FaithWorld

German Jesuit report shows years of sexual abuse cover-up

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Canisius College, the Jesuit high school in Berlin, January 28, 2010/Fabrizio Bensch

A Jesuit investigation has cited 205 allegations of sexual abuse against priests at its schools in Germany, revealing decades of systematic abuse and attempts of a cover-up by the prestigious Roman Catholic order.  The new allegations threaten to further undermine the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, already accused of hushing up hundreds of sexual and physical abuse allegations in Church-run schools that have come to light recently.

“In the name of the order, I acknowledge with shame and guilt our failure,” Father Stefan Dartmann, Germany’s leading Jesuit official, said in a statement. “I ask for forgiveness.” The report also cited a further 50 allegations of abuse relating to other, mostly Catholic institutions.

The allegations by predominantly male victims in the Jesuit investigation focus on 12 priests, six of whom are now deceased, from several schools and youth facilities in Germany. Solitary victims cited a further 32 church figures.

Though allegations of abuse in Jesuit schools surfaced in January, Dartmann admitted that Father Klaus Mertes, director of the Canisius Kolleg high school in Berlin, informed him about the problem in 2006.

Religion-themed films take top prizes at Cannes Film Festival

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Apichatpong Weerasethakul (in white) and cast member Wallapa Mongkolprasert at the screening of ''Lung Boonmee Raluek Chat'' (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives) in Cannes on May 21, 2010/Yves Herman

A Buddhist-inspired Thai film has won the coveted Palme d’Or for best picture at the Cannes film festival. “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” a mystical exploration of reincarnation as a well-to-do farmer confronts his imminent death, was directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Xavier Beauvois’ “Of Gods and Men,” based on the real-life story of seven Catholic monks murdered during unrest in Algeria in the 1990s, took the runner-up Grand Prix award at the closing session on Sunday.

GUESTVIEW: Tablet replies to Fessio op-ed on reporting Cardinal Schönborn

faithworldIn his GUESTVIEW op-ed article published on FaithWorld on Tuesday, Fr. Joseph Fessio S.J. accused the London Catholic weekly The Tablet of sensationalism for its reporting of recent comments by Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schönborn about the sexual abuse crisis and possible Church reforms. The Tablet has issued the following response, which will appear in its May 15 issue:

Fessio accuses The Tablet of sensationalism

The founder and editor of Ignatius Press has condemned The Tablet’s reporting of a press conference late last month given by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Archbishop of Vienna. In a guest contribution to the Reuters news agency’s FaithWorld blog, Fr Joseph Fessio SJ accused The Tablet of sensationalism.

The Tablet’s Vienna correspondent, Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, reported Cardinal Schönborn as saying that Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, had “deeply wronged” the victims of sexual abuse when on Easter Day he dismissed media reports of the scandal as “petty gossip”.

GUESTVIEW: No good deed goes unpunished

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Father Joseph Fessio, S.J. is founder and editor of Ignatius Press, which is the primary English-language publisher of the works of Pope Benedict XVI and which has published several books by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn. He is also publisher of Catholic World Report magazine. schoenborn 1

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn in Vienna, November 13, 2009/Heinz-Peter Bader

By Father Joseph Fessio, S.J.

Did Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna “attack” Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals and former Vatican secretary of state? If The Tablet weekly in London were your only source of information, you’d think so, because that’s what the headline screamed.

What happened?

Cardinal Schönborn, who like his mentor Pope Benedict is a model of openness and transparency, invited the editors of Austria’s dozen or so major newspapers to a meeting at his residence in Vienna. How many bishops can you name who have extended such an invitation to the press?

“Sin within the Church” is greatest threat to Catholicism: pope

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Pope Benedict on the plane to Portugal, with spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi at right, 11 May 2010/Stefano Rellandini

Pope Benedict said on Tuesday that the greatest threat to Catholicism came from “sin within the Church,” one if his most forthright comments so far on a sexual abuse scandal that has created turmoil in the church. The Church has “a very deep need” to recognize that it must do penitence for its sins and “accept purification,” he said.

