Leading Ethically Only is an educational outreach of Leadership Ethics Online (LEO). Essays range widely--from ethical analysis of the news, to ethical challenges to leaders in society, to personal reflections of an ethical nature. We welcome your thoughts and criticisms to make us better.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The FED's Hoenig Has Conflict of Interest

The Federal Reserve's Thomas Hoenig appeals to let the FED handle the current crisis, and the calls to break up the banks. He is a banker. He is a multi-millionaire. He wants to control whatever happens to his industry, his way, the way of his fellow board members on the FED.

The Federal Reserve Board is a collection of banks. They do not represent the interests of U.S. citizens, nor have they ever done so. The FED always has recommended money supplies and interest rates that enable banks to maximize profits. Those who sit on the FED's board have vested interests in their power to continue to take profits as they see fit. They want to avoid any legislation that curtail profits and their authority to control them.

U.S. paper currency has printed on it, "Federal Reserve Note." Though this currency is printed by the U.S. Bureau of Printing and Engraving, the currency itself is a non-interest-bearing promissory note issued by the FED. Not until after the passage of the Federal Reserve Act of 1914 did the most powerful banks in the U.S.--who made sure they had seats on the FED--begin to use their legal authority to issue notes they backed.

Prior to 1933, Americans could redeem paper notes with gold. Prior to 1964, they could redeem Silver Certificate for silver. Interestingly, and ALL Americans should mark this, foreign holders of U.S. paper currencies could redeem their notes in gold until 1971. The banks took away from Americans any right to call for anything of real market value. "In God We Trust" they could. But the banks took away any trust that anything other than that they would keep the obligation to carry FED promises in their pockets.

No chairman of the FED has been appointed without foreknowledge he was at the service of the banks sitting on the board. For years, the billionaires owning and controlling the media have lauded and praised America's FED chairs and U.S. Treasury heads--also completely within the family, and under the complete control of the banks--as the saviors of the nation.

How ironic that the picture above captures both some of the principal architects of today's debacles, and the desired propaganda to sooth all the sheep being sheared for so long.  The once-great bell curve of the American Middle Class filled banks' savings and checking accounts, pension funds, and other savings instruments.  The FED--read now, "the wealthiest banks who had the billions to leverage for their seats on its board"--fought hard for many years to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933.  Finally, in 1999, three Republican Congressmen, proposed and succeeded in passing into legislation the Pandora's Box so long prayed for by all the banks sitting on the FED.  The Federal Modernization Act (Gramm-Leach-Bliley) unlocked previously restricted access to all the wealth in the American Middle Class.

When he was placed at the head of the FED, Ben Bernanke was like all his predecessors.  His closest friends and associates were in the banking industry.  He never would have been entrusted with his 14-year term on the FED, or the chairmanship, except for the common consensus he never would harm the interests of those who put him where he is today.  The same is true, of course, for every FED board member, the member institution is represents, and the foreign billionaires who own if not controlling, then powerful blocks of shares, in each one.  The interests of bans, and those who actually own them, always have been transnational, not merely American only, as the entire history of the FED shows, from its beginnings.

We rebuke any statements made by the FED on what ought to be done.  For any statements made never, ever will run counter to the interests of the members of the FED.  If the banks and financial institutions feel enough heat, if they feel impending federal legislations will curtail past profit margins, then they will "join" the chorus for reform.  But they will join the chorus systematically, and place choir members in strategic places, to ensure that the only song later to be sung will harmonize with the best possible potentials for profits in a reformed marketplace.

No banker, no one connected with banks and finance, including members of our Congress--many with the longest and closest ties with these industries--will ever exchange the right to shear American sheep, even though they know the infections from their many years of nicks and cuts already have, and will continue, to decimate the population.  Why do they do this?  They all are transnational.  For many years, they have been shifting their investments into foreign sheep who will live on to take the place of the good Americans who trusted their shearers.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Crooked Bankers and Financiers: Prosecute Them to Save Our Union

Many Americans harmed by crooked bankers and financiers are hearing various "fixes" in the law to prevent similar events in the future.  Emerging evidence over the past several years shows, to a person who is not a legal expert, there may be a basis for criminal prosecution of felonies not normally associated with these behaviors.

