Pope Francis: Letter to the People of God (full text)

Just in case any of our readers have not seen this this, Pope Francis has responded to new reports of clerical sexual abuse and the ecclesial cover-up of abuse. In an impassioned letter addressed to the whole People of God, he calls on the Church to be close to victims in solidarity, and to join in acts of prayer and fasting in penance for such “atrocities”.

Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis
To the People of God

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26).  These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons.  Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike.  Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient.  Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.  The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.

1.      If one member suffers…

In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims.  We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced.  But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity.  The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side he stands.  Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history.  For the Lord remembers the promise he made to our fathers: “he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53).  We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite.

With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives.  We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.  I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]!  How much pride, how much self-complacency!  Christ’s betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart.  We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)” (Ninth Station).

2.   … all suffer together with it

The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way.  While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough.  Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit.  If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history.  And this in an environment where conflicts, tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an outstretched hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 228).  Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever endangers the integrity of any person.  A solidarity that summons us to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption.  The latter is “a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness.  Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for ‘even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light’ (2 Cor 11:14)” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 165).  Saint Paul’s exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the best antidote against all our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9).

I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable.  We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.

Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need.  This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does.  For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: “If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he wished to be identified” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49).  To see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience a conversion of heart in his presence.  To do so, prayer and penance will help.  I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command.[1]  This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never again” to every form of abuse.

It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People.  Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives.[2]  This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred.  Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people”.[3]   Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today.  To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism.

It is always helpful to remember that “in salvation history, the Lord saved one people.  We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people.  That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual.  Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in the human community.  God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 6).  Consequently, the only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God.  This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within.  Without the active participation of all the Church’s members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change.  The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion.  In this way, we will come up with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel.  For “whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).

It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable.  Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others.   An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.

Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils.  May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled.  A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary.  A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combatting all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.

In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1).

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it”, said Saint Paul.  By an attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation.  Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son’s cross.  She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus’ side.  In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life.  When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more upon prayer”, seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Spiritual Exercises, 319).  She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice.  To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.

May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.

FRANCIS

 

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About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
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23 Responses to Pope Francis: Letter to the People of God (full text)

  1. Gertrude says:

    There are a few things about this letter that I find difficult. Firstly, it’s our fault – the people of God.There is no mention of the clerical aspect of this or what the Holy See are going to do. We must practice prayer and penance (which I hope we all do at times) but no mention of how the Holy Father will deal with these deviant priests. To compound matters Pope Francis has surrounded himself with clerics of dubious provenance. No mention of laicisation or any other of the methods laid out in Canon Law in relation to any cleric who it is proved has betrayed God, his Vows made at the Altar, or any position Holy Mother Church has elevated him to.
    Secondly, “every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need.” No Francis. Change is your Agenda. Holy Mother Church – existing at it does by Divine Authority as handed down through the Apostles, Deposit of Faith, Tradition and 2,000 years of teaching and tradition is not at fault.
    There is much more that I will comment on as I absorb the fullness of this letter, but I await your comments.

  2. Mary Salmond says:

    If the pope wrote this letter on his own, without the help of the homo entourage around him, it is a good letter to all. If the corrupted helped him, it is more platitudes.
    I am glad he quoted Jesus, Cardinal Ratzinger, and other notables.
    Then I hope he begins to clean house, including some of the deplorables around the Vatican.

  3. Mary Salmond says:

    Gertrude: I agree, no solutions, but I hope he doesn’t invite atheists to help him with that. I am guessing he is swimming in thoughts how to take care of this mess, cost, demotions, and will give that information to his bishops that are not perpetrators or ones under investigations (how effective could they be?). He’s got major work to do, now and today is a good time to start. I wonder if James Martin is still speaking at the synod?

