A New York Times story today sheds more positive light on Benedict’s track record against abuse than we’ve seen in that paper of late. The article describes how then-Cardinal Ratzinger attempts to investigate abuse allegations made against an Austrian cardinal were often stymied by political factors inside the Vatican:
In 1995, a victim came forward, telling Profil that the archbishop, then his religion teacher and confessor, had sexually abused him for four years two decades earlier at Hollabrunn.
In Rome a few weeks later, Cardinal Schönborn said, Cardinal Ratzinger told him behind closed doors that he wanted to set up a fact-finding commission to establish clarity. “That for me is one of the best indications that I know from personal experience that today’s pope had a very decisive, clear way of handling abuse cases,” he said.
In a subsequent conversation later that year, Benedict “explicitly regretted that the commission had not been set up,” Cardinal Schönborn said. “It became clear very quickly that the current that prevailed in Rome was not the one demanding clarity here. Cardinal Ratzinger told me that the other side, the diplomatic side, had prevailed.”
The anecdote is a helpful reminder that there were more than two people — John Paul and Ratzinger — in the Vatican during the former pope’s reign, and that competing interests and personalities often butted heads behind the scenes. This won’t be news to regular Vatican watchers, of course, but to a general public that assumes Benedict must have been directly responsible for every botched abuse investigation in the Vatican for the last 30 years, the distinction is an important one.