Pope Benedict XVI’s Letter to Irish Catholics

Source: FSSPX News

In his Letter to Irish Catholics, signed on the 19th of March, on the feast of Saint Joseph, and made public on March 20th, Pope Benedict XVI invites the Church of this country to “first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children.” “considering the gravity of these offences, and the often inadequate response to them on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities in your country” adds the Holy Father, “I have decided to write this Pastoral Letter to express my closeness to you and to propose a path of healing, renewal and reparation”. 

Addressing the victims, the Pope states that it is “understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel.” He asks them nevertheless “not to lose hope”, for “It is in the communion of the Church that we encounter the person of Jesus Christ, who was himself a victim of injustice and sin. Like you, he still bears the wounds of his own unjust suffering.” Pope Benedict XVI admits that “grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred.”, and in particular, “there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations.”

The Holy Father also esteems that “the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society” have provoked “a social change” with effects “adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values.” He thus deplores the decrease in such practices as “frequent confession, daily prayer, and annual retreats”. He regrets, “also on the part of priests and religious”, their ways of thinking “without sufficient reference to the Gospel”, admitting that “the programme of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted.” He also evokes the “inadequate procedures for determining the suitability of candidates for the priesthood and the religious life; insufficient human, moral, intellectual and spiritual formation in seminaries and novitiates (…) ».

Benedict XVI proposed a series of concrete measures to spiritually remedy the crisis that the Church is going through in Ireland. He thus enjoins all Irish Catholics «to devote [their] Friday penances, for a period of one year, between now and Easter 2011, to this intention», for an «an outpouring of God’s mercy and the Holy Spirit’s gifts of holiness and strength». He encourages each and every one to «discover anew the sacrament of Reconciliation and to avail [themselves] more frequently of the transforming power of its grace». The Pope further requests that parishes, seminaries, religious houses and monasteries «organize periods of Eucharistic adoration, so that all have an opportunity to take part», in order to «make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm».

The Sovereign Pontiff proposes moreover « a nationwide Mission be held for all bishops, priests and religious», and announced visits in the dioceses of retreat-givers from Ireland and from elsewhere, to arrive at a «more profound appreciation of [their] respective vocations, so as to rediscover the roots of [their] faith in Jesus Christ». The Pope concluded his Letter with a mention of the figure of St. Jean-Marie Vianney, «who had such a rich understanding of the mystery of the priesthood», and insisted: «the Curé of Ars understood well how greatly blessed a community is when served by a good and holy priest». In La Repubblica of 21st March, Cardinal Georges Cottier, former theologian of the Pontifical Household, considers that the Pope, through this Letter, enjoins not only the Irish, but «all the body of the Church to remind itself of the apostolic and priestly life».