The Pope is talking like someone who means it with his most forthright and startling statements to date. And he's finally putting responsibility where it belongs: Inside the Catholic Church. In a dramatic turn-about from his letter to the Irish Diocese and apparent rebuke of all the blame-throwing from top officials, Pope Benedict has finally called upon the Church to take full responsibility. This statement follows the resignation of numerous high profile Bishops so this may be the beginning of a serious house-cleaning.
In his most thorough admission of the church's guilt in the clerical sex abuse scandal, Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday the greatest persecution of the institution "is born from the sins within the church," and not from a campaign by outsiders.
The pontiff said the Catholic church has always been tormented by problems of its own making — a tendency that is being witnessed today "in a truly terrifying way."
"The church needs to profoundly relearn penitence, accept purification, learn forgiveness but also justice," he said.
"Forgiveness cannot substitute justice," he said.
Whatever changes the Pontiff's increasing assertiveness portends, it can't be fast or strong enough for abuse survivors.
But Barbara Blaine, founder and president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), dismissed the pope's statements as "pretty meaningless."
"There is no action," Blaine, who was herself abused by a priest when she was 13, told AFP.
"None of the words that he said today make children any safer than before he spoke the words," said the now 53-year-old Blaine.
The frustration is understandable. Pope Benedict's comments should have come years ago and from his predecessor. Some dioceses have been more proactive than others in addressing the issue and while some have implemented a framework for dealing with abusers and better supervision of contact with children, those initiatives have not come from nor been well supported by the Vatican. And they have not been universal. As I've written previously, Pope Benedict has been one of the most aggressive on this issue but he's been far too cautious by any normal standard. I, for one, would like to think that his increasingly strong rhetoric will be backed up with more action and openness. Time will tell.
It is also possible that the Pontiff's new-found boldness is another indication that he is a shrewd politician. It is simply smart to do what was recommended at the recent communications conference; come clean and stop blaming everyone but the bishops and cardinals who've so completely failed to protect children from abuse. They've tried that approach. It failed. People, including many Catholics, are angry and want to see some accountability.
One possible clue to Pope Benedict's motivations lies in the timing. That he made these comments to reporters on his way to Portugal would appear to be no accident. His trip to Portugal coincides with the date of the 1917 vision of the Lady of Fatima and he will visit Fatima for the anniversary. (It is also the date of the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981.) It would appear that the seeds of his dramatic pronouncement are to be found in the prophetic statements issued from the famous apparition of the Virgin Mary.
He added that the Church was being 'persecuted for its sins' and he described how the sex abuse scandals were part of the so-called Third Mystery of Fatima.
The Mysteries of Fatima are a trio of secrets said to have been given to shepherd children in 1917 during a vision of the Virgin Mary in the Portuguese village of Fatima.
The First and Second concerned the two World Wars and the rise and fall of Communism while the Third, which was only disclosed in 2000 by the Vatican, was said to have foretold the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981.
However there have long been suggestions that part of the Third secret was withheld and the Pope appeared to confirm this when he said that the 'suffering of the Church as a result of the sex abuse case' was also part of the secret.
He added: 'Besides the suffering of Pope John Paul II in the Third Message there was also indications as to the future of the Church.
'It is true that it speaks of the passion of the Church. That the Church will suffer.
'The Lord said that the Church would suffer until the end of the world. Today we are seeing this in a particular way.'
While this portion of the Pope's comments have gotten far less coverage than his statements about the Church's sin and need for penance, I think they are a far greater indicator of his seriousness.
The third secret of Fatima has been shrouded in secrecy and controversy for decades. Even after Pope John Paul II revealed it in 2000, there have been rumors that the declaration was partial and the most disturbing portions withheld. That the statement prophesied the apocalypse, complete with nuclear war, has long been denied by the Vatican. My lapsed Catholic husband informs me that one rumor involved Pope John Paul II visibly shaken, possibly crying, after reading it because it foretold the end of the Catholic Church. In many interpretations of such prophecy, the end of the Church equals the end of the world.
That Pope Benedict has indicated the suffering of the Church "until the end of the world" would seem to confirm that it did, in fact, pertain to eschatology. In 2000 he tried to assuage such concerns over the terror of the prophecy.
A careful reading of the text of the so-called third 'secret' of Fatima ... will probably prove disappointing or surprising after all the speculation it has stirred. No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled.
He goes on to explain that because the Mysteries of Fatima come after the authoritative word of God in the book of Revelation, they pertain to a matter already closed. He defines Lucia Santos's text as "private revelation," which should not be confused with the Biblical text. Such private revelation serves the purpose of clarifying that which has already been fully prophesied in the Bible... which is the end of the world.
He also indicates that, while Biblical prophecy is definitive, such personal revelations can serve as instruction and warning about how to amend our actions and transform the future.
The purpose of the vision is not to show a film of an irrevocably fixed future. Its meaning is exactly the opposite: it is meant to mobilize the forces of change in the right direction... Rather, the vision speaks of dangers and how we might be saved from them.
Speaking for myself, that's how I view all prophecy and psychic readings... including my own readings. The future is never fixed. Else there would be no point to precognition. The end of this world, or age, may be fairly inevitable, however. I look more to interpretations of the Mayan Calendar than the Book of Revelation, however. They make more sense.
It bears mentioning that many interpretations of St. Malachy's prophecy make Pope Benedict XVI the second to the last pope.
The Current Pope
111. Benedict XVI - The New Pope Joseph Ratzinger was elected the 265th pope on April 19, 2005 a few days after his 78th birthday.
(The glory of the olive)
The olive branch represents peace. Will he play a role in bringing the religions together and furthering tolerance during his office? Within 24 hours of his election, Islamic and Jewish religious leaders suggested just such a role for him. Hopefully, he can lead the religious world to recognize and focus upon the commonality of their belief in the same God rather than their differences
Perhaps through the implementation of tolerance we can look to a future where people stop justifying the killing of one another in the name of God. Let us see what the future will bring.
In the future
112. The LAST POPE!
(Peter the Roman) "In extreme persecution, the seat of the Holy Roman Church will be occupied by Peter the Roman, who will feed the sheep through many tribulations, at the term of which the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the formidable Judge will judge the people. The End."
For whatever reason, Pope Benedict seems genuinely frightened over the future of the Church and concerned enough over its direction to reverse course.