FaithWorld

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.

Laiti, 59, and others who say they were abused as boys in the Church-run Antonio Provolo School for the deaf decades ago have joined a growing list of victims who are calling on the pontiff to say more and directly address the crisis. verona 2

Gianni Bisoli with Italian newspaper headline quoting Pope Benedict saying "Paedophilia, insult to God," April 8, 2010/Paolo Bona

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.

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.

Pope seen undeterred by abuse scandal, reform calls

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Pope Benedict leads Palm Sunday Mass at the Vatican March 28, 2010/Alessandro Bianchi

The sex abuse scandals lashing the Vatican have led to calls for an end to priestly celibacy, a cleanout of the Catholic Church hierarchy and the resignation of Pope Benedict, but the pope seems unlikely to alter his approach.

The demands, widely aired in the media, are so far removed from the way Benedict works that abuse victims and other critics who raise them seem bound to be disappointed.

GUESTVIEW: Are Catholics masochists?

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Notre Dame de Fourvière Basilica, Lyon/Frédéric de La Mure

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Isabelle de Gaulmyn is Religion Editor of the Paris Catholic daily newspaper La Croix and author of Benoît XVI, Le pape incompris (Benedict XVI, The Misunderstood Pope). She blogs in French at Une foi par semaine, where this first appeared.

Are Catholics masochists? After all that’s been happening these days, this looks like the question to ask. There were probably more than 3 million Catholics in France who went to church to celebrate Palm Sunday today. And during this Holy Week, millions more will to prepare for Easter. If the news we hear is anything to go by, these Catholics must be either mad or masochistic.

la croix uneWhy not take advantage of this Sunday to go fishing or play tennis rather than frequent a place full of pedophile priests and leaders who lie  and hush up the truth? How can there still be people in the pews, on pilgrimages, in monasteries or volunteering in one of many charities?

NYT’s long paper trail on Rome, Ratzinger and abusive priest

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Protesters hold pictures of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Pope Benedict XVI at demonstration against child sexual abuse at the Vatican 25 March 2010/Alessandro Bianchi

The New York Times has unearthed a startling paper trail of 25 letters and memos documenting the way a U.S. priest known to have abused up to 200 deaf boys from about 1952 to 1974 was quietly moved to another diocese and the Vatican resisted attempts to defrock him. Their story on the case of Rev. Lawrence Murphy is here, the paper trail here and our story on the Vatican reaction here. Here’s another story from our Rome bureau on victims demanding that Benedict open all Vatican files on sex abuse cases and defrock all predator priests.

The official Vatican reaction (here in English) is interesting for what it doesn’t say. This is a response to a query from the Times about their story and we don’t know what the questions were. The answers, though, are very narrowly focused. Nowhere is there any reference to the most interesting of the many revelations in the paper trail, i.e. that Pope Benedict, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger heading the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), got at least one letter about this case from the priest’s bishop but apparently didn’t answer it.

Ultra-trad Catholics upset rabbi’s lecture in Paris cathedral

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Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, 6 Aug 2009/Jacky Naegelen

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris witnessed a scene on Sunday afternoon that seemed to be from a bygone age. A rabbi invited to deliver a lecture about Catholic-Jewish dialogue was interrupted by young arch-traditionalist Catholics who began to pray the rosary to make “amends for the outrage” of letting him speak there. Rabbi Rivon Krygier had to leave the nave and retire to the sacristy, where he read his text into a microphone to broadcast it to about 1,200 people who came to hear him. Read our full story here.

Rabbi Krygier, the head of a small Conservative Jewish congregation in Paris, had the grace to recognise that his hecklers were a tiny minority. “They’ll say they succeeded in banishing the rabbi to the sacristy,” he told the Catholic daily La Croix“This is an act that has to be taken seriously, but the Christians active in dialogue seem much more determined to continue on this path.” krygier

Rabbi Rivon Krygier/Adath Shalom

The warm round of applause that Krygier received when he returned to the nave after the lecture bore that out. At the same time, arch-traditionalists such as Rev. Régis de Cacqueray, head of the French section of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) congratulated protesters for their “courage” and said: “The Paris cathedral is neither a synagogue nor a Masonic temple.”

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.