I am sorry. Pope Francis 21 January Press conference on Plane Peru – Rome
By Mike James
The latest of the now keenly awaited airborne Press Conferences of Pope Francis on his way back to Rome from Peru last Sunday was full of memorable moments.
His Condemnation of Widespread corruption on the Continent: Yes, in Latin America there are a lot of flashpoints of corruption. and the motto I use is sinner yes, corrupt no. All of us are sinners, but I think that all of us here, at least I admit it on my part, treat a friend badly, steal, do drugs, or try not to…God’s forgiveness is above all of this. I am not afraid of sin, I am afraid of corruption, because corruption impairs the body and the soul. And a corrupt person is so sure of themselves that they cannot go back. They are like those swamps that you try to get out of and they suck you back. It’s a swamp. Yes, it’s the destruction of the human person.
His decision to reach out to a couple of the airline crew on one of his flights in Chile
“The man was on the first flight. She wasn’t there. I spoke with him… then, I realized that he had become awkward. I spoke of life of how I thought of life, then the life of the family. A nice chat. Then, the day after both were there and after we took a photograph, they told me this: ‘We were going to get married in a church, we were married civilly, but the day before’ – you could tell it was a small city – ‘the church was toppled by an earthquake and there was no wedding.’ This was 10 years ago, maybe eight, the earthquake was in 2010, eight years ago. And then [they thought]: “tomorrow we’ll do it,” and “the day after tomorrow.“
That’s the way life goes and then the daughter [came] and another daughter. I interrogated them a bit. And the answers were clear, for their whole life…. “They were prepared, and I judged that they were prepared. They asked me. Sacraments are for people. All the conditions were clear and why not do today … and not delay it for tomorrow… and maybe after ‘tomorrow’ it would have been eight or 10 years more.
This is the answer. I judged that they were prepared, that they knew what they were doing, that each of them was prepared before the Lord with the sacrament of penance. When they had arrived at that point, it was all over. They told me that, they said it to some of you… “We’re going to the Pope to ask if he’ll marry us.” That’s how the thing went. But tell the parish priests that the Pope interrogated them well. And then they had done the pre-marriage course, and they were aware.”
But by far the topic that absorbed more than half Pope Francis words on the plane related to issue of clerical abuse of minors in Chile accusations by victims that a Chilean bishop was witness to the abuse, Francis’s initial response to the accusations and US Cardinal O’Malley’ s statement on Francis’ words.
Q. At first, your message was very strong about clerical sexual abuse, but the last day in Chile you said some victims are committing slander. Why do you believe the Bishop more than the victims?
Pope Francis: I said, ‘I don’t have proof,’… The word ‘proof’ is what caused concern…
“I know that there are a lot of people who have been abused and that they cannot show proof, they do not have it. They cannot show it or sometimes they have it, but they are ashamed and hide it, and suffer in silence. The trauma of those who have been abused is tremendous.
Regarding the feelings of those who have been abused feel I must ask forgiveness because the word “proof” wounded, it wounded many people who were abused… I must do that, I wounded them. I ask them for forgiveness because I wounded them without realizing it, but it was an unintended wound. And this horrified me a lot, because in Chile I received two abuse victims. as you know, I met others in private.
And I know how much they suffer, to feel that the Pope says to their face ‘bring me a letter, a proof.’ It’s a slap in the face.
The best thing is that those who believe there is evidence and think so honestly that you provide the evidence quickly. At this moment I do not believe there is evidence. But my heart is open to receive it.
I have not seen them because they have not come to me.
But if a person comes and gives me the evidence, I will be the first to listen to him. We should be just. I have an appreciation for Cardinal O’Malley, I thank him for his statement because it was very just. He said all that I did and that I do, that the Church does, and then he spoke of the sorrow of the victims. Not in this case, in general. Because many victims feel that they are not able to bring forward a document or a testimonial.
Pope Francis has repeated defined himself as a sinner in need of grace and forgiveness
“I am a sinner … I am sure of this. I am a sinner whom the Lord looked upon with mercy. I am, as I said to detainees in Bolivia, a forgiven man. … I still make mistakes and commit sins, and I confess every fifteen or twenty days. And if I confess it is because I need to feel that God’s mercy is still upon me.”
He has asked forgiveness of the angry victims of abuse and invited them to approach him.
The challenge for the Church and for Francis is that the most terrible effects of sexual abuse of minors are among those who because of the abuse, have lost their faith in God, and the church, like the former seminarian who has been most vocal about abuse and cover-up in Chile.
Jesus himself could not put it more clearly, even harshly “If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” Mk 9:42.
Francis has repeatedly called for the Church, in the example of Jesus, to reach out to the marginalized, the excluded, the sinners, even those who because of their pain, lash out and “slander” those who they perceive as contributors to their pain, anguish, and loss of self-esteem, faith and hope.
The challenge to the Church, and to Francis, is not to wait for these “lost sheep” to bring evidence of their anguish, pain and disillusion, but like Jesus to the leave the 99 and seek out the wounded, the cynical, the angry, those who cannot forgive, who only feel hate, those who rebuff us as hypocrites. Again and again our only Guide cries out “I did not come to seek out the just….