However, this has been the first time I've read anything that really surprised me. Turns out Pope Benedict has done something very new in that letter and it has slipped past everyone, more or less. Emphasis added is mine.
ROME, March 25, 2010 – Law and grace. Where earthly justice does not reach, the hand of God can. With his letter dated March 19, Benedict XVI has given the Catholics of Ireland an order never before given by a pope of the modern era to an entire national Church.Read all of Sandro Magister's article here.
He told them not only to bring the guilty before the canonical and civil courts, but to put themselves collectively in a state of penance and purification. And not in the privacy of their consciences, but in a public form, before the eyes of all, even of their most implacable and mocking adversaries. Fasting, prayer, reading the Bible, and works of charity on all the Fridays from now until Easter of next year. Frequent sacramental confession. Continual adoration of Jesus – “ himself a victim of injustice and sin” – present in the sacred host, exposed on the altars of the churches. And for all the bishops, priests, and religious, without exception, a special period of “mission,” a long and strict course of spiritual exercises for a radical review of life.
It’s a daring step, this one taken by Pope Benedict. Because not even the prophet Jonah believed any longer that God would forgive Nineveh its sins, in spite of the penitential ashes and sackcloth worn by all, from the king to the lowliest beast of burden. ...