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Former head of Vatican hospital guilty of abuse of office

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican court found the former president of the Vatican-owned pediatric hospital guilty of abuse of office for using donations belonging to the hospital’s foundation to refurbish a Vatican-owned apartment used by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, former Vatican secretary of state.

Giuseppe Profiti, second from right, former president of Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, and Massimo Spina, right, former treasurer of the hospital, are pictured during their sentencing at the Vatican court Oct. 14. Profiti was found guilty of illicit appropriation and use of funds belonging to the Bambino Gesu Foundation. He was given a suspended sentence of one year in jail and a 5,000 Euro fine. Spina was absolved of the charges. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Originally charged with embezzlement, Giuseppe Profiti was sentenced to one year in jail and fined 5,000 euros ($5,900) on the reduced charge, but the sentence was suspended. The three-judge tribunal dismissed charges against Massimo Spina, the hospital’s former treasurer. The judgments were handed down Oct. 14.

The original indictment said Profiti, who was president of Bambino Gesu hospital from 2008 to 2015, and Spina extracted 420,000 euros for non-institutional ends from 2013 to 2014 by using hospital foundation money to refurbish Vatican property in order to benefit a construction company owned by Gianantonio Bandera. The company, Castelli Re, went bankrupt in 2014.

Profiti argued in court that the money had been an investment because the apartment’s refurbished areas were to be used for fundraising events to benefit the hospital.

Vatican prosecutor, Roberto Zanotti, said in closing arguments that the deal reflected “opacity, silence and poor management” in the way Vatican assets were handled.

Cardinal Bertone, who was not asked to appear in court, had said he paid 300,000 euros from his own savings for the work; however, the hospital foundation also paid the construction company 422,000 euros. Cardinal Bertone also donated 150,000 euros to the hospital because of the loss they incurred.

Bandera had been asked to provide a six-figure “donation” to the hospital foundation, according to trial testimony. Spina testified he tried to get the “donation” from Bandera, but Bandera cited financial difficulties with the bankruptcy.

It’s not the first time Profiti faced charges of financial crimes.

He had been sentenced to six months’ house arrest while he was still hospital president after being found guilty in 2008 of taking bribes and kickbacks at a different job. As president of Italy’s Liguria region, he was found guilty of the impropriety when assigning or promising contracts to companies bidding for providing food services to public schools and hospitals in the cities of Genoa and Savona. At least four others were found guilty in the same investigation.

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To fight hunger and forced migration, end war, arms trade, pope says on World Food Day

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — It makes no sense to lament the problems of hunger and forced migration if one is unwilling to address their root causes, which are conflict and climate change, Pope Francis said.

“War and climate change lead to hunger; therefore, let’s avoid presenting it as if it were an incurable disease,” and instead implement laws, economic policies, lifestyle changes and attitudes that prevent the problems in the first place, he told world leaders at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Pope Francis is pictured next to a statue of Alan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in September 2015 while crossing the Mediterranean Sea. During a visit to the Rome headquarters of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization Oct. 16, the pope presented the marble statue as a gift to the organization. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

Pope Francis received a standing ovation after he addressed the assembly at FAO’s Rome headquarters to mark World Food Day Oct. 16, the date the organization was founded in 1945 to address the causes of poverty and hunger. The FAO was holding a conference on the theme “Changing the future of migration.”

Food insecurity is linked to forced migration, the pope said, and the two can be addressed only “if we go to the root of the problem” — conflict and climate change.

International law already has all the instruments and means in place to prevent and quickly end the conflicts that tear communities and countries apart, and trigger hunger, malnutrition and migration, he said.

“Goodwill and dialogue are needed to stop conflicts,” he said, “and it is necessary to fully commit to gradual and systematic disarmament” as well as stop the “terrible plague of arms trafficking.”

“What good is denouncing that millions of people are victims of hunger and malnutrition because of conflicts if one then does not effectively work for peace and disarmament?” he asked.

As for climate change, he said, scientists know what needs to be done and the international instruments, like the Paris Agreement, are already available.

Without specifying which nations, the pope said, unfortunately “some are backing away” from the agreement. U.S. President Donald Trump announced in June that the United States would withdraw from the accord as a way to help the U.S. economy.

“We cannot resign ourselves to saying, ‘Someone else will do it,’” he said. Everyone is called to adopt and promote changes in lifestyle, in the way resources are used and in production and consumption, particularly when it comes to food, which is increasingly wasted.

