FaithWorld

German Jesuit report shows years of sexual abuse cover-up

canisius

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.

Can we expect Freudian slips when Benedict meets Irish bishops?

spiegel cover

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.

Sexual abuse charges at Jesuit schools shock Germany

Germany’s leading Jesuit official has apologised for a growing number of sexual abuse cases at Jesuit high schools that have come to light recently. School officials there had failed to respond properly when they first heard of the allegations years ago, Father Stefan Dartmann, the head of Germany’s Jesuit order, said.

Dartmann said he knew of 25 former pupils who said they had been abused at presitgious Jesuit schools between 1975 and 1984 — 20 at the  Canisius Kolleg in Berlin, 3 at the  Hamburger St. Ansgar Schule in Hamburg and 2 at the Kolleg St. Blasien in St. Blasien in the Black Forest.
Berlin's Jesuit Canisius Kolleg

Berlin's Jesuit Canisius Kolleg

German media reported the first cases last week but the number of alleged victims has been growing and the possibility of a wider scandal looms.  “I’m worried that a storm is going to break out now,” said the former director of Kolleg St. Blasien, Father Hans Joachim Martin.

U.S. Jesuits honour ABC Williams with prize named after English martyr

williams preaching

Archbishop Rowan Williams leads Christmas carol service at Canterbury Cathedral, 23 Dec 2009/Suzanne Plunkett

Poor Rowan Williams. Only a few weeks ago, the Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican Communion was caught offguard by a Vatican offer of a new Roman home for Anglicans who cannot accept the idea of women bishops. At a joint news conference with London’s Catholic Archbishop Vincent Nichols, he did his ecumenical best to present this as a quite normal gesture among friendly Christian churches and not — as some media presented it — a Roman strategy to poach wandering sheep from the divided Anglican flock. It was proof of his sharp intellect and deep commitment to the ecumenical cause that Williams found a way to finesse this very trying situation. america mag

America magazine

Now another challenge has come not from across the Tiber, but across the Atlantic. The New York-based Jesuit weekly magazine America has just said it is proud to announce that The Most Reverend Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, is the 2009 recipient of the Campion Award. The award is given on a regular basis to a noted Christian person of letters. It is named after St. Edmund Campion, S.J., who is patron of America’s communications ministry.”

El Salvador honors Jesuit priests slain during civil war

painting
(Photo: A painting commemorating six slain Jesuit priests,16 Nov 2009/Luis Galdamez)

El Salvador has honored six Jesuit priests killed by the army 20 years ago in one of the most notorious atrocities of the country’s long and vicious civil war.Leftist President Mauricio Funes, the first leader from a party of former Cold War rebels that fought in the conflict, granted the priests El Salvador’s highest honor posthumously in a ceremony on Monday.U.S.-backed soldiers shot the priests at their home at a local university on the night of Nov. 16, 1989, to silence their strong criticism of rights abuses committed by the army during the 12-year civil war that ended in 1992.  Five of the priests were Spanish and one was Salvadorean.Read the whole story here. More on this at … Vatican RadioBBC (photo essay)Catholic News ServiceLos Angeles TimesNational Jesuit News.

Follow FaithWorld on Twitter at RTRFaithWorld

from Africa News blog:

Oprah magic for Man of God

Nigerian author Uwem Akpan, who is a Jesuit priest, said he was "humbled" that his debut collection of short stories was chosen by influential U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey for her book club.

Oprah picked "Say You're One Of Them" as her 63rd book club selection, the first time she has chosen a book of short stories, saying these stories "left me stunned and profoundly moved."

The collection, published in 2008, includes five separate stories from the perspective of an African child that were described as capturing the resilience of children growing up in the face of unimaginable devastation.

“The information was there” – Abp. Martin on Irish abuse report

martin1Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has shown a refreshing frankness in talking about the widespread abuse of children in Catholic-run schools and orphanages documented in the Ryan report last week. In an op-ed page piece for the Irish Times today, he described himself as shocked but not totally surprised and recalled hearing about the abuse from victims up to 40 years ago. He refers to reporting by “a few courageous and isolated journalists like Michael Viney,” whose series on abuse appeared in the Irish Times in 1966. (Photo: Archbishop Diarmuid Martin/Dublin Archdiocese)

“The stories they told then were not radically different from what the Ryan report presents, albeit in a systemic and objective way which reveals the horror in its integrity,” he wrote. “Anyone who had contact with ex-residents of Irish industrial schools at that time knew that what those schools were offering was, to put it mildly, poor-quality childcare by the standards of the time. The information was there.”

