Is the Pope Toast?

Mar 12, 10 | 7:47 AM   byMichael Wolff
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This isn’t getting much attention in the US, but it’s a big one: The Pope’s in trouble.

Trouble, trouble. Not-going-away trouble. Run-out-of-office trouble. It’s a potentially transformative moment in matters of religion and of power, wherein even the infallible turns out to be vulnerable. Some of us live for such moments.

It’s the priest sex story, the same one we’ve already done—and done. But now it’s popping up in Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands, all markets which make the American news media yawn. But come on. The priest sex story is one of the best we’ve had. It’s one of the ones that the media of our time is going to be remembered for. It’s the ultimate destruction of facade; the giving of voice to silence; the catching of deer and hypocrites in the headlights. It’s our triumph.

It’s also, on the other hand, our shame. Because who hasn’t known for generations that’s what priests were doing? And yet the story went untold. It had to wait for 30 or 40 years for public sensibility to catch up with it before it was told.

And it’s still told with an absurd tact and respect. It’s still a story about errant and deviant priests instead of a story, as the numbers indicate, of not just a spectacular cover-up, but of a clear sexual predisposition. This was a driving motivation of priests joining the church: sex with boys.

So far, it’s been an American thing which the Vatican has been remote and rather haughty about: vulgar American media. But now the story is everywhere in Europe and it includes the Pope’s brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger.

It’s got all the elements: boarding schools, choirs, boys, yum. Msgr. Ratzinger was the choir master, of course. At the school in question, in Bavaria, where Pope Benedict was the Archbishop and his brother the choir master, there was, according to one of the accusers, an “elaborate system of sadistic punishments combined with sexual lust.” Indeed. While Msgr. Ratzinger, now 86, professes to have no knowledge of the lust, he is now apologizing for slapping students: “I, too, slapped people in the face, but I always had a bad conscience about it.”

The brothers Ratzinger are said to have been close.

The Vatican’s defense is the same defense that crumbled in the US. Local churches are handling the matter with “timely and decisive action.” What’s more, the Vatican adds, not necessarily helping its case, it’s not just Catholics who molest boys, it’s going on all over.

Anyway, we should be following this story more closely, and savoring it. The truth will out. What is buried comes up. Even the Pope, quite possibly, is accountable. A development which may be bigger than we know.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
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