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Pope in Malta: Church 'wounded by our sins'

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Luqa, Malta

Pope Benedict XVI alluded to the sexual abuse crisis only briefly and indirectly during his short flight from Rome to Malta this afternoon, with a reference to how the church is “wounded by our sins,” but its gospel remains “the true force that purifies and heals.”

Benedict XVI is visiting Malta April 17-18, marking the 1,950th anniversary of St. Paul’s famous shipwreck on the small Mediterranean island described in the Acts of the Apostles. Like many parts of the Catholic world, Malta has recently been rocked by a local sex abuse scandal, and Benedict arrives facing questions about his own handling of sex abuse cases both in Germany and in the Vatican.

In another apparent reference to the crisis, the pope also picked up on the shipwreck theme, saying that Paul’s experience is a reminder that shipwrecks can be part of "God's project" and lead to “a new beginning in our life.”

Sociologist compares today's crisis to Nazi smear campaign

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tPerhaps the most remarkable defense of Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church vis-à-vis the sexual abuse crisis to appear in recent weeks ironically never mentions the current pope, and it comes not from a senior Vatican official but a lay Italian sociologist of religion. In a nutshell, the suggestion – never made explicit, but clear nonetheless – is that today’s drumbeat of criticism of the church over “pedophile priests” amounts to a replay of a Nazi smear campaign.

Massimo Introvigne, who directs the international Center for Studies on New Religions, published an essay in the April 16 edition of L’Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian bishops, about a Nazi campaign in 1937 led by Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels to discredit the Catholic Church following Pope Pius XI’s anti-Nazi encyclical Mit brennender Sorge. Introvigne argues that Goebbels created what sociologists would later call a “moral panic,” based on real facts, but facts which are distorted and amplified.

In new incarnation, Peggy Noonan becomes a regular here

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(Our colleague, Tom Gallagher quoted Noonan only hours ago.)

Not to ever underestimate the elegance of Peggy Noonan's prose, sometimes who says something is as important, if not more important, than what is said. I put the following concluding paragraphs, taken from Noonan's latest Wall Street Journal column, dealing with the Vatican's handling of the clergy sex abuse scandal, in this category:

Fear of fraudulant Philippines elections mount

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A multinational firm doing intelligence work for a host of embassies and some of the world’s top corporations in Manila reports there are signs the Philippines’ first automated balloting on May 10 would likely fail.

In a paper entitled “Assessing 2010 Elections Automation in the Philippines,” Pacific Strategies and Assessments (PSA) said it had found 14 danger signs that the elections were bound to run into a wall of problems, or worse, completely fail.

The paper, submitted to PSA clients that include top US officials in Manila, said that the Arroyo administration was doing very little to assure people of fair and honest elections and might even benefit from failed elections.

“The automation project has been a sideshow to the ongoing shenanigans of sitting President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who is trying to dominate the Lower House after the 2010 elections,” the PSA paper said.

Facing stormy seas, pope heads to Malta to recall a shipwreck

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Rome

tBenedict XVI arrives in Malta tomorrow to celebrate the memory of a shipwreck, and at the moment the pope could be forgiven for feeling like he’s on the brink of another one. In recent weeks, the “Barque of Peter,” a traditional maritime image for the papacy, seems to be foundering on the choppy seas of the sex abuse crisis.

Benedict may well be hoping the Maltese show him the same “rare humanity” with which the Acts of the Apostles say they received St. Paul almost two millennia ago.

Here Comes Everybody: Don't Miss this Meeting

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The lineup of confirmed speakers for the May 6-7 National Catholic Reporter/Trinity Washington University Washington Briefing for the Nation’s Catholic Community now includes:


  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Speaker of the House of Representatives

  • E.J. Dionne, nationally syndicated columnist and author of Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious Right

  • Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), ranking member of the House Budget Committee and author of A Roadmap for America’s Future

  • Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS, executive director, NETWORK, a Catholic Social Justice Lobby.
  • Plus, we have added a panel at which NCR Senior Correspondent John L. Allen, Jr., currently in Rome, will discuss the fallout from the clergy sex abuse crisis in Europe.

    For more information on the conference, and to register for this two-day event at the reduced group rate of $395.00, please visit our updated conference page.

    Previously confirmed speakers include:

    Helen Alvare

The Lesson of July 27, 1945

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As World War II came to a close, and the Free French government of Charles DeGaulle took the reins of power in Paris, a controversy arose about what to do with those French bishops who had collaborated with the pro-fascist Vichy regime. DeGaulle and the stoic ministers of state might have been willing to let bygones be bygones, but Catholic members of the Resistance were insistent. At least some of the worst offenders needed to be deposed.

April 16, St. Benedict Joseph Labre, Pilgrim

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Today is the feast of St. Benedict Joseph Labre. He was born at Amettes, near Boulogne, in 1748. After several attempts to join the Trappists, the Cistercians, and the Carthusians, he realized he was unsuited for religious life. He decided to be a pilgrim.


He walked to shrines all over Europe, including Assisi, and Loreto in Italy, Compostela in Spain, Paray-le-Monial in France, and Einsiedeln in Switzerland. He owned only the rags he wore and the few books he carried in a bag. He slept in the open, and relied on alms freely given. He did not beg, and anything given to him beyond his immediate need, he shared with other poor people.

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