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A long night's journey into day.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, speaking at a conference in Spainin 2002:

In the church, priests are also sinners. But I am personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of the sins of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign, as the percentage of these offenses among priests is not higher than in other categories, and perhaps it is even lower. In the United States, there is constant news on this topic, but less than one percent of priests are guilty of acts of this type. The constant presence of these news items does not correspond to the objectivity of the information or to the statistical objectivity of the facts. Therefore, one comes to the conclusion that it is intentional, manipulated, that there is a desire to discredit the church.

Fr. Robert Oliver, recently appointed Vatican promoter of justice by Pope Benedict XVI -- a position whose responsibilities include prosecuting sexual-abuse cases -- speaking at a press conference today:

"I think that certainly those who continued to put before us that we need to confront this problem did a service," he said in response to a question on whether the role of an aggressive American media was, in hindsight, a blessing for the Church."They (the media) helped to keep the energy, if you will, to keep the movement going so that we would, honestly and with transparency, and with our strength, confront what is true."

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Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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Only eleven years? Given how slowly the hierarchy tends to move, this seems like light-speed.

I find the Pope's quote from 2002 unbelievable! I can't believe that anyone in his or her right mind would not scream in response. Such a sense of entitlement, and an utter lack of awareness of the priest as an extra special authority figure violating more than trust! This is not anti Catholic thinking, but points to serious systemic problems.

Fr Oliver's quote makes me happy. Only, I would put his second sentence in the present tense since the movement towards transparency is still ongoing. But this is good.

Oliver is sensible and grounded in reality. Wonder what happens when he is in the presence of Egan ("We have nothing to apologize for") and the other bishops still in denial.

When I heard a similar response from the 'blind' parishioners as from the Pope above.. I told them that I worked 30 years in the Bell System with thousands of men without hearing of one case of their abuse of children. Then I worked with the Archdiocese for 10 years and met and worked with 25 creditably abusing priests. O... The Bell Sys. men worked in front and backyards, basements, bedrooms, schools and offices. O... And the Bell System had deeper pockets then the Church and the media made more fun of the Bell System than the Church.. Vatican please copy. Mark Ungeach's "but points to serious systemic problems.'' you betcha.

Ratzinger, like others at the Vatican, had seized on the 1% figure which came, I believe, from Phil Jenkins Pedophiles and Priests (2001). Jenkins point, which was based on data that has since been surpassed, was that only 1% of priests or fewer were true pedophiles, sexually involved with pre-pubescent children, and that the rest of the abusers were pederasts, involved with pubescent and post-pubescent males.An even deeper problem is the narcissism of the clergy, especially the higher clergy; everything is about them, as Mahony and Egan and Mller, the new head of the CDF, still think.

I've never understood how people could overlook the obvious and go straight to conspiracy theories about how the media was/is engaged in a "planned campaign" to "discredit the church." The obvious being that people wanted to read about these crimes, statistically rare as they were, and wanted even more to read about the cover-ups that kept the crimes from coming to light for so long. They wanted as much information as they could get, because the total failure to provide that information was a big part of what produced the scandal in the first place. And the people who wanted that information most were, and are, faithful (or onetime faithful) Catholics. For most of us, interest in learning about the scandal wasn't fueled by a desire to discredit the Church, but by a desire to understand how the Church could have betrayed its own values so despicably. All that time wasted in finding someone else to blame for a still-festering and mainly self-inflicted wound.

I think that Grant put up that old quote not in order for us to be scandalized again, but to appreciate the change of perspective. It would have been even better if the two quotes had come from the same person, i.e., if the 2013 quote were from Pope Benedict, but I'll take what I can get. This is good.

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly"For most of us, interest in learning about the scandal wasnt fueled by a desire to discredit the Church, but by a desire to understand how the Church could have betrayed its own values so despicably."Well said. And I might add that the most of us, who are as you have described, are probably still here. However, I can't judge those who have left, especially if they have had person experience of sexual abuse.

Helen - well said by you, too.

They (the media) helped to keep the energy, if you will, to keep the movement going so that we would, honestly and with transparency, and with our strength, confront what is true.For any church official to say this is bracing. For an official of the Holy See to say it, strikes me as an event that might register on the Richter scale.

Well, I think a forthright apology from Ratzinger might be called for in order to find absolution. He made these statements knowing they were false, or at best a bit of legalistic parsing (that just 1 percent were actual pedophiles). It was self-protective propaganda at the expense of children, and their spiritual and physical welfare. Not that reporters need the gratification. (Though many may want it. And they deserve it.) It's mainly that if the pope wants credibility he needs to admit his own grievous errors in trying to downplay and cover up this terrible scandal, and criticizing those who he knew were doing the work of the gospel in reporting the truth and trying to protect children.

