Monday, March 29, 2010

Küng on Ratzinger: Benedict at the Very Center of the Abuse Cover Up

The pope’s gallant boyos have come out with gloves off this weekend.  Folks who have left the Catholic church due to its record of child abuse throwing wide punches to defend their boy Benedict.  Non-Catholics who say they don’t believe in the principle of papal authority, but who intend to fight to the bitter end to protect the papacy in the case of Benedict because, well, we need some authority in the world.

And the kind for which Benedict stands is the kind of authority of which we boys dream everywhere: male-dominant, contemptuous and exclusive of the gifts and talents of women, ruthlessly authoritarian, top-down, and most of all, conservative—in the constricted, distorted sense of that word that those now twisting the truth about Benedict mean when they speak of themselves as conservatives. 

The liberals are the problem, you see—pearl-clutching liberals who have had it in for Benedict from day one, and who are now using the media to implicate the pope in an abuse crisis that he has done everything possible to clean up, not to cover up. 

(Something tells me that pearl clutching can swing both ways, and that someone ought to inform the defenders of Benedict to mind their own pearls.  I’m told that clutching them too tight may constrict the flow of blood to the brain and other nether parts.)

The only problem with the current perfervid defense of Benedict is, it’s simply not reality-based.  Not in the least.  It’s not true.  It trades in lies.  And one of the people who knows Joseph Ratzinger best in the whole world, Swiss theologian Hans Küng, has now called the bluff of the grand lies that Benedict’s perfervid defenders are seeking to shop around.

The assertions of said defenders that Benedict is innocent of responsibility for covering up clerical child abuse rest on two primary claims: 1) the poor pope is such a scatter-brained academic (a brilliant theologian naturally concerned with orthodoxy), he doesn’t pay sufficient attention to people issues when he runs institutions, and 2) even memos showing him front and center in the decision to move Fr. Hullerman about in Munich don’t implicate him in Hullerman’s continued abuse of minors, once Hullerman had been moved about.  Because—get this—Benedict may not have seen the memos that landed on his desk. 

Because he was preoccupied with theology and orthodoxy, you understand.  Not people.  Certainly not children being abused by priests. 

And perhaps the memos fell to the bottom of the stacks on his desk, and of course there was so much fuss and flurry in the Munich chancery that anything might have happened.  And, who knows, the memos may have been written in some secret code unknown to the future pope.  Or in invisible ink, for all we know.  

We’re just speculating, you see—church authorities have told us so, after all—when we assume that a man whose appetite for voracious micromanagement, for power and control, is well-known in the church would have read memos sent to his desk about the important matter of reassigning a priest whom a therapist had advised the diocese not to reassign.

Because he would abuse again.

Enter Hans Küng, who flatly declares that Benedict is at the very center of the abuse cover-up in the Catholic church.  Because—as Küng has every reason to know, far more reason than the utterly irrational current defenders of Benedict whose heads appear to have been compromised by too many tight pearls—Benedict has placed himself at the center deliberately.

Through his longstanding actions in the Vatican.  Through his own decisions.  Through his deliberate intent to create a system of absolute top-down, bureaucratic, authoritarian control from the center.

Where he is now caught, like a spider in the middle of a web, and can’t extricate himself.  Since he has spun all the webs that lead right to the center—and therefore to him.

As Küng told Swiss television this weekend, “No one in the whole of the Catholic Church knows as much about abuse cases – knowledge that is ex officio, derived from his office.”  From the beginning, Küng reminds us—and Küng knows Ratzinger in a way no one else knows him—Ratzinger has “centralized [information about] all abuse cases so that they can be concealed, classified as top secret.”

Centralization is what Ratzinger does.  It is how he runs things.  It’s how he runs the church.  Everything possible is delated to Rome, under the current pope.  Because that is how he has commanded things to be.  That’s how he wants it.

Duties and responsibilities previously delegated to bishops and bishops’ conferences have been yanked away and placed squarely in the hands of Vatican officials, under Ratzinger.  In the hands of Vatican officials who report directly to the pope

It is absolutely impossible—it is beyond rationality—to imagine that a system created to funnel any and all ecclesial information available to the center, to archive and control that information at the center, would magically and mysteriously operate beyond the knowledge and rule of the person who has designed it to function in this way.  Who occupies the center.  Who has centralized the system of church governance to such an extent that every road leads to Rome.

And so, as Küng concludes, “He cannot now wag his finger at the bishops and say 'you did not do enough!' He gave the instructions himself – as boss of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and again as Pope.”

Ratzinger is now the victim of a system he has designed to victimize others, and it’s with astonishing ill grace that his defenders are seeking to twist the truth about the pope’s involvement in the ongoing cover up of child sex abuse within the church.  And, implicitly, to excuse the rape of one child after another for years, as if those human lives simply don’t matter.  At all.

There is, built into the imaginary system of power distribution of which the boyos defending Ratzinger keep dreaming—anti-women, top-down, ruthlessly authoritarian, and conservative (of a sort)—abuse Abuse is built right into the system.

It’s built on abuse, on the use of others, on the destructive use of others, in a chain of authority in which the man on top uses the man beneath him as he will, and is then himself used freely by the man on top of him.  The entire system is built on abuse.

It fosters an imagination that is all about abuse—of those who are “lower” and weaker.  Of women.  And of children.  Of the laity.

It is rotten to the core, and the fact that men everywhere in the world keep dreaming of some imaginary system somewhere in which unchecked top-down male-dominant power and control will be used humanely—when unchecked top-down power and control never does and never has functioned that way—ought not to cause us to miss the point of what is happening with Benedict now.

He has, finally, become the victim of the system he himself has created in the Vatican.  And anyone who cares about the abuse of others by systems of power that have run amok, no matter how venerable (or how gloriously alluring to the boys who want to continue running things), ought to cheer the collapse of this rotten system of abuse.

Not the man who has kept it functioning for years now, and who has made it more efficient in doing its dirty work.  Because children have been and are among the most defenseless victims of this organized system of abuse.  And it’s time to dismantle it—quickly and decisively—before more children are hurt.