Righting the wrongs

The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI came into effect last night, leaving the papacy vacant and the Catholic Church without a leader.

In any large organisation, change at the top can be problematic and bring uncertainty and the Catholic church is no different.

Problems and uncertainty, however, are nothing new for the church and in fact have characterised its public perception in recent years.

In his final public appearance, Pope Benedict acknowledged this when he referred to the “choppy waters” of his Papacy.

Acknowledgement is an important step but it will not tackle the problems of the past, problems which continue to haunt the church.

Addressing the legacy of the catalogue of clerical sex abuse will no doubt he high on the agenda for the next pope when he is chosen in the coming weeks.

A strong stance on this issue from the new pontiff will send a clear an important message to Catholic hierarchies throughout the world.

Dealing with the shame of such abuse is particularly important for the Catholic Church in Ireland. Successive reports and inquiries have revealed the scale of the scandal across the country and perhaps its full extent will never be known.

It is an issue that cannot be solved with just acknowledgements or general apologies. A dedicated, victim-centred approach offering redress for the horrendous acts carried out in the past is the only way to deal with the problem.

These will be the challenges facing the new leaders of the Catholic Church.