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John Paul II
“Speech to 12
I have been deeply grieved
by the fact that priests and religious workers, whose vocation it is to help
people live holy lives in the sight of God, have themselves caused such
suffering and scandal to the young.
Let me assure you first of
all that I greatly appreciate the effort you are making to keep the Holy See,
and me personally, informed regarding the complex and difficult situation which
has arisen in your country in recent months. I am confident that your
discussions here will bear much fruit for the good of the Catholic people of the
You have come to the house
of the successor of Peter, whose task it is to confirm his brother bishops in
faith and love, and to unite them around Christ in the service of God's people.
The door of this house is always open to you, all the more so when your
communities are in distress.
Like you, I too have been
deeply grieved by the fact that priests and religious workers, whose vocation it
is to help people live holy lives in the sight of God, have themselves caused
such suffering and scandal to the young. Because of the great harm done by some
priests and religious, the Church herself is viewed with distrust, and many are
offended at the way in which the Church's leaders are perceived to have acted in
this matter. The abuse which has caused this crisis is by every standard wrong
and rightly considered a crime by society; it is also an appalling sin in the
eyes of God.
To the victims and their
families, wherever they may be, I express my profound sense of solidarity and
concern. It is true that a generalized lack of knowledge of the nature of the
problem and also at times the advice of clinical experts led bishops to make
decisions which subsequent events showed to be wrong. You are now working to
establish more reliable criteria to ensure that such mistakes are not repeated.
At the same time, even while
recognizing how indispensable these criteria are, we cannot forget the power of
Christian conversion, that radical decision to turn away from sin and back to
God, which reaches to the depths of a person's soul and can work extraordinary
change. Neither should we forget the immense spiritual, human and social good
that the vast majority of priests and religious workers in the
A great work of art may be
blemished, but its beauty remains; and this is a truth which any intellectually
honest critic will recognize.
To the Catholic communities
It is a deep-seated crisis
of sexual morality, even of human relationships, and its prime victims are the
family and the young. In addressing the problem of abuse with clarity and
determination, the Church will help society to understand and deal with the
crisis in its midst.
It must be absolutely clear
to the Catholic faithful, and to the wider community, that bishops and superiors
are concerned, above all else, with the spiritual good of souls. People need to
know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who
would harm the young. They must know that bishops and priests are totally
committed to the fullness of Catholic truth on matters of sexual morality, a
truth as essential to the renewal of the priesthood and the episcopate as it is
to the renewal of marriage and family life.
We must be confident that this time of trial will bring a purification of the entire Catholic community, a purification that is urgently needed if the Church is to preach more effectively the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all its liberating force. Now you must ensure that where sin increased, grace will all the more abound (Romans 5:20). So much pain, so much sorrow must lead to a holier priesthood, a holier episcopate, and a holier Church.
God alone is the source of
holiness, and it is to Him above all that we must turn for forgiveness, for
healing and for the grace to meet this challenge with uncompromising courage and
harmony of purpose. Like the good shepherd of last Sunday's Gospel, pastors must
go among their priests and people as men who inspire deep trust and lead them to
restful waters (Psalms 22:2).
I beg the Lord to give the
bishops of the
Pope John Paul II
delivered 23 April, 2002
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