28 Nov 2010

As new child abuse cover-ups emerge in Italy, Catholics keep faith, church leaders claim smear campaign against Pope

The Guardian - UK March 28, 2010

Pope faces fresh wave of child abuse scandals in Italy

The head of the Catholic church is bracing himself for a new round of allegations by victims of paedophile priests — in Italy

Tom Kington in Rome and Henry McDonald in Dublin

Pope Benedict XVI is facing growing pressure over his handling of paedophile priests as new cover-ups come to light in Italy, the country with the greatest concentration of Roman Catholic clerics.

After the latest allegations – that Benedict took no action in the US when he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's enforcer – the church is now "terrified" as more victims stand up to be counted in Italy, according to Roberto Mirabile, head of La Caramella Buona, an Italian anti-abuse group. "With the scandals erupting abroad, we will see a huge growth in victims' groups in Italy in coming weeks," said Mirabile yesterday. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict handled abuse cases at the Vatican for 24 years before he became pope in 2005.

"We are likely to discover that the Vatican worked even harder in Italy with bishops than elsewhere to hide cases, simply because the contact was closer and the church is so powerful in Italy," Mirabile added.

Sergio Cavaliere, an Italian lawyer who has documented 130 cases of clerical paedophilia, also believes that the Vatican's backyard could follow Ireland, the United States and Germany in producing a wave of abuse revelations. "The cases I have found are just the tip of the iceberg given the reluctance of many victims to come forward until now," said Cavaliere. "And in no single case did the local bishop alert police to the suspected abuse."

Another startling development is how recent most of the allegations are, unlike the decades-old cases in Munich and Milwaukee that Benedict was last week accused of failing to act on.

Monsignor Charles Scicluna, who investigates abuse accusations passed on to the Vatican, denied this month that abuse had reached "dramatic proportions" in Italy, but he was concerned about "a certain culture of silence" among Italy's 50,000 priests.

In February, the Vatican opened an investigation into allegations by 67 former pupils at a school for the deaf in Verona that 24 priests, brothers and lay religious men abused pupils from the 1950s to the 1980s. Three of the accusers repeated their claims on Italian prime-time television on Friday.

In a case recalling the accusations against Father Lawrence Murphy in Milwaukee, who was claimed to have abused up to 200 deaf children, one Italian former pupil claimed that priests had sodomised him so relentlessly that he came to feel "as if I were dead".

A second pupil has accused Verona's late bishop, Monsignor Giuseppe Carraro, who is being considered for beatification, of molesting him.

In Ireland, the leader of the Catholic church has been named in more than 200 civil actions by victims of alleged clerical abuse, putting him under further pressure to resign. The victims claim that Cardinal Seán Brady failed in his duties by neglecting to protect them from paedophile priests and other sex abusers. There is no suggestion that he took part in any abuse.

Legal sources in the republic confirmed that 230 separate victims of alleged clerical abuse are taking the church to court. They said these include five victims of Father Brendan Smyth, one of Ireland's most notorious paedophiles.

Smyth's arrest and conviction opened the floodgates for dozens of cases concerning priests abusing children in dioceses all over Ireland, alongside widespread and systemic abuse in church-run orphanages and industrial schools.

Brady has confirmed that he was present at a closed canonical tribunal into the activities of Smyth, who died in jail 13 years ago while serving 12 years for 74 sexual assaults on children.

"Smyth's victims will argue that the church knew as far back as 1975 that he was abusing children. But the hierarchy's secret deal with two of his young victims that year left Smyth free to abuse others many years afterwards," one senior legal source told the Observer.

"The cardinal now faces being named in hundreds of cases, some of which will go through the courts."

Asked if the church was aware that Brady had been named in so many civil actions through the Irish courts, a spokesman for the Catholic Press Office in Ireland said: "The bishop who occupies the position of primate of all Ireland [Brady] is often named as co-defendant in judicial proceedings by people who mistakenly presume him to be the 'CEO' for the Catholic church in Ireland. In answer to your query, I do not know the exact number of cases taken by alleged victims of clerical sex abuse who have named Cardinal Seán Brady in their actions."

Voice of the Faithful, an international lay Catholic organisation campaigning for reforms in the church, said it was "deeply significant" that Brady has said he is spending the run-up to Easter reflecting on his position.

Seán O'Connaill, the group's Irish co-ordinator, said: "The situation regarding the church in Ireland and Cardinal Brady's position is very confused and fluid.

"The problems facing the Catholic church, however, will not be resolved alone by heads rolling. Both the people and the leadership have to realise that there has to be a major reform programme within the church to turn this around."

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The Montreal Gazette - March 28, 2010

Catholics keep the faith

Sex scandal Christ’s message is not changed by sin, they say

By Irwin Block | The Gazette

The scandal of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy and the suggestion of a cover-up by Pope Benedict XVI while still a cardinal have done nothing to shake the faith of Montreal believers in the church and its precepts.

That’s what a parent, a seminarian, a priest, and two students said in random interviews Sunday as several hundred Catholics gathered in Chinatown to celebrate World Youth Day, founded 25 years ago by Pope John Paul II.

At the Chinese Catholic Community Centre, young women prepared palm leaves for an afternoon procession – a head start for today’s Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week, which precedes Easter.

A six-piece band led about 150 students singing a prayer in French to St. Francis, calling for faith where there is doubt and forgiveness after injury.

At the Chinese Catholic Mission Church on de la Gauchetière St., Jean-François Bérard, a civil engineer, dropped off his two teenage sons and then shared his thoughts on the sexual abuse and alleged cover-up.

“The church as we know it is based on faith, but it is a church of men, with their good and bad, that created this most unfortunate problem.”

Bérard cautioned fellow Catholics that “it would be a mistake to say ‘I don’t believe in God or Jesus Christ’ because of what men have done.”

“My true belief is in Jesus and his message.”

Bérard linked the sexual abuse of children in Quebec, Newfoundland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy and elsewhere as analogous to abuses of power by the Catholic Church during the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century and the subjugation of aboriginals by Catholics in South America.

As for the allegation by Swiss theologian Hans Küng that the pope’s complicity in a Vatican cover-up of sexual abuse of children dates back at least to his 24 years as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, Bérard said: “If something happened, it’s between him and God. If my son makes a mistake, I will not discard him from the family.”

Küng is a long-time critic of Rome, which barred him from teaching Catholic theology in 1979.

The Canadian church has taken a hard line in response to the cover-up allegations.

On Friday, the primate of the church in Canada, Quebec City’s Cardinal Marc Ouellet, accused members of the media of ulterior motives in their attempts to link the pope to sexual abuse cases.

The pope has always had “zero tolerance” for sexual assaults by clergymen and is a man of “compassion and justice,” Ouellet said.

Meanwhile, in Chinatown, France Bédard, 62, founder of l’Association des victimes de prêtres, who says she was raped and impregnated by a Quebec priest 45 years ago, said Ouellet was “playing with words” and had no intention of expelling pedophile priests from the church’s ranks.

Seminarian Yohann Leroux said he regretted sexual abuse among the clergy as much as he would among any group that has authority over children. But it has not affected his faith or his decision to become a priest.

“I am devoting myself to Christ,” he said.

As he prepared to commit to celibacy, Leroux said he saw no link between such a life and sexual abuse, citing statistics that he said indicated abuse is more prevalent within families than among priests.

Rev. Badeea Butrus, who serves a north-end parish, agreed that the possibility Pope Benedict may have committed errors in the past is secondary to one’s faith.

“The pope is human and humans are fallible,” he noted.

“Nobody is perfect,” said François Tremblay, 25, a math student at l’Université du Québec à Montréal.

“It’s abominable, but not more likely to happen because you’re a priest.

“Pedophilia is a sickness,” he said, and joined the others in declaring that he sees no reason why the pope should resign, as Küng has suggested.

Miriam Bergo, 23, a history and philosophy of religion student at Concordia University, said she trusts the pope because he carries “the promise of Christ.”

“The pope is human, and the doctrine of infallibility covers (only) matters of faith.

“The pope confesses once a week, so it’s not like he’s infallible.”

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Canwest News Service - Canada March 27, 2010

Canadian Cardinal jumps to the defence of Pope

By Amy Husser | Canwest News Service

One of Canada’s highest-ranking Roman Catholic officials has joined the ranks of those coming to the defence of Pope Benedict XVI, as the pontiff faces allegations he turned a blind eye to priests who were sexually abusing children.

The scandal has led to some calls for Benedict to resign, and on Saturday one Swiss newspaper reportedly called him “the biggest sinner in the whole Catholic Church."

Cardinal Marc Ouellet — who is the Primate of the Catholic Church in Canada — posted a statement on the website of his archdiocese in Quebec City that denounced the reports from “several media” this week.

“The Holy Father has always testified to the same spirit of zero tolerance on the subject . . . during each one of his responsibilities leading to his pontification,” Ouellet said in a French statement posted Friday. “To claim the opposite is to be deeply mistaken about this just and compassionate man.”

The statement was preceded by a reiteration of the archdiocese’s “zero tolerance” policy against all types of abuse.

The Vatican has been forced to deal with a new wave of sexual-abuse allegations following at least two accounts published in the New York Times this week.

One report said the future Pope Benedict XVI — then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys under his care at a Wisconsin-based school between 1950 and 1975 despite being alerted to the case by several U.S. bishops.

And on Friday, the Times also reported that Benedict has been informed of a decision to transfer a German priest undergoing therapy for pedophilia back to full pastoral duties — a post where he would have contact with children.

“The question of the sexual abuse committed by priests is an unspeakable drama which affects all Catholics,” Ouellet wrote in the French statement. “I myself am deeply disturbed by the confirmation of each case.”

He ends the statement by saying his prayers go out to all the victims of such cases, and that “never again” is his wish for them and the church.

Catholic churches in Europe have been issuing similar calls while praising Benedict as the leader determined to combat the scandals that challenge the church.

France’s bishops conference, the archbishop of London and the Munich archdiocese that Benedict once headed all rejected the allegations Friday, one day after the Vatican angrily accused its critics of an "ignoble attempt" to smear the Holy Father.

"Very Holy Father . . . we send you a cordial message of support in this difficult period our Church is going through," the French bishops said in a statement that referred to "a campaign to attack your person and your service to the Church."

Writing in the London Times, Archbishop Vincent Nichols said Benedict made important changes in church law to fight child abuse when he was the Vatican’s top doctrinal official.

"He is not an idle observer. His actions speak as well as his words," he wrote.

Both Nichols and the French bishops expressed sympathy with abuse victims and said their national churches had taken decisive steps to root out offenders and safeguard children.

"I am ashamed of what happened and understand the outrage and anger it has provoked," Nichols wrote.

"We all feel shame and regret at the abominable acts committed by certain priests," the French statement said.

The Vatican has vigorously defended the Holy Father’s record — both before and during his five-year papacy.

With files from Reuters

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