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Monday, April 25, 2011
A Doctrine of Demons: The Pope, The Vatican and The Sex Abuse Scandals - Part 5
Pope Put Off Punishing Abusive Priest
NEW YORK TIMES [NYTimes Group/Sulzberger] - By Laurie Goodstein and Michael Luo - April 9, 2010
The priest, convicted of tying up and abusing two young boys in a California church rectory, wanted to leave the ministry.
But in 1985, four years after the priest and his bishop first asked that he be defrocked, the future Pope Benedict XVI, then a top Vatican official, signed a letter saying that the case needed more time and that “the good of the Universal Church” had to be considered in the final decision, according to church documents released through lawsuits.
That decision did not come for two more years, the sort of delay that is fueling a renewed sexual abuse scandal in the church that has focused on whether the future pope moved quickly enough to remove known pedophiles from the priesthood, despite pleas from American bishops.
As the scandal has deepened, the pope’s defenders have said that, well before he was elected pope in 2005, he grew ever more concerned about sexual abuse and weeding out pedophile priests. But the case of the California priest, the Rev. Stephen Kiesle, and the trail of documents first reported on Friday by The Associated Press, shows, in this period at least, little urgency.
The letter that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later pope, wrote in Latin in 1985, mentions Father Kiesle’s young age - 38 at the time - as one consideration in whether he should be forced from the priesthood. The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said it was wrong to draw conclusions based on one letter, without carefully understanding the context in which it was written.
“It’s evident that it’s not an in-depth and serious use of documents,” he said. Earlier Friday, Father Lombardi suggested that the pope would be willing to meet with sexual abuse victims.
But John S. Cummins, the former bishop of Oakland who repeatedly wrote his superiors in Rome urging that the priest be defrocked, said the Vatican in that era, after the Second Vatican Council, was especially reluctant to dismiss priests because so many were abandoning the priesthood. ...
John Paul backed praise for hiding abuse: Cardinal
REUTERS [Thomson-Reuters] - By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor - April 17, 2010
A former Vatican cardinal who congratulated a French bishop for hiding a sexually abusive priest has said he acted with the approval of the late Pope John Paul, a Spanish newspaper reported on Saturday.
Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the Vatican official in charge of priests around the world when he praised the French bishop in 2001, dragged the Polish pope into the controversy during a conference in the Spanish city of Murcia.
His comment came after a Vatican spokesman indirectly confirmed that a 2001 letter to the bishop posted on a French website on Thursday was authentic and was proof the Vatican was right to tighten up its procedures on sex abuse cases that year.
By invoking John Paul, Castrillon Hoyos appeared to up the ante in a subtle Vatican power struggle over who was to blame for past failures to deal effectively with the abuse cases whose revelations in recent months have shaken the Church.
"After consulting the pope ... I wrote a letter to the bishop congratulating him as a model of a father who does not hand over his sons," the daily La Verdad quoted Castrillon Hoyos as telling the conference on Friday, to a round of applause from the assembled prelates, priests and lay people.
"The Holy Father authorized me to send this letter to all bishops in the world and publish it on the internet." ...
Bishop, 73, in Belgium Steps Down Over Abuse
NEW YORK TIMES [NYTimes Group/Sulzberger] - By Elisabetta Povoledo - April 23, 2010
ROME - The longest-serving bishop in Belgium resigned Friday after admitting to sexually abusing “a boy in my close entourage” many years ago, becoming the latest cleric to quit in a spreading abuse scandal. …
In a statement issued by the Vatican on Friday, Roger Vangheluwe, 73, the bishop of Bruges since 1985, said that the abuse had occurred “when I was still a simple priest and for a while when I began as a bishop.”
“This has marked the victim forever,” he said.
The bishop said that he had asked the victim and his family several times to forgive him, but that the wound had not healed, “neither in me nor the victim.” A recent media storm merely deepened the trauma, he said. “I am profoundly sorry,” he said.
This week, in a rare public comment directly addressing the issue of abuse, Pope Benedict XVI promised that the church would take action to deal with the crisis. …
Future Pope’s Role in Abuse Case Was Complex
NEW YORK TIMES [NYTimes Group/Sulzberger] - By Katrin Bennhold - April 26, 2010
VIENNA - As Pope Benedict XVI has come under scrutiny for his handling of sexual abuse cases, both his supporters and his critics have paid fresh attention to the way he responded to a sexual abuse scandal in Austria in the 1990s, one of the most damaging to confront the church in Europe.
Defenders of Benedict cite his role in dealing with Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër of Vienna as evidence that he moved assertively, if quietly, against abusers. They point to the fact that Cardinal Groër left office six months after accusations against him of molesting boys first appeared in the Austrian news media in 1995. The future pope, they say, favored a full canonical investigation, only to be blocked by other ranking officials in the Vatican.
A detailed look at the rise and fall of the clergyman, who died in 2003, and the involvement of Benedict, a Bavarian theologian with many connections to German-speaking Austria, paints a more complex picture. …
There are indications that Benedict had a lower tolerance for sexual misconduct by elite clergy members than other top Vatican officials.
Unlike John Paul, his predecessor, Benedict has as pope apologized and met with sexual abuse victims. But while he often, as a cardinal, used his clout to enforce doctrine and sideline clergy members whose views diverged from his own, he seemed less willing at that time to aggressively pursue sexual abusers. …
Belgian Catholics Remain Anguished by Abuse
NEW YORK TIMES [NYTimes Group/Sulzberger] - By Steven Erlanger - September 19, 2010
BRUSSELS - There were 32 worshipers at noontime Mass in a side chapel of the soaring Cathedral of SS. Michael and Gudula, which dates from the 11th century. A third of the faithful were African; there were two nuns and a police officer. ...
[The] sermon before a thin crowd seemed an obvious demonstration of the anguish of the Roman Catholic Church in Belgium, staggered by a sexual-abuse scandal that has already affected 475 victims. There have been 19 suicide attempts, 13 of them successful, by Belgians abused by clergy members.
The country’s longest-serving bishop, Roger Vangheluwe, resigned in disgrace when the nephew he abused for 13 years finally moved to expose him, and the reputation of a former archbishop, the liberal Cardinal Godfried Danneels, has been badly damaged by his effort, caught on tape, to allow the bishop to retire quietly.
The new archbishop, the conservative André-Joseph Léonard, chosen by Pope Benedict XVI over the objections of Belgium’s bishops, released a graphic 200-page report into the abuse scandal prepared by a child psychiatrist, Peter Adriaenssens, who worked with the hundreds who came forward after the bishop resigned.
Last week, the archbishop promised to open a center for victims and vowed that new cases will go to the secular law enforcement authorities. But he made no apology and asked for more time to fashion a comprehensive response, disappointing many. The vivid suffering of the victims, he said, “makes us shiver.”
But the “shiver” has been more like an earthquake for the Belgian church, affected by decades of abuse from those meant to uphold the highest moral standards. It is another blow to the “universal church” in its European heartland. Charges of priestly pedophilia and church cover-ups have recently spread to continental European countries like the Netherlands, Austria and the pope’s own Germany, after some in the church once argued that such abuses were mainly confined to countries like the United States and Ireland.
Hundreds of Belgian Catholics have already sent letters asking to be debaptized, said Jürgen Mettepenningen, the spokesman for Archbishop Léonard. “This is one of the most difficult crises for the church in its history,” he said. “This is a crisis of moral authority, of moral credibility” for a church that preaches morality to others. …
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