Highs: While the Pope remains firm on his decree that ordaining women as priests is a grave crime (the same designation given to pedophilia), he was willing to loosen up albeit ever so slightly on another firmly-held edict. But while headlines around the world claimed Pope Benedict XVI endorsed the use of condoms, what the Pope actually said was a bit different. He still strongly disapproves of condom use as contraception, and said only that a male prostitute may choose to use a condom to prevent the spread of the HIV infection.
Lows: Accusations of sexual abuse first from Ireland and later mainland Europe smashed any remaining perception that predatory priests were an American anomaly and thrust the Vatican into its greatest crisis since the 2002 revelations of abuse in the U.S. The scandal brought the church's standing to a new low among believers in Europe and, in March when allegations surfaced in Germany, turned the spotlight on the Pontiff himself. It seems 30 years ago, during a brief tenure in Munich, the Pope, then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, had transferred a known abusive priest to his own archdiocese, ostensibly for therapy. But just days after his arrival, the priest was allowed to serve among the flock and subsequent sexual assaults occurred. While Benedict has done a number of substantial things to deal with the crisis, including meeting with abuse victims and accepting the resignation of high-ranking clerics, he remains silent on his time in Germany.
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