As the latest Pope passes the five year milestone, rather than take the time to pardon the Beatles, he could do worse than reflect on advice from an American columnist

Incredibly funny American comedian Lewis Black has this skit about evolution triumphing over creationism, in which, true to the exaggerated delivery of Black he screams “it’s fossils stupid…it’s fossils…it’s fossils…fossils, I win”. (Check out Black riffing on fossils here).

Simple but effective, and on the fifth anniversary of this Pope getting his current job, it is a pity he has not taken the same straightforward approach to the criminal sex scandal that has rocked his Church and at this stage, will be the legacy of his papacy. “It’s criminal…it’s criminal…it’s criminal”.

 

Unfortunately the way he’s handling this tragic ‘skit’ he won’t win. Survive of course, but win? Nup. And no one will until the vast corporation that is the business side of the Catholic Church gets it.

It is time to account fully for the sins of the Fathers, and it is time those who committed the crimes and those who covered them up are before real, open and accountable courts. After all, it is not just the person who commits the crime but those who aid and abet who face possible time in the slammer.

For sure, some priestly abusers have met such fate. Yet as the bombs continue to detonate at the door of the Vatican they are being met with a pathetic mix of self-pity, self-denial and blame for the messengers. There is precious little credibility coming from Rome, but an extraordinary amount being demanded of Catholics who have been brought up to believe in the infallibility of the head of their Church who is God’s representative on earth. That’s the Pope.

It is little wonder a fifth of German Catholics are reporting they will leave the Church. The BBC this week interviewed a few of those prepared to walk the walk in protest, and in the Pope’s native country, that involves literally walking because they have to go through an official state-authorised deregistration. It doesn’t mean they are no longer believers, tested as their belief must be. It’s just they don’t want to belong to a club that rapes, or hides the rape, of little boys. Their club has let them down big time and is failing not only the abuse survivors, but the entire flock.

In the past week however, the Pope has found time to forgive the Beatles for their past excesses which according to the Vatican way back when, included drug taking, possible Satanic messages in their music, and declaring they were “bigger than Jesus”. The official Vatican rag, L’Osservatore Romano, has just pronounced that while the Fab Four were no saints, they were “by no means the worst-behaved of their generation”.

Cynical it may be, but it seems a bit of an amateur attempt at attention deflection for the front page of L’Osservatore to report the Pope himself has taken time to sanction the forgiveness of musicians, yet is still to offer a full explanation for the way church hierarchy dealt with priests, who unlike the Beatles, were the worst behaved of each of their generations.  The Abbey in question has never seriously been Abbey Road.

Once the most recent floodgates on this sex scandal opened it is a truth that the Vatican has stumbled from controversy to controversy, and lashed out at anyone who dared to call it to account.

Sure the Pope in Malta last week did meet with a group of eight (now) men who survived being abused, and from official accounts of that meeting the Pope apologized and cried. The Pope otherwise, however, seems to merely allude to the sex abuse, and uses the collective “we” in telling Christians to all repent for the sins the world is attacking them for.

A little point here – the world is not attacking all Christians.

Well maybe Christopher Hitchins and Richard Dawkins are attacking them – and doing so in the most deliberately provocative way – but last time I looked they are just very eloquent atheists, not ‘the world’.

And you know it is actually quite difficult to argue with their underlying points. World media is not focusing on the Catholic Church to discredit it. It is focusing on a legacy of abuse in which hundreds of thousands of innocent and vulnerable young boys and men have been defiled by predatory men who have paid for neither crime nor sin, and have even been enabled to continue on with such paedophilic behaviour in the interests of maintaining the reputation of the church.

Hitchens wants the Pope arrested and Dawkins wants him investigated for “criminal complicity”, and they won’t be alone in that because like it or not being of the Catholic cloth should not put any of the offenders above the law. They are focusing on the Pope because he did let the scandalous behaviour continue, but so too did the previous and apparently much loved Pope John Paul.

 

Hitchens and Dawkins are united in focusing on an upcoming visit of Pope Benedict to London where they want, respectively to challenge the Pope’s right to land there, and the sovereign state status of the Vatican. They are looking for actual implementation of international law. Good luck on both counts boys!

Throughout the extraordinary volume of media coverage given to this debacle – the blaming the media, the painting of the attack on the Pope as being like the Holocaust was to the Jews, the equating of pedophiles to homosexuals and any number of other ridiculous outbursts – there’s a point that often gets overshadowed, and it was made by a key target of the Vatican’s fury, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

The quick witted Ms Dowd questions why it is not now time for a ‘Nope’. By that she means a nun who is pope. Give the job to the women who have “historically cleaned up the messes of priests” she suggests. It was one of her many columns that came under fire from the woeful P.R. team protecting Benedict, but as she rightfully responded in another contribution, it was not the Devil who made her write about the “paternalistic and autocratic culture of Il Papa…that became a corrosive shelter for secrets and shame”. It was the facts that led her to call for “Habemus Mama”.

To borrow once again from Lewis Black…it’s the facts stupid…it’s the facts…the facts. Ms Dowd wins.

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