Pope Connected to Sex Abuse Scandal

  • #1
russ_watters
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Wow, this is really bad for the Pope and Catholicism:
A priest convicted of sexually abusing children -- and whose subsequent move from one location to another the pope approved when he was a German cardinal -- has been suspended, his archdiocese announced Monday.
http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/03/15/vatican.priests.sexual.abuse/index.html?hpt=T2

What it implies is that the Pope knew of sexual abuse and participated in a coverup of the same type that played-out in the US many times (I actually thought this was largely an American problem).

The Vatican is a strange entity, part city-state, part business and part religion. The Pope isn't just a religious figurehead, but a king and CEO if I understand it correctly. From a business standpoint, it is very bad, but I'm not sure there is even a protocol for removing a Pope from office or censuring him. But the church is in decline and if people believe that there is a top-to-bottom structural problem, that decline will only get worse.

Remembering that we need to stay away from the religious aspects here (and Jesus/God really isn't relevant to this discussion anyway), what led to the split of the protestants was basically tyranny and corruption and this has the same type of feel to it. The church has no real accountability to its members - all they can really do is leave.
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
zomgwtf
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Doubt it, highly.

What it implies is that the Pope knew of sexual abuse and participated in a coverup
O RLY? Substantiate that claim a tad bit more. What I read is that in this particular case the pope didn't really know what was up with the guy, is that surprising? Not at all in my opinion. Reading further it goes on to say that a 'top vatican official' says blah blah blah, well those are called accusations and they weren't directed at the pope. I have a feeling your going to come at me with your amazing argument prowess so I'm just gonna stop there. I don't agree with this statement at all.

The Vatican is a strange entity, part city-state, part business and part religion. The Pope isn't just a religious figurehead, but a king and CEO if I understand it correctly. From a business standpoint, it is very bad, but I'm not sure there is even a protocol for removing a Pope from office or censuring him. But the church is in decline and if people believe that there is a top-to-bottom structural problem, that decline will only get worse.

I guess you can look at it that way.
 
  • #3
russ_watters
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This part is interestingly worded:
A small minority of the 3,000 complaints against priests accused them of abusing children, he added.

"About sixty percent of the cases chiefly involved sexual attraction toward adolescents of the same sex, another 30 percent involved heterosexual relations, and the remaining 10 percent were cases of pedophilia in the true sense of the term," he said.
"pedophilia in the true sense of the term" implies to me that they are unwilling to admit that that other 60% (or some fraction thereof) really is - according to the legal definition - pedophilia.
 
  • #4
russ_watters
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O RLY? Substantiate that claim a tad bit more. What I read is that in this particular case the pope didn't really know what was up with the guy, is that surprising? Not at all in my opinion.
That explanation fails a pretty basic test of logic: If the Pope didn't know about the abuse, why did he transfer the priest? At best, it would mean he was asleep at the wheel while his underlings did the coverup and he rubber-stamped the transfer to purposely avoid personal knowledge.
Reading further it goes on to say that a 'top vatican official' says blah blah blah, well those are called accusations and they weren't directed at the pope.
No, they are called convictions. The priest was convicted. He really was an abuser. And he really was transferred to cover it up (that is the typical action, repeated numerous times in such cases). The logical step I took is only in the incredulity I have in the claim that the Pope knew nothing while he himself took steps to cover it up. While it is possible that the person at the top of the coverup didn't know about it, it isn't likely or reasonable to believe that.
 
  • #5
russ_watters
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Oh, actually this article is clearer about his role, in covering such things up:
The pontiff is also under increasing fire for a 2001 Vatican document he later penned instructing bishops to keep such cases secret.
http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2010-03-12-catholic-abuse_N.htm

However, that article (two days older than the first I linked) also says he didn't personally approve the transfer, which is a discrepancy between the two articles:
Hours later, the Munich archdiocese admitted that it had allowed a priest suspected of having abused a child to return to pastoral work in the 1980s, while Benedict was archbishop. It stressed that the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger didn't know about the transfer and that it had been decided by a lower-ranking official.
Not sure if the known facts changed over the weekend or why the discrepancy exists. However, even if he didn't personnaly approve the transfer, that doesn't change the logical problem I outlined by much - it just makes him asleep at the wheel while the coverup was happening.
 
