The Pope has issued a letter to Catholics in Ireland. In the following, I quote from this letter, and translate the Pope’s obscure pronouncements into plain English.

I have been deeply disturbed by the information which has come to light regarding the abuse of children and vulnerable young people by members of the Church in Ireland, particularly by priests and religious.

So disturbed that I tried to prevent its ever becoming known.

I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.

I’m talking about the authorities in Ireland. Not us in Rome. We had nothing to do with it. We didn’t even know about it.

For my part, considering the gravity of these offences, and the often inadequate response to them on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities in your country, I have decided to write this Pastoral Letter to express my closeness to you and to propose a path of healing, renewal and reparation.

Yes! For my part, I decided… wait for it… to write this letter.

In almost every family in Ireland, there has been someone – a son or a daughter, an aunt or an uncle – who has given his or her life to the Church. Irish families rightly esteem and cherish their loved ones who have dedicated their lives to Christ, sharing the gift of faith with others, and putting that faith into action in loving service of God and neighbour. In recent decades, however, the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society.

It’s those nasty secularists again. They’re the real problem here.

On several occasions since my election to the See of Peter, I have met with victims of sexual abuse, as indeed I am ready to do in the future. I have sat with them, I have listened to their stories, I have acknowledged their suffering, and I have prayed with them and for them.

Then I told them to never, ever, under penalty of excommunication, tell anyone about what that poor, misguided priest, God rest his soul, did to them.

Earlier in my pontificate, in my concern to address this matter, I asked the bishops of Ireland, ‘to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected, and above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes’ (Address to the Bishops of Ireland, 28 October 2006).

What I did not do then, and what I would never do, is to ask the priests who have abused their holy offices to resign. That would be far too harsh.

To priests and religious who have abused children: You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals.

But not, of course, in a court of law. That would be improper.

Together with the immense harm done to victims, great damage has been done to the Church and to the public perception of the priesthood and religious life.

Remember: your income depends on the church’s reputation.

I urge you to examine your conscience, take responsibility for the sins you have committed, and humbly express your sorrow. Sincere repentance opens the door to God’s forgiveness and the grace of true amendment. By offering prayers and penances for those you have wronged, you should seek to atone personally for your actions.

Under no circumstances should you go to the police. Remember: your income depends on the church’s reputation.

To parents: You have been deeply shocked to learn of the terrible things that took place in what ought to be the safest and most secure environment of all. In today’s world it is not easy to build a home and to bring up children. This noble but demanding task is entrusted in the first place to you, their parents.

What the hell is wrong with you? How could you let this happen?

As you carry out your vital responsibilities, be assured that I remain close to you and I offer you the support of my prayers.

I will not, of course, ask the priests who have abused their holy offices to resign. That would be far too harsh.

To the priests and religious of Ireland: … At this painful time, I want to acknowledge the dedication of your priestly and religious lives and apostolates, and I invite you to reaffirm your faith in Christ, your love of his Church and your confidence in the Gospel’s promise of redemption, forgiveness and interior renewal.

Remember: your income depends on the church’s reputation.

Above all, I urge you to become ever more clearly men and women of prayer, courageously following the path of conversion, purification and reconciliation.

Under no circumstances should you go to the police.

To my brother bishops: … Serious mistakes were made …

… though not, of course, by me.

All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness.

Remember: your income depends on the church’s reputation.

Besides fully implementing the norms of canon law in addressing cases of child abuse, continue to cooperate with the civil authorities in their area of competence.

Under no circumstances tell the truth to the police. Their area of competence does not include anything having to do with the Church.

Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore the respect and good will of the Irish people towards the Church to which we have consecrated our lives. This must arise, first and foremost, from your own self-examination, inner purification and spiritual renewal.

Pray often. Do not say anything to the police.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ … I am praying earnestly that, by God’s grace, the wounds afflicting so many individuals and families may be healed and that the Church in Ireland may experience a season of rebirth and spiritual renewal.

What I have not done, and what I will never do, is to ask the priests who have abused their holy offices to resign. That would cut substantially into my income.

At the conclusion of my meeting with the Irish bishops, I asked that Lent this year be set aside as a time to pray for an outpouring of God’s mercy and the Holy Spirit’s gifts of holiness and strength upon the Church in your country. … Particular attention should also be given to Eucharistic adoration, and in every diocese there should be churches or chapels specifically devoted to this purpose. … Through intense prayer before the real presence of the Lord, you can make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm… .

Don’t blame the priest, or the bishops, or me. Blame yourself.

I am confident that this programme will lead to a rebirth of the Church in Ireland in the fullness of God’s own truth, for it is the truth that sets us free (cf. Jn 8:32).