April, 20th, 2008 Final Day
by David Fortwengler
“Shepherd 1” was prepared for an evening departure to Italy. The last day of Pope Benedict XVI’s triumphant visit to the United States began with a solemn ceremony at ground zero. He then attended an outdoor Mass at Yankee Stadium, the 85 year old, soon-to-be-demolished, baseball shrine. Over 60,000 pre-invited guests wildly greeted the pope at the scheduled event.
He began his talk by again praising the rich history, contributions, and growth of American Catholicism. I believe Benedict genuinely likes our country, especially the freedom of religion that has enabled his to flourish. Most importantly, he also acknowledged that Catholics have full freedom to participate in public life. We all love that about America.
Worn out from his grueling schedule, and from mentioning the scandal, he could only manage one last general reference in paragraph 12.
In summary; move forward, don’t lose heart in the face of scandal, and back to business as usual.
My work here is done.
Off to the airport. About 200,000 pre-invited guests had attended papal events, including Kelly Clarkson. The cost of Benedict’s visit is unknown, but because of the ambitious planning and thorough preparations, everyone got their money’s worth. People who met the pope even received a special bronze commemorative medallion. Now that is planning. Well, except for that one time.
5:00 scheduled meeting with 400 Catholic educators.
6:30 scheduled meeting with 200 reps from Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Jainism. (yes, Jainism)
In between, an unscheduled 25 minute meeting with 5 victims of child sexual abuse by priests.
I’m glad he took the time. I really am.
Perception or reality
The efforts of many survivors and advocates, who worked tirelessly to provide the media with information and a victim’s perspective, did not go unnoticed by everyone. If you search the Abuse Tracker archives for April 2008, you will find dozens of stories, blogs, and press releases with pertinent facts and insightful commentary.
Yet, even before the pope was airborne, the glowing reviews for his visit began to appear. The “dialog of truth” in the public square was largely reduced to, “Even critics have to admit the pope mentioned it and met with victims.”
Ask any priest
Would someone be forgiven if this were their confession?
“I acknowledge the suffering of anybody anywhere who may have been harmed, but there is no admission of liability and no acknowledgment of wrongdoing.”
No offense has been intended toward Kelly Clarkson or Jainists. (yes, Jainists)
Despite three papal masses at Yankee Stadium, Lou Gehrig’s legacy was left intact. “Today, I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” Still the best words to live by ever spoken at Yankee Stadium.
A scientific poll
100% of all Americans were asked their reaction to Pope Benedict’s visit.
25% (Catholics) Whew!
10% (ex-Catholics) That explains why I left.
65% (non-Catholics) I don’t care.
text of Pope Benedict at Yankee Stadium
“In this land of religious liberty, Catholics found freedom not only to practice their faith, but also to participate fully in civic life, bringing their deepest moral convictions to the public square and cooperating with their neighbors in shaping a vibrant, democratic society.” ......
“Praying fervently for the coming of the Kingdom also means being constantly alert for the signs of its presence, and working for its growth in every sector of society. It means facing the challenges of present and future with confidence in Christ’s victory and a commitment to extending his reign. It means not losing heart in the face of resistance, adversity and scandal. It means overcoming every separation between faith and life, and countering false gospels of freedom and happiness. It also means rejecting a false dichotomy between faith and political life, since, as the Second Vatican Council put it, “there is no human activity - even in secular affairs - which can be withdrawn from God’s dominion” (Lumen Gentium, 36). It means working to enrich American society and culture with the beauty and truth of the Gospel, and never losing sight of that great hope which gives meaning and value to all the other hopes which inspire our lives.”