While on a plane to Portugal, Pope Benedict XVI issued his most interesting statement yet regarding the abuse scandal. "Today we see in a truly terrifying way that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from outside enemies, but is born of sin within the Church," the BBC reports Benedict saying. The pontiff also apparently talked more of the need for penance and "purification." Yet the BBC is careful to note that he also said, in their words, "forgiveness should not be a substitute for justice."

There are a couple of different ways to take this. Is the pope--perhaps for the first time--acknowledging the depth of the abuse problem, or is this another form of defense?

  • Persecution: 'I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means'  Blogger Melissa McEwan lays into the pope over his use of this word:
the Catholic Church is not being persecuted ... Political prisoners, women being raped as a weapon of war, trans men and women assaulted by bigots, gay teens bullied at school, children being abused by parents, ethnic minorities denied basic rights, people who don't conform to dominant religious faiths (including, perhaps, individual Catholics in some places), marginalized people all over the world--these are people who are persecuted. A vast international organization with its own country and immeasurable wealth and influence, whose members are shielded from the law, is not suffering from persecution. And the mere suggestion is almost incomprehensively vulgar.
  • An Admission?  Americablog's Chris Ryan has a different take: "He may actually be starting to appreciate the problem. Maybe."
  • An Admission Completely Devoid of Reference to Victims, points out Allison Kilkenny at True/Slant. The pope has only been talking, she argues, about how the scandal was bad for the church. She's not cutting the Vatican any slack.
Imagine if a rapist spoke this way during their day in court. "I recognize I have sinned, and this whole 'raping' thing has really hurt my rep, but I plan on praying a lot, which will hopefully make you forget all about this in about a year." Pretty stupid. Now, imagine if he said it while wearing a giant hat.
  • New Tone  The Christian Science Monitor's Josh Burek couldn't have taken a more different view than Kilkenny. He thinks the pope's remarks are a major step in the right direction. "The vigor of the Roman Catholic Church’s efforts to come to terms with past abuses and prevent future ones will determine the sincerity of the pope's statement," he acknowledges, but he thinks Benedict's "acceptance this weekend of the resignation of a German bishop at the heart of the scandal" is a good sign.