The long, depressing collapse of the Church of Rome continues unabated, as close scrutiny keeps turning up case after case of child abuse and systematic attempts to shield the perpetrators from punishment. The latest piece of evidence is a letter from Vatican to the bishopric of the Irish Church:
The letter, obtained by Irish broadcasters RTE and provided to The Associated Press, documents the Vatican’s rejection of an Irish church initiative to begin helping police identify pedophile priests. The letter’s message undermines persistent Vatican claims that the church never instructed bishops to withhold evidence or suspicion of crimes from police. Instead, the letter emphasizes the church’s right to handle all child-abuse allegations and determine punishments in house rather than hand that power to civil authorities.
Anti-church forces were quick to claim this letter as some kind of “smoking gun” implication of the Church’s hand in covering up the crimes. People have known that this practice was going on for a long time, to the point where it has become a sort of running gag. What the Church long denied was that these kinds of practices were done with the knowledge and implicit approval of the Vatican, and the use of Church political power to shield the guilty from prosecution. That claim has been repeatedly put to the lie by the increasing number of revelations against the Church.
I took the liberty of reading the letter. It is far from definitive proof of anything, let alone the “smoking gun” that conclusively demonstrates that the RCC was taking an active role in shielding child rapists. It is, more or less, consistent with the Church’s ongoing stance of insisting that canon law supersedes secular law. Abusers should be, according to the letter, handled by Church authorities rather than being treated like one would treat any other criminal – automatically turning them over to police. While it’s possible to connect the dots between an exhortation to circumvent the law and a de facto cover-up, this isn’t the document that’s going to pull the whole case together I’m sorry to say.
What’s more interesting than the emergence of this letter is the way the Church is reacting to it. I’m not really referring to their perfunctory and depressingly-predictable denial of reality:
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the letter was genuine. But he told the New York Times: “It refers to a situation that we’ve now moved beyond. That approach has been surpassed, including its ideas about collaborating with civil authorities.” Fr Lombardi said the letter was “not new”, and insisted that “they’ve known about it in Ireland for some time”.
That kind of response is predictable – “oh yes we knew about it the whole time, but that was the old church! This is the new church!” Never mind that the letter isn’t even 15 years old, just keep sweeping that evidence under the rug. But as I said, this kind of response is exactly what you’d expect from a corrupt organization whose misdeeds are finally coming to light.
This is something only the Church could come up with:
Pope Benedict XVI on Friday attributed a miracle to the late Pope John Paul II, which moves the former pontiff one step closer to sainthood. Benedict declared that the cure of a French nun who suffered from Parkinson’s disease was a miracle. A Vatican-appointed group of doctors and theologians, cardinals and bishops agreed that the cure of a French nun, Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, was a miracle because of the intercession of John Paul.
Two months after John Paul’s death, the nun claimed she woke up feeling cured of her disease. The nun and the others in her order had prayed to John Paul, who also suffered from Parkinson’s. In a statement issued Friday, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints said Vatican-appointed doctors “scrupulously” studied the case and found that the nun’s cure had no scientific explanation.
Imagine for a second that you read this in the newspaper:
Former BP CEO Tony Hayward and a team of company-appointed scientists announced today that the catastrophic oil leak that caused irreversible damage to the Gulf Coast of the United States was, in fact, caused by Mole Men.
“We have long suspected,” said Hayward in a prepared statement “that Mole Men live below the surface of our planet. Given that BP has scrupulous safety standards in place to prevent leaks like this from happening, it is therefore impossible that anything could have gone wrong that was our fault. The only logical conclusion we are left with for this disaster is that Mole Men did it.”
In order to pull that kind of shenanigans, BP would be relying on the fact that everyone in the world is a complete and utter moron. That’s the only way that a line of bullshit that long and stinky could possibly hold up to even the most casual level of scrutiny. But that’s exactly what religious belief does to people – it erodes our ability to hold ridiculous supernatural claims like “a woman got better from Parkinson’s… therefore it was the result of the direct intercession of a particular dead person” up to appraisal. We are expected to simply nod and accept it with open arms.
This kind of ridiculous diversionary tactic should not work. The fact that it does is why I, and other anti-theists, are vehemently opposed to the exalted position of religion. It turns people into idiots who willingly swallow crap and tell you it’s caviar, while all the while committing unspeakable acts of evil and calling it virtue.
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I just read that line and started thinking of bad jokes involving the Church.
Hahaha, I didn’t even notice that.