Pope apology disappoints, victims seek accountability

Sun Mar 21, 2010 10:50am EDT
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS (Reuters) - Pope Benedict's apology to Ireland went further than any other papal statement on child sex abuse by priests, but still fell far too short for many victims of the scandals shaking the Roman Catholic Church across Europe.

Contrasting it with the past, bishops in several countries praised the letter as courageous for condemning abusive clerics. Victims measured it against what they hope to see in future -- sanctions for bishops they say helped hush up the problem.

The gap separating these views is the arena for the bitter public fight over clerical child abuse. Every new revelation gives the victims fresh ammunition and puts more pressure on the Church to undertake painful reforms it clearly wants to avoid.

"They still don't see this isn't just about individual cases, but about an overall structural problem (in the Church)," said Christian Weisner of the German lay movement We Are Church. "This letter still does not amount to a big breakthrough."

What the critics want is transparency and accountability, from full disclose of abuse to removal of complicit bishops.

Benedict's letter partly met their demands, expressing "shame and remorse" for the "sinful and criminal acts" Irish victims suffered. He stressed bishops could not hide abuse cases from police and ordered an inquiry into some Irish dioceses.

Beyond that, he made no mention of scandals shaking Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands nor hinted any bishops had to step down for leadership failures he sharply criticized.

"There is nothing in this letter to suggest that any new vision of leadership in the Catholic Church exists," said Maeve Lewis of the Irish victims' group One in Four.   Continued...

<p>Pope Benedict XVI leads the Angelus prayer from a window of his private apartment at the Vatican March 21, 2010 REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi</p>