A news video yesterday showed the Pope entering Westminster Abbey during his visit to Britain. In the background a crowd was booing and placards were being waved decrying his visit, as well as decrying Benedict as a person. Certainly an unusual welcome.
The brief visit of the Pope to England is bringing mixed results for the Catholic Church. While not the first visit to England of a Pope since the English church split off centuries ago (John Paul II made a visit), this is treated as a “state” visit, and he was welcomed by the Queen and by the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England, and figurative head of the Anglican Church in Canada, and Episcopal Church in the US.
It was anticipated that there would be reaction on the issue of sexual abuse by priests, and the crowds did not disappoint. The abuse is a scandal that has ripped away at the reputation of the Catholic Church, and will continue to do so well into the future. In his unfortunately quiet, halting, and often poorly-stressed English, the Pope apologized for the damage done in the past. It seemed to fall on deaf ears, since many regard the past and even present reaction of the church to the crimes as being almost as bad as the crimes themselves, and feel the church has fallen far short in the exposure, admission, and punishment of the guilty. A shadow hangs over Benedict himself, as he has been accused of at least dragging his feet, if not contributing to cover-ups and participating in the too common quick relocation of clerics accused of abuse. Some articles suggest that it is only his role as Pope that keeps him from being drawn into current investigations of church response.