FaithWorld

Catholic sex abuse scandal fallout spreads in Europe

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Fallout from the Catholic child sex abuse scandal spread across Europe on Thursday as the Vatican retired an Irish bishop, a German offered to step down and prelates in England and Wales apologised for the “terrible crimes” of priests. 

The Vatican said Pope Benedict, under criticism from victims for not doing enough about past cases of abuse by priests now being revealed, had accepted the resignation of Bishop James Moriarty, the third Irish bishop to leave over the scandal. Pope Benedict meets ith Irish bishops at the Vatican February 15, 2010. A top Vatican official on Monday told Irish bishops in Rome for talks with Pope Benedict on the Irish church's vast paedophilia scandal that clergy who had sinned must admit blame for "abominable acts". The message came in the sermon of a mass in St Peter's Basilica shortly before the bishops began two days of crisis talks with the pope to formulate a response to the revelations of abuse by clergy that have shaken devoutly Catholic Ireland. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano

Pope Benedict meets Irish bishops at the Vatican February 15, 2010 to discuss the sexual abuse scandal/Osservatore Romano

Moriarty said in a statement that he was auxiliary bishop of Dublin from 1991 to 2002, before child protection policies were implemented.  “I accept that from the time I became an auxiliary bishop, I should have challenged the prevailing culture,” he said. “I apologise to all survivors and their families.”

In Germany, Walter Mixa, who is bishop for Augsburg and for the German armed forces, offered to resign late on Wednesday after admitting he physically abused children decades ago. His diocese said he did this “to avert further damage to the Church and to allow a new start.”

Bishops in England and Wales issued an apology for the scandal and urged Catholics there to pray for the Church.

French Catholic church campaigns for more priests

A pilgrim prays during a ceremony lead by Pope Benedict XVI following an Eucharistic Procession in Lourdes at La Prairie in Lourdes, France on September 14, 2008.

A pilgrim prays in Lourdes, France on September 14, 2008/Jean-Philippe Arles

France’s Catholic church has unfurled a public campaign for more priests to ease a shortage amid a crisis of confidence worsened by widening allegations of clergymen sexually abusing children.

The Vatican’s moral authority has been eroded by reports of sexually predatory priests and cover-ups by supervising bishops in Europe and North America, compounding a longer-term decline in piety and church attendance.

“Just because there is a crisis doesn’t mean we stop recruiting,” said Father Bernard Podvin, spokesman for Roman Catholic bishops in France, a country of 62 million people of whom about two-thirds identify themselves as Catholics.

Uncertain leadership in Vatican as abuse crisis rages

Rain clouds over St. Peter's Basilica, 12 Dec 2008/Chris Helgren

Rain clouds over St. Peter's Basilica, 12 Dec 2008/Chris Helgren

When countries are threatened or institutions are in trouble, they look to their leaders to show the way out of the crisis. 

The Vatican is in trouble, its moral authority sapped by mounting allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests in the past and cover ups by bishops supervising them.

But strong leadership from the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church is hard to discern. Pope Benedict rarely mentions the crisis and some aides have made things worse with comments that are mostly defensive and sometimes offend.

Chronology of five years of Pope Benedict’s papacy

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Newly elected Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican, 19 April 2005/Kai Pfaffenbach

Pope Benedict marks five years as head of the Roman Catholic Church on Monday. Here is a chronology of major events since Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope on April 19, 2005.

2005

August 18-21 – Pope visits his native Germany for the World Youth Days in Cologne. While there, he visits a synagogue.

Nov. 29 – In a first major ruling of Benedict’s reign, the Vatican imposes restrictions on homosexuals becoming priests.

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.

INTERVIEW – Church abuse scandal can hurt other faiths – Mufti

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Pope Benedict XVI greets Muslim delegation head Mustafa Ceric (R), the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, at the Vatican on November 6, 2008/Osservatore Romano

A scandal over the sexual abuse of children by priests could harm the credibility of other religions as well as Roman Catholicism, a senior European Muslim leader says.

Mustafa Ceric, the spiritual leader of Bosnia’s Muslim majority and a key figure in Christian-Muslim dialogue, told Reuters he hoped Pope Benedict would act decisively to tackle the paedophilia problem and prevent further harm.

Homosexuality, not celibacy, linked to pedophilia, says Vatican #2

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Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone during a news conference in Santiago April 12, 2010/Ivan Alvarado

It is homosexuality, not celibacy, that is linked to pedophilia, the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said on Monday, seeking to defuse the sex scandal that has battered the Roman Catholic Church.

On a visit to Chile, Bertone, dubbed the Deputy Pope, also said Pope Benedict would soon take more surprising initiatives regarding the sex abuse scandal but did not elaborate.

Pupils “sadistically tormented” at German Catholic monastery

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Ettal monastery, March 3, 2010/Johannes Eisele

Children were “sadistically tormented and also sexually abused” at a Catholic monastery in Pope Benedict’s native Bavaria, according to a new report commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church.

A lawyer investigating accusations of abuse in a Benedictine monastery school in Ettal presented a final report to the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising on Monday, including 173 pages of victims’ accounts of abuse.

“My investigations quite clearly show that for decades up until around 1990, children and adolescents were brutally abused in the Ettal monastery,” Thomas Pfister said in a statement.  “The number of victims’ accounts has increased significantly since the intermediary report of March 5,” added Pfister, who said last month that hundreds of pupils had been beaten and some sexually abused at the school.

Vatican puts abuse rules online to quell critics

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The dome of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. April 4, 2005/Alessia Pierdomenico

The Vatican published an online guide on Monday to rules for handling sex abuse charges against priests and defended the pope’s handling of the media storm, saying he was a “great communicator in his own way”.

Just over a year after Pope Benedict acknowledged the Holy See had been slow to embrace the Internet, after mishandling the case of a Holocaust-denying bishop, the Vatican posted an “idiot’s guide” to its rules on how to deal with abuse charges.

Italian sexual abuse victims want Pope Benedict to speak out

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Abuse victim Gianni Bisoli in Verona April 8, 2010/Paolo Bona

Abuse victim Dario Laiti is deaf and has great difficulty speaking. But he has a clear message for Pope Benedict: expose predator priests, past and present, living and dead, for the good of the Church.

“I think the pope has to carry out justice. He has to get rid of all the priests who abused children. He has to tell the world who these people were and which of them are still living,” Laiti told Reuters in the northern Italian city of Verona.

So far, the pope has not spoken out directly on the new wave of sexual abuse allegations that is hounding the Church in a number of countries, including the United States, Italy and his native Germany.