Church's defensive posture misses point

In defending the church's handling of former child sexual abuse scandals, the Vatican once again appears to be putting protection of the church's image above concern for victims.

The growing scandal in Europe has raised questions about how Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - now Pope Benedict XVI - handled a sex abuse case in his own Munich diocese in 1980 and oversaw such cases when he was the Vatican's chief doctrinal official from 1982 until his election as pope in 2005.

Most recently, The New York Times reported that Cardinal Ratzinger received a memo in 1980 alerting him that a pedophile priest was being assigned to a new parish in Munich just days after the priest's therapy for pedophilia began. The priest later molested more boys.

The Vatican said Friday the pope "had no knowledge" of the decision to reassign the priest. It called the press scrutiny an attempt to smear the pope.

Cardinal Ratzinger may have missed the memo in question. And we're sure the Vatican doesn't like all the questions. But why not take this opportunity to re-emphasize an important message: The church handled allegations of abusive conduct by priests poorly in the past, but it has changed and is committed to acknowledging any past misconduct, not covering it up. It now treats sexual abuse as a crime. Victims should come forward.

To its credit, the Catholic leadership has said these things, but the message can't be said enough, and it must be genuine.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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