Something akin to a plague is affecting the once most highly-regarded institutions: universities, national associations, the Catholic Church and now the ultra-conservative Orthodox community in New York City. Lust involving the molestation of children, it seems, is a many-splintered thing.
William K., now 45, is Roman Catholic and a child rape victim. He is gay, and he is angry. He appeared briefly in the documentary, “Mea Maxima Culpa,” which debuted Feb. 4 on HBO. The film addresses the issue of rape and molestation of children by members of the Catholic clergy. William K. is passionate about justice, not only for those who victimized the young, but for those who covered it up.
The accessories to pedophilia are almost invariably unpunished. Child victims are raped – mentally, physically, even morally. Few victims overcome their experience. Confessing to their past is just this side of mental and emotional crucifixion.
Paying out a monetary “settlement” in restitution is neither a real solution nor the real issue. How do you recompense bruised, battered, scarred and scared hearts, minds and bodies? To add insult to injury, pedophile priests are routinely paid to leave the church, which is tantamount to giving severance pay to the sex offenders among the defrocked – that is, if they are defrocked. The church was master of the two-step: first the priests would leave the parish discreetly and then they were shuffled off to some other district, usually without any mention of wrongdoing.
In the worst-case scenario, a diocese simply declares bankruptcy to avoid paying compensation to the victims of sexual abuse by members of the church. This, of course, does not deal with the accessories; the ones who, with full knowledge of the facts, cover up egregious behavior. Since when are they above the law?
The pope, tinkering with tweets to followers in eight different languages, does not repair the tatters of those lives subjected to molestation and rape. His handle on Twitter is @pontifex, meaning “bridge builder.” Burned bridges have to be rebuilt. As a result, the Vatican has gone viral.
The pope was once Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a man “personally implicated in a case from the 1970s in which three sets of parents reported that a priest in his diocese had sexually abused their children. In response, Ratzinger assigned the priest to therapy, without notifying law enforcement, and washed his hands of the matter. The priest was back on duty in a few short days and went on to molest more children,” writes Adam Lee in “50 Reasons to Boycott the Catholic Church.”
That was strike one for Ratzinger. Strike two came in 1981, when he ignored letters “from the diocese of Oakland to defrock a priest who acknowledged molesting two children.” Four years later, he finally responded, saying that for “the good of the Universal Church” they had to proceed “very slowly” to safeguard the church’s good name.
Strike three came in 2001. The then-cardinal wrote a document entitled “De Delictus Gravioribus.” Destined for all Catholic bishops, this pronouncement instructed how to handle sexual offenses by priests: Report them to the Vatican and no one else.
Milwaukee and other cities have suffered from what could be described as ecclesiastical malpractice. Reported offenders include Timothy Dolan, archbishop of Milwaukee 2002-2009 and now promoted to cardinal of New York City; Archbishop Rembert Weakland, who served for 25 years as archbishop of Milwaukee; Bishop Richard Sklba; Jerome Listecki, the current archbishop of Milwaukee; E. Michael McCann, district attorney of Milwaukee from 1968-2006; and the current District Attorney John Chisolm (both DAs are Catholics).
When do we mete out the punishment for clandestine co-conspirators – enablers of crimes against defenseless children? No one should be “too big to jail.” And legislation addressing organizations hiding heinous sexual transgressions should not be “too big to fail.”
That includes the pope.