If I was the CEO of a major corporation who knowingly covered up or ignored criminal behaviour by my employees, I would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Criminal interference, accessory, negligence, to name a few of the possible charges. In the eyes of the law; an excuse of “I’m not responsible” simply doesn’t cut it. At the point a decision is made to turn a blind eye, the line is crossed – it would become a criminal act. Ponder the reaction if it was revealed a major “big oil” CEO systematically covered up sexual abuse by company executives. Public outrage would fuel endless coverage; think of Jerry Sandusky, the Penn State football coach, now serving a 30 – 60 year sentence for sexual abuse.
Unfortunately, as the head of a sovereign nation – the Pope can’t be sued. International law puts him above criminal charges.
By all appearances this courtesy extends to the rather unique situation of a former Catholic CEO still alive. The international criminal court in The Hague rejected attempts to prosecute former Pope Benedict XVI for systematic cover-ups of sexual abuse amounting to crimes against humanity. They stated the matter fell outside their jurisdiction .
Statistically I doubt we would find the percentage of Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse higher than that of any other profession giving easy access to children. Sexual predators naturally gravitate towards positions of trust. In America 4% of Catholic priests stand accused of misconduct towards children – that would be nearly 5000 priests, and lets not forget – this translates into thousands more victims, as the abuse took place numerous times over decades. To date the Catholic church has paid out an estimated 3 billion dollars in America alone to settle abuse claims.
Minutes from a 2003 meeting of the financial council for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee sums up the position of the church far better than I could. The minutes of this 2003 meeting were discovered during a 2011 bankruptcy filing by the archdiocese. Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of Milwaukee at the time states the church offered $20,000 to problematic priests as encouragement to leave the priesthood. In addition, payments of up to $30,000 would be paid to victims for emotional distress as a means to quietly settle out of court. Court documents from the 2011 bankruptcy filing show $90,000 was paid out to 9 priests.
Historically the Catholic church has swept the problem under the rug; known sexual predators were transferred to another location, given “therapy”, or simply ignored. No number of hail Marys will ever give victims back their lives.
The Pope is CEO of what is arguably the largest and wealthiest corporation in the world – Just like any other CEO he should be held accountable for his organization. I don’t care who you are – sexual abuse is not OK.