Pope's apology to sex abuse victims genuine?

ROME -- Pope Francis' landmark meeting with victims of church sexual abuse this week has brought mixed reviews from survivors.

In a message one of the abuse victims he met at the Vatican called "heartfelt," Francis apologized, begged "forgiveness," and promised to take further action to ensure clergy members could not abuse young parishioners -- and if it did occur, that they'd be caught and held accountable.

He said the Church should "weep and make reparations" for what he termed the "despicable actions" of church members that he likened to "a sacrilegious cult."

"There is no place in the Church's ministry for those who commit these abuses," the pontiff told six abuse survivors. He also issued a new warning that bishops would be "held accountable," for any attempts to cover up abuse.

The Survivor's Network for Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) denounced the meeting as nothing more than a "public relations" stunt.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi disagreed.

"For the person that understands and sees and listens to the Pope and what he is doing, it is totally clear that it was absolutely not a public relations event," said Lombardi.

Irish campaigner Marie Collins was at the private meeting, and she seemed to think Francis was being genuine.

"He wasn't just coming out with glib answers," she said. "You know, his responses were very relevant to what had been said to him, and very strong.''

Collins serves on a panel established by Francis to help determine the best way for the Church to address the scandals which have marred its image around the world.

According to a recent CBS News poll, Catholics are divided on how Francis is dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse by priests: 44 percent think he is doing an excellent or good job on this, while 46 percent say he is doing a fair or poor job.

The Vatican claims that over the past 10 years it has investigated almost 3,500 credible accusations of abuse, defrocked 848 priests for their actions while handing out more than 2,500 lesser punishments.

Law suits related to the sex abuse scandal have cost the U.S. Catholic Church a whopping $2.5 billion already.

As for the human cost, Pope Francis said Tuesday the "execrable acts of abuse" have left "lifelong scars."

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