by Hans Küng
March 18, 2010
'Scandalous Wrongs Cannot Be
Glossed Over, We Need a Change of Attitude'
[Fr. Hans Küng is a theologian and
author of many books, including Does God Exist: An Answer for Today
and Infallible?: An Inquiry.]
After Archbishop Robert Zollitsch's recent papal audience, he
spoke of Pope Benedict's "great shock" and "profound agitation" over
the many cases of abuse which are coming to light.
Zollitsch, archbishop of Freiburg,
Germany, and the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, asked
pardon of the victims and spoke again about the measures that have
already been taken or will soon be taken. But neither he nor the
pope have addressed the real question that can no longer be put
According to the latest Emnid-poll, only 10 percent of those
interviewed in Germany believe that the church is doing enough in
dealing with this scandal; on the contrary, 86 percent charge the
church's leadership with insufficient willingness to come to grips
with the problem.
The bishops' denial that there is any
connection between the celibacy rule and the abuse problem can only
confirm their criticism.
Why does the pope continue to
assert that what he calls "holy" celibacy is a "precious
gift", thus ignoring the biblical teaching that explicitly
permits and even encourages marriage for all office holders
in the Church?
Celibacy is not "holy"; it is
not even "fortunate"; it is "unfortunate", for it
excludes many perfectly good candidates from the priesthood
and forces numerous priests out of their office, simply
because they want to marry.
The rule of celibacy is not a
truth of faith, but a church law going back to the 11th
Century; it should have been abolished already in the 16th
Century, when it was trenchantly criticized by the
Honesty demands that the pope, at the very least, promise to
rethink this rule - something the vast majority of the
clergy and laity have wanted for a long time now.
Both Alois Glück, the president
of the Central Committee of the German Catholics and Hans-Jochen
Jaschke, auxiliary bishop of Hamburg, have called for a less
uptight attitude towards sexuality and for the coexistence
of celibate and married priests in the church
Is it true, as Archbishop
Zollitsch insists, that "all the experts" agree that abuse
of minors by clergymen and the celibacy rule have nothing to
do with each other? How can he claim to know the opinions of
"all the experts"?
In fact, there are numerous
psychotherapists and psychoanalysts who see a connection
here. The celibacy law obliges the priest to abstain from
all forms of sexual activity, though their sexual impulses
remain virulent, and thus the danger exists that these
impulses might be shifted into a taboo zone and compensated
for in abnormal ways.
Honesty demands that we take the correlation between abuse
and celibacy seriously.
The American psychotherapist
Richard Sipe has clearly demonstrated, on the basis of a 25
year study published in 2004 under the title
sexual activity and abuse within the clerical system of the
Roman Catholic church, that the celibate way of life can
indeed reinforce pedophile tendencies, especially when the
socialization leading to it, i.e. adolescence and young
adulthood spent in minor and major seminary cut off from the
normal experiences of their peer groups, is taken into
In his study, Sipe found
retarded psycho-sexual development occurring more frequently
in celibate clerics than in the average population.
And often, such deficits in
psychological development and sexual tendencies only become
evident after ordination.
Instead of merely asking pardon
of the victims of abuse, should not the bishops at last
admit their own share of blame? For decades, they have not
only tabooed the celibacy issue but also systematically
covered up cases of abuse with the mantle of strictest
secrecy, doing little more than re-assigning the
perpetrators to new ministries.
In a statement of March 16,
Bishop Ackermann of Trier, special delegate of the German Bischops' Conference for sexual abuse cases,
acknowledged the existence of such a cover-up, but
characteristically he put the blame not on the church as
institution, but rather on the individual perpetrators and
the false considerations of their superiors.
Protection of their priests and
the reputation of the church was evidently more important to
the bishops than protection of minors.
Thus, there is an important
difference between the individual cases of abuse surfacing
in schools outside the Catholic church and the systematic
and correspondingly more frequent cases of abuse within the
Catholic church, where, now as before, an uptight,
rigoristic sexual morality prevails, that finds its
culmination in the law of celibacy.
Honesty demands that the chairman of the German Bishops'
Conference should have clearly and definitively announced,
that, in the future, the hierarchy will cease to deal with
cases of criminal acts committed by those in the service of
the church by circumventing the state system of justice.
Can it be that the hierarchy
here in Germany will only wake up when it is confronted with
demands for reparation payments in terms of millions of
dollars? In the United States, the Catholic church had to
pay some $1.3 billion alone in 2006; in Ireland, the
government helped the religious orders set up a compensation
fund with a ruinous sum of $2.8 billion.
Such sums say much more about
the dimensions of the problem than the pooh-poohing
statistics about the small percentage of celibate clergy
among the general population of abusers.
Is it not time for Pope Benedict
XVI himself to acknowledge his share of responsibility,
instead of whining about a campaign against his person?
other person in the Church has had to deal with so many
cases of abuse crossing his desk.
