FaithWorld

Crises plague centuries-old German passion play

passion

Andreas Richter hangs on the cross as he plays the character of Jesus Christ during a rehearsal of the Passion Play in Oberammergau on April 10, 2010/Michaela Rehle

Every 10 years, a mountain village cradled in the German Catholic stronghold of Bavaria nails Jesus Christ to a cross and charges spectators to watch. However, add a financial crisis, a wide-ranging scandal in the Roman Catholic Church and a cloud of volcanic ash to the mix, and suddenly enthusiasm for a 376-year-old Passion Play can begin to ebb.

“I don’t think the world has got the message yet. During the last passion play, people were suddenly knocking at my door looking for rooms and a ticket,” Renate Frank, owner of Gasthof zur Rose, a popular Oberammergau guesthouse told Reuters.  Today her lodgings are only half booked for the show. By this time 10 years ago, she was fully booked.

“Now we have the economic crisis,” Frank added, just days before the May 15th premiere of the 41st staging of the passion play in the Alpine village of Oberammergau.

Read the full story by Christopher Lawton here.

Follow FaithWorld on Twitter at RTRFaithWorld

Dutch Catholic abuse probe calls offenders to come forward

Wim Deetman

Wim Deetman

The head of a commission asked by the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands to look into allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests said on Friday a year-long investigation was needed and appealed for offenders to come forward.

“From a moral, religious point of view, in the framework of the Roman Catholic Church, it is wise to come to the forefront and say what you have done,” said Wim Deetman, who was asked by the Church in March to lead a preliminary inquiry in response to an increasing number of victims coming forward.

“It will be helpful for the commission to establish how broad it has been, not to hear just from the victims but also from the offenders,” he added. The number of calls to a Dutch hotline for victims of abuse has risen to 1,500 since early March, and 52 formal complaints about abuse have been made.

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

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

benedict 2005

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

hoyos

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

ceric-pope

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.

Vatican scoffs at Dawkins idea of arresting pope while in Britain

dawkins bus

Richard Dawkins on a bus at the launch of an atheist advertising campaign in London January 6, 2009/Andrew Winning

The Vatican said on Tuesday Pope Benedict was willing to meet more sexual abuse victims but not under media pressure and scoffed at calls that the pope should be arrested when he visits Britain in September.

A lawyer for British author and atheist campaigner Richard Dawkins said in London at the weekend he would try to have Pope Benedict arrested to face questions over accusations the Church covered up cases of sexual abuse of children by priests.

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

bertone

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

ettal

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.