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June 10th, 2010
06:29 AM ET

How should the pope address sex abuse scandal?

Thousands of priests from around the globe have gathered in Rome this week to mark the end of the Vatican's Year for Priests, and Pope Benedict XVI is expected to address the church sex abuse scandal during the event.

We've asked five crisis communication experts to give their advice on how the pope should handle the issue.

- Associate Producer

Filed under: Bishops • Catholic Church • Pope Benedict XVI

soundoff (123 Responses)
  1. Recovered

    The Pope should experience the horror the victims did first hand. Doesn't the Bible spout the whole "Eye for an eye" of justice. Let him become a victim. I bet the church changes its stance then.

    June 10, 2010 at 10:43 am |
  2. Carlos Henrique

    I grew up protestant, converted to catholicism (my choice) in my late teens. I've met some wonderful priests over the years, including one who was accused of such actions but was proven to be innocent. (Proven innocent, not released for lack of evidence.) That said, I do not hide my head in the sand, this is real, it is happening, it has happened.

    The guilty should be punished, in accordance to the laws of the land. Period. Those hiding it should admit their fault, their egregious error. Period. It cannot be condoned.

    I do disagree with those calling this the worst crime against humanity possible. So soon after the Nazi's near-extermination of the jews, and with so many instances in the past 60 years of widespread genocide, I cannot agree with the hyperbole there. I neither condone nor diminish the crimes and sins here, I merely put it into perspective. You cannot look at the murder of millions of people, the elimination of thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of families by the Nazis alone, and then compare this to that on equal level. Is it devastating to those involved, and their friends and families? Absolutely. I state this as a victim of abuse myself, and two sisters were also abused by a so-called "family friend". I understand the pain that is associated, but hyperbole will not help make the case stronger.

    The Pope is in an untenable situation. Should he issue the broad mea culpa being requested by so many, he could likely destroy the church on a financial basis. The lawsuits that would abound (a number of them legitimately) could cost billions in damages awarded, harming the future of the church, the future of catholicism. It would also present a permanent base for so many to construct and perpetrate future chuch endeavors, endeavors that could aid thousands or even millions of people.

    All of that said, the Pope cannot allow finances to dictate behavior. That creates a double standard, and a standard that is very much not correct in the eyes of God, and he has to know this. The church needs to come forward, and be entirely open, honest, and transparent. Let's go back to the standard saying here, "What Would Jesus Do?" He beat the merchants from making His Father's house a house of profiting at the expense of the faithful, including and especially the poor. If the decisions here are at all financial in basis, even in the slightest part, it is an even greater sin than before.

    June 10, 2010 at 10:41 am |
    • Eric G.

      Speaking of Nazi's and the catholic church...... How many Nazi's were excommunicated from the catholic church? One. Joseph Goebbels was the only Nazi officially excommunicated. Any idea why? Because he married a Protestant. The cover up of the abuse cases is just another example of how religious belief is used to justify horrific crimes against humanity. This goes beyond the catholic church. All religion is used to control. It is a concept that is no longer usefull to humanity and is now being called out for what it really is.

      June 10, 2010 at 11:02 am |
    • brendie

      The Catholic religion requires CONFESSION of sins. What happened in the church – the ABUSE and the COVER-UP are sins. The Pope as head of that church must be the one to confess – Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee – these words and through my fault – mea culpa must be heard!

      June 10, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
    • brendie

      And, so what if a mea culpa costs money and even bankrupts the church – perhaps, without the pomp, it will return to its roots.

      June 10, 2010 at 12:09 pm |
  3. chris

    Pope Benedict is "guilty" of taking confessions from his own priests and keeping them confidential. If he does it for any human being is he not supposed to do it for his own priests? I do not envy his position at all, and I am just saying there needs to be blame for the perpetrators of these crimes, not a holy man who IS dedicated to God and defeating sin on earth.

    June 10, 2010 at 10:34 am |
    • James White

      The so called holy man you talk about has ran the Vatican for years when JP2 was ill. Benedict was the one who engineered his own election as Pope. He was the one who invited Cardinal Law to go to Rome after being run out of Boston. He was the one who was in the Youth Nazi Group. He was the one who offended Jews, Muslims, women and gays. He is an evil man, not a holy man.

      June 10, 2010 at 11:10 am |
  4. ac

    Oh..that's easy-BLAME BUSH.
    It was Bush's fault, and it is Bush's fault, and it is going to be Bush's fault!

    June 10, 2010 at 10:28 am |
  5. Andrew

    A little extreme wouldn't you say? While I am an Atheist, I am not nieve enough to believe that Catholisism, or for that matter, any of the major religions will be abolished anytime in the near future. And even if they were, how would killing the leader of said religion do anything except degrade the rest of us?

