Pope Benedict expressed his deep sorrow for clerical sexual abuse yet again during his state visit to the UK. The BBC has called his remarks on Saturday his ‘strongest public apology yet over the scandal.’ On the same day, the Pope met privately with five victims of clerical abuse, at least one of whom it is believed was abused in an Irish institution.
But if the apologies keep getting stronger, are they resonating with the victims and with ordinary Catholics?
This year, his apologies have become more frequent and his vocabulary more impressive, as if to mask his continued refusal to take significant remedial action. In February 2010, meeting with Irish bishops, he called child sexual abuse "heinous." In his letter to the Irish people this spring, he expressed "shame and remorse…"
McKieran says that the Pope’s words are still all about public relations, rather than penitence.
This has prompted Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today to ask,
Is there any action Pope Benedict, any apology he could make, that could convince you the Church was moving in the right direction on this?
At the same time, even the so-called secular media that the Pope seems so suspicious of have praised certain aspects of his visits, drawing attention to the large and enthusiastic crowds that have attended his visit.
There also has been talk of a kinder, gentler, more personable Benedict than we might have expected.
Some have spoken of a ‘Benedict Bounce’ as a result of his visit, meaning that it might translate into a spike in mass attendance for Catholics, or perhaps a more focused re-engagement between the secular and the religious within British civil society.
On the Irish side of the Irish Sea, I wonder if a ‘Benedict Bounce’ will be much in evidence. Catholics and non-Catholics alike in Ireland have watched his visit with great interest and have hoped, I think, for words of healing and reconciliation. Will this latest apology be enough?
Indeed, the first test of the Benedict Bounce may be this coming Sunday, September 26. This is the day that Jennifer Sleeman from County Cork has chosen as a day for women to boycott mass in order to voice their displeasure at the way the Catholic Church is treating women and handling clerical sexual abuse.