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Abuse Allegations Intensify in Catholic Church

March 26, 2010 at 12:00 AM EST
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Allegations that Pope Benedict and other church leaders covered up sexual abuse cases, including those at a school for the deaf in Wisconsin, continue to rock the Catholic Church. Judy Woodruff reports.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: the growing questions surrounding the pope over the handling of scandals past.

Pope Benedict XVI maintained a public schedule in Saint Peter’s Square last night, where he attended a youth rally. But, in Europe and the U.S., much attention was focused on what the pope knew about sexual abuse scandals and how he dealt with them. The charges of misconduct over the years have a common theme: Did the pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, fail to take appropriate actions against clergy who allegedly committed acts against children?

The latest report, a New York Times story found that he was copied on a 1980 decision to return a priest who was undergoing therapy for pedophilia to pastoral work in Munich. That priest was later convicted of sexual abuse of children. At the time, Ratzinger was archbishop of Munich. He later directed a Vatican office that dealt with sex allegations.

A spokesman for the Vatican said today the pope had no knowledge of the decision to return the German priest to a parish. The latest news report comes on the heels of another Times story that said the Vatican and then Cardinal Ratzinger knew about a U.S. priest accused of sexually abusing up to 200 deaf boys at a Milwaukee school from the 1950s to the 1970s. The priest wasn’t defrocked, and died in 1998.

Jeff Anderson is the attorney representing the victims.

JEFF ANDERSON, plaintiff’s attorney: All trails involving the cover-up and the concealment of sexual abuse by Catholic clerics lead to Rome and the pope.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, public reaction in Rome is mixed.

MAN (through translator): If everybody knew about it, probably, the pope knew about it, too.

MAN (through translator): Having read the New York Times article, this is the umpteenth attempt to unjustly sully the name of the pope.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Last weekend, the pope issued a letter of apology to victims of sexual abuse in Ireland.