ANGELUS: POPE FRANCIS RECALLS UKRAINE HOLODOMOR FAMINE – CARDINAL O’MALLEY: “FEBRUARY MEETING WILL BE AN IMPORTANT MOMENT” – ABP SCICLUNA: PROTECTION OF MINORS IS A GLOBAL, SYNODAL ISSUE

Pope Francis on Monday spent the morning in a meeting with the heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia. This occurs several times a year and there are usually no Vatican statements following those meetings.

Yesterday, as you know, the Church celebrated the Solemnity of Christ the King, instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI to respond to growing secularism. In a note about this feast, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote: “In 2018, the Church faces pressures from without and crisis from within. In addition to the challenges that Christians in a secular society must confront, the body of Christ must also tend to the wounds inflicted on the Church by priests and bishops who either committed acts of sexual abuse themselves or failed to respond to abuse with justice when they had the opportunity.”

Relative to the sex abuse scandal, over the weekend in Rome, the Vatican announced that an organizing Committee has been instituted in view of the February 21-24 meeting in Rome on this crisis. Pope Francis named Cardinals Blase J. Cupich, of Chicago and Oswald Gracias of Bombay (India), Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner, President of the Center for the Protection of Minors at the Gregorian University as leading members. The meeting will include bishops, men and women religious and lay experts in the field.

Holy See Press Office director Greg Burke said: “The February meeting is unprecedented” and “shows that Pope Francis has made the protection of minors a fundamental priority for the Church.”

While many episcopacies already have guidelines for disciplining priests guilty of sex abuse, little exists on how bishops are to be held accountable or disciplined. It is hoped this will be a focus of the February meeting. Currently only the Pope may discipline bishops, although in a May 2010 update of Church child abuse laws, Benedict XVI gave the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the authority to judge cardinals and bishops, as well as priests and deacons.

Following are comments on that February 2019 meeting by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, and Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta. Scicluna worked for many years at the CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) and headed its clerical sex abuse section. Pope Francis recently appointed him adjunct secretary of the CDF while maintaining his position as archbishop of Malta. Abp. Scicluna was assigned by the Pope earlier this year to look into the cases of reported clerical sex abuse in Chile, reports that convinced Pope Francis that he had been wrong in his earlier estimates of stories told by sex abuse victims as not being believable.

ANGELUS: POPE FRANCIS RECALLS UKRAINE HOLODOMOR FAMINE

Following the Angelus prayer on Sunday, Pope Francis remembered the man-made famine that struck Ukraine in 1932-1933 and the anniversary of the event that occurred on Saturday.

The famine is known as “Holodomor” in Ukrainian, which means “to kill by starvation”.

Pope Francis called it “a terrible famine instigated by the Soviet regime which caused millions of people to die.”

Though the final death toll is unknown, most estimates put the number of people killed between 3.3 and 7.5 million, most of whom were ethnic Ukrainians.

Vatican City State is one of 16 countries to consider Holodomor an act of genocide carried out by the Soviet government.

“The image is painful,” the Pope said. “This terrible wound of the past is an appeal for all people to ensure that these tragedies never happen again.”

Pope Francis invited the faithful to pray for Ukraine “and for its long-sought-after peace.” (By Devin Watkins – vaticannews)

CARDINAL O’MALLEY: “FEBRUARY MEETING WILL BE AN IMPORTANT MOMENT”

Cardinal O’Malley, President of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, says he is grateful for the announcement of the formation of an organizing committee in view of the February meeting on the protection of minors in the Church.
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (vaticannews)


In a statement released on Friday afternoon, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, and President of the Vatican Commission for the Protection of Minors, says he is grateful for the announcement that Pope Francis has appointed a commission to prepare for the February meeting on the protection of minors in the Church.

Who proposed the February meeting?
Cardinal O’Malley disclosed in the statement that the “proposal” for the February meeting “was developed by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, was reviewed by the Council of Cardinals and subsequently accepted by the Holy Father”. He is both pleased that Pope Francis has called for the meeting and he says he looks forward to participating in it.

Role of the Pontifical Commission
The Cardinal explained that the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors is an “advisory body to the Holy Father, making recommendations on best practices for the universal Church for education and prevention programs regarding the crime of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults”. In view of this mission, he said that the Commission will be a resource for the committee in its work of preparing for the meeting in February. The Commission’s regularly hosts face to face meetings with survivors and newly appointed bishops, he said. This practice provided the Commission with the inspiration that “calling the bishops to Rome for a similar high-impact meeting would be very important in addressing the clergy abuse crisis globally”.

Commitment to zero tolerance
Cardinal O’Malley calls the meeting in February “a critical moment for the universal Church in addressing the sexual abuse crisis”. Diocese around the world will then be part of “developing a clear path forward” toward the implementation of the Church’s zero tolerance policy. He reiterated that the “support and pastoral care of survivors” is the Church’s first priority.

He concluded his statement saying: “This is a life-long journey that is now part of the fabric of the Catholic family and requires a partnership between the laity and clergy in responding to the failures of episcopal leadership by holding bishops accountable for the crimes against children and vulnerable adults.”

ABP SCICLUNA: PROTECTION OF MINORS IS A GLOBAL, SYNODAL ISSUE

Newly appointed to the organising Committee for a February meeting of Church leaders from around the world, Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna says he hopes the Church will begin to take a global approach to protecting minors and confronting clerical sexual abuse.
By Christopher Wells (vaticannews)

In an exclusive interview with Jesuit periodical America, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta described the upcoming meeting as “the beginning of a new approach that I hope will be global, because it concerns the whole Church.” But, he continued, “it will also have a very important local context, because safeguarding is not something up-there, it has to be lived in every parish, in every school, in every diocese.”


A new phase
With the announcement on Friday of an organising Committee, preparations for February’s summit on the protection of minors in the Church has entered a new phase. In addition to Abp Scicluna, the organising Committee is composed of Cardinals Blase Cupich and Oswald Gracias, and child protection expert Father Hans Zollner, SJ.

In the interview with America, Abp Scicluna emphasised the importance of the upcoming meeting, which he called “quite significant,” precisely because it involves bishops from around the world, coming together in dialogue with Pope Francis, in order “to get them on the same page with the Holy Father.”

A crisis in how we approach ministry
Archbishop Scicluna described the main goals of the meeting as making bishops “realise and discuss together the fact that the sexual abuse of minors is not only an egregious phenomenon in itself and a crime, but it is also a very grave symptom of something deeper, which is actually a crisis in the way we approach ministry.” In this context, Abp Scicluna placed accountability in the context of good “stewardship,” and described the cover-up of abuse which has plagued the Church as “the antithesis of stewardship.”

We have to move away from panic-driven policies that put the good name of the institution above all other considerations,” he said, noting that “in the end, those policies do reputational damage to the institution; they are actually also counterproductive.”

At the top of the Church’s agenda
Archbishop Scicluna said that the February summit meeting was called by Pope Francis precisely because “he realises that this issue” – the issue of abuse of minors in the Church – “has to be at the top on the Church’s agenda.” Pope Francis, he said, realises that this is a “global issue which the Church would want to approach with a united front, with respect for the different cultures, but with a united resolve, and with people being on the same page.”

The February meeting, Abp Scicluna said, will send an “important message” that “the prevention of abuse and protection and safeguarding of our children and young people is not a question only of the bishops; it is a synodal issue. It is something that involves the whole Church and everyone in the Church around the world; it concerns one and all.”

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UPDATE: FEBRUARY VATICAN MEETING ON CLERICAL SEX ABUSE, PROTECTION OF MINORS – INTERVIEW WITH HANS ZOLLNER, S.J., PRESIDENT OF CENTER FOR PROTECTION OF MINORS

UPDATE: FEBRUARY VATICAN MEETING ON CLERICAL SEX ABUSE, PROTECTION OF MINORS

From Holy See Press Office Director Greg Burke today:

“The February meeting is unprecedented, and one that shows Pope Francis has made the protection of minors a fundamental priority for the Church.

This is about keeping children safe from harm worldwide. Pope Francis wants Church leaders to have a full understanding of the devastating impact that clerical sexual abuse has on victims.

The meeting is primarily one for bishops – and they have much of the responsibility for this grave problem. But lay men and women who are experts in the field of abuse will give their input, and can help address especially what needs to done to ensure transparency and accountability”.

In addition, the following information was published in the today’s press office bulletin:

The Holy Father has designated as members of the organizing committee for the meeting on the protection of minors in the Church to be held in the Vatican from 21 to 24 February 2019: Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago (USA); Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay (India) and President of the Bishops’ Conference of India; the Most Reverend Charles Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta and Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and the Reverend Hans Zollner, S.J., President of the Centre for the Protection of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, whom he has named contact person for the committee.

Taking part in the meeting, at which His Holiness will be present, will be the Heads of the Oriental Catholic Churches; the Superiors of the Secretariat of State; the Prefects of the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the Oriental Churches, for Bishops, for the Evangelization of Peoples, for the Clergy, for Institutes of Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life; and of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life; the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences; and representatives of the Union of Superiors General and of the International Union of Superiors General.

Involved in the preparatory work for the meeting will be, among others, Dr Gabriella Gambino, Undersecretary for the Section for Life, and Dr Linda Ghisoni, Undersecretary for the Section for the Lay Faithful of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life; the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and some victims of abuse by members of the clergy.

