FaithWorld

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.”

Below are excerpts from what Brady said in his sermon at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh. Click here for a video of his short news conference after the Mass.

“Today, Irish people across the world are remembering St Patrick and the land of their birth. Most will do so with joy and pride. They will celebrate the enormous contribution of this nation to the Christian faith and heritage across the world. They will celebrate a people renowned for generosity to others in need.

Vatican to probe claims of Virgin Mary apparitions at Medjugorje

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Catholic pilgrims in Medjugorje, 25 June 2009/Damir Sagolj

The Vatican has opened an investigation into reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary at the small town of Medjugorje in southern Bosnia which have drawn more than 30 million pilgrims and divided the Catholic Church.

Since six children first reported visions of the Virgin Mary on a hillside near Medjugorje in 1981 — reminiscent of famous apparitions in the French town of Lourdes and Fatima in Portugal — Catholics have debated whether the visions were a modern-day miracle, wishful thinking or an elaborate fraud.

“This commission, composed of cardinals, bishops, theologians and experts, will work in a confidential manner and submit the result of its investigation to the Congregation (for the Doctrine of the Faith),” the Vatican said in a statement.

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.

Catholic daily buries the news in sexual abuse headline

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Headlines are supposed to highlight the news, but sometimes the news is uncomfortable. Like the sexual abuse cases for the Roman Catholic Church. Avvenire, the daily newspaper of the Italian Catholic bishops’ conference, played down the big news in its front-page headline on Saturday about an  interview with the head of the Vatican office dealing with charges of sexual abuse against priests.

In the middle of the front page (at left), it ran the headline “Il ‘pm’ vaticano: in tutto il mondo trecento i preti accusati di pedofilia.” — Vatican public prosecutor: 300 priests accused of pedophilia in the whole world.”  That actually doesn’t sound like that many, given all the cases we’ve heard about all these years.

It’s only in the interview on page 5 that the real picture emerges. There the reader finds a much larger figure of  3,000 accusations of sexual misdeeds of all kinds made against priests since 2001, concerning cases dating back up to 50 years ago. That sounds more like it, although it still must be lower than the real number of cases because so many don’t get reported.

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.”

In Catholic debate on celibacy, “ask about” is different from “question”

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Cardinal Christoph Schönborn addresses a news conference in Vienna November 7, 2008S/Heinz-Peter Bader

Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn set off a storm in a teacup this week when he said the Roman Catholic Church had to ask tough questions about the reasons for the clergy sex abuse cases coming to light now in Europe. “The issue of celibacy belongs to that (questioning) as well as the issue of personality development (of priests). And a large portion of honesty belongs to this too, in the Church but also in society,” he wrote in a newsletter for Vienna archdiocese employees called thema kirche.

In the blogosphere, this somehow got turned into  headlines like  “Schönborn questions celibacy” and speculation that he was somehow challenging this centuries-old tradition. Those comments must have been based on dodgy Google translations from the German, because it’s clear in the original that he never questioned the celibacy rule itself. He said the Church should “ask about the reasons for sexual abuse” (nach den Ursachen sexuellen Missbrauchs fragen) and “celibacy belongs to that” set of issues to ask about. He did not say “put celibacy into question” (in Frage stellen) or “challenge celibacy” (hinterfragen).

A Mafia-like “omertà” on sexual abuse in the Catholic hierarchy?

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Protest against the clergy child sex abuse scandal in Boston outside Cardinal Bernard Law's Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, on Mother's Day, May 12, 2002/Jim Bourg

The Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano has published an interesting article saying the Catholic Church might have avoided some of the clerical sex abuse scandals it now has if more women were in decision-making positions. The Italian historian Lucetta Scaraffia says that women “would have been able to rip the veil of masculine secrecy that in the past often covered with silence the denunciation of these misdeeds.” The word she used for “secrecy” is omertà, the  Italian term for “code of silence” well known to anyone who’s seen the Godfather movies or read about how the Mafia works.

Scaraffia writes that Pope John Paul said women should be given posts of equal importance as men and that Pope Benedict has written to bishops promoting collaboration between men and women in the Church. She then writes, in a rather academic style:

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.