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  • #6
Ivan Seeking
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That explanation fails a pretty basic test of logic: If the Pope didn't know about the abuse, why did he transfer the priest? At best, it would mean he was asleep at the wheel while his underlings did the coverup and he rubber-stamped the transfer to purposely avoid personal knowledge.

Priests are routinely transferred. I don't know enough to say if this was unusual or not, but it is easily conceivable that the current Pope did not know the true story. It may have been under the jurisdiction of a Bishop [has fewer stripes than a Cardinal]. So as you said, he [the Pope] may have simply rubber-stamped the transfer.

Something else that may be worth noting. 3000 complaints with over 400,000 priests is less than 1%. Given that "7% to 16% of males [in the US] experienced unwanted sexual contact before the age of 18 years", the "priest problem" may be more shock value due to the betrayal of trust, than it is numerically significant. Note also that approximately half of all known pedophiles are married.
http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.com/content/82/4/457.full [Broken]

I spent a lot of time with priests and never saw anything inappropriate, but maybe I was just lucky. What I saw were a bunch of men dedicated to a very simple and difficult life of public service.
 
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  • #7
russ_watters
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Something else that may be worth noting. 3000 complaints with over 400,000 priests is less than 1%. Given that "7% to 16% of males [in the US] experienced unwanted sexual contact before the age of 18 years", the "priest problem" may be more shock value due to the betrayal of trust, than it is numerically significant. Note also that approximately half of all known pedophiles are married.
http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.com/content/82/4/457.full [Broken]
I don't think that's a reasonable way of slicing the statistics. Because of their position, one would expect priests to be vastly better than the societal average for all types of crimes. What would be more interesting to me is how the rate for this type of crime compares with the murder or theft rate. In other words, are priests committing murder and theft as well or are they primarily committing sexual crimes? The tone of the scandal suggests it is only these sexual crimes. Moreover, these types of crimes lend themselves better to a coverup than, say, murder does (theft/corruption inside the church could also be covered-up without too much trouble).
 
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  • #9
mgb_phys
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The Vatican is a strange entity, part city-state, part business and part religion.
It's worth pointing out that the vatican isn't some ancient historical right.
It was only created in 1929 by facist dictator Mussolini and yet it has an observer seat on the UN and treated as a legitimate country.
 
  • #10
Ivan Seeking
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It appears that the rate that pedophilia occurs in the general population is not known. Beyond that, fuzzy concepts like desire, as opposed to action, are impossible to measure, so direct comparisons of this are difficult. I have heard the specific statement that a priest is no more likely to be a pedophile than is any other male, but I don't know the original source of that claim and can't find a source to confirm it.
 
  • #11
Ivan Seeking
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I don't think that's a reasonable way of slicing the statistics. Because of their position, one would expect priests to be vastly better than the societal average for all types of crimes.

Only the good ones.

I don't see how your first sentence has anything to do with the second one.
 
  • #14
Pinu7
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There is a lack of proof that the Pope had ever known about this. Do not draw strong conclusions about him because of this.

However, this does hurt the Catholic reputation; the recent wave of reported incidents of sexual abuse in the church in Germany does place the Papacy in suspect to many people and th e media.
 
  • #15
Cyrus
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God dammit.
 
  • #16
russ_watters
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Only the good ones.
What fraction of priests are "good ones" and what fraction are no better than average for society? I thought priests were all supposed to be "good ones", when compared to the rest of society. That's why they are priests, isn't it?
I don't see how your first sentence has anything to do with the second one.
Because the priesthood is supposed to choose the holiest people in society, they should commit far fewer crimes than the rest of society. Priests are supposed to be models of morality. So your point that priest seem to commit far fewer sex crimes than the rest of society does not imply that the rate of sex crimes among priests is reasonable or not problematic. If, for example priests commit 1/1000th as many murders as the rest of society, but 1/10th as many sex crimes (for example), that would imply a problem with sex crimes among the priesthood.
 
