The National Catholic Review

 Here's John Allen at NCR on Benedict's past and future:

 

In a papacy sometimes marred by scandal and internal confusion, Benedict's handling of the sexual abuse crisis has often been touted as a bright spot -- one case, at least, in which the expectations of the cardinals who elected him for a firmer hand on the rudder seem to have been fulfilled.

That background makes the scandals now engulfing the church in Europe especially explosive, because by putting the pope's all but forgotten tenure as the Archbishop of Munich from May 1977 to February 1982 under a microscope, they threaten to once again make Benedict seem more like part of the problem than the solution.

As of this writing, there's at least one case on the record of a priest accused of abuse who was reassigned in Munich while Ratzinger was in charge, and who went on to commit other acts of abuse. The vicar general at the time has assumed "full responsibility" and insisted that Ratzinger wasn't informed, but it nevertheless happened on his watch. For all anyone knows at the moment, there may be other such cases.

The question now is whether Ratzinger's past may trump Benedict's present. What weighs more heavily: Benedict's willingness to weed out abusers and to acknowledge the damage they left behind, or the church's inability to enforce similar accountability for bishops who failed to act -- a failure possibly reflected in the pope's own stint as a diocesan leader three decades ago?

That question is certain to put Benedict XVI's entire record on the sexual abuse issue, stretching over more than three decades of leadership in the Catholic church, under new scrutiny.

Read the rest of Allen's astute analysis here.

James Martin, SJ


Comments

Eugene Pagano | 3/17/2010 - 7:05pm
Benedict XVI does seem to grasp the gravity of the situation much more than John Paul II ever did.  We will have a better impression of how well he comprehends the crisis after the Vatican releases his pastoral letter to the Irish church on Friday.
It is possible, as Archbishop, that he may have been aware of that reassigned priest's transfer but not that the offender had left therapy and was working in contact with children.  Until the full chronology is revealed — and it should be — it would be rash to judge whether he was culpable.
Carolyn Disco | 3/17/2010 - 11:42pm
Allen’s lens for evaluating Benedict’s record as pope on sexual abuse matters is skewed toward an insider’s apologia for the pontiff. “For those with the eyes to see” (like Allen), the days of lethargy and cover-up are over, and Benedict is a “Catholic Elliot Ness.”
 
 
The question is the degree to which one should be expansively grateful for progress that essentially moves the ball from a minus zero to maybe plus 3 or 4, on a scale of 10. It’s in the right direction but such a meager standard for justice hardly merits high praise.
 
 
Allen cites:
1) disciplining Roman favorites Burresi and Maciel,
2) meeting abuse victims twice,
3) embracing zero tolerance,
4) apologizing.
 
 
The right direction, but woefully inadequate:
 
 
1) Burresi and Maciel were removed from ministry, but without ruling they were molesters, vindicating their victims! Maciel had already declined re-election as superior so his removal was essentially moot; he claimed innocence until death. Benedict’s refusal of a guilty verdict denied justice to survivors.
 
 
2) Meeting abuse victims abroad after, what, five years since the scandal broke is a huge achievement? The actor who played Christ in Gibson’s movie was invited to the Vatican itself; such an invitation has yet to be extended to survivors. The decision to meet was a last minute US affair. Two of them told me by phone they are now disgusted by lack of outreach.
 
 
3) Zero tolerance – demanded by public response. There would have been hell to pay without it, but a helpful sign. Still, no voluntary document releases to expose the truth, and Vatican refusal to cooperate with Ireland’s Murphy Commission.
 
 
4) Apologies are often in the passive voice, conditional, not in the pope’s name personally, filled with theological reflections about evil as red herrings that skirt bishop accountability. Non-apologies expressing shock, horror, etc. sorrow for the pain you suffered, not the pain that we as bishops caused by criminally endangering your children.
 
 
Law still holds power.
Anonymous | 3/17/2010 - 6:40pm
And the Jesuits in Germany???