Benedict has been a great pope. His Regensburg Lecture will be admired for centuries. His encylicals, though dense, are profound and illuminating. And he is arguably the world leader in helping rid an institution of child sexual abuse.
That said, all popes are fallible. Even Peter denied Christ three times. In the case of Benedict, I think, he should apologize for and explain his handling of sex abuse cases when he was archbishop of Munich and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
I come at this issue with more than the usual subjectivity. As a teenager, I was very nearly a victim of sexual molestation. Reflecting on this experience has led me to conclude that we go too easy on authority figures, even as holy an authority figure as the pope, when we don’t hold them accountable for their actions or inaction. Over at TrueSlant, I make my case. Here’s a snippet:
Many Catholics imply that Benedict has nothing to apologize for at all. I don’t buy this. Certainly he should apologize for not preventing the Rev. Peter Hullerman from defiling children again after he left therapy. He was Hullerman’s archbishop, after all. He had some responsibility for the wayward priests’ conduct. He wasn’t the head of a local religious order or a priest, positions that had zero responsibility for Hullerman. To be fair, Archbishop Ratzinger likely did not know about Hullerman’s sins and crimes, which is why Ratzinger’s likely offense was not grave . But Ratzinger’s lack of knowledge doesn’t mean the buck didn’t stop with him. Put another way, conservatives who blame Archbishops Weakland and Cummins for not disciplining the molesters in their ranks should also point a finger at Ratzinger.