Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pope Benedict's apology for clergy abuses of children draws fire

OK, it's a virtually impossible situation for the guy. He's the head of the largest denomination of Christianity, the world's largest religion -- he's the head of state of his own country, the Vatican -- and now he's being forced to apologize for inexcusable misconduct committed by scores of his top officials. But having been forced into this clearly unenviable position, wouldn't you expect Pope Benedict XVI to try to answer the obvious questions and address the most grievous wrongdoing, so he won't be back here, apologizing again, in another six months? Yet the pope, in an eight-page apology letter to the people of Ireland, apologized for suffering caused by pedophile priests at Catholic dioceses and seminaries and called for an official inquiry, but failed to call on bishops to resign or address the still-unfolding abuse scandal in countries across Europe, according to the Reuters international news service. "You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry ... I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel," Benedict's letter said. "I can only share in the dismay and sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way the Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them." The letter is a response to an Irish government report on widespread abuse of children by priests in Ireland between 1979 and 2004, which said the church there had tried "obsessively" to conceal the truth, Reuters said. "Grave errors of judgment were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness," Benedict's report said. "Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore the respect and goodwill of the Irish people toward the Church." Abuse cases have also been reported in Germany, the pope's native country, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands, France, England and Poland in Europe, as well as earlier in the United States, Australia and Canada, Reuters said. Similar scandals in the United States did serious damage to the reputation of the Catholic Church, which paid $2 billion in settlements. "I had high hopes for this pastoral letter," San Bartley, president of Voice of the Faithful, a group formed in 2002 in response to abuse cases in Boston, told Reuters. "I see now the Church still refuses to hold accountable bishops who endanger children."

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