George A. Sprecace M.D.,
J.D., F.A.C.P. and Allergy Associates of New
RIGHT WITH THE CATHOLIC CHURCH #31
Pope begs forgiveness, promises action on abuse
By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer Nicole Winfield, Associated
Press Writer – Fri Jun 11, 1:42 pm ET
VATICAN CITY – Addressing the clerical abuse scandal from the heart of
the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI begged forgiveness Friday
from victims and promised to "do everything possible" to protect
children at a Mass celebrated by 15,000 priests from around the world.
While symbolic, Benedict's pledge failed to satisfy victims groups who
said promises were useless without a clear-cut action plan to root out
pedophile priests, expose the bishops who protected them and change the
Vatican policies and culture that allowed abuse to continue.
His comments came during a Mass at St. Peter's Square marking the
Vatican's Year of the Priest — a year marred by revelations of hundreds
of new cases of clerical abuse in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere,
as well as cover-ups by bishops and evidence of long-standing Vatican
It was the first time Benedict had spoken of the crisis from St.
Peter's Basilica, the center of the church.
Benedict implied the devil was behind the timing of the scandal, saying
the Year of the Priest was supposed to have been a year in celebration
of the priesthood and encouragement for new vocations.
"It was to be expected that this new radiance of the priesthood would
not be pleasing to the `enemy'"; he would have rather preferred to see
it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven from the world,"
Benedict said in his homily, to applause from the gathered priests.
"And so it happened that in this very year of joy for the sacrament of
the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light — particularly the
abuse of little ones," he said.
"We, too, insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons
involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such
abuse will never occur again," he said.
Benedict's comments were similar to those reported by the Vatican
during his private meeting with abuse victims in Malta in April, during
which the pontiff had tears in his eyes as he heard the stories of men
molested by priests as children.
The pope also made similar statements last month en route to Portugal,
in which he acknowledged that the "sins from within the church" were
responsible for the scandal, not the media or some outside
The pope also begged forgiveness from victims in his March letter to
the Irish faithful.
However, Friday's homily seemed to wrap up those points in a single
message — directed at priests who came to Rome from around the world to
support the pontiff and the priesthood itself amid the scandal.
Vatican officials and the priests themselves said they had never seen
such a large gathering of clergymen, who all donned white vestments to
concelebrate the Mass from their seats in the piazza and renew their
ordination vows. Some sported sun hats and others draped their national
flags over their shoulders, giving a bit of unusual color to the
Vatican's normally formal Masses.
In his homily, the pope pledged that in admitting men into the
priesthood and forming them as clergymen "we will do everything we can
to weigh the authenticity of their vocation and make every effort to
accompany priests along their journey, so that the Lord will protect
them and watch over them in troubled situations and amid life's
Victims groups who had been hoping for a papal mea culpa and clear-cut
action plan to protect children weren't satisfied.
"A promise is nominally more helpful than an apology. But promises are
usually easy to make, hard to keep and broken often if there's no
oversight or penalties," said Barbara Blaine, president of the U.S.
victims group SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Another group, BishopAccountability.org, said the pontiff's remarks
were both a disappointment and a squandered opportunity in that he only
prescribed an internal step: better screening for priests.
It called for him to tell his bishops to do more: stop opposing
legislation to extend statutes of limitations so victims can seek
justice from abusers; post information about known abusers on diocesan
websites and for the Vatican office that handles abuse cases to do the
"Once again, the pope focused only on wayward priests, and he once
again minimized the sodomizing and abuse of helpless children by
calling it a 'sin,'" the group said in a statement.
"He said nothing about the core problem: the Vatican's policies and
corrupt culture that encouraged bishops worldwide to cover up thousands
of child sex crimes."
Benedict's own legacy has been tarnished by the scandal. As archbishop
of Munich in the 1980s, he approved therapy for a suspected pedophile
who was allowed to resume pastoral duties while being treated. The
priest, the Rev. Peter Hullermann, later was handed a suspended
sentence for molesting a boy.
In addition, Benedict's legacy at the Vatican office that dealt with
sex abuse has come under scrutiny.
Benedict said the scandal had shown the need for a purification of the
"Had the Year for Priests been a glorification of our individual human
performance, it would have been ruined by these events," he said. "But
for us what happened was precisely the opposite: We grew in gratitude
for God's gift."
A Spanish priest who attended Friday's Mass, the Rev. Davide Torrijus,
"We have all suffered during the Year of the Priest" because of the
scandal, he said. "It was good for the pope to show also the positive
aspects — gratitude for the gift."