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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Theological Notebook: Still Watching The Way This Is All Played Out In The News 
4th-Apr-2010 10:31 pm
Rich Mullins Songs/Hiding Face
For the Catholic Church, it is Easter itself that is the ultimate answer to the horrors of digging up the cases of sexual abuse of children that happened within the Church over the last few generations. I don't think that that's understood in many of the news articles, where there seems to be a desire to hold Benedict XVI accountable even for events that occurred on the other side of the world when he was a 20-something graduate student. In a sense, of course he's accountable as the leader of the community left with the wounds; that he's accountable as some kind of inheritor of the actual criminal's guilt is irrational, and certainly not helping solve anything.

What bothers me the most is that I still see hardly the least bit of consciousness of truly dealing with the actual scope of the sexual abuse of children, where only a comparatively miniscule number of cases actually were connected to the Church. For all the way people are acting like this is an exclusive problem of the Catholic Church, I suspect that in the long run, the Church's experience of dealing with this is going to be a critical aid when (of if, to be pessimistic) people are finally willing to start trying to hold the rest of our culture accountable for its sexualizing of children.

Easter was much happier with my family.

Lots more articles covering things from April 1st to April 4th.

Resurrection and redemption as the church copes at Easter
Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois, "a smear campaign designed to smear the Pope"
Vatican's Easter Mass infused with defense of pope
Pope's immunity could be challenged in Britain
Easter Support for Pope, and Some Apologies
Catholic Hierarchy Rallies Around Pope on Easter
Anglican Archbishop Rebukes Irish Church
Betrayals of Trust at Easter Time
Pope's personal preacher offers defense of pontiff

Resurrection and redemption as the church copes at Easter
By Donald W. Wuerl
Sunday, April 4, 2010

Today, Christians worldwide celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Lent is over; Good Friday has passed. To a church that has experienced the deep pain of clergy sexual abuse, these days are a reminder that from pain and sorrow eventually come hope, redemption and new life.

This new life will come only by confronting sexual abuse head-on, taking responsibility for the wrongs of the past and committing to doing all that we can never to allow the tragedy of abuse to happen again. In the United States, we bishops have put in place tough standards for reporting allegations to civil authorities because we recognize that abuse is not only a sin but also a serious crime. In the Archdiocese of Washington and in dioceses nationwide, we mandate child protection training for adults and education for children. Seminarians, clergy, volunteers and employees who work with children must undergo criminal background checks. Independent advisory boards of lay experts guide our work, and, perhaps most important, we continue to reach out to those harmed to help them heal from their pain.

In 2008-09, 6 million children in the United States received lessons on recognizing inappropriate behavior and what to do if someone tries to harm them or makes them feel uncomfortable. Two million adults underwent background checks. Here in Washington, we have had a written child protection policy for nearly 25 years.

This commitment to safety has been done with the support and leadership of Pope Benedict XVI.

Then-Cardinal Ratzinger, as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Pope John Paul II were strong voices supporting the American bishops when we asked for changes in canon law and for special norms to expedite the removal of priests involved in sexual abuse of minors in a quick and decisive manner.

Pope Benedict has made pastoral care a priority. Two years ago this month, he stood with us at Mass at Nationals Park and spoke about the sexual abuse of minors: "No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse. It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention. Nor can I adequately describe the damage that has occurred within the community of the Church."

One of the most poignant moments of the Holy Father's visit to our city was his private visit with victims of clergy sexual abuse. He spoke with each person, he listened to them, he prayed with them and he heard how devastating the abuse was to their lives.

Clergy sexual abuse, and in fact all sexual abuse, must be addressed wherever it occurs. No child should ever be harmed. But the wrong actions of some do not justify the vilification of all. The priests who harmed children violated the heart of their ministry and have harmed not only our young people and our community of faith but also the vast majority of their brother priests who faithfully live out their promises to serve Christ and his people.

It is not easy to be a priest today. In a culture sometimes overly focused on material goods and getting ahead professionally, it may be hard to understand why someone would voluntarily choose a life of service and a job that is 24-7. Priests are there for others when they are in despair, grieving and destitute. They help people find hope in the darkness, a reason for living and the love of God.

Some of the most significant work of priests is found in what so many take for granted -- directly, quietly, caringly and effectively serving people in parishes. Priests celebrate Mass, baptize children, witness marriages, bring reconciliation through confession, serve the poor, console the sick and bury our loved ones. Their selfless ministry helps hold together the Catholic faith family and the wider community.
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Priests don't expect thanks and often don't receive it. They see the priesthood as an opportunity to bring the love of Christ to others and to help them come closer to God. It is in earthen vessels that we carry a magnificent treasure.

As the Catholic Church continues to face the tragedy of clergy sexual abuse, we must pray for the victims, recommit to doing all that we can to keep children safe, and remember and pray for the priests who every day faithfully live out the deep love that Christ has for all of us.

The writer is archbishop of Washington.




Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois, "a smear campaign designed to smear the Pope"
On Easter Sunday, the Catholic Church rocked by pedophilia scandals, not the party.

The Archbishop of Paris denounced a campaign of "vilification".

INTERVIEW BY PHILIPPE BAVEREL | 04/04/2010, 07h00

Cardinal and Archbishop of Paris , Mgr André Vingt-Trois, who is also chairman of the Conference of Bishops of France , has published "A mission of freedom" (Denoel, 18 €). He celebrated Easter Mass this morning at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris.

Andre Vingt-Trois MGR.: What is the meaning of Easter today?


Easter is the celebration of Central Christian faith and commemorates the death and resurrection of Christ. The whole edifice of our faith rests on this event. The reality is not limited to our experience of several decades on this earth there is something else, another reality. Although I have no experience of what happens "at the side of God," I am convinced that death was not the last word.

Easter falls this year in a context marked by the pedophilia scandals that splash the Church ...

In response to these heinous crimes committed by some priests, a feeling of horror grips us. We all feel shame and regret. The perpetrators disfigure our Church. That said, this is not a wave of pedophilia, but a wave of revelations of acts committed during the past fifty years. If we dug up all cases of pedophilia trial for a half-century France, it would make a catalog of horror in which the religious are a minority. Recall that in France, currently on twenty thousand priests and religious exercise, thirty are in jail after being tried for sexual assault, also not entirely of a pedophile.

Through these cases, is not Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, who is involved?

There is a campaign of vilification and slander aimed to smear the Pope. Now it's Cardinal Ratzinger, then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Editor's note: from 1981 to 2005), which encouraged the bishops to take action against pedophile by asking them to systematically transmit these cases to Rome.

These scandals will they not question the rule of celibacy for priests?

No, because I do not link between pedophilia and celibacy, nor is there a link between pedophilia and marriage. Yet it is in marriage that are most pedophiles: 80% of these crimes are committed in the home environment. The issue is not that of celibacy.

Where is the record of beatification of John Paul II died April 2, 2005?

It follows its course. It was rumored that John Paul II beatified on October 16 would be next. But this is not the case since four other beatifications are announced for October 17.

You said last week the bishops gathered at Lourdes: "We are more alive than we believe ourselves." "What did you mean?

The slogan is meant for thirty years "The churches are empty" is not fair. Go to Mass on Sunday morning, you see, there are people! Although there are rural communities where there is neither priest nor many Christians. Hence the idea that Catholicism turns off as the post office, school or bakery. But this situation is not that of the whole Church in France. When we prepared the visit of Benedict XVI in Paris in September 2008, we were told: "If you make a High Mass on the Esplanade des Invalides, this will be empty!" Now, there were 280,000 people.

What do you read the results of recent regional elections?

These results reflect the vote that half of the voters. The question, then, is why people do not vote. There is a loss of confidence in the ability of politicians to change things. It is also the feeling that undue regional power has little influence. Some voters may be wondering how you can finally be both regional adviser full time member.

Banning the wearing of the burqa is not legally possible, says the State Council, which has just taken action to ban the concealment of the face ...

I always said that the Republic did not regulate clothing habits. Or, if it is the respect for women, it would also raise the issue of naked bodies that displays such as displays ads. In contrast, the state's role in taking measures to ensure public order. But the fact of hiding his face may actually pose a public safety issue.




Vatican's Easter Mass infused with defense of pope
Apr 4, 4:11 PM (ET)
By FRANCES D'EMILIO

VATICAN CITY (AP) - It was the Catholic calendar's holiest moment - the Mass celebrating the resurrection of Christ. But with Pope Benedict XVI accused of failing to protect children from abusive priests, Easter Sunday also was a high-profile opportunity to play defense.

"Holy Father, on your side are the people of God," Cardinal Angelo Sodano told the pontiff, whom victims of clergy sexual abuse accuse of helping to shape and perpetuate a climate of cover-up. Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, dismissed those claims as "petty gossip."

The ringing tribute at the start of a Mass attended by tens of thousands in St. Peter's Square marked an unusual departure from the Vatican's Easter rituals, infusing the tradition-steeped religious ceremony with an air of a papal pep rally.

Dressed in gold robes and shielded from a cool drizzle by a canopy, Benedict looked weary during much of the Mass, the highlight of a heavy Holy Week schedule. But as he listened intently to Sodano's paean, a smile broke across the pope's face, and when the cardinal finished speaking, Benedict rose from his chair in front of the altar to embrace him.

The pontiff hasn't responded to accusations that he did too little to protect children from pedophile priests, even as sex abuse scandals threaten to overshadow his papacy.

Sodano's praise for Benedict as well as the church's 400,000 priests worldwide cranked up a vigorous campaign by the Holy See to counter what it calls a "vile" smear operation orchestrated by anti-Vatican media aimed at weakening the papacy and its moral authority.

Sodano said the faithful came to "rally close around you, successor to (St.) Peter, bishop of Rome, the unfailing rock of the holy church" amid the joy of Easter.

"We are deeply grateful to you for the strength of spirit and apostolic courage with which you announce the Gospel," said Sodano, who sought to assure Benedict that the scandals were not costing him credibility among his flock.

"Holy Father, on your side are the people of God, who do not allow themselves to be influenced by the petty gossip of the moment, by the trials which sometimes buffet the community of believers," Sodano said.

The cardinal also rushed to the defense of all the Catholic priests who "generously serve the people of God, in parishes, recreation centers, schools, hospitals and many other places, as well as in the missions in the most remote parts of the world."

Benedict, who turns 83 on April 16, was holding up well against the campaign of "deceitful accusations" against him, Venice Cardinal Angelo Scola said in an interview on Italian state TV Sunday. Scola said he recently had dined with the pope, who was drawing on his "usual spiritual energy."

Easter Sunday Mass was the last major Holy Week appearance by the pope in Rome for the thousands of faithful who have poured into the city. On Monday, he will greet pilgrims in the courtyard of the papal retreat in Castel Gandolfo, a lakeside town in the Alban Hills south of Rome.

Worshippers cheered Benedict at the end of Sunday's two-hour-long Mass in the cobblestone square bedecked with daffodils, tulips and azaleas.

After the Mass, Benedict moved to the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica to deliver his "Urbi et Orbi" message - Latin for "to the city and to the world" - which analyzes humanity's failings and hopes.

He singled out the "trials and sufferings," including persecution and even death, of Christians in Iraq and Pakistan, and of people in Haiti and Chile, devastated by earthquakes. He hoped for peaceful coexistence to win out over criminal violence in Latin American countries plagued by drug trafficking, and promised to pray for peace in the Middle East.

His speech ignored demands by victims that he shoulder some responsibility for a common practice by bishops in the past of shuffling pedophile priests from parish to parish rather than sullying the church's reputation by defrocking clergy who raped, sodomized or otherwise sexually abused minors.

