I had the opportunity last Friday to sit down with some Catholics and just spend an evening discussing some of our disagreements. It was me along with another atheist (who I met for the first time) and a few Catholics. It was put together by Dave Armstrong. I really appreciate Dave. He's one of those people that is able to sit down and disagree with me strongly, but do it in a way that makes for productive and friendly dialogue. Not all Christians can do this, nor can all skeptics.
The main topic was the historicity of Jesus, but naturally we also talked about side issues. Regarding the child abuse I mentioned something about Ratzinger being involved in keeping the scandal quiet. I was told that this claim had been shown to be completely fraudulent.
Well, what would I expect them to say? And I don't know the details. But since that time I looked into it just slightly to see if there is any justification for the claim that Ratzinger was involved.
Apparently there was a document released in 1962 by high offices in the Church and approved by the Pope called Crimen Solicitationes. Originally in Latin there's an English copy here. It is a secret document intended to be a guide for how to deal with charges of solicitation, including solicitation of youths by priests (see paragraph 73). All parties involved are sworn to the utmost secrecy on pain of excommunication (see paragraph 11). This document reveals that secrecy is the prime concern, not protection of potential victims.
We are informed of who it was that was responsible for enforcing this secret directive in this infuriating documentary. You guessed it. Ratzinger. The hierarchy was well aware of this widespread problem and took pains to make sure they were well informed. All charges throughout the world needed to be reported to the Vatican. With that information the Vatican continued to permit priests to simply be shuffled from one location to another, exposing children to priests that the Vatican would have to know were a danger.
Again, according to the BBC documentary linked above, priests would flee various countries to escape prosecution and would in fact go to the Vatican where they would be given support. When prosecutors would contact the Vatican and attempt to encourage them to send priests home to have a day in court where they can feel free to disprove the charges levied against them, these communications would be refused.
Straightforward googling provides abundant evidence from credible sources that these claims against Ratzinger have merit. So for instance there's a Hitchens article here. They suggest that Ratzinger wasn't just an ignorant spectator that wasn't as proactive as he should have been. He was an active participant in the cover up which enabled additional crimes against children.
Frankly I don't care to bludgeon good Catholics with this scandal. In my experience Catholics are largely among the most kindly and empathetic of Christians. The Catholic institution is responsible for much good present in the world. And perhaps the rate of pedophilia among priests is not different from But to fail to acknowledge the responsibility for these crimes is another slap in the face to the victims. So what if Ratzinger was also partly responsible? Popes aren't expected to be sinless. Why are Catholics unwilling to acknowledge these things?