  4. Gertrude says:

    As far as I am able to ascertain Mary James Martin will still be speaking.
    “Bishops who are not perpetrators” …… that will be a difficult one Mary. I fear there will be more revelations throughout the world. This whole sad, sorry, demonic affair is far from over. Even the Pope is being questioned over actions in Argentina.

  5. Reblogged this on All Along the Watchtower and commented:
    Pope Francis’ letter on the present scandal in the U.S. Catholic Church. In the original blog’s comments Gertrude had an interesting analysis of the letter.

  6. Scoop says:

    Yep, as expected, clericalism is the culprit not homosexuality and their complicit acceptance of it in the clergy not to mention the whole cult of omerta or blackmail. What else would one expect from this politically correct Pope and hs rather ‘gay’ Vatican advisors?

  7. johnhenrycn says:

    Is it a sin to pray that this papacy comes to an end very soon?

  8. Mary Salmond says:

    Yes.

  9. johnhenrycn says:

    No.
    But yes: it depends by what means it comes to an end.

  10. Mary Salmond says:

    God takes care of his people in God’s own time. The dynamics of what’s going on will play out. Since the cat’s out of the bag here in the US, I expect a volcano to erupt in the next 2 years all over the world. If not by the pope, then by the people.
    Besides, this current generation of teens are more faithful and show desire for more tradition than the generations starting from baby boomers till about 4 or 5 years ago. This has nothing to do with Francis, but the programs that engage them better than in the past.

  11. Crow says:

    Gertrude, absolutely spot on! Pope Francis has just engaged in more PR. The issue is a homosexual priesthood, and Pope Francis turns it into the fault of the laity. The good news is that it is all being revealed – the light is shining on the predators.
    The truly strange aspect is that some modernists have used this to suggest that they inflict more of their modernism, (not less), on the Church. That is, it is not enough that thousands of abuse victims have had their lives and faith destroyed by these unholy men, they advocate that the rules which were in place to protect the vulnerable, such as Chastity are to blame. The logic that if the rule had been applied, there would have been no abuse, seems to have escaped them.

  12. Gertrude says:

    I have now read and re-read this. My conclusion: it is not worthy of Christ’s Vicar on Earth. Francis asks us to beg forgiveness for our sins and the sins of others. This is impossible. We ask forgiveness humbly for our sins – but how in God’s name can we ask forgiveness for the sins of others who may not show any sign of repentance? (Forgive us our trespasses…).
    The letter is an insult not an assurance to the people of God, and though it pains me to say the problem is sitting in the Chair of Peter. May God have mercy.

  13. Crow says:

    I was thinking about your observations- it is an outrage that Pope Francis has twisted this to make it the problem of the laity. I have a suggestion (but I am not tech enough to do it myself), and it is this; we set up an on-line petition by which we call the hierarchy to do their job. It is the responsibility of the Pope and the bishops – this is bigger than a PR exercise by the Pope and endless meaningless apologies by bishops.

    We state that faithful Catholics are not to be verbally abused by the man who sits in the Chair of Peter.His job is to lead the faithful as a shepherd and implement cohesion throughout the bishops, as heads of their flocks. The responsibility for the sexual abuses lies on him and those bishops and priests who have operated with impunity so that abusers have been promoted, even when credible complaints were known to have been made against them. It is apparent that homosexual networks have operated to perpetuate abuse and to cover up the abuses. This is the responsibility of the bishops and the Pope as the head bishop. It is not the responsibility of the laity and to effectively suggest that the laity deal with the sins of other people by prayers for forgiveness is insulting to the Catholic faithful and is a refusal to willingly accept responsibility as head of the Church. It is a shameful revelation but the response, that of deflection of responsibility, is even more shameful.
    The sexual abuse requires independent scrutiny by bodies which include laity because it is evident that it is the consequence of a homosexual hierarchy within the Church. We call upon our bishops and the Pope to apply doctrine and to insist on its application. Doctrines such as Chastity operated as a protection of the vulnerable. We call on the Pope to discipline those pushing a homosexual agenda within the Church, and, while he is at it, clean up the Mafia in the Curia, too.
    We state that the cardinals who have an objective to shape doctrine in a manner that accommodates homosexuality within Catholic doctrine be dealt with by reference to Catholic doctrine in its truth and that priests who make public statements not in accordance with Catholic received doctrine be disciplined.
    I do not have sons, but if my son went into the priesthood with my encouragement , I would be furious with these people who are corrupt and are perverting the Church of Christ.

