Benedict’s play

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John Allen has constructed a case that upon becoming pope, Benedict XVI had a species of conversion experience regarding sexual abuse by priests. Prior to that he “seemed just another Roman cardinal in denial.” Or perhaps, just another sometime archbishop who swept charges under the rug. But all this changed when he assumed Peter’s chair.

There is some considerable evidence for this, and Allen does a good job laying it out. But at the end of piece, the apologia pro vita pontificis comes to an end with a warning shot across the bow:

From the beginning, the “sex abuse crisis” has actually been an
interlocking set of two problems: the abuse committed by some priests,
and the administrative failures of some bishops who should have known
better to deal with the problem.

In general, the impact of Benedict’s “conversion” has been felt
mostly on that first level — the determination to punish abusers, to
adopt stringent policies governing future cases, to reach out to victims
and to apologize for the suffering they’ve endured. So far, Benedict
has not adopted any new accountability mechanisms for bishops. Aside
from a few instances such as Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, few bishops
have been asked, or instructed, to resign.

Aye, there’s the rub: Zero tolerance for priests; maximum tolerance for bishops. Certainly, as In All Things’ Austin Invereigh pointed out last month (“The Irish Bishops Don’t Get It”), the misbehaving Irish bishops came away from their confab with Benedict happy as clams–all except Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, who does get it, and who was so disgusted that he left town before the press conference.

As new pedophile scandals erupt worldwide (the latest in Brazil), tomorrow Benedict will sign his long-awaited Pastoral Letter to the Church in Ireland. “My hope, he said, “is that it will help in the process of repentance, healing and
renewal.” Not if it lets the bishops off the hook it won’t.