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Piling on the pope: Fairness excommunicated
Thomas G. Moeller's op-ed column on the pope and abuse in the Catholic Church

 In his papal Mass at Nationals Park in Washington last year, Pope Benedict XVI made a pointed reference to the problem of clerical abuse in the Catholic Church. Lately, he has been under scrutiny for not having done more to stop the misdeeds.
Gerald Herbert/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 4/27/2010

SILENCE IS no longer an option. The time has now come to set the record straight.

Throughout the past few weeks, the media have poured out one story after another about Pope Benedict XVI's supposed "troubled handling" of child sex-abuse cases in the Catholic Church.

The Free Lance-Star, which I'm sure sees itself as fair and responsible, has also jumped on the anti-pope bandwagon, not only in its news columns but also with an anti-Benedict editorial cartoon as well as with what can only be described as an op-ed screed by national columnist Katha Pollitt ["Whence the Vatican's moral authority? April 7].

Although these stories have attacked the Catholic Church in general, their major goal seems to be the destruction of Pope Benedict himself.

Recent charges hurled at the pope by the media have primarily cited four cases that involved then-Cardinal Ratzinger when he was prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The allegations are that Cardinal Ratzinger was instrumental in halting a canonical trial in one case and in stalling the laicization of "pedophile priests" in three other cases.

In considering this issue, it is important to remember that although Cardinal Ratzinger became head of the CDF in 1981, that body typically did not have jurisdiction over the disciplining of child-abusing priests until after Pope John Paul II gave it such authority in 2001.

The only exception to this occurred if the abuse was somehow related to the priest's act during the sacrament of penance, in which case the matter did fall under the CDF's purview. Two of the four cases mentioned above are related to this issue.

News stories have accused Cardinal Ratzinger of "stalling" the laicization process and of allowing these cases to "languish." In fact, none of these cases shows any direct attempt by Cardinal Ratzinger to halt the process at hand. What seems to bother the pope's critics is not that he intervened to stop these cases, but that he did not intervene to expedite them.


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