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.

Unusual tit-for-tat in the Vatican over Williamson affair

arborelius-2 (Photo: Video grab of Bishop Anders Arborelius on Swedish TV, 23 Sept 2009)

There’s nothing new about tit-for-tat and finger-pointing in diplomacy and politics but the Vatican is usually quite careful not to wash its dirty laundry in public. So it was surprising to see some of the principal characters in the the long-running saga of Richard Williamson, the traditionalist bishop who sparked a crisis in Catholic-Jewish relations when he denied the extent of the Holocaust on Swedish television, now spatting in public over it.

Just when the Vatican thought it had put the Williamson affair behind it, the story has came back to haunt the Holy See. On Wednesday evening, the Swedish television network SVT aired a follow-up to its January 2009 documentary about the Society of St Pius X (SSPX). That program sparked off a public controversy POPE-JEWS/because the Vatican lifted excommunications on Williamson and three other SSPX bishops three days later, creating the impression the Church either didn’t know or didn’t care about his Holocaust statement. In the uproar that followed, Pope Benedict once again condemned Holocaust denial and said he hadn’t known about the statements in advance. Usually discreet Vatican officials publicly blamed others for not informing him. (Photo: Bishop Richard Williamson, 28 Feb 2007/Jens Falk)

The new report on the “Uppdrag granskning” (Assignment: Investigate) program said the Vatican knew about Williamson’s views well before the bans on the SSPX bishops were lifted. To make matters worse, in conjunction with the new broadcast, the website of Stockholm’s Roman Catholic diocese posted a note saying Bishop Anders Arborelius and the Vatican nuncio to Sweden told the Holy See in November 2008 about the not-yet-aired interview that Williamson had given to Swedish television in which he said “I believe there were no gas chambers”. The interview was recorded in Germany in November 2008 and aired in Sweden on 21 January 2009. See our latest story on this here.