There comes a point when apologies have to be followed by meaningful restitution, otherwise you might just as well apologize to Satan.
At a Mass at Westminster Cathedral, Pope Benedict has just spoken these words in his homily -- some of the strongest yet expressed on clerical sex abuse.
Austen Ivereigh - America Magazine - 9/18/2010
“Here too I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the Church and by her ministers. Above all I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes, along with my hope that the power of Christ’s grace, his sacrifice of reconciliation, will bring deep healing and peace to their lives. I also acknowledge, with you, the shame and the humiliation which all of us have suffered because of these sins; and I invite you to offer it to the Lord with trust that this chastisement will contribute to the healing of the victims, the purification of the Church and the renewal of the age-old commitment to the education and care of young people. I express my gratitude for the efforts being made to address this problem responsibly, and I ask all of you to show your concern for the victims and solidarity
with your priests.”
Pope Benedict also met with five victims at the Papal Nuncio's and Catholic officials in charge of Child Protection policies for the English Church. While this was going on an estimated 20,000 protesters, twice the expected number, marched in protest over the Church's refusal to hold bishops accountable for their part in covering up the abuse scandal, gay rights, and absolutist positions on condoms, abortion, and birth control.
It surprises me not at all that Benedict would meet with victims precisely as the big demonstration rolled through London. Coverage from the major Catholic publications has so far ignored the existence of the protest march in favor of covering Benedict's meeting with abuse victims.
John Allen did report the following:
Conservative politician and media personality Ann Widdecombe, a convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism, said the protesters were “melting away” as popular enthusiasm is growing. Yet Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, predicted that after Sunday “this trip will be completely forgotten,” because the vast majority of the British as “totally indifferent” to the pope’s presence and message." I hate to be nit picky, but 20,000 people do not just melt away--but they can be officially ignored by a trad Anglican convert who has a reason to promote her own agenda.
This marks the fourth occasion Benedict has addressed the abuse crisis while on this trip. In none of these statements is there the slightest indication he actually intends to do a thing about the hierarchical system or the members of that system that engaged in covering up the abuse and/or transferring pedophiles to other parishes. Not surprising then that SNAP and other organizations dedicated to abuse victims are not impressed. Very few people are fooled after two years of such apologies and no concrete actions to back up the words. It is beyond obvious that Benedict has absolutely no intention of dealing with the hierarchy or the clerical system which produced and hid this entire mess. He will not touch the 'perfect society' of the clerical caste, no matter how imperfect or down right evil it has proven itself to be. The apologies sound hollow and repetitive because they are hollow and repetitive.
John Allen has at least got this part right:
The box Benedict is in would appear to be this: If he stops talking about the crisis, he would likely be accused of ducking the question or artificially pretending that the problem is solved. If he keeps issuing roughly the same apology, he’ll aggravate his enemies and may frustrate a growing share of his allies.
That would seem to leave the pope with two options. Either he must figure out something new to say, or he has to supplement his words with actions – some new policy, some new spiritual initiative, or some new gesture of accountability, which would lend his words new significance. (Policies which don't get at the core root problems in clericalism will not suffice, spiritual initiatives will not suffice, gestures thrown at accountability will not suffice, only serious reform will have any lasting significance.)
Otherwise, the risk is that something that was initially hailed as an important moment in solving the sexual abuse crisis could become, with time, another force keeping it alive."
Papal apologies work when they are backed by real change. JPII demonstrated that on a number of occasions. Benedict is demonstrating repeated apologies without change eventually get annoying to some and embarrassing to others. As long as he will not consider holding bishops accountable and changing the hierarchical system itself, he should either tell the truth about this, or just stay silent. While he's at it, he could also ruminate on the fact that as long as the Church refuses to act on the evil in it's own clerical society, it has zero credibility pointing out the evils in other less 'perfect' societies. As Benedict is so fond of pointing out, evil is not relative.