Wednesday, April 16, 2008


In a transatlantic meeting with reporters aboard his chartered Alitalia aircraft, the Pope described his personal difficulty in understanding how clergy could have so betrayed their callings, and he declared it far better for his priest-short church to live with empty pulpits than to again risk letting sexual abusers into its seminaries.

"It is a great suffering for the church in the United States and for the church in general and for me personally that this could happen," he said in English, in response to a written question submitted to him in advance of his meeting with journalists.

"We are deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible that this cannot happen in the future."...

Michael Higgins, president of St. Thomas University in Fredericton and one of the world's foremost authorities on the contemporary Catholic Church, said the Pope's politically astute, forthright statement on his aircraft underscored how differently Benedict and his predecessor John Paul II viewed sex scandal and the priesthood in general.

"Benedict has a less romanticized, more grounded view of the priesthood than John Paul," Dr. Higgins said. "And I don't think John Paul ever grasped the enormity of what took place in the American church. Benedict is much more pragmatic."

He suggested that the Pope's statement, instantly transmitted to U.S. radio and television stations, likely had lanced criticism against him for not including Boston, the epicentre of the sex scandal, on his itinerary, an omission that Dr. Higgins suggested was outside the Pope's control.

Read the story here.

For me JPII's failure to confront the scandal in such a forthright manner as Benedict has done with this statement has damaged my ability to believe in and trust the contemporary Church and completely undermined my confidence in the papacy. I still believe in the archetype of Roman Catholicism. I am painfully doubtful of its present earthly manifestation.

If JPII had made the sort of statement early in the scandal that Benedict has made from his airplane, I would be able to recover my trust in the Church and her leaders. As it is, they all appear suspect to me and have to prove themselves before I will consider trusting them. Even then a shadow of suspicion remains. For me, Benedict's statement is at least a first step toward rebuilding trust. There are many, many more steps to go, and every incident like the ones Neiderauer presents in San Francisco and the one Father presented last Sunday at Mass are a step back.

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