TheCatholicSpirit.com did a pretty good writeup of what's going on. Today is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It's also a day of prayer for the sanctification of the clergy. And, Benedict XVI is inaugurating this Jubilee Year for Priests during Vespers in the Vatican Basilica.
"Vespers" isn't a term we hear all that often in America. Another word for it is evensong. In this context, it's "the sixth of the seven canonical hours of the divine office; early evening; now often made a public service on Sundays" (WordNet)
TheCatholicSpirit's article includes the English translation of the Pope's letter to priests around the world. The letter has been published in Italian, French, Spanish, English, German, Polish and Portuguese. With a global organization like the Catholic Church that sort of multilingual service makes things a whole lot easier for folks.
The Holy Father's letter starts:
"Dear Brother Priests,There's a great deal more to the letter. In common with many such communications, it's far from terse.
"On the forthcoming Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Friday 19 June 2009 - a day traditionally devoted to prayer for the sanctification of the clergy - I have decided to inaugurate a 'Year for Priests' in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the 'dies natalis' of John Mary Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests worldwide. This Year, meant to deepen the commitment of all priests to interior renewal for the sake of a more forceful and incisive witness to the Gospel in today's world, will conclude on the same Solemnity in 2010. 'The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus', the saintly Cure of Ars would often say...." (TheCatholicSpirit.com)
I suggest reading the whole letter. There's a pretty good discussion of the Cure of Ars and his work. And, a look at Benedict XVI's own life: "...I still treasure the memory of the first parish priest at whose side I exercised my ministry as a young priest: he left me an example of unreserved devotion to his pastoral duties, even to meeting death in the act of bringing viaticum to a gravely ill person...."
And, a discussion of what's been going wrong: "...There are also, sad to say, situations which can never be sufficiently deplored where the Church herself suffers as a consequence of infidelity on the part of some of her ministers...."
Another news outlet, Catholic News Service, quotes some of what the Holy Father said today.
"...'The church needs priests who are holy, ministers who help the faithful experience the merciful love of the Lord and who are convinced witnesses of that love,' the pope said at a prayer service in St. Peter's Basilica June 19.
"At the same time, in an apparent reference to cases of priestly sex abuse, he warned of the 'terrible risk of damaging those we are obliged to save.'
" 'Nothing makes the church and the body of Christ suffer so much as the sins of its pastors, especially those who transform themselves into "robbers of sheep," either because they lead them astray with their private doctrines, or because they bind them in the snares of sin and death,' he said...." (Catholic News Service)
Universal Church, American ViewsCatholic News Service is an American institution, with the cultural awareness that goes with that. I doubt that people in this country will forget - or be allowed to forget - the appalling sexual antics of a few priests, any time soon.
There is another aspect to that last quote, though, that I think is also important. "...'Nothing makes the church and the body of Christ suffer so much as the sins of its pastors, especially those who transform themselves into "robbers of sheep," either because they lead them astray with their private doctrines....' " [emphasis mine]
"Private Doctrines" - That's Not How the Catholic Church WorksI think that a priest with "private doctrines" of his own can do a great deal of damage. Liberation theology and voodoo aren't the only distortions of Catholic belief and practices around.
Personalized re-writes of the teachings of the Church aren't a liberal monopoly in America. There are people who say they're Catholic, and believe they're Catholic, who don't like the idea of banning the death penalty. And, there are groups whose leaders seem to have decided that they're 'holier than the pope' and broke away from the Church because they didn't like what they thought the Vatican was saying.
- "Thought for the Day: Throwing Stones, Blindfolded"
(June 9, 2009)
- "'Cafeteria Catholics' and a Diverse Church"
(June 8, 2009)
- "About the Just War Doctrine"
(June 7, 2009)
- "Being Christian, Being Catholic: No Half-Measures"
(May 20, 2009) The Catholic Church From a Priest's Perspective: a New-to-Me Blog"
- "Not All Catholics are Like Me - Thank God"
(March 18, 2009)
- "Being Counter-Cultural in 21st Century America"
(March 17, 2009)
- "Who Knew? Assertions, Assumptions and Assorted Weirdness from All Over"
(March 7, 2009)
- "The Roman Catholic Church isn't a Democracy"
(February 19, 2009)
- "My Life Has Purpose: Everybody's Does"
(January 5, 2009)
- "Life: It's a Single Issue, and an Important One"
(November 2, 2008)
- "Earthquake in Ziarat: I Have to Care"
(October 29, 2008)
(April 13, 2009)
- "Pope opens Year for Priests, says they must witness God's compassion"
Catholic News Service (June 19, 2009)
- "From the Vatican: June 18, 2009"