Cardinal Ratzinger and Father Marcial Maciel

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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12 Responses

  1. John Henry says:

    To be fair, I think they’re probably relying on John Allen’s (invaluable) reporting here for the 1998 date:

    “Accusations that Maciel had abused members of the controversial order had circulated for several decades, but in 1998 a group of former members dumped the case directly in Ratzinger’s lap. They filed a canonical complaint with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, since its disciplinary section handles certain serious offenses under canon law, including abuse of the sacrament of penance, and Maciel was accused of absolving his victims in the confessional.

    That complaint languished until late 2001, when the mushrooming crisis in the States put new pressure on the Vatican to engage the sexual abuse issue across the board. Still, even though an investigation was launched, no action was taken against Maciel for the next four years — in part, critics said, because he was protected by influential Vatican patrons, up to and including John Paul II himself.”

    Going back to you’re earlier post, it’s very surprising to me that Benedict rather than JPII is singled out for these attacks. JPII was a charismatic and genuinely charitable man whose first instinct was to trust people and allow them to exercise independent authority. That trust was often misplaced, however, and there is little doubt in my view that these misjudgments made the scandal worse. It’s instructive to me that Benedict had taken action against Marciel within three months of becoming Pope, while the case had languished for years beforehand. In any case, I think it’s important to be clear that Benedict’s conduct was certainly not perfect; but it seems clear that he is far less blameworthy than most of the other principals:

    “In the complex world of court politics at the Vatican, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith became the beachhead for an aggressive response to the sexual abuse crisis. Ratzinger and his deputies sometimes squared off against other departments which regarded the “zero tolerance” policy as an over-reaction, not to mention a distortion of the church’s centuries-long canonical tradition, in which punishments are supposed to fit the crime, and in which tremendous discretion is usually left in the hands of bishops and other superiors to mete out discipline.

    Behind the scenes, some Vatican personnel actually began to grumble that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had “drunk the Kool-aid,” in the sense of accepting the case for sweeping changes in the way priests are supervised and disciplined.

    Ratzinger’s transformation can also be glimpsed from an exchange with Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, which George described in April 2005, just after the conclave which propelled Benedict XVI to the papacy.

    Two days before the opening of the conclave, George met Ratzinger in his Vatican office to discuss the American sex abuse norms, including the “one strike and you’re out” policy. Those norms had been approved grudgingly in late 2002 by the Vatican, and only for a five-year period. George said he wanted to discuss with Ratzinger the arguments for making the norms permanent. Ratzinger, according to George, showed “a good grasp of the situation.”

    Forty-eight hours later, Ratzinger was the new pope. As is the custom, the cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel made their way, one-by-one, to the new pontiff in order to pledge their support and obedience. As George kissed his hand, Benedict XVI made a point of telling him, in English, that he remembered the conversation the two men had about the sexual abuse norms, and would attend to it.

    The new pope’s first words to a senior American prelate, in other words, were a vow of action on the crisis.”Report

  2. Mike Schilling says:

    Ordinary Gentlemen — doesn’t this obsessive style of posting seem familiar? Andrew Sullivan has taken over E.D.’s body, or at least his fingers. You should consider an intervention, or perhaps an exorcism.Report

  3. T. Sifert says:

    Sullivan draws different lessons because the core of his problem with the Church has only indirectly to do with sexual abuse per se and much more to do with a hierarchy and repressive traditionalism that caused the sexuality of “young gay, Catholic teens” who go on to become priests to be “frozen at the first real moment of internal terror” (speaking of which, I have yet to see him condemned for basically calling the scandal, in the words of Bill Donahue, a “homosexual crisis”). So for him a reminder is “powerful” when it undermines the authority of the hierarchy and allows him to say, over and over, “we are the Church.”Report

    • C., Esq. in reply to T. Sifert says:

      “speaking of which, I have yet to see him condemned for basically calling the scandal, in the words of Bill Donahue, a “homosexual crisis””

      Thank you for pointing this out. Ever since this broke, Sullivan has wanted this both ways; that homosexuality doesn’t cause abuse but the Vatican is too restrictive on homosexuality. It doesn’t make sense. If in fact, the root cause of the abuse is homosexuality (which I don’t think it is, btw) then it logically follows to restrict access to the priesthood for homosexuals. If homosexuality doesn’t cause abuse, then why bark about the red herring? Why not work to solve the real problem (cover up/lack of transparancy/reluctance to involve civil authorities/ignorance of canonical penalties)?Report

  4. silentbeep says:

    “…a Pope who takes these matters far more seriously than any of his predecessors.”

    Did you ever consider that maybe, just maybe, for practicing Catholics, these measures simply aren’t good enough? As someone who raised a Roman Catholic, such measures to me, are barely finger lifting, at best. Why you think this basic tolerance of what is a crime is essentially o.k. is beyond me.Report

  5. silentbeep says:

    E.D. Kain: Are you catholic? were you raised Catholic?Report