Anyone who had hoped that Pope Benedict XVI would address the issue foremost on many minds in the first homily of his British tour — the priest sex abuse scandal — would have been disappointed although probably not surprised.
In a Glasgow park, the pope delivered the standard papal sermon, warning the faithful against the modern world's temptations, asking them to evangelize non Catholics and encouraging Catholic clerics and laity to model good behavior.
Indeed, that last part, the business about setting good examples, was about as close as the pope came, if only obliquely, to touching on the church sex scandal.
The pope did speak generally of the scandal with reporters on the flight from Vatican City to Rome. The Catholic News Service reports:
"These revelations were for me a shock, and a great sadness. It is difficult to understand how this perversion of the priestly ministry was possible," he said.
The 83-year-old pope spoke in response to questions pre-submitted by reporters aboard his chartered Alitalia jet. In other remarks, he said he looked forward to a fair hearing in Britain, saying the country had a long tradition of tolerance along with historical moments of anti-Catholicism.
But there was none of that in his homily.
Instead the pope warned Scottish Roman Catholics to fight against the tyranny of unbelief and those who look on people of faith with suspicion.
A homily excerpt:
The evangelization of culture is all the more important in our times, when a “dictatorship of relativism” threatens to obscure the unchanging truth about man’s nature, his destiny and his ultimate good. There are some who now seek to exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatize it or even to paint it as a threat to equality and liberty. Yet religion is in fact a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect, leading us to look upon every person as a brother or sister. For this reason I appeal in particular to you, the lay faithful, in accordance with your baptismal calling and mission, not only to be examples of faith in public, but also to put the case for the promotion of faith’s wisdom and vision in the public forum. Society today needs clear voices which propose our right to live, not in a jungle of self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms, but in a society which works for the true welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility. Do not be afraid to take up this service to your brothers and sisters, and to the future of your beloved nation.