Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pain in the context of hope

Reading through some of the remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI today, I was struck by this passage from his sermon at Washington Nationals Stadium:

"Americans have always been a people of hope: your ancestors came to this country with the expectation of finding new freedom and opportunity, while the vastness of the unexplored wilderness inspired in them the hope of being able to start completely anew, building a new nation on new foundations. To be sure, this promise was not experienced by all the inhabitants of this land; one thinks of the injustices endured by the Native American peoples and by those brought here forcibly from Africa as slaves. Yet hope, hope for the future, is very much a part of the American character. And the Christian virtue of hope – the hope poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, the hope which supernaturally purifies and corrects our aspirations by focusing them on the Lord and his saving plan – that hope has also marked, and continues to mark, the life of the Catholic community in this country.

"It is in the context of this hope born of God’s love and fidelity that I acknowledge the pain which the Church in America has experienced as a result of the sexual abuse of minors. No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse. It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention. Nor can I adequately describe the damage that has occurred within the community of the Church. Great efforts have already been made to deal honestly and fairly with this tragic situation, and to ensure that children ... can grow up in a safe environment. ... Today I encourage each of you to do what you can to foster healing and reconciliation, and to assist those who have been hurt. Also, I ask you to love your priests, and to affirm them in the excellent work that they do. And above all, pray that the Holy Spirit will pour out his gifts upon the Church, the gifts that lead to conversion, forgiveness and growth in holiness."

Does it make a difference to acknowledge pain in the context of hope? I think it does. Pope Benedict points out this is a nation founded on and steeped in hope, even though some terrible wrongs were committed against slaves and Native Americans. The Catholic Church, too, is marked by hope, despite the scandal of abusive priests.

Both church and state are more likely to overcome their painful and pain-inducing shortcomings because of this grounding in and persistence of hope. Both can -- and must -- be reminded to live up to their own ideals.

Pope Benedict's honest acknowledgement of the abuse and his call to assist its victims were commendable. I only wish he had said something about the bishops who covered up the scandals and shipped pedophiles away to unsuspecting parishes. Their attempt to save the reputation of the Church at the expense of individual children was as unloving, ungodly and sinful as anything the oversexed priests did.


John said...


Has anyone even considered the possibility that many of these Bishops simply could not believe the accusations that were being made against men they thought they knew well?

We forget that we've heard similar stories (although with much less glee from the media) about school teachers moving from school system to school system after not only allegations, but sometimes convictions!

Truth be known, even secular corporations have to be careful before firing employees accused of sexual harrasment lest they open themselves to lawsuits!

It is a horrible situation, and one that needed to be, and was addressed. However, it's not nearly so simple and easy to deal with as the uninvolved would like us to believe.

John said...

Another observation,

The media today seems to take great joy in blaming anything EXCEPT the actual offender. We blame guns, rather than the PERSON who chooses to use them to commit violent acts. In the same way, they try to condemn a church, and it's teachings and beliefs rather than the mentally disturbed individuals who committed these acts.

I ask this question, in how many other cases of sexual abuse is the offender's employer ever mentioned?

Does anyone ever report that each of the following professions have a higher rate of sexual abuse than Catholic priests (according to numerous advocacy websites):

Scout Leaders
Protestant Clergy

It's not just a Catholic problem folks! We put more children at risk by pretending otherwise.

Anonymous said...

The only real "professions" in your list would be teachers and preachers. Coaches are usually teachers.

They are all professions in which people place a lot of trust. We
just expect better of these people.

That's why their employer is mentioned. Doctors and policemen are also held to higher standards than the general population.

Unfortunately, this means that opportunists may flock to those professions, so we need to be aware of their misbehavior and not be so gullible.

Danbo59 said...

John makes excellent points. I am a staunch Catholic, but I still believe that the Church must pursue with equal vigor any of her Priests (Bishops, etc.) who knowingly covered up abuses. It is fair to consider that one allegation does not make one guilty, but if multiple complaints were filed against the same Priest over a period of time, especially from different parishes, then I would expect that the Bishop -- had he known -- would have acted.

Another real tragedy is that the small percentage of priests who have turned pedophile are 1) painting the majority of priests with an unfair color and 2) dissuading some of those who are called to ministry from entering the priesthood (for fear of being falsely accused or seen as a possible pedophile).

Anonymous said...

I'll give Pope Benedict some credit for at least publicly acknowledging that what those priests (and those who covered for them)did was wrong. At some point you just look stupid for trying to sweep that big of a mess under the rug.

While plenty of people are predators, I haven't heard of any other organized, massive coverups of such behavior on the same scale as the pedophile priest scandal.

School districts, for example, are local and fairly limited in where they can "hide" predators, while the catholic church can relocate people across the world.

Anonymous said...

How do you think the POPE reacts when he see's ex- Catholics holding signs of PEDAFILE FARMS in the CHURCH and CHURCH coverups; All this never happened thirty years ago. Are more wolves coming in to Churches to prey on People and Children? Or maybe this has been going on for forty years and we are just now have the technology to trace it. Join me on Frontline

eclectic said...

Perhaps a major part of the problem is adherence to ludicrous and archaic beliefs in the first place that have instilled self fululling pathological tendencies by seeing the human body as something sinful and by re-inforcing the self-destructive myth that humans are some type of "fallen" creatures worthy of damnation. All infantile and non-rational concepts that only produce self-repeating cycles of non-productive and destructive behavior.

Danbo59 said...

