Covering Up

“With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion.” – Steven Weinberg

Johann Hari blasts religion and calls for “criticism and mockery.”

Far from changing this paedophile-protecting model, Ratzinger reinforced it. In 2001 he issued a strict secret order demanding that charges of child-rape should be investigated by the Church “in the most secretive way… restrained by a perpetual silence… and everyone… is to observe the strictest secret.” Since it was leaked, Ratzinger claims – bizarrely – that these requirements didn’t prevent bishops from approaching the police. Even many people employed by the Vatican at the time say this is wrong. Father Tom Doyle, who was a Vatican lawyer working on these cases, says it “is an explicit written policy to cover up cases of child sexual abuse and to punish those who would call attention to these crimes… Nowhere in any of these documents does it say anything about helping the victims. The only thing it does say is they can impose fear on the victims, and punish [them], for disclosing what happened.” Doyle was soon fired. 

Imagine if this happened at The Independent. Imagine I discovered there was a paedophile ring running our crèche, and the Editor issued a stern order that it should be investigated internally with “the strictest secrecy”. Imagine he merely shuffled the paedophiles to work in another crèche at another newspaper, and I agreed, and made the kids sign a pledge of secrecy. We would both – rightly – go to prison. Yet because the word “religion” is whispered, the rules change. Suddenly, otherwise good people who wouldn’t dream of covering up a paedophile ring in their workplace think it would be an insult to them to follow one wherever it leads in their Church. They would find this behaviour unthinkable without the irrational barrier of faith standing between them and reality.

The vilest of crimes are covered up while the religious cover their eyes and ears.  Andrew Sullivan takes issue: 

Chill, Johann. I’m religious. I demand to be protected from no debate. And many of us who believe are indeed saying – and have been saying for a long, long time – that using religious authority to cover up child abuse is evil, insupportable, corrupt and wrong. But if the church hierarchy does not understand this, if it does not instigate root and branch reform, if it uses this occasion to double down further, then it will deserve the secular assault that will come.

I think writing “will deserve” instead of “deserves now” is even too lenient, but really Andrew – Hari isn’t saying that every single religious individual demands shelter from critique.  But it’s obvious that an attitude exists generally among the religious that treats even mild criticism as outrageous assault. Why else would it be so easy to label atheists “militant?” Where else would pedophilia be so tolerated but in a religious institution? When else would liberal and conservative columnists blame cartoonists and excuse axe-wielding fanatics? Sullivan is his own counterpoint; he has found another way to inadvertently shelter religion from criticism.
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