In Denying Role in Clergy Sex Abuse Cover-Up, Former Pope Benedict Continues to Prevent Healing

It appears that former Pope Benedict has come out of retirement – donned another hat, as it were – as a revisionist historian. In his first published comments since resigning as pope in February, Benedict has denied that he tried to cover up the sexual abuse of children by priests. The denial grabs headlines because it comes from Benedict, but it’s really just another instance of the church hierarchy clumsily and cynically attempting to protect itself while callously hurting survivors.

Benedict’s denial is part of a letter he wrote to an Italian author who wrote a book about problems in the Roman Catholic Church. Excerpts of the letter were published today in a Rome newspaper. As reported by Reuters, it is believed that the denial is the first time Benedict has responded to the myriad Roman Catholic clergy sex abuse accusations in the first person.

Let’s not let history be rewritten by someone looking to clean up his legacy. For years, records documenting the hierarchy’s practice of keeping secret its vast knowledge of clergy sex abuse have been revealed regularly and in many cases involuntarily. This secrecy is a pattern and practice embedded in Canon Law, secret protocols and in Benedict’s own words and actions – or inactions – as pope and as head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF). Prior to becoming pope, Benedict was the head of the CDF, a role in which vast numbers of reports of predator Roman Catholic priests were sent to him for dispositional consideration. The record shows that Benedict did nearly nothing with this information other than keep it secret, allowing clergy sex abusers to remain anonymous, unpunished, or both.

 If that’s not covering up, it’s hard to imagine what is.

Good or bad, legacies are earned, accomplished. They are not cobbled together by revisionist historians. The survivors forced to endure yet another insult know this.