EDITORIAL FRIDAY 18.07.08. With the weekend still ahead of us it has to be said that the World Youth Day celebrations have been a tremendous success thus far. Predictions of a short fall in numbers have been shown to have been groundless, the visitors are having the experience of a lifetime, and Sydney is on display for the world to see in the most positive light. Over the weekend, it is expected that almost half a million people will gather at Randwick for the Papal Mass.
Throughout all of the cheerful and optimistic festivities however, one dark cloud has shadowed the event. That cloud is the continuing controversy over the history of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, and how the Church has dealt with it. In the past, the utmost efforts were devoted to preserving the reputation of the Church by sweeping such matters under the carpet. Greater efforts have been made in recent times to be more accountable, but it is clear that much discomfort remains.
The damage that has been done in the lives of the faithful is in some cases extreme. It is illustrated by the case of Anthony Foster’s daughters, both of whom were raped by a priest two decades ago. One has committed suicide, and the other turned to alcohol abuse which contributed to her becoming permanently disabled when struck by a car. Mr. Foster has flown from Scotland to seek an audience with the Pope.
Expectations have been raised that the Pope will make an apology to Australian victims of sexual abuse by the clergy, during his visit to Australia. So far he has commended Kevin Rudd for his official apology to indigenous Australians, and now those who have been affected by the abuse scandal are waiting for their turn.
This is the moment for the Pope to make a difference, and to help guide the Church towards genuine reconciliation by recognition of its own failures. It is unlikely that the Pope will grant Mr. Foster’s request for a personal audience, but if by some chance he did it would be a significant gesture of goodwill.