  • #17
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How any mature adult finds this startling or unpredictable is beyond me.
 
  • #18
MotoH
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Remember, that was in the days when the Church was still pretty shady. They are working on fixing these problems, and quite frankly in a "business" this big, it will take a while.
 
  • #19
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Priests are supposed to be models of morality. So your point that priest seem to commit far fewer sex crimes than the rest of society does not imply that the rate of sex crimes among priests is reasonable or not problematic. If, for example priests commit 1/1000th as many murders as the rest of society, but 1/10th as many sex crimes (for example), that would imply a problem with sex crimes among the priesthood.

In the priests' defense, I'd say that if priests had a sexual abuse rate 8 times lower than the average, they'd be acceptable moral models.
 
  • #21
MotoH
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I had no idea they had an official Association. Who knew?

Exorcism is a very volatile position! They have to have some sort of lobbying body to get benefits.

The Church has been transitioning to a more modern type of church since John Paul II became the Pope. It is still in transition with Pope Benedict XVI. A lot of skeletons are going to leave the closet, but at least they are being brought out now and everything will be starting a-fresh.

Also, the Vatican is just the home of the Church. The Holy See has been around for a lot, lot longer.
 
  • #22
Ivan Seeking
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What fraction of priests are "good ones" and what fraction are no better than average for society? I thought priests were all supposed to be "good ones", when compared to the rest of society. That's why they are priests, isn't it?

No. The church has never claimed that all priests are or could be perfect. In fact, perhaps most basic tenet of Christianity is that no one is perfect, not even the Pope! Catholics believe this as do all Christians.

If a person is dedicated, for whatever reason, they can go through the seminary and become a priest. There is no way to know what lies in the heart or the dark reaches of a troubled mind.

Because the priesthood is supposed to choose the holiest people in society, they should commit far fewer crimes than the rest of society.

They don't select priests like the Tibetans do the next Dalia Lama. Where in the world do you get that?!?!? In order to become a priest, you join the priesthood, work hard, and demonstrate faith and dedication, which can be faked.

Priests are supposed to be models of morality. So your point that priest seem to commit far fewer sex crimes than the rest of society does not imply that the rate of sex crimes among priests is reasonable or not problematic. If, for example priests commit 1/1000th as many murders as the rest of society, but 1/10th as many sex crimes (for example), that would imply a problem with sex crimes among the priesthood.

It implies that you have a bias against priests. If being a priest drastically reduces the likelihood of crime and cures psychological problems, then perhaps it should be made mandatory service for all young men!

Obviously priests are just people and we expect bad priests just like we expect bad teachers, PE coaches, soldiers, and cops.
 
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  • #23
Evo
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I think the Catholic church should get rid of the celibacy thing. That was not part of the original church.
 
  • #24
Ivan Seeking
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I think the Catholic church should get rid of the celibacy thing. That was not part of the original church.

As a young child, I considered that I may want to be a priest. I loved being an Altar Boy. For some strange reason, that notion mysteriously receded from my thoughts when puberty set in.

Just out of curiosity, why do you care? Or were you referencing the shortage of priests?
 
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  • #25
Evo
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As a young child, I considered that I may want to be a priest. I loved being an Altar Boy. For some strange reason, that notion mysteriously receded from my thoughts when puberty set in.

Just out of curiosity, why do you care? Or were you referencing the shortage of priests?
The fact that it keeps some really good people from joining the priesthood, and that it causes a lot of inner conflict for some that have taken the vow. And the fact that my priest growing up, Father Nelson, who was the best priest ever, was excommunicated when it was discovered that he was married and had 10 children.

That's when I refused to go to church. It made no sense.
 
  • #26
Ivan Seeking
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The fact that it keeps some really good people from joining the priesthood, and that it causes a lot of inner conflict for some that have taken the vow. And the fact that my priest growing up, Father Nelson, who was the best priest ever, was excommunicated when it was discovered that he was married and had 10 children.

