Regular columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald, Miranda Devine, has weighed into the debate over Pope Benedict XVI’s role in the “alleged cover-up of paedophilia in the Catholic Church”, defending the Pope and delivering a spirited rebuttal to his critics.

“The pursuit of the Pope reached absurd heights this week,” Devine wrote “with news that atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have asked the Australian barrister Geoffrey Robertson to draw up a case to arrest Benedict XVI.

“That these exhibitionist atheists should seize on the tragedy of child sexual abuse by a small minority of Catholic priests to pursue their vendetta against religion is stomach-turning. Dawkins has become shrill with excitement, describing the Pope as ‘’a leering old villain in a frock’’.

While accepting the need for Catholics to fully address the complaints of those abused by paedophiles, Devine pointed out that the Pope’s letter to Irish Catholics last month “could not have been more frank, humbly penitent, or condemnatory of predator priests and the bishops who failed to stop them”.

She quoted the Pope’s words addressed to victims: “You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated. Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen … It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel.”

She also noted the Pope’s comments to the abusive priests: ”You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals.”

Despite this strong stand taken by the Pope, Devine said the “baying from atheists and fellow travellers for the biggest scalp of all” had only escalated.

“The process is not unfamiliar to people who have lived under communist rule when destruction of the church was a goal,” she wrote. “Professor Piotr Jaroszynski from Poland’s Catholic University of Lublin has written in the Catholic country’s mass newspaper that the offensive against the Pope is recognisable particularly to Poles who lived under communist rule. ‘It has elements that have been very well planned, rational to the extreme, but at the same time there is a singular hatred for Catholicism hidden under concern for victim.’

“The struggle against religion has taken the form of a new religion. Its new priests ‘find their greatest ideological enemies in priests, religious brothers, and sisters. They cannot physically destroy them (as was done in communist countries), so they try other methods.’”

You could almost hear people of good will and common sense cheering as Devine concluded: “What is the motive: to destroy the credibility of the strongest moral voice left? Would the world be a better place without the Catholic Church? Without Christianity? That is the end point of this game, which should frighten everyone, whether religious or not.”

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet