By MAUREEN DOWD Reprinted from Today's NY Times
Yup, we need a Nope.
A nun who is pope.
The Catholic Church can never recover as long as its Holy Shepherd is seen as a black sheep in the ever-darkening sex abuse scandal.
Now we learn the sickening news that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, nicknamed "God's Rottweiler" when he was the church's enforcer on matters of faith and sin, ignored repeated warnings and looked away in the case of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, a Wisconsin priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys.
The church has been tone deaf and dumb on the scandal for so long that it's shocking, but not surprising, to learn from The Times's Laurie Goodstein that a group of deaf former students spent 30 years trying to get church leaders to pay attention.
"Victims give similar accounts of Father Murphy's pulling down their pants and touching them in his office, his car, his mother's country house, on class excursions and fund-raising trips and in their dormitory beds at night," Goodstein wrote. "Arthur Budzinski said he was first molested when he went to Father Murphy for confession when he was about 12, in 1960."
It was only when the sanctity of the confessional was breached that an archbishop in Wisconsin (who later had to resign when it turned out he used church money to pay off a male lover) wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger at the Vatican to request that Father Murphy be defrocked.
The cardinal did not answer. The archbishop wrote to a different Vatican official, but Father Murphy appealed to Cardinal Ratzinger for leniency and got it, partly because of the church's statute of limitations. Since when does sin have a statute of limitations?
The pope is in too deep. He has proved himself anything but infallible. And now he claims he was uninformed on the matter of an infamous German pedophile priest. A spokesman for the Munich archdiocese said on Friday that Ratzinger, running the diocese three decades ago, would not have read the memo sent to him about Father Peter Hullermann's getting cycled back into work with children because between 700 to 1,000 memos go to the archbishop each year.
Let's see. That's two or three memos a day. And Ratzinger was renowned at the Vatican for poring through voluminous, recondite theological treaties.
Because he did not defrock the demented Father Murphy, it's time to bring in the frocks.
Pope Benedict has continued the church's ban on female priests and is adamant against priests' having wives. He has started two investigations of American nuns to check on their "quality of life" — code for seeing if they've grown too independent. As a cardinal he wrote a Vatican document urging women to be submissive partners and not take on adversarial roles toward men.
But the completely paternalistic and autocratic culture of Il Papa led to an insular, exclusionary system that failed to police itself, and that became a corrosive shelter for secrets and shame.
If the church could throw open its stained glass windows and let in some air, invite women to be priests, nuns to be more emancipated and priests to marry, if it could banish criminal priests and end the sordid culture of men protecting men who attack children, it might survive. It could be an encouraging sign of humility and repentance, a surrender of arrogance, both moving and meaningful.
Cardinal Ratzinger devoted his Vatican career to rooting out any hint of what he considered deviance. The problem is, he was obsessed with enforcing doctrinal orthodoxy and somehow missed the graver danger to the most vulnerable members of the flock.
The sin-crazed "Rottweiler" was so consumed with sexual mores — issuing constant instructions on chastity, contraception, abortion — that he didn't make time for curbing sexual abuse by priests who were supposed to pray with, not prey on, their young charges.
American bishops have gotten politically militant in recent years, opposing the health care bill because its language on abortion wasn't vehement enough, and punishing Catholic politicians who favor abortion rights and stem cell research. They should spend as much time guarding the kids already under their care as they do championing the rights of those who aren't yet born.
Decade after decade, the church hid its sordid crimes, enabling the collared perpetrators instead of letting the police collar them. In the case of the infamous German priest, one diocese official hinted that his problem could be fixed by transferring him to teach at a girls' school. Either they figured that he would not be tempted by the female sex, or worse, the church was even less concerned about putting little girls at risk.
The nuns have historically cleaned up the messes of priests. And this is a historic mess. Benedict should go home to Bavaria. And the cardinals should send the white smoke up the chimney, proclaiming "Habemus Mama."