To Journalists on Flight to Australia

To Journalists on Flight to Australia for the 23rd World Youth Day

Pope Benedict XVI  

On Saturday, 12 July 2008, Benedict XVI spoke with journalists on board his flight to Australia for 23rd World Youth Day. In this extract, the Holy Father answers a question on  the Church's response to the sexual abuse scandal.

Mr Auskar Surbakti of SBS, the Australian television: Holy Father, I am sorry but I do not speak Italian well so I will be asking my question in English. There has been a call from Australian victims of sexual abuse by clergy for Your Holiness to address the issue and to offer an apology to the victims during your Visit to Australia. Cardinal Pell himself has said that it would be appropriate for the Pope to address the issue, and you, yourself made a similar gesture on your recent trip to the United States. Will Your Holiness be speaking on the issue of sexual abuse and will you be offering an apology?

The Holy Father: Yes, the problem is essentially the same as in the United States. I felt obliged to speak about it in the United States because it is essential for the Church to reconcile, to prevent, to help and also to see guilt in these problems, so I will essentially say the same things as I said in America. As I said we have three dimensions to clarify: the first I mention is our moral teaching. It must be clear, it was always clear from the first centuries that priesthood, to be a priest, is incompatible with this behaviour, because the priest is in the service of Our Lord, and Our Lord is holiness in person, and always teaching us - the Church has always insisted on this. We have to reflect on what was insufficient in our education, in our teaching in recent decades: there was, in the 50s, 60s and 70s, the idea of proportionalism in ethics: it held that no thing is bad in itself, but only in proportion to others; with proportionalism it was possible to think for some subjects - one could also be paedophilia - that in some proportion they could be a good thing. Now, it must be stated clearly, this was never Catholic doctrine. There are things which are always bad, and paedophilia is always bad. In our education, in the seminaries, in our permanent formation of the priests, we have to help priests to really be close to Christ, to learn from Christ, and so to be helpers, and not adversaries of our fellow human beings, of our Christians. So, we will do everything possible to clarify what is the teaching of the Church and help in the education and in the preparation of priests, in permanent formation, and we will do all possible to heal and to reconcile the victims. I think this is the essential content of what the word "apologize" says. I think it is better, more important to give the content of the formula, and I think the content has to say what was insufficient in our behaviour, what we must do in this moment, how we can prevent and how we all can heal and reconcile.

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