INTERVIEW WITH HANS ZOLLNER, S.J., PRESIDENT OF CENTER FOR PROTECTION OF MINORS

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, President of the Center for the Protection of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University speaks about the preparatory work of the organizing Committee for the February meeting on the protection of minors.

An organizing Committee for the meeting next February in the Vatican on the protection of children in the Church has been established. The Holy See Press Office released a statement on Friday announcing this decision on the part of Pope Francis.

Vatican News and L’Osservatore Romano interviewed Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, the contact person of the committee, and member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

What is the Committee’s goal?
Everything needs to be prepared. And in order to prepare everything well, there needs to be someone to shoulder the burden. The meeting in February is an important event; it’s very important for the Church. It is necessary that it be prepared well, and that it involve all of the Episcopal Conferences right away. Information, reflections, the spirit of prayer and penance and proposals for new concrete action needs to be shared immediately. It is necessary that the awareness of a synodal journal be shared — cum Petro et sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter). We must do everything that we can, as the Holy Father said in his letter to the People of God “to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated”. Organizing the meeting well will help to put together the analysis, the awareness, the shame, the repentance, prayer, and discernment regarding actions to be undertaken and decisions to be made in justice and in truth.

Because of this, the consultations that we will have with victims, with groups of experts, with the laity, with educated men and women is also important. This work will be done together with the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, headed by Cardinal O’Malley, of which I am also a member.

Concretely, what will you do from now until the February meeting?
In concrete terms, the Committee will take care of preparing for next February’s meeting in logistic terms as well as in terms of content, according to the directives given by the Holy Father. In view of this, we will be sending a questionnaire to those invited to participate. It is important that there be a sharing of experiences, of the difficulties as well as of the possible solutions to face this terrible scandal. It seems to us that, even by proceeding in this way, the synodal dimension which Pope Francis has called for so many times, will be expressed.

What structure will the February meeting take on?
The structure provides for the freest and most fruitful encounter possible. And at the same time, one that must be prayerful and reflective, of analysis and proposals. So that the meeting might be fruitful, as I have already said, we believe that it is very important that there be a consultation phase, which we will launch soon. The Holy Father has assured that he will be present at the work sessions during the meeting, something that will recall the synodal experience.

Will there be preparatory material?
Certainly one of the Committee’s tasks is that of preparing base documentation for the participants so that February’s meeting might be set within the journey accomplished so far.

Where does the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors fit in with respect to this new Committee?
There will be a close collaborative rapport. I think the fact that I, a member of the Pontifical Commission, was named to coordinate the activities of the organizing Committee demonstrates precisely this and emphasizes, on the Holy Father’s part, the recognition of the work done up till now by the Pontifical Commission. In addition, the Committee will make use of the Commission in the consultative phase that I spoke of earlier, which will be fundamental in order to adequately prepare the meeting in February.

Some are saying that the expectations for the February meeting are too high. What do you think the Pope expects from this meeting?
We are aware that there are high expectations, and it is understandable that this is so, given the gravity of the scandal that has shocked and wounded so many people, believers and non-believers, in so many countries. As the Holy Father wrote in the letter to the People of God, “we feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite. With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives.”

The Holy See reiterated this clearly: “Both abuse and its cover-up can no longer be tolerated and a different treatment for Bishops who have committed or covered up abuse, in fact represents a form of clericalism that is no longer acceptable.”

And the Holy Father has convoked the meeting in February – an unprecedented decision – precisely because he is aware that the protection of minors is a fundamental priority for the Church, for its mission, and not only for its credibility. For this reason, he wants the encounter between the presidents of episcopal conferences and the other participants in the meeting to be free, without conditions, animated by prayer and by a spirit of parresia (frankness, boldness) which he has particularly at heart.

USCCB FALL MEETING: DAY ONE, SACKCLOTH, ASHES AND A MAJOR SHOCK – ARCHBISHOP VIGANO TO U.S. BISHOPS. YOU HAVE A SACRED MANDATE – POPE FRANCIS ON EIGHTH COMMANDMENT: GOSSIP KILLS, GOD IS TRUTH

The following column was prepared yesterday but my computer died – or was in a comatose state – before I finished writing and editing so could not post it. All is well today, at least so it seems, so here is the news from November 13 and a bit on today’s general audience with Pope Francis.

