About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
The Catholic Woodstock and the German Shepherd (i.e., the Pope)
But I digress. This post is about what CNN has baptized (the term is apt, given the occasion) “the Catholic Woodstock,” the World Youth Day held in Australia, where pope Ratzinger (no Hendrix himself, I might add) has made an appearance. The pope, whom Romans ironically refer to as “il pastore tedesco” (the German Shepherd (1), with an obvious reference to the dog breed), has once again apologized for the persisting scandal of Catholic priests sexually abusing children all over the world (in the US the conservative estimate is of 4,000 priests having engaged in such behavior since 1950, with the Church paying more than $2 billion for it so far, largely in the past few years).
Ratzinger (and before him, John Paul II) has apologized several times for the problem, which is more than most popes do, regardless of the subject matter (John Paul II refused to apologize for the burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno, which happened back in 1600, and I doubt Ratzinger is going to do it, considering that before becoming pope he was the head of the office that used to be the Inquisition). But of course apologies are rather cheap to make, what counts here is real help for the victims and a much more serious attitude toward policing the problem, including referring priests to the secular authorities, instead of simply transferring them from one parish to another.
Well, to his credit, the German Shepherd has just called for judicial action! As far as I can tell from a glance at the US media, most of them missed that detail, but the Italian press has made a big deal of it. According to the 24 hour news channel of Italian public television, Benedict XVI has actually said that “Le vittime devono ricevere compassione e cura e i responsabili di questi mali devono essere portati davanti alla giustizia,” which translates to “The victims deserve compassion and cures, and those responsible for these evils have to be brought to justice.” Wow, fighting words, good for Ratzinger.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether the pope will actually follow through with real action, instructing high prelates the world over to aggressively fight priest pedophilia, directing them to collaborate with the police while at the same time channeling a significant amount of the church’s resources to help the victims with psychological and medical counseling.
The timing of this announcement was underscored by the fact that yet another scandal of the same sort is brewing right there in Australia, where according to the Independent newspaper, Cardinal George Pell has been accused of covering up the sexual abuses committed back in 1982 by Father Terence Goodall. Pell lied back in 2003, when he said that internal church investigations did not uphold the accusations, when in fact they did (isn’t lying a sin for Catholics? Just asking). Oops. Perhaps the German Shepherd could show some teeth and set an immediate example, firing Pell and denouncing Goodall (if he is still alive) to the Australian authorities. Somehow, though, I don’t think that’s going to happen.
(1) Every time I go back to Italy, as I did a couple of weeks ago, I am reminded of how wonderful the subtle sense of humor and tendency toward sarcasm of the Romans really is. It has developed over many centuries of political oppression, mostly under the yoke of the popes...