Pope Benedict did not directly address the escalating abuse scandal in his Palm Sunday homily. But his oblique reference could not have been more offensive or inappropriate.
Jesus Christ, Benedict said in his homily, guides the faithful "toward the courage that doesn't let us be intimidated by the chatting of dominant opinions, towards patience that supports others."
I have little doubt his Holiness is feeling besieged from all sides but make no mistake. It's the clergy that's under the gun; not the laity. So it can only be the clergy he exhorts not to be "intimidated;" not the people. Once again, it's very clear where his sympathies lie. With church officials, including pedophile priests who have been sheltered and protected for decades. Not with the children, nor with the adult survivors of child abuse. Not with Catholic parishioners whose faith is being rattled daily by new revelations.
I cannot imagine a worse tone to set at the start of Holy Week. He would have done better to ignore the scandal than to use his pulpit to bash the church's critics, many of whom are good Catholics. Such divisiveness has no place in a sermon, let alone on one of the most important days of the church calendar.
Yesterday I read about Bernie McDaid who met with Pope Benedict two years ago to discuss the sexual abuse that had so affected his life.
McDaid left afterward believing Benedict was beginning to understand the scope of his church's corruption. He doesn't believe that today.
"Was it a PR move? Looking back at that now, I have to say it was," McDaid said of the meeting. "Everything they do is not about the children. It's about the church. It's always the church first."
If McDaid had any doubt about where Pope Benedict's loyalties lie and what his intentions are towards those who have raised issues with the church's handling of abusive priests, this open display of contempt towards Vatican critics make it abundantly clear they're going to get nowhere. He's positioned those with unfavorable "opinions" as an enemy he will continue to ignore.