Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pope tries to shift blame

Pope: sex abuse scandal 'humiliating' but society must share the blame
The Catholic Church must examine the failures in its teaching that allowed the “unimaginable” sexual abuse of children by priests to continue unchallenged for so long, the Pope said yesterday.

Benedict has previously acknowledged that the scandal was the result of sin within the church and that the church as a result must repent for it and make amends with victims Photo: REUTERSBy Tim Ross, Social Affairs Editor 4:30PM GMT 20 Dec 2010
The worldwide “humiliation” that the church has experienced as a result of the scandal must serve as a spur to reform, Benedict XVI told his cardinals gathered in Rome.

However, the pontiff argued that the abuse crisis must be seen in its social “context”, suggesting that part of the blame lay with permissive attitudes in western society dating from the 1970s.

Survivors of clerical sex abuse condemned the Pope’s statement as another attempt by Church authorities to evade responsibility for the scandal.

The Pope was speaking in his annual Christmas address to bishops and cardinals, assembled in the frescoed Sala Regia of the Vatican's apostolic palace. It was seen as evidence of the seriousness with which the Pope views the issue that he chose tackling child sex abuse as the major theme for one of his highest profile set-piece speeches of the year.

While stressing that most priests were honourable, Pope Benedict said revelations of abuse in 2010 had reached “an unimaginable dimension” that required the church to accept the “humiliation” as a call for renewal.

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“We know of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and our corresponding responsibility,” he said. “We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustices that occurred.

“We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our message, in our entire way of configuring the Christian being, that allowed such a thing to occur.”

However, Benedict said the fault lay not only with the Church but also with the “context of our times”, in which child pornography, drug use, sexual trafficking were to some degree considered permissible.

“There exists a market of pornography regarding children that seems to be increasingly accepted as normal by society,” he said.

“The psychological devastation of children, in which human beings are reduced to a marketplace article, is a terrifying sign of the times.”

The underlying ideology of such excesses stemmed from the 1970s, when “paedophilia was theorized as something that was in keeping with man and even the child”, he said. “The effects of such theories are evident today.”

Representatives of abuse victims dismissed the Pope’s comments as “absolute nonsense”.

Margaret Kennedy, from the Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors group, said: “He is trying to say that the modern world is corrupt and sexually rampant. It is blaming society for what is actually their responsibility,” she said. “No-one in any age has ever thought that adults having sex with children is right.”

The scandal first came to public consciousness in the US in 2002, and spread across the world earlier this year, with thousands of victims emerging in Europe and beyond.

Details were disclosed of bishops who covered up for paedophile priests and Vatican officials who turned a blind eye to the crimes for decades.

Benedict himself faced questions over his handling of the crisis, in his former roles as archbishop in Munich and as head of the Vatican office that was responsible for dealing with abuse cases.

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