Pope Francis’ Apology – A Great BeginningApril 11, 2014
When I write about public apologies, all too often it’s to comment on what went wrong. So many public apologies fall short of the mark! People equivocate, they make excuses, they point fingers or hide behind legalese … It can be very discouraging for someone who thinks that apologies matter.
That’s why I was so heartened by Pope Francis’ straightforward apology to children who were sexually abused by Catholic priests. No shilly-shallying here. His Holiness called the sexual abuse of children “evil” – which, of course, is exactly right – took personal responsibility for sex crimes performed by priests and promised to strengthen the Catholic Church’s efforts to protect children. It was an unprecedented step, far beyond anything that any Pope in history has ever done. So, why do I cautiously call his statement “a great beginning”? Read on.
If there’s anything more horrendous than children being molested by the very people who are supposed to protect them, I don’t know what it is. Pope Francis said a lot of good things today, and I applaud him for it. Words alone won’t heal the harm that sexual abuse victims have suffered, though, nor will words alone protect children from future abuse.
Since his elevation to the papacy, Pope Francis has seemed to me to be a man of exceptional integrity and determination. Catholic children have suffered far too long at the hands of troubled priests, and the church itself has suffered for decades under the cloud of the sexual abuse scandal. There’s nothing I’d like better than to be able to write that Pope Francis has taken effective action to punish those responsible, including church leaders who covered up sexual abuse by priests, to prevent future abuse, and to make amends to the victims. That would make his apology complete and credible, and I pray it’ll happen soon.
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