Pope Benedict's tenure, so to speak, ended with a veritable bang. For only the second time in history a pontiff stepped down from his papacy. Benedict of course claimed his physical condition prevented him from discharging his duties effectively, but rumors swirled of a velvet mafia finally doing away with him.
A new report by newsmedia agency Associated Press has now brought to light a docment that details how Benedict, for the first time in Vatican history, executed a mass purge of suspected paedophile priests.
According to the revelation, at least 400 priests were defrocked during Pope Benedict's papacy, shedding new light on the reason for his withdrawal from his post.
Just as the Vatican is being placed under a very difficult grilling by the UN, to ascertain how well it has committed to protecting the rights of children under the Rights of Child Convention it had signed years ago, the revelation finally signals, at least from the retired pontiff, a decisive turn of action against the plague of child violence and abuse in the Catholic Church.
The purge was done in just the span of two years, near the end of Pope Benedict's papacy, between 2011 and 2012. A further 173 had been defrocked earlier in his papacy.
This revelation also brings to light how the church works in complete secrecy, so that the priests removed and their deeds might have never been known.
These actions by Benedict rehabilitate his sometimes stale, sometime distant rule. One of least loved popes, Benedict now stands in the spotlight as having radically altered the balance of the church.
What does appear clear however, is that Benedict, notwithstanding his role and responsibility before he was chosen as a Pope, is that he is to date, the only pope who has decisely addressed the problem, even though the dioceses affected did maintain the Vatican secrecy.
Some critics are hailing these news as a valid first step, but wonder if the priests that were defrocked were only the tip of the iceberg and if they represented only priests that were suspected or accused of molestation in the very recent past. What they imply with their criticism, is that there may be many more, who have molested in the past, or whose accusations have been found insufficient by the Vatican investigation to be removed.
What critics still regret, is the unwillingness on the part of the Vatican to voluntarily share with local law enforcement any or even part of their findings, so that abuse could be ongoing until their own investigation now removes the priest. Or conversely, that the removed priest was only cut off from his duties after being forced to do so by law enforcement.
In the past, priests were almost never defrocked, and almost always removed from the diocese where they had committed their crimes, and therefore free to repeat their actions.
However, considering the scope and the numbers involved in the sex abuse scandal, many will object that the measures taken, although a signal of at least a sign of engagement on the part of the Vatican, is not sufficient to wipe out the scourge of child abuse in the church.
Source : MSNBC/ 1.18.14