The Deacon's Bench

The pontiff was apparently making a reference to the sex abuse scandal now rocking the Church:

Pope Benedict said on Thursday the sexual abuse scandal shaking Roman Catholicism showed the Church needed to do penance for its sins, in a rare public reference by the pope to pedophilia in the priesthood.

“Now, under attack from the world which talks to us of our sins, we can see that being able to do penance is a grace and we see how necessary it is to do penance and thus recognize what is wrong in our lives,” the said pope at a mass in the Vatican.

This involved “opening oneself up to forgiveness, preparing oneself for forgiveness, allowing oneself to be transformed,” said the pope, whose last public utterance on the scandal was his letter to the Irish people, made public on March 20.

Benedict’s focus on penance contrasts to senior churchmen’s recent emphasis on defending the Church and the pope from what they portray as an campaign orchestrated by hostile news media.

The pope’s personal preacher went as far as to compare the abuse scandal to anti-Semitism, drawing sharp criticism from some Jews and from victims of abuse by priests.

Pope Benedict also hit back at critics of the Church, portraying them as in the thrall of a conformist “dictatorship.”

“Conformism which makes it obligatory to think and act like everyone else, and the subtle — or not so subtle — aggression toward the Church demonstrate how this conformism can really be a true dictatorship,” said the pope.

Check out more at the link. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this as the day unfolds.

UPDATE: Rocco has more details, and extended excerpts of what appears to have been an extemporaneous homily:

The Holy Father also stressed that for Christians, true obedience to God depends on our truly knowing Him, and he warned against the danger of using “obedience to God” as a pretext for following our own desires.

“We have,” he said, “a certain fear of speaking about eternal life.”

“We talk of things that are useful to the world,” continued Pope Benedict, “we show that Christianity can help make the world a better place, but we do not dare say that the end of the world and the goal of Christianity is eternal life – and that the criteria of life in this world come from the goal – this we dare not say.”

We must rather have the courage, the joy, the great hope that there is eternal life, that eternal life is real life and that from this real life comes the light that illuminates this world as well.

The Pope noted that, when we look at things this way, penitence is a grace – even though of late we have sought to avoid this word, too.

Now, under the attacks of the world, which speak to us of our sins, we see that to be able to do penance is a grace – and we see how necessary it is to do penance, that is, to recognize what is wrong in our lives: to recognize one’s sin, to open oneself to forgiveness, to prepare for pardon, to allow oneself to be transformed.

The pain of penance, the pain of purification and transformation – this pain is grace, because it is renewal – it is the work of the Divine Mercy.

Pope Benedict concluded his homily with a prayer that our lives might become true life, eternal life, love and truth.

“This pain is grace…” There is a potent and provocative lectio for you. And it seems to have been spoken by someone who knows whereof he speaks. 

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