Should There Be an Inquisition for the Pope?
By MAUREEN DOWD
WASHINGTON- It doesn’t seem right that the Catholic Church is spending Holy Week practicing the unholy art of spin.
Complete with crown-of-thorns imagery, the church has started an Easter public relations blitz defending a pope who went along with the perverse culture of protecting molesters and the church’s reputation rather than abused — and sometimes disabled and disadvantaged — children.
The church gave up its credibility for Lent. Holy Thursday and Good Friday are now becoming Cover-Up Thursday and Blame-Others Friday.
This week of special confessions and penance services is unfolding as the pope resists pressure from Catholics around the globe for his own confession and penance about the cascade of child sexual abuse cases that were ignored, even by a German diocese and Vatican office he ran.
If church fund-raising and contributions dry up, Benedict’s P.R. handlers may yet have to stage a photo-op where he steps out of the priest’s side of the confessional and enters the side where the rest of his fallible flock goes.
Or maybe 30-second spots defending the pope with Benedict’s voice intoning at the end: “I am infallible, and I approve this message.”
Canon 1404 states that “The First See is judged by no one.” But Jesus, Mary and Joseph, as my dad used to say. Somebody has to tell the First See when it’s blind — and mute — to deaf children in America and Italy.
The Vatican is surprised to find itself in this sort of trouble. Officials there could have easily known what was going on all along; archbishops visiting Rome gossip like a sewing circle. The cynical Vatican just didn’t want to deal with it.
And now the church continues to hide behind its mystique. Putting down the catechism, it picked up the Washington P.R. handbook for political sins.
First: Declare any new revelation old and unimportant.
At Palm Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York bemoaned that the “recent tidal wave of headlines about abuse of minors by some few priests, this time in Ireland, Germany, and a re-run of an old story from Wisconsin, has knocked us to our knees once again.”
A few priests? At this point, it feels like an international battalion.
A re-run of an old story? So sorry to remind you, Archbishop, that one priest, Father Lawrence Murphy, who showed no remorse and suffered no punishment from “Rottweiler” Ratzinger, abused as many as 200 deaf children in Wisconsin.
Archbishop Dolan compared the pope to Jesus, saying he was “now suffering some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob, and scourging at the pillar,” and “being daily crowned with thorns by groundless innuendo.”
Second: Blame somebody else — even if it’s this pope’s popular predecessor, on the fast track to sainthood.
Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn defended Pope Benedict this week, saying that then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s attempt in 1995 to investigate the former archbishop of Vienna for allegedly molesting youths in a monastery was barred by advisers close to Pope John Paul II.
Third: Say black is white.
In his blog, Archbishop Dolan blasted church critics while stating: “The Church needs criticism; we want it; we welcome it; we do a good bit of it ourselves,” adding: “We do not expect any special treatment. ...so bring it on.” Right.
Fourth: Demonize gays, as Karl Rove did in 2004.
In an ad in The Times on Tuesday, Bill Donohue, the Catholic League president, offered this illumination: “The Times continues to editorialize about the ‘pedophilia crisis,’ when all along it’s been a homosexual crisis. Eighty percent of the victims of priestly sexual abuse are male and most of them are post-pubescent. While homosexuality does not cause predatory behavior, and most gay priests are not molesters, most of the molesters have been gay.”
Donohue is still talking about the problem as an indiscretion rather than a crime. If it mostly involves men and boys, that’s partly because priests for many years had unquestioned access to boys.
Fifth: Blame the victims.
“Fr. Lawrence Murphy apparently began his predatory behavior in Wisconsin in the 1950s,” Donohue protested, “yet the victims’ families never contacted the police until the mid-1970s.”
Sixth: Throw gorilla dust.
Donohue asserts that “the common response of all organizations, secular as well as religious,” to abuse cases “was to access therapy and reinstate the patient.” Really? Where in heaven’s name does that information come from? It’s absurd.
And finally, seventh: Use the Cheney omnipotence defense, most famously employed in the Valerie Plame case. Vice President Cheney claimed that his lofty position meant that the very act of spilling a secret, even with dastardly intent, declassified it.
Vatican lawyers will argue in negligence cases brought by abuse victims that the pope has immunity as a head of state and that bishops who allowed an abuse culture, endlessly recirculating like dirty fountain water, were not Vatican employees.
Maybe they worked for Enron.
(Published March 30, 2010)