Pope Benedict: abuse crisis was like 'a tremendous cloud of [volcanic] filth which darkens everything'

Below are some extracts from an article in the Catholic Herald. The book of Pope Benedict's interviews with a German writer that has just been published looks like it has given him the chance to speak freely and openly about a variety of important issues.

I get the impression that the abuse scandal (in particular) has convinced him of the need to be more open and communicative in his role as Shepherd of the Church in response to the accusations that have been levelled at the Church. As a result, five years into his papacy, I think we are now seeing a very different Benedict from the one that the world's media has been allowed to put forward for much of that time: we are seeing the real him that those in the know always knew was there and hoped would have the courage to show himself. I, for one, am delighted to see him winning over hearts and minds wherever he goes. Who would want to be in his position? Imagine the stress, the worry and anxiety? And yet, this 83 year old seems to be inhabited by a genuine inner peace and strength that speaks volumes of his faith, his courage, his closeness to God. I always thought that surely the Cardinals where enough men of prayer and that the Holy Spirit knew what it doing for Joseph Ratzinger to be the right man at the right time for this unenviable task. I humbly point out :-) that it looks like I (and many others) may have been right all along.

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(article extracts)

The book reveals a less formal side of the Pope, as he responds simply and directly on topics as diverse as the joy of sex and the ban on burqas. Much of the conversation focuses on the Pope’s call for a global “examination of conscience” in the face of economic disparity, environmental disasters and moral slippage.

The Pope repeatedly emphasised that the Church’s role in a largely broken world is not to impose a “burden” of moral rules but to open the doors to God.

The book reveals a less formal side of the Pope, as he responds simply and directly on topics as diverse as the joy of sex and the ban on burqas. Much of the conversation focuses on the Pope’s call for a global “examination of conscience” in the face of economic disparity, environmental disasters and moral slippage...

The Pope repeatedly emphasised that the Church’s role in a largely broken world is not to impose a “burden” of moral rules but to open the doors to God.

An entire chapter and parts of others were dedicated to the clerical sex abuse scandal. The Pope called it “a great crisis” that left him “stunned by how wretched the Church is, by how much her members fail to follow Christ”.

“It was really almost like the crater of a volcano, out of which suddenly a tremendous cloud of filth came, darkening and soiling everything, so that above all the priesthood suddenly seemed to be a place of shame,” he said.

He expressed optimism about the Church’s recovery from the scandal, saying God continues to raise up Catholic saints. But he also said he understands why some Catholics, particularly victims, have responded by leaving the Church in protest.

“It is difficult for them to keep believing that the Church is a source of good, that she communicates the light of Christ, that she helps people in life – I can understand that,” he said.

The Pope said media coverage of the abuse scandal was partly motivated by a desire to discredit the Church. But he added that the Church must be “grateful for every disclosure” and said the media could not have reported in this way “had there not been evil in the Church”.

The Pope pointed to the Church’s new rules and policies on sex abuse, but he appeared to acknowledge that more might have been done. He noted that in 2002, the Vatican and US bishops established strict norms to curb sex abuse in US dioceses.

“Would it have been Rome’s duty, then, to say to all the countries expressly: find out whether you are in the same situation? Maybe we should have done that,” he said.

An entire chapter and parts of others were dedicated to the clerical sex abuse scandal. The Pope called it “a great crisis” that left him “stunned by how wretched the Church is, by how much her members fail to follow Christ”.

“It was really almost like the crater of a volcano, out of which suddenly a tremendous cloud of filth came, darkening and soiling everything, so that above all the priesthood suddenly seemed to be a place of shame,” he said.

He expressed optimism about the Church’s recovery from the scandal, saying God continues to raise up Catholic saints. But he also said he understands why some Catholics, particularly victims, have responded by leaving the Church in protest.

“It is difficult for them to keep believing that the Church is a source of good, that she communicates the light of Christ, that she helps people in life – I can understand that,” he said.

The Pope said media coverage of the abuse scandal was partly motivated by a desire to discredit the Church. But he added that the Church must be “grateful for every disclosure” and said the media could not have reported in this way “had there not been evil in the Church”.

The Pope pointed to the Church’s new rules and policies on sex abuse, but he appeared to acknowledge that more might have been done. He noted that in 2002, the Vatican and US bishops established strict norms to curb sex abuse in US dioceses.

“Would it have been Rome’s duty, then, to say to all the countries expressly: find out whether you are in the same situation? Maybe we should have done that,” he said


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