I’d like to quote from wsws.org, who seem to have the most incisive view of the meat of the visit:
The papal visit had one major institutional crisis to deal with—the long-running scandal over the sexual abuse of children by thousands of Roman Catholic priests. This dimension of the visit brought another display of media adulation and ideological reaction.
The press portrayed Benedict—who adamantly rebuffed sex abuse victims for years while serving John Paul II—as deeply moved by their suffering. In his initial remarks about the scandal, however, as he flew to the US on board his personal jet, the pope bemoaned only the damage done to the Church, not to the victims themselves. The US Catholic Church has paid out more than $2 billion in legal settlements to some 13,000 victims, including $660 million in the Los Angeles diocese alone, and several dioceses have been compelled to file for bankruptcy.
The pope’s closed-door meeting with five sex-abuse victims was presented by Church officials and the media as a major breakthrough, although the five had been carefully vetted by the Boston archdiocese to ensure a relatively harmonious session. A spokesman for the archdiocese said the five had “ongoing relationships” with archdiocesan officials, and had “stayed engaged with the office”—i.e., they had remained loyal to the hierarchy despite the Vatican’s continued defense of Cardinal Bernard Law. As Boston archbishop, Law protected priest-abusers and allowed them to transfer from parish to parish when exposed, rather than removing them from the priesthood.
Benedict even sought to blame the sex-abuse scandal on the excessive sexual permissiveness of modern culture, rather than the repressive practice of priestly celibacy which the Catholic Church, alone of major religious institutions, continues to enforce.
Similar sex-abuse cases have been reported in countries as diverse as the United States, Poland, Mexico, Ireland and Austria. This suggests that the common denominator is not the culture of the specific countries, but the atmosphere prevalent within the Catholic Church as an institution.
As the World Socialist Web Site noted when the sex abuse scandal in the United States first came to widespread public attention, some six years ago, “Every aspect of the sexual abuse crisis—the pain and suffering of the victims, the misery and sexual dysfunction of the priests, the callousness of Church officials—suggests a diseased institution whose practices and beliefs run counter to elementary human needs and inevitably breed the unhealthiest of psycho-sexual climates. The Catholic Church’s essential being flies in the face of modern society.”