Benedict XVI asks forgiveness for “cradle Catholics” who did not pass on the Faith

When people hold something dear, they take pains to pass it one to the next generation.

Before the Lord ascended, He commanded the Apostles, the Church, to go forth, to teach and to baptize (Matthew 28:19).

From CNA:

Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Aug 30, 2011 / 07:09 pm (CNA).- Pope Benedict XVI has asked forgiveness on behalf of generations of “cradle Catholics” who have failed to transmit the faith to others.

“We who have known God since we were young, must ask forgiveness,” said Pope Benedict to a gathering of his former students at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, on Aug. 28.

The Pope said an apology is due because “we bring people so little of the light of His face, because from us comes so little certainty that He exists, that He is there, and that He is the Great One that everyone is waiting for.”

The Pope’s comments were made at a Mass to conclude the annual meeting of his “Schülerkreis” or “Study Group.”


Whew.  This touches all Catholics, of course, but in particular our clergy of the past couple generations.  No?  Am I wrong?

As Capt. Aubrey would say, “Jeremiah 23:1 ain’t in it!”.

We have a lot of work to do.

But keep this in mind.

The Church is all about communications.  She communicates us and for us upwards and communicates God’s graces and correct teaching to us.

The principle way in which the Church communicates is through our liturgical worship.

We cannot get our catechetical efforts straightened out without straightening out our liturgical worship.

The new translation is a help.  Summorum Pontificum is a huge help.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Wow. Refreshing to hear and humbling.

    One thing that happens to many when they discover they were shortchanged in their catechism, is anger and resentment. I know because I went throught hat phase. I was very angry, and I would lash out with biting criticsm.

    Then, thanks to some very good priests, I came to realize that there was a time to let go and move forward without spending too much time looking back. It become baggage that weighs you down.

    What has helped me to get past the hurt and the anger at being uninformed and malformed, is to put forgiveness in to practice, and to consider that the very people who left me uninformed and malformed, were probably also subject to the same and merely passing it along with good intentions (albeit it, very misguided).

    I have been fortunate enough to witness a slow, incremental change in people where I did not think it possible. Consider Bishop Morlino’s initial attitude towards Summorum Pontificum and his subsequent change, unto celebrating it himself out of humlity. He has done many other good things too.

    I’m afraid that if we stay in the anger too long, we lose opportunies to help others along because usually the only ones who will listen to a person carrying angry baggage are members from the same choir. The rest are often repelled and they are the ones who need to be reached. We can’t force them; we have to use reason and that requires patience, and sometimes, long-suffering.

  2. Glen M says:

    Like Dianne and many others I went through a process after discovering the Extraordinary Form and our traditional culture. There are stages – I’m getting so that I can quickly tell which stage a Catholic is at. One definite stage is a sense of birthright denial – of being cheated. Many men I’ve spoken to say they probably would have applied to the seminary had they known the Usus Antiquior, devotions, prayer routine, etc. I mourn for the loss of souls who could have been saved through the Church. I fear for the leaders who deliberately changed our liturgy, culture, and Sacraments for malicious reasons. The Church has been through stormy waters before and we’ll be on still waters again.

  3. Nora says:

    I feel for the priests, who signed up for the Catholic Church and got assigned the Spirit of Vatican II. This Easter Vigil, I will be 35 years a Catholic. The mine run of well informed cradle Catholics I know are either in their 70s or their 20s. OTOH, even the worst of the “spirit of Vatican II” priests I know are good, holy, confused people. Can you imagine what it must have been like for them to be faithful Catholics, told that all of these new ideas were required and trying to incorporate them into their practice of the faith? They were injured and have done injury, but their intention was to just be obedient, by and large. Grave damage at their hands, but not through their free intention. We should pray for them, especially those in Purgatory now.

  4. Mrs McG says:

    I’m sorry. I do not understand apologies like this — at all. I strongly dislike when there is apologizing on behalf of a group of people, only some of whom are guilty of the fault described in the apology. My parents were cradle Catholics who passed on the traditional Catholic Faith when our parishes were going wacky. And no one, NO one, has witnessed to the light and love of Christ through the midst of patient suffering like my cradle-Catholic mother. What am I missing here?

  5. CatholicDRE says:

    Wow, my thoughts exactly. I know I resented my parents for some time feeling that they cheated me. I couldn’t help but feel things would have been better had I been properly taught or immersed in prayer and the rich life of the Church. The most important thing I learned was to “put away childish things”. There comes a point where you let go, love and take responsibility for your own state in life. It’s fine the the Holy Father has acknowledged this, but it is better to role up our sleeves and start the work ahead for the next generation.

  6. Perhaps I missed something. I did not at all think the Pope was referring to parents. The last few generations suffered sn epic fail at many levels.

    Yes, some were failed in the home, but those parents may have also been failed. You can’t pass on what you don’t know.

    Where else were we failed?

    Let’s start with the pulpits where homilies have been devoid of the fullness of the faith and in some quarters that was backfilled with heresy.

    We were failed in our catechism classes when curriculum was dumbed down, or full of error.

    We were dumbed down by Catholic schools – universities among them for the same reason.

