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Popes, Politics, Power (and rape)

April 4, 2010

I’m not a religious person, at all. And I have always been very skeptical of any sort of groupthink, especially if it is designed to control the behavior of people and supports a large bureaucracy that will profit from their collective fear. If it happens to isolate and make “devils” out of anyone who thinks differently, well, that’s a nail in the cross for me. Whether it’s church, politics or unions, I’m weary. But when all of this combines to condone the systematic torture of children while protecting the torturers, I’ve really gotta ask if there is a place for such a thing in our world.

Obviously, I’m talking about the Catholic Church here. But I’m looking at it as more than a religious organization that I don’t belong to. I’m looking at it for what it is: A sovereign government whose highest leaders have allowed their officers to systematically abuse children all over the world. And the current Pope has been directly linked to the cover up of these abuses.

If he were the leader of a small South American country whose military leaders were raping villagers, we would be outraged. More than outraged, we would be doing something about it.

There would be sanctions. There might be military action. There would be trade restrictions. There would be United Nations meetings discussing how to stop the problems. There would be travel restrictions. There may even be warrants issued for the arrest of the known perpetrators as well as those who covered up the crime and therefore facilitated it.

There would not be non-profit tax status. There would not be a hands-off policy for law enforcement out of deference to their “religious expression” if that expression involved the condoned rape of children.

So what am I missing? I get the whole freedom of religion thing, really. But The Vatican is a country, the Pope is its (corrupt) leader and his officers are raping children around the world. I think this is a political issue and a human rights issue, not a religious one.

What is going on in the heads and hearts of all the Catholics around the world who are watching their church, the country of their very souls, be destroyed by the corruption and greed of those at the top?  Why are they not standing up and taking it back? Why are they still filling the pews and the coffers in support of a government that has spent more than $3 Billion of their money in awards and settlements to survivors of abuse?

I hate to pull out the old Hitler card here, but really. Hitler was bad – very bad. But the problem got as big as it did because millions of good people didn’t stand up to stop it.

And it seems a reasonable example, because the other day a leader from the Catholic Church referred to all this “petty gossip” as a persecution similar to what the Jews faced in the Holocaust. What? Okay, we can use this analogy if you want, but if we do, it’s the Catholic Church leaders who are the Nazis in this equation, as they are the ones rounding up innocent people and torturing them. Children, to be specific.

In the United States alone, estimates range from 16,000 to more than 250,000 children have been raped by Catholic Clergy. How did they get away with it for so long? Recent studies found that more than 2/3 of sitting US Bishops actively covered up abuse by reassigning abusive priests to new parishes.The rest of the parishioners? I don’t know what to say, are they an unwitting army? The accidental funders of torture? I don’t know, but I want someone to ask.

I know a lot of Catholics, and they are good people. But I can’t help but wonder why they aren’t starting a revolution to overthrow a corrupt government that is abusing their faith and their money – not to mention abusing countless children.

So, I get it if we aren’t allowed to mess with the religious practices of people. In fact, I support that, whole-heartedly. But, in our country, we are allowed to prosecute crimes against our citizens. And in international law, we are allowed to prosecute human rights abuses. So, if the sovereign government of the Vatican wants to send it’s army into our country to abuse our citizens, I’m thinking we’re allowed to greet that with both political sanctions and criminal prosecution. Just like we would if, I dunno, Idi Amin came to our shores and started killing people who didn’t agree with him.

Corrupt leader using fear and torture to gain and maintain power. What’s the difference? And what are we going to do about it?

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