Letter of the Holy Father Francis to the People of God

The letter below from Pope Francis to the whole People of God was released in Rome tonight Australian time…

Letter of the Holy Father Francis to the People of God

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” ( 1 Cor 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.

1.         If one member suffers…

In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims. We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side He stands. Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise He made to our fathers: “He has scattered the proud in their conceit; He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty” ( Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite.

With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency! Christ’s betrayal by His disciples, their unworthy reception of His body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces His heart. We can only call to Him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)” (Ninth Station).

2.   … all suffer together with it

The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit. If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history. And this in an environment where conflicts, tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an outstretched hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf. Evangelii Gaudium , 228). Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever endangers the integrity of any person. A solidarity that summons us to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption. The latter is “a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” ( 2 Cor 11:14)” ( Gaudete et Exsultate , 165). Saint Paul’s exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the best antidote against all our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” ( Gen 4:9).

I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.

Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does. For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: “If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he wished to be identified” ( Novo Millennio Ineunte , 49). To see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so, prayer and penance will help. I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting , following the Lord’s command. [1]  This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never again” to every form of abuse.

It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives. [2] This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people”. [3] Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism.

It is always helpful to remember that “in salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to Himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in the human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people” ( Gaudete et Exsultate , 6). Consequently, the only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within. Without the active participation of all the Church’s members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change. The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel. For “whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world” ( Evangelii Gaudium , 11).

It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.

Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled.  A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combating all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.

In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” ( Lumen Gentium , 1).

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it”, said Saint Paul. By an attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation. Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son’s cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus’ side. In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more upon prayer”, seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Spiritual Exercises , 319). She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.

May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.


Vatican City, 20 August 2018

[1] “But this kind [of demon] does not come out except by prayer and fasting” ( Mt 17:21).

[2] Cf. Letter to the Pilgrim People of God in Chile (31 May 2018).

[3] Letter to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America (19 March 2016).

Happy Mother’s Day

A musical treat today for Mother’s Day…a very Happy Mothers Day to my Mum, Tricia, and to my sisters, Jodie, Sally, Breanna and Cian, and to my sisters-in-law, Susannah and Kerry, who themselves are mothers to my nephews and nieces.

A New Feature for The Doohan Discourse

This evening I’ve added a new feature/option to The Doohan Discourse website: receiving posts by email.

In addition to other options, it is now possible to subscribe to an email list that will see you receive each post from The Doohan Discourse by email.

The subscription form for this new feature can be found on the right hand side of the website’s homepage, or in the footer below.

Barber’s Agnus Dei

The words of the Agnus Dei from the Mass set to the music of Samuel Barber, specifically his Adagio for Strings, was a good find on YouTube for me tonight…so good that it had to be shared. The coming together of Barber’s marvellous musical score, the words of the liturgy, and the unaccompanied voices of this choir was a true balm for the soul.

Papal Prayer Intention for February 2018

The Prayer Intention of Pope Francis for February 2018 is:

That those who have material, political or spiritual power may resist any lure of corruption.

“Dirty bread of corruption”

In his homily during Holy Mass in the Chapel of Santa Marta, Pope Francis commented on the parable of the dishonest steward taken from the Gospel of St Luke (16:1-8).

The Holy Father began: “The Lord speaks to us again about the spirit of the world, about worldliness: how this worldliness works and how perilous it is. In his prayer after the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, Jesus besought the Father not to allow his disciples to fall into worldliness”.

The Pope reaffirmed that “worldliness is the enemy”, and “the devil derives great pleasure” from seeing us live according to its ways. He pointed to the dishonest steward described in the Gospel as an example of worldliness. “Some of you might say: ‘But this man only did what everyone does!’. No, not everyone! Some company administrators, public administrators, government administrators … but perhaps not many. It’s an attitude of taking short cuts, of taking the easy road to earn a living”.

