Pope Benedict XVI broke his recent
silence on the clerical abuse scandal complaining that the church was under
attack but saying that “we Christians” must repent for sins and
The main U.S. victims group
immediately dismissed his comments, saying they are meaningless unless Benedict
takes concrete steps to safeguard children from paedophile priests.
Benedict made the remarks during an
off-the-cuff homily at a Mass inside the Vatican for members of the Pontifical
“I must say, we Christians,
even in recent times, have often avoided the word ‘repent’, which seemed too
tough. But now under attack from the world, which has been telling us about our
sins … we realise that it’s necessary to repent, in other words, recognise
what is wrong in our lives,” Benedict said.
“Open ourselves to forgiveness
… and let ourselves be transformed. The pain of repentance, which is a
purification and transformation, is a grace because it is renewal and the work
of divine mercy,” he said.
Victims of clerical abuse have long
demanded that Benedict take more personal responsibility for clerical abuse,
charging that the Vatican orchestrated a culture of cover-up and secrecy that
allowed priests to rape and molest children unchecked for decades.
Those demands have intensified in
recent weeks as the Vatican and Benedict himself have been accused of
negligence in handling some cases in Europe and the United States.
“Factual disclosures are not
‘attacks’ and ‘penance’ protects no one,” said Mark Serrano, a spokesman
for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the U.S. group.
“When the Pope can’t bring
himself to utter the words ‘paedophile priest’ or ‘child sex crimes’ or
‘cover-ups’ or ‘complicit bishops,’ it’s hard to have faith that he is able to
honestly and effectively deal with this growing crisis,” Serrano said in a