"No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse. . . . Nor can I adequately describe the damage that has occurred within the community of the Church." ~ Pope Benedict XVI, April 17, 2008

Truer words have never been spoken. And yet, how important it is that he spoke these words - in front of a crowd of 46,000 at Nationals Stadium yesterday.

Words are powerful, especially when spoken by the head of a church hierarchy that has been responsible for pain and suffering inflicted on thousands of innocent children - pain and suffering that in some cases lasts a lifetime. Loss of trust, loss of self-image, loss of faith.

Two things to know: 1) I wasn't very excited when the current pope was selected, but he has surprised me again and again and 2) someone very important in my own life was abused by a priest when he was an altar boy so I have an inkling of the impact this scandal has had on the real life people involved.

The Holy Father needed to address the sexual abuse scandal in America. He can't fix it, he can't wave a magic wand and make it go away. But he can openly and honestly engage the issue. He can meet with victims - which he did yesterday in a previously unannounced meeting after mass a National Stadium.
A few hours later, the pope met with at least five abuse victims, all middle-aged men and women from Boston. Benedict requested the meeting, said Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the Boston archbishop, who was present during the gathering.

"It was very positive -- healing, I think -- and very prayerful," O'Malley said, describing some of the victims as being in tears. "It was a moving experience." The meeting was not announced in advance, and the names of the victims were not made public.

Each of the victims had a brief private conversation with the pope. Afterward, O'Malley gave Benedict a list of more than 1,000 people victimized over the years in the Boston archdiocese and asked the pope to pray for them.

1,000 people. In Boston. Alone. Gives you an idea of the magnitude ... and the importance of his words. I don't know if he's said the words "I'm sorry ," but I'm hopeful that he did or will.


Anonymous said...

I was tremendously relieved to hear that B16 DID meet with victims --but I still find myself frustrated by how much his rhetoric on this trip seems to be about about treating this is an isolated problem caused by pedophiles, who he now simply will not hire.

And coming from a parish which was ripped apart by two abusers AND three other priests who lied, misappropriated funds, and blackmailed to protect the abusers, I just think that's a wild mischaracterization of the problem. The problems was both with very sick abusers AND a church so arrogant that it thought it knew better how to deal with abusers than to follow the law.

Sorry for such a negative post on a blog I find so uplifting. I don't want to be one of those people who finds everything B16 does to be too little too late. But I am frustrated by a failure to acknowledge the *structural* problems that allowed the abuse to continue for decades.

Anonymous said...

I think Pope Benedict has show the world the shame and disappointment we have all felt with some of our religious and their leaders. I think he has started the healing process with his words and actions.

Anonymous said...

I was eager to read your reflection on the Pope's visit, and find myself sharing your sentiments. I was afraid that B 16's time in the US might only further alienate our suffering Catholics. His meeting with victims of sex abuse might be just a first step, but for the first time they felt real sympathy from the hierarchy. That is significant.
I enjoy reading your blog, and as an older Catholic, I am encouraged by your willingness to serve. I also love reading about your "cool" order. Thanks!

Garpu said...

I think my reaction was similar to yours when Benedict was elected, and I was worried that his trip here would further fracture the Church in the US. (Although some bloggers are foaming at the mouth at the music selection for the one Mass.) But after hearing about the trip from people who attended some of the functions (those that were public), I'm firmly convinced that the Holy Spirit got it right. :)