The abuse scandals dominated his seven years as leader of the world's Catholics. Before his accession, there had been scandals in the United States and Ireland. But in 2010, evidence of clerical sex abuse was made public in a succession of countries in continental Europe, notably Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and Benedict's native Germany.
The pope was himself affected by one of these scandals. It emerged that, while he was archbishop of Munich, a known molester was quietly re-assigned to duties that, in time, allowed him to return to pastoral duties and make contact with young people.
The flood of allegations represented a vast setback for the project at the heart of Benedict's papacy. The goal he had set for himself, and for which he was elected, was to launch the re-evangelisation of Europe,Catholicism's heartland: it was why he adopted as his papal name that of the continent's patron saint, Benedict of Nursia. But if the numbers of the faithful in Europe as Benedict leaves officeare fewer than when he was elected, then – surveys repeatedly indicated - it is in large part because of anger and despair in the Catholic laity over the sex abuse scandals.
When the abuse story broke in Boston -- and Boston was the first place to really connect it to the bishops' power rather than individual priests' horrifying crimes -- I said to someone at the time that this was the end of the Catholic Church in this country.
I didn't think, even then, that it would be the end of the Catholic Church everywhere. But they managed to fuck this up in every way it could be fucked up, and then be assholes about being called on it, over and over and over. You might survive with total transparency, a full house-cleaning, and a true lack of whining, but that wasn't in these guys' DNA.
And by the by, these are not "scandals." A scandal is where a senator gets caught with a hooker. These are "criminal conspiracy to conceal child rape." Somehow, not as fun.