Breaking news from the New York Times:
Citing advanced years and infirmity, Pope Benedict XVI stunned the Roman Catholic world on Monday by saying he would resign on Feb. 28 after less than eight years in office, the first pope to do so in six centuries.
After examining his conscience “before God,” he said in a statement that reverberated around the world on the Internet and on social media, “I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise” of his position as head of the world’s one billion Roman Catholics.
Given that I believe this Pope has acted both unethically and illegally, in the process causing a great deal of harm to many people, I should be glad he is retiring as head of the Catholic Church. And, on balance, I am.
Yet I am not as overjoyed about the news as many of my secularist friends appear to be. During his tenure, Pope Benedict XVI arguably did more harm to the undeserved positive image of the Catholic Church than all of the prominent atheists combined. In the coming weeks, I’m sure we will hear in the coming weeks that the Church is bound to pick someone who is younger and has broader appeal. But Pope Benedict XVI was extraordinarily successful at pushing people away from the Catholic Church mainly because he was an accurate representative of the Church’s current role in the modern world. The last thing the world needs right now is a candy-coated Pope who will make people forget that the Church spends most of its time and energy not making the world a better place, but advancing Middle Age theology.
Of course, one could argue a new Pope might move the Church forward on a range of issues. But remember: this is an institution which still opposes modern realities like birth control and sex before marriage and abortion — even in cases of rape, incest, and the mother’s life being at risk. For good measure, it also opposes equal rights for gays and lesbians, and secular government. So forgive me if I don’t see much reason to hold out much hope that radical, positive change is coming anytime soon.
I wrote in a recent blog post that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, has some seriously warped views on morality. In case you were still in doubt over whether Dolan’s moral compass could use a major readjustment, take a look at what broke during my break from blogging:
Cardinalof New York authorized payments of as much as $20,000 to sexually abusive priests as an incentive for them to agree to dismissal from the priesthood when he was the archbishop of Milwaukee.
Questioned at the time about the news that one particularly notorious pedophile cleric had been given a “payoff” to leave the priesthood, Cardinal Dolan, then the archbishop, responded that such an inference was “false, preposterous and unjust.”
But a document unearthed during bankruptcy proceedings for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and made public by victims’ advocates reveals that the archdiocese did make such payments to multiple accused priests to encourage them to seek dismissal, thereby allowing the church to remove them from the payroll.
Dolan has since replied by sidestepping the issue, instead blasting one of the outlets that broke the story:
“The New York Times does not have a reputation for fair and accurate reporting when it comes to this issue. … So, to respond to charges like that — that are groundless and scurrilous — in my book it’s useless and counterproductive.”
So, in short: Cardinal Dolan is both an immoral leader and a “brazen liar”. Which, if you ask me, should cost him his job. Unless, of course, the Catholic Church doesn’t mind corruption and coverup at the expense of young men’s lives.
I’ve written before regarding my disappointment with the global Catholic laity for not publicly rebuking crooked leaders such as Pope Benedict XVI. If Dolan’s actions aren’t enough to get American Catholics to denounce the church’s current hierarchy, then I simply don’t know what they’ll need to finally stand up and reject those who claim to represent them.
The Vatican has appointed an American bishop to rein in the largest and most influential group of Catholic nuns in the United States, saying that an investigation found that the group had “serious doctrinal problems.”
The Vatican’s assessment, issued on Wednesday, said that members of the group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, had challenged church teaching on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood, and promoted “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”
“I’m stunned,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by sisters. Her group was also cited in the Vatican document, along with the Leadership Conference, for focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping “silent” on abortion and same-sex marriage.
From yesterday’s edition of the British newspaper The Guardian:
Victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests have accused the pope, the Vatican secretary of state and two other high-ranking Holy See officials of crimes against humanity, in a formal complaint to the international criminal court (ICC).
The submission, lodged at The Hague on Tuesday, accuses the four men not only of failing to prevent or punish perpetrators of rape and sexual violence but also of engaging in the “systematic and widespread” practice of concealing sexual crimes around the world.
It includes individual cases of abuse where letters and documents between Vatican officials and others show a refusal to co-operate with law enforcement agencies seeking to pursue suspects, according to the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a US-based organisation that represents the claimants.
Pam Spees, human rights attorney with CCR, said: “The point of this is to look at it from a higher altitude. You zoom out and the practices are identical: whistleblowers are punished, the refusal of the Vatican to co-operate with law enforcement agencies. You see the protection of priests and leaving them in the ministry and because of these decisions other children are raped and sexually assaulted.”
This is not a publicity stunt, nor is it another example of the so-called liberal war on religion. It is simply a case of decent human beings standing up for justice. As I have previously written, and as detailed in CCR’s article, the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI have committed terribly unethical and illegal acts, and should not be exempted from the law simply because they are religious.
From the Associated Press:
Pope Benedict XVI has denounced the profit-at-all-cost mentality that he says is behind Europe’s current economic crisis, and says morals and ethics must play a greater role in formulating economic policy in the future.
The pope said, “Man must be at the center of the economy and the economy must not be measured only by the maximization of profit but according to the common good.”
Sound familiar? It should — the Pope is echoing my thoughts in a recent blog post here:
There are no such things as purely economic ends divorced from all other ends because economic decisions are made based on moral values, and also have a moral impact on other people.
Turns out the Pope and I agree on something.