Benedict speaks on crisis, resignation and Pius XII.
Though you wouldn't know it from most media coverage, Pope Benedict XVI's fines on condoms are hardly the only interesting tidbits from his new book-length interview. Among other things, he also reflects on the sexual abuse crisis, papal resignation, and his controversial predecessor Pope Pius XII.
On the abuse crisis, Benedict says that the efforts of the church today are focused on three fronts: compassion and outreach for victims; prevention of future abuse, including screening of future priests; and punishing perpetrators.
The pope acknowledges that Rome may have made mistakes. He says, for example, that perhaps he should have spoken out more often and more forcefully, even if he claims "the essentials" have all been said. He also concedes that after the American experience in 2002, perhaps the Vatican should have directed bishops in other countries to examine their records to see if similar problems existed, rather than waiting for a crisis to explode.
Benedict discusses the case of the late Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ. Once a Vatican favorite, Maciel has become a symbol of the crisis after the Legionaries were forced to acknowledge he was guilty of various forms of sexual misconduct.
Benedict refers to Maciel a "mysterious figure," saying that he led an "adventurous, wasted, twisted life." At another point, the pope refers to Maciel as a "false prophet."
At the same time, Benedict says the order Maciel founded is, "by and large, sound."
Despite expressing deep shock at the "wretchedness" and "sinfulness" revealed by the crisis, Benedict says he's never thought about resigning because of it.
"When the danger is great, one must not run away," Benedict says. "For that reason, now is certainly not the time to resign."
The 83-year-old pontiff nevertheless left open the door to a resignation for other reasons, especially declining health.
"If a pope realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically or spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office," Benedict says, "then he has a right, and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign."
Benedict strongly defends Pius XII, the wartime pontiff whose record on the Holocaust is a flash point in Catholic/Jewish relations. Benedict insists that Pius did not speak out more directly against the Nazis "because he knew what consequences would follow from an open protest."
Behind the scenes, Benedict argues, Pius "was one of the great righteous men ... and saved more Jews than anyone else."
That comment brought protest from some critics of Pius, who insist that the Vatican should fully open its archives from the war years before reaching judgment.
Finally, when asked about the possibility of a "Vatican III" after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), Benedict says that while there will undoubtedly be another council in the future, "at the moment I do not see the prerequisites for it."
Instead, the pope says, synods of bishops are the right instrument through which bishops participate in governing the universal church.