What the Pope Understands About the Abuse Crisis
Here, in his own words spoken to Jesuits, is what the Pope understands about the causes of the abuse and coverup…
“There is something I have understood with great clarity: this drama of abuse, especially when it is widespread and gives great scandal — think of Chile, here in Ireland or in the United States — has behind it a church that is elitist and clericalist, an inability to be near to the people of God,
”The root of the problem, he said, is elitism or clericalism. The two attitudes foster “every form of abuse. And sexual abuse is not the first. The first abuse is of power and conscience.”
“And what do I mean by put an end to it? I don’t mean simply turn the page, but seek out a cure, reparation, all that is necessary to heal the wounds and give life back to so many people.”
“This is a special mission for you: clean this up, change consciences, do not be afraid to call things by their name,”
One of the Jesuits asked the pope for concrete examples of what they should be doing.
“We have to denounce the cases we know about,” the pope responded. “And sexual abuse is the consequence of abuse of power and of conscience as I said before. The abuse of power exists. Who among us does not know an authoritarian bishop? Forever in the church there have been authoritarian bishops and religious superiors. And authoritarianism is clericalism.”
He spoke very specifically about clericalism to some 70 newly consecrated Bishops.
See also his recent Letter to the People of God
“It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives. This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people”. Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism.”