Catholic bishops express sorrow over abuse scandals

The Pope after his weekly audience, 21/04/10
The Pope has been under pressure to refer directly to the crisis
Catholic bishops in England and Wales have offered a full apology and said there were "no excuses" for child abuse scandals that have hit the Church.

A statement by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales offered a "heartfelt apology and deep sorrow to those who have suffered abuse".

It described the crimes by some priests and religious figures which recently came to light as a "profound scandal".

This comes as a third Irish-based bishop quit over how abuse was handled.

Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin.
Bishop James Moriarty admitted in December that he had not challenged the Dublin archdiocese over concealing child abuse complaints from police.

He served as an auxiliary bishop in the Dublin archdiocese between 1991 and 2002.

The joint statement issued by bishops will go out to all parishes in England and Wales - it said those who had carried out the abuse brought "deep shame to the whole Church".

"Catholics are members of a single universal body. These terrible crimes, and the inadequate response by some church leaders, grieve us all," it said.

The statement went on: "We express our heartfelt apology and deep sorrow to those who have suffered abuse, those who have felt ignored, disbelieved or betrayed.

"We ask their pardon, and the pardon of God for these terrible deeds done in our midst. There can be no excuses."

Worldwide allegations

And it said the Church would work with safeguarding commissions within its dioceses to ensure relevant steps were taken to protect against any further abuse and atone for those who were already victims.

The statement was presented by Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, who said the words were "very heartfelt" and "unambiguous".

Archbishop Nichols told BBC News: "We say there are no excuses.

"We simply apologise profoundly for the hurt and the lasting damage that is done through childhood abuse, and for the inadequate ways in which in the past these things have been handled."

In recent months there has been a wave of child abuse reports across the globe against the Catholic Church.

In recent months victims have come forward in the Irish Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and the US.

And critics have accused the Church of failing to deal adequately with the problem. 

Pope Benedict XVI has promised that the Roman Catholic Church will take "action" over child abuse by priests.

The comments are the most explicit he has made in public about a series of recent allegations against the Church. 

Speaking in Rome at his weekly general audience, he referred to his weekend meeting with abuse victims in Malta. 

"I shared with them their suffering and, with emotion, I prayed with them, promising them action on the part of the Church," he said. 
Direct reference
The Pope met eight men, during his visit to Malta on Sunday, who have complained of abuse during their childhood at an orphanage. 

"I wanted to meet some people who were victims of abuse by members of the clergy," he said. 

One of the men, Lawrence Grech, said the meeting was "very emotional" and that "everybody cried", and that it had given him huge spiritual courage. 

The Vatican said afterwards that the Pope had had tears in his eyes. 

It said he had "prayed with them and assured them that the Church is doing, and will continue to do, all in its power to investigate allegations, to bring to justice those responsible for abuse and to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future". 

However, Wednesday was the first time in recent weeks that the Pope has made his own public comments referring directly to the issue. 

Previously he has called on Roman Catholics to "do penance" for their sins, and made other allusions to the crisis, but he has been criticised for making no direct verbal reference to the storm engulfing the Church. 

Resignations accepted
There has been a wave of allegations that Church authorities in Europe and North and South America failed to deal properly with priests accused of paedophilia, sometimes just moving them to new parishes where more children were put at risk. 

The Pope himself has been accused of not taking strong enough steps against paedophiles when he had that responsibility as a cardinal in Rome.

However, his supporters say he has been the most pro-active pope yet in confronting abuse.
On Tuesday he accepted the resignation of the bishop of Miami, US, who has been accused of covering up abuse cases, and it is thought he will do the same with an Irish bishop on Thursday. 

Last week the Vatican made it clear that the policy of zero tolerance of sexual abuse of minors by clergy, adopted by Catholic bishops conferences in the US and in England and Wales, is now applicable worldwide. (


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