Here some reminders:
In his eight years as a
professor of theology in Regensburg, in close contact
with his brother Georg, the capellmeister of the
Regensburger Domspatzen, Ratzinger can hardly have been
ignorant about what went on in the choir and its
boarding - school. This was much more than an occasional
slap in the face, there are charges of serious physical
violence and even sexual abuse.
In his five years as
Archbishop of Munich, repeated cases of sexual abuse at
least by one priest transferred to his Archdiocese have
come to light. His loyal Vicar General, my classmate
Gerhard Gruber, has taken full responsibility for the
handling of this case, but that is hardly an excuse for
the Archbishop, who is ultimately responsible for the
administration of his diocese.
In his 24 years as Prefect
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
(Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal
Inquisition, sometimes simply called the 'Holy
around the world, all cases of grave sexual offences by
clerics had to be reported, under strictest secrecy ("secretum
pontificum"), to his curial office, which was
exclusively responsible for dealing with them. Ratzinger
himself, in a letter on "grave sexual crimes" addressed
to all the bishops under the date of 18 May, 2001,
warned the bishops, under threat of ecclesiastical
punishment, to observe "papal secrecy" in such cases.
In his five years as Pope,
Benedict XVI has done nothing to change this practice
with all its fateful consequences.
Honesty demands that Joseph Ratzinger
himself, the man who for decades has been principally
responsible for the worldwide cover-up, at last pronounce his own
As Bishop Tebartz van Elst of
Limburg, in a radio address on March 14, put it:
"Scandalous wrongs cannot be glossed
over or tolerated, we need a change of attitude that makes room
for the truth. Conversion and repentance begin when guilt is
openly admitted, when contrition1 is expressed in deeds and
manifested as such, when responsibility is taken, and the chance
for a new beginning is seized upon."
Back to Contents
Calamity for Pope as The Past - and
Case of Peter Hullermann - Returns to Haunt Him...
by Riazat Butt and John Hooper
19 March 2010
Child abuse by German cleric
among claims causing crisis for Vatican
Pope Benedict XVI:
700 new sex abuse cases have recently come to light
in what has been said
to be ‘the worst crisis for the Vatican since the middle ages’.
For Father Rupert Frania it
seemed the best way. His parishioners in the Bavarian spa town of
Bad Tölz had just learned a terrible secret.
It had been reported that one of their curates was a convicted
pedophile, Peter Hullermann. The curate who had officiated at
the children's mass. The one who had been with their sons and
daughters the year before at a campsite in the mountains over their
Frania decided to tackle the issue from an angle. In his sermon at
the main mass last Sunday morning, he began with the parable of the
prodigal son - and was stopped dead in mid-sentence.
"I cannot listen to that," shouted a
man who was soon to have been married by Hullerman. "You just
cannot dodge the issue any longer," he continued as other
parishioners broke into applause and some began shouting "shut
your mouth" at their parish priest.
It was a raucously rebellious start to a
week in which the disclosure of hundreds of cases of alleged
clerical sex abuse in the Roman Catholic church's European
heartlands shook the allegiances of millions and forced their
pastors to make unprecedented admissions of guilt and mortification.
In Armagh on St Patrick's Day the primate of All Ireland, Sean
Brady, told the congregation in his cathedral that the clergy should
"the full truth of our sinfulness".
Brady, who in 1975 was involved in the
swearing to silence of two young victims of Ireland's most notorious
clerical pedophile, was one of scores of prelates bowing their heads
in disgrace in the Netherlands, Austria, Germany and the
German-speaking parts of Switzerland and Italy.
So far almost 700 new cases have come to light. It was a week of
unmitigated calamity for Benedict XVI, who became pope pledging to
shore up Christianity in an increasingly secular Europe.
"It is such a big story because
everything about it is extreme," says the religious affairs
author and journalist Clifford Longley. "It is the worst crisis
since the middle ages."
Longley believes the Catholic
church is embedded in European history like nothing else.
"It claims divine foundation. The
pope's title of Vicar of Christ means he still claims to
represent supernatural power. It has been loved and hated, with
passion and sometimes loathing. It dominated the middle ages,
launched the Crusades, triggered the Reformation; the
Enlightenment was a direct reaction against it."
The topic of child sexual abuse provokes
strong emotions, even more so when people learn of the steps taken
to conceal it. Nowhere has this veil of secrecy been lifted higher
than in the Irish Republic, the focus of three reports since 1994.
At the start of the millennium the Catholic church in England and
Wales commissioned Lord Nolan to investigate priestly abuse. It
resulted in measures to improve child protection policies and
reporting procedures, but did little or nothing to address or repair
the damage of past abuse.
The 2007 Cumberlege commission reviewed the church response to the
Nolan report, but only two of its 72 recommendations dealt
specifically with historic cases. This oversight is something
support groups are all too aware of and there are demands for a UK
Graham Wilmer, who runs the Lantern Project which has helped
hundreds of sexual abuse victims since 2003, said:
"The psychological and emotional
damage has affected them throughout their lives. Until they made
contact with us, they have had little if any help in dealing
with the aftermath."
