Pope admits Church mishandled abuse charges

The issue has been reignited by revelations of hundreds of new victims in Belgium

Topics: Religion, Catholicism,

Pope admits Church mishandled abuse chargesPope Benedict XVI arrives at Edinburgh airport in Scotland, Thursday Sept. 16, 2010. Pope Benedict XVI arrives in the United Kingdom on Thursday for a four-day visit, a controversial yet historic state trip that has been overshadowed by the sex abuse scandals which have shaken confidence in the Roman Catholic Church. (AP Photo/Derek Blair, Pool)(Credit: AP)

Pope Benedict XVI, beginning a controversial visit to Britain, acknowledged Thursday that the Catholic Church had failed to act decisively or quickly enough to deal with priests who rape and molest children. He said the church’s top priority now was to help the victims heal.

The pope’s comments to reporters traveling with him from Rome marked his most thorough admission to date of church failures to deal with pedophile priests. The issue has reignited with the recent revelations in Belgium of hundreds of new victims, at least 13 of whom had committed suicide.

Benedict’s four-day state visit has been overshadowed by anger over the abuse scandal and indifference in the highly secular country, where Catholics are a minority at 10 percent and have endured centuries of anti-Catholic persecution.

The pope’s first meeting Thursday was with Queen Elizabeth II, both head of state and head of the Church of England, at The Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Benedict was warmly welcomed by the queen, who wore a blue-gray knee-length coat and matching hat and gloves, as tartan-wearing bagpipers marched and thousands watched under cloud-streaked blue skies. The pontiff himself donned a green tartan scarf over his shoulders as he rode through Edinburgh in the Popemobile.

In her remarks, the queen told Benedict that his visit reminded all Britons of their common Christian heritage and said she hoped relations between the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church would be deepened as a result.

She also praised the Catholic Church’s “special contribution” to helping the poorest and most vulnerable people around the world.

“We know from experience that through committed dialogue, old suspicions can be transcended and a greater mutual trust encouraged,” she said. “We hold that freedom to worship is at the core of our tolerant and democratic society.”

The pope, too, recalled the shared Christian heritage of Catholics and Anglicans and said he wanted to extend a “hand of friendship” to the British people during his trip.

He said the queen’s forefathers’ “respect for truth and justice, for mercy and charity come to you from a faith that remains a mighty force for good in your kingdom.”

Benedict referred indirectly to his own roots, recalling how Britain fought the “Nazi tyranny” during World War II, “that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live.”



The German-born Benedict’s visit comes as the country marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

The British media has been particularly hostile to the pope’s visit, noting its 12-million-pound ($18.7 million) cost to British taxpayers at a time of austerity measures and job losses. Protests are planned, “Pope Nope” T-shirts have been spotted around London and public discussions of the Roman Catholic Church’s celibacy requirement for priests are being held.

There also remains strong opposition in the U.K. to Benedict’s hard line against homosexuality, abortion and using condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS.

Benedict acknowledged the opposition in his airborne comments to reporters, saying Britain had a “great history of anti-Catholicism. But it is also a country with a great history of tolerance.”

Asked about polls that suggest many Catholics had lost trust in the church as a result of the sex abuse scandal, Benedict said he was shocked and saddened about the scope of the abuse, in part because priests take vows to be Christ’s voice upon ordination.

“It’s difficult to understand how a man who has said this could then fall into this perversion. It’s a great sadness,” Benedict said in Italian. “It’s also sad that the authority of the church wasn’t sufficiently vigilant, and not sufficiently quick or decisive to take necessary measures” to stop it.

He said the victims were the church’s top priority as it tries to help them heal spiritually and psychologically.

“How can we repair, what can we do to help these people overcome this trauma, find their lives again and find again the trust in the message of Christ?” Benedict said.

He insisted that abusive priests must never be allowed access to young children, saying they suffer from an illness that “goodwill” cannot cure. In addition, he said, candidates for the priesthood must be better screened to screen out possible abusers.

The Vatican has been reeling for months from revelations from thousands of victims around the globe of priests who molested children, bishops who covered up for them and Vatican officials who turned a blind eye to the problem for decades.

Previously, Benedict has admitted that the scandal was borne of “sins within the church” but he had never acknowledged in such detail to the church’s failures to act. Advocates for victims have long insisted he take more personal responsibility for the scandal, given that he was in charge of the Vatican office that handled sex abuse cases and was archbishop of Munich when a pedophile priest was assigned pastoral work while undergoing therapy for having abused young boys.

Benedict didn’t take individual personal responsibility Thursday, saying only that the “authority of the church” had failed.

Vatican officials haven’t confirmed that Benedict will meet with abuse victims while in Britain, noting that such meetings — when they have occurred — have only been confirmed after the fact. However, U.K. organizers say arrangements are being made.

Thousands of tickets to papal events remain unclaimed even as many of the faithful have expressed joy about his arrival.

The trip is the first state visit by a pope to the U.K., and his meeting with the queen is symbolically significant because of the historic divide between the officially Protestant nation and the Catholic Church.

The queen is head of the Church of England, which split acrimoniously from Rome in the 16th century, a division followed by centuries of anti-Catholic sentiment that resulted in Catholics being fined, discriminated against and killed for their faith. The visit also coincides with the 450th anniversary of the Reformation in Scotland.

The last papal visit to Britain was by John Paul II in 1982. Benedict’s trip to Britain is a state visit because he was invited by the monarch.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, leader of Scotland’s minority Catholics, admitted that the damage caused by the sex scandals has been considerable.

“(The abuse cases) have caused terrible injury to children and young adults, and equally horrible have been the cover-ups, but I think the pope has put strong steps to prevent it from happening,” he said in a statement. “Nobody loses face by saying ‘sorry’ and ‘I’m trying to do better.’”

The start of the trip risked being overshadowed by remarks by one of the pope’s advisers, German Cardinal Walter Kasper, who compared arriving in multicultural London to landing “in a Third World country.” He also told a German magazine that an “aggressive atheism” was spreading in Britain.

The British media, expressing outrage, cited the remarks as the latest example of a gaffe-prone papacy. Kasper did not come to the U.K, and his office said it was due to illness.

Only 65,000 of the faithful are expected to attend an open air Mass at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow later Thursday, compared to the 100,000 previously expected. At the Mass the pope will be serenaded by Susan Boyle, the “Britain’s Got Talent” reality show star who shot to global fame last year.

A beatification event will follow on Sunday for Cardinal John Newman in Birmingham, which will see the 19th-century English philosopher take a step on his way to sainthood.

The bookish pontiff lacks the charisma of his predecessor John Paul II, who pulled in a crowd of 250,000 for Mass at the same Glasgow park. Some may also have been put off by the 20-pound ($31) suggested donation for a ticket to Bellahouston.

There are about 850,000 Catholics in Scotland, according to the 2001 U.K. Census, but 27 percent of Scots — about 1.5 million — did not register a religion or said they were atheists.

Detractors such as the Humanist Society of Scotland believe people are indifferent to the papal visit because of the church scandals and growing secularism.

“The notion that it was the atheism of Nazis that led to their extremist and hateful views or that somehow fuels intolerance in Britain today is a terrible libel against those who do not believe in G.god,” the group said Thursday in a statement.

The group placed billboards along the route the pope will take between Edinburgh and Glasgow that read: “Two million Scots are good without God.”

Yet at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, some worshippers were thrilled about the pope’s visit.

“It is wonderful that the Holy Father is coming to Scotland and I prayed today for good weather,” said Mary McManus, 78.

James Ferguson, 72, a retired electrician, acknowledged that the church sex abuse scandals were “sickening.”

“(But) what’s worse is that opponents of the church have made hay with them,” he said. “In some ways, we are being made to feel foolish about being Catholic and so I hope this visit will make us proud.”

——

Associated Press reporter Ben McConville in Edinburgh and Victor L. Simpson and Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.

 

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>