ROME, April 26, 2002 ( – At the conclusion of the meeting between Pope John Paul II and the Cardinals of the United States Wednesday, the pope called on the “Pastors of the Church” to “publicly…reprimand individuals who spread dissent.”

At the meeting discussing the sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy the pope noted that “doctrinal issues” underlie “the deplorable behavior in question” and proposed three “lines of response.” This may be an especially difficult task for some of the bishops and cardinals since in the U.S., and even more so in neighbouring Canada, where dissent or toleration of dissent on moral issues is deeply ingrained in many church leaders and institutions. Many have been waiting for years for John Paul II to die so that hopefully a weaker pope would legitimize their long-term disobedience.

Number one on the pope’s list of suggested changes was “the Pastors of the Church need clearly to promote the correct moral teaching of the Church and publicly to reprimand individuals who spread dissent and groups which advance ambiguous approaches to pastoral care.”


The other two measures were specific to the formation of clergy. One required bishops to visit seminaries to assure fidelity to the Church’s moral teachings and study the “criteria of suitability of candidates to the priesthood.” The third suggested the Bishops ask the faithful to join in a national day of prayer and penance “in reparation for the offenses perpetrated and in prayer to God for the conversion of sinners and the reconciliation of victims.”

In response, the US Cardinals issued six proposals to address the scandals. While the proposals addressed the latter two lines of response suggested by the pope, the first and most important so far appears to have been left unaddressed. Catholic commentators have noted that the problem is not merely confined to the clergy. Vast numbers of Catholics ignore the Church’s moral teachings on illicit sexual relations including homosexuality, pedophilia, sex outside marriage, masturbation, promiscuity, adultery, contraception and even abortion.

The pope’s first line of action is the most important in that it strikes at the root of the problem. Public and high profile Catholic dissenters have been able to act with impunity without reprimand by church authorities, leading to the false belief that the church does not really consider such dissent a serious matter. Hence sexual activity of various kinds by priests, nuns and other Catholic institutional workers and the spreading of dissenting teaching justifying their actions became inevitable. While work in the seminaries is needed, formation of good men for the priesthood begins not in the seminary but in the home. Still Catholic families are also positively or negatively affected by the faithful or rebellious example of their bishops, priests, religious and Catholic teachers. The same would of course also apply to families of other religious denominations and the examples of their religious leaders and instructors.

See the Vatican’s documentation on the Cardinal’s meeting with the pope.

The Cardinals’ response to the Pope’s directions at the meeting are receiving very mixed reactions. Many Catholics and others are critical that the Cardinals’ response has so far been inadequate and that they still don’t appear to understand the severity of their neglect.

-analysis of the Cardinals meeting by Catholic World News
RESTORING THE CHURCH’S FOUNDATION – NATIONAL POST See National Post – April 26, 2002. Story not online.