“Today we see in a truly terrifying way that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from outside enemies but is born of sin within the Church,” Benedict told reporters on the plane to Portugal, replying to a question about the scandal.

Crises plague centuries-old German passion play

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Andreas Richter hangs on the cross as he plays the character of Jesus Christ during a rehearsal of the Passion Play in Oberammergau on April 10, 2010/Michaela Rehle

Every 10 years, a mountain village cradled in the German Catholic stronghold of Bavaria nails Jesus Christ to a cross and charges spectators to watch. However, add a financial crisis, a wide-ranging scandal in the Roman Catholic Church and a cloud of volcanic ash to the mix, and suddenly enthusiasm for a 376-year-old Passion Play can begin to ebb.

“I don’t think the world has got the message yet. During the last passion play, people were suddenly knocking at my door looking for rooms and a ticket,” Renate Frank, owner of Gasthof zur Rose, a popular Oberammergau guesthouse told Reuters.  Today her lodgings are only half booked for the show. By this time 10 years ago, she was fully booked.

With new Catholic leader in Hanoi, a breakthrough in sight?

Protesters wave banners in support of Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi outside the city's cathedral, 7 May 2010/Nguyen Huy Kham

Hanoi Catholics held a ceremony last Friday to welcome the man who is expected to become their new archbishop, but for many on hand – priests and faithful alike – it was a moment of sadness. There were no flowers at the altar of Hanoi’s 124-year-old cathedral welcoming Peter Nguyen Van Nhon, 72, to the role of coadjutor bishop. Outside on the steps, several dozen people brandished banners in protest of what his papal appointment represented.

It’s not that they had anything personal against Nhon, who is head of Vietnam’s bishops conference and hails from the southern city of Dalat. But Nhon happens to be taking over for Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, 57, an archbishop who stood up to local Communist authorities by backing church groups embroiled in land disputes with the government in recent years.

Church of England paves way for women bishops, traditionalist departures

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Canterbury Cathedral in England, December 23, 2009/Suzanne Plunkett

The Church of England has moved a step closer to the consecration of women bishops, setting up a possible showdown with traditionalists who back all-male clergy in the Anglican communion.  Draft legislation introduced at the weekend said women should be consecrated as bishops on the same basis as men, disappointing the Anglo-Catholic and evangelical wings of the Church which had wanted a “two-tier” system.

Some are now likely to consider Pope Benedict’s offer last October to make it easier for Anglicans to convert to Roman Catholicism.

The draft proposals will now go forward for debate at the Church’s General Synod, or parliament, in York, northern England, in July, and will still have to pass a number of stages before England could see its first woman bishop, possibly in 2014.

Vatican talks with SSPX splinter group proving difficult – cardinal

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Cardinal Walter Kasper on April 12, 2005/Max Rossi

Vatican talks with a controversial splinter group have been difficult and the ultra-traditionalist Catholics will have to make concessions if an accord is to be reached, a senior Vatican cardinal has said.

The Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), whose four bishops were readmitted to the Church last year after a ban of 21 years, cannot conduct the doctrinal discussions on their terms, but only on those of the Vatican, Cardinal Walter Kasper told a news conference during a visit to Paris.

“Dialogue with them is not easy,” said Kasper, who heads the Vatican department for relations with other Christian churches and with Jews. “The main problem with them is not the Mass in Latin, but the concept of tradition. Do we want a living tradition or a petrified one?”

Papal envoy to run scandal-plagued Legion of Christ Catholic order

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Pope John Paul II blesses Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, during a special audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican November 30, 2004/Tony Gentile

Pope Benedict will appoint a special envoy to run and reform an influential conservative Roman Catholic priestly order whose late founder was discovered to have been a sexual molester and to have fathered at least one child.

A Vatican statement on Saturday (here in Italian original and English translation) said the pope would also name a commission to review the constitution, or founding principles, of The Legionaries of Christ, whose founder Father Marcial Maciel, led a double life for decades.