Benedict XVI: 5 years on, morally compromised, submerged in personal complicity with priestly filth Print E-mail
 Dublin ~ Saturday, April 17, 2010

Benedict needs to stop filth from smothering his papacy

By John Cooney

EMBATTLED 83-year-old Pope Benedict XVI will today visit the troubled Maltese church under a massive cloud -- and no, it is not volcanic ash from Iceland that the papal pilot will need to avoid.

The two-day visit comes days ahead of the fifth anniversary of former cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's election as Pontiff.

Next Monday's anniversary will be a benchmark reminder of his promise as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the former Roman Inquisition, to cleanse the Catholic Church of the "filth" of priestly paedophilia.

What was planned as a triumphal trip by the German Pontiff to the most conservative Catholic country in Europe, where divorce and abortion are banned, will confront him with the extent of that "filth".

Even in Malta there will be no respite for the church's "Doctrinal Enforcer" from the cover-ups which represent the biggest threat since the 16th century to the credibility of the universal Catholic Church.

The visit comes after weeks of battening down the hatches of St Peter's Basilica as a result of an avalanche of Vatican-ordered cover-ups around Europe, notably in his native Germany.

Malta is the model Catholic island, such as Ireland prided itself on being until as late as the 1990s, when paedophile Brendan Smyth stalked north and south in monastic garb.

But if Benedict thought he might enjoy a restful 26 hours on the Maltese Mediterranean island, he will have been rudely deprived of breathing space yesterday when his former Tubingen colleague and arch-critic, Swiss theologian Fr Hans Kung, published a searing indictment of him.

The charge sheet is that as doctrinal head from 1981-2005, and as Pope since April 2005, Benedict engineered a worldwide cover-up of clerical child sex abuse in the Catholic Church and made worse everything that is wrong in the church.

"With good reason, therefore, many people have expected a personal mea culpa on the part of the former prefect and current Pope," Kung wrote in an open letter to the world's bishops.

"Instead, the Pope passed up the opportunity afforded by Holy Week: on Easter Sunday, he had his innocence proclaimed, urbi et orbi, by the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano."

Kung's stature as the "Unofficial Leader of His Holiness's Loyal Opposition" for four decades, will have an enormous impact on Catholic public opinion.

It may even influence some of the less timid bishops to give voice to the widespread impatience about church reform in their localities.

Here in Ireland, as elsewhere, only a few apologists of papal power have given credence to the attacks on the media by senior curial cardinals.

Ordinary Catholics have winced in disbelief at the defences uttered by the Pope's prime minister, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, that paedophilia was linked to homosexuality rather than clerical celibacy.

In the trattoria of Rome, the beer gardens of Munich and the bars of Manhattan, glasses are raised in mocking toasts to the curial cardinals dubbed "Benny's Clowns".

Nor has the Pope himself replied to evidence of at least 30 known cover-ups by Rome.

His one utterance on Thursday to the Pontifical Biblical Commission was to say: "Now, under the attacks of the world that speaks to us of our sins, we see that being able to do penance is a grace."

Commenting on this, Mark Serrano, a spokesman for SNAP, the Survivors (American) Network of those Abused by Priests, spoke volumes when he said: "Sadly, once again, the globe's most powerful religious figure will win headlines for uttering a couple of sentences, when he should in fact be taking dramatic steps to safeguard kids.

"When the Pope can't bring himself to utter the words 'paedophile priest' or 'child-sex crimes' or 'cover ups' or 'complicit bishops', it's hard to have faith that he is able to honestly and effectively deal with this growing crisis."

HOWEVER, Kung damns Benedict's five pontifical years as lost opportunities on a wider range of issues: rapprochement with the Protestant churches, reconciliation with the Jews, dialogue with Muslims, reconciliation with the colonised indigenous peoples of Latin America, allowing Africans the use of birth control to fight overpopulation and HIV, and making peace with modern science by clearly affirming the theory of evolution and accepting stem-cell research.

Kung's conclusion, as has been mine for some weeks, is that the Catholic Church urgently needs a Third Vatican Council to sort out the "filth" that is smothering Pope Benedict's pontificate.

It is up to the world's bishops to demand a new council. Do we have any bidders among the Irish bishops?

Surely the volcano for reform is not burnt out?

 April 11, 2010, page WK12

Worlds Without Women

By Maureen Dowd
When I was in Saudi Arabia, I had tea and sweets with a group of educated and sophisticated young professional women.

I asked why they were not more upset about living in a country where women’s rights were strangled, an inbred and autocratic state more like an archaic men’s club than a modern nation. They told me, somewhat defensively, that the kingdom was moving at its own pace, glacial as that seemed to outsiders.

How could such spirited women, smart and successful on every other level, acquiesce in their own subordination?

I was puzzling over that one when it hit me: As a Catholic woman, I was doing the same thing.

I, too, belonged to an inbred and wealthy men’s club cloistered behind walls and disdaining modernity.

I, too, remained part of an autocratic society that repressed women and ignored their progress in the secular world.

I, too, rationalized as men in dresses allowed our religious kingdom to decay and to cling to outdated misogynistic rituals, blind to the benefits of welcoming women’s brains, talents and hearts into their ancient fraternity.

To circumscribe women, Saudi Arabia took Islam’s moral codes and orthodoxy to extremes not outlined by Muhammad; the Catholic Church took its moral codes and orthodoxy to extremes not outlined by Jesus. In the New Testament, Jesus is surrounded by strong women and never advocates that any woman ­ whether she’s his mother or a prostitute ­ be treated as a second-class citizen.

Negating women is at the heart of the church’s hideous ­ and criminal ­ indifference to the welfare of boys and girls in its priests’ care. Lisa Miller writes in Newsweek’s cover story about the danger of continuing to marginalize women in a disgraced church that has Mary at the center of its founding story:

“In the Roman Catholic corporation, the senior executives live and work, as they have for a thousand years, eschewing not just marriage, but intimacy with women ... not to mention any chance to familiarize themselves with the earthy, primal messiness of families and children.” No wonder that, having closed themselves off from women and everything maternal, they treated children as collateral damage, a necessary sacrifice to save face for Mother Church.

And the sins of the fathers just keep coming. On Friday, The Associated Press broke the latest story pointing the finger of blame directly at Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, quoting from a letter written in Latin in which he resisted pleas to defrock a California priest who had sexually molested children.

As the longtime Vatican enforcer, the archconservative Ratzinger ­ now Pope Benedict XVI ­ moved avidly to persecute dissenters. But with molesters, he was plodding and even merciful.

As the A.P. reported, the Oakland diocese recommended defrocking Father Stephen Kiesle in 1981. The priest had pleaded no contest and was sentenced to three years’ probation in 1978 in a case in which he was accused of tying up and molesting two boys in a church rectory.

In 1982, the Oakland diocese got what it termed a “rather curt” response from the Vatican. It wasn’t until 1985 that “God’s Rottweiler” finally got around to addressing the California bishop’s concern. He sent his letter urging the diocese to give the 38-year-old pedophile “as much paternal care as possible” and to consider “his young age.” Ratzinger should have been more alarmed by the young age of the priest’s victims; that’s what maternal care would have entailed.

As in so many other cases, the primary concern seemed to be shielding the church from scandal. Chillingly, outrageously, the future pope told the Oakland bishop to consider the “good of the universal church” before granting the priest’s own request to give up the collar ­ even though the bishop had advised Rome that the scandal would likely be greater if the priest were not punished.

While the Vatican sat on the case ­ asking the diocese to resubmit the files, saying they might have been lost ­ Kiesle volunteered as a youth minister at a church north of Oakland. The A.P. also reported that even after the priest was finally defrocked in 1987, he continued to volunteer with children in the Oakland diocese; repeated warnings to church officials were ignored.

The Vatican must realize that the church’s belligerent, resentful and paranoid response to the global scandal is not working because it now says it will cooperate with secular justice systems and that the pope will have more meetings with victims. It is too little, too late.

The church that through the ages taught me and other children right from wrong did not know right from wrong when it came to children. Crimes were swept under the rectory rug, and molesters were protected to molest again for the “good of the universal church.” And that is bad, very bad ­ a mortal sin.

The church has had theological schisms. This is an emotional schism. The pope is morally compromised. Take it from a sister.

 Dublin ~ Monday, April 19, 2010

Priest says he was pressurised into taking blame for pope


A FORMER vicar-general in the archdiocese of Munich has claimed that he was pressurised last month into taking the blame for a mistake made 30 years ago by the then Archbishop of Munich, Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict), concerning the case of a paedophile priest.

Fr Gerhard Gruber has now said he did so only after coming under huge pressure from unnamed Catholic Church sources to take responsibility, so as to “take the pope out of the firing line”.

In a letter to a friend, seen by German weekly magazine Der Spiegel , Fr Gruber wrote that he was “begged” in numerous phone calls and after receiving a prepared statement by fax for him to sign. The magazine said Fr Gruber expresses unhappiness in the letter at being given the sole blame in public.

A spokesman for Munich archdiocese has dismissed the report as “completely made up”, saying Fr Gruber was at no point forced to sign anything but that he merely assisted in formulating the statement.

Last month media reports claimed that in 1980, Pope Benedict, as Archbishop of Munich, had mishandled the case of paedophile priest Fr Peter Hullermann. The priest was moved to Munich for “therapy” in 1980 after abusing a boy. The psychiatrist dealing with his case warned he was not to be allowed work with children.

Fr Hullermann was allowed return to parish duties in Munich within weeks of arriving there. The priest reoffended and in June 1986 he was convicted of the sexual abuse of other minors and given an 18-month suspended sentence. When this emerged last month, Fr Gruber assumed total responsibility, thus seeming to absolve Pope Benedict.

Meanwhile, according to the Spanish daily La Verdad , Colombian cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos said at a weekend conference in Murcia that Pope John Paul approved the policy of not reporting to the police clerical sex abuse crimes.

In a September 2001 letter, recently published by the French Catholic publication Golias , Cardinal Hoyos wrote to French bishop Pierre Pican to congratulate him for not reporting an abuser priest. Earlier that year, Bishop Pican received a suspended three-month sentence for not reporting serial abuser Fr René Bissy, who was eventually given an 18-year prison sentence for child sex abuse crimes between 1989 and 1996.

Speaking in Murcia on Saturday, Cardinal Hoyos confirmed the text of the letter, adding also that Pope John Paul had seen it and “authorised me to send it to all the bishops”.

Four months earlier, in 2001, Pope John Paul assigned judicial responsibility for certain “grave” sins (including child sex abuse) to the Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith. It was following this that the then prefect of the CDF, Cardinal Ratzinger, wrote to all Catholic bishops advising that they refer all credible cases of clerical child sex abuse to him. That letter was accompanied by another one, also in Latin, instructing that this be kept secret.

If Cardinal Hoyos’s claim is true it would suggest that Pope John Paul’s 2001 directive was intended to encourage a policy of cover-up.

Friday April 16 2010

Predator priests

''The Vatican should act against sexual abuse.''

A crisis of confidence in the Catholic Church unparalleled in modern times has been triggered by a wave of allegations of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests and the Church’s failure to act against the latter. Allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests and the cover-up of these crimes by others higher up in the hierarchy are not new. The problem ­ long shrouded in silence ­ erupted in the open in the 1980s in the US when lawsuits were filed against priests for molesting altar boys.

In the years since there have been torrents of lawsuits; yet only one bishop was ‘disciplined’. Even this bishop was sent to a job in Rome. Such has been the Catholic Church’s shameful record of inaction on sexual abuse of children by its priests. It has emerged now that Pope Benedict XVI, as a cardinal in Germany and later as a top Vatican official, was part of the culture of secrecy that shielded, even abetted child rapists and molesters.

It is alleged that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as the Pope was then known, knew that a priest under his authority was raping children. Not only did he not report the priest to criminal authorities, but he retained him as an active priest, enabling him to continue molesting. As a Vatican official, he was in charge of a department that was responsible for dealing with priests accused of sexual abuse. He cannot absolve himself of responsibility for failing to act upon the damning evidence that would have repeatedly landed on his desk.

The right thing for the Vatican to do is to come clean on the rot that has gripped the Church, even own moral responsibility for horrendous crimes that have been committed by its priests and its silence on the matter. Sadly, its officials have dismissed the allegations as ‘petty gossip.’ There is nothing petty about priests raping children. Even if the numbers of abuse cases is exaggerated as alleged by the Vatican, the latter should realise that even one case of sexual abuse is intolerable.

When confronted by allegations of child sexual abuse in the past, the Church faced the choice of protecting the child victims or its paedophile priests. More often than not, it chose the latter. It would be tragic if it repeated that blunder this time around.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~  15 April 2010

Ein offener Brief von Hans Küng

Scroll down for English translation, courtesy of
Leere Kirchen - und jetzt auch noch ein Skandal: Fünf Jahre nach der Amtseinführung von Papst Benedikt XVI. steckt die katholische Kirche in der tiefsten Vertrauenskrise seit der Reformation.
Fünf Jahre nach der Wahl von Joseph Ratzinger zum Chef der Katholiken steckt die Kirche in einer tiefen Krise. (ddp)

Verehrte Bischöfe,
Joseph Ratzinger, jetzt Benedikt XVI., und ich waren 1962-1965 die beiden jüngsten Konzilstheologen. Jetzt sind wir die beiden ältesten und einzigen noch voll aktiven. Mein theologisches Schaffen verstand ich stets auch als Dienst an der Kirche. Deshalb wende ich mich am 5. Jahrestag der Amtseinsetzung von Papst Benedikt in einem Offenen Brief an Sie, in Sorge um diese unsere Kirche, die in der tiefsten Vertrauenskrise seit der Reformation steckt. Eine andere Möglichkeit, an Sie zu gelangen, habe ich nicht.

Ich habe es sehr geschätzt, dass Papst Benedikt mich, seinen Kritiker, bald nach seinem Amtsantritt zu einem vier Stunden langen Gespräch einlud, das freundschaftlich verlief. Dies hat mir damals Hoffnung gemacht, dass Joseph Ratzinger, mein früherer Kollege an der Universität Tübingen, doch den Weg finden würde zur weiteren Erneuerung der Kirche und ökumenischen Verständigung im Geist des Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzils.

Verpasste Gelegenheiten

Meine Hoffnungen und die so vieler engagierter Katholikinnen und Katholiken wurden leider nicht erfüllt, und ich habe dies Papst Benedikt in unserer Korrespondenz auch verschiedentlich wissen lassen. Er hat zweifellos seine alltäglichen päpstlichen Pflichten gewissenhaft erfüllt und uns auch drei hilfreiche Enzykliken über Glaube, Hoffnung und Liebe geschenkt.

Aber was die großen Herausforderungen unserer Zeit betrifft, so stellt sich sein Pontifikat zunehmend als einer der verpassten Gelegenheiten und nicht der genützten Chancen dar:
- Vertan die Annäherung an die evangelischen Kirchen: Sie seien überhaupt keine Kirchen im eigentlichen Sinn, deshalb keine Anerkennung ihrer Ämter und keine gemeinsamen Abendmahlsfeiern möglich.

- Vertan eine nachhaltige Verständigung mit den Juden: Der Papst führt eine vorkonziliare Fürbitte für die Erleuchtung der Juden wieder ein und nimmt notorisch antisemitische schismatische Bischöfe in die Kirche auf, betreibt die Seligsprechung Pius' XII. und nimmt das Judentum nur als historische Wurzel des Christentums und nicht als fortbestehende Glaubensgemeinschaft mit eigenem Heilsweg ernst. Empörung von Juden weltweit über Benedikts Hausprediger in der päpstlichen Karfreitagsliturgie, der Kritik am Papst mit antisemitischer Hetze vergleicht.

Bitte klicken Sie auf das Bild, um die Slideshow zu starten:
- Vertan der vertrauensvolle Dialog mit den Muslimen: Symptomatisch Benedikts Regensburger Rede, in der er, schlecht beraten, den Islam als Religion der Gewalt und Unmenschlichkeit karikiert und damit anhaltendes Misstrauen unter Muslimen bewirkt.

- Vertan die Versöhnung mit den kolonisierten Urvölkern Lateinamerikas: Der Papst behauptet allen Ernstes, sie hätten die Religion ihrer europäischen Eroberer "ersehnt".

Kampf gegen Aids

- Vertan die Chance, den afrikanischen Völkern zu helfen: im Kampf gegen Überbevölkerung durch Bejahung der Empfängnisverhütung und im Kampf gegen Aids durch Erlaubnis von Kondomen.

- Vertan die Chance, mit den modernen Wissenschaften Frieden zu schließen: durch unzweideutige Anerkennung der Evolutionstheorie und differenzierte Bejahung neuer Forschungsgebiete wie Stammzellenforschung.

- Vertan die Chance, den Geist des Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzils endlich auch im Vatikan zum Kompass der katholischen Kirche zu machen und ihre Reformen voranzutreiben.
Hans Küng, 82, ist emeritierter Professor für ökumenische Theologie an der Universität in Tübingen und Präsident der Stiftung Weltethos. (Foto: Bild vergrößern)

Der letzte Punkt, verehrte Bischöfe, ist besonders schwerwiegend. Immer wieder relativiert dieser Papst die Konzilstexte und interpretiert sie gegen den Geist der Konzilsväter nach rückwärts. Er stellt sich sogar ausdrücklich gegen das Ökumenische Konzil, das nach katholischem Kirchenrecht die höchste Autorität in der katholischen Kirche darstellt:

- Er hat außerhalb der katholischen Kirche illegal ordinierte Bischöfe der traditionalistischen Pius-Bruderschaft, die das Konzil in zentralen Punkten ablehnen, ohne Vorbedingungen in die Kirche aufgenommen.

- Er fördert mit allen Mitteln die mittelalterliche Tridentinische Messe und feiert selber die Eucharistiefeier gelegentlich auf Latein mit dem Rücken zum Volk.

