This letter is not to excuse what has happened in the Roman Catholic Church. I do not in any way condone the abuse that happened nor the decades of church cover-up that make the news.
I do feel compelled to write in response to Mr. Robertson’s letter, however. Specifically, I am refuting his claims against Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, currently Pope Benedict XVI.
Mr. Robertson claims that in 2001 then- Cardinal Ratzinger sent a letter urging secrecy be maintained and threatening excommunication of any and all who disclose Church secrets. From reading the English text of the letter, which can be found on BishopAccountability.org, what is obvious is that the expectation upon discovering any breach of the Church doctrine is that the suspicion be immediately transmitted to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and then investigated thoroughly by the person/diocese making the claim. The letter, in itself, deals with breaches of Canonical (i.e., the church) laws, not civil law. The emphasis on secrecy pertains to during the investigation, something done in secular Grand Jury trials in the US. One only needs to look at the example of the Duke Lacrosse team in 2006 to see why secrecy may be warranted in a sex abuse allegation. At no point does the document threaten any who bring forth claims with excommunication.
Anecdotal evidence of this is clear when one looks at Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York. In 2002 then-Archbishop Dolan named every priest who had abused children in the Archdiocese of Milwaukie, WIS, and instead of excommunication received the position of Archbishop of New York (the largest in the U.S.) from Pope Benedict XVI, and advancement to Cardinal (one step below the Pope).
Mr. Robertson further claims that Pope Benedict’s stance on condoms led directly to the spread of AIDS in Africa and resulted in “a million” preventable deaths. In truth, the Church standpoint on condoms is that they are acceptable if faced with a grave danger, i.e., death from AIDS (for example, in the case of a woman forced into prostitution). Benedict himself said this during an interview. In addition, Mr. Robertson overlooks the fact that Catholic doctrine calls for abstinence from sex until marriage and monogamous sex following that, and speaks against the use of intravenous drugs. Apparently, according to Mr. Robertson, Church teaching on condoms is followed, the rest is ignored, but only the restriction on condom use spreads AIDS.
In truth, the next pope should continue what has already been started. Priests named in abuse allegations are immediately removed from their parish and turned over to local law enforcement. Mandatory teaching for all paid and volunteer staff who have contact or the potential for contact with minors has been instituted. The worst thing the next pope could do for the church would be to bow to the demands of modern society at the cost of gutting the morals of the church.