"Deeply Ashamed" B-16 & the priesthood

My L’il Bro Thom and I were remembering that as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith it was evidently part of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s job to read all of the distressing and detailed reports coming from the US as the church investigated the pederasty scandals which roiled us in 2002. Upon becoming pope one of the first remarks Benedict made pertained to “rid the church of filth”. Only Andrew Sullivan seemed not to have understood Benedict’s meaning.

Today, before he has even landed, the pope has expressed the feelings of all of us re this matter:

Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday he was “deeply ashamed” of the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church and will work to keep pedophiles out of the priesthood…Benedict spoke in English on a special Alitalia flight from Rome to Washington, answering questions submitted by reporters in advance.

“It is a great suffering for the Church in the United States and for the church in general and for me personally that this could happen,” Benedict said. “It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission … to these children.”

“I am deeply ashamed and we will do what is possible so this cannot happen again in the future,” the pope said.

Benedict pledged that pedophiles would not be priests in the Catholic Church….”It is more important to have good priests than many priests. We will do everything possible to heal this wound.”

Actually, although those who use these terrible scandals as a justification for unending hate will not acknowledge it, the church has taken serious action to prevent such abuses in the future, and the writers and watchdogs for these “zero-tolerance” policies are the laity, themselves, and the serious scrutiny is not limited to clergy; lay volunteers and ministers are all checked out and – at least in most diocese – must undergo a training session to spot and report anything that seems remotely suspicious to them.

Fortunately, the pederasty scandals have not specifically impacted vocations to the priesthood, says James Martin, SJ. In America, as elsewhere, vocations are slowly rising, although as Deacon Greg points out here, you wouldn’t notice it in coastal America. Our midwestern and southern seminaries are bursting, but on both coasts, things look unpromising, and most of our priests are now coming to us from Nigeria, India, China, Central America, Poland and the Philippians. That says more about our materialistic society, I think, than about the priesthood itself. A while back I wrote:

Common sense says the numbers will continue to very swiftly drop for the next 5-10 years, as the vowed religious from the pre-Vatican II heyday of vocations (more priests, nuns and monks from 1930-1960 than ever before or since in the history of the world) begin to reach their culminations and die.

Articles like this stay focused on that huge mid-twentieth century aberration and neglect the truth that religious vocations are a radical and counter-cultural way of living that have – by necessity and design – always been “minority” lifestyles, lives lived in service to the church and the rest of the world. So, really, things are simply returning back to “normal” in a manner of speaking.

I read somewhere – I think it was at National Review, but I can’t find it – that worldwide there are more seminarians now than at any time since 1961. If I can find that link I’ll post it.

Meanwhile, Benedict has a heavy 6 day visit before him, and he’s no spring chicken. I suspect travel does not energize him as it did his predecessor:

Benedict is known as an intellectual and introvert.

“He doesn’t quite get the same energy from crowds that John Paul II got,” said Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “John Paul II was extroverted and got energy talking to people, and the present Holy Father loses energy. He has to rest between all these encounters.”

Any introvert will understand that; I sure do, and I sympathize.

Inside Catholic notes that nothing Benedict says will ever please everyone.

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About Elizabeth Scalia