Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Pope goes to America

Gordon Brown must be furious (as, by all accounts, he usually is these days) because whoever organised his visit to the US - ‘one of the most important of his premiership’ - failed to take account of the fact that it clashes with that of His Holiness, and the dour puritanism of the Scottish Presbyterian will be completely upstaged by the majesty and splendour of the Bavarian Catholic. So all the column inches and all television footage are dedicated to matters papal, not only because the Pope is more photogenic, but also because he is infinitely more interesting than the Prime Minister.

The most unfortunate diary clash comes on Friday. While Mr Brown is delivering his keynote speech on foreign policy - calling for the reshaping of the UN – Herr Ratzinger will be addressing that very body. Mr Brown’s criticisms will be somewhat overshadowed by papal blessings, as the Pope is the only religious leader on the planet who is permitted to address the UN General Assembly. He is, after all, the head of a foreign state with which the United States maintains diplomatic relations. Vatican City may be small, but the implications of its foreign policy are sometimes very large indeed. His Holiness will doubtless echo the theme of his predecessor Pope Paul VI who in the first papal address in 1965 called the organisation ‘a bridge between peoples’ – an interesting echo of his own role as ‘Pontifex Maximus’.

Doubtless he will also be talking a lot of good – the plight of Hispanic immigrants, leading prayers at Ground Zero, challenging President Bush on the Iraq war and capital punishment, and affirming him in his opposition to abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research. But there is also the unavoidable reality that in recent year the US Roman Catholic Church, which has around 65 million followers, has paid $2 billion to settle clergy sexual abuse cases.

The Pope told reporters on board his plane that he was ‘deeply ashamed’ of sexual abuse by US clergy, and he has vowed to work against a recurrence, assuring the faithful that he will ‘absolutely exclude paedophiles from the sacred ministry’. He added: ‘It is more important to have good priests than many priests. We will do everything possible to heal this wound.’

Except, it seems, agreeing to meet some victims of clerical abuse and their families.

And except, it seems, explaining why the Vatican continues to shelter Cardinal Bernard Law, former head of the Archdiocese of Boston, who, according to Christopher Hitchens, ‘was not only aware of egregious sexual misconduct among his subordinates but was apparently engaged in elaborate efforts to cover up incident after incident of child rape.

‘To be specific, the cardinal admitted in a deposition that he knew that the Rev. John Geoghan had raped at least seven boys in 1984 before he approved Geoghan's transfer to another parish where other boys were at risk. Further disclosures revealed that the Rev. Paul Shanley, who at one point was facing trial for 10 counts of child rape and six counts of indecent assault and battery, had been moved from ministry to ministry in what amounted to an attempt to protect him. Law himself lied to a West Coast bishop about Shanley's history and certified in writing that another rapist priest, the Rev. Redmond Raux, had "nothing in his background" to make him "unsuitable to work with children.’

If His Holiness were really prepared to do ‘everything possible’ to heal this appalling wound, he would not only remove Cardinal Law from his Vatican sinecure, he would also remove his cardinal’s hat. As Mr Hitchens states:

‘I think that we are entitled to hear, as the vicar of Christ and holder of the Keys of Peter favors us with his presence, whether he regards his brother Bernard Law as an honored guest in the holy city or as someone who has been given asylum. And even if we cannot get a satisfactory answer, it is essential that we hear the question. Will the press do its job, and will our elected representatives remember their responsibilities to so many thousands of tortured and exploited children? Some of us will be watching and keeping an account.’

Perhaps at this point, His Holiness will be praying that Mr Brown might steal the limelight.

It is reported that His Holiness, 'in a dramatic surprise', has privately met with victims of sexual abuse by priests, consoling them and promising them his prayers.

The 25-minute meeting, believed to be the first time a pope had met victims of such sexual abuse, was held in the Vatican Embassy chapel and kept secret until after it was over.

