Pope Benedict XVI talks to journalists during a press conference aboard the airplane, Tuesday, May 11, 2010, on the way to Lisbon for his four day visit to Portugal. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)To date the Roman Catholic Church — and specifically, the Vatican which heads it — has consistently disavowed any responsibility of the Church in the clerical abuse scandal which has dogged it for some time and which really heated up during the last year (since the release of the Ryan Report). The Vatican, through various spokesmen, has instead blamed it on any number of other external agents, including (for example) Jews, and has even claimed there is no problem at all, that abuse claims were all trumped up by anti-Catholic people and groups, ranging from gays and abortionists to “masonic secularists” and “great newspapers.” These attempts at deflection have, for the most part, failed miserably.

It is, therefore, remarkable that none other than the Pope himself has finally admitted that the problem is real and that it was born within the Church itself. The AP via Google News reports on this admission (WebCite cached article):

In his most thorough admission of the church’s guilt in the clerical sex abuse scandal, Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday the greatest persecution of the institution “is born from the sins within the church,” and not from a campaign by outsiders.

The pontiff said the Catholic church has always been tormented by problems of its own making — a tendency that is being witnessed today “in a truly terrifying way.” …

In a shift from the Vatican’s initial claim that the church was the victim of a campaign by the media and abortion rights and pro-gay marriage groups, Benedict said: “The greatest persecution of the church doesn’t come from enemies on the outside but is born from the sins within the church.”

Note that the Pope still calls this scandal a “persecution.” This is entirely in line with my own hypothesis that the Church views this scandal primarily as a spiritual contest with the Forces of Darkness; i.e. as a diabolical “attack” on the divine institution. That dimension remains the case. What has changed is that the Pope has admitted that this contest was generated from within the Church. The Pope is no longer blaming external agents for it, nor is he suggesting that it never happened, that it was merely a fictional construct woven out of whole cloth by people who hate the Catholic Church.

Thus, his admission is a step in the right direction. It’s merely one step, to be sure, but a definite step nonetheless. As such, it should be welcomed, as the step (only) that it is.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia.

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