Published by the Visayan Daily Star
Editor-in-Chief & President
Bureau Chief, Dumaguete
MAJA P. DELY
|CARLOS ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA
Pope Francis returned to Rome with a large following in the two countries he visited last week – Communist Cuba and democracy-bastion, the United States. He told his international audience that his visit is one of a pastor concerned with his flock. In both countries he brought the message of hope, mercy, forgiveness and care for God's creation.
One issue he answered was not in his official speeches but after an informal chat with victims of pedophilia committed by priests. With deep humility he expressed the words said in every Catholic Mass – mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa – through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. He was not the predator but as a pastor, he expressed what pedophile priests and silent bishops should be saying as they beat their breasts in humility and contrition.
“God weeps” he was quoted by reporters because the perpetrators are priests who ought to be pastors and protectors of the weak and who should lead their flock “towards love of God.”
Statistically, there are fewer pedophiles in the Catholic Church than in other religious groups but because of its stature in the world it is vulnerable to attacks. The Pope took the problem by the horn and initiated reforms. He chastised bishops and priests and dismissed some to face civil courts for their deeds that smeared the entire Church and gave reasons for anti-Catholics to castigate the Church and take away her faithful.
That he had disciplined these erring priests signals that the Vatican intends to be transparent in this matter. Reforms are also being adopted to screen more meticulously those who enter the seminary and look more closely the environment in which priests are exposed to the temptations of the flesh.
Humility, the Church teaches is the first step towards reconciliation and change. The action of the Holy Father is an act of humility by taking upon his shoulders the human failings of his priests. It is this readiness to accept one's weaknessesand to rise again that the Church has survived and flourished through the centuries.
The example of Pope Francis will surely signal throughout the Church hierarchy the need for true pastoral care and consciousness of the personal struggles that priests must face.*