Beginning a week and a half before Easter Sunday and continuing until the day after Easter, the New York Times published at least 10 different (lengthy) articles about past and current allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church. The theme woven throughout the articles was that prior to being chosen to lead the Church, Pope Benedict was directly responsible for some priests being allowed to continue to victimize young boys, because he allegedly failed to act on information that had been provided to him.
Since Easter, the attacks have continued. The New York Times is not the only media outlet that has the Pope in its crosshairs. The Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, MSNBC, and several other news organizations have also been doing their best to destroy the Pope.
Prior to being chosen to lead the Catholic Church, then Cardinal Jozef Ratzinger was the Dean of the College of Cardinals and the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he was responsible for maintaining and defending the integrity of the faith and examining errors and false doctrines in the almost 3,000 dioceses throughout the world. Although he did not normally get involved in individual cases, he was very much aware of the problems that existed in the Church concerning priest-pedophiles, and repeatedly took action to deal with the problems.
In 1986 (24 years ago), Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a letter to the Catholic Bishops, which was subsequently printed in the National Catholic Register. In the letter, he wrote:
Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered to an intrinsic moral evil, and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.
Although he described the practice of homosexuality as “an intrinsic moral evil,” he cautioned against the direct mistreatment of homosexuals:
It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs.
In his Good Friday homily in 2005 (shortly after being chosen as our new pontiff), Pope Benedict XVI condemned the “filth there is in the Church,” which was a clear reference to the priest-pedophiles.
So what is the “smoking gun” that all of the wolves in the media are pointing to in order to “prove” that Cardinal Ratzinger allowed priest-pedophiles to continue to molest boys? There are some documents that have surfaced that indicate that Ratzinger was slow in responding to requests to laicize (or “defrock”) priests who were guilty of abusing children. The media has equated a failure to laicize priests with the overt act of actually “blocking the removal of pedophile priests.” The failure of the Vatican to laicize a priest has nothing to do with a local bishop’s decision to remove a priest from active ministry.
Laicization occurs when the Catholic Church removes the right of a priest to exercise the functions of the priesthood. There are various reasons for a priest to be laicized, including a serious criminal conviction, an act of heresy, or a personal reason, such as significant declining health or old age. The most common reason for laicization is when a priest makes a formal request to be laicized because he no longer wishes to be a priest or wants to enter into marriage.
Once a priest has been laicized, he is formally dismissed from his clerical duties and is forbidden from exercising priestly functions. (There are some exceptions to this rule, such as the right to hear the confession of a dying penitent.) Because of the indelible mark that is placed on the priest’s soul at the time of his ordination, a laicized priest still has the sacramental power to consecrate the Eucharist. Although such an action would be valid, it is considered an unauthorized use of a priestly power and would therefore be considered an illicit act.
Cardinal Ratzinger did not block or otherwise delay the removal of any priests from their duties in any parish or diocese. In all of the cases where a formal request for laicization was made by a bishop, the accused priest had already been removed from active ministry. In situations where a pedophile-priest was not removed from active ministry, it was because of a failure of the bishop in the diocese to take action (not a failure of anyone in the Vatican to take action).
There’s another aspect to all of this that will shed some light on what was going on in the Vatican during the 1980’s. Pope John Paul, II, followed the same protocol that was in place when he became Pope. He left it up to local bishops to determine what actions needed to be taken against an accused priest. No one would disagree with the fact that a local bishop is in the best position to make decisions concerning the activities of a priest who is under the jurisdiction of the bishop.
When a bishop submitted a request for laicization of a priest (which always took place after the bishop removed the priest from his duties), the members of the Vatican were instructed to proceed with caution. The reason for this was because while Pope John Paul, II, was growing up in Poland, it was a common practice of the state-controlled media of the Communist government of Poland to accuse a person of homosexuality when the government considered the person to be an enemy of the state. This was the easiest and most efficient way for the Communist government to completely destroy a person. This type of personal destruction was prevalent during the time leading up to then Karol Wojtyla’s ordination to the priesthood in 1946, and continued after he was named as the Archbishop of Krakow in 1963, and Cardinal in 1967.
Contrary to what some people may believe, it has never been a common practice for the Church to routinely laicize priests who have been accused of crimes, including those involving sexual abuse.
It is my personal belief that the Church should excommunicate politicians in the United States who claim to be practicing Catholics while continuing to vote in favor of a woman’s “right” to “terminate” the life of her child. Even though the Pope has the power and authority to excommunicate those politicians, he has apparently concluded that such actions would be more harmful to the Catholic Church (as a whole) than helpful. He has also apparently determined that any actions that are taken against politicians should be left up to the local bishops.
For reasons unknown to us, in the 1980’s, Cardinal Ratzinger, and presumably Pope John Paul, II, felt that laicizing pedophile-priests would also be more harmful to the Catholic Church (as a whole) than helpful. We can second-guess this particular policy, but regardless of our opinion on the matter, the decision to delay laicizing priests had absolutely nothing to do with whether a priest was allowed to continue to function in a diocese. That decision always was (and still is) up to the local bishop.
There is an effort among certain members of the media to: (1) do everything in their power to trash the reputation, character, credibility, and integrity of our Pope as well as every bishop and priest so that they will no longer be in a position to exercise any influence over anyone; and (2) continuously defame and slander Christ’s chosen leaders with the intention of instilling within everyone else enough doubt about the Catholic Church and it’s leaders that that they will no longer respect, trust or listen to any Pope, bishop or priest.
What is going on today is just one more battle in the never ending Luciferian war to destroy the Catholic Church. We need to continue to utilize our most effective weapon (prayer) as a shield against the constant attacks against the leaders of our Church. The attacks are going to accelerate. Our Pope, bishops and priests need all the prayers we can offer on their behalf.