Following Vatican criticisms of big business last year, Business Week magazine hits back with an article arguing that the Pope is holding the Church to a lesser ethical standard than is the norm in Corporate America.
Even as new allegations of child abuse—and subsequent coverups—by Roman Catholic priests emerge in Germany and other European nations, Pope Benedict XVI is being criticized for his failure to hold priests, bishops, and cardinals responsible for a well-documented, six-decade-long history of abuse in Ireland.
Although the Roman Catholic Church is a spiritual entity, it is also a worldly organization, with its own canon law, ecclesiastical courts, and disciplinary procedures. An important question is whether the Church should investigate and discipline severe ethical transgressions of its leaders as do other major organizations, including corporations. It appears that when it comes to ethical and leadership failures, Pope Benedict believes the answer is “no,” that the Church—which serves God—should not be held even to the same standards as responsible corporations—servants of Mammon.
In May 2009, a 2,600-page report from a state-appointed commission (which took nine years to produce) concluded that tens of thousands of Irish children were sexually, physically, and emotionally abused by nuns, priests, and others over a 60-year period in a network of Church-run residential schools meant to care for the poor, vulnerable, and unwanted. Another report found that the church and police had systematically colluded in covering up decades of sexual abuse by priests in Dublin.
In a pastoral letter sent to the Catholics of Ireland on Mar. 20, Pope Benedict expressed “great concern…for the dismay and sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.” He went on to criticize Ireland’s bishops for “grave errors of judgment and failures of leadership.”
Yet, despite the voluminous, detailed report (which did not, however, include names of the abusers) and despite his apologies, the Pope did not announce a Church process for assessing responsibility and accountability of Irish cardinals, bishops, and priests during this period—nor did he urge priests, bishops, and cardinals to report abuse to state authorities. Rather, he asked the laity, the priesthood, and church leaders to seek spiritual renewal and ensure sound practices consistent with canon law going forward.