The accusations against the pope stem from his leadership as archbishop of Munich, in his native Germany, before he came to the Vatican three decades ago, as well as his long tenure in Rome leading the Holy See's office dealing with a growing pile of dossiers about pedophile priests.

Sodano's words irked a prominent advocacy group, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

"When we speak up and tell how our childhood innocence was shattered by sexual assaults by priests, it is not 'petty gossip,'" SNAP president Barbara Blaine said in a statement.

In the pope's homeland of Germany, which has been rocked by a widening abuse scandal, police said they arrested a man who attacked the Roman Catholic bishop of Muenster with a broom handle during an Easter service in the city's cathedral.

Bishop Felix Genn, 60, defended himself with an incense bowl and was unharmed. After the incident, he continued celebrating the Easter service. The man's motive was unclear, police said.

Germany's top Roman Catholic cleric, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, urged Catholics in his Easter homily not to break with the church even as they face "the heinous crimes, the dark sides of the church."

So far, the Vatican's counterattack to beat back the scandal accusations already backfired in one high-profile attempt.

Jewish leaders, and even some top Catholic churchmen, were angered after Benedict's personal preacher, in a Good Friday sermon, likened the growing accusations against the pope to the campaign of anti-Semitic violence that culminated in the Holocaust.

The preacher, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, told Corriere della Sera daily in an interview Sunday that he had no intention "of hurting the sensibilities of the Jews and of the victims of pedophilia," expressed regret and asked for forgiveness.

He was quoted as saying that the pope wasn't aware of what the sermon would say beforehand, and that no Vatican officials read the text before the Good Friday service.

The apology satisfied one Jewish leader, Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants.

"Now that he has apologized and the Vatican has distanced itself from those remarks, the matter is closed," Steinberg said in a statement.

Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois told Le Parisien newspaper that he understood the "violent and indignant" reaction that Friday's sermon provoked in Jews and pedophilia victims. Still, the French churchman denounced what he called a campaign of "denigration and slander" against the pope and said he shouldn't resign.

Washington, D.C., Archbishop Donald Wuerl joined those defending Benedict, writing in an opinion piece in Sunday's Washington Post that the pope has supported U.S. bishops' commitment to child protection policies.

In Milwaukee, where one priest was accused of assaulting some 200 deaf boys, at least a dozen churchgoers told The Associated Press they were not closely following a scandal that has engulfed the church. A canonical trial was initiated against the Rev. Lawrence Murphy years after the alleged abuse, but a Vatican office led at the time by Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, halted the proceedings. Murphy died soon after.

Tony Pisani said he was frustrated by what he was hearing in the news but he is waiting to hear the reaction of the pope himself.

"I haven't seen too many statements from him," the Milwaukee man said. "I'd like to see what safeguards he's implemented to make sure something like this doesn't happen again."

One angry parishioner was 68-year-old Jackson Spears, who said the church should have taken strong action from the beginning.

"I think the pope should have been more aggressive and he should have done something sooner," Spears said. "The church shouldn't condone these things and should have years ago done something about it."

------__

Associated Press writer Angela Doland in Paris and Dinesh Ramde in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, contributed to this report.




Pope's immunity could be challenged in Britain
Apr 4, 10:28 AM (ET)
By PAISLEY DODDS

LONDON (AP) - Protests are growing against Pope Benedict XVI's planned trip to Britain, where some lawyers question whether the Vatican's implicit statehood status should shield the pope from prosecution over sex crimes by pedophile priests.

More than 10,000 people have signed a petition on Downing Street's web site against the pope's 4-day visit to England and Scotland in September, which will cost U.K. taxpayers an estimated 15 million pounds ($22.5 million). The campaign has gained momentum as more Catholic sex abuse scandals have swept across Europe.

Although Benedict has not been accused of any crime, senior British lawyers are now examining whether the pope should have immunity as a head of state and whether he could be prosecuted under the principle of universal jurisdiction for an alleged systematic cover-up of sexual abuses by priests.

Universal jurisdiction - a concept in international law - allows judges to issue warrants for nearly any visitor accused of grievous crimes, no matter where they live. British judges have been more open to the concept than those in other countries.

Lawyers are divided over the immunity issue. Some argue that the Vatican isn't a true state, while others note the Vatican has national relations with about 170 countries, including Britain. The Vatican is also the only non-member to have permanent observer status at the U.N.

Then again, no other top religious leaders enjoy the same U.N. privileges or immunity, so why should the pope?

David Crane, former chief prosecutor at the Sierra Leone war crimes tribunal, said it would be difficult to implicate the pope in anything criminal.

"It's a fascinating kind of academic, theoretical discussion," said Crane, who prosecuted Sierra Leone's Charles Taylor when he was still a sitting head of state. "At this point, there's no liability at all."

But Geoffrey Robertson, who as a U.N. appeals judge delivered key decisions on the illegality of conscripting child soldiers and the invalidity of amnesties for war crimes, believes it could be time to challenge the immunity of the pope - and Britain could be the place. He wrote a legal opinion on the topic that was published Friday in the U.S. news site The Daily Beast and Saturday in the British newspaper the Guardian.

"Unlike in the United States, where the judges commonly uphold what the executive says, the British courts don't accept these things at face value," Robertson told The Associated Press on Saturday. "The Vatican is not a state - it was a construct of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini."

But Jeffrey Lena, the California attorney who argued - and won - head of state immunity for Benedict in U.S. sex abuse cases, said the pope could not successfully be prosecuted for crimes under international law.

"Those who would claim that 'universal jurisdiction' could be asserted over the pope appear to completely misunderstand the sorts of violations, such as genocide, which are required to assert such jurisdiction," he said in a statement to the AP.

Still, Israeli officials, including former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, have recently been targeted by groups in Britain under universal jurisdiction. The law principle is rooted in the belief that certain crimes - such as genocide, war crimes, torture and crimes against humanity - are so serious that they are an offense against humanity and must be addressed.

