This interview appeared in the USA Today website.
Pope Benedict XVI's legacy will be shaped by his response to the explosive global clergy sex-abuse crisis, say two Catholic authors who detail and defend his record in a book published this week.
The Vatican and Benedict are accused of "acts of neglect, cover-up, and disregard for the plight of the victims," they write. Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis: Working for Reform and Renewal [the book the two authors wrote] is their rebuttal.
Greg Erlandson, head of the Catholic publishing company Our Sunday Visitor, and church historian Matthew Bunson, editor of The Catholic Almanac, take a long view — tracing the church's confrontations with sinful clergy back to the fourth century.
In two current examples in the headlines, the authors argue that Benedict was either unaware of the abusive priest or made a decision in favor of mercy ( by declining to defrock a dying Wisconsin priest decades after he abused 200 deaf children).
However, the book also includes a compendium of speeches, letters and documents so readers can draw their own conclusions. The authors discuss their findings (replies have been edited for length and clarity):
Q: You both rely on a Catholic, church-based readership. What if you found Benedict did something wrong?
Erlandson: If there were a smoking gun, it would be reported and it would be dealt with. I take my cue from Benedict, who says, "There is a need to tell the truth."
Q: Why can't Benedict just fire bishops who protected abusive priests and make new rules for the whole church?
E: The Catholic church is not a multinational corporation with bishops as branch managers that the pope can hire, fire and mandate actions. It's much more complicated. In history and canon law, bishops are descendents of the apostles. It would be like Peter firing James. ... But it's pretty clear that he is chiding the bishops as a group and individually. There's definitely some steel there.
Bunson: Look at Ireland where a number of bishops' positions became untenable as a consequence of their failures in office. You see the direct timeline between their February visit to the Holy See and (three) resignations in short order.
Q: Before he was pope, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope John Paul II and was steeped in reports of abuse that reached Rome. How much blame for failure to act sooner falls to him and John Paul II?
E: I'm wary of a tendency to throw John Paul II under the bus. ... He was taking steps, working with Ratzinger every week on this and certainly not clueless or insensitive to what was happening.
B: We remind readers that the U.S. bishops, in close consultation with Pope John Paul II, put together a program in 2002 that has proved remarkably successful.
Q: You say the U.S. bishops' approach — zero tolerance for abusive priests and clear provision for child protection — has worked well. Why hasn't Benedict pushed other nations to follow it?
E: What the U.S. bishops did was tough medicine — and controversial. As painful as it is right now, (global bishops) may need time to see this is what is needed.
B: We think (worldwide church law) based on the U.S. approach is coming soon, but each country in a church of more than 1 billion people has to deal with this in its own legal culture and society. [Inculturation, eh?]
Q: Benedict calls for both mercy and justice. But does the public want mercy for abusive priests?
B: The church always has to remember both. Church and civil law can be frustrating. Each has its process and requirements, and equal justice is still required regardless of how horrendous the accusations.
The word I think everyone is really looking for is accountability. We think this pope is demanding accountability. [Bingo! Most Pinoy Bishops demand it from our local politicians...When can we the laity demand it from them?] What people really should know, and our book tries to tell them, is that the rules and guidelines (to prevent and root out abuse) were always there in church law, but many bishops just chose not to act on them.
E: We are in a really angry age. We are angry at everybody —Democrats, Republicans, the Tea Party, the coffee party, what have you. People want vengeance. But sometimes the desire for justice cannot be met. The accused are dead or too old. The Catholic Church is about the salvation of souls. [which most Catholics forget!] The question becomes: How do you save a person's soul and at the same time show penalties? No one gets a free pass. [this ain't a monopoly game.]
I have been smelling something foul coming out of the dark corners of rectories here in the Philippines.
Before the wolves got wind of the news, start working on your own backyards, Excellencies!
WE ARE HERE TO SUPPORT YOU!!!