Compares perpetrators of abuse today to King David, who was guilty of abuse of power and conscience, and sexual abuse
Pope Francis today gave his traditional Christmas greetings to his collaborators in the Roman Curia, an annual address that often is used to provide an overview of the Church and a summary of certain weighty themes, as well as a chance to exhort the Curia to greater holiness and thank them for their service.
This year’s address focused largely on the sex abuse crisis, with Francis at length comparing today’s situation to that of King David, who was guilty of abuse of power and conscience, as well as sexual abuse, with Bathsheba (cf 2 Samuel 11-12). He urged abusers to convert and to turn themselves in to human justice, while preparing for divine justice.
The pope also spoke of the plight of immigrants, increasingly numerous in the world, and noted the continued persecution of Christians, saying that a new Nero and Roman Empire is at work in the world.
The Holy Father also emphasized the many points of light in the Church, from dedicated parish priests, to families passing on the faith in love. He mentioned the successful synod, the ongoing reform of the Curia — “it will never finish,” he said, “but the steps forward have been good”; and the new saints and blesseds, specifically the newly beatified martyrs of Algeria.
Here are excerpts from the address:
~ Christmas fills us with joy and makes us certain that no sin will ever be greater than God’s mercy; no act of ours can ever prevent the dawn of his divine light from rising ever anew in human hearts.
~ In the firm conviction that the light always proves stronger than the darkness, I would like to reflect with you on the light that links Christmas (the Lord’s first coming in humility) to the Parousia (his second coming in glory), and confirms us in the hope that does not disappoint. … Without hope, how unsightly the Church would be!
~ Many indeed are the afflictions. All those immigrants, forced to leave their own homelands and to risk their lives, lose their lives, or survive only to find doors barred and their brothers and sisters in our human family more concerned with political advantage and power! All that fear and prejudice!
~ We are also experiencing a new age of martyrs. It seems that the cruel and vicious persecution of the Roman Empire has not yet ended. A new Nero is always being born to oppress believers solely because of their faith in Christ. … How many Christians even now bear the burden of persecution, marginalization, discrimination and injustice throughout our world. Yet they continue courageously to embrace death rather than deny Christ.
~ Thinking that because he was king, he could have and do whatever he wanted, David tries to deceive Bathsheba’s husband, his people, himself and even God. The king neglects his relationship with God, disobeys the divine commandments, damages his own moral integrity, without even feeling guilty. The “anointed” continues to exercise his mission as if nothing had happened. His only concern was to preserve his image, to keep up appearances.
~ Today too, there are consecrated men, “the Lord’s anointed”, who abuse the vulnerable, taking advantage of their position and their power of persuasion. They perform abominable acts yet continue to exercise their ministry as if nothing had happened.
~ Let it be clear that before these abominations the Church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes. The Church will never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case. It is undeniable that some in the past, out of irresponsibility, disbelief, lack of training, inexperience – we need to judge the past with a hermeneutics of the past – or spiritual and human myopia, treated many cases without the seriousness and promptness that was due. That must never happen again. This is the choice and the decision of the whole Church.
~ For if this grave tragedy has involved some consecrated ministers, we can ask how deeply rooted it may be in our societies and in our families. Consequently, the Church will not be limited to healing her own wounds, but will seek to deal squarely with this evil that causes the slow death of so many persons, on the moral, psychological and human levels.
~ In discussing this scourge, some within the Church take to task certain communications professionals, accusing them of ignoring the overwhelming majority of cases of abuse that are not committed by clergy – the statistics speak of more than 95% – and accusing them of intentionally wanting to give the false impression that this evil affects the Catholic Church alone. I myself would like to give heartfelt thanks to those media professionals who were honest and objective and sought to unmask these predators and to make their victims’ voices heard. Even if it were to involve a single case of abuse (something itself monstrous), the Church asks that people not be silent but bring it objectively to light, since the greater scandal in this matter is that of cloaking the truth.
~ Today we need new Nathans to help so many Davids rouse themselves from a hypocritical and perverse life. Please, let us help Holy Mother Church in her difficult task of recognizing real from false cases, accusations from slander, grievances from insinuations, gossip from defamation.
~ To those who abuse minors I would say this: convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice.
~ Now let me speak of another affliction, namely the infidelity of those who betray their vocation, their sworn promise, their mission and their consecration to God and the Church. They hide behind good intentions in order to stab their brothers and sisters in the back and to sow weeds, division and bewilderment. They always find excuses, including intellectual and even spiritual excuses, to progress unperturbed on the path to perdition.
~ Behind these sowers of weeds, we always find the thirty pieces of silver. The figure of David thus brings us to that of Judas Iscariot, another man chosen by the Lord who sells out his Master and hands him over to death. David the sinner and Judas Iscariot will always be present in the Church, since they represent the weakness that is part of our human condition.
~ Each year, Christmas gives us the certainty that God’s light will continue to shine, despite our human misery. It gives us the certainty that the Church will emerge from these tribulations all the more beautiful, purified and radiant. All the sins and failings and evil committed by some children of the Church will never be able to mar the beauty of her face. Indeed, they are even a sure proof that her strength does not depend on us but ultimately on Christ Jesus, the Saviour of the world and the light of the universe, who loves her and gave his life for her, his Bride. Christmas gives us the certainty that the grave evils perpetrated by some will never be able to cloud all the good that the Church freely accomplishes in the world. Christmas gives the certainty that the true strength of the Church and of our daily efforts, so often hidden – as in the Curia, with its saints – rests in the Holy Spirit, who guides and protects her in every age, turning even sins into opportunities for forgiveness, failures into opportunities for renewal, and evil into an opportunity for purification and triumph.