Pontiff Calls for Broad Remedies
Bishops Must Set Tone on Abuse Scandal
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Pope Benedict XVI was greeted with pealing church bells, adoring throngs and gorgeous spring weather yesterday during a historic journey across the District that took him from the green expanse of the South Lawn of the White House to the stone steps of one of the city's most spectacular churches.
The diminutive white-haired man in white cassock and red shoes walked with clasped hands and spoke in a soft German accent about his dismay concerning the Church's clergy child abuse scandal and his preference for diplomacy over conflict.
Marking his 81st birthday in a whirlwind transit of the capital, the pope was welcomed by President Bush at the White House, by thousands of flag-waving spectators along his motorcade routes and by hundreds of black-clad bishops and cardinals at the majestic Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast.
He said the abuse of minors by U.S. clergy was "evil" and "immoral" but had to be eradicated in a broader attack on the degradation of modern-day sexuality.
He also spoke of his overall admiration for the United States "from the dawn of the republic," he said at the White House. "America's quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator."
Later, he spoke intensely of the sex-abuse scandal to church leaders assembled in the Basilica's lower-level Crypt Church.
It was the second day in a row that the pope assailed the scandal that has engulfed the U.S. Catholic Church in recent years, and he told church leaders that it is their "God-given responsibility" to heal the resulting wounds and restore shattered trust.
The pope also seconded the words of Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who said in introducing the pontiff that the scandal was "sometimes very badly handled."
"It falls to you . . . to address the sin of abuse within the wider context of sexual mores," Benedict told the church leaders. "Moreover, by acknowledging and confronting the problem when it occurs in an ecclesial setting, you can give a lead to others, since this scourge is found not only within your dioceses but in every sector of society. It calls for a determined, collective response."
But he said earlier that an even broader response is needed.
"Children deserve to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships," he said. "They should be spared the degrading manifestations and the crude manipulation of sexuality so prevalent today. . . . What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today?"
He received a standing ovation at the end of his speech.