I wasn’t going to write any more about it; but I changed my mind after listening to Bill Maher’s latest tirade against religion in general and the Pope specifically. But, Maher’s pontification wasn’t the only one that set me off.
Every national talking head pundit and comedian, including two-bit local wannabes, had to chime in with the same flavor of vocal tripe. All of it demonstrated, at least to me, the depths to which political, anti-religious, and comedic zealots would stoop to make a misinformed point or garner a cheap laugh.
Benedict XVI is the leader of approximately 1.2-billion Roman Catholics, of whom about 60-million reside in the United States. If people are going to level accusations against him, they should at least attempt to find out what they’re talking about.
While the current Pope did not instigate the sexual abuse problem in this country, the fact does not diminish his responsibility in attempting to resolve the matter. But this responsibility and his alleged Nazism are two separate issues.
So, we should deal with them separately, which is what I am going to do with this particular column. The difference is, that relative to the sex abuse scandal, I’m going to go further than Maher did by applying liberal coatings of blame over ALL of the participating parties, not just the Church, Her leadership and ordained priests.
First, those screaming for Maher’s firing need to get a grip. This is not a 1st Amendment issue nor did Mr. Maher break any laws. HBO is a private TV service. If you don’t like their programming, don’t tune in. And, if you’re already tuned in and hear something offensive, tune out! But, let HBO know your reasons.
In my opinion, Bill Maher’s superior writing ability, issue perspectives, along with an impeccable timing of voice inflection and facial expression, combine to make him one of the funniest people on television. Even so, I do not agree with everything he says on his HBO program, Real Time with Bill Maher.
He missed the mark with his Nazi slam by intentionally omitting exonerating facts; and, he failed to go far enough in spreading the blame for one of the most horrendous sex scandals in modern Catholic Church history to ALL culpable parties.
While young Master Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict XVI) joined the Hitler Youth Group when he reached the age of 14-years, so did EVERY German boy of that era. They were COMPELLED to join upon reaching that young age. Mr. Maher obviously forgot to include this fact.
He left out two other facts, too, both verifiable. The first one, on the record, showed that young Master Ratzinger hated the group, refused to participate, and NEVER attended any meetings.
The second one verified that the entire Ratzinger family detested the Nazis and refused to participate in Nazi programs—at significant risk to their safety—because Nazism violated their religious beliefs.
Such factual omissions were disingenuous at best. There was no legitimate reason to attempt to link Benedict XVI to Nazism. In attempting to do so, Maher offended millions of decent, faith-living Catholics who were every bit as horrified over the sex scandal as he was.
In fact, it seemed to me that his intent was nothing more than a juvenile-style hissy fitter’s attempt to get attention and a cheap laugh. Shame on him! I know a number of 4-year-olds who demonstrate, routinely, infinitely greater skills in controlling their emotions.
He later issued an apology for this aspect of his rant. I’m not going to express gratitude for his doing so because it was the only decent thing for him to do.
On the matter of his criticism regarding the Church’s cover-ups over years of sexual abuses of prepubescent and pubescent boys by Roman Catholic Priests, he was on the mark—except he didn’t go far enough. So, I’m going to do it for him.
I will be 66-years-old in a month and a half. I was raised, from birth, as a Roman Catholic. My parents were staunch in their faith. As such, my siblings and I adhered to ALL of the rules.
In addition, I eagerly embraced one of my late mother’s rules—that I become an altar boy and serve mass on a regular basis at St. Helena’s Parish where I and my siblings attended elementary school.
Not only did I obey HER rule, I achieved the lofty goal, the highest status for altar boys of that era, Master of Ceremonies at solemn high masses, weddings, and funerals.
In fact, the last ceremony that I officiated as a senior altar boy Master of Ceremonies at St. Helena’s was my dad’s funeral mass. He died, along with my 3-year-old brother, as the result of an automobile accident. I was 14-years old.
Three weeks prior to this, however, I found myself on the receiving end of a priest’s sexual advances.
At the conclusion of my serving his 11:30 AM Sunday mass, the late Father Walter Powers decided to show me how much he cared for me. He came up behind me (fully clothed), gripped my hips with his hands, and rubbed himself against my buttocks.
Mostly, his action surprised and scared me. But, it also ANGERED me. I reacted the way my dad had taught me to react to anyone who approached me in such a manner: BY NOT GOING INTO A PANIC.
With a swift body turn and a clenched fist, I delivered a decisive uppercut to his scrotum sac. He went down like an anvil, with a resounding thud. I left the sacristy immediately and rode my bike home.
There were no repercussions. He never spoke to me again, nor I him. I did NOT feel traumatized THEN nor have I ever felt compelled to seek monetary compensation from the Church.
In fact, I’ve often looked back on it with a fond sense of having been an instrument of specific justice, especially as I recall that contorted look of sheer agony on his face.
I did not tell my father about it because he would have ended up in prison as the result of beating the good father to within an inch of his life or, perhaps, going all the way and killing him.
I did not tell my mother because, sadly, she would not have believed me. To her a Catholic Priest was, in fact, another Christ—incapable of such despicable acts.
Here’s my point. Father Powers was only ONE of twenty other priests in the Diocese of Wilmington abusing children. Simultaneously, thousands of others, all of them sexually perverted, were doing the same from coast to coast across the United States.
Many of them got away with it for YEARS before their names came to light. Some, like Walter Powers, died long before that. But, when it comes to tossing blame around, society simply fails to include everyone.
In Catholic dioceses like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Diego, and myriad parishes across Middle America, police departments had standing orders NOT to arrest these priests.
Of course, this was NEVER an OFFICIAL policy. But, It was definitely one of those “wink-wink” policies that came to be “understood” by every street cop, desk sergeant, and precinct commander.
Like it or not, it was a fact back then. Whenever they caught a sexually wayward priest breaking the law, they returned him to his pastor or diocesan bishop and let THEM deal with the issue.
In my opinion, this renders the very police department officials sworn to protect innocent people as inferentially complicit in the scandal. But we never hear this crowd mentioned pursuant to blame delegation, even as passive participants.
At St. Helena’s, a few intrepid folks complained, but EVERYONE knew about Father Powers: The pastor, the nuns who taught in the school, and many, if not most, of the parents of altar boys.
As with the police authorities, the nuns and lay-people are generally absent from mention during the blame game. For whatever, reason they chose NOT to raise too much hell. Nevertheless, they must share in at least partial blame for the scandal.
In my mind, they were just as inferentially complicit in the scandal as the priests who did the abusing and the Church authorities who successfully covered it up for years.
Finally, Benedict XVI did NOT transfer Cardinal Bernard Law to permanent duty in the Vatican just before the State of Massachusetts was to indict him. It was John Paul II. And, I would not bet against the notion that some state-level authority warned him ahead of time, either.
Of all of the people involved, the Popes, as insulated as they are from day-to-day operations, are the least indictable pursuant to this scandal.
I do not doubt Pope Benedict’s remorse and embarrassment at the way the Church leadership performed in this matter. On the other hand, he’d be a lot more convincing to me if he’d do just three things.
First, order Cardinal Bernard Law back to the United States to face his accusers. The second is to toss Cardinal Maloney of Los Angeles out of the priesthood. And third, permit the United States criminal justice system run its course.
This is the last I will write on the topic. I’ll get back to other things next Sunday. Have a great week.
Joe Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. You may comment on his column by clicking here.