Pope Benedict XVI publicly asked for “forgiveness” from victims of sex-abuse crimes committed by Catholic priests and promised to do “everything possible” to shield children from pedophile clerics.
“We insistently ask for forgiveness from God and the persons involved,” the pope said today during a Mass at the Vatican. The church will “do everything possible to make sure such abuse can never happen again” as “conduct unworthy of the priestly life cannot be tolerated.”
The 83-year-old pontiff has strengthened his language against the sex-abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church after critics accused him of not doing enough to address the crimes and their alleged cover-up by church leaders.
The controversy has embroiled Benedict himself as victims in the U.S. and Germany came out to say he was aware of child abuse during his previous roles as archbishop and cardinal from 1977 to 2005. German-born Joseph Ratzinger became pope five years ago when his predecessor John Paul II died.
A German church report released on March 12 said that when Ratzinger was archbishop of Munich, he took part in a 1980 decision to move a priest accused of molestation to his diocese to undergo therapy. In another case, while head of the Vatican’s priest-discipline office in 1985, he postponed the defrocking of a U.S. priest convicted of child abuse while recommending “paternal care.”
The Vatican is seeking to follow words with actions, starting with Ireland, where two reports last year outlining widespread abuse by clerics sparked a pedophilia scandal across Europe. The pope is sending senior clerics to investigate Irish priests and “monitor the effectiveness of and seek possible improvements to the current procedures for preventing abuse,” the Vatican said on May 31.