Pope Benedict concluded the Year for Priests with a Mass during which he said that it was no coincidence that the sex-abuse scandal struck during a year set aside for celebration of the priesthood.
The Year for Priests was dedicated to a spiritual revival of the clergy, the Pope said in his homily. “It was to be expected,” he said, “that this new radiance of the priesthood would not be pleasing to the Enemy; he would have rather preferred to see it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven out of the world. And so it happened that, in this very year of joy for the sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light – particularly the abuse of the little ones, in which the priesthood, whose task is to manifest God’s concern for our good, turns into its very opposite.
Catholic Culture reports:
The Pope said that the Church must “insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again.” He called for vigilance in the training and supervision of future priests, and emphasized the importance of discipline within the Church.
The Church too must use the shepherd’s rod, the rod with which he protects the faith against those who falsify it, against currents which lead the flock astray. The use of the rod can actually be a service of love. Today we can see that it has nothing to do with love when conduct unworthy of the priestly life is tolerated. Nor does it have to do with love if heresy is allowed to spread and the faith twisted and chipped away, as if it were something that we ourselves had invented.
At the same time, while acknowledging the sins of some priests, the Pope said that the scandal should give the faithful a new perspective on the great gift of the priesthood. “Had the Year for Priests been a glorification of our individual human performance, it would have been ruined by these events,” he said. But in fact the revelations of priests’ weaknesses is a reminder that God serves the Church, and makes Himself available to the world, through the ministry of weak and fallen human persons.
The priesthood, Pope Benedict said, is a demonstration of the “audacity of God who entrusts Himself to human beings,” fully realizing their weakness.” God’s astonishing confidence in man comprises “the true grandeur concealed in the word ‘priesthood,'” the Pontiff said. “The world’s religions, as far as we can see, have always known that in the end there is only one God. But this God was distant,” the Pope continued. Through the priestly ministry, God becomes immediately present to his creatures. Therefore a Catholic priest is “no mere office-holder” but a direct participant in Christ’s saving action.