By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tAmid ongoing debate over Pope Benedict XVI’s role in the sexual abuse crisis, the Vatican today claimed that a newly unearthed piece of correspondence shows that as far back as 1988, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger pressed Rome to adopt “swifter and more simplified procedures” for punishing priests guilty of “grave and scandalous” conduct.
The conduct Ratzinger had in mind, the Vatican implied, included the sexual abuse of minors.
tRatzinger's recommendation was not adopted at the time, a senior Vatican official said, because of stalled debates over the penal section of the church’s Code of Canon Law. Yet Ratzinger kept at it, the official asserted, and today his suggested reforms have largely become binding church law.
t The revelation came in an essay authored by Spanish Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, the number two official at the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, which was published today in slightly abbreviated form by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, and is scheduled for full publication tomorrow in the semi-official journal Civiltà Cattolica.