Sunday, October 29, 2006

Pope on the filth in the Church to the Irish Bishops

Pope Benedict XVI said the Catholic Church must urgently rebuild confidence and trust damaged by clerical sex abuse, telling Irish bishops on Saturday “the wounds caused by such acts run deep.”The comments to bishops from Ireland - an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country where all but one seminary has closed following repeated scandals - were the first explicit remarks by Benedict on the subject since he became pontiff.
In March 2005, Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, denounced what he called “filth” in the Church “even among those ... in the priesthood.” Those words were seen by many as a possible denunciation of the clergy sexual abuse scandals.
“In the exercise of your pastoral ministry, you have had to respond in recent years to many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors,” the pontiff told the bishops.
“These are all the more tragic when the abuser is a cleric.”
“The wounds caused by such acts run deep, and it is an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have been damaged,” Benedict said.
Benedict told the bishops that as they continue to deal with the problem, “it is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes.”
“In this way, the Church in Ireland will grow stronger,” the pontiff said.Sex abuse scandals have done damage to the Catholic Church in Ireland, where nearly 90 percent of its 4 million residents identify themselves as Catholic.
The church's moral standing, Mass attendance and applications for priesthood have plummeted in Ireland since 1994, when the first major scandal involving a pedophile priest triggered the collapse of the government of then-Prime Minister Albert Reynolds.
Since then, both church and state have struggled to come to terms with the scale of abuse committed by priests.
All but one seminary has closed.The pope said however that “the fine work and selfless dedication of the great majority of priests and religious in Ireland should not be obscured by the transgressions of some of their brethren.”
He expressed confidence that “the people understand this, and continue to regard their clergy with affection and esteem.”

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