Liz Leydon: Interests of the victims are at the heart of any changes in policy

THERE can be no doubt the abuse problem within the Catholic Church has been subjected to intense media scrutiny.

The suggestion, however, that Pope Benedict XVI's recent response to the situation comes purely as a result of that scrutiny is misguided.

When visiting Malta, the Pope privately met victims of clerical abuse, taking time to pray with them and talk to them individually about their cases.

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What has emerged from these meetings at the weekend is that the pontiff was "deeply moved" by what they told him and expressed his shame and his sorrow.

Immediately after the meetings, the Vatican released a statement saying that "he assured them the Church is doing, and will continue to do, all in its power to investigate allegations, to bring to justice those responsible for abuse and to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future".

Pope Benedict and the Vatican are responding to a very serious issue within the Church that needs attention. Any changes to the way the Church tackles the issue, however, is far more likely to be in response to the needs of victims – and the need for change in line with best practices – than any external pressures.

No-one is being complacent about this and, as with any system, there is always room for improvement.

• Liz Leydon is editor of the Scottish Catholic Observer.