The Papal Conclave: Time for the Church to Clean Up Its Act

by Diane Dimond on March 4, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI Says Good-Bye

It is no secret. The Catholic Church is in crisis with many of its priests charged with un-Godly crimes. There seems to be no end to the reports of sex abuse of children, sex scandals within the ranks of the clergy and the blatant cover-up by church elders who should have been protecting the flock of faithful and not their ne’er-do-well colleagues.

I don’t pretend to know why Pope Benedict XVI became the first to resign in almost 600 years. But, I’m going to bet it had something to do with the constant drumbeat of scandal that marked his 8 year reign.

Before he became Pope he was Joseph Ratzinger, a German Cardinal. You may not know, however, that he had long been in charge of the Vatican office to which all reports about sexually misbehaving priests were directed. In other words, for years every single complaint about sexual abuse by a priest crossed the desk of Cardinal Ratzinger.

Will The Next Pope Deal With Priest Predators?

It would have been next to impossible for Ratzinger not to have noticed the trend. He surely must have wondered and prayed about the best path to take. Was Ratzinger the one who counseled silence among the ranks or did he just go along with it?

And then, after all those years of monitoring the growing tsunami of sexual abuse complaints Cardinal Ratzinger became the Pope. Certainly during his years in that seat of power he had the authority to enact meaningful change. He did not.

Agreed, he was just one man within the vast Vatican framework. But he was at the top. He was the man within the organization who was in a position to know about every accusation and what action (if any) had been taken to learn the truth about allegations of sexual abuse. The information about priests with multiple complaints against them was at Ratzinger’s fingertips.

It Has Been Simmering For Years

He could easily have looked up information about all those priests who had been transferred from parish to parish – and the children who claimed they too had been abused. Ratzinger’s office kept track of priests who had been sent away for “rehabilitation” to treatment centers in New Mexico, Missouri and Maryland to name just three.

I had a sort of complicated religious upbringing. My mother was from a devoutly Methodist household and my father called himself agnostic. I went to Sunday school as a child and later my step-Grandmother began to take me to her Catholic church. I was mesmerized by the cathedrals, the pageantry and the seemingly devoted priests who the congregation called “Father.”

I sent my only child to Catholic elementary and high school and to this day I feel she got a great education. I think that there are many good and dedicated men in the priesthood.

Conclave Held Inside Vatican Gates

Today, as plans are underway for the Vatican’s Conclave where the Pope’s successor will be chosen I wonder what he is thinking. Does he look back and wonder about the wisdom of keeping the secrets of predatory priests all these years? Does he worry about the fate of victimized children? Does he wonder if the wiser path might have been to stand firm against sin, call in the police and let prosecutors do their jobs? Certainly, the church’s reputation would have emerged stronger had offending priests been treated like other criminals.

As the world’s Cardinals converge on Rome I imagine many of them are looking for a sign from God about the right thing to do, the right ballot to cast. Who should they vote to be the next Vicar of Christ? Who among them has the strength and moral character to do what must be done? Do they want a caretaker or a leader?

What Will The Discussion Be Before The Vote?

Before they vote I hope they first realize that if something definitive isn’t done to respond to the sex scandals – something grand and meaningful — the very future of the institution is in grave danger. The sheer breadth of the disgrace engulfing parishes across the United States, the British Isles, Latin America, Africa and other countries is so immense as to be completely debilitating if not addressed.

Who am I to offer suggestions? But I hope they begin the conclave with a discussion of this most obvious problem. Each Cardinal should carefully weigh what their colleagues say about how to deal with the scandal. I hope they don’t vote for a candidate because “it is time” for a Latino, Black or American Pope. They should vote for the best, most forward thinking man for the job – and they should vote like their organization’s future depends on it. Because it does.

Not A Natural Way of Life?

They also, clearly, need to discuss the elephant in the room: Celibacy. Requiring that any human being abstain from all sexual activity is an unnatural prerequisite to my mind. I’m not saying that being celibate – or struggling to remain celibate – causes pedophilia. But I think it is safe to say it can cause sexual confusion and frustration.

