03/20/2010, 00.00
VATICAN
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Pope: those who abused children will answer before God

In a Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, Benedict XVI returns to openly confront the issue of paedophile priests. Who must also go before the courts. "Shame and remorse" for what happened. Critical of the bishops who failed to safeguard, instead suppressed and concealed. He reminds victims that even Jesus suffered unjustly. Inspection of diocese and seminars and a national mission for "all bishops, priests and religious"
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Pope is "deeply troubled" and "greatly concerned" over the cases of sexual abuse by priests and religious. On behalf of the Church he has expressed "shame and remorse" to the victims and their families whose "trust has been betrayed" and whose " dignity has been violated”: to those who have committed the "crimes" he says "you must answer before God Almighty, as well as before a properly constituted court" to the bishops he accuses them of having "failed, sometimes severely, so".    
This is what Benedict XVI has written in his pastoral letter to Catholics of Ireland, presented today, a lengthy document that, beyond the circumstances of that country, confirms the attitude of the Pope on such issues. "I think - Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office said this morning - what is plain for all to see is that the Pope has been a leader in overcoming the past culture of silence and concealment on the issue of sexual abuse in the Church and indeed has chosen the path of transparency and decision".  
 
In the letter, the Pope does not hide the fact that the situation was worsened by "the rapid transformation and secularization of society," the "well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations", " inadequate procedures for determining the suitability of candidates for the priesthood and the religious life; insufficient human, moral, intellectual and spiritual formation in seminaries and novitiates; a tendency in society to favour the clergy and other authority figures; and a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church and the avoidance of scandal. "    
All this "has contributed anything but small weakening of the faith and the loss of respect for the Church and its teachings."    
The Pope, recalls having met with victims and states he is ready and willing to meet with other victims again, then directly addresses all those involved in the issue, starting with the victims and their families, those responsible and the bishops. He addresses the honest priests and religious and all Irish faithful.
 
 
His words are harsh for those responsible. “You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals. You have forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland and brought shame and dishonour upon your confreres. Those of you who are priests violated the sanctity of the sacrament of Holy Orders in which Christ makes himself present in us and in our actions. Together with the immense harm done to victims, great damage has been done to the Church and to the public perception of the priesthood and religious life”. He continues “I urge you to examine your conscience, take responsibility for the sins you have committed, and humbly express your sorrow. Sincere repentance opens the door to God’s forgiveness and the grace of true amendment”.
 
To those who have “suffered grievously” for the abuse they were subjected to and to their families, after having expressed “shame and remorse” in the name of the church, he asks them all “not to lose hope. It is in the communion of the Church that we encounter the person of Jesus Christ, who was himself a victim of injustice and sin. Like you, he still bears the wounds of his own unjust suffering”.
 
 
To the bishops, he reminds them of tehr past responsability and adds: I recognize how difficult it was to grasp the extent and complexity of the problem, to obtain reliable information and to make the right decisions in the light of conflicting expert advice. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness. I appreciate the efforts you have made to remedy past mistakes and to guarantee that they do not happen again. Besides fully implementing the norms of canon law in addressing cases of child abuse, continue to cooperate with the civil authorities in their area of competence”.  He adds “Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore the respect and good will of the Irish people towards the Church”.
 
The document also announces an "apostolic visitation", in short an inspection, "to some dioceses," as well as in seminaries and religious congregations” and proposes "a national mission for all bishops, priests and religious".    
For all Irish Catholics, Benedict XVI says that "Nevertheless, the task you now face is to address the problem of abuse that has occurred within the Irish Catholic community, and to do so with courage and determination. No one imagines that this painful situation will be resolved swiftly. Real progress has been made, yet much more remains to be done. Perseverance and prayer are needed, with great trust in the healing power of God’s grace".    
  A Prayer for the Church of Ireland concludes the letter, one verse of which reads “May our sorrow and our tears/our sincere effort to redress past wrongs,/and our firm purpose of amendment bear an abundant harvest of grace/for the deepening of the faith/in our families, parishes, schools and communities, /for the spiritual progress of Irish society, /and the growth of charity, justice, joy and peace/within the whole human family”.
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