Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pope's Solution for Ireland: Christ

The Holy Father has written his Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, do read the text yourself, I found it incredibly moving, many of the victims of abuse will find it irritating cant, I suspect they are too hurt for any words from him. One od(d) commentator on Radio 4 this morning said she wanted to see the Pope prostrate in the dust, begging for forgiveness, he doesn't do that but he does speak with great compassion.
More importantly he suggests a way forward, he recognises that the abuse of these children and the cover-up has wounded everyone in the Church and beyond. It is not a good time to be a Catholic in Europe, in Ireland it must be horrendous.

  • Lent this year be set aside as a time to pray for an outpouring of God’s mercy and the Holy Spirit’s gifts of holiness and strength upon the Church in your country.
  • I now invite all of you to devote your Friday penances, for a period of one year, between now and Easter 2011, to this intention.
  • I ask you to offer up your fasting, your prayer, your reading of Scripture and your works of mercy in order to obtain the grace of healing and renewal for the Church in Ireland.
  • I encourage you to discover anew the sacrament of Reconciliation and to avail yourselves more frequently of the transforming power of its grace.
  • Particular attention should also be given to Eucharistic adoration, and in every diocese there should be churches or chapels specifically devoted to this purpose. I ask parishes, seminaries, religious houses and monasteries to organize periods of Eucharistic adoration, so that all have an opportunity to take part. Through intense prayer before the real presence of the Lord, you can make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm, at the same time imploring the grace of renewed strength and a deeper sense of mission on the part of all bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful.
The Pope also states there will be an Apostolic Visitation of certain diocese, seminaries and religious orders and most significantly:
I also propose that a nationwide Mission be held for all bishops, priests and religious. It is my hope that, by drawing on the expertise of experienced preachers and retreat-givers from Ireland and from elsewhere, and by exploring anew the conciliar documents, the liturgical rites of ordination and profession, and recent pontifical teaching, you will come to a more profound appreciation of your respective vocations, so as to rediscover the roots of your faith in Jesus Christ and to drink deeply from the springs of living water that he offers you through his Church.
 It is almost as if he is attempting to rekindle the ancient fires that burned on the western mountains of Europe. It seems exciting!
The Pope intends this letter and the Irish Church as a model for elsewhere. It is nothing new, it is Benedict's repeated call "turn to the Lord", rediscover "the authentic Tradition". It is part of his battle against notional faith and relativism.
Ireland is not the only place where bishops and clergy would seem to happier in the offices of Enron serving and bolstering an instituition rather than being totally committed the proclamation of the faith in its fullness.
Even in England bishops and priests must examine their consciences. What are we doing to defend the Natural Law against the relentless onslaught of an aggressive secular goverrnment, to make our schools real Catholic centres of Evangelisation.


Fr Seán Coyle said...

Shane, in his comment on your previous post, speaks of the low morale among priests in Ireland at the moment. As an Irish priest in the Philippines I too feel affected by everything that has been going on. When I visited Ireland in 2007 I wore my clericals nearly all the time, something I hadn't done for many years except when going to the church. I had a very positive experience.

Now I'm asking myself if I'll have the courage to wear them when I go home later this year.

The comments in The Irish Times, in response to the Pope's letter are mostly hostile and vituperative. But a spokesman for one group of abuse survivors did give a positive response to it.

Some reject Benedict's call to return to Christ, a message that he has been proclaiming constantly and not only in the context of crises. Some have dismissed his comments on the loss of faith as part of the context. But how could a person of genuine faith do the things that many have done without remorse? King David was in the 'Premier League' for sinners but had the faith to recognise his sins for what they were and to ask for God's forgiveness. Pope Benedict names what has been done as gravely sinful and as criminal, while offering the hope of God's mercy to the perpetrators.

I don't believe that this is a question of 'conservative' and 'liberal'. There was abuse by priests and religious going on before Vatican II. Indeed, that by religious took place almost entirely before the Council.

