Tuesday, April 06, 2010

pope apologized but offered no change in vatican policy

WaPo | The pope did recognize failings on the church's part, but he placed them at the national level of the church in Ireland. In the letter, he noted "inadequate procedures for determining the suitability of candidates for the priesthood and the religious life," "insufficient human, moral, intellectual and spiritual formation in seminaries and novitiates" and "a tendency in society to favour the clergy and other authority figures." He also condemned "a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church."

But critics in Ireland who had called for bishops to be punished were disappointed. "What the Irish people are saying is, these were crimes, and they need to be reported before the courts," said James Kelly, lecturer in theology at Trinity College in Dublin.

Last year, two government-backed reports offered accounts of abuse scandals in Ireland. In May, a report catalogued abuses by priests and nuns of thousands of orphans and foster children, and in November, a second scathing report looked at how bishops in Dublin and the Irish police colluded in covering up abuses by Dublin priests.

It remained unclear Saturday how and whether the Vatican would hold church officials accountable. Benedict called for abusers to answer for their crimes "before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals" but did not say whether the church would discipline high-level authorities for mishandling cases, including those in which pedophilic clergy were permitted to go back to ministering.

"We're very disappointed the pope missed a historic opportunity in not acknowledging the cover-up that goes right back to the Vatican, and instead focused only on the Irish failings," said Maeve Lewis, head of the Irish victims' group One in Four. "The pope's solution lies in spiritual renewal, and he doesn't propose any practical framework for the way forward."

Although Benedict apologized when he met with several victims while visiting the United States early in his papacy, the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer from Virginia who advises abuse victims, described it as a "token" effort that had little impact because the church hierarchy was not held responsible. He noted, however, that Pope John Paul II did even less -- making statements that focused blame only on individual abusers and on American culture.

"At no time did John Paul ever acknowledge that the institutional church had any role in this problem," Doyle said.

That distinction was lost on Mark Serrano, a victim of clerical abuse who lives in Leesburg.

"We're merely in some new shades of gray -- John Paul was 10 miles from the water's edge, and Ratzinger is eight miles," he said, referring to Benedict, the former Joseph Ratzinger. "Isn't it interesting to see what a low standard people apply to this church leadership? What other institution on the face of the Earth has been proven to hide criminal sex offenders for years?"