Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pope Seeks Immunity

Encouraging conspiracy theorists everywhere, Huffington Post reports that following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, set to take place at the end of the month, he will remain in Vatican City so as to retain immunity from prosecution related to the ongoing sex abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church. Prior to becoming Pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger headed up the Vatican office charged with containing and mediating the scandal. While he has not been personally accused of any such offenses, victims advocacy groups have argued that he failed to take proper action against accused priests and had a hand in transferring them between dioceses and so forth rather than bringing them to the attention of law enforcement.

Victims groups have said Benedict, particularly in his previous job at the head of the Vatican's doctrinal department, turned a blind eye to the overall policies of local Churches, which moved abusers from parish to parish instead of defrocking them and handing them over to authorities. The Vatican has denied this. The pope has apologized for abuse in the Church, has met with abuse victims on many of his trips, and ordered a major investigation into abuse in Ireland.

But groups representing some of the victims say the Pope will leave office with a stain on his legacy because he was in positions of power in the Vatican for more than three decades, first as a cardinal and then as pope, and should have done more. The scandals began years before the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope in 2005 but the issue has overshadowed his papacy from the beginning, as more and more cases came to light in dioceses across the world.

It may be that these scandals played a role in Benedict's resignation, as no Pope has resigned in more than 600 years. It also suggests that there might something to the prophecy of Archbishop Malachy that I covered last week. The 12th century Irish Archbishop predicted that Benedict would be the second-to-last Pope, and that the world would end during the reign of the final Pontiff. While this end-times prophecy is likely as nonsensical as all the rest, could it be that Malachy in fact predicted the end of the Papacy? It seems hard to imagine, given the size and scope of the Roman Catholic Church around the world. But I suppose stranger things have happened.

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