This article was originally published in The Clarion Call.
As a political cartoonist, there’s nothing I like to see more than my work stoke controversy and initiate debate. Indeed, this is the primary reason for the existence of political cartoons. On April 1, Holy Thursday, I drew a cartoon about the Catholic church that did exactly that.
When faced with the reality of predator priests in their midst [church officials] have responded by doing everything in their power to minimize damage to the church, even if that means protecting rapists and silencing the victims of their abuse.
Some called it bigoted. Others said it was offensive to run a cartoon criticizing the church during Holy Week. It even prompted a letter from Clarion University President Joseph P. Grunenwald to each member of The Call’s editorial board and its faculty adviser questioning the decision to publish the cartoon.
While the cartoon may have been offensive to some, any implication that The Call wasn’t well within its rights under the First Amendment to publish it is ludicrous. It’s much more offensive that the officials of a major world religion are protecting child rapists while cowing their victims into silence with threats of hellfire than a political cartoon ever could be.
When the last major round of allegations erupted nine years ago in Boston, the Vatican’s response was to write it off as “an American problem.” That excuse won’t hold water this time around, as allegations pile up in Ireland, Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and elsewhere.
There won’t be a convenient scapegoat like Cardinal Law this time either, as the allegations implicate church officials at the highest levels in conspiring to sweep cases of abuse under the rug.
One case, in which a single priest in Wisconsin molested as many as 200 deaf boys over a period of decades, reached then-Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI. Ratzinger turned a blind eye to the case and the sexual predator died a priest after being moved to another diocese, a pattern that has become all too familiar.
The conduct of the Catholic church on this issue has been disgusting. When faced with the reality of predator priests in their midst, Bishops, Archbishops, Cardinals — and at least one Pope — have responded by doing everything in their power to minimize damage to the church, even if that means protecting rapists and silencing the victims of their abuse.
Initially the Vatican’s response was to blame the victims, accusing them of conspiring to bring down the Pope through “petty gossip.” Next they compared criticism of the church to the persecution of the Jews while blaming the presence of rapists in the priesthood on homosexuals.
Desperate, flailing deflections like this go a long way toward explaining why the Associated Press describes the Holy See as being in “full damage control mode.” Or why Vatican officials have been forced to rely on diplomatic immunity, ‘Lethal Weapon 2’-style, to avoid potential prosecution for what are unquestionably breaches of the law.
I guess infallibility means never having to say you’re sorry.