The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Friday, April 16, 2010
Pope mentions 'penance,' - victims respond
Statement by Statement by Mark Serrano of Reston VA, spokesman for SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (703-727-4940)
Factual disclosures are not ‘attacks’ and ‘penance’ protects no one. It’s simply irresponsible to pretend that words – whether few or many, direct or vague, pleasant or unpleasant – can make a real difference. It’s especially frustrating that the Pope’s brief comments follow new revelations that 30 proven, admitted or credibly accused priests have been quietly sent to other countries where they often still have access to children or are in church jobs.
Sadly, once again, the globe’s most powerful religious figure will win headlines for uttering a couple of sentences, when he should in fact be taking dramatic steps to safeguard kids.
When the Pope can’t bring himself to utter the words “pedophile priest” or “child sex crimes” or “cover ups” or “complicit bishops,” it’s hard to have faith that he is able to honestly and effectively deal with this growing crisis.
As always, we desperately hope that the horrific new disclosures from the AP (about predator priests being quietly moved from one nation to another), will prompt others who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes and cover ups to come forward. When victims and witnesses stay silent, nothing changes. But when we find the courage to speak up, at least there’s a chance for healing, justice and, most important, prevention.
We especially call on current and former church employees and members to be helpful whistleblowers, not passive secret-keepers, and to call law enforcement and our support group with any information or suspicions they may have about clergy misdeeds.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 22 years and have more than 9,000 members across the globe. 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 SNAPnetwork.org)
Contacts: David Clohessy (314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915 home), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Mark Serrano (703-727-4940), Peter Isely (414-429-7259), Barbara Dorris (314 503 0003)
APRIL 15, 2010, 12:37 P.M. ET
ROME—Pope Benedict XVI addressed the Vatican's handling of the sex-abuse crisis on Thursday for the first time, saying the Church should "do penance" in response to recent public attention to its "sins."
Pope Benedict delivered the remarks during a Mass in the Pauline Chapel of the papal palace. His homily was reported in articles published in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano and online.
"We Christians, even lately, have often avoided the word 'penance,'" the pope said, according to excerpts posted on Vatican Radio's Web site. "Now, under the attacks of the world that speak of our sins, we see that doing penance is grace and we see how penance is necessary," he added in an apparent reference to the sex-abuse crisis.
The excerpts of the pope's homily didn't specifically mention sex abuse by priests. However, the comments' meaning was clear, coming in the wake of hundreds of abuse allegations that have emerged across Europe this year, including in his native Germany. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the pope's comments were open to interpretation.
For more than a month now, the Vatican has defended Pope Benedict from scrutiny of his handling of abusive priests as Archbishop of Munich-Freising and subsequently as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In early March, the Archdiocese Munich-Freising disclosed one case in which a priest known to church officials as a sex abuser was transferred to the archdiocese with the future pope's approval.
Vatican officials have described the pope as the target of a widespread media campaign. On Good Friday, the pope's preacher likened media scrutiny of the pope to the persecution of Jews.
In his homily on Thursday, the pope quoted St. Peter on the "need to obey God instead of men," according to the excerpts of his homily. Dictatorships such as Nazism, the pope said, have "always opposed this obedience to God."
"Thank God we don't live under dictatorships today, but there exist subtle forms of dictatorships… a conformity, in which it's obligatory to think like everyone else, to act like everyone."
Pope Benedict said "the subtle aggression against the church—or even less subtle—shows how this conformity can really be a true dictatorship."
In mid-March, the pope issued a letter of apology to Ireland's Catholics over the thousands of documented cases of abuse by priests that damaged the reputation of the Irish Church, a traditional stronghold of European Catholicism.
That letter, however, concerned cases that emerged more than a decade ago. It didn't address the issue of abusive priests in other nations or make reference to the public questions the pope has faced for his own conduct.
Thursday's Mass, which was closed to the public, was attended by members of the Vatican's Bible commission including Cardinal William J. Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office in charge of defrocking sexually abusive priests.
L'Osservatore Romano described the homily as "off the cuff." But parts of it echoed a landmark address the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger gave to cardinals in 2005, moments before the cardinals entered a Vatican conclave that elected him pope.
In that address, Cardinal Ratzinger laid out what would become a defining theme of his papacy, warning cardinals of a rising "dictatorship of relativism" that "does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires."
Write to Stacy Meichtry at [email protected]
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests