Friday, 30 April 2010

55 minute movie

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Cardinal George on Pope Benedict XVI: the Pope's 5 Years Marked by Love

"The Pope Tells Them the Truth and They Listen to Him"
ROME, APRIL 28, 2010 - Here is a translation of a reflection written by Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, for L'Osservatore Romano. The cardinal reflects on Benedict XVI's fifth anniversaryas Pope, which he celebrated April 19.

"If we look at Christ, he is all compassion and this makes him dear. To be compassionate and vulnerable," says Cardinal Ratzinger in an interview with Peter Seewald, "is part of being Christians. It is necessary to learn to accept faults, to live with wounds and, in the end, to find in this respect a more profound healing." The joys and exigencies of love are at the heart of the teachings of Pope Benedict. In the encyclicals, in the audiences, in the homilies and in meetings, for five years the world has heard from him that all those made in the image and likeness of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ must gather all the aspects of human life in the embrace of divine love.

The Pope's teaching finds expression in his life. Recognized at the moment of his election as a well-known scholar, prolific writer and theologian of great acuity, in these five years Benedict XVI has demonstrated to the world that he has a sensitive pastoral heart, which has led him beyond himself in the pain of the world.

Although the journeys are exhausting, he has already undertaken 14 international trips and 17 in Italy. He went to Germany where he was born and to Australia to celebrate the World Day with Jesus' young disciples. He spoke to First Communion youngsters in Rome shortly after his election. When a child asked him what to do if his parents do not take him to church, Pope Benedict suggested that others, such as grandparents, might wish to do so. And the child understood. He does not speak to young people from on high: he tells them the truth and they listen to him.

As others listen to him. He has spoken with Muslims in Turkey, in Jordan and in the Palestinian Territories. He has spoken to Jews in Israel and in the synagogues of Rome and in New York. He has spoken to two American presidents in the White House, in Washington, in the Apostolic Palace, in Rome.

During his visits to the United States, to Australia and, recently, to Malta, he spoke with the victims of sexual abuses by priests. Whoever has participated in these meetings of his has seen that the victims have been able to find in him a person with whom to weep, according to the model of the compassion of Christ. They have perceived his sorrow for their suffering. Well before these meetings, the Pope studied the reports of the cases and took decisive steps to address either the bureaucratic slowness that aggravates the wounds or the permissive culture that allows the occurrence of these crimes. And he addresses the challenge to encourage the many thousands of priests who feel betrayed by the sins of their brothers and speaks to millions of Catholics distressed by the fact that such crimes have happened in the Church that they love.

Love tries to keep united all those who call Christ "Lord" and Pope Benedict does his utmost to reconcile disaffected Catholics and to call Christians to a new unity, whether Orthodox or Protestants. He speaks to the vocation of intellectuals in the Church and exhorts diplomats to work for peace.

The Pauline Year and the Year for Priests, the Synod on the Eucharist and the one on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church are occasions to speak of that which should unite us and the Pope does not disappoint. Benedict knows that the forces of secularism will continue to oppose his initiatives to preach the Gospel in all its beauty and all its truth. However, he knows, and he always says, that love is stronger than death and despair.

The cardinals who elected him to the Chair of St. Peter to govern the universal Church count on his strength, thank God for his teaching and rejoice because the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love, corrects our weaknesses, heals the Church and unites her to her always compassionate Lord.


Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Pope and media misrepresentation: by Paul Mees

Bestselling atheist author Richard Dawkins wanted, ridiculously, the Pope prosecuted for aiding and abetting child abuse. His “smoking gun” is the case of the Californian priest Stephen Kiesle, who actually asked to be defrocked after s-xually assaulting two children in 1978. Ratzinger wrote to Kiesle’s bishop, who supported the request, in 1985 saying he needed more time to give the matter “careful consideration”.

Why did Ratzinger need to consider the request, Dawkins asks? And why didn’t he report Kiesle to the police? The answer is that Kiesle had already been reported to the police, convicted and sentenced. After completing his sentence, Kiesle left the priesthood and wrote to the CDF asking to be formally defrocked. Every year, some of the church’s 410,000 priests quit.

They don’t need Vatican permission: they can simply walk out. But they do need to be laicised if they want to get married in a Catholic church. Ordinarily this is not a problem, but it was in Kiesle’s case, because his bishop cited the sexual assaults as a factor in favour of laicisation.

Ratzinger’s reply to the bishop has been misrepresented by selective quotation. It begins by referring to “the matter of the removal of all priestly burdens from … Kiesle”, making it clear that the CDF was being asked to grant a favour, not a punishment. Ratzinger then says “it is necessary to consider the good of the universal church together with [i.e. not just] the petitioner [Kiesle]”, and that the CDF “is also unable to make light of the detriment that the granting of the dispensation can provoke within the community of Christ’s faithful, particularly regarding the young age of the petitioner.”

The “detriment” is the problem created by rewarding a convicted pedophile with permission to marry, which also explains the reference to Kiesle’s age.

Kiesle was defrocked 15 months later, and married shortly afterwards. He abused another child in 1995 and was sentenced to six years’ jail. So Ratzinger’s concerns were well-founded. The suggestion that Ratzinger covered anything up or endangered children, however, is completely groundless.

What about the case of Father Lawrence Murphy of Wisconsin, though? Didn’t Ratzinger cover up for him? The first answer is that the documents in the Murphy case show that Ratzinger played no part in any of the decisions. The second answer is that his underlings in the CDF didn’t cover anything up or endanger any children either.

Murphy abused deaf children at a Milwaukee residential school in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1974, some of his victims complained to the police, who declined to prosecute: it is not clear why, but they may have been barred by the statute of limitations. Murphy was dismissed from his post at the orphanage and went to live with his mother in Superior, at the opposite end of Wisconsin.

Murphy’s victims did not rest, and in 1996 persuaded the Archbishop of Milwaukee to begin proceedings to defrock him. Unfortunately, Murphy had a cunning canon lawyer. He argued that the proceedings were invalid, because they had been started outside the church’s statute of limitations, and that Murphy should have been prosecuted in Superior, where he lived, not Milwaukee. The Milwaukee ecclesiastical court accepted these arguments, so the Diocese of Superior began proceedings against Murphy. It wrote to the CDF seeking an extension of the time limit for prosecutions; Murphy sent a letter opposing the request and pleading poor health.

The CDF replied, saying there was no need for an extension of time, as there is no time limit for prosecuting offences such as Murphy’s. It also asked whether, given Murphy’s health and the difficulty in prosecuting offences from so long ago, less formal disciplinary measures would be appropriate. The Bishop of Superior replied that he intended to proceed with the prosecution, but by this time Murphy’s health had deteriorated, and he died three months later. In the meantime, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee abandoned the earlier proceedings that had been found to be invalid.

There was no cover-up by Ratzinger or the CDF: Murphy had been reported to the police a quarter of a century earlier. And no more children were put at risk, because Murphy had ceased priestly duties. All that happened was that the proceedings against Murphy were transferred from Milwaukee to Superior, the CDF queried whether a prosecution was still appropriate under the circumstances, and Murphy died before a verdict was reached.

A pattern develops: media misrepresentation

There is a pattern developing here, but it is one of media misrepresentation, not of cover-ups by the Pope. In fact the current “scandal” started in the same way. Newspapers reported that two priests in the German diocese of Regensburg had been jailed for child abuse, one in the 1950s and another in the 1970s. Amid attempts to suggest that the Pope’s brother, who directed the Regensburg Cathedral choir, might have known about the abuse, the media missed the central point. The two priests were prosecuted by the police, convicted and sent to jail. It then emerged that Catholic and Protestant clergy in other parts of Germany were also jailed for s-xual assaults on children.

The core of the American and Irish scandals was the fact that clerical child abuse was covered up. Instead of being prosecuted by the police, offenders were sent for therapy, pronounced cured and returned to duty, often to re-offend. The Boston Globe won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing the cover-ups in Boston: no beat-ups were needed because there was a genuine scandal. But the evidence from Germany undermines suggestions of an international conspiracy to avoid police prosecutions.

Only one of the “smoking guns” against Benedict involves a priest who was not reported to the police. This was Peter Hullermann, who sexually assaulted three boys in the German diocese of Essen in 1979. The documents in the case have been released to the media, including the minutes of a meeting with the victims’ parents. These record that the parents did not want the case referred to police, to protect their children. Perhaps this was really a cover-up, but alternatively the parents may have had a sincere desire to shield their children from further trauma.

Hullermann was sent for therapy in Munich, where he was allowed to return to parish duties against the advice of his treating psychiatrist. These decisions were made by the Munich personnel director, a Father Fahr, and the diocesan vicar-general, Father Gruber. The decision to accept Hullermann required the approval of Munich’s diocesan council, which consisted of Archbishop Ratzinger and his senior officials.

Fahr did not attend the council meeting, but sent a memo stating that a young priest needed “medical-psychotherapeutic treatment in Munich” and a place to live with “an understanding colleague”.