- Er realisiert nicht die in offiziellen ökumenischen Dokumenten (ARCIC) vorgezeichnete Verständigung mit der Anglikanischen Kirche, sondern versucht verheiratete anglikanische Geistliche durch Verzicht auf die Zölibatsverpflichtung in die römisch-katholische Kirche zu locken.

- Er hat durch Ernennung antikonziliarer Chefbeamter (Staatssekretariat, Liturgiekongregation u. a.) und reaktionärer Bischöfe in aller Welt die antikonziliaren Kräfte in der Kirche gestärkt.

Restaurationspolitik gescheitert

Papst Benedikt XVI. scheint sich zunehmend von der großen Mehrheit des Kirchenvolkes zu entfernen, das sich ohnehin immer weniger um Rom kümmert und sich bestenfalls noch mit Ortsgemeinde und Ortsbischof identifiziert. Ich weiß, dass auch viele von Ihnen darunter leiden: Der Papst wird in seiner antikonziliaren Politik voll unterstützt von der Römischen Kurie. Diese versucht Kritik in Episkopat und Kirche zu ersticken und Kritiker mit allen Mitteln zu diskreditieren.

Durch erneute barocke Prachtentfaltung und medienwirksame Manifestationen versucht man in Rom eine starke Kirche mit einem absolutistischen "Stellvertreter Christi" zu demonstrieren, der legislative, exekutive und judikative Gewalt in seiner Hand vereint.

Doch Benedikts Restaurationspolitik ist gescheitert. Alle seine Auftritte, Reisen und Dokumente vermochten die Auffassung der meisten Katholiken in kontroversen Fragen, besonders auch der Sexualmoral, nicht im Sinne römischer Doktrin zu verändern. Und selbst päpstliche Jugendtreffen, besucht vor allem von konservativen charismatischen Gruppierungen, konnten weder die Kirchenaustritte bremsen noch mehr Priesterberufungen wecken.

Im Stich gelassen

Gerade Sie als Bischöfe werden es zutiefst bedauern: Zehntausende Priester haben seit dem Konzil, vor allem wegen des Zölibatsgesetzes, ihr Amt aufgegeben. Der Nachwuchs an Priestern, aber auch an Ordensleuten, Schwestern und Laienbrüdern, hat in quantitativer wie qualitativer Hinsicht abgenommen. Resignation und Frustration breiten sich im Klerus und gerade unter den aktivsten Kirchenmitgliedern aus.

Viele fühlen sich mit ihren Nöten im Stich gelassen und leiden an der Kirche. In vielen Ihrer Diözesen dürfte es so sein: immer mehr leere Kirchen, Priesterseminarien, Pfarrhäuser. In manchen Ländern werden Kirchgemeinden wegen Priestermangel, oft gegen ihren Willen, zusammengelegt zu riesigen "Seelsorgeeinheiten", in denen die wenigen Priester völlig überlastet sind und wodurch eine Kirchenreform nur vorgetäuscht wird.

Und nun kommen zu den vielen krisenhaften Entwicklungen auch noch himmelschreiende Skandale: vor allem der Missbrauch von Tausenden von Kindern und Jugendlichen durch Kleriker, in den Vereinigten Staaten, Irland, Deutschland und anderen Ländern - dies alles verbunden mit einer nie dagewesenen Führungs- und Vertrauenskrise.

Nicht schweigen

Es darf nicht verschwiegen werden, dass das weltweit in Kraft gesetzte Vertuschungssystem von klerikalen Sexualvergehen gesteuert war von der römischen Glaubenskongregation Kardinal Ratzingers (1981-2005), wo schon unter Johannes Paul II. unter strengster Geheimhaltung die Fälle gesammelt wurden.

Noch am 18. Mai 2001 sandte Ratzinger ein feierliches Schreiben über die schwereren Vergehen ("Epistula de delictis gravioribus") an alle Bischöfe. Darin werden die Missbrauchsfälle unter das "Secretum Pontificium" gestellt, bei dessen Verletzung man sich schwere Kirchenstrafen zuziehen kann. Zu Recht fordern deshalb viele vom damaligen Präfekten und jetzigen Papst ein persönliches "Mea culpa". Doch leider hat er in der Karwoche die Gelegenheit dafür verpasst. Stattdessen hat er sich am Ostersonntag "urbi et orbi" vom Kardinaldekan seine Unschuld attestieren lassen.

Die Folgen all der Skandale für das Ansehen der katholischen Kirche sind verheerend. Dies wird unterdessen auch von hochrangigen Amtsträgern bestätigt. Zahllose untadelige und hochengagierte Seelsorger und Jugenderzieher leiden unter einem Pauschalverdacht.

Sie, verehrte Bischöfe, müssen sich der Frage stellen, wie es denn mit unserer Kirche und Ihrer Diözese in Zukunft weitergehen solle. Doch möchte ich Ihnen nicht ein Reformprogramm skizzieren; das habe ich vor und nach dem Konzil mehrmals getan.

"Geben Sie unserer Kirche eine Perspektive"

Ich möchte Ihnen nur sechs Vorschläge machen, von denen ich überzeugt bin, dass sie von Millionen von Katholiken, die keine Stimme haben, mitgetragen werden:

1. Nicht schweigen: Durch Schweigen machen Sie sich angesichts so vieler schwerer Missstände mitschuldig. Vielmehr sollten Sie dort, wo Sie bestimmte Gesetze, Anordnungen und Maßnahmen für kontraproduktiv halten, dies auch in aller Öffentlichkeit sagen. Schicken Sie keine Ergebenheitsadressen nach Rom, sondern Reformforderungen!

2. Reformen anpacken: So viele in Kirche und Episkopat klagen über Rom, ohne selber etwas zu tun. Aber wenn heute in einer Diözese oder Gemeinde der Gottesdienst nicht mehr besucht, die Seelsorge wirkungsarm, die Offenheit gegenüber den Nöten der Welt beschränkt, die ökumenische Zusammenarbeit minimal ist, dann kann die Schuld nicht einfach auf Rom abgeschoben werden. Ob Bischof, Priester oder Laie - jeder tue selber etwas für die Erneuerung der Kirche in seinem größeren oder kleineren Lebensbereich. Viel Großes in den Gemeinden und in der gesamten Kirche ist durch die Initiative Einzelner oder kleiner Gruppen in Gang gekommen. Als Bischof sollten Sie solche Initiativen unterstützen und fördern und gerade jetzt auf die berechtigten Klagen der Gläubigen eingehen.

3. In Kollegialität vorgehen: Das Konzil hat nach heftiger Debatte und gegen anhaltende kuriale Opposition die Kollegialität von Papst und Bischöfen dekretiert - im Sinn der Apostelgeschichte, wo Petrus auch nicht ohne das Apostelkollegium tätig war. Aber Päpste und Kurie haben in der nachkonziliaren Zeit diese zentrale Konzilsentscheidung ignoriert. Seit Papst Paul VI. schon zwei Jahre nach dem Konzil - ohne jegliche Beratung mit dem Episkopat - eine Enzyklika zur Verteidigung des umstrittenen Zölibatsgesetzes veröffentlicht hatte, wurde wieder im alten unkollegialen Stil päpstliches Lehramt und Politik betrieben. Bis hinein in die Liturgie präsentiert sich der Papst als Autokrat, gegenüber dem die Bischöfe, mit denen er sich gerne umgibt, wie Statisten ohne Recht und Stimme wirken. Deshalb sollten Sie, verehrte Bischöfe, nicht nur als Einzelne handeln, sondern in Gemeinschaft mit den anderen Bischöfen, den Priestern und dem Kirchenvolk, Männern und Frauen.

Gehorsam ist Gott allein geschuldet

4. Uneingeschränkter Gehorsam allein Gott geschuldet: Sie alle haben in der feierlichen Bischofsweihe einen uneingeschränkten Gehorsamseid gegenüber dem Papst abgelegt. Aber Sie wissen auch, dass uneingeschränkter Gehorsam nie einer menschlichen Autorität, sondern Gott allein geschuldet ist. Sie dürfen sich deshalb durch Ihren Eid nicht gehindert sehen, die Wahrheit zu sagen über die gegenwärtige Krise der Kirche, Ihrer Diözese und Ihres Landes. Ganz nach dem Beispiel des Apostels Paulus, der dem Petrus "ins Angesicht widerstand, weil er sich selber ins Unrecht gesetzt hatte" (Gal 2,11)! Ein Druck auf die römischen Autoritäten im Geist christlicher Brüderlichkeit kann legitim sein, wo diese dem Geist des Evangeliums und ihrem Auftrag nicht entsprechen. Volkssprache in der Liturgie, Änderung der Mischehenbestimmungen, Bejahung von Toleranz, Demokratie, Menschenrechten, ökumenische Verständigung und so vieles ist nur durch beharrlichen Druck von unten erreicht worden.