Wilmer was sexually abused by a teacher
at a Catholic school and spent years trying to bring his tormentor
to justice. He wants the British government to establish a truth and
reconciliation commission to address the issue.
Longley says the scandal,
"brings into contrast the priest as
man of God, symbol of purity and holiness and the sexual
abuse of children as the ultimate betrayal of innocence,
representing unspeakable evil. And conspiracy in high places to
hide the scandal. No novelist could have invented such a plot."
In spite of earning outright
condemnation for its clumsy attempts to sweep matters under the
carpet, the church will probably overcome these difficult times.
Unlike the Anglican Communion, which buckles under the weight of
polarized opinion on homosexuality, the Catholic church always
emerges, not entirely unscathed, from adversity.
Longley says the church survived Nazism, Fascism and Communism and
will outlast the EU (European Union), the UN (United
Nations), the US.
"Bad though this crisis is, it
has survived much worse. At the start of the 16th century
was little better than a shit-hole."
The question remains why this situation should be judged so grave
when the numbers involved are smaller than in the US, where a 2004
report found evidence in support of almost 7,000 allegations.
One possible answer is the cumulative effect of abuse in so many
The crisis has spread from the US to Ireland, Canada,
Australia, New Zealand and now the German-speaking heart of Europe.
Not the least of the difficulties is financial. The church has
already had to find some $5bn (£3.3bn) in compensation and now faces
the prospect of having to fund more compensation, settlements and
legal fees at the same time as disgusted Catholics stop their
Giancarlo Galli, the Italian author of Finanza Bianca, a study of
the Vatican's finances, said:
"There is nothing less transparent
than the accounts of the church. It is known that with all the
troubles in the US, the church was very much looking north, across
the Alps, and above all to Bavaria, for support."
It has even been suggested that some of the cardinals who elected
the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as pope cast their votes with one
eye on the material benefits of having a German pontiff.
This is scarcely the first crisis involving what an Australian
victims' group, Broken Rites, has termed black-collar crime. But
never before has a scandal cast doubts on the judgment and authority
of a pope.
So far the debate has focused on his role in
the Peter Hullermann
affair. Hullermann was transferred to the Munich diocese when
Ratzinger was archbishop, ostensibly for therapy. Though known to be
a pedophile, he was moved to a parish where he was convicted of
abusing another child.
Christian Weisner, the spokesman for the lay movement,
Kirche, said that in Munich:
"People are asking: 'What did
[Benedict] know? What did he do?'"
Many Catholics in Bavaria and
elsewhere were ready to accept the diocese's version - that the
decision to reassign Hullerman was made by Ratzinger's deputy.
But Weisner added:
"The pope is asking for transparency. So he too
should be transparent and ask his successor to open the archives for
people to see exactly what happened."
The issue of Benedict's responsibility goes far beyond Munich to
encompass his subsequent role as pope.
Weisner argues that this pope,
"learned more about clerical sex abuse
than any other bishop or cardinal and has done more to fight it than
any other cardinal or pope".
But there is a sharp distinction between his attitude while a
cardinal and his activities as pope that could yet leave an
indelible stain on the reign of Benedict XVI.
In 2005 he was elected days after declaring that the time had come
to sweep "the filth" from his church. By then he had read - and was
disgusted by - files on more than 3,000 clerical abuse cases that
were channeled to his department by a decree issued four years
earlier by John Paul II.
Most of the cases dealt with by the Vatican department in recent
years resulted in the accused being removed, if not defrocked.
The problem for Benedict is that, as in many other theological
respects, he changed his mind. The US Vatican-watcher John Allen
this week published in National Catholic Reporter an extract from
the transcript of a conference in Spain that showed that, as late as
November 2002, Ratzinger dismissed the American abuse scandals as
the result of a "planned campaign" in the media.
By 2002 the then cardinal had signed what critics claim was an
incitement to the obstruction of justice.
A letter he circulated to
bishops the previous year reminded them that internal church
inquiries into certain serious offences were covered by what is
known as papal secrecy, for which the penalty is excommunication.
"The question is whether Ratzinger's past may trump Benedict's
present," wrote Allen.
Back to Contents
Vatican Says Media In "Ignoble
Attempt" to Smear Pope
by Philip Pullella
March 25, 2010
The Vatican on
Thursday angrily attacked the media over its reporting
of sexual abuse of children by priests, saying there was
an "ignoble attempt"
to smear Pope
Benedict "at any cost."
The editorial in a Vatican newspaper came on a day abuse victims
protested near St Peter's Square to demand the pope open files on
pedophile clerics and defrock "predator priests," and a cardinal
spoke of a "conspiracy" against the church.
