A Papal Apology
To open a discussion on this article, please use the contact page to provide your comments
Over the past several weeks, it seems not a day goes by without a news item containing new revelations about the child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. Originally it seemed confined to the US, Canada, Australia, and Ireland and perhaps a story which had burned out. But now we seen new investigations in nearly every European country with a significant Catholic population, and indications that Mexico too has a problem. And the Pope has now been directly linked to cover-ups both as an Archbishop and as a Cardinal. Meanwhile, the Pope has issued a weak passive voice apology for the abuse in Ireland, and as more allegations come forward, the Vatican is reverting to its old stand of calling such allegations attacks on the Papacy and the Church. This is the same line which then Cardinal Ratzinger took in 2005 in Spain when he said:
I am personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of the sins of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign to discredit the Catholic Church.
No, you paranoid fool! What discredits the Catholic Church are the sins of the clergy in molesting children, the denials by the Church, the cover-ups by the Church, the secrecy imposed by the Church, and the interference with secular investigations by the Church. 
Given that the neither the incumbent Pope nor his predecessor recognized that there was a problem that required a genuine heartfelt apology, I have taken the liberty of drafting one for him. I invite him to use it - he doesn't even have to credit me as author.
A Papal Apology
For too long, we in the Catholic Church have been in denial. For untold generations we have ignored the physical, sexual, and mental abuse of children by clergy and by members of religious orders. When abuse has been reported to us, we have covered up; we have used our influence with secular authorities to suppress charges; we have imposed vows of silence upon the victims as a condition of investigation; and our investigations all too often have been whitewashes with the offender free to offend again and again.
I personally have erred. As an Archbishop, I permitted a child-molesting priest return to parishional duties, and he went on to offend again. As a Cardinal in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I ensured that accusations of abuse were handled in secret, and was extremely slow in responding to requests for guidance from various dioceses and archdioceses. I did not treat these matters with the urgency and the openness which was warranted. I failed to make my predecessor aware that this issue required his urgent attention. And as Pope, I was far too slow to take this matter seriously and to clean out the disease within the Church. I have also been too quick to regard exposure of new evidence of abuse and cover-ups as attacks on the Church and on the Papacy rather than as indicators of the need for reform.
For all these sins, those committed by me, those committed by Bishops, Archbishops, Cardinals, and the heads of various religious orders in covering up abuse, and the further abuses committed by clergy and members of religious orders after they were initially reported - for all these sins, I express my deepest regrets. We in the Church failed you. I am deeply ashamed of that. I am sorry.
Sorry is not enough. Action is required to ensure this does not happen again.We will purge the Church of all those who have molested children. We will deal with future cases openly and will fully co-operate with secular authorities in prosecution. Also, I am today asking for the resignation of all bishops, archbishops and cardinals who participated in cover-ups in the past. They will be replaced with those whose hands are clean in this matter.
As for the Papacy, I recognize that in accordance with the above, I too should resign. But, I consider it preferable that my successor be selected by cardinals who have not been touched by this scandal. Accordingly, I intend to remain in office a further three years, God willing until we have new senior clergy in place. At that time I will resign this office and retire to a monastery. Also, I earlier accelerated the process of sainthood for my predecessor Pope John Paul II. As the scale of this scandal initially became apparent during his Papacy, I consider it necessary to give history time to judge him more objectively than we can today. Further consideration of his sainthood is deferred for fifty years.
The Catholic Church is already short of clergy and these actions will exacerbate the situation. We need clergy with a healthy and Catholic view of human sexuality. Accordingly, as a trial, the Church will once again permit priests to marry. Those who left the church in recent years to marry and who still have a vocation will be welcomed back. Those in the Church who have been ignoring their vows of chastity are strongly encouraged to marry. And married men are welcome to apply. Of course, in the Catholic church, marriage will remain heterosexual, and those who coose not to marry are still bound by their vows of chastity. This trial will continue for 25 years at which time it should be reconsidered by a Vatican Council. Even if this decision is overturned at that council, those who chose to marry must be allowed to continue in that state.By these actions, I want to show that we now take this issue extremely seriously and are serious about preventing further abuse. Again, on behalf of myself and on behalf of the church, I am deeply sorry.
- For a stronger view of the Pope and child abuse, see