In an unexpected move, Pope Benedict XVI met with abuse victims from the Boston Archdiocese today. The Boston Globe is reporting this as breaking news.
The meeting took place at the papal nunciature, which is the home of the pope’s ambassador to the United States. The meeting did not appear on the pope’s schedule, but took place during the window between a Mass this morning at Nationals Park and a talk that he is to deliver later this afternoon to Catholic educators gathered at Catholic University of America.
The meeting between a pope and abuse victims is a huge development in the clergy sexual abuse crisis that has roiled the Catholic Church since 2002, when the Globe started publishing a series of stories about abuse by priests. The pope at the time, John Paul II, did not visit the United States after the crisis broke — he traveled to Canada and Mexico but flew over the United States without stopping in 2002 — and neither he nor Benedict is known to have met with abuse survivors prior to today, despite repeated requests from victims.
O’Malley facilitated the visit with victims after the pope declined his repeated entreaties to visit Boston. O’Malley had argued that the pope could best directly address the abuse issue in Boston, viewed by many as the epicenter of the crisis, but the Vatican cited the pope’s age and health in deciding to limit his travels to New York, which is the home of the United Nations, and Washington, which is the seat of the US government.
This is a welcome development, as a non-practicing Catholic who is looking for a reason to come back to the Church of my youth, this is a good step. Unfortunately I still hold bitterness about the church closings in Lowell, where the churches that my family, along with thousands of other French Canadian families help built were the ones shut down in Lowell, while the Irish parishes stayed open, irrespective of the financial health of those parishes. This goes a long way though. Who knows maybe I’ll even try to get to a mass this weekend. Although a 20 year confession would be pretty long to sit through…..