Pope meets victims of child abuse and expresses 'deep sorrow and shame'
Strongest language so far but victims' groups say comments do not add up to an apology
John Hooper and Riazat Butt
British victims of sexual abuse by priests met Pope Benedict XVI yesterday and were told that the Roman Catholic church was doing all in its power "to bring to justice clergy and religious [people] accused of these egregious crimes".
In a statement, a church spokesman said the pope was "moved by what they had to say and expressed his deep sorrow and shame over what victims and their families had suffered. He prayed with them and assured them that the Catholic church is continuing to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people."
The meeting with five people, who were described as "a group of persons who had been sexually abused by members of the clergy", was at the Apostolic Nunciature, the residence of the pope's ambassador to Britain. Bill Kilgallon, of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission, said the group "had anger within them" before the discussion.
After the meeting, in what a Vatican spokesman described as a first, the pope met child protection officials from the Catholic church. He thanked them for their work and told them: "We have all become much more aware of the need to safeguard children, and you are an important part of the church's broad-ranging response to the problem."
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the five victims, who he said had not signed confidentiality agreements, comprised four women and one man, aged between 40 and 50 with three from London, one from Yorkshire and a Scot. They were not chosen by the Vatican, the local church had "presented" them.
A statement from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap), gave a cautious welcome to news of the meeting. "Every time clergy sex crimes and cover-ups are discussed, it can be positive. We hope each of these brave individuals feels better as a result of the meeting, both now and years from now."
Earlier yesterday Benedict said that he and the entire church felt shamed by the behaviour of priests who had caused "immense suffering". Using his strongest language so far, the pope said: "I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes".
But victims' representatives said his comments did not, in fact, add up to an apology. Colm O'Gorman, from the Irish victim support group One in Four, said: "I feel deep sorrow about the suffering I see on the news, but there's an enormous difference between an expression of sorrow and an apology and acknowledgement of responsibility. "
Peter Isely, of Snap, said: "Why, if the pope feels so much remorse, won't he take action? Showing remorse isn't leadership. Taking decisive action is leadership."
The pope's remarks were made at the most solemn service of his visit, in Westminster cathedral. He spoke of the sufferings of "all those individual Christians who daily unite their sacrifices to those of the Lord for the sanctification of the church and the redemption of the world".
He added: "Here, too, 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 … 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 the victims and the purification of the church and the renewal of her age-old commitment to the education and care of young people."
Benedict began the penultimate day of his trip with visits from leading politicians – and was given a mysterious book by the prime minister. Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, an atheist, had brought pictures drawn by his children.
• Early this morning Scotland Yard said all six people arrested on Friday in connection with an alleged terrorist threat to the pope had been released without charge.
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GetReligion.org September 19, 2010
Really, really, really strong apology
Strongest. Apology. Ever.
In London on Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI again addressed the clergy sexual abuse scandal.
The pontiff “issued his strongest apology yet for child abuse by the clergy, denouncing it as an ‘unspeakable crime,’” The Daily Mail reported.
As The Herald Scotland put it, Benedict offered “his strongest statement of contrition yet for the abuse scandal that has rocked the 1.1 billion-member global community of Catholicism.” Indeed, reported ITN News (see video with this post), citing the pope’s “strongest public apology yet over the scandal of pedophile priests.” Using the same language, Voice of America called it “his strongest apology to date.” The Independent said the pope used “his strongest language so far when discussing the scandal.”
However, The Guardian wasn’t quite ready to call what Benedict said an apology. That newspaper’s main head and subhead today [ see article above]:
Pope meets victims of child abuse and expresses ‘deep sorrow and shame’
Strongest language so far but victims’ groups say comments do not add up to an apology
But you get the point: The pope never has spoken this strongly on his remorse or regret over the abuse scandal.
OK, just one more news report to drive home the point:
His remarks were the strongest he has used in confronting the scourge which has rocked the Catholic church globally, but failed to satisfy some victims.
Oh, wait a minute. Now I need to apologize — in the strongest possible terms. I got confused. The above excerpt actually came from a July 2008 news report on Benedict’s “historic apology for child sex abuse” during that summer’s trip to Sydney, Australia. Forget I mentioned that. I’m sure that apology wasn’t anywhere near as strong as the latest one.
The Sydney apology, of course, trumped Benedict kneeling in prayer a few months earlier alongside five victims of clergy sex abuse at a chapel inside the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C. At that time, the pope offered “his most dramatic gesture so far during a U.S. visit in which he has paid much greater attention than expected to the wounds caused by the abuse scandal.”
Admittedly, I have not parsed every word the pope has said — or apology he has made — on the abuse scandal. If you have, by all means, please weigh in with a comment and educate me.
From a journalistic perspective, though, I am perplexed: Who exactly ranks the pope’s apologies in terms of strongness? Who decides what ranks as the strongest apology ever? What makes what Benedict has said in London so much stronger than what he has said elsewhere?
It does appear that journalists in Britain were much more smitten with the strongness of what Benedict said than leading American newspapers and the Vatican writers for The Associated Press.
AP described Saturday’s remarks simply as the pope’s “latest effort to defuse the sex abuse crisis shaking his church.”
The Los Angeles Times used similar language:
In the latest in a string of such audiences, the pontiff also met privately with several victims of abuse even as thousands of protesters marched through the British capital to highlight the scandal over pedophile priests and to blast the Vatican’s stand on homosexuality, the ordination of women and the use of condoms to fight the spread of AIDS.
The New York Times didn’t use the term strongest but seemed to up the ante more than AP and the L.A. Times:
His remarks followed other recent comments in which he has struck an increasingly remorseful tone about the abuse scandal. But they took on added weight for the fact that they were made before 2,000 worshipers in the cathedral that is the seat of Catholicism in England, and ahead of a protest march on a scale rare in the recent history of the papacy.
Increasingly. Remorseful. Tone.
Not quite strongest apology ever. But I guess it’ll work in a pinch.
This article was found at:
UK survivors say the Pope is replicating clergy abuse, apologies without effective action only make matters worse
A selection of responses to the Pope's "disgraceful deceit" and "pitifully inadequate" apology to Irish clergy abuse survivors
Pope's passive apology fails to admit personal responsibility for protecting pedophile priests instead of children
Dublin Archbishop says apology not enough, criminal behaviour by priests must be prosecuted
Full text of Pope Benedict's so called apology to victims and survivors of Irish clergy abuse
Pope expresses 'sorrow' for abuse at residential schools - but doesn't apologize
‘Apology? What apology?' Church’s attempt at reconciliation not enough, says counsellor
Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts [book review]
Child sacrifice: a review of the documentary All God's Children - the ultimate sacrifice