Friday, March 19, 2010

Küng on Ratzinger

Ratzinger's Responsibility
National Catholic Reporter, March 18, 2010


'Scandalous wrongs cannot be glossed over, we need a change of attitude'
By Hans Küng

After Archbishop Robert Zollitsch's recent papal audience, he spoke of
Pope Benedict's "great shock" and "profound agitation" over the many
cases of abuse which are coming to light. Zollitsch, archbishop of
Freiburg, Germany, and the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference,
asked pardon of the victims and spoke again about the measures that
have already been taken or will soon be taken. But neither he nor the
pope have addressed the real question that can no longer be put aside.

According to the latest Emnid-poll, only 10 percent of those
interviewed in Germany believe that the church is doing enough in
dealing with this scandal; on the contrary, 86 percent charge the
church's leadership with insufficient willingness to come to grips
with the problem. The bishops' denial that there is any connection
between the celibacy rule and the abuse problem can only confirm their

1st Question: Why does the pope continue to assert that what he calls
"holy" celibacy is a "precious gift", thus ignoring the biblical
teaching that explicitly permits and even encourages marriage for all
office holders in the Church? Celibacy is not "holy"; it is not even
"fortunate"; it is "unfortunate", for it excludes many perfectly good
candidates from the priesthood and forces numerous priests out of
their office, simply because they want to marry. The rule of celibacy
is not a truth of faith, but a church law going back to the 11th
Century; it should have been abolished already in the 16th Century,
when it was trenchantly criticized by the Reformers.

Honesty demands that the pope, at the very least, promise to rethink
this rule -- something the vast majority of the clergy and laity have
wanted for a long time now. Both Alois Glück, the president of the
Central Committee of the German Catholics and Hans-Jochen Jaschke,
auxiliary bishop of Hamburg, have called for a less uptight attitude
towards sexuality and for the coexistence of celibate and married
priests in the church

2nd Question: Is it true, as Archbishop Zollitsch insists, that "all
the experts" agree that abuse of minors by clergymen and the celibacy
rule have nothing to do with each other? How can he claim to know the
opinions of "all the experts"? In fact, there are numerous
psychotherapists and psychoanalysts who see a connection here. The
celibacy law obliges the priest to abstain from all forms of sexual
activity, though their sexual impulses remain virulent, and thus the
danger exists that these impulses might be shifted into a taboo zone
and compensated for in abnormal ways.

Honesty demands that we take the correlation between abuse and
celibacy seriously. The American psychotherapist Richard Sipe has
clearly demonstrated, on the basis of a 25 year study published in
2004 under the title Knowledge of sexual activity and abuse within the
clerical system of the Roman Catholic church, that the celibate way of
life can indeed reinforce pedophile tendencies, especially when the
socialization leading to it, i.e. adolescence and young adulthood
spent in minor and major seminary cut off from the normal experiences
of their peer groups, is taken into account. In his study, Sipe found
retarded psycho-sexual development occurring more frequently in
celibate clerics than in the average population. And often, such
deficits in psychological development and sexual tendencies only
become evident after ordination.

3rd Question: Instead of merely asking pardon of the victims of abuse,
should not the bishops at last admit their own share of blame? For
decades, they have not only tabooed the celibacy issue but also
systematically covered up cases of abuse with the mantle of strictest
secrecy, doing little more than re-assigning the perpetrators to new
ministries. In a statement of March 16, Bishop Ackermann of Trier,
special delegate of the German Bischops' Conference for sexual abuse
cases, publically acknowledged the existence of such a cover-up, but
characteristically he put the blame not on the church as institution,
but rather on the individual perpetrators and the false considerations
of their superiors. Protection of their priests and the reputation of
the church was evidently more important to the bishops than protection
of minors. Thus, there is an important difference between the
individual cases of abuse surfacing in schools outside the Catholic
church and the systematic and correspondingly more frequent cases of
abuse within the Catholic church, where, now as before, an uptight,
rigoristic sexual morality prevails, that finds its culmination in the
law of celibacy.

Honesty demands that the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference
should have clearly and definitively announced, that, in the future,
the hierarchy will cease to deal with cases of criminal acts committed
by those in the service of the church by circumventing the state
system of justice. Can it be that the hierarchy here in Germany will
only wake up when it is confronted with demands for reparation
payments in terms of millions of dollars? In the United States, the
Catholic church had to pay some $1.3 billion alone in 2006; in
Ireland, the government helped the religious orders set up a
compensation fund with a ruinous sum of $2.8 billion. Such sums say
much more about the dimensions of the problem than the pooh-poohing
statistics about the small percentage of celibate clergy among the
general population of abusers.

4th Question: Is it not time for Pope Benedict XVI himself to
acknowledge his share of responsibility, instead of whining about a
campaign against his person? No other person in the Church has had to
deal with so many cases of abuse crossing his desk. Here some

* In his eight years as a professor of theology in Regensburg, in
close contact with his brother Georg, the capellmeister of the
Regensburger Domspatzen, Ratzinger can hardly have been ignorant about
what went on in the choir and its boarding--school. This was much more
than an occasional slap in the face, there are charges of serious
physical violence and even sexual abuse.

* In his five years as Archbishop of Munich, repeated cases of
sexual abuse at least by one priest transferred to his Archdiocese
have come to light. His loyal Vicar General, my classmate Gerhard
Gruber, has taken full responsibility for the handling of this case,
but that is hardly an excuse for the Archbishop, who is ultimately
responsible for the administration of his diocese.

* In his 24 years as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine
of the Faith, from around the world, all cases of grave sexual
offences by clerics had to be reported, under strictest secrecy
("secretum pontificum"), to his curial office, which was exclusively
responsible for dealing with them. Ratzinger himself, in a letter on
"grave sexual crimes" addressed to all the bishops under the date of
18 May, 2001, warned the bishops, under threat of ecclesiastical
punishment, to observe "papal secrecy" in such cases.

* In his five years as Pope, Benedict XVI has done nothing to
change this practice with all its fateful consequences.

Honesty demands that Joseph Ratzinger himself, the man who for decades
has been principally responsible for the worldwide cover-up, at last
pronounce his own "mea culpa". As Bishop Tebartz van Elst of Limburg,
in a radio address on March 14, put it: "Scandalous wrongs cannot be
glossed over or tolerated, we need a change of attitude that makes
room for the truth. Conversion and repentance begin when guilt is
openly admitted, when contrition1 is expressed in deeds and manifested
as such, when responsibility is taken, and the chance for a new
beginning is seized upon."

[Fr. Hans Küng is a theologian and author of many books, including
Does God Exist: An Answer for Today and Infallible?: An Inquiry.]