Pope Benedict Finally Meets with Abuse Victims

1208532636Even before Pope Benedict touched down in Washington on Tuesday, he faced a firestorm of criticism for not stopping in Boston to help area Catholics heal from the clergy sexual abuse scandal. Several victims’ groups chastised Benedict for what they saw as an attempt to avoid the messy subject during his trip.

Despite leaving Boston off his itinerary, he has discussed the crisis several times this week, and victims finally got a private audience with the Pontiff in Washington yesterday afternoon.

The victims, who were all from Boston, report it was an emotional experience.

“I asked him to forgive me for hating his church and hating him,” said Olan Horne, 48, of Lowell[.]

“We spoke. I shook his hand and I basically told him that I was an altar boy, a young boy praying to God at the time I was abused and it wasn’t just sexual abuse, it was spiritual,” [Bernie] McDaid said.

In a press release, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who organized the meeting, relays a message from the Pope. “[H]e has come to the United States with great sorrow in his heart over this crisis and has been continuously praying for all who were affected.”

Victims groups laud the meeting as a good start. Voice of the Faithful calls the meeting a “welcome first step.” The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests says the papal audience was a “small, long-over due step forward on a very long road.”

The Herald’s Margery Eagan sums it up nicely.

[L]istening to victims, as Benedict did yesterday, is good and right and an excellent start, but it is only a start. To fix the Catholic Church in Boston, those who knew what happened and kept silent must now pay a steep price.