Pope’s apology falls flat for Irish victims of abuse

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DUBLIN (RNS/ENI) Ireland’s leading prelates have welcomed Pope Benedict XVI’s pastoral letter to the Catholic Church in Ireland, in which he apologized to abuse victims and strongly criticized the church’s failure to deal with “these sinful and criminal acts.”

Those who suffered from those abuses, however, are not so impressed.

Colm O’Gorman, a survivor of Irish clerical sexual abuse and a campaigner on behalf of other victims, said the pope had failed to “acknowledge the cover-up of the rape and abuse of children by priests, to take responsibility for it, and to show how he would ensure it never happened again.”

“There was no acceptance of responsibility for the now-established cover-up, no plan to ensure that children will be properly protected around the global Church, and no assurance that those who rape and abuse will be reported to the civil authorities,” O’Gorman said in Monday’s (March 22) Herald newspaper.

In a Sunday sermon, Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin praised the pope’s letter, adding that “The church tragically failed many of its children: it failed through abuse; it failed through not preventing abuse; it failed through covering up abuse.”

Benedict, in his letter, acknowledged to the victims of abuse that “nothing can undo the wrong you have endured,” while also proposing “a path of healing, renewal and reparation.”

“No one imagines that this painful situation will be resolved swiftly,” the pope wrote in the letter released Saturday.

Addressing the victims directly, Benedict said, “It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel. At the same time, I ask you not to lose hope. It is in the communion of the Church that we encounter the person of Jesus Christ, who was himself a victim of injustice and sin.”

The Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which has been harshly critical of church efforts to combat the abuse scandal, dismissed the pope’s statement as mere words.

“Again, the pope offers words when action is so desperately needed. The pope keeps permitting needless risk where real prevention is needed. The pope sanctions secrecy where real truth is needed,” said Barbara Dorris, SNAP’s national outreach director.

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