It's a tactic that the British government would likely abhor, but British judges have often gone against government wishes in lawsuits.

Recent examples include British judges who issued an arrest warrant against Israel's former foreign minister for alleged war crimes, and a British court ruling this year that forced the government to release its intelligence exchanges with U.S. officials about the torture claims of a former Guantanamo detainee.

Prosecution in the deepening cleric sex abuse scandal, however, ultimately rests on the question of immunity. If British judges do challenge the pope's immunity, there are a handful of possible legal scenarios - all of them speculative.

The pope could be served for a writ for civil damages, a complaint could be lodged with the International Criminal Court, or abuse victims could try to have Benedict arrested for crimes against humanity - perhaps the least likely scenario.

Lawyers question whether an alleged systematic cover-up could be considered a crime against humanity - a charge usually reserved for the International Criminal Court - and whether it could be pursued under universal jurisdiction.

Attorney Jennifer Robinson in London, who has been researching the possibilities, says rape and sexual slavery can be considered crimes against humanity.

Others, like Hurst Hannum with the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University near Boston, are skeptical.

"No one would question that the Church's response to widespread abuses has been atrocious, but it's very difficult for me to see how that would fit 'crimes against humanity,'" said Hannum.

Robertson is more in favor of challenging the immunity question.

"Head of state immunity provides no protection in the International Criminal Court," said Robertson, who represented The Associated Press and other media organizations who sought to make U.S.-U.K. intelligence exchanges public in the case of former Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed.

"If acts of sexual abuse by priests are not isolated or sporadic events but part of a wide practice both known to and unpunished by their de facto-authority - i.e. the Catholic Church ... then the commander can be held criminally liable," Robertson said.

Even though the Vatican - like the United States - did not sign the accord that established the international court, a crime would only have to occur in a country which did sign, like Britain. Still, lawyers would have to prove that the crimes or an alleged cover-up occurred or continued after the court was set up in July 2002.

In a 2005 test case in Texas that involved alleged victims of sex abuse by priests, the Vatican obtained the intervention of President George W. Bush, who agreed the pope should have immunity against such prosecutions because he was an acting head of a foreign state.

It was around 1929 when Mussolini decided that the Vatican - a tiny enclave about 0.17 of a square mile with some 900 people - was a sovereign state.

"The notion that statehood can be created by another country's unilateral declaration is risible," Robertson said.

Others say the last 80 years of history have turned the Vatican into a state, and it would be almost impossible to strip the pope of his immunity now.

"My guess is the weight of opinion would allow the pope to enjoy immunity," said Hannum. "It's not automatically clear that the Holy See is a state, although it's treated as one for almost every purpose."

Last year, a Palestinian bid to have Barak - the Israeli defense chief who also served as prime minister until 2001 - arrested for alleged war crimes during a visit to Britain failed when the courts determined that he should be given immunity from arrest.

But months later, pro-Palestinian activists persuaded a London judge to issue an arrest warrant for Israeli politician Tzipi Livni, who was foreign minister during the 2008-2009 war in Gaza. The warrant was eventually withdrawn after Livni canceled her trip.

Spain and Britain jointly pioneered the universal jurisdiction concept when, in 1998, Britain executed a Spanish arrest warrant for former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet on torture claims. Pinochet was kept under house arrest in London until he was ruled physically and mentally unfit to stand trial and released in 2000.

When he was arrested, however, Pinochet was no longer head of state.

In 2001, activists brought Israel's then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to trial in Belgium in connection with a 1982 massacre at a Beirut refugee camp. Sharon canceled a planned trip to Belgium and was tried in absentia in a Belgian court. He was not convicted but the case provoked diplomatic protests and prompted Belgium in 2003 to tighten the law that had permitted the trial.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has vowed to block private groups from taking legal action against visiting foreign dignitaries but any new law is unlikely before Britain's expected May 6 election.

The pope plans to visit Malta, Portugal and Cyprus before traveling to Britain on Sept. 16. A trip to Spain is planned for later in the fall.

---

Associated Press Writers Gregory Katz and Raphael Satter in London, Nicole Winfield in Rome and Daniel Woolls from Madrid contributed to this report.




Easter Support for Pope, and Some Apologies
By DANIEL J. WAKIN
Published: April 4, 2010

VATICAN CITY — A prominent cardinal, in a marked departure from tradition, stood near Pope Benedict XVI at Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday and delivered pointedly public support in the face of growing anger over the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal — a topic untouched by the pope in his Easter appearances.

The remarks on Easter Sunday, the day Christians celebrate the joy of Jesus’ resurrection, came among a chorus of denunciations by church officials of what they have framed as a campaign of denigration of the church and its pontiff.

There were some expressions of remorse over the abuse scandal from church pulpits in Europe. But the ferocity of the mainstream response defending the pope speaks to the nature of the papacy: its occupant inherits the throne of Peter and plays a unique role as a religious figure and secular leader. And so, some churchmen and lay Catholics are interpreting questions about Benedict’s role in the scandal as an attack on the faith.

As thousands of pilgrims filled a rain-swept St. Peter’s Square, the prelate, Angelo Sodano, a former secretary of state and the dean of the College of Cardinals, broke with practice by personally welcoming the pope with special Easter greetings. It was a wrinkle in the carefully scripted rituals of the church that Vatican observers could not recall taking place before. “With this spirit today we gather around you, successor of Peter, the bishop of Rome, the unfailing rock of the Holy Church of Christ,” Cardinal Sodano said.

He also said the bishops and 400,000 priests around the world stood by him.

“Holy Father, the people of God are with you, and do not let themselves be impressed by the gossip of the moment, by the challenges that sometimes strike at the community of believers,” Cardinal Sodano said. The cardinal referred to the apostle Peter’s account of Jesus during the passion: “When he was reviled, reviled not again.”

Benedict rose to greet Cardinal Sodano with a warm embrace.

