Benedict XVI: Time to proclaim "Habemus Mama" and tear assunder the veils of secrecy Print E-mail
 March 28, 2010, page WK 11

A Nope for Pope

By  Maureen Dowd [Note from GSN editor: The Latin "Habemus Mama" in English translates to "Government Mother" or in the modern Vatican sense "The Church has found a Mother"]

Yup, we need a Nope.

A nun who is pope.

The Catholic Church can never recover as long as its Holy Shepherd is seen as a black sheep in the ever-darkening sex abuse scandal.

Now we learn the sickening news that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, nicknamed “God’s Rottweiler” when he was the church’s enforcer on matters of faith and sin, ignored repeated warnings and looked away in the case of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, a Wisconsin priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys.

The church has been tone deaf and dumb on the scandal for so long that it’s shocking, but not surprising, to learn from The Times’s Laurie Goodstein that a group of deaf former students spent 30 years trying to get church leaders to pay attention.

“Victims give similar accounts of Father Murphy’s pulling down their pants and touching them in his office, his car, his mother’s country house, on class excursions and fund-raising trips and in their dormitory beds at night,” Goodstein wrote. “Arthur Budzinski said he was first molested when he went to Father Murphy for confession when he was about 12, in 1960.”

It was only when the sanctity of the confessional was breached that an archbishop in Wisconsin (who later had to resign when it turned out he used church money to pay off a male lover) wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger at the Vatican to request that Father Murphy be defrocked.

The cardinal did not answer. The archbishop wrote to a different Vatican official, but Father Murphy appealed to Cardinal Ratzinger for leniency and got it, partly because of the church’s statute of limitations. Since when does sin have a statute of limitations?

The pope is in too deep. He has proved himself anything but infallible. And now he claims he was uninformed on the matter of an infamous German pedophile priest. A spokesman for the Munich archdiocese said on Friday that Ratzinger, running the diocese three decades ago, would not have read the memo sent to him about Father Peter Hullermann’s getting cycled back into work with children because between 700 to 1,000 memos go to the archbishop each year.

Let’s see. That’s two or three memos a day. And Ratzinger was renowned at the Vatican for poring through voluminous, recondite theological treaties.

Because he did not defrock the demented Father Murphy, it’s time to bring in the frocks.

Pope Benedict has continued the church’s ban on female priests and is adamant against priests’ having wives. He has started two investigations of American nuns to check on their “quality of life” ­ code for seeing if they’ve grown too independent. As a cardinal he wrote a Vatican document urging women to be submissive partners and not take on adversarial roles toward men.

But the completely paternalistic and autocratic culture of Il Papa led to an insular, exclusionary system that failed to police itself, and that became a corrosive shelter for secrets and shame.

If the church could throw open its stained glass windows and let in some air, invite women to be priests, nuns to be more emancipated and priests to marry, if it could banish criminal priests and end the sordid culture of men protecting men who attack children, it might survive. It could be an encouraging sign of humility and repentance, a surrender of arrogance, both moving and meaningful.

Cardinal Ratzinger devoted his Vatican career to rooting out any hint of what he considered deviance. The problem is, he was obsessed with enforcing doctrinal orthodoxy and somehow missed the graver danger to the most vulnerable members of the flock.

The sin-crazed “Rottweiler” was so consumed with sexual mores ­ issuing constant instructions on chastity, contraception, abortion ­ that he didn’t make time for curbing sexual abuse by priests who were supposed to pray with, not prey on, their young charges.

American bishops have gotten politically militant in recent years, opposing the health care bill because its language on abortion wasn’t vehement enough, and punishing Catholic politicians who favor abortion rights and stem cell research. They should spend as much time guarding the kids already under their care as they do championing the rights of those who aren’t yet born.

Decade after decade, the church hid its sordid crimes, enabling the collared perpetrators instead of letting the police collar them. In the case of the infamous German priest, one diocese official hinted that his problem could be fixed by transferring him to teach at a girls’ school. Either they figured that he would not be tempted by the female sex, or worse, the church was even less concerned about putting little girls at risk.

