Pope Benedict XVI this week in his end-of-the-year speech to Vatican cardinals and bishops said revelations of child abuse by Catholic priests in 2010 reached "an unimaginable dimension" that required the church to accept the "humiliation" as a call for renewal.
At the same time, the pope said that society must share the blame for this phenomenon, because we are living in a society in which the mistreatment of children is "common."
Blaming a secular society in which mistreatment of children is common, can only be considered as an excuse -- or at least a softening -- by the pope for the abusive priests' inappropriate behavior. The fact is that there should be no sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, regardless of how society treats children.
The sexual abuse scandal of Catholic priests, which first occurred in the United States in 2002, erupted on a global scale this year with revelations of thousands of victims in Europe and elsewhere of bishops who covered up for pedophile priests and of Vatican officials who turned a blind eye to these crimes for decades.
Actually, the scandal dates back to the 1970s, as a result of the Catholic Church's policy of secrecy in which bishops transferred pedophile priests to different communities -- instead of defrocking them -- as a means of "resolving" this problem. In reality, this policy backfired, because most of these transferred priests again were sexually abusive toward children.
Many people have raised questions about how Pope Benedict himself handled abuse cases, both as an archbishop in Munich and as head of the Vatican office that handled abuse cases. Some people have even called for his resignation as pope.
Fortunately, Pope Benedict recently implemented a long overdue policy which calls for bishops to defrock sexually abusive priests. If this policy had been in use 40 years ago -- as it should have been -- the Catholic Church would have several billion more dollars than it has today.
But more importantly, such a policy would have prevented the sexual abuse of thousands of innocent children -- an abuse that these children will have to live with for the rest of their lives.