Potentially Applicable to Emerging Evidence

U.S. Criminal Code, Title 18, Part I, Ch. 1, Sec. 4:
Misprision of Felony

Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

 U.S. Criminal Code, Title 18, Part I, Ch. 19, Sec. 371:
 Conspiracy to Commit Offense or Defraud United States

If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. 

 U.S. Criminal Code, Title 18, Part I, Ch. 11, Sec. 201:
 Bribery of Public Officials and Witnesses

This section is too long to quote here.  It has many elements applicable to emerging evidence.  It has elements which some members in government, if evidence were discovered, would be subject to this statutes.  Those who have covered acts subject to this statute would be subject to felonies related to conspiracy and obstruction.

 U.S. Criminal Code, Title 18, Part I, Ch. 15, Sec. 286:
Conspiracy to Defraud the Government with Respect to Claims 

Whoever enters into any agreement, combination, or conspiracy to defraud the United States, or any department or agency thereof, by obtaining or aiding to obtain the payment or allowance of any false, fictitious or fraudulent claim, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

 U.S. Criminal Code, Title 18, Part I, Ch. 15, Sec. 287:
False, Fictitious or Fraudulent Claims 

Whoever makes or presents to any person or officer in the civil, military, or naval service of the United States, or to any department or agency thereof, any claim upon or against the United States, or any department or agency thereof, knowing such claim to be false, fictitious, or fraudulent, shall be imprisoned not more than five years and shall be subject to a fine in the amount provided in this title.

 U.S. Criminal Code, Title 18, Part I, Ch. 41, Sec. 873:

Whoever, under a threat of informing, or as a consideration for not informing, against any violation of any law of the United States, demands or receives any money or other valuable thing, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

 U.S. Criminal Code, Title 18, Part I, Ch. 47, Secs. 1001-1014, 1018, 1027, 1029-1032, 1037-1038:
Fraud and False Statements 

The emerging evidence applies to many of these statutes, which are too long to quote here.  E.g., Sec. 1001:

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully— 
(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;
shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both. If the matter relates to an offense under chapter 109A, 109B, 110, or 117, or section 1591, then the term of imprisonment imposed under this section shall be not more than 8 years.

 U.S. Criminal Code, Title 18, Part I, Ch. 63, Secs. 1341, 1344-1351:
Mail Fraud and Other Fraud Offenses  

Bank fraud and securities fraud are included here.  The statute should be read carefully.  Its applicability is specific and extensive.

U.S. Criminal Code, Title 18, Part I, Ch. 73, Secs. 1505-1506, 1511, 1512-1513, 1516-1521:

Again, there is so much in this statute applicable to emerging evidence.  E.g., Sec. 1505:

Whoever, with intent to avoid, evade, prevent, or obstruct compliance, in whole or in part, with any civil investigative demand duly and properly made under the Antitrust Civil Process Act, willfully withholds, misrepresents, removes from any place, conceals, covers up, destroys, mutilates, alters, or by other means falsifies any documentary material, answers to written interrogatories, or oral testimony, which is the subject of such demand; or attempts to do so or solicits another to do so; or 
Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress— 
Shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.

U.S. Criminal Code, Title 18, Part I, Ch. 79:

Readers should read the full entries on perjury, subornation of perjury, and false declarations before grand jury or court.  There can be no doubt that this statute has many applications, though the difficulties of acquiring evidence for conviction may or may not be severe.

U.S. Criminal Code, Title 18, Part I, Ch. 93, Sec. 1909:
Public Officers and Employees 

Whoever, being a national-bank examiner, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation examiner, or farm credit examiner, performs any other service, for compensation, for any bank or banking or loan association, or for any officer, director, or employee thereof, or for any person connected therewith in any capacity, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

U.S. Criminal Code, Title 18, Part I, Ch. 95, Secs. 1954, 1956-1957:

Section 1956, "Laundering of Monetary Instruments," is specifically applicable to some activities, though proof of "knowledge" is the linchpin here.