Many in the church hierarchy, from local bishops to the cardinals who run the church, have grown increasingly aggressive in the face of sweeping criticism, and more specifically, at charges that Benedict failed to act — both as Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger in his native Germany and as leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before becoming pope — against two pedophile priests.

The congregation had overall responsibility for such cases starting in 2001, and selectively before that. Benedict became pope in 2005.

Many Catholics and church leaders denounced what they saw as attacks on the church in past scandal disclosures, especially in the United States in 2002. But the new reports about the pope have struck a nerve and raised the volume, putting bishops in the position of having to defend their leader even as they denounce the evil of the abuse of minors by their priests.

In Germany, for example, church officials have been at pains to stress that Benedict’s subordinate had assumed complete responsibility for the decision to allow a pedophile priest to return almost immediately to pastoral work, even though then-Archbishop Ratzinger had been copied in on a memo informing him of the decision.

In the culture of the church hierarchy, the mere idea of a pope — the vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, the successor of the prince of the apostles, the supreme pontiff of the universal church and sovereign of the Vatican city state, as his official titles have it — being called to account like the secular head of a corporation is incomprehensible.

“Since the pope is the visible head of the church on earth, an attack on the pope is perceived as an attack on the church universal,” said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit and the culture editor of America, a Catholic weekly magazine. “For curia officials, it literally hits home. It’s one thing to deal with a sexual abuse scandal in another country. It’s another thing to deal with accusations against your boss, with whom you work with every day.”

The modern media age and the personal connection many Catholics have with the papacy, largely because of the impact of John Paul II, Benedict’s predecessor, intensify the sense that questioning the pope’s role is an attack on the church. “In the past 100 years the office of the pope has taken on greater stature and importance for the average Catholic,” Father Martin said.

The prelates defending Benedict so forcefully also feel that it is irksome for Benedict to be the subject of scrutiny given that he has spoken out against abuse, met victims and — they contend — taken action as head of Doctrine of the Faith, as well as pope.

After celebrating Mass, Benedict took to the balcony and delivered his annual “Urbi et Orbi” — “To the City and to the World” — address, making no mention of the scandal but touching on the world’s trials: conflict in the Middle East, pressure on Christian communities in Iraq and Pakistan, drug trafficking in Latin America, earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, and conflicts in Africa.

“May the saving power of Christ’s resurrection fill all of humanity,” Benedict said, “so that it may overcome the multiple tragic expressions of a ‘culture of death’ which are becoming increasingly widespread.”

The divide between the church and its critics has widened in the past two weeks, in the aftermath of disclosures about molestation of children in parishes in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and France.

Leading the charge to defend the pope has been the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, which on Sunday published a summary of comments over Easter weekend in support of Benedict from bishops around the world. The headlines said Benedict was the target of “crude propaganda” and a “base defamatory operation.”

Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, the archbishop of Mexico City, said Benedict was facing “defamation and attacks of lies and vileness because of a few dishonest and criminal priests.” Lima’s archbishop, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, said, “The visible head of the mystical body of Christ has been mistreated by the enemies of the church.”

Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, the archbishop of Paris, cited an “offensive that aims at destabilizing the pope, and through him, the church.” In an interview with Europe 1 radio on Sunday, the cardinal characterized the recent events as “a smear campaign.”

The closing of ranks notably included a sermon delivered before the pope on Good Friday by the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, the official preacher of the papal household, who equated the current criticism over the priest sex abuse scandal with anti-Semitism, antagonizing both victims’ groups and Jewish leaders. He appeared to have gone too far.

The Vatican’s official spokesman disassociated the Holy See and the pope from the sentiment, and Father Cantalamessa backtracked in an interview published Sunday in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. “If, against every intention, I hurt the feelings of Jews and victims of pedophilia, I am truly sorry and apologize,” he said.

Some Catholic clergy members elsewhere in Europe expressed remorse Sunday on behalf of the church over the abuse scandal. In Ireland and Germany, where particularly egregious episodes of priestly abuse have angered many, influential clerics called for honesty, not recrimination.

“We have to remember that the truth will set the church free, even if the truth is hard to digest,” said Diarmuid Martin, the archbishop of Dublin, primate of the Church in the Irish Republic.

Some German bishops discussed the abuse scandals in sermons. “The cross of our own guilt and our own failure weighs on us,” said Bishop Norbert Trelle at the Basilica of St. Godehard in Hedesheim, Germany. “It is as though there is no end to the news of the case of abuse.”

Reporting was contributed by John F. Burns in London, Eamon Quinn in Dublin, Nadim Audi in Paris and Nicholas Kulish in Berlin.
A version of this article appeared in print on April 5, 2010, on page A1 of the New York edition.




Catholic Hierarchy Rallies Around Pope on Easter
By DANIEL J. WAKIN
Published: April 4, 2010

VATICAN CITY — A prominent cardinal, in a marked departure from Easter Mass tradition at the Holy See, stood before Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday and delivered a very public show of support in the face of growing anger over the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal — a topic that the pope stayed resolutely aloof from in his Easter appearances.

The remarks by the prelate, Angelo Sodano, a former secretary of state and the dean of the college of cardinals, came among a chorus of denunciations by church officials of what they have framed as a campaign of denigration of the church and its pontiff.

Shortly before the Mass started, with thousands of pilgrims filling a rain-swept St. Peter’s Square, Cardinal Sodano offered special greetings to the pope, wished him a happy Easter and said the bishops and 400,000 priests around the world stood by him.

“Holy Father, the people of God are with you, and do not let themselves be impressed by the gossip of the moment, by the challenges that sometimes strike at the community of believers,” Cardinal Sodano said. Jesus spoke of courage in the face of tribulations, the cardinal continued, and referred to the apostle Peter’s account of Jesus during the passion: “When he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.”

Benedict rose to greet Cardinal Sodano with an embrace, clasping his shoulders warmly and shaking his hand. Vatican observers said they could not recall such an appearance in past Easter celebrations in St. Peter’s.

