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Sins of the Fathers

First there were the black and white smoke signals from the Vatican; then a bloke in a posh frock on the balcony announced in Latin (because these things have to be communicated in ways otherwise unused in the modern world) ‘Habemus papam’ which, roughly translated, means ‘We’ve got a new one.’ And out stepped the new Pope and asked the crowd of nuns and tourists, all weeping with joy because they’d got a new one, to pray for him.

He’ll need more than prayers to deal with all the stories of abuse, blackmail, bullying, gay rent boys and other dirty deeds in the Vatican, and in the Catholic Church generally, that beset the previous Pope’s last days in the job.

After deflecting the world’s attention from the widespread abuse of children in the Church, his job will be to deliberate on God’s latest thoughts on such things as abortion, celibacy, sin, sex, sodomy and contraception (or, when involving the priesthood, any combination of these).

But while the cardinals were still weighing each other up for the job, an organisation named SNAP (Survivors Network of Abuse by Priests) had come up with a list of a ‘Dirty Dozen’ candidates who, they say, because of their failure to deal with the problem, should not become Pope, or even be involved in the selection process. Their website (www.snapnetwork.org) makes interesting reading.

The new Pope Francis was not on the list. But one who was got singled out for his ‘complete and utter failure’ to act against paedophile priests, allowing them to ‘act like wolves in a flock of sheep.’ And in a legal case, the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to a $10 million pay-out to settle four cases of sexual abuse by a former priest. But ‘as part of this settlement, no parties admit any wrongdoing,’ reported the BBC news website. Perhaps those concerned will go to confession to get it off their chests.

SNAP points out that although most of the abuse allegations and revelations have so far come from Europe and America, where the media and investigative systems are fairly robust, Africa and Asia also have huge Catholic populations. It doesn’t help, they say, that one of the cardinals from Africa claimed: ‘We don’t have that problem here because we don’t have homosexuality.’

How seriously they took SNAP’s concerns may be judged by a Vatican spokesman’s reply that they were ‘well aware’ of the accusations, but ‘it is not up to advocacy groups to determine who should participate or not in the conclave.’

And it’s not only the abuse of minors that diverted attention from the Pope vote. While the sexual preferences and peccadilloes of priests that include other consenting adults are, of course, their own business, they can’t get away with damning a particular practice as evil and then secretly practicing it themselves, especially when the subjects of their attentions are not the same way inclined.

One archbishop who could always be relied on to thunder out the Church’s condemnation on what he saw as immorality was Cardinal Keith O’Brien. His views on such issues as same-sex marriage: ‘a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right,’ on homosexuality: a matter of being ‘morally disordered,’ on the abortion rate: ‘two Dunblane massacres every day,’ on the human fertilisation and embryology bill: ‘grotesque’ and akin to ‘Nazi-style experiments,’ won him the title of ‘Bigot of the Year’ from the gay rights charity Stonewall.

But the Cardinal became an ex-Cardinal when news of his unwanted ‘sexual misconduct’ towards three priests and a former priest hit the headlines. Despite initial denials and reports that he ‘contests these claims and is taking legal advice,’ within a few days he announced: ‘I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest.’

Actually, his standards were pretty much what we have come to expect from the Catholic Church. Especially the blatant hypocrisy.      

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