Friday, April 2, 2010
Child abuse scandals are engulfing the Catholic Church in Europe. And the reports that argue Pope Benedict XVI did not do enough about those sexual abuse claims in the past raise even more tension and questions about how bad the institution of accountability is within the Vatican and whether it can ever be transparent.
The pope gathered 24 bishops from Ireland to listen to how they handled the child abuse cases in their territory in mid-February. The Vatican meeting came two months after the Murphy Commission Report, which investigated crimes by pedophile priests. Some of the report's conclusions said the church in Ireland implemented a policy of "don't ask, don't tell," and "obsessively concealed child abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese from 1975 to 2004."
Sylvia Poggioli, from National Public Radio, or NPR, said, "The Murphy Report came just seven months after another investigation revealed chronic beatings, rapes, near starvation and the humiliation of 30,000 children in schools and orphanages — all run by the Catholic Church in Ireland."
Another effect of these unraveling and ugly stories across Europe is that it mounts a lot of pressure on the Pope himself. There are many different arguments on how much he knew about these scandals, especially while he was cardinal, and when he knew about them. Many now accuse him openly that he, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, did not come out as frank as he was supposed to.
According to John Allen, a senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, "The Pope isn't just part of the problem, but also an important part of the solution" in his op-ed published in the New York Times. Allen argues that the current Pope Benedict started the “zero tolerance” policy for such complaints since he became the pope and after Pope John Paul II put Cardinal Ratzinger and his office in charge of the abuse complaints in 2001. Allen said, "He began to talk much more openly about what he described as 'filth' in the Catholic Church, and became much more aggressive about prosecuting abusers."
The experts who follow the Vatican closely argue that one of the biggest problems of the ongoing situation is “bishops.” During the last several decades, many bishops connected to these scandals, with their limitless discretion, took no action or moved very slowly to tackle the problem while complaints piled up. How will the Vatican step forward to bring new accountability measures for bishops is the real problem, according to some religious experts. And whether the pope will be able to investigate and fire bishops, will determine how serious the Vatican is about solving this epidemic and relieve the victims.
If there will be any formal policy put in place to instruct bishops by the Vatican will be an important follow-up to watch, Allen argues, after this episode ends. Though, according to the latest tally so far, five Irish bishops already gave letters of resignation to the pope, and resignations of two of them already are accepted.
So far, the list of countries in which the scandals first appeared are in Europe. And when one knows that two-thirds of the members of the Roman Catholic Church live in the Southern hemisphere such as Latin America, Asia and Africa, then the picture becomes even grimmer for those regions with mostly under-developed countries.
It would be naive to think that this epidemic is only limited to European countries but not other parts of the globe. However, the issues with the judiciary or cultural loyalty and respect to the elders, such as priests of the churches, could veil such cases from coming to light. When illiteracy and poorness are also taken into consideration, one would imagine how difficult it would be to bring law suits, prepare independent studies and or file complaints against one of the most well-organized and powerful institutions of a country, the Roman Catholic Church.
While the Vatican is going through one of its most significant crises in recent history, expecting a resignation from the Pope is useless. It is almost impossible because the Pope is perceived as more of a father figure in the Catholic Church, not a CEO that can held be accountable following such a failure episode. Pope Benedict XVI, who also served as bishop and cardinal in the past, and appeared less than concerned for such complaints in the 1990s according to many accounts, should have had his share of responsibility, under the normal circumstances.
David Gibson, a papal biographer, who has been following Pope Benedict XVI since his years as a Cardinal stated in an interview recently that “popes don't resign.” It has never happened since the 14th century and there is no mechanism to put pressure on the pope currently, he concludes. That is why it is so panicking to the Vatican for these complaints to get closer to the Pope Benedict, himself.
The Vatican City is being ruled by elective monarchy. In this system the pope takes all the power which is combined with legislative, executive, and judicial forces. It is an absolute monarchy with no independent judiciary, and is certainly not a democracy. There is neither a strong branch to oversee the executive power, the pope, nor any other independent watchdog to open investigations by itself.
Not having independent judiciary, and other branches to oversee the executive power bring corruption, and it brings corruption everywhere in the world.
There are strong arguments over some of the constitutional changes that are put forward by the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, that they might also work to lessen the Constitutional Court's independence even further.
I think the Vatican can be a good example of different kind of corruption when the branches cannot monitor each other healthily. It is because how "God" wanted it to be, Vatican would argue, any criticism over their current absolute monarchy.
Not sure how the AKP would explain possible damages that would do to the independence of the judiciary with some of its constitutional changes.