Pontifical Secret: Update

In my former post I wrote about Pope Benedict’s comments on sexual abuse in the Catholic church and remarked that the Vatican refused requests for the Pope to meet with victims. Yesterday, Pope Benedict held an unannounced and private meeting with “five or six” Boston-area survivors.

Those who met with the pontiff spoke on CNN last night about the experience, and all felt the Pope to be both sincerely concerned and deeply apologetic. This includes Olin Horne who, abused as an altar boy, remained skeptical prior to the meeting. According to Reuters he said

I am not kowtowing. I will not kiss his ring. If we walk in and we’re served a large plate of platitude, I can be guaranteeing you that I will be the first person to say that this man does lack the moral authority to manage the Catholic Church. I expect more than an apology when I leave that room.

Speaking to CNN after the meeting Horne said

My hope was restored today from what I heard. And I believe we received a promise.

It is unclear what that promise was, however. Joelle Casteix, regional Director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), recognizes the significance of the meeting, yet feels that, more than words, action is most needed.

“This is a small, long-overdue step forward on a very long road. We’re confident the meeting was meaningful for the participants, and we’re grateful that these victims have had the courage to come forward and speak up.

But fundamentally, it won’t change things. Kids need action. Catholics deserve action. Action produces reform, and reform — real reform — is sorely needed in the church hierarchy.”

The very secrecy of the event itself has drawn criticism. An NPR piece notes

…some of those who were abused said it would hurt more to find out about a private meeting after the fact. One victim said it had been secrets and closed doors that allowed the clergy sexual abuse to happen in the first place.

For those survivors who’ve trekked to Rome in failed efforts to meet John Paul II, (none of whom were invited to the meeting) the event must have seemed momentous. However, as stated by Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney who has represented hundreds of victims, “He certainly will need more than a half hour to understand the pain victims are feeling because of being sexually abused by priests.”

SNAP director David Clohessy is distressed by the way the Pope’s meeting and statements are being applauded by the community. Responding to comments by Bishop William Murphy, Clohessy stated

How utterly tragic that even now, after 5,000+ priests have molested tens or even hundreds of thousands of children, Murphy can’t even admit that he and his colleagues have engaged in a decades-old, horrific, deliberate cover up of these devastating child sex crimes.

His remark that ‘there may have been some bishops that mishandled’ this on-going crisis is perhaps the most distressing public comment uttered by a Catholic official in recent years.

In a way, this meeting may have done more for the pontiff’s image than it did in any practical sense for the current survivors and future victims of this unforgivable crime. SNAP recommends a “prudent vigilance” on the part of parents and parishners. Time will tell if the Vatican is “ashamed” enough to do what is right.

Further Reading:

“Pontifical Secret” Why the Pope Isn’t Ashamed Enough Blackbird post from 4/17/08

Deliver Us From Evil – Award-winning documentary on “the most notorious pedophile priest in the modern history of the Catholic church.” Hundreds of victims. Covered up for 40 years. WATCH this trailer!

Hand of God – Documentary on one family’s journey of healing in the wake of sexual abuse and widespread cover up in Boston. Watch online for free.

SNAP Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests – The nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims.

Letter from SNAP to UN General Assembly outlining the damaging actions & inactions of Pope Benedict XVI.

Bishop Accountability – Documenting the abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church. Info on over 3,000 priests.

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One Response to “Pontifical Secret: Update”

  1. Mire Says:

    Here is a great site to check out for anyone interested is supporting the group RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network). Also a sneak preview of May’s “People Who Care” page with a Christina Ricci interview about her work with RAINN: http://nonprofitshoppingmall.com/people-who-care/christina-ricci

    Go to the site, shop and a percent of your sale will go to RAINN!
    Pass this on to everyone!!!

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