U.S. Criminal Code, Title 18, Part I, Ch. 101, Secs. 2071, 2073, 2075:
Records and Reports

[E.g., Sec. 2073]  Whoever, being an officer, clerk, agent, or other employee of the United States or any of its agencies, charged with the duty of keeping accounts or records of any kind, with intent to deceive, mislead, injure, or defraud, makes in any such account or record any false or fictitious entry or record of any matter relating to or connected with his duties; or
Whoever, being an officer, clerk, agent, or other employee of the United States or any of its agencies, charged with the duty of receiving, holding, or paying over moneys or securities to, for, or on behalf of the United States, or of receiving or holding in trust for any person any moneys or securities, with like intent, makes a false report of such moneys or securities— 
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

U.S. Criminal Code, Title 18, Part I, Ch. 115, Sec. 2384:

If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
[Bold added]

Black's Law Dictionary
opens the definition of force: "Power dynamically considered, that is, in motion or in action; constraining power, compulsion; strength directed to an end.  Usually the word occurs in such connections as to show that unlawful or wrongful action is meant."  And later in the entry, "Power statically considered; that is at rest, or latent, but being capable of being called into activity upon occasion for its exercise."   It would seem that some bankers and financiers have used force in ways applicable under this statute.


The corporations involved number in the hundreds, if not thousands.  These companies all have internal legal teams.  The collective billions of dollars dedicated to legal defense are incomparable to the personnel and budgets of the U.S. Departments with legal teams of interest on the crimes that, in this American's uninformed and inexpert opinion, did occur.

Nevertheless, throughout the U.S. government, past and present, there is evidence that:
(1) members of the U.S. Congress;
(2) former members of past Presidential cabinets;
(3) former and current personnel in multiple U.S. departments which had oversight authority; and,
(4) former and current members of federal and state judiciaries,

knew the practices now under investigation and public scrutiny.  There is therefore, another profound difficulty.  With such widespread knowledge on these practices for so long, which U.S. agencies and employees will want to pursue the applicability of any criminal statutes?

To "follow the money" or the spiderwebs of self-interest, as thousands of persons in federal positions of authority were enriched by practices from which they profited, or which they knew but did not act, is a nearly impossible scenario for Americans to expect justice.  There is, in a perverse and immoral sense, thousands of people with "conflicts of interest."  Of course, there are many federal statutes on that, if provable.

On March 27, 2009, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, following one of the bank presidents' statements, "We're all in this together."

Back in the 1980s, I remember seeing a front page story of two crimes.  In one, an average American was sent to prison for several years for stealing stereo equipment.  Next to that was a conviction of a "white collar" criminal who was given a fine.  I never forgot that graphic illustration.

The wonderful Harvard psychologist, now mainly forgotten, Rollo May wrote that the sources of group violence often were found in anxiety, which pressurized people to the point they lashed out against the persons and institutions they rightly or wrongly blamed for their pain.   During the French Revolution, millions of people became so angry at the royals they set up a guillotine and executed both the guilty and the innocent.

It is my understanding that the United States government has a plan in place for domestic unrest, to be managed by The U.S. Northern Command.  It is my belief, based on thirty years of study in the history of violence, that unless the current White House and U.S. Congress fully investigate, charge, prosecute, convict, and imprison all who have contributed to the coming Depression, NORTHCOM will be used against Americans who have been destroyed by overseers above the laws of this nation.

There now are pockets of small groups dedicated to the overthrow of the government.  Shall we wait until a complete Depression occurs and millions of good, decent people are driven by hunger, homelessness, and unjust uses of their laws, to arise en masse in violence, lashing out against anyone employed by, defensive of, a government that did not enforce laws and punish severely the crimes committed against them with "justice for all."

