One such situation has arisen in the pope's Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, intended to address the failure of the Church's leadership in Ireland to address the sexual abuse of minors by priests and religious in that country. Contained in this pastoral letter is the following paragraph:
The programme of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it. In particular, there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations. It is in this overall context that we must try to understand the disturbing problem of child sexual abuse, which has contributed in no small measure to the weakening of faith and the loss of respect for the Church and her teachings.
After reading this, I nearly screamed: "WHAT? A tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations?? Where was the tendency to avoid a penal approach in 1988??"
I spent six years in the seminary watching good friend after good friend kicked out for one trumped up charge after another. There was no tendency to avoid a penal approach in our seminaries. Michael Rose's book, Goodbye, Good Men, chronicles numerous cases wherein vocation directors and seminary administrators were not hesitant in the least to use a rather draconian penal approach. The Holy Father's comments in this paragraph seem grossly naive, if not ignorant of the real situation in our seminaries and chanceries.
My personal experience, and the experience of countless others, not to mention the four bishops of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X, who, along with Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop Antônio de Castro Mayer, were excommunicated in 1988, is that there has been no tendency in the Church since the Second Vatican Council to avoid any kind of penal approach. Indeed, there has been plenty of penalties dispensed these past forty years, their sole intent to silence the voices of conservative and traditional Catholics, and when ecclesiastical penalties could not be found, other more cruel and oppressive methods were employed.
No, Holy Father, we traditional Catholics who have been in the fray during this long sojourn in the desert of Vatican II must respectfully disagree. The tragic destruction of so many priestly vocations is like a river of blood flowing right through the heart of the Church Militant. Why, Holy Father, are you so bent on ignoring this gaping wound?
No. The problem has not been an avoidance of the penal approach, but a selective approach in application. Those who were penalized were those who did not share the progressive, liberal, morally permissive and pro-homosexual ideology of those who were in control of the Church's institutions. These people didn't come to power at the time of implementation. These people didn't come to power AFTER the Council, but DURING the Council.
Unfortunately the Holy Father isn't doing much here but avoiding the real problem, which is the modernistic, liberal and morally permissive ideology of the Church's leadership since the very first session of the Second Vatican Council. I suspect the problem of abusive priests will continue until the Church's leadership stops talking about how the Church is to blame, and starts addressing that it is they, the leaders, and their corrosive ideology that are to blame.