Could he be -- the worst pope ever?

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In The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gibbons reports on the trial of Pope John XXIII in 1415, during which "the most scandalous charges were suppressed: The Vicar of Christ was accused only of piracy, murder, rape, sodomy and incest."

And he wasn't even the worst of them. Jesus, there have been some bad popes over the years. Even in modern times, we've had a few serious losers; Pius XII, by many accounts, was way too friendly with Adolf Hitler.

So it's pretty hard to call the current occupant of the Throne of St. Peter the worst pope ever; there's plenty of competition.

But folks, the former Cardinal Ratzinger is turning out to be so awful that he's going to go down in history as one of the all time horrible leaders of a crumbling Catholic Church. This guy was actively involved in covering up child abuse scandals. He knew what was going on, and he not only ignored it -- he ordered the bishops to report the crimes only to Rome, and not to civil authorities. He's guilty not only of protecting the worst kind of criminals -- authority figures who prey on children -- but of actively seeking to prevent them from facing the consequences of their crimes.

If Bill Clinton was charged with obstruction of justice for lying about a (consensual) blow job (involving two adults), then Pope Benedict XVI ought to be indicted in every country that has similar statutes, starting with the United States. All it takes is one district attorney, one grand jury. The evidence is pretty clear. Then Interpol can put out a warrant for his arrest.

Of course, all that would do is keep the guy holed up in his nice, big house in Rome; the Vatican is its own sovereign nation, with its own laws and rules -- and I don't think Canon Law provides for obstruction charges (or any charges) against the head of state.

See, that's the thing: Nobody can touch the pope (bad metaphor). There's no procedure for impeachment. He's the least accountable head of state in the world; even military juntas and dictators can be overthrown by force, but I don't see any revolutionary cadre of young Cardinals rising up and turning the Swiss guards on Il Papa. Too bad: A nice middle-ages-style coup in the Vatican might be just the thing to shake up that moribund institution and remind its leaders that the rest of the world will only take so much abuse. 

Comments

He looks like Nosferatu. Maybe the antichrist is already here.

Posted by mwbsf on Mar. 29, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

John Paul is the IDIOT LIBERAL that allowed all the molestation to go without check and just shuffled accused priests around.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 18, 2010 @ 2:42 pm

In the 1400s, they used to call John XXIII the anti-pope. Antipope, antichrist .... how the hell do you get rid of him?

Posted by tim on Mar. 29, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

The pope is a piece of trash....who okays child molestation. The Roman Catholic Church is one of the most backward cults on the planet. They don't even allow women to become priests.

I have no use for organized religion. I do enjoy the ceremony/theatre and music of the Anglican/Episcopal liturgies. (They have women priests.) They put on a nice show (the Higher churches do), but I just ignore all the god bunk.

The pope should be put in the cell with the other child molesters instead of some "executive" prison. But none of that will happen anyway. Nothing will happen to him. Just like nothing has or will ever happen to war criminals Bush, Cheney, Pelosi, Obama et al and their crimes.

Posted by Sam on Mar. 29, 2010 @ 2:40 pm

I suppose John Paul the scond was a bit of a cunt too?

Posted by John Paul ll on Mar. 29, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

I am incensed about this as everyone should be. And the Catholic Church has done some pretty horrible things through the years. However, John XXIII was not Pope in the 1400's but from 1958 - 1963. The one you refer to was the Anti-Pope, part of what was called the "Western Schism" when they split from the Catholic Church, obviously to be no better.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 29, 2010 @ 3:40 pm

I wonder if I can find refuge in Rome.

Posted by The SF Weekly's Big Pile of Money on Mar. 29, 2010 @ 7:29 pm

School yourself on it Tim - it's an established precept of customary international law. As the pope is the head of a sovereign (if tiny) state he cannot be indicted unless it's by an international tribunal, as happened to Milosevic.

Posted by Lucretia the Trollop on Mar. 29, 2010 @ 8:08 pm

look up

Reichskonkordat

Posted by glen matlock on Mar. 29, 2010 @ 11:35 pm

The following chronology shows that Pope Benedict was not responsible for Fr. Murphy but that Archbishop Weakland was the culprit and had for over 20 years sat on the problem doing nothing:

The New York Times on March 25 accused Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, of intervening to prevent a priest, Fr. Lawrence Murphy, from facing penalties for cases of sexual abuse of minors.

The story is false. It is unsupported by its own documentation. Indeed, it gives every indication of being part of a coordinated campaign against Pope Benedict, rather than responsible journalism.

Before addressing the false substance of the story, the following circumstances are worthy of note:

• The New York Times story had two sources. First, lawyers who currently have a civil suit pending against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. One of the lawyers, Jeffrey Anderson, also has cases in the United States Supreme Court pending against the Holy See. He has a direct financial interest in the matter being reported.

• The second source was Archbishop Rembert Weakland, retired archbishop of Milwaukee. He is the most discredited and disgraced bishop in the United States, widely known for mishandling sexual-abuse cases during his tenure, and guilty of using $450,000 of archdiocesan funds to pay hush money to a former homosexual lover who was blackmailing him. Archbishop Weakland had responsibility for the Father Murphy case between 1977 and 1998, when Father Murphy died. He has long been embittered that his maladministration of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee earned him the disfavor of Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, long before it was revealed that he had used parishioners’ money to pay off his clandestine lover. He is prima facie not a reliable source.

• Laurie Goodstein, the author of the New York Times story, has a recent history with Archbishop Weakland. Last year, upon the release of the disgraced archbishop’s autobiography, she wrote an unusually sympathetic story that buried all the most serious allegations against him (New York Times, May 14, 2009).

• A demonstration took place in Rome on Friday, coinciding with the publication of the New York Times story. One might ask how American activists would happen to be in Rome distributing the very documents referred to that day in the New York Times. The appearance here is one of a coordinated campaign, rather than disinterested reporting.

It’s possible that bad sources could still provide the truth. But compromised sources scream out for greater scrutiny. Instead of greater scrutiny of the original story, however, news editors the world over simply parroted the New York Times piece. Which leads us the more fundamental problem: The story is not true, according to its own documentation.

The New York Times made available on its own website the supporting documentation for the story. In those documents, Cardinal Ratzinger himself does not take any of the decisions that allegedly frustrated the trial. Letters are addressed to him; responses come from his deputy. Even leaving that aside, though, the gravamen of the charge — that Cardinal Ratzinger’s office impeded some investigation — is proven utterly false.

The documents show that the canonical trial or penal process against Father Murphy was never stopped by anyone. In fact, it was only abandoned days before Father Murphy died. Cardinal Ratzinger never took a decision in the case, according to the documents. His deputy, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, suggested, given that Father Murphy was in failing health and a canonical trial is a complicated matter, that more expeditious means be used to remove him from all ministry.

To repeat: The charge that Cardinal Ratzinger did anything wrong is unsupported by the documentation on which the story was based. He does not appear in the record as taking any decision. His office, in the person of his deputy, Archbishop Bertone, agreed that there should be full canonical trial. When it became apparent that Father Murphy was in failing health, Archbishop Bertone suggested more expeditious means of removing him from any ministry.

Furthermore, under canon law at the time, the principal responsibility for sexual-abuse cases lay with the local bishop. Archbishop Weakland had from 1977 onwards the responsibility of administering penalties to Father Murphy. He did nothing until 1996. It was at that point that Cardinal Ratzinger’s office became involved, and it subsequently did nothing to impede the local process.

The New York Times flatly got the story wrong, according to its own evidence. Readers may want to speculate on why.

Here is the relevant timeline, drawn from the documents the New York Times posted on its own website.

15 May 1974

Abuse by Fr. Lawrence Murphy is alleged by a former student at St. John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee. In fact, accusations against Father Murphy go back more than a decade.

12 September 1974

Father Murphy is granted an official “temporary sick leave” from St. John’s School for the Deaf. He leaves Milwaukee and moves to northern Wisconsin, in the Diocese of Superior, where he lives in a family home with his mother. He has no official assignment from this point until his death in 1998. He does not return to live in Milwaukee. No canonical penalties are pursued against him.

9 July 1980

Officials in the Diocese of Superior write to officials in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee about what ministry Father Murphy might undertake in Superior. Archbishop Rembert Weakland, archbishop of Milwaukee since 1977, has been consulted and says it would be unwise to have Father Murphy return to ministry with the deaf community. There is no indication that Archbishop Weakland foresees any other measures to be taken in the case.

17 July 1996

More than 20 years after the original abuse allegations, Archbishop Weakland writes to Cardinal Ratzinger, claiming that he has only just discovered that Father Murphy’s sexual abuse involved the sacrament of confession — a still more serious canonical crime. The allegations about the abuse of the sacrament of confession were in the original 1974 allegations. Weakland has been archbishop of Milwaukee by this point for 19 years.

It should be noted that for sexual-abuse charges, Archbishop Weakland could have proceeded against Father Murphy at any time. The matter of solicitation in the sacrament of confession required notifying Rome, but that too could have been done as early as the 1970s.

10 September 1996

Father Murphy is notified that a canonical trial will proceed against him. Until 2001, the local bishop had authority to proceed in such trials. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is now beginning the trial. It is noteworthy that at this point, no reply has been received from Rome indicating that Archbishop Weakland knew he had that authority to proceed.

24 March 1997

Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, Cardinal Ratzinger’s deputy at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, advises a canonical trial against Father Murphy.

14 May 1997

Archbishop Weakland writes to Archbishop Bertone to say that the penal process against Father Murphy has been launched, and notes that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has advised him to proceed even though the statute of limitations has expired. In fact, there is no statute of limitations for solicitation in the sacrament of confession.

Throughout the rest of 1997 the preparatory phases of penal process or canonical trial is underway. On 5 January 1998 the Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee says that an expedited trial should be concluded within a few months.

12 January 1998

Father Murphy, now less than eight months away from his death, appeals to Cardinal Ratzinger that, given his frail health, he be allowed to live out his days in peace.

6 April 1998

Archbishop Bertone, noting the frail health of Father Murphy and that there have been no new charges in almost 25 years, recommends using pastoral measures to ensure Father Murphy has no ministry, but without the full burden of a penal process. It is only a suggestion, as the local bishop retains control.

13 May 1998

The Bishop of Superior, where the process has been transferred to and where Father Murphy has lived since 1974, rejects the suggestion for pastoral measures. Formal pre-trial proceedings begin on 15 May 1998, continuing the process already begun with the notification that had been issued in September 1996.

30 May 1998

Archbishop Weakland, who is in Rome, meets with officials at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, including Archbishop Bertone but not including Cardinal Ratzinger, to discuss the case. The penal process is ongoing. No decision taken to stop it, but given the difficulties of a trial after 25 years, other options are explored that would more quickly remove Father Murphy from ministry.

19 August 1998

Archbishop Weakland writes that he has halted the canonical trial and penal process against Father Murphy and has immediately begun the process to remove him from ministry — a quicker option.

21 August 1998

Father Murphy dies. His family defies the orders of Archbishop Weakland for a discreet funeral.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 30, 2010 @ 7:00 am

The facts and dates of the priest transferred to Munich for therapy in 1980 shows that the Times article is confusing his residence at a rectory with his assignment to parish work. The assignment to a parish for work did not occur until 7 months after Cardinal Ratzinger had moved to Rome.

The Case of Peter Hullerman

German priest Peter Hullermann was from the Diocese of Essen, not Munich.39

The first complaints against him were brought to the Church from three families 1979. The complaints were not denied.40 In the interest of protecting their children, the parents did not go to the police about Hullerman, apparently with the understanding that he would receive therapy and no longer be permitted to work with children.41

Hullerman was sent for therapy to Munich in 1980. An early report states that Archbishop Ratzinger "approved a decision to accommodate the priest in a rectory while the therapy took place."42 Other reports, some citing a statement by the Archdiocese of Munich, state that Archbishop Ratzinger approved Hullerman's transfer to Munich for therapy.43 Zenit, a Catholic news agency, discussed the contents of the Archdiocese statement in more detail. According to Zenit, the priest was "received into the Archdiocese . . . to undergo therapy in January, 1980," and that "a decision was made to permit the priest to stay in a rectory at the end of his treatment."44

It is not clear from these reports whether or not Hullerman was immediately incardinated (formally accepted) into the Archdiocese of Munich, which would immediately have made him a subject of Archbishop Ratzinger, or if he remained under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Essen for some time after his arrival in Munich. However, it is certain that Archbishop Ratzinger knew that Hullerman had sexually assaulted children in Essen and that he was living in Church premises while undergoing therapy in Munich. This would not have been out of order, since, at the time, it was believed that therapy could be effective in curing sex offenders. This was, as it turned out, not entirely wrong, but it was overly simplistic.

Early studies, conducted in the 70's and 80's, were unable to detect differences in recidivism rates between sex offenders who had undergone treatment and those who had not (Furby, Weinrott, & Blackshaw, 1989). This finding was widely publicized, leading to skepticism about the benefits of treatment, and opening the door to punitive public policies. Actually, although the research is not unequivocal, treatment has been found to decrease sex offense recidivism. . . . However, treatment does not work equally well for all offenders (like any psychological or mental health treatment – or medical interventions, for that matter).45

This kind of information, the product of thirty years of further research, was not available in 1980.46

Archdiocese of Munich, 1980

Father Joseph Ratzinger had been consecrated Archbishop of Munich in May, 1977. By his own admission his health was "fragile" and he had little pastoral experience, having been only an assistant pastor for about one year in 1951-52. From 1952 to 1977 he had been a teacher, researcher and professor of theology.47

In 1980 the Archdiocese of Munich had 400 paid staff members and employees,48 over 1,700 religious and diocesan priests in over 750 parishes, and over 6,000 male and female religious.49 Father Gerhard Gruber, who was Vicar General in 1980, said that Archbishop Ratzinger "left many decisions to lower-level officials."50 "The cardinal could not deal with everything," he said.51

There were three auxiliary bishops. One of them, Bishop Heinrich von Soden-Fraunhofen (deceased), was the main Church contact for Hullerman's therapist, psychiatrist Dr. Werner Huth. Dr. Huth was never in contact with Archbishop Ratzinger.52

Dr. Huth states that Hullerman was "neither invested nor motivated" in therapy and even resistant to it, cooperating only to avoid losing his position. Hullerman rejected Huth's recommendation for one-on-one sessions, preferring 'group therapy.' Huth repeatedly and urgently advised Church officials, orally and in writing, that Hullerman "desperately ha[d] to be kept away from working with children.'" He stated that his advice was that Hullerman could return to pastoral work only if he were kept away from children, abstained from alcohol, and was under the constant supervision of another priest.53

However, the council of priests in the Archdiocese was not informed of Hullerman's offences. Erwin Wild, who was then a spokesman for the council, now states that the council should have been advised.54 Perhaps so, but, consistent with the therapeutic approach in vogue at the time, Hullerman was being dealt with as someone in need of treatment or cure, not as a potentially dangerous offender. Had Dr. Huth's advice had been followed it would probably have been safe to confine the information to those directly involved in supervising Hullerman, extending it to others as the need arose.

Offender returns to pastoral work and reoffends

But Dr. Huth's recommendations were not followed. They were ignored by Vicar General Gruber, who authorized Hullerman's return to ministry "almost immediately after his therapy began, interacting with children as well as adults."55 Gruber now admits that this was "a serious mistake," and states that Archbishop Ratzinger was not aware of it.56

Archbishop Ratzinger resigned in February, 1982, to become Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. It is impossible to associate him with what happened after he left Munich. Seven months later, Hullerman was assigned to a parish in Grafing. He was convicted in 1986 for sex crimes against minors in the parish.57

None of this affords evidence that Cardinal Ratzinger attempted to cover up what Hullerman had done, or that he was responsible for Hullerman's return to pastoral duties and his subsequent offences against children.

Posted by GuestTom Z on Mar. 30, 2010 @ 7:29 am

From the facts and dates in the story beloe, it would appear that the Times in its reprting is confusing Fr Hullermann's residing in a rectory with his assignment to pastoral dutues. While in Munich undergoing therapy, he was allowed to live in a rectory but his assignment to pastoral work was actually made 7 months after Cardinal Ratzinger had already move to Rome and was no longer bishop of Munich.

The Case of Peter Hullerman

German priest Peter Hullermann was from the Diocese of Essen, not Munich.39

The first complaints against him were brought to the Church from three families 1979. The complaints were not denied.40 In the interest of protecting their children, the parents did not go to the police about Hullerman, apparently with the understanding that he would receive therapy and no longer be permitted to work with children.41

Hullerman was sent for therapy to Munich in 1980. An early report states that Archbishop Ratzinger "approved a decision to accommodate the priest in a rectory while the therapy took place."42 Other reports, some citing a statement by the Archdiocese of Munich, state that Archbishop Ratzinger approved Hullerman's transfer to Munich for therapy.43 Zenit, a Catholic news agency, discussed the contents of the Archdiocese statement in more detail. According to Zenit, the priest was "received into the Archdiocese . . . to undergo therapy in January, 1980," and that "a decision was made to permit the priest to stay in a rectory at the end of his treatment."44

It is not clear from these reports whether or not Hullerman was immediately incardinated (formally accepted) into the Archdiocese of Munich, which would immediately have made him a subject of Archbishop Ratzinger, or if he remained under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Essen for some time after his arrival in Munich. However, it is certain that Archbishop Ratzinger knew that Hullerman had sexually assaulted children in Essen and that he was living in Church premises while undergoing therapy in Munich. This would not have been out of order, since, at the time, it was believed that therapy could be effective in curing sex offenders. This was, as it turned out, not entirely wrong, but it was overly simplistic.

Early studies, conducted in the 70's and 80's, were unable to detect differences in recidivism rates between sex offenders who had undergone treatment and those who had not (Furby, Weinrott, & Blackshaw, 1989). This finding was widely publicized, leading to skepticism about the benefits of treatment, and opening the door to punitive public policies. Actually, although the research is not unequivocal, treatment has been found to decrease sex offense recidivism. . . . However, treatment does not work equally well for all offenders (like any psychological or mental health treatment – or medical interventions, for that matter).45

This kind of information, the product of thirty years of further research, was not available in 1980.46

Archdiocese of Munich, 1980

Father Joseph Ratzinger had been consecrated Archbishop of Munich in May, 1977. By his own admission his health was "fragile" and he had little pastoral experience, having been only an assistant pastor for about one year in 1951-52. From 1952 to 1977 he had been a teacher, researcher and professor of theology.47

In 1980 the Archdiocese of Munich had 400 paid staff members and employees,48 over 1,700 religious and diocesan priests in over 750 parishes, and over 6,000 male and female religious.49 Father Gerhard Gruber, who was Vicar General in 1980, said that Archbishop Ratzinger "left many decisions to lower-level officials."50 "The cardinal could not deal with everything," he said.51

There were three auxiliary bishops. One of them, Bishop Heinrich von Soden-Fraunhofen (deceased), was the main Church contact for Hullerman's therapist, psychiatrist Dr. Werner Huth. Dr. Huth was never in contact with Archbishop Ratzinger.52

Dr. Huth states that Hullerman was "neither invested nor motivated" in therapy and even resistant to it, cooperating only to avoid losing his position. Hullerman rejected Huth's recommendation for one-on-one sessions, preferring 'group therapy.' Huth repeatedly and urgently advised Church officials, orally and in writing, that Hullerman "desperately ha[d] to be kept away from working with children.'" He stated that his advice was that Hullerman could return to pastoral work only if he were kept away from children, abstained from alcohol, and was under the constant supervision of another priest.53

However, the council of priests in the Archdiocese was not informed of Hullerman's offences. Erwin Wild, who was then a spokesman for the council, now states that the council should have been advised.54 Perhaps so, but, consistent with the therapeutic approach in vogue at the time, Hullerman was being dealt with as someone in need of treatment or cure, not as a potentially dangerous offender. Had Dr. Huth's advice had been followed it would probably have been safe to confine the information to those directly involved in supervising Hullerman, extending it to others as the need arose.

Offender returns to pastoral work and reoffends

But Dr. Huth's recommendations were not followed. They were ignored by Vicar General Gruber, who authorized Hullerman's return to ministry "almost immediately after his therapy began, interacting with children as well as adults."55 Gruber now admits that this was "a serious mistake," and states that Archbishop Ratzinger was not aware of it.56

Archbishop Ratzinger resigned in February, 1982, to become Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. It is impossible to associate him with what happened after he left Munich. Seven months later, Hullerman was assigned to a parish in Grafing. He was convicted in 1986 for sex crimes against minors in the parish.57

None of this affords evidence that Cardinal Ratzinger attempted to cover up what Hullerman had done, or that he was responsible for Hullerman's return to pastoral duties and his subsequent offences against children.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 30, 2010 @ 7:35 am

I personally think that God loves the Pope and that he may be one of the greatest souls around.

Posted by Mary on Apr. 01, 2010 @ 10:18 am

I'm off to nail a call for reformation on a church door!

Posted by Martin Luther on Apr. 01, 2010 @ 8:36 pm

There were many popes named John, more than the current nomencature accounts for. The John XXIII who was tried in the 1400s was, obviously, different from the John XXIII who launched the second Vatican Counsel in the 1960s.

Posted by tim on Apr. 03, 2010 @ 5:00 pm