"The prevalent tendency in the media is to ignore the facts and
stretch interpretations with the aim of spreading the picture of the
Catholic Church as the only one responsible for sexual abuse,
something which does not correspond to reality," the Vatican
"clearly an ignoble attempt to strike at Pope Benedict and
his closest aides at any cost," it said.
The editorial challenged a New York Times report about the case of
Rev. Lawrence Murphy, accused of sexually abusing up to 200 deaf
boys in the United States from the 1950s to the 1970s.
Among 25 internal church documents the Times posted on its website
was a 1996 letter about Murphy to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then
the Vatican's top doctrinal official and now Pope Benedict, showing
he had been informed of the case.
Ratzinger's deputy first advised a secret disciplinary trial but
reversed that in 1998 after Murphy appealed directly to Ratzinger
for clemency. The priest died later that year.
"There was no cover-up in the case of
The Vatican said earlier he was not disciplined
because church laws do not require automatic punishment.
The report came amid mounting allegations of sexual abuse by priests
in Europe and pressure on bishops, mostly in Ireland, to resign for
failing to report cases to civil authorities.
On Thursday morning, four leaders of the U.S.-based, Survivor Network
of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), all of whom were sexually abused
by priests, held a protest and news conference outside the Vatican.
Holding up photos of themselves as children and signs reading "Stop
the Secrecy Now," they demanded the pope open files on pedophile
clerics worldwide and immediately defrock all "predator priests."
Italian police took their passports and led them away for
questioning. They were held for two hours and later released, one of
the group said.
The scandal of alleged cover-ups of abuse has come perilously close
to the pope himself as victims say they want to know how he handled
cases before his election in 2005.
There have been allegations of a cover-up of abuse in Munich when he
was the city's archbishop from 1977 to 1981.
Victims' groups have
called for information on his decisions when he headed
doctrinal department from 1981 to 2005.
"The pope has said he is sorry," said John Pilmaier, a SNAP leader
who was abused more than 30 years ago.
"But what the pope will not admit is what
he knew and what the
people inside the Vatican knew. He owes it to every survivor and
their families to be honest with us and explain what happened behind
those walls, what was covered up, and to finally tell us the truth,"
At a breakfast meeting with reporters, one of the pope's top aides,
Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, denounced what he called "a
conspiracy" against the church.
"This is a pretext for attacking the church," he said. "There is a
well-organized plan with a very clear aim," he said, without
spelling out who was behind it.
Saraiva Martins said he was for zero tolerance of abuse, but could
understand why some bishops covered up cases in the past.
"We should not be too scandalized if some bishops knew about it but
kept it secret. This is what happens in every family, you don't wash
your dirty laundry in public," he said.
He also accused lawyers of "wanting to make a lot of money" by
digging up decades-old cases and filing lawsuits.
Back to Contents
Pope Faces Claims He Covered-Up
German Sex Abuse Case
by Rob Crilly
26 Mar 2010
The Pope faced fresh
accusations of covering up child abuse yesterday as it
emerged he was present at a meeting where Church
officials decided to allow a pedophile priest to
has defended the Pope over charges
that he failed to act against
allegations of sex abuse
The allegations dating to his time as
Archbishop of Munich came a day after he was accused of covering up
attacks on up to 200 boys at a deaf school in the American state of
The latest claims centered on how much he knew about a decision to
allow a priest to resume pastoral duties in Germany in the 1980s.
As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he led a meeting that approved the
transfer of Father Peter Hullermann to a new diocese, despite him
being known to be a pedophile.
His office also received a copy of a memo explaining that Hullermann
would return to pastoral work days after starting therapy.
Hullermann went on to attack more children and was convicted of
sexual abuse in 1986.
The revelations about the level of the Pope's involvement in the
case appeared to cast doubt on the Catholic Church's previous
account of the matter.
Earlier this month, Monsignor Gerhard Gruber, then Cardinal Ratzinger's deputy, said he took full responsibility for the
decision to allow Hullermann to resume pastoral duties.
The Munich Archdiocese acknowledged that "bad mistakes" had been
made, but attributed them to officials subordinate to Cardinal
Ratzinger rather than to the cardinal himself.
Father Lorenz Wolf, judicial vicar at the Munich Archdiocese, said
the memo was routine and,
"unlikely to have landed on the
Church officials transferred Father Hullermann to new parishes and
allowed him to work with children, even after his conviction. He was
finally suspended earlier this month as sex abuse allegations
surfaced in Germany.
The claims came a day after the Pope was accused of personally
covering up child sex abuse by halting an investigation into a
Wisconsin priest suspected of molesting boys between 1950 and 1975.
Victims said Father Lawrence Murphy had assaulted them in his
office, his car and in their dormitory beds.
Cardinal Ratzinger, who was head of the Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith - the body responsible for dealing with
particularly grave sins - was alerted to the allegations in
the case was dropped after Murphy wrote directly to the future
Yesterday, supporters attempted to rally round the Pope claiming
there had been no cover up and accusations were being driven by
A strongly-worded editorial in L'Osservatore Romano,
newspaper, labeled the allegations,
"clearly an ignoble attempt to
strike at Pope Benedict and his closest aides at any cost".
