FaithWorld

Africa also suffers sex abuse by priests: Joburg RC archbishop

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A member of the faithful shows a crucifix to Pope Benedict XVI during a youth rally at the Dos Coqueiros stadium in Luanda, Angola March 21, 2009/Alessandro Bianchi

Sexual abuse by Catholic priests is a scourge in Africa as well as the Western countries where scandals have badly hurt the Vatican’s image, a leading African Catholic archbishop has said.

Archbishop of Johannesburg Buti Tlhagale said the damage weakened the Church’s ability to speak out with moral authority in Africa, where it has at times been a rare voice challenging dictatorship, corruption and abuse of power.

“What happens in Ireland or in Germany or America affects us all,” Tlhagale said in a message on April 1 that was published this week on the website of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, which Tlhagale heads.

“It simply means that the misbehavior of priests in Africa has not been exposed to the same glare of the media as in other parts of the world,” he said. “I know that the Church in Africa, is inflicted by the same scourge.”

Sex abuse scandals shake Church but not faith

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Catholics at Easter Mass at the Beijing Southern Catholic Church April 3, 2010/Petar Kujundzic

Sexual abuse by clerics and accusations of cover-up have rocked the Roman Catholic Church and disturbed churchgoers around the world, but many believers say the scandals have not shaken their faith.  From Rome to Rio de Janeiro, Paris to Dublin and from Warsaw and Washington, Easter sermons were overshadowed by allegations of priests molesting children, especially in Europe and the United States, and the Church’s mishandling of the crisis.

Across Pope Benedict’s native Germany, hundreds of long-concealed reports of sexual abuse have emerged and shattered a notion abuse was only a U.S. and Irish problem.  “It’s the greatest loss of confidence in the Catholic Church since the Hitler era,” said Christa Nickels, a member of the Central Committee of German Catholics and a Greens party leader.

Catholic bishops see campaign against Church over child sex abuse

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Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco and Pope Benedict in Paul VI hall at the Vatican 25 April/Osservatore Romano

The Catholic Church is being unfairly singled out for criticism of sexual abuse of children by priests and will not tolerate campaigns to discredit it, the powerful head of Italy’s bishops said on Monday. Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco spoke to Italian bishops as the Vatican tried to stem a scandal gripping the Church that has swept across Europe.

Speaking two days after Pope Benedict apologised to victims of sexual abuse in Ireland, Bagnasco said the Church was “not afraid of the truth, however painful and detestable” but would not accept any “generalised campaigns to discredit it.”

Pope-victims gap is tip of iceberg of incomprehension in Catholic Church

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Pope Benedict in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, 17 March 2010/Alessandro Bianchi

The wide gap between Pope Benedict’s letter to the Irish and the reaction it received from victims — the subject of my analysis today on the Reuters wire — is the tip of an iceberg of incomprehension. The frank letter went further than any previous papal condemnation of clerical sex abuse of children, an aspect that Benedict’s defenders promptly highlighted, and went so far as to say some bishops had committed “grave errors of judgment” and undermined their own credibility. This is strong stuff indeed, especially from a man like Joseph Ratzinger who has a far loftier image of the Church and its servants (more on that later).

But what was bold for Benedict was still cowardly for his critics, who saw these “grave errors of judgment” as only the starting point and wanted to hear what the pope would do about them. “The smallest steps that are obvious for any reasonable person are made painfully slowly, which ruins the Church’s reputation radically,” the German group Initiative Kirche von Unten (Church from Below Initiative). This and other victims’ groups, backed up in several countries by the media, some politicians and apparently quite a few Catholics in the pews, appreciate the apologies but want to go beyond them.  They want to go up the chain of command and hold those bishops responsible who hushed up abuse cases, moved predator priests around and extracted secrecy deals from frightened victims.