Heh, he should have been a Protestant! Yeah, the celibacy requirement is a tough one; and easily the vow most violated. I doubt that I ever would have been a priest under any circumstances, but the notion of a lifetime of celibacy was a deal-breaker for sure
 
  • #27
Ivan Seeking
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One additional response to Russ: I don't think there is any dispute that pedophiles often seek circumstances that allow trust to be established between them and potential victims. No doubt the priesthood offers this opportunity as do many professions and activities.

As for any cover-ups, if anything, my bet would be that in most cases, a certain sect of priests, Bishops, Cardinals [hopefully not Popes] are guilty of internalizing problems through a millenia of tradition and archaic-styled soul-saving - perhaps the soul of the offending priest in this case - at the expense of public safety; a case of tradition being out of step with modern standards. I doubt that tolerance of this sort of behavior is generally a problem, rather, the perceived best means of handling these situations is what fails. You can also be sure that when handled internally, the offending priests were often punished as surely as they would be through a prison sentence, and likely more so. Most priests have a tough life, but if being punished, life can easily be made a lot tougher for them; including what amounts to a long sentence of manual labor.
 
  • #28
russ_watters
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In the priests' defense, I'd say that if priests had a sexual abuse rate 8 times lower than the average, they'd be acceptable moral models.
Ok....similarly, the murder rate in the US is about 1:19,000. Using Ivan's number for the total number of priests (400,000), that would be 21 a year at the normal rate or just under 3 at 1/8th the rate. I've never heard of (and failed to find one with google) a priest committing murder. So would it still be ok if 3 priests a year committed murder?

Moreover, there are many demographic groups that commit crimes less than the average. If you take the murder rate for whites, you'll find it to be somewhere around half the average. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_crime_in_the_United_States
Slice again for age and income and I suspect you'll be able to come up with a still relatively large demographic that priests fit into where the murder rate is 1/8th the average. Doing the same with sex crimes, you may find that priests are actually over represented for their demographic. Yes, some of that is speculation, but the point is, I would expect priests to be a lot better than just 8x better than average. Average is not a good basis for comparison.
 
  • #29
rootX
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In the priests' defense, I'd say that if priests had a sexual abuse rate 8 times lower than the average, they'd be acceptable moral models.

Yes only hypothetically ..



I hate when they stand for things that they cannot.
 
  • #30
russ_watters
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No. The church has never claimed that all priests are or could be perfect.
Neither of us said "perfect" in previous posts, we just said good. You are moving the goalposts. Or are you now saying that we should expect priests to be no better than average for society? (it does seem at the bottom of the post you do say exactly that) Frankly, if that's all we can expect, I can't imagine why we would need to go to church - you can't learn morality from someone who isn't an expert in the theory and practice of morality. Being more moral than average seems to me to be the most basic requirement of the job!
If a person is dedicated, for whatever reason, they can go through the seminary and become a priest. There is no way to know what lies in the heart or the dark reaches of a troubled mind.

They don't select priests like the Tibetans do the next Dalia Lama. Where in the world do you get that?!?!? In order to become a priest, you join the priesthood, work hard, and demonstrate faith and dedication, which can be faked.
You're talking in contradictions, implying that anyone can join and as long as they don't flunk out of the seminary, they'll become a priest. But that isn't the case. That "demonstrate faith and dedication" thing is exactly the point here: The church does make an effort to screen out bad apples:
For 10 years, Occhetti helped screen candidates for the priesthood in the Raleigh Diocese.

"One of the things we looked at very carefully was sexual development, what their views were on sexuality, sexual history, what their home was like, what their sexual messages were," Occhetti said.

Occhetti said about 10 percent of her evaluations raised concerns.

"If a priest candidate, for example, had inappropriate responses to sexual questions, to identify sexual stimuli or even what they thought was a healthy sexual relationship," Occhetti said.

Occhetti turned the results over to the Diocese.

"Yes, we did see red flags and we presented them to the Diocese. They had a committee that said yea or nay," Occhetti said.

