Archbishop John Nienstedt has weighed in on the international flap involving Pope Benedict XVI and the alleged coverup of sexual abuse by priests, defending the pope but decrying sexual abuse of any kind.
In the current issue of the Catholic Spirit, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Nienstedt says “sexual molestation of any kind is indefensible. It is a sin that cries out for forgiveness. We can perhaps never apologize enough for what has taken place. We must direct ourselves to the healing of the victims.”
Attacks on the pope, though, are off-base, he said:
“[R]ecent attempts to insinuate the involvement of Pope Benedict XVI with all this are, to my mind, both misguided and unfair.
“As New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan has pointed out, no one was more helpful to the American hierarchy, and the church at large, in 2002 than Cardinal Ratzinger [who is now Pope Benedict].
“He understood the depths of the crisis facing the American church at the time, and he helped provide the canonical assistance we needed in order to address the terrible scourge of sexual abuse in the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”
Nienstedt notes a report by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice that says: “[T]he height of reported sexual abuse cases by priests occurred during the 1960s and 1970s. This clergy abuse was concurrent with the so-called ‘sexual revolution,’ resulting in a high incidence of sexual promiscuity, divorce and drug use within our culture.”
But he says that since 2002, the Catholic Church “has worked harder than any other organization that I can think of to put into place measures to protect young people as well as to reach out to former victims.”
He said Catholic dioceses in the United States have invested more than $21 million for child protection efforts, and the Twin Cities diocese has conducted more than 76,000 background checks along with safe environment training for 13,000 church employees and 30,000 volunteers.
“These efforts are causing a cultural change in our Church which will permeate other areas of society. Last week, the 2009 Annual Report of the Charter’s Implementation reported that allegations of abuse were down by 30% in that year and the great majority of the cases submitted were several decades old.”