“God Bless America.” These words began and ended the too-short visit of the true man from Hope, Pope Benedict XVI.
Before his arrival, many pundits predicted that his Holiness would rain down torrents of recrimination upon our country and its president on topics like the Iraq War, capital punishment or our failure to heed the hounds of global warming. They of course were wrong in thinking that the German Shepherd would bite the hand that feeds the world’s poor or chastise the most pro-life leader our country has ever seen. But what else is new?
The press in this country constantly exhibits disdain for our homegrown spiritual leaders, so it was no surprise that they would distort the Pope’s message and the motivation behind his visit. Rare was the media outlet that failed to note that the Pope was received by cheering crowds “like a rock star”; that most depraved symbol of all that is unworthy of worship in America. Contrary to the soul-stealing allures of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, the Holy Father consistently spoke of faith, love, and hope.
But the hope among our mostly secular media was that most Americans would see the Holy Father and instantly be reminded of the grave sins committed by a small percentage of Catholic clergy. And indeed, on the lips of most commentators and right next to the spinning papal graphics, were usually the words, “sexual abuse scandal.”
And his Holiness did indeed address the issue of priests disdaining their vows, acknowledging their “gravely immoral behavior” and saying: “[I]t is more important to have good priests than to have many priests. We hope that we can do, and we have done and will do in the future, all that is possible to heal this wound.”
He later met with victims and reportedly prayed with them, and later asked all Catholics “to do what you can to foster healing and reconciliation, and to assist those who have been hurt.”
OF COURSE, NO MATTER what apologies the Church makes, no matter how much money she pays, and no matter how many innocent and holy priests suffer because of the actions of a few, it will never be enough. In this country, there are some sins which are never to be forgiven; especially those that advance certain agendas.
But, much to the dismay of the media (and mostly ignored by them), the Pope went further in his address to American bishops, on how to protect our children from sexual abuse:
What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today? We need to reassess urgently the values underpinning society, so that a sound moral formation can be offered to young people and adults alike. All have a part to play in this task — not only parents, religious leaders, teachers and catechists, but the media and entertainment industries as well.
Indeed, every member of society can contribute to this moral renewal and benefit from it. Truly caring about young people and the future of our civilization means recognizing our responsibility to promote and live by the authentic moral values which alone enable the human person to flourish. It falls to you, as pastors modeled upon Christ, the Good Shepherd, to proclaim this message loud and clear, and thus to address the sin of abuse within the wider context of sexual mores. Moreover, by acknowledging and confronting the problem when it occurs in an ecclesial setting, you can give a lead to others, since this scourge is found not only within your Dioceses, but in every sector of society. It calls for a determined, collective response.
Also ignored by the media was that Senate Democrats blocked a resolution welcoming the Pope until “pro-life” language was removed from it. Yet several notorious, pro-abortion politicians brazenly received communion during the papal visit, though not directly from the Holy Father. One can only hope that they were paying attention at Yankee Stadium where he said:
Praying fervently for the coming of the Kingdom also means…overcoming every separation between faith and life, and countering false gospels of freedom and happiness. It also means rejecting a false dichotomy between faith and political life, since, as the Second Vatican Council put it, “there is no human activity — even in secular affairs — which can be withdrawn from God’s dominion”
Unlike his predecessor, John Paul II, who was a trained actor and a brilliant speaker, Pope Benedict’s innate sweetness and humility sometimes betray his deep intellectualism and the beauty of words like, “The spires of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral are dwarfed by the skyscrapers of the Manhattan skyline, yet in the heart of this busy metropolis, they are a vivid reminder of the constant yearning of the human spirit to rise to God.”
But like John Paul the Great, he also uttered the words that the American media dread like the plague. For, far from bashing George W. Bush, he echoed to thunderous applause the president’s belief that all life is sacred:
May you find the courage to proclaim Christ, “the same, yesterday, and today and for ever” and the unchanging truths which have their foundation in him. These are the truths that set us free! They are the truths which alone can guarantee respect for the inalienable dignity and rights of each man, woman and child in our world, including the most defenseless of all human beings, the unborn child in the mother’s womb.
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