“It Isn’t Prudent.”

The NYT does due diligence on the current Pope’s acquiescence in the monstrous crimes of Marcial Maciel for years and years and places John Paul II (rightly) at the center of the scandal. Longtime readers of the Dish will not learn much new from the piece but it’s a helpful, if understated, summary. In a strange way, if one assumes that JP2 was guilty primarily of staggering naivete and denial, Benedict’s record is the worst. It’s quite clear, for example, that he knew or suspected the gravity of the cult-leader’s crimes – the sex abuse, the polygamy, the incest, the secret vows, the vast sums of money used to prevent real investigation – and decided to punt on the question because of John Paul II’s dedication to the lucrative Legion and the power of Cardinal Sodano, who emerges as a figure as corrupt as any in the long history of ecclesiastical corruption:

In an interview, Father Athié said Bishop Talavera — who has since died — told him that [Cardinal Ratzinger] had read the letter (outlining the scale of Maciel’s criminality) and decided not to proceed with the case. “Ratzinger said it could not be opened because he was a person very beloved by the pope,” referring to Father Maciel, “and had done a lot of good for the church. He said as well, ‘I am very sorry, but it isn’t prudent,’ ” Father Athié said.

What you see here is something in front of our noses: the Pope decided not to act against a morphine-addicted, polygamous rapist of minors and his own children because the rapist was close to John Paul II. And instead of closing down a cult penetrated by this corruption to its core, he has just decided merely to give it a new head and leave much of its pre-existing leadership in place.

Why? Because the cult still manages to bring in new priests and is worth some $35 billion. When measured against rape and incest, the money and vocations are more important to Pope Benedict XVI. So too is the fact that the Legion backs the theology and orthodoxy of the Franco-Pinochet Catholic far right.

Whenever this Pope’s defenders claim he finally acted against Maciel, remember these things. And remember who else supported him almost to the very end – George Weigel (still routinely quoted in the NYT as if he is a disinterested party); Richard John Neuhaus; Mary Ann Glendon; Bill Bennett; and almost the entire theocon establishment.