Church Lacked Vigilance About Sex Abuse, Admits Pope

Calls for Time of Penance and Humility

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ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, SEPT. 16, 2010 ( The Church was not sufficiently vigilant or sufficiently quick in responding to the problem of sexual abusers among clergy, Benedict XVI says.

The Pope made this affirmation today en route to Scotland for the first leg of his four-day trip to the United Kingdom. As is customary, he gave a press conference to a group of journalists on the flight with him.

Speaking of the sexual abuse scandal, he affirmed: «First of all I must say that these revelations were a shock to me, a great sadness; it is difficult to understand how this perversion of the priestly ministry was possible. At the moment of ordination, the priest, prepared for years for this moment, says ‘yes’ to Christ to be his voice, his mouth, his hands. […] How a man who has done and said this can then fall into this perversion is difficult to understand. 

«It is a great sadness, a great sadness also that the authority of the Church was not sufficiently vigilant and not sufficiently quick and resolute in taking the necessary measures.»

Reiterating his message to the bishops of Ireland, the Holy Father called for «a time of penance, a time of humility» and a time to «renew and re-learn absolute sincerity.»

Steps forward

The Bishop of Rome recommended three steps for bringing the Church forward. The first, he said, is giving priority to the victims: «What can we do to help these persons overcome this trauma, to rediscover life, to find again as well trust in the message of Christ? Concern for the victims is the first priority with material, psychological and spiritual help.»

Secondly, the Holy Father considered those guilty of abusing minors. He called for «the just punishment of excluding them from any possibility of access to young people, because we know that this is an illness, that free will does not function where this illness exists; hence, we must protect these persons from themselves and find the way to help them and keep them from any access to young people.»

Finally, he encouraged careful selection of candidates for the priesthood: «To be careful so that, inasmuch as humanly possible, future cases are prevented.»

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