The diocesan council approved the request. Gruber later wrote another memo recording Hullermann’s return to parish duties and copied it to Ratzinger, but it did not mention the psychiatrist’s advice. Neither memo provided any information alerting Ratzinger to the fact that Hullermann was a pedophile. Some years later, after Ratzinger had left Munich, Hullermann was transferred to another Bavarian diocese, where he re-offended.

This does appear to be a case of gross, if not criminal, negligence by Munich diocesan officials, and a cover-up as well. But Ratzinger was a victim of the cover-up, not a participant. The documents show that he was kept in the dark about Hullermann, and Gruber has confirmed this (Fahr is dead). While Gruber might be suspected of covering for his boss, the same cannot be said of the psychiatrist, who is still angry about the affair. But he also says Ratzinger knew nothing about what was going on.

The case against Ratzinger rests solely on claims that he should somehow have known what happened, when the documentary and witness evidence confirms that he didn’t. It may be worth mentioning that in 1980 the Archdiocese of Munich had 2.2 million parishioners, 1700 priests, 750 brothers and 5800 nuns: even a micro-manager could not keep track of everything.

But instead of judgement on the evidence, we get reportage such as that of Johann Hari, a staff writer for Britain’s Independent. Hari says there has been “an international conspiracy to protect child-rapists”, and that “Joseph Ratzinger was at the heart of this policy for decades”. Hari’s smoking gun is a 1962 Vatican directive called “Crimen Sollicitationis”, which is analysed in chapter four of the Murphy Report, the inquiry into the mis-handling of clerical sex abuse in Dublin that reported last year.

The Vatican document, which actually dates from 1922, provided procedures for prosecuting priests accused of various offences, including child abuse. The scandal in Dublin arose because these procedures were not followed. “The penal process of canon law was for a period of years set aside in favour of a purely ‘pastoral’ approach, which was, in the commission’s view, wholly ineffective as a means of controlling clerical child sexual abuse.”

Compare Hari’s take on the same question: “Here’s what we are sure of. By 1962 it was becoming clear to the Vatican that a number of its priests were raping children. Rather than root it out, they issued a secret order called ‘Crimen Sollicitationis’ ordering bishops to swear the victims to secrecy and move the offending priest on to another parish.”

The Independent is a respected newspaper, but Hari’s smear is worthy of Julius Streicher’s Der Stürmer. This is not another clumsy comparison with anti-semitism. While Jews were Streicher’s main target, he also ran a long campaign against the “immorality” of the Catholic clergy. This campaign climaxed in 1937, when the government closed most of Germany’s Catholic schools. More than 200,000 Catholics left the church, many religious orders were shut down and hundreds of priests sent to concentration camps.

In the end, 21 clergy out of a nationwide body of 20,000 were convicted of child abuse. Some were probably guilty, but Streicher and Goebbels convinced Germans that there were thousands of abusers, all linked by a conspiracy directed from the Vatican.

The historical analogy should not be pressed too far. The current attacks on Benedict are not being co-ordinated by anyone. Some media players are activated by malice, but most are just following the herd, chasing the biggest “scalp” around. But Der Stürmer is relevant because it reminds us of the importance of journalistic standards. Smear campaigns are wrong, even when directed against people we don’t like.

Paul Mees is senior lecturer in planning at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria. His new book Transport for Suburbia: Beyond the Automobile Age (Earthscan, 2010) is not about religion.


Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Antony Flew, atheist turned believer, dies

World Pays Tribute 

Leading academics, philosophers and members of the Christian faith across the world continue to pay tribute to Antony Flew, the famed British atheist and thinker who discovered God at the end of his life. The renowned rationalist philosopher died earlier this month at age 87 and continues to be remembered in obituaries and tributes world-wide. Those paying tribute to him include Catholic Theology professors from the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, well known American rabbis such as Rabbi Brad Hirshfield from New York and leading philosphers from academia such as Dr Gary Habermas.Describing Flew as one of the great intellectuals of his time, Rabbi Hirschfield lauded the Englishman's "intellectual generosity."

The son of a Methodist minister, Antony Flew spent most of his life denying the existence of God until just six years before his death when he dramatically changed his mind after studying research into genetics and DNA.
"The almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life, show that intelligence must have been involved," he announced in 2004 and went on to make a video of his conversion called : "Has Science Discovered God." 

Ironically, although modern day atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens claim in the rational world of science there is no proof of God exists, it is from the world of science that Antony Flew in his final years discovered "empirical evidence" that God exists, which overturned beliefs he had held for more than 60 years. Like Einstein before him, Flew found that God was the only possible answer when it came to increasingly complex discoveries from sub atomic particles to the human genome to the very origins of the Cosmos. "How can a universe of mindless matter produce beings with intrinsic ends, self replication capabilities and ‘coded chemistry'?" he asked, giving this as the main reason for his discovery of God in his final decade.

Flew's conclusion that there was in fact a God in his 81st year came as a shock to his fellow atheists, particularly Dawkins and Hitchens two of the world's most outspoken proponents of atheism. But Flew refused to back down even when some of his former followers decided his volte-face on God was the result of old age dementia and confusion rather than scholarly research and intellectual rigour. 

Flew's late life change of mind about God's existence was remarkable because of the huge volume of his writings which until then had embraced the atheist cause. Throughout most of his academic life he was adamant that one should presuppose atheism until there was empirical evidence to the contrary. Then in his final decade through as DNA and the human genome began to be understood along with the complexities of life, Flew found evidence which proved to him God exists and is the Creator of life. And from being a rationalist philosopher and non-believer for most of his life, one of the world's leading thinkers suddenly became a staunch believer. "The most impressive arguments for God's existence are those that are supported by recent scientific discoveries," he said.

In his final years, Flew supported the idea of a God along the lines of the philosophy espoused by Greek philosopher, Aristotle who believed God had characteristics of both power and intelligence. In 2007, Antony Flew published the manifesto of his conversion stating unequivocally in the title: "There is a God."
However until his death while convinced God did exist, he remained sceptical about an afterlife. With an academic career spanning 60 years with stints at universities across Britain and the US, Antony Flew will be remembered not only as one of the outstanding philosophers of his time, but as the man who preached atheism but died a believer.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010


 VATICAN CITY, 19 APR 2010 ( VIS ) - Benedict XVI today celebrates the fifth anniversary of his election as Pope. On 19 April 2005 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, succeeding Pope John Paul II, became the 264th successor of St. Peter.

  The conclave that led to the election of Benedict XVI began on Monday 18 April 2005 in the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican Apostolic Palace , with the "extra omnes" pronounced at 5.25 p.m. by Archbishop Piero Marini, master of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, following the taking of the oath by the 115 cardinal electors. The first black smoke appeared at 8.04 p.m. on the same day. Black smoke again appeared at 11.52 a .m. on Tuesday 19 April, while the white smoke arose on Tuesday 19 April at 5.50 p.m.

   At 6.48 p.m., the Holy Father Benedict XVI, preceded by the Cross, appeared on the external loggia to greet the people and to impart the Apostolic Blessing "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and to the world).

   Prior to the blessing, the new Pontiff addressed the faithful with the following words:

   "Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the Lord Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord. I am consoled by the fact that the Lord knows how to act, even with inadequate instruments and above all I entrust myself to your prayers. In the joy of the Risen Lord, trusting in His permanent help, as we go forward the Lord will help us, and His Mother, Mary Most Holy, is on our side Thank you."

   On 24 April 2005 in St. Peter's Square, Benedict XVI celebrated his first Mass as Pontiff in the presence of half a million people. One hundred and fifty cardinals concelebrated with the Pope.

   In his first homily, the Pope said: "One of the basic characteristics of a shepherd must be to love the people entrusted to him, even as he loves Christ Whom he serves. 'Feed my sheep', says Christ to Peter, and now, at this moment, He says it to me as well. Feeding means loving, and loving also means being ready to suffer. Loving means giving the sheep what is truly good, the nourishment of God's truth, of God's word, the nourishment of His presence, which He gives us in the Blessed Sacrament.

   " My dear friends, at this moment I can only say: pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love His flock more and more, in other words, you, the holy Church, each one of you and all of you together. Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves. Let us pray for one another, that the Lord will carry us and that we will learn to carry one another".

   In the five years of his pontificate, Benedict XVI has published three Encyclicals: "Deus caritas est" of 25 December 2005, "Spe salvi" of 27 November 2007, and "Caritas in veritate" of 30 June 2009; one Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist; the Apostolic Constitution "Anglicanorum coetibus"; nine "Motu Proprio"; the book "Jesus of Nazareth", and hundreds of addresses, homilies, letters and messages. He has made fourteen apostolic trips abroad and sixteen pastoral visits within Italy . Among the more important events of his pontificate were his visit to Auschwitz in 2006 and to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul , also in 2006, his 2008 address before the United Nations, and his 2010 visit to the synagogue of Rome . He has called two Synods, the first in 2008 on the Word of God and the second on Africa in 2009. A third Synod, on the Middle East , is due to take place later this year.

