Pope Benedict XVI has come under fire for his handling of growing accusations of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests.
The latest concern dominating talk in the Vatican is that of an Indian priest in Minnesota who continues to work at a Catholic school in India, despite being charged in 2007 with sexually assaulting at least one teenage girl, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Though the masses and processions leading up to Easter Sunday went forward as they have for centuries, they did so amid the emergence of sex abuse cases both old and new.
Critics have charged that Pope Benedict XVI, at best, failed to deal with abusive priests. At worst, they say, he presided over a church that systematically shielded abusers from the law.
The newest case erupted today, when an attorney representing a girl who says she was abused by a priest in Minnesota charged that the Vatican declined to investigate Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, a priest, after repeated warnings from other church officials in 2005 and 2006.
US authorities in 2007 formally charged Rev. Palanivel Jeyapaul with sexually assaulting a teenage girl, but he has continued to work at a Catholic school in southern India.
It's highly unlikely that Pope Benedict will resign his office in response to the abuse scandals - it's been almost 600 years since the last pope stepped down. But his character and personal beliefs will be crucial as he seeks to guide a church that claims one billion adherents through what the National Catholic Reporter in the United States calls the church's "largest institutional crisis in centuries, possibly in church history."
His defenders say the pope's image is unfair. They say he's taken the problem of sexual abuse by priests seriously. Vincent Twomey, a former student of the pope's, paints a picture of a gentle, professorial figure with a fierce intellect rather than a fierce temper.