Pope: Church feels 'shame and regret' for abuse
October 18th, 2010
08:32 AM ET

Pope: Church feels 'shame and regret' for abuse

Catholic priests who sexually abused children "disfigured their ministry" and caused the Catholic Church "profound shame and regret," Pope Benedict XVI wrote Monday, in one of his strongest statements to date on the scandal facing the Vatican. "

What has happened should make us all the more watchful and attentive," the pope wrote in an open letter to men studying to be priests.

But he insisted that it is still good to become a priest and that celibacy still "makes sense."

"Even the most reprehensible abuse cannot discredit the priestly mission, which remains great and pure," he said.

Campaigners for victims of abuse by priests immediately rejected the  statement as "minimizing" and "mischaracterizing" the crisis, which has seen  thousands of victims come forward from across western Europe and the United  States.

"The pope's pronouncements on abuse are getting worse, not better," said  Barbara Dorris of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

"Using words like 'recently' falsely suggests clergy sex crimes and  cover-ups are a relatively new problem. They are not," she said in a statement.

"Using the past tense falsely suggests such crimes and cover ups are  behind us. They are not," she said.

"Using words that ignore the stunning recklessness, callousness and  deceit by bishops falsely suggest that bishops are innocent in this mess. They  are not," she said.

"Tragically, while kids are being molested and crimes are being  concealed, the pope deliberately mischaracterizes and minimizes the wrongdoing  of the church hierarchy, while passively sitting  back waiting for the scandal to explode in yet another nation somewhere on the globe," she said.

Benedict in his letter defended priestly celibacy, which some have said is a reason some priests abuse children.

"All of us know exemplary priests, men shaped by their faith, who bear  witness that one can attain to an authentic, pure and mature humanity in this  state and specifically in the life of celibacy," he said.

He urged new priests "to practice the fundamental human virtues, with  your gaze fixed on the God who has revealed himself in Christ, and to let  yourselves be purified by him ever anew."

Three independent investigations have been launched into the abuse of  children by priests in Ireland, while police raided the headquarters of the  Catholic Church in Belgium and a church-government working group has been set  up to tackle the problem in the pope's native Germany.

There have also been accusations of abuse in the United States, Italy,  the Netherlands, and other countries.

Critics say the problem is not only the abuse itself, but the cover-up of  the problem by bishops.

Read the Pope's letter here.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Benedict XVI • Sex abuse

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