Pope Francis announced new rules requiring pedophilia and sexual abuse to be reported to Church superiors, but survivors are critical, saying police need to be informed – on Reality Asserts Itself with Paul Jay. This is an episode of Reality Asserts Itself, produced June 4, 2019.
PAUL JAY: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay, and this is Reality Asserts Itself.
Early in May, Pope Francis announced new rules on the reporting of sexual abuse within the church. Essentially no one in the church can allow pedophilia or sexual abuse to go unreported. They must report it to their superiors. They cannot participate in any kind of cover up. But these rules have been critiqued by survivors of sexual abuse within the church, because they say it’s the police that should be told, not just superiors within the church. Here’s a clip of Sean Dougherty, who is a survivor of sexual abuse. He’s now an activist on these issues. And here’s what he said.
SEAN DOUGHERTY: This is the church ordering the church to report to the church.
SPEAKER: So is it almost worse? Because suddenly–shouldn’t there be an obligation to call the police?
SEAN DOUGHERTY: That should be the number one thing. Call the police first. End of story. Our new policy is call the police first, and if you don’t, you’re in trouble with the Vatican. These are centuries-old tactics.
PAUL JAY: Now joining us again to discuss this issue is Matthew Fox. He’s a former Catholic priest who was stopped from teaching liberation theology by Cardinal Ratzinger, who then became Pope Benedict, who, if you watched the earlier segment, was part of a cabal exposed in many ways by Martel’s book on the Vatican which exposed both Benedict, Pope Paul II, and Burke himself, and many others in the hierarchy connected to the right wing who’ve been putting enormous pressure on Francis to defend the morality of the church, although they’re not so interested in exposing pedophilia. They’re much more interested in denouncing homosexuality. And now, according to this book, and many other reports, actually, they themselves were, in fact, very involved in rather depraved sexual behavior. But now, as I said, joining us is Matthew Fox. Matthew, thanks for joining us again.
MATTHEW FOX: Good to be with you, Paul.
PAUL JAY: So, Francis is in this position where the far right is–some of them even calling him a heretic for not denouncing homosexuality, for even suggesting women should have more role in the church, for a whole range of reforms. On the other hand, there’s critique of Francis himself that he hasn’t gone far enough in allowing or making members of the church responsible for really holding sexual abuse accountable; in other words, going to the police. What do you make of this?
MATTHEW FOX: Well, I certainly agree with those, you know, that the Vatican cannot police [inaudible] they’ve been trying to, or pretending to. And so the Vatican cannot be its own police. So I do think the police have to get involved to clear this thing up. And what the Vatican could be doing, but again with the right wing hovering over, as much minority as it is, but it’s wealthy, and it’s loud, very loud, and kind of like Fox News, it has its own press dimensions, too. But what the pope could be doing and should be doing something much more substantive. I mean, he should be turning those things over to the police. Meanwhile, he should be doing–I have a list of like six things he can be doing. First of all, to allow priests to get married. Secondly, to ordain women. This would clean up a lot of the skullduggery and secrets going on in the Vatican. [Inaudible] to, of course, be open about gay people being ordained and being married.
In other words, the papacy has to move into the 21st century. I have called the homophobia in the church as a–and it’s now a dogma, practically. This is the case, the Galileo case of the 21st century, because science has spoken. Back in the ’70s science admitted it made a mistake, and that being gay is not a sickness. It’s perfectly healthy if you can be healthy and doing it, and it applies to about 8 percent or so of any given human population. So the Vatican should start studying these things and making them public again, that a minority of humans are going to be gay, and that’s just fine. Gay and lesbian. And another thing they can do is to educate about self-hatred and internalized oppression, because as we spoke about in our previous session, a lot of these prelates who are making all the rules for everybody else in the church are themselves hating themselves, and playing out a weird and sick version of of sexuality in their own lives.
I think that the bigger question is you have to flesh out this–the whole theology of sexuality in the Catholic church was launched by St. Augustine in the 4th century, not by Jesus. Jesus was not all preoccupied with these things. And Judaism in his day was far more free with sexual practice than the church has become. So I think that’s what has to happen. The big picture is you’ve got to change the whole teaching of sexuality. And frankly, I think it’s too late. That’s why I think that–for one thing, everything’s too late because we have about 10 years left as a species to turn around climate change. And so this is the big picture. You know, who you’re sleeping with and so forth is not the big picture. That’s a little game that’s being played by, as you said, right-wing fierce fascists, many of them.
And so the bigger picture is a healthy sexual theology. That’s what the pope should be working on. But of course he’s stuck, because he’s being hounded by, on the one hand, by these right-wing dogmatists who think they know the orthodox pure tradition. And that’s on the one hand. The other hand, of course, he’s being attacked, and rightly so, really, by those who want more action on the subject of pedophilia and his cover up. All of which is great scandal.
