The pain and confusion caused by the clergy abuse scandals have led to some extraordinary outbursts both outside and inside the Church. This one, highlighted on some other blogs is unbalanced. The suggestion that the post Vatican II Church has made clergy child abuse easier is probably true, but it is only part of the picture. Besides, as a few people have already said, much of the abuse took place before Vatican II or by priests ordained some years before the Council. Yes, there were mistakes made in the years following the Second Vatican Council, but serious mistakes were being made before then. In some cases, the application of the moral theology of the Church had become oppressive. In convents and schools religious neurotics were being created by screwed-up religious, and many priests, fearful of the mortal sins that could be committed during the celebration of Mass raced through it to get it over with as soon as possible. Scrupulosity was a real problem for some priests. This can easily be shown by the instructions given in books on the celebration of The Mass and in commentaries on Canon Law. For example, the repetition of the words of Institution was a common problem. I heard one priest telling me that he used to serve the Mass of a scrupulous priest for whom the Mass was agony; he would begin the words, "Hoc est..." and then go back and do it again. I am not saying this to attack the 1962 rite; I celebrate it myself at least once a week, and I thank God for the great privilege of being able to do so. But we have to keep our balance.
Reforms were needed, in parishes, convents and schools. Reforms were needed in seminaries. I remember a parish priest of mine, who was once a seminary teacher, telling me of the cruelty and authoritarianism of his seminary days as a member of staff. The rector was one of those scrupulous priests who visited his neurosis on others. of course, I have heard, more recently of some seminary rectors and vice-rectors who are post-Vatican II, and have been even more neurotic. Still, reforms were needed, and the actual documents of Vatican II are still inspiring. Vatican II was a call to spiritual renewal, and it was misunderstood by many and abused and misused by many. The so-called "Spirit of Vatican II" has been the excuse for too many abuses, and certainly has a place on the backdrop to recent scandals.
But the real problem is - always - sin! To see this most clearly we need to focus on the Lord, and especially at this time, on the Cross. Ultimately it is the refusal to live according to the Gospel; the failure to pray; the acceptance of the mediocre in the spiritual life; the exaltation of the human over God (the abomination of desolation); the promotion of individual expression above the Commandments and the Laws of the Church; the choice of materialism over self-denial; the choice of greed over fasting; the choice of sexual license over chastity etc, etc.
The swing following Vatican II - seen in some people's lives - was only possible because of the moral and spiritual oppression suffered by some in the years before the Council. It was not the Latin Mass or Canon Law, or most of the bishops and priests that were at fault, and looking at some of the great Catholic writers before the Council, and the inspiring lives of many famous preachers, missionaries and teachers, we can see that it is a great mistake to say something like, "the pre-Vatican II Church was oppressive, authoritarian and triumphalistic". This again does not paint a true picture. Slogans do not help in the end, and whatever was wrong, or is wrong, with the Church, the basic flaw is not in the institution but in the people. The effects of original sin remain whatever reform we introduce. The real challenge - and this is the challenge of Vatican II - is the call to holiness. The errors of the post Vatican II years have followed on from the errors that went before. We need wisdom and humility, and Pope Benedict is certainly the one to lead us in this. It was Pope Paul VI in his remarkable encyclical on evangelisation who called for Christians who really live their faith. The answer to the present crisis is not to be found in more Latin Masses (with a respectful nod to you-know-who), but in the holiness of our lives. I am not arguing against the need for reform or necessary liturgical changes, but the basic need, for all of us, is that one-to-one encounter with Christ who leads us to a deeper awareness and love of each other. Mother Teresa spoke of meeting Christ in the disguise of the "bread" and then meeting Him again in "the distressing disguise of the poor". Not too long ago, Charles De Foucauld was beatified, and only recently, Fr. Damien was canonised. These heroes of the faith point the way - it is to Christ and His Cross.