News / Europe

Child Abuse Scandal Divides Catholics, Church

Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Britain for a four-day State visit, as the Catholic Church is reeling in the wake of Child abuse scandals in Europe and America.  Victims of abuse by priests are calling for the Vatican to do more to protect children.

Fresh wave of scandals

Pope Benedict says he is shocked by revelations of child abuse and called it difficult to understand how this perversion of the priestly ministry was possible.

Belgium's Catholic Church revealed this month that hundreds of children had been abused by Roman Catholic priests dating back 50 years.  The abuses took place in nearly every diocese and Catholic school in Belgium.

The revelation of abuse is a latest in a series of scandals that has shaken the Catholic Church.  Barbara Blaine, with the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, says she was abused as a teenager by a priest in Toledo, in the U.S. state of Ohio.  She is in Britain calling for the church to do more about abuse.

"We are asking that the Pope and the Vatican establish a worldwide database with the names of all of the known and credibly accused predator priests," Blaine said. "We believe that this names should be made public, so that children can be protected today and so that other victims who have been hurt will find healing and comfort."

The Bishop of Westminster, John Arnold, says the church has strong procedures in place to combat abuse. "The Catholic Church in England and Wales and in Scotland has done a great deal in making a one-church approach to improve the situation and to introduce better practice regarding safeguarding," he said.

Church response

The head of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission, Bill Kilgallon, is in charge of responding to charges of abuse by clergy and others affiliated with the church. "We are very strongly of the view in this country that the statutory authorities have to be involved from the beginning so that there is not any opportunity for cover up," Kilgallon states.

Kilgallon does believe the church needs to respond better to victims of abuse. "I think our main area that we need to do better on in the Church of England and Wales is the way we deal with people who have been abused," he said.

No longer silenced

The founder of Britain's National Association for People Abused in Childhood, Peter Saunders, says he was abused by a Catholic priest as a child just a couple of kilometers from the London suburb where Pope Benedict will be staying.  He says the church continues to shroud abuse in secrecy. "They do not want adult survivors talking about it," he says, "because it shines a spotlight on their murky disgusting abusive world."

The pope is expected to meet privately with survivors of child abuse during his visit to Britain, but not with the main protest groups.   

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