Benedictions: The Pope in America

Benedictions: The Pope in America

Breaking News: Pope meets with sexual abuse victims

In a move that could truly be described as a breakthrough after more than six years of crisis for the church in the United States and decades of agony for victims, Pope Benedict XVI this afternoon met with several victims of clergy abusers.
The story is developing but the AP report says that Benedict and Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley met with a group of five or six victims for about 25 minutes in the chapel of the papal embassy, offering them encouragement and hope.
Lombardi said the pope told the survivors he would pray for them, their families and all victims of clergy sex abuse. Each of the victims spent a few minutes with Benedict privately. Some were in tears during the meeting, said papal spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi.
In the meeting, O’Malley presented Benedict with a notebook listing more than 1,000 names of victims of sexual abuse from the Boston Archdiocese.
Gary Bergeron, an outspoken survivor of clergy sex abuse from Boston who was not in Thursday’s session, called Thursday’s meeting “a long-sought-for step in the right direction.”
“The Catholic Church is partly based on symbolism, and I think the symbolism had he not met with survivors would have been horrendous,” the 45-year-old Bergeron said.
As victims rights groups have said, actions speak louder than words, and this action–so simple, so pastoral, so direct–has I think done more to move the Church through the crisis than anything else to date. It doesn’t take much, and great credit goes to the pope and esepcially to the victims and the news media and lay leaders, whose efforts unmasked the crisis and helped push the church to this point of reconciliation.
This doesn’t mean the scandal–much less the pain and agony–is history. No one can say that except the victims, and no one should think their crisis will ever be fully resolved. Closure is a meaningless word at times like these.
Yet this is a vital step. More to come. The survivors who met with Benedict are expected to release a statement.

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Judy Jones

posted April 17, 2008 at 10:10 pm

Statement by Joelle Casteix of Newport Beach CA, SNAP southwestern regional director (949 322 7434)
We see this as a small, positive first step on a very long road, and we’re confident the meeting was meaningful for the participants and we’re grateful that these victims have had the courage to come forward and speak up.
But fundamentally it won’t change things. Kids need action. Catholics deserve action. Action produces reform and reform, real reform, is sorely needed in the church hierachy.
Some talk is OK. A meeting is better. Decisive reform is crucial.
We do vulnerable children a severe disservice if we set extraordinarily low expectations for a brilliant, experienced, powerful global leader like the Pope.
In the Gospel of Luke, we’re told “To whom much is given, much is expected.” The Pope has been given the reins of a vast, wealthy, powerful global monarchy. He must use those reins to safeguard the vulnerable.
We cannot confuse words – even sincere, eloquent ones – with deeds. The stakes are too high.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 17 years and have more than 8,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688), Mary Grant (626-419-2930), Mark Serrano (703-727-4940)
Judy Jones, SNAP Leader Southeastern Ohio
17170 Deer Mountain Rd.
Marthasville, Mo. 63357

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Kristine Ward

posted April 17, 2008 at 11:19 pm

Each survivor’s story is to be honored. Each has the right to tell it to whomever he or she wishes. These survivors told their stories to the Pope. Every telling takes courage. This moment of compassion should be repeated by every Bishop in every diocese, openly so that the whole Church sees and hears. Compassion has a twin prong: it is justice. Justice will come when the Pope disciplines his Bishops over whom he has the ultimate control. No Bishop has been discplined or removed for covering up abuse. Let us not forget it took three years of this papacy and a UN invitation to get to this moment of compassion.
Kristine Ward
National Survivor Support Working Group
Voice of the Faithful

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posted April 19, 2008 at 7:02 pm

Unfortunately words too little too late for this generation and the next! There has to be action and the whole male structure of the church changed to reflect what Jesus did in fact intend, not what the church thought he did! Read this week’s Tablet and Nick Harnan’s “Love in the time of poverty”. This priest hits the nail on the head, and the whole issue of priests nestling in the security of clerical status – and clothes!

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