The Fisherman's Ring

By Eric F. Mallonga
Manila Times
November 20, 2006

Simon Peter, Christ's pri mordial fisher of men, established the beginnings of the Catholic Church in Rome's Vatican City, skillfully veering away from the controversial ancestral lands where Israel now stands. Simon Peter did not veer from the teachings of his Master Jesus Christ, who repeatedly stressed the greatness of children and the need to imbibe their attributes to enter the kingdom of heaven. Simon Peter's ring, known as "The Fisherman's Ring," had been passed on to the popes that came after him, with the mission of following in the footsteps of the compassionate, loving, child-oriented Christ.

Many Catholic Popes have fallen short of The Christ paradigm. Some rose to the pinnacles of power within the Catholic Church, aspiring only for wealth and power, generating revenue to sustain opulent lifestyles and to maintain the "materialistic Vatican" with its sculptures, paintings and artwork that, taken altogether, could feed the impoverished world. Some have even had bacchanalian orgies in the Vatican, preserved as the "Borgia Apartments" beside the Sistine chapels in the supposedly sacrosanct Vatican grounds, and named after a degenerate Pope that ruled the Church despite his decadence.

But there are many popes who have selflessly risen to the challenge, transcending the limitations of their human frailties, even achieving the saintliness of their holiest predecessors. For us Christians who believe in the divine dimension, in an after­world and an afterlife in paradise, no paragon other than the ideal of a modest, humble, altruistic, self-effacing Jesus Christ can, and should ever, be the papal standard. It is only to these men, who live by Christ and in Christ, to whom the fisherman's ring ought to pass. One such man was the saintly Augustinian monk Martin Luther, who denounced the selling of papal indulgences and aggressively advised the sale of the Vatican for the proceeds to be distributed among the poor. It is God that should be worshipped, not the Vatican, not the popes and cardinals, and definitely not the graven images atop the parapets of St. Peter's Square. It is this standard that Martin Luther knew and lived by.

When a person becomes pope, he must not only be "as clean as Ceasar's wife," he must be as modest, simple and sincere as the fishermen of Galilee. It is by the Christ standard, which the previous self-effacing Pope John Paul II symbolized, that the incumbent Pontiff must necessarily be tested against. A British documentary, Panorama on the BBC website, however, has implicated the former Josef Cardinal Ratzinger in the systematic cover-up of child sex-abuse allegations against Catholic priests. Before becoming Pontiff, Ratzinger enforced church doctrinal orthodoxy, including a "secret Vatican decree, which seemed to shelter the perpetrators and silence the victims of abuse."

This was the 1962 document Crimen Solicitationis, which told top churchmen how to deal with priests who "solicit or provoke the penitent toward impure and obscene matters."

It imposed an oath of secrecy on victims, witnesses and those probing abuse claims under pain of excommunication.

The Vatican, through Rat­zinger, allegedly maneuvered the removal of Father Tom Doyle, a canon solicitor who aggressively criticized the Vatican's handling of child-abuse claims. Doyle claims that Crimen was "an explicit written policy to cover up cases of child sexual abuse by the clergy, to punish those who would call attention to these crimes by the churchmen."

As Panorama reported, Ratzinger clarified Church law on the clerical pedophilia issue in 2001 by ordering that the Vatican must have "exclusive competence" for child-abuse cases. Doyle says: "It's all controlled by the Vatican and at the top of the Vatican is the pope so Josef Ratzinger was in the middle of this for most of the years that Crimen was enforced."

The British Catholic Church has furiously responded to the program's claims. The Archbishop of Birmingham in central England, the Most Rev. Vincent Nichols, told Britain's Press Association news agency that BBC used Vatican documents "quite misleadingly in order to connect the horrors of child abuse to the person of the Pope."

Speaking on behalf of bishops in England and Wales, he accused the BBC of "a deeply prejudiced attack on a revered world religious leader."

And he added that the Catholic Church in England and Wales was working to protect children with transparency and care.

The Pope can simply order that the Church take strong action—now not later—against those accused of child-sex scandals, excommunicate them for their abominable deeds against the innocent children for which Christ expressly stated in the Gospels that those who harm children and cause them to sin are better off tying millstones around their necks and throwing themselves into the deepest depths of the ocean, and cooperate with legal proceedings. We await such actions, without which "The Fisherman's Ring" may always be too large to securely fit the Pontiff's finger.


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