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Allegations about Pope have no substance
Pope innocent in child-abuse cases

Date published: 2/20/2013

INFORMED editorials should be based on facts and not on unsubstantiated allegations. Unfortunately, your recent editorial on Pope Benedict XVI ("Stepping down," Feb. 13) failed that test.

In the editorial, you stated that, as a bishop (of Munich), the pope had "'reportedly tried to keep a priest convicted of child abuse in his vocational position," and that "as head of the Vatican office that handled allegations of abuse, victim advocates complain that then-Cardinal Ratzinger did little to stop the terrible crimes."

The editorial's attribution of these charges to anonymous third parties, rather than stating them as facts, suggests that the writer was unsure of the truth of these assertions. But why, then, insert them into the editorial if their veracity were in question?

In fact, neither of these charges is true. The first allegation involves a priest from another diocese who had been sent to Munich for psychiatric evaluation. The priest had not been convicted of child abuse, although he had admitted to it. Subsequent to the evaluation, a diocesan official returned the priest to active duty without conferring with Archbishop Ratzinger. This official has taken full responsibility for his action and has stated that the archbishop had no role in the process.

The second charge involves Cardinal Ratzinger's tenure as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine and the Faith (CDF). Until 2001, the CDF did not have authority over all sexual abuse cases, but only those that related to something that had happened in the confessional. Very few such cases occurred during Cardinal Ratzinger's time there, and there is no evidence that he did anything to improperly delay or influence the procedures in these cases.

In 2001 the CDF was given authority over all sexual abuse cases under new and stronger norms promulgated by Pope John Paul II, one of which states, "Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed." Cardinal Ratzinger faithfully carried out these norms.

Since becoming pope, Benedict has taken a number of forceful actions to deal with this issue. These include a strongly-worded admonition to U.S. bishops on the subject in 2008, revised Vatican norms for dealing with sex abuse in 2010, and a 2011 condemnation of sexual abuse by Irish priests.

One might wonder why your editorial trumpeted only the alleged shortcomings of Pope Benedict while totally ignoring all the positive steps he has taken in this regard--hardly what one would expect from a "fair and balanced" newspaper!

Far from being a protector of pedophiles, as suggested by your editorial, Pope Benedict has clearly done more to address this issue than any of his recent predecessors, including Pope John Paul II. For that, he deserves your praise, not your scorn.

Thomas G. Moeller of Stafford is former professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington.