Bye-Bye Bennie: Could California Cover-Up Bring Real Change to Church

benedictThis is The Monday Line
by Denis G. Campbell

Pope Benedict XVI is gone in ten days. Many inside and outside the Catholic Church are saying, “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” This papacy, controversial from his initial selection to replace John Paul II, was hit with damning revelations of a child sexual abuse cover-up that reached all the way up to Los Angeles’ Cardinal Mahony. It was alleged in numerous court documents that Mahony deliberately sought to evade the law by sending sex-offender priests to treatment facilities in states outside of California who specifically did not require health professionals to report these crimes to authorities.

So the question remains, if the child sex abuse scandal reached all the way to a Cardinal, one of 130 or so global leaders of the church, could the trail reach Pope Benedict? It’s not a stretch since, as Cardinal Ratzinger of Germany, Pope Benedict was the church’s lead authority handling the controversy. Add in reports of Cardinal Mahony paying off $660 million dollars of child sex-abuse settlements with monies from church cemetery funds (a practice illegal for all but religious cemeteries), one can see how truly despicable a crime and cover-up this all is. Mary Dispenza, a woman who received a sex-abuse settlement back in 2006 said it best, “I think it’s very deceptive, and in a way they took it from people who had no voice: the dead. They can’t react, they can’t respond.”

Benedict did not help himself while leading the church. A hard right conservative, he lashed out at homosexuality and the use of any and all birth control measures including condoms and The Pill. But no stain is as deep as his two decades as Pope John Paul II’s point man on the growing allegations of sexual abuse of young boys the last four decades.

Cardinal Benedict in audience with Pope Benedict XVI

Cardinal Benedict in audience with Pope Benedict XVI

What started as whispers has led to criminal arrests, prosecutions and the jailing of dozens of prominent paedophile priests and archbishops around the globe. And yet, aside from a few papal pronouncements saying “this behaviour would not be tolerated,” Rome, as they did during the Vatican Bank crisis of the 1980s, has been largely silent on the issue. They simply chose well-timed cosmetic fixes, institutional silence and quiet pay-offs to real resolution. And the Pope responsible for the investigation could now stand accused of covering it up?

So when the water in the pot reached the boiling point, it looks to the world as if he either bailed or was pushed to protect himself and the church from prosecution? None of this is a terribly far stretch of the imagination. By remaining secluded and cloistered the rest of his life, Pope Benedict prevents his own prosecution for crimes related to the church’s sex abuse scandals? That the Vatican is even a state owes thanks to Mussolini granting it in exchange for them not raising atrocities of Italians and Germans during WWII? Somehow this all seems standard operating procedure for this church and yet is so very, very wrong.

So Benedict leaves the Papacy on 28 February. He will reside in seclusion in Castle Gandolfo, the Pope’s traditional summer residence, until a special cloistered monastery can be constructed inside the Vatican and will reside, unseen by the public, until his eventual death. Somehow Benedict should not be allowed to just ride off into the sunset. Even if he will remain essentially a prisoner inside Vatican City, that does not seem right if he was indeed responsible for enabling this cover-up.

paddy powerThe Cardinals meet in mid-March to elect a new pontiff and global odds-fixing gambling website Paddy Power has set boxing/election style betting lines:

“With Pope Benedict taking early retirement at 85 the world is watching to see who will become the next Pontiff – and Paddy’s all over it.  The world’s favourite bookmaker has a direct line to the Vatican – through the Rome office – and has priced up the likely runners and riders for the Catholic Church’s top job.

The last two men to get the keys to the Pope Mobile were Polish and Germans but an African or South American Pope has been hotly tipped and is 2/1 and 10/3 in country of next Pope betting.

Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson has attracted early money (3/1)  as has Nigeria’s Cardinal Francis Arinze at 9/2 while Argentina’s Cardinal Leonardo Sandri (6/1) and  Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga from Honduras (7/1) could see the Vatican recognise the growth in Catholicism on both continents.”

So in the absence of official pronouncements, the Vatican is losing the global PR battle and whispers grow. The Vatican is a plodding, slow moving organisation so secretive and set in its ways that even though a Pope has not resigned since 1415, we’re to believe they had a rigid, disciplined policy for handling this?

Secrecy is not helping as the rest of the world busily connects the dots and asks why? It certainly does not help that the entire child sex abuse scandal was handled by a branch inside the Catholic Church better known for hundreds of years as… wait for it… The Inquisition? And we all know how well that worked for them in the 13th century.

benedict walking awaySo what was the tipping point for Benedict? Why would he decide to suddenly become the first Pope in six centuries to resign? Vatican sources conveniently let slip that he fell in his hotel room and banged his head during a recent trip to Mexico City. Was he concussed? Is he suffering from other neurological diseases? At 85 he is certainly visibly less vibrant and healthy than when he assumed the Chair of St. Peter less than a decade ago. But no Pope since Gregory XII in 1415 has resigned. He claims infirmity but his idol, John Paul II wanted the world to see their Pope’s life decline so they could understand that death was a part of life. So why quit now?

As a victim myself of abuse by a member of the clergy of another religious sect in the 1970s, I want answers for the thousands of young boys and girls now in their 30s, 40s and 50s trying to come to grips with a Paedophile past. For all of their sakes, it’s time to open the doors of The Inquisition and connect all of the dots rather than let this be just another hidden scandal in an otherwise secretive and scandal ridden church.

Denis G Campbell View more

Denis G Campbell
Denis G. Campbell is founder and editor of UK Progressive magazine and co-host of The Three Muckrakers podcast. He is the author of 7 books and provides Americas, EU and Middle Eastern commentary to the BBC, itv, Al Jazeera English, CNN, CRI, MSNBC and others. He is CEO of Monknash Media and a principal with B2E Consulting in London. You can follow him on Twitter @UKProgressive and on Facebook.

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