Pope Benedict XVI today said he was "deeply ashamed" of the child sex abuse scandal that rocked the US Catholic church, just hours before he was to arrive on his first journey to the US as pontiff.
"It is a great suffering for the church in the United States and for the Church in general and for me personally that this could happen," Benedict said aboard a special Alitalia airliner, nicknamed Shepherd 1. "It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission … to these children.
"I am deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible so this cannot happen again in the future," the 81-year-old pope said, pledging to keep paedophiles out of the priesthood.
FINALLY. And he used the right phrase: "keep *paedophiles* out of the priesthood". Not "keep *gays* out of the priesthood." They are NOT related - most paedos are married, heterosexual men. So why are most victims of Catholic priests boys? In part, opportunity - altar servers tend to be boys, especially in more conservative/orthodox parishes. Also, as both conservatives and liberals will agree, over half of all Catholic priests are gay: therefore, statistically, it's far more likely that a paedophile priest will be gay. It's just down to the composition of the pool.
So we have a promising beginning. But words are only that - a beginning. What actions will follow? Will those who covered up get punished, or will they just get moved to the Vatican like Bernard Law of Boston:
"Law was not only aware of egregious sexual misconduct among his subordinates but was apparently engaged in elaborate efforts to cover up incident after incident of child rape." To be specific, the cardinal admitted in a deposition that he knew that the Rev. John Geoghan had raped at least seven boys in 1984 before he approved Geoghan's transfer to another parish where other boys were at risk. Further disclosures revealed that the Rev. Paul Shanley, who at one point was facing trial for 10 counts of child rape and six counts of indecent assault and battery, had been moved from ministry to ministry in what amounted to an attempt to protect him. Law himself lied to a West Coast bishop about Shanley's history and certified in writing that another rapist priest, the Rev. Redmond Raux, had "nothing in his background" to make him "unsuitable to work with children." (Slate)
Again, conservative or liberal, Law's actions were beyond immoral, they were heinous. He violated the most fundamental premise of the priesthood: to protect the flock. That should have seen him - and those like him - defrocked immediately. Preferably publicly excommunicated. Instead, he's living in comfort in the Vatican, the heart of the Church.
You've taken responsibility, Your Holiness. Thank you. But what next? If you're not quite sure, allow me to offer a line from Jesus himself:
It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumble. —Luke 17:2
In which case, you'd best start finding more than a few millstones...