The Pope Owns Up to Abuse Scandal. Kinda

All around the country, news outlets trumpeted Pope Benedict XVI’s arrival in the United States and hashed over his comments on the priest sex abuse scandal.

“Pope Benedict chose to address bluntly the sex scandal that has torn at the church here even before he landed Tuesday…” read the lead to The New York Times story.

But his remarks, in which he said he was “deeply ashamed,” did not placate abuse victims, or their advocates here in Boston — a city notably left off the Pope’s itinerary.

Anne Barrett Doyle, the co-director of, a website devoted to documenting the scandal, was unimpressed with Benedict’s statement. Especially his continued reliance on describing sexually abusive priest as “pedophiliacs.”

Doyle wrote us in an email:

What Pope Benedict didn’t say on Shepherd One is more important than what he did say. He is tipping us off to his PR strategy for dealing with the crisis. Clearly, his intention is to shift our attention solely to “pedophile priests” and away from the bishops who intentionally silenced victims and transferred priests.

Of particular concern is the status of Bernard Cardinal Law, the one-time archbishop of Boston who resigned his post, only to find a comfortable position in the Vatican. In September, 2006, Boston magazine wrote about Law’s good fortune.

For many of victims, Law’s continued importance in the church hierarchy has not sat well. Nor has the Pope’s refusal to sit with abuse victims.

Doyle added a prediction for how Benedict would handle the situation this week:

The Pope’s comments [Monday morning] signal to us that his focus is not on the corruption at the top of the American church. He certainly will not address his own role of minimizing the crisis and suppressing information. When he addresses the crisis at greater length later this week, his comments on bishops who oversaw abusers will express remorse but he will stop far short of admitting their full culpability.


Our Man in Rome (Boston magazine, Sept. 2006)

The Globe’s ongoing coverage of the Papal Visit