I don’t know if the incidence of child abuse is statistically any higher for the Catholic Church than for the population at large, and suspect that it isn’t. Yet it’s hard not to suspect that the incidence among Catholic clergy is much higher. Their priesthood seems designed to attract perverts (although I know not all of them are). My dad used to say that there’s something wrong with single men wearing dresses and telling married couples how to behave. He probably wasn’t far off the mark.
There are two separate but related matters here: First, the individual responsibility of the pope in one instance of this moral nightmare and, second, his more general and institutional responsibility for the wider lawbreaking and for the shame and disgrace that goes with it. The first story is easily told, and it is not denied by anybody. In 1979, an 11-year-old German boy identified as Wilfried F. was taken on a vacation trip to the mountains by a priest. After that, he was administered alcohol, locked in his bedroom, stripped naked, and forced to suck the penis of his confessor. (Why do we limit ourselves to calling this sort of thing “abuse”?) The offending cleric was transferred from Essen to Munich for “therapy” by a decision of then-Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, and assurances were given that he would no longer have children in his care. But it took no time for Ratzinger’s deputy, Vicar General Gerhard Gruber, to return him to “pastoral” work, where he soon enough resumed his career of sexual assault.
At least child abuse in the Catholic world doesn’t involve strapping explosives to them.