Forget about the fact the Pope spoke this fiction 11 years ago. His CDF successor Muller said this last week.:German archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Mller (the Vatican's doctrinal watchdogCDF ) sasys "targeted discrimination campaigns" against the church sometimes reminded him of a "pogrom sentiment." Pogrom statement draws fire in Germany.'Maybe it's a German thing.. 'the media are after us again'

Sigh...according to John Jay, about 4% of priests in their study abused minors. Last I knew, there was no firm data on the % of men generally who abuse minors. So when someone says loudly "priests are no more likely to abuse than other men" OR "priests are far more likely than other men to abuse," I say, "where's the data about men generally?" Some estimates say 1 in 10 men abuse minors, others say one in 5. But these are guesses. Does it seem likely that one in 5 men sexually abuse minors? Even one in 10? Also, if you look at the John Jay data, one troubling aspect is the tremendous disparity in abuse rates between dioceses. Are men more predatory in some places? Or is it more that some dioceses were known to be safe havens for abusers? Or does this simply reflect incomplete bishop compliance even while claiming to be transparent regarding abuse?And why is it thought to be comforting that priests are "no more likely than other men to sexually abuse minors"? Shouldn't people in leadership in the Church do at least a little better, at least where (to put it mildly,) a matter of professional boundaries is involved? And especially where those particular betrayals are so deeply hurtful? We're not talking "priests should be holier than the rest of us," but merely that "priests ought not rape and abuse children." A low bar, istm.

It is heartening to see Father Oliver's comment about the media's service to the church.

BTW, I agree that Fr. Oliver's comments are most welcome, and good for him, and the Vatican. But I also think it's important to note the huge impact of his predecessor, Msgr. Scicluna, who arguably did more than anyone in Rome over the last decade -- when it wasn't popular to do so -- to advocate on behalf of victims, and in recent years to speak out publicly. In my view Scicluna was a real groundbreaker, and prayers for Fr. Oliver who has big shoes to fill.

Obviosuly I must be stupid, but I do not see any irreconcilable contradiction between the two statements, especially allowing for the fact that one or the other may apply better to different places and different times.

They still don't get it. There are sexual deviants everywhere, the scandal is not in the abuse, but in the cover up. The reputation of the church is more important than the children. How many children would have been saved this horror if the Bishops had acted instead of hiding the problem.

The journey continues. I'm disinclined to jump on the Fr Oliver bandwagon. Just yet. He still adheres to the notion that it all went off the rails in 1965.That there was some sort of bulwark of virtue abandoned after the Fr Ratzinger generation is to keep eyes and ears closed to the thought that abuse of the vulnerable is a consequence of human sinfulness, not conciliar reform or even the so-called sexual revolution.What looks like a bell curve centered on '75 is just the truncation of a long history of exploitation that likely goes back centuries. If there was some way of interviewing the dead, then we'd have a truer measure. That said, let's all keep working and when Fr Oliver's successor is named, we can deliver the hoped-for kudos for a job well-done.

Todd Flowerday, a very wise caution about the Fr. Oliver bandwagon.I remember Oliver's name from reading about a June 2002 meeting of VOTF officers with Cardinal Law's aide, an auxiliary and canonist Robert Oliver. The event is recounted in the book, "Keep the Faith, Change the Church" by its founding president Dr. James Muller and journalist Charles Kenney. "But whatever arrogance was missing...was more than supplied by Father Oliver. He instructed us at some length about the imperative of our being subservient to the archbishop..."At one point, Father Oliver said that revelation is given to the hierarchy. Mary Scanlan objected. "I believe God reveals himself to all of us in different ways...(in family and work experiences)"Father Oliver said that wasn't the main source of the revelation. He said that God revealed primarily through the hierarchy and the hierarchy was in a position to translate revelation to lay people.""I (Muller) spoke about Vatican II and told them that we were faithful Catholics who wanted to help. (Mary said) "We're not a threat...we want to help." But once again their reaction indicated that they didn't want our help."VOTF officials found the tone upsetting, that they were being lectured to. When one told Oliver, the auxiliary and Law's aide of VOTF's plans to hold a mass at the end of the upcoming VOTF convention, there was total silence. The three clerics looked at each other and laughed. Then the auxiliary said in Latin: "Silentium assensum dat." As the VOTF officials left the meeting, Mary translated for the others what had been said: Silence gives assent. All were left with a sense of arrogance and condescension. "It was now crystal clear that the Boston hierarchy wanted us to go away."Now, maybe Oliver has gained wisdom in the interim, which should not be rejected even if late. I welcome the words, but await the actions that follow. Again, "The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts." (John Locke)

It sounds as if Oliver just might be one of those men who will say what he has to say in front of those who determine his future in order to ensure that said future is to his liking.As Todd said above, though: "That said, lets all keep working and when Fr Olivers successor is named, we can deliver the hoped-for kudos for a job well-done."

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