5. Regionale Lösungen anstreben: Im Vatikan stellt man sich oft taub gegenüber berechtigten Forderungen aus Episkopat, Priesterschaft und Laienschaft. Umso mehr müssten in kluger Weise regionale Lösungen angestrebt werden. Ein besonders heikles Problem, das wissen Sie, ist das aus dem Mittelalter stammende Zölibatsgesetz, das gerade im Kontext der Missbrauchsskandale zu Recht weltweit in Frage gestellt wird. Eine Änderung gegen den Willen Roms scheint beinahe unmöglich. Trotzdem ist man nicht zur Passivität verurteilt: Ein Priester, der nach reiflicher Überlegung zu heiraten gedenkt, müsste nicht automatisch von seinem Amt zurücktreten, wenn Bischof und Gemeinde hinter ihm stehen. Einzelne Bischofskonferenzen könnten mit einer regionalen Lösung vorangehen. Aber besser wäre es, eine gesamtkirchliche Lösung anzustreben. Deshalb:

6. Ein Konzil fordern: Wie es zur Realisierung von Liturgiereform, Religionsfreiheit, Ökumene und interreligiösem Dialog eines Ökumenischen Konzils bedurfte, so auch zur Lösung der jetzt dramatisch aufgebrochenen Reformprobleme. Das Reformkonzil von Konstanz im Jahrhundert vor der Reformation hat die Abhaltung von Konzilien für alle fünf Jahre beschlossen, was aber von der Römischen Kurie unterlaufen wurde. Zweifellos wird diese auch jetzt alles tun, um ein Konzil, von dem sie eine Beschränkung ihrer Macht befürchten muss, zu verhindern. Es liegt in Ihrer aller Verantwortung, ein Konzil oder wenigstens eine repräsentative Bischofsversammlung durchzusetzen.

Ehrlicher Umgang mit den Problemen

Dies ist angesichts einer Kirche in der Krise mein Aufruf an Sie, verehrte Bischöfe, Ihre durch das Konzil wieder aufgewertete bischöfliche Autorität in die Waagschale zu werfen. Die Augen der Welt sind in dieser notvollen Situation auf Sie gerichtet. Ungezählte Menschen haben das Vertrauen in die katholische Kirche verloren. Nur ein offener und ehrlicher Umgang mit den Problemen und konsequente Reformen können helfen, dieses Vertrauen wiederzugewinnen. Ich bitte Sie in allem Respekt, das Ihre beizutragen, womöglich in Zusammenarbeit mit Ihren Mitbischöfen, notfalls aber auch in apostolischem "Freimut" (Apg 4,29.31) allein. Geben Sie Ihren Gläubigen Zeichen der Hoffnung und Ermutigung und unserer Kirche eine Perspektive.

Es grüßt Sie in der Gemeinschaft des christlichen Glaubens

Ihr Hans Küng

Dieser offene Brief des Theologen Hans Küng erscheint ebenfalls in der Neuen Zürcher Zeitung, in La Repubblica, El País, Le Monde und im Vertrieb der New York Times Syndication.
  Dublin ~ Friday, April 16, 2010

Church in worst credibility crisis since Reformation


Pope Benedict has made worse just about everything that is wrong with the Roman Catholic Church and is directly responsible for engineering the global cover-up of child rape perpetrated by priests, according to this open letter to all Catholic bishops

Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, and I were the youngest theologians at the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965. Now we are the oldest and the only ones still fully active. I have always understood my theological work as a service to the Roman Catholic Church. For this reason, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the election of Pope Benedict XVI, I am making this appeal to you in an open letter. In doing so, I am motivated by my profound concern for our church, which now finds itself in the worst credibility crisis since the Reformation. Please excuse the form of an open letter; unfortunately, I have no other way of reaching you.

I deeply appreciated that the pope invited me, his outspoken critic, to meet for a friendly, four-hour-long conversation shortly after he took office. This awakened in me the hope that my former colleague at Tubingen University might find his way to promote an ongoing renewal of the church and an ecumenical rapprochement in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.

Unfortunately, my hopes and those of so many engaged Catholic men and women have not been fulfilled. And in my subsequent correspondence with the pope, I have pointed this out to him many times. Without a doubt, he conscientiously performs his everyday duties as pope, and he has given us three helpful encyclicals on faith, hope and charity. But when it comes to facing the major challenges of our times, his pontificate has increasingly passed up more opportunities than it has taken:

Missed is the opportunity for rapprochement with the Protestant churches: Instead, they have been denied the status of churches in the proper sense of the term and, for that reason, their ministries are not recognized and intercommunion is not possible.

Missed is the opportunity for the long-term reconciliation with the Jews: Instead the pope has reintroduced into the liturgy a preconciliar prayer for the enlightenment of the Jews, he has taken notoriously anti-Semitic and schismatic bishops back into communion with the church, and he is actively promoting the beatification of Pope Pius XII, who has been accused of not offering sufficient protections to Jews in Nazi Germany.

The fact is, Benedict sees in Judaism only the historic root of Christianity; he does not take it seriously as an ongoing religious community offering its own path to salvation. The recent comparison of the current criticism faced by the pope with anti-Semitic hate campaigns – made by Rev Raniero Cantalamessa during an official Good Friday service at the Vatican – has stirred up a storm of indignation among Jews around the world.

Missed is the opportunity for a dialogue with Muslims in an atmosphere of mutual trust: Instead, in his ill-advised but symptomatic 2006 Regensburg lecture, Benedict caricatured Islam as a religion of violence and inhumanity and thus evoked enduring Muslim mistrust.

Missed is the opportunity for reconciliation with the colonised indigenous peoples of Latin America: Instead, the pope asserted in all seriousness that they had been “longing” for the religion of their European conquerors.

Missed is the opportunity to help the people of Africa by allowing the use of birth control to fight overpopulation and condoms to fight the spread of HIV.

Missed is the opportunity to make peace with modern science by clearly affirming the theory of evolution and accepting stem-cell research.

Missed is the opportunity to make the spirit of the Second Vatican Council the compass for the whole Catholic Church, including the Vatican itself, and thus to promote the needed reforms in the church.

This last point, respected bishops, is the most serious of all. Time and again, this pope has added qualifications to the conciliar texts and interpreted them against the spirit of the council fathers. Time and again, he has taken an express stand against the Ecumenical Council, which according to canon law represents the highest authority in the Catholic Church:

He has taken the bishops of the traditionalist Pius X Society back into the church without any preconditions – bishops who were illegally consecrated outside the Catholic Church and who reject central points of the Second Vatican Council (including liturgical reform, freedom of religion and the rapprochement with Judaism).

He promotes the medieval Tridentine Mass by all possible means and occasionally celebrates the Eucharist in Latin with his back to the congregation.

He refuses to put into effect the rapprochement with the Anglican Church, which was laid out in official ecumenical documents by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, and has attempted instead to lure married Anglican clergy into the Roman Catholic Church by freeing them from the very rule of celibacy that has forced tens of thousands of Roman Catholic priests out of office.

He has actively reinforced the anti-conciliar forces in the church by appointing reactionary officials to key offices in the Curia (including the secretariat of state, and positions in the liturgical commission) while appointing reactionary bishops around the world.

Pope Benedict XVI seems to be increasingly cut off from the vast majority of church members who pay less and less heed to Rome and, at best, identify themselves only with their local parish and bishop.

I know that many of you are pained by this situation. In his anti-conciliar policy, the pope receives the full support of the Roman Curia. The Curia does its best to stifle criticism in the episcopate and in the church as a whole and to discredit critics with all the means at its disposal. With a return to pomp and spectacle catching the attention of the media, the reactionary forces in Rome have attempted to present us with a strong church fronted by an absolutistic “Vicar of Christ” who combines the church’s legislative, executive and judicial powers in his hands alone. But Benedict’s policy of restoration has failed. All of his spectacular appearances, demonstrative journeys and public statements have failed to influence the opinions of most Catholics on controversial issues. This is especially true regarding matters of sexual morality. Even the papal youth meetings, attended above all by conservative-charismatic groups, have failed to hold back the steady drain of those leaving the church or to attract more vocations to the priesthood.

You in particular, as bishops, have reason for deep sorrow: Tens of thousands of priests have resigned their office since the Second Vatican Council, for the most part because of the celibacy rule. Vocations to the priesthood, but also to religious orders, sisterhoods and lay brotherhoods are down – not just quantitatively but qualitatively. Resignation and frustration are spreading rapidly among both the clergy and the active laity. Many feel that they have been left in the lurch with their personal needs, and many are in deep distress over the state of the church. In many of your dioceses, it is the same story: increasingly empty churches, empty seminaries and empty rectories. In many countries, due to the lack of priests, more and more parishes are being merged, often against the will of their members, into ever larger “pastoral units,” in which the few surviving pastors are completely overtaxed. This is church reform in pretense rather than fact!

And now, on top of these many crises comes a scandal crying out to heaven – the revelation of the clerical abuse of thousands of children and adolescents, first in the United States, then in Ireland and now in Germany and other countries. And to make matters worse, the handling of these cases has given rise to an unprecedented leadership crisis and a collapse of trust in church leadership.

