Mixed response to Pope apology

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The Independent Online

Survivors of clerical abuse in Ireland today expressed mixed reactions to Pope Benedict's much-anticipated pastoral letter.

Some victims welcomed the pontiff's apology while others said they were angry his message did not directly address cover-ups by senior clergy.

Campaigners One in Four slammed the letter for failing to suggest a new vision of leadership for the Catholic Church.

"Victims were hoping for an acknowledgement of the scurrilous ways in which they have been treated as they attempted to bring their experiences of abuse to the attention of the church authorities," the group's director Maeve Lewis said.

"Pope Benedict has passed up a glorious opportunity to address the core issue in the clerical sexual abuse scandal: the deliberate policy of the Catholic Church at the highest levels to protect sex offenders, thereby endangering children."

Ms Lewis accused the Pope of skimming over the Vatican's role in clerical abuse failings.

"If the Church cannot acknowledge this fundamental truth, it is still in denial," she added.

Andrew Madden - who in 1995 became the first person in Ireland to go public with an abuse lawsuit against the church - said he didn't need to be told clerical sex abuse was a crime and a sin.

"The apology today is not for the cover-up, it's for the abuse and for the most part they didn't commit the abuse but they caused some because of the cover-up," he added.

"That's the bit they should say sorry for."

But Irish Survivors of Child Abuse spokesman John Kelly said there were a number of positives to take from Pope Benedict's letter.

"It would appear that the message overall is one of sincerity to bring about change in the Church," he said.

"We have an apology for the first time, and that's important."

Mr Kelly called for further explanation of the letter's mention of an "apostolic visitation" of some Dioceses, and the pontiff's suggestion paedophile priests should answer before tribunals.

"Will anybody be made accountable? It would appear so from my reading of what the Pope is saying, so that's positive but we need clarification," he added.