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Abusing the Abuse Crisis

By Mary Elias - posted Tuesday, 27 April 2010

I am 25-years old and I am Catholic. I have spent a large portion of my teenage and young adult life watching the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church unfold, escalating over the past few weeks in what seems to be a full-scale campaign to accuse every high-ranking Church figure, whether or not they are responsible. For the first time, the scandal has managed to be linked to the Pope, and as a result commentators around the world have been feeding off the scandal with dramatic headlines such as "Pope Must Answer for Crimes Against Humanity" (SMH), "Pope must grovel and beg for our forgiveness " (SMH), "Should There Be an Inquisition for the Pope?" (NY Times), and "The Failed Papacy of Benedict XVI" (Spiegel,Germany), to name just a few.

The fact is that many of these reports have been extremely unprofessional and irresponsible. Commentators seem to be more focused on how they can associate Pope Benedict XVI with child sex abuse in the most remote way thinkable, as opposed to actually seeking justice for the victims of abuse.

What has resulted is an assumption by many members of the public that Pope Benedict XVI is a criminal, culminating recently with a team of celebrity-atheists calling for the Pope's arrest for “crimes against humanity”.


I suppose any member of the public could potentially be lead to think this accusation against the Pope is deserved, if their knowledge on the matter was restricted to tabloid headlines. But I have more faith in humanity, and would like to think that most people have learnt to question popular media. However, I was horrified to hear an educated member of society recently state "Hasn't the Pope been accused of paedophilia"?

Paedophilia is a serious, disgusting offence. It is a crime so awful, that it should never be carelessly reported on, joked about, nor associated to innocent parties. Every poorly reported account on sexual abuse is causing more harm, and every commentator that is delightfully using this scandal as a platform to bounce off every gripe, no matter how petty, that they have with the Catholic Church, is making a mockery of the issue.

Only a small amount of research will reveal that Pope Benedict has done more than any other Pope in history to clean up this crisis in the Church. He is the first Pope to implement such decisive strategies to actively rid the Church of abuse, and to extend his hand in apology to victims. What worries me, is that the general public has been led to assume that Benedict is guilty one, and are completely unaware of his contribution to rid the Church of abuse.

More disturbingly, many of the claims against Pope Benedict have simply been untrue. For example, Thomas T. Brundage, the judge in the US case in which Fr Lawrence Murphy was found to be abusing deaf children, has evidence that Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), was not involved in handling this scandal - and yet he has received not a single phone call from the reporters who were most happy to quote him on this case.[1] Furthermore, the accusations claiming that Cardinal Ratzinger knew of the case of Fr Lawrence, were based on a badly translated Italian document containing the records of a meeting, which, upon correct translation, was shown to have been conducted by the Secretary of the CDF, Archbishop Bertone. Cardinal Ratzinger was not even present at the meeting.

As for the recent report of a letter signed by Cardinal Ratzinger in 1985, in which he supposedly dismissed a request to defrock a Father Stephen Kiesle, a California priest who had been accused of molesting boys, I could not help but notice that commentators and members of the public seemed to revel in the triumph of finally having a piece of damning evidence against the Pontiff. Did anyone do their research? Did anyone discover that the letter was simple a response to an initial letter by Father Kiesle's local Bishop, who was making an inquiry about the procedures of 'de-frocking' a priest, without divulging any of the details about the sexual abuse accusations? Did anyone bother to look into the fact that Cardinal Ratzinger stated in this letter that the Vatican was going to look into the request - which they did, placing Father Kiesle immediately on leave during the investigation and approving his dismissal him from the Priesthood in 1987?

Cardinal Ratzinger was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for several years, but had no responsibility for investigating cases of sexual abuse until 2001. Once opening these files, Ratzinger was the first in the Church to deal with the crisis in a serious manner and actively remove abusive priests, whom he described at the time as "filth".


I strongly support a move to bring all those who had committed these crimes to justice. I support every move to make peace with and to apologise to the victims of abuse, with whom I wish I could offer more than my words of sorrow. I support a move to ensure that all those
abusers who have deceived us as good, Christian men of God, are brought before the law. I believe in justice. I do not believe that turning these crimes of paedophilia into a circus game to make fun of the Catholic Church and the Pope is giving any respect to the victims and to the
seriousness of the crime.

[1] Brundage states, "With regard to the inaccurate reporting on behalf of the New York Times, the Associated Press, and those that utilized these resources, first of all, I was never contacted by any of these news agencies but they felt free to quote me." (

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About the Author

Mary Elias is a practising Catholic, has studied law and has a professional interest in cultural, religious and youth related issues in the media.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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