Further, I think there have been some men who have gravitated to the priesthood because they feared their sexual desire for children and thought the church could help them keep it in check. And, the most obvious point about the celibacy requirement: it automatically excludes all men who have loving and healthy relationships with women. Isn’t a man who knows the true love of another person the perfect candidate to minister to and counsel others? It seems so self-defeating for a church to exclude faithful men at a time when they are reported to be so desperate for new priestly recruits. Lift the celibacy rule and I bet the church would see a flood of devoted religious men step forward to spread the gospel.

As the conclave gets underway I hope the Cardinals understand it is time for moral, compassionate and truly healing leadership at the Vatican. There is no better time than now for the church to clean up its act.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane Dimond March 4, 2013 at 9:56 am

ABQ Journal Reader Bette Telles writes:

“I read your article on the Catholic Church and its sex problems…I feel you do not have the complete picture. I would like to suggest you you read: Dilemma: A Priests Struggle with Faith and Love, by Fr. Albert Cutie. Father Cutie states that over 40% of Catholic priests are gay. I believe that the priests in the Catholic Church have no interest in a heterosexual relationship with a women. The priests are having sexual relationships with each other. This includes priests at very high levels, Cardinals, Archbishops, and priests at all positions.

I do not believe in abortion yet I feel the Catholic Church priests are hypocrites when they march against abortions, they do not have to worry about pregnancy …men cannot get pregnant.. and having sex with each other is not a problem since it will not result in a pregnancy.

I am very disturbed by the high number of homosexuals who are ‘princes’ of the church, Cardinals, Archbishops, etc. and they are promoting other priests to high levels because they take care of their own.

I though it was admirable when priests said they would not marry; however, not wanting to marry a women, does not make you celibate.

I am disgusted with the church’s stand against homosexuals, while they practice homosexuality themselves.

Diane, I commend you for taking a stand; however, I would like for someone to tell the whole truth.

I was sexually abused by a priest and sexually humiliated by a priest…it is time to open the windows and doors and allow people to know what is really going on in the Catholic Church.

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Diane Dimond March 4, 2013 at 9:59 am

ABQ Journal Reader Mary Ratchford writes:

“I read with interest your Op-Ed piece in today’s paper (Albuquerque Journal, March 2, 2013) about the sex problems within the Catholic Church and I think that you came very close to hitting the nail on the head regarding Pope Benedict XVI (Ratzinger)’s decision to resign.

I saw the HBO Documentary Mea Maxima Culpa by Alex Gibney the night of its debut a few weeks ago, which detailed the pedophilic sins of an Milwaukee, WI priest, Lawrence Murphy, starting in 1972 and continuing for decades. The documentary cited the fact that Ratzinger knew of this case and like all others, covered them up. The next day after its debut, Pope Benedict resigned. Coincidence? I think not. I think that he wanted to escape any wrath of Catholics or face any legal entanglements that might ensue from this widely distributed documentary in the “growing tsunami of sexual abuse complaints”. (It is still showing on HBO – On Demand until 3/4, if you haven’t seen it yet.)

I remember, back in the early ’80′s, working with the wife of a PhD (Sociology) candidate, who was attending the University of New Mexico. His disertation was on homosexuality in the priesthood. I recall her telling me that he had sent out anonymous questionaires to all the priests in New Mexico, asking them to state their sexual orientation and comments. He was shocked to find that over 65% were admitted homosexuals. One priest invited him to meet secretly so he could tell his story and the history of homosexuality in the priesthood. What he said shocked my friend’s husband.

