Alex Massie

The Pope: Child Abuse is Liberals’ Fault

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An eyebrow-raising passage from the Pope's letter to the Irish church:

In recent decades, however, the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society. Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values. All too often, the sacramental and devotional practices that sustain faith and enable it to grow, such as frequent confession, daily prayer and annual retreats, were neglected. Significant too was the tendency during this period, also on the part of priests and religious, to adopt ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel. The programme of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it. In particular, there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations. It is in this overall context that we must try to understand the disturbing problem of child sexual abuse, which has contributed in no small measure to the weakening of faith and the loss of respect for the Church and her teachings.

Still, it's telling, surely, that the Pope seems to see this episode as but another battle in his own church's culture wars. Even then there's the irony of the Pope condemning the trendy-priest culture while also seeking merely "to understand the distrubing problem of child sex abuse". It seems that when it's a question of his own house, the Pontiff is in the business of understanding a little more and condemning a little less. Even when he's finally persuaded that he has to say something.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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