The cowardly tale of Joseph Ratzinger

30 Nov

What would you do if you knew a man responsible for the most heinous of crimes imaginable was living his life free from the glare of the law, unpunished for the most egregious of sins. For most of us, our lives  guided by a common sense of morality, one that abhors torture, rape and murder, there would be no compunction, the man would need to suffer for the gross crimes he has committed. Unfortunately, not all are beset with such clarity, these few let their own moral incertitude and pompousness to lead them to decisions of dire consequence.

Persons of such moral ambivalence, in their fine vestments of silk, have been complicit in facilitating the ruination of the lives of the most vulnerable in society for decades. Yet they still, to this day, abscond from the sins of their own corruption and in most cases go on to fulfil lives full of dogmatic proclamation, without a single nod to the patent irony, so common to men free from the rigours of a  regular moral conscience. One such person is currently sat upon a throne dedicated to a martyr of the most astute moral clarity.

Amongst all the defamatory claims of moral culpability made against Joseph Ratzinger, there is one incident, one where the facts are of absolute certitude, one that will surely typify the current pontiff as a figure who at best, is a man of a questionable moral compass, and at worst, as a man who wilfully ignored the plight of the most innocent of victims, for  the sake of preserving the reputation of an institution already founded upon the deceit of its followers.

The case in question, even when compared to similar instances of institutional abuse, is a horrific one. It occurred in several dioceses across Wisconsin over nearly a quarter of a century. The man at the centre of the case is the now deceased Father Lawrence Murphy. It’s estimated that from 1950 to 1974, Murphy brutally molested over 200 young boys at a renowned Wisconsin school for the deaf.

Despite an acute knowledge of his actions the local clergy did not inform the state authorities. Instead they moved him to a new parish, one where he was still free to work with children for over 20 years. It wasn’t until Murphy was nearing his death that they sought the council of  the Vatican and one office in particular, the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, previously known as the office of the Roman Inquisition. This office was lead at the time by one Cardinal Ratzinger.

Ratzinger failed initially to correspond to letters sent in 1996 by Rembert Weakland, Milwaukee’s Archbishop at the time, who given his failure to contact police authorities is hardly deserving of a clear conscience either. After further action by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the second in command at the doctrinal office, Ratzinger eventually addressed the case. An impending canonical trial was halted after Ratzinger communicated with Murphy. Claiming for clemency on account that he had already repented and was in failing health, the future Pope acquiesced to the appeals of the paedophile priest. Murphy died two years later, still a priest, having never faced any sanction, canonical or secular, for the terror and pain he inflicted upon so many lives.

Ratzinger knew of the rape and torture perpetrated by Murphy but did nothing. For him the professed penance of a serial paedophile was enough, for him no further action was necessary. The dispassionate provisions of Ratzinger were not his alone, successive Archbishops in Wisconsin failed to inform state authorities nor did they stand in solidarity with the victims, instead they advocated for the imposition of canonical law to decide the fate of Father Murphy rather than let him face the trials of a secular court.

For all the debate on the Church’s handling on issues of child sex abuse, the case of Lawrence Murphy should invoke even the staunchest of defender’s with a crippling shame.There is no silver lining in this, no escape clause for Ratzinger. He failed the most vulnerable and allowed a most despicably evil man to see out his life in relative comfort, free from the sanction of justice.

The Pope  is meant to be Gods conduit on earth. His grasp of morality, you would expect, to be even congenital. Yet when it came to the case of Lawrence Murphy(and probably others we have yet to know of) he found an ethical quandary. Not only has this Pope eschewed reason but morality too, in an instance of black and white, of right and wrong, Ratzinger found shades of grey.

But maybe surprise should be reserved, after all the Catholic Church has always tried to extricate its way out of accepting moral culpability. The most regular method for doing so was to cite moral equivalence. Their position of anti-Semitism, a product of the time; their toleration of slavery, acceptable given the stance of their most fervent patrons. Their claims on absolute moral ascendancy are continually undermined by their constant and frivolous adaptation on what constitutes morality and immorality, becoming ever more based on the changing attitudes of their ‘flock’ . With moral rationalism gaining greater hold, the church will inevitably accept the rights of homosexuals and the days of its supreme paternalism will eventually fall by the wayside as women assert their unalienable rights as equal citizens of the world.

Finally, if you still hold Ratzinger and the faith he leads with reverence then ask yourself this-What kind of person subscribes to a church that supplants common sense morality to such an extreme degree that it allows the most deplorable of crimes to go unpunished? This man, by his inaction, has indirectly facilitated the torture and rape of innocent children, and yet still holds a position of supreme moral authority for the souls of over 1 billion people. As history will surely attest, this Pope will go down as one of the more malignant figures in a post that is not shorn of a few. Charlatans, bigots and sexual degenerates, the pontiff’s chair have seen the lot. Maybe its about time a coward joined the fray too.

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