Flying to Portugal, pope says abuse crisis “terrifying”

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO PORTUGAL — Pope Benedict XVI said the priestly sex abuse scandal is a “terrifying” crisis that comes from inside the church — not from an outside attack — and requires purification and penance to overcome.

The pope made some of his strongest remarks to date on the sex abuse cases during an in-flight press conference May 11 on his way to Portugal for a four-day visit that was to include the Marian shrine of Fatima.

Asked if the message of Fatima, which foresaw times of trials and suffering for the church, could be applied to the sex abuse crisis, the pope said essentially that it could.

“Among the new things that we can discover today in this message is that attacks on the pope and the church come not only from the outside, but the suffering of the church comes from inside the church, from sins that exist inside the church,” he said.

“This we have always known, but today we see it in a really terrifying way, that the biggest persecution of the church doesn’t come from the enemies outside but is born from sin inside the church,” he said.

“And so the church has a profound need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn on the one hand forgiveness but also the necessity of justice. And forgiveness does not substitute justice,” he said.

“We have to relearn these essentials: conversion, prayer, penance,” he said.

The pope, who helped explain the third secret of Fatima when it was published in 2000, said the Fatima messages extend in time to apply to the church’s continuing journey, which is accompanied by suffering.

The pope also spoke about the economic crisis that is shaking Portugal and the rest of Europe, saying it illustrates the need for a greater infusion of ethics and morality in the market.

“I would say this economic crisis has a moral dimension that no one can fail to see,” he said. “The events of the last two or three years have demonstrated that the ethical dimension must enter into the world of economic activity.”

Pure economic pragmatism will always lead to problems, he said.

The church’s social teaching has a big role to play, seeking to create a serious dialogue with the financial world and highlighting the moral responsibilities of economic systems, the pope said.

“So here we need to enter into a concrete dialogue. I tried to do this in my encyclical, ‘Caritas in Veritate,’” he said.

The pope said secularism was not a new problem in Portugal or Europe, but had taken a more radical turn in recent years. He said here, too, the church needs to engage in bridge-building and dialogue, making sure its voice is heard and helping to restore an openness to transcendent reality.

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10 Responses to Flying to Portugal, pope says abuse crisis “terrifying”

  1. anonymous says:

    Excommunication of popes and priests and bishops is the automatic result of the horrific abuses AND for being accessories to cover-ups; canon law requires that the perpetrators of these scandalous sins no longer be considered in communion with the organization. There is no legitimate pope; many bishops and priests are also dis-empowered for the very same reasons.

  2. Brian says:

    Thank you, Holy Father.

  3. Jim says:

    Yes, it must be terrifying for our Holy Father as it is for many of us. Within the Church we have radicals who would use this to bring down the Pope, Cardinals and Bishops so they can substitute their own agenda of married priests, women priests, tolerance of abortion, tolerance of a homosexual lifestyle and so on. Where do we hear stuff like this? From the Father Pfleger’s and in anonymous blogs. There may be merit in discussion of some of these issues but they are all connected, all part of the same agenda. The sexual abuse crisis is only part of the evil which has crept into the Church. Moral confusion and relativism contribute to the lack of moral clarity which has so contaminated our Church as to make it, in some ways, unrecognizable in terms of the Church of my youth. Everything the Pope has said about the need for purification, penance and evangelization is absolutely correct. We are in a great spiritual battle.

  4. Brian says:

    Pardon me, Jim, but there are a lot of people who are simply angry with abusive priests and religious as well as bishops who failed to protect young people. Not every critic is out to take over or destroy the Catholic Church. It’s not all one monolithic agenda.

  5. Jim says:

    Oh, I have no problem with calling the bishops, priests and religious to task. The Pope himself calls it a great sin which requires penance and purification. I was a first hand witness to the shuffling of priests from country to country only to have them continue to abuse kids. While the intent was good the methods and theories behind them were terribly misguided. What was missing was the vision that the abusing priests and religious lacked compassion for others, a quality essential for being a pastor or otherwise serving others. Rape is not a sex crime; it is a crime of violence, a crime against the dignity of the person involving dominating the will of another in a most heinous manner. The priests involved were treated as “sex addicts” when the real problem was deep flaws in character. What I object to is to is the far left using this as an opportunity to challenge the legitimacy of the Pope and Bishops as is the case in “anonymous” ‘s blog. I hear this sort of thing in local Church committees where it is used to challenge the Church’s teaching on abortion. I never thought I’d see the day!

  6. Jean says:


    Im sure your right about some of the critics but it is one giant monolithic agenda from Satan to do whatever he can to destroy the Bride of Christ.

    We know he will not but he will try to make the Holy Mother Church suffer as much as it (Satan) can before the Lord comes back.

    This is our test of endurance until the second coming.

    Holy Father is right about the third secret. Im no expert but it now makes sense as to what was written in there.

    I think the third secret is a warning to us as to what can be perpetrated from now on. It is a lesson to be looked at and learned. It applies to almost anything that could happen inside and outside the church in the coming years.

    Thank you Blessed Mother and may your Son continue to guide and love us until the second coming.

  7. Kaki says:

    I joined the church as a victim of family abuse, not church related (my Father abused me)and was treated like a leper. Not allowed in Bible Study, shunned, then questioned on and off for 7 years as to “what I wanted from them” told to “get over it” told “Father figures are attracted to you?, or “your children must be screwed up”.. when all I wanted was to have a small, peaceful enhancement to my life…it really turned out to be horrible and they never said “I’m sorry”. I never sued, I have loudly complained but recently, a person in my womens groups said victims sue due to (the churches deep pockets) and I said I was verbally abused by Priests for years without any WANT to sue. If they had given me acceptance, love, change of attitude I would have forgiven them in a second…Truth, love, kindness is the answer. If they had been honest, loving I bet there would have been far FEWER suits. But they hid it, now they are lying that they hid it…..I feel sorry for them. I’m hopeful the Pope will finally put it to an end. But think about it-abuse always had fertile soil in the church..the church is known for it’s “Nun hitting with ruler” stories. They laid the fertile soil for the abuse to take hold….I would have been thrilled to have any Father figure but now I have memories of MORE abuse.

  8. Jim says:

    I’m so sorry for your experiences. I worked for years with abused women. One of my daily tasks was to assess women in the program for suicidal risk. I know how deep the scars can be. Sometimes they were visible outwardly in the form of scars on wrists and other body parts where they were inflicted to distract from internal pain. I pray for your healing. Strangely, women who are abused as children are often targeted again and again by others. Sometimes people abused as you have been don’t feel worthy of love- not even from God. May HIS love, mercy, healing and peace be with you. God bless you.

  9. Henry Flood says:

    As Ratzinger and Benedict, the Holy Father referenced the “filth in the church” and the continuing need to address it. His comprhemsive statement on the Irish abuse and now is statement on the way to Fatama is right on the mark: “And so, the Church has a profound need to relearn penance and accpt purofication” without forfetting forgiveness and justice.

    Why? The great Catholic Church–the true Church of Jesus Christ is indefectively holy in an incomplete way because we are a “Pilgrim Church” with saints and sinners marching to our human and institutional destiny. This is the teaching of Vatican II to the faithful.

    Benedict XVI is the right person at the righ time to do what must be done. He is already doing it and th pace of accountability will soon be a tidal wave of genuine purification. Viva Pope Benedict XVI!

  10. Brian says:

    I have a difficult time that every critic is banding together or being controlled by Satan in some conspiracy.

    Kaki, I concur that reform, purification, and healing are badly needed. I am terribly sorry about what happened with you.

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