Pope Holds Historic Meeting on Sex Abuse

Between mass at a Washington D.C. ball park and a speech at a university there, Pope Benedict XVI met with six victims of clergy sex abuse, an occasion many catholics are calling an historic milestone.

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STEWART: Hey, coming up on the show, what do we have?

MARTIN: Well, we're going to get caught up on the Pope's itinerary. He's been in D.C. the last few days, he's headed to New York today. There are barriers, there's all kinds of security up already. He's speaking at the United Nations. We're going to talk with Rocco Palmo from the blog Whispers in the Loggia to talk about all things papal.

STEWART: Also, another catch-up on the week in Iraq. It's where we take a step back, assess the war this week. It's a closer look at the Awakening Council. It's a Sunni militia that's been helping U.S. coalition forces fight against al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia. And Daniel Holloway. It's Friday, that means our friend, Dan Holloway, is here to talk about movies. New releases from Judd Apatow and Al Pacino. Plus we have the most awesome best song in the world from two radio sweethearts. Laura Conaway will tell us more about that.

MARTIN: A jam-packed hour, Mark Garrison is standing by in the BPP news booth to get us caught up on all the day's headlines. But first...

Mr. BERNIE McDADE (Victim of abuse): Something I've been waiting over seven years for. And I couldn't help tears come into my eyes. It was just, really, a moment I wasn't ready for.

STEWART: That was Bernie McDade, a victim of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest. Speaking to NPR after an historic meeting with Pope Benedict the XVI, McDade and four other victims from Boston met privately with the Pontiff yesterday for about 25 minutes in a small chapel in - out of a Washington, D.C. mansion, where the Vatican's U.S. ambassador lives. The meeting was not on the Pope's public schedule.

MARTIN: Each of the victims had time to sit with the Pope individually and, by all accounts, tears were shed. McDade told NPR what he told Benedict.

Mr. McDADE: Holy Father, I want you to know you have a cancer in your flock, and you need to correct that and I hope you do. You need to do more. And he acknowledged me with a nod, looked straight at me, and thanked me.

MARTIN: Olan Horne, another sex abuse victim who met with the Pontiff, says he thinks they got their point across.

Mr. OLAN HORNE (Victim of abuse): There was a loud bell rung and the sound was clear. And I think it's that kind of thing that, I don't think you can "un-ring" the bell once it's been rung. And I think there's been a certain tone to this whole thing for so long. I don't want to sound cliche. I don't want this to sound scripted or boxed. But there was a moment of hope.

STEWART: The surprise meeting was hailedd by activist groups that have been pushing the Vatican for years to do more to address the clergy abuse scandal. However, Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, says the Pope needs to do more to make this first step truly meaningful.

Ms. BARBARA BLAINE (President, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests): Only if it's followed up by action. Words alone are meaningless. We need action. Decisive action.

MARTIN: And Pope Benedict himself seemed to echo the sentiment that words alone wouldn't fix things. Earlier yesterday in his homily at Nationals Park, he had this to say.

Pope BENEDICT XVI: No words of man could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse.

STEWART: But the Pontiff stressed that acknowledging the abuse is an important first step.

Pope BENEDICT XVI: It is in the context of this hope, one of God's love and fidelity that I acknowledge the pain that the Church in America has experienced, as a result of the sexual abuse of minors.

MARTIN: The Pope arrives in New York today. We'll get some analysis of yesterday's meeting and look ahead to his time in New York in just a minute, when we talk to Catholic Church blogger, Rocco Palmo. But first, let's get some more of today's headlines.

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