    June 10, 2010 at 10:24 am |
  6. Moe Smith

    It's quite simple... Crucify the guilty.

    June 10, 2010 at 10:24 am |
  7. JesusIsLord

    Sincerely Compare the Word of God the Holy Bible with any religion and wake up from your spiritual slumber.
    Jesus Christ isn't a religion ,...He is Creator God and Savior we need to have sincere intimate personal relationship with. Adam & Eve WALKED with God in the Garden of Eden before the fall [First Book & Chapters of the Bible called Genesis], they didn't have 'religion/systems/isms/schisms/dogmas/traditions'.

    June 10, 2010 at 10:23 am |
    • Bonnie

      Please read John, chapter five (5) where Jesus explains in clear detail, that he is NOT Almighty God, the Creator. Then also please see 1st John 5:5 (Just before Revelation (Apocalypse). "Who is the one that conquers the world but he who has faith that Jesus is the SON of God?" Verse 10, ".... The person not having faith in God has made Him a liar, because he has not put faith in the witness given, which God as witness has given concerning His SON." See also Matthew 3:17, "This is my beloved SON, in whom I am well pleased." Please study God's own word so that you will know who God really is, and who Jesus really is, or else when Jesus returns, he and His Father will not know you. This would be a tragedy.

      June 10, 2010 at 11:28 am |
    • Chester

      And what the hell does that have to do with your supposed holy men molesting children?

      June 10, 2010 at 11:40 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Hello, JesusIsLord,
      You may not like the word ‘religion’ but that does not mean that religion doesn’t have meaning. When you reject ‘religion’ you have one foot in the Atheist’s door.

      Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We have a relationship with Him when we believe in Him [ but so does satan]; so to be unlike satan once we believe we must do the Father’s will and that is how the relationship becomes personal and intimate. Just ‘believing’ puts you in the same boat as satan.

      So you want to say that Adam and Eve did not have religion, systems, schisms, dogmas, or traditions…well, consider their relationship with God as their religion, they had a system of rules, which they broke—schism, and the dogmas and Traditions grew as God continued to have relationships with His people; He has a specific plan and He has specific commands for our GOOD. But he also gave us freewill which many use to pull away from LOVE HIMSELF and choose to go their own way.

      When people get bold and want to do things their way, not Jesus Christ’s Way, they pull away from Him. If they do not believe the whole Bible—wanting to toss out Books, change verse meanings, etc., they are ‘picking and choosing’ and not accepting All of Jesus Christ—dividing Him up into how many different ecclesial communities? If we do not accept Jesus Christ—He is rejected when we decide to do things our way not His Way—and that means rejecting His Church and His Word.

      Jesus Christ gave us His Church which is without stain or wrinkle or any such thing. The Church is the pillar and foundation of Truth. But with freewill you can reject the Church and the Truth.

      June 10, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
    • TodL

      I agree with you... not that Jesus is Lord (or that gods in general are anything but a wishful delusion) but that, regardless of what people believe in as far as deities, religion is the real evil. Here's a fun parable to that effect:

      God and the devil were walking down a path one day when God spotted something sparkling by the side of the path. He picked it up and held it in the palm of his hand.

      "Ah, Truth," he said.

      "Here, give it to me," the devil said. "I'll organize it."

      June 10, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
  8. zeronovelty

    persons who abuse the power and trust they are given, only to hide behind their religion disgust me. it is my belief that their punishment should be more severe than that of a lay person commiting the same crime, as the abuse of trust should never be condoned, lest we permit others' in any field to not worry about their own mistrusts, but only the crime in general.
    we put persons into positions of power because our faith in them is(ideally) unwavering and paramount to their performance. when this is abused, the faith is as well. protecting them only allows for the loss of faith to leak onto those who are protecting the offenders, and dismissing the impairment that the offended has and will endure, perhaps for the rest of their lives. if God existed to the measure that these "faithful" believe, he would turn his back on you with his own disgust. buying an out-of-court settlement is certainly a well-paved road to whatever level of your hell you fear the most, and strips you of your closeness to God.
    if you need to lay with someone to satisfy your carnal desires, Jesus kept one close to him who was paid for it, and who (likely) had no false illusions about the relationship, so spend your money and your trust will remain intact, as well, your relationship with your god.

