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'The Subtle Influence of Secularism'

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Below are excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI's remarks yesterday to Catholic clergy at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast Washington.

While it is true that this country is marked by a genuinely religious spirit, the subtle influence of secularism can nevertheless color the way people allow their faith to influence their behavior. Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs? Is it consistent for practicing Catholics to ignore or exploit the poor and the marginalized, to promote sexual behavior contrary to Catholic moral teaching, or to adopt positions that contradict the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death? . . .

In the United States, as elsewhere, there is much current and proposed legislation that gives cause for concern from the point of view of morality. . . .

How can we not be dismayed as we observe the sharp decline of the family as a basic element of Church and society? Divorce and infidelity have increased, and many young men and women are choosing to postpone marriage or to forgo it altogether . . . .

Among the countersigns to the Gospel of life found in America and elsewhere is one that causes deep shame: the sexual abuse of minors. Many of you have spoken to me of the enormous pain that your communities have suffered when clerics have betrayed their priestly obligations and duties by such gravely immoral behavior. . . .

Responding to this situation has not been easy, and, as the president of your Episcopal Conference has indicated, it was "sometimes badly handled." Now that the scale and gravity of the problem is more clearly understood, you have been able to adopt more focused remedial and disciplinary measures to promote a safe environment that gives greater protection to young people. . . .

This brings us back to our consideration of the centrality of the family and the need to promote the Gospel of life. What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today? . . .

It falls to you, as pastors modeled upon Christ, the Good Shepherd, to proclaim this message loud and clear, and thus to address the sin of abuse within the wider context of sexual mores. . . . It calls for a determined, collective response.

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