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Dear Pope: A “Mystery”?

Jul 02, 2012 — Categories: ,

I’m puzzled. In a recent talk in Ireland about the sexual abuse of children by priests, you described the situation as a “mystery” when you addressed the Eucharistic Congress.

I’m puzzled. In a recent talk in Ireland about the sexual abuse of children by priests, you described the situation as a “mystery” when you addressed the Eucharistic Congress. 

“How are we to explain the fact that people who regularly received the Lord's body and confessed their sins in the sacrament of Penance have offended in this way?" said the pope, referring to church staff who abused children.  "It remains a mystery," he said. "Yet evidently their Christianity was no longer nourished by joyful encounter with Jesus Christ. It had become merely a matter of habit."

Webster defines “mystery” as “something not understood or beyond understanding.”  It is really no mystery that some priests, pastors, rabbis, coaches, etc. have sexually abused children.  They are predators.  And contrary to some opinions, being ordained as a clergyperson does not magically mean that clergy then do no harm and commit no sin.  Learning that a priest is a predator and then leaving him in place or simply moving him around does nothing to protect other children or to help him with the hole in his soul.

The real mystery here is why it appears that the common practice by Bishops for years in the Catholic Church was to leave predatory priests in positions with access to vulnerable children and youth, cover for them, and not report them to law enforcement where their crimes could be addressed.  This is the mystery that is beyond the understanding of most laity and many priests and religious.

Your rhetoric in discussing the child sexual abuse crisis has improved in recent years.  But describing sexual abuse by clergy as a “mystery” is a setback.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute

 P.S. I will reserve judgment on your choice in hiring Greg Burke, a news correspondent for FOX News as your new communications consultant. Perhaps Mr. Burke can help you find your way out of this mystery.


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A Mystery?

Posted by Gus Kaufman, Jr., Ph.D. at Jul 05, 2012 03:07 PM
I agree with you Marie about the disingenuousness and really 'refusal to know'(Alice Miller) of the Pope's statement. That said, I think a discussion of why some abuse is a good one to have. In Men Stopping Violence we said 1) they learned to 2) it works 3) they can get away with it. Each of these points to steps we can/need to take towards prevention. I would add that the learning here is well worth discussing also--it includes male privilege, trauma re-enactment, 'vandalized love maps.' I welcome discussion!


Posted by Mary E. Hunt at Jul 05, 2012 03:08 PM
In 1988, the US Catholic Bishops tried and failed to write a pastoral letter entitled "Partners in the Mystery of Redemption." It was on women, who were neither partners nor mysterious. So the term 'mystery' sets off alarms as it covers a multitude of sins. Literally.

Seems after the Philadelphia decision that every US diocese is vulnerable to the same charges against those who rotated offending clergy in/out as it was company policy. Better they be vulnerable than our children.


Posted by Jim Sneary at Jul 06, 2012 08:01 PM
I found it terribly disturbing that the term "mystery" was used in this context as that term evokes for me the sacrament of the Eucharist in which the mystery plays a very deep and sacred role in our Communion! It remains for me truly a great mystery how the Holy Spirit becomes manifest in my heart and mind. But it is no mystery how pedophiles groom their prey, hide their crimes, and receive collusion from cowardly superiors!