Remember that Time magazine cover story I blogged about a few months ago, “Why Being Pope Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry?” Pope Benedict seems to feel otherwise, given the number of apologies he has made lately — including two big ones during his papal visit to the United Kingdom, which concluded today as “a great success” — for the clergy sex abuse scandal.
Some links, including two stories by top Catholic reporter John L. Allen Jr.:
- Pope apologizes for ‘unspeakable crimes’ of sex abuse (National Catholic Reporter)
- Pope apologizes on abuse as thousands protest in London (Reuters)
- Meeting with abuse victims, Pope Benedict expresses ‘deep shame’ (Catholic News Agency)
- Pope calls church to be ‘humble’ model on abuse (National Catholic Reporter)
- Really, really, really strong apology (GetReligion)
My two cents: The real headline here isn’t about saying sorry — but rather, showing it by making definitive changes in church policy. (It’s not as catchy.) In this case, victims and their advocates are wary of even strong papal apologies; they want to see the church’s child abusers and their protectors proactively dealt with (both by the Vatican and secular authorities), and it’s going to take time to convince them that Pope Benedict’s actions speak as loud as his recent words.
As Allen wrote, in his take on the ‘sorry’ situation:
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.
What do you think? Check back for updates, and share your thoughts in the Comments section below.