May 23, 2006

Penance and the Pope

Los Angeles Times

May 23, 2006

EVEN SOME OF HIS MOST heartfelt admirers acknowledge that the late Pope John Paul II was slow to comprehend the magnitude of the harm caused by priests who sexually abused young people. The same cannot be said of Pope Benedict XVI after the pontiff's disciplining of a Mexican priest favored by John Paul.

On Friday, the Vatican announced that 86-year-old Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of a conservative order known as the Legion of Christ, had been ordered to renounce any public ministry and devote himself to "prayer and penance" after an investigation of allegations that he had molested several seminarians. A papal spokesman said Maciel would be spared a church tribunal because of his advanced age and delicate health.

The Vatican statement falls short of the clear-cut condemnation that some victims' advocates would have preferred. That allowed the Legion to declare on its website that, while Maciel accepted the discipline with "faith, complete serenity and tranquillity of conscience," he had "declared his innocence and, following the example of Jesus Christ, decided not to defend himself in any way."

Still, for all its circumlocution, the Vatican statement leaves no doubt that church investigators found merit in the allegations. It thus contrasts dramatically with the way accusations of abuse against another prominent cleric were handled under John Paul.

Posted by kshaw at May 23, 2006 07:55 AM