Let our democracy try to stabilize, let us dilute the forces of impending violence, through the most rigorous and just enforcement of the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Criminal Code.  Yes, the U.S. Department of Justice, all interested agencies, and the courts, will be pitted against billions of dollars in resources, including manipulation of public perceptions through propaganda.  Yes, there will be, as there always have been, cries of "anti-American...witch hunts...abuse of power."

Nevertheless, if we look at the dynamics of anxiety and violence, if we combine what appears to be widespread immunity from criminal prosecution because of the power of money and political corruption, then the message sent to average Americans is that money purchases freedom for those who have proven themselves enemies of the State, though the federal code on treason never will be applied to them.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Roman Catholic Sex Scandals, The Pope, Jesus, Moral Accountability, and Resignation?

Leadership Ethics Online, LLC, teaches that leaders in all organizations must lead by example, take responsibility for their actions, and produce healthy organizations by holding themselves to the same high standard they require from others.

People in the U.S. and around the world--religious or not--are shocked by widespread clergy sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.  Clergy are ordained by their churches to serve God's people.  Their position as leaders, their weekly duties to preach, teach, and counsel, naturally call for trust by their congregations.  To use their sacred offices and trust for criminal sexual acts harms children, their families, congregations, and stains the reputations of clergy and the Church.

People are asking now whether or not the current Pope, Benedict XVI, when he was a bishop, archbishop, and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had any role in ignoring, enabling, protecting, or any form of negligence or malfeasance, regarding priests harming children.  Based on emerging evidence, some are calling openly for his resignation as an appropriate ethical response to what is being learned.

This essay looks at one document available to us from the Pope's career as Prefect, analyzes part of it, and draws some appropriate conclusions.  Then, bypassing issues of canon law, we return to consider Jesus of Nazareth--the founder of the Christian religion--and his commandments on church discipline, and related themes on personal accountability.

Since the current news is on professional ethics, harm, and personality and professional accountability, these remarks are offered to the public.

Analysis of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's 2001 Letter
"Regarding More Serious Offenses"

Before he chose the name Benedict XVI, the current Pope was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, he served as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1981-2005.  In 1962, the Congregation issued an official policy, Crimen Solicitatis, which required secrecy for cases of alleged sexual abuse.  After Cardinal Ratzinger became Prefect, on 18 May 2001, he issued a policy, "Regarding More Serious Offenses", which instructed bishops and archbishops on various crimes, including sex with minors under the age of 18.

Ratzinger instructed that the offenses covered, including sexual offenses with minors, were "reserved to the apostolic tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."  Nevertheless, he indicated that the Congregation ceded authority for how offenses were to be investigated and decided to local authorities.  We quote:
As often as an ordinary or hierarch has at least probable knowledge of a reserved delict, after he has carried out the preliminary investigation he is to indicate it to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which unless it calls the case to itself because of special circumstances of things, after transmitting appropriate norms, orders the ordinary or hierarch to proceed ahead through his own tribunal. The right of appealing against a sentence of the first instance, whether on the part of the party or the party's legal representative, or on the part of the promoter of justice, solely remains valid only to the supreme tribunal of this congregation.

It must be noted that the criminal action on delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is extinguished by a prescription of 10 years.  The prescription runs according to the universal and common law; however, in the delict perpetrated with a minor by a cleric, the prescription begins to run from the day when the minor has completed the 18th year of age.