The priest said that for many, many centuries, when a family had a son that was obviously not hetrosexual, he was “the chosen” one of the family to enter the priesthood. So instead of the family being mocked for their genetic oddity, they were praised for being “so blessed to have a son with the calling”. This saved face for everyone and the son got be with others so inclined. They screwed each other, made beer, wine, champagne, brandy and had a great time getting drunk and telling women what to do. Then when they got bored screwing each other, they expanded the Mass to include alter boys. The rape and molestation of these poor children continued for centuries. Some boys told their mothers, who covered it up, not believing that their sacred priests could do such a thing. Many fathers of the children also turned a blind eye for various reasons: excommunication, being burned at the stake during the Spanish Inquisition, hell at home with the wife, etc. among them. Many of the hetrosexual men who joined the Church were forced out or found a sexual outlet with nuns or female parishioners. (Example: Bishop Sheehan in New Mexico)

So now Ratzinger is safely hiding behind the skirts of the nuns in the cloistered retreat, never able to be touched by legal authorities without invoking the wrath of still-faithful Catholics. He should be damned and ashamed by his lack of action regarding this worldwide scandal that has hurt untold numbers of people directly and indirectly. But sweeping it under the rug and keeping silent was the easy choice that he followed and when the heat got too hot, he got out and stepped down. What is happening to his records? Going up in smoke by the Conclave — I bet that’s the black smoke that we may see.

I also agree with your assertion that marriage should be allowed by priests. But it is not going to happen because those new priests would surely pull back the curtain of the culture of homosexuality and pedophilia that has pervaded and perversed the Catholic Church for so long. Things within the Church have been good for the priests for a long time — adoration by the faithful, all the booze you can make and drink and an endless supply of boys, not to mention the riches.

What is the next scandal to rock the Church? Hopefully, it will be about the priests coercing old widows to leave them their money so they can retire in the Bahamas or whereever they choose and live a wonderful retired life. Chastity and poverty are only for others. My grandmother left everything to her priest and nothing to her grandchildren — my sister and me (who were orphaned at the age of 11 when our mother, her daughter, died). The priest convinced my grandmother, then mentally addled by advanced diabeties, that my aunt, her other daughter with whom she lived with for over 60 years, really wasn’t her daughter! So she left all of her money to the priest. There was nothing that we could do.

I live in Albuquerque still and I remember reading about another case in Rio Rancho, NM which became a lawsuit, about another instance of this happening but don’t remember the outcome. Perhaps you might have time to research it.

Thanks again for you shining the light on the former Pope.”

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Diane Dimond March 4, 2013 at 10:00 am

ABQ Journal Reader Arcilia Litchfield writes:


There is only one part of your article that hit the bulls eye or came anywhere close: “Who am I to offer suggestions?”

Your judging of Pope Benedict, without any true knowledge of what he knew or didn’t know, or did or didn’t do, is passing judgment on someone who, while human and imperfect as we all are, has lived a life far holier than yours. And the Cardinals who will elect the next Pope know far better what the Catholic church needs than you claim to know and understand. Your commentary that pretends to somehow invincibly know what should happen in the conclave is insulting to those Cardinals who have far better knowledge than yours and who have dedicated their lives to serving God.

You can provide a far better service to readers in the future if you write on subjects about which you are truly informed, truly understand, and if you do so with a thoughtful and unbiased attitude.

“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.””

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Diane Dimond March 4, 2013 at 10:02 am

ABQ Journal Reader Michael Hatfield writes:


Thank the Almighty that the Journal has access to columnists such as Diane Dimond, who are clearly the moral and spiritual superiors of the whole of the Catholic clergy! Except, perhaps, for a few problems…

She states in her article (March 2, 2013, “Catholic Church must clean up its sex problems”) that Pope Benedict, the former Cardinal Ratzinger, had “access” to every single accusation leveled against any priest. This is a lie. She claims he did nothing about the crisis as it unfolded. This is also a lie. She implies that the selection of the next Pope may be based on cultural or nationality issues. Se has absolutely no way of knowing that, so she essentially doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Finally, she connects the dots of rare elements of the clergy committing “ungodly crimes” to (what else?) the Church’s universal requirement for priestly celibacy. Does she cite studies, or, for that matter, anything at all that approaches verifiable facts? Of course not.

But rendering sincere and well-thought-out advice to the Catholic Church isn’t what Ms. Dimond and her ilk are about. The constant bashing of the Church stemming from this crisis will never, ever end, because the ultimate point here is to reduce and then eliminate any vestiges of the Church’s moral authority on Earth. Ms. Dimond is simply (and transparently) taking advantage of the occasion of the selection of a new Pope to trot back onstage that malicious narrative.”