Shortly after the Mass, Benedict took to the balcony and delivered his annual “Urbi et Orbi” — “To the City and to the World” — address, making no mention of the scandal but touching on the world’s trials and troubled places: the Middle East, Christian communities in Iraq and Pakistan, drug trafficking in Latin America, the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile and conflicts in Africa.

“May the saving power of Christ’s resurrection fill all of humanity,” Benedict said, “so that it may overcome the multiple tragic expressions of a ‘culture of death’ which are becoming increasingly widespread.”

The church hierarchy, from local bishops to the cardinals who run the church to Vatican officials, have grown increasingly aggressive in lashing back at sweeping criticism of the church, and more pointedly, at charges that Benedict failed to act strongly enough — both as a bishop in his native Germany and as leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before coming pope — against pedophile priests. The congregation had overall responsibility for such cases starting in 2001, and selectively before that. Benedict became pope in 2005.

The divide between the church and its critics, who include victims’ rights advocates and lawyers, editorial voices and even the archbishop of Canterbury, has widened in the past two weeks, in the week of continuing disclosures about a history of molestation of children by priests in parishes in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and France.

Leading the charge has been the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, which on Sunday published a summary of comments over Easter weekend in support of Benedict from bishops around the world. The headlines said Benedict was the target of “crude propaganda” and a “base defamatory operation.”

Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, the archbishop of Mexico City, said Benedict was facing “defamation and attacks of lies and vileness because of a few dishonest and criminal priests.” Lima’s archbishop, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, said the church’s enemies have mistreated the pope with “with an unusual lack of respect for the truth and an incredible show of cynicism.” Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, the archbishop of Paris, cited an “offensive that aims at destabilizing the pope, and through him, the church.” Carding Vingt-Trois said such an offensive “should not hide our failings and our eventual errors.”

The closing of ranks notably included a sermon delivered before the pope on Good Friday by the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, who equated the criticism of the church over the priest sex abuse scandal with anti-Semitism, antagonizing both victims’ groups and Jewish leaders. That appeared to go too far. The Vatican’s official spokesman disassociated the Holy See and the pope from the sentiment, and Father Cantalamessa backtracked in an interview published Sunday in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

“If, against every intention, I hurt the feelings of Jews and victims of pedophilia, I am truly sorry and apologize, reaffirming my solidarity with both,” he said. Rather than showing hostility toward the Jews, he said his intention was to make a friendly gesture. Father Cantalamessa went on to say that the pope had nothing to do with the speech, but pointed out that someone in the Vatican had asked to see the text beforehand.

Benedict spoke out forcefully against the abuse of minors by priests in a letter to the bishops of Ireland issued on March 20, calling them to account and announcing a Vatican inquiry into church structures there. Churchmen have said that letter, a detailed and strongly worded document, should be taken as a broader statement about the issue.




Anglican Archbishop Rebukes Irish Church
By JOHN F. BURNS
Published: April 3, 2010

LONDON — At a time when his relations with Pope Benedict XVI are already strained over the pope’s offer to dissatisfied Anglicans of fast-track conversion to Roman Catholicism, the archbishop of Canterbury has plunged into the crisis over cases of abuse by Catholic priests, choosing the Easter weekend to describe the Catholic Church in Ireland as “losing all credibility” because of its poor handling of the crisis.

In a BBC radio interview, part of which was made public on Saturday, the archbishop, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, described the abuse scandal as a “colossal trauma” for Ireland in particular. He made no direct reference to the personal controversy that has swirled around the pope in the wake of accusations that he failed to act strongly enough against pedophile priests.

But Archbishop Williams, the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which claims 70 million adherents, was unusually blunt.

“I was speaking to an Irish friend recently who said that it’s quite difficult in some parts of Ireland to go down the street wearing a clerical collar now,” he said. “And an institution so deeply bound into the life of a society suddenly becoming, suddenly losing all credibility — that’s not just a problem for the church, it’s a problem for everybody in Ireland.”

His remarks appeared to anger leaders of both the Catholic and Anglican Churches in Ireland, who criticized Archbishop Williams for poor judgment in exacerbating an already tense situation among Catholics in Ireland.

Their outbursts, in turn, led to an apology from Archbishop Williams, whose office said he made a telephone call on Saturday evening to the Catholic archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, expressing his “deep sorrow and regret” at any offense his remarks at had caused, and to offer an assurance that he meant none.

According to the BBC, Archbishop Martin’s office confirmed the call, but pointedly thanked Anglican leaders in Ireland who had spoken out against Archbishop Williams’s remarks, and not Archbishop Williams himself.

Archbishop Williams’s original remarks could hardly have come at a more fraught moment for the Catholic Church in Ireland, where Cardinal Sean Brady, the church’s All-Ireland primate, faces widespread calls for his resignation. The Irish scandal, building for years, took on new momentum after disclosures last month about Cardinal Brady’s role as a young cleric 35 years ago, when as a participant in an internal church inquiry he helped to shield a priest from the police after two teenage boys accused the priest of abusing them.

Before Archbishop Williams’s apology, Archbishop Martin, head of the largest Catholic diocese in Ireland and the most powerful voice in the Irish church after Cardinal Brady, had issued a sharp rebuke.

“Those working for renewal in the Catholic Church in Ireland did not need this comment on this Easter weekend, and do not deserve it,” Archbishop Martin said in a statement. “The unequivocal and unqualified comment in a radio interview of the archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, that the Catholic Church in Ireland has ‘lost all credibility,’ has stunned me.

“I have to say that in all my years as archbishop of Dublin, in difficult times I have rarely felt personally so discouraged as when I woke to hear Archbishop Williams’s comments,” he said.

Archbishop Martin has been outspoken in his demands for full accountability in the church over child abuse, and was appointed to the Dublin See with a mandate to rebuild there in the wake of revelations about widespread abuses in the archdiocese.

