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Ratzinger endorses day of penance for abuse

The Vatican's Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has endorsed the idea of the American bishops performing a public day of penance connected to the spiraling sexual abuse scandal in the United States.

In prepared remarks, Ratzinger spoke late last month of the need for "purification and pardon." He was asked if that idea might apply to the proposal that the American bishops should commit a public act of penance for their mishandling of cases of sexual abuse by priests.

Vatican press officer Joaquín Navarro-Valls attempted to deflect the question, saying that there were two press sessions dedicated to the American situation. Ratzinger, however, said he would nevertheless respond.

"The American bishops have already decided on a day of expiation, which will probably be the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus," Ratzinger said. The feast occurs Friday 7 June.

"It will be an act of purification, which can promote the idea of expiation in the daily life of Christians," he said. "Such a public act takes note of the reality of sin and invites us to think about sin and mercy.

"Above all, it can promote a praxis of penitence, focusing on both education and prevention against these human failings. It can renew our sense of the sacrament [of reconciliation] that the Lord offers us."

US Conference of Catholic Bishops
Restoring Trust: a Response to Sexual Abuse (US Bishops)


10 May 2002