The US bishops have a long letter from Pope Francis to pray over during their retreat this week in Chicago, where they are hearing meditations delivered by the pope’s own preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa.
The week-long time of prayer was called for by the Holy Father himself, who says that he wanted to participate personally in some days of the retreat, but was unable to make that happen because of the logistical challenges.
The Holy Father calls the bishops to discern their response to the sexual abuse crisis, to ensure that what they choose has the “flavor of the Gospel.”
He acknowledges how seriously the credibility of the bishops has been undercut, not only by the abuse itself, but more by the attempt to cover up crimes. He also recognizes how people will respond to the “inconvenience” of the Gospel message with an attempt to silence that message by pointing to the sins of Christians, and especially, of pastors.
The Holy Father also says that the hurt of the crisis has caused division among the bishops beyond the “healthy and necessary disagreements” found in any living body.
Loss of credibility calls for a specific approach, since it cannot be regained by issuing stern decrees or by simply creating new committees or improving flow charts, as if we were in charge of a department of human resources.
Read the whole letter here.