  7. justamouse says:

    Have you been sitting at my table, listening as I, a new revert, have to tell my MIL, a cradle Catholic, what the sacraments mean? Her whole LIFE, she never knew these things. Or, why she has to go to Mass every Sunday, or why she needs to make confession. And now, she wonders as to their need because she apparently ‘got along fine’ without. Where is the catechism? Where?

    It is truly beyond sad.

  8. Well, okay.

    I have found the recent papal habit of apologizing for the sins of long dead Catholics dubious at best. Obviously they are not sorry. And the current pontiff did not commit the sin. So what action step does the apology involve? All sins require some kind of restitution. For these long ago “sins” there is no one to make restitution to. And those who did not commit the sin cannot make the restitution.

    At least this apology deals with current sins and offenses. I doubt that the nominal Catholics who failed to pass or are failing to pass on the faith care whether the pope is sorry for what they did. In fact, I think they would be offended to think that someone thought they did or do was wrong.

    So what does this apology mean, other than giving a talking point to the media? I don’t know. Perhaps their will be atonement by appointing bishops who are determined to pass on the faith; who will train priests zealous to pass on the faith; who will inspire the pew sitters to pass on the faith. Repentance without the intention to avoid and remedy the causes of sin is not repentance.

    I am pretty sure that this is the teaching of St. Thomas and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

  9. CatholicDRE says:

    @Diane Yes, all those things contributed to the state of catechesis today, but parents are the first and primary teachers of the faith. Even if they didn’t know large swaths of the faith, they should have at least known that prayer and the ten commandments were important, yet how many parents even pass that on?

  10. Warren says:

    I agree with Diane.

    1 Corinthians 14:8. For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

    Sticking with the theme for a moment: How can the troops muster if their commanders are telling them to lay down their arms, or not even providing them with the weapons they need to defend their homes? Or, the generals are telling the troops to point the guns at each other. To whom do we take the fight? Who wants to be part of that army?

    Yes, parents are the first educators of their children. However, it’s not difficult to understand that if parents are confronted with a message from the pulpit which they believe to be the Church speaking, a dutiful parent would reasonably defer to their pastor and raise their children with whatever cockamamie doctrine with which Father-slick-sermon tickles their ears.

    The players in a symphony orchestra look to the conductor for direction. If the baton wavers because the conductor is losing his marbles, the players will go into survival mode. When individuals try to save a performance it’s like ten people pulling the tiller in ten different directions. Inevitably, the ship strays off course. In that situation, one hopes there are no reefs nearby. Most often, the ship crashes. Who is to blame? – the conductor (priest, catechist, professor). The responsibility lies with the helmsman. If he abandons his post or doesn’t know the map, we’re sunk.

  11. JARay says:

    I too object most strongly for others apologising on my behalf.
    Here, in Australia, one of the first acts of our last Prime Minister was to apologise to the Aboriginals for the way WE treated them 50 years ago. I have nothing to apologise for. I did not live in Australia 50 years ago and reading about the milieu here at that time, the vast majority of those who did live here acted in accordance with their consciences and tried, in their way, to better the conditions of the Aboriginal people. They tried to educate them, but they did not want school. They tried to show the Aborigines sanitation and cleanliness and that too was much of a lost cause. What is criticised is the way that they went about doing these things!
    No one can, or should, apologise for me. I am quite prepared to make my own apologies when merited.

  12. CatholicinCA says:

    Slightly off topic, but I LOVE the picture you chose for this post. Would you or anyone happen to know who is the Saint depicted and/or the name of the work/artist?

  13. Seamas O Dalaigh says:


    Sorry, but you really should do some reading on the Stolen Generations.

    James Daly

  14. @Fr. Augustine Thompson and others who expressed similarly:

    I think it’s possible to let people know you are aware that they have been cheated. I felt very cheated. My father – a devout Catholic who never missed Mass unless he was in a hospital, went to Confession monthly, was devoted to the BVM, and studied with solid resources on a regular basis passed the faith on to me. But, the parish I grew up in did quite a bit to destroy all that he was trying to build. The first bit of damage came from the lack of reinforcement at Mass of what he was teaching me. The people who did that, I believe were taught errors by someone else they trusted, and it goes back further.

    I went to Sacred Heart Major seminary in 89-90 to take an intro theology class. Thank God things have changed for the better in contrast to those days. The primary book used was McBrien’s Catholicism. When I came home and told my father that the teacher said Adam and Eve were not real, he threw a fit. I thought he was just behind the times and blew him off at first. It wasn’t until the third week when the teacher – a priest – cracked a condescending joke about the Rosary and people who pray it that I began to question my assumptions. I dropped the class having been very offended by that priest. He has since passed away. I pray for his soul. Like I said about SHMS, it has changed dramatically for the better, with solid profs and solid content. I would go back now if I had the time.

    Some parents did not do as much as my father did – they trusted the parishes and thought their kids were learning the right things. I remember those days well. I was the only kid in the neighborhood who got pulled out of catechism after Communion until Confirmation because my father felt they weren’t getting it done. He did the best he could. If anything, I owe him an apology. My mistake was going up to the youth group after Confirmation where I really learned some strange things – unbeknownst to me at the time. Most of the kids I grew up with, I don’t know that they go to Mass any more on a weekly basis.

