ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO PORTUGAL — Pope Benedict said the priestly sex abuse scandal is a “terrifying” crisis that comes from inside the Church — not from an outside attack — and requires purification and penance to overcome.
The pope made some of his strongest remarks to date on the sex abuse cases during an in-flight press conference May 11 on his way to Portugal for a four-day visit that was to include the Marian shrine of Fatima.
Asked if the message of Fatima, which foresaw times of trials and suffering for the Church, could be applied to the sex abuse crisis, the pope indicated that, in a general way, it could.
The vision of Fatima foresaw the need for the Church to undergo a “passion,” which continues in various ways until the end of time and which requires a response of continual conversion, he said.
“Among the new things that we can discover today in this message is that attacks on the pope and the Church come not only from the outside, but the suffering of the Church comes from inside the Church, from sins that exist inside the Church,” he said.
“This, too, we have always known, but today we see it in a really terrifying way, that the biggest persecution of the Church doesn’t come from the enemies outside but is born from sin inside the Church,” he said.
“And so the Church has a profound need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn on the one hand forgiveness but also the necessity of justice. And forgiveness does not substitute for justice,” he said.
“We have to relearn these essentials: conversion, prayer, penance,” he said.
The pope said the Fatima messages extend in time to apply to the Church’s continuing journey, which is accompanied by suffering.