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11/04/2010 17.48
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See preceding page for earlier entries for 4/11/10.


April 11, Second Sunday of Easter
ST. STANISLAW SZCZEPANOWSKI [Stanislaus of Szczepanow] (Poland, 1039-1079)
Bishop and Martyr, Patron of Poland
Born near Cracow, Stanislaw was appointed preacher and archdeacon for the Bishop of Cracow upon his ordination.
When he became bishop himself, he quickly became influential in the politics of the time (Cracow was the capital
of Poland then). He started opposing King Boleslaw II for waging unjust wars and for his personal immoral acts.
The king appeared to relent and become penitent for a time, but soon returned to his old ways. This time, Stanislaw
excommunicated him. The enraged king ordered him killed, and when his ministers refused to do so, he killed the
bishop himself, then had him hacked to pieces and thrown into a lake. Tradition says that the body miraculously
reintegrated; his remains are kept in Cracow's Wawel Cathedral. The king was forced to flee Poland after the murder,
and some say he retired in penance to a Benedictine abbey. The cult of Stanislaw began immediately upon his death.
He was canonized in 1253. In the following centuries, he became a symbol of Polish unity. Starting in the 13th
century, all the Kings of Poland were crowned before his tomb, and in periods of crisis and dismemberment, Poles
like to say they will be reintegrated again just as Stanislaw's body was.
Readings for today's Mass:

OR today.
Benedict XVI watches a film on Pius XII in World War II and calls him
'The Pope of charity'

Other page 1 stories: The tragic death of the President of Poland, his wife and dozens of Poland's
top officials in a plane crash in Russia, and the Pope's condolences to the Polish people; and an essay
on Christian faith in the Resurrection, as embodied in a rich man's wish to be buried above Marilyn
Monroe's crypt in Los Angeles! In the inside pages, excerpts from a lectio magistralis by the secretary
of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at an international symposium in Venice on Caritas
in veritate
; two articles on Giotto, as an special exhibit on his frescoes opens today in the Basilica
of St. Francis in Assisi; and a report on Cardinal Bertone's fourth day in Chile on an 8-day visit to
bring the Holy Faheter's message of solidarity to the people struck by the recent earthquake.

'Regina caeli' prayers - On this second Sunday in Easter, the Holy Father recalled that John Paul II also
designated it the Sunday of Divine Mercy to perpetuate the devotion initiated by St. Faustina Kowalska.
From today's Gospel about the risen Christ visiting his disciples at the Cenacle and imparting to them
the Holy Spirit in the fulfillment of their mission, he also urged all priests to follow the example of St. Jean
Vianney in being authentic witnesses of God's love to the world. After the prayer, he reiterated his sorrow
for the unprecedented tragedy that struck Poland; and referring to the newly-opened Exposition of the Holy
Shroud in Turin, he expressed the hope that its veneration would inspire the faithful to truly seek the
Face of God.


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11/04/2010 18.21
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The best answer to all the detractors of Benedict XVI - and the sweetest revenge, like 'In your face, agents of Hell!'

At the Vatican, an unusual Sunday crowd
for the Pope, and he wasn't even there!


The Holy Father led the noontime 'Regina caeli' prayers in Castel Gandolfo, with direct transmission to the jumbo TV screens in St. Peter's Square.

In English, he said the following:

I greet all the English-speaking visitors who join us for the Regina Caeli prayer on this Octave of Easter.
The Church’s liturgy today invites us, with the Apostle Thomas, to acknowledge the Risen Christ as our Lord and our God, and to welcome into our hearts his gifts of peace, mercy, forgiveness and new life.

Upon you and your families I invoke a continued outpouring of the joy and hope born of Christ’s glorious resurrection from the dead. Happy Easter!


Here is a full translation of the Holy Father's words today:

Dear brothers and sisters:

Today concludes the Easter Octave, considered as one single day 'made by the Lord' and distinguished by the unique event of the Resurrection and the joy of the disciples in seeing Jesus again.

From the earliest Christian times, this Sunday was called 'in albis', from the Latin 'alba' given to the white garments that the neophytes wore at their Baptism on Easter eve and laid down eight days later.

The Venerable John Paul II also dedicated this same Sunday after Easter to Divine Mercy, when he canonized Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska on April 30, 2000.

The passage from St. John (20,19-31) in today's Gospel is rich in mercy and human goodness. It narrates that Jesus, after the Resurrection, visited his disciples, passing through the closed doors of the Cenacle.

St. Augustine explains that "the closed doors did not impede the entry of that body inhabited by divinity. He who, in being born, left intact the virginity of his Mother, could well enter the Cenacle's closed doors" (In Ioh. 121,4: CCL 36/7, 667).

And St. Gregory the Great adds that our Redeemer presented himself, after the Resurrection, "with an incorruptible and palpable body, but in a state of glory" (cfr Hom. in Evang., 21,1: CCL 141, 219).

Jesus showed the signs of his passion, even allowing the unbelieving Thomas into touching them. But how is it possible that a disciple can doubt?

Indeed, divine condescension allows us to draw profit from Thomas's doubting and not just from the disciples who believed. Touching the wounds of the Lord, the hesitant disciple healed not only his own disbelief but also ours.

The visit by the Risen Lord was not limited to the space of the Cenacle, but went beyond its walls, that all may receive the gift of peace and life with the 'creative breath'.

Twice, in fact, Jesus tells his disciples: "Peace be with you!", then he adds, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you".

Having said this, he breathes on them, saying: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

This is the mission of the Church which the Paraclete assists perennially: to bring to all the glad news, the joyous reality of God's merciful love, in order that, as St. John says, "you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name" (Jn 20,31).

In the light of these words, I encourage in particular all pastors to follow the example of the Holy Curate of Ars, who "in his time, transformed the hearts and lives of so many persons because he succeeded in making them perceive the merciful love of the Lord. I urge a similar announcement and a similar testimony to the truth of Love, in our time" (Letter decreeing the Year for Priests, 2009).

In this way, we shall always make more familiar and close Him whom our eyes have not seen but of whose infinite mercy we can be absolutely certain.

To the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles, let us ask that she sustain the mission of the Church, as we invoke her exultant with joy, 'Regina caeli'!

After the prayers he said:

As we all know, a tragic air accident yesterday in Smolensk took the lives of the President of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, his wife, various high authorities of the Polish state, and the entire delegation that included the Archbishop Military Ordinary.

In expressing my profound condolences, I assure prayers of suffrage for the victims and of support for the beloved nation of Poland.

Yesterday in Turin, the solemn Exposition of the Holy Shroud opened. God willing, I, too, will go and venerate it on May 2. I am very happy that this event is once more inspiring a vast movement of pilgrims, but also studies, reflections ,and above all, an extraordinary attention to the mystery of Christ's suffering.

I hope that this act of veneration may help all to seek the Face of God, which was the ultimate wish of the Apostles, as it is ours.

I address a special greeting to the pilgrims gathered in Rome on the occasion of Divine Mercy Sunday. I bless you all from the heart, particularly the animators from the Holy Spirit Center for spirituality in Sassia.

May the image of the merciful Jesus, dear friends, shine in you and in your lives!

In Polish, he repeated a special message for the Poles:

With great sorrow, I learned yesterday about the tragic death of Mr. Lech Kaczynski, President of Poland, of his wife and the persons who were travelling with them. They died while en route to Katyn, the place of torture for thousands of Polish military officers who were assassinated 70 years ago. I entrust them all to the merciful Lord of life.

I join the pilgrims gathered in the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Lagiewnicki, and all the devotees of God's mercy all over the world.


Along with the popular fervor seen yesterday in Turin, as the Holy Shroud went on exposition for the first time in 10 years, these pictures show powerful physical expressions of the faith, such as cannot be understood by enemies of the Church whose only faith consists in believing their own personal infallibility!



P.S. Just a personal observation on the unprecedented tragedy that has hit the Polish people: Their late President was brought home this afternoon to Warsaw from the crash site, and the coffin was welcomed at the airport by his identical twin brother (who was his former Prime Minister), and the late President's only daughter, but only the late president's body is back - they have been unable to identify the remains of his wife Maria who died with him in the plane crash. That is unbelievably poignant! For all the faithful departed, requiescat in pace!

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CNA has done a story on a Giuliano Ferrrara editorial I was meaning to translate... Although his conclusion is evident to all of us who have been following media reporting on Benedict XVI and the Church, it is probably the first time that a mainstream newspaper in Italy has directly challenged the ideological bias of the media. Ferrara has long been one of Italy's so-called 'devout atheists' who have consistently supported the Church and the Pope in their moral and ethical positions. He led a slate of parliamentary candidates in last year's national elections that based their campaign on being againt abortion and progressive legislation in favor of euthanasia and same-sex 'marriage'.

Ideology trumping information
in media coverage of the Church,
Italian editor charges


Rome, Italy, Apr 10, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Church is "not a modern republic", pointed out Giuliano Ferrara, editor of the political Italian daily Il Foglio, in an editorial on Friday.

He argued that the conflict in the media today between offering information and promoting a secular ideology — with ideology winning out — is behind the coverage of the sex abuse scandals.

Commenting on the "steady drip" of accusations against the Pope that continue to question his disciplinary response to sexual abuse of minors by priests, the editor of Il Foglio wrote Friday that it must be noted that the Catholic Church is not a "modern republic, founded on statute law, on penal action, (or) on the control or repression of criminal offenses."

"The Church occupies itself with sin, that is a more complex thing than the crime, that doesn't lend itself to being classified in the same way, that has an aspect of individual judgment, case by case, different from equal, homologous, standard procedures of law," he explained.

"Its inhabitants are souls, not citizens," Ferrara wrote, suggesting that the Church also couldn't be considered an "open society."

On the difference between civil and Church law, Ferrara pointed out that the Church exercises canonical rules, providing "mechanisms of surveillance" which operate in (the area of) the profound, dig into the conscience, (and) refer to a human and divine area," he wrote.

But, he added thatespecially in regard to priests, canon law "manages a sacramental ministry that necessarily transcends the ordinary rules with which cases of crimes are dealt with in civil courts, whose authority the Church recognizes. If this datum is not understood and recognized, with a tolerant and secular spirit, the accusations against the Church become ideological intolerance," he warned.

The Pope has no problem, declared Ferrara, in "serenely" recognizing his responsibility, as did other Church governing authorities in the last half-century, for providing "cautious and merciful treatment ... of the complex psychopathologies linked to homophilic and pedophilic sexuality" of some members of the clergy.

At the same time, though, "Benedict XVI must be acknowledged to have instituted a new sensibility around this difficult, critical theme, and of having done as much as was possible to exercise ... a very rigorous pastoral, but also canonical and moral, responsibility."

Concluding his piece, Ferrara cited a Thursday op-ed published in the Jerusalem Post by the former New York mayor, Ed Koch, a practicing Jew. [Posted on Page 87 of this thread last April 8.]

Koch, wrote Ferrara, had written that the manner whereby the international media has gone about addressing the matter of pedophilic priests shows that they are more interested in punishing the Church for its positions on matters that secular society considers "a threat to its own ideological identity" than in informing the people of the facts.

Ferrara agreed: "I couldn't have said it better."


NB: Sandro Magister has seen fit to feature Fr. Lombardi's April 9 editorial for Vatican Radio (translated and posted on the same day at the top of the preceding page of this thread) in his quadrilingual service www.chiesa, introducing it with these words:

The editorial read by the Pope's spokesman on Vatican Radio on April 9. The most important official pronouncement on pedophilia after Benedict XVI's letter to the Catholics of Ireland

I am glad for this, because the editorial sort of got lost in the reporting because on that same day, AP came out with its supposed 'exclusive'. Whereas it had started my day on a burst of enthusiasm because Fr. Lombardi had articulated a complex issue very effectively in a way I had not seen the editor at OR do!

In fairness to L'Osservatore Romano, which I have said has been rather spotty in following this 'scandal' through, it published Father Lombardi's editorial as an article in the 3/10/10 issue, but not on Page 1! Equally, the OR has not seen fit to archive it in its online file of 'worthy' comments, interviews and cultural pieces!

I almost feel I should start a separate file (offline) to keep track of my personal observations about the questionable editorial judgments since Mr. Vian took over as editor of the OR. It seems he is paying more attention to making the OR 'prove' it is 'hip' by such exercises as juxtaposing its coverage of the 40th anniversary of the Beatles' break up, for heaven's sake!, with the story on the opening of the Holy Shroud exposition yesterday!

Here are some excellent reflections by Carl Olson, who is the editor of the excellent Catholic site Ignatius Insight:

The real scandal
and the real story


A fly-by hater sent the following comment regarding Fr. Fessio's explanation of what really happened in the mid-1980s regarding the situation with an abusive priest from the Archdiocese of Oakland and the supposed failure of then-Cardinal Ratzinger to respond swiftly and effectively enough:

Maybe you should stop trying to justify child-rape. Just an idea.

If I thought this was just the half-cracked spitting of an isolated hater, I'd not bother to mention it. But having spent too much time the past couple of weeks reading numerous comments on dozens of sites (news sites, blogs, etc.) attached to stories, reports, and commentary about the ongoing papal saga, I know it isn't isolated or rare.

On the contrary, such comments are common, ordinary, expected. In some cases it is almost as though there is a high dollar contest for the most outrageous, vicious, and grammatically-rotten attack on Benedict XVI.

The "logic" seems simple enough: The Pope has been accused, so he must be guilty. Some Catholics are defending him, so they must be guilty as well, willing to "justify child-rape" to protect their precious, backwards, vile pile of teetering papal power.

Equally bothersome have been comments from some normally reasonable pundits (some of them Catholic) who have said, in essence, "Well, Catholics really shouldn't be upset. They should resist the impulse to respond. After all, the media has done the dirty work of exposing the abuse and cover-ups." [What I have called 'the Peggy Noonan response'. Some Catholic journalists and intellectuals lean over backwards too much in trying to show they are 'objective', when what they are trying to do is simply not to offend the other side, indeed by lighting votive candles to the media 'for doing the Church a favor' and completely ignoring their abandonment of every shred of decency! And I say CRAP to them!]

This is ridiculous.

Let's say my neighbor alerts me to the fact that my teenage son has been committing acts of vandalism and provides proof thereof. Does it give him the right to then, a year later, accuse my wife of being a prostitute when he has no evidence and it's clear he dislikes her?

Or, to get biblical: Babylon and Assyria were used by Yahweh to chastise and humble the wayward Israelites, but I don't recall reading any of the prophets exhorting the people of God to worship the Babylonian gods or swear oaths of complete submission to Assyrian kings. Pass the truth, however painful, but keep the lies.

It's clear to reasonable and sober observers that the attempts to pin dirt on Benedict are failing. Sadly, that doesn't matter to many of those who are scarfing down the now-established narrative of an uncaring, clueless, or even duplicitous Archbishop/Cardinal Ratzinger. The real dirt won't stick, but much of the manufactured dirt is sticking.

It used to be that most reporters worked to break a story, to find the truth, and to shed light on the shadows. But now more and more reporters work to stage a story, to fudge the truth, and to create shadows by obscuring the light.

People are rightly angry that certain priests preyed upon innocent children and that some bishops abused power and broke trust. And, yes, priests and bishops will be held to a higher standard. But it seems readily obvious, especially after the many stories of the past weeks, that some reporters and editors are preying upon prejudices, abusing power, and breaking trust with an impunity that would make those many of those same sick priests and callous bishops rather jealous.

I'm sure many will disagree with such a harsh assessment, but perhaps they need to contemplate more seriously the parallels between molestation and slander, parallels that are real enough regardless of differences in degree and kind. (Most of us, I think, would rather be slandered than sexually violated. I am not at all making light of rape, molestation, or abuse, which are despicable and vile sins.)

Both sexual molestation and public slander are violations of a person's dignity and innocence. Both isolate the victim from good and healthy relationships. Both destroy or seriously harm a person's ability to function properly, to live a full life.

"Far better not be born," wrote Chaucer, "than to be one that people slander and say cheap things about."

But slander has become an incredibly powerful and efficient way to destroy men, undermine institutions, and increase one's political power and public leverage.

"In the old days men had the rack," quipped Oscar Wilde, "Now they have the press."

Which brings me to Phil Lawler's excellent piece for Catholic Culture, "Journalists abandon standards to attack the Pope," in which Lawler — a very fine and reputable journalist and editor — writes:

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.

The real scandal, in other words, is the slander. Just don't expect it see it on the front page of many newspapers.


As Jesus said in the great Sermon on the Mount: "Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?", which is the best definition of the sanctimonious ideological blindness that afflicts the overwhelming majority of the MSM.

P.S. I notice Father Z late last night posted an April 10 article in the Washington Post belaboring the 'lack of a Vatican communications strategy' and that this 'baffles its US defenders'.
I came across the article yesterday and decided it adds nothing to what we already know and merely spins the well-known communications ineptitude of the Vatican to rub in the current MSM poison into that wound! Nor does it have anything to say about how the Vatican might improve its communications because the authors are not at all conversant with the basics about the Church, much less about the way they do things at the Vatican. Also, the writers consult a couple of American Catholic journalists who say, in effect, "Why don't they consult us? We're the experts!" Yeah, right!

Here, however, is a more constructive approach to the question of Vatican problems:

Church faces hurdles
to imposing abuse rules


ROME, April 10 — Pope Benedict XVI is under pressure to find a quick and effective way to impose Church law concerning sexual abuse across Roman Catholic dioceses around the world, where he will have to face local bishops who hold sway over how abusive priests are reported, investigated and prosecuted.

Some canon lawyers say the Pope has all of the formal power he needs, partly thanks to tougher laws he helped to create in 2001 when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Still, the Vatican faces numerous challenges in enforcing canon law. In addition to the semi-autonomous dioceses, there are also debates over jurisdiction inside the church, confusing divisions of authority, and widely varying civil codes dealing with requirements for reporting suspected abuse.

On Friday, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi in an address over Vatican Radio, also told Church officials to cooperate with civil authorities "keeping in mind the specific norms and situations of different countries." Canon law, he said, had to be applied with "decisiveness and veracity."

The Vatican is expected to publish a streamlined "lay guide" to canon norms on sexual-abuse cases on its Web site Monday, said Jeffrey Lena, a lawyer for the Holy See.

One problem the Catholic Church has had in responding to abuse cases is the determination of who has jurisdiction: the Holy See in Rome or local bishops.

As hundreds of sexual-abuse allegations have emerged across Europe this year, critics have noted the glacial pace of church trials and interpreted it as a sign of the Vatican's unwillingness to crack down on sexual abuse.

Further confusion is the church hierarchy of authority. The Pope has the power to hand down directives on Church law, but bishops from Idaho to India have a lot of say in whether Vatican orders are carried out. [What I have always decried as one of the worst unintended effects of Vatican-II - the arrogance of bishops who seem to think Vatican II made each of them equal to the Successor of Peter, completely ignoring repeated statements in Vatican II documents that they should always act 'in communion with the Succesor of Peter"!

"People see the Pope as a monolith; he gives an order and everyone falls in line. But in practice, that doesn't happen," said Nicholas Cafardi, a professor of canon law at Duquesne University, who advised U.S. bishops on implementing national norms on sexual abuse following the explosion of U.S. cases in 2002. "There are tons of examples of bishops ignoring the Holy See."

Two letters involving the case of an Arizona priest show the cleric's diocese and the Vatican pushing one another for faster action.

"Almost two years having passed since our previous letter and not having received, to this day, any response to it, this Congregation feels it is necessary to ask once again that Your Excellency promptly resolve the case of Reverend Teta" - Archbishop Angelo Bovone, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote to Bishop Manuel D. Moreno, of Tuscon, in a letter dated Feb. 1, 1994.

"I make this plea to you to assist me in every way you can to expedite this case, because the accused was a priest in whom I had great confidence at one time, but who, unfortunately, worked among our former seminarians, and, terrible to say, evidently corrupted many of them." - Bishop Moreno wrote to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in a letter dated April 28, 1997.

Those examples include administrative matters, such as selling property or managing personnel.

Although bishops continue to have "enormous power," the 2001 law has clarified the Holy See's authority to reach down into a diocese in cases of sexual abuse, said Monica-Elena Herghelegiu, a canon lawyer and senior lecturer at Germany's University of Tubingen, where Pope Benedict once taught theology. "The Supreme Pontiff and its representatives have the power to intervene in the dioceses whenever necessary."

Before the current law, any number of departments in the Holy See could stake claims to sexual-abuse cases. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for example, had clearcut jurisdiction only over priests who used their roles as confessors to solicit sexual acts from their victims.

Other forms of sexual abuse by priests were often handled by other Vatican bodies, such as the Congregation for the Clergy. That also caused months of delay, as local bishops reported the cases to the wrong office, according to internal Church documents disclosed by lawyers of alleged victims.

Controversy over who is ultimately responsible disciplining priests bubbled up again on Friday when the Associated Press reported that a 1985 letter by then-Cardinal Ratzinger to the Oakland, Calif., diocese showed the future Pope resisting defrocking an Oakland priest who had a record of sexually molesting children. In the letter, written in Latin, the cardinal cites concerns over "the good of the universal church," the AP quotes the letter as stating.

Mr. Lena, couldn't confirm the authenticity of the 1985 letter, but said it appeared to be a form letter typically sent out in cases involving "laicization," or defrocking.

He denied the letter reflected then-Cardinal Ratzinger resisting pleas from the bishop to defrock the priest. "There may be some overstep and rush to judgment going on here," he said.

Mr. Lena said no further allegations were reported against the priest between 1981 and 1987, when the Holy See defrocked him.

"During the entire course of the proceeding the priest remained under the control, authority and care of the local bishop who was responsible to make sure he did no harm," Mr. Lena said, adding: "Competence was in the hands of the local bishop."

In the late 1990s, Cardinal Ratzinger began to push for an overhaul of rules on sexual abuse, said Father Lombardi. The effort actually led to further delays in disciplining abusive priests. Cases that were pending before the Congregation were suspended for years while Cardinal Ratzinger retooled the norms, the spokesman said. [I remember Fr. Lombardi making a comment about this but not that he said pending cases were 'suspended for years' as a result. I will check back.]

Cardinal Ratzinger issued a letter to bishops, giving them instructions on how to apply the new rules. Those rules dictate that bishops are required to report swiftly any allegations of sexual abuse that have "a semblance of truth" to the Congregation.

The office can then instruct a local diocese to conduct a canonical trial against the cleric. Under "particular circumstances," the Congregation can take over a case and conduct its own trial.

The Congregation also was given full jurisdiction over appeals. It can dispense with a canonical trial and refer cases directly to the Pope, when abuse cases are deemed "grave and clear."


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Resuming with this post a continuing ventilation on this thread of the miasma left by the latest stink bomb lobbed by the AP and the New York Times simultaneously into the already murky space of public discourse on the subject of the Church in general and Pope Benedict XVI in particular.

First, this convenient 'reminders' from Father Z:


And from a blog site I have just discovered, by a lady who holds a PH.D. in Medieval Christianity from Fordham, works in New York City, belongs to the lay Franciscan Order (SFO=Secular Franciscan Order), and is a professional translator. Among other things, she translated the writings of John Paul I for an English book on The Smiling Pope and his teachings. She started blogging in January 2006, so that's a long time for me to have been unaware of her blog!

by Lori Pieper, SFO
April 10, 2010

Once more unto the breach – because the AP and the New York Times have once more demonstrated their lack of understanding of the Church and their outright malice in the latest attempt to smear Pope Benedict by selective documentation and misinterpretation of his role as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in regard to cases involving sexual abuse of minors.

I learned about this newest case from Yahoo News yesterday afternoon (April 9) while working at the library. I could hardly bear to read it; it was a tangle of insinuations, botched chronology, missing dates, lack of context and sheer ignorance. Around 6:30, as I was about to leave for home, I got an e-mail from a reader of my blog, who pointed out to me that the Italian papers had a facsimile of a Latin letter by Ratzinger, the only document by him in the case...

The AP story had translated parts of Ratzinger’s Latin letter, which was to the bishop of Oakland, Ca, about the laicization of a priest who had abused minors, and it made him look heartless and uncaring about the gravity of the issue, citing as reason for the delay the youth of the petitioner, and the need to consider “the common good” and “the good of the Universal Church.”

I thought this letter was not exactly what it seemed; at home I began to translate it; only later did I find the New York Times article which had a translation. Nevertheless, the NYT neglected to translate another letter with important facts in it.

Here are the facts in order (which is more than you will get from the MSM).

Fr. Steven Kiesle, a young priest in the diocese of Oakland, had molested at least six young boys between the ages of eleven and thirteen. He was arrested in 1978, pleaded no contest and received a three-year suspended sentence. He requested laicization voluntarily in 1981.

Fr. Kiesle’s request for dispensation from priestly obligations and celibacy was one of many that would be pouring into the Holy See that year – a mass exodus from the priesthood had begun in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The requests were still pouring in and ranged from those who wanted to leave the ministry to marry to those who wanted to join Marxist revolutionaries, become Buddhists or otherwise “find themselves.”

A priest who asked to be voluntarily released who was also a pedophile would be unusual. [Which I rermarked in my previous commentary after getting a reliable translation of the letter!] It’s not clear if that was the exact reason that Kiesle requested the dispensation. But the pastor and the bishop both agreed that he was an immature individual who had little taste for the ministry and never should have become a priest.

The request on Kiesle’s behalf went to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which at that time handled these dispensations. It should be noted that it did not go there because Fr. Kiesle had committed sexual abuse of minors. The CDF did not gain control of such cases until 2001. It would have been treated simply as a laicization case.

Neither the AP nor the NYT article mentions the fact that the first letters sent by Fr. Kiesle’s pastor (April 25, 1981) and Bishop Cummins (May 8, 1981) were addressed not to Cardinal Ratzinger but to Franjo Cardinal Seper, Ratzinger’s predecessor as Prefect of the CDF. (1) Ratzinger did not take office until February 1982.

A reply came from Cardinal Seper on November 17, 1981. He requested more information, among other things asking the bishop “not to neglect to send together with the records your votum (vow, solemn statement) on not fearing scandal.”

It is obvious from the way that this is put that this is a declaration that the bishop was required to make as part of canon law, and – note carefully – would be required for ALL requests for laicization.

In it, the bishop declares that releasing this priest from his ministry and vow of celibacy would not create scandal. It doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that this particular case involved sexual abuse of a minor. It doesn’t necessarily mean that either Seper or Ratzinger feared scandal because such abuse was involved. Of course, neither the AP nor the New York Times thought to make this clear, probably because of a complete lack of understanding of canon law.

Bishop Cummins forwarded the information, and on February 1, 1982, wrote to the new Prefect, Cardinal Ratzinger with yet more details.
There was no reply from Ratzinger’s office. The bishop wrote again on September 24, 1982, and received a reply on October 21 saying that no further information could be given at that time.

Now (though neither the Times nor the AP mentions this) there is a three-year gap with no communications from the diocese of Oakland to the CDF: on September 13, 1985, Bishop Cummins again writes to Ratzinger (and mentions that his last communication was in September 1982).

This time he got a more detailed reply. The fact that he received a reply may be due to the fact that unlike the previous times he actually forwarded it to the Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S. to be put in his diplomatic pouch. These letters would be more likely to be considered than the general flood of mail in the offices of the CDF.

Here is my translation of Ratzinger’s reply – I had just about finished when I learned that the New York Times had provided one. However, I think mine is better; at least more idiomatic.

November 6, 1985
Sacred Congregation
For the Doctrine of the Faith
Prot. No. 469/81a

Most Excellent Lord,
Having received your letter of September 13 of this year, about the case of the dispensation from all sacerdotal obligations which concerns Rev. Steven Miller KIESLE, of your diocese, it is my duty to communicate to you as follows.

Although this Dicastery considers the reason cited for dispensation in the case being asked about to be of grave importance, it nevertheless judges it necessary to consider along with the good of the petitioner, the good of the Universal Church, and therefore it is unable to make light of the detriment that the granting of the dispensation may cause to the Christian community, attentive especially to the youth of the petitioner.

It is fitting therefore, for this Congregation to subject this kind of case to a more careful examination, which necessarily requires a longer period of time.

In the meantime, may Your Excellency not fail to attend to the petitioner as much as possible with paternal care, and in addition explaining to him the reason for acting of this Dicastery, which is habitually accustomed to proceed with an eye first of all to the common good.

Having met with this fortuitous occasion, I attest to you my great esteem, remaining

Your Rev. Excellency’s most devoted(?)
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
The most Excellent and Reverent Lord
John S. Cummins
Ordinary of Oakland

When I first read the letter, it struck me as being so remote and bloodless and unconnected to the actual case, that I thought “It can’t be anything but a form letter.” I wrote this to the man who sent me the original e-mai.

Soon after getting home, I found a discussion of the letter on Fr. Z’s blog; he calls it “boilerplate” – and he used to write letters for the Vatican. As I mentioned the Congregation must have been getting a steady stream of requests for laicization when this was written.

Essentially the letter is saying, “your request is important to us, we’ll get to it soon, please be patient.” It may not even have been written by Ratzinger personally but was mass-produced perhaps with a stamped signature. [No, not stamped. The photocopy looks like he actuallly did sign it, but most likely as part of a batch of such requests which were, at the time, routinely and deliberately not attended to because of John Paul II's 1980 order.]

Unfortunately, since the AP and New York Times stories were published on a Friday night (perhaps deliberately), there was very little official comment from the Vatican. Father Lombardi did say that Ratzinger’s letter “was taken out of context.”

However, points made by an anonymous source, a canon lawyer, that appeared the same day in the Italian paper La Repubblica, are important. He explained: “It was and still is the practice that dispensations from the priesthood were not granted to those who asked for them until they turned 40 (except for particular cases, where there were children).” [Hmmm... Must credit Repubblica for publishing that!]

When Kiesle was granted his dispensation in 1987, he was 40 years old. He was in fact, undoubtedly laicized in the end by Ratzinger, but this letter is not in the files. (No need to wonder why; the files were supplied by attack lawyer Jeff Anderson, who wants to sue the Vatican in U.S. federal court for its supposed complicity in sexual abuse by the clergy).

It’s more than likely that any application for laicization from someone under the age of 40 would have gotten this reply when their case first came in, and then their individual case would have been looked at and judged more personally.

But hadn’t the case already been there for some time? Why hadn’t it been attended to? According to the AP story, the file was lost at one time – perhaps bouncing around another dicastery in the Vatican. Perhaps it was only returned to the CDF at this time and was treated as a new file/case.

It’s impossible to tell on the basis of the meager documentation given in the NYT article, which evidently didn’t reproduce everything in the lawyer’s files.

So it would be very imprudent for anyone (and of course, the NYT has shown itself very imprudent on this subject) to take this letter as an actual comment on any aspect of Fr. Kiesle’s case or the reason for the delay.

The usual bureaucratic red tape, and perhaps Ratzinger’s self-admitted lack of administrative skills, as well as the changeover from Seper’s administration of the Congregation to his, could have caused the delay or losing of the file. (Also see the update below)

Several other things to note: the articles, especially the AP one, mention that the Kiesle was allowed for a time to volunteer for a youth program after he was removed from ministry, until a youth minister to insist on him being removed.

It seemed to me that the AP story wrote of this in such a way as to suggest that Ratzinger’s delay in laicizing the priest was endangering children. This is completely ridiculous.

Fr. Kiesle’s local bishop had the task of restricting his ministry in such a way that he did not endanger children. He evidently did a bad job at this, but this has nothing to do with the fact that the priest had not been laicized.

A local bishop has full powers to restrict a priest’s ministry in any way he sees fit (a power he actually loses once a priest has been laicized and no longer under obedience to his bishop]

If the bishop cannot keep the priest from children, the police can and should. What a distant official in Rome does cannot affect this at all.

That the police gave Fr. Kiesle only probation is a crime. That his bishop was careless in keeping him from children is a crime. But whatever the New York Times may think, bureaucratic bungling is not a crime. But reporting that is this shoddy and malicious is. Where do we apply to “laicize” incompetent journalists?

Update: Saturday, April 10: I saw this great piece by Fr. Fessio last night (or rather way into the early hours of the morning) but was too tired to link to it. He supplies much-needed context: while hundreds if not thousands of laicizations a year were granted during the papacy of Pope Paul VI, under John Paul II, who instituted a stricter policy, in order to protect the nature of the priesthood, it was almost impossible for a bishop to get a laicization of a priest in 1980. This undoubtedly continued for some time afterward. Here is another good reason for the bureaucratic backlog: the much stricter standards for laicization.

Another update, same day: Because I’m too infuriated to work! What infuriated me perhaps even more than the new accusations was the fact that the AP story repeated its own original reporting on another case from Tucson, where Cardinal Ratzinger had supposedly tried to block the laicization of Fr. Michael Teta for soliciting young men in the confessional, a laicization that the local bishop, Manuel Moreno, had pleaded for.

They repeated this lie, although story has already been exploded by the bishop who succeeded Moreno, Gerald Kicanas.

A reporter for the Arizona Star came to Kicanas bristling with the question: “Why shouldn’t I draw the conclusion that Ratzinger’s office significantly delayed resolution of the Teta case, considering the documents I have before me?”

The good bishop kindly pointed out to her that she had completely misread her documents. The 1997 letter to Ratzinger, pleading with him to expedite the case, which had been going on for seven years — the letter was the basis for the AP’s original claims and the reporter’s truculent question — was in fact sent to Ratzinger with the records for the just-concluded diocesan trial, and the decision of the judges formally asking for Teta’s laicization.

In fact, this was the first point that Ratzinger was even going to be able to process the case. The seven-year delay mentioned was in the diocese!

In addition, Kicanas said that his office had received several requests from 1992-97 from the CDF asking them to please hurry up with the trial! In fact, Ratzinger’s office quickly granted the laicization request, but the case dragged on for years on appeal. I cannot believe that AP was unaware of this. [No, they new it, all right. They mentioned Teta's appeal in the original story. But they ignored the fact that while the appeal was pending, clearly the penalty could not take effect, a principle that is common and familiar in civilian law. And more importantly, they ignored that during the appeal, the diocese continued to impose other disciplinary penalties on Teta, whose appeal against his laicization did not in any way override his other penalties.]

So even when it has been absolutely proven that Cardinal Ratzinger handled a case in an exemplary way, he still must be blamed, but now, it is necessary for the press not just to obfuscate, but to out-and-out lie and refuse to correct their stories.
This cartoon is so very relevant:

(1) Two of the internal memos from the Oakland diocese say that Ratzinger wrote the November 17, 1981 letter, but this is obviously incorrect, and must be due to a failure of memory on the part of the bishop. The letter has Seper’s signature on it. [Plus Cardinal Ratzinger did not assume his position as CDF Prefect until February 1982. But it's all part of the MSM's deliberately duplicitous way of ignoring dates when it concerns any action by the CDF in order to impute everything CDF to Joseph Ratzinger - as the BBC most motoriously did in imputing the 1962 Crimen sollicitationis to him!]

If you have not read the last post on the preceding page regarding the personal experience of a former Roman priest, now a columnist/editorialist for Avvenire, when he sought a dispensation in 1984 so he could marry, please do, because it is very germane to the Kiesle case.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 11/04/2010 23.53]
12/04/2010 01.17
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This is the sort of initiative that Cardinal Camillo Ruini might have taken in Rome if he were still the Holy Father's Vicar in the Diocese. In 2007, he organized a Mass in St. Peter's Square for the Holy Father's 80th birthday with Benedict XVI himself presiding, and in January 2008, he mobilized virtually overnight more than 250,000 Romans to gather for the Angelus in St. Peter's Square the Sunday after the Pope's cancelled visit to La Sapienza....I hope Cardinal Vallini can organize a Mass for April 16, the Pope's birthday, or for April 19.



The announcement is on the diocesan website, but more details are in a newspaper release, which says:

Cardinal Carlo Cafarra, Archbishop of Bologna, will celebrate Solemn Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter to mark the fifth anniversary of the election of Benedict XVI as Pope.

In a letter sent to the priests of the diocese, the cardinal said:
"As Cardinal Sodano rightly noted, 'We are in a cultural conflict. The Pope embodies moral truths that are not accepted by the secular society, and so the failings and mistakes of some priests are used as weapons against the Church'. Therefore, at this time, we should all draw close together in strong ecclesial unity with the Holy Father."

He requested his priests that starting Sunday, April 11, and for the next seven days, they should end each Mass by reciting the following prayer for the Pope:

Lord, source of every good and every truth,
give our Shepherd Benedict XVI
the Spirit of wisdom and intellect,
of strength and correct discernment.
Faithfully guiding the flock you have entrusted to him,
may he, as Successor of Peter, edify your Church
as a sacrament of unity for all mankind. Amen.
May the Lord watch over him,
give him long life, bless him on this earth and
not deliver him to the hands of his enemies. Amen.

He urged the priests to use the appropriate prayers for the anniversary of the election of a Pope in their Masses on April 19.

He also suggested that churches should not hold evening Masses on that day so that the faithful can come to the Mass at the Cathedral.

12/04/2010 11.40
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This is a rare and unusually informative interview which hits several birds with one stone, as the subject not only can talk about the 'scandal of the moment' very authoritatively in view of his position, and about Pope Benedict XVI, with whom he worked closely for more than a decade, and of Malta and the Pope's coming visit there, since he is from Malta.

Mons. Charles Scicluna:
'Benedict XVI has great warmth
and great humility'

Interview by Steve Malia
Sunday Times of Malta
April 11, 2010


Mgr Charles Scicluna knows the Pope personally and is one of the most senior figures in the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith at the Vatican, which deals with cases of sexual abuse involving priests. He talks to Steve Mallia about Benedict XVI and the controversy engulfing the Church.

What does Pope Benedict's visit to Malta mean to you?
I see it as an opportunity to renew my faith, because the Pope is a focal point of our experience of faith in Jesus Christ... Being Catholic is being part of a great community and the Pope is the focal point of Catholic unity. Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI have always gone on these journeys in a pastoral spirit.

When Benedict visited Australia the newspapers there forgot the very negative coverage they had served up in the days immediately before the visit. The headline on the Sydney Herald read: 'A tsunami of faith and joy'. The experience was extraordinary.

Some people would argue that this Pope is considerably less popular than his predecessor.
He has a different charisma. I was at a supper with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the home of an official from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before the conclave (which elected the Pontiff) in 2005, and we were discussing the next Pope. I remember Cardinal Ratzinger saying that John Paul II was a great man who left a great legacy, but the new Pope had to be himself and that everybody had a special gift to bring to the Church. When you're Pope your gift becomes very public. Benedict has his own special gifts.

The gift of communication does not seem to be one of them.
I think there is a different style of communication. Many people find it easy to listen to what Pope Benedict has to say but at the same time they find it very profound. The rhythm of applause among the congregation is different too.

John Paul II used to be applauded after every sentence. It's different with Benedict as people listen more. The applause is no less enthusiastic but it comes at the end. People have recognised that his style is very profound and very enriching. With John Paul II it was also enriching, but in a different way.

Some people would describe this Pope as cold. From your experience with him would you subscribe to that?
Not at all. He's a timid character. He did not have acting experience that Karol Woytila gained in Krakow as a young man - though he is an accomplished musician.

Having worked for Pope Benedict, I would say he is a very warm and courteous person whom I have never seen hurting anybody. He has great depth and enormous respect for others - which comes from great warmth.

How has he displayed this?
When I worked with him we were dealing with very serious matters such as sexual abuse of minors by priests. He's a man of faith, great intelligence, but also great intellectual honesty. A certain wisdom that comes from great humility - the ability to learn even at a mature age and to listen to others.

He also possesses the extraordinary gift of synthesis - he's able to take whatever he's listening to and turn it into something that's new but also something that's respectful of the input he has received.

The last Papal visit was 10 years ago. Has Catholic Malta changed in the past decade?
Malta has changed, we all know that. Even the role of the Church within Maltese society has changed, so we have a different paradigm and different challenges. The Pope, who knows Europe very well, will be able to address our new situation with great wisdom and great courage.

Has Malta changed for the worse in terms of values?
I wouldn't necessarily describe the change as negative. There are new challenges and new opportunities. We have become more cosmopolitan and that obviously flies in the face of a certain insular mentality that comes from our geography.

We have to redefine what makes us Maltese, so the Church and the Christian faith need to own their rightful place in the hearts of the Maltese. They should not take this for granted and I do not think they are taking this for granted. It is not a negative thing, but a new challenge for pastoral ministry in Malta and Gozo.

Fewer Maltese are going to Church. Is Malta a more secular nation these days?
That's very obvious and Church statistics show that. I would make a distinction between practising the faith and being Catholic. There is a great movement in Europe, which is very obvious, of Catholics who move away from practice but who still define themselves as Catholics. This is also a great challenge for the Church in Europe.

I went to Tanzania in July last year and was impressed by how vivid, colourful and joyful the Sunday liturgies were and people travelled long distances to listen to them. Unfortunately, fewer Catholics in Europe look forward to the Sunday liturgy and that is a challenge for the Church.

Is it failing to engage them?
To a certain extent, yes, which means our people need an experience of faith. They are not necessarily interested in ritual which does not speak to their hearts. If the Sunday liturgy in a parish were a celebration of Easter - because Sunday is the weekly Easter celebration - then I think it would attract more people.

However, I don't think it's just a question of the liturgy but also of motivation: 'Why am I going? Can't I be using my time in a more useful way? By sleeping in, for example, doing sport or doing something I feel is also invigorating and nourishing.' That is a challenge for the Church.

If cultural motivation goes away, what other motivation do our people, particularly youngsters, have? Sunday Mass attendance is only a symptom of something bigger.

Can someone be a Catholic and not go to Mass on Sunday?
Ninety per cent of Catholics in Europe, taking France as an example, don't go to Mass on Sunday. These are Catholics who have not learnt to celebrate their faith. That also means a faith that is in danger of being petrified or solidified into something merely reminiscent of the past with no relevance to the here and now.

Should the Church look down on these people, as is sometimes the approach?
No, I don't think the Church should look down on anybody. The Church is there for everybody - even for those who choose not to go to Mass on Sundays. They become a special concern like a member of the family who decides he no longer wishes to take part in family gatherings.

You are the Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. What does that mean?
In very simple terms, I'm a prosecutor in cases concerning the dignity of the sacrament of the Eucharist, of penance and also sexual abuse of minors by priests. So my role is to oversee investigations if they are carried out directly by the Congregation and then to prosecute cases if they are referred to the tribunal of the Congregation.

Prosecute is a very strong term...
Yes, but it's necessary. My role is to bring evidence before the judge. If there are facts to support an allegation, we face it. If not, the prosecutor must say 'I do not have a case'. Truth has to prevail. But if the promoter of justice is convinced of the guilt of a cleric, he has the duty to see that justice is meted out.

One accusation is that people in your position have not been willing enough to be convinced of the guilt of your fellow priests.
The accusation that it's all in-house is very old and I think that efforts to render the process more transparent will only help the Church. The Church has to be very, very clear on a simple point: that we are interested in the truth because only the truth will set us free. When it comes to minors, the paramount concern is the safety of children in churches and in organisations run by the Church.

You went on record recently saying: "We have to get our act together and start working for more transparency in investigations and more adequate responses to the problem." Implicit in that statement is a criticism of the Church.
Yes. That comment echoes what Cardinal Ratzinger said in his 2005 Via Crucis at a time when we were dealing with cases and trying to manage the frustration some of them made us feel because justice was not meted out as it should be. We are on a learning curve and should learn to do things more expeditiously.

Why wasn't justice meted out as it should be?
The Pope in his letter to Ireland does try to address the issue of 'Why?' I think it's because of a misplaced sense of protecting the institution; the mentality that you don't criticise the clergy because otherwise you're going to betray the institution.

Who are you referring to? Bishops? Priests?
It depends. You will find it on all levels, even the inability of certain people to denounce abuse against minors.

You have talked of a 'culture of silence'...
That was a reference to Italy but it does not just apply to Italy. Asia is a concern, so is Africa and other parts of the world.

Would you say there is a culture of silence in Malta?
Yes. But with the setting up of the Response Team in 1999, the Maltese bishops gave a very clear signal to people who wanted to express concern and they gave them a reference point - not only a place but also people to whom they could direct their grievance. This is a great plus for the Maltese Church in this area as people know there is somebody in charge to address their concerns.

One accusation is that this Response Team, or the bishops, will not pass on a complaint to the police. You've gone on record as saying that the Church will follow the law of the country it is in. Don't you think it's more correct to refer complaints to the police in all cases?
A high-level prelate from a country where reporting is mandatory told me he had met people who said that going to the police and the courts had done them a lot of harm. Sexual abuse is a criminal act and the authorities should make that clear.

But in Malta we still have this principle, as Judge Victor Caruana Colombo explained, that the police need the consent of the victim in order to proceed. I understand the practice within the context of a very small society like ours where a person may seek redress but prefers to shy away from a public spectacle which would be more humiliating than empowering.

But, at the same time, this approach promotes the culture of silence.
It promotes it only if the victim has no access to a social service network or Church agency. The situation is tragic if you are left to weep alone and suffer the consequences of sexual abuse.

The abuse by priests in Ireland has hit hard. Why did the Pope feel it was necessary to take the unusual step of writing a pastoral letter to the Irish?
Because the situation in Ireland is very tragic - in the sense that people feel betrayed by the Church. That is something the Pope himself expressed, as well as great humiliation and frustration at this turn of events. There is a sea change in Ireland. The Pope has to confirm his brethren in faith and that means acknowledging sin where it has taken place.

The situation became more serious when fingers started being pointed at the Pope directly - the accusations being that he failed to take action against Fr Lawrence Murphy who abused children in the US as well and against a German priest, Fr Peter Hullermann. Do you think the Pope is innocent in relation to these accusations?
I am sure he is because I know his attitude to these cases. That is beyond doubt. The facts show that and journalists and public opinion would do well to consider those facts closely.

Regarding the Murphy case, the Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (Cardinal Ratzinger) was informed of the abuse - which happened in the 1950s - in 1996. Fr Murphy was very sick and, as happens in such cases, the Church first ensured he was of no risk to minors and, second, took care of the human condition of the priest. He actually died a few months after the final decision on his case was taken in 1998.

Regarding Fr Hullermann, the Archdiocese of Munich has gone on record saying that the Vicar General, Mgr Gerhard Gruber, who was responsible for the clergy, took the decisions in the case of the priest who was considered a high risk. I think that clears the facts with regard to the Pope.

Some people might say the vicar general was a scapegoat.
Munich is a very large archdiocese with 1,000 diocesan priests and the archbishop there would need to delegate responsibilities. When that happens, the vicar general would then have the power to decide on issues of this nature.

Should advanced age be a factor when it comes to taking action against a priest?
It is when it comes to penalties. The main concern is that the accused priest should not be a danger to children or young people. If such priests are old or bedridden, they are supervised and that is a very important concern for the community. If they are still a risk then of course, that is another question. People of mature age have been dismissed from the clerical state by the Pope because they would not agree to be placed under supervision. There is no single solution. Every case is a unique tragedy.

What steps have been taken by the Congregation in recent years to improve the safeguards?
Promotion of a safe environment for children is left to the individual diocese. The diocese has to promote the protection of children on its own territory. It also has to be responsible for the screening of personnel - clergy and non-clergy - as well as liaising with the statutory authorities to be able to implement any safeguards.

So it is not the responsibility of the Congregation to enforce or impose protection of children policies, but we are responsible for the negative side - that is, people who offend are brought to our tribunal. That is our specific role.

Does the Congregation view paedophilia as an incurable condition?
This is not a question of dogma or doctrine, but a question of psychology and human sciences - which have developed on this aspect in recent years. There are compulsive paedophiles who are sick and who cannot control their compulsion.

However, most cases (60 per cent) involve ephebophilia (sexual preference for mid-to-late adolescents). If you're talking about sexual relations with a 17-year-old, that would be heterosexuality or homosexuality. So diagnosis has to be carried out on a case by case basis and we would need expert advice before deciding.

Does the Church now just want to get rid of these priests?
Dismissing the person from the clerical state means they have no status as clergy and they cannot abuse the trust people instinctively put in clergy. We have to ensure they are not destitute - that is what Canon Law demands - but the outcome of the future of such people is a concern which the Church has to share with society.

How has this issue affected the morale of the Church - in Rome and outside of Rome?
The current pressure doesn't help morale. But I think Catholics are used to being under pressure and this is another type. However, I find that all this pressure not only humiliates us but purifies our commitment and also gives us a deeper understanding of the virtue of hope - which is about persevering in moments of tribulation.

In his encyclical Spe Salvi (Saved by Hope), Pope Benedict talks in a very beautiful way of the gift the virtue of hope gives us. In moments of great tribulation and humiliation, the virtue of hope helps us to go on, to go forward and helps us survive through the storm.

Some people have described the Church's current predicament as a crisis. Do you see it like that?
If crisis means a turning point, then it's welcome. Because that means that whatever good comes from this - and good will come from this - is going to change the way we look at certain problems and the way we address them. Crises are also opportunities. And these are very good opportunities for us to grow.

NB: I posted the ff article just before having to leave this morning, before I had a chance to go through it - but I was wary because during the 2008 presidential campaign, Kmiec, a staunch supporter of Barack Obama and who was hoping to be named his ambassador to the Vatican, said quite a lot of dumb if not objectionable things about orthodox Catholic teaching. He is an ultra-liberal Catholic, whose words I would consider coming from a forked tongue!... And indeed this article is infinitely worse than I thought it could be - and especially inappropriate in many ways, coming from an ambassador of the United States. DO NOT BE TAKEN IN by the 'promising' title

The irrelevancy of scandal
to love of the Catholic Church

by Douglas Kmiec
US Ambassador to Malta
April 11, 2010

With great anticipation and happiness, Malta awaits the visit of the Holy Father in the coming week. Formally celebrating the 1,950th anniversary of St Paul's arrival on the island, my own sense is that the purpose of Pope Benedict XVI's visit has a larger purpose: specifically, to witness first-hand the vibrancy of the Catholic Church in Malta as the Holy Father prayerfully searches for answers for why so many Catholics elsewhere in the world are adrift from their faith.

It is far too easy to blame the highly publicised priestly scandal for the alienation of Catholics in Europe or the United States. The declines in Mass attendance, vocations, and marriage within the Church preceded widespread knowledge of the ugly behaviour on the part of a tiny fraction of errant priests by decades.

This is not to dismiss the scandal as inconsequential, especially for the families affected. One paedophile priest is enough to ruin a life. Nor is it meant to contradict the Pope's working hypothesis for ecclesiastical decline in Europe: namely, cultural secularism. It is to suggest, however, that understanding the diminished standing of the Catholic Church outside Malta requires a more careful inquiry into the reasons for, and not just the fact of, secularity.

As will be seen, the Church makes a fundamental error when it misdirects too much of its effort towards enacting moral instruction into law rather than converting the hearts and minds of the faithful. [What moral instruction has the Church 'enacted into law'? God gave Moses the Ten Commandments at Sinai, and then the Son of God restated them into the one Great commandment. No other laws are needed, nor has the Church added any.]

The Church in America has unfortunately learned this lesson the hard way. Misdirecting the focus of the Church toward legal change, rather than personal, spiritual conversion, reduces the standing of the Church to ordinary lobbyist, alienates the non-Catholic members of the polity and leaves Catholics with far too little understanding of the obligations entailed by formation in the faith. [Kmiec is betraying his own political approach to everything. he has not really been listening to Benedict XVI or the other Popes before him if he thinks that the Church has ever considered Christian conversion, as in change of heart for the better, secondary to any political battles. And as though the Church were incapable of multi-tasking in any way. Its opposition to liberal laws that overturn two millennia of universal tradition with regard to abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage, is a defense of its basic doctrines, and it is just as entitled to this defense as Kmiec is defending his liberal views.]

Now more than ever, the Vatican understandably desires to hold up Malta to the world as an example [REALLY!!!], not of perfection, for the Maltese know better, but as a country where genuinely expressed contrition is encouraged by the model of Christ-like forgiveness still practised.

The scandal in the Church is numbing. One reason is because it seems to undermine the last of leg of the three-legged platform upon which modern society has rested: the integrity of the public official; the stability of family; and the pastoral, moral formation of individuals in the Church.

Presidents may have affairs or improperly give favours to campaign donors, but priests were different. Sometimes taking vows of poverty, they not only opined that it is blessed to be poor in spirit [Opined? Christ said so!] , they lived a life unencumbered by material obsession. Obedient to their religious superiors, priests submitted their very will to the service of others. And celibacy, extraordinary in any age to contemplate, seemed superhuman in a world where modesty is a forgotten norm and pornography seeps through every internet portal.

And the family? This "first cell of civilisation", as John Paul II described it, has had its own difficulty. Work has been favoured over child rearing by both parents. Couples forego marriage, inviting out of wedlock births with their now well-documented ill effects on the resulting children who then face greater risks of poverty, illiteracy, delinquency, and poor health.

Similar effects are experienced by the children of divorce, which while not recognised by the Catholic Church, has inevitably, if covertly, been pursued by Catholics as well. Hardly anyone made the case any longer in favour of marriage, save same-sex couples, as large numbers of men and women subordinated marriage to university, the first job, house, car, flat screen television, etc.

In the 1950s and 60s, the Church in America was thriving: Catholic school enrolments well above capacity; the election of the first Catholic President, John Kennedy, and a highly confident Church under John XXIII throwing open its windows to the world, and for the first time, acknowledging freedom of religion as a human right, premised not on being "the one, true" Church, but simply as a matter of human dignity.

The Church had a sex problem, however. [Contraception adn abortion are sex problems???]

In the 1960s, the beginnings of a more permissive age pressed to remove the view of the Catholic Church from the civil laws governing sexual behaviour. Laws against married couples using contraceptives were invalidated by the US Supreme Court and quickly extended to unmarried couples.

That precedent would legalise abortion in America and most countries around the globe would follow suit. Then and now, abortion was argued by some to be advanced contraception.

Appalled, Catholic intellectuals saw abortion and infanticide as one, and argued within the Church that modern forms of contraception be accepted. Paul VI said "no", preferring the perfect ideal of an inseparable procreative and unitive marital commitment. This is a beautiful image of marriage, but many Catholics disregard the teaching and began a duplicitous relationship with their faith.

The sorry tale of abuse, and transfer, and abuse again, began to be told in America in the mid-80s as a result of litigation in Louisiana. However, it would not be until Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law resigned in the early part of this first decade of the new millennium that the Vatican articulated its zero tolerance ethic which directs that a priest be separated from active ministry if there is a bona fide case of abuse.

Not every case is bona fide, of course. The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was falsely accused. Often the cases are decades old and well beyond the statute of limitations for criminal penalty. Even if a case was still fresh, the cases are not easy to prove given the lack of witnesses other than the victim.

All this has been known for some time. What is curious is why it has again suddenly flashed to page one. Perhaps it is the documentation that abuse was not confined to the US, but deep within even highly-Catholic Ireland. Perhaps it was the insinuation that the current Pope was aware of the problem and said little.

The secular press in the United States made this small, if obvious, fact into a major story and now there are calls for the Pope's resignation, full disclosure, and the lifting of the time bars which preclude prosecution or action for damages.

The scandal requires realism. On the facts as known, papal resignation is as unthinkable as full disclosure ought to be mandatory. Likewise, compulsory is prosecution of any priest still engaged in the sordid business.

That said, criminally prosecuting stale cases beyond the statute of limitations would likely violate principles of due process, and while damages suits are theoretically possible, the offending priests are almost always penniless, and the judgment then is simply a wealth transfer from one innocent set of parishioners to another.

When the money comes from a Church fund, the result is less money for schools, hospitals and the myriad other social goods supplied under Catholic auspices.

The love for the Church on this remarkable island of faith and family is manifest, strong, and indeed a great source of happiness. This was, frankly, obvious everywhere we worshipped during Holy Week, from the blessing of the chrism in St John's where hundreds of clergy recommitted to their priestly vows; to the Holy Thursday re-enactments of the Last Supper; the all-night vigils before the Eucharist, the seven church visits, the adoration of the cross on Good Friday and the stunning processions and crowds watching them for miles, to the vigil paschal candle bringing light back into a darkened world, to the Hallelujah first sung and then sent aloft to the heavens aboard abundant fireworks on Easter Sunday.

Since the story of abuse has been disclosed to Malta and the US alike, why does Malta's love for the Church eclipse that of the US?

Let me suggest a tentative response that may at first seem entirely counter-intuitive: the Church in America has sought to enact faith into law; Malta has depended more on the conversion of heart and mind, rather than legal sanction.

[Sounds to me like pandering to the Maltans. Surely that is not necessary. Also, it's not as if Malta has escaped secularization at all, even if 98% of the population is Catholic, and even if the beautiful religious traditions live on among the 'folk', the regular faithful.]

This tentative speculation may be resisted simply on the grounds that America's Constitution prohibits the establishment or favouring of one faith over another, while Malta gives acknowledged favour to the Catholic tradition. One might think, therefore, that it is Malta that depends on law's coercion not America. However, that's not the way it actually works.

Remember, Catholics in America saw the law of the land take a decidedly neutral (some would say 'hostile') turn in the 1960s and thereafter. Where laws once prohibited and punished fornication, adultery, the use of contraception, abortion, and divorce, today all of those practices are free of practical criminal or civil sanction. In Malta, most if not all of these behaviours remain unlawful.

In America, it is commonplace to hear clergy strongly denounce abortion, but then devote all of their attention not to changing the hearts and minds of those in front of them in the pew, but to mounting a campaign to have the law changed. [That is clearly a hostile, highly biased and indiscriminately generalized statement to denigrate any attempts by the Church to defend its doctrine.]

In America, the Church is much less likely to intervene in a troubled marriage with counselling and prayer than it is to run to the General Assembly to lobby against no-fault divorce.

In brief, faith in America is devoted to converting the law. Faith in Malta is focused on the formation of the person. The former is the trade of lobbyists and public officials; the latter is the vocation of theologians and pastors.

[What an arrant misrepresentation of 'faith in America'! Kmiec betrays his contempt for the Church for not buying into the secular liberal biases. But why should he slander the bishops, priests and faithful who sincerely try to live according to the faith they profess?]

Ask an American whether they love the Church and the answer will often depend on whether the Church is then promoting a liberal or conservative cause with which they concur. Healthcare, abortion, and immigration are all suitable topics for homiletic instruction, but in America these are frequently omitted from Church sermon, even as they are the staple of Church submissions before legislative testimony. [Kmiec does not seem to be aware that a homily is supposed to be based on the Gospel reading for the day, not on the topic-du-jour!]

There is nothing wrong with the Church reflecting upon the Gospel and suggesting how it might guide a citizen's perspective on contemporary social problems. However, seeing the Church itself as an 'institutional person' in the throes of politics has a profoundly negative effect on the spiritual capability of the Church. [What is the extent of these so-called 'throes of politics'? Are messages by the bishops to stand up for Catholic doctrine prohibited? On the other hand, it is precisely leftist 'Catholics' like Kmiec who aggressively peddle their views and endorse candidates who espouse those views. The Church does not endorse persons - only ideas - in these political battles!]

With priests understandably reluctant to be partisan in face-to-face pastoral instruction, the leadership of the American Church has been the opposite before legislative assembly. [You'd think that bishops and priests advocating orthodox Church practice were leading delegations to Congress and marches - when it is their opponents who are doing this all the time! ]

????Charges of hypocrisy result, which becomes anger when the particular position asserted by the institutional Church in the political arena, but not the pews, is antagonistic to one's own view.????? [Say again? Please use the active voice, with a proper subject, instead of a passive construction that makes no sense!]

Parish priests sensing the hostility pursue a strategy of substantive homiletic avoidance. Outside, the Church is perceived as partisan, while the sermons inside are often vapid with repetitive messages of 'can't we just all get along'. As it turns out, when the Church external has been acting more as politician than prelate, the answer is 'no, we can't'. [More senseless hodge-podge! Yet Kmiec can construct a simple straightforward sentence when he wants to!]

The value of avoiding these divisions is well understood in Malta where this lesson was re-learned the hard way. Many have recounted to me their discomfort with the Church for having taken sides between Labour and Nationalists in an era not very long ago.

Having once been denied Communion at a Mass in America for endorsing Barack Obama as President [Is this true at all???], I understand the depth of the wound of being excluded from the body of Christ for exercising one's prerogative as a citizen - even if my local bishop would later proclaim the denial wholly unjustifiable. (see Kmiec, Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question about Barack Obama; Overlook/Penguin 2008). [How cheap! To use an article ostensibly to welcomee the Pope in order to shill his book!]

It is not enough to say it is wrong for the Church to be anti-Mintoff or anti-Obama. Of course, the denial of faith and the rankness of partisanship are worse when the Church is not only engaging in politics, but also doing so in a manner that takes on the role of precinct captain rewarding one's political friends and punishing one's political enemies.

[I believe the preceding paragraphs were the real object and objective of this lengthy exercise by Kmiec.]

For most of its history (with perhaps the single historical anomaly mentioned), Malta's exceptionalism has meant a strengthened faith through substantively robust instruction in the context of extraordinary liturgical worship. [Great, Kmiec sees Malta's exceptionalism, but not that of the United States, despite all its fialings and mistakes! What a sameless hypocritical panderer!]

The Holy Father has fingered secularism for the decline of the Church in Europe, and that may be right, but arguably it is the Church acting like a secularist that prompts a believer to see the Church, not as unique in voice and purpose, but fungible. It is easy to confuse the cause, imprudent partisan activity by the Church, with its effect - secular disinterest and an allergy against all things religious.

[I'm cutting off the rest of the paragraphs in which Kmiec continues to carry on his theme that the Church in the United States is 'consciously entwined with politics. You can find the full article here, if you can tolerate more of Kmiec's prose:

In these weeks following Easter, as we recite the creed, let us truly rejoice in "the one true, Catholic and apostolic Church" that can still be found in Malta. Let us also pray that the Holy Father will be refreshed and encouraged by his visit here.

And pray for the Catholic Church in America,
may it again come to love the Church as Christ loved it, and as He loves us [Gee! Cardinal George and the entire USCCB should go down on their knees because the Secular Saint Douglas Kmiec is leading a prayer itnervention in favor of the US Church!] by never overlooking the unconditional availability of forgiveness even for those who have hurt or offended us unspeakably. [Oh, please!....]

Welcome, your Holiness. Be not afraid to be refreshed by the "uncommon kindness" that welcomed Paul almost two millenniums ago and that still sets human shortcoming and divisive partisanship aside in order to reaffirm that "above all, let your charity and zeal show how you love the Church. Your work is for the Church, which is the body of Christ." [And what should the Holy Father have to fear in Malta? Boors and vandals who disfigure his face on billboards?]

[I would have tossed the whole thing into the TOXICWASTE&LOONYBIN except that the Holy Father is visiting Malta - and this man uses the pretext of a 'welcome' article to ventilate his political positions against Church teachings that the Pope has called 'non-negotiable' - and to calumniate the US Church while he's at it. He's a loose cannon, and even Barack Obama knew better than to name him ambassador to the Vatican!]


Pastoral Letter on Pope Benedict XVI’s
first visit to Malta


Beloved Sons and Daughters,

It has always been our firm conviction that the shipwreck which caused the apostle Paul to be washed ashore on our islands did not happen merely by coincidence. In much the same way, today, we feel that it is indeed providential that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has chosen to make this pastoral visit to our country.

Two thousand years ago, during his short stay among us, and through his preaching of the Gospel, Paul introduced the Maltese and Gozitan people to Jesus Christ; as they came to know Him, Christian hope was instilled in their hearts.

In anticipation of the visit of His Holiness the Pope, and in order that this visit will not simply be a matter of ceremony, it would be appropriate to pause for a moment and ask: Where do we stand at present with respect to our faith and what are the fruits of the Gospel which we received so many years ago and which has shaped our identity and traditions?

We have no doubt that if we open up our hearts to embrace this occasion, it could be for us a moment of grace which will serve to encourage and fortify us in our faith.

Lately, as your Bishops, we have asked you to take a moment to discern the choices which today lie ahead of us, both as a society and as a Church. Peter asked that the first Christians would be “always ready to give an answer to every man who asks for the reason for the hope” that is to be found in them (1Peter 3,15).

There is no doubt that the successor of Peter, during his forthcoming visit, will ask of us something similar, more so in this day and age, when we live in a world which often demands that we substantiate our beliefs by practical reasoning.

We are convinced that the Pope, not only by the words which he will express to us, but also through his spirituality, will raise many questions about Christ and his message. We encourage everyone – not only those who are walking in the path of faith, but also those who feel burdened by the doubts of faith – to heed the Pope’s message.

We are not to be fearful of the challenges he will present us with; rather we should continue to seek and to raise questions regarding Christ’s message.

Embedded in the culture of our people are the foundations of the Church of Jesus Church, as laid down by Paul. Our ancestors continued to build upon those foundations. The history of our people is a testimonial to the fact that this Pauline Church has rendered great services for the benefit of Maltese society.

Nobody can deny that by conveying the Gospel to us, the Church has greatly enriched our culture. Today, at a time when we feel we are at crossroads in so many areas of our life and our faith, we are all called upon to renew and rejuvinate our Church in order that it may be as God ordained it: a Church which bears resemblance to the first Christian communities; a Church built, first and foremost, upon the Word of God and the Eucharist, particularly the Sunday Eucharist.

We do not wish to be a fearful Church, a Church behind closed doors. In spite of what some may think, neither do we wish to be a Church which imposes itself upon society and upon others.

We wish to be a Church which acquires its strength through the Word of God and through the testimony of those who are thoroughly convinced of their faith. We wish to be a Church that is not reluctant to enter into dialogue with the world and with all human beings, irrespective of their beliefs.

We reiterate that this is a moment of grace for us all. Just as Paul’s visit gave new life to the social set-up of that time, so too, this short stay of Pope Benedict among us, can provide the impetus required for us to focus once again upon the core of our faith, which in spite of having always been close to our hearts, is certainly in need of renewal.

The Pope’s profound personality, as well as his prophetic knowledge of our times – traits which emerge clearly upon reading his first Encyclicals – will enable usto open our eyes to our current situation.

We may expect the Pope to guide us in the proper direction in order that our country may continue to have a vision for the future which is not misleading, but rather to continue to embrace the Christian faith as a treasure which enhances, and not lowers, the dignity of the human person and its nation.

In the face of the tragedy of the shipwreck, the Maltese people welcomed Paul, supported him in his time of need and loved him. Today the Church – and most especially, the Pope, is also in troubled waters. There are those who are trying to silence his prophetic voice.

We feel that, like our forefathers, we are called upon to show our love for the Pope and ally ourselves with him. In this respect, during the forthcoming weekend, we invite the people of Malta and Gozo to welcome warmly the Pope, who will be visiting us in the name of the Lord!

We encourage you to participate in all the encounters which are being organized to celebrate the two days during which His Holiness will be among us.

This visit is indeed a moment of grace, and we entrust it to Our Mother Mary and the Apostle Paul.

We impart upon you our Apostolic Blessing.

Archbishop of Malta
Bishop of Gozo

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Monday, April 12
ST. TERESA DE LOS ANDES (Chile, 1900-1920), Virgin, Carmelite nun
Chile's first saint was born Juanita Fernandez Solar to a wealthy and very Catholic family in Santiago the capital. After her First Communion
at 6, she received Communion daily. After reading the biography of St. Therese of Lisieux, she decided she wanted to be like her and devote
herself to prayer and sacrifice. She entered the Carmelite convent at age 19, then contracted typhus. She died shortly after she took her
vows. During her brief time in the convent, she wrote letters expressing her thoughts. In one of them, she wrote "Christ, so foolish in his
love, has driven me madly in love". John Paul II beatified her when he visited Chile in 1987 and canonized her in Rome six years later.
[Cardinal Bertone, now in Chile, visited her shrine in the Andes today.]
Readings for today's Mass:

No OR today.


The Holy Father met today with
- Bishops of Brazil (North Sector II, Group 1) on ad limina visit

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As expected, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released today its quick guide to understanding its procedures regarding child abuse cases against priests.


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.

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).

NB: So far, it appears only on the Vatican's special site
dedicated to the abuse issue - and only in English. Why is it not on the regular Vatican bulletin for the day????

And I still think that the abuse response page is virtually inaccessible because it is not on the main Vatican site itself - nor is there a link to it on the main menu of the Vatican site. As it is, one has to remember that it has a separate address - which is certainly dumb, to say the least! When you want to get maximum attention, you don't go out of your way to make it inconvenient to access the site!

Same story for a new multilingual service announced today - new service, new web address, for which there is no link on the main website.


Starting April 9, 2010, VIS has a blog which contains, besides the daily service, VIS news in Spanish, English, French and Italian in recent years and allows access to Twitter and teh YouTube portal of the Vatican.

The service is updated daily at 3 p.m. The address is:

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Another long Lent
April 12, 2010

On March 25, the New York Times published a now thoroughly discredited front-page story suggesting that Joseph Ratzinger, while prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had willfully impeded sanctions against a clerical sexual abuser in Milwaukee who had preyed on the deaf children in his care.

Taking that date, and that calumny against Benedict XVI, as an arbitrary American ground zero in the latest round of assaults depicting the Catholic Church as a Rome-based global criminal conspiracy of perverts and their enablers, where do things stand, two and a half weeks into what at first seemed poised to become a scandal as devastating as the Catholic Church in America’s Long Lent of eight years ago?

It’s not 2002. During the Long Lent, the press played an important role in dragging into the light of day awful things the Church had failed to confront, or had confronted ineptly. The shame of that period still stings, as do the wounds suffered by victims. Yet 2010 is not 2002, and that is in large measure due to 2002.

Despite the ignorance and tendentiousness displayed by too many journalists and commentators in recent weeks (including Catholic commentators seeking another opportunity to revive the Revolution That Never Was — or, in the case of Patrick J. Buchanan, to revive the Golden Age That Never Was), the facts are slowly getting out, thanks in part to the unprecedented studies and audits authorized by the bishops of the United States in the wake of the Long Lent.

Reasonable people whose perceptions are not warped by the toxin of anti-Catholicism or who are not pursuing other (often financially-driven) agendas now recognize that the Church in the U.S. and Canada has bent enormous efforts towards cleaning up what Cardinal Ratzinger called in 2005 its “filth,” to the point where the Catholic Church today can be empirically shown to be the safest environment for young people and children in North America.

The paralyzing drumbeat of one ghastly new story after another that went on all during 2002 has not been repeated. What we now have is, largely, the recycling of old material, usually provided to the press by contingent-fee attorneys whose strategic goal is to build a public “narrative” of conspiracy that will shape American courts’ decisions as to whether the Vatican and its resources can be brought within range of U.S. liability law.

The realization among serious Catholics that this is not 2002 and that things have changed dramatically since 2002, has led to a far more confident effort to fight back against misrepresentations such as those the Times perpetrated on March 25.

There is a danger here: to recognize that this is not 2002 cannot blind us to the fact that there are wounds that remain to be healed, reforms of priestly formation that remain to be completed, bishops whose failures remain to be recognized and dealt with, new norms for the selection of bishops to be implemented, and accounts rendered as to why the Vatican, prior to Ratzinger’s taking control of the issue of clerical sexual abuse in the late 1990s, was sometimes sluggish in its response to scandalous behavior by priests and deficient leadership by bishops.

Assuming, however, that Benedict XVI has set in motion processes that will lead to all those lingering issues being forcefully addressed, a serious question can now be credibly posed: Are those most vigorously agitating these abuse/misgovernance issues today genuinely interested in the safety of young people and children, or are they using the failures of the past to cripple the moral credibility of the Catholic Church in the present and future?

That question would have rightly struck many people as a dodge in 2002. It cannot be credibly regarded as a dodge today, because of what the Church has done since 2002 (and, indeed, since the 1990s, when the plague of abuse within the Church began to recede).

The Vatican response. During the first months of the Long Lent of 2002, John Paul II was not well-served by his Washington nunciature or by the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy.

The nunciature was not providing the papal apartment with detailed, real-time information (in April 2002, when Cardinal Bernard Law first offered his resignation, the Pope and his closest associates were at least three months behind the information-curve, and were just experiencing in April what Americans had lived through in January).

The prefect of Clergy, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, made matters worse by blowing off reporters’ questions about the scandals when presenting John Paul’s 2002 Holy Thursday letter to priests, explaining that the Pope had more important things to worry about, like Middle East peace.

Things have changed for the better since those dark days. The Holy See Press Office, not previously known for prompt or effective crisis-management in this pontificate, has quickly brought serious, credible information and commentary to bear in recent weeks as different charges have been laid against Benedict XVI.

The Pope’s own March letter to the Church in Ireland — far too quickly consigned to media oblivion — demonstrated to those with the eyes to read such documents accurately that Benedict had wrestled the Curia into understanding that a pastoral outreach to victims, the public condemnation of abusive clergy and religious, sharp criticism of malfeasant bishops, and dramatic reform actions were necessary in this and similar situations.

There are still things that the Holy See doesn’t get quite right. During Holy Week, it was hoped that the Pope would speak in his own voice, largely through the Church’s sacramental encounter with the central drama of salvation history.

Yet the two most memorable moments of Holy Week 2010 were created by secondary figures. During the solemn Good Friday liturgy at St. Peter’s, the preacher to the papal household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, inserted into his homily a commentary on the current situation in which he seemed to agree with a (Jewish) friend that the recent assault on the Church was analogous to the horrors of historic anti-Semitism. [Oh no! You, too, Mr. Weigel? The analogy drawn was very specific to the manner of anti-Catholic attack, not to the horror of the crimes committed: the use of stereotypes and the passage from personal responsibility to assigning collective guilt engaged in by the media today reminded the Jewish friend of the worst aspects of anti-Semitism. Who can dispute that? But if Mr. Weigel is simply quoting from what the Anglophone services said Cantalamessa said, then it goes to prove my point that inevitably the best of those on our side can end up using poisoned factoids from the media!]

Two days later, at the beginning of the papal Easter Sunday Mass, the dean of the college of cardinals, Angelo Sodano, chose the unfortunate phrase “petty gossip” to describe what was in fact a determined attack on the Church’s credibility. [Once again, the phrase 'petty gossip' is the connotation that the Anglophone translators chose for the word 'chiacchiericcio' - which, if anyone was listening, Pope Benedict XVI himself used in his Palm Sunday homily!]

Despite these missteps, however, the truth seems to have gotten out, if slowly and incompletely: the single most influential figure in reshaping the Roman Curia’s attitude toward these scandals and the Church’s legal practice in dealing with them, was Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI.

The plaintiff’s bar cannot concede this, for to do so would be to destroy the narrative it has been selling to the world media.

Ratzinger’s enemies cannot concede this, for they have never been able to find good in him.

And European secularists cannot concede this, for in their minds the Church is, in principle, irreformably corrupt — Voltaire’s L’infame.

But those willing to look at facts and evidence have begun to understand just how crucial a role Ratzinger played in ensuring that 2010 did not automatically become 2002 redivivus.

Nailing down that counter-narrative would be considerably aided if, in the coming weeks, a comprehensive and documented narrative of the case of a predatory Munich priest which was mishandled during Ratzinger’s tenure as archbishop there — the revelation of which was the European ground zero for the latest set of explosions — would be published. [We're still waiting - but perhaps Abp. Marx in Munich is thinking, 'Let sleeping dogs lie' for now, since things appear to have been dormant on the German front for two weeks now, imagine that!]

It would also be helpful if the Holy See would provide a user-friendly explanation of how abusive priests are laicized, and how this process has been streamlined and accelerated, again under Ratzinger’s leadership. [They've done that now with the CDF guide that came out today.]

There is no harm in acknowledging that, like just about everyone else, Joseph Ratzinger was on a learning curve in dealing with abusive clergy and malfeasant bishops; the point to be stressed, however, is that he learned faster, and acted more decisively on what he had learned, than just about anyone else.

Mud Sticking. The 2010 edition of Scandal Time is by no means finished. Attorneys and others will continue to release documents implying that Ratzinger “stalled” laicizations decades ago (when in fact what he was doing was following the canonical norms of the time—norms he was later instrumental in changing).

The papal pilgrimage to Great Britain in September, which will include the beatification of John Henry Newman, is in trouble, with the clerical head of the Church of England, Dr. Rowan Williams, getting ecumenical payback by asserting that the Catholic Church has lost its credibility [Well, if it means anything, he apologized for that later, seeing as he is a much-blackened pot himself where credibility is concerned!], and the loopier elements of the British press and commentariat suggesting that the Pope ought to be served with an arrest warrant on his arrival in the U.K.

The BBC has been particularly egregious in its skewed coverage and discussion of Munich, Milwaukee, and other cases. [Of course! It's trying to 'protect' whatever shreds of credibility are left in its 2006 documentary which openly slandered Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI using all the tricks that MSM are now using against him in this current chapter of the preposterous but ratings buster soap opera "Bash Benedict!"]

In the face of all this, the bishops of Britain must recognize that scandal-mongering has now metastasized into a full-scale assault on Catholicism itself, and ought to devote the next four months to the most vigorous defense of the truth of Catholic faith. [COLORE]#1216[COLORE][Mr. Weigel forgets that two of the bishops, starting with the Archbishop of Westminster, were accused this weekend by British Woodward-and-Bernstein wannabes of coddling pedophile priests too!]

It would also be helpful if Benedict XVI would meet with British and Irish abuse victims during his time in the U.K., as he did in the United States and Australia. [It's almost certain he will!]

As for the future of the Church in Ireland, the gravity of the situation there would seem to provide an opportunity for Rome to take dramatic action.

While the retirement of one Irish bishop, John Magee of Cloyne, was accepted in the wake of the papal letter of March 2010, it was not clear that this measure was in response to serious problems in handling abuse cases in Cloyne that had become public knowledge. [I believe it was clear, especially to the diocesan faithful, since Magee had to step down from diocesan responsibility last year because of his involvement in two Cloyne cover-ups.]

Yet if 2010 is not to become 2002 redivivus, the Holy See must make unmistakably clear that it is serious about dealing with malfeasant bishops: that, in addition to swift action against abusive priests, the Church is prepared to take swift and decisive action against episcopal misgovernance.

This is not a matter of appeasing the media pack and its baying for blood; it is a matter of self-respect and the integrity of the Church’s institutional life.

Over the past century and a half, the Holy See has gained the freedom to choose bishops freely throughout the world Church; that has been one of the signal accomplishments of Vatican diplomacy.

To claim the right to choose bishops freely, however, carries with it the responsibility to address episcopal failure, even by the ultimate remedy of deposition in extreme cases.

Procedures for accelerating the laicization of abusive clergy have been put in place in Rome; parallel procedures for determining when a bishop has lost the capacity to govern because of a thorough and irremediable collapse of his credibility as a leader and shepherd ought to be devised and implemented.

It is widely expected that the upcoming apostolic visitation to certain Irish dioceses will result in sweeping change in Catholic leadership in Ireland. That change ought to be effected sooner rather than later, and explicitly linked to the reforms for which Benedict called in his letter to the Irish Church.

Cynicism and irony are powerful corrosives in ecclesiastical life. Yet they cannot withstand the power of radical conversion, joyful discipleship, and courageous evangelism. In North America, in Great Britain and Ireland, in Germany and Austria and the Netherlands, indeed all over the world Church, these are the most effective counters to the current wave of Church-bashing and Catholic-baiting. [YES! That is why the crowds in St. Peter's and in Castel Gandolfo - and in Turin - are such exhilarating examples that it takes more than media malice - no matter how malignant and metastasized - to prevail on the hearts of regular folk, those with the admirable 'simple faith' that Cardinal Ratzinger always said it was the CDF's duty to protect and preserve.]

And here, at least, there is one appropriate parallel to be drawn between 2010 and 2002: The only answer to what is at bottom a crisis of fidelity is deeper, more radical fidelity to the truth borne by the earthen vessel of the Church.[Amen to that! AND THE GATES OF HELL SHALL NOT PREVAIL!

I was really hoping Weigel might address the problem of what the Pope can immediately do about erring bishops, at least those who made mistakes in connection with child abuse. Because that would give us his take on why John Paul II appeared to have 'rewarded' Cardinal Law with his Rome sinecure, instead of sending him to a monastery or a missionary post...

Benedict XVI, because it's his problem now, must also have to weigh a sort of 'statute of limitations' in the case of bishops who acted like Cardinals Law and Mahony did back in the days when covering up appeared to be SOP. Besides, unless the bishop himself committed sexual abuse, would it now be fair to sack a bishop for the very same things that bishops like Law and Mahony did scot-free?...

Common sense would say that, absent any precedent that the Holy Father might use, what should determine whether a bishop stays or goes is what his diocesan faithful think of him. As with Cardinal Brady, whose offense was fairly tame and done when he was a priest, not a bishop. Clearly, a bishop who has lost his people's trust cannot stay. Law could not stay because of that. Mahony did - and not even the fact that LA had to pay $660 million in damages to victims appears to have shaken the loyalty of his diocese.

Two weekend entries in AMERICA's group blog in support of the Pope. About this first one: 'Frustratingly poor quality' is quite an understatement! MSM has flagrantly abdicated all sense of decency, fairness and responsibility - that's not poor quality coverage nor even real coverage, when half the stories are opinion and innuendo! It's sheer malice and utter disregard of professional ethics.

The frustratingly poor quality
of press coverage

by Michael Sean Winters
April 11, 2010

The whole world now knows about Father Stephen Kiesle of Oakland, the priest who tied up young boys and molested them sexually and whose request to be defrocked came before then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The press is swarming with assertions that, as the Washington Post headlined its story, "Future pope balked at defrocking priest." This, we are led to believe, is the smoking gun. Raztinger signed the letter in 1985. That is HIS signature. Case closed. Here are the documents.

In talking to reporters, I raised the question: Why was this case in front of Ratzinger in the first place? It does not make sense. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was given jurisdiction over cases of the "graviora delicta" of sexual abuse only in 2001.

Before that time, it is a bit unclear who had immediate jurisdiction in Rome, although one point – which I also made to reporters – went unmentioned then and in all the reporting about the future Pope’s role in handling sex abuse cases, namely, the local bishop has the authority to remove a priest from the clerical state. Recourse to Rome is necessary only to dispense a priest from his vow of celibacy, so that he can subsequently be married in the Church.

Perhaps, some of the confusion has to do with the translation from Latin that the original AP story procured from the chairman of the Classics Department at USC which translates "Hoc dicasterium" as "this court." I do not question the Chairman of the Classics Department’s command of Latin, but a dicastery in the Vatican is not a court, but an agency or department. The CDF did not then and does not now serve as a canonical court.

But, then it hit me: I was asking about the dog that had not barked. The documents exchanged between the diocesan officials in Oakland and the CDF do not mention "graviora delicta." The case was presented as a priest seeking laicization. As well, the documents do not paint the profound ugliness of the priest’s crimes.

The first document posted at the Times is a 1981 letter from a parish priest who worked with Kiesle. It says that Kiesle lacked "maturity and responsibility and spirituality" and says he only became a priest to please his over-bearing mother.

The second document, also from 1981 and also from a priest who worked with Kiesle, says that Kiesle’s family was opposed to his becoming a priest and claims that Kiesle was irresponsible and had trouble relating to adults.

The letter refers to "the eventual difficulty that Father Kiesle had with the law because of his relationship to young children" but there are no details.

The third document finally is explicit. In the "Votum Episcopi," the document by which the bishop demonstrates his support for Father Kiesle’s request for laicization, Bishop John Cummins notes that Kiesle had been arrested for molesting six boys, had pleaded "nolo contendere" and received a three-year suspended sentence.

Three facts jump out. First, the request for defrocking was made by Father Kiesle, not by the bishop.

Second, the priest had already been removed from active ministry, so the case did not seem urgent insofar as protecting children in the future was concerned (remember, Kiesle was only asking CDF to dispense him from his vows).

Third, the response from and punishment by the civil authorities were not as severe as the crime warranted. As we now know, very few people understood the nature of pedophilia, otherwise civil authorities would not have imposed a three- or five-year statute of limitations, and the penalties for what amounted to rape would have been more severe. It turns out that the emotional scars of sex abuse are worse than physical scars of physical abuse, not least because they are often unseen.

[Winters fails to note, very importantly, that in 1981, Cardinal Ratzinger was not the CDF Prefect. He did not assume that position until February 1982, so the 1981 letters were addressed to his predecessor, Cardinal Seper.... But that has been the problem with all this post-facto 'dcoumentation', which lend themselves to date fudging by the dishoneest reporters, so that all dates blur together, and they can safely blame everything on Cardinal Ratzinger because they know very few will bother to check the documentation they so 'generously' provide online!]

One other part of Cummins’s letter to Cardinal Ratzinger seems to have escaped the attention of the assembled press corps. The bishop notes that the trial generated "a great deal of publicity surrounding his conduct." The bishop says that all the local papers covered the story.

So, the idea that Cardinal Ratzinger subsequently dragged his feet to avoid publicity is an odd charge, one that the documents do not support. When Cardinal Ratzinger replied that the "good of the universal Church" should be considered in adjudicating the case, he was evidently not trying to prevent adverse publicity. That publicity had already occurred. [Plus, the context of that phrase, in laicization requests, is John Paul's rationale for tightening up on dispensing priests from their vows - the wholesale departure of priests was certainly bad for the universal Church, and he wanted priests to have time to reconsider their request, according to the background information from Fr. Fessio.]

What, then, was Ratzinger’s concern? Why did he not simply grant Father Kiesle’s request for laicization and be done with it? As noted above, the extraordinary nature of Father Kiesle’s crimes is not at all clear from the correspondence, which uses euphemisms to describe what amounted to child rape. The weak punishment by the civil authorities certainly would not indicate the outrages this priest perpetrated. [Winters appears to have missed the important point here: Since this was before 2001, the CDF was not dealing with laicization as a penalty, but a request for dispensation from the priesthood, over which the CDF did have jurisdiction at the time.]

Additionally, the initiative is coming from the priest, not from the bishop, as one might expect in a case of this sort.

Another factor explaining Ratzinger’s invocation of the "good of the universal Church" was a change of policy going on at the Vatican in the early 1980s. [Not another factor - it was the main factor, always bearing in mind that Cardinal Ratzinger's response - a form letter, as many analysts now hypothesize -

In the years after the Council, many priests asked to be laicized. George Weigel, in his biography of Pope John Paul II, writes: "Pope Paul VI had granted more than 32,000 requests from priests who had asked to be released from their vows and returned to lay status – the greatest exodus from the priesthood since the Reformation. Soon after his election, John Paul had stopped the routine granting of these ‘decrees of laicization.’"

John Paul was especially concerned about younger priests seeking to be defrocked, and very few such requests were granted to priests under the age of 40. It is telling that Father Kiesle’s request for laicization was granted as soon as he did turn 40.

What had Pope John Paul, and Cardinal Ratzinger, worried was that the sacramental character of priestly ordination was being obscured by the ease with which priests were being dispensed from their vows. Catholics do not see the priesthood as a career choice, to be set aside if something better comes along.

When a man is ordained, the Church believes that God affects an ineffaceable and permanent change upon the ordinand, just as the Church believes that bread and wine are truly changed into the Body and Blood of Christ at Mass. Even a priest who is laicized retains the power to say Mass and absolve from sins in confession, even though the Church strips him of the authority to do so.

Had the Oakland case been presented as an instance of "graviora delicta" I do not doubt that the laicization would have been faster. Had the bishop or other officials in Oakland made clear the heinous nature of the crimes, I do not doubt Cardinal Ratzinger would have responded differently.

I also do not doubt that even the mention of the civil trial involving charges of molestation should have caused Cardinal Ratzinger to find out more about the case - oops, that is precisely what he did and for which he now stands accused of dragging his feet.

I also suspect that this case, which stands astride the promulgation of the new Code of Canon Law in 1983, may have been impeded because the canonical officials in Oakland and in Rome were still becoming acquainted with its provisions.

It is the job of religion reporters to not only report on information but to provide the context for interpreting that information. The documents in the Oakland case raise certain obvious questions that the press ignores or fails to perceive – I do not know which is worse.

I do not "blame" the media for the sex abuse crisis and I do blame the Vatican for doing such a horrendous job of answering the current questions and for seeing themselves as the victim.

Nonetheless, I believe the press corps is guilty of shoddy reporting. The documents in the Oakland case are no "smoking gun" but they are presented as such. The feeding frenzy among the press corps has taken hold and everybody wants to be Woodward and Bernstein. Shame on them. [What I've been saying lately....]

I suppose one negative fallout from all these 'Eureka-I-found-the smoking-gun' stories, is that even the best-intentioned Catholic writers (and some ranking prelates too), who literally have to glean facts catch-as-catch-can, often miss important data or get them wrong, so their defense comes out flawed. As this piece by Winters. But unexceptionable persons like Cardinal Pell and Archbishop Dolan come to mind who both cited erroneous press interpretations as fact in formulating their recent interventions in favor of the Pope.

The best and most cogent presentations - with the most accurate information - on the Kiesle case so far are from Father Fessio, Phil Lawler and Lori Pieper. Everyone else appears to be missing the whole elephant, just touching some of its parts.

This later entry by Austin Ivereigh, former press officer for Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor when he was Archbishop of Westminster, goes for the philosophy behind this mestastizing media pathology! Ivereigh is also one of a group of Catholic professional journalists named to handle 'public relations' before and during the Holy Father's visit to the UK.

Abuse coverage reveals
scapegoat mechanism

By Austen Ivereigh
April 12, 2010

The misinterpretation and misreporting of the 1985 Ratzinger letter in the Kiesle case -- my points in a BBC TV interview over the weekend are similar to those in Michael Winter's excellent analysis -- indicate not just poor quality coverage but something altogether nastier.

It was the great theorist René Girard who has shown us that the ancient human scapegoat mechanism -- when angry mobs formed to stone those on whom the tensions of the community had been projected -- is just as alive today as in primitive societies.

As he writes in Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, the modern scandal excites

...a feverish desire to differentiate between the guilty and the innocent, to allot responsibilities, to unmask the guilty secret without fear or favour and to distribute punishment.

The person who is scandalised wants to bring the affair out into the open; he has a burning desire to see the scandal in the clear light of day and pillory the guilty party ….

Scandal always calls for demystification, and demystification, far from putting an end to scandal, propagates and universalises it … There must be scandal to demystify and the demystification reinforces the scandal it claims to combat.

The scapegoat mechanism comes into play when tensions -- often buried and unconscious -- accumulate, when those involved must ‘let off steam’ or the social fabric will burst.

The energy of indignation and anger is fuelled, over this issue, by the fact that sexual abuse of minors is extremely common in families -- 70 per cent of victims have suffered at the hands of a relative -- yet almost never talked about, let alone dealt with.

The Church has become a surrogate victim, unconsciously identified as the cause of the tension which society feels but cannot identify.

This is not a way of deflecting from the Church's real failures on this issue, which the media's relentless coverage has forced the Church to face. Nor is it a way of deflecting from some of the unique characteristics behind those failures in the Church -- not least, clericalism, past and present.

But the coverage has now moved into a new, irrational phase. The media have merged with the mob. They are not standing outside the crowd, coolly examining the facts. They are standing in locus vulgi.

Take the way that The Times -- which in the UK has led the way in promoting hysteria and distortion in this issue -- reports that the taliban atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are planning to "arrest" Pope Benedict when he comes to the UK.

In fact, as Dawkins spells out on his website, they are mounting a legal challenge aimed at whipping up public opinion against the papal visit. Rather than report this as a publicity gimmick, or at least point out how dubious are the legal arguments, The Times reports this as if it is a perfectly sensible response to established facts, and even enlists a semi-Catholic columnist to agree with the idea.

The mechanism of scandal exerts a fascination which increases in line with the tension. The accusations pile up; facts cease to be sacred; the distinction between truth and hearsay blurs. There is carte blanche to demonise the scapegoat, whose guilt is largely irrelevant to the performance of the mechanism.

When it is not in thrall to the mimetic contagion, journalism is one of the best means of exposing the irrationality of the scapegoat mechanism, because it relies on facts and evidence. But when journalism jettisons its responsibility to detachment, it becomes an agent of the hysteria.

Normally journalists are wary of being used by lawyers who have an obvious vested interest in advancing a certain narrative. Yet many media have been supplied with documents -- such as the 1985 Ratzinger letter in the Kiesle case -- by lawyers bringing class actions against the Church on behalf of abuse victims.

The interpretations which the lawyers are keen to put on them are precisely those which the media then uncritically adopt. When the scapegoat mechanism is in play, contradictions between agendas vanish. The crowd becomes "one".

Yesterday two colleagues -- Jack Valero of Catholic Voices and Clifford Longley, columnist with The Tablet -- took part in a BBC TV debate on whether the Pope should resign. The very absurdity of the question and the way they were heckled and disbelieved as they coolly laid out the facts showed that the mechanism was in play.

The crowd had made up its mind and anything -- including the Protestant prejudice that the papacy was "unbiblical" -- was uncritically accepted.

Afterwards, a representative of the Protest the Pope coalition accosted Jack and told him he had no right to be defending the Pope in public. Defend the scapegoat when the crowd is of one mind and you'll pay the price.

It is sad to see Ruth Gledhill, Times religious correspondent, pander to the same feeding-frenzy culture of her newspaper when she posts on her website "the full text of a letter sent to the Pope in 1963 from a leader in the field of treatment of paedophile priests, warning that they were incorrigibly recidivist."

She adds, breathlessly: "So much for repeated claims that the nature of the disorder was not understood until recently."

This is grotesque. The Church's explanation is not that paedophilia was not understood but that it was understood by the psychological profession as treatable. In fact the letter she quotes -- from the Superior General of the Servants of the Holy Paraclete -- does not remotely show what she claims it shows, but captures very well the confusion around how to deal with abusive priests at the time. The key paragraph --

The corrective remedies to be applied and their effectiveness will obviously depend upon the good will and character of the individual. Problems that arise from abnormal, homosexual tendencies are going to call for, not only spiritual, but understanding psychiatric counselling.

Personally I am not sanguine of the return of priests to active duty who have been addicted to abnormal practices, especially sins with the young. However, the needs of the Church must be taken into consideration and activation of priests who have seemingly recovered in this field may be considered but is only recommended where careful guidance and supervision is possible. Where there is indication of incorrigibility, because of the tremendous scandal given, I would most earnestly recommend total laicization.

-- is hardly proposing a "zero tolerance" policy to the man who would later be Pope. It is, in fact, an interesting letter which tells us much. What a shame Ruth didn't analyse it properly. [Gledhill never does anything properly if it suits her purpose to be improper. Which, in her coverage of the Church, is most of the time.]

It takes courage to stand out from a scapegoating crowd. That courage -- to deal in facts and perspective in a time of hysteria -- is a journalistic virtue sadly absent from the current reporting of clerical sex abuse.

Conformism at any cost, the herd mentality - those are characteristics of the secular society which Benedict XVI has often decried, as he urges Catholics, especially the young, to have the courage to buck the trend, to go against the current!

Neither trait is compatible with courage. On the contrary, they serve political correctness, which I've always found a euphemism for pusillanimity.

Running with the rampaging herd is also a rather paradoxical attribute in a 'me' society that supposedly celebrates the glory of 'individuality'. It's another one of those blinders that secular liberals are totally unaware they are wearing!

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As David Goldman aka Spengler has now reacted to Ross Douthat's NYT column, I have decided to give the Douthat piece and Goldman's rejoinder a separate post.

[I am always a bit wary about Douthat, but he's the New York Times's token Catholic on their editorial pages, and it turns out he filed a column yesterday...WHICH IS WORSE THAN THE WORST I COULD IMAGINE! It's revolting, for its trashing of two Popes, and for the never-appropriate comparison of them....

The Better Pope
Published: April 11, 2010

The world didn’t always agree with Pope John Paul II, but it always seemed to love him. Handsome and charismatic, with an actor’s flair and a statesman’s confidence, he transformed the papacy from an Italian anachronism into a globe-trotting phenomenon.

His authority stabilized a reeling church; his personal holiness inspired a generation of young Catholics. “Santo subito!” the Roman crowds chanted as he lay dying. Sainthood now!

They will not chant for Benedict XVI. [Excuse me???? Did Douthat ever bother to watch any of the Pope's public appearances - before and after this current round of Benedict-bashing???? BE-NE-DET-TO chanted tirelessly and enthusiastically and spontaneously at all times! Angelus, General Audience, Mass, encounter with the youth, travelling elsewhere - to a Rome diocese or to some Italian city or abroad....THEY HAVE BEEN CHANTING FOR BENEDICT ALL ALONG, even right after HABEMUS PAPAM! Obviously it's too soon for anyone to shout SANTO SUBITO for him, but in our hearts, we know we are privileged to live during the Pontificate of a future Doctor of the Church.]

The former Joseph Ratzinger was always going to be a harder pontiff for the world to love: more introverted than his predecessor, less political and peripatetic, with the crags and wrinkles of a sinister great-uncle. [Did Douthat see the Pope in person at all when he was in the USA? Or look at the dozens of news agency photos taken of him at every event? Of course, he has 'crags and wrinkles - he is 83 - but he carries them beautifully [as we Benaddits would say] but certainly far better than the overwhelming majority of men his age, and NOTHING could possibly make him look like a sinister uncle. When someone who's supposed to be on 'our side' compares the Pope to a sinister uncle because of 'crags and wrinkles' rather than the more obvious and appropriate simile 'kindly grandfather'. we are in trouble! Thanks, but NO THANKS!]

While the last Pope held court with presidents and rock stars, Cardinal Ratzinger was minding the store in Rome, jousting with liberal theologians and being caricatured as “God’s Rottweiler.” His reward was supposed to be retirement, and a return to scholarly pursuits. Instead, he was summoned to Peter’s chair — and, it seems, to disaster.

The drip, drip, drip of sex abuse cases from Benedict’s past started a month ago with a serious incident: a pedophile priest who was returned to ministry in Munich by then-Archbishop Ratzinger’s subordinates, and perhaps with his knowledge.

The more recent smoking guns, though, offer more smoke than fire. The Pope is now being criticized not for enabling crimes or covering them up, but because in the 1980s and 1990s the Vatican’s bureaucracy moved slowly on requests to formally laicize abusive priests after they had already been removed from ministry. [How many cases of that have been brought up so far? Three! All completely out of context and out of whack!]

But the smoke is damaging enough. “The Failed Papacy of Benedict XVI,” ran a recent headline in Der Spiegel, the newsmagazine of the Pope’s native Germany. [The context being that Spiegel has always been hostile to both Joseph Ratzinger and Benedict XVI. Long before the New York Times and the AP and all the other Woodward-and-Bernstein wannabees started lining up at the post, Spiegel had staked its claim: it would be the media machine to bring down Benedict XVI a la Richard Nixon!]

If you judge a pontiff on his ability to do outreach, whether to lukewarm believers or the secular world, this is probably accurate. Amid the latest wave of scandal, Catholicism needed the magnetic John Paul, master of bold gestures and moving acts of penance. Instead, the Church is stuck with Benedict, bookish and defensive and unequal to the task. [AND THAT IS THE WORST ACT OF LESE-MAJESTE I HAVE YET SEEN A SUPPOSEDLY PRO-BENEDICT WRITER COMMIT! The Church is 'stuck with him' and he is 'defensive and unequal to the task'?]

But there’s another story to be told about John Paul II and his besieged successor. The last Pope was a great man, but he was also a weak administrator, a poor delegator, and sometimes a dreadful judge of character.

The Church’s dilatory response to the sex abuse scandals was a testament to these weaknesses. So was John Paul’s friendship with the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. The last Pope loved him and defended him. But we know now that Father Maciel was a sexually voracious sociopath.

And thanks to a recent exposé by The National Catholic Reporter’s Jason Berry, we know the secret of Maciel’s Vatican success: He was an extraordinary fund-raiser, and those funds often flowed to members of John Paul’s inner circle. [Berry wrote about it for the Global Post back in July 2009, only no one was paying attention!]

Only one churchman comes out of Berry’s story looking good: Joseph Ratzinger. Berry recounts how Ratzinger lectured to a group of Legionary priests, and was subsequently handed an envelope of money “for his charitable use.” The cardinal “was tough as nails in a very cordial way,” a witness said, and turned the money down.

This isn’t an isolated case. In the 1990s, it was Ratzinger who pushed for a full investigation of Hans Hermann Groer, the Vienna cardinal accused of pedophilia, only to have his efforts blocked in the Vatican. It was Ratzinger who persuaded John Paul, in 2001, to centralize the church’s haphazard system for handling sex abuse allegations in his office. It was Ratzinger who re-opened the long-dormant investigation into Maciel’s conduct in 2004, just days after John Paul II had honored the Legionaries in a Vatican ceremony. It was Ratzinger, as Pope Benedict, who banished Maciel to a monastery and ordered a comprehensive inquiry into his order.

So the high-flying John Paul let scandals spread beneath his feet, and the uncharismatic Ratzinger was left to clean them up. This pattern extends to other fraught issues that the last Pope tended to avoid — the debasement of the Catholic liturgy, or the rise of Islam in once-Christian Europe. And it extends to the caliber of the church’s bishops, where Benedict’s appointments are widely viewed as an improvement over the choices John Paul made.

It isn’t a coincidence that some of the most forthright ecclesiastical responses to the abuse scandal have come from friends and protégés of the current Pope.

Has Benedict done enough to clean house and show contrition? Alas, no. Has his Vatican responded to the latest swirl of scandal with retrenchment, resentment, and an un-Christian dose of self-pity? Absolutely. Can this pontiff regain the kind of trust and admiration, for himself and for his office, that John Paul II enjoyed? Not a chance. [I WISH I COULD DO THE EQUIVALENT OF A CITIZEN'S ARREST OF DOUTHAT FOR THESE LINES! If he put them in to curry favor with his newspaper so they will keep him on, he's a cheap unprincipled opportunist. If he really believes it, then BEGONE, SATAN!]

But as unlikely as it seems today, Benedict may yet deserve to be remembered as the better Pope.

As someone who loves the late Pope and who prays to him daily, I obviously have great misgivings about the way Douthat trashes John Paul II for whatever mistakes and shortcomings he had as Pope. Not because he was blameless, but because this is not the time to state all this so starkly and mercilessly. The Church is being battered enough by outside forces as it is. Why should Douthat provide more ammunition that the Church's detractors can use? Not that the faithful will think any less of John Paul II because of what Douthat says, even if the anti-Church legions could conceivably use his words to their ends.

But there's a time and place for everything. Now is not the time to articulate these questions about John Paul II. If only because Benedict XVI stands high on his actions and words alone - he does not need to be propped at the expense of his predecessor.

I have been a fan of Spengler/Goldman since I first saw his articles about Benedict XVI in 2005, but I definitely do not agree with him in giving 'Three cheers' for Douthat's denunciation of John Paul II - for the reasons I give above. Anyway, Goldman leaves that behind to go on to Benedict XVI.... about whom he always has some fresh insight to add:

A Jewish defense of Benedict XVI
by David P. Goldman
Monday, April 12, 2010, 12:25 PM

Three cheers for Ross Douthat’s spirited defense of Benedict XVI as the uncharismatic successor who had to clean a set of messes left by his great predecessor John Paul II. Douthat writes:

[Goldman quotes the passage starting with "…the high-flying John Paul let scandals spread beneath his feet, and the uncharismatic Ratzinger was left to clean them up...." down to "But as unlikely as it seems today, Benedict may yet deserve to be remembered as the better Pope".]

As a non-Catholic, I have admired Joseph Ratzinger for thirty years —first because of his impassioned defense of Western classical music (in 1985 he was generous enough to comment on a manuscript I had sent him of a study of Nicholas of Cusa and music theory, later published in the Vatican’s music journal).

When his 1986 interview book The Salt of the Earth appeared in German, I read about it in Der Spiegel between flights at the Tokyo airport, and was gobsmacked: there was a Prince of the Church warning that “we might have to bid farewell to the concept of a popular Church” in an era of faithlessness. That showed real guts.

Then there was the Regensburg speech in September 2006, with its bold critique of Islam. And finally — closest to my heart — is the fact that Joseph Ratzinger “is the first Pope since St. Peter to read the Gospels as Hebrew documents,” in the words of the Bonn University theologian Karl-Heinz Menke, writing last year in the German-language edition of Communio.

As Assaf Sagiv wrote in Azure magazine, Benedict XVI is in some respects the best friend the Jews ever have had at the Vatican.

Jews have had reason to have had mixed (and sometimes hostile) feelings towards the Vatican over the centuries, but we should wish this Catholic philo-Semite success and pray for his good health. And as I wrote March 26 on the Spengler blog,

There’s something ugly in the air. The two central institutions of the West are the Throne of St. Peter and the Oval Office. That is not an exaggeration, for the Catholic model in Europe and the American model are the two modes of life that the West has developed.

When Catholic universal empire failed with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, and was buried by Napoleon, the United States emerged as an alternative model; the non-ethnic nation founded on Christian principles albeit without an explicit tie to a particular Christian confession.

For the first time in history the barbarians have breached the citadel; to have Barack Obama in the White House is the cultural equivalent of electing Madonna to the papacy. America, the source of a civil religion that held together the world’s only remaining superpower, is committed to its own self-demolition. Nihilists around the world are in a triumphant mood and believe that it is time to mop up the remnants of their enemies everywhere.

As an outsider, one observation regarding John Paul II and Benedict XVI seems relevant. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism, to which JPII contributed so much, the Pope believed that the re-evangelization of Europe was imminent.

Without the dead hand of Soviet totalitarianism and the ever-present threat of nuclear war, Europe’s spiritual disease would find remission. Many people thought so; I thought so, too, and said so in print in 1989.

JPII came from the Polish Church which had led the resistance against Russian oppression, and took his message to the world with boundless confidence, allowing the details to take care of themselves.

But it was not to be. JPII was a fisher of men, I wrote some years ago, but sadly, it was catch-and-release. Poles still go to Mass, but their fertility rate is lower than Germany’s, and on the present trend-line Poland will cease to be a viable nation early in the second half of this century. Europe’s spiritual malaise seems fatal.

And it was Benedict XVI who in 1996 foresaw that his predecessor’s hopes — all of our hopes — might be in vain. “Vielleicht müssen wir von den volkskirchlichen Ideen Abschied nehmen,” he told Peter Seewald – perhaps we must take leave of the ideas of the popular Church.

Perhaps we stand before an epoch of Church history of a different sort, in which Christianity will stand under the sign of the mustard seed, in apparently insignificant, narrow groups, which nonetheless live intensively in opposition to evil and bring good into the world.”

Europe’s evolution was worse than even Benedict’s pessimism foresaw —barely 4 percent of German Catholics attend Church regularly — although the evangelization of the Global South puts another light on the matter.

The prestige and drawing power of the Catholic Church in Germany is so reduced that Der Spiegel feels empowered to try to take down a German Pope. If the cultural left succeeds, the sum of good in the world will shrink.

Well, they won't take him down, Mr. Goldman!

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The Papal itinerary and routes
Times of Malta
April 12, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Malta on Saturday at 5 p.m. on his first visit to Malta and the third by a Pope since 1989.

Pope Benedict has already established a link with Malta, having canonised Dun Gorg Preca in Rome, after he was beatified by Pope John Paul II during his second visit to Malta.

The following is the programme of the Pope's two days in Malta and the routes to be taken by the Pope. The Popemobile will not stop as it takes the Pope to his various engagements.

Saturday, April 17.

5 p.m. Pope arrives at Malta International Airport.

- Salute by the Guard of Honour

- Welcoming Address by President George Abela.

- Address by Pope Benedict.

5.45 p.m. Pope Benedict leaves the airport for Valletta. He will be driven through Gudja, Luqa, Marsa, Blata l-Bajda, Floriana and Valletta.

6 p.m. Pope is driven into Valletta through Republic Street.

6.16 p.m. Pope arrives at the President's Palace, Valletta.

7.15 p.m. Pope leaves the Palace Valletta for St Paul's Grotto, Rabat, following this route: Valletta, Floriana, Pieta', Msida, Gzira, Sliema, St Julians, San Gwann, Naxxar, Mosta and Rabat.

7.45 p.m. Pope Benedict meets Maltese missionaries at St Paul's Church, Rabat and prays in St Paul's grotto.

The Pope will then appear on the parvis of St Paul's Church.

- Address by Archbishop Paul Cremona

- Address by Pope Benedict.

8.15 p.m. Pope Benedict goes to the Apostolic Nunciature at Tal-Virtu', where he will be staying.

Sunday April 18.

9.15 a.m. Pope leaves the Apostolic Nunciature in Rabat for the Granaries using the following route: Rabat, Attard, Balzan, Birkirkara, Fleur-de-Lys, Sta Venera, Hamrun, Blata l-Bajda and Floriana.

9.35 a.m. Pope Benedict arrives at the Granaries, Floriana. He will be driven through the crowd to St Publius Church.

10 a.m. Pope celebrates Mass on the Granaries.

12.10 p.m. Regina Coeli.

12.20 p.m. The Pope leaves the Granaries for Rabat in a closed car.

4.15 p.m. The Pope leaves the Apostolic Nunciature for Kalkara along Rabat, Zebbug, Qormi, Marsa, Paola, Fgura, Cospicua, Vittoriosa, Kalkara.

4.35 p.m. Pope Benedict arrives at Kalkara and boards a catamaran to cross the harbour for Valletta Waterfront.

5.15 p.m. Pope Benedict arrives at Valletta Waterfront for a meeting with young people.

There will be a concert by local bands starting at 2.30 p.m.

After the Pope arrives there will be an address by the Bishop of Gozo, Mgr Mario Grech, followed by dialogue with those present and replies by the Pope.

6.15 p.m. The Pope leaves Valletta Waterfront for the airport. He will be driven through Valletta, Floriana, Blata l-Bajda, Marsa, Tal-Barrani, Ghaxaq and Gudja.

6.40 p.m. Departure ceremony at Malta International Airport.

-Salute by the Guard of Honour.

- Address by President George Abela.

- Address by Pope Benedict.

7.10 p.m. - Pope departs.



The Archdiocese of Malta has released a message from Cardinal Bertone for the people of Malta before the Pope's visit. A video has also been shown on Maltese TV.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Holy Father is greatly looking forward to his Apostolic Visit to the Maltese Islands, due to take place from 17 to 18 April, 2010. He greets all of you in the joy of the Risen Lord and he invokes upon you the abundant blessings that flow from Christ’s conquest of sin and death and his triumphant entry into life.

In the days of preparation that remain, His Holiness asks you to pray that his Visit will be a time of spiritual renewal for the whole Church in Malta and Gozo.

Just as Peter was invited by the Lord to confirm his brethren in their faith (cf. Lk 22:32), so now the Successor of Peter comes among you to strengthen you in your commitment to follow Jesus Christ.

Malta has remained staunchly faithful to Christ over many centuries, and has done much to defend the faith, both at home and abroad. You may be proud of your Christian heritage, proud of the witness of many generations of Maltese Catholics who have lived out their faith with exemplary devotion, and proud of the apostolic fervour with which countless men and women from your islands have engaged in missionary activity, bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to distant shores.

The Holy Father knows how much you are attached to your great heritage, and he invites you to deepen this attachment as a living reality and as a truth that is always relevant, notwithstanding the fact that, in today’s society, this carries the risk of being opposed, ignored or forgotten.

Malta speaks with assurance of the need to defend the sanctity of marriage, the centrality of the family for a healthy society, and the need to protect the dignity of human life from conception to natural death.

Malta knows how to care for the weaker and more vulnerable members of society, including the unborn, not least of all because she places such value on family life, which is the “first and indispensible teacher of peace” and of the virtues needed to maintain it (Message for the 2008 World Day of Peace, 3). The family also teaches us how to live in solidarity in every area of social and civil life. These are the great truths to which Malta can testify with authority and conviction.

At a time when the Maltese people celebrate with particular joy the 1950th anniversary of Saint Paul’s arrival on their shores, the Holy Father commends all of you to the intercession of that great apostle and missionary, who tirelessly proclaimed the good news of the crucified and risen Lord to the people of the Mediterranean.

And in this year when the universal Church is celebrating a Year for Priests, he urges you in particular to value the great gift of the priesthood and to support and pray for your priests, so that they may grow in gratitude to God and in fidelity and enthusiasm for the ministry.

He commends them and he commends all of you to the intercession of an outstanding Maltese priest, Saint Ġorġ Preca, to whom, in a special way, he entrusts his forthcoming Visit.

And finally, he asks the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, venerated with particular devotion at your National Shrine of Ta’ Pinu, to look down in love upon all the people of Malta and Gozo and to intercede for them with the One she was privileged to bear in her womb, the Saviour of the Word.

With these sentiments, His Holiness cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing to all the people of Malta and Gozo,as a pledge of joy and peace in the Risen Lord. Il-Mulej ibierek lill-poplu kollu ta’ Malta u ta’ Għawdex!

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Secretary of State

From the Vatican, 31 March 2010

Archbishop to meet victims
of alleged child abuse

April 12, 2010

Archbishop Paul Cremona has accepted to meet a group of men who allegedly suffered child abuse while they were resident at St Joseph Institute in Sta Venera.

The Curia said the Archbishop had agreed to meet the men without prejudice to the proceedings which are still ongoing in the Civil Courts and the Church's Response Team.

The group earlier today called for closed meetings with Pope Benedict, Archbishop Cremona and Mgr Charles Scicluna, the Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

They said at a press conference that they were seeking justice from the church but were not seeking financial compensation.

A number of the men seven years ago instituted court proceedings against three priests. The case proceedings are still under way.

Lawrence Grech, who spoke for the group, said that they welcomed the statement made last week by the Vatican spokesman that the Pope was willing to meet victims of abuse.

"We are asking to meet the Pope for a few minutes to help us heal and to overcome this trauma," he said.

The group is also asking the Pope to condemn child abuse cases by members of the clergy in Malta.

Mr Grech said the members of the group did not intend to protest during the Pope's visit to Malta and they condemned the vandalism made on the billboards of the Papal visit.

They said they had nothing against the Church or the Pope, but wanted justice.

Broadcaster Lou Bondi, who helped in the organisation of the press conference after having featured these cases in his TV programme some years ago, such that the priests allegedly involved in these cases were no longer exercising their ministry in public.

He appealed to the court to conclude the pending court case as soon as possible.

The group is made up of 11 men, including one who joined with fresh allegations only recently.

Security beefed up
at Apostolic Nunciature

by David Schembri

Tal-Virtù Street, in Rabat will be one of the holiest - and guarded - roads in Malta on the night of April 17 as Pope Benedict is set to reside there.

The road, which hosts the Archbishop's Seminary, a convent and the place where the Pope will sleep, is being tidied up for the Pontiff with a fresh tarmac surface.

On the side of the road, freshly-drilled holes will support the poles which will see about 20 flags flying high on the day, providing a perfect photo opportunity with a panorama of Malta in the background.

But the Nunciature is also beefing up security.

Sources said the Nunciature had been planning the security system since 2008, and the Pope's visit only meant that, instead of being carried out as planned in July, the works are taking place now.

In fact, the system would barely be needed because the place would still be heavily guarded by the police.

The building has 11 surveillance cameras perched atop a ledge. It seems that couples in their cars often annoy those living there over the weekend, so two larger cameras are trained on that particular spot.

For a family living just across the street from the Apostolic Nunciature, this won't be the first time the head of the Catholic Church will be their neighbour.

"We're doing a lot of maintenance work, which had to be done some time or another; the Pope's visit gave us a good excuse to get cracking," the elderly couple admitted.

"Last time, they wouldn't let us go on our roof for security reasons," the woman explained. "This time, it shouldn't be a problem with all the cameras they have.

"They're very good neighbours though. We get on well," the woman said.

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Tuesday, April 13
ST. MARTIN I (b Italy ?, d Crimea, 655), Pope and Martyr
The last of the martyr Popes, he had been the papal legate to Constantinople before he was elected Pope in 649 at a time when the Patriarch of Constantinople was more powerful than the Bishop of Rome. However, he was elected without the approval of the Byzantine court. He immediately called a Council at the Lateran to affirm orthodox Catholic teaching against the heretical Monothelites who claimed Christ only had a divine will. This angered the Byzantine emperor who had ordered that the subject not be discussed at all. He sent his soldiers to Rome to bring Martin to Constantinople, where he was jailed and subjected to all sorts of indignities. He was condemned for treason without being allowed to defend himself, then exiled to the Crimea where he spent at least two years of extreme deprivation and isolation until he died. He is remembered for having asserted the right of the Church to proclaim its doctrine in the face of imperial opposition.
Readings for today's Mass:

OR for 4/12-4/13:
At the 'Regina caeli' prayers in Castel Gandolfo, the Pope calls on priests to make Christ familiar to everyone:
'The Church brings God's mercy to all'
He offered condolence and prayers for the tragedy that took the life of Poland's President, his wife, and dozens of Polish officials. Other Page 1 stories: Poland's national mourning; and the nuclear security summit of 46 nations called by Obama in Washington, DC, on how to keep terrorists from getting hold of nuclear weapons. In teh inside pages, Cardinal Bertone's final day in Chile after an 8-day visit.

No events scheduled for the Holy Father today.

Vatican announces members
of Medjugorje Commission


A communique from the Vatican Press Office today said:

The international commission appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to investigate alleged Marian apparitions in Medjugorje held its first meeting on March 26.

The commission, presided over by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Emeritus Vicar of the Holy Father for the Diocese of Rome, has the folowing members:

- Cardinal Jozef Tomko, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
- Cardinal Vinko Puljic, Archbishop of Vrhbosna, and president of the Bishops' Conference of Bosnia-Herzegovina
- Cardinal Josip Bozanic, Archbishop of Zagreb and vice-president of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences
Cardinal Julian Herranz, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
- Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
- Msgr. Tony Anatrella, psychoanalyst and specialist in Social Psychiatry
- Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, professor of Fundamental Theology at the Theological Faculty of Northern Italy
- Fr. David Maria Jaeger, O.F.M., consultant to the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
- Fr. Zdzislaw Jozef Kijas, O.F.M. Conv., relator of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
- Fr. Salvatore M. Perrella, O.S.M., teacher of Mariology at the Pontifical Marianum Faculty of Theology
- Franjo Topic, professor of Fundamental Theology in Sarajevo
- Fr. Mijo Nikic, S.J., professor of Psychology and Psychology of Religion at the Philosophical and Theological Institute of the Society of Jesus in Zagreb
- Fr. Mihaly Szentmartoni, S.J., professor of Spirituality at the Pontifical Gregorian University and
- Sr. Veronica Nela Gaspar, professor of Theology at Rijeka.

Fr. Achim Schutz, professor of Theological Anthropology at the Pontifical Lateran University, who will serve as secretary of the Commission, assisted by secretary. Msgr. Krzysztof Nykiel, an officer of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

As previously annou7nced, the work of the Commission will take place in strict privacy. Its findings and conclusions will be submitted to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

NB: Absent from the Comission is Mons Ratko Peric, Bishop of Mostar, the diocese where Medjugorje is located.

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I had just started to sort three items from BILD, the German tabloid which started yesterday a 'WIR SIND PAPST' series to mark the fifth anniversary of a German Pope - today's item is the interview with Mons. Gaenswein, part of which the AP quotes in the article below, in rather awkward translation, which may lead to a wrong impression. I am posting the article for now. The entire Gaenswein interview is an excellent and most unexceptionable one, but I am afraid the statements as reported here by AP will be picked up by everyone and twisted to say 'Pope's secretary blames bishops'....

The two other BILD articles to translate are the first article in the series, published yesterday, about the BILD team's visit to Castel Gandolfo last week and the General Audience in St. Peter's, with some interesting pictures (like the Pope visiting the cattle barn in Castel Gandolfo), plus BILD's announcement of a special jubilee picture book published by Herder and edited by Mons. Gaenswein with 200 photographs of the first five years of Benedict's Pontificate....


Pope's private secretary defends
Benedict's 'silence' on abuse cases

[IMG] [/IMG]

BERLIN, April 13 (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI's private secretary on Tuesday defended the Holy Father's prolonged silence on the flood of sexual abuse cases in Germany's Roman Catholic Church — some of them in Benedict's own former diocese — saying it is the bishops' responsibility to deal with them.

[This 'prolonged silence' is, of course, one of those media shibboleths that they have now enshrined into myth and convenient shorthand intended to be an ignominious tag, deliberately evoking the supposed 'silence' over the Jews imputed to Pius XII since Rolf Hocchuth's The Deputy in the early 1960s.

They started using this term barely a week after the Pope's historic, unprecedented and comprehensive statement over this whole issue in his letter to the Catholics of Ireland. From the moment the New York Times and AP came out with the stories seeking to link him directly to previous sexual abuse cases.

As for 'some'cases in 'Benedict's own former diocese', have we heard of anything other than the case they have tried to hang on him like a dead albatross??? The cases in Ettal monastery, as this article itself acknowledges later below, did not involve diocesan priests but Benedictines, who as a religious order are under their own order's authority, not under the diocese.]

"It does not make sense, nor is it helpful, for the Holy Father to comment personally on each case," the Monsignor Georg Gaenswein told the daily Bild.

"It is overlooked too fast that various bishops and bishops conferences carry responsibility," he was quoted as saying in an interview that ran in Germany's highest-circulation newspaper.

"Criticism that helps the cause is always legitimate," he was quoted as saying. "But I doubt that in this case the criticism really follows this purpose."

Gaenswein said each case of sexual abuse must be condemned, and "no one has done so as strongly as the Holy Father and the Catholic Church."

Over the past three months, hundreds of cases of sexual and physical abuse have shaken Germany's church, including some in the Munich archdiocese where Benedict, then Joseph Ratzinger, served as archbishop from 1977-1982.

Ratzinger in 1980 approved of a known pedophile priest's transfer from the northern city of Essen to Munich where he was to undergo therapy but was allowed to return to ministry and was later convicted of molesting children.

Also in the Munich diocese, children at the Benedictine Ettal Monastery boarding school were physically and sexually abused for years, according to a special report.

"My research has shown clearly that, over the decades in the Ettal Monastery up until about 1990, children and youths were brutally abused, sadistically tortured and also sexually abused," special investigator Thomas Pfister said in a statement Monday night.

Pfister's report has not been officially released, but some information has trickled out.

About 100 former students of the monastery school claim to be abused by about 15 monks, the weekly "Focus" reported.

Pfister talked to the former students as well as to monks, and he analyzed about 75 written reports, "Focus" said.

"These reports dealt with crimes so horrible that I could not fall asleep at night," the magazine quoted Pfister as saying.

In the official statement released by the monastery and the archdiocese, Pfister stressed that the abuse happened decades ago and that "the Ettal Monastery today can not be compared with the Ettal Monastery then."

Pfister said his report summing up research he began in late February is 10 pages long, with a 173-page addendum of victim statements. He said the material confirms preliminary results he handed over March 5.

In February about 20 alumni of the school came forward with abuse allegations.

The report was handed to officials from the Benedictine order that runs the school and to the Munich archdiocese, which has no official jurisdiction over the order. Both have not commented yet on specifics.

But the Munich vicar general Peter Beer and the interim administrator of the Benedictine monastery, Emmeram Walter, in the statement thanked Pfister for his work.

"The report confronts us with a painful side of our past," Walter said.

"It is an important element of coming to terms with this and our main goal is to help the victims," he said.

Here is my translation of Mons. Gaenswein's full answer from which AP took the statement it reported - and the question that prompted it:

Is the Holy Father aware of the criticisms in Germany that he has been silent on actual ['aktuellen' - in the sense of 'now', 'current') cases of sexual abuse by priests? [In fact, none of the cases from Germany are new - only that many of them have been uncovered for the first time.]
Criticism when it actually helps is always right. I doubt, however, that the critics in this case have really had this intention. One thing is definite: Every single case of sexual abuse is monstrous and must be condemned. No one has made that more clear than the Holy Father and the Catholic Church. Not just recently, and not just in words!

Benedict XVI has met with some victims in America and in Australia. The recent letter of the Pope to the Catholics of Ireland has stated his position on this issue very clearly, in a way that has never been done.

It does not make sense nor does it help that the Holy Father should say something himself about every case. It is too easily overlooked that in these cases, individual bishops and their bishops' conferences also bear responsibility. There are clear jurisdictions that must be taken into account and respected.

Anyone who wants to hear what the Pope has to say [on this issue] should read his detailed pastoral leter to the Irish very attentively.

For the casual reader, it must be pointed out that Mons. Gaenswein holds a Doctorate in Canon Law and was professor of Canon Law at the Pontifical University of Santa Croce in Rome before he came to work for the Roman Curia.


You've probably read elsewhere and seen pictures of what vandals dd to some of the billboards in Malta annpuncing the Pope's visit. Now, here's something similar... Expect copycat offenses elsewhere...

Pope's birthplace hit with obscene graffiti
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MARKTL-AM-INN, April 13 (AP) - Police say the house in southern Germany where Pope Benedict XVI was born has been vandalized with obscene graffiti.

Police said someone found the foot-high (30-centimeter) blue letters early Tuesday on the wall over the door of the house in the town of Marktl.

Police spokesman Andreas Guske told The Associated Press authorities will not release the exact words but "it was a defaming remark from the realm of the obscene."

He said the words were not specifically directed against the Pope, who has been fiercely criticized recently for his role in a what critics call a church-wide coverup of sexual abuse of children by clerics.

Pastoral assistant Ludwig Raischl told the DAPD news agency that the graffiti was removed after police took samples.

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From what I've seen of BILD online - it always features their very graphic front page - this German daily tabloid is as tawdry, sensation-seeking and scandal-driven as most 'tabloids' are. But since its now iconic WIR SIND PAPST headline on April 20, 2005, to introduce Benedict XVI, urbi et orbi, as it were, it has provided steady coverage of the Pope, not on a daily basis, but on all important occasions and during his trips abroad. The coverages I have seen are always respectful and never critical.

I have not had a chance to see how it has reported the current feeding frenzy, but I don't think any other German secular publication has thought of devoting special attention to the fifth anniversary of Benedict XVI's Pontificate, so I am grateful to them for that.

The interview with Mons. Gaenswein is actually Part 2 of the series, but I have translated it first.

'A gentle Pope, but
rock-firm in what he does'

Interview by Sarah Majorcyzk
Translated from
April 13, 2010

Five years ago, a German was elected to be the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI celebrates five years in office next April 19. BILD visited the Pope in Castel Gandolfo and at the Vatican, for a special series to mark the occasion. In this article, BILD interviews the Pope's private secretary, Mons. Georg Gaenswein, 53.

Left, from the North balcony of the Apostolic Palace at Castel Gandolfo, one can see Rome 25 miles away;
right, Mons. Georg looks towards the Mediterranean, which can be seen from Castel Gandolfo.

Mons. Gaenswein, you have been with the Holy Father almost every day for the past five years. What do you consider the most beautiful moment on your part?
There is a chain of beautiful moments. I especially remember the images from the beginning: the election in the Sistine Chapel and what followed, moving into the Apostolic Palace, the first audiences and trips. So many unforgettable things. And daily, there are beautiful moments.

Are there difficult times as well?
Of course. For me personally, it was a great challenge at the start.
The mass of letters, questions, requests for audience,. invitations, etc. was daunting. It seemed like the whole world was knocking at the door, and I asked myself, how can I cope with this? What should I follow up, what not? I felt like I was in the shower in a cloud of steam and could not find the knob to turn off the water. Then I regained my inner peace, and that is what keeps me going.

Has the Holy Father successfully carried out what he set out to do?
A Pope cannot step in with a prepared program of government to work from. He is, above all, a witness to the faith, the latest in the line of Successors to Peter, and he has his mission set for him. The Pope clearly spelled out that task in his homily at his inanugral Mass: it is about God, about faith in Jesus Christ, about the Church, about man. Faith, hope, charity - the pillars of his Magisterium. That he who believes in Christ is never alone.

The trinity of theological values are like a red thread in everything he has done in the past five years. Therefore, he does not let himself be irritated by any intimidation or criticisms.

Is there a moment that you would consider a defeat?
I would not call it defeat but disappointments. There are such moments, especially when the decisions and statements of the Holy Father are wrongly reported or deliberately distorted. Those times are deeply disappointing and make me feel really bad.

I am thinking for instance about the Williamson case, after the Pope had lifted the excommunication of the four Lefebvrian bishops. It tunrs out one of them was a Holocaust-denier, but that had nothing to do with his excommunication and lifting it. It was an unfortunate coincidence. But the Holy Father's good intention was not only misunderstood - it was completely misrepresented and the occasion was instrumentalized to be used against him.

Is the Holy Father aware of the criticisms in Germany that he has been silent on actual cases of sexual abuse by priests? ['aktuellen'= 'now', 'current'] [In fact, none of the cases from Germany are new - only that many of them have been uncovered for the first time.]
Criticism when it actually helps is always right. I doubt, however, that the critics in this case have really had this intention. One thing is definite: Every single case of sexual abuse is monstrous and must be condemned. No one has made that more clear than the Holy Father and the Catholic Church. Not just recently, and not just in words!

Benedict XVI has met with some victims in America and in Australia. The recent letter of the Pope to the Catholics of Ireland has stated his position on this issue very clearly, in a way that has never been done before

It does not make sense nor does it help that the Holy Father should say something himself about every case. It is too easily overlooked that in these cases, individual bishops and their bishops' conferences also bear responsibility. There are clear jurisdictions that must be taken into account and respected.

Anyone who wants to hear what the Pope has to say [on this issue] should read his detailed pastoral leter to the Irish very attentively.

In Germany, the number of Catholics has been decreasing since the 1970s. Does this bother the Holy Father or must he have an overview of all countries as Pastor of the Universal Church?
Of course, what happens in Germany concerns him, especially in Bavaria. Good or bad. But he is concerned about the present crisis of faith everywhere. On the other hand, he cannot overlook that there are good things happening, that even in Germany, faith still flourishes and grows.

As head of the Church, he meets almost daily with bishops from different countries who report to him what is taking place in their dioceses, and thank God, he does hear many positive things from them.

The bishops from Africa, especially, tell him how the faith is truly flourishing and that there are so many vocations for the priesthood and the religious life. To hear that is very soul-satisfying.

The Holy Father once said that he felt his election as Pope like a guillotine... How does he find his responsibilities?
The guillotine is a very strong image. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had a mainly defensive task - he had to defend and protect the faith, and often had to take hot coals out of the fire.

But as Pope, he has many more possibilities to be proactive. The Holy Father is an excellent teacher, he has the gift of words, he loves to write. He speaks clearly and is easily understood. He is able to fill the heart with his words.

If you had to name three qualities that you treasure most about the Pope, what would they be?
His unsakeable faith, his humble firmness, and his disarming gentleness. His manner is always gentle but ghe is rock-solid in what he does.

You work closely together - do you ever find yourself irritated?
Close collaboration does not lead to bad humor - on the contrary, it helps keep it away. Of course there are moments when the Pope needs a break because of some external reasons. In that case, I try to give him the opportunity to take a breath, as it were, and to keep out any external pressures while he does that.

But I must point out that neither as cardinal nor now as Pope, I have never seen him in a bad mood. In dealing with anyone, he is always very accommodating and kind.

BILD's iconic headline, and the new picture book from Herder to mark the first 5 years of the Benedictine Pontificate.
The book title is BENEDICT XVI, URBI ET ORBI, subtitled 'With the Pope on the go in Rome and in the world', edited by Georg Gaenswein.

His Holiness with 'his' cows, in the Castel Gandolfo dairy.

The Pope arrives at the Vatican heliport for the GA last Wednesday, April 7.

He greets the BILD team afterwards in St. Peter's Square.

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The Pope will meet sex abuse victims
but away from media's glare


Vatican City, April 13 (dpa) - Pope Benedict XVI is willing to continue meeting victims of sexual abuse by priests, but not under media pressure, his spokesman said Tuesday.

Father Federico Lombardi was replying to a question at a Vatican briefing on whether the Pontiff intended to meet abuse victims during his visit to Malta scheduledfor Saturday and Sunday.

The Pontiff's trip is a "short," one Lombardi said, indicating that no meeting with abuse victims was planned.

Benedict, who has met victims during previous trips to the US and Australia, intends to continue the practice, but only in "a climate of meditation and reflection and not under media pressure," Lombardi said.

On Monday a group of Maltese men - who allege they were the victims of child abuse at the hands of priests at an orphanage in the 1980s -called for a meeting with the Pontiff during his visit to the Mediterranean island-nation.

They told a news conference they were seeking justice from the Catholic Church but were not after financial compensation.

Benedict's visit to Malta, his first trip abroad of 2010, comes in the wake of a series of child abuse claims and revelations in Ireland and the US that have rocked the Catholic Church.

Fr. Lombardi said much more about this but I have to translate the Italian reports...

Here's how Reuters reported Fr. Lombardi's briefing. The 'Vatican' in the headline is Fr. Lombardi. This is an annoying, terribly wrong and deliverately misleading media habit most absurdly reflected lately in the media to-do over the past two days of Osservatore Romano's silly glorification of the Beatles last weekend - on a day when the OR carried not a word about the abuse question - which naturally MSM trumpeted as 'Vatican forgives the Beatles', since the MSM routinely equate Mr. Vian's questionable editorial judgments reflected in his OR now, to official 'positions' by 'the Vatican', by which MSM mean indiscriminately the Church, the Holy See and the Pope separately or altogether.

Vatican scoffs at idea
of arresting Pope in Britain

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY, April 13 (Reuters) – The Vatican said on Tuesday Pope Benedict was willing to meet more sexual abuse victims but not under media pressure, and scoffed at calls for the Pope to be arrested when he visits Britain in September.

A lawyer for British author and atheist campaigner Richard Dawkins said in London at the weekend he would try to have Pope Benedict arrested to face questions over accusations the Church covered up cases of sexual abuse of children by priests.

Asked about this at a briefing on the Pope's trip to Malta this weekend, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi scoffed.

"This is a bizarre idea to say the least. It looks like the intent is to make a public opinion splash. I think they should look for something more serious and concrete before we can respond to it," he said.

"The Pope's visit (to Britain) is a visit of state, and so it would be very strange if during a state visit the person who is invited to make a state visit is arrested," he said.

Dawkins, a scientist and outspoken critic of religion [who surrenders every iota of reason and scientific thinking in his absolute hatred of religion], has asked human rights lawyers to examine whether charges could be brought against the Pope during the September 16-19 trip.

The Vatican has rejected accusations the Pope helped to cover up abuse by priests in jobs he held before his election in 2005 and has accused the media of waging a "despicable campaign of defamation" against him.

In Washington, the American Humanist Association, which advocates the rights of non-believers, backed Dawkins's view that the Pope should not have diplomatic immunity as a head of state and called for a "criminal investigation" of the church.

"Religious institutions should not be exempt from such scrutiny just because they are religious, and they should be held accountable for any criminal wrongdoing
," the AHA said in a statement. [Backed up by all their infallible experts on international law, of course!]

The Vatican said last week that Benedict, who travels to Malta on Saturday, would be willing to meet more victims, as he had during his trips to the United States and Australia.

The Pope feels that meetings with victims should take place "in a climate that is intentionally one of reflection, discreet, and not under pressure of the glare of the media, so he can have a real possibility to listen and communicate personally," Lombardi said.

Ten Maltese men who are suing three priests for alleged child abuse have requested a private meeting with the Pope.

Lombardi said he could not say if a meeting would take place. "I am not the one who decides what the Pope does during his trips," Lombardi said, adding that such meetings were not announced in advance but confirmed only after they take place.

A spokesman for the Maltese men said they wanted a meeting "to help us heal and to overcome this trauma".

So far, the Pope has not spoken out directly on the new wave of sexual abuse allegations that is besetting the Church in a number of countries, including the United States, Italy and his native Germany. He last spoke about it in a letter to the Irish people on March 20.

In Malta, which is about 95 percent Catholic, billboards publicizing the papal visit were daubed last week with images related to sexual abuse.

The crisis over abuse of children by priests shows no sign of abating, with new revelations emerging almost daily and the Vatican scrambling to find a response strategy. [Pullella's wishful thinking not supported by objective fact. What new 'revelations' have come out since the patently rigged-up Kiesle case?]

On Monday the Vatican published an online guide to rules for handling sex abuse charges against priests. [Something that was pre-announced at least a week earlier! That's hardly scrambling.]

It made clear high up that bishops must report crimes to the police, saying that "civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed".

Also on Monday, a new report commissioned by the Church in Germany said children were "sadistically tormented and also sexually abused" at a Catholic monastery in the heavily Catholic Bavaria region.

What exactly is 'the Vatican'
and how does it communicate?

When I decided back in 2005 that I wanted to 'follow' very closely the Pontificate of Benedict XVI, the first thing I did was to set myself straight about certain concepts - what is 'the Vatican' exactly and how does it relate to the Catholic Church and to what is called the Holy See. It's a bit confusing at first, but fairly well-defined.

Which is why I find it both careless and mindless for the MSM, including some Catholics in the US media, to speak of a 'Vatican communications strategy' - because there are separate entities in play, not a single homogeneous one, for the simple reason that 'the Vatican' represents many overlapping entities:

- The Pope generally speaks for himself. Subordinates with the appropriate competence can amplify his statements on the practical level, without attributing direct quotations.
- The Holy See, in the strictest sense, is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, seat of the Bishop of Rome, who is also the Pope.
- The Holy See, as a religious ecclesiastical entity, is the central 'government' of the Church, with the Supreme Pontiff as its head, and speaks through the various Vatican Curial offices on their respective competencies, always by means of formal documents, with the express approval of the Pope.
- The Holy See, as a sovereign state with full statehood under international law, operates from the territory of the State of Vatican City, with the Pope as chief of state, who maintains relations with other states and international organizations through the Secretariat of State.
- The Holy See as a legal person is similar to the Crown in secular monarchies like Britain.
- The state formally called Stato della Citta del Vaticano (SCV), refers to the territory of the Vatican (and its extra-territorial possessions, including its Nunciatures in foreign countries). The state was created by the Lateran Pacts of 1929 precisely to "ensure the absolute and visible independence of the Holy See" and "to guarantee to it an indisputable sovereignty in international affairs". [This is very important these days, in view of the ridiculous Ditchkins-and-Loonies game of 'Arrest the Pope". 'Ditchkins' is some clever person's conflation of Dawkins and Hitchens, the two head loonies.] SCV is administered by a Governatorate as its local government.

Before 1929, the Holy See, represented by the See of Rome, was recognized since medieval times as a sovereign entity. And if we go back to the first See of Rome, under the Apostle Peter, the Holy See is the oldest continuing institution in the world both as a Church and as a sovereign entity.

Father Lombardi speaks for the Holy See headed by the Pope - the official Vatican website is tagged 'Holy See' in all the official Vatican languages, and the press bulletins are clearly labelled 'Bulletin, Press Office of the Holy See'. These statements are generally about the Church Magisterium and affairs of the Universal Church. It also documents the Pope's meetings with international leaders and with ambassadors to the Holy See. And it publishes the texts of important policy declarations made by the diplomatic representatives of the Holy See, especially those to the United Nations and its various agencies,

All other individual statements spoken by Vatican officials, no matter how high-ranking (or issued under their own personal signature) are not official Vatican positions, but personal opinions, and should be reported as such.

In Chile during his current visit, for instance, Cardinal Bertone said he pedophilia in priests was linked to homosexuality, which many in MSM have already jumped upon and presented as the 'Vatican position'!

On his inflight Q&A enroute to Washington DC in 2008, the Holy Father said expressly, "I am talking here about pedophilia, not about homosexuality, which is a different matter".

Obviously, Cardinal Bertone erred in volunteering such a statement - even if he attributed the link with homosexuality to "many experts who have studied the matter".

Meanwhile, on her site, Beatrice reminds her viewers of a 2008 drawing from a German language picture book published on the occasion of the Holy Father's summer vacation in Bressanone... The panel is self explanatory...

A seocnd panel is just as appropriate these days, on the eve of his Malta trip, only it does not reduce well in size for a frieze...

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I came across this article in the local newspaper of Marietta, Georgia - which tells me there are still journalists and editors in the MSM who try against all odds not simply to go with the current. Note that even its 'Fact Box' is an abstract of the CDF guidelines released yesterday. It may be insignificant coming from a small Amrican city newspaper, but maybe there are more out there than we think. God bless them...

This article starts with some enterprise on the part of the paper to find out what its readers think of the absurd demands for the Pope to resign. Yesterday, I did not bother to post an AP report that confronted a fact the Pope's detractors ignore in their reflexive 'demands' that he resign. The bulk of AP's article is used in the second part of this story, and the 'purple prose' in it comes from the AP report.

The Vatican responds to allegations;
area Catholics support the Pope

From staff and wire reports
April 13, 2010


For now, area Catholics support Pope Benedict XVI and think calls for him to resign are unfair.

DeGearld Bailey, 53, of 817 Fourth St., Marietta, is one of those in the pope's corner. Bailey said the Catholic Church could divulge information about sexually abusive priests in a quicker and clearer manner, but he doesn't think the pope should resign since he didn't have anything to do with the cover-up of a sexually abusive priest.

"You can't blame somebody for not knowing something," Bailey said. "I think he's done a good job so far."

The uproar has been caused by reports that, as an archbishop years ago in Germany and later as a Vatican cardinal, Benedict and his aides were slow to defrock abusive priests.

Melissa and Elbert Deskins, of 303 Snearly Drive, Marietta, support the pope.

"My Catholic faith is very important to me and my family," said Melissa Deskins. "We believe in everything the pope has to say. I think it's unfair that they want him to resign."

Elbert Deskins said if Benedict knew about the abuse and actually tried to cover it up, then some repercussions should come his way, whether that's through resigning his post or other means.

"If he participated in the cover-up and knew about these allegations, then yes," Elbert said. "But I don't know that he did."

In the history of the Roman Catholic Church, only a few popes have resigned. For believing Catholics, the pope is more than the chief executive for the worldwide Church. He is the successor to St. Peter and vicar of Christ on earth who is expected to serve until death.

At the Vatican and among many Catholics globally, calls for the Pontiff to resign in the media and from lay people are viewed as a hate-fueled campaign against the entire Church and its theology. According to that outlook, resigning would mean surrendering to public forces who wish to destroy the Church.

This view is particularly strong among observant Catholics in Europe, where society has become increasingly secular and many pews stand nearly empty at Mass.

Popes can resign or be deposed; however, such occurrences are so rare that the idea of a modern-day pontiff stepping down is hard to grasp.

Canon 332:2 of church law states that if a Pontiff resigns, "it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone."

Nicholas Cafardi, a canon lawyer and professor at Duquesne University Law School, who was chairman of the U.S. bishops' child protection board, says the canon is meant to underscore the idea that the Pope alone can decide whether to step down.

Past popes who quit served mostly in the church's first millennium, according to Christopher Bellitto, a church historian at Kean University in New Jersey. Pope Celestine V resigned in 1294, shortly after taking the papal office.

The last time pontiffs resigned or were deposed was during the Great Western Schism of the late 14th and early 15th centuries when three papal lines competed, Bellitto said.

The issue was raised again when Pope John Paul II became increasingly debilitated by Parkinson's disease. Still, John Paul stayed in the job until his death five years ago.

One major worry is that if a Pope retires, it could split the church into factions, with some Catholics following the former pontiff instead of the current man in the job.

"Like those who sit on America's Supreme Court, the appointment is for life," said Bellitto, author of "101 Questions & Answers on the Pope and the Papacy." ''Unlike the justices, papal retirement or resignation is a rare act, indeed."

The most recent claims against Benedict came last Friday, after The Associated Press obtained documents showing that as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vatican's doctrinal orthodoxy office, Benedict had resisted pleas in the 1980s from a California diocese to laicize a priest who had pleaded no contest to lewd conduct for tying up and molesting two boys.

In a 1985 letter, Ratzinger acknowledged the accusations were grave but said laicization required careful study and more time. A U.S.-based attorney for the Vatican, Jeffrey Lena, said the case proceeded swiftly, "not by modern standards, but by those standards at the time."

As the latest crisis over clergy sex abuse erupts across Europe, additional revelations about Benedict's past actions could arise that would undermine his authority and create new pressure for him to step down. However, few analysts believe he would ever quit.

William Portier, an expert on Catholic theology and the Church at the University of Dayton, a Marianist school in Ohio, reflects the views of Catholics who see no reason for Benedict to even consider giving up his post.

Portier said the Church's understanding of sex abuse has moved through phases - from a moral issue that was a matter of confession, to a mental illness that required counseling, to a crime. He said the cases that have become public so far show Benedict acting according to the protocol at the time.

"No one wants to hear that," Portier said. "It's possible in principle for the Pope to resign, but I don't see any reason that's serious enough that would make him resign."

From the US Catholic bishops' conference site:

U.S. bishops post their own
guide-at-a-glance to show
efforts for child protection


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This is one of those 'major articles' that I put aside to translate when I have the time, and I finally finished it. The real title of the article is 'Liturgical reform and the Catholic Church', but since the issue appeared on Good Friday, the Jewish angle was played up. The interview is much more than that - it is mainly an appreciation of Benedict XVI and therefore appropriate for the coming fifth anniversary.

Interestingly, in Italian and Spanish, a five-year period is called a 'lustro', lustrum, after the ancient Roman rite Lustratio which was a period of purification and expiation celebrated with rites that all heads of family were required to attend, or they would lose all their privileges until the next Lustratio. The root word 'lustrare' means both to purify and to brighten. So in many ways, it is a great designation for the Holy Father's papal anniversary.

Martin Mosebach, born 1951, studied law but then became a very suffessful writer, one of the most important names in contemporary German literature. He has written novels, , plays, movie scripts and reportage. In 2007, he won the Georg-Buechner Prize, the most prestigious award given to German-writing authors. In 2002, he published a book that later appeared in English as "Heresy of Formlessness", a collection of his essays on the liturgy. written from the point of view of a Catholic writer, in which he argues for a return to the traditional Mass.

'Benedict XVI is no anti-Semite':
A conversation with Martin Mosebach

by Alexander Goerlach
Translated from the German online journal
April 2, 2010


Martin Mosebach is a great admirer of Pope Benedict XVI, particularly for his fight against relativism and his love for traditional Catholic liturgy. The Buechner Prize winner thinks that the old prayer for the conversion of the Jews is as inoffensive as the Pope's rapprochement with the controversial FSSPX.

Personally, how do you assess the five years in which Benedict XVI has been in office?
Benedict XVI has set for himself the most difficult mission. He wants to heal the evil consequences of the ‘Revolution of 1968’ within the Church in a non-revolutionary manner. This Pope is not a papal dictator. He relies on the strength of the better argument and hopes that the nature of the Church will overcome whatever is inappropriate to her character, if some minimal assistance is provided.

His program is so subtle that it can neither be presented in official form nor understood by an almost unimaginably over-simplifying press. It is a program that will show its effects only in the future – and probably only with clarity after the death of the Pope.

But even now we can recognize his courage in seeking to promote reconciliation, beyond the narrow limits of canon law – in China, through the integration of the Patriotic Church, and between the Russian and Greek Orthodox Churches; or by his novel fusion of traditional and enlightened biblical theology that provides a way out of the dead end of rationalistic Biblical criticism.

Should we not think of the cases of sexual abuse in Church institutions, and how do you think the Pope is reacting?
Obviously, the Church must always consider that in her schools and institutions, there may be individual teachers who will take advantage of their pupils. That’s just the way it is. In institutions where children are raised, there are almost always personnel with pedophile inclinations.

But we must ask ourselves why it was that sexual crimes by priests seemed to pile up in the years after Vatican II. We can’t avoid the bitter realization that the experiment of aggiornamento - the attempt to assimilate the Church into the secular world - was a terrible failure.

After Vatican II, most priests gave up their robes, stopped saying daily Mass, stopped praying the breviary [Office of the Hours – psalms and prayers said by priests and religious six times a day]. Post-conciliar theologians did all they could so that the traditional image of the priest would be forgotten. All the institutions which had always helped a priest carry on his difficult and solitary life were called into question.

Why should we be surprised that in those years, many priests were no longer able to think of themselves in the traditional way? The priestly discipline that was deliberately discarded was that which had been very carefully formulated by the Council of Trent. At that time, too, the intention was to resist the corruption of the clergy and to revive the sacredness of the priestly ministry.

It is good that Church leaders should now ask all the victims of abuse for forgiveness, but it is more important to tighten the reins on priestly discipline in the sense of the Council of Trent and to return to the tradition of Catholic priesthood.

What will be the Church that Benedict XVI will leave behind?
One would wish that the Pope will be able to see for himself the first proofs of a healing of the Church. But he is so humble and modest that he would not consider any such signs as the result of his own work. I do think that he wants to spare his successor the thankless but necessary tasks which he is now taking on himself. I hope his successor will avail of the great opportunity that Benedict will have created for him.

You say the liturgical reform (after Vatican II) fundamentally changed the Catholic Church – how?
Pope Paul VI’s changes in the Roman Catholic liturgy that had been handed down through 1500 years have been called a ‘reform’ – actually, it was a revolution, which was not what the Second Vatican Council meant when it authorized a ‘careful’ review of the liturgical books.

Instead, the ‘reform’ reoriented the 2000-year-old celebration, intended to be a worship of God, to be centered on man. It undermined the priestly function itself, and largely obscured the teaching of the Church about the Sacraments.

In the late 1960s, there were many upheavals around the world: the Cultural Revolution in China, the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia; the student unrest here at home; the Vietnam war – and the Second Vatican Council. Can these be considered related?
I think that 1968 is a phenomenon that is still not understood enough. Here in Germany, we love to indulge in happy memories of communes and disputes over the correct reading of Marx. In fact, 1968 was a pivotal year in history, with seemingly independent anti-traditionalist movements around the world. But I am convinced that one day, when we are detached enough, the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the liturgical overturn in the Roman Catholic Church will be seen to be closely related.

Pope Benedict XVI, as a council theologian, took part in the Council. What do you think now of his commitment to revive some liturgical elements of the ‘pre-conciliar’ Church?
Benedict XVI sees it as one of his main tasks to make the essence of the Church once again clearly visible – for Catholics, and also for non-Catholics. He knows that the Church is indissolubly bound to her Tradition. Church and Revolution are irreconcilable contradictions. Therefore, he is trying to intervene in those areas where the image of the Church has been distorted by a radical break with the past.

The Church, like its founder, has two natures – one is historical the other timeless. She must not forget where she came from, nor where she is going. That is why the Church in the West finds itself in particular difficulty today: she does not have a sense of her historical evolution nor of her eternal life.

The [Good Friday] prayer for the conversion of the Jews which was in use until Vatican II has been revived with the liberalization of the traditional Mass. Was that a right step?
The re-authorization of the liturgy which was suppressed – often rather forcibly - under Paul VI also brought back to the liturgy of Good Friday the prayer for the conversion of the Jews which dates to early Christianity. This prayer, which was based on a formulation by the Apostle Paul, included the expression that God might free the Jews from their ‘blindness’ and “lift the veil from their hearts”.

Because of recent history with the Jews, the Pope thought that the ancient formulation could be misunderstood as an expression of condescension to the Jews, and so when the traditional Mass was re-authorized, he made a new formulation that still asks God to lead the Jews to Jesus Christ, but without any sense of dis-esteem. The Pope has been attacked because the prayer still implies that the Jews need to be converted – but how can such an intention be banned from the Church of Petere and Paul, who were both Jews?

How do you assess the relationship of Benedict XVI to the Jews and to Israel?
Benedict XVI is probably the first Pope since Peter to understand how closely Christianity derived from Judaism. His book on Jesus shows in many ample stretches his attempt to read the New Testament through the eyes of the Old Testatment.

This Pope’s relationship to Judaism is not superficial or political, much less is it mere sympathy because of a modern philo-Semitism, but it is theological and deeply rooted in faith. Sometimes, one has the impression that if Benedict were not a Christian, he would be Jewish. To accuse this Pope of anti-Semitism betrays ignorance and incompetence that should not be allowed in public discourse.

The controversy surrounding the Fraternity of St. Pius X has so far not brought the Vatican any visible results. What do you think this group can bring to the Church besides their love for the traditional liturgy?
'Other than the traditional liturgy'? What is more important for the Church than the liturgy? It is the body of the Church – it is the faith made visible.

When the liturgy goes wrong, so does the entire Church. And that is not just a mere hypothesis – it is a description of what is happening. One cannot present it strongly enough: The crisis in the Church made it possible for her greatest treasure, her Arcanum, to be swept aside. [Cardinal Ratzinger saw it otherwise: it was downgrading the liturgy that led to the crisis in the Church.]

The FSSPX, above all their founder, Archbishop Lefebvre, deserve the historical merit of having preserved this most important asset for decades and to keep it alive. That is why the Church owes the FSSPX gratitude, and because of this, she must also concern herself with leading them out of all sorts of confusion and radicalization.

But the FSSPX do not really seem to be ‘Rome-bound’…
The discussions with the FSSPX require the patient work of persuasion, which is necessary in all spiritual work. The discussions appear to be taking place in a very good atmosphere. And if one day the FSSPX will return to full communion with the Church, then it will be a success for the Pontificate of Benedict XVI, one whose significance will go far beyond the number of that community.

Christianity is one of the foundation pillars of Europe. Will it still be relevant to the continent in the future?
Christianity is the foundation of Europe – I don’t see anything else. All the intellectual movements of modern times, even when they are against Christianity, owe their origins to it. Europe also received ancient philosophy and art through Christianity.

If European society turns away completely from Christianity, then it only means that she is rejecting herself. Whether you acknowledge it or not, it is there. Repressing it is not a foundation for a hopeful future.

You were in Turkey for some time. If it becomes a full member of the European Union, would Turkey enrich it, or will it be difficult to integrate a Muslim country into the system of Western values?
Surely you understand that I cannot give you a politically or popularly correct answer. All I can see is that in the 20th century, Turkey had enormous difficulties with its Christian European minorities - and this was anti-Islamic moderniszing Turkey. Until the 1950s, there was still a Greek-dominated Constantinople (Istanbul), but living together with Christians became insupportable for the modern Turks – and so they put an end to that.

Now, however, they seem to think that for economic reasons, it is worth the effort to draw close to Europe, without revising their internal policy of hostility to Christians. I think we are very far from what you call "integration into the value system of the West”.

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The Pope's trip to Malta:
In the sign of St. Paul and
of Christian traditions

Translated from
the Italian service of

April 13, 2010

Vatican press director Fr. Federico Lombardi in a briefing Tuesday on the Pope's coming visit to Malta on April 17-18 said it was a trip in the sign of St. Paul, commemorating the 1950th anniversary of his shipwreck off Malta, where he then preached for three months before proceeding to Rome. This will be the 14th trip abroad for Benedict XVI. Alessandro Gisotti reports:

The issue of immigration, the firm Christian roots of the Maltese people, the challenges of secularization: these will be some of the themes that Pope Benedict XVI will speak about during his apostolic visit to Malta.

In his briefing on the trip, Fr. Lombardi underscored its Pauline significance, since the occasion for it is the 1950th anniversary of the Malta episode in the life of the Apostle of the Gentiles.

After reviewing the main events of the visit - prayer at St. Paul's Grotto in Rabat, Mass in Floriana, and the meeting with the youth in La Valletta wharf - Fr. Lombardi answered newsmen's questions.

First, of all, he said, he can neither announce nor rule out a meeting between the Pope and a group sexual abuse victims. He recalled how similar meetings had taken place previously:

"The Pope, as you know from past experience, has met some victims, but in an atmosphere, intentionally, of discretion and solemnity, without any media pressure, to provide an occasion for listening and for interpersonal communication. The trip is rather brief and the program is intensive."

To a question on the atmosphere in the Vatican these days in the light of the media focus on the sex abuse scandal, he said:

"If you are asking whether the Vatican feels it is under siege, I will say: I don't feel besieged and I have never taken that attitude".

He then pointed to the publication of the "Guide to understanding the procedures of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with regard to abuses committed by members of the clergy":

"It is a normal procedure in the process of dialog, and it comes by way of an answer. Clarifications have been demanded, and it is useful to make them, if only to enable a more effective understanding of a situation that is often confused by an accummulation of diverse questions and statements."

Fr. Lombardi said that preparations for the trip to Malta have been going along well and called on the newsmen to consider any possible demonstrations against the Pope as minority protests.

He said the Pope would speak English during the trip, but will say a few words in Maltese, in which he is being helped by his other private secretary, Mons. Alfred Xuereb, who comes from Malta.

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Apparently, AP has not 'uncovered' any new skeletons they can put to Benedict XVI's account for now, so it does its best negative spin with a story like the following. Until otherwise proven, I continue to consider AP reporting on the Pope and the Vatican tainted, hence the purple throughout.

Vatican goes into damage control mode

VATICAN CITY April 14, 2010 (AP) - The Vatican has gone into full-fledged damage control mode in the priest sex abuse scandal ahead of the Pope's first foreign trip since it erupted. Officials are promising surprising new initiatives. The Pope's personal secretary is speaking out. And bishops around the world are being told to report abuse cases to the police.

The revved-up strategy comes as the Vatican tries to stem the damage from weeks of revelations about priests who raped and molested children — and the church officials who kept it quiet — before the pontiff's visit to Malta this weekend. Abuse victims on that majority Roman Catholic Mediterranean island are seeking a papal audience and apology.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi declined Tuesday to confirm whether Benedict would meet with victims, but didn't rule it out. The pope is prepared to meet with victims, Lombardi said, but "in a climate of meditation and reflection, not under media pressures."

Before previous foreign trips, Lombardi has declined to confirm meetings with abuse victims until after they were held.

The Vatican has been reeling for weeks since reports surfaced that Benedict — when known as Joseph Ratzinger and served as archbishop in Munich from 1977-82 — approved therapy for a pedophile priest who was allowed to do pastoral work. The priest was later convicted of molesting boys. Since then, hundreds of people have come forward with abuse accusations in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, and old cases with connections to Rome and the pope himself have come to light in the United States.

Initially, the Vatican responded defensively, with Vatican officials and cardinals accusing the media, the Masons, pro-abortion rights and pro-gay marriage supporters for plotting attacks against the pope. Recently, the Vatican has shifted course, still complaining about an anti-Catholic campaign but also promising more transparency and taking initiatives to at least give an impression that change is afoot.

Lombardi said new initiatives were being studied, including more papal meetings with victims as well as a "deepening of the measures of prevention and response" to abuse. He declined to elaborate. But victims groups have long complained that the Vatican has never issued any universal norms instructing bishops on the pastoral care they should provide for victims or prevention strategies to make sure pedophiles aren't admitted into the priesthood in the first place.

On Monday during a trip to Chile, the Vatican's No. 2 official, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said he believed the pope would take further initiatives "which won't fail to surprise us." He declined to elaborate.

Benedict's personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, spoke out Tuesday for the first time since the scandal broke, defending the pope's prolonged silence on the German cases and charging that Benedict had done more than anyone else to crack down on abuse.

"It does not make sense, nor is it helpful, for the Holy Father to comment personally on each case," he told the daily Bild, Germany's highest-circulation newspaper. "It is overlooked too fast that various bishops and bishops conferences carry responsibility."

The Vatican for weeks has been trying to argue the same — that abusive priests were primarily the responsibility of bishops, not Rome. That strategy has also been employed by the Vatican's lawyers in the U.S. who are trying to shield the Holy See from lawsuits alleging it was liable for the failure of bishops to report abuse cases to police.

On Monday, the Vatican posted on its Web site what it claimed is a longstanding policy requiring bishops to report abuse to police, where civil laws require it. Such a policy has never before been explicitly spelled out.

Attorney William McMurry, who has sued the Holy See in Louisville, Kentucky, on negligence charges, said posting the policy was nothing more than an attempt by Rome to "deflect attention and responsibility for the past onto the bishops."

"If they always wanted bishops to report, they wouldn't need a black letter policy today," McMurry said.

He has argued that Vatican documents calling for sexual abuse cases to be kept secret and forwarded to Rome were evidence that the Holy See had mandated a cover-up of abuse.

Vatican attorney Jeffrey Lena has said the documents mandated said no such thing and that nothing in them precluded reporting abuse to police.

The posting of the policy nevertheless indicated a strong shift in the Vatican's much-criticized communications strategy. Alongside the policy, which spells out how canonical investigations are conducted, the Vatican has posted key documents and speeches the pontiff has delivered concerning abuse. It has made top officials available to the media. And it has turned to its U.S. lawyer — Lena — to do a lot of its talking.

While it's not clear what prompted the shift in tactics, the Vatican has been keeping a close eye on how the scandal is playing out in the United States and elsewhere, and seems increasingly attuned to the impression it has oftentimes created as an aloof institution that doesn't understand the outrage of victims and their families.

Giovanni Maria Vian, the editor in chief of the Vatican's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, conceded that there had been communications problems in the initial phases of the scandal, and that some comments by Vatican officials seemingly minimizing the scandal or attempting to deflect it hadn't been "prudent."

But he noted: "Let's be clear. Everyone has communications problems."

"One could do better. Sure one could do better. We're trying to do it every day," Vian told reporters at the foreign press association.

The pope, officials say, has remained tranquil despite the storm. He took in a film on Friday night about the wartime Pope Pius XII and continues his post-Easter vacation at the papal summer residence. He remains well-informed about everything going on, Vian said.

If you ask me if the Vatican feels under siege, I say that I do not feel under siege," Lombardi said.

14/04/2010 13.53
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Some time in the past few days, I remarked how ironic it is that the detractors of the Church and the Pope who love to underscore that the CDF used to be the Holy Office that carried out the Inquisition in the Middle Ages do not seem to realize that they are now playing the role of the Inquisition towards the Church and the Pope.... Someone has now articulated this concept very well on a British online journal that prides itself on being
"an independent online phenomenon dedicated to raising the horizons of humanity by waging a culture war of words against misanthropy, priggishness, prejudice, luddism, illiberalism and irrationalism in all their ancient and modern forms. spiked is endorsed by free-thinkers such as John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx, and hated by the narrow-minded such as Torquemada and Stalin. Or it would be, if they were lucky enough to be around to read it".
It is, I think, a seminal essay out of all the media muddle, and even among the strong 'defenses' in favor of the Pope but have really failed to consider the deep and rampant pathology at work behind the Pope-hunting and Church-hating.

The Secular Inquisition
April 13, 2010

The campaign to arrest the Pope is the product of an increasingly desperate secularism, which can only find meaning through ridiculing the religious.

The New Atheist campaign to have Pope Benedict XVI arrested when he visits Britain later this year exposes the deeply disturbing, authoritarian and even Inquisitorial side to today’s campaigning secularism.

There is nothing remotely positive in the demand that British cops lock up the pope and then drag him to some international court on charges of ‘crimes against humanity’. Instead it springs from an increasingly desperate and discombobulated secularism, one which, unable to assert itself positively through Enlightening society and celebrating the achievements of mankind, asserts itself negatively, even repressively, through ridiculing the religious.

Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great, first came up with the idea of arresting the Pope. Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion and generally the Chosen One amongst the New Atheists, has backed the idea ‘wholeheartedly’.

Together they are consulting Geoffrey Robertson, the human rights lawyer, on the legalities and logistics of cornering His Holiness in Britain this September. Numerous columnists are cheering them on, one wildly fantasising that the angelic Hitchens/Dawkins/Robertson trio will wield the sword of justice in the name of all those ‘victims of sacerdotal rape’ and show the whole world that ‘the powerful’ cannot hide from justice.

It’s worth asking why otherwise fairly intelligent thinkers get so dementedly exercised over the Pope and the Catholic Church. What exactly is their beef? What are they objecting to?

Very few (if any) of the Pope-hunters were raised Catholic, so this isn’t about personal vengeance for some perceived slight by a priest or nun. And despite their current lowdown, historically illiterate attempt to equate a priest fondling a child with a state’s attempt to obliterate an entire people – under the collective tag ‘crime against humanity’ – the truth is that some of these Pope-hunters don’t really think child abuse is the worst crime in the world.

In 2006, Dawkins criticised ‘hysteria about paedophilia’ and said that, even though he was the victim of sexual abuse at boarding school, he would defend his abusive former teachers if ‘50 years on they had been hounded by vigilantes or lawyers as no better than child murderers’. Yet now he wants to put abusive priests on a par with genocidaires.

[O'Neill forgets to cite the recent example of 'intellectuals' around the world genuflecting to Roman Polanski and demanding that the United States ignore its criminal laws to spare him any asnwerability for his admitted rape of a minor and subsequent escape from the US justice system by fleeing to Europe!]

Also, while of course one incident of child sexual abuse by a priest is one too many, it simply isn’t the case that the Catholic Church is a vast, institutionalised paedophile ring wrecking the lives of millions of children around the world.

One Pope-hunting columnist describes the Vatican as an ‘international criminal conspiracy to protect child rapists’, yet the facts and figures don’t bear that out. If these anti-Pope crusaders really were interested in justice and equality, there are numerous other, even worse crimes and scandals that they might investigate and interrogate and try to alleviate.

Yet despite the lack of any obvious, sensible reason why they break out in boils at the mention of the words ‘Benedict’, ‘priest’ or ‘Catholic’, the Pope-hunters’ campaign has acquired a powerfully pathological, obsessive and deafeningly shrill character. It is screeching and emotional. It talks about ‘systematic evil’ and discusses the Pope as a ‘leering old villain in a frock’. It uses up almost all the intellectual and physical energies of men and women who consider themselves to be serious thinkers. What is going on here?

The reason this crusade is so hysterical is because it is not really about the Pope at all – it is about the New Atheists themselves. The contemporary Pope-hunting springs from a secularist movement which feels incapable of asserting a sense of purpose or meaning in any positive, human-centred way – as the great atheists of old such as Marx or Darwin might have done – and which instead can only assert itself negatively, in contrast to the ‘evil’ of religion, by posturing against the alleged wickedness of institutionalised faith.

It is the inner emptiness, directionless and soullessness of contemporary secularism – in contrast to earlier, Enlightened and more positive secular movements – which has given birth to the bizarre clamour for the Pope’s head.

Secularism is in crisis. In Enlightened times, progressive secular movements, those which eschewed the guidance of God in favour of relying on mankind to work out what his problems were and how to solve them, were all about having a positive view of humanity. Their vision was both terrifying and extremely liberating: that man alone could master the complexities of life on Earth and improve it for himself and future generations.

Today, however, we live in misanthropic, deeply downbeat times, where mankind is looked upon as a greedy, destructive, unreliable force whose behaviour and thoughts must be governed from without.

Indeed, one of the newspaper writers who cheered on the vengeance of Hitchens and Dawkins against Benedict used the very same column to argue that ‘ecocide’ – otherwise known as mankind’s impact on the planet – should also be made a ‘crime against humanity’.

It perfectly illustrated that it is not faith in humankind that drives today’s ‘muscular secularism’, but something like its opposite: a profound confusion about mankind’s role, a discomfort with the world we inhabit today, a powerful sense of isolation amongst contemporary New Secularists – isolation from other people, from any coherent ideas, from any stand-up system of meaning.

Driven more by doubt and disarray than by a desire to Enlighten, the New Secularists come across as alarmingly intolerant of any system of meaning which, unlike theirs, appears to have some coherence and authority.

This is what drives their war against religion: an instinct for ridiculing those who still, unlike contemporary secularists themselves, have an overarching outlook on life and a strong belief system.

That is really what they find so alien about the Catholic Church in particular – its beliefs, its faith, its hierarchy.

An atheism utterly alienated from the mass of humanity and from any future-oriented vision can only lash out in an extreme and intolerant way against those who still seem to have strong beliefs: the religious, or the ‘deluded ones’, as the New Atheists see it.

As a consequence, their campaign against the Pope really does have the feel of a witch-hunt to it, even, ironically, of the Inquisition itself.

Firstly because, in order to endow their campaign with some logic, the Pope-hunters must vastly exaggerate the scale and impact of the Catholic Church’s crimes against children.

Secondly because they are implicitly seeking to create a policing, repressive climate in relation to what they see as a problematic religion, to the extent that religious leaders might no longer feel free to travel the globe to visit their followers.

And thirdly, and most importantly, because their hunting of the Pope is designed to satisfy themselves, to provide them with a feeling of power and purpose and legitimacy which they cannot secure through their own ideas or vision.

No doubt some will accuse me of ‘defending paedophile priests’ in contrast to the New Atheist campaign on behalf of ‘powerless victims’. In truth, my only concern, as an atheistic libertarian, is with analysing the emergence of a new form of hysterical and repressive atheism.

And the New Atheists are not the first group of people in history to pursue their own, deeply problematic, fearmongering, illiberal agenda under the guise of trying to win justice for ‘the powerless’.

An interesting note, which I will pursue later:

Previously on spiked:
Brendan O’Neill explained why humanists shouldn’t engage in Catholic-bashing. Michael Fitzpatrick discussed the Irish elite’s paradoxical attitude to clerical abuse and said New Atheists like Christopher Hitchen’s should follow the example of Marx and Darwin instead of baiting the devout. Nathalie Rothschild refused to hop aboard the atheist bus and reviewed a book that took a novel approach to New Atheism. Or read more at spiked issue Religion.

And once again, CNA has done a 'job' I would otherwise have done promptly if I were doing this fulltime and if going through the media morass one must nonetheless go through these days has not hampered my ability to translate as much as I would want to...

Veteran Vatican reporter denounces
anti-Catholic media bias


Rome, Italy, Apr 13, 2010 (CNA) - Vatican analyst Andrea Tornielli published a column this week discussing the Associated Press' manipulation of a letter from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger which supposedly “proved” he covered up abuse by a California priest. Tornielli remarked that the media has a new bias: “The-Pope-Must-Be-Guilty.”

The AP article, published last Friday, was based on a letter signed in 1985 by then-Cardinal Ratzinger when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). He was responding to a request by Bishop John Cummins of the Diocese of Oakland, California to remove priestly duties from Fr. Stephen Kiesle. At the time, Fr. Kiesle was accused of molesting two children in 1978.

The AP charged that then-Cardinal Ratzinger “resisted pleas to de-frock the priest.” In the letter, the Holy Father is quoted as saying that the case needed “careful consideration, which necessitates a longer period of time.”

Tornielli wrote: “As has been the case in recent days, the letter was presented as a case of ‘covering-up’ a pedophile priest on the part of the future Pope.”

However, Tornielli continued, a greater scrutiny of the context shows that at the time the Ratzinger-led CDF “did not have jurisdiction over cases of pedophilia and (Cardinal Ratzinger's) letter addresses the issue of laicization and not his trial.” He adds that “Ratzinger asked for more study of the case,” and "two years later, laicization was granted; and there was no cover-up of the guilty party.”

“What is most noteworthy is not that fact that these letters (Ratzinger must have signed many of them during his 23 years at the head of the former Holy Office) are published,” but that they are reprinted “again and again without any verification of context or procedures,” without “looking into the circumstances that would allow whoever is reading them to have a clue.” This is what a “journalist is supposed to do.”

“I myself have made many mistakes in my profession throughout the years, and I don’t take any pleasure in lecturing or giving advice to others,” Tornielli said. “But as a reader, I think we are dealing with a pre-established bias: The-Pope-must-be-guilty (perhaps for this reason they are trying to bring him to court) and it is through this lens that they are seeking out testimony and documents.”

Pope Benedict XVI has been leading the effort to address the sexual abuse crisis in the Church, he added, and it is “obvious” that the recent reports are an attempt to “discredit the moral authority of the Church and the Pope and weaken his message.”

“By this I am not saying we should minimize the scandals that we have all seen,” he added.

In an article for the Italian daily, Il Giornale, Tornielli also pointed out that American attorney Jeff Anderson was behind the AP story. Anderson had previously made known his intention to continue filing lawsuits against the Church and that he has made millions from his efforts thus far.

Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi has not commented on the specifics of the letter, but noted on Friday that "The press office doesn't believe it is necessary to respond to every single document taken out of context regarding particular legal situations.”


I am in no position now to do the research simply because I do not have the time among so many 'priorities' I am trying to set for myself as far as this Forum, but why has no one in the media (at the very least, in the Catholic media) - as far as I have seen - looked back to see how the MSM reported and commented on the US 'sex scandals' when they broke in 2001-2002. I was not particularly following Vatican news at the time but I seem to recall a similar feeding frenzy in the American media that went on for months, and some of it must have been directed at the Pope at the time, John Paul II.

A quantitative and qualitative comparison of that frenzy to the present one would be useful, as it might show how much the present rabid mania, with fangs and claws and poison foaming at the mouth like mad dogs, is driven by media hostility, by itself, to the person of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI.

A columnist early on during this manic-convulsive cycle said the madness was MSM's way of saying 'It's payback time' to someone they had maligned for the better part of two decades but who still 'managed somehow' to be elected Pope... But 'payback' is too paltry a term to describe this all-out vendetta - the kind even the Borgias could never have imagined, the equivalent of an Al-Qaeda aim-to-kill-and-maim order, only much deadlier and much much more malevolent because the assassins are targeting not just persons and an institution but truth itself.

But one cannot expect anything positive from a blindly driven mob on the rampage. Truth is meaningless to them - because ultimately, they are incapable even of common decency, much less of caritas which would and should open them to veritas!

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 14/04/2010 15.09]
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