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All the Pope’s Men

Bob Kessler | Friday, April 9, 2010

In 1974 Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency as a result of his role in a widespread cover-up of the criminal activities that his government had participated in over the course of his presidency.
While the Watergate scandal exemplified corruption and created a distrust of our federal government, it also exemplified one of the great things about the American political system: accountability. The crook that ordered the cover-up had no choice but to resign.
Over the past month it has been reported that the Pope and other leaders of our Church have been similarly involved in a widespread cover-up of criminal activities that members of the priesthood have been participating in over the past 60 years (and probably much longer). The circumstances surrounding the priestly cover-up, however, are much more troubling than those of Watergate not only because the original behavior is so much more heinous, but also because the leaders at the top are an important source of moral foundation for a billion people in our world.
Currently I am working as a teacher in China through a Catholic organization, and before coming here I had to take “Creating a Safe Environment for Children” training. This training included several videos of interviews with sexual predators that described their tactics to make sexual advances towards children or to get themselves alone with children.
Those of you that have seen these videos certainly remember how appalling they are. One man describes how he worked at a roller rink and how he told all the parents, “look how safe our roller rink is, no parents feel like they need to be here” and he went on to describe what he would do when he held children on his lap. Another man left pornographic magazines where children could see them, and would ask children what they thought of these magazines in order to begin his pursuit.
I believe that men like this are sick and dangerous, and that they should be locked away in the coldest and darkest prison cell imaginable so that they can’t possibly come into contact with children while they await their long journey to hell. Until recently I believed that reasonable people would agree with me in this assessment, but if we are to believe The New York Times (which I do) it appears that our Pope and other leaders of our church seemingly believe that the sexual abuse of children is no big deal.
Reading these reports about the widespread sexual abuse problems that our church is undergoing disgusted me. It’s one thing that a handful (okay, more than a handful) of priests practiced this abhorrent behavior, but it’s a completely different (and more disturbing) problem that Pope Benedict and other Church leaders were seemingly involved in cover-ups stretching from Munich to Milwaukee that not only protected child-abusing priests from law enforcement, but allowed some of them to continue working with children in a priestly capacity
Aren’t we supposed to look to priests and Church leaders for moral guidance? Isn’t the primary purpose of religion to create a moral system that allows humans to live together harmoniously? How are the rest of us supposed to understand the difference between right and wrong if the leaders of our religion, the religion of one billion people, did not understand that these priests needed to be removed from the priesthood and sent to prison? How did Cardinal Ratzinger not understand the severity of these crimes?
The great success of Watergate is that it proved our political system works. While it certainly uncovered a disconcerting web of corruption and criminal behavior, it also proved that our system has the capacity to remove a president that can no longer credibly lead our country because of his activities. The problem with the Catholic religious system is that it has no such mechanism. I believe that the Pope is no longer able to credibly lead our religion because of his complicity in this cover-up and his continued refusal to address the allegations in a forthright manner, but even if every Catholic agreed with my assessment, we have no ability to force a change.
The great travesty of all this is that because the scandal has now engulfed the Pope, it unfortunately impacts all of the men that serve under him. In the same way that American’s trust of our government was thrown into question as a result of Watergate, our trust of the Church and the institution of the priesthood is now in jeopardy because of the actions (and inactions) of the Pope and other leaders. Catholics should therefore demand that this Pope resign from his position not only because he now lacks a credible moral basis for his leadership, but more importantly because his continuing role as leader of the church threatens to destroy the foundation of our trust in the Priesthood and general opinions and perceptions of all the good men working under him worldwide.

Bob Kessler is a 2009 graduate
currently working as an English teacher in China. He is the writer of Things Notre Dame Students Like, and you can read more of his work at www.the17thgrade.com. He can be contacted at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not
necessarily those of The Observer.