Should the Vatican have adopted US reforms on sex abuse?
Following revelations about sexual abuse, the Catholic Church in the United States adopted a policy of ‘zero tolerance’ and mandatory reporting. Could Pope Benedict XVI have avoided his current difficulties if the Vatican had taken the same path?
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“Especially if additional cases surface, his teaching on moral matters will hold much less sway among ordinary Catholics,” The Rev. McBrien writes on Newsweek’s web site. “The indifference to his agenda would probably expand into outright rejection. And Benedict would likely be less able to draft undecided Catholics to his side, except perhaps the most conservative.”Skip to next paragraph
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“Damage to Pope Benedict XVI's moral authority would also probably affect his capacity to impose his conservative liturgical initiatives on the worldwide Church,” McBrien adds.
For the most part, Latin America has not been in the news about abuse within the Catholic Church. But that may be changing.
“Some experts on the Vatican are predicting that the sex abuse scandal will spread through Latin America,” writes Tracy Wilkinson of the Los Angeles Times from Mexico City, noting recent cases in Brazil and Chile.
Meanwhile, reports of abusive priests in Europe are growing.
Abuse hotline overwhelmed
A hotline set up by the Catholic Church in Germany was overwhelmed by more than 4,000 alleged victims calling for counseling and advice.
“In the end only 162 out of 4,459 callers were given advice before the system was shut down,” the Daily Mail reports. “Andreas Zimmer, head of the project in the Bishopric of Trier, admitted that he wasn't prepared for ‘that kind of an onslaught’.”
The Vatican and other church supporters of the Pope – mainly in Europe – continue to maintain a vigorous defense against critics, especially the media.
In a Friday sermon in St Peter's Basilica, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, described as “the Pope’s personal preacher,” likened attacks on the church and the Pope to anti-Semitism comparable to "collective violence" against Jews during the Holocaust.
While Vatican officials later said that was not the official position, Jews around the world were aghast.
"How can you compare the collective guilt assigned to the Jews which caused the deaths of tens of millions of innocent people to perpetrators who abuse their faith and their calling by sexually abusing children?" asked Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the international Jewish rights group.
'What did he know, when did he know it?'
That may seem harsh. But it is a point with which The Rev. McBrien at Notre Dame agrees.
“This controversy will not be put to rest until the Pope himself gives the answer to the question, the famous question that Senator Howard Baker asked in the Watergate hearings many years ago,” he said on ABC’s Good Morning America. “What did he know and when did he know it, and a third question, And what did he do about it?”