BBC World (TV) led with this story as soon as the letter was published but the newscaster interviewing David Willey in Rome seemed to think it was a question of clerical celibacy, which it's not. Celibacy doesn't explain the abuse of the other 96 percent of children abused in Ireland (and elsewhere). Yet there is something truly evil about a priest proclaiming by his actions that our Saviour himself is a child abuser. If we priests really believed that we are an 'alter Christus' and acting 'in personal Christi' could we tolerate what has been going on?

I have commented on the Pope's letter on by own blog, Bangor to Bobbio:

GOR said...

I waited with some trepidation for the Holy Father’s letter to the people of Ireland. Given the climate in Ireland right now, I wondered what could he say that would make a difference, that would touch hearts and minds and resonate with people. How would ‘success’ be judged?

As we went through The Scandal here in the US it was clear that for some people nothing would ever suffice. No amount of apologies would ever be enough. People wanted that ever-American and evanescent goal: closure – not to mention ‘a pound of flesh’. While some said they just wanted ‘the Church’ to say sorry to them, their actions belied their words. Egged on by predatory lawyers, multi-million dollar lawsuits were filed against individual dioceses, resulting in bankruptcy for some.

Did this bring ‘closure’…? No. While much of the monetary awards secured ended up in the pockets of the ‘disinterested’ lawyers, some victims did receive sums of money. Did this satisfy them? Were the memories of the past exorcised by money in the pocket? Hardly.

The Holy Father’s letter strikes the right note – actually a lot of right notes – but in particular the need for faith, love, repentance and forgiveness. And that will only be found in Our Lord who Himself was a victim – the ultimate innocent victim - sacrificed for us all. Only in Him and through Him will there be justice, mercy and forgiveness – for victims and perpetrators alike. And we may not see it in this life, which is why we hope for the life to come.

That message will not be palatable to everyone and, like some of Our Lord’s words, it will be a “hard saying”. But it is the only message that will endure - and sooner or later we all have to be reconciled to it.

Paul said...

If Friday Penances hadn't been effectively abolished thirty years ago by our bishops it would be easier for people to follow the Popes request.

Father, what % of practicing catholics in A&B do you think even know that Friday Penances still exist?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Folkie, Interesting historical reminiscence but to what purpose?

georgem said...

I think we have to accept that for those who were victims of this vile abuse, both physical and mental, there will never be closure. They may be able to forgive but they will not forget. All we can do is offer our loving support, our shame and our everlasting prayers for all involved.

The Pope’s letter is astonishing. He is going to shake up the Irish church from top to bottom. He says it clearly, but subtly, and so the meaning has been missed by those who want strident language and vilification for an easy and instant headline.

Nor do I think we can expect the critics of the Catholic Church to be satisfied by the Holy Father’s correct assertion that much can be laid at the door of the loss of faith. It has been taken to mean a criticism of the laity when it is, as I read it, aimed at religious suborned by secularism. The bishops are not off the hook.

For those who have particular agendas, and we know what they are, the Pope’s words will always be turned against him, whoever that Pope might be. Take a look at Damian Thompson’s blog to get the flavour.

In these dark times, when the sins of the few are visited upon the many, I raise my hat to those brave priests who proclaim their calling by continuing to wear their clerical dress. “I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” (Isiah: 50.6). I thank you, with all my heart.

parepidemos said...

Father, Like you I found the Pope's letter to be very moving, deeply personal and quite direct. The letter was written by a pastor who is experiening sadness, pain and even some anger.

However, the people of Ireland need to see concrete action by those who are guilty in their midst. It is certainly my hope that the upcoming apostolic visitation will result in the resignation of certain bishops, amongst whom I must include the cardinal whose actions (albeit some years ago) are completely inexcusable.

As Fr. Coyle indicates, this is not an issue which can be blamed on what occurred after Vatican II as many of the clergy responsible were trained in the 'old ways'. It is my hope that Fr. Coyle will have the strength necessary to wear his clericals when he visits Ireland. In this time of sorrow and pain we need faithful priests and religious to be courageous.

Augustine said...

Quite simply, heads must roll in the Irish heirarchy.

