Well, it’s only Day 2 of the blog, and already I have to pull anchor from my KC moorings and write about a topic of world-wide interest. (I’ll get back to KC tomorrow, with a post — positive — about the Power & Light District. ) Today, though, it’s about this pope….this pope. As the kids would preface it, OMG, this pope.
In case you haven’t been following closely, The Priest Sexual Abuse Scandal — The Sequel is upon us. A front-page story in today’s New York Times puts Benedict XVI squarely in the middle of a very, very troubling situation. The
story cites the case of a now-deceased American priest, the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who worked at a Wisconsin school for the deaf from 1950 to 1974. During his time at the school, Murphy (no courtesy titles here) abused as many as 200 boys. (He later admitted to it.)
As early as the 1950s, students had told church officials that Murphy was a predator. Nothing was done, of course, and, in fact, Murphy was put in charge of the school in 1960. Now, fast forward to 1996. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict, failed to respond to two letters about the case — which victims were stoking — from Milwaukee’s archbishop. At the time, Ratzinger presided over a Vatican office called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which decides whether accused priests should be tried within the church system or defrocked.
Several months later, Ratzinger’s right-hand man, also a cardinal, told the Wisconsin bishops to begin a secret trial, which could have led to Murphy’s dismissal. The Times’ story says Ratzinger’s colleague abruptly stopped the process, however, after Murphy wrote to Ratzinger, saying he was in poor health and, “I simply want to live out the time that I have left in the dignity of the priesthood.”
Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. And — wouldn’t you know it? — the kindly cardinal accommodated him. Murphy, who, in the 1990s, was working in parishes and schools in the Diocese of Superior, in northern Wisconsin, died in September 1998 at age 72.
If that in itself isn’t bad enough for Benedict, it emerges against the backdrop of erupting abuse scandals in Ireland and Germany. On Wednesday, the pope accepted the resignation of an Irish bishop who had failed to respond to allegations of abuse, and last weekend the pope apologized to Irish victims, expressing “shame and remorse.”
It was recent news out of Germany, though, that first placed the shell concealing the pill of sexual abuse before Benedict. The pope’s role has been called into focus because, as Archbishop of Munich in 1980, Ratzinger allowed a priest accused of molesting boys to seek therapy, rather than suspend and discipline him, or perhaps turn him over to authorities. A short time later, a deputy of Ratzinger permitted the priest to return to full pastoral duties. Six years later, the priest was convicted of sexually abusing children. It wasn’t until earlier this month that the church relieved the priest, Peter Hullermann, of his pastoral duties.
The upshot? To me, it’s clear. For his own sake and, more important, for that of the church, the pope should resign. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know about my blog, but, Papa, are you listening to The Spirit? He/She must be whispering to you, “Step down, step down.”
If he would like to try to revive the church — give it a semblance of a fresh start — the pope should say “adios.” Do you hear the voices, Papa? It’s time to leave the building.