Pope Benedict XVI presented Christmas wishes to the Roman Curia today, reviewing the year just past and, verily, putting things into context also for a much wider audience. The matter of the context in which certain things occur is one well worth underlining, whether we are talking about the clergy sex abuse scandal, about cases of priests or religious absconding funds from the institutions they are called to serve, or about our society, its addictions and miserable distractions. Here is a paragraph from the Holy Father’s discourse which has central importance in that regard:
“We are well aware of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and of our corresponding responsibility. But neither can we remain silent regarding the context of these times in which these events have come to light. There is a market in child pornography that seems in some way to be considered more and more normal by society. The psychological destruction of children, in which human persons are reduced to articles of merchandise, is a terrifying sign of the times. From Bishops of developing countries I hear again and again how sexual tourism threatens an entire generation and damages its freedom and its human dignity. The Book of Revelation includes among the great sins of Babylon – the symbol of the world’s great irreligious cities – the fact that it trades with bodies and souls and treats them as commodities (cf. Rev 18:13). In this context, the problem of drugs also rears its head, and with increasing force extends its octopus tentacles around the entire world – an eloquent expression of the tyranny of mammon which perverts mankind. No pleasure is ever enough, and the excess of deceiving intoxication becomes a violence that tears whole regions apart – and all this in the name of a fatal misunderstanding of freedom which actually undermines man’s freedom and ultimately destroys it.”
The world climate in matters of virtue and morality excuses no one, nor does it mitigate the gravity of anyone’s sin. Mom and Dad’s homespun wisdom and argumentation against the adolescent argument that “everyone is doing it”, and namely, that “if everyone is jumping off the cliff, are you going to do it too?”, has lost none of its force. It only becomes clearer why John the Baptist or Benedict of Nursia abandoned the God-forsaken city for the wilderness in their search for the Holy One.
The Holy Father teaches consistently our need to depend upon God and seek our only true salvation in the Son:
“Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni.
“We set out from this plea for the presence of God’s power in our time and from the experience of his apparent absence. If we keep our eyes open as we look back over the year that is coming to an end, we can see clearly that God’s power and goodness are also present today in many different ways. So we all have reason to thank him. Along with thanks to the Lord I renew my thanks to all my co-workers. May God grant to all of us a holy Christmas and may he accompany us with his blessings in the coming year.”
We live in hope and rejoice in the shepherd to whom the Lord has entrusted His flock!