March 26: This post has been updated.
Earlier this week I did an interview with the former Boston Globe editor whose Pulitzer-winning investigative team blew the lid off sexual abuse in the Boston Archdiocese years ago.
In that interview, journalist Walter Robinson shared some of his suspicions about the pope's knowledge of clergy sex abuse in Germany:
The fact we have one archbishop in Munich that claims not to know anything is enough to make one suspicious. So the question is, if there was complicity by the pope himself, how do you get the evidence? And the evidence is in the recollections of priests who were involved who would know, the evidence is in the personnel files, and I’m not sure under German law whether there is any way whether civil authorities could force the release of those files. ... One thing is certain. The church went to such great lengths to protect its bishops and archbishops in the U.S., you can imagine how far they’ll go to protect the reputation of the pope.
The facts appear to be stacking up the way Robinson predicted. Today's New York Times reports that the pope was kept informed of the situation in Germany more closely than the Catholic Church has thus far acknowledged. A decades-old letter shows that the future Pope, then Cardinal Ratzinger, was alerted that a child-molesting German priest would be returning to pastoral work days after beginning psychiatric treatment. This follows revelations on Wednesday that the Pope, in a previous enforcement role within the church, declined to dismiss an American priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys.
While Robinson certainly isn't the only journalist who has covered clergy sex abuse scandals in great depth, it seems the Boston scandal -- and its aftermath -- is still being looked to as officials elsewhere consider necessary reform. From The Washington Post:
Officials in Europe are increasingly looking to the United States as a model for coping with the crisis here.
In the aftermath of the U.S abuse cases, which came to light in 2002, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a complete overhaul of the way sex abuse is reported, new policies for quicker response and, most importantly, a strict no-tolerance policy.
According to the new U.S. policies, whenever a priest is accused of abuse, he is immediately suspended from ministry while the accusation is investigated. The abuse is reported not only to the diocese but also to local authorities -- a system used in a limited capacity by Catholic dioceses in Europe.
For more context on this scandal that keeps escalating, read the whole interview, if you haven't already.
Update 1: The Vatican has responded to the Times piece, reaffirming its position that the Pope had "no knowledge" of the decision to allow the German pedophile priest to return to pastoral work. In its response, the Vatican did not comment on the memo that--as the Times reported--was copied to the Pope about the matter of the priest's reassignment.
Update 2: This post previously stated that Walter Robinson was a Globe reporter. As referenced in a previous post, he is also the editor whose team of investigative reporters uncovered the scandals in Boston.