    I had a friend a few years ago who was in her thirties who told me that she had no idea it was a sin to sleep with a man before marriage. Yes – her parents, who did go to church should have taught her the 10 Commandments, but they too made the mistake of assuming their daughter was being taught in catechism. In fact, if memory serves, she went to a Catholic school. How does one go to a Catholic school and not know about fornication? We teach kids the 10 Commandments in the 2nd grade, but cannot go into detail on those involving sexual sin. When it comes time for Confirmation the material assumes they were already taught the 10 Commandments and focuses on other things.

    I just wonder how many parish priests reading this can attest to the fact that young people coming in to get married were shocked to learn they were not suppose to be living together. How could so many Catholics be cohabitating all the while serving in various capacities at their parishes without any such knowledge?

    Those who did pass on the faith to their children ought not be offended. But how many parents can vouch for the fact that when they sent their kids to Catholic schools or universities thought they were learning the faith only to discover too late that they were being fed namby-pamby.

    The Holy Father is offering a generic apology to people like myself and many others who were wounded through a very broken system. I do not harbor hatred or anger for those who short-changed me or led me into twisted thinking. I pray that they too have come to understand the truth.

  15. ejcmartin says:

    My wife a cradle Catholic in her early forties laments the lack of instruction she received at church, school, and home. When she grew up there were Catholic schools yet she when she discovers a “new” part of the catechism she wonders why she was never taught it. Unfortunately in areas where their were Catholic schools the teaching of the faith was left to the “professionals” and many parents felt they were off the hook. Now where we live there are no more Catholic schools and parents are expected to teach their children the faith but most parents don’t have a clue.

  16. OK – I’m going to use analogy to illustrate how I understood what the Holy Father is trying to do here, especially since we are suppose to interpret the words of others in the most favorable light (CCC 2478).

    Lets say that the father of a very large family learns that some of his children have been somehow victimized by other children in the family (i.e., cruelty, theft, etc.). Upon learning about this the father has two concerns:

    1) Getting those who are in error and on a dangerous path back on the right path

    2) Acknowledging to the other children that he is aware they have been hurt, but wants to teach them to forgive and to set aside any anger or resentment.

    It doesn’t take much to see the anger playing out on the web and while some anger is justified, the rancor and hostility aimed at those other brothers and sisters who committed the offenses – in some cases unknowingly – is not helpful.

    I’m grateful to know people who were catechists in those days who will tell me, “We thought we were doing the right thing back then, but it’s clear we messed up.” Or, “I wish I had stood up to what I felt was wrong and inadequate, but I felt it wouldn’t get anywhere.”

    I also know a good number of parents today, who now take their faith much more seriously than they did when they were raising their kids. They have so much pain over their adult children who now seem lost and are taking the grandkids with them .

    I think we need to be careful not to take personally what the Holy Father said. I don’t think he is blaming anyone.

  17. benedetta says:

    It is very wise and helpful, what Diane is saying, to me. I think that the Holy Father, on behalf of the Church most certainly can demonstrate acknowledgment and responsibility even when some did not at all contribute to this and in fact showed very good example, even with long suffering circumstances, and when others who perhaps contributed more aggressively refuse to admit their role in this or that it caused real harm. After all we don’t believe that sin merely affects one person, or even that it just relates to one person and the one or several who then suffer from it materially, but that the entire body suffers corporately. It is quite a powerful exercise of leadership to not deny or repress what has happened, to not flee from real suffering but to be willing to atone for what has happened for the good of all in a sense.

    In a trait that I frequently notice and have noticed for quite some time about the Holy Father’s words, here he doesn’t blame or really ascribe ill will or bad intentions, even while some of us may be aware of these at work in specific instances. His comments always reflect that he well knows that the effects of sin can be wide reaching and with complicated impact, and that ultimately no matter what was said, done or intended, the mercy of God is greater still. And something I also find consistent, he points out the way of hope, which is for all of us to focus on the face of God that much more, in conscious way, for others who cross our paths. What happened was not, nothing at all, not meaningless, not without effects, we can acknowledge it. But hopelessness is not an effect from it, passivity and neglect, hiding, denying, not good options with acknowledgment.

    I didn’t think that the Holy Father was alluding first and foremost to parents and families. It was in the context of his annual meeting with his study group. Many of us can point to the blessing of a ‘cradle Catholic’ in our lives who beautifully showed the way of trust, mercy, hope in the life of faith, with great joy, dignity, and simplicity. If we had one in our lives for many of us this was all that was needed. But I think that he is speaking of the fact that those simple souls who encouraged did not have the sort of power or authority to amplify that hope on a wider scale in catechesis, liturgy, institution, academia, or to be there to mirror that hope in crucial times in people’s lives and struggles, though they themselves had this benefit in formation from early age to their whole careers. And some cradle Catholics who had all the benefits of living in community, Catholic education all the way, investment by the Church in their career and well being, have not thought or acted to support this for others, and some even think the destruction of these by secular culture within our own communities, institutions, parishes, is a great thing and refuse to see the real concrete damage to a great many who are impacted by this. For every family or young person or struggling one who has been neglected, there is a much wider circle of believers or potential believers who are omitted from evangelization in that wake who could also benefit concretely and beautifully from the Good News.