Ratzinger was the highest-ranking Roman Catholic authority on faith and morals at this time, subordinate only to Pope John Paul II himself.  We note the following conclusions from this letter issued in 2001.
  1. Sexual crimes against minors mentioned for separate attention in one line, after more extensive discussions against eucharistic celebration and the sacrament of penance.
  2. Local authorities were not to to report to the Congregation until and unless due to "special circumstances of things."  The determination of what constituted "special circumstances," and thus requiring cases to be forwarded, was left to local authorities.
  3. Noteworthy was the difference in "extinguishment" of the statute of limitations between the two classes of criminal offenses.  (a) For doctrinal offenses against eucharistic celebration and penance, ten years were reserved.  (b) For moral offenses against minors, the "clock" did not start until ten years after minors reached their 18th birthdays.  This meant, for example, if a priest was investigated and found guilty of a sexual crime against a six year old, the statute of limitations would run out 22 years later, after the event.
Ratzinger's letter was sent to church authorities around the world.  It was the Vatican's official policy on what they were to do regarding the offenses covered.  Regarding crimes against minors, we can deduce the following.
  • The inclusion of crimes against minors indicates Ratzinger knew these criminal acts were sufficiently widespread to warrant universal instruction.
  • He devoted more explicit definition and instruction to doctrinal offenses, and placed them first to be treated for consideration.  The amount of space and order suggest these had greater priority for the Congregation.
  • Sexual crimes against minors occurred in last place, and in one sentence.  Placement and notation only, following fuller attention to doctrinal offenses, has an effect of lesser emphasis.
  • Though crimes against minors involved harm to parishioner victims and their families, with greater civil and social adverse effects, local authorities were given freedom to investigate and rule on whether these were "special circumstances" requiring attention by Rome.  The obvious issue of self-interest, in handling such grievous and grave matters, was not addressed.
  • By extending the statute of limitations for sex crimes to ten years after the minor reached the age of 18 has implications of its own.
    • The statutory "clock" for sexual offenses with minors assured convicted priests were allowed to continue to serve for many years, with immunity and without fear for many years.
    • The extension of the statutory clock could have no doctrinal or theological motive.  In fact, the additional years of protection for convicted priests suggests Ratzinger did not view such moral crimes as requiring immediate and complete cessation of priestly duties.
    • Local authorities understood the Congregation was adding both delay and more protection for whatever they decided for grave moral offenses of sexual crimes by the extension.
    • The extension by nature (a) extended the period of unabated, unresolved suffering for victims and their families; (b) denied them immediate access to the courts if they opposed whatever actions local authorities took on their cases; and, (c) increased the possibility victims and families might "go away" during the statutory period.
    • The statute of limitations enabled convicted priests additional time, under the extended statutes, to minister without fear of civil litigation.
Jesus of Nazareth on Church Discipline: Matthew 18:15-20

Jesus is the center of the Christian faith, and the confessed Lord of the Church.  The Pope is the supreme head of the Church serving in Christ's stead, serving in an unbroken line of leaders descended directly from Jesus' authority according to the doctrine of apostolic succession.  While over two thousand years have intervened, and while canon law has grown during the intervening centuries, it is fair to say Jesus' commandments on any matter are of higher authority than any other, later source.

