The Vatican is in a tough spot. When news broke over a month ago that Irish Cardinal Sean Brady admitted to taking part in a secret tribunal to make rape victims take an oath of secrecy, the Vatican had enough to deal with. Then, things got worse. Reports arose detailing the cover-up of Rev. Peter Hullermann's abuse of children in Germany. This abuse came to the attention of church authorities in 1980 when Joseph Ratzinger, then archbishop of Munich and current pope, was in charge of Hullermann's area.
Never before has such condemning evidence found a pope personally responsible. America saw a far-reaching scandal in the 1990s and Europe is now undergoing the same event. Each week new cases are being brought forth. The most shocking thing about each case is that they all have the same thing in common: evidence of a concerted effort by church authorities to protect the rapists from secular law. In Ireland, details about police involvement in those cover-ups makes the situation worse. The Vatican is increasingly finding itself between a rock and a hard place, and they are actively trying to ensure that the metaphorical walls don't become the walls of a prison cell.
Prison, however, is exactly what people who rape children deserve. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church's practice of confidentiality means investigation into these cases is difficult. But why is confidentiality protected? In certain cases ensuring that what a person reports will be kept confidential is important. In medicine, for instance, it is understood that the files of patients will not be made available to those outside of the medical profession, because that information is potentially damaging. But what about confessions to crimes?
Confessionals are meant to be kept to the confessor, the priest and supposedly God. For the church the logic is clear: God will deal with the sins that people commit; the laws of nations are of less importance. For those who are suspicious of God's inviolable sense of justice, there are reasons to doubt the morality of keeping confessions private. For one thing, in spite of what the religious think, laws do apply to clergy. It is no excuse to claim that one's religious beliefs absolve one from obeying secular laws. If it were, sharia law would be permitted. Another reason is that the potential to conceal atrocious acts, like the sodomizing of young boys, is much higher if legal immunity is provided to religious leaders.
The reaction from the Vatican is predictable. They are waging the public relations battle to save the respect of their institution, which is growing weaker each day. The pope's personal preacher was stupid enough to claim, with the pope sitting nearby, that attacks on the Catholic Church are equivalent to the collective violence toward Jews. (This statement took place on Good Friday, a day that for centuries was used by Christians to place the responsibility of Christ's death on the Jews.) The evidence suggests that the church is beginning to feel its loss of power -- we should all be grateful. The church has lost its ability to coerce believers. In the same way that miracles no longer occur, the church has lost its claim to moral integrity, because all of its reasons are unsatisfactory. The church never had moral integrity, but only now is this being recognized.
It is wrong, each and every time, to conceal the abuse of children. It is made worse when the abusers are those who claim to have the moral high ground. Worst of all is the claim that one man on Earth is God's infallible representative. That man and many others have been found out, and it is time that they all be brought to justice.