Vatican Wildfire Engulfs Pope

Commentators use phrases like “tsunami” and “wildfire” to describe the Catholic sex abuse and cover-up crisis that is engulfing Europe right now. While the imagery is somewhat helpful, it obscures the origins of the scandal. Thousands of lives were not devastated by some unforeseen and unstoppable natural phenomenon; they were permanently scarred as the result of decades of deliberate and ongoing secrecy, recklessness and deceit by the self-serving Catholic church hierarchy.

It is no surprise to the survivors of priest abuse that allegations of cover-up are now reaching the Pope. But we are surprised that the hierarchy did not clean up its act before now. A German priest exposed this week was convicted of molesting a young boy back in the 1980s but removed from his ministry just days ago. Considering how large the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising is (approximately 1000 priests) and how long (1977-1982) Archbishop Ratzinger–now Pope Benedict XVI–led that Archdiocese, it should be no surprise that a predator was knowingly transferred to a new assignment during his tenure. It is safe to expect that more will be uncovered about the Pope’s involvement there.

Many are looking to the Vatican for solutions. That, frankly, is silly. It is the secular authorities who have not acted and must act. Foxes never have, and never will, compassionately watch the chicken coop.

Any government’s first priority should be to identify all those in the Church who have and are abusing, and all the enablers who have and are concealing that information. German officials have announced that they will engage in a “round-table” with church authorities next month. We reject this as meaningless and distracting. Church officials should not have any hand in conducting the investigation into the crimes they have perpetrated and covered up.

Others in Germany are urging that the statute of limitations be reformed. We find this encouraging. But it is crucial that predators who walk free today, not just those who molest tomorrow, be exposed. The statute of limitations must be suspended immediately, so that those already hurt can “out” pedophiles, warn parents, protect kids, reveal truth and seek justice. Legal reform must start with “civil windows,” like the ones enacted in California and Delaware, which lift statutes of limitations right now. That enables victims to take action to stop future crimes by still-hidden child molesters, regardless of when their rapes and abuse occurred.

Finally, it’s noteworthy that church officials are talking about the current crisis in the past tense. Their implication is that all this is in the past. But evidence strongly suggests that little, if anything, in the church hierarchy has changed much. The only prudent assumption is that priests across Europe and the globe are molesting today, and that bishops are hiding the crimes.

The church’s first priority, however, should not be “repentance, healing and renewal,” as the Pope maintains:  Child safety comes first. Wounded adults can heal themselves, with or without the Pope’s help. Vulnerable kids, however, can’t protect themselves without the Pope’s help.

That help must involve action, not words. No apologies or explanations or letters or excuses or promises. So far, the Vatican has only talked, not acted. That must change.


  1. Nellie from Toronto says:

    Bravo Barbara Blaine and to all those who have been in the trenches of this battle for decades. This problem is not a new one and we have been hearing the Church’s blather for decades and have failed to see any real meaningful action. The problem showed its face in Canada decades ago and slowly but surely the problem has been uncovered in every country with a Catholic population. The Church always tries to pass this off as a “past” problem and any investigative reporter who looks very hard finds there are still priests who have been credibly accused in parishes. It will only be when the enablers are behind bars and the average catholic stops their financial support and the governments stop their tax breaks that any meaningful change will happen.

  2. The Vatican has begun an investigation. Know who they are investigating? American nuns…using Inquisition again as a distraction while the corrupt men continue their sexual abuse and cover ups. Among the questions that the American nuns are required to answer: “Do you accept the male leadership (authority) of the church?” Only a fool would continue to accept their leadership!

  3. Terik Ororke says:

    Well, go ahead and be indignant because you have a grudge or some other thing against the Catholic church –which certainly has its own problems. But remember this: 100 times more children are abused by teachers, coaches and the like -EVERY YEAR– and you seem unconcerned and just attack the church which is probably now the safest place for children. Being credibly accused means guilty? Since when? The question arises as to who appointed people like SNAP as saviors of the world –you might want to check their source of income.


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