Papal Surprise

Today, without fanfare and behind closed doors, Pope Benedict XVI met with victims of sexual abuse by priests–something John Paul II never did.

Michael Paulson, who reported much of the scandal from Boston, reports on this development in the Boston Globe.

Pope Benedict XVI, in a dramatic move likely to alter forever the image of his pontificate, met this afternoon with five victims of clergy sexual abuse from Boston.

The private meeting, which was first reported by the Globe this afternoon and has since been confirmed by the Vatican, was brokered by Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston.

The meeting took place at the papal nunciature, which is the home of the pope’s ambassador to the United States. The meeting did not appear on the pope’s schedule, but took place during the window between a Mass this morning at Nationals Park and a talk that he is to deliver later this afternoon to Catholic educators gathered at Catholic University of America.

A papal spokesman told the Associated Press that O’Malley presented the pontiff with a notebook listing the names of more than 1,000 abuse victims from the Boston archdiocese.

The meeting between a pope and abuse victims is a huge development in the clergy sexual abuse crisis that has roiled the Catholic Church since 2002, when the Globe started publishing a series of stories about abuse by priests. The pope at the time, John Paul II, did not visit the United States after the crisis broke — he traveled to Canada and Mexico but flew over the United States without stopping in 2002 — and neither he nor Benedict is known to have met with abuse survivors prior to today, despite repeated requests from victims.

O’Malley facilitated the visit with victims after the pope declined his repeated entreaties to visit Boston.

See also Commonweal, Rod Dreher, and John Allen.

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