For Victims, Pope's Apology Falls Short

FILE - The Dec. 30, 2009 file photo shows Pope Benedict XVI during his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at The Vatican.
AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
In a letter read Sunday to Irish Catholics, Pope Benedict apologized to victims of child sex abuse by members of the clergy. But for many victims in Ireland and other countries, the pope's words rang hollow, as CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports.

At a time when his every word is being analyzed, Pope Benedict's message at his appearance in Rome Sunday was full of religious code but made no direct reference to the child abuse scandal now rocking the Catholic Church.

Instead he prayed for forgiveness, saying, "Trusting in His great mercy towards us, we humbly beg His forgiveness for our own failings."

But forgiveness was not on the minds of many of the faithful in Ireland where the Pope's open letter on child abuse in the Irish Church was read before congregations today.

The letter speaks of "shame and remorse" for the thousands of cases of abuse that have now been documented in Ireland. And it talks of "sinful and criminal acts," but it does not call for the resignation of those who committed the abuse - or those in the church hierarchy who covered it up.

"To us bishops, he says we admit that 'grave errors of judgment were made, and failures of leadership occurred,' which have 'seriously undermined our credibility and effectiveness,'" said Archbishop Sean Brady, head of Irish Catholic Church.

Archbishop Brady admits he himself made two children sign documents promising to keep the abuse they suffered secret. But he has so far not succumbed to calls for him to resign.

And it is resignations that are being demanded by people like Andrew Madden, who was molested repeatedly by a priest when he was a child.

"Most importantly the Pope has not acknowledged in any way the role of the Catholic Church in covering up the sexual abuse of children," Madden said.

The Church abuse scandal has now spread from Ireland right across Europe through the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and the Pope's home country of Germany, where abuse occurred while he was a bishop there. New allegations from South America have added to the earlier scandals that so unsettled the church in the U.S. and Canada.

And for many, the remorse being expressed in Rome is not enough.

  • Mark Phillips
    Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips is CBS News senior foreign correspondent, based in London.