Since May, 2015, Pope Francis has spoken, repeatedly, of the words “please, thank you, and sorry” as being essential to repairing and reinforcing bonds. The phrase “I’m sorry” in particular, he said, is the one which, when lacking, causes small cracks in relationships to become larger to the point that they become deep trenches.
Apparently, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, did not get the memo.
This became clear, recently, when Benedict addressed allegations that he disregarded the reports of four survivors of clergy sexual abuse when he was Archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982. While denying that he mishandled those accusations, he acknowledged his failure to assist those victims when they sought his help. In asking for clemency, he added: “I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic Church. All the greater is my pain for the abuses and the errors that occurred in those different places during the time of my mandate.”
It is worth pointing out that Benedict’s comments lack the simple phrase … I’m sorry … that his successor, Francis, held as key to healing and mending brokenness. This being so, one is left to wonder … don’t these guys talk to each other?
Benedict’s lack of personal remorse met with swift reaction. In New York, for example, Robert Hoatson, a priest for 45 years and co-founder of Road to Recovery, demonstrated in front of Archdiocesan offices carrying signs that read: “Pope Benedict: A Moral Failure. Like All Church Leaders.” When interviewed, he spoke for many disaffected Catholics in asserting that: “The Church is never going to change. It’s corrupt to the core, from the Vatican down to New York City.”
To apologize, one needs to honestly hear what happened from the other person’s point of view and how it affected them. But those who believe the world revolves around them like, for example, the Princes of the Church, tend not to be interested in listening to others, particularly if they are being accused of doing something wrong.
Having, over the course of many years, learned this painful lesson, victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy have, long since, abandoned hope of receiving a sincere and meaningful apology from hierarchy of the Church.
And as the recent intransigence from the upper reaches of the Vatican reveals, this is unlikely to change any time soon.