PAUL JAY: So in order to further fight for these values, whether it’s climate change, or some of his economic issues on economic inequality, and so on, he really needs to defeat this right wing of the church. In fact, really he needs them to be purged. Why wouldn’t he want these cases reported to the police. Wouldn’t that actually help him in the fight given that so many of these right wingers–I’m mixing it up with what was said in the previous segment about the ‘ring of lust’ around some of the hierarchy in the Vatican. Why wouldn’t it help him to have these cases reported to the police, and hopefully even exposed the Burkes and the others at the highest levels who are involved in such depravity?
MATTHEW FOX: Well, I think that’s a good question. I don’t think it’s real easy to depose cardinals, and even bishops, because the structure is so hierarchical. It feeds on itself. And that really comes through, that a lot of these people have been anointed as bishops, cardinals, and so forth, by people who have been keeping these secrets. And so they anoint one another. They even now, they’re even canonizing one another saints, which is amazing, too, and appalling. Because under Pope John Paul II, where so much of this corruption took over, they did away with the devil’s advocate in canonizing saints.
PAUL JAY: Which is what, for those who don’t know?
MATTHEW FOX: The devil’s advocate used to be there for centuries to bring up all the shadow stuff, the dark stories about people they’re putting up for canonization, so you heard the whole story; not just the people who were thrilled about this person, but also those who have some bad stories to tell. And that’s what the devil’s advocate did. And they did away with it. And so the very first saint canonized after they did away with it under John Paul II was Escriva, the founder, the fascist founder of Opus Dei. And they made him a saint, which is absurd, because he was a complete sexist. He would scream at women, et cetera. I mean, I’ve read books by women who were his secretaries over the years, and telling it, what a man he was. He was just full of vitriol and anger, and hated women. Hated women. And he was a practicing fascist. And yet they canonized [him as] a saint. Who canonized him a saint? Well, the right wing in the church canonized him a saint.
And then they’ve been doing that since, frankly, including canonizing John Paul II. I mean, a knowledgeable priest in South America told me John Paul II is responsible for at least 10,000 murders in South America because of his refusal to support these communities and liberation theology. Also, of course, he supported this very perverse priest, Father Maciel, the founder of his own order, Legionaries of Christ. He supported him right to the end. And this priest was abusing his seminarians; young men, young teenagers. And it turns out he was married to two women on the side and had children, and was abusing his children. All this was going on under John Paul II. And people around John Paul II knew it, including Cardinal Ratzinger, who was head of the Inquisition at the time, and he did nothing until until John Paul II died. And he became pope.
So you know, there are just so many facts to consider here. That’s why the whole thing has to die, you know. It just does.
PAUL JAY: Well, that’s my question. What does this matter to anyone that doesn’t actually care about the Catholic church? What I mean by that, how much influence does the church still have around the world, and how much influence this right-wing section of the church? I mean, can they sway the outcome of elections in certain countries? Do they have enough levers that they can on deciding who has power and who doesn’t, and what kind of policies go forward?
MATTHEW FOX: Definitely. That’s part of their agenda since the Vatican Council, is to bring all the power back to Rome. So they actually appoint bishops, they appoint cardinals, and the Cardinals appoint a pope. So yeah, there’s a lot of power there, you see.
PAUL JAY: And there’s still hundreds–there’s still hundreds of millions of people in the church.
MATTHEW FOX: 1.2 billion, they say. There are a lot of wonderful human beings who are Catholic. There are a lot of good priests, still, and not enough, of course. They’re literally dying off. And sisters, too. And especially I think in Asia and in Africa, you know, there’s a lot of vitality.
But you know, I learned from an organizer of organizations, a specialist of organizations, he said an organization of 1.2 billion people is just too much. No one can run it, he said. It’s got to break into smaller groups. And I think there’s a lot of truth to that. That’s why the base communities, you see beginning at the base, at the grassroots, that that had so much promise. I just hope that you can run this, this hierarchical structure, this pyramid much longer. And especially, as I say, nothing that humans are running today is going to last after ten years unless as a species we make some real vital decisions and moves. And to his credit, Pope Francis is a leader in that, insofar as his encyclical Laudate Si leads on that. And he’s been very strong in terms of climate change.
Yes, he’s made mistakes. But I think if he could turn the church around, in spite of all the the right-wing oppression, he’s getting that anyway. So why not do the real thing? Why not put that the truth out there that Jesus didn’t ordain any men or women, so you can’t say that because you’re a woman you can’t be ordained? The priesthood is a second century creation. So let’s get the facts out there. In the early church, in the first century, many women were leaders. That’s very clear. Including Mary Magdalene, a very close friend of Jesus. So you know, there’s a lot of new directions that the religious imagination could go in. And you know, the right wing you’re always going to have with you. You know, you just have to move ahead without them.
PAUL JAY: All right, Matthew. In the next segment we’re going to go into Matthew’s backstory. We’re going to get into how Matthew became a priest, and his battle with Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict, and more about the fight within the Catholic church, and why this all matters. Because you know, more than a billion people in this church, and there’s countries where the church can help decide who comes to power. And the United States is not without such influence itself. So please join us for the continuation of Reality Asserts Itself with Matthew Fox on The Real News Network.