Among the offerings I had for yesterday was a penetrating piece by the Register’s Matthew Bunson on the request by the Vatican that the USCCB, as they meet in their fall assembly, delay any vote on further action in the clerical sex abuse issue, especially their plan to propose standards of conduct for bishops and how bishops might be disciplined or punished if in violation of those standards. This was to be the centerpiece of the November meeting. The Vatican asked that the bishops delay these proposals until the February 2019 meeting that Pope has called for in Rome for all the heads of Episcopal conferences throughout the world to address the abuse scandal

Two interesting pieces of news from November 13 from the Holy See Press Office

1. The Pope named Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta as adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, while remaining archbishop of Malta. For years he worked at the CDF before becoming an archbishop and he has been the Pope’s point man on important cases regarding clerical sex abuse. You might recall that Francis sent Scicluna earlier this year to Chile to investigate allegations of clerical sex abuse. The Pope had called the allegations ‘calumny’ but when Scicluna presented a massive report backing those who were abused, the Holy Father, in all humility, did an about-face, saying he was wrong and also “part of the problem.” Chile’s bishops came to Rome for a meeting and resigned en masse but the Pope has so far only accepted a small number of those resignations.

2. The Vatican announced today that Pope Francis, welcoming the invitation of His Majesty King Mohammed VI and of the (nation’s) bishops will undertake a trip to Morocco on March 30-31, 2019, visiting the cities of Rabat and Casablanca. The program will be published in due time

USCCB FALL MEETING: DAY ONE, SACKCLOTH, ASHES AND A MAJOR SHOCK

Matthew E. Bunson (National Catholic Register)
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opened its Fall Assembly in Baltimore Monday with an agenda of prayer and deliberations on dealing with bishop accountability in the face of the scandal surrounding former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The agenda lasted only a few minutes before being upended by the announcement that no votes would be taken on several key items of reform at the request of the Holy See.

The decision by the Holy See – specifically the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops under its prefect Cardinal Marc Ouellet – asked the bishops not to vote on a new “Code of Conduct” for bishops and the creation of a lay-led board to investigate accusations of misconduct against bishops. The news came as a complete surprise to virtually all of the bishops in attendance, even as it raises significant questions about the prospects for finding solutions to the clergy sex abuse crisis and the McCarrick scandal and signals a blunt rejection of the U.S. bishops.

Some might even go so far as to describe the Vatican’s decision and its timing a deliberate act of humiliation of the U.S. bishops at a time when they are trying in good faith to grapple with the greatest crisis in the history of American Catholicism.
“Let us begin by taking those concerns to prayer.”

The U.S. bishops were only a few minutes into their morning session when the conference’s president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, gave the news to his disbelieving brother bishops. The decision, he told them, was at “the insistence of the Holy See” and had been delivered to him only the night before the start of the fall meeting.

The surprise and anger were palpable in the room in the Marriott hotel in Baltimore, and Cardinal DiNardo himself went on to express his own disappointment.

“Brothers,” he said, “I am sure that you have concerns about this, as I do myself. Let us begin by taking those concerns to prayer.” In an address to the conference that had to be altered by the shocking news, Cardinal DiNardo stressed, “We remain committed to the program of episcopal accountability. Votes will not take place, but we will move forward.”

He again apologized to the victims of abuse and pledged to go forward.
In a news conference just a few hours later, he again urged Catholics to understand there is no lessening of their resolve.

“We have accepted these events [of the Holy See request],” he said, “we’ll keep pushing and moving until we get to a point until it becomes action. We are not happy.”

He explained further that the demand of the Holy See had come in the form of a letter from the Congregation for Bishops. The stated reason, the cardinal explained, was that the Holy See desired all votes on new measures related to the crisis be delayed until after the February meeting in Rome that Francis has called. That gathering will bring together the presidents of the world’s episcopal conferences to discuss the global sex-abuse crisis.

While the stated reasons are defensible enough, the request short-circuited months of preparations by the officials of the U.S. bishops’ conference and the genuine desire of the bishops in Baltimore to take highly anticipated concrete steps both to make progress in the crisis but also to try and regain some of the credibility that had been lost in a summer of scandals, attorneys general reports and simmering anger among the faithful over disgraced Archbishop McCarrick. The shocking events also completely overshadowed what was supposed to be one of those steps in restoring credibility: a day of prayer and penance.

The original plan was to devote most of the first day to prayer and to hearing from abuse victims, as well as reflections on the Book of Daniel, Chapter 9, on sackcloth and ashes, and the great reformer St. Charles Borromeo who was willing to face assassination to bring authentic renewal to his archdiocese of Milan in the 16th century.

The day of prayer, penance and adoration followed by deliberations and votes was potentially doubly significant.

First, it would have anchored the subsequent deliberations in a proper spiritual context, tying the important reality of institutional reform to the need for a corresponding authentic spiritual reform. Second, it would have served as a first step toward the planned longer and presumably deeper reflection, prayer and penance in January that will take place at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago.
Francis and Synodality

The notion of prayer had one additional facet. During their September meeting with Francis, Cardinal DiNardo and Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, the vice president of the USCCB, expressed their desire for the Holy See to launch a full investigation into the McCarrick scandal.

