April 23, 2005


Pope Has Gained the Insight to Address Abuse, Aides Say (LAURIE GOODSTEIN, 4/23/05, NY Times)

For the past four years, the man who is now Pope Benedict XVI had more responsibility than any other cardinal for deciding whether and how to discipline Roman Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse.

On Friday mornings, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sat in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith poring over dossiers detailing allegations of abuse sent in by bishops from around the world, according to two top officials in his office. He found the cases so disturbing that he called the work "our Friday penance."

The scandal changed the church in the United States, and it may have changed the new pope as well.

When the scandal was snowballing in 2002, Cardinal Ratzinger was among several Vatican officials who appeared to minimize the problem.

"In the United States, there is constant news on this topic, but less than 1 percent of priests are guilty of acts of this type," he said in November 2002 during a visit to Spain. "Therefore, one comes to the conclusion that it is intentional, manipulated - that there is a desire to discredit the church."

But as the cases began to flood into his office, he learned that the problem was both broader and deeper, according to co-workers and American church officials.

"If there's any pope who knows what he's talking about when we're talking about this, it is Cardinal Ratzinger," said Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, promoter of justice at the Congregation. "We would have to go through the cases, and reading through the hurt this misconduct creates was obviously a great source of spiritual and moral suffering."

It'll be useful to have a Pope who realizes that, in the media age, perception is reality. The smallness of the problem just didn't matter when the media started running with it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 23, 2005 7:59 AM

You'll excuse any crime if done by a Christian, won't you?

I don't know how you define 'small.'

We have/had about six priests in our county, 2 of which were rapists.

Exposed. No telling about the others, I suppose.

And contra your tortured excuses (culture in U.S. seminaries), one was trained in the Philippines.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 23, 2005 1:39 PM

Some adults who seek access to kids do so in order to have sex with them. It's a terrible thing and needs to be punished. It's less of a problem in the Church than in any similar institutions. The notion it's more of a problem is a function of media hysteria and anti-religious hatred. But those are real factors and the Pope needs to pretend there's a crisis and he's dealing with it.

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2005 1:46 PM

Right. And one of those "similar institutions" is the Boy Scouts.

Who are castigated as homophobes by the same people who are flailing the Catholics.

Posted by: ray at April 23, 2005 2:34 PM

Boys, boys, you both have part of the truth here. Yes, OJ, of course there is media hype and prejudice involved. But Harry has a point: ''less than one percent'' is not a small problem in this context. Priests, like police officers, doctors, etc., are rightly held to very high standards regarding their professional conduct. If a city has 1,000 police but ''only'' 9 of them are corrupt and working with crinimal gangs, it's less than 1 percent, but is it a small problem? Or if a hospital with 110 doctors has just one who is a complete fraud who kills patients? I'd say that in all these instances, it's a major problem, despite the percentages.

Posted by: PapayaSF at April 23, 2005 2:37 PM


Yes, those are small problems, in fact smaller than the realities. It is good though to be the one with the smallest problem.

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2005 2:46 PM

It would be funny to watch the reaction of the left if the new pope took on the church sex abuse scandal by ordering a major shake-up in the Los Angeles archdioceses and the reassignment of Cardinal Roger Mahony. He's been to John Paul II's elevations to the College of Cardinals what Earl Warren's elevation to the Supreme Court was to Dwight Eisenhower, which is in part why the media was still howling about the more conservative Cardinal Law and the Boston problems, even though he's no longer in charge there, while Mahony has gotten almost a free pass despite similar abuses in Los Angeles.

Posted by: John at April 23, 2005 3:36 PM

Orrin, I'm glad to hear you say it needs to be punished.

But when beloved Father Jim (the Filipino) was found out, he wasn't punished. The Church spirited him back to the Philippines, beyond the reach of our secular prosecutors.

I am not aware that the church has punished anybody so far.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 24, 2005 1:46 PM

Of course it needs to be punished--it's evil.

Posted by: oj at April 24, 2005 2:21 PM

Here's a question for you all...

All the stories I have heard about involve men who are adults now, reporting what happened to them 20 or 30 years ago when they were teenagers.

In most (but not all) cases, those priests were removed from their positions in the 1980s, soon after John Paul II ascended to the Papacy.

Is this not a problem that the Church handled internally a couple decades ago? Until it was revived by some victims and their lawyers?

Posted by: J Baustian at April 25, 2005 3:06 AM

So when is the Church going to start punishing?

So far, it doesn't even show any signs of disapproving.

Ratzinger wouldn't even make an inquiry when it happened in the Vatican.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 26, 2005 4:20 PM


They don't have parishes.

Posted by: oj at April 26, 2005 5:18 PM