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Church Abuse Scandal

Date: 04-11-10
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Jason Berry

Ian Punnett welcomed author and investigative reporter Jason Berry for a discussion on his research into the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church. Berry, who has been investigating the scandal since the mid-1980's, called it a "long, painful, legal, and moral drama." He indicated that, in the past, most abusers were not brought to justice because of a combination of a cover-up by the Church as well as social mores which saw priests being perceived as "above the law."

Berry detailed his latest findings, which have rocked the Church over the last few days. According to his investigation, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Fr. Marcial Maciel, long-accused of sexual improprieties, had been using funds from the organization to pay off high ranking Vatican officials as a way of "buying protection." The bribery was so rampant, Berry said, that at one point, the order offered a Mercedes Benz to a Cardinal. While Pope Benedict has come under fire as this news has become public, Berry noted that, prior to becoming Pope, then-Cardinal Ratzinger actually refused money from Maciel's order. Further, upon becoming the Pope, Benedict removed Maciel from active ministry, but stopped short of excommunicating the disgraced priest.

In looking at how these revelations have been addressed by the Vatican, he expressed concern over Pope Benedict's silence over the matter. "By retreating into this cocoon of silence," Berry mused, Benedict "has created a much worse problem not just for himself, but for the institution of the Papacy." To that end, Berry noted that two of the Pope's biggest defenders have been accused of playing a role in covering up previous abuse allegations. On how the Pope should deal with the unfolding crisis, Berry suggested that he should change the "archaic tribunal system of the Vatican" in order to bring about a stronger criminal justice system within the Church. Additionally, Berry opined, the Pope needs to seek insight from advisors outside of the Catholic Church such as legal scholars and judges.

The final hour of the program was devoted to Open Lines.

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