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Diane Dimond March 4, 2013 at 10:04 am

ABQ Journal Reader Al V writes:

“Ms. Dimond,

Thank you for taking the event of the Pope’s resignation, a historic occurrence, and using it to take yet another Albuquerque Journal style cheap shot at the Catholic Church. Not even the most liberal cable stations took that opportunity. I usually like your columns but I had you pegged for better. Very disappointed…and I’m not even Catholic.”

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Diane Dimond March 4, 2013 at 10:05 am

ABQ Journal Reader Abigail Collins writes:

“Hello Diane, I liked your article Catholic Church must Clean up it’s sex problems. Just a comment – the fact is that most of the children abused by priests are boys. The problem may have a measure of pedophilia, but it’s a homosexual problem, and the liberal press refuses to recognize that elephant in the room. I totally agree that priests should be allowed to marry and thus on many levels we’d have healthier parishes, but the teaching of celibacy is so entrenched that I don’t think it will happen.”

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Diane Dimond March 4, 2013 at 10:14 am

ABQ Journal Reader Robert Noyes-Smith writes:

“I must congratulate you on an excellent article about a very difficult subject. I am not a Catholic but I have some friends who are and they get great comfort from the church, although non of them like the mess the church has got itself into. My personal philosophy is that people follow the road to spiritual enlightenment that suits them at the particular point that they are at in the journey. All paths eventually ( could be many lifetimes) lead to the same place.

As for the Catholic church, I agree whole heartedly about the celibacy issue. My other concern is, the conclave that is now meeting to decide the next Pope, does not have ONE women in it. A structural issue of immense proportions that helps perpetuate the discrimination of women all around the globe. Gloria Steinan (spelling) on Charlie Rose a few nights ago, said there is a direct correlation between the violence against women in countries and war. I don’t know where she got the information but it feels right at a gut level. “

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Diane Dimond March 4, 2013 at 10:16 am

ABQ Journal Reader Patrick Roache writes:

” Congratulations on your article in yesterday’s (Saturday March 2,
2013) Albuquerque Journal entitled “Catholic Church must clean up its sex problems”. You tell it like it is. My wife and I especially appreciate that you do not flinch from using the word “criminal” for what the church likes to refer to as “failings” or such euphemisms. (But too bad that the Journal chose to trivialize the topic with the cartoon of Benedict riding off into the sunset in his popemobile.)

We would like to email-copy your article to our Catholic friends, rather than use snail mail. When will this article be available on your website, like others?

Please keep up the great work!”

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Diane Dimond March 4, 2013 at 10:17 am

ABQ Journal Reader Rueben Gutierrez writes:

“I suppose many people sit around trying to explain why men commit sexual abuse on children. It is difficult to spot these persons because many are well educated and are married and have families of their own. In some cases, they even molest their own children while their spouses remain silent to the cries of their children and try to give an impression that all is well within the family. Your suggestion that the Catholic Church should remove the requirement of celibacy for priests does not hold when a number of men such as Jerry Sandusky, who are married, commit the same crime that some of these priests committed. Men of this nature (homosexuals) will commit the same crime regardless if they are married or men of the “Cloth”. It is too bad that these men cannot restrain their sexual needs to others who are like them and are of adult age and restricted from participating in leadership positions. Yet a certain portion of the public cries out that such organizations such as the Boy Scouts should drop their ban on allowing homosexuals from being Boy Scout Leaders. It is equivalent to saying that we should allow the fox a chance of redeeming past behavior and give the fox free roaming privileges of the hen house. The fox will not change its behavior nor will the homosexual whether he is married or unmarried.

Finally, which is the greater sin?:
a) Sexual molestation of young children (at least they still have their life even though they endure mental scarring) or

b) Killing of children in the womb who were not given a chance to be born (they are alive and waiting for the birthing process).

