Benedict, Off-the-Cuff – UPDATED

Rocco Palmo has early excerpts of some spontaneous remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI at mass, today:

We must rather have the courage, the joy, the great hope that there is eternal life, that eternal life is real life and that from this real life comes the light that illuminates this world as well.

The Pope noted that, when we look at things this way, penitence is a grace – even though of late we have sought to avoid this word, too.

Now, under the attacks of the world, which speak to us of our sins, we see that to be able to do penance is a grace – and we see how necessary it is to do penance, that is, to recognize what is wrong in our lives: to recognize one’s sin, to open oneself to forgiveness, to prepare for pardon, to allow oneself to be transformed.

The pain of penance, the pain of purification and transformation – this pain is grace, because it is renewal – it is the work of the Divine Mercy.

Pope Benedict concluded his homily with a prayer that our lives might become true life, eternal life, love and truth.

The story is only just breaking and it will be interesting to see how the press excerpts and interprets his remarks, the full text of which is not yet transcribed and released.

I suggest we wait for a chance to read the complete text, before jumping anywhere, pro or con.

Deacon Greg is covering, too. I can’t wait to read his thoughts.

Reading further into the excerpts at Rocco’s (as we await the whole transcript) I am struck by something that is rather exciting: Benedict is daring – and many will say how dare he – to teach at this moment. He is daring to dive into the deep waters, here, and talk about the salvific effect of doing penance, and the graces found therein.

It’s staggering, when you think of it. It’s up there with Paul saying, “I rejoice in this suffering” except that Benedict talks about rejoicing in penance, which -by its very definition- takes upon it shame, humiliation, guilt and works to transform all of that, by the grace of God, into something finer; a penitential mindset is the most optimistic and trusting mindset in the world, because it says “I know this stinking compost heap is going to bring sustenance and beauty into the strained garden of world.”

Beneath the sorrow and the pain, there lies the stuff that builds us up; the stuff of joy.

Even out of all of this misery, all of this slow-learning, all of this bald stupidity, penance is and will be transformative: “See, I make all things new.”

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • simeon

    If you want to see how the “press” his handling this, check out the “royal we” innuendo. Warning, the comments are vile.

    Of course, the problem is if you don’t believe in sin, then you cannot be a sinner and one can easily throw stones at someone like Benedict who points out that penance is necessary to receive Divine Mercy.

    [Yes, well, the world has lost its sense of sin, and does not understand. But Jesus told us that the world would not understand, and would hate, so this is just things going on as ever. Christians, having been told by Christ that this is what happens, in the world, should be able to shoulder it as part of the Cross of Christ. Pray for those who hate, and pray also not to lapse into hate. I try and fail, still too often. -admin]

  • Bill

    I understand penance for something bad we do. Are we all to do penance for something bad someone else (priests, bishops) did?

    [ could argue that that is precisely what Jesus did.

    I am willing! I sometimes do penance for "the world" in all its sins. Theologically, it seems like a sound idea to me. We do not live to ourselves and we do not SIN to ourselves, either. All of our actions reverberate in the world, in ways we do not know, touching others or provoking others or hurting others - in that respect, all sins are one sin, and we all have our participation, great or small. Monastics do penance for the sins of others and for "the world" all the time. We all tend to think we are insulated and a little isolated from the deeds of others, and we like to say, "well, at least I am not as bad as that guy over there - he REALLY needs to do some penance." In truth, perhaps nothing could be more healing to the world than for each of us to be willing to offer up penance not just for ourselves, but for the sins of others in some small way. It would be a damn sight more constructive than holding hands and singing Kumbaya, and it would really level all playing fields, as we all recognize our weakness. -admin]

  • Wilma

    Stumbled upon this, thought you might like it


    Processing the remarks, there’s more then meets the eye

  • Bill

    I do not have a problem with most of what you say. However, there seem to be some priests and bishops who are not humble. Some priests and bishops have chased people away from the Church. Some do not have the right personality to be a priest or bishop. (I am not even talking about abusers.)

