On different levels, Pope Benedict XVI is making efforts. During his U.S. trip, Benedict XVI seeks damage control in the sexual abuse scandal that has deeply shaken the Catholic Church in recent years. In his public addresses in Washington, he repeatedly expressed deep shame at this aberration by Catholic clerics. On Thursday afternoon, the Holy Father held a surprise meeting with a group of victims of sexual abuse. – On the reactions in the country, listen to an interview with the USA expert Ferdinand Oertel.
In the run-up such a meeting had been loudly demanded, but the Vatican had always rejected it. However, it did not become a vocal conference or demonstration that could have been politically appropriated. It remained a silent, moving, secret meeting.The pope's meeting with five or six adult men and women from Boston – where the nationwide scandal began in 2002 – lasted nearly half an hour. The Vatican did not provide information about this until the meeting was over, and confined itself to a sober description. The Pope and the victims met in the chapel of the nunciature for a silent prayer, then they prayed an Our Father and a Hail Mary together.Afterward, each participant described their harrowing experiences to the pope. Benedict XVI. listened attentively, found "words of encouragement and hope," as the official communique noted. One participant had tears in his eyes, a Vatican spokesman reported afterwards. The pope had promised to pray for the intentions of all victims and their families. Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who accompanied the group, presented the pope with a list of 1.000 first names – without last names, for privacy reasons, it was said. The last act of a strateg The secretly arranged meeting with abuse victims is the latest act so far in a strategy Benedict XVI has been using to. The Pope confronted the problem of abuse during his trip to the United States. It began even before the landing – with a clear statement at the so-called flying press conference. The approach shows how much the Vatican cares about a comprehensive clarification of the scandal and damage control – through which it hopes to regain lost trust in the church. The response to the pontiff's comments – which seem to overshadow the entire trip in external perception – foreshadow the extent of the scandal's impact on public opinion.And it was not yet the last word of the Pope. On Saturday he wants to speak again on the subject at the meeting with priests and religious: in front of the group from which the perpetrators came. And which, although the vast majority of clergy perform impeccable service, has since been subjected to many sweeping suspicions. Boston as an exit The abuse scandal began in Boston in 2002 and shook the Catholic Church in the United States with a nationwide wave of revelations. The scandal affected the reputation of the church in the country for years. In all, some 13.000 lawsuits filed, covering a 60-year period. At the height of the crisis in 2002, O'Malley's predecessor, Cardinal Bernard Law, was forced to resign as archbishop of Boston for covering up for pedophile clergy and transferring them to other parishes.Lawsuits and large compensation payments pushed several U.S. dioceses to the brink of solvency. The total cost, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is more than two billion dollars. With a Vatican-approved zero-tolerance policy for sexually delinquent church employees and new policies and controls on priest training, the bishops have since regained some of the credibility they lost. Demands on pedagogy Pope Benedict XVI. Calls for Catholic schools and universities in the U.S. to raise their profile. Meeting with teachers and faculty at Washington Catholic University on Thursday (local time), he stressed their duty and privilege to provide instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This calls for a "public witness" to the Christian message both inside and outside the classroom."Deviation from this guiding principle weakens the Catholic identity and, far from gaining freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual," Benedict XVI said. He called it indispensable to strengthen students' personal closeness to Christ and encourage them to participate in church life. Education, he said, must counter moral confusion and a fragmentation of knowledge.Pope urged U.S. Catholics to provide generous and sustained support to church educational institutions. There should be no social or economic barriers, he said: 'No child should be denied the right to an education in the faith, which in turn nourishes the soul of the nation'."No wedge between truth and faith The pope described the church's mission as a "diakonia of truth". In order for faith to be felt in Catholic educational institutions, it needs to be expressed in worship, prayer, charity and commitment to justice and ecology. Christian educators must free young people from the "barriers of positivism" and awaken their receptivity to God.The head of the church emphatically opposed "secularist ideologies" that seek to drive a wedge between truth and faith. This leads to equating truth with knowledge. A positivist mentality denies the foundations of faith and the need for moral guiding principles. Abandoning the moral categories of right and wrong paves the way for "cold pragmatic calculations of utility," the pope warned. Man is in danger of becoming a piece on an ideological chessboard. Academic freedom within the framework of Catholic teaching If nothing beyond the individual has definitive validity, the fulfillment of the individual's wishes becomes the ultimate standard, Benedict XVI emphasized.: "We are witnessing the hypothesis of the equivalence of every experience and a reluctance to admit imperfection and error."Particularly troubling, he called a "reduction of the precious and sensitive area of sexuality education to risk management".Catholic educators were urged by the head of the Church to emphasize the relationship between faith and all aspects of family and civic life. Addressing members of Catholic universities, he affirmed the "great value of academic freedom". But they could not invoke this principle when it came to positions that contradicted the faith and teachings of the church. Pope gives ancient Bible manuscript to University of Washington With a special gift, Pope Benedict XVI. The Catholic University of Washington reminded of its Christian sources. During his visit Thursday, he presented a faithful reproduction of the famous Bible papyrus "Bodmer VIII". The manuscript from the 3./4. century contains the oldest known text of the two New Testament letters of Peter.Along with the facsimile, the pope handed over a book with details of the text's genesis and a commentary by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini. This is the first scientific work of the renowned New Testament scholar after his resignation as Archbishop of Milan in 2002. An introduction on theological aspects was written by the current pope and then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.The original copy of the precious codex is in the Vatican Library; Paul VI. had received it as a gift from the Swiss Bodmer Foundation in 1969. A little over a year ago, Benedict XVI received.for his part, a prominent Bodmer papyrus as a gift from the USA. A private citizen had purchased the multi-million dollar "Bodmer 14/15," a kind of crown witness to the original Gospels of Luke and John, from the foundation and presented it to the pope – as an original, not a copy.