Not long before Easter, a huge campaign was launched in the news media all over the world to accuse Pope Benedict XVI of having “covered up” the scandal of priests who sexually abused children, as if the Holy Father was the main person responsible for these scandals. Yet, there is no one in the Church hierarchy who has done more than Pope Benedict XVI to put an end to these scandals. Far from covering up anything, Pope Benedict is not afraid of telling the truth, and it is for this very reason he is attacked by the enemies of the Church.
On March 19, 2010, in an unprecedented letter to the Church in Ireland, the Holy Father required the Church of that country to put itself in a penitential state for an entire year, and wrote these strong words:
“Dear brothers and sisters of the Church in Ireland, like yourselves, I have been deeply disturbed by the information which has come to light regarding the abuse of children and vulnerable young people by members of the Church in Ireland, particularly by priests and religious. I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.
“On several occasions since my election to the See of Peter, I have met with victims of sexual abuse, as indeed I am ready to do in the future. I have sat with them, I have listened to their stories, I have acknowledged their suffering, and I have prayed with them and for them. Earlier in my pontificate, in my concern to address this matter, I asked the bishops of Ireland, ‘to 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’ (Address to the Bishops of Ireland, October 28, 2006).
“The disturbing problem of child sexual abuse has contributed in no small measure to the weakening of faith and the loss of respect for the Church and her teachings… Urgent action is needed to address these factors, which have had such tragic consequences in the lives of victims and their families, and have obscured the light of the Gospel to a degree that not even centuries of persecution succeeded in doing.”
Speaking to the priests and religious who have abused children, the Holy Father wrote:
“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 in which Christ makes himself present in us and in our actions. Together with the immense harm done to victims, great damage has been done to the Church and to the public perception of the priesthood and religious life. God’s justice summons us to give an account of our actions and to conceal nothing. Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God’s mercy.”
And more recently, on May 11, on his way to Portugal, Pope Benedict said on the airplane:
“Attacks on the Pope and the Church come not only from without, but the sufferings of the Church come precisely from within the Church, from the sin existing within the Church. This too is something that we have always known, but today we are seeing it in a really terrifying way: that the greatest persecution of the Church comes not from her enemies without, but arises from sin within the Church, and that the Church thus has a deep need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness on the one hand, but also the need for justice. Forgiveness does not replace justice. In a word, we need to relearn precisely this essential: conversion, prayer, penance and the theological virtues. This is our response, we are realists in expecting that evil always attacks, attacks from within and without, yet that the forces of good are also ever present and that, in the end, the Lord is more powerful than evil and Our Lady is for us the visible, motherly guarantee of God’s goodness, which is always the last word in history.”
During Holy Week 2010, many bishops courageously stood up for the Pope. We would like to quote one of them, Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec City, who addressed these unjust attacks in his homilies, of which we give large excxerpts:
Homily given by Cardinal Ouellet
Quebec City’s Cathedral
Chrism Mass, March 31, 2010
In this year dedicated to the Priesthood by Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, priests are better recognized and appreciated but they are also put to the test in many ways. Let us be confident, it is a sign of purification and of growth. The Evil One has a habit of balking loudly when the Church lives great moments of grace. Saint John Mary Vianney experienced this in his times and we observe the same today. Be it in the wake of the Holy Week or during this whole year of sanctification and recognition for the priests, the media uproar has never ceased to express suspicion and to cast doubt on the truth of our testimony and on the meaning of our life consecrated to God.
Dear friends, let us be patient. The news, reported and often manipulated by the media, scourges us and saddens us but this does not intimidate us as Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us with courage. Some would like to silence God’s Word that carries us but its fire prevents us from running and from betraying. The treasure we carry in pottery vases escapes the media’s superficial eyes. We are aware of this and we are not surprised by this. If Christ was not recognized in the Jesus who came so humbly and who did nothing but good deeds, why should He be recognized in us poor sinners, in our ministry both discredited and despised? If God was not recognized in the abysmal humiliation of the crucified Innocent, why would people kneel today to receive from our hands His pardon and life of resurrection?
The failure to appreciate God’s gift is an integral part of the history of Jesus Christ and the Church. This failure is also part of the history of each priest even when most of us are faithful to the promises of our ordination. We obviously pay dearly for the deplorable misbehaviour of the few amongst us who have destroyed innocent lives, thereby bringing dishonour to their ministry. May the shame that we feel because of this, arouse within us a true feeling of contrition for all our shortcomings and return us humbly but sternly upon the road to sanctity.
