Belief Beat

Belief Beat

PopeWatch: Does Being Pope Mean Always Having to Say You’re Sorry (For Clergy Abuse)?

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.:

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.

*Click here to subscribe to Belief Beat and click here to follow Belief Beat on Twitter.

Comments read comments(13)
post a comment

posted September 19, 2010 at 7:06 pm

I think you are absolutely right; saying you’re sorry is one thing, and is cheap.
Making changes so such abuse is a lot less likely, and demanding the evidence the Church has go to civil authorities (with possible unusual exceptions) is harder but it what would show the Church is actually moving to deal with the abuses, which no doubt go back a very long time.

report abuse


posted September 19, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Actions speak louder than words….Benny needs to show he is “sorry” not just mouth it.

report abuse

Robert Peterson

posted September 19, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Cardinal Law is an admitted accessory to hundreds of pedophile rapes of American children. He was evacuated out of Boston four hours ahead of a grand jury summons. He has spent the following years running a luxurious basilica in Rome, a position of luxury and comfort.
If Benedict is serious about reform, Law and his hundreds of bishop co-conspirators will be repenting in sackcloth and ashes, not feasting in jewels and silks. Right now, Benedict looks, rightly, like a complete hypocrite. Until the bishops and cardinals that ran this crime wave are dealt with, its just empty words. Pedophile rapists and their enablers belong in prisons, not in basilicas.

report abuse

Andre John

posted September 19, 2010 at 10:57 pm

In My Humble Opinion,
it was all over the world, that these perverts who are demons/wolves in sheeps’ clothing had trespassed the church who are responsible and should be punished.
Let us focus on the present, not the past sins, and by what i see in the news, the church is very much doing what it can now to correct what they have done wrong and hope it will never happen ever again.
Let us pray that G=D’s justice will prevail in the end.
Hate the sins, let G=D punish the sinners, let us comfort the victims.
May G=D have mercy on us all and on the whole troubled world
Read more:

report abuse


posted September 20, 2010 at 1:32 am

If we waited for G=D (?) to punish all the sinners the world would be a lot more dangerous than it is.

report abuse

Robert C

posted September 20, 2010 at 11:39 am

You know historically the hysterical witch burners have often been blatantly wrong with their accusations. It was rumoured that Law beat the troopers armed with a subpoena to Logan by hours as stated in the inimicably incorrect post above. ( loud buzzer ) Wrong. Bernard Law had already given hours of testimony to two separate grand juries and had been subjected to several independant investigations by not only the state attorney general but also a myriad of county attorney generals, all looking for that juicy tidbit of prosecutorial scapegoat who could get them elected to statewide office. No go. The state attorny general officially determined that the Cardinal had not tried to evade any investigation or broken any laws. Too bad the truth sometimes flies in the face of true bigotry.
Speaking of bigotry, Bernard Law as a younger priest was a significant figure in the civil rights movement in Mississippi and was marked as a target on several segregationist hit lists for that work. He was outspoken against the Vietnam war, sponsored Vietnam refugees, worked against anti-semitism, lobbied for affordable housing, and was personally instumental in raising funds for many charities. Evil bastard isn’t he.

report abuse


posted September 20, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Nicole said “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.”
Exactly what I was saying on your previous post below, Nicole. I’m not a Catholic, but I believe Benedict to be a remarkable man with an impressive intellect, and an interesting take on many things. He’s smart enough to realize that words don’t matter as much as making a genuine effort to tackle the institutional corruption in the Catholic Church that facilitated the clerical abuse scandal. Here is an example of that corruption, masquerading as “compassion” for an alleged rapist of children:

report abuse


posted September 20, 2010 at 2:21 pm

The argument that Cardinal Law can’t be corrupt because he once did good deeds, or because he was a good man, doesn’t hold water in my opinion, Robert C. If someone is evil to begin with, we don’t say he “has been corrupted.” We just say he has always been evil. Cardinal Law may have done wonderful things in his youth, but I would argue that neither he nor Pope Benedict are strong enough to resist the corrupting power of their institutional authority.

report abuse


posted September 20, 2010 at 4:16 pm

No problem with the fact that the Cardinal made mistakes in the handling of the situation Alicia. Geoghan, for instance, was a monster. Paul Shanley, on the other hand was railroaded. Neither here nor there. All power corrupts to a degree and your statement applies to all leaders in one way or another. Most compromise ethics for what they see as a greater objective, rightly or wrongly.

report abuse


posted September 20, 2010 at 9:10 pm

In a previous life Law may have been Jesus reincarnated, Robert C. Doesn’t change the fact of what he did in Boston—-and for his “good deeds” in Boston, he got to leave the victims of his protected priests, and was rewarded with the luxury of living in Rome (seat of all good RC things AND HRH Benny). No sympathy for Benny or Law or any of the “princes of the church” who knew about and hid or committed the abuse of the youngest in their flocks.

report abuse

William A Noble

posted September 20, 2010 at 10:24 pm

The Pope heads an organization that belongs to the Middle Ages. This is an organization that is in desperate need of awakening its way into the 21st Century. There is no call in the Bible for priests to be celibate! How can anyone ignore the great progress made for women’s rights all over the world, and especially so in the United States? Women should have every right to become priests, bishops, and even leaders of religions or religious denominations (and check what had happened in the U.S. Episcopal and Anglican churches). Is now the ideal time for members of the (Roman) Catholic Church in the U.S. to split off from the Church in Rome?
P.S. I do have a reverence for, and high regard for, some active members (including priests) of the Church In Rome.

report abuse


posted September 21, 2010 at 12:14 pm

William Noble writes “Is now the ideal time for members of the (Roman) Catholic Church in the U.S. to split off from the Church in Rome?
P.S. I do have a reverence for, and high regard for, some active members (including priests) of the Church In Rome.”
Absolutely, this should make everyone happy. Pope Benedict wants a smaller church and this is probably a good idea. But do we desperately need one more church? The Anglican-Episcopal or Lutheran Church should do.

report abuse


posted September 23, 2010 at 2:36 pm

It looks like Benedict is in a no-win situation.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!
Thank you for visiting Belief Beat. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy:   Beliefnet News   Good News Happy Reading!   ...

posted 4:57:28pm Feb. 14, 2012 | read full post »

Fun Friday: Atheist Temple Planned for UK's Nonbelievers
Author Alain de Botton has announced plans to build an Atheist temple in the United Kingdom, presumably so nonbelievers have a place to gather and share their philosophies. Um... isn't that what Starbucks is for? Also, I can't wait to see ...

posted 2:53:42pm Jan. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Alaska Airlines: High Payers No Longer Offered Sky Prayers
Alaska Airlines, now the country's seventh-largest airline, has announced it will stop offering prayer cards with its in-flight meals. (It's just raining religion news in the great unchurched Pacific Northwest lately.) I've flown Alaska ...

posted 11:07:56am Jan. 26, 2012 | read full post »

Washington's Gay Marriage Debate: Clergy vs. Clergy
I reported for Reuters at the Washington state Capitol yesterday, covering the public hearings on a gay marriage bill -- and in between, the breaking news that the state Senate now has enough votes to pass the bill. (The House already had ...

posted 11:24:39am Jan. 24, 2012 | read full post »

What Israel's Domestic Policy & Santorum Supporters Have in Common
Hope everyone had an introspective Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, whether observed as a faith-related holiday, a nice break from the work week or something else entirely. Check out this story from Religion & Ethics Newsweekly about how ...

posted 1:32:44pm Jan. 18, 2012 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.