In reply, Francis encouraged them to cancel the fall assembly and have prayer and penance. The bishops took to heart the Pope’s suggestion but then also pushed ahead with the debate and vote on the plans to deal with the crisis. It was a compromise with the Pope’s recommendation, a down payment on the week of prayer in Chicago in January and a first step of offering the Catholic faithful a tangible set of proposals for the future.

The vote itself would have benefited from the credibility of action. They had a plan entering the assembly, and while it might not have been perfect and perhaps might not have passed the critical eye of the Congregations for Bishops and the Congregration for the Doctrine of the Faith, it was something the bishops could point to as a first concrete and transparent step.

Francis, however, wanted days of prayer and no votes. He apparently got his wish. But after asking frustrated and angry Catholics — many victims included — to wait for years for the bishops to begin holding themselves accountable, the idea of waiting months longer might seem intolerable to many. The Congregation for Bishops saw potential problems with the bishops’ proposals and acted firmly but with also painful timing.

To the bishops, of course, there is the requirement of obedience to the Vicar of Christ. At the news conference Monday, Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, the outgoing head of the Bishops’ Committee on Communications, both emphasized the importance of obedience.

Bishop Coyne said in answer to a question on why not just vote anyway, “Bishops by our very nature are collegial. … We work in union with each other to come to a collegial place. So when the Holy See asks us to work in collegiality, that’s what we do.”

Cardinal DiNardo added, “We are Roman Catholic bishops in communion with our Holy Father in Rome and he has people in Vatican congregations, and we are responsible to him to be attentive. Given that attentiveness, of faith, when we receive this letter we respond.”

The demand of the Holy See and the response of the bishops also exemplified another major issue, one that also emerged out of seeming nowhere during the Synod on Youth: synodality. From the closing days of the synod to the first day of the bishops’ meeting, the definition of synodality has been debated and interpreted.
In his morning address, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, taught, “Pope Francis asks us to be a synodal and humble Church. A Church that listens. We need to listen once more to the voice of Christ.”

Synodality means, as the nuncio stressed, listening. It has also been described as a journeying together. Was what happened on Day One in Baltimore a moment of synodality or were the U.S. bishops treated to the sheer raw exercise of power?
When asked if he saw the action of the Holy See as synodal, Cardinal DiNardo described it as “quizzical,” theorizing that the Congregation for Bishops might have considered the U.S. bishops to have been too hasty in crafting their proposal.
“I’m wondering if they could turn the synodality back on us,” he added. “My first reaction was, ‘This didn’t seem so synodical.’ But maybe the Americans weren’t acting so synodically either. But it was quizzical to me, when I saw it.”

Over the next days, the bishops will discuss the most important approaches to the crisis, and while there may not be a vote, the bishops will likely have plenty to say. Look for a final statement and a series of resolutions to salvage something from the disastrous news that began their journey together in Baltimore. Will the road ahead continue to be a long and tortured one? Will Pope Francis be listening?
Pray for our bishops and pray for our Holy Father.

ARCHBISHOP VIGANO TO U.S. BISHOPS. YOU HAVE A SACRED MANDATE

November 13, 2018 Tuesday
Dear Brothers Bishops in the US,
I am writing to remind you of the sacred mandate you were given on the day of your episcopal ordination: to lead the flock to Christ. Meditate on Proverbs 9:10: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom! Do not behave like frightened sheep, but as courageous shepherds. Do not be afraid of standing up and doing the right thing for the victims, for the faithful and for your own salvation. The Lord will render to every one of us according to our actions and omissions.
I am fasting and praying for you.
+Arch. Carlo Maria Viganò Your former Apostolic Nuncio
November 13, 2018 Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini

POPE FRANCIS ON EIGHTH COMMANDMENT: GOSSIP KILLS, GOD IS TRUTH

In his continuing catechesis on the Ten Commandments, the Pope during his General Audience reflects on the eighth commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour”.

In his Catechesis devoted to the eighth commandment, Pope Francis told pilgrims in St Peter’s Square on Wednesday that Christians are called to be “truthful not only in our words but in our entire way of acting towards others.” Speaking at his weekly General Audience, the Pope said that, “our ultimate model in this regard is Jesus himself. He is the truth in person who, at his trial before Pilate, revealed that he came into this world to testify to the truth.”

Where there is a lie there is no love

When a person is not communicating authentically, underlined the Pontiff, it is a serious matter because it inhibits relationships and therefore inhibits love. “Where there is a lie, he continued, there is no love. ”

Beware of Gossip

Gossiping, Pope Francis pointed out, kills. It kills, he explained, “because the tongue kills, like a knife.” Be careful, the Pope added, the gossip “is a terrorist because he or she throws a bomb and leaves.” “Christians are not exceptional men and women, said the Pope, “we are, however, children of our heavenly Father, who is good and does not disappoint us, and places in our hearts the love for our brothers and sisters.”

God is truth

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour” he stressed, means living as children of God, acting in accordance with his will and trusting in him. “It bids us live this new life to the full, and thus to bear true witness to God’s saving love, made incarnate in the humanity of Christ our Lord. “I trust God”, concluded Pope Francis, “ this is the great truth.”

Here is the official English language summary of the Pope’s catechesis at the General Audience on 14th of November 2018:

Dear brothers and sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the Ten Commandments, we now turn to the eighth commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that this commandment “forbids misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others” (No. 2464). We are called to be truthful not only in our words but in our entire way of acting towards others. Our ultimate model in this regard is Jesus himself. He is the truth in person (cf. Jn 14:6), who, at his trial before Pilate, revealed that he came into this world to testify to the truth (cf. Jn 18:37). In the mystery of his life, death and resurrection, he disclosed the deepest meaning of our life on earth, and invited us to share in his divine life. His gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, enables us to become adoptive sons and daughters of our heavenly Father and to dwell in his love as brothers and sisters. The eighth commandment bids us live this new life to the full, and thus to bear true witness to God’s saving love, made incarnate in the humanity of Christ our Lord.

HOLY SEE INVESTIGATING ARCHBISHOP MCCARRICK CASE

Below is the long-awaited Vatican statement issued today about its investigation in the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. It does leave a few questions, but the Holy See has at last spoken in a summary fashion to some of the accusations issued in two letters in August and September by former nuncio the United States, Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò. One of those accusations was that the Holy Father knew of the scandal involving the former cardinal and never did anything about it, instead making him an important part of Vatican diplomacy, sending him on missions,. including one to China.

More to come as the statement does say, “The Holy See will, in due course, make known the conclusions of the matter regarding Archbishop McCarrick.”

Read the Holy See statement first and then watch the following, absolutely riveting video of Raymond Arroyo’s interview with Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that aired on Thursday on “The World Over” – 40 minutes you’ll never forget! I found myself holding my breath at a few points. He talks of the McCarrick case (very interesting once you have read today’s Vatican statement!), the abuse scandal, the China deal, the synod on youth, the papal document on the synod, Episcopalis communio, and much more! You will learn a great deal! Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin appears after the cardinal so stay tuned for that !

HOLY SEE INVESTIGATING ARCHBISHOP MCCARRICK CASE

After the publication of the accusations regarding the conduct of Archbishop Theodore Edgar McCarrick, the Holy Father Pope Francis, aware of and concerned by the confusion that these accusations are causing in the conscience of the faithful, has established that the following be communicated:

In September 2017, the Archdiocese of New York notified the Holy See that a man had accused former Cardinal McCarrick of having abused him in the 1970s. The Holy Father ordered a thorough preliminary investigation into this, which was carried out by the Archdiocese of New York, at the conclusion of which the relative documentation was forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In the meantime, because grave indications emerged during the course of the investigation, the Holy Father accepted the resignation of Archbishop McCarrick from the College of Cardinals, prohibiting him by order from exercising public ministry, and obliging him to lead a life of prayer and penance.

The Holy See will, in due course, make known the conclusions of the matter regarding Archbishop McCarrick. Moreover, with reference to other accusations brought against Archbishop McCarrick, the Holy Father has decided that information gathered during the preliminary investigation be combined with a further thorough study of the entire documentation present in the Archives of the Dicasteries and Offices of the Holy See regarding the former Cardinal McCarrick, in order to ascertain all the relevant facts, to place them in their historical context and to evaluate them objectively.

The Holy See is conscious that, from the examination of the facts and of the circumstances, it may emerge that choices were taken that would not be consonant with a contemporary approach to such issues. However, as Pope Francis has said: “We will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead” (Philadelphia, 27 September 2015). Both abuse and its cover-up can no longer be tolerated and a different treatment for Bishops who have committed or covered up abuse, in fact represents a form of clericalism that is no longer acceptable.

The Holy Father Pope Francis renews his pressing invitation to unite forces to fight against the grave scourge of abuse within and beyond the Church, and to prevent such crimes from being committed in the future to the harm of the most innocent and most vulnerable in society. As previously made known, the Holy Father has convened a meeting of the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences from around the world for next February, while the words of his recent Letter to the People of God still resonate: “The only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within” (20 August 2018).