   To mark today's occasion, the cardinals will offer a luncheon in the Pope's honour in the Sala Ducale of the Vatican Apostolic Palace .


Saturday, 17 April 2010

Archives Show Church Excommunicated Nazis

Pave the Way Foundation Continues Restoring Reputation of Pius XII

NEW YORK, APRIL 16, 2010 ( An interreligious group trying to discover the facts regarding Pope Pius XII and his efforts to help Jews during World War II has announced the discovery of documents showing how the Church excommunicated Catholics who joined the Nazis.

The New-York based Pave the Way Foundation said that its representative Michael Hesemann found a large series of documents from 1930 to 1933.

The documents indicate that any Catholic who joined the Nazi party, wore the uniform or flew the swastika flag would no longer be able to receive the sacraments.

This policy set three years before Hitler was elected chancellor made clear that the teachings of the Church were incompatible with Nazi ideology.

“The documents clearly show an ideological war between the Catholic Church and National Socialism already in the pre-war decade," Hesemann explained. "The German bishops and the Roman Curia considered the Nazi doctrine not only as incompatible with the Christian faith, but also as hostile to the Church and dangerous to human morals, even more than Communism."

Among the documents is a handwritten letter from a leading member of the Nazis, Hermann Goering, requesting a meeting with Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pius XII), which was flatly refused.

There are also documents asking for a removal of the excommunication, which was also denied.

Gary Krupp, president of Pave the Way, characterized these documents as "very significant."

"Michael Hesemann has been diligent in researching the open archives and has been discovering new important documents with every visit," he said. "His research tells a very different story of Eugenio Pacelli or Pope Pius XII than is commonly known."

When asked why this information is not currently known by many historians, Pave the Way chairman Elliot Hershberg noted that "according to the archives sign-in sheets, most of these historians and scholars have simply not come to the open archives to research 65% of Pacelli’s ministry.”


Friday, 16 April 2010

Vatican reminds the press of the context of Cardinal Bertone’s statement

    The press once again spread across the world a totally false impression, having made no attempt to situate statements by a leading Church official in their obvious context. In many countries people, misled by the press reports, sprang to criticize the Cardinal. This included homosexual organizations and even included the French Foreign Affairs Ministry.
   Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone's comments were made during a press conference on Monday (April 12) in Chile. He was asked if there is a link between celibacy and sexual abuse by the clergy. This was the context of his remarks, a context that was ignored by the media and those uncritically following media reports. Cardinal Bertone’s response to the question was: "Many psychologists and psychiatrists have shown that there is no link between celibacy and pedophilia, but many others have shown, and have told me recently, that there is a link between homosexuality and pedophilia." The Cardinal, as is clear from the question he was asked, was referring only to the clerical abuse problem, not to the world-wide abuse of minors generally.

    In a communiqué released today, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, clarified that the cardinal was referring to scientific studies that have been conducted within the context of the sexual abuse crisis in the Church, and not in society at large. Fr. Lombardi , S.J., made the following declaration: 
  "Ecclesial authorities do not consider it within their competency to make general affirmations of a specifically psychological or medical character and therefore naturally must refer to the study of specialists and the inquiries they carry out."

(This statement by Fr Lombardi was interpreted by the media as distancing the Holy See from Cardinal Bertone's remarks. It was not. He was simply pointing out that Cardinal Bertone was not meaning to make a general affirmation himself. He was merely referring to the studies of specialists and their findings, as passed on to him. The statement continues by referring to those studies.)

  Fr Lombardi's statement continued, "Concerning the competency of ecclesial authorities, in the area of the causes of abuse of minors on the part of priests, which the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith has faced in recent years, the statistical data related by Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna states that in 10% of cases of pedophilia, in the strict use of the term, 90% should rather be defined as ephebophilia (that is, with adolescents). Further, 60% of those are of a same sex and 30% of a heterosexual character. This, of course, references the problems of abuse on the part of priests and not of the population in general."

 That is to say, in the cases dealt with by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 90% involved confrontations with adolescents (i.e., only 10% with children), of which close to 60% referred to individuals of the same sex and 30% were of a heterosexual character. The majority of cases, then, as the Cardinal had said when asked, involved homosexuality. Father Lombardi concluded by clarifying that the Cardinal was obviously referring to the problem of abuse by priests, and not in the population in general.

These statements by Msgr Scicluna of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and repeated in general terms by Cardinal Bertone are backed by the report published in 2004 by John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York, regarded as the most complete report on the sexual abuse crisis in the Church. On studying the charges of sexual abuse presented against clerics between 1950 and 2002 in the United States, the report stated that an overwhelming majority of the victims -- 81% -- were males. The John Jay study also said that pedophilia -- an attraction to pre-pubescent children diagnosed as a psychiatric disease -- was a smaller part of the sexual abuse problem, as the majority of the victims were adolescents. What Cardinal Bertone had said was correct, and he was carelessly misinterpreted and misreported by the media. This has been a constant feature of press report and comment on this matter.

The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States, commonly known as the John Jay Report, is a 2004 report by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, based on surveys completed by the Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States. It is the single most comprehensive study of clerical sexual abuse in the United States.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Vatican's daily blog

The latest failure in standards of journalism

By Phil Lawler (April 10, 2010)

We're off and running once again, with another completely phony story that purports to implicate Pope Benedict XVI in the protection of abusive priests.

The "exclusive" story released by AP yesterday, which has been dutifully passed along now by scores of major media outlets, would never have seen the light of day if normal journalistic standards had been in place. Careful editors should have asked a series of probing questions, and in every case the answer to those questions would have shown that the story had no "legs."

First to repeat the bare-bones version of the story: in November 1985, then-Cardinal Ratzinger signed a letter deferring a decision on the laicization of Father Stephen Kiesle, a California priest who had been accused of molesting boys.

Now the key questions:

• Was Cardinal Ratzinger responding to the complaints of priestly pedophilia? No. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which the future Pontiff headed, did not have jurisdiction for pedophile priests until 2001. The cardinal was weighing a request for laicization of Kiesle.

• Had Oakland's Bishop John Cummins sought to laicize Kiesle as punishment for his misconduct? No. Kiesle himself asked to be released from the priesthood. The bishop supported the wayward priest's application.

• Was the request for laicization denied? No. Eventually, in 1987, the Vatican approved Kiesle's dismissal from the priesthood.

• Did Kiesle abuse children again before he was laicized? To the best of our knowledge, No. The next complaints against him arose in 2002: 15 years after he was dismissed from the priesthood.

• Did Cardinal Ratzinger's reluctance to make a quick decision mean that Kiesle remained in active ministry? No. Bishop Cummins had the authority to suspend the predator-priest, and in fact he had placed him on an extended leave of absence long before the application for laicization was entered.

• Would quicker laicization have protected children in California? No. Cardinal Ratzinger did not have the power to put Kiesle behind bars. If Kiesle had been defrocked in 1985 instead of 1987, he would have remained at large, thanks to a light sentence from the California courts. As things stood, he remained at large. He was not engaged in parish ministry and had no special access to children.

• Did the Vatican cover up evidence of Kiesle's predatory behavior? No. The civil courts of California destroyed that evidence after the priest completed a sentence of probation-- before the case ever reached Rome.

So to review: This was not a case in which a bishop wanted to discipline his priest and the Vatican official demurred. This was not a case in which a priest remained active in ministry, and the Vatican did nothing to protect the children under his pastoral care. This was not a case in which the Vatican covered up evidence of a priest's misconduct. This was a case in which a priest asked to be released from his vows, and the Vatican-- which had been flooded by such requests throughout the 1970s -- wanted to consider all such cases carefully. In short, if you're looking for evidence of a sex-abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, this case is irrelevant.

We Americans know what a sex-abuse crisis looks like. The scandal erupts when evidence emerges that bishops have protected abusive priests, kept them active in parish assignments, covered up evidence of the charges against them, and lied to their people. There is no such evidence in this or any other case involving Pope Benedict XVI.

Competent reporters, when dealing with a story that involves special expertise, seek information from experts in that field. Capable journalists following this story should have sought out canon lawyers to explain the 1985 document-- not merely relied on the highly biased testimony of civil lawyers who have lodged multiple suits against the Church. If they had understood the case, objective reporters would have recognized that they had no story. But in this case, reporters for the major media outlets are far from objective.

The New York Times-- which touched off this feeding frenzy with two error-riddled front-page reports-- seized on the latest "scoop" by AP to say that the 1985 document exemplified:

    …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.

Here we have a complete rewriting of history. Earlier in this decade, American newspapers exposed the sad truth that many American bishops had kept pedophile priests in active ministry. Now the Times, which played an active role in exposing that scandal, would have us believe that the American bishops were striving to rid the priesthood of the predators, and the Vatican resisted!

No, what is "fueling a renewed sexual abuse scandal" is a media frenzy. There is a scandal here, indeed, but it's not the scandal you're reading about in the mass media. The scandal is the complete collapse of journalistic standards in the handling of this story.


Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Guide to Understanding Basic Holy See Procedures concerning allegations

Guide to Understanding Basic Holy See Procedures concerning Sexual Abuse Allegations

 The applicable law is the Motu Proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela (MP SST) of 30 April 2001 together with the 1983 Code of Canon Law. This is an introductory guide which may be helpful to lay persons and non-canonists.
(Note:  “CDF” are the initials for Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith)

A:  Preliminary Procedures

The local diocese investigates every allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric.

If the allegation has a semblance of truth the case is referred to the CDF.  The local bishop transmits all the necessary information to the CDF and expresses his opinion on the procedures to be followed and the measures to be adopted in the short and long term.

Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed.

During the preliminary stage and until the case is concluded, the bishop may impose precautionary measures to safeguard the community, including the victims. Indeed, the local bishop always retains power to protect children by restricting the activities of any priest in his diocese.  This is part of his ordinary authority, which he is encouraged to exercise to whatever extent is necessary to assure that children do not come to harm, and this power can be exercised at the bishop's discretion before, during and after any canonical proceeding.

B: Procedures authorized by the CDF

The CDF studies the case presented by the local bishop and also asks for supplementary information where necessary.

The CDF has a number of options:

B1 Penal Processes

The CDF may authorize the local bishop to conduct a judicial penal trial before a local Church tribunal. Any appeal in such cases would eventually be lodged to a tribunal of the CDF.

The CDF may authorize the local bishop to conduct an administrative penal process before a delegate of the local bishop assisted by two assessors. The accused priest is called to respond to the accusations and to review the evidence.  The accused has a right to present recourse to the CDF against a decree condemning him to a canonical penalty.  The decision of the Cardinals members of the CDF is final.

Should the cleric be judged guilty, both judicial and administrative penal processes can condemn a cleric to a number of canonical penalties, the most serious of which is dismissal from the clerical state.  The question of damages can also be treated directly during these procedures.

B2 Cases referred directly to the Holy Father

In very grave cases where a civil criminal trial has found the cleric guilty of sexual abuse of minors or where the evidence is overwhelming, the CDF may choose to take the case directly to the Holy Father with the request that the Pope issue a decree of "ex officio" dismissal from the clerical state.  There is no canonical remedy against such a papal decree.

The CDF also brings to the Holy Father requests by accused priests who, cognizant of their crimes, ask to be dispensed from the obligation of the priesthood and want to return to the lay state.  The Holy Father grants these requests for the good of the Church ("pro bono Ecclesiae").

B3 Disciplinary Measures

In cases where the accused priest has admitted to his crimes and has accepted to live a life of prayer and penance, the CDF authorizes the local bishop to issue a decree prohibiting or restricting the public ministry of such a priest.  Such decrees are imposed through a penal precept which would entail a canonical penalty for a violation of the conditions of the decree, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state.  Administrative recourse to the CDF is possible against such decrees.  The decision of the CDF is final.

C. Revision of MP SST

For some time the CDF has undertaken a revision of some of the articles of Motu Proprio Sacramentorum Sanctitatis tutela, in order to update the said Motu Proprio of 2001 in the light of special faculties granted to the CDF by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The proposed modifications under discussion will not change the above-mentioned procedures (A, B1-B3).


Pope Benedict's Words After Viewing Pius XII Film

"Pope Pius XII was a great teacher of Faith, of Hope and of Charity"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, APRIL 12, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Friday at the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo after viewing the film "Sotto il Cielo di Roma" (Under the Roman Sky). The film is set in 1940s Rome, and reflects the Church’s efforts to save people from the Nazis, as well as Adolph Hitler’s plot to kidnap the Pope.

* * *

Dear Friends,

I am very happy to have attended the first showing of the film "Sotto il Cielo di Roma" [Under the Roman Sky], an international co-production which presents the fundamental role of the Venerable Pius XII in the saving of Rome and of so many of the persecuted between 1943 and 1944. Although within the popularizing genre, it is a work that, also in the light of the most recent studies, attempts to reconstruct those dramatic events and the figure of the Pastor Angelicus. I am grateful to Mr. Paolo Garimberti, president of RAI  [Italian Radio and Television], for the kind words he addressed to me. A grateful thought also goes to Mr. Ettore Bernabei, to the other producers and to all those who collaborated in making the significant work we have just seen. I greet with affection the Lord Cardinals, the prelates and all those present.

These works -- planned for the general public with the most modern means, and at the same time directed to illustrating personalities and events of the last century -- are of particular value especially for the new generations. For those who, in school, have studied certain events, of which they have also, perhaps, heard discussed, films like this might be useful and stimulating and can help to know a period that is not remote, in fact, but that the pressure of the events of recent history and a fragmented culture can make one forget.

Pius XII was the Pope of our youth. With his rich teaching he was able to speak to the men of his time pointing out the way of Truth and with his great wisdom was able to direct the Church towards the horizon of the Third Millennium. I must, however, stressed particularly that Pius XII was the Pope that, as father of all, presided in charity in Rome and in the world, above all in the difficult time of World War II. In an address of July 23, 1944, immediately after the liberation of the city of Rome, he thanked the members of Saint Peter's Circle for their collaboration, saying: "(You) help us to satisfy more amply Our desire to dry so many tears, to alleviate so many sorrows," and he indicated as central for all Christians Saint Paul's exhortation to the Colossians (3:14-15): "And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body" (Addresses and Radio Messages of Pius XII, pp. 87-88).

The primacy of charity, of love  -- which is the commandment of the Lord Jesus -- is the principle and key of the reading of the whole work of the Church, in primis of her universal Pastor. Charity is the reason for every action, for every intervention. It is the global reason that moves thought and concrete gestures, and I am happy that also in this film this unifying principle emerges. I take the liberty to suggest this key of reading, in the light of the genuine witness of that great teacher of faith, of hope and of charity that was Pope Pius XII.

Renewing to all the expression of my gratitude, I take advantage of the occasion to express my best Easter wishes, while imparting my heartfelt blessing to all those present here, together with your collaborators and loved ones.


The Letter to Bishop Cummins 1981

Let's Get the Story Straight:   Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.

Here's what was happening in 1981 when Bishop Cummins of Oakland first wrote the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asking that one of the priests from his diocese of Oakland, be dispensed from his promise of celibacy.

Well first, what was not happening. The letter came a week before Cardinal Ratzinger had even assumed his duties as Prefect of that congregation. This is a very important office of the Roman curia. It handles a variety of cases worldwide, mostly having to do with defending and promoting doctrinal integrity in the Church. There's a lot of work to do, and it takes time for someone to become fully engaged in its activities.

But much more pertinently here: By 1980 the effects of the sexual revolution on marriage and the priesthood had been devastating. In 1965 there had been 59 marriage annulments granted by Rome to American couples. By 2002, there were over 50,000 annulments per year in the U.S. alone. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of priests were asking for dispensation from their promise of celibacy in order to be able to marry.

The Catholic Church holds the marriage vows to be indissoluble. Even an annulment, contrary to a widespread misconception, does not dissolve those vows. It is a declaration that because of some impediment, there never was a valid marriage in the first place.

Priestly ordination is also "indissoluble", in the sense that a validly ordained priest never ceases to be a priest.

And here's the rub. It was literally scandalous in the Church that priests, who had been prepared for eight to ten years for their ordination (which would be permanent, irreversible) and their promise of celibacy (which also has the character of a solemn promise before God), were, in the 1970s, being so easily dispensed from their promise of celibacy.

Married Catholics said to themselves: If a priest, who is so well prepared for his commitment, can so easily be dispensed from it so that he can marry, why can't we be dispensed from our commitment so that we can remarry?

When John Paul II was elevated to the papacy in the Fall of 1978, he immediately changed the policy on priestly dispensations. I don't have the exact dates and numbers at hand, but I remember at the time that many of us were amazed that the hundreds of dispensations per year (and it may have been thousands) under John Paul II's predecessor, Paul VI, suddenly were reduced to almost zero. It was almost impossible to get a dispensation in 1980.

What was John Paul's intent? To restore the integrity of the priesthood and of marriage. These commitments are permanent. A priest may be removed from ministry, but he will not be given a dispensation to marry. Priests are to be made to take their commitments with utmost seriousness. They will be an example to married couples to take theirs seriously also. When a priest makes a promise of celibacy, it's forever; when a couple make vows of marriage, it's forever.

This is the decisive context of Cardinal Ratzinger's letter to Bishop Cummins. It is not a smoking gun. It did not mean that Ratzinger was not taking the priest's sins seriously. (He called the accusations "very serious" [gravis momenti].) It meant that he, following the policy of John Paul II, was taking the priesthood and its commitments very seriously.

And again, this entire affair had nothing to do with preventing further abuse by this priest. That had already been done, or should have been done, by the local bishop.

