Benedict and Clergy Sexual Abuse: The Leader Who Said ‘No More’| National Catholic Register

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

While debate continues about whether he should have done even more as pope to address this scourge, knowledgeable observers agree he initiated a decisive change in how the Church deals with the issue.

VISITATION ORDERED. Pope Benedict XVI arrives for his general audience at the Vatican April 1, 2009. The day before, the Holy Father ordered an apostolic visitation of the Legion of Christ after allegations that founder Father Marcial Maciel secretly fathered a child as well as abused seminarians. Three years earlier, Benedict ordered Father Maciel to 'a reserved life of penitence and prayer.' Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images
VISITATION ORDERED. Pope Benedict XVI arrives for his general audience at the Vatican April 1, 2009. The day before, the Holy Father ordered an apostolic visitation of the Legion of Christ after allegations that founder Father Marcial Maciel secretly fathered a child as well as abused seminarians. Three years earlier, Benedict ordered Father Maciel to ‘a reserved life of penitence and prayer.’ Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images (photo: Vincenzo Pinto / AFP/Getty)

Judy Roberts WorldJanuary 6, 2023

Even though nearly a decade has passed since Pope Benedict XVI resigned, his death has unleashed yet another scrutiny of his handling of the Church’s sexual-abuse crisis. 

The latest assessments echo those of 2013 when some reports said his legacy had been marred by the abuse scandal and even that he had been complicit in it. At the same time, other observers credited him with aggressively dealing with a problem that had clearly predated his election to the papacy.

Msgr. Robert Oliver, a canon-law expert with 20 years of experience in working with victims and dealing with abuse cases, sees this latest rehashing as a sign.

“More time is clearly needed for us to gain true perspective and understanding,” he told the Register, “especially in an area with such raw, painful emotions and disappointments and as yet unrealized hopes.”

Msgr. Oliver, who previously has served as promoter of justice for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said as the Church continues to grapple with the scourge of sexual abuse, many will look at Pope Benedict’s legacy and conclude he did not do nearly enough.

He added, “And, as negligence and the abuse of adults were recognized as part of this crisis, Pope Benedict’s legacy has been increasingly challenged.” 

Amid this, he said, others will want to move on from the discussion. But still others will choose to emphasize that Pope Benedict was among the first major Church leaders to bring God’s love directly to abuse victims, that he was a prime mover in radically changing the Church’s response to the grave crimes of sexual abuse and that he has inspired generations of Catholics to join the fight against abuse. 

“Looking through these lenses, they see ‘success’ in the midst of a most challenging time, judging ‘great progress’ in responding to crimes that no one is able to solve or eradicate,” Msgr. Oliver told the Register. 

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Benedict and Clergy Sexual Abuse: The Leader Who Said ‘No More’| National Catholic Register

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