FaithWorld

Undaunted cardinal says John Paul backed his praise for hiding abuser

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Castrillon Hoyos letter congratulating Bishop Pierre Pican/Golias

A former Vatican cardinal who congratulated a French bishop for hiding a sexually abusive priest has said he acted with the approval of the late Pope John Paul, a Spanish newspaper reported on Saturday.

Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the Vatican official in charge of priests around the world when he praised the French bishop in 2001, dragged the Polish pope into the controversy during a conference in the Spanish city of Murcia. His comment came after a Vatican spokesman indirectly confirmed that a 2001 letter to the bishop posted on a French website on Thursday was authentic and was proof the Vatican was right to tighten up its procedures on sex abuse cases that year.

By invoking John Paul, Castrillon Hoyos appeared to up the ante in a subtle Vatican power struggle over who was to blame for past failures to deal effectively with the abuse cases whose revelations in recent months have shaken the Church. Vatican officials had no official reaction on Saturday.

“After consulting the pope … I wrote a letter to the bishop congratulating him as a model of a father who does not hand over his sons,” the daily La Verdad (here in Spanisn) quoted Castrillon Hoyos as telling the conference on Friday, to a round of applause from the assembled prelates, priests and lay people.”The Holy Father authorized me to send this letter to all bishops in the world and publish it on the internet.”

Castrillon Hoyos, a Colombian who retired from Vatican service last year, argued on CNN’s Spanish-language television last week that temporarily suspending abusive priests and then quietly reassigning them elsewhere was not a cover-up. Austen Ivereigh at America magazine has English quotes in this excellent analysis.

Embarrassing Vatican letter hailing bishop who hid predator priest

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Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos

As a tide of previously confidential Catholic Church documents about child sexual abuse by priests has risen over recent weeks, the Vatican has been able to say that none of them was a “smoking gun” proving it had instructed bishops to cover up the scandals. This defense looks thinner than ever with the posting of a 2001 letter by Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos congratulating (yes, congratulating!) a bishop for not only hiding a self-confessed serial abuser but earning himself a criminal sentence for doing so. For more on the 2001 case, click here.

This amazing letter, in which Castrillon Hoyos promises Bayeux Bishop Pierre Pican he will be presented as a hero to all Catholic bishops around the world, exudes the arrogant atmosphere of Church superiority that victims say they have had to battle against for years to have their grievances taken seriously. It puts forward the incredible argument that a bishop, because he has a kind of “spiritual paternity” for priests under him, is equivalent to a father who is not obliged to testify against his son. It even cites Saint Paul and the Second Vatican Council as supporting this view.

My news story on the letter translates the main (and quite explicit) quotes from the French original. The Golias story on it (in French) is here – and its PDF copy of the letter is here.

German Catholic Church sexual abuse hotline flooded with calls

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Trier Bishop Stephan Ackermann launches hotline on March 30, 2010. Text reads : "victims of sexual abuse"/Johannes Eisele

A German hotline for victims of sexual abuse by clerics was deluged with thousands of calls in the week after the Roman Catholic Church launched the counseling service in a bid to restore trust.

Some 13,293 people attempted to call the hotline over the course of the first week but only 2,670 were able to connect with the overwhelmed 11 counselors on duty, church officials said.

NYT’s long paper trail on Rome, Ratzinger and abusive priest

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Protesters hold pictures of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Pope Benedict XVI at demonstration against child sexual abuse at the Vatican 25 March 2010/Alessandro Bianchi

The New York Times has unearthed a startling paper trail of 25 letters and memos documenting the way a U.S. priest known to have abused up to 200 deaf boys from about 1952 to 1974 was quietly moved to another diocese and the Vatican resisted attempts to defrock him. Their story on the case of Rev. Lawrence Murphy is here, the paper trail here and our story on the Vatican reaction here. Here’s another story from our Rome bureau on victims demanding that Benedict open all Vatican files on sex abuse cases and defrock all predator priests.

The official Vatican reaction (here in English) is interesting for what it doesn’t say. This is a response to a query from the Times about their story and we don’t know what the questions were. The answers, though, are very narrowly focused. Nowhere is there any reference to the most interesting of the many revelations in the paper trail, i.e. that Pope Benedict, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger heading the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), got at least one letter about this case from the priest’s bishop but apparently didn’t answer it.

Vandal desecrates Cypriot bishops’ tombs

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Cyprus police look for clues after a vandalism attack on the tombs of three archbishops in Nicosia 21 March 2010/Andreas Manolis

Police in Cyprus arrested a Romanian man on Sunday on suspicion of desecrating the tombs of three archbishops and possibly taking remains from one of them. Police said the 34-year-old had confessed to removing marble slabs covering the graves of three leaders of the Cypriot Orthodox church from the late 19th and early 20th century.

They also said skeletal remains had disappeared from one of the tombs, but that the remains from another, briefly thought to have been taken, had in fact been re-buried elsewhere years ago.  The suspect, who had not been charged, was arrested after turning up at a police station with a bag of human excrement, which he threw at police officers. He denied removing any human remains from the tombs.

