Abuse Victims Call Pope's Apology Pr, Not Penitence

USA Today
September 18, 2010

Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Pope Benedict XVI once more has apologized for the 'unspeakable' abuse of children and teens by clergy, this time during his sermon at Westminster Cathedral on the third day of his four-day visit to Britain.

The first time was on the flight to Scotland Thursday, and he is also expected to meet privately with some victims during his visit, as he has done on all recent trips abroad.

Meanwhile, outside the cathedral, British victims of abuse were demonstrating against the church's handling of the crisis. And in the USA, one of the major victims' advocates groups,, wasn't buying the apology -- again.

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Terence McKiernan, founder and president of the group, brushes Benedict's remarks off as "public relations not penitence." He points to the same ideas, different lingo, during Benedict's 2008 visit to Washington and New York, where he said,

"I am ashamed and we will do everything possible to ensure that this does not happen in future."

McKiernan goes looks at the serial apologies following revelations in Ireland and Europe of rampant abuse in Catholic schools and care facilities.

This year, his apologies have become more frequent and his vocabulary more impressive, as if to mask his continued refusal to take significant remedial action. In February 2010, meeting with Irish bishops, he called child sexual abuse "heinous." In his letter to the Irish people this spring, he expressed "shame and remorse..."

Here's what the pope said on Saturday:

I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the Church and by her ministers. Above all, I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes, along with my hope that the power of Christ's grace, his sacrifice of reconciliation, will bring deep healing and peace to their lives.

I also acknowledge with you the shame and humiliation which all of us have suffered because of these sins; and I invite you to offer it to the Lord with trust that this chastisement will contribute to the healing of victims, the purification of the Church and the renewal of her age-old commitment to the education and care of young people.

I express my gratitude for the efforts being made to address this problem responsibly, and I ask all of you to show your concern for the victims and solidarity with your priests.

But to McKiernan, it's not enough. He says,

If the Pope were to follow his proclamation today of "deep sorrow" for victims with even two small actions, his familiar words would acquire new meaning:

He should show support for Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin by accepting today the resignations of Irish auxiliary bishops Raymond Field and Eamonn Walsh.

And he should make public today a list of all accused priests whom the Vatican has laicized or assigned to lives of "prayer and penance", including the dozens of priests in the UK who have surely been laicized in secret.

Then, true to his group's name, McKiernan demands various steps of holding bishops accountable for failing to protect their flocks.

Only one U.S. bishop, Cardinal Bernard Law, resigned his post (Law was Archbishop of Boston). He left in 2002 and since then only about a third of the bishops who served during the years leading up to the explosive scandal in 2002 are still serving. Most have retired or died.

Peter Isely of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told Associated Press,

We don't need a pope who is sad about crimes. We need a pope who will prevent crimes. And his words prevent nothing.

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