James Martin, S.J.May 16, 2008
Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard three stories about the recent papal visit that I’ve found especially moving. First: The visit of Pope Benedict XVI with Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., who has been ailing, in a private meeting in Cardinal Egan’s suite in St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, on Saturday afternoon, April 19. This meeting took place after the pope greeted disabled children. The following account is taken from the New York Jesuits’ newsletter, written by Anne Marie Kirmse, O.P., Cardinal Dulles’s longtime assistant. "The Pope literally bounded into the room with a big smile on his face. He went directly to where Avery was sitting, saying, ’Eminenza, Eminenza, I recall the work you did for the International Theological Committee in the 1990’s.’ Avery kissed the papal ring and smiled back at the Pope. Then the Pope looked at the people in the room who had accompanied Avery to the Seminary: Fr. Tom Marciniak, who served as Cardinal Dulles’s priest-chaplain for the meeting; Sr. Anne-Marie Kirmse, O.P.; and Francine Messiah and Oslyn Fergus of the [Jesuit infirmary’s] medical staff. After this warm and friendly exchange of greetings, the Pope sat down next to Avery to hear the remarks that Avery had prepared and which were read for him by Fr. Tom Marciniak. During the presentation, Fr. Tom handed the Pope a copy of Avery’s latest book, Church and Society: The Laurence J. McGinley Lectures, 1988-2007, which was published earlier this month by Fordham University Press. The Pope expressed great interest in the book, and even interrupted the reading of the remarks to ask again when the book had been published. He eagerly looked through it, and was touched by Avery’s inscription to him. Before leaving, the Pope blessed Avery, assuring him of his prayers, and encouraging him in his sufferings. He then said good-bye in turn to each of the four persons who accompanied Avery." Second: A friend who works at the Holy See’s Mission to the United Nations, told me that each night at the Papal Nuncio’s residence on the Upper East Side, hundreds of people would come to stand outside of the residence, until the pope would emerge. To great cheers, people would hand him babies to be blessed, serenade him with songs, and wait for his blessing before he retired for the night. According to my friend, the pope confided that these unscheduled encounters as his "favorite" part of the entire visit. The photo below is from outside the cardinal’s residence, on Friday night. "It was a very moving moment of contact with people," said Federico Lombardi, SJ, the Vatican spokesman. "It is not so easy for him to have direct contact." Third: Another priest friend serving as a secretary to one of the local bishops reported on a private dinner with the pope and a few bishops. At the end of the meal, Benedict asked those gathered together to pray for him. "For what intention, Holy Father?" said one. "That I may never get in the way of Jesus Christ." James Martin, SJ
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13 years 4 months ago
It is my understanding that most sexual abusers were themselves victims of abuse during their formative years. Obviously, it is crucial that young persons be protected from sexual abuse and many in the church hierarchy bear responsibility for the damage that has been done. But wasn't it Jesus himself who said ''Let those among you who are without sin cast the first stone''? The Christ I know would have forgiven and ministered to the perpetrators as well as ministering to and helping heal the victims. I suggest we follow His lead.
13 years 4 months ago
While we all know the horror of child abuse in the Church and in society in general, especially amoung public school teachers, the Gospel mandate of healing and forgiveness is not open to discussion or personal choice, it is a demand made by Jesus that we ''forgive those as we ask the Father to forgive us!'' So, when we see the vindictive nature of our Christian brothers and sisters, we need to ask ourselves if we still follow the precepts of Jesus, or just those of the mob and the lawyers. Yes, there is responsibility for actions past and present, but if there is no forgiveness for sinners in the Roman Catholic Church, then the Church is not the Body of Christ, nor the legitimate foundation of Christianity. It is time to regain the sense of Jesus and not just our ''opinions'' whether to forgive Bishops, priests, nuns or each other. Jesus told Peter to forgive, ''70 X 7'' times per day. What does it say to the world about our Christian faith when all we hear is a ''get even, vendictive philosophy'' and claim this to be the voice of Jesus. The time to forgive, heal and move on is now and the Holy Father said so. If others want to continue the power struggle against the precepts of Christ, that is their problem. For my part, my family and I will follow the example of Jesus Christ.
