Christopher Hitchens, whose antagonism towards religion is well-established, had harsh words for the Catholic Church, and the Pope in particular, during an appearance on "Morning Joe" today.
The most recent scandal that has erupted over the priest who molested over 200 deaf boys, Hitchens said, proves that "the fatal taint" goes all the way to the top:
A school for children who can only use sign language. 200 of them have their childhoods completely wrecked by this priest, and entreaties are addressed to the man who is now Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger, the man who was saying at the time that the only problem with the scandal was there was a press campaign against the church. The abuse was not the problem, the torture the rape; only the revelation of it. Nothing happens except that he forgives the priest who asked for forgiveness before he dies.
I wrote then and I believe now that the fatal taint went straight to the top at that point, and now we have as head of the church someone who's personally as well institutionally responsible for knowing of this, covering it up and protecting, not the children, but the predators.
Asked by host Willie Geist when the Catholic Church will reach a breaking point, considering how many of these scandals it has weathered in the past, Hitchens replied that the breaking point has indeed arrived:
The breaking point just came, when it became obvious from reports from Munich, and reports from Wisconsin, and reports now from Verona, in Italy, that the man who is now calling himself the Pope was the person individually responsible for the coverup.
For more from Hitchens on the Vatican's criminal culpability, read his essay in Slate, "The Pope Is Not Above the Law."
The Vatican and its defenders have lashed out at the New York Times, who broke the stories on the most recent scandals, accusing them of orchestrating a plot to bring down the Pope.
Meanwhile, the crisis shows no signs of abating.