National Catholic Reporter

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Church reformers have second thoughts on pope


To many advocates of reform in the Catholic church, the election of conservative Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as pope in April 2005 was a blow to hopes the Vatican would change positions on gender, sexuality, divorce, and the church hierarchy.

Yet the result encouraged three prominent reformers who were appointed to a U.S. bishops' National Review Board. The three American Catholics -- a judge, an attorney and a newspaper publisher -- were concerned mainly with the clergy sex scandal.

They had met with Ratzinger in his Vatican office in 2004 for an extensive discussion on the cover-ups of clergy sex abuse of children, and came to view Ratzinger as the best churchman anywhere on the issue. A year later, when he became Pope Benedict XVI, they were often quoted praising him in American news articles.

But that was then.

The recent clamor over media revelations about two priests whose abuse cases were adjudicated under Ratzinger's watch have led two of the three panel members who met with Ratzinger to reconsider their views.

Hierarchy rallies around beleaguered pope

VATICAN CITY -- Prominent bishops in Europe and North America are rallying behind a beleaguered Pope Benedict XVI, trying to fend off charges that Benedict mishandled cases of clerical sex abuse before becoming pope.

"Our earthly shepherd [is] now suffering some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob, and scourging at the pillar, as did Jesus," said New York's Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, at the conclusion of a Palm Sunday,March 28, Mass in St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Scandal hits close to popeís home


MUNICH, GERMANY -- Ever since it was reported here earlier this month that a priest suspected of child abuse entered the Munich and Freising archdiocese for treatment in 1980, was eventually allowed to do parish work, and went on to abuse more children, Catholics here have speculated about the complicity of their former archbishop, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in the debacle.

Such speculation is at the center of wider interest, marked by both outrage and shame, as Catholics painfully follow German media reports of new sex abuse cases that seem to surface almost daily. In all, more than 250 cases of abuse have emerged, dating back five decades.

Legion of Christ acknowledge founder abused seminarians


ROME -- Top officials of the Legionaries of Christ acknowledged that the order's founder, the late Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, sexually abused young seminarians, and they asked forgiveness for failing to listen to his accusers.

A statement released March 26 by the Legionaries and its lay branch, Regnum Christi, said that any members of the order who were guilty of cooperation in Father Maciel's crimes would be held accountable.

The March 26 statement said the Legionaries were looking to the future with the hope of continuing to serve the church, but with a greater emphasis on reconciling with those who suffered from Father Maciel's actions and greater cooperation with local pastors and other church officials.

Victims' group confronts Vatican over abuse

VATICAN CITY -- American victims of clerical sex abuse protested at the Vatican on Thursday (March 25), charging that Pope Benedict XVI had personally mishandled the case of a Wisconsin priest who molested up to 200 deaf boys more than 35 years ago.

"What the pope will not admit is what he knew and the Vatican knew," said John Pilmaier, Milwaukee leader of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, at an informal press conference a few yards from St. Peter's Square.

Pilmaier and three other SNAP members sought to draw attention to the case of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who was the subject of an article in Thursday's edition of the New York Times.

Credibility gap: Pope needs to answer questions


The Holy Father needs to directly answer questions, in a credible forum, about his role -- as archbishop of Munich (1977-82), as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1982-2005), and as pope (2005-present) -- in the mismanagement of the clergy sex abuse crisis.

We urge this not primarily as journalists seeking a story, but as Catholics who appreciate that extraordinary circumstances require an extraordinary response. Nothing less than a full, personal and public accounting will begin to address the crisis that is engulfing the worldwide church. It is that serious.

To date, as revelations about administrative actions resulting in the shifting of clergy abusers from parish to parish emerge throughout Europe, Pope Benedict XVI's personal response has been limited to a letter to the Irish church. Such epistles are customary and necessary, but insufficient.

Vatican defends action in Wis. abuser case


VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican defended a decision not to laicize a Wisconsin priest who sexually abused deaf children, despite the recommendation of his bishop that he be removed from the priesthood.

In a statement responding to a report in the New York Times, the Vatican said that by the time it learned of the case in the late 1990s, the priest was elderly and in poor health.

European bishops pledge new abuse initiatives

OXFORD, England -- Catholic bishops from the Pope Benedict XVI's native Bavaria have pledged to tighten procedures for handling abuse claims against local clergy.

"Our uppermost priority must be to seek the truth and create an open atmosphere which encourages victims to state what was done to them," bishops from the Munich and Freising and Bamberg archdioceses said in a statement after a mid-March meeting.

Pope will meet Irish victims of sex abuse


VATICAN CITY -- In his letter to Irish Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI promised to meet victims of clerical sexual abuse, but the Vatican said it would not turn such a meeting into a media event.

Like similar meetings the pope has had with victims in the United States and in Australia, a potential meeting with Irish victims would occur quietly and in an atmosphere of prayer without a public announcement ahead of time, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.

"For the pope, these are not media events. They are human and spiritual encounters. While they are significant, you should not expect them to be announced and propagandized," Father Lombardi told reporters March 20 during a briefing on the pope's letter.

The spokesman also announced that the Vatican had opened on its Web site a new page -- -- with the text of the pope's letter, past papal speeches touching on sexual abuse and related documents.

Directly addressing victims in his letter, Pope Benedict wrote, "I humbly ask you to consider what I have said."



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July 17-30, 2015


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