It's beenÂ five years since the story about the Catholic Church sheltering pedophile priests came to light. In thatÂ five years, there's been a lot of talk about reforms (like the Dallas Charter), a few priests were laicized, a lot of money was paid out, but very little has been done to change the basic problems that contributed to preferentially recruiting pedophile priests in the first place. Â
Unfortunately, the job description for a Catholic priest reads like an ad for pedophiles: must be an unmarried young adult male, not interested in relationships with adult women yet not acknowledge homosexual tendencies, love working with children especially in unsupervised situations like youth groups or altar servers, and believe one has a special relationship with God such that one should be placed in a position of authority due to it.
When I was researching my novel, Rabid, (due out in April, 2007,) I was shocked at how the rules of the Church not only protected accused priests but increased the likelihood of the sexual abuse of children. With the recent election of Pope Benedict XIV (previously Cardinal Ratzinger), intervention with pedophile priests has been more vigorous, probably because the now-Pope previously headed up the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the functionary within the Vatican that dealt with the problem of predatory priests. It seems as if the previous pope, Pope John Paul II, may have directed then-Cardinal Ratzinger to quash the problem, but now that Ratzinger has ascended the throne of Peter, he has the power to change things.
Â For example, when Pope John Paul II was ill and no longer taking an active role in the leadership of the Church, then-Cardinal Ratzinger reopened the case of Marciel Maciel, founder of an order of priests in Mexico, the Legion of Christ, in December, 2004, a few months before the death of Pope John Paul II. Maciel had been accused of molestation by nine former seminarians. A month later, Maciel declined being reelected to be the general of the legion, a move that has been attributed to the renewed investigation. In May, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI ordered Maciel to retire from his position and spend the rest of his life in â€œprayer and repentance.â€
Though this may seem mild, Pope John Paul II didnâ€™t do anything at all, and a Vatican statement did say that Maciel has only escaped an ecclesiastical trial due to his advanced age and rapidly failing health.
So Pope Benedict XVI has a mixed record, but his words are less equivocal. He is known for making blunt statements, even considering the subtleties of Church speeches. Remembering that he probably has Vatican lawyers breathing down the collar of that ostentatious white surplice every time he speaks, the Pope said at Good Friday Mass in 2005, â€œHow much filth there is in the church, even among those who, in the priesthood, should belong entirely to Him.â€ The filth in question is generally thought to refer to priests involved in sex crimes.
However, the primary problem remains that the Catholic Church preferentially recruits men with the demographics and behavioral traits of pedophiles. Until that changes, no admonishment from the Pope will stop the sexual abuse of children.
By: TK Kenyon