Core: noun, the most important part of a thing, the essence; from the Latin cor, meaning heart.

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 Volume 1.12 This View’s Prose April 29, 2002 


    Address to U.S. Cardinals    
         
   

Let me assure you first of all that I greatly appreciate the effort you are making to keep the Holy See, and me personally, informed regarding the complex and difficult situation which has arisen in your country in recent months. I am confident that your discussions here will bear much fruit for the good of the Catholic people of the United States.

You have come to the house of the successor of Peter, whose task it is to confirm his brother bishops in faith and love, and to unite them around Christ in the service of God’s people. The door of this house is always open to you. All the more so when your communities are in distress.

Like you, I too have been deeply grieved by the fact that priests and religious, whose vocation it is to help people live holy lives in the sight of God, have themselves caused such suffering and scandal to the young. Because of the great harm done by some priests and religious, the Church herself is viewed with distrust, and many are offended at the way in which the Church’s leaders are perceived to have acted in this matter.

The abuse which has caused this crisis is by every standard wrong and rightly considered a crime by society; it is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God. To the victims and their families, wherever they may be, I express my profound sense of solidarity and concern.

It is true that a generalized lack of knowledge of the nature of the problem and also at times the advice of clinical experts led bishops to make decisions which subsequent events showed to be wrong. You are now working to establish more reliable criteria to ensure that such mistakes are not repeated. At the same time, even while recognizing how indispensable these criteria are, we cannot forget the power of Christian conversion, that radical decision to turn away from sin and back to God, which reaches to the depths of a person’s soul and can work extraordinary change.

Neither should we forget the immense spiritual, human and social good that the vast majority of priests and religious in the United States have done and are still doing. The Catholic Church in your country has always promoted human and Christian values with great vigor and generosity, in a way that has helped to consolidate all that is noble in the American people.

A great work of art may be blemished, but its beauty remains; and this is a truth which any intellectually honest critic will recognize.

To the Catholic communities in the United States, to their pastors and members, to the men and women religious, to teachers in Catholic universities and schools, to American missionaries in all parts of the world, go the wholehearted thanks of the entire Catholic Church and the personal thanks of the bishop of Rome.

The abuse of the young is a grave symptom of a crisis affecting not only the Church but society as a whole. It is a deep-seated crisis of sexual morality, even of human relationships, and its prime victims are the family and the young. In addressing the problem of abuse with clarity and determination, the Church will help society to understand and deal with the crisis in its midst.

It must be absolutely clear to the Catholic faithful, and to the wider community, that bishops and superiors are concerned, above all else, with the spiritual good of souls. People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young. They must know that bishops and priests are totally committed to the fullness of Catholic truth on matters of sexual morality, a truth as essential to the renewal of the priesthood and the episcopate as it is to the renewal of marriage and family life.

We must be confident that this time of trial will bring a purification of the entire Catholic community, a purification that is urgently needed if the Church is to preach more effectively the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all its liberating force. Now you must ensure that where sin increased, grace will all the more abound. So much pain, so much sorrow must lead to a holier priesthood, a holier episcopate, and a holier Church.

God alone is the source of holiness, and it is to Him above all that we must turn for forgiveness, for healing and for the grace to meet this challenge with uncompromising courage and harmony of purpose. Like the Good Shepherd of last Sunday’s Gospel [John 10:1-10], pastors must go among their priests and people as men who inspire deep trust and lead them to restful waters.

I beg the Lord to give the bishops of the United States the strength to build their response to the present crisis upon the solid foundations of faith and upon genuine pastoral charity for the victims, as well as for the priests and the entire Catholic community in your country. And I ask Catholics to stay close to their priests and bishops, and to support them with their prayers at this difficult time.

   
         
   

Pope John Paul II

   
   

April 23, 2002

   

    U.S. Cardinals’ Statement    
         
   

On April 23-24, 2002, an extraordinary meeting was held in the Vatican between the Cardinals of the United States and the leadership of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops and the heads of several offices of the Holy See on the subject of the sexual abuse of minors.