Vatican to probe claims of Virgin Mary apparitions at Medjugorje

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Catholic pilgrims in Medjugorje, 25 June 2009/Damir Sagolj

The Vatican has opened an investigation into reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary at the small town of Medjugorje in southern Bosnia which have drawn more than 30 million pilgrims and divided the Catholic Church.

Since six children first reported visions of the Virgin Mary on a hillside near Medjugorje in 1981 — reminiscent of famous apparitions in the French town of Lourdes and Fatima in Portugal — Catholics have debated whether the visions were a modern-day miracle, wishful thinking or an elaborate fraud.

“This commission, composed of cardinals, bishops, theologians and experts, will work in a confidential manner and submit the result of its investigation to the Congregation (for the Doctrine of the Faith),” the Vatican said in a statement.

Denying communion is not just for Catholic politicians

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Carnival revelers in Düsseldorf, 15 Feb 2010/Ina Fassbender

When a Catholic priest’s refusal to distribute communion to someone at Mass hits the headlines, it’s usually a U.S. Catholic politician supporting abortion rights who’s at the non-receiving end. Things are a bit different in the Netherlands, where the headlines these days are about a small town’s “carnival prince” turned away at the altar. That refusal led to gay protests at at some Sunday Masses, including the nearby cathedral, and decisions to refuse communion to everyone present.  The protesters have vowed to continue for the next seven Sundays.

The reason for the dispute is that “carnival prince” Gijs Vermeulen, the man chosen to lead the Mardi Gras  parade and other carnival festivities in Reusel near the Belgian border, lives with a gay partner. Tradition calls for the prince to lead townspeople to Mass on the Saturday before Mardi Gras, but the local pastor told him he could not receive communion there because of his gay relationship. That Mass went ahead, but news of it got out to gay activists around the country and several converged on Reusel the following Sunday. Faced with this protest, the pastor refused to distribute communion to anyone, not even life-long parishioners. He said this was decided with the support of the his bishop, Antoon Hurkmans.

When the gay activists announced they would then protest at Hurkmans’s St. John’s Cathedral in nearby Den Bosch, the bishop agreed to meet the editor of the Dutch gay magazine Gay Krant and the gay rights group COC Nederland, which claims to be the oldest LGBT organisation in the world. A Church communique said it was “an open and respectful discussion that touched a raw nerve” and announced there would be no communion at the Mass the gay activists wanted to attend.

Germany’s top Protestant bishop quits after drunk driving

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Bishop Margot Kässmann at her news conference in Hanover 24 Feb 2010/Stringer

The head of Germany’s 25 million Protestants resigned on Wednesday after police stopped her for driving while under the influence of alcohol just four months after becoming the third woman to head a major Christian church.

Known as the “pop bishop,” 51-year-old Margot Kässmann is a regular on television talk shows and had been a controversial choice as head of Germany’s Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the main association of Protestant churches, because she is a divorced mother of four.

Betraying no emotion, she told reporters she had made a grave mistake which she deeply regretted: “But I cannot ignore the fact that my office and my authority … have been damaged.” With immediate effect, she would give up her role as leader of the EKD, an umbrella group of 22 Lutheran, Reformed and United Churches, and as Lutheran bishop of Hanover, she said.

Bishop Williamson says Vatican-SSPX talks “dialogue of the deaf”

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Bishop Williamson, 28 Feb 2007

Bishop Richard Williamson, the ultra-traditionalist prelate whose denial of the extent of the Holocaust created an uproar in the Catholic Church and with Jews early last year, has said the discussions at the Vatican to rehabilitate his Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) are  a “dialogue of the deaf.” Williamson, one of the four SSPX bishops whose bans of excommunication were lifted by Pope Benedict only days after his controversial views were aired on Swedish television, said the two sides had “absolutely irreconcilable” positions.

In a 15-minute interview posted on the French video-sharing website Dailymotion, Williamson discussed a number of issues with a man identified by the Paris Catholic daily La Croix as a minor French far-right politician named Pierre Panet. When asked about the negotiation under way at the Vatican to reintegrate the once-shunned SSPX into the Roman church, he said in fluent French:

“I think that will end up as a dialogue of the deaf. The two positions are absolutely irreconcilable. 2+2=4 and 2+2=5 are irreconcilable. Either those who say 2+2=4 renounce the truth and agree that 2+2=5 — that is, the SSPX abandons the truth, which God forbids us to do — or those who say 2+2=5 convert and return to the truth. Or the two meet halfway and say that 2+2=4-1/2. That’s wrong. Either the SSPX becomes a traitor or Rome converts or it’s a dialogue of the deaf.”

CofE waits a little longer to decide on powers for women bishops

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Canterbury Cathedral, 23 Dec 2009/Suzanne Plunkett

Anyone hoping to get an idea of how many Church of England traditionalists may abandon the Mother Church for Rome in disgust and despair over women bishops may have to wait a little longer.

What has already been a long-drawn out affair will be delayed a further six months after the CoE Revision Committee, tasked with looking at how women bishops can be accommodated, decided the matter would not be debated at next month’s General Synod, the Church’s parliament.

A poor response to the committee’s October suggestion resulted in it effectively being told to think again, pushing back the timetable.  Under Church law, the new proposal can now not be discussed until the next General Synod – in July.