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I’ve spent the last three sessions of this blog running an interview with CNN’s Gary Tuchman about his one-hour documentary entitled What the Pope Knew airing tonight at 8:00 PM ET.

As the title suggests it deals with the child sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church and, after watching an advance copy, I can tell you that I found it to be an excellent piece of journalism.

Though I could have done without the sometimes with unnecessarily dramatic background music, the reporting itself is seems rock solid and delivers the facts in a straightforward manner that is tough but fair.

Unfortunately, the facts do convincingly show that Pope Benedict XVI (when he headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during the papal reign of John Paul II) did not do all he should have done when cases of alleged child sexual abuse by priests were brought to his attention. The strong suggestion being that then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was much more sensitive to the cause of protecting that Church’s reputation than to the pain of the victims of child molestation. 

On the other hand, the program (which, BTW, features an interview with Msgr. Charles Scicluna of the Vatican) does take care to note that as Pope, Benedict has charted a new course for the Church that much more aggressively deals with such allegations. He has also met privately with abuse victims and has publicly apologized for the Church’s decades-long failure to adequately protect children in its care from priestly abusers.

Critics, of course, say that he still hasn’t done enough and that, in any event, his chief concern is still protecting the image of the Church.

Who can know what’s in a man’s heart? But I choose to hope (and pray) that Benedict’s heart has been truly opened to the pain of the victims. It wouldn’t be the first time in history God chose someone who made serious mistakes in judgment to be a positive force for healing.

And, I pray that the victims too experience healing. It was a terrible thing that was done to them — made worse by the Church not showing the concern and compassion it should have when the crimes occurred.

At the same time, I feel compelled to note that I have seen and experienced the compassion of good priests in my life — priests who don’t deserve to be tainted by the actions of some who were, tragically, allowed to repeatedly commit heinous crimes.

While the Church is far from perfect. There are occasions of hypocrisy and corruption that need dealt with.  That’s certainly true of any large organization and the way the sex abuse allegations were handled does constitute a scandal within the Church.

But it is also true that the Church is filled with many, many good people who sincerely devote their lives to God by serving His people.  It is possible to acknowledge both truths. 

Balance requires a willingness to admit and truly come to grips with what happened (so healing can begin and necessary reforms can be made) as well a realization that the Church stands for something that is good and solid and beyond the failings of even its leaders — and that is the love and forgiveness offered to the world through Jesus Christ.  

What the Pope Knew exposes a dark period in Church history to the healing power of light and truth. And, as all Christians know, the truth shall set us free. 


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