With the sudden, surprise announcement of the Pope resigning, I thought it would be worthwhile to revisit a previous posting of mine from almost 3 years ago, Will the Pope Resign? which I hope you will check out.
Back then, despite this not happening for almost 600 years, I was convinced that he would eventually resign because of the ever increasing toll that the child molesting scandals have taken on the church. Of particular interest to me was the paragraph near the end of the posting on how the legal bookmakers with their ever shortening odds really thought it could happen. Although the link on the current odds of the Pope resigning is no longer there, at the time of this posting, there are still a number of other categories under the amusing heading of “Pope Betting” such as on the future Pope’s papal name, age, and even how long it will take to pick a successor.
But I thought that it would happen sooner than 3 years later. If you look in the previous posting, you will find plenty to support that the former Cardinal Ratzinger had his fingerprints all over the ongoing scandal. So why now and not back then? While at this time, we don’t know, I have my own guess on this that I would like to share with you.
A few nights ago, I decided to watch the recently debuted HBO documentary, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God which at the time of this posting is available on-demand to HBO subscribers. It is incredibly compelling viewing no matter what one's faith (or lack of faith) is.
The main story focuses on some now middle-aged deaf men with both sadness and anger, recounting their days when they were molested by Lawrence Murphy, a charismatic Milwaukee priest who was in charge of their school. Even more despicable, according to the movie, deaf children were a favorite target of molesters since they couldn’t hear the priest approaching them. In addition, the priests knew it was especially difficult for these children to communicate with their parents about their situation, especially the ones who were not fluent in American Sign Language, the way these children are taught to communicate.
But the online synopsis has this incredible double-barreled indictment of both Benedict XVI and his predecessor, John Paul II.
In addition to the Murphy case, MEA MAXIMA CULPA: SILENCE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD spotlights similar sex abuse cases in Ireland and Italy, and highlights the horrific actions of Marcial Maciel Degollado, a prominent church fundraiser and ruthless sex criminal beloved by Pope John Paul II. The film also reveals that in 2001, Cardinal Ratzinger – now His Holiness, Benedict the 16th – ordered that every sex abuse case involving a minor come through his desk, essentially establishing him as the most knowledgeable person in the world regarding priestly sexual abuse of minors.
While there has been more than ample ‘smoking gun’ evidence about the Pope’s involvement in the scandal, this documentary reveals documents from some of the secret Vatican archives that points the finger squarely at the Pope.
Although the film debuted in September, 2012 and had a limited release this November (which the Vatican must have surely viewed), the recent release on HBO is exposing this to a much larger audience. And if other more mainstream media outlets follow-up on this story, the Pope’s situation at the top could well have become untenable – and thus the real reason why I think he decided to resign now.
So what now? Some interesting questions remain. The Pope has been immune from lawsuits since the Vatican is a sovereign state separate from Italy (something the documentary asserts was a cozy arrangement between Mussolini and the Vatican.) So if he is no longer Pope and lives outside the Vatican, even temporarily, is he then vulnerable to lawsuits or maybe even prosecution?
And will he make some changes in the church during his last days in power to perhaps someday help divorce it once and for all from this scandal? A recent NYT op-ed The Pope Can Still Right the Wrongs suggests that the Pope should force out the dean of the College of Cardinals “the man who, more than any other, embodies the misuse of power that has corrupted the church hierarchy.”
But more important, a release of all of the secret Vatican documents pertaining to all of the molestation complaints through the years would be a powerful disinfectant that would help clear the air. Yes, there is still some denial by some over all of this. But that will never completely go away. And there have been some apologies by the church and in some cases by the Pope personally. But to many, these apologies ring hollow because they focus more on the anger over those doing the terrible wrongs instead of the young victims whose lives have been scarred or even ruined. More than anything else, this is about them!