As a lifelong, practicing Catholic I'm usually interested in what's happening with the papacy. Considering how directly the position can be traced back to Peter and the original Apostles, it's pretty cool to have it as a part of your faith life.
It was also pretty cool to have the Pope visit the city I'm living in. I didn't manage to see him at all, but it was still cool. It was a very busy week, and I've seen the Pope before, so it wasn't such a huge priority. Sure, it was John Paul II that I saw, but if you've seen one pope, you've seen 'em all. Actually, with Benedict's visit, I've come to realize just how true that is.
When Cardinal Ratzinger was elected pope a big number of people were afraid that he was nothing more than a strict and conservative Catholic apologist. Throughout his papacy he has challenged that characterization by reaching out to other religions (namely Islam), though there have been missteps from time to time. This past week, when he consistently brought the sexual abuse scandals to the front of the discussion, he proved that he truly is - much like John Paul II before him - a pastoral shepherd who cares deeply about his flock.
It seems to me that scandal usually invites three responses: denial, blame-shifting, and cover-up. Baseball's steroids scandal, the Patriot's cheating scandal, the faulty intelligence getting us into Iraq scandal, the torture scandal, etc. Whenever a scandal is revealed there's the initial reaction, and as soon as the attention fades a little the people who caused the scandal do their best to move on, often without really addressing the problem.
That's why Benedict's attention to the sex abuse scandal is so welcomed: it's been a while now. Most of the cases have been settled. The issue gets little news coverage. If the church really wanted to brush it under the rug now, they probably could. Instead, Benedict recognized that people are still suffering the effects of this scandal, and that everything that can be done to prevent the problem from recurring needs to be done. The Catholic Church, under Benedict's direction, is still looking at, and implementing, ways to correct the issue.
I don't always agree with Benedict (his conservative approach to the form of the Mass, his apparent view about the separation between laity and clergy), but this visit showed me that he, like his predecessor, has chosen to prioritize the pastoral role of his position. That makes me happy.
Nobody callin' on the phone