Michael Moynihan chats with Alex Gibney about his new documentary on the Catholic sex abuse scandal. Gibney thinks the Church’s celibacy requirement played a role:
What’s peculiar about the Roman Catholic Church is that at the heart of its doctrine is a lie—the lie of forced celibacy. One of the former priests … did a study for the church to try to understand the sex lives of priests and found that over 50 percent of priests, that he could ascertain, were not observing celibacy. So that leads to a system of secrecy and blackmail, a kind of protective quality, with anything that has to do with sexuality. So as a result, I think that predators intuitively or instinctively sought out an environment like that.
In another interview with Scott Horton, Gibney notes that Cardinal Dolan is also neck-deep in this corrupt web:
Horton: Weakland was succeeded by Timothy Dolan, who led the church’s efforts to address the problem in the Milwaukee archdiocese. He has since emerged as the church’s leading spokesman in the United States. Dolan claims to have “cleaned up” the problems in Milwaukee. Is that a fair characterization?
Gibney: No. What Dolan did was try to protect the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by taking money off its books to avoid paying abuse claims.
According to an article in the New York Times, $75 million “disappeared from the church’s investments in 2005.” Then, in 2007, Dolan moved $55 million of church funds to a cemetery trust. Dolan has claimed that he did this merely to make sure that the gravestones were properly cared for. At that price, one could assign a personal valet to every stone.
In the film, we focus on the pristine headstone of Father Murphy. Even in death, he is treated better than the survivors of his abuse.
Gibney’s view of the Pope talking to Moynihan:
I don’t see Ratzinger as a monster. I see him as a deeply flawed human being who aided and abetted criminality. I think he is offended by men who abuse their power by abusing children. He says he is disgusted by [the abuse], and I believe him. But he lives within this institution, with this group of men who exist between mortals and the angels, and he favors protecting the institution to protecting the children. That to me is his great crime. It makes him weak, and, ultimately, I think it makes him a criminal.
Me too. He has indeed instituted new guidelines and protocols and protections for children – finally. He has not been as negligent as Pope John Paul II, who refused to see evil in Maciel because the money was so good, and the theology so reactionary. What I cannot get my head around is Benedict’s profession of “shock” at these incidents in his first statements, when we know he personally authorized the transfer of a child-rapist as Archbishop in Munich and had been in charge of all the cases of sex abuse in the entire world since 2001. And he was shocked! Like Bush by Abu Ghraib!
One wonders: Can he grasp the enormity of what has happened? Does his own veneration of the priesthood and lifetime of being obeyed without question render him incapable of seeing things from the side of a raped child who has struggled to achieve some kind of sanity and healing in adulthood? This is not some ordinary person here. This is the man who represents Christ on earth. I cannot see how he can not resign, why he has not resigned – and begged for forgiveness on behalf of the entire hierarchy. I cannot see how, after a catastrophe of this proportion, we still are barred from even debating married or female priests.
At some point, obedience to authority and to an institution is not a virtue. It is a crime.