One of the Pope's top aides, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, said
there was "a conspiracy" against the Church, without specifying who
French bishops also published a letter of support to the Pope saying
that they all felt "shame and regret over the abominable acts" of
sex abuse against children by some Catholic priests.
"Those who commit these acts disfigure our church, hurt Christian
communities and spread suspicion over all members of the clergy,"
Meanwhile, the leader of Catholics in England and Wales insisted the
Pope was taking strong action to tackle it.
Vincent Nichols, the
Archbishop of Westminster, said there was no hiding place for those
who abused children.
"The child abuse committed within the Roman Catholic Church and its
concealment is deeply shocking and totally unacceptable," he wrote.
"I am ashamed of what happened, and understand the outrage and anger
it has provoked."
Earlier this month, the Pope issued an unprecedented Papal letter to
Irish Catholics, designed to defuse the spiraling scandal over
clerical abuse there.
Back to Contents
Pope Accused of Mishandling Case of
German Pedophile Priest
by John Hooper in Rome and Stephen Bates
26 March 2010
Cardinal Ratzinger copied into memo
transferring known pedophile to German Catholic parish
where abuse continued, claims US paper
Benedict XVI is facing the biggest crisis of his reign as pope.
Fresh revelations have been made
directly implicating Pope Benedict XVI in mishandling the case of a
pedophile priest in his former archdiocese of Munich.
According to the New York Times, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
was copied in on a memo from his deputy in which the priest was
transferred to parish duties in Bavaria that brought him into
contact with children. As a result of that decision by the then
vicar-general, Father Gerhard Gruber, the priest was able to
continue abusing boys, for which he was later tried and convicted.
A spokesman for the archdiocese told the Guardian:
"The report does
not contain false information, but the interpretation - that
Cardinal Ratzinger knew - is pure speculation."
The spokesman added:
"I do not know if any copy [of the memo] exists. But it is a usual
procedure that a decision about priests goes to the office of the
archbishop. But it is not usual that he takes note of every written
piece of paper; every decision of the vicar-general."
Father Peter Hullerman, who was known to be a pedophile, was
originally moved to Munich to allow him to undergo therapy.
future pope attended a meeting in January 1980 at which the transfer
was agreed, the New York Times reported today. The paper said the
reason for the priest's transfer was clear, even though not
The allegations come a day after the Vatican responded angrily to
the allegation that as a cardinal the pope had ignored an American
diocese's request that another predatory priest should be defrocked.
Hullermann had been removed from his previous parish in September
1980 and did not deny the allegations made against him.
Correspondence at the end of that year referred to a formal request
that he should be transferred for psychiatric treatment in Munich.
Although sexual abuse of boys was not explicitly mentioned in the
letter from Essen, it stated:
"Reports from the congregation in
which he was last active made us aware that Chaplain Hullermann
presented a danger that caused us to immediately withdraw him from
It warned of possible legal action but suggested
that Hullermann could teach religion "at a girls' school".
A report, drawn up by one of Ratzinger's closest colleagues before
the meeting, stated that a young chaplain needed
"medical-psychotherapeutic treatment in Munich" and a place to live
with "an understanding colleague".
It presented the priest from
Essen as a,
"very talented man, who could be used in a variety of
As soon as he arrived, however, Hullermann was placed in a
parish where he continued to abuse boys before being convicted six
The suggestion that the pope was more closely involved in the case
than previously suggested followed allegations that while he was
head of the congregation in Rome in the mid-1990s, he acceded to a
plea from an American priest, Father Lawrence Murphy, not to be
disciplined or defrocked for abusing as many as 200 deaf boys at a
school where the chaplain taught between 1950 and 1974.
a few months later and there have been allegations that earlier
bishops in his US diocese had ignored the complaints against him and
that the diocese tried to hush the matter up.
The continuing and spreading allegations are devastating for the
authority and reputation of the church - the world's largest
Christian denomination, with more than 1 billion adherents.
Previously the Vatican has denied accusations that it has covered up
systemic abuse by priests in many countries for decades in the
interests of protecting its reputation.
It formerly blamed a handful
of perverted priests and even suggested that abuse was a problem of
the church in "Anglo-Saxon" countries, including the Irish diaspora.
The pope has apologized for the way the church handled allegations
without accepting any personal responsibility for his actions in
Munich nor during his 24 years as head of the Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.
But the accusations are getting
closer to him all the time.
The Vatican's spokesman, attempting to stem the relentless tide of
allegations that the church - and now the pope himself - covered up
or dismissed complaints against clergy pedophiles in the 1980s and
90s, complained about an,
"obvious and ignoble attempt to strike at
all costs Benedict and his closest collaborators".
published in the official Vatican daily paper, L'Osservatore Romano,
"The prevalent tendency in the media is to gloss over the
facts and force interpretations with the aim of spreading an image
of the Catholic church almost as if it were the only [institution]
responsible for sexual abuses."
