26 Nov 2010

Pope linked to German child abuse scandal, Dutch church orders inquiry, Catholic theologian blames celibacy

The Times - UK March 9, 2010

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

Ruth Gledhill | Times Religion Correspondent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BBC News - March 9, 2010

Dutch church orders inquiry into sex abuse allegations

Dutch religious leaders have ordered an independent inquiry into alleged sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests.

Earlier, the Vatican defended its response to child sex abuse allegations in a number of European states, saying it had reacted rapidly and decisively.

In the latest revelations, the head of an Austrian monastery confessed to abusing a boy more than 40 years ago.

Separately, Pope Benedict's brother said in an interview he slapped pupils in the face at a German choir school.

The Dutch investigation will be opened "as soon as possible", it was announced after Dutch bishops met to discuss abuse claims by about 200 alleged victims, some from several decades ago.

Monastery resignation

The Dutch Catholic Church offered its apologies to the victims: "To the victims of abuse in Catholic boarding schools, the religious leaders and bishops offer their deep-felt condolences and apologies," a statement said.

Allegations first centred on a school in the eastern Netherlands, with people saying they were abused by Catholic priests. This prompted dozens more alleged victims from other institutions to come forward in recent days.

It also emerged on Tuesday that the head of a Salzburg monastery, Bruno Becker, had offered his resignation on Monday after confessing to having abused a boy 40 years ago, when he was a monk.

Church authorities accepted his resignation immediately.

The German, Austrian, Irish and US churches have all been damaged by sexual abuse scandals, and suggestions that senior clergy covered up what was happening.

No 'culture of silence'

Earlier on Tuesday, a Vatican spokesman said in a statement the sexual abuse scandals were especially deplorable given the educational and moral responsibilities of the Catholic Church, but that the institutions in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands had shown that it wanted to be transparent.

"They have demonstrated their desire for transparency and, in a certain sense, accelerated the emergence of the problem by inviting victims to speak out, even when the cases involved date from many years ago," said Father Federico Lombardi.

"By doing so, they have approached the matter 'on the right foot', because the correct starting point is recognition of what happened and concern for the victims and the consequences of the acts committed against them."

He denied the Vatican had tried to erect a "wall of silence" around the scandals surfacing in many countries.

On Monday, the German justice minister said Vatican secrecy rules were complicating investigations of the cases.

Allegations of sexual abuse are being investigated in 18 of Germany's 27 Roman Catholic dioceses, where former students from a number of Catholic schools have alleged sexual abuse by teachers.

The worldwide media publicity given to the scandals has proved disconcerting to the Vatican, says the BBC's David Willey in Rome.

Papal link

It is doing its best to limit the moral damage caused to the church by stressing that paedophilia is a problem not limited to Catholic institutions and teachers, but which must be tackled in a broader context within civil society, our correspondent adds.

The Pope's own elder brother, Father Georg Ratzinger, admitted he slapped pupils in the face at the German school where he led the choir, but never beat them to an abusive extent.

"Pupils told me on concert trips about what went on. But it didn't dawn on me from their stories that I should do something. I was not aware of the extent of these brutal methods," he told the Passauer Neue Presse.

"At the start, I also slapped people in the face, but I always had a bad conscience," he said, adding he was relieved when corporal punishment was banned in 1980.

He denies any knowledge of sex abuse cases involving members of his choir.

Last week, the Regensburg Diocese said a former singer in a church choir that was run by Father Ratzinger from 1964-1993, had alleged there was abuse there in the early 1960s.

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The Independent - UK March 9, 2010

Pope's brother linked to new claims of child abuse by clergy

Fresh allegations emerge over Bavarian school where Georg Ratzinger led choir for 30 years

By Jerome Taylor, Religious Affairs Correspondent

A series of allegations in Germany and Holland have plunged the Catholic Church into a renewed crisis over how it has dealt with child abuse after it emerged that the Pope's brother ran a renowned choir at the centre of some of the latest claims.

Reports of systematic historical abuse by clergy have surfaced at three schools in the Regensburg diocese in Bavaria. One of them is the much-heralded Regensburger Domspatzen, a thousand-year-old male choir and boarding school, whose choral master for 30 years was the Pope's older brother, Georg Ratzinger.

Monsignor Ratzinger has agreed to testify in any eventual prosecutions – but says that he knew of no abuse. And last night the German Justice Minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, joined a growing chorus of politicians in Berlin to criticise the church over its attitude to the investigation, accusing Catholic institutions of a policy of secrecy.

"In many schools there was a wall of silence allowing for abuse and violence," said Ms Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, a prominent critic of the church. She pointed to a Vatican directive from 2001 which required that even the most damaging allegations should be first investigated internally and then reported to the authorities. A church spokesman called her criticisms "absurd".

