May 10, 2005

The New Pope and the Catholic Sex-Abuse Scandal


Written by Gregory Borse
Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Editor’s Note: The author wishes it to be known that while he did not have direct contact with the Legion regarding the Maciel case, he was employed in a capacity in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s that brought him in intimate contact with members of the Legion of Christ’s lay movement, Regnum Christi, and has been familiar with the accusations detailed below for some time—both as matters reported in the press, and as matters discussed among members of Regnum Christi and responded to by the Legion itself.

The elevation of Cardinal Ratzinger to the Pontificate of the Roman Catholic Church ended much speculation following Pope John Paul the Great’s death regarding what direction the Church would take in this first part of the 21st century. Many pundits clamored in the media for a Pope more open to the “spirit” of Vatican II on issues such as homosexuality, contraception, abortion, and the role of women in the Church. Conservatives hoped for, and got, a Pope who would continue the conservative line etched out by John Paul II. Liberal Catholics hoped for and were disappointed not to get a Pope who would steer the Church toward recognition of the great secular themes of modernity.

Another group—smaller and more intensely interested for different reasons—spent the short inter-regnum anxious that the Church would not only continue but intensify its investigations of priestly sexual abuse in the U.S. and around the world. This group’s interest in the new Pope centered upon the cover-up of the scandal in the U.S. and elsewhere and the Vatican’s slow response to the burgeoning problem. For as much as many of the victims and their families might have loved the Church and Pope John Paul II, their criticism centered on the fact that the Church was negligent or abusive, if not criminal, in its response and/or lack of response to the reality of abuse that they contend has been ongoing for quite sometime.

Cardinal Ratzinger himself, as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly known as the Inquisition), was a key player in the Vatican’s response to the crisis as it emerged in the United States. While the American Bishops, for instance, finally responded under pressure from lay Catholics and the media to address the problem by drafting policies calling for the removal from ministry of any priest even accused of abuse until such a time that the accusations can be proved to be true or false, the Vatican did not adopt similar policies—although it approved the American Bishops’ policy.

Posted by kshaw at May 10, 2005 05:23 AM