The Pope in the Docket

by Edwin Faust
Sept. 26, 2011

We are told that the International Criminal Court at The Hague was created to investigate and prosecute war crimes. In effect, this has meant those nations who lose wars may find their military and political leaders charged and tried before the tribunal. Those who win wars are immune from such prosecution.

The Vatican is losing its war against secularism in the West. The implementation of Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Liberty has led to the elimination of the few remaining Catholic confessional states. The Church no longer enjoys a privileged position in the civil statutes of any nation outside the small plot of land ruled by the Pope in Rome.

As a vanquished power, the Vatican is increasingly at the mercy of the secular governments who now represent, in practical and juridical terms, the highest political and moral authorities.

The Church’s status as a respected institution has suffered enormously due to clerical sexual abuse, which has surfaced in every country where there is a Catholic presence. This erosion of respectability appears destined to make prelates, as well as priests, more likely to be investigated and tried in criminal courts.

To date, at least in North America, no bishop has faced criminal prosecution in the ongoing sexual abuse scandals. Some priests have been charged, found guilty and sent to jail. Their bosses — the bishops — who in some cases enabled the criminal activity, have suffered in prestige but have so far remained out of the lockup.

This may soon change.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, a secular non-profit legal group in New York acting on behalf of SNAP (Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests), has asked that The Hague investigate Pope Benedict XVI and top Vatican Cardinals for allegedly maintaining what they characterize as a “long-standing and pervasive system of sexual violence.”

It seems unlikely the International Criminal Court will accede to the request. It is novel, in that the alleged crimes did not occur in the course of a war. And the Catholic Church, tarnished and diminished as it now is, may still wield enough influence to bar the matter from proceeding much further.

But the very fact that such a request was made and has some support, especially among Catholics who feel betrayed by Church officials, indicates the direction in which public opinion is headed. And public opinion is the only shield protecting various Church structures and their officials from its more aggressive secular enemies, such as prominent militant atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, who have long clamored for such a prosecution.

When the Pope visited England, Dawkins and Hitchens issued calls for his arrest as a sex criminal. Demonstrations were also staged along the route of the Holy Father’s travels.

The International Criminal Court, if it is true to the character of politically created institutions, will not be entirely averse to extending its power beyond its usual domain of war crimes. It was also created to investigate claims of rape and torture and violence against civilian populations, which is what SNAP alleges the Church is guilty of.

After all, they may argue, the Church is an international entity that has a poor record of policing itself, so much so that it must become subject to outside scrutiny. They may ask, who better qualifies for the job than the justices at The Hague?

The Pope is the former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was responsible for investigating charges of clerical sexual abuse and taking action in cases where such abuse was substantiated. SNAP claims that Pope Benedict, as Cardinal Ratzinger, did not fulfill his responsibility to protect children or punish guilty clergy or bishops.

Barbara Blaine, head of the U.S.-based SNAP, calls the legal filing a last resort, claiming the Vatican could have done something definite and decisive to put an end to clerical sexual abuse and has refused to do so.

Ironically, Pope Benedict, when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, was among those Vatican prelates who did take the clerical sexual abuse crisis seriously. But he is now the Pope and is viewed by many as the man who must answer for the crimes of subordinates who were allowed, no matter by whom, to molest innocent and trusting young people with impunity.

The bishops are under his discipline and they appear to be skating through this whole mess without serious personal consequences. This infuriates SNAP and is at the heart of the complaint.

So what is to be done? The clerical sexual abuse crisis is not a matter of pedophilia but homosexuality. Most victims were teen boys and young men, not little children. This has to be acknowledged, and preventative and remedial action taken.

Has there been a decree from Rome that homosexuals are to be banned from seminaries? No. Has there been any papal mandate that identified or self-confessed homosexual priests are to be laicized or even restricted in their ministry? No. Has one bishop been deposed for enabling or participating in sexual abuse? No.

Ultimately, the solution to the present situation appears beyond human prudence. According to Sister Lucy of Fatima, we are seeing the unfolding of a “diabolical disorientation” in the Church. And human prudence is no match for angelic intelligence. Lucifer will outshine us every time.

We have arrived at a point where our only hope lies not in our own wisdom, but in reliance upon a power greater than our own. The time has come to seek Heaven’s help. And such help is offered. We are told by Our Lady of Fatima that if the Pope and the bishops consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, peace will come to the Church and the world. It’s time to turn to Our Lady of Fatima.

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