Our Sunday Visitor published some more excerpts from the Book Light of the World:
How great is this crisis? Is it really, as we occasionally read, one of the greatest in the history of the Church?
Yes, it is a great crisis, we have to say that. It was upsetting for all of us. Suddenly so much filth. It was really almost like the crater of a volcano, out of which suddenly a tremendous cloud of filth came, darkening and soiling everything, so that above all the priesthood suddenly seemed to be a place of shame and every priest was under the suspicion of being one like that too. Many priests declared that they no longer dared to extend a hand to a child, much less go to a summer camp with children.
For me the affair was not entirely unexpected. In the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith I had already dealt with the American cases; I had also seen the situation emerge in Ireland. But on this scale it was nevertheless an unprecedented shock. Since my election to the Chair of Peter I had already met several times with victims of sexual abuse. Three and a half years ago, in October 2006, in my address to the bishops of Ireland, I had called for them to bring the truth to light, to take whatever steps necessary to prevent such egregious crimes from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of law and justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims. Suddenly to see the priesthood so defiled, and with it the Catholic Church herself, at the very heart — that was something that we were really just beginning to cope with. But it was imperative not to lose sight of the fact that there is good in the Church and not only those horrible things.
It is not only the abuse that is upsetting, it is also the way of dealing with it. The deeds themselves were hushed up and kept secret for decades. That is a declaration of bankruptcy for an institution that has love written on its banner.
The archbishop of Dublin told me something very interesting about that. He said that ecclesiastical penal law functioned until the late 1950s; admittedly it was not perfect — there is much to criticize about it — but nevertheless it was applied. After the mid-’60s, however, it was simply not applied any more. The prevailing mentality was that the Church must not be a Church of laws but, rather, a Church of love; she must not punish. Thus the awareness that punishment can be an act of love ceased to exist. This led to an odd darkening of the mind, even in very good people.
Today we have to learn all over again that love for the sinner and love for the person who has been harmed are correctly balanced if I punish the sinner in the form that is possible and appropriate. In this respect there was in the past a change of mentality, in which the law and the need for punishment were obscured. Ultimately this also narrowed the concept of love, which in fact is not just being nice or courteous, but is found in the truth. And another component of truth is that I must punish the one who has sinned against real love.
Doesn’t the study of Christ’s life and teaching always have to be a question for the Church as well? Isn’t it the case, especially when as an author you take a fresh look at these topics, that you inevitably start reeling when you realize how far the Church has repeatedly strayed from the path that the Son of God showed her?
Well, right now, in the midst of the scandals, we have experienced what it means to be very stunned by how wretched the Church is, by how much her members fail to follow Christ. That is the one side, which we are forced to experience for our humiliation, for our real humility.
The other side is that, in spite of everything, he does not release his grip on the Church. In spite of the weakness of the people in whom he shows himself, he keeps the Church in his grasp, he raises up saints in her, and makes himself present through them. I believe that these two feelings belong together: the deep shock over the wretchedness, the sinfulness of the Church — and the deep shock over the fact that he doesn’t drop this instrument, but that he works with it; that he never ceases to show himself through and in the Church.
As pope, you have begun to administer Communion on the tongue, while the communicants receive the Sacrament on their knees. Do you regard this as the appropriate posture?
The first point that needs to be made is that time has a structure that is common for all believers. The Old Testament prescribes this structure already in light of the creation account, presenting the Sabbath as the day when God rests and men rest with him. For Christians, time gets this structure from Sunday, the day of the Resurrection, when he encounters us and we encounter him. Once again, the most important act here is, as it were, the moment when he unites himself to us through his self-gift.
I am not opposed in principle to Communion in the hand; I have both administered and received Communion in this way myself. The idea behind my current practice of having people kneel to receive Communion on the tongue was to send a signal and to underscore the Real Presence with an exclamation point. One very important reason is that there is a great danger of superficiality precisely in the kinds of mass events we hold at St. Peter’s, both in the Basilica and in the Square. I have heard of people who, after receiving Communion, stick the Host in their wallet to take home as a kind of souvenir. In this context, where people think that everyone is just automatically supposed to receive Communion — everyone else is going up, so I will, too — I wanted to send a clear signal. I wanted it to be clear: Something quite special is going on here! He is here, the One before whom we fall on our knees! Pay attention! This is not just some social ritual in which we can take part if we want to.
Would you have signed the  decree lifting the excommunication if you had known that among the four bishops [of the Society of St. Pius X] there was a person who denied the existence of the Nazi gas chambers?
No. If I had known, the first step would have been to separate the [Richard] Williamson case from the others. Unfortunately, though, none of us went on the Internet to find out what sort of person we were dealing with.
The distinction between genuine and fake seems to have been abolished. Everything is to some extent negotiable. Is that the relativism against which you were warning so urgently?
It is obvious that the concept of truth has become suspect. Of course it is correct that it has been much abused. Intolerance and cruelty have occurred in the name of truth. To that extent people are afraid when someone says, “This is the truth,” or even, “I have the truth.” We never have it; at best it has us. No one will dispute that one must be careful and cautious in claiming the truth. But simply to dismiss it as unattainable is really destructive.
A large proportion of contemporary philosophies, in fact, consist of saying that man is not capable of truth. But viewed in that way, man would not be capable of ethical values, either. Then he would have no standards. Then he would only have to consider how he arranged things reasonably for himself, and then at any rate the opinion of the majority would be the only criterion that counted. History, however, has sufficiently demonstrated how destructive majorities can be, for instance, in systems such as Nazism and Marxism, all of which also stood against truth in particular.
Has your faith changed since you have become responsible for Christ’s flock as the supreme shepherd? Sometimes people get the impression that now it has become more mysterious somehow, more mystical.
I am no mystic. But it is correct that as pope one has even more cause to pray and to entrust oneself entirely to God. For I see very well that almost everything I have to do is something I myself cannot do at all. That fact already forces me, so to speak, to place myself in the Lord’s hands and to say to him: “You do it, if you want it!” In this sense prayer and contact with God are now even more necessary and also even more natural and self-evident than before.
To put it in worldly terms: Is there now a “better connection” to heaven, or something like a grace of office?
Yes, one often feels that. In the sense of: Now I have been able to do something that did not come from me at all. Now I entrust myself to the Lord and notice, yes, there is help there, something is being done that is not my own doing. In that sense there is absolutely an experience of the grace of office.