Rorate Caeli

Only the truth saves

In the vision of Saint Hildegard, the face of the Church is stained with dust, and this is how we have seen it. Her garment is torn – by the sins of priests. The way she saw and expressed it is the way we have experienced it this year. We must accept this humiliation as an exhortation to truth and a call to renewal. Only the truth saves. We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that has occurred. 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. We must discover a new resoluteness in faith and in doing good. We must be capable of doing penance. We must be determined to make every possible effort in priestly formation to prevent anything of the kind from happening again. This is also the moment to offer heartfelt thanks to all those who work to help victims and to restore their trust in the Church, their capacity to believe her message. In my meetings with victims of this sin, I have also always found people who, with great dedication, stand alongside those who suffer and have been damaged. This is also the occasion to thank the many good priests who act as channels of the Lord’s goodness in humility and fidelity and, amid the devastations, bear witness to the unforfeited beauty of the priesthood.

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.

In order to resist these forces, we must turn our attention to their ideological foundations. In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children. This, however, was part of a fundamental perversion of the concept of ethos. It was maintained – even within the realm of Catholic theology – that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a “better than” and a “worse than”. Nothing is good or bad in itself. Everything depends on the circumstances and on the end in view. Anything can be good or also bad, depending upon purposes and circumstances. Morality is replaced by a calculus of consequences, and in the process it ceases to exist. The effects of such theories are evident today. Against them, Pope John Paul II, in his 1993 Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, indicated with prophetic force in the great rational tradition of Christian ethos the essential and permanent foundations of moral action. Today, attention must be focussed anew on this text as a path in the formation of conscience. It is our responsibility to make these criteria audible and intelligible once more for people today as paths of true humanity, in the context of our paramount concern for mankind.

Benedict XVI
20 December 2010

[NC:] Five years ago, the historic 2005 Christmas Address of the Holy Father to the Roman Curia (on the "Hermeneutics of Continuity") was so unexpectedly relevant that this blog was the very first English-language medium to cover it - and certainly one of the first to give it proper recognition. We called it the "Epoch-making speech" at the time.

Five years on, it is good to acknowledge that at least the Holy See now provides immediate full translations of this year's address to the Curia, which is in fact a yearly address to the world, highlighting the lessons willed by the Pope considering the events of the year that is coming to its end. We throughly suggest our readers to read and ponder the entire 2010 address (Deutsch, English, Français, Italiano, Português), a majestic text and one of the most profound of the entire pontificate.


  1. Anonymous6:50 PM

    One incredible Holy Father!

  2. Xavier Rynne8:46 PM

    The octopus analogy is chilling.

  3. It is well that he started his speech with the vision of Hildegard of Bingen, and that he refers to her as St. Hildegard. The woman deserves to be canonized! He is indeed "One Incredible Holy Father!"

    May God bless him, protect him, further his cause to the glory of His name, and the authority of the Church.

  4. Anonymous2:59 AM

    "I extend a cordial greeting to each one of you, beginning with Cardinal Angelo Sodano..."

  5. Fratellino, I was actually unaware until just now that Hildegard never has actually been formally canonized. Learn something new every day I guess. You're right, it's definitely something that should happen. Doesn't the Pontiff technically have the authority to canonize someone even without the requisite miracle? I feel like I've heard of that being waived before... maybe in the case of the beatification of Juan Diego?

    If so, I don't see why Hildegard isn't simply canonized on the Holy Father's own authority, as I don't think anyone questions that she's sharing in the Beatific Vision... for what it's worth, I believe that even many Protestant communities commemorate her in their calendars of the saints.

  6. Prof. Basto10:34 AM


    That is protocol. Cardinal Angelo Sodano is the Dean of the Sacred College and in that capacity he addressed the Holy Father (the so-callled "address of homage" before the Holy Father's speech).

    As a matter of protocol, the Holy Father always thanks the prelate who delivers the "address of homage".

  7. quae morebat1:19 PM

    Being that JP2 obviously went out of his way to favor everyone and everything Polish, I don't think that people would mind if Pope Benedict honored his historical German sister in Christ and raised her to the honors of the altar.

    Of course though, part of the reason for her popularity is because feminists have picked up on her story and tried to redefine her holiness and relationship to the Church. A formal canonization would be a great way to clear some of this up but at the same time, it would require somethings that the Vatican desperately needs Santa to bring them for Christmas: Common sense, a sense of what's really out there, and good public relations skills.

    Long live Pope Benedcit XVI

  8. "Only the truth saves."

    Therefore, let everything the church hierarchy says and does in public & in private serve this one end only.


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