The meeting was called with three goals in mind:

  • on the part of the American bishops, to inform the Holy See about the difficulties which they have faced in recent months,
  • on the part of the Roman Dicasteries, to hear directly from the American cardinals and the chief officials of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops a general evaluation of the situation,
  • and together to develop ways to move forward in addressing these issues.

As is known, the Holy Father received the working group in his private library late in the morning of Tuesday, April 23, and gave a programmatic address. Today, at the end of the morning session, His Holiness invited the American cardinals and bishops to lunch, to continue their discussion of some of the themes raised at the meeting.

The participants first of all wish to express their unanimous gratitude to the Holy Father for his clear indications of direction and commitment for the future. In communion with the pope they reaffirm certain basic principles:

1) The sexual abuse of minors is rightly considered a crime by society and is an appalling sin in the eyes of God, above all when it is perpetrated by priests and religious whose vocation is to help persons to lead holy lives before God and men.

2) There is a need to convey to the victims and their families a profound sense of solidarity and to provide appropriate assistance in recovering faith and receiving pastoral care.

3) Even if the cases of true pedophilia on the part of priests and religious are few, all the participants recognized the gravity of the problem. In the meeting, the quantitative terms of the problem were discussed, since the statistics are not very clear in this regard. Attention was drawn to the fact that almost all the cases involved adolescents and therefore were not cases of true pedophilia.

4) Together with the fact that a link between celibacy and pedophilia cannot be scientifically maintained, the meeting reaffirmed the value of priestly celibacy as a gift of God to the Church.

5) Given the doctrinal issues underlying the deplorable behavior in question, certain lines of response have been proposed:

a) the pastors of the Church need clearly to promote the correct moral teaching of the Church and publicly to reprimand individuals who spread dissent and groups which advance ambiguous approaches to pastoral care;

b) a new and serious apostolic visitation of seminaries and other institutes of formation must be made without delay, with particular emphasis on the need for fidelity to the Church’s teaching, especially in the area of morality, and the need for a deeper study of the criteria of suitability of candidates to the priesthood.

c) it would be fitting for the Bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to ask the faithful to join them in observing a national day of prayer and penance, in reparation for the offenses perpetrated and in prayer to God for the conversion of sinners and the reconciliation of victims.

6) All the participants have seen this time as a call to a greater fidelity to the mystery of the Church. Consequently they see the present time as a moment of grace. While recognizing that practical criteria of conduct are indispensable and urgently needed, we cannot underestimate, in the words of the Holy Father, “the power of Christian conversion, that radical decision to turn away from sin and back to God, which reaches the depths of a persons soul and can work extraordinary change.” At the same time, as His Holiness also stated, “People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young. They must know that bishops and priests are totally committed to the fullness of Catholic truth on matters of sexual morality, a truth as essential to the renewal of the priesthood and the episcopate as it is to the renewal of marriage and family life.”

Again in the Holy Father’s words, neither should we forget the immense spiritual, human and social good that the vast majority of priests and religious in the United States have done and are still doing. “The Catholic Church in your country has always promoted human and Christian values with great vigor and generosity, in a way that has helped to consolidate all that is noble in the American people. A great work of art may be blemished, but its beauty remains; and this is a truth which any intellectually honest critic will recognize. To the Catholic communities in the United States, to their pastors and members, to the men and women religious, to teachers in Catholic universities and schools, to American missionaries in all parts of the world, go the wholehearted thanks of the entire Catholic Church and the personal thanks of the bishop of Rome.”

For this reason, the cardinals and bishops present at the meeting today sent a message to all the priests of the United States, their co-workers in the pastoral ministry. [Text of letter is below.]

As part of the preparation for the June meeting of the American bishops, the United States participants in the Rome meeting presented to the prefects of the Roman congregations the following proposals:

1) We propose to send the respective congregations of the Holy See a set of national standards which the Holy See will properly review (recognitio), in which essential elements for policies dealing with the sexual abuse of minors in dioceses and religious institutes in the United States are set forth.

