address to U.S. cardinals
1. 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 United States. 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 Gods 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, 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 Churchs 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.
2. 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 persons
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 in the United States have done and are still doing. The Catholic
Church in your country has always promoted human and Christian values with
great vigor and generosity, in a way that has helped to consolidate all
that is noble in the American people.
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 in the United
States, to their Pastors and members, to the men and women religious, to
teachers in Catholic universities and schools, to American missionaries in
all parts of the world, go the wholehearted thanks of the entire Catholic
Church and the personal thanks of the Bishop of Rome.
3. The abuse of the young is a grave
symptom of a crisis affecting not only the Church but society as a whole.
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.
4. 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
(cf. Rom 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 Sundays Gospel,
Pastors must go among their priests and people as men who inspire deep
trust and lead them to restful waters (cf. Ps 22:2).
I beg the Lord to give the Bishops of
the United States the strength to build their response to the present
crisis upon the solid foundations of faith and upon genuine pastoral
charity for the victims, as well as for the priests and the entire
Catholic community in your country. And I ask Catholics to stay close to
their priests and Bishops, and to support them with their prayers at this
The peace of the Risen Christ be with