Although the comprehensive commentary is essentially what Mr. Penn submitted to us, miguel de Portugal, echoes his evaluation and recommendations.
NOTE: The format used will the be quoting Cantalamessa and Townhall.com texts in italics followed by a commentary from Mr. Penn.The Links to the full text of Cantalamessa’s sermon as well as the story at Townhall.com may be found at the end of this Document.
Quote, from the Townhall.com story:
Benedict XVI’s personal priest asked the pontiff on Friday to declare a
day of fasting and penance to express the Roman Catholic Church’s
solidarity with the victims of clerical sex abuse. In
a strongly worded lecture, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa denounced the
‘abominations’ committed inside the church ‘by its own ministers and
pastors’ and declared that the church has ‘paid a high price for this.’ ‘The
moment has come, after the emergency, to do the most important thing of
all: to cry before God,’ said Cantalamessa, in a pre-Christmas talk
delivered in a
In his sermon, Cantalamessa said:
“The Church has ‘wept and sighed’ in recent times for the abominations committed in her womb by some of her own ministers and shepherds. She has paid a high price for this. She has sought to repair the damage. Strict rules have been laid down so that these abuses do not happen again. The moment has come, after the emergency, to do that which is the most important: to weep before God, to do penance, as God himself has been abused; to do penance for the offense against the body of Christ and the scandalizing of the ‘least of his brothers,’ more than for the damage and dishonor that has been brought upon us.”
Cardinal Bernard Law remains in his cushy Roman retirement post as
Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major – and he still has the
honors of the Episcopacy and the Cardinalship. Other
bishops and cardinals continue the Scandal coverup and the worldly
efforts at damage control. Priestly
perpetrators continue to evade justice, in the
“One day when I was preaching to the clergy of a diocese that suffered much because of these things, I was struck by a thought. These brothers of ours have been stripped of everything, ministry, honor, freedom, and only God knows with what effective moral responsibility in individual cases; they have become the last, the rejected.… If in this situation, touched by grace, they do penance for the evil caused, they unite their weeping to that of the Church, then the blessedness of those who mourn and weep could become their blessedness. They could be close to Christ who is the friend of the last, more than others, me included, rich with their own respectability and perhaps led, like the Pharisees, to judge those who make mistakes. There is something, however, that these brothers must absolutely avoid doing but which some, unfortunately, are attempting to do: profiting from the clamor to take advantage even of their own guilt, giving interviews, writing memoirs, in an attempt to put the guilt on their superiors and the ecclesial community. This would reveal a truly dangerous hardness of heart.”
The preacher to Benedict XVI thus
shows how far we are from the end of the Scandal. Some
of the perpetrators have been caught – but many have not.
abusers have evaded jail because Church authorities stonewalled release
of documents until statutes of limitations had run out.
The actions of the abusers are not “mistakes;” they are grave
while Cantalamessa rightly warns the abusers not to profit financially
from their own crimes by “writing memoirs,” he seems also to be warning
them not to blow the whistle on “their superiors and the ecclesial
community.” In his sermon, Cantalamessa
next to nothing about the bishops and cardinals who magnified this evil
by covering for the abusers. If this shows
what the leadership of the
Advocates for abuse survivors have replied that words and gestures can go only so far; action must accompany words of contrition.
Quote, from the Townhall.com story:
Words of penance mean little without amendment of life and reparation. As the Apostle James said,
“...a man is justified by works and not by faith alone...” (James )
As God told the people of ancient
“I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them … take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like the waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:21-24)
God told the people of ancient
“Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of assemblies – I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. … When you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:13-17)
For the leaders of the Roman Catholic
Church to repent of their part in the Scandal, they have to back their
words with deeds. Ideas for such deeds,
actions that would “correct oppression” and “defend the fatherless,”
come to mind:
I could expand this list, but the above 13 steps would, if taken, represent real amendment of life on the part of the Hierarchy. The guilty would receive temporal demotion, hardship, or other punishment – and by patiently accepting such punishment, they would be offering reparation for their sins and making it possible for themselves to receive God’s mercy. None of the foregoing steps would change an iota of Catholic doctrine or dogma ... they would, however, weaken the Corporation’s worldly structure and reduce its wealth.
I believe that none of the above actions will occur in the present age, barring a miracle. These deeds, which would be “fruit that befits repentance” (Matthew 3:8), are unlikely – so Fr. Cantalamessa’s suggested gesture of penance will probably prove to be empty. Therefore, the doom pronounced by John the Baptist upon the Pharisees and Sadducees [“Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” – Matthew ] may well come upon the Hierarchy, its apologists, and unrepentant clerical perpetrators.
Nevertheless, there is some value to Fr. Cantalamessa’s proposal. I can see how and why the faithful can and should offer penitential prayer and reparation for the molesters and cover-up artists. Our prayers on their behalf will help them to repent and be saved. Christians pray for sinners and for our enemies (Matthew ), and the graces that result from our prayers will be applied by God wherever they are most beneficial, as God sees it. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, and just as the evils of the Scandal hurt the body as a whole, penitential and intercessory prayers from the faithful can heal the body as a whole.
Aside from our own prayers of reparation, the faithful can do several other things to bring about a just resolution to the sex abuse scandal – and we can do them, whatever the Hierarchy does or fails to do:
possible, offer time, talent, treasure, and prayer on behalf of groups
that support abuse survivors, such as SNAP, Linkup, Bishop
Accountability, and others.
the Hierarchy’s apologists blame the attorneys, the media, liberal
legislators, and other scapegoats for the Scandal and its evil effects,
do not heed their propaganda, and do not join their lobbying efforts.
a victim accuses a priest, do not automatically assume that the alleged
victim is a liar, and do not automatically assume that Fr. Fondle – who
is such a nice, charming man, and so good
with the kids – is innocent. Reserve
judgment, and let the investigators prove or refute the
that, if the full extent of clerical abuse is exposed and if all the
perpetrators are removed from ministry, there will be consequences for
all the laity. There will indeed be a
great shortage of priests and religious. Many
parishes and schools will close. Much will
have to be paid to victims, their attorneys, and to the civil
authorities. The secular influence of the
Catholic Church will decline further. Such
are the inevitable results of having unchecked corruption of the
Hierarchy, priests, and religious over decades. Just
as the guilty clerics should patiently accept their own punishments, so
we the faithful should also patiently accept the radical downsizing of
the Church’s earthly structures, to satisfy the requirements of justice
for the victims and the fulfillment of the Will of God.
“Despite the increasingly public and mounting evidence against the
Legion of Christ’s founder, the Legion of Christ continues to claim
that Fr. Maciel is completely innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever,
while continuing to claim to be “obedient” to the Holy See.” (Brian
Mershon, “Someone Is Lying . . .But Is It The 100 Alleged Abuse Victims
Or Fr. Maciel?,” The Wanderer,
Link to the whole text of Cantalamessa’s sermon. The
sermon is summarized in
a story at Townhall.com
sermon is summarized in
a story at Townhall.com
Related Recommended Reading from
The M+G+R Foundation
Published on December 22, 2006
Copyright 2006 by The M+G+R Foundation. All rights reserved.
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