The nuns have historically cleaned up the messes of priests. And this is a historic mess. Benedict should go home to Bavaria. And the cardinals should send the white smoke up the chimney, proclaiming “Habemus Mama.”
 March 28, 2010, page A6

As Archbishop, Benedict Focused on Doctrine


MUNICH ­ When Pope Benedict XVI was archbishop of Munich and Freising, he was broadly described as a theologian more concerned with doctrinal debates than personnel matters. That, say his defenders, helps explain why he did not keep close tabs on a pedophile priest sent to his archdiocese in 1980 and allowed to work in a parish.

The future pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, bidding farewell to Munich in November 1981 after accepting a post at the Vatican ( Agence France-Presse ­ Getty Images)

Yet in 1979, the year before Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, approved the Rev. Peter Hullermann’s move to Munich, the cardinal blocked the assignment to the local university of a prominent theology professor recommended by the university senate. And in 1981, he punished a priest for holding a Mass at a peace demonstration, leading the man to ultimately leave the priesthood.

Pope Benedict’s four-and-a-half-year tenure as archbishop is among the least-examined periods of his life, but his time presiding over 1,713 priests and 2.2 million Catholics was in many ways a dress rehearsal for his present job tending to the Roman Catholic Church’s more than one billion members worldwide.

As archbishop, Benedict expended more energy pursuing theological dissidents than sexual predators. Already in the early 1980s, one could catch a glimpse of a future pope preoccupied with combating any movement away from church tradition. Vatican experts say there is little evidence that Benedict spent much time investigating more than 200 cases of “problem priests” in the diocese, with issues including alcohol abuse, adultery and, now under the microscope, pedophilia.

“His natural habitat was the faculty lounge, and he hadn’t even been a faculty chair,” said John L. Allen Jr. of The National Catholic Reporter. “He would be the first to concede he was much more interested in the life of the mind than the nuts and bolts of administrative work.”

Andreas Englisch, a leading German Vatican expert and the author of several books on Benedict, said that Cardinal Ratzinger “was never interested in bureaucratic stuff,” and noted that when he was first asked to be archbishop of Munich, he considered turning down the post because he did not want to work as “a manager.” In his autobiography, Benedict described taking the post as “an infinitely difficult decision.”

His management decisions are now the central focus of the widening scandal in the church in Germany. His supporters say that although he approved Father Hullermann’s move to his archdiocese, they assume that he may not have paid attention to a memo informing him that the priest, who had sexually abused boys in his previous posting, was almost immediately allowed to resume parish duties.

“He certainly would not have realized anything; he was in a different sphere,” said Hannes Burger, 72, who covered the church, including during Benedict’s time as archbishop, for the Munich-based daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.

“He held beautiful sermons and wrote beautifully, but the details he left to his staff,” said Mr. Burger, who interviewed the future pope several times before he went to Rome. “He was a professorial bishop, with Rome as his goal.”

Three decades ago it was common practice in the church to ignore or cover up incidents of molestation, or, in severe cases, to transfer priests to faraway parishes. Even outside the church, both victims and law enforcement authorities were less likely to take decisive steps to expose and combat abuse.

But Benedict’s track record in handling such cases under his direct control has assumed new relevance because he presides over a church troubled by scandal. He has to weigh whether and how severely to punish bishops who failed to act to deal with abuses in their domains.

In fact, in his efforts to combat child abuse in 2010, Benedict faces a dilemma over how to handle the same kind of institutional secrecy that was practiced by his own archdiocese in 1980. The future pope himself chose “co-workers of the truth,” as the motto for his time as archbishop.

The case is alarming, wrote the German newspaper Die Zeit last week, not “because Ratzinger was guilty of an exceptional offense.”

“It is the other way around: It is significant because the archbishop acted as probably most other dignitaries in those years,” it wrote. “In 1980 Joseph Ratzinger was part of the problem that preoccupies him today.”

Benedict was a stern disciplinarian on the issue that propelled him up the church hierarchy. An early enthusiast for reform in the Catholic Church in the early 1960s, he soon changed his mind and joined the ranks of those trying to put the brakes on the liberalizing forces unleashed by the counterculture movement.

