National Catholic Reporter

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Accountability

Papal silence on crisis troubles German Catholics

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BERLIN -- German Catholics have called on Pope Benedict XVI to speak out about a stream of sex abuse cases that have shocked the country and plunged the church into its biggest crisis in over six decades.

Pope Benedict has become personally embroiled in the affair, after it emerged that while he was archbishop of Munich and Freising in southern Germany in 1980, a priest accused of sexual abuse in another diocese had been transferred to the area, sent for therapy, and then placed in a parish where he went on to commit other acts of abuse.

The vicar general of the archdiocese from that era has assumed “full responsibility” for the decision, saying there were more than 1,000 priests in Munich at the time and that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was not informed.

Those close to the pope say that dredging up the case now is the work of ‘vicious elements’ who have long wanted to find a connection between the pontiff and the sex abuse crisis. For example, Italian Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who heads the Pontifical Academy for Life in Rome, called attempts to “draw in” Benedict XVI to the crisis a “sign of violence and barbarity”.

CDF official details response to sex abuse

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VATICAN CITY -- In an unusual interview on March 13, a key Vatican official described in detail the steps taken by the Vatican to confront priestly sex abuse since 2001, the year the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under then-Cardinal Ratzinger, laid out strict new norms for processing such cases.

The official, Msgr. Charles Scicluna, a doctrinal congregation official from Malta who deals directly with cases of priests accused of abuse of minors, told the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire that the allegation that Pope Benedict had covered up sex abuse crimes was "false and calumnious."

Global scope of abuse crisis makes case for reform

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[This analysis appears in the latest print issue of NCR, which went to press March 11.]

The clergy sex abuse crisis, once dismissed by some church officials as a product of U.S. anti-Catholicism and media hostile to the church, has begun sweeping through Europe, with damning government reports in Ireland and widespread allegations in recent weeks of abuse of youngsters in Germany and the Netherlands.

The growing international scope of the scandal of sex abuse and cover-up has prompted two U.S. experts, who have tracked the crisis for decades in the United States and beyond, to speculate that the evidence might soon become compelling enough to convince some in the hierarchy that the church’s system of governance needs a fundamental overhaul.

Dutch report on clergy abuse expected in April

WARSAW, Poland -- An independent church inquiry into alleged sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in the Netherlands will submit its report by late April, according to a spokesman for the Dutch bishops.

"Although we don't yet know how the investigations will be carried out, and which organizations will be asked to help, we know the inquiry will be independent and vigorous," said Bert Elbertse, communications director for the Dutch bishops' conference.

Abuse cases show need for greater women's role

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VATICAN CITY -- A greater presence of women in decision-making roles in the church might have helped remove the "veil of masculine secrecy" that covered priestly sex abuse cases, a front-page commentary in the Vatican newspaper said.

The article said that despite calls by popes and others for welcoming women into equal, though diverse, roles in the church, women have generally been kept out of positions of responsibility.

Vatican: Bishops should follow civil laws on abuse

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VATICAN CITY -- Vatican officials are concerned that the church's longstanding insistence on confidentiality in its treatment of priestly sexual abuse cases is being misinterpreted as a ban on reporting serious accusations to civil authorities.

As past episodes and accusations of abuse have come to light recently in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, media attention has focused in part on what kind of guidance or instructions local bishops received from the Vatican on how to handle such cases.

Pope's brother apologizes to abuse victims

[Editor's Note: Some readers may find description in eighth paragraph offensive.]

The brother of Pope Benedict XVI apologized to child victims of sexual abuse at his former school even though he said he was unaware of the alleged incidents.

"There was never any talk of sexual abuse problems and I had no idea that molestation was taking place," Msgr. Georg Ratzinger said, recalling his 30 years as choirmaster at the school that trains the elite boys' choir of the Regensburg Cathedral.

Pope to meet top German bishop to address abuse

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI will meet with the head of Germany's Catholic bishops Friday, March 12, to discuss allegations of widespread sexual abuse of children in the pope's homeland.

The visit was scheduled previously, but the rapidly developing sex abuse scandal was sure to be discussed, Catholic News Service reported.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, president of the German bishops' conference, said through a spokesman that he will brief Benedict on some 170 abuse allegations involving children at Catholic schools. The charges, which surfaced in January, have prompted a possible criminal probe by prosecutors.

Lawyers sever ties with accusers of Maciel

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MEXICO CITY -- The lawyers representing the supposed children and former partner of Legionaries of Christ founder Fr. Marcial Maciel have severed their relationship with the complainants, a Spanish news agency reported March 8.

The lawyers' spokesman, Jose Bonilla, said in a statement to the news agency, EFE, that the supposed family of Maciel went public March 3 with the story of their lives with the Legionaries of Christ founder and allegations of abuse against the late priest without first notifying their legal advisers.

Vt. diocese selling HQ to pay abuse claims

The statewide Diocese of Burlington, Vt., is preparing to sell its headquarters building and a now-closed camp to help pay for claims and judgments stemming from clerical sexual abuse.

The diocese has been in the process of selecting a broker to judge the worth of the properties and market them to potential buyers, according to Father Dan White, communications director and associate chancellor of the diocese.

Liens had been placed on the two properties after a Colorado man, a former altar server in Burlington in the 1970s, won an $8.75 million judgment against the diocese after arguing he had been molested by a priest, Father Edward Paquette. The man recently reached an out-of-court settlement with the diocese while the diocese was appealing the judgment to the Vermont Supreme Court, allowing the sales to take place.

Father White, in a March 2 interview with Catholic News Service, said no one in the diocese knows the worth of the properties since they are tax-exempt entities and not on the tax rolls.

The diocesan headquarters building is a former Catholic orphanage which sits on a 30-acre site. It is about 70 percent empty, according to Father White.

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September 12-25, 2014

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