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Old Habits Die Hard

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Tim Knight writes the regular media column Watching the Watchdog for HuffPost Canada.

Sunday, Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, 85, who as Benedict XVl is believed to be the 265th man to be pope of the Roman Catholic Church described abuse and rape of children by his priests as "a mystery."

He added, doubtless not appreciating the irony in his words, that the priests' Christianity "had become merely a matter of habit."

Indeed it had.

In fact, it became such a habit that around the world, over the years, unknown thousands of Catholic priests have been accused of sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children, mostly boys, in their care.

Now, Ratzinger is the top man in the multinational organization that is the Roman Catholic Church.

To prove that, he wears weirdly lacy women's' dresses and strange hats. And an impressive number of grandiose titles of the sort dearly beloved by both royalty and prelates.

In Ratzinger's case:

"His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God."

All of which, translated, means that he's the Roman Catholic church's CEO, the man with ultimate direct responsibility for his church and his priests -- and thus the abuse of children and the habitual cover-up of that abuse.

Last year, victims of priestly abuse represented by the U.S.-based Centre for Constitutional Rights made a formal complaint to the International Criminal Court, accusing the pope and three of his top prelates of crimes against humanity.

The submission accused the four men of failing to prevent or punish perpetrators of rape and sexual violence and engaging in the "systematic and widespread" practice of concealing sexual crimes around the world.

Also last year, the highly respected Amnesty International (three million members working to end "grave abuses of human rights") reported:

"Increasing evidence of widespread child sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy over the past decades, and of the enduring failure of the Catholic Church to address these crimes properly, continued to emerge in various countries. Such failures included not removing alleged perpetrators from their posts pending proper investigations, not co-operating with judicial authorities to bring them to justice and not ensuring proper reparation to victims."

And Ratzinger claims this is all a "mystery"?

It's intriguing that he should use that particular word. In Christianity, according to my dictionary, "mystery" is "a religious belief based on divine revelation, especially one regarded as beyond human understanding."

And sacred mysteries are defined as "those holy acts through which the Holy Spirit mysteriously and invisibly confers Grace (the saving power of God) upon man."

This is a very strange use of the word.

A month ago, I wrote a column titled Journalism's Complicit Role in Sexual Abuse.

It was based on Breaking the Silence, a documentary detailing priestly abuse in boarding schools in England and Tanzania.

In it, I made the point that a lot of people -- including me -- have known for years that priests abused children in Catholic schools. And almost none of us who became journalists ever wrote anything about it.

There were a goodly number of comments to my column.

Not one of the comments denied my accusation.

Not one.

What fascinated me most, however, was that no self-identified journalist responded. Either to support or deny my charge.

So what can this mean?

Is it possible that an innate, tribal fear of some awesome Almighty Being -- whether actually believed in it or not -- prevented me and my journalistic colleagues from checking out all those rumours over the years and asking hard questions of the men of one of God's churches?

I haven't the foggiest idea!

A survivor did comment privately.

Dear Mr. Tim Knight.

I really appreciated your article that I read on the Huffington Post. "Watching the Watchdog: Journalism's Complicit Role in Sexual Abuse" and the acknowledgement you made in the article. I was one of the children at St. Michael's school in Soni referred to in the documentary (there was not really that many of us in the 20 years that it operated).

What the documentary "Breaking The Silence" did not really discuss was the terror that hour by hour we had to endure along with a starvation diet. Most of us have had our lives blighted by what went on.

Your industry is the only way that the common people can draw attention to wrongs that has or is being done and then shame or compel the powers that govern our lives to act & do something about it.

Regards

Phil Jones


My own view, for what it's worth, is that the Roman Catholic Church is made up of two clashing and contradictory groups.

The first group is dedicated to acting as a mediatory agent between believers and their God -- and I have no doubt there remain in the church many good men who perform this duty with diligence, piety and honour.

The second group is, in essence, a pedophile's club, made up of men who joined the organization because it gave them easy access to boys they could then abuse with-- at least until very recently -- absolute impunity.

There are enough men in the second group that if the Church of Rome (motto "For God and Humanity") were any other multinational organization, Ratzinger, it's CEO, would have been arrested and forced to defend himself against -- at the very least -- charges of collusion and complicity in the rape of minors.

And the entire church would long since have been closed down.

But what to do with all those splendidly ostentatious, tax exempt cathedrals and churches?

Here in Canada, they'll make excellent longhouses for First Nations people.

And maybe right a few wrongs from the past.