The Saint Cure of Ars used to say: “There are some, in this world, who hope for too much, and others who do not hope sufficiently. We want to go to Heaven but with all our comforts, without giving up anything, this is not how we become saints.” Let us take advantage of the difficulties and critiques that befall us to amend ourselves and to rebound, for today, the grace of God erupts in our lives. The work of God keeps being accomplished and the celebration of Holy Week is a witness to our invincible hope.
Homily for Good Friday, April 2, 2010
The passion of Christ is of concern to the whole world. The death of the Son of Man expiates the multiform sin of all mankind. But Christ the Saviour takes upon Himself first and foremost the sin of the Church, Judas’ treason, Peter’s denial and the cowardice of His disciples. It is the sins of His most intimate friends that cause Him the greatest suffering.
Since today’s news covers the Church with insults, disgrace and shame because of the pedophile crimes committed by a few members of the clergy, may this Good Friday 2010 be above all a sincere act of contrition, an authentic confession and an offer for reparation for the harm, often irreparable, inflicted to innocent victims. The Holy Father Benedict XVI invites us to do so in his letter to the Church in Ireland. Let us be one with him in these difficult times. No one has fought this catastrophe in the Church, more strongly than he has, whatever some media may say in their spreading of false accusations.
Let us not forget however that this decried evil is but the tip of the iceberg of man’s sins that crucify the Son of God. How many crimes nowadays are covered in a mantle of dignity? All government paid abortions for which further financing is requested for Third World aid programs, so as to degrade, to our own level, the moral standards of nations who still have respect for life.
O Face of Christ covered with blood, swollen by our heinous and hypocritical spit, have mercy on us.
So many hidden and covered sins could we denounce in this hour of judgement and mercy: Sins of injustice, of blasphemy, of violence, of apostasy and omission, that cry out to heaven because they hold in contempt the Alliance sealed by God with mankind in his crucified Son.
O Face of Christ covered with blood, tortured still today by all the violence, and injustice in our world, have mercy on us.
But the hour has come to repent and to contemplate the passion of love of the Son of God. Let us be touched by His love which takes upon itself the sin of mankind, our sins. May our hearts be strongly moved by the chastisement He suffers because of our faults: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” What abysmal sorrow He suffers and which allows us a glimpse at the Hell the Son of Man is subjected to in our place. What condescension in the divine Love for sinners, the Love of the only Son and that of the merciful Father who repair together, sorrowfully, the true face of man and woman, disfigured by sin, but forgiven by God and reconciled with Him.
O Abyss of mercy revealed by the Cross of Christ, have mercy on us, save us!
Let us bend our knees before the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ and let us confess humbly our faith in the Name three times blessed of God who is Love.
We adore you O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world. Amen!
Homily for Easter Sunday, April 4, 2010
We are gathered on this morning of Easter to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection, the victory of Love, and to proclaim joyfully our faith in the songs and hymns of the Liturgy: “This day the Lord gave us is a day of joy! Alleluia.”
Current events seem to ignore this good news. They seem to converge to cast doubt upon it. Have you noticed in the last few years how the nearing of Easter is saluted by a frenzy in the media? The theme varies but the goal seems to always be the same, to discredit the Church. Some years ago, it was the DaVinci Code and later the discovery of compromising apocryphal manuscripts and after this there was the archaeological hoax of the finding of the tomb of Jesus’ family. This year, it is a charge against the Pope that fills the media.
By His cross and His resurrection from the dead, Christ has dethroned Satan, the Father of all lies, but He has not annihilated him. He gave him enough rope to harass the disciples and to put them to the test. But we must have faith. The victory of truth over lies is a given. Pope Benedict XVI is a model of serenity in the storm. May we further appreciate his wisdom and his teaching instead of lending an ear to those who denigrate his authority even from within the Church.
Instead of biting the hand that blesses it and feeds it, the Christian Western Hemisphere countries should remember that their values of liberty, equality and fraternity, are derived from Christian values and from the permanent announcement of the Risen Christ. The people of Quebec must realize that by cultivating disdain and hate towards the Catholic Church, they are destroying themselves.
Dear friends, the Feast of Easter invites us to celebration and to the renewing of our baptismal promises. To be Christ’s witness is to personify the power of His love in our daily lives, in committing ourselves against all forms of violence and injustices, to the point of self-sacrifice. To be Christ’s witness is to dare to ascertain our faith, humbly but faithfully, in a world that is more and more hostile to the Christian message.