The pope’s letter to the Irish continues the church’s long-time strategy of attending to the welfare (and self-regard) of church officials, from abusive priests up. An apology with no action in this context and for offenses this vile is about making the apologizer feel better about himself, not about the victims, just as keeping the abuse secret and passing predatory priests from parish to parish with a dose of prayer and self-reflection is about being able to pretend that they aren’t evil. As long as it goes on in that mode the church will continue to rot away from within, especially as long as church policy is to instruct priests and higherups to commit misprision of felony.
Maybe the problem is theological: if what really matters is the status of immortal souls after death, the victims are not at any special risk there and the abusers and their enablers are in good shape if they stay current with their confessions, which is more likely if they are comforted in the bosom of the church than if they are given to the cruel ministry of a penitentiary. I don’t recall anyone putting that theory forward, but there it is. If your principal reality is something no-one has ever checked out or reported back from, all sorts of sick stuff is possible.
Still, the church exists in our world, and what most surprises me about the whole ghastly history to this point is how the princes of a two-millenium-old and generally pretty successful enterprise could go on screwing up so badly. This cancer has popped up sequentially in at least five countries; wouldn’t someone, after the American cases were revealed and their toxicity demonstrated, wonder if there wasn’t something to get ahead of in other places? How are the Vatican higher-ups thinking about the dog that hasn’t barked yet in Italy, France, Spain…that it’s a northern, Germanic/Celtic, thing and it doesn’t happen in Latin countries? Or are they thinking that it’s a matter of practice, learning to more effectively suppress the facts in places where they haven’t burst forth yet [good luck with that one]?
Or are they just irrational, inept, and crazy with fear and (I hope for their sakes), guilt?