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The Retiring Pope's Cover-up Goes Unreported

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It's puzzling that in news stories about Pope Benedict XVI being lavishly honored upon his abrupt, unforeseen retirement that The Hartford Courant and The New York Times, did not detail his cover up of sexual abuses within the church. Both newspapers' reporters and editors were repeatedly told that they failed to do so. However, they refused to publish letters to the editors on that subject or write their own detailed story about the Pope's whitewashes. Yet both papers had written about them in the past, years, well before the Pope's resignation.

On the other hand, The Huffington Post wrote a story about the retiring Pope Benedict's smoke screens, and even cited other publications that did so at this site:   click here

When I was a co-worker with Gerald Renner, then The Courant's religion writer, now deceased, Mr. Renner, and Jason Berry, another excellent reporter, then a Catholic publication journalist, wrote the original investigative story about a widespread sex scandal within the Catholic Church. Their February 1997 article, backed by months of inquiry, focused on multiple sexual abuses by the former powerful Legion of Christ founder, the Reverend Marcial Maciel Degollado, known as Father Maciel.

Their original article, as well as individual follow stories, and then a book, detailed the illegal and multiple sexual activities of Father Maciel with young male victims. It was later revealed Maciel fathered three children with two women. The Courant's first story identified the accusers' professions. "Those making the allegations include a priest, guidance counselor, professor, engineer and lawyer. Some of the men, now in their 50s and 60s, wept during the interviews. All said the events still haunt them," Mr. Renner's and Mr. Berry's article reveals.

Here is one of the Internet locations of that original and intimately detailed story: click here,0,7176951.story

Mr. Renner and Mr. Berry obtained a dozen sworn statements from Father Maciel's sexual abuse victims. As they worked, the Vatican obtained two lawyers, one in Hartford, the other in Chicago, to defend against the scandal. Nine of the victims were cited in The Courant's initial story. At the time, Maciel, a Mexican priest, was one of the most influential persons within the Vatican. He was founder of The Legion of Christ, composed of 600 priests, a reported 2,500 seminarians, a dozen major universities, and a network of elite schools. What's more, Maciel was a close confidant of the then Pope John Paul II who had high praise for his activities within the church.

Father Maciel's extracurricular sexual activities, as reported initially by The Courant and then other newspapers, became the subject of an intense preliminary investigation. It was conducted by a high-level Vatican agency known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now the retired Pope Benedict. But, nothing came of that Ratzinger-supervised investigation, because he dropped it within less than a year.

As time wore on, Pope John Paul died and Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict. Then, on May 24, 2005, when the complaints against Father Maciel continued to fester, Mr. Renner, in The Courant, quoted two other news services reporting that Pope Benedict, had dropped the investigation of Father Maciel entirely. The Rev. Ciro Benedettini, a Vatican spokesman, confirmed the outcome when quoted by The New York Times as saying, "There is no investigation now, and it is not foreseeable that there will be another investigation in the future.''

That inaction, wrote Mr. Renner, resulted despite the probe by a specifically assigned Vatican investigator. That investigator "conducted more than 30 witness interviews in the United States and Mexico, including seven of eight men who made accusations, as well as several others claiming abuse who had not publicly come forward before," Mr. Renner wrote. In the meantime, Father Maciel retired without any disciplinary action taken against him.

But, a year later, on May 21, 2006, Mr. Renner in The Courant reported that Maciel was finally in part disciplined by Benedict. The 86-year-old was prevented from giving lectures or interviews to the media and forced into inactivity.

However, it wasn't until March 2009, 14 months after the death of Father Maciel, that Pope Benedict ordered a final review that found Maciel was correctly implicated in multiple illicit sexual behaviors. The Vatican formally denounced the Rev. Maciel for creating a "system of power" that enabled him to lead an "immoral" double life "devoid of scruples and authentic religious sentiment" and allowed him to abuse young boys for decades unchecked, says Wikipedia.

So here we have a Pope who almost unprecedentedly retires suddenly, with only hints of why he did so in The Courant and The Times, both of which had the scandal's details years earlier in their archives. Of course, other news stories did mention all the Cardinals and other Catholic supervisors who covered up scores of priests' sexual abuses below them. That activity that needed to be addressed by Benedict, but wasn't in any across the board effective action. Meanwhile, all sorts of media stories discussed scandals that happened below Pope Benedict, including Cardinals failing to discipline priests for sexual abuse of minors. Indeed, even the Pope showed this exact same inability with Father Maciel.

Could it be that Pope Benedict had any influence at all in selection of the next Pope by Cardinals that he and Pope John Paul appointed? Many will hope not, because what is now needed is a new Pope with investigative, law enforcement and sexual abuse rehabilitative knowledge! Better yet, give one of the church's dedicated Nuns, with a reputation of unquestioned integrity, the overriding power to supervise investigations and discipline offenders within the Catholic Church! Neither the Cardinals nor the last two Popes have been capable of consistently disciplining sexual predators.

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Thomas D. Williams, a freelance writer, worked at The Hartford Courant for almost 40 years before retiring in November 2005 to become an investigative freelancer on Internet news sites. He has written a unique nature book, The Spirits of Birds, (more...)
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