Clearly, a vindictive secular bigot like Hitchens isn’t going to allow little things like facts derail his stupid publicity stunt but nevertheless his poisonous vitriol should not go unchallenged.
He begins by criticising the then Cardinal Ratzinger for assuming personal responsibility for supervising the investigation into sex abuse cases in 2001, while naturally neglecting to mention that it was precisely because individual dioceses were so slow in handling cases that the investigation process was centralised.
Hitchens presents the truth in reverse to make it sound negative, as if the Vatican was usurping the authority of individual bishops, an authority which he scorns in any case.
He also makes no mention of the fact that Cardinal Ratzinger was actually criticised at the time for dealing with priests too quickly once he assumed personal responsibility for the investigations – dismissing them from the priesthood without trial once there was convincing evidence.
That rule of instant dismissal has been applied to 60% of all 3,000 cases that have reached the Vatican since then. Hitchens also writes that it was only in March of this year that the church “shamefacedly and reluctantly agreed that all child rapists should be handed over to the civil authorities”. Another complete falsehood.
The church merely reiterated what had always been the case. Hitchens’s attempts to link the Pope to a cover-up in the Murphy case in Wisconsin are also disingenuous in the extreme, as he must know.
Murphy had been reported to the civil as well as the domestic ecclesiastical authorities decades before he came to the notice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. By this time, he was an old man, yet he was still under trial when he died. Viewed with the benefit of hindsight, the Pope’s handling of certain aspects of this crisis may well have been imperfect at certain points but, if so, it’s also true no one has done more than he to cleanse the church of the minority of sexual predators seeking to hide their crimes within its institutional cloak.
Pope Benedict also took the initiative personally to meet with victims of sexual abuse. Most recently, in Malta, a victim pronounced a different verdict on the character of the Pope to that of Hitchens: he said he was a saint who had restored his faith in the church.
I know whose opinion I’d trust.