Of course the Pope knew about child sex abuse and how rampant it was in the Church.

The ridiculous discussion going on about whether not he did reminds me of the arguments over whether Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was in the IRA or not.

The question should always have been, if he wasn't in the the IRA then why wasn't he?

He grew up in West Belfast at the beginning of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, when every kid in the neighborhood joined.

Do you think for a moment he would have gained such a position of influence with the IRA in later years if he hadn't once been part of them?

It is the same with the Pope. He would never have become Pope if he wasn't prepared to keep some dark secrets. The Vatican loves it secrets and he has to keep his share of them.

Pope Benedict didn't get where he is today by not being totally aware of what was going on with child abuse cases in the Vatican.

In his previous life he was in charge of overseeing all the allegations or and acting or not acting on them. He preferred not to act unless absolutely necessary.

All big institutions, especially those that lack any sense of real democracy, do the same. The Russians are just admitting that Stalin killed thousands of Polish soldiers during the Second World War after decades of blaming the Germans. Each institution like that protects itself at all costs until it can protect no more.

Under all the trappings of power and pomp are deeply fallible human beings who pay attention to ensuring their mistakes are never uncovered. They have no special powers and are just as riven with problems as any ordinary group of people. We cannot expect them to be any different.

Covering up pedophilia or Polish mass graves It is like discovering that your septic tank doesn't work. You persist in ignoring it until the smell becomes too trenchant. Then you apologize and try to clean it up.

It is clear that both Cardinal Ratzinger and his predecessor, Pope John Paul, and Cardinal Brady in Ireland swept the entire matter under the carpet as much as possible until the media pressure forced them to go public and repent on it.

The wonder is so many people are expressing such surprise over what was a perfectly straightforward reality. The Church covered up child abuse, and in many cases, such as with Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston, promoted those who covered it up too even after they had been disgraced.