CBS ‘Early Show’: Pope’s Comments on Sex Abuse ‘Not Enough’

NewsBusters.org - Media Research CenterOn Wednesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Maggie Rodriguez talked to liberal priest, Fr. Thomas Reese, who also appeared on Monday’s show, and asked about the sex abuse scandals in the American Catholic Church as well as the comments of Pope Benedict XVI regarding the issue: "We heard from some victims' families that a mea culpa is not enough. That merely saying you're "deeply ashamed" is not enough. Do you think anything more will come of this?"

This question followed a report by correspondent Jeff Glor, who began by declaring:

It's believed the Pope could address the issue even further on his visit, either here in Washington or in New York, but some are wondering, why not Boston? For Gary Bergeron, the Pope not going to Boston on this trip is like saying the Pope's not Catholic. It just doesn't make sense... Bergeron was abused and still lives in New England, the epicenter of the scandal.

Glor also played clips of Bergeron, who said of the Pope: "I think it's an opportunity he missed...I would hold out my hand to him so that he could shake it, understand that I'm not the demon here." Of course, the Pope has not "demonized" any victims of abuse, but Glor still decided to use the quote for his report. Despite Rodriguez’s claim that "not enough" had been done, Bergeron actually helped win an $85 million dollar lawsuit for church abuse victims and met personally with Vatican officials.

Glor went on to suggest that as Cardinal, the Pope helped cover up the scandals: "Benedict himself, before becoming Pope, wrote a controversial letter saying details of the internal investigation should be kept quiet."

Glor concluded his report this way:

The scandal has cost the Church $2 billion in settlements, a moral crisis that became a fiscal crisis. A crisis Benedict is now addressing. Though, some survivors feel it's too little and too late. There are sporadic protests scheduled on this trip. It's not clear at this point if Benedict will be meeting with any victims.

Rodriguez followed with her discussion with Fr. Reese. After she claimed the Pope’s comments about the scandals were "not enough," Reese responded: "After all, he's the one who signed the papers that threw priests out of the priesthood who had been involved in abuse" However, Rodriguez immediately followed by wondering if a change in church doctrine would be needed: "But anything further, changing Canon Law, anything substantive that will come of these comments made by the Pope?" Reese pointed out that: "Well, the church law in the United States is that any priest involved in any kind of abuse is out of the priesthood. He's never going to be in ministry again."

Rodriguez’s next question showed Reese’s liberal stripes: "Father Reese, let me ask you, that issue and others have led to people distancing themselves from the Catholic Church. Especially younger generations. How do you begin to bring them back?" As part of his answer, Reese said something that would make Al Gore proud:

Well, I think we have to find a way of describing and preaching the Gospel in a way that is attractive and understandable to people in the 21st century...Pope Benedict, for example, has a very strong message on the environment and our need to be concerned about global warming. I think these things will be attractive to young people.

Rodriguez’s final question was: "Do you think that this Pope, who hasn't been a popular Pope as of yet, during his visit here, will help in that respect, attracting younger Catholics back to the Catholic Church?" Reese then pointed out: "Well, actually, the Pope has very high favorable ratings. A Pew Forum study found that 74% of Catholics have a favorable view of him. Only about 11% have unfavorable views. This is -- I mean, an American politician would kill for these kinds of statistics." Rodriguez then tried to modify her statement: "Yeah, but maybe, you know, he will become as popular as Pope John Paul was. That's -- I meant he's not like that in popularity, but maybe this visit will help in that regard."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:08AM SEGMENT:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: On the flight to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the sex scandal in the Catholic Church, saying that he was deeply ashamed. For more on that part of the story we turn now to "Early Show" National Correspondent Jeff Glor. He is at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Jeff, good morning.

JEFF GLOR: Maggie, good morning to you. It's believed the Pope could address the issue even further on his visit, either here in Washington or in New York, but some are wondering, why not Boston? For Gary Bergeron, the Pope not going to Boston on this trip is like saying the Pope's not Catholic. It just doesn't make sense.

GARY BERGERON: I think it's an opportunity he missed.

