In Europe, the Catholic church is currently embroiled in a sexual abuse
scandal akin to the one that hit the United States a few years back.
The most recent revelations come from Germany, where Pope Benedict
XVI's brother, Georg Ratzinger, was once a choir director. Ratzinger
himself has not been implicated in sexual abuse accusations, but he admits
to slapping the singers in his Regensburg choir on occasion, as corporal punishment was then fairly common. Some say he also must
have known about the alleged sexual abuse going on, though he denies all
As with the American cases, the European abuse allegations
are sparking wider debate about the Catholic church, particularly as
for some reporter to start looking into the pope's own tenure as
archbishop of Munich. How endemic is clerical abuse of children and the subsequent coverup, and can these problems be solved?
- How These Cases Could Hit the Pope Close to Home
Pope Benedict XVI is a Bavarian native, and his brother a former choir
director in Regensburg, whence some of the accusations originate. "The
allegations in Germany," writes Time's Jeff Israely and Tristana Moore,
"could have far greater resonance, given the personal implications for
Benedict." They are also, Israely and Moore point out, "another
reminder of how far the sins of clergy abuse may have reached in the
- 'Evidence of a Broader Dysfunction,' writes James Carroll
at The Daily Beast. "The nearly universal response of church
authorities to these crimes, rising to the level of the papacy itself,
is so consistently to protect the abusers and re-victimize the victims
as to qualify for the crime of co-conspiracy." The church, he notes,
has consistently classified clerical abuse of children as a "horrific
crime," but also as "a secret of the Holy Office." He thinks the
coverup culture shows a longstanding "at least passive expectation that
sexual frustration would drive some priests to behave badly," while the
climate of sexual repression drove priests to single out the
vulnerable--children--rather than women. But the result of this entire
system? The Church has allowed "priestly abusers to become serial
- The Questions to Ask Michael Sean Winters
in America magazine, a Catholic weekly, notes the question many are now
wondering about the pope: "what did he know and when did he know it?"
Writes Winters, "I would submit that this is the wrong question." He
thinks it's obvious by now that the abuses aren't "the product of a bad
decision here or lax oversight there." Rather, "the sexual abuse of
minors and the cover-up of that abuse were the twin products of a
clerical culture that remains largely in place and of a continuing fear
that any honest discussion about sexual matters will expose a crisis of
belief." How do you address this? Partly, argues Winters, by fighting
back against the modern retreat of Catholicism into mere
ethics--ethics, particularly in the sexual realm, that many people no
longer share. Winters thinks Benedict is well aware of this, and "the
perfect man to have at the helm." But he needs to have a zero-tolerance
policy on abuse. Winters thinks the "recent spate of resignations by
bishops in Ireland was a good start."
- Your Child's Actually Pretty Safe with a Priest The Guardian's Andrew Brown,
comparing figures that are somewhat apples and oranges, isn't sure the
Catholic church's track record with abuse is actually worse than that
in the wider population. Though the Catholic abuses are "vile ...
whether it is more vile than the record of any other profession is not
obvious." The specifics of the situation make it shocking, while it's
currently well-reported, which "tends to skew perceptions."
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