The reaction of the Vatican to the sound of that tsunami coming closer has, so far, been almost exactly what the American experience would counsel against. The key lesson the church should have learned from America is that there is no stopping the reports of abuse that, once unleashed, will snowball. One victim's courage will embolden another. Cases will multiply. The only faintly coherent thing to do is to get out in front of all of it, expose everything you know, take full responsibility, beg for forgiveness and then take the massive financial hit (though less massive in Europe, presumably, because of its less generous and less tort-friendly judicial system.)
So what does the Vatican do? It actually plays the anti-Semitism card and compares the German Pope to the victims of the Holocaust! Pulling a Wieseltier in this context is truly gob-smacking as p.r. Then it has the Vatican elite rush in a smoky flurry of starched lace to protect the Pope. Sodano broke with protocol to declare:
“Holy Father, the people of God are with you, and do not let themselves be impressed by the gossip of the moment, by the challenges that sometimes strike at the community of believers,” Cardinal Sodano said. The cardinal referred to the apostle Peter’s account of Jesus during the passion: “When he was reviled, reviled not again.”
So the crimes against the defenseless now coming to light are once again "the gossip of the moment". Gossip. Anyone who can use the term gossip to refer to highly credible, indeed indisputable, cases where priests raped children and the Pope himself once either looked away, or actively enabled the abuse to continue to protect the reputation of the church ... is too far gone to understand what is happening right now.
So they do what they cannot help doing. They go into the bunker.
But there is no way out of that bunker.
(Photo: Graffiti reading 'pedophiles go to jail' and 'church = mafia = state' are seen on a wall of the Church of St Eutizio in Soriano on Easter Monday on April 5, 2010. Pope Benedict XVI, facing heavy criticism over the Roman Catholic Church's sex abuse scandals, spoke of priests' special responsibility to society during an Easter Monday prayer. Soriano is a small city 80 Km from Rome. By Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images.)