THE NEW YORK TIMES during a ceremony in Dublin on Sunday; the pope asked forgiveness for sexual abuses committed by members of the Roman Catholic clergy in the country.
On the second day of a difficult mission to win back the confidence of Irish Roman Catholics, Pope Francis awoke on Sunday to a bombshell accusation from within his own citadel.
A former top-ranking Vatican official released a 7,000-word letter asserting that the pontiff knew about the abuses of a now-disgraced American prelate, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, years before they became public.
The official, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vignaò, a conservative critic of Francis and a former apostolic nuncio to the United States, claimed that the pope had failed to punish Cardinal McCarrick, who was suspended in June after allegations that he had coerced seminarians into sexual relationships. He was also found to have abused a teenage altar boy 47 years ago, when he was a priest in New York.
In the letter, published on Saturday… the archbishop called on the pope to resign.
“In this extremely dramatic moment for the universal Church,” the archbishop wrote, “he must acknowledge his mistakes and, in keeping with the proclaimed principle of zero tolerance, Pope Francis must be the first to set an example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign with all of them.”
In a news conference on the papal plane back to Rome late Sunday evening, Pope Francis sought to avoid questions about the accusations. “I will not say a single word about this,” he said.
• Francis prayed at a shrine in the village of Knock on Sunday and then returned to Dublin to celebrate Mass, a day after meeting with survivors of abuse.
• In Knock, he addressed the issue of child sexual and institutional abuse by members of the church, begging “for the Lord’s forgiveness” for “the scandal and betrayal.”
• Vigils were held across the country, including in Tuam, where the remains of hundreds of children were found buried in an abandoned septic system of a Catholic-run home for unmarried mothers…
Francis described meeting with survivors of abuse by priests and members of religious orders, saying he wanted to put “in front of God’s mercy these crimes” and ask forgiveness for them.
“In a special way,” the pope said, “we apologize for all the abuses committed by institutions run by male and female religious and other members of the church. And we ask for forgiveness for the crimes so many minors were subjected to.”
He added… “Some members of the hierarchy didn’t own up to these painful situations and kept silence. We ask for forgiveness.”
He also acknowledged the church’s role in separating tens of thousands of unmarried mothers from their babies and encouraged those mothers and children to reunite.
“For all those times when it was said to many single mothers who tried to look for their children who had been estranged from them, or to the children who were looking for their mothers, that it was a mortal sin: “This is not a mortal sin,” he said. “It is the Fourth Commandment! We ask for forgiveness.”
Decades of clerical abuse, forced adoptions, forced labor in industrial houses and other exploitation gutted the Catholic Church in Ireland. And as the Irish government has broken free from the church’s hold, its people have voted in ways contrary to church teaching. They have legalized divorce and same-sex marriage and in May took a major step toward the legalization of abortion.
The pope, in his homily on Sunday, seemed to have no illusions of how hard his task is.
“Let us also humbly acknowledge that, if we are honest with ourselves, we too can find the teachings of Jesus hard,” he said. “How difficult it is always to forgive those who hurt us.”
Earlier Sunday, Francis headed to the tiny, hilly village of Knock, home to fewer than 1,000 people. Knock, in County Mayo in the west of Ireland, has served as an engine of faith for the Catholic Church since 1879, when a group of townspeople reported seeing apparitions of the Virgin Mary and other members of the Holy Family.
Francis used his time in the village to beg for God’s forgiveness… At the shrine, the pope declared, “None of us can fail to be moved by the stories of young people who suffered abuse, were robbed of their innocence, who were taken from their mothers, and left scarred by painful memories.”
“This open wound challenges us to be firm and decisive in the pursuit of truth and justice,” he said. “I beg the Lord’s forgiveness for these sins and for the scandal and betrayal felt by so many others in God’s family.”
Francis prayed at the shrine, asking the Virgin Mary to heal those who have been abused.
“The Roman Church now presents a fair front to the world, covering with apologies her record of horrible cruelties. She has clothed herself in Christlike garments; but she is unchanged. Every principle of the papacy that existed in past ages exists today. The doctrines devised in the darkest ages are still held. Let none deceive themselves. The papacy that Protestants are now so ready to honor is the same that ruled the world in the days of the Reformation, when men of God stood up, at the peril of their lives, to expose her iniquity. She possesses the same pride and arrogant assumption that lorded it over kings and princes, and claimed the prerogatives of God. Her spirit is no less cruel and despotic now than when she crushed out human liberty and slew the saints of the Most High.” The Great Controversy, page 571.