Pope Addresses Abuse Scandal, Says Church Must ‘Relearn Penance’
Pope Benedict XVI speaks with reporters about the abuse scandal on his way to Portugal on Tuesday. Photo by Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images.
Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday issued his strongest words to date about the abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church, saying the institution “has a profound need to relearn penance.”
Speaking to reporters en route to Portugal, the pontiff seemed to distance himself from the Vatican’s initial response to the crisis. In recent weeks, several church officials have blamed the news media, as well as advocates of abortion rights and gay marriage, for mounting what they described as an attack on the pope.
“Attacks on the pope and the church come not only from outside the church, but the suffering of the church comes from inside the church, from sins that exist inside the church,” Benedict said. “This we have always known but today we see it in a really terrifying way.”
He added: “The church has a profound need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn on the one hand forgiveness but also the necessity of justice. And forgiveness does not substitute justice.”
The crisis has not only cast a pall over the church, but also over Benedict’s past handling of sex abuse allegations as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Questions have been raised as well about his tenure as archbishop of Munich, when a pedophile priest was transferred to Benedict’s diocese for treatment.
In an interview with the NewsHour’s Margaret Warner last month, Cardinal William Levada, the current head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, addressed those issues. He said:
“I think his case in Munich, it does not strike me as unusual behavior for a bishop in those circumstances to let whoever is charge of that particular work and office in the archdioceses to make the decisions about a particular priest and I think that was the case in Munich …With regard to the work of the pope here at the congregation, those criticisms I think were basically unfair criticisms. These were cases that went back 20 an 30 years before, they were not dealing with children in harm’s way at the time and I don’t think that the pope can be rightly criticized in those cases.”
Watch the interview: