In Britain, Pope Criticizes Church over Abuse

By Rachel Donadio and Alan Cowell
Minneapolis Star-Tribune
September 17, 2010

Benedict begins the first state visit by a pontiff here under the shadow of the priest scandal and strained ties with the Church of England.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - Pope Benedict on Thursday began a four-day tour of Britain, the first-ever state visit by a pontiff to this island nation, by offering his strongest criticism yet of the Roman Catholic Church's handling of the sex abuse crisis, saying church leaders had not been "sufficiently vigilant" or "sufficiently swift and decisive" in cracking down on abusers.

While Benedict was received graciously by Queen Elizabeth in Edinburgh and thousands turned out for an open-air mass in Glasgow, the visit is taking place under the dark shadow of the sexual abuse crisis, which has outraged even the faithful in nearby Ireland, his native Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

Protests were planned by atheists, gay and human rights activists incensed by the pope's handling of the sex abuse scandals and others opposed to the church's stance on social issues. Centuries after the Church of England split from Rome, Anglicans are wary of the Vatican's recent efforts to draw traditionalists to Roman Catholicism.

That the occasion for the visit is the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, England's most famous Catholic convert, has only added to their suspicions.

Ahead of the pope's visit, one of Britain's most prominent Catholic leaders spoke about the wounds left by the church's failures in the abuse cases.

"The church has made a mess of its response to incidences of child abuse," said Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the head of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales. "There is nothing to be said to excuse the crimes committed by members of the clergy against children. The damage that is done strikes at the core of the person; in the capacity to trust another; in their capacity to love another and -- especially in the context of the church -- in their capacity to believe in God."


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