It so happens Jesus prescribed a process for church discipline in the Gospel of Matthew.  In today's discussions and debates on sexual crimes against minors, his commandments are not considered.  For example, recent news suggests Vatican officials may have stated the Pope is immune from investigation or prosecution as a head of state; that is, Vatican City.  This is a legal argument, not a theological argument.  Since Jesus did command a process for believers sinned against by others, it seems entirely reasonable to consider what he stated.  We quote his teaching.
If your brother commits a sin against you, go and show him his fault, but privately, just between the two of you.  If he does not listen, take one or two others with you so that 'every accusation can be supported by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'  If he refuses to hear them, tell the congregation; and, if he refuses to listen even to the congregation, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax-collector.
Jesus' teaching asserts his viewpoint as to the rights and responsibilities believers have for adjudicating their grievances with each other.  There are implicit also certain principles for the disciplinary process he required.  These are noted.
  • Offended members have a sanctioned and commanded duty to bring their perceived or real harms and grievances to those who they allege as having harmed them.
  • The purpose of that duty is to affirm mutual responsibility of the parties to speak, to listen, and to seek justice and restored relationships.
  • Privacy between the parties prevents public knowledge of the first step of the process.
  • Refusal of the accused party to accept responsibility is understood as a possibility, requiring more evidence by witnesses to confirm allegations.
  • The second step of bring additional witnesses is semi-public, since third parties are required to confirm allegations.
  • Indirect, non-direct evidence, by witnesses who also endured similar harms, is not forbidden in the second step for discipline.
  • Additional witnesses with bona fide testimony are intended to bring added pressure for admission, justice, and reconciliation
  • Refusal of the accused party to accept responsibility, in the face of bona fide testimony, requires a third step, public accusation within the entire religious community.
  • Recitation of the two earlier attempts at resolution, justice, and restoration, may be presumed as part of the third step.
  • The entire Christian assembly itself--not ecclesiastical leaders with delegated authority--Jesus required as entrusted with full authority to hear evidence and render judgment.
  • Refusal of the accused party to accept responsibility, if the assembly concurs with the aggrieved parties and the concurrent evidence of witnesses deemed credible, is basis for conviction and judgment.
  • The only judgment prescribed for guilty parties is to be treated as unbelievers; that is, their resistance against compelling evidence shows their resistance to repentance, and ceding of their rights to be considered or treated as believers.
Jesus' teaching clearly shows his trust in a simple process, and in the collective judgment of all believers in the Christian assembly.  Matthew 18 is not used today to resolve offenses between believers in the Roman Catholic church.  There are many reasons for this.

Why Are Jesus' Teachings on Church Discipline Ignored?

The Roman Catholic Church has a long-established principle that "tradition interprets scripture."  This principle allows "development" and, in the matter under consideration here, replacement of one of Jesus' clear teachings by processes prescribed by canon law and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Additional Roman Catholic teaching on "sacrament of orders," or ordination, grants a special divine "chrism" to clergy, special status, additional authority over other believers, and special treatment under canon law.  Whatever egalitarianism was in Jesus' original teaching has been displaced by doctrine, policies, and practices, unknown and not approved by him.  However, the Church holds that the principle, "tradition interprets tradition," enables today's leaders and all congregants to trust that current practices are valid.

Therefore, current Roman Catholic canon law, policies, and practices, regarding church discipline, have set aside Jesus' commandment on (a) how to resolve alleged harms between believers; (b) how evidence may be brought and substantiated; (c) how to increase pressure for admission, confession, repentance, justice, and resolution; and, (d) how the Christian assembly was granted authority to hear and rule on cases, as well as to impose judgment and sanctions on persons convicted of their refusal to accept responsibility, make restitution, and establish reconciliation.

Jesus of Nazareth: Other Teachings Relevant to Appropriate Papal Response

Jesus also taught more on matters relevant to the subject of victims of clergy sexual abuse.  These additional teachings illustrate (a) the value he placed on children; (b) his warning of divine judgment for persons who harm believers; and, (c) his commandment that his followers cooperate with persons demanding actions against their will or self interests.

Matthew 18:1-7 (parallel in Luke 17:1-2)
  • Children as Models of Humble Faith - When asked, "Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?," Jesus cited children as models of simple faith and humility.  He knew and affirmed as most valuable their innocence, trust, and vulnerability.  Any clergy person in any Christian church who exploits and harms children, precisely because they are susceptible to such exploitation and harm due to traits Jesus commended, some theologians might call "anti-Christ."
  • Warning of Divine Punishment for Harming Believers - Following up his valuation on children, and those with humble faith like them, Jesus warned against severe divine punishment against anyone harming simple, trusting believers.  Being forcibly drowned in the depths of the sea was preferable to what God would do to those who damage faith or harm people with childlike faith.  Jesus rarely threatened divine punishment; however, for clergy to harm any believer, let alone children featured as models in this teaching, is incomprehensible. 
Matthew 5:1-10, 5:21-30, 5:40-41; 7:3-5