There is no denying the fact that the worldwide system of covering up cases of sexual crimes committed by clerics was engineered by the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Cardinal Ratzinger (1981-2005). During the reign of Pope John Paul II, that congregation had already taken charge of all such cases under oath of strictest silence. Ratzinger himself, on May 18th, 2001, sent a solemn document to all the bishops dealing with severe crimes ( “epistula de delictis gravioribus” ), in which cases of abuse were sealed under the “secretum pontificium” , the violation of which could entail grave ecclesiastical penalties. With good reason, therefore, many people have expected a personal mea culpa on the part of the former prefect and current pope. Instead, the pope passed up the opportunity afforded by Holy Week: On Easter Sunday, he had his innocence proclaimed “urbi et orbi” by the dean of the College of Cardinals.

The consequences of all these scandals for the reputation of the Catholic Church are disastrous. Important church leaders have already admitted this. Numerous innocent and committed pastors and educators are suffering under the stigma of suspicion now blanketing the church. You, reverend bishops, must face up to the question: What will happen to our church and to your diocese in the future? It is not my intention to sketch out a new program of church reform. That I have done often enough both before and after the council. Instead, I want only to lay before you six proposals that I am convinced are supported by millions of Catholics who have no voice in the current situation.

  • 1. Do not keep silent: By keeping silent in the face of so many serious grievances, you taint yourselves with guilt. When you feel that certain laws, directives and measures are counterproductive, you should say this in public. Send Rome not professions of your devotion, but rather calls for reform!
  • 2. Set about reform: Too many in the church and in the episcopate complain about Rome, but do nothing themselves. When people no longer attend church in a diocese, when the ministry bears little fruit, when the public is kept in ignorance about the needs of the world, when ecumenical co-operation is reduced to a minimum, then the blame cannot simply be shoved off on Rome. Whether bishop, priest, layman or laywoman – everyone can do something for the renewal of the church within his own sphere of influence, be it large or small. Many of the great achievements that have occurred in the individual parishes and in the church at large owe their origin to the initiative of an individual or a small group. As bishops, you should support such initiatives and, especially given the present situation, you should respond to the just complaints of the faithful.
  • 3. Act in a collegial way: After heated debate and against the persistent opposition of the Curia, the Second Vatican Council decreed the collegiality of the pope and the bishops. It did so in the sense of the Acts of the Apostles, in which Peter did not act alone without the college of the apostles. In the post-conciliar era, however, the pope and the Curia have ignored this decree. Just two years after the council, Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical defending the controversial celibacy law without the slightest consultation of the bishops. Since then, papal politics and the papal magisterium have continued to act in the old, uncollegial fashion. Even in liturgical matters, the pope rules as an autocrat over and against the bishops. He is happy to surround himself with them as long as they are nothing more than stage extras with neither voices nor voting rights. This is why, venerable bishops, you should not act for yourselves alone, but rather in the community of the other bishops, of the priests and of the men and women who make up the church.
  • 4. Unconditional obedience is owed to God alone: Although at your episcopal consecration you had to take an oath of unconditional obedience to the pope, you know that unconditional obedience can never be paid to any human authority; it is due to God alone. For this reason, you should not feel impeded by your oath to speak the truth about the current crisis facing the church, your diocese and your country. Your model should be the apostle Paul, who dared to oppose Peter “to his face since he was manifestly in the wrong”! ( Galatians 2:11 ). Pressuring the Roman authorities in the spirit of Christian fraternity can be permissible and even necessary when they fail to live up to the spirit of the Gospel and its mission. The use of the vernacular in the liturgy, the changes in the regulations governing mixed marriages, the affirmation of tolerance, democracy and human rights, the opening up of an ecumenical approach, and the many other reforms of Vatican II were only achieved because of tenacious pressure from below.
  • 5. Work for regional solutions: The Vatican has frequently turned a deaf ear to the well-founded demands of the episcopate, the priests and the laity. This is all the more reason for seeking wise regional solutions. As you are well aware, the rule of celibacy, which was inherited from the Middle Ages, represents a particularly delicate problem. In the context of today’s clerical abuse scandal, the practice has been increasingly called into question. Against the expressed will of Rome, a change would appear hardly possible; yet this is no reason for passive resignation. When a priest, after mature consideration, wishes to marry, there is no reason why he must automatically resign his office when his bishop and his parish choose to stand behind him. Individual episcopal conferences could take the lead with regional solutions. It would be better, however, to seek a solution for the whole church, therefore:
  • 6. Call for a council: Just as the achievement of liturgical reform, religious freedom, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue required an ecumenical council, so now a council is needed to solve the dramatically escalating problems calling for reform. In the century before the Reformation, the Council of Constance decreed that councils should be held every five years. Yet the Roman Curia successfully managed to circumvent this ruling. There is no question that the Curia, fearing a limitation of its power, would do everything in its power to prevent a council coming together in the present situation. Thus it is up to you to push through the calling of a council or at least a representative assembly of bishops.

With the church in deep crisis, this is my appeal to you, venerable bishops: Put to use the episcopal authority that was reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council. In this urgent situation, the eyes of the world turn to you. Innumerable people have lost their trust in the Catholic Church. Only by openly and honestly reckoning with these problems and resolutely carrying out needed reforms can their trust be regained. With all due respect, I beg you to do your part – together with your fellow bishops as far as possible, but also alone if necessary – in apostolic “fearlessness” ( Acts 4:29, 31 ). Give your faithful signs of hope and encouragement and give our church a perspective for the future.

With warm greetings in the community of the Christian faith,

Yours, Hans Küng
 Thursday, 15 April 2010

A web of deceit is emerging and it starts at the very top

By Eamonn McCann

Last weekend the Associated Press news agency published a number of documents dealing with the efforts of a California bishop to persuade Cardinal Ratzinger, as he then was, to allow the laicisation of a priest who had been convicted of abusing children.

The cardinal wouldn't hear tell of it.

The Kiesle case did not involve a bishop hushing up child abuse allegations and failing to alert the civil authorities. Far from it. Oakland bishop Dr John Cummins appears to have behaved with propriety, only to be thwarted by the man who was to become Pope.

Fr Steven Kiesle had been convicted and given three years probation in 1978 for tying up and molesting two boys in a church rectory in San Francisco. In 1981, his probation completed, Kiesle asked the diocese to allow him to leave the priesthood.

Dr Cummins wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger, then about to take over as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, seeking permission to take Kiesle at his word. Ratzinger appears to have ignored the letter. Over the next two years, the Oakland diocese wrote to Ratzinger on at least three occasions, asking what progress had been made. No information was forthcoming apart from a letter from a Vatican official suggesting that the Kiesle file may be lost.

Dr Cummins wrote again to Cardinal Ratzinger: "It is my conviction that there would be no scandal if this petition were granted and that, given the nature of the case, there might be a greater scandal to the community if Father Kiesle were allowed to return to the active ministry."

Ratzinger didn't reply. It was not until 1985 - four years after the bishop first requested to sanction the priest's removal - that he finally wrote back.

The case was of "grave significance", he conceded, but "it is necessary for this congregation to submit incidents of this sort to very careful consideration, which necessitates a longer period of time."

Attention had to be paid to the "good of the universal Church". The bishop should be mindful of "the detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke within the community of Christ's faithful''.

In the meantime, Kiesle should be given "as much paternal care as possible".

Kiesle was finally unfrocked in 1987. In 2002, he was arrested and charged with 13 counts of child abuse dating back to his time as a priest.

In 2004, he was sentenced to six years in prison for sexually abusing a young girl. An attorney who interviewed him in prison told the New York Daily News: "He admitted molesting many children, bragged that he was the Pied Piper and said he had tried to molest every child who sat in his lap."

In 2001, Cardinal Ratzinger issued an updated version of the 1962 Vatican document Crimen Sollicitationis ('The Crime of Solicitation'), laying down that allegations of clerical sex offences should be kept confidential and forwarded to his office in Rome. The US journal the National Catholic Reporter suggested that, "As a result, [Ratzinger] acquired a familiarity with the contours of the problem that virtually no other figure in the Catholic Church can claim."

However, when Cardinal Ratzinger was asked at a conference in Spain in November 2002 to respond to the spate of sex abuse allegations in the US, he commented: "The constant presence of these news items does not correspond to the objectivity of the information... therefore, one comes to the conclusion that it is intentional, manipulated; that there is a desire to discredit the Church."

In the Republic three years later, retired Supreme Court judge Frank Murphy (left) published a 271-page report detailing more than 100 allegations of child sex abuse against 26 priests over a period of 40 years in the diocese of Ferns.

The following year, after a meeting with new Ferns bishop Denis Brennan, Benedict expressed his "personal anguish and horror" at the revelations. He made no reference to Judge Murphy's finding that in betraying the victims and protecting the abusers the diocese had been doing no more than following instructions from Rome.

Last month, in a pastoral letter reflecting on the report from Judge Yvonne Murphy on clerical abuse and cover-up in the Dublin archdiocese, Benedict professed himself "deeply disturbed by the information which has come to light". The Irish bishops had made "grave errors of judgment... and failures of leadership occurred".

There was no mention of the possibility that the bishops might have been following Benedict's own wishes.

