Project Reason: end the "diplomatic immunity" which the Vatican claims protects the Pope from any responsibility
Bringing the Vatican to Justice
I confess that, as a critic of religion, I have paid too little attention to the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. Frankly, it always felt unsportsmanlike to shoot so large and languorous a fish in so tiny a barrel. This scandal was one of the most spectacular "own goals" in the history of religion, and there seemed to be no need to deride faith at its most vulnerable and self-abased. Even in retrospect, it is easy to understand the impulse to avert one's eyes: Just imagine a pious mother and father sending their beloved child to the Church of a Thousand Hands for spiritual instruction, only to have him raped and terrified into silence by threats of hell. And then imagine this occurring to tens of thousands of children in our own time -- and to children beyond reckoning for over a thousand years. The spectacle of faith so utterly misplaced, and so fully betrayed, is simply too depressing to think about.
But there was always more to this phenomenon that should have compelled my attention. Consider the ludicrous ideology that made it possible: The Catholic Church has spent two millennia demonizing human sexuality to a degree unmatched by any other institution, declaring the most basic, healthy, mature, and consensual behaviors taboo. Indeed, this organization still opposes the use of contraception, preferring, instead, that the poorest people on earth be blessed with the largest families and the shortest lives. As a consequence of this hallowed and incorrigible stupidity, the Church has condemned generations of decent people to shame and hypocrisy -- or to Neolithic fecundity, poverty, and death by AIDS. Add to this inhumanity the artifice of cloistered celibacy, and you now have an institution -- one of the wealthiest on earth -- that preferentially attracts pederasts, pedophiles, and sexual sadists into its ranks, promotes them to positions of authority, and grants them privileged access to children. Finally, consider that vast numbers of children will be born out of wedlock, and their unwed mothers vilified, wherever Church teaching holds sway -- leading boys and girls by the thousands to be abandoned to Church-run orphanages only to be raped and terrorized by the clergy. Here, in this ghoulish machinery set to whirling through the ages by the opposing winds of shame and sadism, we mortals can finally glimpse how strangely perfect are the ways of the Lord.
In 2009, The Irish Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA) investigated such of these events as occurred on Irish soil. Their report runs to 2,600 pages. Having read only an oppressive fraction of this document, I can say that when thinking about the ecclesiastical abuse of children, it is best not to imagine shades of ancient Athens and the blandishments of a "love that dare not speak its name." Yes, there have surely been polite pederasts in the priesthood, expressing anguished affection for boys who would turn 18 the next morning. But behind these indiscretions there is a continuum of abuse that terminates in utter evil. The scandal in the Catholic Church -- one might now safely say the scandal that is the Catholic Church -- includes the systematic rape and torture of orphaned and disabled children. Its victims attest to being whipped with belts and sodomized until bloody -- sometimes by multiple attackers -- and then whipped again and threatened with death and hell fire if they breathed a word about their abuse. And yes, many of the children who were desperate or courageous enough to report these crimes were accused of lying and returned to their tormentors to be raped and tortured again.
The evidence suggests that the misery of these children was facilitated and concealed by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church at every level, up to and including the prefrontal cortex of the current Pope. In his former capacity as Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict personally oversaw the Vatican's response to reports of sexual abuse in the Church. What did this wise and compassionate man do upon learning that his employees were raping children by the thousands? Did he immediately alert the police and ensure that the victims would be protected from further torments? One still dares to imagine such an effulgence of basic human sanity might have been possible, even within the Church. On the contrary, repeated and increasingly desperate complaints of abuse were set aside, witnesses were pressured into silence, bishops were praised for their defiance of secular authority, and offending priests were relocated only to destroy fresh lives in unsuspecting parishes. It is no exaggeration to say that for decades (if not centuries) the Vatican has met the formal definition of a criminal organization, devoted not to gambling, prostitution, drugs, or any other venial sin, but to the sexual enslavement of children.
Consider the following passages from the CICA report:
7.129 In relation to one School, four witnesses gave detailed accounts of sexual abuse, including rape in all instances, by two or more Brothers and on one occasion along with an older resident. A witness from the second School, from which there were several reports, described being raped by three Brothers: 'I was brought to the infirmary...they held me over the bed, they were animals....They penetrated me, I was bleeding'. Another witness reported he was abused twice weekly on particular days by two Brothers in the toilets off the dormitory:
One Brother kept watch while the other abused me ...(sexually)... then they changed over. Every time it ended with a severe beating. When I told the priest in Confession, he called me a liar. I never spoke about it again.
I would have to go into his ...(Br X's)... room every time he wanted. You'd get a hiding if you didn't, and he'd make me do it ...(masturbate)... to him. One night I didn't ...(masturbate him)... and there was another Brother there who held me down and they hit me with a hurley and they burst my fingers ...displayed scar....
7.232 Witnesses reported being particularly fearful at night as they listened to residents screaming in cloakrooms, dormitories or in a staff member's bedroom while they were being abused. Witnesses were conscious that co-residents whom they described as orphans had a particularly difficult time:
The orphan children, they had it bad. I knew ...(who they were)... by the size of them, I'd ask them and they'd say they come from ...named institution.... They were there from an early age. You'd hear the screams from the room where Br ...X... would be abusing them.
There was one night, I wasn't long there and I seen one of the Brothers on the bed with one of the young boys ... and I heard the young lad screaming crying and Br ...X... said to me "if you don't mind your own business you'll get the same". ... I heard kids screaming and you know they are getting abused and that's a nightmare in anybody's mind. You are going to try and break out. ... So there was no way I was going to let that happen to me.... I remember one boy and he was bleeding from the back passage and I made up my mind, there was no way it ...(anal rape)... was going to happen to me. ... That used to play on my mind.
This is the kind of abuse that the Church has practiced and concealed since time out of memory. Even the CICA report declined to name the offending priests due to pressure from the Vatican. The cover-up of these atrocities continues.
I have been awakened from my unconscionable slumber on this issue by recent press reports (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6) and especially by the eloquence of my colleagues Christopher Hitchens (1, 2, 3, 4, & 5) and Richard Dawkins (1 & 2). Both have begun a public effort to make the Pope accountable for the Church's complicity in these crimes. Here, I would like to announce that Project Reason, the foundation that my wife and I started to spread scientific thinking and secular values, has joined Hitchens and Dawkins (both of whom sit on our advisory board) in an effort to end the "diplomatic immunity" which the Vatican claims protects the Pope from any responsibility. We would greatly appreciate your support in this cause. All donations are tax-deductible in the United States.
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Theologian Matthew Fox, a former Catholic priest expelled by Ratzinger, has invited Pope Benedict XVI and Others to Debate 95 Theses for a Christianity for a New Millennium on Wednesday, May 18, Wittenberg, Germany.
"Disappointed Catholics" (such as myself) might find the courage to unite through Fox's writings, especially a new book called "A New Reformation!"
He maintains that we are actually confronted with two churches: one expressed by the image of the Punitive Father, personified by a rigidly hierarchical church structure, repression of the feminine, spreading of homophobia and the elimination of internal dissent; and the other expressed by the feminine figure of Wisdom, personified by a Mother/Father God of justice and compassion. "It is time for Christians to choose whom it will follow: an angry exclusionary god or the loving open path of wisdom."
Thank You for this brilliant article. For writing with such depth about this horrific situation.
Say the word, "priest" or "Catholic Church" and the most horrfying of
images now instantly come to mind. And yet, even now, nothing is
really being done. It's as if people are still tuning out, turning the other cheek,
and no one is paying the price for these most vile of crimes. As been often
said, if the Pope were a CEO, he would not have to resign, he would be in
prison for being an accessory to CRIMES. The people who are guilty of the
crimes, would't be re-located to a branch office, they would be in PRISON
for their crimes. Yet, none of that has happened, and the guy with the
golden pointed hat and ruby slippers is still on the job.
You really are fighting a losing battle. The more you help the Church to rid itself of the evil within its ranks, the more you help the Church to not only survive, but to grow stronger in the future. Every Catholic should actually be thanking you. The Catholic Church has survived for 2000 years, not because the people within the Church have been free from evil, but because of the promise of its founder. All things and all creatures work together for the glory of God, including the devil, and the 'enlightened' atheists.
Please...most things...insects and animals, don't know from god, and enlightened atheists don't believe in a god. The church has survived for 2000 years for 6 reasons.#1. I the actions of Constantine to convert the roman empire in 300 a.d. #2. The persecution of pagans in the empire for at least 300 years following the conversion. 3#. The inquisition which slaughtered people for centuries scaring those with original or differing thoughts. #4 The persecution by the Spanish of the America's indiginous peoples (especially in central and south America)...and forced conversion by the church of those people they didn't kill.#5 The fact that most people born into a religion believe that religion is the best. #6. That most religious education stops around eighth grade...people put down their bible and never read a book that addresses issues the church never discusses like 1-6.
