Meet our newest pontifical member of the unconvicted sexual predator club, Joseph Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict XVI. When not telling us that we are going to hell for being gay or having an abortion, his church covers for priests who rape boys, to which the pontiff responds by writing memos cajoling the leadership and priests to remain silent on it, least they do something moral and decent like turn the child rapists over to law enforcement for some meditative forgiveness from their invisible man behind bars.
Pope under fire for transfer, letter on sex abuse
By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer
VATICAN CITY – Germany's sex abuse scandal has now reached Pope Benedict XVI: His former archdiocese disclosed that while he was archbishop a suspected pedophile priest was transferred to a job where he later abused children.
The pontiff is also under increasing fire for a 2001 Vatican document he later penned instructing bishops to keep such cases secret.
The revelations have put the spotlight on Benedict's handling of abuse claims both when he was archbishop of Munich from 1977-1982 and then the prefect of the Vatican office that deals with such crimes — a position he held until his 2005 election as pope.
And they may lead to further questions about what the pontiff knew about the scope of abuse in his native Germany, when he knew it and what he did about it during his tenure in Munich and quarter-century term at the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Benedict got a firsthand readout of the scandal Friday from the head of the German Bishop's Conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, who reported that the pontiff had expressed "great dismay and deep shock" over the scandal, but encouraged bishops to continue searching for the truth.
Hours later, the Munich archdiocese admitted that it had allowed a priest suspected of having abused a child to return to pastoral work in the 1980s, while Benedict was archbishop. It stressed that the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger didn't know about the transfer and that it had been decided by a lower-ranking official.
The archdiocese said there were no accusations against the chaplain, identified only as H., during his 1980-1982 spell in Munich, where he underwent therapy for suspected "sexual relations with boys." But he then moved to nearby Grafing, where he was suspended in early 1985 following new accusations of sexual abuse. The following year, he was convicted of sexually abusing minors.
The Vatican spokesman, the , issued a statement late Friday noting that the Munich vicar-general who approved the priest's transfer had taken "full responsibility" for the decision, seeking to remove any question about the pontiff's potential responsibility as archbishop at the time.
Victims' advocates weren't persuaded.
"We find it extraordinarily hard to believe that Ratzinger didn't reassign the predator, or know about the reassignment," said , president and founder of SNAP, .
Already, the scandal was inching closer to Benedict after allegations of abuse surfaced at the prestigious choir that was led by his brother, , from 1964 until 1994. Ratzinger has repeatedly said the sexual abuse allegations date from before his tenure as choir director and that he never heard of them, although he acknowledged slapping pupils as punishment.
The pope, meanwhile, continues to be under fire for a 2001 Vatican letter he sent to all bishops advising them that all cases of sexual abuse of minors must be forwarded to his then-office, the , and that the cases were to be subject to pontifical secret.
Germany's justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, has cited the document as evidence that the Vatican created a "wall of silence" around abuse cases that prevented prosecution. Irish bishops have said the document had been "widely misunderstood" by the bishops themselves to mean they shouldn't go to police. And lawyers for abuse victims in the United States have cited the document in arguing that the Catholic Church tried to obstruct justice.
But canon lawyers insisted Friday that there was nothing in the document that would preclude bishops from fulfilling their moral and civic duties of going to police when confronted with a case of child abuse.
They stressed that the document merely concerned procedures for handling the church trial of an accused priest, and that the secrecy required by Rome for that hearing by no means extended to a ban on reporting such crimes to civil authorities.
"Canon law concerning grave crimes ... doesn't in any way interfere with or diminish the obligations of the faithful to civil laws," said Monsignor Davide Cito, a professor of canon law at Rome's Santa Croce University.
The letter doesn't tell bishops to also report the crimes to police.
But the Rev. John Coughlin, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School, said it didn't need to. A general principle of moral theology to which every bishop should adhere is that church officials are obliged to follow civil laws where they live, he said.
Yet Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore in Northern Ireland, told a news conference this week that Irish bishops "widely misinterpreted" the directive and couldn't get a clear reading from Rome on how to proceed.
"One of the difficulties that bishops expressed was the fact that at times it wasn't always possible to get clear guidance from the Holy See and there wasn't always a consistent approach within the different departments," he said.
"Obviously, Rome is aware of this misinterpretation and the harm that this has done, or could potentially do, to the trust that the people have in how the church deals with these matters," he said.
An Irish government-authorized investigation into the scandal and cover up harshly criticized the Vatican for its mixed messages and insistence on secrecy in the 2001 directive and previous Vatican documents on the topic.
"An obligation to secrecy/confidentialtiy on the part of participants in a canonical process could undoubtedly constitute an inhibition on reporting child sexual abuse to the civil authorities or others," it concluded.
In the United States, Dan Shea, an attorney for several victims, has introduced the Ratzinger letter in court as evidence that the church was trying to obstruct justice. He has argued that the church impeded civil reporting by keeping the cases secret and "reserving" them for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
"This is an international criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice," Shea told The Associated Press.
Associated Press reporters Geir Moulson and Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin and Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin contributed to this report.
Sound familiar? It should. My old church also did everything possible to suppress the revelations of the Christian Brothers in Ireland, who the Vatican knew as far back as the 1930s were using their positions of authority over children to molest them. And then there are the scandals of the American church, incited in part by Bernard Law, the ex-bishop of the Boston diocese, who allowed his underlings like Fathers Shanley and Geoghan to rape and molest boys for nearly two decades, switching them from parish to parish (never bothering to inform the parents in those parishes of the kind of animals he was unleashing on their children), and avoided any legal punishment for those crimes of omission when then-Pope John Paul II (at the behest of Law's close friend Mr. Ratzinger) called Bernie back to Rome to be the archpriest of the Basillica, giving him diplomatic protection.