As new allegations continue to emerge, it becomes clear that the pattern of evasion, obstruction and cover-up reflects the instructions of the Vatican and specifically of the Pope.

The case against Benedict for collusion in child sex-abuse is much stronger than the case against a number of Irish bishops who have been forced to resign.


 London ~ April 17, 2010

Pope’s visit to Malta overshadowed by paedophile priest scandal

The damage done by the child abuse scandal has been compounded by a lack of coherent response from those at the top

Richard Owen in Rome

A papal trip to Malta would not normally attract world attention, but these are not normal times in the Vatican. The Pope’s first overseas engagement since the sex abuse scandal embroiled the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy will take place in the full glare of the media ­ the same media that some of his supporters accuse of waging a campaign against him and their religion.

The blame game ­ the Vatican has also attributed its woes to homosexuals, the Holocaust, the Irish, and even the Devil ­ speaks to a wider problem in the Church’s handling of accusations that it conspired to cover up paedophilia committed by its clergy. Only in the past few days have Vatican officials scrambled to find a coherent strategy to try to control a scandal that has inflicted immeasurable damage on the institution.

“The problem is not that the Vatican line over the crisis has had unfortunate consequences,” said Andrea Tornielli, the biographer of Pope Benedict XVI and other modern pontiffs. “The problem is that there is no line.”

Even as the Pope faced accusations that he had covered up instances of clerical abuse while Archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982, and later as head of doctrine at the Vatican for 24 years, there was no co-ordinated rebuttal. In the corporate world, the response to such a public relations disaster would be crisis management, but the Vatican’s ancient bureaucracy, and a centuries-old culture of secrecy is ill equipped to meet the demands of communications strategies.

“We are not a multinational,” Father Federico Lombardi, the Pope’s spokesman, said recently. The Holy See, he said, “does not believe it is necessary to respond to every single document taken out of context”.

Asked during a rare briefing for reporters whether there had been urgent meetings in the Vatican over the abuse scandal, he looked baffled. Didn’t he feel that the Vatican was under siege? “No. We issue clarifications when necessary,” he replied, pointing to the publication on the Vatican website of church rules on abuse, making it clear for the first time that bishops must go to the police.

The reality, however, is that new abuse stories have appeared almost daily, and Father Lombardi, 68, a genial and mild-mannered Jesuit from Piedmont, northern Italy, has struggled without any apparent strategy or guidance from higher up in the Church.

Instead, stories involving abuse at the hands of priests have been dismissed as “petty gossip” or “idle chatter”. Contentious remarks by cardinals and bishops ­ blaming the stories on a Jewish conspiracy, for instance ­ have added to the furore.

The publication on the internet this week of new Vatican rules setting out a requirement to report suspected paedophiles to civic authorities, and intended to mark a new start, was almost immediately overshadowed by yet another gaffe, this time from the Pope’s deputy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who, on a visit to Chile, linked child abuse in the Church to homosexuality.

Vatican officials have repeatedly claimed that 2001 regulations issued by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ­ now Pope ­ which imposed papal confidentiality on abuse cases, were meant to speed up inquiries, not bury them, and that abusive priests were primarily the responsibility of local bishops.

Ambiguous at best, the guidelines look to many like an attempt to put the reputation of the Church above the suffering of victims. Indeed, cardinals are on record as saying that bishops were “not obliged” to go to the police.

The Pope’s call on Thursday for “penance” ­ the closest he has yet come to a mea culpa ­ may mark the start of a more coherent fightback.Father Lombardi has hinted that new initiatives are in the offing, including more papal meetings with victims as well as a “deepening of the measures of prevention and response” to abuse.

It may not be enough. This week Giovanni Maria Vian, the editor of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, admitted that the Vatican had communication problems, adding: “We could do better.”

When appointed as spokesman for the Pope, Father Lombardi, said: “I don’t think my role is to explain the Pope’s thinking or explain the things that he already states in an extraordinarily clear and rich way.”

This relaxed approach looks dangerously inadequate. Father Lombardi has faced one public relations disaster after another under a Pope who, during his five years in office, has offended Muslims, Jews and Anglicans.

He has admitted that he does not talk to the Pope about the abuse issue, but to Cardinal Bertone.

The Pope, moreover, is not a natural communicator, as was his predecessor, John Paul II, nor did he start out as a parish priest, with contact with daily life. His style is remote and professorial, he listens to few advisers and he does not have people from all walks of life to lunch or dinner, as John Paul did.

In Germany, where the numbers of the faithful are in decline, Der Spiegel magazine has already written off his pontificate as a failure, describing “the tragedy of a man who had set out to write books and only near the end of his life was summoned to assume the Herculean office at the Vatican”.

After Malta, more challenging trips to Portugal, Cyprus, Britain and Spain await. Some doubt that the Pope, who at his appointment described himself as “a humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord”, can rise to the challenge that his Church now faces.

His former friend and fellow theologian Hans Kung does not believe that the Vatican is capable of the reform required. “We cannot hide the fact that the system of hiding [abuse] was led by the Congregation of Faith of Cardinal Ratzinger, in which they kept cases under strict secrecy,” he wrote this week. “The consequences of these scandals for the Catholic Church are devastating. Dear bishops, ask yourselves how we are going to deal with this in the future? Do not be silent – silence makes us complicit. Send demands to Rome for reform.”

 London ~ Saturday April 17, 2010

Pope ventures out of Rome – but victims of church abuse lie in wait

If Benedict XVI thought Malta would provide a gentle reintroduction to touring, he's wrong

By Michael Day

Preparations for the Pope's visit to Malta - his first trip outside the Vatican since the latest allegations of clerical abuse emerged - have been overshadowed by offensive graffiti (AFP)

In ordinary times, Malta would seem like home from home for a visiting Pope. But when a beleaguered and visibly weary Benedict XVI touches down on the island this afternoon at 5pm, he faces a tense and potentially perilous 24 hours, in what is seen as a crucial test of this popularity as he ventures overseas for the first time since the paedophilia scandal began to engulf his church.

The tiny Mediterranean state, the last place in Europe where divorce is not possible, is among the most devout in the Catholic world. But the paedophilia crisis is raging here as well, with news that 25 of the island's 855 priests face abuse allegations.

Officially the visit is meant to commemorate the 1,950th anniversary of Saint Paul's shipwreck on Malta. Anxious church officials see the trip as a chance for the pontiff to find a haven of calm after two months in which the Vatican ship of state has navigated stormy seas. They are all too aware that if Malta gives a hostile welcome, then far more difficult trips lie ahead, notably to Britain in September.

The Vatican would like the world to focus on the five speeches the Pope will make during his whirlwind tour. More likely, all eyes will be on the 10 Maltese abuse victims who are demanding a meeting with the pontiff. If the Pope does meet the 10 face to face it would be the first such encounter since the clerical paedophilia scandal exploded across Europe. After indicating earlier in the week that Pope Benedict would agree to their requests, the Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, has subsequently said the Pope is unlikely to fit in a meeting with abuse victims in his "already tight" programme.

One of the 10 victims, 37-year-old Lawrence Grech, who says he was repeatedly attacked as a child at a church-run orphanage, has said the Pope should use the two-day trip April 17-18 to address himself to victims as he did in his letter to Irish Catholics last month.

"He should recognise that these things happened in Malta, reflect about the victims' suffering and issue a formal apology," Mr Grech said.

The victims' demands will add huge pressure to what is already a physically demanding visit for the pontiff, who celebrated his 83rd birthday yesterday. There are six separate appearances and five speeches planned before Pope Benedict flies back to Rome on Sunday – in time for the special lunch with cardinals on Monday to mark the fifth anniversary of his election.

Security in Malta will be particularly tight after the abuse cases reported on the island last week saw vandals deface billboards promoting the papal visit. The Maltese word for "paedophile" was spray-painted on one billboard. On others Hitler-style moustaches were daubed on images of Pope Benedict.

The island's police chief, John Rizzo, said: "Several people were brought in for questioning to see if they posed a risk to security this weekend." Those questioned are thought to have been university students who were planning protests.

The pontiff will pay a courtesy call on President George Abela and meet with young people as well as visiting Rabat, in the centre of the archipelago's main island, where tradition has it that the apostle Saint Paul took refuge in a grotto after his shipwreck. He will meet children and youths and celebrate an open-air mass expected to be attended by some 50,000 people – about an eighth of the population.

The mayor of a town near Malta's main airport has called in vain for the removal of a sculpture resembling a penis near the road leading to the capital, Valletta. Mayor John Schembri said the "obscene" and "embarrassing" sculpture by Paul Vella Critien should be removed "as a sign of respect" for the visiting pontiff. Critien insists that his "Mediterranean Column" is a modern three-dimensional representation of a symbol dating from ancient Egypt.

Two Maltese MPs have received invitations to the papal mass on Sunday while their unmarried partners were excluded, a Church spokesman said: "Had we also invited the partners ... it would mean that the Church would be condoning cohabitation."
 Dublin ~ Friday March 19 2010

Church must break its addiction to secrecy

By John Cooney

THE unofficial eleventh commandment of the Vatican and the Catholic Church is: "Thou shall not tell."

