VATICAN CITY - The pedophilia scandal that exploded in the Catholic Church last year is still very much on Pope Benedict XVI’s mind, as reflected in his words on Holy Thursday and the meditation prepared for Good Friday’s the Way of the Cross procession.
[Juxtaposing the sex abuse crisis and the coming beatification of his predecessor John Paul II, Benedict referred on Thursday to the abandonment of faith in the West. He said that “for all the shame we feel over our failings, we must not forget that today too there are radiant examples of faith.”]
The atmosphere today is less tumultuous compared to the media frenzy surrounding the Church last spring, at the height of the scandal. The Holy See has toughened its norms to prevent sexual abuses against minors, and to intervene swiftly against those who are responsible of these heinous crimes. A study recently published by the Archdiocese of New York shows that in the past year the number of abuse cases across the United States has fallen drastically.
Yet Benedict has always avoided citing statistics or being defensive. He has stayed away from the argument that unfortunately this sad phenomenon does not only concern the Church, but also families and professionals who are in contact with children. In that, Benedict is misunderstood within the Church hierarchy, even by some of his own aides.
As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and a close aide to John Paul II, Benedict was behind the reform of ecclesiastical norms that followed the first wave of sexual scandals in the United States a decade ago. But he has carefully avoided presenting himself as the standard-bearer of a “zero-tolerance” policy, or pitting his own pontificate against that of John Paul. Others, however, fail to understand that praising Benedict’s stance in contrast to the old one means hurting the institution of the church as a whole.
Ratzinger knows that for more than two decades he was John Paul’s closest aide, and he is about to beatify his predecessor, whom he venerates and holds up as an example of sainthood. He knows that for decades the widespread attitude within the church has been to avoid public scandals and that too many times abuse victims have been pushed away, treated like enemies.
That’s why, even if most of the scandals happened in the past, sometimes a distant past, he has not backed away, has not lashed out against media campaigns and has taken responsibility upon himself. The pope has met with abuse victims during his trips abroad. He has called upon the whole Church to turn to penitence, self-purification and justice. He went as far as to say, in May 2010, that the greatest persecution to the Church comes not from external enemies, but from the sin within.
The pope has not kept silent over the seriousness of the abuse; rather he turned it into a chance for all Christians to remind themselves that evil exists, that they must confess their sins and find their support in Christ, who took that sin upon himself.
Eleven years ago, as he was presenting to the press John Paul’s request for forgiveness for the Holy Year, Cardinal Ratzinger said that “recognizing a sin is an act of sincerity with which we can make people understand that the Lord is stronger than our sins.”
This brings to mind an episode in the life of Cardinal Consalvi, who served as Vatican Secretary of State in the 19th century under Pope Pius VII. Told that Napoleon intended to destroy the Church, the Cardinal was sure it wasn’t possible. “Not even we managed to destroy it.”
This is what, in spite of everything, makes Benedict serene.
Read the original article in Italian
Photo - Sergey Gabdurakhmanov