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Pope Benedict's legacy disappoints victims of clergy sex abuse

By Jeff Herman
February 12, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world yesterday by announcing his plan to resign at the end of this month.

While the Vatican cites Benedict’s “advanced age” as the reason behind his resignation, many who closely follow the papacy can’t help but wonder what role the ongoing sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church played in Benedict’s decision to become the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign.

Benedict, formerly the archbishop of Munich, made his resignation announcement just weeks after Germany’s Roman Catholic bishops cancelled a study into sex abuse scandals within their church.

Benedict’s decision also comes as pressure mounts from victims’ groups for the International Criminal Court to prosecute Benedict in the sex abuse scandal.

Admittedly, Pope Benedict has spoken out about the global clergy sexual abuse crisis more than any of his predecessors, but words alone are not enough. Very little substantive action has been taken to eradicate the child sex abuse issue and the Church hierarchy continues to operate under a pattern of secrecy. 

Sadly, Pope Benedict missed an opportunity to stand up for the victims whose lives were destroyed by abusive priests by enacting reform. Hopefully, Benedict’s predecessor will tackle the clergy sexual abuse crisis with action, rather than words.