated in 1980 ‘without restrictions’ even after a psychiatrist described him as a potential danger [the Pope was then the Archbishop of Munich!]. In 1986, Hullermann was convicted of molesting boys in Bavaria.

Recently the Pope apologised to Catholics in Ireland for decades of cruelty and abuse. But the fact is that Benedict knew about the abuse, and let it happen. Worse, even as Vatican faces the gravest crises of its modern history, he declared he would not be intimidated by critics, petty gossip, or dominant opinion, and shrugged off calls for his resignation.


An anguished Barbara Blaine, president, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), asserted: we are men, women and children who are in deep pain, having been raped, sodomized and assaulted by Catholic clergy and often betrayed by Catholic officials. Our trauma - past and present - should never be trivialized by anyone, much less by those who profess to be caring shepherds.


Talk of ‘petty gossip’ really hurt because it came from the Pope himself. She said the thousands of victims were doing a public service by courageously speaking out and thus making the church, and society, safer for children by exposing predators and long-hidden secrets and corruption. The Catholic hierarchy can’t pretend to care about victims and also attack them.


Undaunted Church


Many demand the resignation of Cardinal Sean Brady, head of the Irish Church. The stories of child abuse by priests are particularly ghastly, with accounts about victims bashed up for pleasure who later simply ‘disappeared.’ The religion itself protects these sadistic priestly perverts, charges Eamonn McCann [Belfast Telegraph, 25 March 2010]


The complete dimensions of the scandal are unknown. Cardinal Sean Brady personally knew of the abuse of at least two children and instead of calling the police, forced the victims to keep quiet about the crime [standard church protocol]. His predecessor, Cahal Daly, was informed in writing about the horrific abuse of an 8-year-old girl, who lost her mind because of the trauma; his response was to promise to pray for the family, and that’s it.


The religion of love!!!


Truly unforgivable is the fact that the night before the rapist arrived in the parish, a senior official of the diocese visited the parochial house where he was to stay and warned the priests there to ‘keep an eye on him’ and try to ensure he never visited homes with children alone. In other words, his history was known (to at least two Bishops), and yet children were wantonly endangered.


In Ontario, Canada, pedophile priest Monsignor Bernard Prince was appointed secretary general of Vatican’s Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith in 1991, despite knowledge of the allegations against him. He retired in 2004. In 2008, he was convicted of molesting 13 young boys between 1964 and 1984; he was defrocked in 2009.


Such stories are now coming out of every parish across the globe. Within India, Dr. Sister Jesme Raphael shattered the conspiracy of silence by speaking out against the sexual abuse and moral depravity in the Kerala Catholic church. In an autobiographical account of her own knowledge and experiences, “Amen” [Malayalam], Sister Jesme bore witness to what happened to her and to other nuns who entered the church in good faith, expecting to lead lives of virtue and service to god and society. What happened behind closed convent doors was rampant exploitation of nuns by priests and same sex relations [Mote and the beam, Sandhya Jain, 3 March 2009,]


Her story confirmed allegations that church authorities made use of a notorious institution called the Divine Life institution to declare recalcitrant nuns insane. Her frontal assault upon the misdeeds of the church closely followed the arrest of two nuns in the Sister Abhaya rape-cum-murder case, which the Catholic Church struggled to suppress for 16 long years; the suicide of Sister Anupama Mary in Kollam and the allegations by Mary’s father of sex abuse by convent superiors.

The History


Whether or not Sex is Man’s Original Sin, it seems to be the oldest and most chronic activity encountered, and forbidden, by the Catholic Church – that too, in vain. This is the suppressed truth of the church, scrupulously documented by three priests in “Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes. The Catholic Church’s 2000-year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse,” [Thomas P. Doyle, A.W. Richard Sipe and Patrick J. Wall, Volt Press, Los Angeles, 2006].

Written after scandals and lawsuits began to rock America, the book demonstrates that sexual abuse of minor boys, girls, women, by priests can be traced back to the time records were kept! A conspiracy of silence was institutionalized, and this allowed the sexual abuse to prosper. Only the recent pressure of exorbitant lawsuits and settlements that endangered church assets triggered church concern about rampaging sexual predators in its ranks. 


-        The oldest known instruction to Church officials, the Didache, dates from the second century AD and commands, ‘Thou shalt not seduce young boys’. [What an interesting Commandment]


-        The Council of Elvira, 309 AD, the earliest recorded gathering of bishops, spelt out 81 Canons; 38 dealt with sex. It excluded from receiving communion ‘bishops, presbyters, and deacons committing a sexual sin’, ‘those who sexually abuse boys’, and ‘people who bring charges against bishops and presbyters without proving their cases’.  


-        St. Peter Damian’s Book of Gomorrah (1051 AD) attacked the sexual immorality of the clergy of his time and the lax superiors who failed to curb it. He condemned priests who defiled men or boys coming for confession, and priests who gave the sacrament of penance to their own victims. He urged Pope Leo IX to act to redress the damage caused by offending clerics – the response was a model of inaction, a prelude to the experience of our own era.


-        Why would the early Church mention such things if they were not rampant?


-        After his elevation as Pope, the first US prelate granted a personal audience with Benedict was Cardinal Bernard Law, who three years previously had resigned in disgrace as archbishop of Boston following revelations that he had systematically moved predator priests from parish to parish, never alerting parents to the danger in which their children were being put. Yet Benedict chose to honour him just 12 days into his papacy.


-        The same attitude was on display in his response to the report three years ago on abuse of children in Ferns, Wexford. In a 271-page document, retired US Supreme Court judge Frank Murphy identified more than 100 allegations against 26 priests. The judge found that the diocese was silencing the victims and protecting the abusers from the law in conformity to standard instructions from Rome. Benedict claimed horror at the behaviour of the priests but made no comment, or apology, at the finding against the Vatican.


If an institution is found by its own people to protect and nurture rotten apples, can it be permitted to function with impunity in the public domain? With what face does the church talk of the Spirit when the sons of the church are smitten with the sins of the flesh? How can any country permit church officials to operate freely amongst potential victims? The public debate on the future of the church must be truly international for a correct picture to emerge.


The author is Editor,

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