Catholic Sex Scandal Raises Question: How Do You Remove a Pope?

Even the National Catholic Reporter urges the Vatican to end stonewalling.


By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

The pope's involvement in and even sanctioning of the priest pedophilia scandal continues to grow, as reporting by the New York Times of formerly secret church memos shows. According to the U.K.'s Times Online:

Contrary to statements released by the Church in Germany, a memorandum uncovered by The New York Times suggests that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was told that a priest had gone back to pastoral duties in Munich a few days after he started psychiatric treatment. The priest went on to commit further offences.

The latest child abuse scandal to hit the Catholic Church involves a German priest, Father Peter Hullermann, who was convicted of molesting boys in 1986. Victims have complained that repeated warnings were ignored by the Church over decades of abuse.

Even the National Catholic Reporter and many other church adherents and supporters are saying they are not satisfied with Vatican stonewalling:

With the further revelations March 26 by The New York Times that memos and meeting minutes exist showing that Benedict had to be at least minimally informed that an abuser priest was coming into the archdiocese of Munich and that he further had been assigned without restrictions to pastoral duties, it becomes even more difficult to reconcile the strong language of the pope in his letter to Irish bishops and his own conduct while head of a major see.

No longer can the Vatican simply issue papal messages--subject to nearly infinite interpretations and highly nuanced constructions--that are passively "received" by the faithful. No longer can secondary Vatican officials, those who serve the pope, issue statements and expect them to be accepted at face value.

Even with such strong language--strong for the church and its faithful--does the NCR ask for anything more than that the "truth" be told? The question of ousting the pope is on the mind of millions of believers and nonbelievers alike, but there is no church law on how to oust a morally corrupt pope, only on how a pope may resign by choice. The NCR calls this the biggest church credibility crisis in centuries, if not in the entire history of the church. How anyone could continue to muster belief in an institution now shown to be entirely rife with moral corruption is beyond me.