I have a suggestion. Send the Vaticanistas
on a crash course in literary criticism. It seems to me that they need to tease
apart the different layers of what the subtle mind of Benedict XVI is trying to

Take John Allen, of the National Catholic
Reporter. A bright, well-informed, and well-intentioned fellow. He and other journalists
on the Pope’s flight to Portugal asked him whether the suffering of the Church
included the sins of sexual abuse. The answer was deeply theological:

… attacks against the pope or the church
don’t come just from outside the church. The suffering of the church also comes
from within the church, because sin exists in the church. This too has always
been known, but today we see it in a really terrifying way. The greatest
persecution of the church doesn’t come from enemies on the outside, but is born
in sin within the church.

The church thus has a deep need to re-learn
penance, to accept purification, to learn on one hand forgiveness but also the
necessity of justice. Forgiveness does not exclude justice. We have to re-learn
the essentials: conversion, prayer, penance, and the theological virtues.

That’s how we respond, and we can be
realistic in expecting that evil will always launch attacks from within and
from outside, but the forces of good are also always present, and finally the
Lord is stronger than evil. The Madonna for us is the visible maternal
guarantee that the will of God is always the last word in history.

Allen’s interpretation
under the headline “Sex abuse crisis ‘terrifying,’ pope says”: the Pope is
distancing himself from Vatican bigwigs who say that the media is manufacturing
the problem.

C+, John. Even if he meant that, his
main idea was theological: that the “terrifying” cyst of evil dwells in the hearts of
us all and inevitably bursts unless there is constant vigilance, prayer and
penance. The danger of Allen’s take is the presumption that the abuse will
be solved by firing people, lopping heads, shaking up institutions, writing
protocols and issuing reports. Shrek’s wise words about layers wouldn’t go astray.  

Michael Cook

Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet. He lives in Sydney, Australia.