Pope offers apology, not penalty, for sex abuse

Voices shame and remorse as he addresses victims in Ireland

Pope offers apology, not penalty, for sex abuse

His message, in a long-awaited, eight-page pastoral letter to Irish Catholics, seemed couched in strong and passionate language. But it did not refer directly to immediate disciplinary action beyond sending a special apostolic delegation to investigate unspecified dioceses and religious congregations in Ireland.
Moreover, it was, as the Vatican said it would be, focused particularly on the situation in Ireland, even as the crisis has widened among Catholics in Ireland, Austria, the Netherlands and Germany.

“You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated,” the pope told Irish victims and their families.
“Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen. Those of you who were abused in residential institutions must have felt that there was no escape for your sufferings,” he continued.

Vatican’s responsibility
Nowhere in the letter did Benedict address the responsibility of the Vatican itself. Many victims’ groups have criticised the Vatican for not recognising the depth and scope of the abuse crisis sooner. Nor did he use the term punishment, or spell out any consequences for clergy or bishops who had not upheld canon or civil law. Indeed, he laid blame firmly with Irish Catholic leaders.

Addressing a section of his letter to abusers, the pope said they must “answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals”.
Since last year, the Irish church has been shaken to the core by two damning reports by the Irish government. One revealed decades of systematic abuse of children in religious institutions, another showed an apparent cover-up in the diocese of Dublin of priests who had abused children being allowed to continue in pastoral care.
The New York Times

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