Speaking to reporters after officiating at a Mass in Dublin on Saturday, he said that “church leaders” should be more careful in their comments about the abuse scandal.

“Obviously, the church has lost credibility,” he acknowledged. “But it’s very damaging to those who are trying to restore credibility to be just wiped off with a comment like this.”

Archbishop Williams made his remarks in an interview for a BBC program to be broadcast Monday as part of Easter coverage. His remarks, part of a 40-minute discussion with other leading Anglicans on a range of church issues, were recorded at Lambeth Palace in London, regarded as the principal seat of the Anglican Communion.

The BBC released a partial transcript of Archbishop Williams’s remarks on Saturday. A BBC spokesman said no full transcript would be available until after the Monday broadcast.

Archbishop Williams’s decision to speak out on the crisis in the Catholic Church marked the latest turn in an increasingly strained relationship between the Anglican leadership and the Vatican, which has also taken on a personal edge. Both Archbishop Williams and the pope have said they attach special importance to efforts to bridge the historic schism between the churches, which has its origins in the 16th-century split between King Henry VIII and the pope over Henry’s determination to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

But events in recent months have led to a sharp cooling in those ties that has been unrelated to the child abuse scandal.

A watershed came last October, amid a crisis over gay rights and women’s rights in the Anglican Communion, when the pope announced that a special section of the Catholic Church would be established to allow former Anglicans to convert to Catholicism while keeping some of their traditions and services, and even being led by former Anglican bishops, some of them married.

Archbishop Williams said then that he was stunned by the initiative, which he said he had heard about only two weeks before it was announced by the Vatican. Reports in British newspapers said that he telephoned the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, in the middle of the night to protest.

Defending his move, Pope Benedict said he was creating the new enclave for Anglican converts in response to pleas from traditionalist Anglicans. Many of them had declared themselves unwilling to continue in a church that has sanctioned the ordination of women as bishops and hovered on the brink of a schism over the decision of the Episcopal Church in the United States to ordain gay and lesbian bishops.

Archbishop Williams has worked relentlessly to hold the Anglican Communion together, pleading unsuccessfully, at least so far, with Episcopal leaders to suspend the ordination of gay and lesbian priests, and asking traditionalist Anglican bishops, particularly in Africa, Asia and Latin America, to be patient while an accommodation on the issue is worked out.

Shortly after the pope’s announcement in October, Dr. Williams flew to Rome for a brief meeting with the pope that was described as “cordial,” and which was said to have renewed their “shared will” to achieve closer ties.

But Anglican officials have said privately that Archbishop Williams regarded the pope’s initiative as undermining his efforts to prevent a breakup of the Anglican Communion, and as an opportunistic move aimed at taking advantage of Anglican woes.

The new falling out over the pedophile scandal in the Catholic Church comes as Britain prepares for a visit by Benedict in September, his first as pope, when he is expected to press his criticism of a new equality law being moved through Parliament by the governing Labour Party that Catholics fear will have the effect of criminalizing any moves by Catholic-run institutions to deny employment to gays and lesbians, or otherwise discriminate against them.

In the BBC interview, Archbishop Williams appeared to strike an attitude of indifference toward the visit. “The pope will be coming here to Lambeth Palace,” he said. “We’ll have the bishops together to meet him. I’m concerned that he has the chance to say what he wants to say in and to British society, that we welcome him as a valued partner and, you know, that’s about it.”

An earlier version of this article misspelled the given name of the Catholic archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin.
A version of this article appeared in print on April 4, 2010, on page A8 of the New York edition.




Letter From Europe
Betrayals of Trust at Easter Time
By ALAN COWELL
Published: April 2, 2010

LONDON — Last Sunday, in a modest, middle-class neighborhood in north London, a group of people marched in cheerful procession along the public highway, carrying fronds of palm in a display of belief as the calendar of their faith ticked toward Easter.

Then, inside St. Anne’s Anglican church, commemorating Jesus Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem on a donkey almost 2,000 years ago, they joined with their priest in reciting the Passion of Christ as narrated in the Gospel according to Luke, a story of betrayal, perverted justice and denial. “Before the cock crows, you will disown me three times,” Jesus tells his disciple Peter, in prophetic testimony to human frailty.

The annual Palm Sunday celebration was replicated in many places where Christians pray — including St. Peter’s in Rome — and, to an agnostic or atheist, their observance might seem no more than a winsome display of unshakeable belief in the utterly unprovable, arguably the essence of faith.

But this year, the lessons of Easter seem to resonate far beyond parish churches and grand cathedrals — and far beyond matters of the spirit at a time when the bedrock tenets of Western societies are challenged by the failures of those entrusted with their preservation.

Faith has lost ground to skepticism.

Many of those who enjoin the people to believe — in God or Caesar or Mammon — have forfeited their right to do so.

Most recently, the world’s attention has focused on the Roman Catholic Church and a scandalous tally of sexual abuse of children. The Vatican’s response has inspired scrutiny of the behavior of Pope Benedict XVI himself in dealing with priestly offenders during his time as an archbishop and then as a cardinal before he assumed the papacy in 2005.

“No longer can the Vatican simply issue papal messages — subject to nearly infinite interpretations and highly nuanced constructions — that are passively ‘received’ by the faithful,” an editorial in the National Catholic Reporter, an American Catholic publication, proclaimed. “It is time, past time really, for direct answers to difficult questions. It is time to tell the truth.”

People might still have faith in the gospel, that is to say, but they have lost confidence in those they once relied upon to promote its teaching as their confession enjoins them to — in word, thought and deed.

And that sense of trust betrayed could just as easily be applied to other institutions brought into disrepute by their own leaders.

Many Westerners, for instance, might still believe in the Economics 101 notions of work and pay and profit — but they do not trust the world’s financial stewards at all. At a time when recession gnaws at the majority, why should a small minority of financiers win huge bonuses after bankrupting entire nations?

Or, take politics — in Britain at least. Late last month, three former government ministers were caught in a sting operation by investigative journalists, offering to trade influence for cash.

The three — Geoff Hoon, Patricia Hewitt and Stephen Byers — were disciplined by the Labour Party, but their actions were only the latest in a series of episodes painting politicians as venal creatures unworthy of the trust of those who voted them into office. With elections approaching, probably next month, that corrosive sense of leadership gone astray gnaws at the nation’s political fabric.

Most Britons would still profess a belief in democracy, of course, but — as with attitudes to the Vatican or to the boardrooms of the globalized economy — many have lost trust in its practitioners. Acceptance has turned to scorn; acquiescence has curdled.

For the Vatican, the damage is worst of all.

The pope himself, held by the church to be infallible when speaking solemnly on matters of faith or morals, is now under the same kind of scrutiny as the politicians or the bankers and hedge fund managers. The calls for transparency are the same. The emperor has no clothes: Reporters pore over Benedict’s personal history in much the same way as they would routinely scour company filings or political committee reports. For some in a divided church, the aura of near-divinity has gone.

“We now face the largest institutional crisis in centuries, possibly in church history,” the National Catholic Reporter said. “How this crisis is handled by Benedict, what he says and does, how he responds and what remedies he seeks, will likely determine the future health of our church for decades, if not centuries, to come.”

Those considerations might not have weighed too directly on the congregants who processed from Swains Lane to Highgate West Hill last Sunday. Their Church of England has not, so far, been drawn into the sexual abuse scandal. The Archbishop of Canterbury is not being called upon to make his confession about allegations of cover-up and omertà — the Mafia vow of silence to which the Vatican’s historical response to the abuse scandal has been likened.

But Anglicans do understand the enduring nature of ecclesiastical upheaval. Their church owes its very existence to Henry VIII’s break with Rome in the 1530s. Centuries on, ecumenical discussions falter. Divisions fester. The schism is not resolved.

Yet both denominations share central beliefs. Their liturgies revolve around the Eucharistic feast, the commemoration of Christ’s last supper before his crucifixion. The narratives and holidays are largely the same. The priesthoods differ in many important ways — above all, Anglicans do not share the Roman Catholic practice of clerical celibacy — but they are similar in one, overwhelming way: Believers look to their pastors to lead them honestly and without corruption. They need, in other words, to trust those who administer the faith as much as they cleave to the faith itself.

There is an irony in the timing of this confluence of skepticism, just before Easter — the beginning and end of its religious calendar, marking the twin themes of sacrifice and resurrection, human loss and divine redemption — and just as Jews observe Passover to celebrate the Exodus from pharaonic Egypt.

Perhaps that is what the bankers and politicians and clerics need to embrace, too — a grand moment of redemption and renewal, an escape.

But, by any measure of belief, that would require a leap of faith too far.




Pope's personal preacher offers defense of pontiff
Apr 2, 11:24 AM (ET)

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI's personal preacher is likening accusations against the pope and the church in the sex abuse scandal to "collective violence" suffered by the Jews.

The Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa said in a Good Friday sermon, with the pope listening to him in St. Peter's Basilica, that a Jewish friend has said the accusations remind him of the "more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism."

The remarks came in a prayer service at the Vatican a few hours before Benedict XVI was scheduled to take part in a Colosseum Way of the Cross procession commemorating Christ's suffering before his crucifixtion.

Thousands of Holy Week pilgrims were in St. Peter's Square as the church defends itself against accusations that Benedict had a role in covering up sex abuses cases.


THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pilgrims and tourists flocked to the Vatican ahead of Good Friday ceremonies as the Catholic church defends itself against accusations that Pope Benedict XVI played a role in covering up sex abuse cases.

The pope was scheduled to preside over a prayer service and listen to reflections from the papal household preacher in St. Peter's Basilica on Friday evening.

Hours later, thousands of faithful Catholics, clutching candles and prayer books, were expected to gather at the Colosseum to see the pope at night during at the traditional Way of the Cross procession commemorating Christ's crucifixion.

Amid reports of clerical sex abuse cases in several European countries, including Benedict's native Germany, the Vatican has fired back at the Western media, but the pope has not publicly addressed the crisis this week.

For pilgrims, the credibility crisis over the pope's record on combatting clergy abuse of minors didn't color their Holy Week activities in Rome.

Anne Rossier of Boston, Massachusetts, said the moment was "difficult" and that "lots of people have been turned against the church" but "we could not have been in a better place right now for Easter."

Boston was at the epicenter of sex abuse lawsuits and allegations that U.S. bishops in many dioceses shuffled pedophile priests from parish to parish instead of removing them from contact with the faithful. Boston Cardinal Bernard Law, at the center of the storm, resigned as archbishop, to be assigned to a prestigious post in Rome by the late Pope John Paul II.

Tourists snapped photos and strolled through St. Peter's Square on a breezy, sunny day. Valeria Misuri, 38, from Livorno, Italy, studied a map in the square as she visited Rome with her family.

"I haven't let the recent scandals change how special this place is at this time for me," said Misuri. "The church is made up of men, and men have always erred and will always continue to do so."

Pointing heavenward, she said: "In the end, the conscience lies there."
Comments 
5th-Apr-2010 12:50 pm (UTC)
For any of us, not just Catholics, Easter is the answer to despair, darkness, suffering, death. As a human being and a Protestant, I believe we all share in the pain the Roman Catholic Church is experiencing. It is not sufficient alone to speak of sexual abuse of children in general. Specific instances, references existing in the Roman Catholic Church, and elsewhere must be addressed. It is not sufficient alone to refer to the persecution of the church. We know it exists. It is not sufficient alone to refer to "yellow journalism". We know it exists. It is appropriate for the Roman Catholic Church and the rest of us to name our sins as they are and deal with them.
7th-Apr-2010 01:45 pm (UTC)
Hope you will read Maureen Dowd's words, "The Church's Judas Moment" in the New York Times today.
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