April 11, 2010

Ratzo's Shuck & Jive

The bombs appear to be exploding closer to Pope Ratzo as the unrelenting attacks on his handling of the myriad molestation cases presented to the Vatican's chief pedolphile bureau during his directorship continue. The office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is the successor organization to the Spanish Inquisition, which makes Ratzo, in a sense, in the direct line of succession from the great Torquemada. From whichever Ring of Hell the Torque is watching these latest shenanigans, he must be proud indeed.

The Reverend Federico Lombardi, chief flak-catcher for Ratzo, is trying a different tack with the latest outrage, involving a priest from an East Bay diocese in the 1980's. The man of the cloth in question had spent three years on probation for tying up and molesting a couple of young boys (actually a remarkably light punishment, but I imagine that Catholic priests got the benefit of the doubt in those days). Here's Lombardi's take on that sordid history:

The press office doesn't believe it is necessary to respond to every single document taken out of context regarding particular legal situations," the Rev. Federico Lombardi said. "It is not strange that there are single documents which have Cardinal Ratzinger's signature."

The diocese recommended removing Kiesle from the priesthood in 1981, the year Ratzinger was appointed to head the Vatican office which shared responsibility for disciplining abusive priests.

The case then languished for four years at the Vatican before Ratzinger finally wrote to Oakland Bishop John Cummins. Los Angeles Times

I imagine the thinking is that where direct refutation just seems silly, because Pope Ratzo is dead to rights, the Vatican can try hauteur: it's just beneath us to comment on this letter, because although it makes the very point everyone is trying to make, that Ratzinger didn't do shit when presented with the most damning evidence in the world, it's still only one letter and it's not surprising Ratzo signed it, because that was his job, to do nothing about cases of pedophilia reported to the Vatican's Office of Pedophilia.

I don't think it's working much better than the previous argument that criticism of the Vatican for enabling child molestation is morally equivalent to anti-Semitism. Anyway, such arguments are dangerous if for no other reason than that they tee up hilarious spoofs for Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show."

The Oakland Bishop (Cummins) who wrote Ratzinger in 1981 had to wait four years for a response from the Vatican home office. That's a lot of boys under the refectory table for the miscreant in question, Father Kiesle, who bragged at one point that he had molested "tons" of children during his illustrious career as Priest-Pervert. Still, Ratzo made it clear that there should be no rush to judgment where this Holy Man was concerned; there were other things to think about:

In the November 1985 letter, Ratzinger says the arguments for removing Kiesle are of "grave significance" but added that such actions required very careful review and more time. He also urged the bishop to provide Kiesle with "as much paternal care as possible" while awaiting the decision, according to a translation for AP by Professor Thomas Habinek, chairman of the University of Southern California Classics Department.

But the future pope also noted that any decision to defrock Kiesle must take into account the "good of the universal church" and the "detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke within the community of Christ's faithful, particularly considering the young age." Kiesle was 38 at the time.

I think we can all agree with Ratzo that no precipitous action should be taken against a priest who ties up and molests little boys in the refectory of the church if he's only 38 years old. Hey, it may have been just youthful indiscretion, an immature prank, and what's the congregation going to think if we start throwing out pedophiles who are really just kids themselves? Apparently, the "paternal care" admonition, when translated from the Latin, is roughly equivalent to "keep an eye on this guy." But look at the timing: Ratzinger is finally telling Cummins in 1985, four years after the initial report, that Kiesle should be watched "while awaiting the decision." And during the previous four years? Nothing, no advice at all about keeping the perv on the payroll while the Vatican did its "investigation?"

Which brings up another point. What possible investigation could the home office be doing if there is no communication with the branch office (Oakland, in this case) which originated the complaint? Why do Cummins, and all the other local bishops and whatnots, have to keep writing in vain attempts to get a response if the Vatican is actually "investigating?" Wouldn't you investigate by talking to Cummins some more? Wouldn't you get the DA's file, a trial transcript, talk to the parents of the kids, the probation officer? Wouldn't you do something?

The pattern seems very clear, although I haven't seen a Mainstream Media report that says it quite this way. The noncommunication, the stonewalling, the bullshit responses - those were Ratzinger's policies. You can picture it: Ratzo and the other Cardinals (or Dodgers or Diamondbacks or whatever they're called) sitting around their own refectory table, with or without little boys tied up underneath, yukking it up over the latest Molestation Memo, smoking and drinking chianti -- and not really worrying too much, because the Catholic Church wasn't hemorrhaging money in the 1980's from the tsunami of molestation cases that would inundate it in the coming decades. They had cheap labor, the income was good, and if they had a lot of flunkies on the payroll with some bad habits -- well, what do you expect with our hiring criteria? Meanwhile, the important work, making sure that families were too big in poverty-stricken countries, that AIDS would remain unmitigated, proceeded apace.

John Lennon's dream in "Imagine" sometimes seems within grasp. If the Catholic Church went down, that's about half of one of the big monotheistic religions. So far to go, so little time left.

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