Some people believe reducing the number of mouths to feed would solve the problem of food insecurity, but, the pope said, this is “a false solution” given the enormous waste and overconsumption in the world.

“Cutting back is easy,” he said, but “sharing requires conversion and this is demanding.”

“We cannot act only if others are doing it or limit ourselves to having pity because pity doesn’t go beyond emergency aid,” the pope said.

International organizations, leaders and individuals need to act out of real love and mercy toward others, particularly the most vulnerable, in order to create a world based on true justice and solidarity.

Arriving at the FAO headquarters, Pope Francis presented a gift of a statue depicting the tragic death of Alan Kurdi (also known as Aylan), the 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on the shore of Turkey when a small inflatable boat holding a dozen refugees capsized in 2015. The statue, made of pure white Carrara marble, depicts a child-like angel weeping over the boy’s lifeless body.

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Diplomat’s recall not unusual, suspect should be put on trial, says expert

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Catholic News Service

ROME — The recall of a Vatican diplomat suspected by U.S. authorities of having a connection with child pornography reflects normal international protocol, but the suspect must be put on trial and receive punishment if found guilty, said a key organizer of a world congress on child protection.

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, president of the Center for Child Protection, speaks in early February at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome during a news conference launching the Center for Child Protection in Rome. At right is Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, who heads the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Due process has to be followed. If there is a case and if the person is found guilty, then he or she needs to be punished, whoever that is,” said Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, head of the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection, which is hosting a world congress on protecting minors from online abuse, violence and exploitation.

The Oct. 3-6 congress in Rome came on the heels of the recall of Italian Msgr. Carlo Capella from the Vatican nunciature in Washington, D.C., after the U.S. State Department notified the Holy See of his possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images.

The Vatican said it opened an investigation, which involved international collaboration. Police in Canada then issued a nationwide arrest warrant Sept. 28 for the monsignor’s arrest on charges of accessing, possessing and distributing child pornography.

Panelists introducing the congress during a news conference Oct. 2 said its goals were to get faith communities, police, software and social media industries, mass media, nonprofits and governments working together to protect children from abuse in a “digital era.”

The panel was asked by Catholic News Service what the Vatican should do to show itself as a leader in child protection, particularly when it comes to possible crimes that involve multiple jurisdictions and when it reportedly invoked the official’s diplomatic immunity in order to conduct its own investigation.

Father Zollner said, “I am pretty well convinced that this follows the normal way of diplomatic and interstate relationships” and that the allegations were being handled similarly to the way the United States or other nations would handle them in similar circumstances.

However, he added, justice must be served and anybody “who commits a crime needs to be punished. Period.”

       

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‘Amoris Laetitia’ is built on Thomist morality, pope says, many ‘respectable’ comments on it are ‘wrong’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Seeing, understanding and engaging with people’s real lives does not “bastardize” theology, rather it is what is needed to guide people toward God, Pope Francis told Jesuits in Colombia.

“The theology of Jesus was the most real thing of all; it began with reality and rose up to the Father,” he said during a private audience Sept. 10 in Cartagena, Colombia. The Rome-based Jesuit-run journal, La Civilta Cattolica, published a transcript from the meeting Sept. 28. The journal provided its own translations of the original Spanish remarks. Read more »

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Pope Francis admits mistake in approving lenient sanctions against priest abuser

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has endorsed an approach of “zero tolerance” toward all members of the church guilty of sexually abusing minors or vulnerable adults.

U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, is president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Pope Francis address the commission this week and called Cardinal O’Malley a “prophet” in the church who has come forward to shine light on the problem of abuse and to urge the church to face it.(CNS /Paul Haring)

Having listened to abuse survivors and having made what he described as a mistake in approving a more lenient set of sanctions against an Italian priest abuser, the pope said he has decided whoever has been proven guilty of abuse has no right to an appeal, and he will never grant a papal pardon.

“Why? Simply because the person who does this (sexually abuses minors) is sick. It is a sickness,” he told his advisory commission on child protection during an audience at the Vatican Sept. 21. Members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, including its president, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, were meeting in Rome Sept. 21-23 for their plenary assembly.

Setting aside his prepared text, the pope said he wanted to speak more informally to the members, who include lay and religious experts in the fields of psychology, sociology, theology and law in relation to abuse and protection.