Meanwhile, speculation is rife that Cardinal
Seán Brady, the head of
the Catholic church in Ireland, will shortly offer his resignation
following accusations that as a young priest he took part in a
cover-up and the silencing of victims of a pedophile priest there.
The cardinal has apologized, but has so far resisted calls that he
Back to Contents
Did The Pope Shield Pedophile Priest?
"Cover-Up" Over Curate's Abuse of 200 Deaf
by Steve Doughty
26 March 2010
The Pope has been accused of failing to act against a known
The claim that Pope Benedict XVI covered-up the case of an American
curate who abused 200 deaf children sent shockwaves through
Correspondence published between U.S. bishops and the future pontiff
in the 1990s apparently show that he ignored their pleas for him to
The allegations, coming in the wake of a series of sex scandals
besetting the Roman Catholic church, is a crippling blow to his
status and brings the whiff of scandal to his door.
Yesterday the Vatican strenuously denied the claims, insisting there
was 'an 'ignoble attempt' to smear Pope Benedict 'at any cost'.
The Pope blesses his audience in St Peter's Square
during his weekly address on Wednesday
Father Lawrence Murphy, the alleged pedophile, is said to have
abused 200 pupils while heading a school for the deaf in Wisconsin
from 1950 to 1974.
According to the New York Times, the case was referred by U.S.
church leaders to
the Vatican in 1996.
At the time the disciplinary division in Rome, the Congregation for
the Doctrine of the Faith, was led by the man who is now Pope and
was then known as Cardinal Ratzinger.
Two letters about the case from senior clergy in the U.S. were
ignored, it was reported.
Cardinal Ratzinger's deputy then told them
to begin a disciplinary hearing against Murphy.
Child abuse row:
The Reverend Lawrence Murphy's abuse of deaf boys
was reported to the Vatican by Archbishop Rembert Weakland
However, the priest then wrote to the Cardinal saying he had had a
stroke and 'repented my past transgressions'. He begged to be
allowed to live out his life 'in the dignity of my priesthood'.
Documents suggest the future Pope failed to respond. However,
proceedings against Murphy, who died in 1998 still a priest, were
It is alleged that he also abused children in other institutions.
The U.S. accusation comes on top of complaints of a cover-up of
abuse cases in Germany between 1977 and 1981 when the Pope was
Archbishop of Munich. Pope Benedict is said to have failed to either
take action against priests involved in abuse or to pass information
The Holy See has also been haunted for months by allegations that
the Church sought to cover up child abuse by priests in Europe,
including in Ireland.
The Pope has already written a landmark letter of apology to Irish
Catholics this week.
Yesterday a Vatican statement acknowledged that the Murphy case,
'involved particularly vulnerable victims who suffered terribly from
what he did'.
But it added that the complaints had been sent to it more than two
decades after they had been known to the Catholic authorities in
Wisconsin and to local police.
The statement claimed that because Murphy was elderly, in poor
health and living in seclusion - and because 'no allegations of
abuse had been reported in over 20 years', Rome had suggested that
U.S. bishops consider restricting his public activities and
requiring he 'accept full responsibility' for his acts.
A senior Papal aide said yesterday the allegations were part of a
conspiracy against Rome.
Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins said that while he was in
zero tolerance, he accused lawyers of hoping to make money out of
Back to Contents
Pope Hit By Abuse Claims in Italian
by Richard Owen in Rome
March 27 2010
The sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church came to the Pope's
doorstep last night as a group of victims appeared on Italian
television to claim that two dozen priests had for decades abused
children at a school for the deaf in Verona.
Three former pupils of the Antonio Provolo school who spoke on RAI,
the state broadcaster, confirmed allegations made in a signed
statement last year by 67 former students who described a regime of
sexual abuse, pedophilia and corporal punishment from the 1950s to
the 1980s. They said that 24 priests and lay brothers from the
Company of Mary order were involved.
The three said the priests had "fondled and masturbated" them as
well as sodomizing them in dormitories, bathrooms and the priests'
Among the accused is Monsignor Giuseppe Carraro, who was Bishop of
Verona from 1958 to 1978, and who the local diocese has sought to
have beatified. Gianni Bisoli, one of the victims, told the
Associated Press last year that Bishop Carraro, who died in 1981,
had molested him five times.
The current Bishop of Verona, Mgr Giuseppe Zenti, initially accused
the former students of "hallucinating". However, the diocese had to
open an inquiry after one of the accused lay brothers admitted to
sexual relations with pupils.
Last summer the diocese forwarded its files on the abuse to the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which took no action
until last month when Cardinal William Levada, Pope Benedict's
successor as head of the congregation, agreed it was "opportune to
proceed" with an inquiry.