A final, minor but significant point of translation. The translation being used by the media of an important part of Ratzinger's letter is: "your Excellency must not fail to provide the petitioner with as much paternal care as possible". This has been rightly interpreted by some to mean that Ratzinger was saying that the bishop should keep a watchful eye on the priest. The original Latin makes that even clearer: "paterna...cura sequi" which means "to follow with paternal care". We get the word "persecute" from the Latin "per-sequi". "Sequi" is much stronger then "provide".

There is a completely mistaken first premise underlying all this criticism.The premise is that "defrocking" has anything to do with protecting victims and preventing further abuse.

First, the media needs to know that according to Catholic teaching, Holy Orders is a sacrament which leaves an "indelible mark"; in layman's terms, once ordained a priest, a man is always a priest. The reason the word "dispensation" is used in the correspondence is that that is what happens technically: the priest is dispensed from his obligation of celibacy. In a sense, this works in the opposite direction from protection: a restraint is being removed.

Further, as if to prove this point, the priest in question continued to abuse children after he was "defrocked" and had married. QED.

Secondly, nothing at all prevents a bishop from: removing a priest from all ministry; removing his faculties; reporting him to civil authorities. There is no need even to inform Rome about this. The only way (until 2001 or in cases of abuse of Confession) that it need get to Rome is if the priest appeals the bishop's actions.

Thirdly, why was the CDF involved anyway? That was not the congregation that handles abuse cases, except where abuse of Confession has played a role. I believe the CDF was involved in cases of dispensation from celibacy. (Though you would think that should be under the Congregation for Priests.) But, again, dispensation has nothing to do with preventing further abuse. It may appease the sense of justice on the part of victims. But at the same time, It normally takes eight to ten years to become a priest. It's not a club one joins. It is a very serious thing to dispense a priest from celibacy, and there needs to be a careful process to protect innocent priests.

Fourthly, there are definitely cased of priests who have been falsely accused. Especially the American media ought to be sensitive to the principle that a man is innocent until proven guilty. Civil law requires that to be done in a court of law. A bishop can, and in many cases, should take action against a priest before there is any canonical trial.

Finally, let's compare this to the difference between a criminal and a civil trial. Criminal trials can be expedited, but even then in all but the most grievous cases, a criminal defendant is a free man until convicted. In the case of priests, the "punishment" of removal from ministry can be applied immediately  by a bishop even before there is any canonical trial, which is like a civil trial. How long do civil trials take in this country. I know of trials that have dragged out for more than seven years.


Sunday, 11 April 2010


VATICAN CITY, 9 APR 2010 - Given below is a text entitled "Following Holy Week, Holding Our Course", written by Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. and published today on the website of Vatican Radio.

   "The debate concerning sexual abuse, and not only that committed by the clergy, continues with news items and comments of various kinds. How can we sail through these stormy waters while maintaining a secure course and responding to the evangelical motto 'Duc in altum - Put out into the deep'?
  In the first place, by continuing to seek truth, and peace for the victims. One of the most striking things is that today so many inner wounds are coming to light, wounds that also date to many years (sometimes decades) ago, but evidently still open, Many victims do not seek financial compensation but inner assistance, a judgement on their painful individual experiences. There is something that we have yet to fully understand; perhaps we need a more profound experience of events that have had such a negative impact on the lives of individuals, of the Church and of society. One example of this, at the collective level, is the hatred and violence of conflicts between peoples which are, as we see, so difficult to overcome in true reconciliation. Abuse opens wounds at a deep inner level. For this reason, certain episcopates were right when they courageously resumed developing ways and places in which victims could express themselves freely, listening to them without taking it for granted that the problem had already been faced and overcome by the workshops established sometime ago. For this reason also, other episcopates and individual bishops were right to intervene paternally, showing spiritual, liturgical and human concern for victims. It seems certain that the number of new accusations of abuse is falling, as is happening in the United States , but for many people the road to profound healing is only now beginning, and for others it has yet to start. In the context of this concern for victims, the Pope has written of his readiness to hold new meetings with then, thus sharing in the journey of the entire ecclesial community. But this journey, in order to achieve profound effects, must take place in respect for people and the search for peace.

   Alongside concern for victims we must continue to implement, decisively and truthfully, the correct procedures for the canonical judgement of the guilty, and for collaborating with the civil authorities in matters concerning their judicial and penal competencies, taking the specific norms and situations of the various countries into account. Only in this way can we hope effectively to rebuild a climate of justice and complete trust in the ecclesiastical institution. It has happened that a number of leaders of communities and institutions, through inexperience or unpreparedness, have not had a ready understanding of the protocols and criteria for intervention which could have helped them intervene decisively even when this was very difficult or painful for them, also because they were often surprised by the accusations. But, while civil law intervenes through general norms, canon law must take account of the specific moral gravity of an abuse of the trust placed in persons who hold positions of responsibility within the ecclesial community, and of the flagrant contradiction with the conduct they should show. In this sense, transparency and rigour are urgent requirements if the Church is to bear witness to wise and just government.

   The formation and selection of candidates for the priesthood, and more generally of the staff of educational and pastoral institutions, is the basis for an effective prevention of the risk of future abuses. Achieving a healthy maturity of the personality, also from a sexual point of view, has always been a difficult challenge, but today it is particularly so, although the best psychological and medical knowledge is of great help in spiritual and moral formation. It has been observed that the greatest frequency of abuses coincided with the most intense period of the 'sexual revolution' of past decades. Formation must take account of this context and of the more general context of secularisation. In the final analysis, this means rediscovering and reaffirming the sense and importance of sexuality, chastity and emotional relationships in today's world, and doing so in concrete, not just verbal or abstract, terms. What a source of disorder and suffering their violation or undervaluation can be! As the Pope observed in his Letter to Irish Catholics, a Christian priestly life today can respond to the requirements of its vocation only by truly nourishing itself at the wellspring of faith and friendship with Christ.

   People who love truth and the objective evaluation of problems will know where to seek and find information for a more overall comprehension of the problem of paedophilia and the sexual abuse of minors in our time, in different countries, understanding its range and pervasiveness. Thus they will be able to achieve a better understanding of the degree to which the Catholic Church shares problems that are not only her own, to what extent they have particular gravity for her and require specific interventions,and, finally, the extent to which the experience the Church is going through in this field may also be useful for other institutions or for society as a whole. In this context, we truly feel that the communications media have not yet worked sufficiently, especially in countries in which the Church has a stronger presence and in which she is more easily subject to criticism. Yet, documents such as the national US report on the mistreatment of children deserve to be better known in order to understand what fields require urgent social intervention, and the proportions of the problem. I

In the U.S.A. in 2008 alone, 62,000 people were identified as having committed acts of abuse against minors, while the proportion of Catholic priests was so small as not to be taken into consideration as a group.

   The protection of minors and young people is, then, an immense and unlimited field, which goes well beyond the specific problem concerning certain members of the clergy. People who sensitively, generously and attentively dedicate their efforts to this problem deserve gratitude, respect and encouragement from everyone, especially from the ecclesial and civil authorities. Theirs is an essential contribution for the serenity and credibility of the education and formation of young people, both inside and outside the Church. The Pope rightly expressed words of great appreciation for them in his Letter to Irish Catholics, though naturally with a view to a vaster horizon.

   Finally, Pope Benedict XVI, a coherent guide along the path of rigour and truth, merits all respect and support, testimony of which is reaching him from all parts of the Church. He is a pastor well capable of facing - with great rectitude and confidence - this difficult time in which there is no lack of criticism and unfounded insinuations. It must be said that he is a Pope who has spoken a lot about the Truth of God and about respect for truth; and he has become a credible witness of this. We accompany him, learning from him the constancy necessary to grow in truth and transparency, continuing to open our horizons to the serious problems of the world and responding patiently to the slow and gradual release of partial or presumed 'revelations' which seek to undermined his credibility, and that of other institutions or individuals of the Church.

   This patient and solid love of truth is necessary, in the Church, in the society in which we live, in communicating and in writing, if we wish to serve rather than confuse our fellow men and women".

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Wall Street Journal article: The Pope and the New York Times

Cardinal Ratzinger did more than anyone to hold abusers accountable.
      By WILLIAM MCGURN (The Wall Street Journal, April 6, 2010)

Unlike the Roman papacy, in certain circles the New York Times still enjoys the presumption of authority. So when the front page carries a story headlined "Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Deaf Boys," people notice.

Written by Laurie Goodstein and published March 25, the thrust is twofold. First, that the Rev. Lawrence Murphy, a priest who abused children at St. John's School for the Deaf in Milwaukee from the 1950s to the 1970s, went unpunished. Father Murphy, she wrote categorically, "was never tried or disciplined by the church's own justice system."

This all feeds the kicker: "the effort to dismiss Father Murphy came to a sudden halt after the priest appealed to Cardinal Ratzinger for leniency." In other words, Murphy got off scot-free, and the cardinal looked the other way.

Ms. Goodstein cites internal church documents, which the Times posted online. The documents were provided by Jeff Anderson and Mike Finnegan. They are described as "lawyers for five men who have brought four lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee."

