Washington, DC, April 13, 2010
America’s oldest and largest humanist organization turned up the heat on Pope Benedict XVI today by calling for a criminal investigation into the pontiff’s involvement in mishandling clergy sex abuse. The Washington-based American Humanist Association’s call for an investigation comes on the heels of new evidence unearthed over the weekend that Pope Benedict refused to defrock an American priest who had sexually abused two boys, citing “the good of the Universal Church.”
“The children who have been the victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests and who have doubly suffered from the cover up by the church deserve justice,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “It’s outrageous that the Vatican appears to be using its religious status as a means of avoiding responsibility in this matter. If any secular institution or entity were credibly accused of what Pope Benedict has been accused of, there’s no question those allegations would be investigated by the proper authorities. Religious institutions should not be exempt from such scrutiny just because they are religious, and they should be held accountable for any criminal wrongdoing.”
The AHA said it supported arguments made by Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins that the Pope should not be able to claim diplomatic immunity from arrest.
The AHA stopped short of demanding the Pope’s resignation, however. Speckhardt said that non-Catholics have no authority to demand papal resignations because such issues are internal affairs for the church. Rather, Speckhardt urged nonbelieving Catholics–those who identify as Catholic only for familial and cultural reasons–to explore humanism as a positive alternative to the dismal shortcomings of the church and its leadership. “From a secular perspective, Ratzinger’s byzantine approach to issues of the day provide a clear contrast that highlights the virtues of humanism,” Speckhardt said. “We see humanism representing a moral and philosophical framework for today and for the future, a lifestance that brings hope and goodwill. As humanists, we see all of humanity as our brothers and sisters–not because we’re God’s children, but because we really are a human family. That’s not theology or divine revelation; that’s fact.”
According to a 2008 study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a stunning thirty percent of Catholics believe God doesn’t exist or is “an impersonal force.” “Many of these secular Catholics undoubtedly retain their Catholic identity only for family or cultural reasons,” continued Speckhardt. “This lack of belief in a personal God, combined with an undeniable reality that most Catholics don’t take Vatican dictates very seriously (as is evidenced by the huge numbers that practice birth control despite church rules to the contrary), suggests that the flock’s actual support for the institution is weak. We’d like to invite those folks to explore humanism as a lifestance that allows them to affirm their values while identifying honestly.”
The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.
Humanism is the idea that you can be good without a belief in God.