Sunday, 20 July 2008

Pope misses the point

In his address in Sydney, the Pope made the point of apologizing for the sexual abuse of minors. However, his carefully chosen words avoided admitting any responsibility by the Church over failure to act to protect children from sexual predators in the church:

Here I would like to pause to acknowledge the shame which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious in this country. Indeed, I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured and I assure them that as their pastor I too share in their suffering. (1)
I'm not even going to bother with the Pope's patronising claim that he has a "share in their suffering." That isn't the issue.

Nor, surprisingly, is the issue the fact that a few priests committted terrible crimes against children. Wicked people do horrible things. Some of them wear priestly garb, some of them don't. I don't expect the Pope to apologise for the sins of any individual, priest or otherwise, any more than I expect any given Maori to apologise over the Kahui killings or any random German to apologise for the Holocaust.

But the Catholic church, as an institution, acted to protect itself first, instead of the victims of the abuse. Rather than expose the predators, the church chose to sheild them, allowing them to continue to abuse. That is what the Pope should apologise for. But, at least on this occasion, he failed refused to do so. Like Bill Clinton, he is more than ready to feel the pain of whoever he is trying to reach out to (2). But he isn't going to admit that his church's inaction and hypocrisy contributed to that pain.

Without acknowledging that the church shares the guilt for the abuse, the shame remains, and his words are empty.

1 - "Text of Pope's apology for sexual abuse in Australia," unattributed translation of the address given by the Pope, published by Reuters and reproduced on ONE News, 19th of July, 2008. (http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/425822/1920111).
2 - This piece of Clintonesque emphatic vacuity occurred on the campaign traill in 1992, apparently. Tragically, it probably marks a high point for Clinton's sincerity in that decade. (http://www.actupny.org/campaign96/rafsky-clinton.html)

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