"They prayed with the Holy Father, who afterward listened to their personal accounts and offered them words of encouragement and hope," a Vatican statement said of the abuse victims. "His holiness assured them of his prayers for their intentions, for their families and for all victims of sexual abuse."


OpenID curly15 said...

One might have thought that his Foreign Secretary would have advised against a visit right now, and at least arranged with our Washington Embassy a full gamut of press opportunities for the hapless PM.

I don't suppose this administrative hiccup has anything to do with Miliband being touted as a future Labour lreader again!

16 April 2008 at 11:13  
Anonymous The Heresiarch said...

So all the column inches and all television footage are dedicated to matters papal, not only because the Pope is more photogenic, but also because he is infinitely more interesting than the Prime Minister.

Better shoes, too.

16 April 2008 at 11:21  
Anonymous oiznop said...

This is HUGE PR disaster for Brown, and a national embarrassment. It makes him look like the obscure leader of a tinpot country which rigs elections and oppresses its people.

O, hang on...

16 April 2008 at 11:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good to see the most powerful man in the world (Bush) bow the knee to the pope.
Roll on the new inquisition.

16 April 2008 at 13:22  
Anonymous silas marner said...

"Doubtless he will also be talking a lot of good – the plight of Hispanic immigrants..."

Doubtless he will be encouraging the US to grant summary amnesty to those who have trespassed into the United States. If he really cared about the Mexican nationals, the Pope would work to root out the corruption that is driving them from their homeland. Instead, I expect he will wag his erstwhile Hitler Youth finger at that majority of Americans who insist on the rule of law.

Do we really deserve to be lectured on matters of immigration/integration by a member of the Hitler Youth?

16 April 2008 at 14:16  
Anonymous Voyager said...

In 1962 The Vatican issued an injunction to Bishops to screen candidates for seminaris carefully. the US Bishops full of 1960s hippie values did not and seem to have allowed a cohort of pederast priests loose in greater numbers than in the past.

Surely as the Lambeth Conference looms The Bearded One and his very unwise companions could reflect upon the nature of those words in the XXXIX Articles and obviate the need to liquidate Church assets in future court cases - learning a lesson from US venality in not being diligent in screening applicants for the priesthood

16 April 2008 at 15:02  
Anonymous Anonymous said... bed with the devil incarnate Hitchens? Tut, tut...

16 April 2008 at 21:51  
Anonymous Daniel said...

Well, you can say what you like about Brown, but at least he doesn't protect Paedophiles - a true Catholic morality tale, that one.

16 April 2008 at 23:43  
Anonymous hear o israel said...

your grace
your last sentence appears prophetic.

i do not understand catholicism enough to know why a cardinal cannot lose his position or retire .

i assume he was told things in good faith is the defence

16 April 2008 at 23:53  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Silas Maner

No one is making you watch the Pope turn your tv off. The pope was force into the Hitler youth with many other youths during this time maybe you should read your history books. Americans are the worst when it comes to History most of them don't even know who was the first president of the United States.

18 April 2008 at 03:13  
Anonymous Pulius Lentulus said...

Your Comment,

"....the Pope is more photogenic, but also because he is infinitely more interesting than the Prime Minister."

is a stroke of lierary genius, your grace...

I am seeking ordination could I be your Archdeacon?

Oh and
"...remove Cardinal Law from his Vatican sinecure,...."

another wicked stroke... Well done your Grace well done.

One more thing your Grace, acording to canon law you could Publicly Censure Cnd. Law, and this would lead to an ecclisiastical court before his peers then he could be formaly repremanded... all it would take is one Priest to file a Censure with his Diocean Bishop to get the 'ball rolling', his office would then be filled by his Curate (if he has one) until a suitable replacemant was found.

Your Grace as a faithful steward of your word, and recognizing the authority of the Saints of God you hold thru Apostolic Sucession, it is my pleasure to give you the 'link' to the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law in our most beloved tounge, English.

By your leave of course.

19 April 2008 at 14:11  

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