The Catholic Church has been “late” in facing and, therefore, properly addressing the sin of sexual abuse by its members, the pope said, and the commission, which he established in 2014, has had to “swim against the tide” because of a lack of awareness or understanding of the seriousness of the problem.

“When consciousness comes late, the means for resolving the problem comes late,” he said. “I am aware of this difficulty. But it is the reality: We have arrived late.”

“Perhaps,” he said, “the old practice of moving people” from one place to another and not fully facing the problem “lulled consciences to sleep.”

But, he said, “prophets in the church,” including Cardinal O’Malley, have, with the help of God, come forward to shine light on the problem of abuse and to urge the church to face it.

Typically when the church has had to deal with new or newly emerging problems, it has turned to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to address the issue, he said. And then, only when the problem has been dealt with adequately does the process for dealing with future cases get handed over to another dicastery, he added.

Because the problem of cases and allegations of abuse are “grave” and because it also is grave that some have not adequately taken stock of the problem, it is important the doctrinal congregation continue to handle the cases, rather than turning them over directly to Vatican tribunals, as some have suggested.

However, he said, the doctrinal congregation will need more personnel to work on cases of abuse in order to expedite the “many cases that do not proceed” with the backlog.

Pope Francis told commission members he wants to better balance the membership of the doctrinal team dealing with appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse. He said the majority of members are canon lawyers, and he would like to balance out their more legalistic approach with more members who are diocesan bishops and have had to deal with abuse in their diocese.

He also said proof that an ordained minister has abused a minor “is sufficient (reason) to receive no recourse” for an appeal. “If there is proof. End of story,” the pope said; the sentence “is definitive.”

And, he added, he has never and would never grant a papal pardon to a proven perpetrator.

The reasoning has nothing to do with being mean-spirited, but because an abuser is sick and is suffering from “a sickness.”

The pope told the commission he has been learning “on the job” better ways to handle priests found guilty of abuse, and he recounted a decision he has now come to regret: that of agreeing to a more lenient sanction against an Italian priest, rather than laicizing him as the doctrinal team recommended.

Two years later, the priest abused again, and Pope Francis said he has since learned “it’s a terrible sickness: that requires a different approach.

     

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Vatican Letter: Pope moves toward decentralization, local responsibility

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis talks about the need for a “healthy decentralization” in the Catholic Church, but how that should look and work has been a topic of debate since the Second Vatican Council.

The discussion often centers on how people describe the way the church experiences and ensures its unity around the globe: For example, by focusing on a strong, decision-making central authority, that helps unites the parts to the whole or by describing the church as a communion where unity is found in sharing, cooperative relationships among the diversity of local churches.

Pope Francis arrives to celebrate the closing Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the family in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in this 2015, file photo. The pope has spoke of a “healthy decentralization” in the Catholic Church and has made several decisions toward this goal. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“The key thing” in striving for a healthy balance and reform, one Vatican official said, is to avoid a business-management idea of decentralization and “embed theology back into the term.” In other words, it’s not about a cold transfer of power, but an emphasis on collegiality and collaboration.

Bishop Paul Tighe, adjunct secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, told Catholic News Service, “the model is the hub,” with the pope and his assistants in the Curia at the center, always connected to the local churches, which are the first to encounter new situations and the first to respond.

“The Vatican is in contact with those different churches,” not as the problem-solver, but to “put them in contact with other churches” that have been dealing with the same or similar issues, so they can share ideas and best practices, and avoid reinventing the wheel, he said.

“Rome has that ability to have that overview” because it is “a point of contact. It’s not centralizing, but building a bond of communion” between churches and church leaders at local, regional and national levels, he said.

“What should be done locally, should be done locally,” Bishop Tighe said, but when some issues “transcend one locality,” that is, they end up being “universal questions that need a harmonious response,” then the help of a central authority is essential.

“People see the church as a hierarchical, monolithic structure. But it is much richer than that,” he said.

Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane told CNS that people are used to hearing “the claim that the unity of the church doesn’t mean uniformity, and much of what Pope Francis has done and is doing is simply moving beyond the rhetoric to give some reality to that claim,” for example, in his naming of new cardinals from very diverse parts of the world.

