When countries are threatened or institutions are in trouble, they look to their leaders to show the way out of the crisis.
The Vatican is in trouble, its moral authority sapped by mounting allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests in the past and cover ups by bishops supervising them.
But strong leadership from the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church is hard to discern. Pope Benedict rarely mentions the crisis and some aides have made things worse with comments that are mostly defensive and sometimes offend.
Catholic leaders argue the Church is not like secular bodies such as governments or companies, which is true. But it does live in the world and is judged by its legal standards when clergy commit crimes or the hierarchy covers them up.
George Abela, the Catholic president of the very Catholic island state of Malta, stressed this in his welcoming address to the visiting pope on Saturday when he spoke of priests who “unfortunately go astray”.