Child abuse by clergy 'a mystery'
Mon, 18 Jun 2012 11:35a.m.
By Frances D'Emilio
Pope Benedict XVI has told Irish Catholics it is a mystery why priests and other church officials abused children entrusted in their care, undermining faith in the church "in an appalling way".
By describing the decades of child abuse in Catholic parishes, schools and church-run institutions and parishes in Ireland as a "mystery," the pontiff could further anger rank-and-file faithful in Ireland.
Benedict commented on the scandals of sexual abuse and cover-ups by church hierarchy in a pre-recorded video message for an outdoor Mass attended by 75,000 Catholics, many from overseas, in Ireland's largest sports stadium. Ireland's prime minister and president attended the Mass, the final event of a Eucharistic Congress aimed at shoring up flagging faith.
The weeklong Eucharistic Congress, held by the Vatican every four years in a different part of the world, took place against a backdrop of deep anger over child abuse cover-ups and surveys showing declining weekly Mass attendance in Ireland, where church and state were once tightly entwined.
"How are we to explain the fact that people who regularly received the Lord's body and confessed their sins in the sacrament of Penance have offended in this way?" said the pope, referring to church staff who abused children.
"It remains a mystery," he said. "Yet evidently their Christianity was no longer nourished by joyful encounter with Jesus Christ. It had become merely a matter of habit."
Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said the church in Ireland is facing a grave fight for survival.
"Your forbears in the church in Ireland knew how to strive for holiness and constancy in their personal lives," Benedict said in his message.
In a reference to the Vatican's insistence on Sunday Mass attendance, Benedict said Catholic faith "is a legacy that is surely perfected and nourished" at Mass.
Yet, he said, "thankfulness and joy at such a great history of faith and love have recently been shaken in an appalling way by the revelation of sins committed by priests and consecrated persons against people entrusted to their care".
"Instead of showing them the path towards Christ, toward God, instead of bearing witness to his goodness, they abused people and undermined the credibility of the church's message," the pope said.
For more than a decade, advocates for those abused by clergy have been demanding that church leaders in Ireland and at the Vatican accept blame for protecting paedophile priests.
Four state-ordered investigations have documented how tens of thousands of children from the 1940s to the 1990s suffered sexual, physical and mental abuse at the hands of priests, nuns and church staff in three Irish dioceses and in a network of workhouse-style residential schools.
In Ireland, the United States and many other countries, bishops and other church leaders have been accused of systematically covering up paedophile priests, often by shuffling them from parish to parish without telling the faithful about the abuse.
Benedict's evoking "mystery" disappointed the victims' advocacy group SNAP, or Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. A SNAP official, Barbara Dorris, said the pope was speaking in "platitudes, refusing to even accurately name the crisis".
"The pontiff's wrong: there's little mystery here," said Dorris in an emailed statement.
She cited priests' having "sometimes almost absolute power, over devout and defenceless kids," as well as bishops who abuse power and "ignore, hide and enable heinous crimes against kids".
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20/06/2012 6:49:28 p.m.
There is no mystery. This behavior occurs because the church leaders have long condoned it and encouraged it through their indifference. I know because it happened in MY church. Everyone's favorite priest was suddenly gone one Sunday without explanation. It was years before I heard that at his new parish in New Mexico, the crimes continued. Fortunately this time, he was busted. I later found out that a friend was one of his victims.
My mother wanted me to be an altar boy back then, and I feel I dodged a gigantic bullet by refusing. It took a lot of arguing...her main point in trying to get me to do it was that I would get to work with Father John. It horrifies me how close I came to such a fate.
20/06/2012 6:41:58 p.m.
Alex, a cheap shot at the pope how? By quoting him???
19/06/2012 2:42:15 p.m.
High time the Catholic church to9ok ownership of this issue...they have turned a blind eye for far too long and are just as culpable as the perpertrators.
18/06/2012 12:14:41 p.m.
I am a Catholic too and this is a fairly cheap shot at the Pope. The Pope has spoken and written extensively on this topic which has done so much damage primarily to innocent young people, and also to the church he leads. This article treats the Pope's latest comments as some sort of official response, but they are not. If you sincerely want to report the full story, go and read the Pope's comments, his apologies and statements that are readily accessible online, and read what is currently happening within the church in Ireland.
Anyone with common sense can see that he is pondering why, as we all surely do, would an ordained minister in the church, who's job it is to be close to God and help others, would about-turn and abuse others instead, bringing so much harm instead of good and giving a bad name to all those faithful priest-brothers of theirs. It is indeed a mystery - something we're all trying to fathom and finding it darn hard to comprehend. He even makes a reasonable suggestion that these priests were simply 'going through the motions' and had really lost their way.
18/06/2012 11:47:47 a.m.
Paul Cronin wrote:
The church is a community and as such reflects all in community. That the church chose to ignore abuse in its midst allowed it to grow and not to be confronted. Its obsession with the singlehood of priests is unhelpful. But its obsession with secrecy and lack of accountability is sinful and blasphemous. To declare this a mystery merely shows that little has changed.Oh yes by the way I am Catholic quite qualified to comment.
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