For those of us paying attention, Pope Benedict XVI, or as they’d call him at my high school, le pape Benoît XVI, is visiting the United States.

I’ve seen very little of this in the American media — you think they’d be apeshit over it — nor have I heard much from the Canadian newswires (though to be fair I haven’t been paying much attention.) A quick read through the top Popely headlines in a French newspaper has things pretty much summed up though.

I’ve often said I enjoy reading about American news in French newspapers and Canadian news in American newspapers and all sorts of combinations of the above. International bias is a beautiful thing sometimes, and in this case, it jumps out all over the page.

Les francophones autour de moi won’t need a translation but I’ll summarize one or two articles for the rest of you.

In Washington Thursday, the Pope expressed his ‘profound shame’ regarding the pedophiliac-priest scandal that has rocked the entire Catholic church. That same Thursday, he met with a small group of people who were sexually assaulted by clergy members. The majority of meetings and speeches he’s given, however, have been varied as to the content: to the American people, he states that clergy-related rapes should be viewed “in the bigger context of sexual morals” of the American people, as if these rapes are somehow the fault of a lack of morality on the part of the general American population. His speeches to the Bishops, however, contain a totally different tone: “Your efforts to care for and protect are bearing their fruits; not only as part of your pastoral responsibility; but for all of society as well.” Having these facts all on the same page makes it quite clear that Benedict believes the problem of rapist clergy is in fact the result of American sexual immorality, specifically pornography, and goes so far as to tell the Bishops that they are doing a good job in handling the scandal.

Let’s digress for a moment, to see how the glossing over of this important issue is a very deliberate political move on the part of a politically conservative figurehead who is empowered by the people of the Catholic church to be an idol on par with God. Let’s not forget the commandment that stated one shall not have idols before God — however and unfortunately, many Catholics (and Christians) take the word of the pope as the word of God directly, without considering personal agendas.

The official priestly pedophile scandal did not erupt in a major and public way until 2002, when a Boston-area bishop admitted to having kept silent about sexual abuses committed by clergy members. It was the pope at that time, John Paul II, who entrusted Benedict with handling it. He wasn’t Benedict at this time, of course — he was a simple cardinal, Josef Ratzinger, responsible for the all-powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. In total, more than 10,000 children were sexually abused since 1950 by more than 4,000 priests. After a long period of abject denial, the American church was finally forced to take responsibility: 700 priests had their priesthood revoked, and 2.3 billion Euros (3.65 billion Canadian dollars) was dispersed by the church to buy clemency from the families, avoiding several embarsassing lawsuits, and finally, an official zero-tolerance policy for pedophilia within the clergy was instituted. (This is, of course, over and above the actual law within the actual criminal code that forbids sexual contact with minors when in a position of authority.)

Many victims are dissatisfied with this result, saying that it is one thing for the pope to express shame, but that he has revealed no mechanisms by way this tragedy can be avoided in the future. Elsewhere, the pope gives the impression that he’d rather gloss over the issue of sexual abuse by clergy members, stating that every sector of society is touched by sexual abuse, and that this should be considered alongside the abovementioned sexual immorality that he says pervades the United States. He never gives specifics for how the issue will be handled, nevermind having been personally at the helm for the last six years. He simply uses it as a springboard to slam his favourite scapegoats: mainstream media, pornography, and general moral bankruptcy:

(translated from French quotes): “What significance is there in talking about protecting our children from abuse when pornography and violence can be seen in so many living rooms, across the many media outlets easily accessible today?” He stated that reaffirming the ‘fundamental values of society, in order to give young people and adults a solid moral foundation’ was something he hoped for.

Within what was supposed to be a intervention about rapist pedophiliac clergymen, the pope managed to broaden his scope to include “the media and the industry of entertainment,” and the danger of secularization in a country with 65 million Catholics — the third highest concentration in the world, after Brazil and Mexico.

It’s a devious jump, the jump from rapist pedophiles to pornography to mainstream media to secularization. It’s interesting to note that when Benedict mentions pedophilia, a rapist clergyman, sexual assaults, or his shame, the next subject out of his mouth is about America’s moral decay. As if America’s moral decay suddenly makes a man who attended seminary school and took a vow of celibacy unable to prevent himself from sexually assaulting a small child.

It’s important to pay attention to his word associations, as they’re tricks pulled by religious pundits quite frequently in print media. The reason he always mentions these subjects side by side is to cause people to think that there must be a correlation between the two (or three, or four) — and that correlation perhaps equals causation. Nothing could be further from the truth, but it is how major political and religious leaders use the media to manipulate our opinions.

During his stern talk to the 400-some bishops, the pope highlighted some points to take note of. He preached that by moralizing the United States, by banning pornography and violence in the media, he hopes that ‘the children’ will therefore avoid degrading situations and vulgar manipulations of sexuality, which, according to him, are omnipresent in the present day.

I personally fail to see how less violence on TV makes fewer priests rape children, but I do see how controlling our media by calling for the desexualization and desensationalization of the same would make the Catholic church a more powerful political identity. He also preached against secularization, and against the once-a-week Catholics, stating that it is unacceptable to attend Sunday mass and then spend the rest of the week promoting practices that are against the doctrine of your faith, which, as far as catholicism goes, means no sex except for procreation and under no circumstances may you use birth control.

I find it personally quite interesting that the pope wants to control the sex lives and the media consumption of 65 million target Americans, but will pay out somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.5 billion dollars American to prevent rape victims from filing lawsuits and will secretly relocate them to make pressing charges extremely difficult.

God loves you. Jesus will forgive you. But the Catholic church as a political construct will stop at nothing to gain total control over what information goes into your head (as little as possible and as dogmatic as possible) and over how you live your life and affect those around you, and they want you to live your life with only the tiny slivers of information they’ve given to you. Dogmatically they go so far as to pressure that they should reserve their skepticism for science, not faith — that instead of having faith in science, and the thousands of years of experimentation and eureka!s that went into it, we should devalue it at every opportunity.

Don’t buy the smokescreen about pornography — pornography is not making priests rape little boys. Pornography is a word that Benedict uses to distract the easily-distracted from the topic at hand — that their young sons are being sexually assaulted by men in a position of authority, ordained by the one of the oldest Christian traditions in existence, by men who’ve taken a vow of celibacy, by men who you trust to confess your darkest secrets to so that your sins may be forgiven.

This is a church that will remove a priest from the priesthood entirely, shaming him for a lifetime, for having consensual sex with a woman once — but will relocate a priest to a new parish for having raped perhaps dozens of young children.

I thought hard about it. I really did. And there are some parts of the Catholic church that I will keep with me for the rest of my life — but I cannot, in good conscience, associate myself with an institution that would protect rapists from legal recourse and silence victims with injections of cash, all the while trying to control my access to legal and consensual sexual activity, stating that it’s what contributes to the moral decay of society.

I call bullshit, Benedict. No man who protects rapists from the full punishment they’re entitled to will be looked upon kindly by God, and I refuse to accept such a man as my religious leader.

Consider me excommunicated.

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