His time in Munich was marked by confrontations with the local clergy, theologians and priests who worked there at the time say.

Cardinal Ratzinger ruffled feathers almost upon arrival in Munich by ordering priests to return to celebrating First Communion and first confession in the same year, rather than having the first confession a year later, a practice that had become established over the previous decade, and which its advocates considered more appropriate for young children.

One priest, the Rev. Wilfried Sussbauer, said he wrote to the archbishop at the time questioning the change, and said Cardinal Ratzinger “wrote me an extremely biting letter” in response.

After receiving the letter, Father Sussbauer and other priests asked for an audience with their archbishop in 1977. They did not get one. But the visiting sister of President Jimmy Carter did. When the priests found out, they called Cardinal Ratzinger’s office. “We asked, ‘Who is more important, your own priests or the sister of the American president?’ ” Father Sussbauer, 77, recalled. “Then suddenly we got an appointment.”

Cardinal Ratzinger was already something of a clerical diplomat, traveling as the official representative of Pope John Paul I to Ecuador in 1978. And with two conclaves to select a new pope in 1978, it seemed at times as if the archbishop already had one foot in the Vatican.

“His predecessor as archbishop was simply more aware of the practical problems of pastoral work,” said Wolfgang Seibel, a Jesuit priest and editor of the Munich-based magazine Stimmen der Zeit from 1966 to 1998. “He didn’t have enough time to leave his mark.”

How closely he would have watched personnel decisions, especially with an administrative chief, Vicar General Gerhard Gruber, who had been in his post since 1968, is an open question. But the transfer of Father Hullermann from Essen would not have been a routine matter, experts said.

Mr. Englisch, the Vatican expert, said that transferring a problem priest was “such a difficult decision” that it would necessarily have required his opinion.

“I think the guy who handled it would have gone to his archbishop and said, ‘This case of transferring a priest is not common, and we should really have an eye on him,’ ” Mr. Englisch said. Referring to Benedict, he added, “I don’t think that he really knew the details; I don’t think he was really interested in the details.”

“As they say in the legal profession, you either knew or you should have known,” said the Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, who once worked at the Vatican Embassy in Washington and became an early and well-known whistle-blower on sexual abuse in the church. “The archbishop is the unquestioned authority in that diocese. The buck stops there.”

Rachel Donadio and Gaia Pianigiani contributed reporting from Rome.
 Dublin ~ Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Women would have dealt with abuse crisis better -- archbishop

By John Cooney

A senior Catholic leader has admitted that the response of bishops to clerical abuse cover-ups would have been different if more lay men and women held positions of authority in the church.

Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary said yesterday that the lesson was drawn when Ireland's 24 bishops met Pope Benedict and heads of the Vatican at last week's Rome summit.

This absence of married couples and a feminine presence in church administration arose during a discussion of the causes which contributed to the abuse of children, he said.

Archbishop Neary in his Lenten Pastoral Letter to Catholics wrote: "If lay people, and particularly women, had been involved, as they now are, in addressing this issue the response would have been different. Poor past management of sexual abuse cases has contributed to the suffering experienced by victims."

Over the weekend Archbishop Neary and other bishops mounted a media drive to convince the Catholic faithful that the Rome meeting was a genuine outreach to survivors.

Their aim was also to explain to Catholics that the Pastoral Letter that Pope Benedict will send them during Lent will be "an important milestone on a road, from which there is no going back".

But this campaign to focus on ways of bringing healing to victims was deflected in a a fresh row on Sunday when the embattled Bishop of Galway made exclusive comments to this newspaper that enraged survivors of clerical abuse.

Bishop Martin Drennan told the Irish Independent that nothing would ever be enough to address the needs of victims, whose "most natural response to injustice was a desire for revenge".

Yesterday, Dublin abuse victims Marie Collins and Andrew Madden, along with Maeve Lewis, director of the One in Four victims' support agency, issued a joint statement.

"These are not the words of a man fit to convey the 'suffering, hurt and pain of victims' to anyone," it said.

