Abuse as the “Defining Moment” of Benedict’s Papacy

In an effective analysis at the Times, Richard Owen argues that the whole clerical abuse saga may well turn out to be Pope Benedict’s defining moment. For far too long, the church authorities appeared to totally ignore the problem and brush it under the carpet. Even as recently as the visit of the Irish bishops, the impression created was that he was totally underestimating the problem.

“Papal Whitewash” ran one headline in the Irish press after Pope Benedict’s encounter with the Irish bishops. No bishops were sacked, no abuse victims were heard, and the Pope — who is to visit Britain in September — announced no plans to visit Ireland to apologise and to mend fences.

More recently, there has been some grudging recognition that more may need to be done, but this still does not go beyond absolute basics. Instead, they have gone on the defensive, trying to argue (against all the evidence) that the Vatican response has been “decisive” and that other institutions are equally guilty.

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