It seems that Christopher Hitchens has decided to resurrect the old hate-mongering in anticipation of Pope Benedict's visit to the UK, namely that the Pope is guilty of crimes against humanity and should be arrested when he sets foot on British soil. Never mind the fact that nobody has been able to lay any blame on our current Pope for the abuse crisis, no matter how much they've tried (and how they have tried!). Never mind that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith only received jurisdiction over cases of child abuse by clergy in 2001, long after most of the cases were alleged to have occurred, and every indication is that Cardinal Ratzinger pursued justice for the victimized pretty quickly after being given the authority to do so. Never mind that Pope Benedict has, in his five years as Pope, shown himself to be committed to justice and has repeatedly made it easier for cases to be investigated and if necessary turned over to civil authorities. People like Hitchens don't really care about the victims, they only care about punishing the Pope for being conservative and brow-beating Catholics into bowing before their destructive brand of hedonistic narcissism. I will quote and respond to particularly egregious sections of the article below.
I came across the following passage from Cardinal John Henry Newman's classic statement of belief, his Apologia Pro Vita Sua:
The Catholic Church holds it better for the Sun and Moon to drop from Heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die from starvation in extremest agony … than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse.
I doubt that Hitchens is operating under any misunderstanding, rather I think that he is intentionally mischaracterizing Newman's statement in an attempt at character assassination. Newman obviously wasn't saying that Catholics want people to starve and suffer, rather that we hold apostasy to be a horrible thing and do not desire it to happen to any person. We certainly don't enjoy the suffering of human beings, but so much more than that do we deplore the loss of souls to sin.
As we have recently been forcibly reminded, the Roman Catholic Church holds it better for the cries of raped and violated children to be ignored, and for the excuses and alibis of their rapists and torturers indulged, and for a host of dirty and wilful untruths to be manufactured wholesale, and for the funds raised ostensibly for the poor to be paid out in hush money and shameful bribery, rather than that one tiny indignity or inconvenience be visited on the robed majesty of a man-made church or any limit set to its self-proclaimed right to be judge in its own cause
We've recently been reminded, actually, that human beings are sinful and that applies as much to human beings in the Church as it does to those outside. Peter Tatchell, a leading opponent to the Pope's visit, has said in the past that nine year old children could consent to sex with adults. If a Catholic priest said that then Hitchens would put the blame for it directly on the Pope, and yet I hear nothing from him about his ally's reprehensible beliefs. Hitchens is also overlooking, of course, the many actions that have been taken by the Pope to safeguard children in the wake of the abuse scandal. Not only has the Pope raised the statue of limitations to 20 years, an action that Hitchens would hail if it had been undertaken by civil leaders, but he has also put together concrete rules governing the removal of accused priests and religious from their positions. When he was given responsibility for these cases as head of the CDF the Pope essentially had to create rules from scratch, and personally I think that he's done an admirable job of it.
I asked a simple question in print. Why was this not considered a matter for the police and the courts? Why were we asking the church to "put its own house in order," an expression that was the exact definition of the problem to begin with?
That's exactly what has been done. In fact, in many cases the accusations were brought before the civil authorities and they either declined to prosecute or else investigated and found no basis for an indictment. There was certainly a cover up in some dioceses, but the blame for a lack of prosecutions lies in the hands of civil government at least as much as in the Church's hands.
I followed this up with a telephone call to Geoffrey Robertson, a British barrister with a second-to-none record in international human rights cases.
Robertson is the moron who tried to stoke anti-Catholic hatred in England to gain support for his plan to put the Pope on trial at the Hague, solely to increase his own name recognition and make himself look good without any concern for those who actually suffered from the actions of clergy. I am not at all surprised that Hitchens would be allied with this guy, after all they're birds of a feather.
Consider: The now-resigned bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, stands revealed by his own eventual confession as being guilty of incest as well as rape...Very belatedly, a few months ago, the Belgian police finally rose from their notorious torpor and raided some ecclesiastical offices in search of evidence that was being concealed. Joseph Ratzinger, who had not thus far found a voice in which to mention the doings of his Belgian underlings, promptly emitted a squeal of protest—at the intervention of the law.
The problem that the Church has with the civil investigation is in its methods, not its motives. In executing their warrant the police violated the crypts of two bishops, a horrid sacrilege without justification. The Church has no problem with civil authorities investigating accusations of abuse, so long as they don't intentionally insult our religion in the process. How would Muslims react if the Belgian police had desecrated a Koran in a search for evidence? How would Jews react if they had searched for evidence by tearing apart the ark that contains the Torah scrolls?
Robertson's brief begins with a meticulous summary of the systematic fashion in which child-rape was covered up by collusion between local Catholic authorities and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, an office that under the last pope was run by Ratzinger himself.
Funny, considering that the CDF did not gain jurisdiction over such cases until 2001 at around the same time that many of the cases came to light. During most of the time of cover-up, and in fact when the vast majority of cases were alleged to have been committed, the responsibility for investigating cases and bringing them to the attention of law enforcement fell on individual bishops rather than any central Church authority. That was the problem, and giving the power to the CDF and then-Cardinal Ratzinger was the solution.
The Catholic authorities have now rudely disinterred the bodies, finding nothing that had survived decay or could serve as a relic.
Hitchens seems crudely satisfied at this fact, as if it proves that Newman wasn't a saint. Of course, the Church does not teach that a saint's body must be incorruptible in order for that person to be a saint. Many saints have shown such incorruptibility, and it can be seen as a sign of sainthood, but it is not required.
The sun and moon don't need to fall and the species doesn't have to die in agony in order to expiate this sin—a little application of simple earthly justice is all that is required. Will it really continue to be withheld?
Hitchens hates the Catholic Church, and in spite of his protestations to the contrary his words and actions scream hatred for those who choose to believe in the Church. Since he can't brow-beat the Pope into renouncing the faith and dragging its followers down with him he'll try to destroy the Pope by putting him on trial for false accusations and making him rot in jail. May God bless the Pope in his journey to hostile lands, and if he must be martyred by Hitchens and his pagan friends may his martyrdom obtain blessings for the Church and conversion for the English people who so desperately need it.