Pope Vows 'Whatever Steps Are Necessary' in Combating Abuse

By Kristine Crane
November 1, 2006

Vatican City — Pope Benedict XVI said the Catholic Church must "take whatever steps are necessary" to address the clergy sex abuse scandal, but victims' groups immediately accused the pope of not going far enough.

"It is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes," the pope said Saturday (Oct. 28) in a speech to Irish bishops making their regular "ad limina" visit to the Vatican.

The pope, making his most direct extensive remarks about sexual abuse in his young papacy, acknowledged the "heart-rending" sex abuse cases that have occurred in Ireland, which many have likened to the scandal that erupted in the U.S. church in 2002.

"The wounds caused by such acts run deep, and it is an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have been damaged," the pope said.

The Chicago-based Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests (SNAP), however, issued a statement urging "actions not words" and said "the pope is merely acknowledging what millions of Catholics have known for years."

"He should call on all bishops in the world, asking them to reveal the names of the predators in all the dioceses throughout the world, most of whose names have never been made public, so children remain at risk of being abused by them," SNAP president Barbara Blaine said.

"It's understandable to forgive sick priests who have abused childen. It's hard to forgive those (bishops) who have protected and shielded the molestors," she said.

Church historian Alberto Melloni, who teaches at Italy's University of Bologna, agreed, calling the pope's remarks "unconvincing," noting that former Boston Cardinal Bernard Law was given a plumb job in Rome after he resigned in disgrace over the abuse scandal.

"There are two ways of dealing with this: focus on the sinners, or focus on the institution behind them," Melloni said. "He's basically absolving the bishops from a very bad management crisis."


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