Ironically, for all the bad press he is getting, Benedict has done more to confront the abuse crisis than anyone else in the Vatican. But he must choose between governing and upholding his theological vision as a moral absolutist. As many a president and prime minister has learned, the shift from an ideological stance to a pragmatic one can be laden with risk.
The root crisis lies in the church’s view of apostolic succession. The pope and bishops consider themselves descendants in a spiritual lineage from Jesus’s apostles. Apostolic succession is as much a part of Catholicism as icons and stained glass windows. But Judas was also an apostle — a reminder that all humans, regardless of proximity to the Word, are capable of betraying the faith. Apostolic succession has fallen victim to hubris, the pride and entitlement of a religious elite who consider apology or penance a substitute for human justice….