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 John-Henry Westen / LifeSiteNews

January 3, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – In the midst of a weeklong retreat held by American Catholic bishops in northern Illinois at Mundelein Seminary, Pope Francis sent an eight-page letter seeking to address the “crisis of credibility that you are experiencing as a Church” with regard to historic responses to charges of sexual abuse by clerics and subsequent cover-ups.

He wrote, “We know that, given the seriousness of the situation, no response or approach seems adequate; nonetheless, we as pastors must have the ability, and above all the wisdom, to speak a word born of heartfelt, prayerful and collective listening to the Word of God and to the pain of our people.”

“In recent years, the Church in the United States has been shaken by various scandals that have gravely affected its credibility,” he wrote. “The Church's credibility has been seriously undercut and diminished by these sins and crimes, but even more by the efforts made to deny or conceal them. This has led to a growing sense of uncertainty, distrust and vulnerability among the faithful. As we know, the mentality that would cover things up, far from helping to resolve conflicts, enabled them to fester and cause even greater harm to the network of relationships that today we are called to heal and restore.”

The Pope did not mention in his letter that it was his rehabilitation of now ex-Cardinal McCarrick that contributed in no small part to the current American crisis. A key catalyst of that crisis was Archbishop Viganò's testimony that the Pope lifted sanctions against the U.S. Cardinal despite knowing that he was an abuser of priests and seminarians.

EWTN's Raymond Arroyo tweeted in reaction that the “crisis of credibility” affects more than the U.S. bishops.

“The Pope to US Bishops in 8 page letter: this spiritual retreat is 'a necessary step' in responding to 'the crisis of credibility that YOU are experiencing as a Church.' Methinks the crisis of credibility may stretch a bit farther than the American Church,” he tweeted this morning. 

Last November, the Holy See asked the U.S. bishops to delay voting on two measures during their General Assembly that were aimed at addressing the sexual abuse crisis in the American Church. Many saw this as the Vatican interfering with the U.S. bishops' attempt to do something concrete to address the sex abuse crisis.  

Pope Francis said in his letter to the U.S. bishops that the “sins and crimes that were committed, and their repercussions on the ecclesial, social and cultural levels, have deeply affected the faithful.”

“They have caused great perplexity, upset and confusion; and this can often serve as an excuse for some to discredit and call into question the selfless lives of all those many Christians who show 'an immense love for humanity inspired by the God who became man,'” he added. 

The Pope also wrote that the hurt caused by “sins and crimes” have sowed division and dispersion among the bishops.

“The loss of credibility also raises painful questions about the way we relate to one another. Clearly, a living fabric has come undone, and we, like weavers, are called to repair it. This involves our ability, or inability, as a community to forge bonds and create spaces that are healthy, mature and respectful of the integrity and privacy of each person. It involves our ability to bring people together and to get them enthused and confident about a broad, shared project that is at once unassuming, solid, sober and transparent. This requires not only a new approach to management, but also a change in our mind-set (metanoia), our way of praying, our handling of power and money, our exercise of authority and our way of relating to one another and to the world around us.”

No official reaction from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been issued.

Capuchin Friar Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap. of the papal household is directing the retreat under the theme of “He appointed Twelve, to be with Him and to Send Out to Preach” based on the Gospel of Mark. No press conference has been announced, and ordinary business has been canceled for the balance of the retreat.