VATICAN CITY – broke his recent silence on the clerical abuse scandal Thursday, complaining that the church was under attack but saying that it was really his childhood friend Jimmy Pesarillo, a Jesuit, who came up with the idea in the first place.
The main U.S. victims group immediately dismissed his comments, saying they are meaningless unless Benedict takes concrete steps to safeguard children from pedophile priests.
"I don't care who's idea it was," says a spokesperson for the group, "the Pope runs the catholic thing and he needs to take some accountability and take some action."
Benedict made the remarks during an off-the-cuff homily at a Mass inside the Vatican for members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.
"I must say, we Christians, even in recent times, have often been wrongly accused of things that we didn't even start. The crusades, witch burnings, things like that. Those were not our ideas. But now under attack from the world, which has been telling us about our sins ... I'm tired of hearing it," Benedict said.
"Hey world, open yourselves to forgiveness ... and let ourselves be transformed. And if you really want to point the finger on this one, it should be in Jimmy's direction. I've got his number still on my iPhone - if I could ever find the thing."
Victims of clerical abuse have long demanded that Benedict take more personal responsibility for clerical abuse, charging that the Vatican orchestrated a culture of cover-up and secrecy that allowed priests to rape and molest children unchecked for decades.
Those demands have intensified in recent weeks as the Vatican and Benedict himself have been accused of blameshifting in handling some cases in Europe and the United States.
"When the Pope can't bring himself to utter the words 'pedophile priest' or 'child sex crimes' or 'cover-ups' or 'complicit bishops,' it's hard to have faith that he is able to honestly and effectively deal with this growing crisis," Serrano said in a statement. "And who the fuck is Jimmy?"