I have been mulling over the comments that Benedict has made about sexual abuse. His public acknowledgment of the evil of abuse, his acknowledgment that it was badly handled, and his meeting with victims were far more that John Paul II could bring himself to do. When one cardinal begged John Paul to make a public statement, he replied that he would like to, but “they wouldn’t let me.” The “they” in question are no doubt the Vatican bureaucrats who protected abusers for decades.
When Ratzinger became pope, he soon disciplined two prominent abusers, Maciel and Gino Burresi, both of whom had been protected by Vatican officials.
As I have read the correspondence of bishops and chancery officials from the past 50 years, it has become clear that even when a bishop wanted to laicize an abusive priest, he knew that the Vatican would place almost insurmountable obstacles in his way.
Perhaps this is why Benedict has not disciplined the bishops who enabled abusers: he knows that the American bishops were simply following the clear signals that they were getting from the Vatican.
Why the Vatican was giving such signals is another question. John Allen thinks that it was simply the Italian desire to maintain a bella figura, to look good in public. Richard Sipe and Fr. Tom Doyle think that the Church is as corrupt now as it was just before the Reformation. Many clerics, including those at the highest levels, are unchaste, and have sexual secrets that do not want exposed. I think that in a segment of the clergy the practice of pederasty has been accepted from ancient times. The Romans, they claim, learned it from the Etruscans and Greeks. The clergy continued the practice. When Justinian made pederasty a capital crime, he immediately executed two bishops as an example to the rest. In the Middle Ages St. Peter Damian described the corruption of the clergy in the Book of Gomorrah.