Benedict denies concealing abuse; SNAP responds
For immediate release: Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell, [email protected])
Pope Benedict now claims he never covered up for predator priests. He could not be more wrong.
Over a clerical career that lasted more than six decades, we can’t think of a single child molesting bishop, priest, nun, brother or seminarian than Benedict ever exposed.
In the church’s entire history, no one knew more but did less to protect kids than Benedict. As head of CDF, thousands of cases of predator priests crossed his desk. Did he choose to warn families or call police about even one of those dangerous clerics? No. That, by definition, is a cover up.
Benedict is a smart man. He knows that each one of those individuals should have been reported to law enforcement. Yet he never made those call. Nor did he order others to make those calls. Nor did he ever discipline or denounce - in even the slightest way - those who clearly hid clergy sex crimes from law enforcement (like Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City who was convicted for hiding clergy child sex crimes).
Only under intense pressure, and only in the waning months of his papacy, did Benedict begin to even make the most pathetic gestures regarding child sex crimes or cover ups. And they were indeed gestures – largely symbolic acts that had and have zero impact in protecting kids.
The opposite of “covering up” is “uncovering” or “disclosing.” Again, we cannot name one predatory bishop, priest, nun, brother or seminarian who was publicly exposed because of Benedict.
Six months ago, here’s what we said about “Setting Pope Benedict's record straight” -
Let’s get specific. What exactly DID Pope Benedict do about the committing and concealing of child sex crimes in the church? LA Times writer Mitchell Lansberg did a good job of summarizing the case made by Benedict’s defenders, who say that he:
1. “essentially banished an influential Mexican priest, Father Marcial Maciel, who had long been suspected of sexually abusing seminarians and boys in his care and had fathered at least three children”
2. “ordered investigations into sexual abuse and issued guidelines in 2010 that made it easier to punish abusive priests”
3. “spoke of the ‘deep shame’ and ‘humiliation’ the scandal had brought on the Catholic Church. He apologized to victims”
Now, let’s talk about these points in greater detail.
1. To say that Benedict “banished” Fr. Maciel is over-the-top. Fr. Maciel was actually “invited to retire from public ministry” by Benedict following an investigation into his crimes in 2006. (Serious and credible allegations against Maciel by several victims were first made in the late 1990s.) Maciel was not forced to apologize, and neither he nor his supervisors were told to help in any sort of criminal investigations. It’s estimated that there are around 37,000 predator priests worldwide. By tepidly slapping Maciel’s hand after considerable publicity and pressure, Benedict took belated action on one predator priest. We hardly think that’s worth much praise.
2. In 2010, Benedict issued guidelines about the Vatican’s process with priests accused of sex abuse crimes. But this was largely a PR move that didn’t actually do anything to make punishments for predator priests more frequent, speedy or severe. The guidelines did virtually nothing to prevent abuse in the first place. They didn’t mandate that knowledge or suspicions of child sex crimes be reported to secular authorities. The guidelines also ignored the problem of complicit bishops and other officials. (We’ve said repeatedly that while it’s important to punish predators, this crisis won’t go away until those who keep predators concealed are punished.) Finally, across the globe and over two decades, we’ve seen church abuse guidelines – at all levels – repeatedly broken by church officials. Why? Because no one is ever punished for violating them. So they’re essentially meaningless.
3. It’s incredibly easy to speak about shame and humiliation, and it’s easy to apologize, especially when you’re not in a room with victims themselves. (Benedict met with only a handful of carefully chosen victims in carefully choreographed settings.) But for the most part, the Pope spurned requests by victims and victims’ groups to meet with them, and while he may have said the words, he didn’t mean them enough to do anything substantive to protect the vulnerable or heal the wounded.
At the end of the day, facing massive public outrage, Benedict sometimes gave a few speeches and made a few gestures. There was fluff but no substance. There’s really not much at all in Benedict’s record on child sex abuse that can be defended.