And how did the church reward Bernard Law for his loyalty to this cult? They allowed him to deliver the funeral mass for John Paul II. Think of this little blast from the recent past the next time a member of my old church tries to tell you how to think about reproductive choice, the celibacy rule, contraceptives, gays, or for that matter anything else.
Victims protest against Rome Mass
People who were abused by US Roman Catholic priests held a small protest in Rome against a Mass celebrated by a major figure in the sex abuse scandal.
Two leaders of a victims' support group were escorted from St Peter's Square as they tried to hand out leaflets.
Cardinal Bernard Law - the former archbishop of Boston - is celebrating a Mass of mourning for Pope John Paul II.
He resigned from his Boston post in 2002 after accusations that he covered up sexual abuse of children by priests.
Cardinals have decided not to speak to the press before beginning the conclave to elect a new pope, so Cardinal Law's public appearance is one of few chances to hear an elector speak before the voting begins.
He is celebrating the Mass because he is archpriest of the St Mary Major Basilica, a position the late Pope appointed him to after he left Boston.
More than 100 cardinals met on Monday morning to keep the daily business of the Church running while there is no pope.
Barbara Blaine, founder of the Survivor's Network of the Abused by Priests (SNAP), and colleague Barbara Dorris were moved off the square by police as they distributed leaflets in English and Italian ahead of the Mass.
Neither police officials nor protesters made any immediate comment on the incident.
But Ms Blaine said in a news conference after her arrival in Rome that Cardinal Law's participation in the service was distracting attention from mourning for the Pope.
"We are the sons and daughters of the Catholic family who were raped, sodomised and sexually molested by priests," she said.
Cardinal Law's presence was like "having the sex-abuse scandal in our faces", she added.
James Post, the president of another advocacy group, the Voice of the Faithful, said: "Cardinal Law continues to be the living symbol of the blackish blemish on John Paul II's papacy."
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops and Cardinal Law himself have declined to comment on the affair, though he has apologised for "decisions which led to suffering" and resigned as archbishop in December 2002.
He is eligible to vote for the new pope. Before the scandal, he had been considered a possible future pope - the first US pontiff.
The Boston Archdiocese avoided bankruptcy by agreeing to sell land and buildings for over $100m to fund legal settlements to more than 500 abuse victims.
It should be noted that at the height of the pedophile priest scandals in the American church back in the early 2000s, Joseph Ratzinger, then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (before his ascension), publicly defended Bernard Law and Roger Mahoney (who is still the archbishop of the diocese of Los Angeles) by relativizing the rape of American children and asserting that its reporting in the US was overstated. When Joe finally visited the US as Pope Benedict XVI, he found time to cry some crocodile tears for the children, but like with all else that is the leadership of the Catholic Church to this day he has never recanted his previous statements defending Bernard Law, his prior relativization of the priest molestation of children in the US, and naturally continues to be a close confidant and friend of Mr. Law as he lives out his last years as a priest in good standing in Rome.
It is so easy to be "mortified" and "sorry" when you do not have to be held accountable for your actions, Mr. Ratzinger. You could always begin now, which of course you and I both know you will not. I am sure when the next round of priestly pedos pile up a child body count in some other country, you will be there to express ex post facto remorse and do the same that you and the leadership of the church has done from the beginning, absolutely nothing. But you have no compunction about excommunicating a 9 year old girl for having an abortion to save her life (impregnated by her rapist father, who your church leadership saw fit not to excommunicate or denounce in any way).
Rape row sparks excommunications
By Gary Duffy
BBC News, Sao Paulo
A Brazilian archbishop says all those who helped a child rape victim secure an abortion are to be excommunicated from the Catholic Church.
The girl, aged nine, who lives in the north-eastern state of Pernambuco, became pregnant with twins.
It is alleged that she had been sexually assaulted over a number of years by her stepfather.
The excommunication applies to the child's mother and the doctors involved in the procedure.
The pregnancy was terminated on Wednesday.
Abortion is only permitted in Brazil in cases of rape and where the mother's life is at risk and doctors say the girl's case met both these conditions.
Police believe that the girl at the centre of the case had been sexually abused by her step-father since she was six years old.
The fact that she was pregnant with twins was only discovered after she was taken to hospital in Pernambuco complaining of stomach pains.
Her stepfather was arrested last week, allegedly as he tried to escape to another region of the country.
He is also suspected of abusing the girl's physically handicapped older sister who is now 14.
The Catholic Church tried to intervene to prevent the abortion going ahead but the procedure was carried out on Wednesday.
Now a Church spokesman says all those involved, including the child's mother and the doctors, are to be excommunicated.
The Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, told Brazil's TV Globo that the law of God was above any human law.
He said the excommunication would not apply to the child because of her age, but would affect all those who ensured the abortion was carried out.
However, doctors at the hospital said they had to take account of the welfare of the girl, and that she was so small that her uterus did not have the ability to contain one child let alone two.While the action of the Church in opposing an abortion for a young rape victim is not unprecedented, it has attracted criticism from women's rights groups in Brazil.
If these people are right, and I am wrong, I truly hope that I burn in hell, as I would not hesitate to volunteer myself for the fiery cauldrons than be in the presence of evil like that. Any group of men who could do this to children do not rank a religion or church. And for those of you who feel otherwise, or that somehow I am being too harsh on my old religion (and by old I mean the religion of my ancestors dating back probably at least 1,500 years), well, just for your elucidation here is one of many millions of men and women throughout this world who had the misfortune of growing up Catholic, and who had to bear the cross of that upbringing.