Is the pope finally getting it?

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To sighs of relief, Pope Benedict is distancing himself from members of the Curia who are blaming a vast secular conspiracy for the European chapter of the sex abuse crisis. On a plane to Portugal and speaking off the cuff with reporters, B16 said, "The greatest persecution of the church does not come from the enemies outside, but is born from sin inside the church." (Read the UK Telegraph coverage here.) If you know anything this pope's ecclesiology, which tends to lean toward "spotless bride of Christ," that's quite a thing for him to say, and a terrific first step in overcoming the denial that possesses certain members of the Roman Curia.

Better still is Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schornborn's calling out of Cardinal Angelo Sodano's dismissal of sex abuse allegations as "petty gossip." Sodano's obstruction of investigations against the former archbishop of Vienna, Hans Hermann Groer, and against Legionaries founder Marcial Maciel deserve further attention.

These are good first steps, and now we need some further ones. Speaking of steps, perhaps we could borrow two from the famous 12 Steps to keep us moving forward. I would like to suggest three of them:

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

That ought to keep us busy.