“The master praises the dishonest steward in the Gospel”, the Pope continued. “He is praising bribery. The habit of bribes and kickbacks is a worldly and extremely sinful habit…. God commanded us to bring home bread through honest work”. Instead “this steward was giving dirty bread to his children to eat. And his children, who perhaps were educated in expensive universities and were raised in very cultured circles, were fed dirt by their father. For in bringing home unclean bread, their father lost his dignity. And this is a grave sin. It might start with a small bribe, but it is like a drug”.

Pope Francis explained, in fact, that it is a serious sin “because it is so against our dignity”. “That dignity by which we are united through our work. Not through bribes and kickbacks. Not through this addiction to worldly cunning. When we read in the papers or hear someone on the news speak about corruption, perhaps we think that corruption is just a word. This is corruption: not earning our daily bread with dignity”.

However, the Holy Father noted, there is another road, an alternative route to worldly cunning. It is the path of “Christian cleverness”. This path, he said, “allows us to be cunning but not according to the spirit of the world. Jesus himself said it: be wise as serpents, innocent as doves”. Uniting these two realities is a grace and a gift of the Holy Spirit, the Pope said. “This Christian cleverness is a gift; it is a grace that the Lord gives to us. But we need to ask for it”.

Pope Francis then turned his attention to the families of the world’s dishonest stewards. “Perhaps today,” he said, “it would be good for all of us to pray for the many children who receive dirty bread from their parents, since they too are hungry; they are hungry for dignity”.

The Holy Father concluded by inviting all of those present “to ask the Lord to change the hearts of those who are devoted to the goddess of bribery” in order that “they might understand that dignity comes from noble work, from honest work, from daily work, and not from the easy road which in the end strips you of everything”. For when they face death, he said, “these poor people who lose their dignity through the practice of bribery do not take with them the money they earned; they only take their lack of dignity. Let us pray for them”.

8 November 2013

© Copyright 2013 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

A Reminder of the Power of Music

From time to time I come across a recording of a song, hymn or other piece of music, that reminds me just how powerful good music can be.

Good music – and that is a definition that is as much personal appreciation as ‘scientific’ assessment – has the ability, the power, to reach inside one’s soul and make a home there, forever changing one’s outlook and worldview.

This recording from One Voice Children’s Choir is one such piece. Not only are the words being sung powerful words, not only is the choir technically proficient, but the space in which this piece is recorded adds to the overall appeal of this particular recording.


The Fruit of War is Death

On the 2nd November, the Commemoration of the All the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day), Pope Francis visited and prayed at the Ardeatine Caves, the sight of the massacre of Italian political prisoners and civilians, including Jewish civilians, on 24th March 1944 perpetrated by German occupation forces as a means of reprisal for attacks on German troops.

PT: Hoje, rezemos por todos os defuntos, mas de modo especial por esses jovens. Num momento onde muitos morrem nas batalhas de todos os dias, nesta guerra em pedaços, rezemos também pelos mortos de hoje em guerra, inclusive crianças inocentes. Este é o fruto da guerra: a morte. Que o senhor nos dê a graça de chorar. ES: Hoy rezamos por todos los difuntos, por todos. Pero de modo especial por estos jóvenes, en un momento en el que muchos mueren en las batallas de cada día, en esta guerra a pedazos. Rezamos también por los muertos de hoy, los muertos de la guerra, también niños, inocentes. Este es el fruto de la guerra: la muerte. Y que el Señor nos dé la gracia de llorar. IT: Oggi preghiamo per tutti i defunti, tutti, ma in modo speciale per questi giovani, in un momento in cui tanti muoiono nelle battaglie di ogni giorno di questa guerra a pezzetti. Preghiamo anche per i morti di oggi, i morti di guerra, anche bambini, innocenti. Questo è il frutto della guerra: la morte. E che il Signore ci dia la grazia di piangere. DE: Heute beten wir für alle Verstorbenen, vor allem aber für diese jungen Menschen, in einem Moment, in dem so viele sterben in den täglichen Schlachten dieses “stückweisen” Krieges. Beten wir auch für die Toten von heute, die Toten der Kriege, unter denen auch so viele Kinder, so viele Unschuldige sind. Die Frucht des Krieges ist der Tod! Der Herr geben uns die Gnade, zu weinen.

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