  14. Mary Salmond says:

    Great reading today for the Queenship of the BVM. Ez 34: 1-11 about the shepherds (bishops). “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Woe to the shepherds of Israel, who have been shepherding themsevles.’ “

  15. Gertrude says:

    That is a very good idea Crow, but …. the Holy See appoints Cardinals and Bishops so I assume that only they can undertake such a cleansing, although local Ordinaries should be able to deal with erring priests. This would be alike to asking an alcoholic to oversee the dismantling of a brewery.
    The Pope has form for not answering anything he doesn’t like – just ask the Dubia Cardinals.
    I am out of my depth here because it is more than likely that most Cardinals knew well what was going on and chose to ignore all. They will answer before the Throne of Grace – as will we, in the meantime Holy Church suffers.
    Pray that Our Blessed Lord raises someone from amongst the Cardinals with the clout at least to make a start. It will not be easy.

  16. johnhenrycn says:

    I found this article posted earlier today by Rod Dreher (ex-Evangelical, ex-Catholic, currently Orthodox, but hard to say for how long that will last) concerning an ongoing discussion between himself and one Gabe Giella, a gay student expelled from a conservative, traddy-friendly seminary in New England about 10-15 years ago. I don’t agree with everything Giella says, but at the same time, he doesn’t strike me as a person who’s primarily motivated by a personal need for acceptance as a homosexual within the Church, and indeed, he appears to have left in any case.

    When I joined the Church, I was, like many adult converts, quite the fire-breathing one, sickened by the Protestant latitudinarian drift. This was a big negative reason why I was attracted to Catholicism. The big positive reason, or reasons rather, were the distinctive Catholic doctrines concerning Holy Eucharist, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Papal Infallibility (qualified), Confession / Absolution, Purgatory, Apostolic Succession and some others, which my readings convinced me were incontrovertible.

    Although not, strictly speaking, a Catholic doctrine, I was also attracted – as a potential convert – to the very old tradition and discipline of priestly celibacy. As a Protestant, I’d witnessed marriages of ministers ending in divorce, and others where the wives were Trollopian Mrs Proudy types.

    However, reflecting on the sexual revolution of these past 50+ years, while still vehemently opposed to homosexual clergy, which must be expunged root and branch, I’m no longer completely certain (I’m having some second thoughts) that married clergy ought to be exceptions to the rule. Consider:

    1. Celibacy is an extremely hard rule for a normal priest (perhaps less hard for a normal monk) and a persuasive case can be made that celibate normal priests have always been the exception to the rule. We might like to think the majority of priests in bygone ages were celibate (you will never convince me the majority were always chaste) but no one can prove it, and furthermore, there are numerous historical high ranking prelates known to have been slaves to sex, many unabashedly so, that it seems naive to think their underlings were able to keep free of carnal lust except infrequently.

    2. Why is it that the Holy See in post-Medieval times has never seriously revisited the idea of a married priesthood? Could one reason be that modern day homosexualists in the clergy and in the episcopacy are fearful that married priests and their acutely “gaydar” sensitive wives who, if forming the majority and being less at risk of blackmail, could eventually bring about their downfall?

    3. Another reason (in addition to Point 2) why the Holy See has not encouraged acceptance of married clergy in modern times has to do with the money needed to provide for wives and children of clergy – money that upper echelons in the Church, including but by no means limited to homos, would rather see spent on their own needs: bespoke clothing, luxury apartments, hotels, fine dining, first class travel, private parties, ceremonial occasions featuring their good selves, and so forth.