Bruno Fasani, spokesman for the Verona Diocese, said it had not
taken action earlier because it had not known how to contact the
victims. Marco Lodi Rizzini, spokesman for the victims, dismissed
this, saying he had personally spoken to Bishop Zenti twice about
the accusations and sent him details.
The case echoes a scandal in the United States in which the Pope has
been accused of failing to take action against a priest who molested
200 boys at a school for the deaf in Wisconsin.
The 'New York Times' this week revealed that a church prosecution of
Fr Lawrence Murphy for sex offences between 1950 and 1974 was halted
after he appealed to Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as
head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office
charged with disciplining clergy.
The Italian Bishops Conference said yesterday that it was forming a
"task force" to collect evidence of pedophilia cases.
The church's account of what Benedict had known about a pedophile
priest in Germany was called into question yesterday.
Fr Peter Hullermann was given sanctuary in 1980 in the Munich Diocese for
"therapy" after molesting a boy. A memo, the existence of which was
confirmed by two German church officials, showed that Benedict, then
Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop of Munich, not only led a meeting
on January 15, 1980, approving the transfer of the priest from
Essen, but that he was also kept informed of the priest's subsequent
It remains unclear whether he played any part in the decisions or
whether he had read the memo addressed to him. Hullermann was
convicted of sexual abuse in 1986.
Now 61, he was suspended this month from his post in the Bavarian
town of Bad Tolz for breaking a promise not to have contact with
children and young people.
The leaders of the conservative Catholic order, the Legionnaries of
Christ, added to the grim news yesterday, expressing their "pain and
regret" to the victims of Fr Marcial Maciel, of Mexico, the order's
late founder, over revelations that he led a double life for
decades, molesting seminarians.
He died two years ago, aged 87.
Back to Contents
Pope Faces Fresh Wave of Child Abuse
Scandals in Italy
by Tom Kington in Rome and Henry McDonald in Dublin
28 March 2010
The head of the Catholic
church is bracing himself for a new round of allegations
by victims of pedophile priests - in Italy
Joseph Ratzinger handled abuse cases for 24 years before becoming
Pope Benedict XVI.
Pope Benedict XVI is facing growing
pressure over his handling of pedophile priests as new cover-ups
come to light in Italy, the country with the greatest concentration
of Roman Catholic clerics.
After the latest allegations - that Benedict took no action in the
US when he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, the Vatican's enforcer - the church is now "terrified" as
more victims stand up to be counted in Italy, according to
Roberto Mirabile, head of La Caramella Buona, an Italian
"With the scandals erupting abroad,
we will see a huge growth in victims' groups in Italy in coming
weeks," said Mirabile yesterday.
As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict
handled abuse cases at
for 24 years before he became
pope in 2005.
"We are likely to discover that the
Vatican worked even harder in Italy with bishops than elsewhere
to hide cases, simply because the contact was closer and the
church is so powerful in Italy," Mirabile added.
Sergio Cavaliere, an Italian lawyer who
has documented 130 cases of clerical pedophilia, also believes that
the Vatican's backyard could follow Ireland, the United States and
Germany in producing a wave of abuse revelations.
"The cases I have found are just the
tip of the iceberg given the reluctance of many victims to come
forward until now," said Cavaliere. "And in no single case did
the local bishop alert police to the suspected abuse."
Another startling development is how
recent most of the allegations are, unlike the decades-old cases in
Munich and Milwaukee that Benedict was last week accused of failing
to act on.
Monsignor Charles Scicluna, who investigates abuse accusations
passed on to the Vatican, denied this month that abuse had reached
"dramatic proportions" in Italy, but he was concerned about "a
certain culture of silence" among Italy's 50,000 priests.
In February, the Vatican opened an investigation into allegations by
67 former pupils at a school for the deaf in Verona that 24 priests,
brothers and lay religious men abused pupils from the 1950s to the
1980s. Three of the accusers repeated their claims on Italian
prime-time television on Friday.
In a case recalling the accusations against Father Lawrence Murphy
in Milwaukee, who was claimed to have abused up to 200 deaf
children, one Italian former pupil claimed that priests had sodomized him so relentlessly that he came to feel "as if I were
A second pupil has accused Verona's late bishop, Monsignor Giuseppe Carraro, who is being considered for
beatification, of molesting
In Ireland, the leader of the Catholic church has been named in more
than 200 civil actions by victims of alleged clerical abuse, putting
him under further pressure to resign. The victims claim that
Cardinal Seán Brady failed in his duties by neglecting to protect
them from pedophile priests and other sex abusers. There is no
suggestion that he took part in any abuse.
Legal sources in the republic confirmed that 230 separate victims of
alleged clerical abuse are taking the church to court. They said
these include five victims of Father Brendan Smyth, one of Ireland's
most notorious pedophiles.
Smyth's arrest and conviction opened the floodgates for dozens of
cases concerning priests abusing children in dioceses all over
Ireland, alongside widespread and systemic abuse in church-run
orphanages and industrial schools.
Brady has confirmed that he was present at a closed canonical
tribunal into the activities of Smyth, who died in jail 13 years ago
while serving 12 years for 74 sexual assaults on children.
"Smyth's victims will argue that the
church knew as far back as 1975 that he was abusing children.
But the hierarchy's secret deal with two of his young victims
that year left Smyth free to abuse others many years
afterwards," one senior legal source told the Observer.
"The cardinal now faces being named in hundreds of cases, some
of which will go through the courts."
Asked if the church was aware that Brady
had been named in so many civil actions through the Irish courts, a
spokesman for the Catholic Press Office in Ireland said:
"The bishop who occupies the
position of primate of all Ireland [Brady] is often named as
co-defendant in judicial proceedings by people who mistakenly
presume him to be the 'CEO' for the Catholic church in Ireland.
In answer to your query, I do not know the exact number of cases
taken by alleged victims of clerical sex abuse who have named
Cardinal Seán Brady in their actions."
Voice of the Faithful, an international
lay Catholic organization campaigning for reforms in the church,
said it was "deeply significant" that Brady has said he is spending
the run-up to Easter reflecting on his position.
Seán O'Connaill, the group's Irish coordinator, said:
"The situation regarding the church
in Ireland and Cardinal Brady's position is very confused and
"The problems facing the Catholic church, however, will not be
resolved alone by heads rolling. Both the people and the
leadership have to realize that there has to be a major reform
program within the church to turn this around."
Back to Contents
Pope Dismisses "Petty Gossip" of
Sexual Abuse Allegations
by Tom Kington in Rome
28 March 2010
In Palm Sunday address pope
says faith in 'God' leads 'towards the courage of not
allowing oneself to be intimidated'
Pope Benedict XVI
waves to pilgrims as he arrives at Saint Peter's Square in the
Vatican to celebrate Palm Sunday mass.
Pope Benedict, facing the worst crisis
of his papacy as a sexual abuse scandal sweeps the Catholic church,
declared today he would not be "intimidated" by "petty gossip",
angering activists who say he has done too little to stamp out
Addressing crowds in St Peter's square during a Palm Sunday service,
the pope did not directly mention the scandal spreading though
Europe and engulfing
the Vatican, but alluded to it during his
Faith in God, he said, led,
"towards the courage of not
allowing oneself to be intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant
As Benedict spoke, the president of Switzerland, Doris Leuthard,
called for a central register of pedophile priests to keep them away
from children. In Austria, the archbishop of Vienna announced the
creation of a commission funded by the church, but without church
representatives, to look into Austrian abuse claims.
Benedict came under attack after it was revealed that he had been
involved in dealing with two cases of abuse.
In the first a German
priest in therapy for pedophilia returned to work with children
while the pope was archbishop of Munich.
In the second, in the late
1990s when Benedict was a senior Vatican figure, his deputy stopped
a church trial against a Wisconsin priest accused of abusing deaf
Church officials say Benedict was unaware the German priest had
returned to work and the Wisconsin case was reported to the Vatican
20 years after the fact.
The Vatican daily, L'Osservatore Romano, has accused the media of a,
"clear and ignoble intent of trying to strike Benedict and his
But activists said they were angered by Benedict's talk of
"I hope this doesn't fit into a pattern where
the media is to be blamed," said Sean O'Conaill of Voice of the
Faithful, a group that has campaigned for abuse victims.
courage needed here is to face issues the media has revealed."
A letter from the pope to Irish Catholics
apologized for abuse by
priests in Ireland but did not specify punishments for Irish bishops
who covered up for their crimes.
"The evidence of Benedict's knowledge of abuse is mounting," said
Maeve Lewis, the Irish director for the child abuse campaign group
One in Four. "The problem here is the protection of children and
whether the pope has the credible leadership to push the church
About 30 protesters waved placards stating "Pope Protects
Priests - Resign!" outside Westminster Cathedral in London today.
A prayer read during mass at St Peter's in Rome today asked God to
help "the young and those who work to educate and protect them". In
his sermon, Benedict said man could sometimes "fall to the lowest,
vulgar levels" and "sink into the swamp of sin and dishonesty".
Yesterday, the Vatican appeared to backtrack on talk of a media
plot, claiming that the church's response to the scandal would be
"crucial for its moral credibility".
A spokesman noted that most of
the cases now emerging occurred decades ago.
But activists in Italy are building a list of more recent scandals
and plan legal action against a bishop over alleged abuse in 2001.
Father Ruggero Conti is standing trial, suspected of molesting 30
Interviewed by a magistrate in 2008, Gino Reali, the
bishop who oversaw Conti's parish, said he had ignored complaints,
"because you hear so many
"If this priest is convicted, I plan to press charges against the
bishop for aiding and abetting," said Nino Marazzita, a lawyer and
Back to Contents