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Pope Emeritus Benedict writes letter to atheist, denies alleged child sex abuse cover up

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 25th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Pope Benedict has said in a letter to La Republica, that he never attempted to cover up the sexual abuse of children in the Church. Benedict broke his post-retirement silence to write the important letter.

ROME, ITALY (Catholic Online) - Pope Benedict responded to a series of questions by letter, sending a long reply to the editor of La Repubblica, Piergiorgio Odifreddi an outspoken atheist and mathematician.

The letter follows another to Odifreddi sent by Pope Francis. Both popes have responded to his inquiries in an unprecedented communication. Typically, popes are inaccessible to the media with most information being relayed by representatives and in writing.

For popes to respond with lengthy and detailed letters is seen to be a rare thing in modern times and could represent a shift in the way the Church handles criticism and inquiry, responding quickly and in detail to the media on important issues of concern to many people.

Benedict has been living in retirement since February, and following a stay at the Papal villa, he retired to a monastic life to end his days in prayer and contemplation, out of the public eye. He has kept this promise, although the letter to La Repubblica is a slight departure.

In responding to allegations that the Church may have covered up the abuses of priests, Benedict replied "As far as you mentioning the moral abuse of minors by priests, I can only, as you know, acknowledge it with profound consternation. But I never tried to cover up these things."

In 2010, Pope Benedict revised Church rules to make it easier to remove abusive priests and to protect children. He also met with victims and advocates on several occasions dating back to 2008. Benedict has never shied from the issue, no matter how embarrassing it has been for the Church.

Unfortunately, many people do not understand how the Catholic Church operates. It is the oldest single institution in modern existence. As the early Church spread beyond the Middle East into the world under the Roman Empire it also developed its administrative structure to serve a global communion of people knit together in local Dioceses throughout the world. The government of the Catholic Church does not govern a Nation, with lands and political institutions. Rather, it shepherds a flock, cares for a communion of believers joined by faith, creed, sacrament and way of life.

The Pope is the the Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter. He, in communion with all of the Bishops of the Church, pastorally governs the communion of the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They also meet to resolve important pastoral matters entailed in governing the Church. Yes, there are structures in place which deal with every aspect of the life of the global Catholic Church, including Canon or Church Law and a process for enforcing that law.

The Church does move at a slower pace than the modern age of mass communication now expects. However, that slow and methodical approach - which may seem even glacial to modern outsiders -  is also deliberate and spares the Church from hysteria and precipitous actions which can sometimes ensnare nation states.

Since the Church also oversees more than 1 billion followers, the pace at which issues can be addressed can appear to be slow. What appears to be a crisis can be just another day of the week in the life of a Church as she deals with multitudes of needs as well as many and varied crisis situations. The Church is no stranger to danger, to crisis, or to corruption. These things are always handled in their turn, even if larger, secular governments may move more quickly to address them in real time.

Every priest, as a citizen of their own nation, answers to their national justice institutions, which  rightfully provide the first response to problems and any allegations of illegal activity. The Church also has an important role, but it is secondary to the immediate response that occurs locally.

The Church also has a duty not to obstruct justice when a crime is reasonably believed to have occurred. Recent Church reforms have focused on clarifying Church law so that those supervising priests and other clergy do not ever mistake their obligations of providing pastoral oversight to in any way ever obscure the absolute requirement of facing scandals, punishing crime and protecting victims.

Pope Francis has pledged the Church will take "decisive action" to deal with all issues relating to the abuse of children within the Church. Pope Emeritus Benedict did the same. 

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