As a follow-up to Ky's post about the Holy Father's meeting with some victims of the clerical sexual abuse crisis in the Church, I think anyone who thinks there was an ulterior motive is dead wrong.
Pope Benedict XVI, in his pre-papal days as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, was the curial official who read every case file that Boston, or any other diocese, had to hang their heads over. He has read every person's account. Felt, in a way, the pain and hurt that each of these youngest members of Christ's faithful suffered at the hands of who were supposed to be Christ. While the gears of the Church move quite slowly, I think this Pope had to visit with these people, not because he is the leader of the Church whose ministers harmed them, but as a priest himself, as a bishop himself, he had to apologize directly and in-person to at least a few of those harmed by his brother priests and bishops.
As for why this was on the public schedule, this was not a public, or semi-public event. This meeting was almost confessional in nature; this was not to publicly acknowledge past faults of the Church (or members of it) but for a pastor to talk to individual members of his flock. If it was a public event, pre-scripted as many of these Vatican events are, it would be exactly not what the Pope wanted to do. This was a time for him to listen, for those hurt to tell him whatever they wanted. As one of the gentlemen said to CNN later that night, they were never told that they could not say anything. Of the three interviewed, two seemed at some level of peace, but the third still seemed quite angry. That is what Pope Benedict wanted; he wanted to hear the actual voices, as they are, of these faceless, haunting case files he read for years before rising to the Chair of Peter.
What will change in the American Church out of this? I don't know. This crisis is something that virtually no one saw coming or had any idea to expect it. There's no frame of reference to compare this situation. Time will tell.