Papal Letter to Ireland Seen as Valid for Everyone

Cardinal Cottier Reflects on Pope's Efforts to Stop Abuse

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ROME, MARCH 30, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's letter to the Church in Ireland regarding sexual abuse of minors is a "real step forward" in combatting an abominable evil, according to the retired theologian of the pontifical household.



Cardinal Georges Cottier spoke to La Repubblica last week about the Pope's efforts to stop sexual abuse in the Church. He pointed to the Holy Father's "courage" and "firm condemnation."

Regarding the cases of abuse in Ireland, the cardinal contended that oftentimes things were handled too quickly.

"These crimes were covered up with the silence of the bishops who should have controlled but who, perhaps out of fear of scandal, preferred to remain silent or at most to move the priests accused of harassment to other parishes. They were mistaken," he said. "Unfortunately, there was too much speed. And it might be that some also hoped that certain pathologies, such as pedophilia, could be cured."

The cardinal lamented the "very grave errors" that brought "grave damage to innocent boys, many of whom have been marked for life."

Cardinal Cottier characterized Benedict XVI's letter to the Church in Ireland as a "real step forward in the fight against the atrocious evil infiltrated in the Church and in society."
 
The Pope "has written an important, exhaustive and very profound text," he contended, saying it is a letter "which will truly serve to combat the very abominable evil which pedophilia and sexual violence against minors is."

The cardinal proposed that the letter -- though written to the Church in Ireland -- is addressed "to the whole Church and to all men of good will." The Pope exhorts all people "to collaborate so that these very grave cases will never be repeated in the future."

The theologian said he finds in the letter Benedict XVI's "courage, his pastoral sensitivity, but above all his attention to the victims and a firm condemnation."

He reflected on the "spiritual level and the importance of mercy that permeates the whole text."
 
"The Pope addresses all Christians as a father, he speaks to the victims, to the parents, to the families, but also to those responsible for these obscene acts, inviting them with firmness to ask for forgiveness for the evil committed, to submit themselves to civil justice and to do penance," the cardinal noted.

He said the Pope also makes "a good analysis of the great social changes that have caused so much grief in recent years."
 
He invites "the whole body of the Church to reflect again on the apostolic and priestly life," noted the cardinal. The Pontiff's letter is "a call not only to these men of the Church who have acted badly, but to all those who commit those abuses of minors in society, in families or in tourist trips with sexual aims."