“There may be some danger of fragmentation in passing more authority to local churches and to bishops’ conferences, but the Holy See and especially the Petrine ministry is the guarantor that a healthy decentralization doesn’t become an unhealthy fragmentation,” he said in an email response to questions.

The archbishop, who chairs the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s commission for evangelization and was a member of the Synod of Bishops on the family in Rome in 2015, said healthy cooperation between the Holy See and bishops requires co-responsibility.

For example, Pope Francis’ new motu proprio, “Magnum Principium,” on guiding future liturgical translations “is an attempt by the pope to restore the balance between the bishops and the Holy See in line with the provisions of Vatican II and in the light of experience since the council. It’s a document driven not by ideology but by theology, and its intent is clearly pastoral.”

A “good liturgical translation” holds the balance between the doctrinal and pastoral, he said, and that requires responsible cooperation among bishops and between bishops’ conferences and the Holy See.

“It does mean that the bishops will have to work hard at shaping a new language, drawing on the work of experts, of course, but maintaining control of the process and working trustfully with the Holy See to ensure that the communion of the church and her fidelity to doctrine are not compromised,” he said. “This will produce variety, certainly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean disunity.”

Retired Pope Benedict XVI said he, too, “always wished that the local churches be the most autonomous and lively possible, without needing assistance from Rome,” he said in the book-length interview, “Last Testament,” published in 2016.

During the Synod of Bishops on the role of the bishop in 2001, he endorsed greater responsibility for bishops as envisioned by the Second Vatican Council and spoke, to great applause, on the bishops’ duty to govern and to judge and correct doctrinal error in their own dioceses.

When that happens, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, at that time head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told the synod of bishops, “the so-desired decentralization happens automatically.”

At the end of that synod, he had stressed that unity was brought about by a harmonious unity of purpose, with a greater focus on Christ and the need to move “forward together to announce Christ to a world that needs a new proclamation of Christ and the Gospel.”

Neglecting those essential tasks because of too much attention to secondary things like internal church structures and organization has been “a way to strangle the life of the church,” he had said.

“The world’s first need is to know Christ. If it doesn’t, all the rest will not function,” he said.

     

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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In new book, pope discusses traditional marriage, sins of the flesh, psychoanalysis

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — By virtue of its very definition, marriage can only be between a man and a woman, Pope Francis said in a new book-length interview.

“We cannot change it. This is the nature of things,” not just in the church, but in human history, he said in a series of interviews with Dominique Wolton, a 70-year-old French sociologist and expert in media and political communication.

Pope Francis (CNS file/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Published in French, the 417-page book, “Politique et Societe” (“Politics and Society”) was to be released Sept. 6. Catholic News Service obtained an advance copy, and excerpts appeared online.

When it comes to the true nature of marriage as well as gender, there is “critical confusion at the moment,” the pope said.

When asked about marriage for same-sex couples, the pope said, “Let’s call this ‘civil unions.’ We do not joke around with truth.”

Teaching children that they can choose their gender, he said, also plays a part in fostering such mistakes about the truth or facts of nature.

The pope said he wondered whether these new ideas about gender and marriage were somehow based on a fear of differences, and he encouraged researchers to study the subject.

Absolution after abortion

Pope Francis also said his decision to give all priests permanent permission to grant absolution to those who confess to having procured an abortion was not mean to trivialize this serious and grave sin.

Abortion continues to be “murder of an innocent person. But if there is sin, forgiveness must be facilitated,” he said. So often a woman who never forgets her aborted child “cries for years without having the courage to go see a priest.”

“Do you have any idea the number of people who can finally breathe?” he asked, adding how important it was these women can find the Lord’s forgiveness and never commit this sin again.

Pope Francis said the biggest threat in the world is money. In St. Matthew’s Gospel, when Jesus talked about people’s love and loyalty being torn between two things, he didn’t say it was between “your wife or God,” it was choosing between God or money.

“It’s clear. They are two things opposed to each other,” he said.

When asked why people do not listen to this message even though it has been clearly condemned by the church since the time of the Gospels, the pope said it is because some people prefer to speak only about morality.

“There is a great danger for preachers, lecturers, to fall into mediocrity,” which is condemning only those forms of immorality that fall “below the belt,” he said.

Sins of the flesh

“But the other sins that are the most serious: hatred, envy, pride, vanity, killing another, taking away a life … these are really not talked about that much,” he said.

“The most minor sins are the sins of the flesh,” he said, because the flesh is weak. “The most dangerous sins are those of the mind,” and confessors should spend more time asking if a person prays, reads the Gospel and seeks the Lord.

One temptation the church has always been vulnerable to, the pope said, is being defensive because it is scared.

“Where in the Gospels does the Lord say that we need to seek security? Instead he said, ‘Risk, go ahead, forgive and evangelize.’”

Another temptation, he said, is to seek uniformity with rules, for example, in the debate concerning his apostolic exhortation on the family, “Amoris Laetitia.”

“When I talk about families in difficulty, I say, ‘Welcome, accompany, discern, integrate …’ and then everyone will see the doors open. In reality, what happens is you hear people say, ‘They cannot receive Communion.’ ‘They cannot do this and that.’”

That temptation of the church to emphasize “no, no and no” and what is prohibited is the same “drama Jesus (experienced) with the Pharisees.”

‘Fundamentalist mindset’

This closed, fundamentalist mindset like Jesus faced is “the battle I lead today with the exhortation.”

Jesus followed “another logic” that went beyond prohibitions as he did not adhere to customs, like not touching lepers and stoning adulterers, that had become like commandments, he said.

Church leaders are used to “frozen norms” and “fixed standards,” but when they ask, ‘“Can we give Communion to divorcees?’ I reply, ‘Speak with the divorced man and woman, welcome, accompany, integrate and discern,’ which opens a path and a way of communication to lead people to Christ.”

Encountering Christ is what leads people onto a path of living a moral life, he said.

When asked about the church’s “just-war” theory, the pope said the issue should be looked into because “no war is just. The only just thing is peace.”

Concerning the persecution of Christians, particularly in the East, and the question of why God would allow such tragedy, the pope said, “I do not know where God is, but I know where man is in this situation. Men make weapons and sell them.”

It is easy for people to question God, he said, but “it is we who commit all this” and allow it to happen; “our humanity is corrupted.”

Speaking about women, the pope said they have an important role in society because they help unify and reconcile people.

Some people mistake women’s demands to be represented and heard in the world with a kind of “machoism in a skirt,” but machoism is a form of “brutality” and does not represent what women should be.

He said with the reform of the Roman Curia, “there will be many women who will have decision-making power,” not just roles as advisers.

While he said he believes he will succeed in opening up more positions to women in the curia, it will be difficult and there will be problems, not because of misogyny, but because of “the problem of power.”

Psychoanalysis

When Pope Francis and the French interviewer talked about differences between the Argentines and the French, the pope said, “Argentines are quite fond of psychoanalysis.”

The pope praised those psychoanalysts who are able to be “open to humanism and to dialogue with other sciences,” particularly medicine and homeopathy.

“Those whom I have known have helped me a lot at one point in my life when I needed consultation,” he said, describing how met with a Jewish psychoanalyst once a week for six months when he was 42 “to clear up certain things.

“She was very good. Very professional as a doctor and psychoanalyst” and “she helped me so much.”

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Pope offers early Rosh Hashanah greetings to world’s Jewish communities

August 31st, 2017 Posted in Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis praised the increasingly friendly and fruitful relations between the Catholic Church and Jewish leaders as he also wished the world’s Jewish communities a happy Rosh Hashanah a few weeks early. Read more »

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Now Hiring: Vatican ambassador is unique post in U.S. diplomatic corps

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — As the U.S. president’s personal envoy to the Vatican, the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See has a unique role in building a bridge between the political center of the United States and the religious-spiritual center of the universal Catholic Church in Rome. Read more »

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Investigation into German choir finds more than 500 boys were abused — Updated

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — More than 500 boys suffered abuse at the hands of dozens of teachers and priests at the school that trains the prestigious boys choir of the Regensburg Cathedral in Germany, said an independent investigator.

Peter Schmitt and Alexander Probst, representing victims who claimed abuse while members of the boys choir at the cathedral in Regensburg, Germany, are seen Oct. 12, 2016. (CNS photo/Armin Weigel, EPA)

Peter Schmitt and Alexander Probst, representing victims who claimed abuse while members of the boys choir at the cathedral in Regensburg, Germany, are seen Oct. 12, 2016. (CNS photo/Armin Weigel, EPA)

Former students of the Domspatzen choir reported that the physical, emotional and even sexual abuse at the school made life there like “a prison, hell and a concentration camp,” said Ulrich Weber, the lawyer leading the investigation of claims of abuse at the choir and two associated boarding schools.

A “culture of silence” among church leaders and members allowed such abuse to continue for decades, Weber said as he presented the final report on his findings during a press conference in Regensburg July 18.

The investigation, commissioned by the Diocese of Regensburg, found that at least 547 former members of the Regensburg Domspatzen boys choir in Germany were subjected to some form of abuse, according to Vatican Radio. Of those victims, 67 students were victims of sexual violence, the radio said.

The 440-page report, which spanned the years between 1945 and the early 1990s, found highly plausible accusations against 49 members of the church of inflicting the abuse, with nine of them accused of being sexual abusive. The Diocese of Regensburg and the Domspatzen choir supplied links to the report and related news stories or resources on their respective web sites: www.bistum-regensburg.de and www.domspatzen.de.

In the report, Weber sharply criticized Cardinal Gerhard Muller, who was bishop of Regensburg from 2002 until 2012, when Pope Benedict appointed him to head the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Then-Bishop Muller had “a clear responsibility” in the “strategic, organizational and communication weaknesses” that marked the process he launched of reviewing allegations. Cardinal Muller had ordered the creation of a commission to investigate and search through diocesan archives in the wake of the 2010 abuse crisis.

But in an interview with TV2000, the satellite television station owned by the Italian bishops’ conference, Cardinal Muller denied he had not done enough as bishop of Regensburg.

“I launched the process of investigation” when abuse claims increasingly emerged in 2010, he said in the interview, which aired July 20.

Time, resources and assistance were dedicated to “offering justice to victims,” he said, and he personally set up a team of experts and appealed to victims to come forward.

“Those responsible for abuse are relatively few and a number of them are dead,” he said, adding that “unfortunately we can’t put dead people on trial, but whatever could be done, juridically and pastorally, the diocese did, just as it does today.”

He said the elementary school where the choir boys studied was “institutionally independent from the diocese” and that, at the time, it was also very reserved, “very closed, nobody could go in.”

“Perhaps there were rumors, but they never reached the diocese,” the cardinal said.

One of the first Domspatzen student-victims to come forward in 2010 with allegations of sexual abuse, Alexander Probst, told Deutsche Welle July 18 that he had been very frustrated and angry with the way then-Bishop Muller reacted to his claims. He said the bishop accused him of denouncing the church.

In the interview, whose link could be found on the Regensburg boys’ choir website, Probst said he felt the bishop actively protected abusers, and that “it got even worse when he was appointed head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; it was like putting a fox in charge of the henhouse.”

“It was only after the new bishop of Regensburg, Rudolf Voderholzer, realized that there was much more to all this than met the eye when things began to get better. Starting in 2015, he personally wanted to cooperate with us,” Probst said.

Widespread news of the suspected abuse first emerged in 2010 as religious orders and bishops’ conferences in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands were faced with a flood new allegations of the sexual abuse of children, mainly at Catholic schools.

The boys’ choir had been led between 1964 and 1994 by Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the older brother of retired Pope Benedict XVI.

In an interview with the German newspaper Passauer Neue Presse in 2010, Msgr. Ratzinger apologized to victims at his former school, even though he said he had been unaware of the alleged incidents.

“There was never any talk of sexual abuse problems, and I had no idea that molestation was taking place,” the priest said, as he recalled his 30 years as the school’s choirmaster.

Msgr. Ratzinger had said when he served at the school, “there was a climate of discipline and rigor … but also of human understanding, almost like a family.” He knew that the priest who headed the school from 1953 until his death in 1992 had slapped boys in the face, but said he had not considered such punishments “particularly brutal.”

“If I’d known the exaggerated vehemence with which the director acted, I would have reacted,” he said in the 2010 interview.

In his report, Weber said Msgr. Ratzinger should have known about at least some cases of physical violence, but that his role “was still not at all clear.”

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, told Vatican Radio the new report shows how Bishop Voderholzer “has taken seriously all the allegations” and is “very courageous in taking on an issue that has been looming for many years.”

It is only now that the facts have become “plain, in the light of day” because of establishing and cooperating with a professional, independent investigation, he said.

This latest report should inspire church leaders around the world, Father Zollner said, “so that they do the same today because this will help, first of all, those who have been harmed in the past.”

 

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

 

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