00 5/7/2010 1:07 AM
Not exatly toxic waste - but it's written by a Jewish writer for a Jewish newspaper and reveals all the biases and stereotypes that militant Jews have against the Church and against Benedict XVI...And the last paragraph is just absurd...


A crushing loss of faith

Published 22:24 06.05.10

Little did Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger suspect five years ago, when he became pope, that both he and his church would become embroiled in a global scandals involving child abuse and pedophilia
By Saviona Mane The name of the late archbishop of Munich, Michael von Faulhaber, is not so widely known. But everyone knows the name of the 5-year-old boy who greeted von Faulhaber when he came to visit the boy's Bavarian hometown in 1932: Joseph Ratzinger. The encounter between the two so impressed the young boy, so the story goes, that he decided that he, too, wanted to be a cardinal when he grew up. A little more than seven decades later, during the week he turned 78, the little boy from the town of Tittmoning became the 265th pope, Benedict XVI.

"Brothers and sisters," he said in an emotional address before the tens of thousands of faithful who gathered to cheer him on April 19, 2005, in St. Peter's Square, "after the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me - a humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord."

The humble worker from Bavaria certainly expected that his popular and charismatic predecessor, who was pope for 27 years, would be a hard act to follow. What he didn't expect was that five years on, he would be embroiled in one of the most serious crises in the Church's history, revolving around the scandal of pedophile priests - over which some would call for his resignation and even arrest for crimes against humanity - or that obscene graffiti would be smeared on the house where he was born.

"This is the gravest crisis to hit the Catholic Church in 200 years," Marco Politi, expert on the Vatican and columnist for the daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, told Haaretz. "After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the John Paul II era, the Catholic Church positioned itself as a moral superpower and voice for human rights. But now horrible crimes are being revealed that place this authority in question. And the real issue that is shaking the public's trust is the 'institutionalized silence' - the conspiracy of silence of numerous bishops who did not denounce the criminal priests and just transferred them to other communities where they continued their evil ways."

A much harsher assessment comes from Hans Kung, a liberal Swiss Catholic theologian whose very name causes hackles to rise at the Vatican.

"Benedict XVI has failed on practically every front," Kung recently argued in a scathing indictment published in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. The pope has failed in the attempt to forge better ties with evangelical Christians, Kung wrote. He has failed to strengthen inter-religious ties with Judaism and Islam; he was unable to effect a reconciliation with the Indian populations in Latin America; he squandered an opportunity to reach out to Africans by engaging in the war on AIDS and promoting the use of condoms; and above all, he failed the leadership test in the pedophile priest scandals, which are undercutting the Holy See. "The Catholic faithful are losing faith," Kung concluded.

The incidents involving rape and pedophilia occurred in the United States, Ireland, Britain, Germany and other countries, during the tenures, respectively, of John Paul II as pope and Ratzinger as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (better known by its historic name: the Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition ), which states that its mission is "to promote and safeguard the doctrine on the faith and morals throughout the Catholic world."

According to Kung, while serving in that position, Ratzinger himself imposed an order of secrecy on the bishops regarding the scandals. The New York Times has made similar allegations, and recently published documents submitted in court in the United States, which allegedly illustrate the conservative cardinal's part in whitewashing incidents of abuse of hundreds of deaf-mute children in the 1980s in Wisconsin. In the wake of these reports, a group of atheist intellectuals in Britain called for the pope to be arrested upon his planned visit to the country in September, and tried for crimes against humanity.

It's no surprise then that 80 percent of Americans and 62 percent of Italians do not agree with the stance taken by the Church and the pope concerning the cases of abuse and pedophilia, as data published last month by Politi in Il Fatto Quotidiano indicate.

Damage control

In an attempt to repair the damage and restore confidence, the Vatican recently took a series of steps: This week it declared that it was taking direct control of the Legion of Christ, whose leaders failed to disclose the acts of sexual abuse committed by its late founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, against seminarians; a week ago it accepted (and some say initiated ) the resignation of Roger Vangheluwe, the bishop of Bruges, Belgium, who confessed that he had sexually abused children before being appointed to his position.

Two weeks ago the pope publicly decried the Church's sins, issued clear directives to report cases of sexual abuse within the Church to the civil authorities, and held an unprecedented meeting with several victims of pedophile priests - in friendly, Catholic Malta.

The pope's defenders, who are well aware that this crisis could persist for a long time, argue that Ratzinger was the first to call for the victims' stories to be heard; that he sought to act against the criminals at the time, but was prevented from doing so; and that unlike his predecessors, immediately upon becoming pope, he demonstrated a zero-tolerance policy toward sex criminals in the Church and began purging the ranks.

Marco Politi agrees with them. "In the 1990s, when he was still a cardinal and the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger grasped the seriousness of the problem. He understood that the phenomenon of pedophile priests was a cancer in the body of the Church and sought to take steps against them, but other circles in the Vatican, identified with the Vatican State Department, prevented him from doing this," says Politi. A shift is occurring now, he continues, and the clear and simple directives the pope recently issued attest to his determination to stick to a zero-tolerance policy with regard to any instances of abuse. Politi warns, however, that if Benedict XVI does not manage to put an end to the scandals in a way that involves total transparency, his authority as leader of the Catholic Church could be questioned around the world.

But along with those who advocate transparency and punishment of the criminals, there is another camp composed of deniers, such as Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household, who not long ago insisted that the pedophile scandal was entirely a case of slander and likened the accused priests to victims of anti-Semitism. Or Giacomo Babini, retired bishop of Grosseto, who recently proclaimed that the pedophile scandal was nothing but a conspiracy of Jews - or, as he described it, "deicide" - who brought the Holocaust upon themselves through "exploitation with which they choked Germany."

Such statements from senior Church officials would almost certainly not have been heard during the time of John Paul II, who referred to the Jews as "our elder brothers" and was the first pope to visit Rome's Great Synagogue. But the current pope's tenure is nothing like that of his predecessor.

Upon his election, many in the Jewish world welcomed Ratzinger's election to the papacy; Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League's national director, spoke of his "great sensitivity to Jewish history and the Holocaust" and many noted that despite his forced conscription into the Hitler Youth, his family was known for its opposition to Nazism.

"Benedict XVI propounds a more starkly conservative line," Jerusalem-based Vatican scholar Dr. Sergio Minerbi told Haaretz. "And conservatism in the Church is not good for the Jews. In the five years of his tenure there has been a big step backward: Jewish-Vatican relations have worsened considerably; he restored a Latin version of a prayer that was removed more than 40 years ago, which calls upon the Jews to "see the light" and convert; he restored Bishop [Richard] Williamson to the bosom of the Church, without demanding that he recant his Holocaust denial; and he declared that St. Paul did not need to convert to Christianity because he was a Jew, and thereby blurred the boundaries between Judaism and Christianity, which is also not a good thing for the Jews."

But Jews aren't the only non-Christians upset with the Vatican since the election of Benedict XVI. In September 2006, the pope incurred the wrath of Muslims when, in a lecture at the University of Regensburg, he quoted the words of Byzantine Emperor Manuel II concerning Islam thus: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman."

A year later, on a visit to Brazil, he caused a furor among indigenous groups when he said that the natives were "silently longing" for the Christian faith that had been brought to South America by colonizers. In response, the Venezuelan president demanded an apology and an organization of indigenous groups in Ecuador issued a statement accusing Church representatives of "participation in one of the most terrible genocides in human history."

And yet another uproar was sparked just a few weeks ago, when Ratzinger's deputy, Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, asserted that there is a link between homosexuality and the sexual abuse of children. His remarks even drew sharp criticism from Church representatives in France and Britain.

Most of these verbal entanglements resulted either in apologies from the Vatican or in claims that the comments were misunderstood.

The Holy See's detractors and defenders do agree on one thing: In sharp contrast to the situation during his predecessor's time, Benedict XVI has a serious public relations problem on his hands, on top of all the more profound, significant troubles he faces. This may explain why, in the hope of winning over the faithful again, a decision was recently made to display the Shroud of Turin, which it is believed bears the imprint of the crucified Christ. Two million names already appear on the long visitors list, including that of the pope himself - just a drop in the Catholic ocean. Many in the Church fear it will take more than 10 years to restore trust.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/7/2010 3:03 AM]