National Catholic Reporter

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Vatican

Priest who said pope should quit called on to resign

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EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. -- A conservative Catholic group has called on a Massachusetts priest to apologize for suggesting that Pope Benedict XVI should resign if he does not take stronger action to confront the church's sexual abuse scandal.

Adding its voice to the uproar over the Rev. James J. Scahill's remarks last weekend (April 3-4), the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts said the priest had effectively accused the pope of lying during four sermons at St. Michael's Catholic Church.

Lessons from a papal visit to Malta

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Commentary

With great anticipation and happiness, Malta awaited the visit of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Like all truly special moments in life, the weekend visit seemed to rush by in an instant.

The pope came to formally celebrate the 1,950th anniversary of St. Paul’s arrival on the island. Of course, the media largely only wanted to talk scandal. The people of Malta didn’t let them.

The President of Malta George Abela welcomed the pontiff to a country deeply in love with the faith, and the Holy Father returned that love in abundance to the dignitaries who met him at the airport, to the tens of thousands who worshiped with him at the open-air Mass, to the young people with whom he cruised upon the bay or to those packed along the waterfront waving pennants and delighting in chanting and singing his name. Throughout, one witnessed a pope caring deeply for others. This was on display for all to see.

For Benedict, Malta was a break in the storm

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Rome -- For much of Pope Benedict XVI's April 17-18 visit to Malta, it was unclear whether the plumes of volcanic ash currently disrupting air travel in Europe would allow the pontiff to return to Rome as scheduled Sunday evening. In the end, however, the weather cooperated, and Benedict made it safely home.

Metaphorically, too, Malta seemed to offer a break in the storms raging around Benedict's papacy for the last month, in the form of mounting criticism of his handling of the sexual abuse crisis.

"The pope arrived in Malta with the church under a cloud," the Times of Malta opined in its wrap-up coverage, "and he must have left here satisfied that his visit had gone a long way to lifting it."

Can a teaching pope get his house in order?

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Some years ago, after a speech he delivered in Paris drew a bit of negative reaction, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told friends he wasn’t worried. “I’m like the cellist Rostropovich,” he joked. “I never read the critics.”

That’s a policy Benedict XVI might want to preserve over the next few days, marking both his 83rd birthday today and the five-year anniversary of his papacy on Monday after a brief weekend stop in Malta. Especially in light of recent events, even the best reviews the pope’s likely to draw as these milestones roll by seem certain to be mixed.

The largest news magazine in his homeland of Germany, Der Spiegel, recently proclaimed Benedict’s regime a “Failed Papacy.” Meanwhile, an obscene phrase was spray-painted earlier this week on the house where Benedict XVI was born in Marktl am Inn, in southern Bavaria, and even in ultra-Catholic Malta, posters announcing the pope’s visit have been defaced with Hitler moustaches and references to pedophilia. In the United Kingdom, some voices are even proposing a criminal indictment against Benedict XVI when he arrives in September as the alleged mastermind of a global conspiracy to shelter predator priests. (At the bottom of this column is a link to my take on that idea.)

Vatican spokesman says he doesn't feel under siege

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Rome -- The Vatican spokesman said today that he doesn't feel "under siege" because of massive media attention to the pope and the sexual abuse crisis, but given recent events, one might legitimately wonder if he was just being polite.

The question arises in the context of a briefing this morning about Pope Benedict XVI's April 17-18 visit to Malta, where Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman in question, tried gamely to focus on the trip, but the ensuing discussion swirled largely around the crisis.

tBenedict's brief stop in Malta, the 14th foreign voyage of his papacy and the eighth in Europe, will be his first public outing since the recent explosion of critical attention to his personal history in handling sex abuse cases.

Editor of Vatican paper comes out swinging on crisis

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On the same day the Vatican published a "layman's guide" to procedures when a priest is accused of sexual abuse -- which, for the first time in a Vatican document, explicitly includes a directive to comply with civil laws requiring bishops to report abuse to the police -- the editor of the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, dropped by Rome's Foreign Press Club to talk about the crisis that has engulfed Pope Benedict XVI in recent weeks.

Gian Maria Vian, a lay professor of history tapped to take over L'Osservatore Romano in October 2007, offered a robust defense of both the church and the pope. Vian generally kept his cool, though at one point he became testy in complaining that the media reads the crisis into everything said or done at the Vatican these days – a reflection, perhaps, of the intense pressure of the last few weeks.

Vian conceded that there were "great failures in governance" that made the crisis possible, but also insisted that the church now has an "exemplary" approach to the problem of sexual abuse of children, and blamed what he called a "media campaign" for tarnishing the pope's image.

Pope's Easter message focuses on hope and peace

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The following is the text of Pope Benedict's Easter message:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I bring you the Easter proclamation in these words of the Liturgy, which echo the ancient hymn of praise sung by the Israelites after crossing the Red Sea.

It is recounted in the Book of Exodus (cf 15:19-21) that when they had crossed the sea on dry land, and saw the Egyptians submerged by the waters, Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, and the other women sang and danced to this song of joy: "Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed wonderfully: horse and rider he has thrown into the sea!" Christians throughout the world repeat this canticle at the Easter Vigil, and a special prayer explains its meaning; a prayer that now, in the full light of the resurrection, we joyfully make our own: "Father, even today we see the wonders of the miracles you worked long ago. You once saved a single nation from slavery, and now you offer that salvation to all through baptism. May the peoples of the world become true sons of Abraham and prove worthy of the heritage of Israel."

Unity wins out over diversity

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Excellent canon lawyers who are also excellent theologians are rare. Jesuit Fr. Ladislas Orsy, Hungarian-born but based in the United States, is one of them. His new book, Receiving the Council: Theological and Canonical Insights and Debates, is a distillation of his mature thought, composed of revised texts of previously published presentations, lectures and articles.

From first to last it breathes hope, faith and charity, and a model of how these should be approached. But it also contains dynamite.

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