| 03.20.2018

Not a pope, but a sheriff — Catholic Church needs answers not silence from next pope


As March encroaches, the world waits for one of its least consequential nations — the Vatican — to elect its next leader. The Vatican will point Catholicism in a direction it must follow. For their sake, and for the sake of all good Catholics, I nominate former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer to hold the papacy for the foreseeable future and do something the Vatican has yet to do: take sex abuse seriously. No one in this world holds superior knowledge of the systemic depths of Catholic sex abuse than Pope Benedict XVI, who I refuse to call anything but his Christian name of Joseph Ratzinger.
This is not hyperbole. In 1981, then Cardinal Ratzinger took over as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, a branch of the Vatican with authority over sex abuse cases since 1922. Separately, in 2001, then Pope John Paul II appointed Ratzinger to head the Vatican’s investigation and response into the laity’s worldwide rape and torture racket. If documentation of sex abuse existed before 2005, Ratzinger knew of it and had the authority to respond.
If you’re unfortunate enough to hold faith in Ratzinger, the story of former Milwaukee, Wisconsin Father Lawrence Murphy should illustrate the moral turpitude today’s pontiff possesses.
While running St. John’s School for the Deaf — a boarding school — Murphy sexually abused no less than 200 boys between the years of 1950 and 1974, according to interviews conducted by social workers with Father Murphy and his victims.
The New York Times cites 1996 as the year Ratzinger received letters from Milwaukee Archbishop Robert Weakland regarding Father Murphy’s practice. In a display of character we’ve grown accustomed to, Ratzinger determined who needed protection: not children, but the church. Ratzinger’s response was nonexistent, allowing Father Murphy to die in 1998 without punishment or prosecution, while retaining all honors given to loyally serving priests. Complaints of Murphy’s serial rape date back to 1960, according to the Los Angeles Times.
When people cite papal inaction on sex abuse, this is what they reference — local Catholic officials ignoring reported rape and torture, with lockstep silence from the Vatican. When priests become too much of a problem, they are shipped to another parish without warning for the families of their potential next victim, and the law is kept out entirely. No canonical law prevents the Vatican, or any Catholic administrative body from contacting police to investigate sex abuse. The Vatican, and Ratzinger through his actions, simply value public relations over the well-being of children.
This problem has been observed and documented numerous times on every continent. As of 2007, the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP) was made up of over 4,500 members and 55 active chapters worldwide. That’s not total victims, just those willing to join support groups and share their stories. In terms of lost childhoods, perpetuated violence and suicides, we will never know the total cost of the Vatican’s silence.
We can look forward to a new pope who should struggle to reach Ratzinger’s inadequacies on the Catholic Church’s most important issue of the past 60 years. Or maybe not — of the 117 cardinals who will vote for the next pontiff, 67 are Ratzinger appointees. This is why we need an Eliot Spitzer.
In 2002-03, while Ratzinger was busy ignoring rape, Spitzer earned the moniker “The Sheriff of Wall Street” for successfully prosecuting fraud from Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, J.P. Morgan Chase, among others while Attorney General of New York. His cases yielded settlements totaling more than $2.4 billion, and this from New York, the epicenter of white collar crime.
True, Spitzer isn’t a Catholic. And yes, he resigned as Governor of New York for using an escort service, the Emperors Club VIP. But if a man like this can illuminate and eliminate the decades’ long practice of willful ignorance, any good Catholic would take a horny john over a co-conspirator.
Brian Marceau can be reached at arg-opinion@uidaho.edu

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