The reality is that a lust for secrecy is the rotten underbelly of the institutional church. Too often we hear instances of popes, cardinals and bishops using secrecy as an instrument of crude power to silence innocent children raped by paedophile priests -- and to conceal the identities and costly settlements with pervert clerics.

Far from learning from the documented case files gathered by the Ferns, Ryan and Murphy state inquiries and the forthcoming Cloyne Commission, Irish church leaders continue to be addicted to secrecy.

Following Cardinal Brady's "shaming" over his 1975 bonding of two children to silence about their abuse by the arch-priest of paedophiles, Brendan Smyth, the 'Wounded Healer' finds himself at the centre of a fresh controversy over a priest of the archdiocese of Armagh.

A woman, who was 17 when she was raped by a cleric settled with the priest in February.

The cardinal insists he was not involved in the discussions between the complainant and the priest other than to make it clear that he would not be a party to any confidentiality agreement, and he invited her to give evidence in a secret canonical process against Fr X, which she has done.

The point is that the details would not have become public knowledge if the woman had not spoken to the media.

The church is mired in secrecy and thus is subjected to drip-drip revelations.

Yesterday, the 'Belfast Telegraph' revealed the Bishop of Derry, Seamus Hegarty, was party to a secret compensation deal between a priest and a girl who was allegedly sexually abused when she was just eight years old.

In a settlement reached in 2000 without admission of liability by the church, she was awarded £12,000 and a handwritten letter of apology from the priest. The settlement document -- which was signed by lawyers on behalf of Dr Hegarty, his predecessor Bishop Edward Daly and the alleged abuser -- contained a confidentiality clause prohibiting the parties from discussing the case.

Bishop Hegarty last night said confidentiality "was proposed to the diocese by one of the other parties, and, to facilitate a settlement, the diocese agreed".

While there is much public bewilderment about church secrecy in abuse cases, it is not generally known that a huge area of the activities of the Vatican and bishops are governed under a blanket of secrecy.

This takes the form of a directive -- the equivalent of a government's 'Official Secrets Act' -- which came into force 36 years ago.

It was officially formalised in February 1974 after a Vatican official gave a journalist a letter from the papal nuncio in Germany demanding the dismissal of the Bishop of Limburg.

IT covers the preparation and editing of papal documents expressly placed under the seal of Vatican secrecy. This directive covers Pope Benedict's Lenten Letter, which he is due to sign today for release at 12 noon tomorrow Roman time.

This seal of pontifical secrecy is applied stringently to office information in the Vatican Secretariat of State, the Vatican's prime minister, and to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the former Inquisition.

Also under the secrecy seal are routine intelligence reports that are sent to the Vatican by papal nuncios from around the globe.

The directive extends to office information concerning the creation of cardinals, the selection of bishops and other high-ranking administrators, especially the appointments of all major officials working in the Curia, the Vatican civil service.

Indeed, it is virtually "a hide-all" directive as it includes coded correspondence of the Vatican and any matter considered by the Pope or other senior Vatican officials to be of sufficient importance to be placed under Vatican secrecy.

It will not go unnoticed in Ireland that when Pope Benedict signs his Irish letter, neither he, nor any senior Vatican official, has commented on the huge embarrassment caused by the admission of his older brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, that he often hit choir boys when he was in charge of them in Regensburg for 30 years.

Monsignor Georg has since gone into hiding and is refusing to answer questions.

However, bishops can sometimes be applauded when they clamp down on priests who express anti-social views such as the controversial Tipperary cleric who provoked outrage by saying he would not go to the police if any paedophile priest confessed to him.

MONSIGNOR Maurice Dooley, a retired canon lawyer in the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly, has assured his future silence on this issue to Archbishop Dermot Clifford who has publicly disowned the cleric's views as personal ones at odds with diocesan policy of referral of abuse cases to the civic authorities.

While the Vatican and bishops argue that maintaining discipline and orthodoxy in the articulation of church views is necessary, the current restriction are excessive and unworthy of an institution which proclaims to its followers that the truth will set them free.
THE AGE ~ Melbourne ~ Monday, 12 April 2010

Church abuse cover-ups scandal moves to Britain


A PRIEST who admitted indecently assaulting deaf boys at a school in Yorkshire has been allowed to remain as a cleric, it has been revealed as the scandal over abuse cover-ups in the Catholic Church moves to Britain.

Father Neil Gallanagh abused boys while working as the chaplain of St John's School for the Deaf in West Yorkshire in the 1970s.

The Right Reverend Arthur Roche, the bishop of Leeds, sent letters to the Vatican asking for advice on what action should be taken against Gallanagh, after details of his offences emerged, but decided not to defrock him.

Victims' support groups said that the Catholic Church's failure to pursue the toughest possible course of action against Gallanagh seriously undermined its attempts to send a clear statement that priests guilty of abuse have been properly punished.

The disclosure comes as Pope Benedict finds himself embroiled in new revelations over child sex abuse, following the emergence of a letter signed by him as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1985, before he became Pope, resisting the defrocking of Stephen Kiesle, an American priest who had been convicted of offences against young boys.

The decision not to defrock Gallanagh is likely to prove embarrassing for the Catholic Church in England and Wales, which has, until now, escaped being dragged into the crisis that has engulfed the church in several countries over the past year.

The abuse first came to light in 2002, by which time Gallanagh was working as a parish priest in Horsforth, Leeds. In 2005, by then 75 and retired, he pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting two teenage pupils at the school. He was given a six-month suspended sentence and a further 11 charges involving boys as young as 11 were left on file.

However, he escaped being defrocked - or laicised - following Bishop Roche's decision that it would be sufficient to stop him from exercising his ministry.

The diocese did not refer the case to the Vatican until 2007, according to the bishop's spokesman John Grady, by which time Benedict XVI was Pope.

''When the Neil Gallanagh case was sent to Rome, the diocese did not ask for laicisation,'' Mr Grady said.

Margaret Kennedy, founder of Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors, a support group, said that the church had not gone far enough in punishing Gallanagh.

 London ~ Monday 5 April 2010, page 1

Pope defiant over child sex abuse

Senior Catholics across Europe use Easter addresses to apologise and acknowledge the damage caused by the scandal, while pontiff remains unrepentant

Riazat Butt, and John Hooper in Rome

The pope delivers his traditional Easter message from the central loggia of St Peter's Basilica in Rome.(Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)

Senior Catholics across Europe today apologised for the way the church had dealt with paedophile priests and acknowledged the damage the scandal had caused to its moral authority.

In Easter sermons that revealed penitence, shame and shortcomings, archbishops in Armagh, Dublin, Edinburgh, Vienna and Westminster asked congregations for their forgiveness and urged them not to abandon the church because of past sins.

But there was no apology from Rome, as Benedict XVI maintained a steadfast silence about the crisis in his annual Urbi et Orbi – To the City and the World – address.

The only mention of the turmoil came from Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, who stood before the pope in a packed St Peter's Square and lauded him as the "unfailing rock" of the Catholic church.

In a departure from protocol, he told the pontiff in a special tribute: "We are deeply grateful for your strength of spirit and the apostolic courage with which you proclaim Christ's gospel."

In an apparent reference to the crisis, and employing a term already used by the pope, Sodano said the church would not be intimidated by "idle chatter".

His appearance was a gesture of defiance and indignation in the face of continued criticism aimed at the Vatican over its response to waves of allegations. The Catholic hierarchy has insisted that the pope is beyond reproach and that the media are conducting a smear campaign against him by exaggerating the scale of the abuse and attempts to conceal it.

However, today saw an unprecedented outpouring of apologies by leading church members across Europe.

Cardinal Sean Brady, the primate of Ireland, admitted that the church failed to involve civil authorities to protect its reputation. Brady, who is under pressure to resign because of his role in making two sex abuse victims sign an oath of silence, said: "I realise that, however unintentionally, however unknowingly, I too allowed myself to be influenced by that culture in our church, and our society.

"I pledge to you that, from now on, my overriding concern will always be the safety and protection of everyone in the church – but especially children and all those who are vulnerable."

In his Easter homily the archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Vincent Nicholls, told the faithful that the "serious sins" committed within the Catholic community had been much talked about. He added: "For our part, we have been reflecting on them deeply, acknowledging our guilt and our need for forgiveness."

In Austria, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn apologised for the abuse at an emotional pre-Easter mass. "For some of us, the Church's immaculate appearance was more important than anything else," Schönborn said. "We confess our guilt to the many whom we have wronged as the church, and whom some of us have wronged very directly."

Their penitence came hours after a contrite archbishop of Canterbury rang the archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, to try to defuse widespread anger and disbelief after he said the church in Ireland had lost "all credibility".

Rowan Williams made the comments in a BBC interview, explaining that an Irish friend had said it was "quite difficult in some parts of Ireland" to walk down the street wearing a dog collar. Williams remarked that an institution "so deeply bound into the life of a society, suddenly becoming, suddenly losing all credibility – that's not just a problem for the Church, it is a problem for everybody in Ireland."

