Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pope in Crisis

NY Times: As Archbishop, Benedict Focused on Doctrine;
Abuse Scandal’s Ripples Spread Across Europe
Pope May Be at Crossroads on Abuse, Forced to Reconcile Policy and Words
Financial Times: Protest at priests’ abuse reaches Vatican steps

Joseph Ratzinger, better known as Pope Benedict XVI, is in the middle of a stormy scandal of abuse involving the Catholic Church, many nations, numerous priests, and thousands of victims. In this latest round of scandals, this week new allegations surfaced against a priest in Germany who reportedly abused young victims for over two decades, all under the presumed knowledge of archbishop Ratzinger who, at the time, allegedly did nothing to investigate or stop the abuse. When Ratzinger was archbishop in Munich, he was copied on a memo informing him that a priest who had undergone therapy after sexually abusing children would return to working with children in a new parish. Church investigators say that the priest, Rev. Peter Hullermann, sexually abused young children for decades, and to avoid disclosure of these wrongs, church officials transferred Hullermann from parish to parish and continued to allow him to work with young children, even after being convicted of pedophilia crimes in 1986. This history of Hullerman’s career is as follows:

o He was abruptly transferred from Bottrip to Essen in 1977, without comment of abuse.
o H was then transferred to Munich for pedophilia therapy after three claims of sexual abuse in 1980.
o Hullerman returns to parish duties in Munich shortly thereafter.
o He was later transferred from Munich to Graming, where he was criminally convicted for more abuse in 1986, resulting in a fine and probation.
o After his probation, he was transferred to a Garching to work in another parish with young children, where he worked for 21 years. More allegations of abuse have resulted from his tenure in Garching.

The Pope’s supporters, describing his tenure as archbishop when he overlooked repeated signs of Hullerman’s abuse, defend him by characterizing him as an academic - more concerned with theology than with the personal affairs of his priests or congregations. They suggest that the recent media crisis is just an “elaborate attack on the Pope.” Those accusing the Pope of wrongdoing suggest he his oversight and neglect reveal an evil intent to conceal and protect pedophile priests’ actions from the public.

Hullermann isn’t the only Catholic priest facing scrutiny these days. Ireland’s Bishop John Magee resigned this week after reports surfaced that he failed to respond to accusations of abuse in Cloyne. Magee later issued an apology for his failure to protect child victims from sexual abuse. Irish Catholics are dissatisfied with the extent of repercussions from the Irish scandal because the four other Irish bishops involved in the issue have not resigned, nor has Cardinal Sean Brady, despite revelations that in 1970 he encouraged two young children to sign secrecy statements to prevent disclosure of their abuse.

Allegations of abuse are not isolated to Europe. There have been many reports of abuse in the United States, including a 1991 warning sent to Cardinal Ratzinger th at a Wisconsin priest had abused over 200 deaf boys over the span of 25 years beginning in 1950. Similar to the warnings about Rev. Hullermann, Ratzinger took no action against this priest for his misconduct.

Discussion Questions:
1. How does a religious scandal affect a country’s financial affairs? Is the effect of religious scandal more pronounced in countries where there is no formal or effective separation between church and state?
2. What is the effect of scandal on contributions to the church? Might the church be forced to sell assets? Would a large scale sale of church assets have an impact on markets?

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