Pope, on plane to Germany, says abuse scandal has driven some from church

ON THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO GERMANY — Pope Benedict XVI met with reporters this morning aboard the papal plane to Germany. He answered four questions: one in German and three in Italian.

The pope was asked about the number of German Catholics formally renouncing their membership in the church. He said people leave for a number of reasons and the formal declaration often is the last step in a long process of moving away from the Catholic community.

Some, he said, have left because of the revelation of “terrible scandals” involving clerical sexual abuse, especially if the scandals have affected people close to them.

He said the church is “the Lord’s net” and like any fisherman’s net, there can be bad fish. Catholic leaders need to explain and help people understand the nature of the church as the people of God and “learn to withstand even these scandals and work against these scandals from the inside.”

Pope Benedict, who has been in Rome for some 30 years, was asked if he still feels German. He said, yes, a person’s cultural roots can’t be cut easily and, besides, most of the books he reads are written in German.

Asked about the planned protests in Germany during his visit, the pope said they were normal in a secularized, democratic society.

But, he said, there are also “great expectations and great love for the pope in Germany.”

The pope added that in many sectors of the German population, there is a growing sense of a need for a moral voice in society.

Confronting sex abuse rage: a priest’s story

Sexual abuse among members of the clergy and other church leaders has raised its head again in recent stories. It’s seldom out of the news these days, it seems, just some days more than others.

Too often the media is so busy trying to cover how the church is responding to the crisis, how courts and legislatures are prosecuting and how victims are trying to cope and recover, we can overlook or under-report the toll it takes on church leaders — and the rank and file — who reel almost daily from the onslaught.

Father Doyle

Father Kenneth J. Doyle wrote recently in the Feb. 11 issue of the Times Union of Albany, N.Y., about his own feelings of anger and frustration with a former priest whose trial for raping two young boys just concluded.

“Why am I ashamed since nothing I did myself led to this tragedy?” he asked. “I am ashamed because someone in my own family of faith — a brother priest, no less — would commit these acts of cruelty. And I am deeply saddened because this whole sordid saga has damaged the family of faith, the Catholic Church that I love.”

Father Doyle is the pastor of Mater Christi parish in Albany, and chancellor for public information of the Diocese of Albany. He also is no stranger to reporting. Father Doyle is the former Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service. He blogged for CNS during the 2009-2010 Year for Priests.

Pope Benedict XVI has spoken repeatedly during his pontificate on the toll the sexual abuse crisis has taken on all of the faithful — clergy and laity alike — and that no matter how painful it is, we have to move to a point of healing, Father Doyle piece heart-achingly echoes that lament, but ends in a resolve that he, as a priest, has to “keep on doing what [he was] called to do.”

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