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The Pope Is Ashamed

Apr 16, 2008 — Categories: ,

Pope Benedict XVI has arrived in the U.S. for his first visit as Pope. And there is some good news here. Ironically, “good news” and the Church don’t often appear in the same sentence these days. So I am always on the lookout for this occurrence.

Pope Benedict XVI has arrived in the U.S. for his first visit as Pope. And there is some good news here. Ironically, “good news” and the Church don’t often appear in the same sentence these days. So I am always on the lookout for this occurrence.

As he comes to the U.S., the first comments the Pope made to the media had to do with the crisis of sexual abuse of children by priests: “We are deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible that this cannot happen in the future.” Shame is the appropriate emotion in response to the shameful actions of individual pedophile priests and subsequent collusion and cover-ups by the institutional church. Shame can be productive in the context of the recognition of moral failure and responsibility; shame can lead to repentance and change. But only if the repentance is authentic and there is a will to actually change the institutional practices which allowed this harmful misconduct to continue for years.

What would be the signs of this will to change? When we see dioceses move away from defending themselves against the legitimate petitions for justice from their people who have been harmed. And, where appropriate, when we see discipline of Bishops who have protected pedophiles and punished victims.

There was one other moment of good news in the Pope’s comments that should not be overlooked. Rather than be pulled into the confusion of homosexuality with pedophilia, Pope Benedict said: “I would not speak at this moment about homosexuality, but pedophilia, which is another thing. And we would absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry.” This is a huge step forward and counters the earlier Vatican response to the problem of pedophilia which was to eliminate gay priests from the priesthood. Let us pray that the Pope’s awareness of the important distinction between homosexuality and pedophilia will inform the future actions of the Vatican and the whole Roman Catholic Church.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute
www.faithtrustinstitute.org

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