  18. John V says:

    @ CatholicinCA
    If you right click on the image and look at the properties, the URL is
    so we can figure it’s St. Paul. A quick Google image search for “paul teaching” and “paul preaching” turned up lots of images with similar elements, but I didn’t see that one. That’s as much help as I can provide.

  19. Centristian says:

    I understand and appreciate what the Holy Father is doing with this apology. It’s an attempt at a frank acknowledgement of and apology for the Church’s failure to robustly transmit the Catholic Faith in all its purity and integrity during–I have to assume–these days since Vatican II wherein the Faith has so visibly eroded. I don’t say because of Vatican II, incidentally, only since Vatican II.

    The general thrust of the pope’s apology is right, but to point the finger at “cradle Catholics” instead of where it ought to be pointed–at the pastors of the Church, Benedict’s predecessors included–seems, with all due respect to His Holiness (and I do sincerely mean that), a bit cowardly. It would have been a meaningful apology if the Pope had apologized for the shortcomings of his own office and of the episcopacy during these chaotic times and lamentable days. But he lumped all of us in with him and with his brothers in the house of the clergy, as if to avoid the unpalatable task of having to identify his fellow shepherds as the most responsible parties.

    I grow weary of shepherds today who blame and scold their sheep for allowing themselves to get bitten by the wolves which they themselves have allowed inside the fold (or at least which they have been unable to keep out, because they’ve lost the tools of the trade). Pastors should chasten their flocks and remind them of right and wrong, certainly. Alas, many pastors have been telling us the wrong things–and have been leading us to worship the wrong way–for decades. As we followed, we adapted. Now that we have conformed to what they have asked of us, we’re being scolded by new pastors who are indeed faithful to the authentic ways, but who point the finger of blame at the wrong people. The shepherd points the finger of blame out at the pews, and not first at his own pulpit, where it ought to be pointed.

    Pastors of the Flock: chasten us, your sheep, and guide us…of course. But chasten first yourselves. Chasten first each other. Admit to yourselves and then to us, your people, the flaws and failings of the clergy and apologize first for your characteristically pitiful leadership in our modern times. Stop blaming the media. Stop blaming the people. Start blaming the real culprits: yourselves. Then, once you have done that to everyone’s satisfaction, you might find you’ve regained the moral authority to apologize for me and for my fellow cradle Catholics.

    And let me state again that I make these observations guarding all due respect for the Holy Father.

  20. ”So what does this apology mean, other than giving a talking point to the media? I don’t know. Perhaps their will be atonement by appointing bishops who are determined to pass on the faith; who will train priests zealous to pass on the faith; who will inspire the pew sitters to pass on the faith. Repentance without the intention to avoid and remedy the causes of sin is not repentance.”

    Thank you, Fr. Augustine, for reminding us that without “purpose of amendment”, apology is meaningless and repentance is vacuous. Surely this dictum applies not only to individuals but also to Church and Pope.

    I assume this press report is inaccurate in quoting our good pope as asking “forgiveness on behalf of generations of ‘cradle Catholics’ who have failed to transmit the faith to others”. For he undoubtedly knows that ordinary faithful lay Catholics are not those who bear the primary guilt for this disintegration of faith.

    The guilty are the Church leaders–bishops, priests, religious, and church functionaries–who have consistently sabotaged the efforts of faithful Catholics transmit the faith. In the decades following Vatican II, it seemed at family and pew level that virtually the entire structure and hierarchy was arrayed against the faithful Catholic who sought to pass on the faith he had received. The responsible Church officials are the guilty on behalf of whom the pope might conceivably ask forgiveness or offer apology.

    Although it is not clear what how such an apology would benefit the recent generations of faithful Catholics–cradle and otherwise–on which their Church has inflicted so much spiritual anguish and damage in the past forty years.

    Perhaps such an apology is needed more by the Church itself for its own amendment and repentance. For instance, how can it move on — past further delay inflicting spiritual damage on additional generations –with prompt and serious liturgical reform, without forthright identification of official Church responsibility for the catastrophic disintegration of liturgy in recent decades? How can the apostasy that infects so many Church institutions be purged without naming if for what it is?

  21. Centristian says:

    I apologize; I want to retract the word “cowardly” from my remarks, above. It isn’t an appropriate word to use in reference to the reigning pontiff. I would substitute something along the lines of “inadequate”.

  22. UncleBlobb says:

    All: If you can, please pray for me, that I can forgive others and myself who did not pass on the Faith, and also those who did not want it, and love them for Christ’s sake. And that we can all be encouraged in our Faith and lives.

  23. digdigby says:

    As long as revolting and transparent heresies such as ‘Charismatic Renewal’ are allowed to rage unchecked I am and will be utterly confused. What I mean to say is that souls are being cheated and misled here and now and I suppose twenty years from now they will be ‘deeply and sincerely apologized to’ also.

  24. Centristian said: I apologize; I want to retract the word “cowardly” from my remarks, above. It isn’t an appropriate word to use in reference to the reigning pontiff. I would substitute something along the lines of “inadequate”.

    I’m glad you chose to pull that. I could not disagree with much of what you said.

    I see the words “coward” and “cowardice” thrown around loosely on the web at bishops and this really goes to judging hearts and motivation, which we cannot do.

