Continued from page 2

But not all Catholics approved of Benedict, including many liberal Catholics who felt his policies were contrary to the “spirit of Vatican II.” One oft-cited example was an investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious that accused the principal U.S. umbrella group for the largest orders of nuns of “radical feminism” and put it under the control of an archbishop.

Other groups have openly called for changing numerous church teachings related to sex and gender — homosexuality, the male priesthood and priestly celibacy — and have called the Vatican illegitimate as a result of its refusal to agree.

“As Roman Catholics worldwide prepare for the conclave, we are reminded that the current system remains an ‘old boys club’ and does not allow for women’s voices to participate in the decision of the next leader of our church,” said Erin Saiz Hanna, head of the Women’s Ordination Conference, a group that ordains women in defiance of church doctrine.

The Vatican is also reeling from another round of scandals over its bank, which led to, among other things, the arrest last year of the pope’s butler for leaking documents about financial corruption. Benedict has tried to improve the Vaticans financial management, which has been viewed as corrupt for decades.

In an address last week in Spain, Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendia said that Benedict also had “carried out a cleansing of the episcopate.”

According to a report Wednesday at the Catholic EWTN channel, Archbishop Buendia, who is the papal nuncio to several Central Asia countries, said the pope would frequently request resignations in response to mismanagement or immorality, and nearly always had them accepted.

“This Pope has removed two or three bishops per month throughout the world because either the accounts in their dioceses were a mess or their discipline was a disaster,” he said. “The nuncio went to these bishops and said, ‘The Holy Father is asking you for the good of the Church to resign from your post.’”

Mr. Ruddy said that Benedict has “created a good legacy for the next pope to build on and for bishops around the world to look to say ‘we need to deal with this.’ If the pope has met with survivors of sexual abuse as he did in America and around the world … this is something that sets a tone that I hope the next pope will build on.”