Taken from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, the texts above clearly teach his expectations of believers.  Leaders in his religious community surely know and would be expected to model these doctrines.
  • 5:1-10, the "Beatitudes."  The majority of these teachings clearly can apply to behaviors towards children, as well as all believers and nonbelievers.
  • 5:21-30, "Reconciliation Prior to Acceptable Worship."   The teaching here is that any believer who knows of an offense against another person offers no acceptable worship to God until known offense is confessed, forgiveness obtained, and reconciliation established.
  • 5:40-41, "Willingness to Be Wronged, Sued, and Abused."  The commandments address the wrongful treatment of believers by others.  This does not apply to the subject at hand--criminal behavior against children or anyone else; however, the point is that Jesus required his followers not to resist harmful treatment, including lawsuits or coercive abuse.  Resistance, therefore, to accept just accusation, just lawsuits, and just coercion, is magnified as to its contrariety on the subject here.
  • 7:3-5, "Honesty in Admitting One's Sins."  Jesus' requires his followers to look honestly at their sins and faults; to correct those; and then to have capacity to correct others.
Benedict XVI, Jesus, and Ethical Leadership

According to Roman Catholic doctrine, Pope Benedict XVI is "Christ's Vicar" on earth and the supreme head of the Christian Church.  In that role, his high position requires his loyalty to obey and promote Jesus' teachings.  One of his principal roles as shepherd is to protect and nourish the faith and morals of Catholic believers.  Everything the Pope does, personally or by policy, bears directly and with great impacts on the millions who say he is Christ's supreme representative on earth.  Millions more in other religions, and with no faith at all, still look to the Pope for fidelity to Jesus' teachings.

For many years, Pope Benedict XVI served as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  He actively sought out, censured, and removed Catholic university professors investigated and found deficient or false to Catholic teaching, such as Fr. Charles Curran and Fr. Hans Kueng, among others.  He was very aggressive in the removal of persons with defective doctrinal positions, allegedly for the protection of all Catholics potentially or actually "infected" with their heretical teachings.

Based on his 2001 letter, then Cardinal Ratzinger did not give equal weight and seriousness to the moral offenses of sexual crimes against minors that he did with doctrinal offenses related to eucharistic practices and penance.  Now, there appears to be some evidence that he, in his capacity as bishop and archbishop, may not have responded quickly or fully to allegations of priests accused of sexual crimes against minors.

If the Pope ever engaged in official, or even unofficial, actions that ignored or protected priests harming members of their parishes, this pollutes his reputation and authority to teach others on faith and morals.  Even public confession, personal repentance, and radical reforms to stop forever delay or cover-ups will be insufficient to restore healing and trust for some believers.  Anyone in leadership positions in the Church who participated in any way will be seen as part of the problem, who must pay their own price by ceding authority to lead.

A Second Scandal:  Comparison of the Current Situation with Anti-Semitism

The Pope's favorite preacher recently compared the rising tide of criticism to "anti-Semitism."  There can be no doubt that he consulted with the Pope on what he would preach, prior to the delivery of his message.  The stakes are too high for the Pope to have allowed his preacher to do anything other than express his own feelings on the matter at hand.  Perhaps this speculation is incorrect.

Nevertheless, the comparison between the current scandal with anti-Semitism is graphically, blatantly, and morally offensive.  For a highly educated and theologically trained preacher to make such a comparison in public is the height of insult to Christians.  In fact, such an offense must be considered another expression of Christian contempt for Jews, to connect their suffering--for simply being Jewish--with any suffering felt by the Pope or those who seek to defend him.

To suffer for accumulating evidence of collaboration with criminal conduct is appropriate and just suffering.  Jewish people suffered and suffer because of their identity and religion, historically very often by Christians.  In fact, many of the Pope's predecessors actively participated in, or ignored, persecution of the Jews.  One can only wonder what either the Pope or his preacher were thinking by such an outrageous comparison of innocent suffering with suffering related to evidence of, minimally, nonfeasance and, maximally, malfeasance.  Self-interest and self-defense, against the obvious facts, surely polluted such a remark.