What she did not tell readers is that Mr. Anderson isn't just any old lawyer. When it comes to suing the church, he is America's leading plaintiffs attorney. Back in 2002, he told the Associated Press that he'd won more than $60 million in settlements from the church, and he once boasted to a Twin Cities weekly that he's "suing the s--t out of them everywhere." Nor did the Times report another salient fact about Mr. Anderson: He's now trying to sue the Vatican in U.S. federal court.

None of this makes Mr. Anderson wrong or unworthy of quoting. It does make him a much bigger player than the story disclosed. In fact, it's hard to think of anyone with a greater financial interest in promoting the public narrative of a church that takes zero action against abuser priests, with Pope Benedict XVI personally culpable.

Asked about the omissions in an email, Ms. Goodstein replied as follows: "Given the complexity of the Murphy case, and the relative brevity of my story, I don't think it is realistic for you to expect this story to get into treating other cases that these attorneys have handled."

Martin Nussbaum, a lawyer who is not involved in the Murphy case but who has defended other dioceses and churches in sexual abuse suits, emailed me four interesting letters sent to Murphy from three Wisconsin bishops. These documents are not among those posted online by the Times. They are relevant, however, because they refute the idea that Murphy went unpunished.

In fact, the letters from these bishops—three in 1993 and one in 1995, after fresh allegations of Murphy's misconduct—variously informed the priest that he was not to celebrate the sacraments in public, not to have any unsupervised contact with minors, and not to work in any parish religious education program.

It's accurate to say Murphy was never convicted by a church tribunal. It's also reasonable to argue (as I would) that Murphy should have been disciplined more. It is untrue, however, to suggest he was "never" disciplined. When asked if she knew of these letters, Ms. Goodstein did not directly answer, saying her focus was on what was "new," i.e., "the attempts by those same bishops to have Father Murphy laicized."

As for Rome, it did not get the case until 1996, when the archdiocese of Milwaukee informed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then headed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Back then, the CDF handled abuse cases when they involved a breach of confession (Murphy was accused of using the confessional to solicit boys). At that time, too, the only real option for reducing Murphy to the lay state was a church trial. And the bishops in Wisconsin did begin a trial.

Ms. Goodstein's original article said simply that Cardinal Ratzinger's deputy halted Murphy's trial after the priest sent the cardinal a letter saying he was dying and asking for clemency. A follow-up Times article last Thursday clarified that Rome came down the way it did because Murphy had shown "apparent good conduct" for the last 24 years, and "it would be difficult to try him" because "so much time [had] passed between the crimes and the trial."

Plus, his bishops had already stripped Murphy of his priestly faculties, the equivalent of taking a doctor's medical license. Does all this really suggest people callously looking the other way?

A few years later, when the CDF assumed authority over all abuse cases, Cardinal Ratzinger implemented changes that allowed for direct administrative action instead of trials that often took years. Roughly 60% of priests accused of sexual abuse were handled this way. The man who is now pope reopened cases that had been closed; did more than anyone to process cases and hold abusers accountable; and became the first pope to meet with victims. Isn't the more reasonable interpretation of all these events that Cardinal Ratzinger's experience with cases like Murphy's helped lead him to promote reforms that gave the church more effective tools for handling priestly abuse?


Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Pope and his pharisaical attackers

By George Neumayr
The very secularists and libertine Catholics who wanted the aberrant sexual revolution to enter the Church in the 1960s and 1970s now hold Pope Benedict XVI responsible for its lingering effects. This takes considerable gall, but that has never stopped them before.

Moreover, what moral authority and “credibility” do they bring to the issue of protecting children, exactly? These are the same people who favor the abortion of unborn children. They favor the high-brow child abuse of turning children over to homosexual couples at gay adoption agencies. They think it enlightened to bring Planned Parenthood representatives into elementary schools. They celebrate on Main Street gay-pride parades that include the North American Man/Boy Love Association.

The moral authority of these Church-hating ideologues is nil. We are witnessing the repulsively absurd spectacle of a culture drenched in depravity lecturing the Vicar of Christ on moral responsibility. One doesn’t even have to agree with every action or inaction of Benedict's ecclesiastical career to see that these attacks on him have been appallingly stupid, glib, and Pharisaical.

Liberal pundits call for the resignation of the Pope with about as much consideration as they order a latte. The press interprets the Pope’s recent comment that faith leads one “toward the courage of not allowing oneself to be intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinion” as a response to these calls. It probably wasn’t, but if it was, he is right. This is just the petty punditry of petty people who preside over a culture increasingly defined by the corruption of children.

Pope Benedict has taken serious steps to address the abuse scandal in the Church. What steps have a degenerate liberal elite taken to protect children in society at large? The feverish drive to silence and smear the Pope—from the New York Times to pundits like Andrew Sullivan and Maureen Dowd to editorialists at the National Catholic Reporter—is not about the protection of children but the imposition of liberal ideology on the Church. Period.

Their real objection to Benedict is not that he has done too little to reform the priesthood but that he has done too much. It was the New York Times and the National Catholic Reporter that pounced on him for issuing, in his first year as pope, a ban on the ordination of homosexuals. It was the National Catholic Reporter that ran pieces casting the “zero-tolerance” policy as heartless and draconian to wayward priests.

These are not reformers of a permissive priesthood but proponents of one.

George Neumayr is editor of CWR.


Monday, 5 April 2010

Forgotten Study by Charol Shakeshaft

Forgotten Study: Abuse in Schools 100 Times Worse than by Priests. George Weigel writes that by empirical measure the Catholic Church is probably the safest place for young people.

By James Tillman and John Jalsevac

WASHINGTON, DC, April 1, 2010 ( – In the last several weeks such a quantity of ink has been spilled in newspapers across the globe about the priestly sex abuse scandals, that a casual reader might be forgiven for thinking that Catholic priests are the worst and most common perpetrators of child sex abuse.

But according to Charol Shakeshaft, the researcher of a little-remembered 2004 study prepared for the U.S. Department of Education, "the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests."

After effectively disappearing from the radar, Shakeshaft’s study is now being revisited by commentators seeking to restore a sense of proportion to the mainstream coverage of the Church scandal.

According to the 2004 study “the most accurate data available at this time” indicates that “nearly 9.6 percent of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometime during their school career.”

“Educator sexual misconduct is woefully under-studied,” writes the researcher. “We have scant data on incidence and even less on descriptions of predators and targets.  There are many questions that call for answers.“

(2004 study at

In an article published on Monday, renowned Catholic commentator George Weigel referred to the Shakeshaft study, and observed that “The sexual and physical abuse of children and young people is a global plague” in which Catholic priests constitute only a small minority of perpetrators.

While Weigel observes that the findings of Shakeshaft’s study do nothing to mitigate the harm caused by priestly abuse, or excuse the “clericalism” and “fideism” that led bishops to ignore the problem, they do point to a gross imbalance in the level of scrutiny given to it, throwing suspicion on the motives of the news outlets that are pouring their resources into digging up decades-old dirt on the Church.

“The narrative that has been constructed is often less about the protection of the young (for whom the Catholic Church is, by empirical measure, the safest environment for young people in America today) than it is about taking the Church down," he writes.

Weigel observes that priestly sex abuse is “a phenomenon that spiked between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s but seems to have virtually disappeared,” and that in recent years the Church has gone to great lengths to punish and remove priestly predators and to protect children. The result of these measures is that “six credible cases of clerical sexual abuse in 2009 were reported in the U.S. bishops’ annual audit, in a Church of some 65,000,000 members.”

Despite these facts, however, “the sexual abuse story in the global media is almost entirely a Catholic story, in which the Catholic Church is portrayed as the epicenter of the sexual abuse of the young.”

Outside of the Church, Shakeshaft is not alone in highlighting the largely unaddressed, and unpublicized problem of child sex abuse in schools. Sherryll Kraizer, executive director of the Denver-based Safe Child Program, told the Colorado Gazette in 2008 that school employees commonly ignore laws meant to prevent the sexual abuse of children.

“I see it regularly,” Kraizer said. “There are laws against failing to report, but the law is almost never enforced. Almost never.”

“What typically happens is you’ll have a teacher who’s spending a little too much time in a room with one child with the door shut,” Kraizer explained. “Another teacher sees it and reports it to the principal. The principal calls the suspected teacher in and says ‘Don’t do that,’ instead of contacting child protective services.”

“Before you know it, the teacher is driving the student home. A whole series of events will unfold, known to other teachers and the principal, and nobody contacts child services before it’s out of control. You see this documented in records after it eventually ends up in court.”

In an editorial last week, The Gazette revisited the testimony of Kraizer in the context of the Church abuse scandal coverage, concluding that “the much larger crisis remains in our public schools today, where children are raped and groped every day in the United States.”

“The media and others must maintain their watchful eye on the Catholic Church and other religious institutions,” wrote The Gazette, “But it’s no less tragic when a child gets abused at school.”

In 2004, shortly after the Shakeshaft study was released, Catholic League President William Donohue, who was unavailable for an interview for this story, asked, “Where is the media in all this?”

