Guadalajara Cardinal´s Comments on Scandals Involving Priests

«I Believe in the Church, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic»

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GUADALAJARA, Mexico, JUNE 10, 2002 (Zenit.org).- In the following statement, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, archbishop of Guadalajara, comments on the sexual abuse of minors by priests and the way in which the problem has been handled by the media.

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The Church is holy because Christ, her Head, is holy, because of the Holy Spirit, who animates her soul, because of the divine origin of her doctrine, because of her sacraments, which purify us and give us divine life; she is also holy because of many of her children, who have lived the Gospel faithfully, some of whom have been raised to the honor of the altar as models of Christian life.

However, at the same time, the Church is also sinful, because of the infidelities of the great majority of Christians. While a pilgrim in this world, on her way to the eternal homeland, the Church sins and is purified, in order to be able to enter eternal life, where nothing stained is admitted.

It is a question of the frailty of every human being, permitted by God, so that with the aid of grace weak man might merit to be rewarded with eternal life.

Human frailty was manifested in Judas´ betrayal and Peter´s denial, and has been present throughout 2,000 years of history. Many believers, priests, religious and lay people have broken not one but all the commandments of Christ, and have been the cause of scandal. What can we say to those who do not believe?

At present the scandal of pedophile priests is making headlines in the most important national and international media. Because of this, the Church is being spat upon and much mud has been flung at her.

It cannot be denied that there are cases, very lamentable of course, but they are a minority. It should be recognized that the majority of the Lord´s ministers are faithful and exercise their ministry in an exemplary way. It cannot be denied that the abuse of minors is an extremely serious offense. It tarnishes the divine image reflected in children´s faces; it destroys their innocence at an early age. It cannot be denied that it is an unspeakable abuse, which takes advantage of the weakness and simplicity of minors. It is an abuse that must be denounced and severely punished by human laws, which also apply to priests in so far as they are citizens, but it is also a grave sin, which will be terribly punished by Christ, Universal Judge, who said: «Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea» (Mark 9:41).

When the abuse against minors is committed by a priest, it has an even graver dimension, given that the priest, by his office, is a minister of sanctification, a preacher of evangelical morality, a guardian of good customs and, by his life, an example to the people of God. Behavior in God´s ministers that is contrary to this is repugnant.

These days, the Vicar of Christ, Pope John Paul II, and with him all of us who love our Mother Church, suffer intensely because of those priests who, as the Pope said, have allowed themselves to be seduced by the most terrible suggestions of the mystery of iniquity, seriously failing in their duty, and casting a shadow of suspicion on so many virtuous priests, who are the majority.

Persons with homosexual tendencies have always been denied entry to the priesthood. The selection of candidates to the priesthood is carefully watched in seminaries, but sometimes the aspirants´ pretence and concealment or the negligence of educators, can result in admitting those who are not worthy to priestly ordination.

The priestly state is not a «paradise» for pedophiles. This offense is sanctioned and punished. Henceforth there will be more severity, given that the Holy See has decided that every case of pedophilia committed by ministers of the Church must be immediately reported to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which at present is presided over by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. If at times bishops have been negligent, henceforth this will be remedied.

In this Church of Guadalajara, I can give my personal testimony that our seminary has been closely studied to the degree that is humanly possible. Here, priests who fall into a situation of sin and scandal, in this or another matter, are warned and given professional help, including the realms of spirituality, medicine and psychology, in a house founded here to help priests who suffer from depression or exhaustion, and those who fall into wrongful behavior. It is the Alberione Institute.

When there is no correction, in keeping with the warnings prescribed in the Code of Canon Law, they are removed from the ministry.

Worthy of note is the fact that present day society, which complacently organizes homosexual and lesbian marches on the streets of the great cities of the world, which engages in profitable businesses with prostitution and child pornography, which is so permissive and relaxed in customs, and which enjoys immoral television programs and films, is so harsh and implacable, so scandalized to the point of rending its garments over the offenses of some priests.

On the one hand, an unjust generalization has been made; and on the other, reference is often made to cases that occurred nine, 10, 15 and even 30 years ago, calling for the heads not only of the guilty priests, but also of their bishops and the whole hierarchy. What is the reason for this?

It is because priests must be holy, this is what God asks of his ministers, and they must handle holy things in a holy way. This is what the Church asks and what we all want who form part of her. The world exacts this, making an evident distinction between the faults of priests and those of the rest: Priests are not forgiven because they must be holy.

There is room for another consideration, and that is that mercy and compassion are certainly not attributes of sinners. God is infinitely holy but also infinitely merciful and compassionate. Among men, the most virtuous and holy are the most understanding, and those to whom one can go for help in difficulties, especially of a moral order. However, to the degree that man gives himself to sin, and allows himself to be involved in a licentious life, he becomes harsh, critical, lacking in understanding and exacting toward others, as if in so being he can justify his own disorders.

The issue of pedophilia among ministers of the Church, came into prominence in the media in countries of the First World, for the benefit of lawyers who profit from the accusations, and as a means to discredit the Church and deprive her prophetic voice of authority, which is opposed to the powers of this world when she condemns abortion, contraception, sexual libertinage and injustice in economic matters, which impoverishes millions of human beings.

I believe in the Holy Church! God allows these strong winds to blow to «shake the tree,» so that the dead leaves will fall and the Church be purified, which, with the strength of the Holy Spirit will be able to overcome the mystery of evil that prevails in the world and sows malice in all God´s children, including the ministers.

We must pray for the Church of Christ and her priests, so that in their conduct they will give a shining example of holiness to the world.

+ Juan Cardinal Sandoval Íñiguez

[Published in the Web page of the Mexican bishops´ Conference: www.cem.org.mx]

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