And it's not merely LGBT Catholics and their allies (I'm referring to my previous posting) who see Benedict's legacy in decidedly more sober terms than do the leading luminaries who dominate the discourse at the center of the Catholic conversation: the same is true for Catholics who have survived childhood sexual abuse by clerics, and those who stand in solidarity with abuse survivors. Here's a selection of statements from this group of important commentators:
Pope Benedict made a sensible decision. It is evidence the papacy and the Church can change.
Let's hope it is a signal of strength for the next pope to take the steps that the Church needs.
The Church is in bad shape and needs the tremendous power of the papacy to be used courageously and forcefully for good - starting with the sexual abuse crisis, the largest crisis the Church has faced in 500 years. . . .
Pope Benedict should bar Cardinal Roger Mahony from entering the conclave. The Los Angeles documents are evidence enough that this high honor of voting for the next Pope should be withdrawn from him. There should be an empty chair to mark Mahony's spot.
The next pope should end corruption in the Church starting with a papal balcony announcement of the removal of criminally convicted Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
Joseph Ratzinger leaves the papacy having failed to achieve what should have been his job one: to rectify the incalculable harm done to the hundreds of thousands of children sexually abused by Catholic priests. He leaves hundreds of culpable bishops in power and a culture of secrecy intact. . . .
Benedict’s words rang hollow. He spoke as a shocked bystander, as if he had just stumbled upon the abuse crisis. But more than anyone in the Vatican, he knew about the damage done to innocent children. As archbishop of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Ratzinger had allowed the transfer of accused priest Rev. Peter Hullermann, and certainly managed many other abuse cases as well. Since 1981, when he was named head of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith (CDF), he had been at the center of the Vatican’s abuse bureaucracy, reviewing many files and, unfortunately, implementing Pope John Paul II’s policy of not laicizing abusive priests. In Spring 2001, the Pope gave Cardinal Ratzinger and the CDF sole responsibility for abuse cases, and in that role, Cardinal Ratzinger read hundreds of files and became the Vatican’s most knowledgeable and powerful person on this issue.
The tragedy is that as Pope he could have enacted true reform. He could have forced the immediate resignation of bishops who had enabled sexual predators. He could have decreed that every bishop post on his website the names, assignment histories, and allegations of accused priests. He could have made the CDF transparent in its handling of cases, instead of the black box that it remains to this day. He could have acted on the Vatican’s vast knowledge of these cases, instead of leaving the work to the survivors, investigative reporters, grand juries in the US, and government commissions in Ireland and Australia.
Instead of remedies, he gave us words. Instead of true penitence, he gave us public relations. His failure to enact real change in the Church’s handling of sexually abusive priests will be his significant and shameful legacy.
Pope Benedict, who announced today he will resign on February 28, will leave his tenure as Pope without having made the one, simple moral and executive decision that would have, in a single stroke of his pen, protected potentially millions of children from harm, brought justice to hundreds of thousands of victims, and finally turned the church on a path towards true recovery and reform: worldwide zero tolerance of child sex abuse by priests.
Because he never issued this decree, Benedict leaves office not only with countless children at risk around the world but scores of Cardinals and bishops in leadership positions who are actively covering up child sex abuse.
John Pilmaier of SNAP Wisconsin:
It is difficult today, with the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI is retiring this month, not to think of the many victim/survivors of sexual abuse from St. John’s School for the Deaf.
It was Benedict, as Cardinal Ratzinger in his previous post running the powerful Doctrine for the Congregation of the Faith CDF), who was in charge of the fate of the notorious Fr. Lawrence Murphy. Murphy, Ratzinger knew, had sexually assaulted at least 200 children at the boarding school in Milwaukee. Ratzinger ordered that Murphy be left in ministry, unpunished and unprosecuted, undetected to the public, and remain a priest, with all the rights, honors, and power which the church grants only to ordained clerics, right up until his death.
Benedict never once contacted, spoke to, or apologized to the deaf victims from St. John’s.
Jason Berry in the New York Times:
Benedict did not do enough as pope to right the church’s ship; he recoiled from using the powers of the pope as, literally, a one-man Supreme Court to force out these who engineered this train of disasters. But he still has time for one last act. As Benedict leaves the crisis he inherited from John Paul to the cardinal who will become the next pope, he should do one sure thing before his Feb. 28 resignation: force out Cardinal Sodano. He owes that to his successor.
And, as a result of the preceding, as the Mike Luckovich cartoon at the top of the posting illustrates, increasing numbers of people around the world now see the top leaders of the Catholic church as enablers of evil, spin artists, and masters of cover-up when it comes to criminal actions against children by Catholic religious authority figures.