Cardinal Sean Brady, Primate of All Ireland, spoke about renewal in his St. Patrick’s day homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh, Ireland. The Lord, he said, is calling the Church to admit its sinful nature and seek a "new beginning."
“Ireland and its people have much to be proud of," the cardinal said at Mass. “Yet," he added, "every land and its people have moments of shame.”
"Dealing with the failures of our past, as a country, as a Church, or as an individual is never easy," he said, noting that tensions always exist "between the possibilities we aspire to and our wounded memories and past mistakes."
He offered the examples of Sts. Patrick and Peter who answered the call of God while also describing themselves as sinful men.
"We all experience this tension between being called to follow Jesus – to live up to his values - and the reality of our sinful nature," explained Cardinal Brady. "There is true freedom in humbly acknowledging – like the wounded healers Peter and Patrick – the full truth of our sinfulness."
Following these descriptions, the cardinal took the opportunity to respond to the public reactions to his personal role in documenting a case of pedophilia in 1975 in which the victims were sworn to confidentiality. He expressed his desire "to say to anyone who has been hurt by any failure on my part that I apologize to you with all my heart.”
"I also apologize to all those who feel I have let them down. Looking back I am ashamed that I have not always upheld the values that I profess and believe in."
Redirecting attention to the state of the Church in Ireland, he asserted that the next two years leading up to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin are "the most critical" for the Irish "since the time of St. Patrick," and noted that "God is calling us to a new beginning, to a time of Patrician energy, reform and renewal."
Cardinal Brady told the faithful that the Gospel readings of the St. Patrick's Day Liturgy propose three lessons for renewal. They are: "sincere, prayerful listening to the Word of God," the necessity of listening to the Spirit "as the source of our renewal" and the need to "humbly continue to deal with the enormity of the hurt caused by abuse of children by some clergy and religious and the hopelessly inadequate response to that abuse in the past."
The Primate of All Ireland said that "a sincere, wholehearted and truthful acknowledgment of our sinfulness" must come about and, like Sts. Patrick and Peter, the bishops of Ireland "must acknowledge our failings."
"The integrity of our witness to the Gospel challenges us to own up to and take responsibility for any mismanagement or cover-up of child abuse. For the sake of survivors, for the sake of all the Catholic faithful as well as the religious and priests of this country, we have to stop the drip, drip, drip of revelations of failure.”
The Lord is calling us to a new beginning," the cardinal emphasized, acknowledging that no one knows where that it will lead or whether or not "those who have made mistakes in their past" will have a part in it.
In conclusion, he said that it is a "time for deep prayer and much reflection ..." and that he will use the rest of Lent, Easter and Pentecost "to discern the will of the Holy Spirit.”
"I will reflect on what I have heard from those who have been hurt by abuse," said Cardinal Brady. "I will also talk to people, priests, religious and to those I know and love."
"Pray for those who have been hurt. Pray for the Church. Pray for me," he implored.
Cardinal Brady also expressed his hope in Pope Benedict XVI's forthcoming Pastoral Letter, which the Holy Father announced would be signed this Friday for publication "soon after."