In all it adds up to fear...topped with fear and hate of the devil, sin, gays, Jews, sex and women.
Other than that it's a great place...and most nuns appear do a good job.
I agree 100% with holding this current Pope criminally responsible. He knew this was happening all over the world and it is torture. Plain and simple. Where I believe individuals and governments get cowardice towards any type of prosecution is because of the sexual abuse. Perhaps, everyone needs to move past (not saying ok) sexual abuse, because they are stuck. Beyond the sexual abuse, this was torture and organized crime in the behavior and internal policy the Catholic Church has defended their own.
Thank goodness Hitchins, Dawkins and Harris are onto this. Let's face it, no one else in a position of power anywhere in the world is going to do (or would have the guts or moral backbone to do) anything about Ratzinger and his troop of rapists and torturers. No one, least of all the religious, will take on the role of bringing Ratzinger to justice. Like Dawkins, I'd like to see the whole rotten edifice brought down around the ears of Ratzinger and the paedophiles he protected and shielded 'for the good of mother church' so they could go on to rape and torure other innocent children. In short, mother church has been a very bad mother who cannot be tusted with children. Never could be trusted. As for the idea that she and other institutions of her ilk should have a monopoly on insrtucting children in morals - well the idea would be laughable if this whole disgusting matter were not so serious and absolutely damaging to the children involved. The very idea is enough to make you want to cry out, "Run little boy/girl, run for your life."
Keep up the good work Sam.
This continuing RCC scandal reminds me of a book by Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong titled WHY CHRISTIANITY MUST CHANGE OR DIE. A recent article in HP by a Jesuit Priest made the point that some aspects of the RCC must die before it can be reborn anew: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-james-martin-sj/the-churchs-easter-what-n_b_524349.html
Perhaps one of the most significant things about the RCC that must die is its ubiquitous use of power words. The self aggrandizing titles of Father, Mother, Lord, Excellency, Holiness (god, what a joke), Papa, sheep, flock, have the effect, perhaps the design of making the average catholic feel "less than" while making the leadership feel "more than". The development of hubris and arrogance among the "more than" is self-fulfilling in such a power structured system. Words mean things and those words are clearly power mechanisms, designed to make the average members of the church feel like children who must be instructed and condescended to while making the Priests, Nuns and hierarchy feel like well, Fathers and Mothers and Masters. And the hubris leads to blind self-righteousness, and the law-unto-themselves the hierarchy has become. The "simple, humble and poor....like Jesus" church that Rev Martin hopes to see cannot and will not happen until the words are changed.
Of course, then it would no longer be the RCC. The Roman hierarchy is caught in a trap of it's own making.
Initiating legal proceedings against the pope and other clergymen is a good thing, and it’s something the world should have done long ago. It’s time to make the clergymen who may be guilty of crimes accountable to Justice. Not heavenly Justice, mind you, but that of the countries they live in and International Law.
Doing things, or not doing them, based on the “good of the universal church” is something the Church has always done. The victims and Justice are never part of the equation. At the height of the German genocidal campaign against the Jews during WWII Cardinal Faulhaber approached his colleague Cardinal Bertram and proposed they compose a manifesto protesting the murder of Jews. Bertram’s response reflected the typical Catholic attitude toward the subject, namely that the Church should limit its influence to matters “of greater importance in the long term.” But an indictment against the Church would have gone much further than an accusation of apathy. It could have included charges of defamation, incitement, complicity in human rights violations, accessory or complicity in crimes against humanity, failure to warn/act, obstruction of justice, profiting from stolen property, abuse of diplomatic privileges, and crimes against humanity.
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I moved to the Boston area when Cardinal Bernard Law was first publicly implicated in a similar coverup of Priestly Sexual Abuse. I was appalled to observe the precedence of "Church Law" given by public officials over US Civil Law. Of course the majority of the legal foundation in Boston appeared to be Catholic and the bias seemed natural. Even the district attorney seemd to favor letting the church " handle it's own". Cardinal Law flew the country and resides to this day inside the Vatican. He is probably waiting out any statute of limitations for his crimes. Beyond the church we need to examine our civil processes for "religous bias" in the sense that they may play faovrites or give lenience to "religous criminals". So far I have not seen the criminal justice system invoked against the knowing managers of the perpretrators. I know there are laws that hold a corporation liable if it's employees engage in felonious activity. Why is there a gaping hole in enforcement?
