POPE Benedict's pastoral letter to Catholics in Ireland, read there to congregations at the weekend, will inevitably be studied by the faithful in many parts of the world and especially in countries such as Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland where cases of child abuse similar to those exposed earlier in Ireland are now being uncovered. The Pope is clearly deeply troubled by these developments and in his letter he offered reassurances of the personal attention he is giving the matter.

However, in Ireland the letter was given a luke-warm response because of its failure to go beyond recognising the existence of the problem to take appropriate personal responsibility for its existence. Such reservations arise from the evidence of many warnings about errant priests given to Bishops but ignored and also from the many attempts made to cover up abuse even when it could no longer be ignored. The disgraced Cardinal Law, the former Archbishop of Boston, now works in the Vatican and many people think he should be returned to the United States to face pending legal proceedings there.

It is probably true to say that whatever the Pope had said in his pastoral letter there would be those who thought it did not go far enough. Now that he has taken this first step towards transparency he should feel encouraged to act more decisively in matters that still give great offence to those who follow him.