Okay, you know what he’s going to say, but hey, it’s Hitchens! In his weekly column at Slate, Hitch takes on the Catholic Church’s systematic cover-up of child abuse. He places a lot of blame at the door of to-be-Pope Joseph Ratzinger:
Very much more serious is the role of Joseph Ratzinger, before the church decided to make him supreme leader, in obstructing justice on a global scale. After his promotion to cardinal, he was put in charge of the so-called “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” (formerly known as the Inquisition). In 2001, Pope John Paul II placed this department in charge of the investigation of child rape and torture by Catholic priests. In May of that year, Ratzinger issued a confidential letter to every bishop. In it, he reminded them of the extreme gravity of a certain crime. But that crime was the reporting of the rape and torture. The accusations, intoned Ratzinger, were only treatable within the church’s own exclusive jurisdiction. Any sharing of the evidence with legal authorities or the press was utterly forbidden. Charges were to be investigated “in the most secretive way … restrained by a perpetual silence … and everyone … is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office … under the penalty of excommunication.” (My italics). Nobody has yet been excommunicated for the rape and torture of children, but exposing the offense could get you into serious trouble. And this is the church that warns us against moral relativism! (See, for more on this appalling document, two reports in the London Observer of April 24, 2005, by Jamie Doward.) . .
. . . The Roman Catholic Church is headed by a mediocre Bavarian bureaucrat once tasked with the concealment of the foulest iniquity, whose ineptitude in that job now shows him to us as a man personally and professionally responsible for enabling a filthy wave of crime. Ratzinger himself may be banal, but his whole career has the stench of evil—a clinging and systematic evil that is beyond the power of exorcism to dispel. What is needed is not medieval incantation but the application of justice—and speedily at that.
Can blame be laid, too, at the door of religion? I think so. After all, these crimes are due to a combination of faith-based moral sanctity, inspiring parents to turn their children over to priests for guidance and education, and the twisted Church policies of celibacy and sexual repressiveness, which undoubtedly promoted sexual predation. Sure, members of other institutions have engaged in child abuse, and sometimes the abusers have been protected, but never on this scale.
Faitheists often cite Catholicism as one of those “benign” faiths. The sickening conspiracy of silence promoted by Church officials doesn’t look so benign to me.
UPDATE: Father Peter Hullerman, whom Ratzinger reassigned to a new parish after he was convicted by a German court for child abuse (see Hitchens’s piece), has just been suspended.