    4. How come, what with all the synodal fun fairs we’ve seen these past 4 plus years spotlighting acceptance of, or at least sympathy for alternative sexual lifestyles, there’s been no push by the pope or by his inner-circle encouraging us to think about relaxing the rules on married clergy, the odd Anglican aside? Could it be because the homoclergy is deathly afraid of married priests?
    ___
    Not saying a married priesthood is the best of all worlds – just saying it deserves renewed thought, because a largely married priestly caste would be a serious threat to homosexual dominance. If a married clergy was the norm, think how uncomfortable that would make the homosexualists as they began to realize that they – by reason of their bachelorhood – are under a cloud of conjecture if not suspicion. Of course, there are normal men who do not desire a wife, and of course, that goes for some normal priests, but we’re dealing here with a far more serious problem than discomfort on the part of normal men who might find themselves under a magnifying glass. Take one for the team.

  17. Mary Salmond says:

    I’d have to read your proposals more intently. But the only married clergy I would consider would be deacons in our church who are older with wives and cannot marry after their vows. The deacons I’ve seen are very dedicated, doing many duties, are very serious about their vocation, have led holy involved lives in their past, and are probably men who considered priesthood in their youth (but were dissuaded by the homo clergy they saw and left). I think an imaginative young priest should be so busy evangelizing, he only has time to eat and sleep.

  18. johnhenrycn says:

    Mary Salmond: I’ve nothing against deacons, married or not, and in fact thought of becoming one (before accepting my limitations) but I’m sure you’ve heard of, perhaps not recently, the delightfully named Fr Longenecker, a respected traditionalist leaning and married American Catholic priest. There are not just a few others like him in the world, even in our Roman Rite.“People ask how I can be married and be a Catholic priest.”

  19. Mary Salmond says:

    Yes. I like what I read from Fr. L. He is older than 40. He is good.
    Don’t remember if he has children living at home. But maturity and discernment come with age, no matter how intelligent a 30 year old is. So it doesn’t bother me.
    Also the wife has to be a part of the team of 2. Not working a job somewhere else or fulfilling her needs doing other things that do not assist him in his profession. It’s a team effort. And both agree on the traditions of the church – pro-life, etc – all the church teachings. Grandchildren would be an exception – she might need to help or visit without him.

  20. johnhenrycn says:

    Mary S: Fr Longenecker is older than 40, but he and his wife were received into the Church when they were in their 20s and he was ordained in his 30s – not that that (© Fr Z) is important, except to say he was a young married when he converted, and still was when ordained.
    Yes, permanent deacons are usually old men when ordained, but I don’t see that as a strong argument against priests who marry when young. Still, I’ve a open mind, and would never advocate for a married (as a rule) priesthood without more serious thought. I’m raising the topic, that is all.

  21. johnhenrycn says:

    Leaving aside the question of married priests, but returning to the Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis To the People of God, I’m reminded (no, not by my fairly simple intellect – by another one) this evening of these words:

    “It follows that the Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of persons, the Pastors and the flock, those who occupy a rank in the different degrees of the hierarchy and the multitude of the faithful. So distinct are these categories that with the pastoral body only rests the necessary right and authority for promoting the end of the society and directing all its members towards that end; the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors.”

    Pope Francis did not speak or write these words. He might like to have done, but no; they were written in the 1906 encyclical of Pope Pius X, VEHEMENTER NOS at ¶ 8.
    Context is important, but at 23:50, I mustl leave it to others to find it in this 2000+ word document.

  22. Mary Salmond says:

    The quote by Pius x that is given; that could have been easily from Jesus. That’s why the scandal today is so bad. Some shepherds have not stayed with their sheep; they’re in the shade enjoying themselves.
    Fr. Mike Schmitz on YouTube gives a goid response. No solutions to the faithful but don’t leave – Lead.

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