Pope Benedict XVI doesn’t deserve blame for the sexual abuse crisis among Catholic priests, says Greg Erlandson, co-author of a recent book on the subject.
His work is titled “Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis.” Erlandson is president of Our Sunday Visitor, one of the world’s largest Catholic publishing companies.
“I don’t believe Pope Benedict is culpable,” Erlandson told Newsmax.TV. “I believe he’s in fact the right man for the job.”
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The Pope may be the person most knowledgeable about all the abuse cases worldwide reported to the Vatican starting in 2001, he says.
And Benedict’s not shying away from the situation. “He’s not only talking the talk, he’s walking the walk,” Erlandson said.
“He’s been addressing the issue forthrightly and has issued numerous apologies. He has met with victims. He has accepted resignations of bishops. He has encouraged local churches to face up to this problem.”
Put that all together, and you have good leadership, Erlandson says.
“One of the ironies of this controversy is that some would look at him to be the fall guy, when he may be the one who can lead us out of this morass.”
The Pontiff has made clear that the truth most be told, even when it puts Catholicism in a bad light. “That signal is being sent to bishops, priests and the laity around the world,” Erlandson says.
And that’s not an easy task. “Contrary to stereotypes about the Catholic Church, the Pope doesn’t just snap his fingers, and Catholics ask how high they should jump. But he’s providing the leadership,” he said.
Erlandson says the urge to blame the Pope stems from three factors.
First, “Americans tend to want to find someone at the top and figure out should that person be fired. They want to have accountability.”
Second, people who are trying to sue the Vatican want to tie it to cases in the United States. Finally, “There are Catholics who have an agenda at work who feel the church has either been too lax or too conservative.” So they’re blaming the crisis on Benedict too.
Erlandson seeks to put the sexual abuse scandal in context with numbers.
There were only six cases reported of alleged clergy sex abuse last year, according to outside auditors, though going back 50 years, there are 11,000 cases being studied regarding more than 4,000 priests.
“Reportedly there are 200,000 cases of sexual abuse a year in the U.S. This is a problem not just for the Catholic church, but for the larger society,” Erlandson said.
He doesn’t see Catholic churches as a cradle for pedophiles or homosexuality. “Pedophilia is a problem wherever you look in society,” he said.
“It’s not linked to homosexuality or celibacy. I don’t believe the church is a haven for this kind of activity. It’s a significant problem in our schools and other religious denominations too.”
As for the media, in some ways it’s done a great job of covering the scandal, Erlandson says. But some opinion pieces are biased. “A lot of people are getting their licks in. That’s where there’s some exploitation going on.”
The scandal is damaging the church greatly, but it’s an ordeal that will only make it stronger, he says.
“Terrible mistakes were made, there were cover-ups, crimes that weren’t dealt with adequately,” Erlandson said. “We’re paying a high price for that and we have to. But I think we’ll get through this.”
The church has faced worst crises, he says.
“We’ve had many other crises, and unfortunately many of them were self-inflicted, but we do get beyond them and find ways to renew and reform ourselves.”
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