An Appropriate and Ethical Leadership Response to Crimes Against Children

Civil court cases already have ruled in favor of many victims.  Enormous cash awards have been given, with disastrous and devastating effects on parishes, dioceses, and every program funded by the Roman Catholic Church.  If the evidence mounts that the current Pope was nonfeasant, negligent, or malfeasant in any case of sexual crimes against minors by priests under his pastoral care and official administrative authority, the calls for his resignation seems relevant, if not appropriate.

The Roman Catholic Church is being ripped apart by news of children harmed by priests who abused their trust, and who abused their bodies.  Healing never will come for some victims.  Healing may never come for the damage done to the Roman Catholic Church by its own leaders.

Easter approaches, the time in the Church calendar when Christians remember and celebrate Jesus' voluntary sacrifice on the cross.  The Christian scriptures note how he surrendered self-interest and offered himself for the healing of the world.  Pope Benedict XVI is the Vicar of Christ, according to Church doctrine.  If he is to model Jesus' example, who, according to the scriptures, took the form of a servant and surrendered self-interest out of love for the world, resignation would be viewed as an act of pastoral love.

Great leaders almost always have egos that lead them to attain their positions.  There are exceptions.  When the current Pope was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he was aggressive in the use of his authority.  He was considered strident and harsh by some, but the greatest defender of pure doctrine by others.  He now is Pope Benedict XVI, and whatever ego he had before, sacred or profane, is still within him.  One cannot imagine such a man would embrace resignation, after having worked so hard to be where he is.  Perhaps he will consider another early leader in the Christian faith as a resource for his future decisions.

The Apostle Paul had an ego.  He was a man confident of his call, his identity, and his mission.  He made some statements about himself Jesus never did.  Nevertheless, with all his self-assurance, Paul recognized his duties to love other Christians' interests more than his own.  Readers are asked to review what he wrote in the Book of Romans (14-15:1-3), on the matter of eating meat sacrificed to idols.

Paul ate such meat, which was abundant and for sale at good prices in Rome's marketplace.  For him, meat was meat.  Whatever pagan priests had done with it, sacrificing it to idols, did not change its basic nature as meat to be eaten.  Yet there were some believers who viewed meat sacrificed to idols as ritually unclean.  To eat such meat was to incur the stain of paganism within their own bodies.  There was a debate on this matter.  Let us see what the self-assured Paul wrote on this matter.
If your brother is being upset by the food you eat, your life is no longer one of love.  Do not, by your eating habits, destroy someone for whom the Messiah died.... So then, let us pursue the things that make for peace and mutual edification.  Do not tear down God's work for the sake of food.... We who are strong have a duty to bear the weaknesses of those who are not strong, rather than please ourselves.  Each of us should please his neighbor and act for his good, thus building him up.
Pope Benedict XVI should consider giving up eating in the Vatican, if by remaining millions of Roman Catholics are offended, their faith weakened, and their healing is delayed.  It would appear as if a resignation would sacrifice self-interest and bear structural similarities to the love for others taught and practiced by both Jesus and Paul.

As Prefect, the Pope was gravely concerned with false doctrine.  Bad belief is serious.  It leads to bad conduct, as well as divine disapproval and judgment.  Bad morals, however, harm other persons.  Millions of Catholics have been harmed by the bad morals of priests, and those who protected or enabled them.  A papal resignation would demonstrate that reform of the Roman Catholic church requires--to use a phrase drawn from the fifteenth century--"reform in Head and members."

Ethical concern for others requires sometimes that we sacrifice self-interest.  For the head of the Roman Catholic Church to resign, due to his earlier failures as a leader, would be the most powerful sign of the Pope's love for victims and their families, and for the beginning of healing for his entire communion.

A resignation would be a historic moral and ethical decision.  Benedict XVI's memory would be enshrined as a Christian who loved others more than himself.  "No greater love can a person have than to lay down his life for his friends."  Jesus made that observation, and demonstrated it by his faith and morals.  Let his Vicar consider doing the same.