Anonymous says, "How do you think the POPE reacts when he see's ex- Catholics holding signs of PEDAFILE FARMS in the CHURCH and CHURCH coverups...?"

The first thing I think he'd think is 'Pedophile is spelled P-E-D-O-P-H-I-L-E.'

After that, he's thinking the same thing I do -- that they have a right to be angry.

But these people should direct their anger at those persons responsible; not at Christ or His Church.

D.J. said...

Eclectic said...
"All infantile and non-rational concepts that only produce self-repeating cycles of non-productive and destructive behavior."

Have you ever considered that perhaps our self-repeating non-productive and destructive behavior is simply reflective of the reality that we are sinful beings?

Soli Deo Gloria

eclectic said...

At one time I may have attributed our behaviors to some inherent "sin" but that is too simplistic. Biological reality is much more complicated than that.

We are a highly evolved species that has the ability to make conscious choices about our behaviors and goals.

Since we evolved from other life forms that preceeded us by 100's of millions(maybe billions) of years then if we inherited some evil nature that means every organism and the very universe itself back in the mists of time was also inherently evil and that begs credulity.

Just blaming some supernatural inherrent or corrupt nature,is just another way we make excuses and put off responsibilities for ourselves onto other so-called forces instead of owning up to making the required changes.

There are people who do evil things but that does not mean they are possesed by some evil spiritual force which manipulates them. There are also people who have mental illnesses that can cause malicious social behavior but that is a matter of brain chemistry and based on the (mis)workings of matter.

No unlike the fundamantalist I will not place this negative assertion on life and humanity. We are capable of better things and behavior than we currently display but that does not mean we are forever cursed by some supernatural flaw. Our species for all our vices has come a long way toward achieving decent livable human societies. We may have a long way to go to fine tune the rough edges but it is not hopeless unless we believe it to be.

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess if you're going to be a habitual sinner the best place to hide is with those whose profession is to forgive sinners.

I think the whole concept of sinning and getting forgiven for your sins just encourages some people to continually cause trouble. After all, they know they'll ultimately be "forgiven".

People basically reap what they sow.

Oh yeah, and I wouldn't trust Scout Leaders because most of them are religious, too. At least those with the Boy Scouts of America are. Atheists aren't allowed last I heard.

We wouldn't want atheism corrupting our youth, now would we?

John said...

Anonymous said: "All this never happened thirty years ago."

Actually, most of it did... most of the allegations have come from 20 or more years ago, new allegations have actually declined dramatically.

Anonymous said...

I think that what's different now is that people are talking about these things more openly. It has been going on for a long time. It's just that most people weren't listening. Also, general attitudes towards abusing children and women have changed for the better. And people don't get away with quite as much just because they're religious.

JB said...

The sexual abuse of children by priests of the Catholic church is as old as the church itself. It's well known that you need to beware of priests. I am ashamed of the way the church handled the abuse allegations and I'm convinced the bungling of it went all the way to the top in Rome! As a former Catholic, I see Benedict's coming to America for the scam it is. Yes, yes, apologize. Make it sound sincere. Act contrite. Mea culpa. Now, will you devout Catholics please pony up your money? Donate to take care of your parish? Translation: The Catholic Church has been hit hard paying out sex abuse settlements. They need money. Scratch that, they want the money. That's the bottom line.

Danbo59 said...

Anonymous wrote, "We wouldn't want atheism corrupting our youth, now would we?"

Amen. I could not have said it better myself.

Last I looked, the Boy Scouts of America are a private organization entitled to include or exclude whomever they desire. Live with it.

Danbo59 said...

jb said, "As a former Catholic...."

You might as well have just completed that sentence with, "...I have a personal bone to pick with the Catholic Church."

You wouldn't be a bit biased against the Church, would you?

Anonymous said...

Oh, I don't care about the Boy Scouts of America or any other group of religious pedophiles.

They are more than welcome to their "private" clubs.

JB said...

danbo59: JB here. Yes, I have a bone or two to pick with the Catholic Church. Duh. Abuse is the main reason for my leaving the church. Enough said. Notice you didn't quibble about the content of my post? That's because it is so true. The Roman Catholic Church's action is indefensible. No amount of money can heal the damage.

Danbo59 said...

JB wrongly stated, "The Roman Catholic Church's action is indefensible. No amount of money can heal the damage."

The Roman Catholic Church has nothing to do with it. It's the actions of the individuals that are indefensible.

As for your claim of abuse, have you stepped forward with your "claims?" If not, why not? No proof? Lots of people looking for a free handout from the Roman Catholic Church these days.

Anonymous said...

By those looking for a "free handout" do you mean those abused by pedophile priests or those kept as Nazi slaves?

Danbo59 said...

Anonymous bravely wrote, "By those looking for a "free handout" do you mean those abused by pedophile priests or those kept as Nazi slaves?"

Neither. I am talking about greedy opportunists who like to claim they've been abused by priests -- especially if the priest is dead -- but aren't willing to step up and offer proof. Sound familiar?

Iztok said...

"Last I looked, the Boy Scouts of America are a private organization entitled to include or exclude whomever they desire. Live with it."

I totally agree with you there. As long as they don't ask or receive any taxpayers money (including tax benefits) they can do whatever. The moment they ask for public money, they shouldn't act discriminatory anymore or they should pay money back.

Anonymous said...

Well, some false accusations are going to be part of the mix. That's true for nearly every type of crime, so accusation shouldn't mean automatic guilt. The last time that was tried en masse was with the inquisitions.