CNN's Kyra Phillips completely got it wrong on Friday's Newsroom as she reported on Pope Benedict XVI's latest apology for the priestly sex abuse scandal. Even after she reported that Pope was "begging for forgiveness," Phillips repeatedly claimed that "there are two simple words we haven't heard: I'm sorry." The Pope has actually used those words and has made multiple apologies.
The CNN anchor led the 9 am Eastern hour with the pontiff's request for forgiveness, which he made at a Mass in St. Peter's Square to close out the Catholic Church's Year for Priests, which began on June 19, 2009 and ends June 19 this year: "Here's what we're working on right now. Sex abuse in the Catholic Church- the Holy Father begs forgiveness, promises never again. But why is it that being Pope means never having to say, I'm sorry." Despite the continuing the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico and other top stories, Phillips highlighted the Pope's comments, along with the teenager stranded at sea and the opening of the World Cup in South Africa.
After her promos for those three stories, the anchor introduced a live report from CNN correspondent Paula Newton and included a clip from Benedict XVI's homily:
PHILLIPS: We begin with Pope Benedict XVI is begging for forgiveness. Today, he told thousands of his followers gathered at the Vatican that he will never allow priests to abuse children ever again. But is this plea for forgiveness enough? Well, not for critics. Here's what the Pope said.
POPE BENEDICT XVI (through translator): We too insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again. And that in admitting men to priestly ministry and in their formation, we'll do everything we can to weigh the authenticity of their vocation.
PHILLIPS: Okay. As you just heard, the Pope is asking for forgiveness, but still, there are two simple words we haven't heard: I'm sorry.
CNN's Paula Newton, live in Rome- so Paula, why can't the Pope just say, I'm sorry for this global sex scandal?
Actually, Kyra, Benedict XVI did use those "two simple words" in his March 19 pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland, and added an extra word when he directly addressed those who were abused by priests: "You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured....It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel." Moreover, isn't "begging for forgiveness" another way of saying "sorry"? The Pope also met with some of the victims of abuse during his April 2008 visit to the U.S., and addressed the scandal during a homily in New York City. Later that year, he apologized again, this time for the sex abuse in Australia while he visited that country.
Phillips's colleague Jessica Yellin made the same false claim nearly two months earlier during a April 16 segment. Yellin asked, "Why is he [the Pope] having such a hard time saying he's sorry?"
Newton then compounded Phillips's falsehood by answering, "Centuries of theology says that he can't. A very formal mea culpa was really not going to happen here, Kyra, although that's what victims' groups said that they wanted." She spent the rest of the report delivering the talking points of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP):
NEWTON: You know, in listening to what the Pope said, victims' groups we spokes to said- look, they were gratified that at least he was speaking about it openly. And he said- he asked for forgiveness in a way that he has done privately, but not so publicly, in front of the audience of priests the way he did.
But, you know, I spoke with a Barbara Doris, of the survivors' network SNAP, and she was quite critical. I want you to listen to this, Kyra. She said to me, ‘This was not very meaningful without the reform. The words ring hollow. It's like I slapped you, I say I'm sorry, and I continue to slap you.’ Her bottom line, Kyra: not one child is any safer today because of those words. Her point is that reform- true reform at the Vatican has not been started. What she wanted to hear was the Pope address- say I'm sorry, do the mea culpa, which would have been historical, and then also, tell priests- look, if you know of anyone who has abused children around the world, turn them in right now, whether it was in the past or going on right now. Beyond that, they believe the Vatican has a corrupt bureaucracy, and they want that reformed. They say the Pope is a long way from doing that. Kyra?
PHILLIPS: Corruption that has to be dealt with- Paula Newton, thanks.
Phillips has made no secret that she supports left-wing changes to the Catholic Church. During a March 26, 2010 segment, she brought on three heterodox Christians who advocate the acceptance of homosexual behavior and the ordination of women without anyone from the opposing side and endorsed their agenda: "I think all three of you need to head to the Vatican and institute some change." The anchor brought back two of those guests nearly a month later on April 21.