*The Catholic Church has undergone a very public airing of multiple sex abuse scandals involving priests and underage boys.
In the early part of the millennium, Catholic leadership disavowed any knowledge of the sexual predilections of individual priests and condemned their actions.
After internal investigations the Catholic Church’s official stance was that they were now aware of the problem and that they were taking care of wiping it out.
Essentially the Church was asking the public to trust them again. But now at the beginning of a new decade, it is apparent that the Catholic Church is not trustworthy. That its leadership did not take care of the problem of pedophilia among its clergy members but rather covered it up. And sadly the now acting Pope was and is a key part of the problem. He should be held responsible for his actions and/or non-actions and be made to resign.
As a cardinal in Germany Pope Benedict concealed the problem of a child abuser in at least one case in the early 2000s and more recently has been linked to another sex abuse scandal. Twice now when he was in charge, children have been victimized. In most walks of life (business, sports, politics, military) he would be forced into a position of less responsibility if not outright fired.
Instead Pope Benedict is in a position of immense responsibility for the rest of his life. And instead of decrying this turn of events Catholics defend his holding the title of Pope. When non-Catholics call for his resignation, two defenses have been employed. Most recently there has been the higher brow claim that as a sitting head of state, the Pope should not be made to submit to any investigation into his past. And there is always the more common claim that he is a flawed man just like everyone else and deserves our compassion and a second chance.
Acknowledging the Pope as head of state should be inconsequential in this case. What is at stake is the safety and innocence of children. Any investigation would involve illegal activities. Therefore the status of the perpetrators of any illegalities should be of secondary consideration. Also keep in mind that the time period in question is not medieval times when the ruler was often the only authority able to conduct an investigation, or when a ruler would have executed any questioning authority. Much to the contrary, in contemporary society questioning authority is commonplace. Not to mention that the world today is a place where the United States and other western nations have repeatedly staged military and political actions against regimes that engaged in ethically and legally questionable activities.
Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia was villainized and apprehended not because he personally murdered people but because he was in charge of the ruling system in which people were murdered by the agents of the state. It is no different with Pope Benedict and the sexual assault of children.
The more common retort to the suggestion that Pope Benedict resign is that because everyone makes mistakes he should not be held responsible for his bad judgment and that he should be given a chance to lead the Catholic Church from this point forward. But this is Pope Benedict’s second chance. He had the opportunity to come down on the perpetrators of sex abuse in the early 2000s but did not; and he is still hesitant to discipline those who are perpetrating sexual assaults now.
Moreover his position as the leader of the Church and therefore the final arbiter of ethics among Catholics mandates that he engage in a serious investigation and remove those guilty of sex abuse or step down from his position. It would seem logical for Catholics, who do not profess to be a society of pedophiles, to be dissatisfied with their leader not doing enough to rid the Catholic Church of those who engage in such a despicable act. Yet they defend the inaction of the person who is ultimately responsible for removing the guilty parties.
There is an old adage that applies here: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Pope Benedict has already shown that he is unable or perhaps simply uninterested in dealing with the problem pedophilia within the Catholic Church. This is unacceptable and should disqualify him from his current job. A revolution simply means a change in the leadership or dominant way of thinking. Both are needed in the Catholic Church.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War and he maintains a blog called This Seems Familiar. You can reach him at [email protected]