VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI may issue a mea culpa for the church's handling of clerical sexual abuse cases when he attends a meeting of the world's clergy in June, the Vatican official in charge of handling abuse cases said.
Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made the comments in an interview broadcast late Tuesday on PBS. It was his first interview since the scandal erupted several weeks ago.
"It's a big crisis. I think no one should try to diminish that," Levada said. He acknowledged that the Vatican was caught by surprise, even though it was well aware of the scope of the U.S. and Irish crises, and blamed "a certain media bias" for keeping the story alive.
As the scandal has raged around the Vatican, Benedict has come under increasing pressure to admit some form of higher responsibility on the part of the Vatican for fomenting a culture of secrecy that allowed abuse to fester unchecked for decades.
Benedict has expressed his sorrow and shame for the abuse, he has wept with victims and promised new measures to protect children and bring justice against pedophile priests. But he has admitted no personal or institutional responsibility, blaming instead the abusers themselves and their bishops for mishandling cases when they arose.
Levada also said he intended to hold up the U.S. policy dealing with abuse as a model for bishops around the word.
The U.S. norms bar credibly accused priests from any public church work while claims against them are under investigation.
It requires dioceses to maintain "safe environment" programs to educate children, parents and priests to keep children safe and prevent abuse.
Levada called the norms a "real success story" that should be a model for others — bishops as well as Boy Scouts and public schools.