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Focus on priesthood of the baptized will rebalance Church, says Cardinal Ouellet


Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

I.Media - published on 02/18/22

Vatican official begins symposium joining in abuse victims' cry for truth and justice

Inaugurating the Symposium on the Priesthood, Cardinal Marc Ouellet asked for forgiveness for those who have been sexually abused by clerics and “whose lives have been destroyed.”

Shouldn’t we […] refrain from speaking about the priesthood when the sins and crimes of unworthy ministers make the international press for having betrayed their commitment or for having shamefully covered up those guilty of such depravities?

In Paul VI Hall, seated next to Pope Francis, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, organizer of this theological colloquium on the foundations of the priesthood, made a point of introducing the February 17-19 event by directly addressing all victims of clerical abuse.

“This is a timely opportunity to express our sincere regrets and ask forgiveness of the victims, whose lives are destroyed by abusive and criminal behavior, which has been hidden for too long and treated lightly, due to the desire to protect the institution and the perpetrators instead of the victims,” explained the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

“This symposium acknowledges the cry and anger of the people of God, so we are here to join our voices to those who cry out for truth and justice,” he added.

Restoring the baptismal priesthood

The Canadian cardinal conceded that the Church does not yet have the tools to carry out a “painful and yet necessary” exercise, that of a “theological, spiritual and pastoral examination of conscience.” He suggested it “necessary to organize an event such as this to take stock of current sociological studies and to analyze the historical, cultural, and even theological causes that could expose the root of what Pope Francis calls ‘clericalism.'”

This term, both generic and concrete, he explained, describes a set of phenomena: “abuses of power, spiritual abuses, abuses of conscience, of which sexual abuses are only the tip of the iceberg, visible and perverse, emerging from deeper deviations that must be identified and unmasked.”

In his brief reflection, he said that at the base of these phenomena is an imbalance: “the overvaluation of one form of priesthood to the detriment of the other, the baptismal form, unfortunately almost forgotten in the Catholic world.”

Historical roots?

For him, this imbalance could go back to the Counter-Reformation, during which the Church, in order to defend the priesthood of priests, “left in the shadow the other essential dimension” and supported “a clerical mentality of power and an attitude of excessive clerical control over the whole ecclesial community.”

Finally, the cardinal said that the synodal path on which the Church has embarked since October 2021 “awakens the hope of a new balance.”

He stressed that this symposium should contribute to this, deepening the “priesthood of Christ, which is given to share first with the baptized and then with the ordained ministers.”

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