Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Crying Shame

John and I were spellbound for 83 minutes last night as Frontline aired its investigative report "Secrets of the Vatican."

Everyone should watch it before putting any more money into the basket passed during a Catholic mass.  You can watch it online or read the text or buy the DVD.

Saddest were the personal testimonies of Monica Barrett and of the son of Marcial Maciel, head of the Legionaries of Christ, a group soliciting donations from wealthy conservative Catholics.

Raul Gonzales finally broke down as he described how his father sexually abused him and his brother when they were ten years old and younger.

Frontline then cuts to scenes of Pope John Paul II praising and hugging Maciel for his service to the church, years after his victims had filed reports with the Vatican.

Monica Barrett narrated her bloody rape by a priest when she was eight years old.  He told her, "If you tell anybody, your parents will burn in hell."  

The priest was eventually convicted and imprisoned for assaulting another child, but the diocese of Milwaukee sued Barrett for $14,000 to recover its legal expenses.  It challenged the $30 million it was ordered to pay in settlement of hundreds of cases.

The diocese of Milwaukee was simply following procedures laid down in Rome, according to Jeff Anderson, attorney for Barrett and others abused by priests in that part of Wisconsin.

Reports on Vatican bank's illegal, secretive transactions were also hellish, so far from Jesus's hopes when he told Peter, "...on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).  

When Benedict XVI resigned "for health reasons," the first pope to do so in six hundred years, there was clearly more to the story.  Frontline has done us all a service by researching the extent of the problems facing the Pope.

Whether Pope Francis, the outsider, can actually reform the complex network of influence and intrigue financial and moral, remains to be seen.  But at least he's trying.

My recommendation: don't write a check to a Catholic school, college, hospital, or church until the church confesses its sins and significantly changes course--such as, for example, ordaining women.

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