Societies across this planet are oblivious to the killing of the unborn and yet seem aghast when certain men commit crimes of sexual molestation on children and cry out for justice to be done on crimes of this nature. There are two choices here, yet our society argues for choice (b) to be the law of the land to be upheld whereas choice (a) must be considered criminal behavior. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled as to how we are to live our lives even though we know right from wrong. By condoning choice (b) and not considering it a crime speaks volumes about where we are headed as a human society.”

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Diane Dimond March 4, 2013 at 10:58 am

Twitter Pal knightmccabe writes:

“@DiDimond caught uninformed op-ed on Catholic Church. Have you looked at abuse data in other institutions? Abuse by priests is among lowest.”

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Diane Dimond March 4, 2013 at 10:59 am

Knightmccabe:
I’m against sexual abuse where ever it occurs. The Papal Conclave made the issue of priestly abuse timely now. ~ DD

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Diane Dimond March 5, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Twitter pal hurlgirl writes:

” @DiDimond Great piece. All should see “Mea Maxima Culpa” doc to see how complicit Vatican has been in the cover-up of these atrocities.

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Diane Dimond March 5, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Hurlgirl – I second your recommendation – and third it and fourth it. The Documentary “Mea Maxima Culpa” (HBO) is a must see for anyone concerned about child abuse, the Catholic Church, the hypocritical nature of institutions. ~ DD

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Diane Dimond March 5, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Facebook Friend Marc Brewer writes:

“Every word is correct. always been best in business !”

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Diane Dimond March 5, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Facebook Friend William Drummond writes:

“Just off the top of my head, I’d say that the celibacy thing has something to do with it.”

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Diane Dimond March 5, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Facebook Friend Bill Voinovich writes:

“What they need to do is to allow priests & nuns to marry.
You very seldom hear of any other types of abuse cases in all the otther churches…..Might not cure EVERYTHING, but it would be a step in the right direction……..”

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Diane Dimond March 5, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Facebook Friend George Wood writes:

“Cleaning up acts, as the Church attempts to ascend from the 14th Century, is . . . impossible? It’s a secret club – nothing but secrets.”

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Diane Dimond March 5, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Facebook Friend Millie Kinsey writes:

“Do you really think they will [clean up its act] Diane? I’m skeptical. They’re take on women is so archaic. Why are people surprised about all this scandal? The entire situation is insane.”

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Diane Dimond March 6, 2013 at 1:24 am

Facebook Friend Ronald Jeffries Tallman writes:

“Celebacy is something many of them have been unable to sustain. Along with some involved in criminal activity just whom have they been following?”

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Diane Dimond March 6, 2013 at 1:25 am

Facebook Friend Lois Kubica writes:

“Diane is posting facts of just one group and she obviously professes ignorance of the church. t here are many abusers behind bars, and also in the beds of their own children. Judgement belongs to God. How do we know that Ratzinger WAS doing something about it? Think about it.But do not judge.”

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Diane Dimond March 6, 2013 at 6:28 pm

Creators Syndicate Reader Sweeny writes:

“Ma’am;…Give it up lady… If you think all those boys got up their skirts is stolen spoons and ladies undwear; you are mistaken… Those guys know how to keep a few secrets, and the facts die with those people who die with them… I mean to tell you that I am just a dirt poor peasant in the feudal society of the Church, but even I know the rules, and mostly because I learned by breaking them…Things are changing… But as many people are demanding a more tyranical, and inflexible church for all who want the kingdom of God democratic…
I could personally feel let down by the church if I were not so letting them down…For them to teach that thou shall not bear false witness does not mean you should not lie, or should always tell the truth…Some organizations are above the truth, better than the truth, and beyond the truth…You can say that the lord works in mysterious ways… You could say that the church does not work at all, but lives on the work of all the faithful… It is a good racket, and I should have joined it, but I thought my lousy morals were better, and God, was I right for once…
You just don’t get the whole celebacy thing, and I forgive you…Every priest is the unofficial husband of every unmarried woman or widow in the congregation… Every priest takes the place of every absentee husband, and father…Every kid who has ever been dragged before the priest for some screw-up when his dad was outa town knows the meaning of authority outside of family… Every kid who has ever had his sins forgiven knows the meaning of rectification…And if they are smart enough to not take reconcilaition as a licence, they learn how important is self forgiveness to any change of behavior…
It is not that the church works better than government… Actually, they are all in bed together… But the church works when people work, and no better, and the same is true of government… If people are loafing, the government is loafing… If the church is loafing the people are loafing, and when is the last time you ever heard of the Catholic Church really making a stand for justice??? Just like the government, the piddle around trying to mend the wounds of injustice without breaking the weapon…
There was a time when the church worked diligently to end child marriage and blood feuds, and not by telling people it was evil, but simply applying kind pressure, year after year, even century after century… At the same time, they gobbled up all the available land in sight, and made free men their serfs…They had a way of not hearing a last confession or ratifying the will of anyone who did not leave something for the church until in the end, the church owned a third to a half of all the countries of Europe… Their property was inalienable… We see what good are inalienable rights without the power to defend them…
In fact, our rights achieved by concerted action mean nothing to the churches… They think collectively that their rights are God given, and everyone else better look out for theirs…It is not because of the churches that we have civil rights or freedom at all… It is in spite of the churches that we have freedom at all…It is because of the churches that we must forever be on the defense of our rights… Seriously; what if my church is my church and they do some good??? They have always been the enemy of equal rights, and civil liberty, which is the most immoral of stands…That is not why I hate them…I don’t hate them…
They are no different from any group in any form who take their form for granted… How many people can take the library club objectively if they are a member??? Who in the military can take the military objectively??? All forms are the same, defined as much by who they accept, as who they reject…Who do the churches reject??? I don’t know what you would have to do to get rejected by my church, but I guess trying to tell the truth about them puts one on the edge… Still, they do not accept anyone either…
You are welcome to come, but you sort of have to give up your identity, and take on a new one… And you see what you have to do to have a name in the church… Even the Pope to have an identity has to take the name of some one else…Considering that they more or less invented the legal individual; that fact is amazing…If you want to be a nobody, a church is a good place to be, but I do not think that is the point… I think the whole idea was to give up everything and follow Jesus rather than the church…People sacrifice their individuality to the group, for group meaning for a time, but they don’t give up all they own, so they return to themselves and their junk…I just skip the game and remain myself…
I’m no Mother Theresa… I just give what I can spare for my fellow human beings, dumb animals not excluded…I am in no position to judge those people by my standards because I don’t have any; but I know I don’t want theirs… They don’t get it… They cannot defrock priests because they have too few of them for the sheep… And because they clearly will not police their own, no one in their right mind wants to join the priesthood, so the problem only grows…The fact is that feudalism may be efficient, but the reason its has passed historically is because it could not adapt to changing circumstances, and neither can the church…If you think the world is counting down to the end you are in the right church…
Thanks…Sweeney”

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Diane Dimond March 6, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Creators Syndicate Reader Marty Riske writes:

” To remove a priest accused of illegal contact with a minor is against the law. All those who have avoided civil law have broken the laws of this land. All must be arrested and tried, if found guilty, dealt the court’s punishment. In the U.S. we have “rule of law not men”. The Pope is a man.”

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I can't trust them! March 7, 2013 at 11:15 am

Who are you to say as you ask? You are.. it’s good it’s being brought to light after being covered up so many years. I was blind too..I have nuns and priests in the family!.. I will change my name so fast if anything ever happens.. thats a given. But HOW was this allowed in the Church? How did this man get away with it? Their truly must be a Vatican Mafia. I recently read a downloaded book.. (can’t buy it) Murder in the Vatican.. written by the male author… not the female one by the same title… Read it… read about the Pope they only let live a short time… Horrific… Real movie material.
Excellent article by the way!! This sort of reminds me of our Gov. with it’s elections, with organic foods vs tainted GMO”s they are shoving down us. Keep writing…please!! Thanks

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Diane Dimond March 10, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Reader Diana Westover writes:

“I enjoyed your article. Another huge issue is the Vatican Bank. Just read The Vatican Exposed. Paul L Williams. The church needs a true reformer. Just ordered new book on kindle fire, Radzinger was Afraid. Out 3/15. Looks like Italian Curia needs to be fired.”

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