"Bishop Drennan is attempting to portray victims of clerical child sexual abuse as unreasonable in their needs and set on revenge. This is most reprehensible. Survivors are justifiably angry at the ways in which the church has responded to them. Attempting to pathologise this anger is insulting."

The statement also attacked Bishop Drennan's claim that it made no sense to ask Pope Benedict to apologise for what he did not personally do.

"Victims asked Pope Benedict to apologise, on behalf of the Catholic Church, for the cover up by bishops of the rape and sexual abuse of children in the Archdiocese of Dublin over many years," it said.

Bishop Drennan was an auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese of Dublin from 1997 to 2004 and was named in the Murphy report's finding of a systematic cover-up by church authorities.

"Clearly the views of victims were not at all properly represented by Irish Catholic bishops in Rome."

Meanwhile, the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, William Lee, said in his Lenten Letter that the bishops were determined mistakes of the past would not be repeated. As an act of penance Bishop Lee recommended that the faithful revive the devotional practice of the Stations of the Cross.

 Dublin ~ Friday, March 12, 2010

Greater female presence may have stopped child abuse

This is an edited version of the front page article, published yesterday by L’Osservatore Romano , the semi-official Vatican newspaper.

It was signed by Lucetta Scaraffia

THOSE CHANGES in western societies which have opened up for women spaces that were formerly reserved for men – and these are changes which are influencing other cultures in the world – have brought about a revolution in the definition of sexual roles, prompting the question of how to increase the role of women for the Catholic Church too.

This is about an equality problem that has been very clear in the Christian tradition right from the beginning, leading to an authentic revolution with regard to concepts of sexual difference . . . Whereas in past centuries the church proved itself more open to women than lay society, today the situation is totally reversed. Today there are strong and urgent external and internal pressures calling for the question to be confronted in the world of Catholics.

Thus far, the Catholic response has been confined to a theoretical level. The problem, however, is that this important theoretical elaboration has not been clearly followed by a (practical) transformation of female participation in the life of the Church. At the very least, that participation (by women), whilst it might have become significantly greater, has almost always been kept well clear of the sphere of decision-making processes and cultural development. It is only to be understood then how those (women) who have been excluded, often for no good reason, have begun to make themselves heard, if in an understated way.

This is not just a problem of social justice, of “equal opportunity” but rather that the church risks not availing itself of talents of primary importance. One example will explain: With regard to the painful and shameful events that have come to light concerning the sexual abuse and molestation of young people entrusted to the care of priests, we would suggest that a greater female presence, not at a subordinate level, would have been able to rip the veil of masculine secrecy that in the past so often covered the reporting of these misdeeds with silence. Women, be they religious or lay, are more likely to move in defence of young people when it comes to questions of sexual abuse. That way, the church would have been spared the serious damage that this guilty behaviour (silence) procured for it.

Daniele Comboni, who was beatified and canonised by John Paul II, had already foreseen the problem back in the second half of the 19th century. This great missionary was convinced that the presence of western women alongside his missionary priests would help them to behave correctly, above all it would stop them breaking their vows of chastity, a not infrequent danger in such isolated places where sexual promiscuity and their power in relation to (native) women and boys made that a not improbable temptation. Indeed, Comboni wrote that the “sister” (nun) is absolutely “essential” for the missions because she is both “a defence and a guarantee for the missionary”.

This historic example thus illustrates just one of the many possibilities of collaboration and reciprocal help that men and women can exchange in the life of the church, in the service of the human person. Indeed, there is almost no religious order which does not comprise both a female and a male branch, providing proof of that intuition which perceived in the role of consecrated women a gift that can be brought only by women.

Translated from the Italian by Rome Correspondent Paddy Agnew. Lucetta Scaraffia is a journalist and professor of history at Rome’s La Sapienza university
 March 12, 2010

Global scope of abuse crisis makes case for reform

Church’s system of governance needs a fundamental overhaul

By Tom Roberts
In a 2005 file phpto, Pope Benedict XVI, center, attends a concert by the Regensburger Domspatzen boys choir with his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, on the pope's right, in the Sistene Chapel in the Vatican. AFP/L'Osservatore Romano/Arturo Maris)

[This analysis appears in the latest print issue of NCR, which went to press March 11.]

