Pope Benedict XVI, beginning a controversial visit to Britain, acknowledged Thursday that the Catholic Church had failed to act decisively or quickly enough to deal with priests who rape and molest children. He said the church's top priority now was to help the victims heal.
The most charitable response I can offer here is "You're kidding, right?" If a convicted rapist stood up in court and said his top priority was to help his victims heal, the public's immediate response would be bitter derisive mockery. Everyone would understand that the only way a rapist could "help his victims heal" would be to serve his sentence and never get within sight of his victims ever again. (Sincere groveling public apology and reparations may help, but are less important.) How is it even possible for anyone to take this Pope's pledge to "help the victims heal" as anything other than a callous joke? (And besides, what does the former Grand Inquisitor know about sex, rape, or healing?)
The only way the Catholic Church can "help the victims heal" is by admitting that religious authority has failed them miserably; and, in addition, by admitting that secular authorities -- including the secular liberals and nonbelievers they've been demonizing for centuries -- can and will do a better job of helping them.
Benedict referred indirectly to his own roots, recalling how Britain fought the "Nazi tyranny" during World War II, "that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live."
Refresh my memory...whose side was the Vatican on in that war? Oh wait, I remember now -- they were on the Nazis' side, because they needed the Nazis to fight another tyranny that "wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many." I guess the Queen (who also lived during the war against Nazi tyranny) will have to let bygones be bygones on that one.
...There also remains strong opposition in the U.K. to Benedict's hard line against homosexuality, abortion and using condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS.
Benedict acknowledged the opposition in his airborne comments to reporters, saying Britain had a "great history of anti-Catholicism. But it is also a country with a great history of tolerance."
Once again, this Pope lazily equates all criticism of the Church with anti-Catholic bigotry, unworthy of any further response. And, in the transparently slimy manner we've come to expect from Richard Nixon, Newt Gingrich or Mike Huckabee, he's hinting that the unwashed Brits can show their tolerant side by not criticing his Church.
"How can we repair, what can we do to help these people overcome this trauma, find their lives again and find again the trust in the message of Christ?" Benedict said.
Here's an idea: stop repeating idiotic outdated lies about sexual matters, and start giving kids an honest and comprehensive education about them, so that they will be better able to recognize dangers, protect themselves, and make responsible choices. I'm sure you guys can find something in your official doctrine to justify such a policy. If you did it for evolution, you can do it for progressive sex-ed.
And here's another idea: let the secular authorities handle violations of secular law, and stop pretending your own priests are anything other than people in a society that has laws that apply to all people. Y'think you can handle that? It's in the Bible: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." (No stated exceptions for Jesus' own disciples, remember?) Pretty simple, really, just like most of Jesus' other teachings.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, leader of Scotland's minority Catholics, admitted that the damage caused by the sex scandals has been considerable.
"(The abuse cases) have caused terrible injury to children and young adults, and equally horrible have been the cover-ups, but I think the pope has put strong steps to prevent it from happening," he said in a statement. "Nobody loses face by saying 'sorry' and 'I'm trying to do better.'"
Actually, for an authoritarian mindset in charge of an institution whose only product is authority derived from unsupported claims of an all-powerful unquestionable God, admitting wrongdoing IS a severe loss of face. And that is the real heart of the Church's problem here: the Pope -- especially a rigid reacionary like Ratzinger -- cannot admit the Church can be wrong without exposing it to rational questioning by humans, and understandable demands for some sort of accountability to people and institutions outside its own made-up authority -- two things no purely religious authority can long withstand. Ratzinger knows this, and it's terrified him more than anything else for most of his clerical career.
The start of the trip risked being overshadowed by remarks by one of the pope's advisers, German Cardinal Walter Kasper, who compared arriving in multicultural London to landing "in a Third World country." He also told a German magazine that an "aggressive atheism" was spreading in Britain.
I hesitate to call Ratzinger himself a Nazi, but these words by his good German "advisor" perfectly reflect the bigoted, paranoid mindset that drives all fascist movements, past and present: the shameless disdain for immigrants and "muticulturalism," and the animalistic fear of atheists "aggressively" questioning the very foundations on which the Church has
The British media, expressing outrage, cited the remarks as the latest example of a gaffe-prone papacy. Kasper did not come to the U.K, and his office said it was due to illness.
Allergy to Enlightenment society? That'll lay you low, that's for sure. Get all the rest you need, Herr Kasper -- we can solve our problems without you, so there's no need to rush the healing process on our account. We'll call a temp agency to find a replacement. While you're sitting around at home, you might want to try getting an education. If it doesn't trigger another sneezing fit, of course. Take your time.
The bookish pontiff lacks the charisma of his predecessor John Paul II, who pulled in a crowd of 250,000 for Mass at the same Glasgow park. Some may also have been put off by the 20-pound ($31) suggested donation for a ticket to Bellahouston.
Twenty pounds? On top of the twelve million pounds the UK government are spending for this tour? Ouch! I can donate less to any big-city art museum and get a more educational (and more spiritual) experience out of it. What does twenty pounds get you? All the incoherence and weasely fuzzwords of a Republican, in a different language with a bigger vocabulary. That's both lousy religion AND lousy ROI.
The [Humanist Society of Scotland] placed billboards along the route the pope will take between Edinburgh and Glasgow that read: "Two million Scots are good without God."
I couldn't have said it better myself. Hopefully the Pope won't change his route.
UPDATE: Once again, Ed Brayton has some good comments on the history this Pope is desperately trying to rewrite. Read the comments too; #21 by Michael Heath is particularly interesting.