US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Sex abuse: Benedict succeeds where John Paul failed

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

An excellent essay in the UK Guardian by Keith Chappell on next month's meeting between the Irish bishops and Pope Benedict XVI regarding the sex abuse crisis in that country points to a big difference between this pope and the last: a far more robust response to child sex abuse.

Many faulted Pope John Paul II, rightly I think, for a slow and insufficiently direct response to the U.S. sex abuse crisis. Part of the fallout has been the decimation of the moral authority of both the U.S. bishops and the Catholic Church as a whole. The Irish church can expect the same.

But Benedict, who met with representatives of the original U.S. lay review board as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has been more proactive. Already he has accepted the resignations of four bishops--more than in the United States--and none have gotten the shamefully easy treatment that former Boston Archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law now enjoys. B16 also met with victims of sex abuse when he came to the U.S. in April 2008.

Although nothing can undo the damaged suffered by victims, this is a development Catholics of all stripes can celebrate: The Vatican is finally getting it. Perhaps we can hope that the clerical culture of secrecy that abetted these crimes will finally come to an end.

Related links: U.S. Catholic magazine executive editor Meinrad Scherer-Emunds on an Irish bishop's "appalling disregard for the truth."