If there ever were a time for Pope Benedict to commit a Freudian slip that we could all understand, it would be in his meetings next week with Irish bishops to discuss the clerical sex abuse scandals that have shaken the Emerald Isle.
It’s not hard to imagine him meeting the Hibernian hierarchy behind closed Vatican doors and occasionally referring to the scandals “in Germany” rather than “in Ireland.” If he does, the Irish bishops will certainly forgive him. Enough has been happening in his fatherland recently to distract him from the uproar about the recent reports of clergy excesses in Ireland.
The controversy caused by two official Irish reports — the Ryan report on abuse in Catholic institutions country-wide and the Murphy report on the Dublin archdiocese — prompted the German pope to take the unusual step of calling the Irish bishops to Rome to discuss the ensuing crisis. He is due to issue a letter to Irish Catholics next Wednesday, after his consultations with the bishops. All this is quite exceptional for the Vatican, which usually does not get too involved in such cases in national churches. But it was arranged a few weeks ago when the problem seemed to be confined to the Irish Church
Since then, reports of hushed-up clerical abuse have been mounting in Benedict’s native Germany. These reports are all the more shocking because (1) few cases of clerical abuse have emerged in Germany and (2) the abuse allegedly occurred at elite Jesuit high schools in Berlin, Hamburg, Bonn and other cities. These boarding schools have excellent reputations in Germany, as do many Jesuit schools around the world, and charges like this disgrace a long and proud tradition of classical education that’s hard to find elsewhere these days.