CARDINAL O’MALLEY CALLS FOR CONSEQUENCES FOR CHURCH LEADERSHIP – PCPM MEMBER ON PAPAL LETTER OMISSIONS: THE WORDS ‘BISHOP,’ ‘SUPERIOR,’ AND ‘LEADERSHIP’ – PRESS RELEASE FROM PONTIFICAL COMMISSION FOR PROTECTION OF MINORS

A powerful reminder from a Lutheran minister in an email to EWTN:
Our prayers are with you in this difficult time.
I am a United Methodist Minister.
The miraculous presence of our Lord is never lessened by any
unfaithful act of any person.
We are ever grateful for our heritage, which is Catholic!

CARDINAL O’MALLEY CALLS FOR CONSEQUENCES FOR CHURCH LEADERSHIP

Cardinal O’Malley posts a video message on the website of the Archdiocese of Boston in response to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report calling for “accountability and consequences” for Church leadership.
By Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (Vatican media)

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and head of the Vatican Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, posted a video message on the website of the Archdiocese of Boston in response to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report. The video was posted on Saturday just days before Pope Francis released a letter to the People of God in response to the ongoing clerical abuse crisis.

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO: https://vimeo.com/285548145

Words fail
Cardinal O’Malley said that, “words fail” for the situation the Church in the U.S. is facing. He said that hearts are “wrenched” as we yet again hear of the “devastating pain experienced by survivors”, and “we remain shamed by these egregious failures to protect children and those who are vulnerable and affirm our commitment that these failures will never be repeated.”

Accountability of Church leaders
Cardinal O’Malley acknowledges that many perpetrators have been made accountable for their crimes. However, he also admits that the Church has yet “to establish clear and transparent systems of accountability and consequence for Church leadership whose failures have allowed these crimes to occur”. He also said that all who participate in the Church’s mission must “embrace spiritual conversion” and that “legal transparency and pastoral accountability” must be demanded of them.

Clock ticking
“Immediate action” must be taken, the Cardinal continues, because “the clock is ticking”. He then states that both Catholics and civil society have lost patience and confidence in “Church leadership”, but adds that he is hopeful that the failures of the past can be corrected. He calls on the Church “to help people not to lose hope”, and said that it is often “survivors and victims who courageously teach us that we cannot lose hope”.

Earning back trust
The Cardinal acknowledges that “the crisis we face is a product of clerical sins and clerical failures” and can only be addressed with the “involvement and leadership of lay men and women in our Church, individuals who can bring their competence, experience and skills to the task we face”.

Cardinal O’Malley concluded saying that only by recognizing the reality it faces, can the Church “earn back trust, confidence and support from the community of Catholics in our society. We must proceed quickly and with purpose. There is no time to waste.”

PCPM MEMBERS ON PAPAL LETTER OMISSIONS: THE WORDS ‘BISHOP,’ ‘SUPERIOR,’ AND ‘LEADERSHIP,

Vatican City, Aug 21, 2018 / 01:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A member of Pope Francis’ commission for the protection of minors said Tuesday that the role bishops and superiors have played in the crisis of clerical sex abuse must be made explicit if change is to take place.

In comments to CNA Aug. 21, Myriam Wijlens said the text of Francis’ letter on recent clerical abuse revelations “does not contain the words ‘bishop,’ ‘superior,’ and ‘leadership, though it was implied, but “necessary conversion requires that these words find explicit articulation.”

“It is an important step in creating a culture of accountability,” she noted. A member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) and a canon lawyer, Wijlens said for justice to be carried out, “more steps” must follow.

“Create clear institutions where complaints against bishops and superiors can be brought forward, provide for truly independent investigations, and hold those who cover up accountable,” she advised.

Wijlens, from the Netherlands, was appointed to the PCPM in February.
She noted three areas which are of concern to her as a canon lawyer: first, the formation of a culture that not only prevents sexual abuse but also the abuse of power that leads to cover-ups; and second, having appropriate ways for victims of abuse to report, be heard, and obtain justice.

“Third, see to it that accused get a just and transparent trial and those who cover up including bishops are held accountable,” she said. “Here the conversion begins: the leadership of the church must go out of its own circles.”
In a public statement Tuesday, the PCPM said it was encouraged by Pope Francis’ letter on the sexual abuse crisis and thanked him for his “strong words recognizing the pain and suffering” of survivors of abuse from members of the Church.

They said members of the commission “feel supported by the Holy Father’s call to church leadership” to implement zero tolerance and emphasized that this and accountability are foundational for the protection of children now and in the future.

In the same statement, Wijlens added that the pope’s clear connection between sexual abuse, abuse of power, and abuse of conscience means he “verbalizes what many do not want to see connected.”

She also said that asking for pardon and reparation will “never be sufficient” because it only looks at the past, whereas a “forward looking response implies asking for a radical change of culture, where the safety of children enjoys top priority.”

