VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI apparently gave a remarkable homily at Mass today with members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, speaking about the clerical sex abuse crisis as an opportunity for the church to do real penance. (UPDATE: Full story.)
The pope first referred to a “subtle or not so subtle aggression against the church” as a form of modern conformism “under which it becomes obligatory to think as everyone thinks, to act as everyone acts.” Such conformism can become a dictatorship, he said.
Then he said the “attacks” against the church present an opportunity for purification and transformation through penance.
I must say that we Christians, even in recent times, have often avoided the word ‘penance,’ which seemed too harsh to us. Now, under the attacks of the world that speaks to us of our sins, we see that being able to do penance is a grace and we see how it is necessary to do penance, that is, to recognize what is mistaken in our life, to open oneself to forgiveness, to prepare oneself for forgiveness, to allow oneself to be transformed. The pain of penance, that is to say of purification and of transformation, this pain is grace, because it is renewal, and it is the work of Divine Mercy.
As Vatican officials were still preparing the release of the papal text, Vatican Radio posted the main quotes on its Web site.