    I’m just very grateful to see some incremental improvements. It did not get this way overnight. I want every bishop to to deal more clearly and effectively with error to halt the tide of scandal. I have no problem rejoicing and publicizing the good things a bishop does one day, but I prefer to head to the Adoration chapel and pray earnestly for him and those scandalized when the same bishop disappoints me the best.

    Speaking generally, I see nothing wrong with a matter-of-fact news story being passed along about something that is public, such as this. It is one way for the Holy See to measure the pulse of people. At the same time, we have to take care to not let our anger lead to derision. Rational discussion about the problems is good; venting may feel good, but is rarely productive.

  25. Katherine says:

    A few years ago my sister discovered Pavarotti’s “Panis Angelicus.” It had never existed in our Catholic world before and we were both blown away, not only by the beauty of the song, but also by the meaning of the words. It’s BIG.

    My sister was excited to share her discovery with our Mom. She popped in the CD…and listened to our mother sing along perfectly, knowing all of the words. My sister stared in stunned silence. How could that be? How could our own mother know This Song by heart and yet have never shared it with her children? Frankly, even now it sort of makes me want to weep.

    All this to say that it is very hard to comprehend, on the intimate human level, the enormity of what our parents had, and tossed aside like so many 8-track tapes. It is also very hard to discover these “ancient” Catholic gems in the deposit of our beautiful faith today, desire to share them, and be brush off with, “Yah, I already know that.”


  26. Oops! iPhone autocorrect got me again. Above I wrote: …but I prefer to head to the Adoration chapel and pray earnestly for him and those scandalized when the same bishop disappoints me the best.

    The last word should read “next”.


  27. Tina in Ashburn says:

    When I first heard about this, I wasn’t impressed about another odd apology that the media is going to misinterpret. I took it as an apology about our parents.

    Father thank you for mentioning the clergy in your comment on this article. That is how I feel. If it weren’t for the clergy’s betrayal, this loss wouldn’t have been as horrible.

    I think often of how the Church ‘hierarchy’ fled during Christ’s passion. How prophetic! The Passion also teaches a lesson about sticking with Mary, the Mother of God.

    The “angry” traditionalists resent the suffering, the loss, the grief, the ridicule, the overall lack of understanding and support. Those that didn’t live through the 60s through the 90s don’t ‘get’ it, nor do those who never knew the Church of the 40s and 50s and all we lost. Many in the Church today fell away/came back or are converts and missed the bitter tumult. [Not to dismiss those who do understand through experience, deep research, conversing…]

    Diane is right – everybody has to get over it. And the Pope is right. This involves forgiveness.
    And Henry Edwards, yup, I agree with your summary. And other similar commenters, yea, there is a LOT to make up and re-do.

    We need massively-scaled restitution. And quickly as we continue to lose the knowledge of our 80- and 90-year-olds.

    I was oddly fortunate. My mother spent most of her life as an atheist, who fell away from the Faith around age 12. After writing a feature article for the local paper on the new Trappist monastery in the 50s, she converted [thanks to the prayers of the monks]. Eventually she was a really liberal Catholic, for instance, arguing with the parish priest about allowing a believing Protestant Holy Communion, while the priest stood firm. Then she read De Chardin, given to her by a priest, and the whole scheme dawned on her and how it wasn’t making sense. Previously, you didn’t argue with “Father”, you did exactly what he said. Almost overnight, the priest went from someone you trusted, who taught your children, to somebody heretical whom you couldn’t trust. In the late 60s, mother yanked me out of catechism when I brought home a pamphlet on Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Most parents where not aware that kids weren’t getting the education that they themselves had received. From there she became an angry traditionalist, fighting over the destruction of our local church interior to walking out of heretical sermons or yelling at unfaithful priests after Mass. Of course mysterious grace was involved here but also my mother’s wit and determination. She read everything. She contacted traditionally-minded Catholics all over the planet and read their works. Unable to stomach the madness and betrayal of the unexplainable losses/changes to the Mass [the Divine Office, disciplines, indulgences, Church calendar, religious garb, etc], we became parish gypsies desperately looking for the last remaining faithful priest. They’d all lost their minds. We spent years in refuge in Byzantine parishes and saying the Rosary daily. The craziness didn’t do me much good – under ‘siege’ without the stability of good direction, pious youth societies, or sameness and community of my childhood parish, I wasted a lifetime being a really bad Catholic – I never stopped believing – but I was a rotten person. Despair and mistrust of the Church itself took a terrible toll.

    In hindsight, although my mother went “nuts” and made many enemies, she did the best she could. The was no how-to manual for this era, aside from maybe the lessons of the Reformation. Also, now we are learning about the bullying and persecution of all levels of clergy and religious that went on secretly. Many died brokenhearted. EVERYone was being attacked. The poor parish priest got it from bishop above and laity below. This is a huge contributor to the cowardice of priests and hierarchy we see today.

