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Accountability

Church wins appeal in German court

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The Catholic church in Germany has won its appeal against the decision of a lower court to allow a retired canon lawyer to avoid paying church tax and remain a member of the church.

In a court decision on May 3, the Higher Administrative Court, Baden Wuerttemberg, overruled an earlier decision of the Administrative Court, Freiburg, to allow the application of Professor Hartmut Zapp, to leave the church.

For background on this story, see: German court upholds church tax challenge

In Germany, the church is both a legal tax-raising statutory body as well as a community of faith. A Catholic who objects to paying church tax has to formally leave the church, and is subsequently excommunicated.

Zapp had added a rider to his application to leave the church, stating he was only leaving the statutory body not the community of faith.

This morning's court decision states it is not possible for a Catholic wishing to leave the German church to restrict the application to its legal status.

Indian bishops draft 'zero tolerance' abuse policy

CHENNAI, India -- Reacting to the Catholic church's spreading sex abuse scandal, bishops in India have drafted new guidelines that include a zero-tolerance policy for guilty priests.

The draft guidelines emerged from the Catholic Bishops Conference of India's meeting in Bangalore which ended April 28. The draft will be sent to the Vatican for approval before being finalized in June.

Pope meets with investigators of disgraced Legion

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI met on Friday (April 30) with the leaders of a Vatican investigation of the Legion of Christ, a conservative Catholic movement whose founder fathered at least one illegitimate child and sexually abused minors.

Five prelates from Europe and the Americas, including Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, met with Benedict to discuss the results of their probe into the Legion, also known as the Legionaries of Christ, which began in July 2009 and concluded last March.

Pope sets example in meeting with abuse victims

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VATICAN CITY -- Bishops worldwide are encouraged to meet with victims of clerical sex abuse, just as Pope Benedict XVI has done, said the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

"There is nothing that helps bishops or priests learn about this problem better than meeting with the victims and hearing their stories," U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada said in a televised interview April 27.

'Look mercifully upon thy servant, Benedict' people pray at basilica high Mass

WASHINGTON -- More than 3,500 people crowded into the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception April 24 to attend the first traditional Latin Mass in decades to be celebrated at the high altar there.

Sponsored by the Paulus Institute for the Propagation of Sacred Liturgy, the Mass in the extraordinary form was celebrated by Bishop Edward J. Slattery of Tulsa, Okla., in honor of the fifth anniversary of the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI.

Close to 100 priests and seminarians assisted at the nearly two-and-a-half-hour pontifical solemn high Mass that was sung entirely in Latin. Cardinal William W. Baum, a retired archbishop of Washington, also attended the Mass, which was celebrated with ancient chants and with pomp, splendor and majesty.

Critics dig deeper for causes of scandal

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Analysis

The public outcry over recent revelations in the ongoing saga of clergy sex abuse has elicited unprecedented response from the highest levels of the church. Twice in recent days, Pope Benedict XVI has promised that the church will act to stem abuse and bring justice to priests who abused children.

The unknown, of course, is exactly what measures the Vatican would put in place beyond the guidelines it posted in early April instructing bishops to report sexual abuse of children to civil authorities. Moreover, many critics believe that the pope’s concerns don’t go far enough in addressing reform of a system that protected abusive priests, sometimes for decades, while keeping their crimes hidden from the wider community.

Email sent by Gruber friend to associates March 30, 2010

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March 30, 2010

Dear friends,

The intention of the archbishop of Munich and Freising to take the Pope out of the firing line has apparently failed and claimed a victim: the former Vicar General, Dr. Gerhard Gruber. When talking to him on the phone last Saturday I learned the following facts:

About three weeks ago, Gerhard was summoned to the archbishop`s office where he was presented with a document which had been prepared for him to sign and over whose text he was permitted no influence. It contained a declaration that he would take responsibility for the manner in which the case of abuse which had come to light had been handled at the time.

The following day, the press officer of the archdiocese announced on German television that the former Vicar General Gerhard Gruber had acted “on his own authority” at that time. Gerhard complained about this aggravating expression to the archbishop’s office.

Vatican newspaper says Kung letter lacks charity

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VATICAN CITY -- A recent "open letter" by Swiss Fr. Hans Küng to the world's bishops is off target in its criticism of Pope Benedict XVI and shows a lack of charity, an article in the Vatican newspaper said.

Fr. Pier Giordano Cabra, the former editor of Küng's works in Italian, said Küng's letter focused almost exclusively on reforming church structures rather than on renewing the hearts of church members and promoting their ongoing conversion.

Küng, in a letter distributed by The New York Times Syndicate April 16, said Pope Benedict has worsened relations with Anglicans, Jews and Muslims and failed to give adequate responses to modern problems such as AIDS and the challenges of new scientific discoveries.

Regarding the sex abuse crisis, Küng said many people expect a personal apology from Pope Benedict, who he said had helped engineer a "worldwide system of covering up cases of sexual crimes committed by clerics" when he headed the Vatican's doctrinal congregation.

NCR obtains correspondence: retired vicar general denies pressure in Munich pedophile case

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Msgr. Gerhard Gruber, the former vicar general of the Munich archdiocese, has denied a published report he was pressured to assume responsibility for assigning a pedophile priest to do local parish work during the tenure of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as archbishop.

His denial appeared in the April 21 edition of the German publication, Suddeutsche Zeitung. NCR has obtained a copy of his letter of denial.

Gruber was responding to an earlier report that appeared in another German publication, Der Spiegel, in which he said he took sole responsibility for the assignment after coming under great pressure from unnamed church sources “take the pope out of the firing line.” The report said Gruber expressed unhappiness to friends at being given the sole blame in public

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