GLOR: Bergeron was abused and still lives in New England, the epicenter of the scandal. Even though Benedict has now made his most extensive remarks yet on the issue, saying he's "deeply ashamed," that it's caused "great suffering," he did so on a plane thousands of miles up and away. He won't be near Bergeron's hometown.

BERGERON: I would hold out my hand to him so that he could shake it, understand that I'm not the demon here.

GLOR: Now after the church sex scandal first came to light in Boston, thousands of victims across the country have gone public with their dark secrets.

JOHN ALLEN: There's no question that the sexual abuse crisis has been the deepest trauma in the life of the American Catholic Church in its more than 200 years of history.

GLOR: While some priests, like John Goegen, accused by more than 130 of abuse, were eventually sent to prison, survivors say their superiors were never held fully responsible. The former leader in Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law, landed in Rome in what's arguably an even more prestigious position. Benedict himself, before becoming Pope, wrote a controversial letter saying details of the internal investigation should be kept quiet.

ANN HAGAN WEBB: I'd like to see him fire most of the bishops in the United States, the people who passed these perpetrator priests around. They're even more to blame than the priests themselves as far as I'm concerned.

GLOR: The scandal has cost the Church $2 billion in settlements, a moral crisis that became a fiscal crisis. A crisis Benedict is now addressing. Though, some survivors feel it's too little and too late. There are sporadic protests scheduled on this trip. It's not clear at this point if Benedict will be meeting with any victims. Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: Jeff Glor, thank you very much. Also at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is Dr. Father Thomas Reese. He is a Fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, and he joins us to discuss this and other challenges facing the Church. Father Reese, good morning to you.

THOMAS REESE: Good morning.

RODRIGUEZ: We heard from some victims' families that a mea culpa is not enough. That merely saying you're "deeply ashamed" is not enough. Do you think anything more will come of this?

REESE: Well, I think that the segment you just showed shows that there is still a great amount of pain that has resulted from this terrible wound on the Church of the sexual abuse. I think that -- that we have to reach out and do as much as we can to heal those who have been hurt. It's a terrible tragedy for them. I think the Pope is going to come here. He's going to support what the bishops have done trying to make the church a safer place. After all, he's the one who signed the papers that threw priests out of the priesthood who had been involved in abuse, but, you know --

RODRIGUEZ: But anything further, changing Canon Law, anything substantive that will come of these comments made by the Pope?

REESE: Well, the church law in the United States is that any priest involved in any kind of abuse is out of the priesthood. He's never going to be in ministry again. The Church is also doing police background checks on volunteers and people who work with children. You know, the bishops were too slow in realizing the depth of this problem, but I think they've got their act together in terms of making the Church a safe place today.

RODRIGUEZ: Father Reese, let me ask you, that issue and others have led to people distancing themselves from the Catholic Church. Especially younger generations. How do you begin to bring them back?

REESE: Well, I think we have to find a way of describing and preaching the Gospel in a way that is attractive and understandable to people in the 21st century. I think that young people today have a great desire for spirituality. I think they're very attracted to the Church's teaching on social justice. Pope Benedict, for example, has a very strong message on the environment and our need to be concerned about global warming. I think these things will be attractive to young people.

RODRIGUEZ: Do you think that this Pope, who hasn't been a popular Pope as of yet, during his visit here, will help in that respect, attracting younger Catholics back to the Catholic Church?

REESE: Well, actually, the Pope has very high favorable ratings. A Pew Forum study found that 74% of Catholics have a favorable view of him. Only about 11% have unfavorable views. This is -- I mean, an American politician would kill for these kinds of statistics.

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, but maybe, you know, he will become as popular as Pope John Paul was. That's I meant he's not like that in popularity, but maybe this visit will help in that regard. Father Thomas Reese, thank you very much.

REESE: Well, I think that -- you're welcome.

RODRIGUEZ: Go ahead. No, you can go ahead and finish your thought.

REESE: Oh, yes. I think that his popularity will go up as a result of this visit. We find that a lot of Americans say they just don't know enough about him to make a judgment about him.

RODRIGUEZ: Alright, Father Thomas Reese, thank you so much.

REESE: You're welcome.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC