Latest Channel 4 News:
Row over Malaysian state's coins
'Four shot at abandoned mine shaft'
Rain fails to stop Moscow wildfires
Cancer blow for identical twins
Need for Afghan progress 'signs'

Pope begs forgiveness for priests' sex abuse

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 11 June 2010

Pope Benedict publicly begs forgiveness from those sexually abused by priests - but one victim tells Jonathan Rugman for Channel 4 News there needs to be action, not just words.

Pope Benedict XVI (Credit: Getty)

In his fullest and most public apology yet for decades of child sex abuse and cover-up by the Catholic Church, the Pope pledged that he would do everything in his power to ensure it would never happen again.

Addressing more than 15,000 priests, gathered in St Peter's Square in Rome to mark the end of the Church's "Year of the Priest" celebrations, Pope Benedict admitted that the year had been marred because "the sins of priests came to light, particularly the abuse of the little ones".

He added: "We too insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again."

Former press secretary to the Archbishop of Westminster, the most senior Catholic post in the UK, Austen Ivereigh says the Pope's decision to make such a declaration at the largest gathering of priests in history, was a powerful one. 

Promising that the Church would be more careful in its choice of clergymen and in monitoring their behaviour in future, Pope Benedict declared: "We will do everything we can to weigh the authenticity of their vocation and make every effort to accompany priests along their journey."

But will a further apology be enough to apease the thousands of alleged victims? And what more can the Vatican do?

"This isn't the last we've heard this year," Ivereigh predicts "It's not clear what more can be done from Rome rather than by the Catholic Church locally. But if it can be done, Benedict XVI is saying, then it will be done."

The Pope's homily reflected comments he was reported to have made in a private meeting with sex abuse victims in Malta in April, but this was his most public expression of remorse.

Where the abuse claims have surfaced: 
Ireland -two major reports of abuse, affecting thousands of children, led to resignation of three Irish bishops.
United States - A series of scandals dating back to 1990 and involving up to 10,000 children.
Germany - at least 300 complaints since March 2010 being investigated in 18 of 27 Roman Catholic dioceses.
Italy -Allegations of abuse at an institution for the deaf from 1950 - 1980s to be investigated by the Vatican.
Netherlands -An independent inquiry underway into over 200 allegations of abuse dating back to the1950s.
Austria - A series of abuse claims in the Vorarlberg region, mostly affecting boys at Monasteries.
Belgium - Church Commission set up in 2000 to deal with complaints of abuse. 20 received in recent months.
Switzerland - Commission set up in 2002 to investigate 60 allegations of abuse over last 60 years.
Malta - three priests accused of sexually abusing 10 orphans in Malta in 1980s and 1990s.

At the end of last month it was announced that a team of nine prelates - headed by the retired Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor - had been assigned to carry out an investigation into child abuse in Catholic institutions in Ireland.

When their work begins in the autumn, the investigators will visit churches, convents and seminaries and are expected to hear evidence from hundreds of people.

More on the abuse scandal in Ireland
- Pope apologises for Irish sexual abuse

Two official reports have pointed to decades of rape, coercion and sexual attack by clerics and although three Irish bishops have already resigned, there remain concerns over the lengths to which the church hierarchy has gone in the past to keep such allegations under wraps.

Both Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor and even the Pope himself have been accused - while in previous roles in the church - of moving paedophile priests to other duties, but allowing them to continue to work, rather than having them removed from the church.

Reaction to the Catholic Church's abuse scandal:
-Christopher Hitchens, journalist, article in The Slate: "(The Pope is) obstructing justice on a global scale...(his) whole career has the stench of evil - a clinging a systematic evil that is beyond the power of exorcism to dispel."
-George Weigel, biographer of John Paul II: "More and clearer explanations of how the canonical procedures put into place at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith several years ago have accelerated, no impeded, the church's disciplining of abusive clergy, would be useful."
-Geoffrey Robertson, barrister and UN appeal judge, in The Guardian: "The Holy See can no longer ignore international law, which now counts the widespread or systematic sexual abuse of children as a crime against humanity. The anomalous claim of the Vatican to be a state – and of the pope to be a head of state and hence immune from legal action – cannot stand up to scrutiny."
-Barbara Blaine, President of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP): "Forgiveness comes after, not during, a crisis... the Pope continues taking no action to stop this. The Pope still ignores the crux of the crisis – the on-going recklessness, deceit and callousness of bishops who, even now, protect predators instead of children... the root cause of this horrific and on-going clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis remains the nearly limitless power of bishops."

Send this article by email

More on this story

Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Watch the Latest Channel 4 News

Watch Channel 4 News when you want

Latest World news

More News blogs

View RSS feed

Pakistan floods

A boy puts cream on in his face during the Pakistan floods (Reuters)

Powerful reports from Jonathan Miller inside Pakistan.

Fears over Taliban deal


Lindsey Hilsum reports on the cost of a Taliban deal.

Iran stoning reprieve


A campaign to save a woman from stoning wins her a reprieve.

Crisis as famine looms


The worst drought in memory grips Niger, Mali
and Chad.

Afghan civilian casualties


British compensation payments to Afghan victims "treble".

Amnesty award success


Channel 4 News wins Amnesty awards for Sri Lanka reports.

Tamil killings 'ordered'


Sri Lanka commander says killings were 'ordered from the top'.

Somalia aid probe


The UN finds corruption is diverting Somali food aid.

Twittering on

Start following Channel 4 News on Twitter today.

Click to launch.


Most watched


Find out which reports and videos are getting people clicking online.

Channel 4 © 2010. Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.