PRESS RELEASE FROM PONTIFICAL COMMISSION FOR PROTECTION OF MINORS

August 21, 2018 – The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors is encouraged by Pope Francis’ call to zero tolerance of abuse. The PCPM is encouraged by the Letter to the Holy People of God issued Monday by Pope Francis.

The Commission thanks the Holy Father for his strong words recognizing the pain and suffering endured by people who have suffered sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by some members of the Church.

We are forever indebted to the prophetic courage and endurance of many men and women whose “outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it.”
Zero tolerance and accountability are pre-requisite in safeguarding

The members of the Commission feel supported by the Holy Father’s call to church leadership to “implement zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable.”

Pope Francis’ letter reinforces the PCPM message that zero tolerance and accountability are a pre-requisite in safeguarding vulnerable people from abuse, now and in the future.

Commission member Prof. Myriam Wijlens states:

“For me a canon lawyer who has been engaged in many abuse cases three aspects stand out: first, Pope Francis clearly expresses a connection between sexual abuse, abuse of power and abuse of conscience. He verbalizes what many do not want to see connected.

Secondly, he mentions two levels of abuse of power: there are those who use their position to sexually abuse minors and vulnerable adults and there are those in leadership positions who abuse their power to cover this up.

Thirdly, the response of asking for pardon and seeking repair will never be sufficient also because it only looks backwards. A forward-looking response implies asking for a radical change of culture where the safety of children enjoys top priority. Protecting the reputation of the church stipulates putting the safety of children first. The clergy alone will not be able to bring about such a radical change, thus Pope Francis writes: in humility they will have to ask for and receive help from the whole community. (http://www.protectionofminors.va/content/tuteladeiminori/en/news_section/pres-statement/ps-20180821-en1.html)

For more information on the PCPM and its work in promoting a safeguarding culture in local churches around the world visit: http://www.protectionofminors.va

LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD

The following letter was written by Pope Francis in Spanish and translated into English, French, Italian, Portuguese, German and Polish.

LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.

1. If one member suffers…

In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims. We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side he stands. Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise he made to our fathers: “he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite.

With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency! Christ’s betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)” (Ninth Station).

2. … all suffer together with it

The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit. If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history. And this in an environment where conflicts, tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an outstretched hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 228). Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever endangers the integrity of any person. A solidarity that summons us to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption. The latter is “a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for ‘even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light’ (2 Cor 11:14)” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 165). Saint Paul’s exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the best antidote against all our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9).

I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.

Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does. For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: “If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he wished to be identified” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49). To see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so, prayer and penance will help. I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command.1 This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never again” to every form of abuse.

It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives. 2 This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people”.

Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism.

It is always helpful to remember that, “in salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in the human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 6). Consequently, the only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within. Without the active participation of all the Church’s members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change. The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel. For “whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).

It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.

Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combatting all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.

In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1).

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it”, said Saint Paul. By an attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation. Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son’s cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus’ side. In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more upon prayer”, seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Spiritual Exercises, 319). She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.

May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.

FRANCIS

1 “But this kind [of demon] does not come out except by prayer and fasting” (Mt 17:21).
2 Cf. Letter to the Pilgrim People of God in Chile (31 May 2018).
3 Letter to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America (19 March 2016).

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LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD

The following letter was written by Pope Francis in Spanish and translated into English, French, Italian, Portuguese, German and Polish.

LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.

1. If one member suffers…

In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims. We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side he stands. Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise he made to our fathers: “he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite.

With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency! Christ’s betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)” (Ninth Station).

2. … all suffer together with it

The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit. If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history. And this in an environment where conflicts, tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an outstretched hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 228). Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever endangers the integrity of any person. A solidarity that summons us to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption. The latter is “a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for ‘even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light’ (2 Cor 11:14)” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 165). Saint Paul’s exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the best antidote against all our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9).

I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.

Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does. For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: “If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he wished to be identified” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49). To see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so, prayer and penance will help. I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command.1 This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never again” to every form of abuse.

It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives. 2 This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people”.

Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism.

It is always helpful to remember that, “in salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in the human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 6). Consequently, the only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within. Without the active participation of all the Church’s members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change. The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel. For “whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).

It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.

Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combatting all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.

In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1).

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it”, said Saint Paul. By an attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation. Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son’s cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus’ side. In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more upon prayer”, seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Spiritual Exercises, 319). She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.

May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.

FRANCIS

1 “But this kind [of demon] does not come out except by prayer and fasting” (Mt 17:21).
2 Cf. Letter to the Pilgrim People of God in Chile (31 May 2018).
3 Letter to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America (19 March 2016).

[