Last week started auspiciously with the signing into law by President Obama of healthcare reforms as passed by the House of Representatives. Joe Biden was unable to contain his excitement and expressed himself a little colorfully, creating a mini-drama for the media.
Nicholas Sarkozy, began the week unhappily with his party, the UMP, losing badly to their socialist rivals in regional elections. His distress at this result must have been great as his wife, Carla Bruni, was in the press saying that she preferred that he did not run for President in 2012 as she feared the job was taking a toll on him.
In the Middle-East, Palestinian militants attempted to give Gilat Shalit a companion by kidnapping another Isreali soldier. They did not succeed even though they did manage to get 2 soldiers killed. At the time of writing, the IDF was conducting limited strikes in Gaza itself.
The story that has been hanging about for the last 2 weeks without actually becoming the main story, has been the uproar surrounding revelations of sexual abuse by priests in countries ranging from the United States to Austria and, even, most outrageously in a church run school for the deaf in Verona.
With the way the story seems to be going, this Easter will be less than celebratory for the Vicar of Christ and his people.
The story seems to have gained momentum following Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to his flock in Ireland for victims of the predatory priests in emerald isle.
Victims’ groups were not totally mollified by the letter claiming that the Vatican had covered up the crimes of their priests and that the apology issued by the Pope did not acknowledge this. The apology was also restricted to Irish victims. It turns out that the abuse was more widespread.
In Wisconsin, Father Lawrence Murphy is suspected of having molested 200 boys in a school for the deaf prior to his death in 1998. In Germany, 300 people have alleged sexual abuse at the hands of the church.
Some of the German victims were part of a choir directed by Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, the Pope’s brother, although no accusation has been made against him personally.
In Italy, 67 former students in a school for the deaf in Verona named 24 priests and brothers as having abused them. Similar allegations of sexual abuse and pedophilia emerged from the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria.
The Vatican, now on the retreat, lashed out in its newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, at the attempts by the media to strike at the Pope. It was revealed that previous to his election as Pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was the Head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the body responsible for investigating accusations against its misbehaving, and in this case, criminal, priests.
In at least two incidences, the Congregation had not acted on accusations made by victims of the priests and in at least one incidence, had sworn the victims to silence about their ordeal.
This meant that for once, the Vatican was having trouble pinning it solely on the ‘bad apples’ as it began to look suspiciously like the Church had chosen to uphold its reputation over dealing with the embarrassing accusations being made against its priests.
Even worse, the Pope appears to have been in the middle of this.
The Roman Catholic Church has often acted in ways that fall well below the Christian standard but perhaps this is different because it cannot rely on the traditional excuses that some of its priests are wayward and acted alone. This is because, in at least a few cases, the Vatican was aware of what was happening and chose not to act.
The Rwandan faithful may remember something similar about their experiences with the Catholic church in 1994, with far deadlier consequences. Will there be an apology letter from the Pope? Not likely.
Will there be a church trial for the killer priests still in the Vatican’s employ? Perish the thought. Like the victims of abuse, it will be a case of turning the other cheek and hoping no one else gets slapped.
Oscar Kabbatende is a lawyer