A separate sex scandal has also enveloped the Catholic Church in the Netherlands after three people said they were abused at a boarding school run by priests in the 1960s. Since the allegations were published on Friday more than 200 people have come forward to a designated helpline claiming that they were also abused by monks and priests.

The new allegations are a source of major embarrassment to the Vatican, which had been hoping to draw a line under child abuse. Over the past decade the issue has enormously damaged the church's reputation and finances.

The allegations in Germany first surfaced last month when investigators began looking into a series of Jesuit schools, but the scandal broadened out over the weekend into the heart of deeply Catholic Bavaria. The allegations coming out of the Regensburg diocese are particularly awkward because the Pope and his brother spent much of their careers in senior positions there, which will inevitably raise questions as to whether they ever encountered or heard about clergy who sexually abused minors.

Throughout the 1970s Joseph Ratzinger taught theology at the University of Regensburg. His older brother Georg took over the Regensburger Domspatzen in 1964 and, over the next 30 years, helped turn the male-only choir into one of the best in the world.

But he says that he never heard of any abuse in his time with the choir. Asked by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica whether he would talk to German officials, the 86-year-old Mgr Ratzinger replied: "Obviously I'd be ready to do so, but I am not able to provide any information on any deed that could be punished, because I don't have any – I never knew anything about it."

Any abuse at the Regensburger Domspatzen, he said, occurred before he took over. He did admit that pupils at the school were subjected to a climate of "discipline and rigour" but added that this was necessary in order to reach "a high musical, artistic level".

But Franz Wittenbrink, a German composer who lived at the school until 1967, described the school as being run by "a sophisticated system of sadistic punishments in connection with sexual lust". He was also quoted by Der Spiegel as saying that it was "inexplicable" that the Pope's brother knew nothing of what was happening.

The new sex scandals have emerged just weeks after Pope Benedict XVI gave Ireland's bishops a public dressing down for failing to deal with child abuse which he described as a "heinous crime". He also called on Catholic bishops to tackle allegations with "honesty and courage". But, while the Vatican has given its backing to a full investigation of the allegations, the Pope has so far remained personally silent on the matter.

We Are Church, a prominent Christian support network for abuse victims, has now called on the Pope publicly to declare whether he knew of any abuse allegations when he was a bishop.

"He must answer the question about what he knew and what he did about it," said Christian Weisner, the group's German spokesperson.

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News.com - Australia March 12, 2010

Church defends priestly celibacy

From correspondents in Vatican City

THE Vatican has reaffirmed the importance of celibacy for Catholic priests, the day after Austria's leading bishop urged a new look at the policy amid snowballing pedophilia scandals.

"Priestly celibacy is a gift of the Holy Spirit which must be understood and experienced with a fullness of feeling and joy, in a total relationship with the Lord," Cardinal Claudio Hummes was quoted as saying today.

"This unique and privileged relationship with God makes the priest an authentic witness of a singular spiritual paternity," said Cardinal Hummes, who heads the Vatican's department concerned with the priesthood, in remarks quoted by the ANSA news agency.

Archbishop of Vienna Christoph Schoenborn, writing in the archdiocese's in-house magazine, called for an unflinching examination of the possible roots of child sex abuse by priests.

Archbishop Schoenborn cited "the issue of priest training, as well as the question of what happened in the so-called sexual revolution".

He said: "It also includes the issue of priest celibacy and the issue of personality development. It requires a great deal of honesty, both on the part of the church and of society as a whole."

Archbishop Schoenborn's office later insisted he was not calling into question the Vatican's stance on celibacy.

According to Vatican watcher Bruno Bartoloni, Archbishop Schoenborn was warning that "pedophilia can reflect the frustration of those priests who are not at ease with being celibate".

The cardinal was suggesting "pathological situations" can result from a lack of proper psychological training for priests, Mr Bartoloni said.

A number of cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic church in Austria have come to light recently, joining major scandals in Ireland and Germany.

Archbishop Schoenborn also said he could understand the frustration of many church employees over the proliferation of pedophilia scandals.

"Enough is enough. That's what many people are saying and thinking," Archbishop Schoenborn wrote. "Enough of the scandals! How is it that members of the church are constantly made responsible for crimes that we didn't commit?"

The Brazilian Cardinal Hummes, the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, was speaking at the start of a two-day theological convention.

Many theologians, notably Hans Kueng of Switzerland, have questioned the celibacy rule for priests, as well as lay Catholic groups such as We Are Church, which has called for numerous modernising reforms since its founding in 1996.

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