IN HIS OWN WORDS (Excerpts from yesterday’s speech by Pope John Paul II to US cardinals)
...Like you, I too have been deeply grieved by the fact that priests and religious, whose vocation it is to help people live holy lives in the sight of God, have themselves caused such suffering and scandal to the young. Because of the great harm done by some priests and religious, the church herself in viewed with distrust, and many are offended at the way in which the church's leaders are perceived to have acted in this matter. The abuse which has caused this crisis is by every standard wrong and rightly considered a crime by society; it is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God. To the victims and their families, wherever they may be, I express my profound sense of solidarity and concern.
It is true that a generalized lack of knowledge of the nature of the problem and also at times the advice of clinical experts led bishops to make decisions which subsequent events showed to be wrong. You are now working to establish more reliable criteria to ensure that such mistakes are not repeated. At the same, time, even while recognizing how indispensable these criteria are, we cannot forget the power of Christian conversion, that radical decision to turn away from sin and back to God, which reaches to the depths of a person's soul and can work extraordinary change.
Neither should we forget the immense spiritual, human and social good that the vast majority of priests and religious in the United States have done and are still doing....
The abuse of the young is a grave symptom of a crisis affecting not only the church but society as a whole. It is a deep-seated crisis of sexual morality, even of human relationships, and its prime victims are the family and the young. In addressing the problem of abuse with clarity and determination, the church will help society to understand and deal with the crisis in it midst.
We must be confident that this time of trial will bring a purification of the entire Catholic community, a purification that is urgently needed if the church is to preach more effectively the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all its liberating force....
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