The clergy sex abuse crisis, once dismissed by some church officials as a product of U.S. anti-Catholicism and media hostile to the church, has begun sweeping through Europe, with damning government reports in Ireland and widespread allegations in recent weeks of abuse of youngsters in Germany and the Netherlands.

The growing international scope of the scandal of sex abuse and cover-up has prompted two U.S. experts, who have tracked the crisis for decades in the United States and beyond, to speculate that the evidence might soon become compelling enough to convince some in the hierarchy that the church’s system of governance needs a fundamental overhaul.

Amid all the investigations and continuing revelations, the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, ran a column written by Lucetta Scaraffia, an Italian journalist and history professor, asserting that if more women had been present in decision-making roles in the church, the cover-up may not have occurred. “We can hypothesize that a greater female presence, not at a subordinate level, would have been able to rip the veil of masculine secrecy that in the past often covered the denunciation of these misdeeds with silence,” she wrote.

The highly regarded German Cardinal Walter Kasper was quoted by the Rome daily La Repubblica: “Enough. We must seriously clean up our church. The guilty must be condemned and the victims compensated.”

Cleaning up the church, however, might be easier said than done, according to U.S. Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer and one of the earliest advocates of church transparency and of victims’ rights in the sex abuse crisis. He now regularly appears as a witness for victims suing the church.

He termed the spreading crisis as “the worst symptom of deeper maladies, symptomatic of a deeply flawed, to use church terminology, governmental system. The crisis has made it very clear that the system we have had for centuries is incapable of leading the body of Christ to be a church. All it was capable of doing was defending itself,” he said in a March 10 phone interview.

David Clohessy, a cofounder of the Chicago-based group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, believes that the crisis “will continue sporadically globally for decades to come.” The scandals to this point, he said in a March 10 interview, “have emerged almost exclusively in First-World nations, and yet common sense tells us the crimes and cover-ups are likely more extensive for a variety of factors in the developing world.”

He said a “greater power disparity between clergy and laity” often exists in the developing world. Combined with “less aggressive journalism, less well-funded law enforcement, less independent judiciary, and more economic dependence of laity on church officials in many parts of the world,” this leads him to conclude that sexual abuse by clergy in many regions of the world simply remains underreported.

The significance of the spreading crisis in Europe, he said, is that “on one hand, every additional country where the scandal erupts makes it harder for church officials to shift blame on, for example, a sexually loose culture or overzealous prosecutors or money-hungry trial lawyers.”

However, he is not optimistic that change will occur anytime soon in church structures because of the “virtually unchecked power of the church hierarchy, where there is no independent oversight, no checks and balances, and a handful of men exercise all of the power.”

Doyle wouldn’t speculate on whether the spreading scandal would bring any substantial change, but he believes that the bishops have engaged in “denial and blame-shifting” since the earliest days of the scandal and that now “we’re seeing the unraveling of a Teflon cover that kept this under wraps. The cover is rapidly unraveling now and what is obvious is that there is a broad and deep layer of corruption in the institution.”

[Tom Roberts is NCR editor at large. His e-mail address is Religion News Service and Catholic News Service contributed to this report.]
 Dublin ~ Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Prelate regrets lay absence in abuse response

PATSY McGARRY Religious Affairs Correspondent

IF LAY people, and particularly women, had been more involved in the Catholic Church the response to clerical child sex abuse allegations “would have been different,” Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary has said.

In a reflection on the Irish bishops’ summit with Pope Benedict last week, he also said that “in the discussions he asked for the forgiveness of the victims”.

The archbishop said “the need for co-operation with civil authorities, HSE and gardaí, and the complete implementation of the church’s own norms and procedures were seen as central to the safeguarding of children”.

At their meetings in the Vatican he said “the sense of pain, betrayal and anger expressed by victims was conveyed by the bishops. Scandal and shame was acknowledged by all who participated.”

