If the Vatican was in any more denial, it would be the de-limbed black knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail insisting all the gushing blood was merely a scratch. • After paying nearly $3 billion in the United States alone to settle claims of sex abuse of children by predator priests, Rome's latest response is a tepid set of nonbinding, wrist-slapping guidelines for its bishops to follow — or not — the next time one of its clerics gets randy with an altar boy. • And, by the way, all those thousands of children whose lives have been forever scarred by the priests? Blame it on Woodstock and Country Joe & the Fish. Oh, and Janis Joplin, too! She's the one you want.
This collective miter of self-delusion is so out of touch with reality, you would think Marlon Brando's Col. Kurtz was running one of the largest faiths in the world.
Under the "new" directive, which has all the teeth of a Gaza Strip anti-loitering ordinance, local bishops are given great latitude in deciding whether to report pedophilia to civil authorities. This is a bit like expecting Tony Soprano to turn in Paulie "Walnuts" for bribing the mayor. Diocesan civilian boards formed to review abuse charges also have seen their authority watered down.
Shortly after the Vatican issued it's "Pedophilia = Bad, Very Bad" edict, along came the results of a five-year study commissioned by the nation's Roman Catholic bishops to find a definitive explanation for the abuse of thousands of children at the hands of creeps in clerical collars.
It took five years to figure this out? Alas, no.
The $2 million study, conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, concluded the hinky priest phenomenon was largely caused by improperly training and overseeing priests (gee, do you think?) as well as the societal stress brought about in the late post-Woodstock period, a time of sexual liberation and really bad clothes.
You might regard this rationale as "the Grateful Dead made me defile that 13-year-old boy." The John Jay researchers even cooked their own books in adjusting the base number of abused children by lowering the age of prepubescent victims to children under 10, rather than the more broadly accepted 13.
The sex abuse scandal that has rocked the church for more than a decade, bankrupted parishes and shaken the faith and trust of devout Catholics ultimately can be laid at the feet of a Vatican that was fully aware of the assaults on children and responded by issuing bus fare to get out town.
Take away the elaborate vestments, grand rituals, hymns, prayers and all the other trappings of spirituality the church hid behind to justify its inaction in dealing with the fiends in its midst. What do you think would happen if the CEO of a multinational corporation discovered that thousands of his employees were engaged in the sexual abuse of tens of thousands of his customers' children, and in response simply moved the offending workers to other franchises, allowing them to continue their perverted behavior?
Even a John Jay scholar could figure out that executive would be indicted on charges of aiding and abetting multiple felonies, obstructing justice, destroying evidence and engaging in a vast criminal conspiracy.
And, yes, the executive would be fired.
Instead the late Pope John Paul II was fast-tracked by his successor and closest confidant to beatification.
If you want, argue the sexual abuse of children was brought about by the church's antiquated celibacy requirement. But there are many perfectly dedicated, diligent, decent celibate priests who would never think of improperly touching a child. Blame it, if you will, on the priesthood as an institution that attracts homosexuals. But there are many gay priests who also serve with distinction without ever being a threat to a child in their ministry.
The abuse occurred because at the highest levels of the Catholic hierarchy, those in power to do something about it, to stop it, to turn criminals over to law enforcement for prosecution, did nothing.
Bishops, cardinals, the pope and his inner circle, instead of being enforcers, opted to become enablers. The church squandered an opportunity to impose rigorous reporting standards on its bishops and equally robust sanctions for those bishops who continue to cover up incidents of sex abuse.
It would have been nice for the church leadership to acknowledge its role in the scandal instead of blaming Jimi Hendrix.