    [But these things are true in every institution and even in some families, are they not? Some priests and bishops are idiots who chase people away from the church? Of course. Some parents are idiots who chase their children away, too. Some children are idiots who treat their parents badly. That is simply part of the human condition, isn't it? -admin]

  • Wilma

    Some thoughts…

    I am an atheïst and a liberal, so I might not be among the most common of your readers. Though I enjoy reading this blog very much for your writings on your experience of religion.

    I have great respect for the Catholic Church. As a researcher in medieval studies I have dealt with researchers of the Catholic Church and I have learned a lot from them about the Church.
    We, in this outside world, are used to fast reactions, spokespeople, retractions and hypes. The Catholic Church does not work that way. In the Church contemplation and deep thinking are key. To us outside it may sometimes seem clumsy the way the Church operates, but it has been around for almost two millenia because the people in it are careful and deliberate thinkers and examine their issues for a long period of time before they come to a point.

    Words like these from pope Benedict XVI are meant for contemplation, not for dissection in the media. They are a first step in the debate that will be held for years to come in the Church. And the Church will deal with these issues, but not on our time frame.

    I’ve also got a lot of respect for pope Benedict XVI. He is a true scholar and a humble man. I like that in people. He may be less showy then his predecessor, but his mind is sharp and his direction is clear.

    I keep telling the people around me, yes this abuse of children is wrong. It’s very wrong. But the Church is also a force of good in this world. It has been so for centuries and it will remain so. We keep forgetting about places in the world where poverty and disease reign supreme, but the Catholic Church does not. You will find priests, nuns, friars in the most destitute of places doing good for those people we keep forgetting about. We should not forget that.

    [Thank you, Wilma; you are not the first atheist I have heard from who has managed more clarity on this issue than most, either in church or out - your words are very heartening. -admin]

  • Pingback: » Links To Visit – 04/15/10 There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword, the other is by debt. John Adams

  • Jeff

    I like that he used the word “attack.” It is indeed warfare that is going on. And the Church is and has always been under attack, both from within and without. We can see that even more clearly in the recent past and within the last 40 years. Within by our sins of the clergy and laity, and without by the world, nonmembers who hate it. Behind all of it is the ancient enemy of mankind, the “roaring lion” who seeks the ruin of souls simply to spite God for being God.

  • simeon

    We truly are all sinners and need to avoid the pitfall of the Pharisee in Luke 18:11. But as the world continues to fall deeper into sin, as we witness the ever-increasing stone-throwing attacks against Benedict and the moral voice for which he stands, we must remember that Our Lady of the Rosary told the children in the Fatima visions that more people go to hell because no one has prayed for them. Let us then not only pray for the Holy Father, the Church, its wayward priests and bishops, as well as the continued protection of our holy priests and bishops, but for those who blindly attack them. We especially lift up our prayers for the haughty intellectuals of the media, and the atheists plotting to arrest him, for “every one that exalteth himself, shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

  • Janis

    The secular press article I read quoted Pope Benedict as using the word “repent”. I am so grateful to the priests I’ve known through the years (most especially Fr. Francis Martin link) whose preaching helped me grasp my desperate need for a Savior, and the precious gift of repentance: seeing clearly my sins, and opening my heart to the forgiveness, merciful love and cleansing Blood of Jesus Christ. Yes, this word from Pope Benedict today is a huge grace for all with ears to hear and hearts to receive. What a gift!!!

  • Stefanie

    Wilma, thank you for your comments. You reflect the thoughts of many of my atheist friends and acquaintances.

  • Jennifer

    Thank you, Anchoress, for your always insightful and elevating thoughts. Our Holy Father is a true Shepherd. That is what I see from him at this dark hour. He’s not running or dodging; he’s standing there taking the hits out of love for the Church, and out of shame for the wrongdoing.
    He’s doing penance and calling all of us to do the same. That’s leadership, folks. That’s a servant. That’s a holy man.

