Thursday, March 18, 2010

B16 Irish Sexual Abuse Letter & St. Bonaventure

Pope Benedict XVI waves to faithful during his weekly general audience on March 17, 2010 at St Peter's square at The Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI said the same day he was set to sign a pastoral letter to Ireland's Roman Catholics about the paedophile priest scandal that has rocked their country. (Daylife-Getty Images)

Photos courtesy of Daylife

Insight Scoop's quoting John Allen, Jr. article:
Msgr. Charles Scicluna, a Maltese priest who serves as the Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- in effect, its lead prosecutor -- said in a recent interview with the Italian Catholic paper L'Avvenire that the motu proprio triggered an "avalanche" of files in Rome, most of which arrived in 2003 and 2004. Eventually, Scicluna said, more than 3,000 cases worked their way through the congregation.

By all accounts, Ratzinger was punctilious about studying the files, making him one of the few churchmen anywhere in the world to have read the documentation on virtually every Catholic priest ever credibly accused of sexual abuse. As a result, he acquired a familiarity with the contours of the problem that virtually no other figure in the Catholic church can claim.

Driven by that encounter with what he would later refer to as "filth" in the church, Ratzinger seems to have undergone something of a "conversion experience" throughout 2003-04. From that point forward, he and his staff seemed driven by a convert's zeal to clean up the mess.

Of the 500-plus cases that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith dealt with prior to Benedict's election to the papacy, the substantial majority were returned to the local bishop authorizing immediate action against the accused priest -- no canonical trial, no lengthy process, just swift removal from ministry and, often, expulsion from the priesthood. In a more limited number of cases, the congregation asked for a canonical trial, and in a few cases the congregation ordered the priest reinstated.

That marked a stark reversal from the initial insistence of Vatican officials, Ratzinger included, that in almost every instance the accused priest deserved the right to canonical trial. Having sifted through the evidence, Ratzinger and Scicluna apparently drew the conclusion that in many instances the proof was so overwhelming that immediate action was required.

Among insiders, the change of climate was dramatic.

In the complex world of court politics at the Vatican, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith became the beachhead for an aggressive response to the sexual abuse crisis.

Ratzinger and his deputies sometimes squared off against other departments which regarded the "zero tolerance" policy as an over-reaction, not to mention a distortion of the church's centuries-long canonical tradition, in which punishments are supposed to fit the crime, and in which tremendous discretion is usually left in the hands of bishops and other superiors to mete out discipline.

Behind the scenes, some Vatican personnel actually began to grumble that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had "drunk the Kool-aid," in the sense of accepting the case for sweeping changes in the way priests are supervised and disciplined.

Ratzinger's transformation can also be glimpsed from an exchange with Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, which George described in April 2005, just after the conclave which propelled Benedict XVI to the papacy.

Two days before the opening of the conclave, George met Ratzinger in his Vatican office to discuss the American sex abuse norms, including the "one strike and you're out" policy. Those norms had been approved grudgingly in late 2002 by the Vatican, and only for a five-year period. George said he wanted to discuss with Ratzinger the arguments for making the norms permanent. Ratzinger, according to George, showed "a good grasp of the situation."

Forty-eight hours later, Ratzinger was the new pope. As is the custom, the cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel made their way, one-by-one, to the new pontiff in order to pledge their support and obedience. As George kissed his hand, Benedict XVI made a point of telling him, in English, that he remembered the conversation the two men had about the sexual abuse norms, and would attend to it.
Pastoral Letter for Ireland:

Irish Letter for global consumption:

St. Bonaventure's writings:

Rich Theology of St. Bonaventure:

St. Cyril of Jerusalem:

Read more about St. Cyril here.

Pope's General Audience:
VATICAN CITY, 17 MAR 2010 (VIS) - In this morning's general audience, held in St. Peter's Square, Benedict XVI continued his catechesis on St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, today comparing him with his contemporary St. Thomas Aquinas.

"Both of them", the Pope explained, "scrutinised the mysteries of the Revelation, drawing on the resources of human reason in that fruitful dialogue between faith and reason that characterised the Christian Middle Ages, making it a period of great intellectual vivacity, as well as of faith and ecclesial renewal". Both the Franciscan Bonaventure and the Dominican Thomas were members of the mendicant orders which, "with their spiritual freshness, ... renewed the entire Church in the thirteenth century, attracting many followers". Both also "questioned themselves as to whether theology is a practical discipline, or whether it is theoretical and speculative".

"The conclusion reached by St. Thomas is that theology ... is theoretical because it seeks a greater knowledge of God, and it is practical because it seeks to orient our lives towards goodness. But knowledge has the primacy: we first have to know God, then act in accordance with God. This primacy of knowledge over action is significant in the fundamental orientation of St. Thomas' ideas".

For his part, St. Bonaventure "increases the alternatives between theory (primacy of knowledge) and practice (primacy of action) by introducing a third element, which he calls 'wisdom' affirming that it embraces the other two". Wisdom, says Bonaventure, "seeks contemplation (as the highest form of knowledge) and its intention is 'ut boni fiamus', that we should become good. ... Thus, for St. Bonaventure the primacy of love is decisive.

"In this way", the Holy Father added, "St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure give different definitions of man's ultimate destiny, his complete happiness. For St. Thomas the supreme goal ... is to see God. In the simple act of seeing God all problems find their solution and we are happy, nothing else is necessary. For St. Bonaventure, on the other hand, man's final destiny is to love God, the encounter and union of His love and ours. ... In this context, we could say that the highest category for St. Thomas is truth, while for St. Bonaventure it is goodness; yet it would be wrong to see a contradiction between these two positions. ... Both have created different traditions and different spiritualities, thus demonstrating the fruitfulness of faith which is one in the diversity of its expressions".

The Holy Father then turned his reflections to the influence Pseudo- Dionysus, a fourth century Syrian theologian, had on St. Bonaventure. "While for St. Augustine 'intellectus' - seeing with reason and with the heart - is the ultimate category of knowledge", the Pope explained, Pseudo-Dionysus held that "in the ascent towards God it is possible to reach a point in which reason can no longer see. But in the night of the intellect, love can discern ... what remains inaccessible to reason".

"In the dark night of the Cross all the greatness of divine love appears: where reason no longer sees, love does. ... This is not anti-intellectual or anti-rational; it accepts the path of reason but transcends it in the love of the crucified Christ". Thus St. Bonaventure founded "a great school of mysticism which ... represents a high point in the history of the human spirit".

"For St. Bonaventure, all our life is a journey, a pilgrimage, an ascent towards God. But we cannot climb towards the heights of God only by our own efforts. God Himself must help us, He must 'pull us up', Pope Benedict concluded.
Related Links:

Christianity, which a century ago was overwhelmingly the religion of Europe and the Americas, has undertaken a historic advance into Africa and Asia. In 1900, Africa had just 10 million Christians, representing around 10 percent of the continental population. By 2000, that figure had swollen to over 360 million, or 46 percent of the population

Amid the general decline of Christians in the Middle East, the breakdown of order in Iraq has allowed Islamists to unleash constant violence against Iraq's Christians. The goal is to drive Christians out from lands in which they have worshipped God since the early Christian centuries

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