Central to their discussions with the pope and senior Curia figures was “outreach to survivors, the desire to accompany them in their pain and help them find hope. The contributing causes to what had taken place and the lessons to be learned for the future were underlined.

“If lay people, and particularly women, had been involved as they now are in addressing this issue the response would have been different. Poor past management of sexual abuse cases has contributed to the suffering experienced by victims.”

At the meetings “it was acknowledged that while this is not a problem which is peculiar to Ireland or to the English-speaking world, or the church, nevertheless its impact is intensified in the church, damaging its credibility in a number of areas, for example, its teaching on marriage and the family, on sexual morality, and on the church’s role in education and Catholic schools”, he said.

While “there was an honest and courageous acknowledgment of the challenge facing all of us as a church at this time, the prevailing mood was one of hope and trust in God . . . Together we can do this, knowing that Christ has promised to journey with us,” he said.

In a Lenten pastoral letter to the people of Waterford and Lismore diocese, Bishop William Lee has recommended a revival of the Stations of the Cross.

“As you pray the stations, perhaps on the Fridays of Lent, I encourage you to remember in your prayers the survivors of abuse who have walked through life carrying the burden of traumatic experiences of the past. We pray that they can find healing and hope in the victory of Christ on Calvary,” he said.

Meanwhile, there was an angry reaction yesterday to reports that Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan had said “nothing will ever be enough to address the needs of victims . . . the most natural response to injustice is a desire for revenge” and that “to help victims move beyond that stage can be very difficult”.

Abuse survivors Marie Collins, Andrew Madden and One in Four’s Maeve Lewis said Bishop Drennan was “attempting to portray victims of clerical child sexual abuse as unreasonable in their needs and set on revenge. This is “most reprehensible” and that “attempting to pathologise this anger is extremely insulting”.
The Times ~ London ~ March 9, 2010

Father Hans Kung blames Catholic views on sex for clerical child abuse

Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

A leading Roman Catholic theologian has linked clerical sex abuse with priestly celibacy, blaming the Church’s “uptight” views on sex for child abuse scandals in Germany, Ireland and the US.

Father Hans Kung, President of the Global Ethic Foundation and professor emeritus at the University of Tübingen in Germany, said that the Church’s attitude was also revealed in its opposition to birth control.

The German church rejected any suggestion that abuse was linked to celibacy, homosexuality or church teaching.

Last week the Regensburg Diocese in Germany revealed that a former chorister claimed he was abused while a member of its choir, which was led for three decades by Father Georg Ratzinger, brother of Pope Benedict XVI. The Holy See said that it backed the diocese’s attempts to investigate the scandal by analysing “the painful question in a decisive and open way”. Also last week, in the Holy See, an adult chorister was sacked for allegedly procuring male prostitutes for a Papal usher.

Robert Zollitsch, Archbishop of Freiburg and head of the German bishops’ conference, branded clerical abuse “outrageous” and begged forgiveness from the victims but denied any link between abuse and celibacy.

Writing in The Tablet, Father Kung, who in 1979 was stripped of his licence to teach Catholic theology after he rejected the doctrine of Papal infallibility, welcomed the apology but described the denials of any link between abuse, celibacy and other teaching as “erroneous”.

He said that it was the case that abuse was found also in families, schools and other churches. But he asked: “Why is it so prevalent in the Catholic Church under celibate leadership?” He said that celibacy was not the only cause of the misconduct but described it as “the most important and structurally the most decisive” expression of the Church’s uptight attitude to sex.

Citing the New Testament, he says that Jesus and St Paul practised celibacy but “allowed full freedom in this matter to each individual”. St Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians wrote: “Because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” Peter and the apostles were married and their ministries did not suffer, he said, pointing out that thousands of priests protested when the new law was introduced as late as the 11th century.

Father Kung said: “Compulsory celibacy is the principal reason for today’s catastrophic shortage of priests, for the fatal neglect of eucharistic celebration, and for the tragic breakdown of personal pastoral ministry in many places.”

He argues that there are two simple solutions to the shortage of priests: “Abolition of the celibacy rule, the root of all these evils, and the admission of women to ordination. The bishops know this, but they do not have the courage to say it in public.”