  28. Gail F says:

    I was very happy to read this apology from the pontiff. I saw and see it as an admission that an entire generation of people — as a whole, not in particular instances — failed to pass on the faith as we are commanded to do. I hope it stirs people to repent and do better. I am a revert, and I have a difficult time putting into words how dear the church is to me. But I suffer from the wounds that so many of us do — having been left to the cultural winds of relativism, indifferentism, liberalism, etc. I know that I have a very impoverished idea of God and faith. Even though I have studied Catholicism intently (even going to graduate school at a seminary) my own failings are many. Knowing about something is a pale substitute for KNOWING it. I am terrible at prayer. I have a habit of mind that is very, very secular. I believe to the core of my soul, but sometimes I feel that my belief is like something stunted, or like a carving that has been worn away by the wind: not going anywhere, but so much less than it should be. I feel intently what the pope said: “we bring people so little of the light of His face, because from us comes so little certainty that He exists, that He is there, and that He is the Great One that everyone is waiting for.” I find this certainty in some people, but not many. I don’t find it in my parish or my diocese. I know that I do a terrible job of showing it to my children, because I have only gradually grown into what little of it I have, and the parish I belong to does next to nothing in conveying it. How is a person like me supposed to pass on the fulness of the faith in the face of all that? We do what we can and trust God for the rest, but many people have suffered.

    Like Tina in Ashburn and Nora, I have a lot of compassion for parents and priests who did the best they could. Rev. Know It All (look him up if you don’t follow his blog) did a great series of posts a couple of months ago about what happened to the liturgy in the 1960s and what priests were trained to do at the time. I cling to the hope that, wacky as many of the people who stuck around were back then, perhaps wackiness was what it really took to keep the church going during those turbulent years. Perhaps they preserved traditional Catholicism by keeping it “in storage” for now, when people are starting to wake up and look for it. Stranger things have happened. the ways of the Lord are not our ways.

  29. lucy says:

    I am a convert of 18 years now. I went to a happy, clappy RCIA program. The woman in charge of it is still one who believes women should be priests and continues to improperly form new catechumens. I used to be angry, but now both feel sorry for her and pray for all men and women like her. They will have a lot to answer for in the end.

    The first time that I went to a traditional Mass was 7 years ago. I remember sitting in the pew and wondering what this was all about. As I read the English side of the missal, I looked up to my husband and said, “We’ve been robbed.” We really have been robbed lo these many years and I think the Holy Father was just ackknowledging that fact. He wants us to know he knows and that he’s doing what he can to restore proper order.

    We’re praying that our forthcoming bishop will be a good, orthodox manly priest who will help our sad diocese get back into shape. We have a few really good priests, but they are out in the surrounding towns doing their level best to be good. The others, well, we pray for all priests every evening during our rosary. The less than manly ones allow women to run their parishes and this is not good when they have so many crazy ideas.

    One of our traditional Mass couples were told they couldn’t get married at our parish, because “we don’t do that here.” They wanted a traditional wedding. The women in the office told them that. The pastor had no idea what had happened. This is wrong. They ended up marrying in the cathedral after obtaining permission to have a traditional Mass there.

    So many things are disordered, but I am hopeful that the Holy Father is trying very hard to make things better. And they are better….one brick at a time.

  30. Tina,

    Wow, what a personal story! Sparked off so many thoughts and memories as I read it. A couple:

    “we became parish gypsies desperately looking for the last remaining faithful priest.” (Did you ever find him?)

    Reminded me of a remote little Catholic church deep in flyover country where my wife and I stopped for Mass sometime in the 1980s. When the priest elevated the Host and gazed up at it in rapt adoration, I realized instantly what my wife breathlessly remarked on the way to the car afterward. “Did you see that? He actually believes! In the Mass, the Consecration, the Real Presence, the whole bit we thought nobody else remembered!”

    “Also, now we are learning about the bullying and persecution of all levels of clergy and religious that went on secretly.”

    And it’s still going on–vicious persecution of faithful young priests at the hands the older generation of priests and bishops who threw it all over, and are still in control in many rectories and chanceries.

    DEF: A truth commission is a commission tasked with discovering and revealing past wrongdoing by a government or institution, in the hope of resolving conflict left over from the past.

    In order to make the past really past, doesn’t the Church need to just speak the truth about the past four decades, without polite circumlocutions to protect the guilty? Fortunately, we have a divinely designated arbiter of Truth, and hence don’t need a special truth commission.

  31. Tina in Ashburn says:


    LOL, What a story many of us could write with all the crazy stuff that we witnessed over the years. I’d love to hear more of your story!

    “(Did you ever find him?)”
    Wait. that’s rhetorical, right? haha. Well, yes, there were a few, including even faithful and devout Jesuits!! But not before tripping through LeFebvrists, sede vacantes-ists, conspiracy theories, men posing as priests [yikes, yes] and learning the value of being attached and obedient to a Bishop no matter how faithless he appeared. Which Church Father actually said “Where the bishop is, there is the Church”?

    “And [the persecution is] still going on…in rectories and chanceries”
    Yes, true, Henry. I know some priests today who don’t know where to send their vocations for fear of the bullying and torments in seminaries, even seminaries that have enjoyed good reputations in the past. However we now have more Catholic media, publications, internet [and Father Z] to support everyone today, very different from the sorrow and ostracizing we suffered following Vatican II.

    “speak the truth about the past”
    Great point Henry. Maybe that is the objective of Pope Benedict’s apology – someone has to start with ‘sorry we messed up’ and the questions and answers will result. Best that this possible scenario started at the top! Wow! has the cock crowed? – Peter understands what he did? [analogy folks, analogy, I don’t mean to impugn Pope Benedict directly].
    Watching what the clergy ISN”T saying about the new Mass translation gives me the impression that nobody is stepping up to offer much explanation yet.

