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Pope Ignores the War, Gets Free Pass on Sex Abuse

Pope Benedict XVI arrived in the U.S. last week against a macabre backdrop featuring reports of torture, execution and war. He chose not to notice.

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Iraq is a shambles. Two million Iraqis have fled abroad; another two million are internal refugees. Am I the only one who finds macabre the raging debate as to whether the attack and occupation of Iraq has resulted in a million or "only 300,000" Iraqis dead?

Apparently, the Pope did not have any opinion on the Iraq War.

But torture?

Surely the Pope would speak out against the kind of torture for which our country has become famous: Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, CIA "black sites" -- the more so, since Jesus of Nazareth was tortured to death.

The Pope chose silence, which presumably came as welcome relief to four-star torturer's apprentice Gen. Michael Hayden, now head of the CIA.

The White House has made clear that Hayden is ready to instruct his torturers to waterboard again, upon Caesar's approval.

Hayden proved his mettle when he was head of the National Security Agency. He saluted smartly when the president and vice president told him to disregard the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act and his oath to defend the Constitution.

One of Hayden's predecessors as NSA director asserted that Hayden should have been court-martialed. Pelosi was briefed both on the illegal surveillance and the torture, but did nothing.

Having demonstrated his allegiance to the president, Hayden was picked to head the CIA. The general likes to brag about his moral training and Catholic credentials. At his nomination hearing, he noted that he was the beneficiary of 18 years of Catholic education.

All the while it was quite clear he was positively lusting to be in charge of waterboarding and other torture techniques -- whatever you say, boss.

I was somewhat crestfallen after adding up my own years of Catholic education -- only 17. Clearly I missed "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques 301."

Keep it general, focus on others' sins

Saturday at the U.N., the pontiff pontificated on "God-given human rights" and "massive human rights abuses," but pretty much left it at that. The Washington Post reported that the Pope was "short on specifics and long on broad themes."

But there was one specific. Here in the U.S., the Pope seemed to prefer to dwell on the pedophilia scandal -- to the exclusion of much else. He is to be applauded for meeting with victims of clergy sexual abuse and expressing deep shame, but he got a free pass from the media in disguising his own role in trying to cover the whole thing up.

While still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- the Vatican office that once ran the Inquisition. In that capacity he sent a letter in May 2001 to all Catholic bishops throwing a curtain of secrecy over the widespread sexual abuse by clergy, warning the bishops of severe penalties, including excommunication for breaching "pontifical secrets."

Lawyers acting for the sexually abused accused Ratzinger of "clear obstruction of justice."

Very few American bishops have been disciplined. And when Bernard Cardinal Law was run out of Boston for failing to protect children from predator priests, he was given a cushy sinecure in Rome; many believe he should be behind bars.

In an interview with the Catholic News Service in 2002, Ratzinger branded media coverage of the pedophilia scandal "a planned campaign ... intentional, manipulated, a desire to discredit the church."

It is nice that the Pope has now changed his tune. Nicer still for him, he found himself mostly in the congenial atmosphere of Washington, where very few powerful miscreants are held accountable.

So what did you expect?

I do wish my friends would stop asking me that.

While it was good that the Pope addressed the pedophilia issue head on, it seemed as though he made a decision to devote time and energy to the issue.