2) We will propose that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recommend a special process for the dismissal from the clerical state of a priest who has become notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory, sexual abuse of minors.

3) While recognizing that the Code of Canon Law already contains a judicial process for the dismissal of priests guilty of sexually abusing minors, we will also propose a special process for cases which are not notorious but where the diocesan bishop considers the priest a threat for the protection of children and young people, in order to avoid grave scandal in the future and to safeguard the common good of the Church.

4) We will propose an apostolic visitation of seminaries and religious houses of formation, giving special attention to their admission requirements and the need for them to teach Catholic moral doctrine in its integrity.

5) We will propose that the bishops of the United States make every effort to implement the challenge of the Holy Father that the present crisis “must lead to a holier priesthood, a holier episcopate, and a holier Church” by calling for deeper holiness in the Church in the United States, including ourselves as bishops, the clergy, the religious and the faithful.

6) We propose that the bishops of the United States set aside a day for prayer and penance throughout the Church in the United States, in order to implore reconciliation and the renewal of ecclesial life.

   
         
   

From the Vatican

   
   

April 24, 2002

   

    U.S. Cardinals’ Letter to American Priests    
         
   

We, the Cardinals of the United States and the Presidency of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, gathered with our brother Cardinals of the Roman Curia around the Successor of Peter, wish to speak a special word to you, our brother priests, who give yourselves so generously from day to day in service of God’s people.

At our meeting, you have been very much in our minds and hearts, for we know the heavy burden of sorrow and shame that you are bearing because some have betrayed the grace of Ordination by abusing those entrusted to their care.

We regret that episcopal oversight has not been able to preserve the Church from this scandal. The entire Church, the Bride of Christ, is afflicted by this wound — the victims and their families first of all, but also you who have dedicated your lives to “the priestly service of the Gospel of God” (Rom 15:16).

To all of you we express our deep gratitude for all that you do to build up the Body of Christ in holiness and love. We pledge to support you in every possible way through these troubled times, and we ask that you stay close to us in the bond of the priesthood as we make every effort to bring the healing grace of Christ to the people whom we serve.

We are in complete harmony with the Holy Father when he said in his Address yesterday: “Neither should we forget the immense spiritual, human and social good that the vast majority of priests and religious in the United States have done and are still doing.... To the Catholic communities in the United States, to their Pastors and members, to the men and women religious, to teachers in Catholic universities and schools, to American missionaries in all parts of the world, go the wholehearted thanks of the entire Catholic Church and the personal thanks of the Bishop of Rome.”

As we look to the future, let us together beg the eternal High Priest for the grace to live this time of trial with courage and confidence in the Crucified Lord. This echoes the summons of our Ordination: “Imitate the mystery you celebrate; model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s Cross” (Rite of Ordination); and it is a vital part of what we now offer the Church as she passes through this time of painful purification. From the house of the Successor of Peter, who has confirmed us in our faith, we wish in turn to confirm you in the humble and exalted service of the Catholic priesthood to which we have been called. Peace be with you!

   
         
   

From the Vatican

   
   

April 24, 2002

   

    The Defense of Liberty    
         
    What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling seacoasts, the guns of our war steamers, or the strength of our gallant and disciplined army. These are not our reliance against a resumption of tyranny in our fair land. All of them may be turned against our liberties, without making us stronger or weaker for the struggle. Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors. Familiarize yourselves with the chains of bondage, and you are preparing your own limbs to wear them. Accustomed to trample on the rights of those around you, you have lost the genius of your own independence, and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises.
   
         
    Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
   
    from Speech at Edwardsville, Illinois, September 11, 1858
Collected Works
Volume III p. 95
   


 Volume 1.12 This View’s Prose April 29, 2002 





The View from the Core, and all original material, © E. L. Core 2002. All rights reserved.

Cor ad cor loquitur J. H. Newman — “Heart speaks to heart”