The official Church reaction in Ireland has been shame and apologies all around, starting with Cardinal Sean Brady. It included apologies from the Christian Brothers, a teaching order with a reputation for stern discipline and abuse charges that won a lawsuit to bar the report from naming abusers. These were certainly appropriate. What was missing, though, was the admission that the problem was well known, even if all the details were not. There was even a film made about one of these schools, The Magdelene Sisters, that won the Golden Lion at the 2002 Biennale Venice Film Festival.

The pope and the Holocaust: Regensburg redux?

The uproar over traditionalist Bishop Richard Williamson and his denial of the Holocaust highlights an open secret here in Rome: Vatican departments don’t talk to each much, or at least as much as they should. The pope appears to have decided to lift the 1988 excommunication of four schismatic bishops of the SSPX (including Williamson) without the wide consultation that it may have merited. The Christian Unity department, which also oversees relations with Jews, was apparently kept out of the loop. The head of the office, Cardinal Walter Kasper, told The New York Times it was the pope’s decision. Kasper’s office and the Vatican press office, headed by Father Federico Lombardi, were clearly not prepared for the media onslaught that followed the discovery of Williamson’s views denying the Holocaust. (Photo: Bishop Richard Williamson, 28 Feb 2007/Jens Falk)

Pope Benedict’s lifting of the ban and Williamson’s comments about the Holocaust are unrelated as far as Church law is concerned. The excommunications lifted last Saturday were imposed because the four were ordained without Vatican permission. As Father Thomas Resse, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, told me: “The Holocaust is a matter of history, not faith. Being a Holocaust denier is stupid but not against the faith. Being anti-Semitic, however, is a sin.” This is an important distinction, but not one the Vatican seems to be able to get across.

It was all very reminiscent of the pope’s Regensburg speech in 2006. Few in the Vatican knew it was coming. The Vatican was overwhelmed by the Muslim reaction and the media interest. This time, it is also not clear how many people in the Vatican even knew about Williamson’s history. Surely, those negotiating with the traditionalists for the lifting of the excommunications should  have known. If they didn’t, why didn’t they? If they did, why did they not tell Kasper’s department? The Holocaust is such a sensitive issue for Jews that this response could have been seen from miles away.

“In retrospect, I wish Pius XII hadn’t been so diplomatic”

The role of Pope Pius XII during World War Two is a subject of endless dispute, part of which we’ve tracked on FaithWorld over the past year. This has gained in interest because of Vatican plans to put him on the path to sainthood, which may be held up now because of protests from Jewish groups. We’re all waiting for the secret archives of his papacy (1939-1958) to be opened to finally see what the documents say about his relations with Nazi Germany. While we’re waiting, one of the key questions that could be assessed on the basis of files already available is what Pius thought about dealing with the Nazis before he became pope. There is a long paper trail there, because Pius was the Vatican Secretary of State — effectively, the prime minister of the Vatican — from 1930 until his election as pope. But a lot of people argue for or against Pius without having read this material. (Photo: Pope Pius XII/Vatican photo)

Gerard Fogarty S.J., a University of Virginia historian and Jesuit priest, has worked through much of this material and come up with a fascinating article in the U.S. Jesuit magazine America. He’s examined much of the paper trail the future pope left in the 1930s but many of the documents are in a language that the leading commentators on Pius don’t speak. We’re not talking about that dead language Latin, but Italian — a lively regional tongue in Europe that happens to be an international language within the world’s largest church, Roman Catholicism.

“This is one of the problems even now,” Fogarty recounted in an informative podcast for America. “Scholars come to me and ask, do you use a translator? No scholar is going to do that. You’ve got to learn the language yourself. So people have not looked at what was published.”

First it was about Pius’s silence, now it’s Benedict’s

Pope Benedict in Pompei, 19 Oct 2008/Tony GentileThe dispute over Pope Pius XII’s public silence about the Holocaust (background here) widened over the weekend. At the same time, Pope Benedict came in for criticism for his own silence, this time about organised crime in the Naples area during a visit to nearby Pompei . A local newspaper had (wrongly) reported he would publicly condemn the Camorra, as the local mafia is known. His spokesman insisted the visit to a Marian shrine (the purpose of the trip) was purely spiritual.

The Pius dispute heated up when Rev. Peter Gumpel, the German Jesuit who is the postulator for the late pope’s cause for sainthood, told the Italian news agency ANSA on Saturday that Benedict was delaying the beatification of Pius because it would harm relations with Jews. He also said Benedict could not visit Israel until a caption under a photograph of Pius at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial was changed. The caption said Pius “abstained from signing the Allied declaration condemning the extermination of the Jews”. The Vatican denies that charge and says Pius did all he could to save Jews.

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi denied the caption was holding up any papal visit to Israel. Without naming them, he also told both Gumpel and Pius’s critics to lay off Benedict. “In this situation, it is not opportune to exercise pressure on him from one side or the other,” he said.