  32. Larry R. says:

    Perhaps my experience has been a little different from some of those expressed here. I have run across a pretty large number of priests and laity in the Dallas Diocese, at least, who have a minimum of some knowledge of the Faith, the Faith of Tradition, but who have intentionally rejected it in favor of a more worldly theology/ecclesiology. I have tried to very gently provide some corrections to both the priests and the laity, and they refuse to accept that the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ could be in any way wrong, or that the heterodox views they hold are not the vanguard of the future. So I don’t think it’s always a case of individuals being innocently led astray. I have known a substantial number of individuals who have been presented the Truth, and who prefer something else. I am also not a cradle Catholic. I chose the Faith as an adult, but unwillingly at first. The catechesis I received in RCIA was of course insubstantial and unhelpful. But by the Grace of God, I have found at least some spark of the Faith, and I am enraptured. I do agree that there is something to the idea that many who have been imbued with a worldly, cult of man view of the Faith have been led astray, often by others, but I do think there are a fair number who have rejected what the Church has always believed by choice.

    As for the apology, well, OK, but there must be some action taken to redress this continuing problem at the highest levels of the Church. It is critical that we have shepherds that are completely faithful, holding no heterodox views. That is not the case at present. So long as we have leadership in the Church which is open to ideas counter to the Faith, we will continue to have grave problems.

  33. MichaelP71 says:

    Father and of course anyone else… I am struggling with this in a form myself. I want to pass on my faith however my wife who is not a practicing Catholic told me that she doesn’t want the kids to become “Jesus freaks”. I also feel the frigidity even on small things such as grace before meals. I want to be a champion of the faith for them but where do I draw the line, where do I relax? All of my religious articles, etc are hidden so that they do not offend my wife. How Catholic can/should I be in my own home? I would love to have JMJ and IHM pics in my home but they aren’t an option, I feel. Lastly will I be shunned at the judgement seat because I was embarassed of our Lord. (I am saddened to even think that would even be the case). I appreciate your help and direction, Father! God bless you.

  34. Gretchen says:

    Can I just thank all those who have commented? While I am grateful for our Pope’s words, I can understand those who feel a little hurt by his comments. As a recent convert, I am terribly grateful for all the cradle Catholics who have stood strong while the Faith has been attacked. And I’m also grateful for all the converts who, having been in the wilderness, know the great and exceeding gift they have in the Catholic Church.

    This post and the comments spurred me to write a note of thanks to my parish priest who has maintained his pastoral fatherliness in a diocese that has embraced every kind of progressive nuttiness you can imagine.

    I don’t want to go into all the stuff that goes on, I just want to say thanks to everyone who, having done all, are still standing.

  35. benedetta says:

    MichaelP71, I know that you are asking Father and the others for advice and I don’t think that I personally am all that qualified to assist you. You sort of have to be in dialogue to some extent with your family each individually and together and come to some sort of decision as a Catholic parent as to the faith for your children. Many people who work with children find that on their own, without any sort of prompting they naturally are close to God in prayer in their own way and voices, on their own terms, which reflects who we are in the dignity of God. It’s pretty easy to enter into a conversation with a child, and it’s also pretty easy to pray with them. I have found that most children in fact are more confident and exude a serenity in prayer that we as adults seem to lose touch with as we get bogged down in life. A lot of parents have been led to greater faith through observing the faith that their children show and take their cues as to what to provide (you mention pictures) based on their curiosity and questions, and children have plenty of that. If certain things make your wife uncomfortable there I don’t know that you must have them, but these are not the only means at all towards encouraging the faith. One could start with numerous stories, beautiful stories, or art, or music, and there is much that is contemporary today that you could find in this. But the Church regards the family’s role in the faith as paramount, considering the family as domestic church. I once heard a very wise father locally where I am say to parents who were looking for supports in passing along the faith that they themselves might read the teachings of the Church and then personally teach them to children. It might be a very interesting inquiry for you and your wife both together to look into. It is very common for some of us to have rejected the faith or fear the faith on the basis of things we have heard without knowing for sure what it is that the Church truly in fact teaches. Quite often when I have struggled when I try to verify things I hear with what the actual teaching is I find clarity, truth, and hope and am encouraged to discover more and test out in daily life. Just as doing things because of that’s what was done in the old days, unquestioningly, may not really be faith, passing along something one became convinced of at a certain stage in life without updating or renewal also can essentially make the decision for children for them against inquiry in the faith. Many secular health and education publications acknowledge that children are happiest and healthiest when they regularly worship and are connected to whatever faith their family is affiliated with. Just as we give others room to grow however they are called children must also be given room and be listened to right where they are.

    As to how we will be judged as parents, it’s a serious concern and something that I could not answer. It’s a matter of conscience as a Catholic. When we marry we do agree to raise children in the faith as Catholics and when we present children for baptism we are agreeing together with the whole Church to take on responsibility for our children’s spiritual needs. Some discussion with your parish priest or Catholic friends could be very helpful.

  36. Mrs. O says:

    I appreciate this apology. My aunt who is now in her 80’s was my caregiver. She assumed that the CCD classes plus Catholic School would pass on what she got – she was wrong. She realized this a little to late and when she confronted someone at the diocese they said it was her responsibility…. Well. God bless those whose parents did see a problem and picked up the slack. Even if the parents aren’t doing a good job, if you are going to CCD + Catholic School and still not getting the basics, something is terribly wrong. Thanks Pope Benedict.

