Five years ago Pope John Paul II was too ill to lead the Good Friday Stations of the Cross and then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was asked to take his place.
By that time Cardinal Ratzinger's office had been responsible for overseeing all cases of clerical sexual abuse against children for some four years and His Eminence must surely have had a good sense of the magnitude of the crisis, certainly in North America, if not in much of the wider world.
What follows is His Eminence's meditation on the Ninth Station. While there are some signs of improvement, much of what was true in 2005 remains sadly true today.
What can the third fall of Jesus under the Cross say to us? [In the Third and Seventh Stations w]e have considered the fall of man in general, and the falling of many Christians away from Christ and into a godless secularism. Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in his own Church?
How often is the holy sacrament of his Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts!
How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there!
How often is his Word twisted and misused!
What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words!
How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him!
How much pride, how much self-complacency!
What little respect we pay to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where he waits for us, ready to raise us up whenever we fall!
All this is present in his Passion. His betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his Body and Blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart.
We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison Lord, save us (cf. Mt 8: 25).