3 Dec 2010

Pope refers to sex crimes against children as "sin within the Church" requiring prayer and penance rather than prison

Reuters - May 11, 2010

'Sin within the Church' threat to Catholicism: Pope

By Philip Pullella | Reuters

LISBON - Pope Benedict said on Tuesday that the greatest threat to Catholicism came from "sin within the Church", one if his most forthright comments so far on a sexual abuse scandal that has created turmoil in the church. The Church has "a very deep need" to recognize that it must do penitence for its sins and "accept purification", he said.

"Today we see in a truly terrifying way that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from outside enemies but is born of sin within the Church," Benedict told reporters on the plane to Portugal, replying to a question about the scandal.

In recent weeks, a number of Vatican officials have accused the media, gays or progressives of waging a smear campaign against the Church. One top Vatican official even dismissed reports of a cover-up of sexual abuse of children by priests as "petty gossip".

The 83-year-old German pontiff, facing the worst crisis of his five-year-old papacy, said the Church had to seek forgiveness from victims of sexual abuse but also recognized that "forgiveness cannot be a substitute for justice".

The pope promised abuse victims he met in Malta last month the Church would do all it could to investigate allegations, bring to justice those responsible for abuse and implement effective measures to protect young people in the future.

But the scandal shows no sign of abating. On Saturday Bishop Walter Mixa of Augsburg, who has been accused of sexually abusing minors, became the first bishop in the pope's native Germany to step down over the scandal.

In recent weeks, a Belgian bishop resigned after admitting he had sexually abused a boy and three Irish bishops quit over their handling of sexual abuse cases.


In his comments on the plane, the pope also mentioned Portugal's economic crisis. The minority socialist government is struggling to reduce a huge deficit but harsh austerity measures will impose greater sacrifices to avoid a Greek-style debt crisis.

Benedict, who was due to hold a large outdoor Mass on Tuesday afternoon, repeated his call for greater moral responsibility in financial decisions and acknowledged the Church should in the past have spoken out more on economics.

"We must admit that the Catholic faith . . . was often too individualistic. It too often left concrete things to the world and thought only of individual salvation and religious affairs without realizing that there was a global responsibility (for economic decisions)," he said.

The main purpose of the pope's four-day visit to Portugal is to visit the shrine at Fatima where the Madonna is said to have appeared to three shepherd children six times in 1917.

One of the three messages the Madonna is said to have given to the child visionaries — the so-called 'Third Secret of Fatima' — was what the Vatican has said was a prediction of the 1981 assassination attempt against the late Pope John Paul.

Benedict told reporters he believed that interpretation of the Third Secret, revealed in 2000, could include the suffering the papacy and the Church would have to endure as a result of today's sexual abuse crisis.

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Catholic News Service - May 11, 2010

Pope says sex abuse crisis is 'terrifying' example of church failings

By John Thavis | CNS

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO PORTUGAL (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI said the priestly sex abuse scandal is a "terrifying" crisis that comes from inside the church -- not from an outside attack -- and requires purification and penance to overcome.

The pope made some of his strongest remarks to date on the sex abuse crisis during an in-flight press conference May 11 on his way to Portugal for a four-day visit that was to include the Marian shrine of Fatima.

Asked if the message of Fatima, which foresaw times of trials and suffering for the church, could be applied to the sex abuse crisis, the pope indicated that, in a general way, it could. The vision of Fatima foresaw the need for the church to undergo a "passion," which continues in various ways until the end of time, and which requires a response of continual conversion, he said.

"Among the new things that we can discover today in this message is that attacks on the pope and the church come not only from the outside, but the suffering of the church comes from inside the church, from sins that exist inside the church," he said.

"This, too, we have always known, but today we see it in a really terrifying way, that the biggest persecution of the church doesn't come from the enemies outside but is born from sin inside the church," he said.

"And so the church has a profound need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn on the one hand forgiveness but also the necessity of justice. And forgiveness does not substitute justice," he said.

"We have to relearn these essentials: conversion, prayer, penance," he said.

The pope, who helped explain the third secret of Fatima when it was published in 2000, said the Fatima messages extend in time to apply to the church's continuing journey, which is accompanied by suffering.

The pope also spoke about the economic crisis that is shaking Portugal and the rest of Europe, saying it illustrates the need for a greater infusion of ethics and morality in the market.

"I would say this economic crisis has a moral dimension that no one can fail to see," he said. "The events of the last two or three years have demonstrated that the ethical dimension must enter into the world of economic activity."

Pure economic pragmatism will always lead to problems, he said.

The church's social teaching has a big role to play, seeking to create a serious dialogue with the financial world and highlighting the moral responsibilities of economic systems, the pope said.

"So here we need to enter into a concrete dialogue. I tried to do this in my encyclical, 'Caritas in Veritate," he said.

The pope said secularism was not a new problem in Portugal or Europe, but had taken a more radical turn in recent years. He said here, too, the church needs to engage in bridge-building and dialogue, making sure its voice is heard and helping to restore an openness to transcendent reality.

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The Guardian - U.K. May 11, 2010

Pope Benedict silences child abuse conspiracy theorists on Portugal visit

• Catholic church takes sole responsibility for scandal
• Condom protesters greet Benedict in Portugal

by Giles Tremlett

The pope admitted today that the Catholic church was entirely responsible for the child abuse scandal that has spread across Europe, silencing conspiracy theorists in the church as he arrived in Portugal to be met by hundreds of protesters distributing condoms.

In his most strongly worded condemnation of the priests involved in paedophile cases, Pope Benedict said the church's greatest enemy was "sins from within", not the campaigners who have exposed its culture of laxity and secrecy.

"The greatest persecution of the church doesn't come from enemies on the outside but is born from the sins within the church," Benedict told journalists travelling with him to Portugal. "The church needs to profoundly relearn penitence, accept purification, learn forgiveness but also justice." It was a first sign that the pope was prepared to stop church officials trying to blame the abuse scandal on a supposed conspiracy hatched by outsiders, including pro-choice and pro-gay marriage groups.

Despite the Vatican's initially defensive response to reports of hundreds of cases of clerical abuse across Europe, Benedict has recently pledged the church will protect children and make abusive priests face justice. He has already accepted the resignations of several bishops who either admitted they had molested young people or covered up for priests who did.

In some countries, such as Spain, the church itself has begun to report suspected cases of sexual abuse to the police.

In Portugal today the pope was greeted by thousands of faithful lining the streets of Lisbon, alongside a protest against the Vatican's refusal to sanction the use of condoms as a way of fighting HIV and Aids.

The protest began as a modest Facebook group only seven weeks ago but has since become a nationwide campaign backed by thousands of mostly young people in one of the most devoutly Roman Catholic countries in Europe. "We never imagined that we would one day have 14,500 people supporting us," the campaigners said yesterday after their Facebook group, formed on 20 March, mushroomed into a full-scaled protest against the Vatican's stance on Aids.

Hundreds of those supporters turned up at 22 distribution points around Lisbon and the northern city of Porto in order to hand out some 28,000 free condoms today. "Millions of people are still dying around the world because of this virus," the campaigners said. "Our initiative is not an affront to the pope," one of the organisers, Diogo Figueira, said yesterday. "Aids is not a question of religion, but of public health." The pope's visit comes as Portugal, where 90% of people say they are Roman Catholics, increasingly turns its back on the Vatican's preaching. President Aníbal Cavaco Silva, who met the pope today, is expected to sign off shortly a bill passed by parliament that will make Portugal the sixth European country to permit gay marriages.

Portugal's centre-left Socialist government has also introduced a law allowing a judge to grant a divorce even if one spouse is against it. The same government, led by Prime Minister José Socrates, passed a law in 2007 finally allowing abortion in Portugal. Benedict sharply criticised the abortion law today, saying public officials must give "essential consideration" to issues that affect human life. "The point at issue is not an ethical confrontation between a secular and religious system, so much as a question about the meaning that we give to our freedom," he said.

Half a million people are expected at a mass at the shrine in Fatima, northern Portugal, on Thursday on the anniversary of the day in 1917 when three Portuguese shepherd children reported having visions of the Virgin Mary.

The condom campaign has promised to stay away from what, for devout Roman Catholics, is the holiest site in Portugal.

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