“Isn’t it news that the number of public school students who have been abused by a school employee is more than 100 times greater than the number of minors who have been abused by priests?” he asked.

“All those reporters, columnists, talking heads, attorneys general, D.A.’s, psychologists and victims groups who were so quick on the draw to get priests have a moral obligation to pursue this issue to the max.  If they don’t, they’re a fraud.”


The New York Times and Pope Benedict XVI:

By Cardinal William J. Levada
Head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
How it looks to an American in the Vatican

 In our melting pot of peoples, languages and backgrounds, Americans are not noted as examples of “high” culture. But we can take pride as a rule in our passion for fairness. In the Vatican where I currently work, my colleagues – whether fellow cardinals at meetings or officials in my office – come from many different countries, continents and cultures. As I write this response today (March 26, 2010) I have had to admit to them that I am not proud of America’s newspaper of record, the New York Times, as a paragon of fairness.

I say this because today’s Times presents both a lengthy article by Laurie Goodstein, a senior columnist, headlined “Warned About Abuse, Vatican Failed to Defrock Priest,” and an accompanying editorial entitled “The Pope and the Pedophilia Scandal,” in which the editors call the Goodstein article a disturbing report (emphasis in original) as a basis for their own charges against the Pope. Both the article and the editorial are deficient by any reasonable standards of fairness that Americans have every right and expectation to find in their major media reporting.

In her lead paragraph, Goodstein relies on what she describes as “newly unearthed files” to point out what the Vatican (i.e. then Cardinal Ratzinger and his Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) did not do – “defrock Fr. Murphy.”  Breaking news, apparently. Only after eight paragraphs of purple prose does Goodstein reveal that Fr. Murphy, who criminally abused as many as 200 deaf children while working at a school in the Milwaukee Archdiocese from 1950 to 1974, “not only was never tried or disciplined by the church’s own justice system, but also got a pass from the police and prosecutors who ignored reports from his victims, according to the documents and interviews with victims.”

But in paragraph 13, commenting on a statement of Fr. Lombardi (the Vatican spokesman) that Church law does not prohibit anyone from reporting cases of abuse to civil authorities, Goodstein writes, “He did not address why that had never happened in this case.” Did she forget, or did her editors not read, what she wrote in paragraph nine about Murphy getting “a pass from the police and prosecutors”? By her own account it seems clear that criminal authorities had been notified, most probably by the victims and their families.

Goodstein’s account bounces back and forth as if there were not some 20 plus years intervening between reports in the 1960 and 70’s to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and local police, and Archbishop Weakland’s appeal for help to the Vatican in 1996. Why? Because the point of the article is not about failures on the part of church and civil authorities to act properly at the time. I, for one, looking back at this report agree that Fr. Murphy deserved to be dismissed from the clerical state for his egregious criminal behavior, which would normally have resulted from a canonical trial.

The point of Goodstein’s article, however, is to attribute the failure to accomplish this dismissal to Pope Benedict, instead of to diocesan decisions at the time. She uses the technique of repeating the many escalating charges and accusations from various sources (not least from her own newspaper), and tries to use these “newly unearthed files” as the basis for accusing the pope of leniency and inaction in this case and presumably in others.

It seems to me, on the other hand, that we owe Pope Benedict a great debt of gratitude for introducing the procedures that have helped the Church to take action in the face of the scandal of priestly sexual abuse of minors. These efforts began when the Pope served as Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and continued after he was elected Pope. That the Times has published a series of articles in which the important contribution he has made – especially in the development and implementation of Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela, the Motu proprio issued by Pope John Paul II in 2001 – is ignored, seems to me to warrant the charge of lack of fairness which should be the hallmark of any reputable newspaper.

Let me tell you what I think a fair reading of the Milwaukee case would seem to indicate.  The reasons why church and civil authorities took no action in the 1960’s and 70’s is apparently not contained in these “newly emerged files.” Nor does the Times seem interested in finding out why. But what does emerge is this: after almost 20 years as Archbishop, Weakland wrote to the Congregation asking for help in dealing with this terrible case of serial abuse. The Congregation approved his decision to undertake a canonical trial, since the case involved solicitation in confession – one of the graviora delicta (most grave crimes) for which the Congregation had responsibility to investigate and take appropriate action.

Only when it learned that Murphy was dying did the Congregation suggest to Weakland that the canonical trial be suspended, since it would involve a lengthy process of taking testimony from a number of deaf victims from prior decades, as well as from the accused priest. Instead it proposed measures to ensure that appropriate restrictions on his ministry be taken. Goodstein infers that this action implies “leniency” toward a priest guilty of heinous crimes. My interpretation would be that the Congregation realized that the complex canonical process would be useless if the priest were dying. Indeed, I have recently received an unsolicited letter from the judicial vicar who was presiding judge in the canonical trial telling me that he never received any communication about suspending the trial, and would not have agreed to it. But Fr. Murphy had died in the meantime. As a believer, I have no doubt that Murphy will face the One who judges both the living and the dead.

Goodstein also refers to what she calls “other accusations” about the reassignment of a priest who had previously abused a child/children in another diocese by the Archdiocese of Munich. But the Archdiocese has repeatedly explained that the responsible Vicar General, Mons. Gruber, admitted his mistake in making that assignment. It is anachronistic for Goodstein and the Times to imply that the knowledge about sexual abuse that we have in 2010 should have somehow been intuited by those in authority in 1980. It is not difficult for me to think that Professor Ratzinger, appointed as Archbishop of Munich in 1977, would have done as most new bishops do: allow those already in place in an administration of 400 or 500 people to do the jobs assigned to them.

As I look back on my own personal history as a priest and bishop, I can say that in 1980 I had never heard of any accusation of such sexual abuse by a priest. It was only in 1985, as an Auxiliary Bishop attending a meeting of our U.S. Bishops’ Conference where data on this matter was presented, that I became aware of some of the issues. In 1986, when I was appointed Archbishop in Portland, I began to deal personally with accusations of the crime of sexual abuse, and although my “learning curve” was rapid, it was also limited by the particular cases called to my attention.

Here are a few things I have learned since that time: many child victims are reluctant to report incidents of sexual abuse by clergy. When they come forward as adults, the most frequent reason they give is not to ask for punishment of the priest, but to make the bishop and personnel director aware so that other children can be spared the trauma that they have experienced.

In dealing with priests, I learned that many priests, when confronted with accusations from the past, spontaneously admitted their guilt. On the other hand, I also learned that denial is not uncommon. I have found that even programs of residential therapy have not succeeded in breaking through such denial in some cases. Even professional therapists did not arrive at a clear diagnosis in some of these cases; often their recommendations were too vague to be helpful. On the other hand, therapists have been very helpful to victims in dealing with the long-range effects of their childhood abuse. In both Portland and San Francisco where I dealt with issues of sexual abuse, the dioceses always made funds available (often through diocesan insurance coverage) for therapy to victims of sexual abuse.

From the point of view of ecclesiastical procedures, the explosion of the sexual abuse question in the United States led to the adoption, at a meeting of the Bishops’ Conference in Dallas in 2002, of a “Charter for the Protection of Minors from Sexual Abuse.” This Charter provides for uniform guidelines on reporting sexual abuse, on structures of accountability (Boards involving clergy, religious and laity, including experts), reports to a national Board, and education programs for parishes and schools in raising awareness and prevention of sexual abuse of children. In a number of other countries similar programs have been adopted by Church authorities: one of the first was adopted by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in response to the Nolan Report made by a high-level commission of independent experts in 2001.

It was only in 2001, with the publication of Pope John Paul II’s Motu proprio Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela (SST), that responsibility for guiding the Catholic Church’s response to the problem of sexual abuse of minors by clerics was assigned to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This papal document was prepared for Pope John Paul II under the guidance of Cardinal Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Contrary to some media reports, SST did not remove the local bishop’s responsibility for acting in cases of reported sexual abuse of minors by clerics. Nor was it, as some have theorized, part of a plot from on high to interfere with civil jurisdiction in such cases. Instead, SST directs bishops to report credible allegations of abuse to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is able to provide a service to the bishops to ensure that cases are handled properly, in accord with applicable ecclesiastical law.

Here are some of the advances made by this new Church legislation (SST). It has allowed for a streamlined administrative process in arriving at a judgment, thus reserving the more formal process of a canonical trial to more complex cases. This has been of particular advantage in missionary and small dioceses that do not have a strong complement of well-trained canon lawyers. It provides for erecting inter-diocesan tribunals to assist small dioceses. The Congregation has faculties allowing it derogate from the prescription of a crime (statute of limitations) in order to permit justice to be done even for “historical” cases. Moreover, SST has amended canon law in cases of sexual abuse to adjust the age of a minor to 18 to correspond with the civil law in many countries today. It provides a point of reference for bishops and religious superiors to obtain uniform advice about handling priests’ cases. Perhaps most of all, it has designated cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics as graviora delicta: most grave crimes, like the crimes against the sacraments of Eucharist and Penance perennially assigned to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This in itself has shown the seriousness with which today’s Church undertakes its responsibility to assist bishops and religious superiors to prevent these crimes from happening in the future, and to punish them when they happen. Here is a legacy of Pope Benedict that greatly facilitates the work of the Congregation which I now have the privilege to lead, to the benefit of the entire Church.

