the Pope's track record on abuse: looking better and better
Last week I commented on the Pope's involvement (or lack of same) in two noted abuse cases. In Munich, a priest accused of molesting children might have escaped his attention in the early 1980s. But later, in Rome, the future Pope was aggressive in pursuing an investigation of Father Marcial Maciel, the powerful head of the Legion of Christ. When the stakes were high, when the accused cleric had powerful friends, the Pope redoubled his efforts. That's the sign of someone who is committed to eliminating corruption from the priesthood.
One could also cite the case of Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër, who was ousted from his post as Archbishop of Vienna after accusations that he molested seminarians. Groër's successor in Munich, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, has revealed that it was then-Cardinal Ratzinger who persuaded Pope John Paul II to remove the accused prelate.
Or take the case of the Irish Bishop John Magee, whose mishandling of the abuse problem in the Cloyne diocese prompted Pope Benedict first to remove him from active pastoral leadership last year, then to accept his resignation this year. Bishop Magee had served as a personal secretary to three Roman Pontiffs (Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II); he too surely had powerful friends in Rome. But his influence did not dissuade the Pope from taking disciplinary action.
An alert Catholic Culture reader has called my attention to yet another prominent case: that of Father Gino Burresi, the Italian priest whose worldwide reputation as a mystic had drawn comparisons to Padre Pio. He too had many defenders when he was accused of molesting young men, and the charges against him were rejected by his friends at the Vatican. But Cardinal Ratzinger continued to investigate, and was convinced that the charges were true. Barely a month after he was elected Roman Pontiff, Father Gino was dismissed from active priestly ministry and sentenced to spend his remaining days in prayer and penance.
There is a clear pattern here: a pattern of dogged determination to drive molesters out of ministry.
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