    June 10, 2010 at 10:15 am |
  9. AAMAN21

    This church will never turn on its own bishops and cardinals. Why, because the persons at the top are not real men. When pope benedict XVI gave his mea culpa to the Irish church, did he mention the sins of his church's mismanagement? Did he name names of bishops and cardinals who covered this up. Did he ask for resignations? Why no, but the church hierarchy did a good job to make sure he was not effected by the pedophile priest who was under his jurisdiction when he was bishop / cardinal in Germany. The 5 crisis consultants' comments were excellent especially Mr Bernstein and Mr. Walker's. Sadly the advise will not be heard, the ones at the top of the vatican are cowards including joe ratsinger / benedict xvi. How can you act like a man when you and all your advisors are cowards.

    June 10, 2010 at 10:13 am |
    • brendie

      Amen, brother!

      June 10, 2010 at 11:59 am |
  10. Zeus

    How about byt NOT hiding it next time... that's a start. How about some over-sight for priests with kids? How about allowing married men and women to be priests?

    This whole conversation is ridiculous, there is no place for celibacy in the 21st century.

    June 10, 2010 at 10:03 am |
  11. FLV

    real shame that they can commit these types of crimes and be protected by the church. if it was any other organization they would be in jail.

    June 10, 2010 at 10:00 am |
    • Why Me

      Amen, why ARE they above the law, isn't this supposed to be America where everyone is held accountable to the law equally no matter how much money or power they have? Oh I forgot, America is DEAD thanks to banks, corporations, and politicians all being bestest friends hell bent on screwing us all.

      June 10, 2010 at 11:09 am |
  12. ann

    I agree with TJ Walker.
    I also know that for the catholic churches all over the world abuse is nothing new. It's been going on for centuries.There is something fundamentaly wrong with the catholic church.
    They need to address these issues to stop these abuses or at least make them less prevalent. The casualness with which these accusations have been met with by the catholic church speaks volumes.
    There is something wrong with a society as unbalanced as the vatican.
    I was raised Roman Catholic. I was baptised confirmed I have recieved all but two sacraments. I no longer attend church. This has nothing to do with my faith in God and everything to do with my dissapointment in the church. I also feel I have nothing in common with a man who has never known the greatness of having a spouse and a family. The real struggles to keep it going and the commitment to get through the problems as they come. The wisdom to know when to let it all go and just enjoy having each other. Marriage is tough, half of them fail. Maybe because half of us go into them without truly knowing ourselves and what we require in a mate. A priest does'nt even get to think about choosing. We are all their children or at least thats what we were taught as catholics. If this is the case them I come from an abusive home. How do we heal?

    June 10, 2010 at 9:58 am |
  13. Mtka

    Punish the pedophiles like the criminals they are.

    June 10, 2010 at 9:49 am |
  14. Joe G

    How should every other church in the world handle abuse? Don't be so niave to thing this is only a Catholic problem. Open your eyes. Search google "bible church abuse" whatever church you type in you'll get hits. It's happening everywhere. People that abuse children need to face consequences and not be sheltered. Open your eyes to the real world and stop letting this tunnel vision world the news paints for you control your thoughts. BLIND!

    June 10, 2010 at 9:48 am |
    • Todd

      The catholic church is by far the worst. This scandal has been going on for centuries. you can thank the internet for finally bringing it to light. Victims can now talk and compare notes, instead of assuming they are the only ones.

      Even if other religions are worse (and that point is debatable), that doesn't make it ok for the catholic church. Anyone who donates a dime to that church would be better off giving it to Madoff.

      June 10, 2010 at 10:16 am |
    • mitchyj

      No one is saying it's only a Catholic problem. But statistics seem to indicate it is much more widespread within the church.
      For God's sake, let the guys get married.

      June 10, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
  15. Saved_By Grace

    He should hand them immediately over to the authorities and let them be prosecuted instead of hiding them and their sins so that they may continue to abuse children over and over again.

    June 10, 2010 at 9:48 am |
  16. Jonathan

    here's an idea the Catholic church should try...how about using the Bible and see how Jehovah God would handle the matter!!!!

    1Cor 5:9-13 "In my letter I wrote YOU to quit mixing in company with fornicators, not [meaning] entirely with the fornicators of this world or the greedy persons and extortioners or idolaters. Otherwise, YOU would actually have to get out of the world. But now I am writing YOU to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man. For what do I have to do with judging those outside? Do YOU not judge those inside, while God judges those outside? “Remove the wicked [man] from among yourselves.”

    June 10, 2010 at 9:47 am |
    • jbk88

      And witness' shouldn't mingle in the devils government 😉

      June 10, 2010 at 9:50 am |
    • Bonnie

      Thank you, Jonathan, for providing Go's word on the matter. His law prevails over man's.

      June 10, 2010 at 11:08 am |
    • Pioneer4life

      False relgions end is near!!!!!!!!

      June 10, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
    • Kris

      You pretty much said it all.

      Brendie, WHY would you love a church whose leader has allowed these b's to get away with their deeds? God will hold him as much accountable as he will these less than poor excuses for men...The Pope perfect? NOT!

      June 10, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
    • paul

      Theres the Divine Mercy for that and defeats your judgement and anyone elses.

      June 10, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
    • Ridgeling

      JWs elders aren't much better......silentlambs.org

      June 10, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
    • lucre

      that's just what I think

      June 11, 2010 at 12:50 am |
  17. Sybaris

    The leader of an organization founded on legends and myths is going to tell people who have psychological disorders to behave themselves? Right.

    June 10, 2010 at 9:43 am |
    • Burt

      Makes complete sense, doesn't it?

      June 10, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  18. tom

    If you are a menber of the catholic church, obey the rules, or get out if you do'nt like it.
    The church is for millions, not for you alone.

    June 10, 2010 at 9:27 am |
    • jbk88

      So if my child s abused by a Catholic priest I should obey the rules and act like the stunt never happened?

      June 10, 2010 at 9:42 am |
    • Todd

      Maybe the church should obey it's own rules first before you try preaching to laymen.

      June 10, 2010 at 10:13 am |
    • Mike

      I think Tom is referring to the priests who didn't obey the rules and abused children. There is no rule that you are to remain silent on abuse, on the contrary, we are to report it immediately.

      June 10, 2010 at 11:13 am |
    • paul

      Newsweek asked: what would Mary (Our Blessed Mother ) do? I feel sorry for the pope when i refer to Mathew 18:6,

      "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. " So many abuse children have turned their away on the church for this reason. WOA to the priest that abused them.

      Also rememeber what St. Faustina said about sin againist the tongue in her the dairy of the Divine Mercy that Our Lord instructed her to write. I hope the Catholic Church takes this into account and uses their word carefully.

      June 10, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
    • Arthur Baselice

      Who are you ? A a spokeperson for the 'pope' or is this just your opinion ?

      September 27, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
  19. anthony

    the pope has on a peach hat.

    June 10, 2010 at 9:21 am |
    • Kevin

      Why do they wear dresses. Old youth sucking vampires.

      June 10, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
  20. Petel2

    They should be arrested and convicted for committing the worst crimes against humanity, against small children no less.

    The world governments should be handling this, not the church. The church is the criminal.

    June 10, 2010 at 7:35 am |
    • Moe Smith

      the PEOPLE should handle it... not the government... you honestly believe that the gov't isnt influenced by the church?

      Crucify the guilty. the punishment is most definitely fitting.

      June 10, 2010 at 10:26 am |
    • Jude

      I agree with Petel2. And the Pope, should he not serve a sentence? His neglect is a sin.

      June 10, 2010 at 11:20 am |
    • debbie

      Yes, abusing children i definitely a sin but it's also A CRIME, and all criminals, although forgiven, need to pay their debt to society for the abuse. Also, the Catholic Church should quit wearing attire that was cute in the 11th century and move on to the 21st century and also Priests should be allowed to get married and Nuns should be allowed to be priests. HELLO!

      June 10, 2010 at 11:44 am |
    • JustMe

      I think the only reasonable solution is to hand over thier robes and dismantle the entire catholic church. Obviously these type of atrocities have been occuring for decades and likely, centuries. We would never know though, since the churches approach to dealing with it is to sweep it under the rug. Enough hiding. Enough lying. And for the sweet sake of Jesus Christ, enough hurting our children.

      June 10, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
    • nachooooo libre

      I agree with petel2 ... its been going on forever... at least 10,000 priests have been convicted.... the church has paid out over 3 billion in out of court settlements.... and it will be seen that the pope has been concealing these attrocities for year.

      June 10, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
    • JimK

      The pope's response should be a massive reorganization of the church, probably including the end of priestly celibacy. And at this point the reorganization should be overseen by an independent, non-catholic organization that will ensure that the serious abuses that are taking place today are not repeated. It's bad enough that there was sexual abuse, but that the church hid it for many years is inexcusable. Probably an independent legal organization should also go in and determine who should be sent to jail for a very long period of time.

      June 23, 2010 at 2:03 am |
    • Debra

      This is a criminal case and needs to be handled in the secular courts. Period. Those convicted should go to prison, just as other pedophiles and enablers of pedophilia do. He is no different just because he wears a stupid hat and a bunch of low IQ people think he's a channel to a sky fairy.

      September 24, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.