"For the church you're looking for a person who is as healthy and as wholesome as you possibly can get," Frank Morock, spokesman for the Raleigh diocese.
http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/101820/

Since the vow of cellibacy is a key vow, it makes sense that they go to so much effort to screen candidates based on sexual proclivities, among other aspects of morality. The result should be people with substantially higher than average (even for their more specific demographic group) morality.
It implies that you have a bias against priests.
Why? If I thnk priests should be vastly better than average (and acknowledge that in most aspects of morality, they are), then isn't that a bias in their favor?
If being a priest drastically reduces the likelihood of crime and cures psychological problems, then perhaps it should be made mandatory service for all young men!
You'r being illogical, Ivan, mixing up cause and effect. While they certainly make an effort to teach morality in the seminary, that's not the main reason why priests are more moral: the main reason is that they are selected based largely on that personality trait. Then again, perhaps they are relaxing their selection criteria in response to a dearth of candidates?
Obviously priests are just people and we expect bad priests just like we expect bad teachers, PE coaches, soldiers, and cops.
Are you really being serious here, Ivan? You really don't expect more from a priest than you do a teacher, PE coach - even a soldier or cop? REALLY? That strains credulity.

Seriously, Ivan - that's rediculous. Being an examplary example of morality is perhaps the single most important trait of a good priest. By the very nature of the job, I - you - we - should expect priests to be vastly better than average morally.
 
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  • #31
russ_watters
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One additional response to Russ: I don't think there is any dispute that pedophiles often seek circumstances that allow trust to be established between them and potential victims. No doubt the priesthood offers this opportunity as do many professions and activities.
Actually, my thoughts on that issue go in a different direction:
Evo said:
The fact that it keeps some really good people from joining the priesthood, and that it causes a lot of inner conflict for some that have taken the vow.
That's what I think as well. When you put young men in a situation that goes against their human nature, you create inner conflict. I'm speculating here, but IMO, like squeezing a fistful of playdough, you the pressure makes people go in unexpected directions, looking for an outlet in ways that men who have normal/conventional relationships would not. This may be an understandable theory, but it is also more sinister: it implies the priesthood turns men into homosexual pedophiles. Or perhaps it is only the homosexual pedophiles who have the outlet available because priests spend a lot less time around adolescent girls.
As for any cover-ups, if anything, my bet would be that in most cases, a certain sect of priests, Bishops, Cardinals [hopefully not Popes] are guilty of internalizing problems through a millenia of tradition and archaic-styled soul-saving - perhaps the soul of the offending priest in this case - at the expense of public safety; a case of tradition being out of step with modern standards. I doubt that tolerance of this sort of behavior is generally a problem, rather, the perceived best means of handling these situations is what fails. You can also be sure that when handled internally, the offending priests were often punished as surely as they would be through a prison sentence, and likely more so. Most priests have a tough life, but if being punished, life can easily be made a lot tougher for them; including what amounts to a long sentence of manual labor.
Are you suggesting that if punished internally, punishment under the law is not or should not be requried? That is tantamount to saying that the church is above the law.
 
  • #32
russ_watters
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The scandal continues to come more into focus:
In recent weeks, a series of sexual abuse and pedophilia accusations have emerged, two of which accuse the church's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a Vatican office that decides whether priests should be tried and defrocked, of ignoring abuse allegations against some priests. Benedict, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was head of the office from 1981 to 2005.

There is no evidence that Benedict was involved in the decisions in the cases raised and up until recently he had been praised by U.S. bishops for moving against cases of abuse by priests. Cardinals across Europe used their Holy Thursday sermons to defend Benedict.
http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2010-04-01-benedict_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip

I think the language of that quote is a little soft, given what has come to light in the past couple of weeks. There may still be no direct evidence that the pope himself took part in these cover-ups, but the office he directed certainly did, in a way that rises to the level of criminal conspiracy and documents addressed to him discussed it. I'm not a believer in convenient plausible deniability and in any case, it really doesn't matter: it was his ship to drive and it crashed. If he was asleep in his cabin when his underlings were navigating a fjord, it is his fault. And if it isn't the pope itself, it is still the a criminal conspiracy by the church. It's a wide-spread conspiracy, directed from above.

Adding to conspiracy is obstruction of justice. The pope and/or his current underlings are still lying to protect him:
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope and archbishop in Munich at the time, was copied on a memo that informed him that a priest, whom he had approved sending to therapy in 1980 to overcome pedophilia, would be returned to pastoral work within days of beginning psychiatric treatment.

