What happened
Pope Benedict XVI said at the start of his first papal visit to the U.S. that he was “deeply ashamed” by the actions of pedophile priests. The remarks reassured some American Catholics hoping the pope would directly address the sex scandal that has deeply wounded the church in the U.S., but victim advocates said action, not words, was needed to help victims heal. (The New York Times, free registration)

What the commentators said
Pope Benedict’s humble apology was a balm for the soul, said Ari Goldman in the New York Daily News. He didn’t equivocate, or make excuses, or blame the scandal on homosexuals in the priesthood. “He put healing the rupture of the scandal front and center of his agenda for his visit. These are words Americans desperately needed to hear. They give hope.”

Benedict's shame over “the legacy of clergy abuse was, on one hand, a deeper acknowledgment of the victims' suffering than anything yet offered by the Catholic hierarchy,” said Anna Badkhen in The Boston Globe (free registration). “But after years of official denials by the church and policies that seemed to put the fates of offending priests above those they preyed upon,” it’s not hard to understand that many victims “viewed Benedict's words as too little, too late, and chafed at what they said is a systemic failure by the church to take more substantive action.”

Actually, American bishops have done a lot already, said Father Jonathan in FOXNews.com. They have adopted a “no tolerance” policy requiring that any priest “credibly” accused of abuse be removed from public ministry, immediately. They also commissioned a review of all U.S. seminaries and the processes used to approve candidates for the priesthood. “Perhaps the Church has been sufficiently humbled to be ready for this pope’s message of renewal and hope.”