Wednesday, March 17, 2010



By Kevin Stoda, Wiesbaden

Last year (2009), Pope Benedict XVII started the winter by going out of his way to offend just about everyone in a serious of faux pas. First, “Pope Benedict XVI . . . appointed the priest Gerhard Wagner to a major Bishopric posting in Austria,—and this without even talking to most of the church leaders in the [Austrian] region. . . . Wagner ha[d] been told by the Austrian Bishopric time-and-again that he is never again to share his controversial opinions on non-church matters in public—but that has not stopped him from doing so over the past decade.”

This was “because in “2005, the 54-year-old [Wagner] was quoted in a parish newsletter as saying he was convinced that the death and destruction caused by Katrina that year was ‘divine retribution’ for New Orleans' permissive sexual attitudes and tolerance of homosexuality.” In addition, the Kath.Net, a Catholic news agency in Austria. had also later quoted Wagner as emphasizing the fact “that Katrina had destroyed not only nightclubs and brothels in New Orleans but also abortion clinics.”

This appointment last winter in Austria had occurred at the same time that the Catholic Church under Pope Benedict XVII was bending over backwards to get holocaust deniers from the Pious Brotherhood to rejoin the church after a four-decade-long hiatus. [By the way, it is illegal in Germany to deny the Holocaust.],,3993755,00.html?maca=en-rss-en-all-1573-xml-atom

I had ended one of my own articles last year by stating: “The Pontiff [Benedict XVI], now in his 80s, surely doesn’t want to be remembered as the most divisive Pope in recent memory, but he is on course to do so today.” This year, the Pope’s silence on the topic of sex-crimes may continue to define the Pope’s legacy as even more negative.


Today, the Bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann, soundly criticized the Catholic churches decades-long mishandling of pedophilic priests.

Now, in winter 2010, as many German Catholics [and non-Catholics] are awaiting an official comment or apology from the Vatican on the abuses of generations of priests (carried out in catholic monasteries in Germany). The German-born Pope Benedict XVI has been keeping his and the Church in Rome’s voices silent on the sexual crimes of priests carried out in his own lifetime. Instead, the “Vatican had warned Saturday against attempts to drag the pope into a widening sexual abuse scandal involving priests in the pontiff's native Germany. Those reports have only been intensified by similar allegations of abuse at church facilities in Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands.”
Next, “Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday chose not to comment on ongoing child sex abuse scandals at church institutions across Europe. The pope, who often opts to comment on current events at the close of his public Sunday prayers, ended the prayers this week with no further commentary.” Here in the state of Hessen, where many abuses in local monasteries and private schools had taken place involving what the church now acknowledges were “ sexually immature priests”, I have often heard complaints by radio commentators that the silence from Rome is disturbing.
The German Press Agency has also noted, “On Saturday, the scandal moved closer to the pope himself when the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung linked the pope to a pedophile priest when the pontiff was archbishop of Munich in 1980. The report said the pope, then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, had permitted the priest to move to Munich from another diocese where he had been accused of sexually abusing children.” The agency noted that under Ratzinger’s tenure in office in Munich, that particular “priest was allowed to continue working with young people, and was later charged with sex offences and convicted, the report said. But there was no evidence the archbishop was involved in the decision to let the cleric continue doing youth work, it added.” Since the 1950s some 150 cases of sexual abuse of youth and children by churchmen have been made public in Germany.
Meanwhile, hitting still closer to home have been the revelations that the Pope’s own brother, Georg Ratzinger, a retired priest and choir director, was known to have slapped quite a number of choir boy singers as choir director in Regensburg over the decades—up through the 1980s and 1990s.,1518,683582,00.html
The BERLIN SUNDAYexplains, “The Catholic Church has been on the defensive in Germany since January [2010], when at least 50 cases of sexual abuse from the 1970s and '80s were reported at the Jesuit high school, Canisius College, in Berlin — with two priests linked as alleged perpetrators. That was the catalyst. Within weeks, dozens of victims came forward with accusations at other Catholic schools and institutions. With up to 200 allegations of abuse, 22 out of Germany's 27 Roman Catholic dioceses have been affected by the scandal.”
Now, the scandals are moving continental wide. On Vatican Radio, “Spokesman Federico Lombardi defended the response of churches to pedophile priest scandals emerging in Austria, Germany, The Netherlands and elsewhere, saying Roman Catholic leaders had reacted swiftly and decisively. He also sought to put the issue into perspective, saying the sexual abuse of children went far beyond church walls.”
Lombardi has claimed, “[S]exual abuse of children went [has gone] far beyond church walls. . . . For example, he said, data showed that during the period of the scandal[s] in Austria, there had been [only] 17 cases in Church institutions, compared with 510 in other settings.”
As a speaker for the Vatican, Lombardi’s main objective has been to “acknowledged that the Church's moral responsibility made errors by clergy particularly reprehensible.” At the same time, these sexual abuses are sad realities in all societal institutions. Lombardi seems to not take seriously his and his own church’s moral responsibility to shepherd and lead via example.
“Lombardi's remarks [in Rome] came as the head of an Austrian monastery lost his job last Tuesday over allegations that he abused a boy while he was a trainee priest. The victim, now 53, told Austrian national radio Oe1 that after years of silence he confronted Bruno Becker, abbot of Sankt Peter monastery in the northern city of Salzburg, last November. The abbot admitted the abuse and offered him 5,000 euros (US$6,790) to take no further action, he said. The money was meant as compensation rather than hush money, Salzburg's Archbishop Alois Kothgasser told Oe1 radio.”

Meanwhile, unlike the Vatican in 2010, the current German Catholic Archbishop has apologized both in Rome and in Germany for the crimes of various priests over the decades. Moreover, the same Archbishop, Robert Zollitsch called for a special watch-dog commission be set up to counter abuses now and in the future. This is the committee now headed by the same Trier bishop who this evening criticized the Catholic church’s mishandling of the cries of abuse over the decades

To-date, “[t]he tidal wave of scandals involving priests and teachers has engulfed 19 of Germany's 27 dioceses and are among several to have rocked the Catholic Church lately, notably in Ireland last year . . . .” Now alongside scandals in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, there have been new reports in the Netherlands and more are expected in neighboring countries as a great era of silence in Europe comes hopefully to an end.

Sadly, the culture of predator and victims has been going on for so long in Central Europe that “most of the priests who were allegedly involved [in Germany] are not expected to face criminal charges because the crimes are outside the statute of limitations, though there have been growing calls for a change in the law and for the Church to pay compensation.”

Nonetheless, one article has noted “The Church has promised to shed light on all allegations, even those that are decades old.” Interestingly, “[Pope] Benedict has spoken out several times since the start of his papacy in 2005 to condemn priestly pedophilia, and he has met with abuse victims in the United States and Australia.” Moreover, in “the United States the pope said those found guilty of pedophilia would be removed from the priesthood and the Church.” This is why the Pope’s silence on the abuses of the last half century in Germany and other Central European states is so perplexing to educators, guardians, public officials, victims, and parents across the continent of Europe.

In short, Pope Benedict XVI spoke up too much and too often in 2008 and 2009 and made many bad public decisions, like welcoming the Pius Brothers. In contrast, so far this 2010, it is the papacy’s silence on sexual-crimes and priestly abuses dating to Pope Benedict’s own tenure as Archbishop that have been haunting the Catholic church and Christian educators throughout his homeland and neighboring lands this depressing winter.



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