Cardinal Scola Addresses Sexual Abuse Crisis
Patriarch of Venice Reiterates Support for Benedict XVI
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VENICE, Italy, APRIL 1, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the statement on sexual abuse in the Church made today Cardinal Angelo Scola, patriarch of Venice, at the end of the Chrism Mass held in St. Mark's Basilica in Venice.
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The solemn occasion of the Holy Chrism Mass which sees all the presbyterate gathered here, with the deacons, women and men religious and not a few lay faithful, impels me to say a rightful word in regard to the question of the sin and crime of pedophilia committed by priests and consecrated persons. This topic, also in our country, has been for some days on the front page.
With a calm and objective judgment I intend to manifest to you all, to all the Christian people and to all the inhabitants of the patriarchate, what in this regard I have had in my heart for days.
1. As Benedict XVI affirmed, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco and the recent final communiqué of the permanent council of the Italian episcopal conference confirmed, pedophilia "is an odious crime, but also a scandalously grave sin which betrays the pact of trust inscribed in the educational relationship. If committed by a consecrated person, it acquires an even greater gravity."
Hence our dismay, sense of betrayal and remorse for violated childhood and even greater our closeness to the victims and their families. Hence also, without hesitation and minimizing, the renewed commitment to render an account of every one of these crimes, determined not to hide anything. Mercy and forgiveness toward those who have erred implies on their part submitting themselves to the exigencies of full justice and hence to answer "before God Almighty as well as before the courts duly constituted." The Italian bishops are determined to follow the directives confirmed by the Holy Father whether through the canonical procedures or through a loyal collaboration with the state authorities. Moreover, they will multiply their efforts to prevent similar situations. Even one sole case "is always too much, above all if the one who carries it out is a priest."
Part of an objective attitude is to highlight the fact, stressed even by many non-Catholic sides, that the phenomenon of pedophilia concerns different environments and various categories of persons. This notation does not intend to diminish the gravity of the facts pointed out in the ecclesiastical ambit, but invites "not to engage -- in case this should happen -- in strategies of generalized discredit."
2. In this context I am pressed to thank you all, very dear priests of the Patriarchate, for your indefatigable and long-standing action in the educational field. The very grave episodes pointed out in some dioceses must not darken your luminous commitment and throw discredit on the precious action that from immemorial time you carry out in our parishes, our schools, as well as in groups of faithful. Educational action that in the churches of the Northeast and in the Diocese of Venice today is more attentive than ever to all the pedagogical implications.
I invite you all to continue serenely and even more energetically in the precious task of transmitting to the new generations the Christian meaning of life that, if adequately proposed, is able to make the balanced and mature personality grow at all levels, including the affective and sexual. Because of this I am certain that very many parents who normally entrust their children to parishes, to Catholic schools, to charitable institutions, to GREST, to Catholic associations, will intensify their trust and will be even more aware of the decisive importance of the family to introduce and accompany children, boys and girls and pre-adolescents to the encounter with Christ in the Christian community.
3. It is misleading and unacceptable to question, from cases of pedophilia in the ecclesiastical environment, the holy celibacy that the Latin Church asks for, in full liberty, of the candidates to the priesthood in the light of a very long tradition. We are rediscovering its beauty in this Year for Priests. Celibacy, when it is lived with one's gaze fixed on Jesus priest and with an undivided heart for the good of the people of God that is entrusted to us, is a beautiful experience of love which makes our humanity flower. To accept freely the gift of celibacy and to follow that way does not imply some psychic and spiritual mutilation. For those who are called, the grace of celibacy is the path for a singular but fulfilled expression of one's affectivity and sexuality. Of course we are earthenware vessels and we carry in them a great treasure but, with the help of God and the support of the Christian community, we carry it with responsibility and joy.
4. Finally in this extraordinary day of Holy Thursday, expression of the peculiar "Catholic genius" because in it shines the power of the Eucharist and the full meaning of the ordained priesthood, we intend to express again and forcefully our affection and our impassioned following of the Holy Father Benedict XVI. To him who has done so much and does so much to remove "every filth" from the whole structure of the men of the Church are addressed false accusations. But the "humble laborer of the vine" -- that is how he described himself when introducing himself to the world now five years ago on the occasion of his election to the Papacy -- will receive from the Spirit the grace to offer this iniquitous humiliation transforming it into renewed energy for his indispensable ministry of Successor of Peter.
We, Venetian priests and people, entrust him today, in an all together special way, to the Most Holy Virgin Nicopeja.
Beloved, receive with an open heart these words of your Patriarch. And be certain of his full confidence and his esteem. They are founded on the knowledge now of many years of your love for Christ and for the Church which is transformed in daily gift, often silent and not understood, of your life in favor of every man brother of ours.
May the progress of the pastoral visit continue to strengthen our unity so that, as Jesus has asked us, the world will believe and discover in this way the fullness of living.
I invite you to find the appropriate ways to make this statement known as widely as possible to all the faithful and to all men and women who live in our patriarchate.
With heartfelt affection of communion in the Lord I bless you and all the faithful wishing you a Holy Easter.
+Angelo Cardinal Scola
Patriarch of Venice
April 1, 2010, Holy Thursday
[Translation by ZENIT]