Pope Benedict XVI broke his silence about the Catholic abuse scandal on Thursday, saying that Catholics need to "do penance" for their sins.
While not mentioning the scandal specifically, Benedict said during a mass in the Vatican that Catholics are "under attack from the world which talks to us of our sins" and that they must be able "to recognise what is wrong in our lives".
"I must say, we Christians, even in recent times, have often avoided the word 'repent', which seemed too tough," Benedict said. "But now, under attack from the world which talks to us of our sins, we can see that being able to do penance is a grace and we see how necessary it is to do penance and thus recognise what is wrong in our lives."
Benedict also hit out at the mass criticism of the Catholic Church, saying that most critics are under the pressure of conformism.
"Conformism which makes it obligatory to think and act like everyone else, and the subtle - or not so subtle - aggression towards the Church, demonstrate how this conformism can really be a true dictatorship," Benedict said.
The Pope's remarks come just days after Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's Secretary of State, made controversial remarks linking the pedophilia scandal with homosexuality.
"Many psychologists and psychiatrists have shown that there is no link between celibacy and pedophilia but many others have shown, I have recently been told, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia," Bertone told reporters in Chile.
A day afterwards, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi attempted to clarify Bertone's remarks saying, "Church authorities do not consider it within their competency to make general statements of a specifically psychological or medical nature, but refer to research studies undertaken by specialists in these matters."
Meanwhile, the resignation a Catholic bishop in Tanzania was finalized by the Pope yesterday after investigations revealed the prelates "alleged moral failings."
Reasons for the release of Bishop Jacob Koda, 52, who was appointed bishop of the northeastern Tanzanian diocese in 1999, were not made public, although Koda has been previously accused of being a Freemason.
"After a thorough investigation conducted by my office, the Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples, under the leadership of [Archbishop] Robert Sarah, has advised Bishop Koda to rest outside the country," Archbishop Joseph Chennoth, the apostolic nuncio, said last June.
Survivors of the Catholic abuse scandal have been vocal about the removal of offending priests since last year's investigations on the Irish Catholic Church pinpointed the involvement of several specific clergy members.
Last month, Benedict accepted the resignation of Bishop John Magee, a former overseer in the Irish diocese of Cloyne for 23 years, who had allegedly helped to cover-up decades worth of abuse in the church.
"To those whom I have failed in any way, or through any omission of mine have made suffer, I beg forgiveness and pardon," read Magee's resignation statement.
Some extreme opponents of the scandal have even called for Pope Benedict to resign or to be arrested, as celebrity atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens hope to accomplish.
Dawkins and Hitchens are currently engaged in a quest to have the pontiff arrested for "crimes against humanity" during his visit to the United Kingdom in September – a plot that two English Catholic organizations claim is just plain nonsense.
A joint statement from the Thomas More Legal Centre and the Catholic Union said that the atheists' publicity stunt seems "to have completely misrepresented the law."
"The enforcement of criminal law is a duty of the state and is not the job of private vigilantes pursuing a personal ideological agenda," the groups said.
"There is not a single criminal offence under British law which could conceivably be alleged against Pope Benedict," the statement continues, noting that the Pope has no legal responsibility for activities of Catholic organizations in the UK.
The groups also made note of Benedict's immunity from arrest as a head of state making an official visit.