April 15, 2008
by David Fortwengler
The much anticipated day had arrived. All major media had their #1 reporting teams on location in Washington. The morning show experts previewed Pope Benedict XVI’s arrival, and discussed his itinerary. The most intense speculation was over how, when, and where he would address the “scandal”.
I wanted to hear the Pope’s message. Despite my intense pessimism, I was still hoping for a sincere mea culpa, some meaningful actions, and a sign that he "gets it". I was driving home to watch the official welcome at Andrews AFB when the radio news came on.
Breaking news.... The Pope didn’t even wait to land before addressing the sex abuse crisis. Responding to reporters questions, he said he was ashamed, that pedophiles would be excluded from the priesthood, and the church will do all it can to assist and heal victims.
I arrived home to watch the formal reception my government provided, the pomp and circumstance was impressive. The commentators focused on the live events, but all repeated some version of the radio text, without analysis. Thank goodness for the vast Catholic media empire, because the text of Benedict’s comments on the plane were quickly available on-line. (and at bottom of this post)
What did he really say
The question Benedict responded to was submitted in advance from Catholic reporter John Allen, asking what the Pope's Message (yes, capitol M) will be for a suffering Church. In summary the Pope says, he and the Church are suffering because priests failed to give God’s love to children, he is ashamed priests did that, he is befuddled how that could happen, he will not employ known pedophiles (was it ok before?), and he announced a major initiative for clergy and Catholics to assist and heal victims.
Benedict didn’t apologize for his own hurtful words and actions, didn’t have a Message (yes capitol M) for victims, and didn’t mention even one Bishop’s negligent supervision. Hey, it’s only the first day.
to be continued....
It was a beautiful day in Maryland. On final approach to Andrews, Benedict could have looked out his window and seen;
- St. Columba Catholic Church in Oxon Hill, Md. - I was molested there in 1968.
- St. Luke's Institute - The infamous treatment center where Bishops have sent known molesters for decades. I’m sure the client list would be made available to the Pope, a real who’s who of priest pedophiles, all names he knows.
-Prince Georges County Courthouse - Probably more convictions of Catholic priests for sex crimes took place here than anywhere in the country. Maryland has no statute of limitations on felonies, and many convictions were obtained decades after the crimes. That would have been a great thing for Benedict to learn about.
-The convent where Cardinal Law stayed until being exiled to Roman luxury. I am sorry for the nuns, I’m sure they enjoyed having the good wine.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said at an April 15 briefing before the pope's arrival that Bush would tell the pontiff that "the hearts of the American people are open to the Holy Father's message of hope."
She was right! America was ready for a message of hope!
John Allen - This is the question: the Church you will find in the United States is a large Church, a lively Church, but also a suffering Church, in a certain sense, especially because of the recent crisis caused by sexual abuse. The American People are expecting a word from you, a message from you on this crisis. What will be your Message for this suffering Church?
The Holy Father (in English): It is a great suffering for the Church in the United States and for the Church in general, for me personally, that this could happen. If I read the history of these events, it is difficult for me to understand how it was possible for priests to fail in this way in the mission to give healing, to give God's love to these children. I am ashamed and we will do everything possible to ensure that this does not happen in future. I think we have to act on three levels: the first is at the level of justice and the political level. I will not speak at this moment about homosexuality: this is another thing. We will absolutely exclude paedophiles from the sacred ministry; it is absolutely incompatible, and whoever is really guilty of being a paedophile cannot be a priest. So at this first level we can do justice and help the victims, because they are deeply affected; these are the two sides of justice: one, that paedophiles cannot be priests and the other, to help in any possible way the victims. Then there is a pastoral level. The victims will need healing and help and assistance and reconciliation: this is a big pastoral engagement and I know that the Bishops and the priests and all Catholic people in the United States will do whatever possible to help, to assist, to heal. We have made a visitation of the seminaries and we will do all that is possible in the education of seminarians for a deep spiritual, human and intellectual formation for the students. Only sound persons can be admitted to the priesthood and only persons with a deep personal life in Christ and who have a deep sacramental life. So, I know that the Bishops and directors of seminarians will do all possible to have a strong, strong discernment because it is more important to have good priests than to have many priests. This is also our third level, and we hope that we can do, and have done and will do in the future, all that is possible to heal these wounds.