It is fitting that Project Reason participates in the effort to end the 'diplomatic immunity' and in general the 'license to kill' granted to religious institutions. However, it would be better still if this fundraising can somehow directly benefit the affected children themselves, for example, by covering their educational costs in a secular institution. While the consciousness-raising about this issue is at its height, this maybe the time for Project Reason and the Richard Dawkins Foundation to harness the public indignation constructively to institute something like the 'Light of Reason' Scholarships for such disadvantaged children.
The problem with religion is that its adherents have dubbed themselves immortal, the elixir of immortality little more than the sinner's prayer. Once complete, the newly minted saved soul receives a bottomless deck of get-out-of-jail-free cards and no matter what they do after that, they need only turn one of those over and all is forgiven. A priest spends a lifetime raping deaf children and he simply repents. That's all it takes. A few hail Marys and something in the poor box on the way out the door and you have a license to do what thou wilt. The apologist will say there is a limit to that. Okay, where is that limit and who decides where atonement gives way to damnation? Does the penitent ever believe his own once-saved soul has been lost despite his repentant bleating?
The immortals promise to pray for our inferior souls that we somehow decide to cast reason aside and see it their way. This is far more demeaning and insulting to us than what they claim as ad hominem attacks against them, as well-meaning people, when in fact, these harsh criticisms against religion should be coming more from them than anywhere else. That they look down upon anyone who does not share their faith while tacitly supporting those among them who so terribly abuse their trust does more to underline the grand fallacy than any reasoned criticism from outside their order.
The Catholic church and the Christian church itself need to be exposed for their falsehood, bigotry, and crimes against humanity. The Christian creed itself is shame based and labels human nature as defective and wrong....something to feel ashamed about. This is because the church teaches that we are "sinners" in need of redemption from the angry punitive god that instantly created us and all other living things 8 thousand years ago. I mean come on folks. The creed is itself ridiculous and impossible for a thinking person of average intelligence believe. It should be obvious to all humans based on the carnage and the millions of people murdered, raped, and abused in the name of christ that the church is phony, false, and based on a set of lies and nothing more. The Xtian church has become a societal problem that needs to be dealt with. It's false doctrines, lies, and the false historical basis of the religion needs to be exposed once and for all. Even then, fear and shamed based people afraid of the false punitive negative god will grasp at Xtianity and cling to it....they are so inwardly afraid and cowardly to challenge the filthy religion and call it what it is in fact.
As a retired professor of 42 years, I have finally "come out of the proverbial closet" to share my lifelong freethinker beliefs. I just wanted to add to the comments of catholic priests who have sex with boys or girls, to attest to the many virile priests who for years enjoyed sexual activities with consenting women. My first wife enjoyed such a sexual adventure with a priest for over 13 years and I didn't even suspect the depth of involvement. Our family were never catholic, and only moderately involved in church activities. Shortly after I did discover the sexual side of their close friendship, I discovered that many other couples shared the same priest, all with consensual partners. Clearly he was frustrated by the dictates of his church, but could not suppress his natural desires. Turns out he was a terrific lover, just too chicken to leave his "marriage to JC" So between consensual gay sex and consensual adult heterosex, I think the pope would find it hard to find many asexual priests, bishops or cardinals in his flock of sheep.
Keep up the great work Sam Harris.
Vatican City has the lowest age of sexual consent in the world -- 12 years old.
A child of 12 years is easily manipulated by adults -- they are trusting and will believe most anything an adult tells them. To manipulate children -- especially as young as 12, is without question, despicable. It is a crime in most civilized countries.
If the pope has any decency left in him as a human being, he will change this law immediately.
And he should remind his employees that you can love a young child without having to achieve sexual penetration with them.
I never read a story of an Atheists raping a child.. You have no idea what an Atheists is. We do not need a fairytale book to tell us the difference between right and wrong. Our minds have not been corrupt with religion and it's double standards. Atheists are the most decent citizens in this country. Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin, Hemingway, John Lennon, Katharine Hepburn, Freud, Thomas Edison, were all Atheists. Atheists don't hate in the name of god or start wars in the name of god, they just want to live a god less life.....it is the Christians, the Evangelist that keep shoving their beliefs down our throats. Separation of Church and State....remember??? You want Atheists to pray in public schools like Christians. If you want religion in school send your kid to a religious school, not a public one. WWJD.....HE WOULD PROBABLY BE AN ATHEISTS.