An initial statement on the matter issued earlier this month by the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising placed full responsibility for the decision to allow the priest to resume his duties on Cardinal Ratzinger’s deputy, the Rev. Gerhard Gruber. But the memo, whose existence was confirmed by two church officials, shows that the future pope not only led a meeting on Jan. 15, 1980, approving the transfer of the priest, but was also kept informed about the priest’s reassignment.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/26/world/europe/26church.html?scp=2&sq=pope&st=cse

The church itself is being sued over this and I think should lose, but since they are considered a sovereign government, they may get away with it. It is a pretty sticky issue from an international legal standpoint, since you have an American (and German) parish directed by the Vatican to cover up. You end up with a situtation where the parish in Michigan can say they wanted to prosecute their offender, but were ordered not to report him and the courts having to decide if the "following orders" defense works, but without having access to those who gave the orders to prosecute/sue them.
Pope Benedict, accused by victims' lawyers of being ultimately responsible for an alleged cover-up of sexual abuse of children by priests, cannot be called to testify at any trial because he has immunity as a head of state, a top Vatican legal official said on Thursday.

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2010/04/01/world/international-us-pope-abuse.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=pope+&st=nyt [Broken]

An op-ed: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/31/opinion/31dowd.html?scp=5&sq=pope&st=cse
 
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  • #33
MotoH
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Heh, he should have been a Protestant! Yeah, the celibacy requirement is a tough one; and easily the vow most violated. I doubt that I ever would have been a priest under any circumstances, but the notion of a lifetime of celibacy was a deal-breaker for sure

Being a protestant and being a Catholic are very, very different things. Catholicism is the belief that when the bread and wine of the Eucharist are consecrated by the priest, they become the body and blood of Jesus. Protestants believe it is a symbol.

I can't remember the exact verse, but a lot of Jesus' disciples left him when he said that the bread and wine were actually his body. Virtually all who stayed were the apostles.
 
  • #34
russ_watters
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More on this Father Murphy case. The church's actions in it are very disturbing:
Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy was an American priest accused of molesting as many as 200 deaf boys over 25 years. Several lawsuits have been filed against the church for failure to act in the matter. According to church files top Vatican officials - including the future Pope Benedict XVI - did not defrock Father Murphy even though they were warned repeatedly by several American bishops.

The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.

In 1996, Cardinal Ratzinger failed to respond to two letters about the case from Rembert G. Weakland, Milwaukee's archbishop at the time. After eight months, the second in command at the doctrinal office, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, now the Vatican's secretary of state, instructed the Wisconsin bishops to begin a secret canonical trial that could lead to Father Murphy's dismissal.
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/refer...m/lawrence_c_murphy/index.html?inline=nyt-per
Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

With no response from Cardinal Ratzinger, Archbishop Weakland wrote a different Vatican office in March 1997 saying the matter was urgent because a lawyer was preparing to sue, the case could become public and “true scandal in the future seems very possible.”

But the effort to dismiss Father Murphy came to a sudden halt after the priest appealed to Cardinal Ratzinger for leniency.

In an interview, Archbishop Weakland said that he recalled a final meeting at the Vatican in May 1998 in which he failed to persuade Cardinal Bertone and other doctrinal officials to grant a canonical trial to defrock Father Murphy. (In 2002, Archbishop Weakland resigned after it became public that he had an affair with a man and used church money to pay him a settlement.)

Archbishop Weakland said this week in an interview, “The evidence was so complete, and so extensive that I thought he should be reduced to the lay state, and also that that would bring a certain amount of peace in the deaf community.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/25/world/europe/25vatican.html?pagewanted=2&sq=pope murphy&st=nyt&scp=16
 
  • #35
TheStatutoryApe
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Russ said:
it was his ship to drive and it crashed. If he was asleep in his cabin when his underlings were navigating a fjord, it is his fault.
This does not necessarily equate to legal culpability. I'm also not certain about the legal perspective on the church hierarchy. He is not exactly the owner of the "ship" and the cardinals below him are not quit his "employees" either.
 

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