Cardinal Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel, Bishop Emeritus of San Cristobal de Las Casas and in charge of the Doctrine of the Faith in the Mexican Episcopal Conference (CEM), offers Exaudi’s readers his weekly article entitled “Another Country, Without Paedophiles,” on the cases of abuse in the Church.
The Report has been shameful of the thousands of cases of pedophile priests in France, since the middle of the last century and so far this century, as well as individuals with a religious position in that country.
Likewise, very lamentable are the cases that have occurred in Mexico, the United States, Chile, Ireland, Germany, and other places. They have no justification. Much has been done to have this not happen again and canonical penalties have been toughened, but we cannot remain tranquil until this crime disappears completely. From the selection of candidates in the Seminary to permanent formation, all necessary measures must continue to be taken so that we reach zero tolerance.
How much is this influencing the decrease in the number of Catholics and the fall in religious practice? It is obvious that we, ourselves, are destroying the credibility that the ecclesial institution had for a long time. For years our Church had one of the highest percentages of trust, according to surveys that we did not pay for, but this is now being lost, especially in ambiances that are already estranged or those of non-believers. However, a great part of our people, including in cities, the great majority of Catholics continue to trust their priests because I can attest to the fact that, with the exception of painful cases, they are all faithful to their vocation; they spend their lives in their daily and hidden ministry; they are respectful of children and adolescents and, hence, enjoy the community’s appreciation. They know them and realize that they have not fallen into this grave crime. I have gone to quite a few dioceses in the country, accompanying Spiritual Retreats with priests, and they all struggle to be better in the human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral dimensions. In almost all the Seminaries, there are teams of specialists in psychology, to analyze case by case, and to detect in time those that aren’t ideal.
In our profound dealings with thousands of people, we see that pederasty in the family environment itself is a more frequent crime than we think. This doesn’t lessen the gravity of the crime among the clergy, but it means that it’s a social problem, which we must duly attack. Our critics, who seem to be anti-clerical Talibans, feed on our deficiencies, which are undeniable, without acknowledging that they are out for fame, success, and even financial emoluments, on the basis of systematically attacking their Mother in the faith, their own Church. I hope their criticisms will help us to purify ourselves.
Pope Francis, who has fought too much against this crime, summarizes his position thus in a letter he wrote to the People of God on August 20, 2018:
“If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Corinthians 12:26). These words of Saint Paul resonate strongly in my heart on verifying once again the suffering lived by many minors because of sexual, power, and conscience abuses committed by a notable number of clerics and consecrated persons. A crime that generates deep wounds of pain and impotence, in the first place, in the victims, but also in the members of their family and in the whole community whether they are believers or non-believers. Looking at the past, whatever is done to ask for forgiveness and to repair for the damage caused will never be enough. Looking to the future, all that is done will never be little to generate a culture that is able to avoid these situations, not only so that they are not repeated, but so that they won’t find the possibility to be covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and of their family members is also our pain; hence, it is urgent to reaffirm once again our commitment to guarantee the protection of minors and of adults in a vulnerable situation.”
In the 2031+2033 Global Pastoral Plan, we, the Mexican Bishops, say: “We live with much pain and sadness the suffering of the victims of the sexual abuse of minors and their family members by priests. The Church is the first institution that must promote respect for the law so that, in these very deplorable situations, the persons that have committed these transgressions, are taken to the corresponding authorities. As a Church, we must commit ourselves ever more to watch over and eradicate this evil, attending to the harm of those affected and their family members in all aspects; strengthening the culture of the denunciation of these crimes; being more careful about the suitability and formation of candidates to the priesthood. In face of this situation, one of the important challenges of our episcopal ministry must be the accompaniment and permanent formation of priests” (No. 71).
If someone has suffered this abuse or knows with certainty of a case, he must take the complaint immediately to the religious and civil authorities, so that no other persons continue to be harmed with impunity.
Overcrowding in homes must be avoided, making available separate rooms for the parents, the daughters, and the sons, and thus avoid this danger in the home. But also educate at home, in the school, in the parishes and in the means of communication, to learn to respect childhood and all vulnerable people — not just criticize, but educate.