“To those who abuse minors I would say this: convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice.”
Pope Francis delivered this strong message, during his annual address to the Roman Curia, for their annual exchange of Christmas greeting.
In his annual address, he noted that in the firm conviction that the light always proves stronger than the darkness, he expressed his wish to reflect with them on the light that links Christmas (the Lord’s first coming in humility) to the Parousia (his second coming in glory), and confirms all in the hope that does not disappoint.
“It is the hope on which our individual lives, and the entire history of the Church and the world, depend,” he said.
The Pope, however, did not shy away from decrying the scourge of abuse and calling on perpetrators to be shown no mercy.
Francis quoted Christ to those before him: “Remember the words of Christ: Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of scandals! For it is necessary that scandals come, but woe to the man by whom the scandal comes!’ (Mt 18:6-7).
The Pope recalled sinners in the Bible, who despite their roles, their having been anointed by God, neglect their relationship with God, disobey the divine commandments, damage their own moral integrity, without even feeling guilty.
“The “anointed” continues to exercise his mission as if nothing had happened,” he said, “with the only concern [being] to preserve his image, to keep up appearances.”
The Pontiff decried that there are consecrated men, “the Lord’s anointed”, who abuse the vulnerable, taking advantage of their position and their power of persuasion.
“They perform abominable acts yet continue to exercise their ministry as if nothing had happened. They have no fear of God or his judgement, but only of being found out and unmasked. Ministers who rend the ecclesial body, creating scandals and discrediting the Church’s saving mission and the sacrifices of so many of their confrères.”
Today too, he said, there are many Davids who, “without batting an eye,” enter into the web of corruption and “betray” God, His commandments, their own vocation, the Church, the people of God and the trust of little ones and their families.
“Often behind their boundless amiability, impeccable activity and angelic faces, they shamelessly conceal a vicious wolf ready to devour innocent souls.”
The sins and crimes of consecrated persons, the Pope said, are further tainted by infidelity and shame.
“They disfigure the countenance of the Church and undermine her credibility. The Church herself, with her faithful children, is also a victim of these acts of infidelity and these real sins of ‘peculation.’”
“Let it be clear that before these abominations the Church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes.”
The Church, he said, “will never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case.”
“It is undeniable that some in the past, out of irresponsibility, disbelief, lack of training, inexperience, or spiritual and human short-sightedness, treated many cases without the seriousness and promptness that was due. That must never happen again. This is the choice and the decision of the whole Church.”
This coming February, Francis stressed, the Church will restate her firm resolve to pursue unstintingly a path of purification.
“She will question, with the help of experts, how best to protect children, to avoid these tragedies, to bring healing and restoration to the victims, and to improve the training imparted in seminaries. An effort will be made to make past mistakes opportunities for eliminating this scourge, not only from the body of the Church but also from that of society.”
“For if this grave tragedy has involved some consecrated ministers, we can ask how deeply rooted it may be in our societies and in our families. Consequently, the Church will not be limited to healing her own wounds, but will seek to deal squarely with this evil that causes the slow death of so many persons, on the moral, psychological and human levels.”
In discussing this scourge, some, even within the Church, take to task certain communications professionals, accusing them of ignoring the overwhelming majority of cases of abuse that are not committed by clergy, and of intentionally wanting to give the false impression that this evil affects the Catholic Church alone.
“I myself would like to give heartfelt thanks to those media professionals who were honest and objective and sought to unmask these predators and to make their victims’ voices heard.”
Even if it were to involve a single case of abuse (something itself monstrous), the Church asks that people not be silent but bring it objectively to light, since the greater scandal in this matter is that of cloaking the truth.
Let us all remember that only David’s encounter with the prophet Nathan made him understand the seriousness of his sin. Today we need new Nathans to help so many Davids rouse themselves from a hypocritical and perverse life.
The Pope invited those before him to help Holy Mother Church in her difficult task of recognizing real from false cases, accusations from slander, grievances from insinuations, gossip from defamation.
“This is no easy task, since the guilty are capable of skillfully covering their tracks, to the point where many wives, mothers and sisters are unable to detect them in those closest to them: husbands, godfathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, neighbours, teachers and the like. The victims too, carefully selected by their predators, often prefer silence and live in fear of shame and the terror of rejection.”
“To those who abuse minors I would say this: convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice. Remember the words of Christ: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of scandals! For it is necessary that scandals come, but woe to the man by whom the scandal comes! (Mt 18:6-7).”
Following the address, Director of the Holy Press Office, Greg Burke, issued some comments: “In a kind of preparation for the February meeting on the protection of minors, Pope Francis spoke to Vatican officials today about sex abuse, and he did not mince words. The Pope said abuser priests are part of a web of corruption… vicious wolves who devour innocent souls.”
“The Pope,” the Vatican spokesman said, “praised the work of journalists. He gave thanks to reporters who have been honest and objective in uncovering priest predators, a
“Pope Francis,” he continued, “pledged that the Church will neither cover up cases or fail to take them seriously. In the face of these monstrosities, he said even one case is too many.”
“The Pope,” Greg Burke concluded, “ended on a positive note, saying that despite our human miseries, God’s light continues to shine at Christmas, and that the Church will emerge from these troubled times purified and more beautiful.”
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