This morning, the Pope received Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster in private audience. A week after the England and Wales primate's ferocious defense of Benedict in the wake of the controversial Panorama "expose" which sought to discredit the former Cardinal Ratzinger's handling of sex-abuse cases, you can bet the brouhaha was on the table.
And on their Thanksgiving Day, the bishops of the Canadian west heard the Pope's reflections at the end of the CCCB's final ad limina visit. The talk drew heavily from the text of Prodigal Son... some snips:
And what of the elder brother? Is he not, in a certain sense, all men and women as well; perhaps particularly those who sadly distance themselves from the Church? His rationalization of his attitude and actions evokes a certain sympathy, yet in the final analysis illustrates his inability to understand unconditional love. Unable to think beyond the limits of natural justice, he remains trapped within envy and pride, detached from God, isolated from others and ill at ease with himself....-30-
Understanding the gift of reconciliation calls for a careful reflection on the ways to evoke conversion and penance in man’s heart (cf. Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 23). While manifestations of sin abound – greed and corruption, betrayed relationships and exploitation of persons – the recognition of individual sinfulness has waned. Behind this weakening of the recognition of sin, with its commensurate attenuation of the need to seek forgiveness, is ultimately a weakening of our relationship with God (cf. Address at Ecumenical Vespers, Regensburg, 12 September 2006).
Not surprisingly this phenomenon is particularly pronounced in societies marked by secularist post-Enlightenment ideology. Where God is excluded from the public forum the sense of offence against God - the true sense of sin - dissipates, just as when the absolute value of moral norms is relativized the categories of good or evil vanish, along with individual responsibility. Yet, the human need to acknowledge and confront sin in fact never goes away, no matter how much an individual may, like the elder brother, rationalize to the contrary. As Saint John tells us: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves" (1 Jn 1:8). It is an integral part of the truth about the human person. When the need to seek forgiveness and the readiness to forgive are forgotten, in their place a disturbing culture of blame and litigiousness arises. This ugly phenomenon, however, can be dispelled. Following the light of Christ’s healing truth is to say with the father: "My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours" and we must be glad "because your brother ... who was lost ... is found" (Lk 15:31-32).