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Pope or Pilate? Washing one's hands may be a Christian trope, but it shouldn't be a guiding principle. The latest revelations concerning the former Cardinal Ratzinger's reluctance to prosecute or defrock child-molesting priests, for the claimed sake of a larger purpose (presumably protecting the name of the Church) is chilling, and more Machiavellian than even we might have expected emanating from an Italian city-state with subtle leanings.

The Pope is leader of a Church with about a billion followers (communicants) and he shouldn't be collared like a common criminal when he visits the UK soon, as Dr Dawkins and Mr Hitchens now propose; but he is an uncommon figure, and if found responsible, or irresponsible, in such serious matters, his judgement, and moral fibre will have been called into more than just question - they may be dragged into the mire, and sullied beyond normal repair. Forgiveness for sins is a major aspect of Christianity.

But so is obedience to Caesar's laws, when possible. Sex offenders in universities, hospitals, churches, the military, schools, offices, - in short, all walks of life - should never be shielded, but need to be turned in immediately to the authorities. One hopes they will receive justice, compassion, punishment balanced with proper treatment - but not, ever, cover to continue harming the young. The Catholic Church is left wondering about their current leader - is he the man?

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