The Pope Is The Good Guy IV

John Allen, the best Vatican Reporter there is:

Objectively speaking, Benedict shouldn’t be the church’s problem in terms of responding to the sex abuse crisis — he should be the answer. However much unfinished business the Catholic church may still face, the situation would be infinitely worse if then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had not kick-started the process of reform in 2001 by streamlining the system for removing predator priests from ministry; if, as pope, he had he not brought the hammer down on figures such as Fr. Marical Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ; and had he not broken the Vatican’s wall of silence on the crisis, including becoming the first pope to meet with victims of sexual abuse.

If the Vatican had an effective PR machine, they would have touted Ratzinger from the beginning as the Rudy Giuliani of the Catholic church, the guy who gave us “zero tolerance” policing and thereby cleaned up Times Square. That, alas, is a bit like saying “if pigs could fly,” and so instead the outside world knew little of the pope’s actual record before the current crisis erupted, creating a vacuum in which isolated cases could form a distorted impression.

However much media bias may play a role in stacking the deck against the pope, it’s also true that the Vatican’s “crisis management” strategy has, if anything, made the crisis worse. Over Easter weekend, for example, many media outlets were prepared to dial down their coverage of the sex abuse story, only to whip it up anew because of comments from Fr. Rainero Cantalamessa at the Vatican’s Good Friday liturgy, comparing attacks on Benedict to anti-Semitism, and from Cardinal Angelo Sodano at the Easter Sunday Mass, referring to “petty gossip.” That’s to say nothing of the furor over Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s recent statements in Chile suggesting a link between pedophilia and homosexuality, a claim even the Vatican’s own spokesperson, who reports to Bertone, has tried to play down.

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