The backlash was almost immediate, with churchmen from Catholic and Protestant traditions condemning Williams as being thoughtless and unhelpful during one of the darkest periods for Irish Catholicism. Caught aback by the level of outrage, Williams rang Martin, who later told churchgoers he appreciated the archbishop's "sadness" regarding "some unfortunate words".

Williams also upset members of the Church of England by playing down the significance of a papal initiative to tempt Anglicans to convert to Roman Catholicism. He made no mention of his Catholic gaffe during his Easter sermon at Canterbury Cathedral.

The Pope has still to make any direct comment on the of scandals in continental Europe. Last month he issued a letter to Irish Catholics, who are reeling from years of revelations over child sex abuse and cover-ups. Papal aides said the letter, in which Benedict said he was "truly sorry" for the suffering of victims, should be read as applying to other countries.

The latest is Malta, which the pope is to visit this month. It was reported last week that 45 priests stood accused of sexual offences since the creation of a church response team in 1999.

None of the cases has been referred to the police and the retired judge who heads the project said that was the responsibility of victims and parents.

 London ~ March 28, 2010

Victims of sex abuse to sue Vatican

The Pope has been accused of protecting Father Lawrence Murphy
Tony Allen-Mills in New York and John Follain in Rome

NEW revelations about Pope Benedict XVI’s alleged role in covering up accusations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy have exposed the Vatican to the risk of lawsuits brought by victims around the world.

Mounting anger at the Catholic Church’s failure to act on predatory priests in the US, Europe and Mexico has plunged the papacy into an institutional crisis described by an American Catholic newspaper last week as “the largest in centuries”.

Yesterday the Vatican denounced the “aggressive persistence” of critics who were attempting to “involve the Holy Father personally in the matter of abuse”. A spokesman told Vatican Radio that the Pope’s record was “above discussion”.

Yet the talk in Catholic circles was of little else as the Pope’s former life as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, archbishop of Munich and senior Vatican administrator, came under intensifying scrutiny.

Last week it was alleged that, as head of the Vatican office monitoring priestly misconduct, Ratzinger failed to punish Father Lawrence Murphy, who abused up to 200 boys at a Wisconsin school for the deaf.

Instead of being defrocked or reported to police, Murphy remained a priest until his death in 1998.

“We are talking about a man who, before he became Pope, knew what Murphy was doing and did nothing about it,” said Donald Marshall, a mechanic who claims Murphy assaulted him in 1977 when he was 13. “The Pope is a fraud and a hypocrite.”

The reports coincided with a burgeoning German row over Father Peter Hullermann, a Bavarian priest who received therapy for paedophilia in Ratzinger’s diocese and was transferred to a new parish, where he continued molesting boys.

The Vatican insisted on Friday that Ratzinger “had no knowledge” of the decision to reassign Hullermann, despite reports that the archbishop, as he was then, was sent a memo with details of the case. Hullermann was eventually convicted of sex abuse in 1986.

Adding to the Vatican’s embarrassment was the acknowledgement on Friday by a prominent Catholic order that its Mexican founder, the late Marcial Maciel Degollado, known as Father Maciel, had not only molested trainee priests but had also fathered several children.

In fact, it was largely on Ratzinger’s initiative that the Vatican reopened a moribund investigation into Maciel’s activities as leader of the Legion of Christ.

Maciel was a close friend of Ratzinger’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who is considered a candidate for sainthood but whose reputation may also be stained by the spreading sex scandal.

All the latest cases involve complaints that the Vatican has failed to come clean about how it handled allegations of criminal conduct. Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, the German justice minister, has spoken of a Vatican “wall of silence” around the issue.

The Pope’s alleged role in the Wisconsin case emerged only when litigants who claim to be victims of abuse obtained internal church documents as part of their lawsuit. US lawyers in other cases are now determined to sue the Vatican for access to material that may shed light on relations between Rome and American bishops and the extent to which there may have been a policy to hush up abuse by priests.

“I want to know what the Vatican knew and when they knew it,” said William McMurry, who represents victims in a Kentucky case that may end up with a case from Oregon in the US Supreme Court.

McMurry told The Washington Post: “We’re trying to get what’s never been uncovered before ­ documents only the Vatican has. I want to know ... what they instructed US bishops to do. That’s the linchpin of liability.”

As a sovereign state, the Vatican has immunity from US lawsuits. Yet federal appeals courts in Oregon and Kentucky have allowed abuse cases to proceed. Judges in the Kentucky case ruled that an exception to diplomatic immunity might be granted if the Vatican was deemed to have employees in the United States who had caused harm.

“The Vatican operates with such insularity and arrogance,” complained Jeff Anderson, a lawyer who has worked on the Oregon case. “They remain legally impenetrable. But this is the first foot in the door.”

The US Catholic Church has already paid out more than $1.1 billion to victims since 2004. Yet many insist that financial compensation is not enough and that the church should be forced to explain why so few priests were punished for decades of abuse.

“Benedict should make public all the files of every case they’ve had,” said Peter Isely, the Milwaukee-based director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. “We’re talking about a conspiracy at the highest level to cover up child sex crimes.”

Donald Marshall recalled the moment that Murphy came into his room, sat next to him and started reading the Bible. “Then he put his hand on my knee, then he started kissing me ... and started to fondle me. I was completely shocked, to say the least. I was just a 13-year-old kid.”

Additional reporting: Bojan Pancevski.

Friday March 26 2010

'Scandal hidden in secret vaults'

By Kathleen McCaul

Pope Benedict XVI has been accused of failing to act on complaints from two archbishops in the US about a priest who allegedly abused 200 deaf boys [AFP]

Jeff Anderson is one of two lawyers representing five men in the US who have brought lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for failing to take action over cases of alleged child abuse in the church.

The case involves a number of documents including internal correspondence between bishops and the Vatican that claim to show Pope Benedict XVI, then a cardinal, failed to respond to letters warning him about a priest who may have molested 200 deaf boys.

According to media reports, an eventual church trial of the priest, Lawrence Murphy, was stopped due to his poor health.

The Vatican has said it did not defrock the priest because of his poor health and because there was no evidence of more recent allegations against him.

Anderson, in an interview with Al Jazeera, explains in detail how the case unfolded and what the implications could be for the Roman Catholic pope.

Al Jazeera: How did you get your hands on these documents?
Jeff Anderson: I had been representing [abuse] survivors suing Catholic bishops in the US for 25 years.

I demanded the documents [from the archdiocese in Milwaukee] and got court orders that required the church to produce them.

In 25 years of compelling the church to turn over documents, this is the first time I have actually received a trail which we knew existed and the documents demonstrate in themselves direct involvement and imposition of secrecy by the Vatican in an abuse case.

This is a direct trail of evidence that goes from the offender [Reverend Murphy] abusing 200 kids, to the Archbishop Weakland of Milwaukee, his direct superior.

Archbishop Weakland sought the guidance from the Vatican and contacted Cardinal Ratzinger to ask what to do.

The documents show cardinal Ratzinger's office told him to use secret protocol.

There is a document called Crimen Sollicitationis [Crime of Solicitation], which originally drew guidelines for how the church dealt with priests that used the confessional booth to solicit sex from parishioners, even the young.

All clerics were required to keep abuse secret and to impose secrecy on any laity which discovered the abuse.

Archbishop Weakland started secret protocol proceedings and when they learnt they could not keep that protocol secret they decided to do nothing and give the priest a free pass.

A decision was made in the papal office by Cardinal Ratzinger to give a free pass because they wanted to protect the reputation of the church at the peril of the children.

These documents and the body of evidence I have built up show this is a protocol and practice that has been in place and remains in place and has yet to been fully exposed.

Did you immediately realise the significance of this internal correspondence?
Yes. As soon as I got the documents. As breathtaking as they are, I wasn't surprised.

I realised significance immediately and thought it was best to get them out as soon as possible and in the best way possible which is why I have released them to The New York Times and put them before a court in Oregon.

Have you interacted much with the church during this case? What has their reaction been to the release of these letterss?
The issue has all been in and out of court. I do not know what reaction has been to these letters - they have not commented.

Who are you actually prosecuting in this case?
The case is involving the priest who abused over 200 children – Reverend Murphy. I do have a case against the Pope in Portland, Oregan and I have attached these documents in that case.

Could Pope Benedict be prosecuted for his alleged role in the Milwaukee Archdiocese?
Our hope is that children are protected and until the archbishops and the cardinal and the pope involved in these abuse cases hear a jail door clang behind them, they will continue to be complicit in these crimes.

Our hope is that they clean up but they are not going to get the message until they hear a jail door clang behind them.

They are as responsible as the offenders themselves. The offenders could not control themselves; their superiors could have controlled them.

Where does the Vatican's own system of justice stand within international law?
They have their own canon law which requires secrecy and requires any scandal to be hidden in secret vaults. They also have laws which say crimes against minors and crimes committed within confessional must be secret.

It is in gross violation of international law in any country because their own laws don't give regard to the harm to children.

All their protocols are designed to protect themselves and their reputations.