Haven’t been thinking of the Pope’s letter to the Church in Ireland regarding the sexual abuse problems in a while? Let’s start thinking anew: the year of prayer that the Pope asked for is coming to an with Easter. I’d like to know what’s different.

No one I know takes issue with what the Pope has been doing with the sexual abuse matters. That may be a point of criticism of me and my friends, but I don’t have all the answers to such a complex issue such as pedodphilia and ephebophilia and I tend to lean toward diagnosing the problem not merely from psychological and sociological criteria but most importantly from spiritual criteria. What does one do with sin in one’s spiritual life? My experience with secular and religious clergy, religious sisters and brothers, and of course the laity, is that there is lots of mediocre spiritual lives in the Catholic; I might even argue for an acceptance that there are a lot of spiritually dead men of the cloth pastoring souls today. Since the Pope’s March letter to Ireland of a year ago I have been thinking and praying about the matter, as you have you some concrete initiatives to address the situation, in addition to a special investigation into the way certain dioceses took responsibility for the crimes.

The program for renewal of any person and any ecclesial institution has to begin on the spiritual level. All the great reforming saints –Benedict, Francis, Dominic, Ignatius Loyola, Philip Neri, Charles Borromeo, Teresa of Jesus (Avila), Catherine of Siena, Pauline von Malinkrodt, Elizabeth Ann Seton– all started with the core of our humanity: the human heart.

The Pope is taking a beating right now for his letter to the Church in Ireland: he’s being criticized by the media who are themselves being quite selective and even salacious in their reporting the story. Many members of the media don’t understand spiritual matters much less the workings of humanity and the human heart. It is lost on them that true reform of any system starts with the heart and not with jail, legal procedures and financial settlements.

Cases of immorality, clerical or lay, need a remedy that is going to change the heart and the will, a remedy that will take the “I” seriously. Fail that, no change will happen. What we want is a clergy, indeed, an entire Church purified of the evil done (sex abuse, financial mis-management, etc.) but we want it done with sensitivity and mercy and hope and love in the way God wants it done. What did Pope Benedict suggest? He asked that:

~Lent be a time to pray for an outpouring of God’s mercy and the Holy Spirit’s gifts of holiness and strength upon the Church;

~we devote ourselves to Friday penances, for a period of one year, between now and Easter 2011;

~we offer up our fasting, our prayer, our reading of sacred Scripture (lectio Divina) and our works of mercy in order to obtain the grace of healing and renewal for the Church;

~we avail ourselves anew to the sacrament of Reconciliation;

~we give time to Eucharistic adoration;

~we make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm, at the same time imploring the grace of renewed strength and a deeper sense of mission on the part of all bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful;

~a nationwide Mission be held for all bishops, priests and religious drawing on the expertise of experienced preachers and retreat-givers from Ireland and from elsewhere, and by exploring anew the conciliar documents, the liturgical rites of ordination and profession, and recent pontifical teaching, coming to a more profound appreciation of one’s respective vocation, so as to rediscover the roots of  faith in Jesus Christ and to drink deeply from the springs of living water that he offers through his Church.

It’s been a year. How much has things changed in the Church in Ireland? How much changed in your own life? Has Christ been the well of life-giving water for you?