Sullivan: “When will this Pope step down?”

One post per day on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church ought to be sufficient to encompass breaking news. But today — which just happens to be St. Patrick’s day — is an exception. It requires two. (The first is here.)


Andrew Sullivan:

Now, in Brazil, another dam is breaking. This new story beggars belief:
Brazilian authorities are investigating three priests accused of sexually abusing altar boys after a video allegedly showing one case of abuse was broadcast on television, police and church officials said Tuesday.

The case came to light after the SBT network aired a video purportedly showing an 82-year-old priest having sex with a 19-year-old altar boy who worked for him for four years. Other young men appeared on the report saying that they, too, had been abused by Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa.

Also under investigation are Monsignor Raimundo Gomes, 52, and Father Edilson Duarte, 43, for allegedly having sexual relations with boys and young men…

In its report last week, SBT showed footage of a man who looks like Barbosa having sex with the 19-year-old. It said the footage was secretly filmed in January 2009 by a 21-year-old man who charges Barbosa had abused him since age 12.

But here’s what remains staggering:

An SBT reporter visited Barbosa’s house to conduct an interview and confront him with the allegations.

Before raising the allegations of sexual abuse, the reporter asks if the priest had ever sinned.

“Who has never committed a sin?” Barbosa responds.

The priest is then asked if the region has problems with pedophilia.

“I think it is more (a problem) of homosexuality than pedophilia,” Barbosa says.

Asked directly if he ever abused boys, Barbosa says he could only answer such a question “in confession.”

The current moral authority for all Catholics personally put the interests of the hierarchy above the welfare of vulnerable children. He heard a case of a priest forcing an eleven-year-old to perform oral sex on him, and he did not take that priest to the police, as he should have, or removed him from his duties immediately. He sent him to therapy and allowed him to continue molesting children in future parishes, and never informed the parents of the priest’s past. Would you have done that? Would anyone you know have done that? Would anyone you know who had done that be able to sleep at night?

When will this Pope step down?

By the way? Is confession some kind of a get out of jail card if you time it right? Our first story on the sex abuse scandal today included this quote of “promoter of justice” of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

In some English-speaking countries, but also in France, if bishops become aware of crimes committed by their priests outside the sacramental seal of Confession, they are obliged to report them to the judicial authorities. This is an onerous duty because the bishops are forced to make a gesture comparable to that of a father denouncing his own son. Nonetheless, our guidance in these cases is to respect the law.

[In countries where bishops do not have this legal obligation] we do not force bishops to denounce their own priests, but encourage them to contact the victims and invite them to denounce the priests by whom they have been abused. Furthermore, we invite the bishops to give all spiritual – and not only spiritual – assistance to those victims. In a recent case concerning a priest condemned by a civil tribunal in Italy, it was precisely this Congregation that suggested to the plaintiffs, who had turned to us for a canonical trial, that they involve the civil authorities in the interests of victims and to avoid other crimes.

Emphasis added.

Addendum. John Allen in the National Catholic Reporter:

From the beginning, the “sex abuse crisis” has actually been an interlocking set of two problems: the abuse committed by some priests, and the administrative failures of some bishops who should have known better to deal with the problem.

In general, the impact of Benedict’s “conversion” has been felt mostly on that first level — the determination to punish abusers, to adopt stringent policies governing future cases, to reach out to victims and to apologize for the suffering they’ve endured. So far, Benedict has not adopted any new accountability mechanisms for bishops. Aside from a few instances such as Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, few bishops have been asked, or instructed, to resign.

As long as the perception is that the Catholic church has fixed its priests’ problem but not its bishops’ problem, many people will see that as a job half done.

In turn, that unfinished business is what makes the revelations in Germany so potentially damaging….

Yes, except “administrative failures of some bishops” falls far short of an adequate description. This is not administrative incompetence. And it goes beyond malfeasance. These bishops were protecting themselves first, the institution second, the priests third, and the victims last. Heads should roll.

Category : The Lead

Comment Policy
Our comment policy requires that you use your real name and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted

3 Comments
  1. Peter Pearson

    Although I doubt that Ratzinger will ever step down, I am amazed to hear peole even bring it up as a possibility. These are interesting times.

    Rome is all about higher ups standing on the backs of those beneath them, whoever that may be. Remember what happened with Cardinal Law? They promoted him to a post in Rome and put him under their protection and snubbed everyone who had an honest complaint against the man. They also sacrificed lots of priests who they first shuffled around because it was easier than getting them into therapy and then they offered them up to take the spotlight off the bishops who did the shuffling. They’ve even blamed the gay population for the whole crisis. These are not folks who take responsibility because they can’t imagine being held accountable. So no, the man in white will probably not step down. He’ll find someone else to do that for him.

    I guess I have some opinions in this matter and apologize if they offend.

  2. As long ago as seminary we discussed confession and a variety of crimes. What Blessed Marion Hatchett and others reminded us was that we could call for a rigorous act of contrition – in this instance, confession to law enforcement and/or to victims (with the priest there for support). It wouldn’t break the seal, because the perpetrator would be reporting, not the priest. One can only imagine that a penitent for whom confession is actually important would be willing to demonstrate that contrition in the process of confession. The point is, it isn’t “either/or” between confession and reporting.

    Marshall Scott

  3. The movie “Priest” explores confession and secrecy. I do not believe confession secrecy holds in the case of child abuse and other heinous crimes. I tell people ahead of time that if they confess I crime against children – I will be bound to report it.

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *