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The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and its National Religious Leadership Roundtable condemn the handling of the evolving scandal of sexual abuses by priests in the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI is now at the center of the controversy, which has garnered worldwide attention. The pope is being blamed directly for ignoring repeated pleas by senior U.S. clergy to take action against Father Lawrence C. Murphy, a priest who had molested up to 200 boys while working at the St. John's School for the Deaf in Wisconsin from 1950 to 1974. Just today, media reports said the Vatican is launching a legal defense designed to shield the pope from a lawsuit that seeks to have him deposed over claims that the Holy See was negligent in failing to report abuse claims.

Statement by the Rev. Darlene Nipper, Deputy Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force,
National Religious Leadership Roundtable Member

"Abuse of children and the lack of appropriate action by the highest echelons of the Catholic Church is outrageous and unacceptable. Those who have been victimized deserve a swift, appropriate and supportive response. The church needs to come clean and take strong and decisive action to stop further abuse. It's time for the Catholic Church to put the interests of children first."

Statement by Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D., Co-Director, Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER),
National Religious Leadership Roundtable Member

"Recent revelations of widespread sexual abuse by priests and cover-ups by bishops in Europe, as well as the abuse of deaf children in the U.S., are signs of the implosion of Roman Catholicism as we knew it. Allegations that Pope Benedict XVI acted with the same impunity as other bishops in the failure to brings perpetrators to justice and instead protected the institutional church's reputation by secrecy only add to the need for substantive structural change in Catholicism. Changing those in leadership will not be sufficient. A new, horizontal model of church led by teams of competent ministers who are accountable to the community is the only way to assure that these scandalous, damaging practices are ended."

Statement by the Rev. Debra W. Haffner, Executive Director, Religious Institute,
National Religious Leadership Roundtable Member

"The latest revelations about sexual abuse against children by Roman Catholic priests are nothing short of revolting. The story of Father Lawrence Murphy, who abused more than 200 boys in Milwaukee over decades, despite the boys' speaking out and calling for help, should outrage us all. The new revelations from Germany and other European countries add to the understanding that the prevalence of pedophile priests are, in the words of my colleague, Dan Maguire, 'a global Catholic Church pandemic.'

"'It went up to the pope,' a formerly Roman Catholic friend said to me with tears in her eyes. 'How is it possible that people knew and didn't stop it?' Unfortunately, the answer is that the Catholic hierarchy did know, and chose to transfer the priests rather than address the crimes they were committing against children.

"Yes, crimes. In the secular world, the offending priests and their superiors would be held criminally accountable for their behavior. It is not enough for the pope to apologize, as he did to victims last week. It is unconscionable when Catholic apologists try to explain away the church's inaction as a relic of another time, when people didn't talk as much about sexual abuse. We are talking now — and learning, to our dismay, how widespread sexual abuse in faith communities really is.

"The pope now has an urgent responsibility — and an extraordinary opportunity. He must not only move beyond apologies to action, but could also use his influence to urge all religious institutions to address sexuality in healthier, more open and responsible ways.

"Pope Benedict, the world is watching and waiting."

Statement by Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry,
National Religious Leadership Roundtable Member

"The appalling story from Wisconsin of the priest who abused over 200 students, and whose sins and crimes were covered up by the Catholic hierarchy wrenches the heart and tests a person's faith. It gets to the heart of what has been too often been the case in stories like this: the clerical system of secrecy, silence and unaccountability is the main culprit. Sadly, until the bishops responsible for moving abusers to other locales acknowledge their responsibility, the cycle of abuse will continue."

Statement by the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, Faith Work Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force,
National Religious Leadership Roundtable Member

"The story of the Wisconsin priest who sexually abused nearly 200 children during his tenure at a school for the deaf and the ensuing, decades-long cover-up by the Catholic Church hierarchy is devastating in several ways. The priest, Father Murphy, used his God-given gift of embodiment to perpetrate violence. Like any act that takes giftedness and uses it to harm, this is an act of defilement. The victims of his crime were doubly robbed — they experienced their bodies as a means of defilement and not as a gift, and they were taught that God desires pain and shame. And when the victims refused to learn this ill-conceived lie and spoke out against the abuse, they were taught that the gospel's call to speak truth to power, to stand for that which is right and just, did not apply to the church.

"It is long past time that we say 'no' to those who claim to speak for God, yet issue lies and distortions. Let us claim the sacred trust of embodiment, and the responsibility it puts on all of us, and call the Roman Catholic hierarchy to repentance and making amends."

Originally posted to National Gay and Lesbian Task Force on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 12:27 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It took them 4 centuries to admit Galileo was (19+ / 0-)

    right about the sun being the center of the universe, I wouldn't hold my breath.

    Repent. The end is extremely f*cking nigh.--28 days later

    by voroki on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 12:30:39 PM PDT

  •  There are enough who (9+ / 0-)

    will keep putting money in the collection plate, no matter what, to keep them going. Opinion is divided between people like you and me who were already thoroughly appalled by the positions of the Roman Catholic Church on human sexuality, and the blind loyalists. There are very few loyalists who will change their views because of this.  

  •  Why Do Members Of The Catholic Church Continue (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaleA, ExStr8, rb608, esquimaux, Clarknt67

    to enable pedophile leadership of their church?

    Why do Catholics want sexual abuse of children?

  •  I think Ratzinger should resign (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaleA, AUBoy2007, rb608, HoundDog

    But I don't quite understand this statement, and I suspect something got misquoted somewhere:

    Just today, media reports said the Vatican is launching a legal defense designed to shield the pope from a lawsuit that seeks to have him deposed over claims that the Holy See was negligent in failing to report abuse claims.

    A lawsuit by whom and under what authority?  Since he became Pope, Joe Ratzinger is legally the head of state (and therefore also a citizen) of Vatican City, an independent country not subject to any other country's jurisdiction.  This country is, moreover, an absolute monarchy, and doesn't lacks the ordinary mechanisms (legislature, independent judiciary) that other countries have to provide checks and balances.

    The only way Ratzinger could be legally held liable in his own jurisdiction would be for him to issue an order for his own arrest and try himself in an eccelesiastical court, with himself as judge, prosecution, defense attorney, and jury as well as defendant.  As you can imagine, that isn't going to happen.

    No other jurisdiction has power over him as long as he's Pope.  Even if he had committed blatant crimes while he had been under another jurisdiction (say of Germany or Italy) sovereign immunity would protect him.

    Admittedly, Italy could move in and take over jurisdiction of Vatican City at any moment.  But that would be an extra-legal move (as well as highly unlikely).  Alternatively, Ratzinger could be arrested by order of a local official while traveling outside Vatican City.  But that move would be legally questionable; I don't think it's ever been done against a sitting head of state, and for ex-heads of state (like Pinochet) is usually reserved for things like the massacre of thousands of political opponents.

    •  Don't think so (5+ / 0-)

      Some of the offenses of which Rätzinger stands accused occurred long before he was pope.  He therefore could make no claim to any kind of sovereign immunity with respect to that conduct.  While he was Archbishop of Munich, he was an ordinary German citizen, and there's no reason Germany can't try him on that basis.  Rätzinger is German, the victims were German, and the crimes occurred on German soil.  Germany has all the jurisdiction it needs.

      There might be problems extraditing Rätzinger to his home country, and they would be political as well as legal.  But unless he wants to shut himself up in the Lateran Palace for the rest of his life and never step beyond the colonnade of St. Peter's, he will be vulnerable to the German justice system.  That is, if German prosecutors choose to act.

      •  There's no umlaut (0+ / 0-)

        Ratzinger, not Rätzinger.

        And if you don't believe me, would you believe German Wikipedia?

      •  No umlaut in Ratzinger, (0+ / 0-)

        and the only authority in Vatican City that could extradite Ratzinger is . . . Benedict XVI.

        Oh, and German prosecutors wouldn't dare act.  Not when its ruling coalition couldn't survive without a very Catholic Bavarian party.

        •  As I said (0+ / 0-)

          the difficulties would be political as well as legal.  Extradition, of course, would not be required if the pope were apprehended abroad.  Once again, though, political considerations will doubtless ensure that the pope escapes prosecution.  It's sort of the "too big to fail" rationale.

      •  On the law (0+ / 0-)

        As I understand international law on this point, the possession of the office of head of state confers on its possessor a personal immunity from prosecution -- for any reason -- by a foreign jurisdiction, while holding that office. This includes acts committed prior to holding the office.

        It's as if the person "Joseph Ratzinger" ceases to exist for legal purposes, and a new person "Benedict XVI" comes into being, who cannot be held legally liable for the crimes of Joseph Ratzinger.

        Now, if he were to resign, Joseph Ratzinger would come back into existence, and could be prosecuted.  This would, one would suppose, be a persuasive argument against resigning (moral considerations aside).

        •  But see Manuel Noriega (0+ / 0-)

          Noriega's "head of state" claims didn't get him very far, even though he was actually a head of state when he committed the offenses for which he was ultimately tried.

          Of course, Noriega was prosecuted by the U.S. government, which takes a highly selective view of the applicability of international law.

    •  This insistence of his immunity (0+ / 0-)

      due to his head of state status is silly.

      The Vatican as a state is a fantasy created by a prior pope and Mussolini.  The U.S. has only recognized the state since the 80's and could withdraw recognition at any time. So could any other state that wanted to. No recognition, no sovereign immunity.  Step out of your little bubble and you're subject to everyone else's law.

      Nudist Minorcan ancestors good with slingshots, invented mayo - family dynamic now clear

      by hpchicago on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 01:50:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Historically it was a seprate state (0+ / 0-)

        long before Mussolini. There was a long period when it controlled a good bit of real estate on the Italian peninsula. See 19th C history.

        •  Yeh, and see (0+ / 0-)

          "Garibaldi".  The pope and his forces were long defeated by the time of the Mussolini agreements. The pope no longer had direct political authority over anyone.

          Nudist Minorcan ancestors good with slingshots, invented mayo - family dynamic now clear

          by hpchicago on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 01:59:45 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  U.S. doesn't have relations with Vatican City (0+ / 0-)

        The U.S. has diplomatic relations with the "Holy See", an overlapping but legally distinct entity, which would still exist if the territory of Vatican City were to be annexed by some future Italian government.

        I don't think that the immunity in international law of heads of state is dependent upon their being recognized.  We don't recognize the Communist régime in Cuba, but we still couldn't legally arrest Fidel Castro when he was in New York for UN meetings.

        •  We don't arrest (0+ / 0-)

          Castro when he's in NY for UN meetings because of an agreement we have with the UN. Well, that and as far as I know he's not under indictment for anything.

          Nudist Minorcan ancestors good with slingshots, invented mayo - family dynamic now clear

          by hpchicago on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 03:58:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  "Deposed" in the legal sense of being questioned (0+ / 0-)

      officially in a lawsuit.  Apparently it's a lawsuit in Kentucky state court.  Pope Benedict XVI Launches Legal Defense.

      The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

      by lysias on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 01:51:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  "Time" gives details of the suit (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        in Vatican Defends Pope in US Lawsuit:

        Three men claiming they were abused by priests brought the suit against the Holy See in 2004, accusing Rome of negligence in failing to alert police or the public about priests who molested children in Kentucky.

        The preview of the legal defense, provided to the AP by a person familiar with the case, was submitted last month in the U.S. District Court in Louisville. Vatican officials declined to comment.

        The case is significant because it's the first among a handful of cases targeting Rome in the United States to reach the stage of determining whether the victims actually have a claim against the Vatican itself.

        The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

        by lysias on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 02:05:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Nice idea, but (7+ / 0-)

    you're sort of asking a guy who considers himself infallible to admit he's wrong.  I doubt it's going to happen.

    What we've seen from the Catholic Church in all of these cases is a consistent refusal to acknowledge fault, even when the evidence of the church's culpability is overwhelming.  The church and its hierarchy engaged in a decades-long, international scheme to hide wrongdoing by members of the clergy.  If the church and its leaders were subjected to ordinary criminal law, they would be indicted for conspiracy.  They engaged in a deliberate, concerted plan to conceal criminal sexual abuse, and they also facilitated its continuation by failing to discipline the guilty parties or turn them over to law enforcement.  

    Of course, it would take some serious political courage for any federal or state prosecutor to go after the high-ranking churchmen who sit at the center of this conspiracy.  As the wrangling over the recent HCR legislation shows, the Catholic hierarchy is not shy about using its political muscle when it wants to.  I don't think we're likely to see justice done in these cases.  Paradoxically, those who claim the right to dictate morality to the rest of us don't need to practice what they preach, nor do they need to worry about legally accountability for their criminal and immoral conduct.

    •  aoeu (0+ / 0-)

      Could you please explain to me your understanding of "papal infallibility"?

      •  I was being facetious (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MagisterLudi, Virginia mom

        According to church doctrine, the pope is only infallible when he speaks ex cathedra.  Those statements are limited to what are generally thought of as questions of faith and morals.  That wouldn't cover him here.

        More seriously, though, I do think there is a grain of truth in my jest.  People like Benedict believe that their actions are ordained by a higher authority, and so they tend to develop a kind of certainty that they can do no wrong.  I think this may well lead them astray, as the sexual abuse scandals indicate.

        •  aoeu (0+ / 0-)

          Most people who mention that believe that Catholic doctrine says the pope is infallible all the time.

          •  Not me (0+ / 0-)

            I grew up Catholic, and I am nauseatingly familiar with a good bit of the church's dogma.  The doctrine of infallibility is pretty new and quite limited in scope.  

            •  And of course the rules (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              of infallibility, along with its very existence, were created by, drumroll please, a pope.

              So a pope declared that he (and future popes) is infallible when he speaks under certain circumstances. This one could declare he's infallible when he's wearing purple shoes and carrying a Tinky Winky doll. And since he's the poobah and never to be defied or questioned - the church would bow and obey.

              More importantly, there's a whole lot of circular logic here.  If the pope can declare that he's infallible under certain circumstances, and he decides those circumstances, he's pretty much "infallible" all the time, isn't he?

              Nudist Minorcan ancestors good with slingshots, invented mayo - family dynamic now clear

              by hpchicago on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 01:56:41 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Can we petition the State Department (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaleA, ExStr8, Clarknt67

    to deny Ratzo entry into the U.S. until he cooperates with a full investigation?

    Mark Sanford vacations in Argentina but John Ensign prefers the Hamptons.

    by mojave mike on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 01:00:45 PM PDT

  •  What this says ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MagisterLudi, Virginia mom that the Catholic Church still has no safeguards in place. They can't even admit wrong in the face of glaring evidence.

    Anyone who would trust their children to the Catholic Church is negligent in my opinion.

    "Tea Bagger politics is a politics of simplistic and hostile assertion"...Dr. Robert Letcher

    by Giles Goat Boy on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 01:09:42 PM PDT

  •  If you're waiting (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon, hpchicago

    for the Pope or the R C Church to take responsibility and submit to secular law, you'll be waiting for eternity. Never will happen. They've been covering up these crimes for decades. If he were to resign, it would say to the world that he's just as fallible, along with all the Cardinals, as anyone else. Never gonna happen.

    Let tyrants fear.-Queen Elizabeth I

    by Virginia mom on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 01:26:23 PM PDT

  •  Pardon me while I tread lightly here. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I have to wonder about the NGLTF's involvement on this issue.  Of course, the actions of the priests and the coverup of the church hierarchy are despicable to everyone, including the LGBT community; so it's not as though I don't think your voice is irrelevent.

    From my perspective as a straight guy, however, a lot of the tragic bigotry I see against homosexuals is in the conflation of homosexuality with pedophilia.  I see homophobia most often rear its ugly head and most virulently when children are involved.  Gay scoutmasters, gay teachers, and other youth leadership positions seem to cause regressive hysteria more than any other issue.  Nothing could hurt the LGBT cause more IMO than the public perception of these priests as "gay".  They're not; they're pedophiles.  I know the difference; you know the difference, but we both know if "child abuser" and "gay" turn up in the same news story regardless of context, that's the inference the uneducated public will draw, to your detriment.

    So, as abominable as the pedophile priest cases may be, I sense that having the gay community involved even on the side of justice seems an association that might be counterproductive.

    Now, whenever I feel the need to expound on my opinions of feminist issues, it's frequently suggested I STFU; so if that's what I should do here too, you won't hurt my feelings.  As the phrase du jour goes, I'm just sayin'.

    You can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.

    by rb608 on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 01:32:42 PM PDT

    •  It seems accurate to me (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rb608, hpchicago

      to describe the priest who have molested alter boys as pedophiles with a homosexual orientation. Men who molest young girls are pedophiles with a heterosexual orientation.

      The reality is that the vast majority of straight men are not pedophiles and the vast majority of gay men are not pedophiles. A sad few of each group are.

      The right wing canard is that all gay men and lesbians are pedophiles. It seems really appropriate for an LGBT advocacy group to strongly advocate for the protection of children.

    •  I think you missed this part of the diary (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the NGLTF and it's National Religious Leadership Roundtable

      As with any large lobbying group it has it's affiliated arms. NGLTF has associated experts in areas of religious community. They speak with authority on these matters.

      "I am not guilty, I am not ashamed and I am not finished." --Lt. Dan Choi, 3/19/10

      by Scott Wooledge on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 09:19:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Church has multiple issues at play here (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    First is a misguided policy of defending the Church against all attacks on the faith. Charges of sexual abuse by priests do not constitute attacks on the faith. Nor do they even call faith into question. These are criminal acts that should be reported to the civil authorities and dealt with by the civil authorities. The Church has no legal grounds for their actions and trying to cover abuse up is not protecting the Church and certainly not protecting the victims.

    Second is the continual shortage of priests which results in the Church accepting men into the priesthood who shouldn't be priests. I suspect the recruiting process is not as restrictive as it ought to be. Allowing priests to marry and allowing women to serve as priests might solve the shortage problem and reduce abuse at the same time. Abuse does not seem to be as big a problem in churches that allow ministers to marry and women to be ministers.

    Third, the Church has a warped view of human sexuality based upon the belief that sex is strictly for procreation and that any sexual activity outside marriage and/or not intended to produce children is a sin. All of these activities, including birth control, masturbation, and homosexual relations are considered serious sins in the same league as pedophelia. This is utter nonsense and perhaps the greatest stumbling block to the Church's ability to deal with pedophile priests. Pedophelia is not a sin that can be forgiven through repentance and sending the offender on his way to commit more acts of abuse. This is not some human failing that can be cured by confession. It is long past time for the Church to change its views on human sexuality and to recognize and deal with the real aberrations.

    Finally, the Church must hold itself accountable for past abuses and purge itself not only of pedophile priests, but those who allowed them to prey upon innocent victims by turning a blind eye to the abuse. The Church advocates confession and repentance and have made it one of the seven sacraments. It is time for the Church to confess and do its penance by ridding itself of the abusers and their enablers.

  •  I can't believe I am using a Hitchens argument, (0+ / 0-)

    BUT ... the Pope is the head of state - and the Vatican is an actual country.

    There is a very real way for diplomats to act - if the will and guts were there to do so.  

    Cutting through all of the other spiritual issues - the Vatican is a country that is perpetrating a child molestation ring ... and harboring child molesters who (ought to be) at-large in other countries.  

  •  In this case it's the crime and the coverup. (0+ / 0-)
  •  Interesting NPR article today on popes resigning (0+ / 0-)

    by Father John O'Malley, a church historian and Georgetown professor: Resigning: Just Another Moment in Papal History.

    The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

    by lysias on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 01:58:43 PM PDT

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