- The case for mercy
The leading proponent of relaxing the ban on Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics tells Christopher Lamb that the Church too often appears rule-bound
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The Church in the World
Pope Francis has made the most dramatic apology for clerical sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church that he has to date. “I feel compelled personally to take on all the evil which some priests, quite a few in number, though obviously not compared to the total number of priests, personally to ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children,” Pope Francis told members of the International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE) last Friday.
“The Church is aware of this damage,” he went on. “It is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backwards with regard to how we will deal with this, and the sanctions that must be imposed. We have to be even stronger: you cannot interfere with children.”
BICE is a Catholic non-governmental organisation that works to protect the rights and dignity of children worldwide. Pope Francis also spoke about the need to reaffirm the rights of parents to decide “the moral and religious education of their children” and reject all forms of “educational experimentation with children and young people”.
He insisted that it is every child’s right to grow up in a family “with a father and a mother” capable of creating “a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity”. “Educational experiments” with children and young people pushed a “dictatorship of one form of thinking” on them in the name of a pretended “modernity”, he said. The “horrors of the manipulation of education in the great genocidal dictatorships of the twentieth century have not disappeared”, he went on, but retain “a current relevance under various guises”.
He urged the BICE members to respond to the problems and challenges posed by contemporary culture and the “widespread mentality” propagated by the mass media. Moving away from his scripted speech, he said: “A week ago a great teacher said to me … ‘with these education projects I don’t know if we’re sending the kids to school or a re-education camp’ …” Later last Friday, during a meeting with Italy’s Pro-Life Movement (Movimento per la Vita), Pope Francis reiterated that all human life is sacred and inviolable, adding that every civil right is based on the “first and most fundamental right”, the right to life. This right is not subordinate to any condition, he said, whether it be economic or, much less, ideological. He added that a major risk today is the divorce between economics and morality, so that the market gives us “every technical innovation”, while neglecting ethical standards.
“The strongest opposition must therefore be mounted to any direct attack on life, especially innocent and defenceless life, and the unborn child in the womb is the most concrete example of innocence,” said Pope Francis. “Let us remember the words of the Second Vatican Council: ‘from the moment of its conception, life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crime’ (Gaudium et Spes, 51).” Pope Francis said that for a Christian, it is a part of the witness of the Gospel to protect life with courage and love in all its stages.
He also showed gratitude for two specific activities of the pro-life movement: the Gemma project, which works with women facing crisis pregnancies; and the One of Us campaign, against EU financing of activities involving destruction of human embryos.