13 years 4 months ago
Thankfully, canon law is in conflict with the norms of the American bishops for priests of religious orders and congregations. Casting back onto the resources, full, meager, or non existent, of families of priests who may have committed, some decades ago, even one criminal act is so unlike the forgiving Christ. I am in wonder as to how a responder here knows how many Jesuits have or have not had substantiated or even ''credible'' accusations against them. Indeed, for those among us who have so erred and need the supervision of a loving community, expulsion is the most harmful mode of response possible for children. Is all forgiveness non existent for those who have so failed? Let us hope the abraham's in the Church are free of all sin. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
13 years 4 months ago
It is touching to see that the Pope visited with Avery Cardinal Dulles. On the priests sexual abuse scandal, the eminent Cardinal has said before that it will be difficult to defrock the priests responsible as the priesthood is forever... for life. I beg to humbly disagree with the eminent cardinal. The clean-up must be done pribately and publicly. The priests can be suspended 'a divinis' rather like the errant theologians were. They can go back to their families if they still have them. Or they can retire to some monastery to spend the rest of their days. There is no business for these vulture-priests remaining in their orders and desecrating the image of Christ and the reputation of their orders. Its also stupid of Sean Cardinal O'Malley to give the Pope a book with the victims. He should have given the pope a book with the names of the errant or suspected priests and bishops in his diocese for further action. Seeing that these abuses date back maybe 40 years, some of the errant priests maybe promoted to bishops during that time. We have to clean up the cancer within. I look forward to Pope Bendict XVI to do just that. Fortunately the Jesuits seem to be immune. They are a highly respected teaching order and well respected educators. There must be something in the Jesuit training, as very few of those involved in sexual abuse have been Jesuits. Continue to hold the high moral ground!
13 years 4 months ago
These beautiful little stories about the Pope during his visit to our country were delightful. However I do not get the connection between them and the abuse scandal. Why is this particular issue brought up by these commenters concerning the stories we read here? People, we need to pray and move on. The church is bigger than the abuse scandal. There are grace filled events which you are missing by staying mired in the sins of the past. Let us forgive, do all that can be done to avoid anything like this recurring and then move ahead with the business of striving for holiness.
13 years 3 months ago
There are a number of good priests who have been falsely accused by people with agendas that were less than honorable. Some were placed on administrative leave based only on the ''suspicions'' of others. Although these priests have been officially exonerated, they are still not returned to ministry although they are given a salary. Bishops ought to find a way to remedy this painful situation. Justice and indeed the church is not served by this pitiable action. In the past some Bishops paid ''victims'' for their silence. Now they are doing the same to some of their own good priests.
13 years 4 months ago
Sally and other similar thinkers....one must remember that the vocations are HIGH in the area where it is encouraged for the seminarians to have a prayerful life AND in the diocese where they are loyal to the Magistierium's teachings. Let us pray we all will be following in the same path. Food for thought, one saint said that the Lord allows us what we get when we cease to ask HIM for help. How prayerful have we been as a parish, diocese, district (or nation for that matter). Let us unceasingly pray for our priests.
13 years 4 months ago
Great article! We have a holy Pope who loves people and loves Jesus Christ, hopefully, the American bishops will follow his instructions, which will very much benefit the American Catholic church.
13 years 4 months ago
Where is the forgiveness of us all. These poor men and women have fallen from grace and have left God for a moment. The deeds they have done are horrific but then are not unpardonable. My prayers go out to them and the Church. A holy way has to be established to heal the men and women responsible as well as those who were victims. I was a victim and I forgive and, over time, can forget.
13 years 4 months ago
I hope now that the American church follows the intentions outlined by Pope Benedict XVI -- no more grave sin or abuse against anyone, at any time, by those ordained and in some authority in the church. Up until now, these things were covered up to avoid scandal in the church. The best way to avoid scandal was to never tolerate and hide these things in the first place. Our church became a haven of permissiveness for those of privilege in the church who sought continuing forgiveness and opportunity for grave sins they continued to commit. Instead of invoking their privilege, they needed to remember the sacred responsibilities inherent in their vocations. Whether against children (the most unimaginable of sins), in homosexual acts, or by carnal sins against adult or older teenage women by priests (vastly underreported), these grave sins by our ordained clergy must not be tolerated any more. The victims must come first in the eyes of the church, and these sins must stop. There must be no more potential victims in the congregations, and our clergy must be better than pretenders in their vocations. We cannot have these sins be part of the culture of the church, and we cannot have the coverup of these sins be the assumption that drives those in authority that are not actually doing these sins, but are enabling the perpetrators. The perpetrators must be removed from their positions of privilege instead, and lead the way for the faithful priests, deacons, and bishops, who truly minister to the congregation, to become the de-facto leaders of the church again.
13 years 4 months ago
i agree with Abraham. what the Boston cardinal should have done is give the names of the errant priests and bishops in his diocese for Rome to follow up. Vocations to the priesthood will drop until the church cleans up its act. Pope B16 should focus on - "What would Jesus do?" (in this situation). I doubt he will cover up. I doubt he will shield his brother priests and bishops. Its simple. No one has agenda against the church. Why should they? This thing has been dragging on for many decades. Rome hopes that by doing nothing the problem will go away. It will not. The church needs internal cleaning to regain its respectability.

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