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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Pope to US bishops: Abuse crisis requires conversion, humility

The clerical abuse crisis and the ‘crisis of credibility’ it created for the US bishops have led to serious divisions within the US Church and to a temptation to look for administrative solutions to problems that go much deeper, Pope Francis told the US bishops.

Without a clear and decisive focus on spiritual conversion and Gospel-inspired ways of responding to victims and exercising ministry, ‘everything we do risks being tainted by self-referentiality, self-preservation and defensiveness, and thus doomed from the start,’ the pope wrote.

In a letter distributed to the bishops at the beginning of their 2nd to 8th January retreat, Pope Francis said he was convinced their response to the ‘sins and crimes’ of abuse and ‘the efforts made to deny or conceal them’ must be found through ‘heartfelt, prayerful and collective listening to the word of God and to the pain of our people.’

‘As we know,’ he said, ‘the mentality that would cover things up, far from helping to resolve conflicts, enabled them to fester and cause even greater harm to the network of relationships that today we are called to heal and restore.’

The ‘abuses of power and conscience and sexual abuse, and the poor way that they were handled’ continue to harm the Church and its mission, he said, but so does ‘the pain of seeing an episcopate lacking in unity and concentrated more on pointing fingers than on seeking paths of reconciliation.’

Picture: US bishops receive Communion during Mass in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at Mundelein Seminary on 3rd January at the University of St Mary of the Lake in Illinois, near Chicago. The US bishops are on retreat from 2nd to 8th January at the seminary, suggested by Pope Francis in September, which comes as the bishops work to rebuild trust among the faithful as questions continue to revolve around their handling of clergy sex abuse. (CNS photo/Bob Roller).