Ratzinger has some nerve

Remember how the pope let us know how simply terrible he felt about what happened to those poor dear innocent children in Ireland? Remember how the Vatican said he shared the outrage, betrayal and shame felt by so many of the faithful in Ireland? Well, if that’s true, how does he explain an order he issued in 2001?

…an order ensuring the church’s investigations into child sex abuse claims be carried out in secret. The order was made in a confidential letter, obtained by The Observer, which was sent to every Catholic bishop in May 2001. It asserted the church’s right to hold its inquiries behind closed doors and keep the evidence confidential for up to 10 years after the victims reached adulthood. The letter was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger…Lawyers acting for abuse victims claim it was designed to prevent the allegations from becoming public knowledge or being investigated by the police. They accuse Ratzinger of committing a ‘clear obstruction of justice’.

That’s the same fella, you see. The very same guy. In 2001 Ratzinger sent a secret letter to every Catholic bishop ordering them to keep the investigation of criminal activity against children secret until as much as ten years after the children were old enough to fend for themselves. The same guy. So in what sense can it possibly be true that he shares the outrage, betrayal and shame felt by so many of the faithful in Ireland? What’s he doing, dancing around the Vatican whacking himself on the bum shouting ‘who’s a naughty boy?!’ in the manner of Basil Fawlty?

I don’t think so. I don’t think he’s doing that or anything like it. I think he’s worrying about how to go on protecting the Vatican’s reputation, and pretty much nothing else. Why do I think that? Because it’s what he did in 2001, so why should we think he’s doing anything different now?

Ratzinger’s letter states that the church can claim jurisdiction in cases where abuse has been ‘perpetrated with a minor by a cleric’. The letter states that the church’s jurisdiction ‘begins to run from the day when the minor has completed the 18th year of age’ and lasts for 10 years. It orders that ‘preliminary investigations’ into any claims of abuse should be sent to Ratzinger’s office, which has the option of referring them back to private tribunals in which the ‘functions of judge, promoter of justice, notary and legal representative can validly be performed for these cases only by priests. Cases of this kind are subject to the pontifical secret,’ Ratzinger’s letter concludes. Breaching the pontifical secret at any time while the 10-year jurisdiction order is operating carries penalties, including the threat of excommunication.

In other words Ratzinger simply declares that the church has jurisdiction over a serious crime and has the option of exercising that jurisdiction all by itself and in secret. Who knew churches had the power to do that?! Even the Vatican, which is a ‘state’ – but a state with, apparently, citizens anywhere on the globe in the form of priests. So priests have sovereign immunity and can molest children with impunity from secular law enforcement? I don’t think that’s actually legal doctrine – yet apparently Ratzinger can do that and get away with it. So far, anyway.

The letter is referred to in documents relating to a lawsuit filed earlier this year against a church in Texas and Ratzinger on behalf of two alleged abuse victims. By sending the letter, lawyers acting for the alleged victims claim the cardinal conspired to obstruct justice. Daniel Shea, the lawyer for the two alleged victims who discovered the letter, said: ‘It speaks for itself. You have to ask: why do you not start the clock ticking until the kid turns 18? It’s an obstruction of justice.’

And it is entirely inconsistent with the pope’s now pretending he gives a shit about the children who were the alleged victims. The pope is simply another self-protective boss-man shielding his organization. Crocodile tears simply add insult to injury.

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