Although words are not everything, they are a beginning, especially if they reveal the heart. Perhaps we can take some hope from these words of Pope Benedict:
In terms of what we today can discover in this message, attacks against the Pope or the Church do not only come from outside; rather the sufferings of the Church come from within, from the sins that exist in the Church. This too has always been known, but today we see it in a really terrifying way: the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from enemies on the outside, but is born from the sin within the church, the Church therefore has a deep need to re-learn penance, to accept purification, to learn on one hand forgiveness but also the need for justice. Forgiveness is not a substitute for justice.
Grace is not cheap; it costs the death of Christ, and our participation in it means that we too must die, in one way or another, and death is rarely pleasant.
Archbishop Diarmuid of Martin of Dublin said that when he read through the reports of abuse, he threw them on the floor in despair. He sees that true repentance had not occurred in the Church in Ireland.
Why am I discouraged? The most obvious reason is the drip-by-drip never-ending revelation about child sexual abuse and the disastrous way it was handled. There are still strong forces which would prefer that the truth did not emerge. The truth will make us free, even when that truth is uncomfortable. There are signs of subconscious denial on the part of many about the extent of the abuse which occurred within the Church of Jesus Christ in Ireland and how it was covered up. There are other signs of rejection of a sense of responsibility for what had happened. There are worrying signs that despite solid regulations and norms these are not being followed with the rigour required.
Renewal of the Church requires participation and responsible participation. I have spoken about the need for accountability regarding the scandal of sexual abuse. I am struck by the level of disassociation by people from any sense of responsibility. While people rightly question the concept of collective responsibility, this does not mean that one is not responsible for one’s personal share in the decisions of the collective structures to which one was part.
I am surprised at the manner in which Church academics and Church publicists can today calmly act as pundits on the roots of the sexual abuse scandals in the Church as if they were totally extraneous to the scandal. Where did responsibility lie for a culture of seminary institutions which produced both those who abused and those who mismanaged the abuse? Where were the pundit-publicists while a Church culture failed to recognise what was happening?
Where indeed? With the bishops and who cardinals blamed the Freemasons, the Jews, the New York Times, the tort attorneys, the psychologists, the victims – Anything to avoid the hard road of self-knowledge, repentance, and conversion.