FaithWorld

Catholic sex abuse scandal fallout spreads in Europe

vatican st peter's

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.

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.

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.

Irish cardinal ashamed over abuse cases — will he resign or not?

Cardinal Seán Brady

Cardinal Seán Brady after Mass in Armagh, 17 March 2010/Cathal McNaughton

Cardinal Seán Brady, the Patriarch of Ireland, said at his St Patrick’s Day Mass that he was “ashamed that I have not always upheld the values that I profess and believe in.” This sermon came after days of calls for his resignation after it was revealed that he played a small part in keeping quiet the case of an abusive priest in 1975. Although he said back in December that he would resign if it turned out he had caused any child to suffer, Brady has refused to step down over this case despite loud calls in Ireland for him to do so.

Will he resign?  He got warm support from the congregation after his sermon but victims still want to see him go.  Vatican Radio seems to think he might be going. Its German-language service, which has naturally been following these abuse cases closely because of the scandals in Germany, said that “the Primate of the Irish Church, Cardinal Seán Brady, is apparently thinking about a possible resignation.”

But John Cooney of the Irish Independent writes that “Cardinal Brady’s powerful plea for “a wounded healer” to be allowed “a new beginning”, a bridgehead towards making the church a safe environment for children, was a clear signal of his determination to stay in office.”

Irish bookmaker slashes odds on pope’s resignation

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives to lead his weekly audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican March 10, 2010.  REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

Pope Benedictat his weekly audience in the Vatican March 10, 2010/Alessia Pierdomenico

Irish bookmaker Paddy Power said Friday it had cut the odds on Pope Benedict resigning after allegations of child abuse by priests in Germany gripped the Roman Catholic Church.

Ireland’s biggest bookmaker, which has branches in Britain as well as Catholic Ireland, said it had cut the odds from 12 to 1 to 3 to 1 following a “cascade of bets.”

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.

Dublin theatre throws spotlight on Catholic priestly sins

monaghan Aaron Monaghan plays a tormented teenager in Christ Deliver Us! at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre/Abbey photo by Ros Kavanagh

The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland could well feel it has nowhere left to hide. As the press carried blanket coverage of this week’s meeting between the Pope and bishops summoned to Rome following the Irish church’s vast pedophilia scandal, Ireland’s national theater has joined those taking up the theme of ecclesiastical hypocrisy, to loud applause.

Irish playwright Thomas Kilroy’s new play “Christ Deliver Us!” at Dublin’s Abbey Theater is nominally set in the 1950s, but its topicality is startling. It does not directly accuse the church of paedophilia, but it is severely critical of sexual repression, corporal punishment and censure of minor teenage lapses. The theater itself underlines the parallels with the findings of two reports into child abuse by priests published in Ireland last year.

“We as a society are still reeling from the revelations of the Murphy and Ryan reports,” the theater said in a program note. “For this reason, it is an important play for the Abbey, as the national theater, to present now.”

Can we expect Freudian slips when Benedict meets Irish bishops?

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This week's cover of the German newsweekly Der Spiegel -- the title says "The sanctimonious ones -- the Catholic Church and sex"

If there ever were a time for Pope Benedict to commit a Freudian slip that we could all understand, it would be in his meetings next week with Irish bishops to discuss the clerical sex abuse scandals that have shaken the Emerald Isle.

It’s not hard to imagine him meeting the Hibernian hierarchy behind closed Vatican doors and occasionally referring to the scandals “in Germany” rather than “in Ireland.” If he does, the Irish bishops will certainly forgive him. Enough has been happening in his fatherland recently to distract him from the uproar about the recent reports of clergy excesses in Ireland.