Benedict's legacy clouded by sex abuse scandal

In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI delivers his blessing at the end of a meeting of Vatican cardinals, at the Vatican, Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would resign Feb. 28 - the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)
February 11, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
In a surprising and rare move, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation Monday. His tenure as pope involved one of the most painful issues confronting the Catholic Church: the sexual abuse of children by some members of the clergy.

As pope, Benedict repeatedly apologized for years of inaction by the Catholic Church, but it's what he did not do when he was cardinal that threatens to overshadow his legacy.

In 2010, during a visit to Westminster Abbey in England, Benedict offered one of many apologies to the victims of sexual abuse.

"Above all, I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes," he said during that visit.

He was also the first pontiff to meet with victims. But for some of them, his actions came too late.

"No I don't think he did enough," said Tim Lennon, who is with Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, commonly known as SNAP.

Before leading the church, Benedict -- then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- was in charge of investigating claims of sexual abuse.

In a 1985 letter to the Diocese of Oakland, despite hard evidence that Father Stephen Kiesle was molesting children, Ratzinger refused to defrock him without further study.

Thomas Cattoi is with the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University. He says Ratzinger did not act until he received an explicit order from Pope John Paul II.

"He was not really about to do much when he was still a cardinal because Pope John Paul II tended to be somewhat more skeptical about all of these accusations of sexual abuse," Cattoi said.

He says when Benedict was elected pope in 2005, he was more willing to take action against these priests and make it more public.

Lennon, who was abused when he was 13, says he hopes a new pope will bring accountability to the Catholic Church.

"I can only hope that it's an opportunity for the church to demonstrate a moral authority as opposed to being in the dungeon of its vile corruption that I believe it is now," Lennon said.

The scandal has cost the Catholic Church more than $2 billion in settlements.

Load Comments