    Thank you, Wilma, for your comments as well. Thank you for being reasoned, calm, and generous in spirit.

  • Pingback: Catholic News Headlines April 15, 2010 « Catholic News

  • Stephanie Bodene

    Dear Anchoress,

    I had a thought, that all this hullaballoo is a spring ritual for Christ haters and Vatican haters, but it’s gotten really, really vociferous.

    I think that Benedict’s outreach to the Eastern Church, and their admiration for him, are great signs of things to come — but the Union of the Eastern and Western Churches must give some people heart palpitations, angina, stroke, agitta, hypertension, etc. Imagine the holy, catholic and apostolic church united after a thousand years.

    I ask that we pray for the unity of the church, and pray hard.

  • Annie

    Two years ago, Benedict spontaneously spoke these words at the end of the Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral …
    “At this moment I can only thank you for your love of the Church and Our Lord, and for the love which you show to the poor Successor of Saint Peter. I will try to do all that is possible to be a worthy successor of the great Apostle, who also was a man with faults and sins, but remained in the end the rock for the Church. And so I too, with all my spiritual poverty, can be for this time, in virtue of the Lord’s grace, the Successor of Peter.”

    These are the words of a humble man who is deeply in love with God. His calm comes from his trust in the Lord and a profound prayer life.

  • Aimee

    Wilma, thank you so much for your comments. They are heartening to me after the disappointment of the coverage on MPR’s “All Things Considered” tonight, where the Pope’s comments were paraphrased, briefly, as a lead-in for a long interview with a psychologist who used his experiences with treating Catholic priests to argue, among other things, that there are hardly any celibate priests, and that at the same time they are all sexually immature for their lack of sexual inexperience. I had trouble, personally, wrapping my head around that one, but my guess is they weren’t really going for logic with that reporting. It was sad-making.

    [It is sad-hearing, too -admin]

  • Annie

    These are the spontaneous words by Benedict almost exactly 2 years ago at St. Patrick’s Cathedral…
    ”At this moment I can only thank you for your love of the Church and Our Lord, and for the love which you show to the poor Successor of Saint Peter. I will try to do all that is possible to be a worthy successor of the great Apostle, who also was a man with faults and sins, but remained in the end the rock for the Church. And so I too, with all my spiritual poverty, can be for this time, in virtue of the Lord’s grace, the Successor of Peter. It is also your prayers and your love which give me the certainty that the Lord will help me in this my ministry…”
    These are the words of a humble man who is deeply in love with the Lord, from whom he gets his strength and serenity.
    He needs our prayers today.

    [Recall his prayer at his inaugural mass also -admin]

  • P. Buchta

    Most of the criticism that I’ve heard within the last week is that Benedict has been too indirect, too little and too late in assuming blame for what has happened.
    I agree with Wilma concerning the ‘time frame’ that the church works in. To most I’ve spoken with they consider it a deliberate procrastination by those in Rome to wait until everything blows over. For the most part they would be correct given at which church officials act on available information. Consider how long it took the church to offer a half hearted apology to Galileo Galilei as an example.
    With that said, our church pastor came right out and apologized to everyone at the Easter homily as to recent events. I have more respect for him than for all the officials in Rome including the Pope. In defense of our pastor, there is no reason why the rest of the church cannot modernize. If there is a sin for procrastination against technology and modernization the church is at the top of that list.

  • jh

    “I understand penance for something bad we do. Are we all to do penance for something bad someone else (priests, bishops) did?”

    Bill I would say in a way you are touching on a matter that the Laity does not want to deal with.

    As the saying goes when a finger is pointed people should be reminded that there are 4 pointed back. That in some respects goes for the Laity here.

    The Church does not operate in a vacumn. It wrestles with the world and it gets itself at times dirty with it.

    There is a good bit of judging past actions by by a awful lot of 20/20 hindsight. “Scandal” was treated quite diferrently (often wrongly) by society as a whole back in this age. From families to other organziations.

    We all have heard of course of the medical adive people were being given as to these folks.

    Finally why did we see the new abuse cases start to fall around 84. What does that inidcate. Does it indicate in society as a whole there was something wrong in the air that affected even the Church. There are plently of stories of how now respected politicos in France and elsewhee wanted to lower the age of consent to like 13!!

    These Priests came from society. Good Priests are not dropped down from Heaven. THey are made often before they get to seminary through the influence of family and the community. The same is for “bad” Priests in some degree though pedophilla is truly truly something dark with the disturbing sideline that many victims become the new abusers.

    America Magazine on their blog actually had a good piece relating to this as to the mob mentality we are seeing. I think they hit right on the head and indeed I think this was Benedict is getting at in some ways . The post was “Abuse coverage reveals scapegoat mechanism” I think in many ways it hit it right on the nail

    “The scapegoat mechanism comes into play when tensions — often buried and unconscious — accumulate, when those involved must ‘let off steam’ or the social fabric will burst. The energy of indignation and anger is fuelled, over this issue, by the fact that sexual abuse of minors is extremely common in families — 70 per cent of victims have suffered at the hands of a relative — yet almost never talked about, let alone dealt with. The Church has become a surrogate victim, unconsciously identified as the cause of the tension which society feels but cannot identify.”

    I think that is right on. People see that even the Church has becomes soiled with this. They know there is a wider problem . I think that is what Benedict is getting at.

  • Brian English

    “Most of the criticism that I’ve heard within the last week is that Benedict has been too indirect, too little and too late in assuming blame for what has happened.”

    And most of the criticism I’ve heard within the last week is this type of vague accusation that ignores everything Benedict has done over the past nine years to address this issue.

    What exactly do you want him to assume blame for?

    “To most I’ve spoken with they consider it a deliberate procrastination by those in Rome to wait until everything blows over. For the most part they would be correct given at which church officials act on available information.”

    What are you talking about? Delays in responding to bishops (who had the actual authority, and responsibility, to deal with predator priests) 15-25 years ago?

  • DaveW

    Does anyone know a good source for Catholic ringtones for cellphones. I am having a lot of trouble finding them. I’m really just after the songs from the Mass, the Ave Maria, stuff like that. I don’t mind paying for them.

    Sorry to thread jack.

  • Maureen

    St. Faustina’s Divine Mercy devotion (and we just had Divine Mercy Sunday) is of course all about penitent prayer: “Have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

    The practically sinless St. Catherine of Siena insisted that her sins alone did enough damage to cause all the sorrows of the Church (which is a pretty freaky thought, considering that the Church in her day had Avignon and antipopes and the whole nine yards). She’s a Doctor of the Church, so she should know!

    So yeah, doing penitence for our own sins and those of the whole world, including the dead, is a standard Catholic thing. In time and space, we are separated. From the standpoint of eternity, people are much more tied together than we can see.

    [That's a great last line! -admin]

  • Lee Cerling

    I was thinking of your remarks when I read Fr. Oakes’ sermon, also posted on this site. I’ll repost my comments on his sermon here, as they both pertain to the blessing derived from loving our enemies, and the penitence that we may derive from it:


    Fr. Oakes speaks wisely.

    We are called to love our enemies. I am not Catholic, but it is plain to anyone that the Catholic Church has enemies both within its walls and without. The secular press has made itself the enemy of the Church. But I am reminded of this wonderful prayer for enemies of St. Nicolai of Zica:

    Bless my enemies, O Lord.
    Even I bless them and do not curse them.

    Enemies have driven me into Thy embrace more than friends have.

    Friends have bound me to earth; enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

    Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.

    Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconsed myself beneath Thy tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.



    PS — Thanks, Anchoress, for your faithful blogging!

  • Bender

    AsiaNews has a translation of the homily up now.

  • cathyf

    Lizzie, you should start a new thread. The full homily is quite a bit richer, but also a bit different, from what the initial quotes suggested.

    [Yes, I am working on something...just can't find time to finish it. -admin]

  • Pingback: The Anchoress | A First Things Blog