‘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.’
Pope Francis stressed this in a letter he sent to the People of God today, August 20, 2018, in the wake of the findings of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.
In his message, published in seven languages, the Holy Father decried that the Church has ‘abandoned’ its children and vowed accountability.
In recent days, the Pope acknowledged: “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.”
These wounds “which never go away,” the Pope stressed, never disappear and require the Church to forcefully condemn these “atrocities” and “join forces in uprooting this culture of death.”
“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.”
God stands on victims’ side
“The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side he stands.”
“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.” The Pope said the Church must beg forgiveness for its 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.”
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.
No care for the little ones…we abandoned
“We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them,” Pope Francis said.
“I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger,” he continued, “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).”
For the hushed pain
Pope Francis invited the entire holy faithful People of God to a “penitential exercise of prayer and fasting,” in order to “awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says ‘never again’ to every form of abuse.”
“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…”
Pope Francis concluded, praying: “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.”
Here is the Vatican-provided text: https://zenit.org/articles/popes-letter-to-people-of-god/.