  37. Texana says:

    NB Larry R: Please find your way to Mater Dei parish and discover the jewel of our faith, the Tridentine Mass! After wandering about the diocese looking for something lacking no matter where we went, we found a small mission with an FSSP priest and devout congregation. Now we are devouring books, magazines, and online articles discovering what happened to our beloved Catholic and Apostolic Church from 1940 to present. Pure joy is assisting at Holy Mass!

  38. catholicmidwest says:

    Bless the heart of this holy man and pope. He may be the first pontiff to really understand the extent and gravity of what has happened in the last century enough to be able to express it clearly like this. Bless him for this truthfulness and candor. Such a thing is rare indeed.

    The first step in addressing something is often recognizing it and verbalizing it. Here we have it.

  39. Centristian says:


    “Lastly will I be shunned at the judgement seat because I was embarassed of our Lord. (I am saddened to even think that would even be the case).”

    Michael, I think it’s important to make a distinction between religious tchotchke and Our Lord. Not all good Catholics need, require, or even prefer to display in their homes endless religious images, statues, rosaries, and medallions, and being embarrassed of such things is not to be embarrassed of the Lord. Naturally, a Catholic man will not be inclined to decorate like a Catholic grandmother, and alot of that mass-produced plastic, plaster, and laminated junk is just that: junk. Much of it is embarrassing to anyone with a shred of good taste.

    When Catholic men do live in homes having a multiplicity of religious articles, it’s usually the wife’s doing, not the husband’s. You, evidently, will not be encountering that problem. Lucky you. You aren’t completely alone in the Catholic world in not being completely surrounded by religious merchandise, however. Carmelite monks and nuns I believe are permitted to display but a single wood cross (not even a crucifix) in their monastic cells, and that’s it. And few Catholic single men have apartments that look like religious gift shops. That’s not something that Catholics do…it’s something that women do. Orthodox moms and Muslim moms and Hindu moms do the same things to their homes that Catholic moms do. Again, you’re fortunate.

    In my own apartment I display a subtle, stone relief representation of Christ and St. John at the Last Supper. It’s size is about the diameter of a grapefruit and is displayed on a wall near my desk. I consider myself a Catholic who takes his faith seriously, and that’s all I’ve got. A single friend of mine–a very devout Catholic–displays in his very tastefully decorated home a small ivory statue of the Virgin on one side of his parlor’s mantle, and hangs a cross above his bed, If I recall correctly. One’s home is one’s home after all; it doesn’t need to compete with one’s church.

    Surely, you can transmit the Faith to your children by word and example, without having an abundance of religious devotional items everywhere. Imagine a time when many Christians simply couldn’t afford religious art, a time before it was cheap and mass-produced. A typical Catholic home for many eras would have been mostly bereft of art, religious or otherwise. So it isn’t as if there’s anything wrong with living in a home that isn’t characterized by the presence of Christian art.

    Even today, when Christian art is affordable, it can be said that less is more. I have been in homes–my own mother’s, included–that are overpowered by religious tchotchke. It’s everywhere, and it isn’t inspirational, it’s suffocating.

    Less is more. Be glad you have the wife you have. ;^)

  40. benedetta says:

    Centristian, tchotchkes, perhaps, I wasn’t raised with a lot of stuff either in household or worship space so for many of a certain age religious articles are very foreign indeed. Although ancestors living in poverty would have, one lovely statue. Not a ton and the one was cared for with reverence and lasted, well it’s still around, I guess for half a century.

    Still I would not reject as a tchotchke an icon, not, a whole ton of icons, but, one or two. Or how about a Raphael print.

    Also as to a rosary if it has been blessed, my understanding that this blessing is a support when one prays with the rosary.

    To be honest I don’t really know anyone who collects religious articles but I suppose it could happen. When people bring something into one’s home it can’t be just about the wife and further those who say enthrone the image of the Sacred Heart can’t be said to do so whilst on autopilot or upon compulsion in this day and age when we aren’t habituated.

    I certainly don’t think it has to be one parent versus the other, for one to bring in and for the other to desire they be out, doesn’t really seem to require resolution at all for bringing children up in the faith.

    I am trained to listen to children’s needs so I guess if it would have to be something, while I think your idea of one beautiful print is great, if it were me I would go with a bible and eschew tchotchkes altogether.

  41. catholicmidwest says:

    I’m pretty sure this thread isn’t about taste in religious art, good or bad. It is about passing on the faith.

    It is certainly a burden if a spouse is intolerant about religious practice. But an adult Catholic has a right to live as a Catholic in his own home, just as certainly as he has the right to breathe. That may not include a ton of artifacts but it does include tolerance for church attendance, prayer and a few personal articles. It’s a matter of mutual respect which should be due and paid to the partners in a marriage, even if the partners do not agree on personal religious activity or mutual religious activity. For the same exact reason, trying to convert a spouse against their will isn’t wise and won’t work either.

    As far as teaching children, that has to be settled as amicably as possible between the husband and wife. That can be very difficult especially if the conversion happens long after the wedding.

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