Pope Benedict XVI's one unforgivable failure
Published: Friday, February 15, 2013 at 6:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 15, 2013 at 6:39 p.m.
Nothing distinguished the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI so much as the way in which he is leaving.
We should be grateful that he realizes his body is failing him
Benedict had a chance to be a great pope in one way and one way only: by recognizing the evil and dealing with it even when it meant punishing powerful prelates. He did not.
He had an opportunity to do so when he was appointed in 1981 to lead the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was charged with dealing with the cascading number of sexual abuse cases. That appointment was odd given that when he was archbishop of Munich, Benedict
He was rewarded for his service by being elected to the papacy in 2005. Considering that he was elected by the very cardinals he was protecting, this development was hardly surprising.
Still, it's never too late to do the right thing. As pope, Ratzinger could have been Paul on the road to Damascus, rectifying the incalculable harm done to thousands of innocent children by removing the culpable priests, bishops and cardinals from power. Instead, Pope Benedict's almost eight-year tenure was marked by coverups coming to light in Ireland, Australia, the United States and Germany. He directed most of his energies to keeping women and gay men out of the priesthood and reprimanding nuns who were paying insufficient attention to his pronouncements.
Under his leadership, the church continued to deny its perfidy. As late as 2009, the Vatican pushed the line that it wasn't priests who were responsible for the sexual abuse of children
Why pick on the Catholic clergy? This was consistent with the pope's insistence that the church would investigate itself behind closed doors. The
Because part of the motivation to tamp down the scandal was financial
Those poor souls weren't going to complain.
Anyone who's forgotten the horror of the abuse should watch the HBO documentary,
With Benedict's resignation comes another chance for the church to change direction. When that puff of white smoke comes up from the Vatican chimney, it could herald the election of a cardinal from the developing world. Maybe he will remember what it's like to be powerless and identify with the children who trusted the priests, instead of with his fellow cardinals who covered up for them.
Still, it's hard to be optimistic that the church will right itself. Mahony was stripped of some of his duties after his disgraceful complicity in the sexual abuse scandal. But he has not lost his most solemn privilege: He will be joining the conclave to vote on the next pope.
At least Mahony won't be joined by one of his fellow cardinals. It is church policy, not human decency, that will prevent Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston, ground zero of the abuse scandal, from taking part in the selection of Benedict's successor. For papal elections, the age of disenfranchisement is 80. Law is 81, praise the Lord.
Margaret Carlson is a
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