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The Pope's failings

9/24/2010 1:25:00 PM
Mike Finnegan

This weekend CNN will air a documentary about the Pope’s involvement in clergy sexual abuse. What the Pope Knew debuts Saturday at 8 pm EST and runs again Saturday at 11 pm EST and Sunday at 8 pm and 11pm EST.

Until now most of the coverage about the Pope and his role in clergy sexual abuse has focused on individual cases. CNN’s documentary takes a much broader look at the Pope’s decisions when he was an Archbishop in Germany and when he was in charge of the Vatican’s department that was supposed to deal with clergy sexual abuse. More information about the documentary is available at CNN's belief Blog.


The Pope’s decisions and inaction in Germany and in Rome left many children at risk. Unfortunately even now as more and more about his role in clergy sexual abuse surfaces, the Pope has not taken any personal responsibility for his decisions. Rather he has issued vague apologies, most recently while he was in London. This is not enough for children in the Catholic Church and not enough to be a leader in child protection.

Surely, a person of his stature could open his heart and be an example of accountability and responsibility for his grave failings. If the Pope would take action to remove all of the priests and bishops who either molested children, or covered up for those who did, he would be celebrated for his courage and righteousness. To me, it seems an empty gesture for the leader of the Catholic Church to apologize for its transgressions, yet fail to fully expose the size and scope of the problem. Indeed, the Pope, like many in other walks of life, chooses to stonewall and obfuscate while the rest of the world watches in dismay.

On the other hand, in a true example of courage, the CNN documentary features a survivor who for decades tried to get answers and help from the Vatican. Terry Kohut was sexually abused at St. John’s School for the deaf as a child by Father Murphy and begged the Vatican to do something about Murphy. His pleas went unanswered, but he has not given up and is interviewed for the first time in the documentary.