Indian priest sex abuse case continues to test Pope Benedict
Today's revelation that a Minnesota priest charged in a 2007 sex abuse case involving a teenage girl still practices in India continues to put a spotlight on the Vatican and Pope Benedict.
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But has Ratzinger's loyalty to the church gotten in the way of his dealing with pedophile priests?Skip to next paragraph
Twomey says no. "Ratzinger was the one who made it much easier to suspend and [defrock] priests. He standardized the procedure and made sure the dioceses knew what to do," says Twomey. "It is now much easier to ensure a priest is defrocked."
Richard Sipe, a former monk and expert on priest celibacy, disagrees. Now married and a clinical psychologist, he says that Ratzinger has repeatedly refused to defrock priests, let alone hand them over to the authorities.
"In 1992, in Chicago, there was the first national meeting of victims of clergy sexual abuse," he says. "There were 300 people there, and I said at that time: 'The problem we are experiencing now is the tip of the iceberg, and if you follow this to its foundation, it will lead to the highest corridors of the Vatican.' I stand by that, because it's systemic."
Asked how he would respond to the charge of "smearing" the church, Mr. Sipe says: "I've devoted my life to helping the church and its clergy."
Twomey, for his part, holds out hope that Catholics – who, he says, are rightfully angry – will consider more deeply their religious roots. "For the first time in 150 years, people will have to choose to be Catholic instead of being born Catholics," he says.
In Ireland, the anger is particularly strong. Twomey attributes this to church misuse of its authority after the state's founding in 1922 as well as a more recent concerted attempt to rebel against the church as a representative of authority, particularly on the part of the media. "There is a hostility and [a] smear campaign," he says.
A young reformer stuck in the past?
Joseph Ratzinger has long been viewed as an archconservative, and his actions as pope have done little to challenge this perception.
The young Ratzinger was, in the 1960s, an enthusiastic reformer and a liberalizing figure within the church, like his former friend and colleague Hans Küng, the controversial liberal theologian. In 1962, Mr. Küng had Ratzinger appointed professor of dogmatics at the Catholic Faculty at the University of Tübingen in Germany.
By all accounts, the two men got on well and formed a friendship, not only socializing together but also working on the same projects.
Ratzinger ended the collaboration when he moved to Regensburg, Germany, in 1968. He was upset at student protests in Tübingen, which was becoming a center for radical protest. Since then, the two men's theological positions have come to represent entirely different interpretations of Catholicism.
In 1981, John Paul named then-Bishop Ratzinger to lead the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – the body that replaced the Inquisition as the final court of appeal in trials of heresy. It was a post he held until becoming pope.
Despite being a "priest in good standing," Küng was formally silenced by Ratzinger and removed from the office of theologian. In his book "Disputed Truth: Memoirs Volume 2," Küng depicted Ratzinger as stuck in the past.
Twomey disputes that the pope has been backsliding from liberalism: "He has remained constant – the church and society have moved on. The Second Vatican Council ... left a lot of loose edges and is open to interpretation," he says.
John L. Allen Jr., senior correspondent with the National Catholic Reporter, questions whether the vagueness of Vatican II is the issue. In his book "Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican's Enforcer of the Faith," Mr. Allen wrote that the growth of militant student Marxism "shocked [Ratzinger] and helped to stimulate his more conservative stance ... what is clear is that Ratzinger's positions on several issues have evolved over the course of his career, and that evolution made him attractive to church authorities."
Twomey says the pope has put the church on the road to recovery by telling Catholics to focus on fundamentals: "The key is in his letter to the Catholics [of Ireland]: The main thrust is 'get back to the gospel,' the source of our faith,' " he says.