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That’s the million — perhaps billion — dollar question for faithful Catholics, as the New York Times continues hammering away at its investigation of how Pope Benedict’s former office handled reports of clergy sex abuse in the U.S., Germany, and elsewhere.

The NYT has uncovered memos and other documents that indicate Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (the future pope) was apprised of plans to send pedophile priests to counseling and return them to pastoral work. No smoking gun (his signature, for example) has yet emerged that definitely proves he knew and approved of such plans; the Catholic Church’s defense continues to be that the Vatican has admitted that mistakes were made and accepted several bishop resignations, while noting that these stories are reporting on decades-old news, overlooking evidence that the scourge of clergy sex abuse has declined, at least in America.

So far, it remains unclear how much, if anything, Ratzinger/Benedict knew about specific coverups, but one thing continues to stand out, for me: the Vatican never recommended reporting a crime to the police.

What do you think? Check back for updates and share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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