Pope Benedict XVI celebrates mass; Heads to NY tomorrow...

Behind The News
April 17, 2008 12:43:57 PM PDT
So much for those who thought the Pope would avoid speaking about the priest child sex abuse scandal that has rocked the foundation of the Catholic Church in the U.S. Three days in this country and Pope Benedict XVI (that's 16th for those who forgot Roman Numerals) has addressed the topic three times.

Today in a baseball stadium in Washington where that sport is trying to deal with its own widespread scandal, the Pontiff once again scolded his own Bishops and priests for betraying the trust and lives of the young people who were sexually abused.

He also railed against the equally betraying behavior of church officials, Bishops especially, who refused to deal with the abuse. Instead, the abusing priests were transferred to other parishes, and Bishops carefully and intentionally ignored any wrongdoing.

Father Jim Martin, a Jesuit who has been our analyst this week on the air and who is the Associate Editor of America Magazine, a church publication, has been surprised the Pope has tackled so directly the biggest controversy facing the church.

But he acknowledges that, even in his directness, the Pope is likely ticking off both victims and arch conservatives within the church who cringe at the public mea culpa.

I would hardly pretend to be an expert on religion expert, and certainly not very knowledgeable about Catholicism, but it's not surprising to me the Pope addressed the sex abuse scandal. If his political goals for his organization are to create a stronger if smaller cadre of Catholics, more fervent with fewer internal polemics -- then solving this crisis is imperative for this 81-year-old Pope during his tenure.

And it has been a crisis -- $2 billion in lawsuit settlements to thousands of victims; and it's no coincidence that while that money has been doled out, parishes and Catholic-run schools have closed.

So, as not just the spiritual head of the church but also as the CEO, it's smart business to get all this behind, and move on -- financially and, in the vernacular of the Church, spiritually.

How many more times will he address the scandal? And will he end up meeting with the victims? That would send a huge signal as well.

We'll have the latest on the Pope's final day in Washington, tonight at 11.

The best tidbit from yesterday, according to Catholic insiders (who are at once abuzz and appalled) was what President Bush said to the Pope when the South Lawn festivities had concluded. That was awesome holy father, the President said.

One wonders what the two men said to each other in the Oval office, these two very different people. The Pope is, even his critics concede, one of the more intellectually curious Pontiffs in history. The President would not seem to rank among the most intellectually curious of U.S. Commanders in Chief. They talked about the Middle East, we know. Did they talk about the environment or the use of the military to solve problems? We just don't know. Both men are anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage. But they disagree on the death penalty. (Without engaging in a debate on either the death penalty or abortion -- it has always struck me as consistent for those against abortion to also be against the death penalty.) Interesting that the Supreme Court, during the Pope's visit, declared the use of lethal injections as legal and constitutional.

Tomorrow, the Pope arrives in New York. We'll have coverage of his arrival at JFK, and then Liz Cho and I will anchor the Pope's speech to the U.N., which we expect to start about 11:30 a.m.

Tonight we preview the enormous security in New York that will greet the Pontiff.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, at 11, along with Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast and Marvell Scott (in for Scott Clark) with the night's sports, including highlights from the Yankees-Red Sox game. I hope you can join Liz and me, tonight at 11.