Is the Pope in Real Trouble?

The child abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church in the United States has now spread to Europe and perhaps even to the Vatican. Tales of horrible sexual abuse of children in Ireland and Germany have shown the leaders of the Church as unwilling to take action against priests who were committing awful crimes against children.

Now this European scandal has touched the very center of the Vatican as there is mounting evidence that the Pope, when he was archbishop of the Munich diocese and later when he was the doctrinal enforcer to John Paul II, may have ignored the warnings of other bishops, medical professionals and the families of the victims and continued to move these pedofiles around without taking action.

This scandal is still evolving, but new charges are emerging such as the claim that Cardinal Ratzinger ( now Pope Benedict XVI) failed to take action against an American priest who was abusing over 200 deaf children in Wisconsin. The archbishop of the Milwaukee diocese apparently pushed the Vatican and Ratzinger to take action, but nothing was done. The priest never was defrocked or faced charges and died a priest in 1998.

The Pope recently issued a heartfelt apology about the abuse in Ireland, but took no action to remove the hierarchy who perpetuated this abuse by refusing to remove priests from their positions or to name the priests who were shielded by the Church. No where in the apology did the Pope mention his alleged culpability while the archbishop of Munich or as a Vatican official.

This strategy of apology but  a refusal to remove bishops or bring openness to the process of exposing these pedofile priests is now the sad model of handling these scandals. Saying sorry is really not enough if there is no accountability or punishment for these horrendous crimes against young innocents.

There will be law suits and monetary settlements, but because the Pope is now at least a person of interest in these scandals, the media and the victims will not go away quietly. The Church leaders will certainly rally around their leader and protect him from any legal challenge. But Popes have often stressed that their power comes from moral authority and living the life of Christian example. This authority and this Christian example may now be in serious jeopardy. If it can be shown that the Pope was an enabler of sexual abuse, the Catholic Church might not be able to recover from this latest scandal.

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