After the Dallas Charter in 2002, I was appointed (at the time as Archbishop of San Francisco) to a team of four bishops to seek approval of the Holy See for the “Essential Norms” that the American Bishops developed to allow us to deal with abuse questions. Because these norms intersected with existing canon law, they required approval before being implemented as particular law for our country. Under the chairmanship of Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago and currently President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, our team worked with Vatican canonical experts at several meetings. We found in Cardinal Ratzinger, and in the experts he assigned to meet with us, a sympathetic understanding of the problems we faced as American bishops. Largely through his guidance we were able to bring our work to a successful conclusion.

The Times editorial wonders “how Vatican officials did not draw the lessons of the grueling scandal in the United States, where more than 700 priests were dismissed over a three-year period.” I can assure the Times that the Vatican in reality did not then and does not now ignore those lessons. But the Times editorial goes on to show the usual bias: “But then we read Laurie Goodstein’s disturbing report . . .about how the pope, while he was still a cardinal, was personally warned about a priest … But church leaders chose to protect the church instead of children. The report illuminated the kind of behavior the church was willing to excuse to avoid scandal.” Excuse me, editors. Even the Goodstein article, based on “newly unearthed files,” places the words about protecting the Church from scandal on the lips of Archbishop Weakland, not the pope.  It is just this kind of anachronistic conflation that I think warrants my accusation that the Times, in rushing to a guilty verdict, lacks fairness in its coverage of Pope Benedict.

As a full-time member of the Roman Curia, the governing structure that carries out the Holy See’s tasks, I do not have time to deal with the Times’s subsequent almost daily articles by Rachel Donadio and others, much less with Maureen Dowd’s silly parroting of Goodstein’s “disturbing report.” But about a man with and for whom I have the privilege of working, as his “successor” Prefect, a pope whose encyclicals on love and hope and economic virtue have both surprised us and made us think, whose weekly catecheses and Holy Week homilies inspire us, and yes, whose pro-active work to help the Church deal effectively with the sexual abuse of minors continues to enable us today, I ask the Times to reconsider its attack mode about Pope Benedict XVI and give the world a more balanced view of a leader it can and should count on.


Saint Gianna Molla's saintly husband dies at 97

"I Can Only Imagine the Scene ... as This Wonderful Couple Was Reunited"

By Father Thomas Rosica, CSB

ROME, APRIL 4, 2010 ( Early on Holy Saturday morning, April 3, 2010, Mr. Pietro Molla, husband of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, died in his family home in Mesero, near Milan in Italy, surrounded by his daughter Gianna Emanuela and his other children, Pierluigi and Laura.  Mr. Molla was 97 years old and had been in failing health for several years.  Pierluigi contacted me this morning to let me know of the sad news of Pietro’s death.

I have been good friends with the Molla family since 1999 and St. Gianna is the Patron Saint of the Salt and Light Catholic Television Network in Canada. My friendship with the Molla family grew from our first meeting in 1999 in Mesero. I have been blessed with the gift of their friendship these past eleven years and accompanied the Molla Family in the years leading up to the 2004 canonization of St. Gianna, a great, contemporary woman saint, wife, mother of a family, medical doctor and lover of life.

I discovered a pillar of faith, courage, and devotion in the person of Mr. Pietro Molla, husband of St. Gianna.  During our first meeting, Pietro shared with me dozens of photos in family albums, regaling me with stories of Gianna’s interests in music, opera, theater, mountain hikes, skiing.  He also shared with me in great detail the final months and weeks of Gianna’s earthly existence in 1962. At her death Pietro would become a single parent with four young children.  He never remarried.

The Molla children are all very close to me in age, and we struck up a wonderful friendship that has lasted to this day.  Pierluigi and his family welcomed me as one of their own.  Laura, my contemporary is a very intelligent, warm professional woman, now happily married to Giuseppe Pannuti.

When Pierluigi and Dr. Gianna Emanuela came to visit me in Toronto in 1999, while I was still chaplain of the Newman Centre at the University of Toronto, Gianna asked me to accompany her to visit two Toronto hospitals that specialize in the care and treatment of those who suffer with Alzheimer’s Disease.  Gianna is a specialist in that area.  I watched her in action among her medical peers and colleagues in Toronto, sharing stories and research about Alzheimers disease and her love of the elderly.  Dr. Gianna Emanuela was continuing the healing mission of her mother.

Over the past eleven years, I visited numerous times with Pietro at his home in Mesero, shared meals with him in little restaurants in town, and spoke many times with him by phone.  In September 2003, shortly after the Molla family was informed that the required miracle had been approved by the Vatican for Blessed Gianna’s canonization, Pietro phoned me in Toronto and invited me to make the “official” documentary of St. Gianna Beretta Molla’s life.  It was an extraordinary privilege for us at Salt and Light Television in Canada to be entrusted with that task.  Our film on St. Gianna’s life, “Love is a Choice,” is an award-winning documentary now in numerous languages.

I shall never forget the eve of St. Gianna’s canonization at the Vatican on May 16, 2004, when Pietro called me to his room at the convent of the Sisters of Maria Bambina, and asked me to spend several hours with him as he prepared spiritually for the canonization ceremony the following morning.  What an extraordinary privilege.  That night I said to Pietro, “You are from a family of Saints and Gianna will not be the only one raised to the glory of the altar.  You will follow.”  He held my hand firmly, smiled and wept.  The scenes of the canonization ceremony on May 16, 2004, remain engraved on my mind and heart, especially when Gianna Emanuela and her father Pietro were warmly embraced by Pope John Paul II during the moving liturgy, which would be Pope John Paul II’s last canonization ceremony.

My last visit with Pietro took place on Sunday, October 19, 2008, during the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God at the Vatican, where I served as English Language Media Attaché.  As we had one Sunday free, I took advantage of the abbreviated “Roman weekend” and flew to Milan to spend the day with the Molla family in Mesero.  I celebrated Mass in the bedroom of Pietro Molla, then 96 years old, surrounded by the three Molla children -- Dr. Gianna Emaunela, Pierluigi, and Laura and their families. Several close family friends and relatives also joined us.

Following Mass we went downstairs and enjoyed a simple "pranzo" with the Molla family, sharing of how the moving story of St. Gianna's life is spreading around the entire world.  I was with ordinary Milanese folks who took the Beatitudes seriously and lived them each day.  We may speak of the communion of saints in theological terms, but on that October Sunday in 2008, I experienced it in flesh and blood terms -- this group of people was for me the reality of communion of saints in real time: a husband of a saint, children of a saint, nieces and nephews of a saint. They are like us. Their love of God and neighbor, their simplicity, fire and dynamism will burn away the sadness and evil in the world today, not with harshness but with fiery love and ordinary kindness.

From my first meeting with Mr. Molla in 1999, I was convinced then and moreso now after eleven years of friendship, that the story of holiness did not end with St. Gianna Beretta Molla.  Pietro Molla was a pillar and rock - a man of extraordinary faith, simplicity and holiness. He lived a remarkable, saintly life and like his beloved wife, Gianna, made holiness something attainable for all of us.

The cause for the beatification and canonization for St. Gianna's brother, Frei Alberto Beretta, a Capuchin missionary in Brazil, is now opened in Bergamo, Italy.  I am certain that the cause for Pietro Molla’s beatification and canonization will be opened soon.  What a powerful witness this would be to the dignity and sacredness of marriage and family life!

Laura Molla shared with me this morning by phone that the Molla family is somehow linked to the mystery of Holy Saturday.  It was on Holy Saturday 1962 that Gianna Beretta Molla gave birth to her daughter, Gianna Emanuela.  One week later, on Easter Saturday, St. Gianna died from the serious medical condition that resulted from bringing her child to term.  St. Gianna gave her life so that the child in her womb would live.  And now Pietro returns to the house of the Father on Holy Saturday morning 2010.

Pietro shared with me one day what he wrote in his diary on March 7, 1955:  “The more I know Gianna, the more I am convinced that God could not have given me a greater gift than her love and companionship”.  St. Gianna and her husband are now reunited in heaven and celebrate the mystery of Christ’s dying and rising in the company of the Lord and his saints.  I can only imagine the scene in heaven on Holy Saturday morning as this wonderful couple was reunited after forty-eight years of being apart.  They would embrace their daughter Mariolina, who died as a child, and be welcomed by the Venerable Pope John Paul II who enrolled Gianna in the book of the Saints.  May St. Gianna, Pietro and Mariolina intercede for us now from heaven, and watch over all married couples and families on earth.

Pietro Molla’s Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Easter Tuesday, April 6, 2010 in Mesero, Italy.  He will be buried in the town cemetery, next to the tomb of St. Gianna Beretta Molla.
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Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, chief executive officer of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network in Canada, is a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He can be reached at: