The World From Berlin Pope's Pedophilia Apology 'Not Enough'

Before he even arrived in the US, Pope Benedict XVI apologized for the pedophilia scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church there for the last four years. But German commentators say that more needs to be done.


The pope said he was "deeply ashamed" about the child sex scandal in the US Catholic Church.
AFP

The pope said he was "deeply ashamed" about the child sex scandal in the US Catholic Church.

Even before the airplane carrying Pope Benedict XVI on his first visit to the US as pontiff touched down in Washington, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had addressed the issue which has done untold damage to the Catholic Church in the US.

The pope told reporters he was "deeply ashamed" of the child sex abuse scandal that had rocked the US Catholic church. "It is a great suffering for the church in the United States and for the church in general and for me personally that this could happen," Benedict said. "It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission ... to these children."

The child sex abuse scandal in the US Catholic Church first came to light in 2002. Since then the church has paid out $2 billion in compensation settlements to victims.

During the flight to the US, Benedict pledged there would be no repeat of the scandal, saying pedophiles would be kept out of the priesthood. "I am deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible so this cannot happen again in the future," he told reporters.

The pope made the remarks on Tuesday just hours before he arrived in the US for a six day tour that includes meetings with political and religious figures, an address at the United Nations and a visit to Ground Zero.

German commentators welcomed the pope's frank apology in Thursday's newspapers.

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes it was right that the pope apologized and in the manner he did.

"He showed himself to be deeply ashamed and spoke of the 'large suffering' inflicted by representatives of the church. He did not resort to some line of defense, as some bishops in the US (and sadly also in Germany) did and still do. He made it clear that paedophiles could not become priests (and thankfully distinguished pedophilia from homosexuality). He confessed guilt and promised atonement."

"But not everyone approved, especially not those people who want the pope to stand for a gleaming church, which shows strength and which cannot be harmed by reproaches and accusations from an evil world. Why apologize again, when, since 2002 -- the year the abuse cases first became known to the US public and developed into a scandal -- everything has been said and so much has been paid out? Would it not be better if Benedict XVI concentrated on his big appearances on the world political stage -- the speech at the United Nations and the emotional appearance at Ground Zero?"

"The answer is no, because the two are connected. The pope cannot speak about human rights at the United Nations if the victims of sexual abuse are denied justice. The pope cannot appeal for global social justice, the protection of the family, human and unborn life, if inside his church human rights are being disregarded, the victims overlooked and their stories of suffering ignored. Those who appeal to the world's conscience have to examine their own consciences first. They must be able to admit their own guilt; they must know they speak as sinners."

The left-wing Die Tageszeitung writes that for the 65 million Catholics in the US, the pope's visit is either a long-awaited chance to heal the wounds of the past or the final rejection of the church.

"The enormous magnitude of the nationwide pedophilia scandals will define the pope's visit. Will Ratzinger at least address the scandals fittingly? Or will he go as far as punishing those bishops who were more concerned with covering-up the scandals than exposing them? A lot will depend upon that."

"The puritan Ratzinger is viewed in Washington as the 'Enforcer,' as someone who sternly watches over morals. That is why people's expectations are high. Although Pope Benedict already apologized for the child abuse cases on his flight over to Washington, that will not be enough if he wants to convince and reconcile the faithful. But that is something the Catholic Church desperately needs to do, as it is the only large church in the US to lose members."

-- Mark Waffel; 1:15 p.m. CET

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