A bishop is meant to be the focus of unity in a local church. If the faithful are unable to trust in their bishop, and the bishop has been involved in morally questionable activity, he must do something to resolve the situation.

If he cannot convince the faithful of his innocence, he must step down. Staying on will only harm the Church.

Rome in particular needs to make it clear that it is serious about rooting out clerical abuse. Failure to do so makes the Church look like just one more back-watching boys club.

santoeusebio said...

There have always been a tiny minority of the clergy who have betrayed Christ at the instigation of Satan.

The present scandal concerns the way in which some of their superiors handled complaints about these betrayals. Some superiors handled the situation correctly - reporting to the police if the betrayal was criminal and generally taking appropriate action. Others did not - hence scandal.

Many victims of these betrayals have been desperately damaged by them.

But what about the current proposals to teach our children about the details of contraception including abortion and where to access them? Instead of just a few poor souls being damaged is this going to cause wholesale to a generation of children? Is Satan not rubbing his hands with glee? Are the hierarchy going to remain silent to the genuine concerns of parents and grandparents? Is this any different to the few superiors who remained indifferent to the complaints of concerned parents in the relatively few cases of sexual abuse of children? Or is it a betrayal on a really grand scale? Just asking.

Nicolas Bellord

bernadette said...

"One od(d) commentator" on Radio 4 that demanded Pope Benedict fall prostrate in the dust ? Indeed.

I'm surpised you didn't recognise the snake-oil tones of the one and only Cristina Odone, Fr Ray. Darling of the loony left anti-Catholic brigade.* Recently taken on by The Telegraph blogs as a guest blogger; wheeled out on every possible occasion to "comment" on Church matters; Poster-babe of all who hate The Church.

I'm not sure many of us listened to her for too long yesterday morning. Be aware that we will be treated to many long and interesting stories of "Why I hate The Church and Why you Should, Too." between now and September 16th.

In my experience, if you want to hate the Church, or look for a reason to abandon Her, you can usually find a reason.

But I expect that's what you call an unpopular thing to say.

*by the way I do a fantastic impression of the Odd One. People are now starting to request it. I write my own scripts to go with the Chiswick/Canadian drawl. The punters love it. I'm thinking of bringing out a spoof CD for Christmas. Slightly short on material at the moment. Watch this Catholic Comedy Space.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Your latest comment is not ad rem, neither was the comment you sent under "Folksie", both betray your age.

johnf said...

Thank you for this post Father.

All human institutions contain the seeds of their own destruction. This should not be surprising to anyone who recognises that humanity is fallen and that there is no Eden outside Heaven.

In Damian Thomson’s blog on Saturday, one correspondent described being brought up in one of Irelands Industrial Schools (St Vincent’s). Establishments such as these presumably started out with noble intentions but ended up as hell holes.

Can fallen man guard against this happening? The Monasteries have succeeded for hundreds of years. They must be doing something right - Prayer, Fasting and attention to maintaining their rule. Even so from time to time great saints came by to shake them up – e.g. St John of the Cross. And 1000 years ago St Peter Damian fulminated against the same sort of abuse that is happening today – and Pope Leo did something about it.

In the secular world, outside assessment is personally annoying but if carried out carefully can be salutary.To take an analogy from modern management, a Health and Safety Inspectorate team if they are doing their job correctly will make unannounced visits, review the procedures in place, ascertain whether people understand them and that they are being followed, examine safety records, accident book etc and walk around talk to people, get the atmosphere.

The Holy Father’s decision to send an Apostolic Visitation is absolutely right. If, as you say, the Holy Father is thinking of this to a model applied to all countries, this would need significant resources. Perhaps the Holy Father with his usual acumen is already thinking of how this responsibility should be discharged at National level.

shane said...

It is increasingly likely that an investigation, north and south, will be undertaken into every diocese. The results of the Cloyne Report are to be published in a few months. There is also pressure to investigate the Magdalen Laundaries.

It seems to me that unless something drastic happens very soon, the Catholic Church in Ireland may have to turn the lights out.

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