Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 16, 2006
Pope addresses Western Bishops
Lack of sense of sin builds culture of blame
By Vatican City
"The result (of abandoning God)is negative: loss of personal dignity, moral confusion and social disintegration."
- Pope Benedict
Pope Benedict said he was pleased by the bishops' reports on efforts to promote the sacrament of Reconciliation in their dioceses.
"While this sacrament is often considered with indifference, what it effects is precisely the fullness of healing for which we long," the pope said.
Using the parable of the prodigal son, Pope Benedict spoke of God's endless mercy and the human desire for forgiveness and reconciliation.
As in the parable, he said, "the human temptation to exercise one's freedom by distancing oneself from God is frequent."
But as demonstrated by the fate of the younger son who takes his inheritance and leaves his father, the pope said, when freedom is sought without reference to God "the result is negative: loss of personal dignity, moral confusion and social disintegration."
The older, obedient son's reaction also is erroneous, the pope said; it is similar to that of many people "who sadly distance themselves from the Church" because they are unable to understand God's unconditional love.
"Unable to think beyond the limits of natural justice, he remains trapped within envy and pride, detached from God, isolated from others and ill at ease with himself," the pope said.
A person has to recognize his own sinfulness before he can ask forgiveness and before he can grant others pardon.
"When the need to seek forgiveness and the readiness to forgive are forgotten, in their place a disturbing culture of blame and litigiousness arises," the pope said.
Pope Benedict said when human sinfulness is ignored it also is difficult to restore justice, including situations where the offences were committed long ago.
The pope praised the work of the Catholic Aboriginal Council for Reconciliation and the Amerindian Fund for their efforts to redress the injustices of the past.
He encouraged the Church to address "the underlying causes of the difficulties surrounding the social and spiritual needs of the aboriginal faithful."
"Commitment to truth opens the way to lasting reconciliation through the healing process of asking for forgiveness and granting forgiveness - two indispensable elements for peace," Pope Benedict said.
Speaking on behalf of the bishops' group, Bishop Gerald Wiesner of Prince George, B.C., told the pope that Western Canada is home to a significant number of native peoples.
The Church has faced challenges related to the past conduct of priests and religious involved in running residential schools for indigenous students.
"This is a burden weighing very heavily on many dioceses and religious communities," said Wiesner, a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and former president of Newman Theological College in Edmonton.
Accusations of mistreatment of students are having "a very demoralizing effect on many priests and religious who gave their lives to the residential schools," as well as creating a serious financial burden on the Church because of lawsuits filed by former students, Wiesner said.
The council for reconciliation has just begun its work, he said, but "it is proving to be very successful."
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