Noble letter from Pope. Predictable response from media.

I wrote this in my parish newsletter this weekend (I have put in hyperlinks for your convenience):
Pope’s letter to Irish Catholics
There will be much comment in the media this weekend concerning the Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father Pope Benedict to the Catholics of Ireland. The Holy Father apologises to victims of abuse who have suffered the “grave betrayal” of these “egregious crimes”. Pope Benedict also refers to “grave errors of judgement and failure of leadership” on the part of some Bishops.

May I encourage you to read the letter itself: the text is available at the Vatican website. If you have difficulty finding it, there is a direct link in the “Rosary News” blog which can be found at the parish website. There is also a shorter official summary of the letter.

Please remember in your prayers all those who have been victims of abuse. The Holy Father encourages the Irish Catholics to offer up their Friday penances for the coming year to Easter 2011 to beg for God’s mercy, healing and for the renewal of the Church.

It would be fitting for us in England to join in solidarity with this spiritual proposal and to respond to his request to give particular attention to regular Eucharistic Adoration and the Sacrament of Penance.
This evening I have spent a little time on the unpleasant task of looking at some of the BBC coverage. The other day, they had a piece saying something like "Pope's letter - but will it include apology?" Now that it is impossible for anyone to deny that it has, they have dropped that piece and continued along the lines of "Apology not enough" and attack the letter for not being about Germany. They are essentially using the plight of abused children and scandalised Catholics to further their secularist, anti-Catholic agenda while distracting everyone from benefiting from the wise pastoral advice of the Pope. I got sick of it after browsing a few clips. (I suppose I shouldn't single out the BBC. The Times reported that the letter had been judged a failure even before they had a chance to read it. Cf. Damian Thompson)

In one particularly contemptuous piece, a BBC correspondent says of the Pope's letter, "essentially his remedy is more prayer". So just a few snippets by way of reply to that:

Pope Benedict urges:
  • "acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children"
  • "concerted effort to ensure the protection of children from similar crimes in the future"
  • "establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected, and above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes"
Pope Benedict criticises:
  • "the tendency during this period, also on the part of priests and religious, to adopt ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel"
  • "well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations"
  • "a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church and the avoidance of scandal"
  • "failure to apply existing canonical penalties and to safeguard the dignity of every person"
Pope Benedict tells priest abusers:
"You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals. You have forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland and brought shame and dishonour upon your confreres. Those of you who are priests violated the sanctity of the sacrament of Holy Orders ..."
Pope Benedict tells Irish Bishops:
"It cannot be denied that some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse. Serious mistakes were made in responding to allegations. [...] it must be admitted that grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness [...] continue to cooperate with the civil authorities in their area of competence"
More prayer would be good as well and he does indeed mention this. Penance too. Read the whole thing. It is a noble and powerful response.

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