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The Ex-Pope and the Holiness Myth

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by West Midlands Police

So now Pope Benedict XVI has retired, and the cardinals will be choosing a new leader.

Meanwhile, sentimental Catholics and others have been praising the now-former pontiff. They call him a holy man. However, in looking back through his record, I see much that is downright unholy.

Perhaps most obvious is his role in the cover-up of clergy sex abuse.

Back in 2001, when we still knew him as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the British press leaked a confidential letter from Ratzinger to all Catholic bishops ordering that "the church's investigations into child sex abuse claims be carried out in secret," and asserting "the church's right to hold its inquiries behind closed doors and keep the evidence confidential for up to 10 years after the victims reached adulthood." In other words, keep it all under wraps until the statutes of limitations expire. How "holy" is that?

In 2002, he discounted the whole issue, referring to the media coverage of clergy sex abuse as a plot to discredit the Church. How "holy" is that?

In 2005, after he had assumed the papal throne, he asked then-President George W. Bush to grant him immunity from prosecution for covering up clergy sex abuse allegations in a Texas diocese. (Bush complied.) How "holy" is that?

Priests who molested children were not disciplined, fired, and turned over to the appropriate legal authorities. Instead, they were transferred to other parishes, where they were free to molest a whole new crop of young people. Victims were told to remain silent under threat of excommunication or hellfire. How "holy" is that?

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Child sexual abuse is a crime, and Benedict knows it. Covering up a crime is also a crime in itself. But, instead of being held accountable, the former pope is praised as a holy man. Meanwhile, the victims of clergy sex abuse are left to suffer emotionally for the rest of their lives. How "holy" is that?

And then there is this ex-pope's reckless stance on condom use, which could result in unnecessary illness and death.

During a visit to Africa in 2009, Benedict said that condoms are not the answer to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In fact, he said condom use "increases the problem." This reminds me of the Catholic church of four centuries ago, which persecuted Galileo for his belief that the earth revolves around the sun. He apparently won't let science get in the way of his outdated ideology. How "holy" is that?

Fortunately, most practicing Catholics I know tend to reject the nonsense and embrace only the components of the religion that work for them and for the greater good. They use condoms and birth control pills. This former pope would probably call them sinners. But I think they're a lot holier than he is. They are, after all, taking responsibility for their actions.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)

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The more one looks at this ancient institutional b... by R. A. Landbeck on Sunday, Mar 3, 2013 at 2:38:17 PM
The idea that any person is infallible is ridiculo... by Lester Shepherd on Sunday, Mar 3, 2013 at 3:38:39 PM
"Emotion falls first" says Yogananda. "And reason ... by Theresa Paulfranz on Sunday, Mar 3, 2013 at 3:46:45 PM
What happens when an altar boy gets raped? The big... by Theresa Paulfranz on Sunday, Mar 3, 2013 at 4:17:31 PM
  When adults violate children other adu... by Theresa Paulfranz on Monday, Mar 4, 2013 at 3:19:57 PM
  When we pass judgement in a courtroom ... by Theresa Paulfranz on Monday, Mar 4, 2013 at 3:22:30 PM
Everything you say is convincing, except the part ... by Hannah Samuel on Sunday, Mar 3, 2013 at 5:42:58 PM
Although cleverly stated, your remarks reek of the... by Leftcoast7 on Monday, Mar 4, 2013 at 7:12:01 PM
There is a special place for this man in the after... by Patricia Gray on Sunday, Mar 3, 2013 at 7:43:07 PM
in heaven and hell...would they still be molesting... by dorothy przystas on Sunday, Mar 3, 2013 at 11:37:49 PM
he so believes in the afterlife he had to ride thr... by Michael Shaw on Monday, Mar 4, 2013 at 1:00:21 AM
I never said Himmler was a papal knight. I said hi... by Michael Shaw on Monday, Mar 4, 2013 at 9:39:37 PM
I was around then too. Pope Pius XII and the Holo... by Michael Shaw on Monday, Mar 4, 2013 at 9:46:59 PM
Great article, Mary! The photo of the pope kissin... by Kay Goodnow on Monday, Mar 4, 2013 at 1:14:18 AM
I think the number of people molested by Catholic ... by eesabi on Monday, Mar 4, 2013 at 4:42:27 PM
No! People need to remember the facts to make soun... by Michael Shaw on Monday, Mar 4, 2013 at 9:58:27 PM
" I never tell others what they should or should n... by Theresa Paulfranz on Monday, Mar 4, 2013 at 3:40:23 PM
Thank you, Mary.... by Denny Chericone on Monday, Mar 4, 2013 at 2:46:56 PM
The pope's church supplies priests and bishops to ... by Richard Pietrasz on Monday, Mar 4, 2013 at 5:45:36 PM