Saturday, April 23, 2005


In ecclesia Romae nolite quaerere, nolite dicere1

The policy of the American military toward its legions of gay people, known as "Don't ask, don't tell," has become a model of sorts for other institutions. The Republican Party has adopted it, and now it appears that the Roman Catholic Church has followed suit.

Well, why not? It is hypocrisy codified.

Last August I wrote of the Republicans,

... they actually don't give a damn whether someone is gay. It is the agenda that matters to them, and sexual politics is only one of their many "wedge" issues, which they exploit at their convenience.

It now appears that the same may be said of the Roman Church, or at least of its new Pope, who pretty much sets the agenda.

Benedict XVI had no sooner donned his triple tiara than a Vatican cardinal was denouncing a law passed in Spain's lower house of Parliament that would legalize gay marriage and adoption.

According to the BBC,

The head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council on the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, denounced the legislation as profoundly iniquitous.

Interviewed in the Italian newspaper, Corriere de la Sera, Cardinal Lopez Trujillo said the Church was making an urgent call for freedom of conscience for Roman Catholics and appealing to them to resist the law.

He said every profession linked with implementing homosexual marriages should oppose it, even if it meant losing their jobs.

So however much the Church, and more particularly Cardinal Ratzinger, may have failed to denounce Hitler, they will now make it up by denouncing homosexuals—a Hitlerian act in itself—and even counsel civil disobedience.

But at the very moment the Vatican was trying to incite Spanish Catholics to action, Britain's Independent (possibly on a tip from the head of a rival English church) was publicizing a shocking claim about the newly minted Pope.

Pope Benedict XVI has been accused of ignoring for seven years charges that Fr Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, had sexually abused nine teenagers in his organisation - because Fr Maciel was a close friend of Pope John Paul II.

In 1997 the then Cardinal Ratzinger was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican body which has the power to excommunicate priests guilty of sexual abuse, when Bishop John R McCann of New York forwarded him detailed charges of sexual abuse made by Fr Juan Vaca, a priest in Bishop McCann's diocese. The charges were in the form of a 12-page letter to Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, who founded the Legionaries of Christ, a conservative Catholic evangelical order, in Mexico in 1941.

"Everything you did contradicts the beliefs of the Church and the order," Fr Vaca wrote in his open letter. "How many innumerable times did you wake me in the middle of the night and had me with you, abusing my innocence. Nights of fear, so many nights of absolute fear: so many nights of lost sleep, that on more than one occasion placed my own psychological health in jeopardy."

Fr Vaca was one of nine former members of Legionaries of Christ who charged Fr Maciel with having sexually abused them when they were teenage seminarians in the order in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. The accusers included three professors, a teacher, a lawyer and an engineer as well as the priest.

Another priest and former member of the Legionaries, Juan Manuel Fernandez Armenabar, made a deathbed declaration denouncing Fr Maciel's sexual abuse. But despite the gravity of the charges, Cardinal Ratzinger took no action. The Vatican confirmed that it had received Fr Vaca's letter, but nothing more was said.

When Cardinal Ratzinger was asked about the accusations he brushed the questions aside. On one occasion he literally slapped the wrist of an American television reporter, Brian Ross, who had the temerity to raise the issue. On another occasion Cardinal Ratzinger said: "One can't put on trial such a close friend of the Pope's as Marcial Maciel."

Such an indulgent attitude to the alleged homosexual crimes of a senior priest - who had been appointed grand chancellor of Regina Apostolorum, a new, richly endowed pontifical college on the outskirts of Rome - contrasts with Pope Benedict's attitude to the Church's admitted homosexuals. Cardinal Ratzinger was relentless in his condemnation of liberal clerics who offered outreach to Catholic homosexuals or tried to moderate the harshness of the Church's view of a sexual proclivity that Cardinal Ratzinger defined as "an intrinsic moral evil". He banned practising homosexuals from receiving Mass and halted stealthy efforts by gays within the Church to change church teaching.

In December last year, seven years after the charges were filed against Fr Maciel, the Vatican announced that it would investigate them. A month later, Fr Maciel stepped down as leader of the Legionaries of Christ.

This week the spokesman for the eight men still alive said he thought the Church's change of heart was a way for Cardinal Ratzinger to improve his chances of becoming Pope. Jose Barba, a professor of Latin America studies, told Reuters in Mexico: "It would have been very embarrassing for the cardinal to turn up at the conclave with the reputation of someone who had covered up a scandal."

Professor Barba added: "Was Cardinal Ratzinger totally and solely responsible [for the failure to investigate]? I think that to a great extent he was because it was his department."

All this goes a long way toward explaining why Cardinal Bernard Law could play such a prominent role in the previous Pope's funerary festivities. As we know from the Holocaust, looking the other way is no crime in the Roman Catholic Church, much less a sin.

Related post
The Republican party's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy (updated) (8/31/04)


1 In the church of Rome, don't ask, don't tell. [back]

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