Revising Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict has a new book out. John Allen Jr., the editor of CRUX, teamed up with Ines San Martin, its Vatican correspondent, to produce a fawning review in support of the Vatican’s effort to revise history.


The first point: “While insisting that he was not pressured by anyone to resign the papacy in February 2013, and that it was his own free decision, Benedict concedes that the demands of running a complex religious multi-national occasionally exceeded what he perceived, anyway, as his capacities.” At the time, we were told he retired due to poor health. But the article makes no mention of any health problems, as Pope Benedict has been remarkably healthy.

They allow Benedict to present the second point: “My weak point perhaps is a lack of resolve in governing and making decisions,” he said. “Here, in reality, I am more a professor, one who reflects and meditates on spiritual questions. Practical governance was not my forte, and this certainly was a weakness.”

The reporters’ response: “how many former titans of the earth, whether presidents or prime ministers, corporate CEOs or founders of social movements, would be willing to confess … that they were actually not particularly suited to do the thing they had been put in leadership to do?

In reality, prior to becoming pope, Cardinal Ratzinger was known as “the pope’s Rottweiler,” and ruled with an iron fist. He was the pope’s hatchet man for squelching the Liberation Theology movement, even if it meant supporting tyrants who killed clergy along with other populists. He was a micro-manager who got involved in many Vatican projects. Pope John Paul II relied on him for “practical governance.” It’s what he was known for. His “professorial” contributions included suppressing genuine scholars like Hans Kung.

The CRUX team then added two brief points: “Yes, there were obvious failures of governance during his eight-year reign, such as the disastrous mishandling of the rehabilitation of a Holocaust-denying bishop and the Vatican leaks affair that culminated in the arrest, conviction and eventual pardon of his own butler.”

On the first point, about defending a Nazi sympathizer, Benedict followed the Vatican tradition started by Pope Pius XI, who leaped into an alliance with Hitler. Pius XII, his successor, was called Hitler’s pope.

The matter of the “Vatican leaks affair” is of special interest. The pope’s butler (who, I believe, also served John Paul II), was so disturbed at what he saw that he turned whistle blower, releasing documents that exposed corruption and possible criminality in the Vatican. Normally, at least some of the media praises such whistleblowers. Daniel Ellsburg was widely praised for leaking the Pentagon Papers. Edward Snowden has received mixed reviews for exposing violations by the NSA and other agencies. But virtually no one praised the man who exposed serious violations by the Vatican. Like CRUX, almost no one discussed those violations.

The reporters proceed to the sex abuse scandal: “It was Benedict, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who pushed through aggressive new rules under St. Pope John Paul II that expedited the removal of abusers from the priesthood, and Benedict as pope who expelled more than 400 abusers in his final two years as pope alone - representing, for the record, more than one percent of the total number of Catholic priests worldwide in 24 months.” First, the pope always had the power to remove pederasts and other priests guilty of serious misconduct. He just failed to do so. Second, the authors neglect to mention that priests were only removed from office after they were found guilty by the courts. Nor did they mention that Cardinal Ratzinger had the records of all priests accused of sex abuse (thousands), and did nothing to any priest other than those who had been found guilty. On the other hand, following the instructions of John Paul II, he severely disciplined whistleblowers. Finally, nothing has ever been done to bishops who shuffled pederast priests from one parish to another. The only times bishops have been disciplined was when they themselves abused children.

Today’s news contains the report of an archbishop who was recommended for discipline. He had been abusing children since the 1970’s. Needless to say, neither John Paul nor Benedict did anything about it. Presumably Pope Francis will. But even that would be too little, too late.

Finally, they congratulate Pope Benedict for confronting decades-long problems in the Vatican Bank: “It was also Benedict XVI who launched historic reforms in terms of Vatican money management, including the audacious and essentially unprecedented decision to subject the Vatican to an outside secular inspection in the form of the Moneyval process, referring to the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering agency.” But they fail to mention the fact that Moneyval has documented dozens of violations, and the Vatican has failed to act on any of them. Benedict’s “historic” reforms are meaningless eyewash.

These reporters not only know the points I’ve raised, but a good deal more. But CRUX is the equivalent of an NGO supporting the Vatican’s propaganda machine. I know of no honest and independent source on Vatican news.

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