Pope Benedict has used a high-profile Christmas speech to Vatican cardinals and bishops to demand reflection on the flaws in the Church's message and culture that permitted a global sexual-abuse scandal, reports the Washington Post.
"We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that has occurred," Benedict said. "We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen."
In his address, which the pontiff has used to emphasise his priorities to the assembled hierarchy, he said the past year's revelations of decades of sexual abuse of children by priests had taken on an "unimaginable dimension" and amounted to a "humiliation" that should be accepted as an "exhortation to truth and a call to renewal."
Pope Benedict also blamed the sexually derelict culture of the 1970s in which a godless relativity ran wild and "paedophilia was theorised as something that was in keeping with man and even the child".
"The effects of such theories are evident today," he said, calling attention to "the psychological destruction of children, in which human persons are reduced to articles of merchandise."
"We must be determined to make every possible effort in priestly formation to prevent anything of the kind from happening again," said Benedict, who added: "We are well aware of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and of our corresponding responsibility."
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Pope Benedict demands soul-searching from Catholic church on sex-abuse scandal (Washington Post)
Pope: sex abuse scandal 'humiliating' but society must share the blame (Telegraph UK)