Pope’s shame, remorse over Irish child sex abuse, victims want more

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Pope Benedict's letter on Irish child sex abuse cases, at the Vatican press office, 20 March 2010/Alessandro Bianchi

Pope Benedict apologized on Saturday to victims of child sex abuse by clergy in Ireland and ordered an official inquiry there to try to stem a scandal gripping the Catholic Church which has swept across Europe. The pope’s pronouncement on abuse at Irish dioceses and seminaries was the most concrete step taken since a wave of cases hit Ireland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.

Victims in Ireland voiced deep disappointment it did not go further, and a U.S.-based Catholic group said it should have addressed abuses across the Church rather than just in Ireland.

German Catholics urge pope to speak out on sex scandals

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"... And the pope is silent" reads the front page headline in this Hamburg daily, 15 March 2010

German Catholic politicians and lay activists urged Pope Benedict on Monday to speak out about sexual abuse cases by priests that have shocked the country and led to questions about his management of the crisis. The calls came amid widespread criticism in the media that the Bavarian-born pontiff made no statement after getting a briefing on the scandals at the Vatican on Friday from the leader of the Church in Germany, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch.

In Bavaria, a convicted abuser priest whose transfer to Munich in 1980 while Pope Benedict was archbishop there threatened to draw the pontiff into the scandal, was suspended from his post in a spa town, the Munich archdiocese announced.

Focus turns to pope as German, Dutch sex abuse scandals unfold

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Pope Benedict XVI in the Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, 2 Feb 2010/Max Rossi

The more the scandal of Catholic priests sexually abusing boys in Germany spreads, the more the focus turns to Rome to see how Pope Benedict reacts. The story is getting ever closer to the German-born pope, even though he has been quite outspoken denouncing these scandals and had just met all Irish bishops to discuss the scandals shaking their country. Nobody’s saying he had any role in the abuse cases now coming to light in Germany. But the fact that some took place in Regensburg while he was a prominent theologian there, that his brother Georg has admitted to smacking lazy members of his choir there and that Benedict was archbishop in Munich from 1977 to 1982 lead to the classic cover-up question: what did he know and when did he know it?

This is only the start of what can be a long, drawn out and possibly damaging story for Benedict’s PR-deficient papacy. His crises to date have been linked to his statements or decisions, such as the controversial Regensburg speech that offended Muslims or several run-ins with Jews over restoring old prayers they consider anti-Semitic or rehabilitating an ultra-traditionalist priest who is also a Holocaust denier. But now it’s about what he did or didn’t do in the past and how he moves to avoid further scandals in the future.

Germany says Catholic Church covered up sexual abuse

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Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger at the chancellery in Berlin March 3, 2010/Thomas Peter

Germany’s justice minister has accused the Vatican today of covering up severe sexual abuse in the Church after fresh reports surfaced at three Catholic schools in Bavaria.

Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger called the developments “frightening” after the cathedral choir in Regensburg, the Benedictine monastery school at Ettal and a Capucian school in Burghausen revealed new cases of sexual and physical abuse.

Irish abuse crisis aftershocks hit German, Dutch Catholic churches

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Bavarian flag at St. Peter's Basilica after Pope Benedict's election, 23 April 2005/Tom Heneghan

It’s like falling dominoes. The scandal of Roman Catholic priests sexually abusing children in Ireland, which came to light last year when two government inquiries cracked the wall of clerical silence there, seems to have inspired victims in other European countries to come forward with their repressed stories. It started in Germany last month with revelations about abuse cases in several elite Jesuit boarding schools. That sparked further reports from other parts of Germany, where reports of hundreds of cases are now coming out. In the neighbouring Netherlands, reports of abuse have also begun surfacing in recent days. On top of all that, an unrelated scandal about a gay prostitution ring has now hit the Vatican.

Since Pope Benedict summoned all Irish bishops to Rome and promised the Irish people a pastoral letter about the abuse cases, what will he do with all these cases now coming out in his homeland? Especially since, as explained below, he seems to have been quite close to some of them.

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.