As the Vatican weathered another week of criticism of its handling of abusive priests, Pope Benedict said in his Palm Sunday address today, "From God comes the courage not to be intimidated by petty gossip." The UK's Telegraph reports, "Although he did not directly mention the crisis that has seen claims of abuse from Ireland, Germany, Austria, Holland and Brazil the 82 year old Pontiff's message was evidently clear"—previously, the Vatican has accused the media of trying to smear the Pontiff.

Last week, the NY Times revealed that the Vatican stopped proceedings to defrock a priest who admitted to molesting hundreds of deaf boys in Wisconsin after the priest wrote a letter to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. (Ratzinger became Pope in 2005.) And the Pope is also accused of mishandling the case of an abusive German priest under his purview as an Archbishop in the late 1970s-early 1980s. However, a Times op-ed by National Catholic Reporter correspondent John Allen Jr. says Pope Benedict has actually made strides to deal with abusive priests: "For anyone who knows the Vatican’s history on this issue, Benedict XVI isn’t just part of the problem. He’s also a major chapter in the solution."

NY Archbishop Timothy Dolan sounded a similar note in his remarks today; according to Whispers in the Loggia, Dolan said, "What deepens the sadness now is the unrelenting insinuations against the Holy Father himself, as certain sources seem frenzied to implicate the man who, perhaps more than anyone else has been the leader in purification, reform, and renewal that the Church so needs," and while people can criticize and question, "All we ask is that it be fair, and that the Catholic Church not be singled-out for a horror that has cursed every culture, religion, organization, institution, school, agency, and family in the world."

On the flip side, Sinead O'Connor—no fan of the Vaticanwrites in the Washington Post, "Despite the church's long entanglement with the Irish government, Pope Benedict's so-called apology takes no responsibility for the transgressions of Irish priests. His letter states that 'the Church in Ireland must first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children.' What about the Vatican's complicity in those sin?"

And Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd offers, "If the church could throw open its stained glass windows and let in some air, invite women to be priests, nuns to be more emancipated and priests to marry, if it could banish criminal priests and end the sordid culture of men protecting men who attack children, it might survive."