Pope Benedict XVI has apologised to victims of sex abuse / Telegraph photoAfter dispatching his network of parish priests in Ireland to read his letter to Irish Catholics, which ostensibly acknowledged the misdeeds there (it even referred to them as “criminal”), the very next Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI proceeded to use Bible passages to justify the evil that had been done to children in the R.C. Church’s care. The (UK) Telegraph writes about his latest address (WebCite cached article):

Campaigners had hoped that after his seven page letter on Saturday to Irish victims of child abusing priests in which he said he was “truly sorry” the Pope would use his weekly sermon to apologise in public.

But he failed to do so and instead he asked Roman Catholics around the world to be “indulgent towards sinners and pray to God to ask for forgiveness for our failings.”

He used as an example the Bible parable from John’s Gospel in which Christ asks people about to stone an adulteress: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Honestly, I can’t think of any other way to describe this, than to call it “rubbing salt into Ireland’s wounds”:

The pontiff didn’t mention his letter chastising Ireland’s church hierarchy as he made his weekly appearance Sunday from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square. He cited the Gospel passage about Jesus’ inviting those without sin to cast the first stone toward an adulterer.

“While acknowledging her sin, he does not condemn her, but urges her to sin no more,” Pope Benedict said. told English-speaking pilgrims in the square. “Trusting in his great mercy toward us, we humbly beg his forgiveness for our own failings, and we ask for the strength to grow in his holiness.”

The Pope here is actually asking people not to “condemn” the child-rapists, child-beaters, and assorted other criminals who hid behind their vestments, cassocks and habits, and were sheltered for decades by the Catholic hierarchy. How nice of him. Let’s go over the many moral and contextual errors in the Pope’s use and abuse of one of the most famous gospel passages, shall we?

The story of “the woman taken in adultery” is found in the gospel of John, and the original passage is as follows:

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” (John 8:1-11)

Let’s look at this. First, the Pope is comparing the ongoing and often systematic abuse of children, by adults, with a single instance of adultery, which is a consensual act between two adults. How, exactly, is there any equivalence here? If there is one, I can’t see it.

Second, this gospel story implies that the woman was at least remorseful, and it’s possible that she did, in fact, “sin no more” after this episode. The Roman Catholic clergy who abused children in their care, however, have been anything but remorseful, and they abused children for decades, often going on to later victims even after having been caught; and they were consciously protected by an organization that supported them and frequently prevented them from being prosecuted. Here again, an equivalence fails.

Usually it’s the fundamentalist Christians who abuse scripture in order to justify doing the wrong thing … but in this case it’s none other than the head of the Roman Catholic Church who’s doing so. Obviously he has no shame, no remorse, and no understanding of what has been going on in his own Church. But conveniently, he does know just enough to be able to use Jesus’ own putative words to tell people not to “judge” criminality within the Church he ostensibly commands.

Photo credit: Telegraph.

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