The cruel reality of priests violating children, and a concerted conspiracy to cover up this evil, have long been public information. The Vatican's denials are simply not credible.
In their 2004 book, Vows of Silence, reporters Jason Berry and the late Gerald Renner (both practicing Roman Catholics) unequivocally documented both. If books are not your cup of tea, we've had our conversation with them, available on our website since the book was published, and Mr. Berry has subsequently created a documentary, which further amplifies and updates the grim and devastating realities.
Justice is a feel-good word one can honor without risk, unless and until it is transformed into a mighty and restorative action. That takes courage. And hard work. Mr. Renner and Mr. Berry had and have both. They worked in defiance of the papal state. Then, as now, the Vatican used its very considerable power to suppress the book and its story.
Mr. Berry and Mr. Renner did what reporters are supposed to do: tell us what defenders of the status quo want hidden, and give voice to the silenced. They acted on their faith in justice in defiance of the reflexively self-protecting and self-serving institution called the Roman Catholic Church. Others yielded to the Vatican's worldly brute force or simply averted their gaze. Berry and Renner obeyed their consciences, not the interests of a decadent institution which puts its own interests before those of the defenseless, in direct contradiction to Jesus' explicit teachings.
For unfathomable reasons, the mainstream media has neglected to note Pope Benedict XVI's prior job as the "grand inquisitor." The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition, established in 1542. Pius X simply changed its name in 1908. Paul VI gave it its current name in 1965 -- good PR move.
Though, as we're now seeing, PR (including particularly the abysmally bad version now being practiced by the Vatican) is not sufficient to cope with the ongoing institutional violation of the most basic forms of human trust ... that your child will be safe; that God's self-appointed intermediaries will not abuse you. In the face of that ongoing violation, it is simply not plausible to argue that the centuries-long Inquistion is somehow not relevant to the current blight afflicting the church and its neighbors.
Criminal behavior is criminal behavior. Period. In 1170 Thomas Becket paid with his life for insisting that priests were not subject to civil laws and courts. England's Henry II disagreed. The Vatican apparently continues a de facto attachment to this benighted view. People in every nation in the world should be taking note. And notes. As sovereigns, we have a special responsibility in the United States. We claim neither a crown nor anyone's God whom we can blame for our collective failures. Responsibility for what we do with hard facts rests squarely on us.
My offering today is a heartfelt "thank you" to two reporters who did their jobs. Truthfulness is what we need. It is what we should demand. We must act on what we've learned or suffer the inevitable consequences. Those in whose name this pope acts would do well to do likewise.