Bill Maher, true to form on his Real Time program on HBO on Friday night, went on a tirade against Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church, only days before the Pope's visit to the U.S. He stated that the Pope "used to be a Nazi" and compared him to a cult leader. He then went on to call the Church a "child-abusing religious cult" and "the Bear Stearns of organized pedophilia," charging: "And that's the Church's attitude: 'We're here, we're queer, get used to it,' which is fine, far be it from me to criticize religion."
Following a profanity-tinged one-liner concerning the raid on the Texas compound of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Maher quipped: "In fact, whenever a cult leader sets himself up as God's infallible wingman here on Earth, lock away the kids. Which is why I'd like to tip off law enforcement to an even larger child-abusing religious cult. Its leader also has a compound, and this guy not only operates outside the bounds of the law, but he used to be a Nazi and he wears funny hats. That's right, the Pope is coming to America this week and ladies, he's single!" At the "funny hat" line, Maher displayed a picture of Pope Benedict wearing a wide-brimmed hat called a saturno.
Maher's smear to the contrary, Pope Benedict didn't "used to be a Nazi." In fact, as the New York Times itself reported after the Pope's election in 2005, Pope Benedict's father was anti-Nazi, and "Joseph Ratzinger [the Pope's birth name] huddled with his father and older brother around a radio and listened to Allied radio broadcasts," an act that if they were caught doing, they would have been sent to a concentration camp. The New York Times article, "New Pope Defied Nazis As Teen During WWII," can be seen at: bc.edu
Maher then devoted the rest of his anti-Catholic rant to the clergy sex abuse scandal angle: "Now I know what you're thinking: 'Bill, you shouldn't be saying that the Catholic Church is no better than this creepy Texas cult.' For one thing, altar boys can't even get pregnant. But really, what tripped up the little cult on the prairie was that they only abused hundreds of kids, not thousands, all over the world. Cults get raided, religions get parades. How does the Catholic Church get away with all of their buggery? Volume, volume, volume!"
"If you have a few hundred followers, and you let some of them molest children, they call you a cult leader. If have a billion, they call you 'Pope.' It's like, if you can't pay your mortgage, you're a deadbeat. But if you can't pay a million mortgages, you're BearStearns and we bail you out. And that is who the Catholic Church is: the BearStearns of organized pedophilia -- too big, too fat. When the current pope was in his previous Vatican job as John Paul's Dick Cheney, he wrote a letter instructing every Catholic bishop to keep the sex abuse of minors secret until the Statute of Limitations ran out. And that's the Church's attitude: 'We're here, we're queer, get used to it,' which is fine, far be it from me to criticize religion. But just remember one thing: if the Pope was -- instead of a religious figure -- merely the CEO of a nationwide chain of day care centers, where thousands of employees had been caught molesting kids and then covering it up, he'd be arrested faster than you can say 'who wants to touch Mr. Wiggle?'"
Maher grossly misrepresented the contents of the 2001 letter then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote to the bishops. He did not tell them to "keep the sex abuse of minors of State of Limitations ran out." The letter clarified that the Catholic Church's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had jurisdiction according to the Church's law (canon law) to try clerics concerning abuses of the sacraments, and also, as the letter put it, a "delict against morals, namely: the delict committed by a cleric against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue [thou shall not commit adultery] with a minor below the age of 18 years."
Maher has a long record of mocking religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular. A few months earlier in January 2008, Maher mocked Catholics' belief concerning the Eucharist and called Jesus a "2,000 year-old space god." In May 2007, he compared the sacrament to gay oral sex. And in April 2007, he joked about President Bush attending the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast and how "you could tell this was a Catholic prayer breakfast because [Maher laughs] it was in the morning and he said 'I'm dying for a little joe' and they brought him an altar boy."