New Tork Times Op-Ed on the Vatican Scandal and Easter Week

Op-Ed Columnist of New York Times on the Vatican and abuse

Devil of a Scandal

Published: April 3, 2010


The Devil didn’t make me do it.

The facts did.

Father Gabriele Amorth, the chief exorcist for the Holy See, said in Rome
that The Times’s coverage of Pope Benedict, which cast doubt on his rigor
in dealing with pedophile priests, was “prompted by the Devil.”

“There is no doubt about it,” the 85-year-old priest said, according to the
Catholic News Agency. “Because he is a marvelous pope and worthy successor
to John Paul II, it is clear that the Devil wants to grab hold of him.”

The exorcist also said that the abuse scandal showed that Satan uses
priests to try to destroy the church, “and so we should not be surprised if
priests too … fall into temptation. They also live in the world and can
fall like men of the world.”

Actually, falling into temptation is eating cupcakes after you’ve given
them up for Lent. Rape and molestation of children is far beyond what most
of us think of as succumbing to worldly temptation.

This church needs a sexorcist more than an exorcist.

As this unholy week of shameful revelations unfurls, the Vatican is rather
overplaying its hand. At the moment, the only thing between Catholics and
God is a defensive church hierarchy that cannot fully acknowledge and heal
the damage it has done around the globe.

How can the faithful enjoy Easter redemption when a Good Friday service at
the Vatican was more concerned with shielding the pope than repenting the
church’s misdeeds? The Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal
household, told those at St. Peter’s Basilica, including the pope, that he
was thinking about the Jews in this season of Passover and Easter because
“they know from experience what it means to be victims of collective
violence and also because of this they are quick to recognize the recurring

Amazingly enough, it turns out that the Franciscan priest was not referring
to the collective violence and recurring symptoms of the global plague of
Catholic priests who harmed children, enabled by the malignant neglect of
the Vatican.

He was talking about the collective violence and recurring symptoms of
those critics — including victims, Catholics worldwide and commentators —
who want the church to face up to its sins.

Father Cantalamessa went on to quote from the letter of an unnamed Jewish
friend: “I am following with indignation the violent and concentric attacks
against the church, the pope and all the faithful by the whole world. The
use of stereotypes, the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a
collective guilt, remind me of the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism.”

As they say in Latin, “Ne eas ibi.” Don’t go there.

Mindful of the church’s long history of anti-Semitism, Leon Wieseltier, the
New Republic literary editor and Jewish scholar, noted: “Why would the
Catholic Church wish to defend itself by referring to other enormities in
which it was also implicated? Anyway, the Jews endured more than a bad
press.” This solidarity with Jews is also notable given that Italy’s La
Repubblica reported that “certain Catholic circles” suspected that “a New
York Jewish lobby” was responsible for the outcry against the pope.

It’s insulting to liken the tragic death of six million Jews with the
appropriate outrage of Catholics at the decades-long cover-up of crimes
against children by the very men who were supposed to be their moral
guides. Even the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, tried to
walk the cat back: “I don’t think it’s an appropriate comparison.”

Father Cantalamessa was expressing the sense of self-victimization
permeating the Vatican at a time when more real victims are pouring forth.
News reports said that the abuse hot line set up by the Catholic Church in
Germany imploded the first day out when more than 4,000 callers charging
abuse flooded the lines.

There is the pope’s inability to say anything long, adequate and sincere
about the scandal and what role he has played, including acceding to the
petition of the Wisconsin priest who abused 200 deaf kids that he should
not be defrocked in his infirmity, to spare his priestly “dignity.” And
there is his veiled dismissal of criticism as “petty gossip.” All this
keeps him the subject of the conversation.

It is in crises that leaders are tested, that we get to see if they succumb
to their worst instincts or summon their better angels. All Benedict has to
do is the right thing.

The hero of the week, for simply telling the truth, is Ireland’s Archbishop
Diarmuid Martin. His diocese is Dublin, where four archbishops spent three
decades shrugging off abuse cases.

“There is no shortcut to addressing the past,” he said during a Holy Week
Mass. “This has been a difficult year. We see how damaging failure of
integrity and authenticity are to the body of Christ. Shameful abuse took
place within the church of Christ. The response was hopelessly inadequate.”


A version of this article appeared in print on April 4, 2010, on page WK11
of the New York edition.