VATICAN CITY, June 11, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Sin, satanic influence and the toleration of heresy lie at the root of the priestly sexual abuse scandals, Pope Benedict XVI said today. Precisely because it is an institution erected by God to make himself sacramentally "present to all men and women," the devil is interested in destroying the priesthood, he said.
Referring to the line in Psalm 22 ("Your rod and your staff - they comfort me"), Benedict became explicit about the need for the "rod" of discipline to correct errors in the Church.
"The Church too must use the shepherd's rod," he said, "the rod with which he protects the faith against those who falsify it, against currents which lead the flock astray."
"Today we can see that it has nothing to do with love when conduct unworthy of the priestly life is tolerated. Nor does it have to do with love if heresy is allowed to spread and the faith twisted and chipped away, as if it were something that we ourselves had invented."
Pope Benedict spoke today to 15,000 priests at the closing Mass of the Vatican's Year for Priests at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
The priesthood, Pope Benedict said, is not "pleasing to the 'enemy,'" (the devil).
"He would have rather preferred to see it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven out of the world. And so it happened that, in this very year of joy for the sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light - particularly the abuse of the little ones, in which the priesthood, whose task is to manifest God's concern for our good, turns into its very opposite."
With evident personal sadness, the pope again extended his apology to the victims of sexual abuse, saying, "We too insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved."
This was followed by a promise to "do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again" by more scrutiny and better formation of those who apply for the priesthood.
Statistics on the abuse scandals have found that the abuse cases are overwhelmingly homosexual in nature and occurred between the 1960s and 1980s, at time in which psychological and theological trends were against excluding men with homosexual inclinations from the priesthood.
Benedict, as Cardinal Ratzinger, was clear with a 2005 document issued from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office that had oversight on the abuse scandals around the world, that men with such inclinations should not be admitted to seminaries.
Benedict also made more subtle references to the movement from the Church's extreme left wing to open the priesthood to women and to married men. Among the opening lines of his homily, Pope Benedict laid out the nature of the priesthood, saying it is not a matter of mere functionality but a sacramental reality derived from Christ himself.
"The priest is not a mere office-holder," he said, "like those which every society needs in order to carry out certain functions."