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Sex Scandal Rocks the Catholic Church
by Dr. Habib Siddiqui
2010-04-02 10:52:00
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The hottest topic that dominated the media the last week was all about sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church. In a pastoral letter last week, read aloud at all weekend Masses in the 26 Catholic dioceses spread across the Irish Republic and the six British-governed counties of the north, and handed out in printed form to thousands of churchgoers, Pope Benedict XVI apologized directly to the victims and their families in Ireland, expressing “shame and remorse” for what he called “sinful and criminal” acts committed by members of the clergy. But the pope did not require that Roman Catholic leaders be disciplined for past mistakes as some victims were hoping, and nor did he clarify what critics see as contradictory Vatican rules that they fear allow abuse to continue unpunished.

The Pope did not call for resignation of Cardinal Sean Brady, the head of the Irish church. When appointed to lead the Irish church, Cardinal Brady, who had spent 13 years working in the Vatican, was hailed as well suited to guiding the church after its battering in the abuse scandals. But church documents that surfaced this month revealed that Cardinal Brady conducted what a church statement described as a “canonical inquiry” in 1975 into abuse accusations that two boys in Northern Ireland made against the Rev. Brendan Smyth, who was publicly exposed years later as a serial abuser. Father Smyth was convicted of pedophile offenses twice in the 1990s, and died in prison. The 1975 allegations were not reported to the police at the time, a failure that the Irish church, in statements in the past week, said was the responsibility of the bishop who oversaw the investigation, not of the then Reverend Brady, whom it described as a “notetaker.”

In the case of Germany that made headlines recently, Benedict, then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, allowed a priest named Father Peter Hullermann who was accused in 1979 of molesting boys in the western German city of Essen to move to Munich for therapy. The diocese he oversaw did not notify civil authorities of the sexual abuse allegations. Last week, a psychiatrist who treated the pedophile priest decades ago said he had repeatedly warned that the priest should never work with children again. And yet, the priest was re-assigned to parish work almost immediately after his therapy began. In 1986 Hullermann was convicted of sexually abusing boys in the Diocese of Essen, including forcing an 11-year-old boy to perform oral sex. But then again, he was allowed to continue his work with children in a series of Bavarian parishes for the next 24 years until suspended from his duties only last Monday.
What is disturbing in all this mess is that Benedict not only served as the archbishop of the diocese where the priest worked, but also later as the cardinal in charge of reviewing sexual abuse cases for the Vatican. The future pope approved the priest’s transfer to Munich. Six years later, Father Hullermann was convicted of sexually abusing children in the Bavarian town of Grafing.

The depth and history of abuse in Germany is just now becoming clear — more than 250 cases are known, with more appearing each day. At least 14 priests are under investigation by the authorities. None of the victims has yet sought reparations, but sooner or later, the church will have to offer compensation. The American church has paid $2 billion to abuses victims since 1992; can the German church afford the same?

That is not all. As more church sex abuse lawsuits are filed, more documents that have been hidden from public view for years are making their way into the courts. It was revealed last Wednesday that Ratzinger failed to defrock an American priest, Rev. Lawrence Murphy, who molested hundreds of deaf boys, despite receiving letters from a number of American bishops pleading with him to act on the matter. The pedophile priest had worked at St. John’s School for the Deaf in Wisconsin from 1950 to 1974. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, now the Vatican’s secretary of state, was Ratzinger’s second-in-command in the mid-’90s when U.S. bishops wrote about the situation surrounding Murphy. Bertone told the bishops to begin a canonical trial that would result in Murphy’s defrocking if he was found guilty, but Ratzinger called it off after receiving a letter directly from Murphy. Instead of disciplining Father Murphy, the church moved him from the region and allowed him to continue working in schools and a juvenile detention center. He died in 1998, still a priest.

It is obvious from the reports unearthed thus far that Pope Benedict has a long history, dating at least back to 1979, of condoning such sexual abuses within the Church. As a micro-manager all his life, he was on the top of all such affairs and cannot now evade accountability. He allowed the transfer of molester priests that preyed on children. There are also questions about Benedict’s directive as a Vatican cardinal in 2001 that bishops worldwide were to keep pedophilia investigations secret under threat of ex-communication. Regrettably, the church leaders chose to protect the church instead of the children.

Religion in Germany, as in other parts of Western Europe, is already weak. In the former Communist east, only 2 percent of the population go to church on Sunday; in the western states, the number is 8 percent. Germany is not only a secular country, but a sexually liberated one as well. Many Germans find the Vatican’s demand of priestly celibacy completely alien. After all, there was no such tradition before 1022 when by a decree Pope Benedict VIII imposed the celibacy condition on priesthood. It goes without saying that Germany and the Catholic Church would be better off today by rescinding that decree, thus allowing the priests to marry and have a natural life like every Joe, Dick and Harry, which may help to stop all these crimes that have plagued the Church for centuries. Indeed, in a poll conducted last week, 87 percent of Germans said that celibacy is no longer appropriate.

Will Pope Benedict XVI ever have that wisdom to change? Or will he consider resigning, a demand now made by many – victims and well-wishers of the church, over the snowballing pedophile priest scandal?

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Emanuel Paparella2010-04-02 23:06:46
One sexually abused child is indeed one too many and any member of the clergy (of any denomination since pedophiles exist in all denomination and within those without religious beliefs) who is abusive toward children ought to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for his crimes. As mentioned on another occasion, the abuse of religion is a terrible thing for the scandal it causes. The abuse to minors is especially reprehensible, but in all fairness one has to wonder if Dr. Siddiqui has ever heard that most abuses of children are committed by married men within their families, and therefore it is a non sequitur of the first order to suggest, as he does, that allowing the Catholic clergy to get married somehow will solve the problem. More to the point of biased reporting of which Dr. Siddiqui has an unfortunate track record, it is an historical fact that Mahommed married a six year old child and consummated the marriage when the girl was nine. Dr. Siddiqui could have started his analysis of the sexual abuse of religion with that, since he happens to be a Moslem, for what is good for the goose is also good for the gander, if one is to claim objectivity. He is silent on that, but the question arises: what is Islam’s position on the sexual abuse of children? Is it as strict as the prohibition against homosexuality? Dr. Siddiqui is silent on the subject; but his analysis would have been a bit more objective and credible had he broached the subject within a larger scheme of things (the larger scheme of sexual freedom and sexual anarchy so prevalent within modern times...) and put Islam too under his expert analysis. Will we be hearing from him on this matter any time soon? I wager not.

Jack2010-04-03 05:45:32

Whether 2% of the nation of Germany goes to church or not has what to do with this article? When I had read the headline, I had assumed that this was to be about what the title it was given...

It appears to be railing on the Catholic church and some grinding of the axe against religion in general. As Emanuel correctly stated, the number of sexual abuse DOES occur within families and most of the victims are victimized by someone family member they know. To take a small percentage of such occurences and infer this is such to Catholicism seems inappropriate, inaccurate and infers that all Catholic priests are pedophiles, which could not be further from the truth.

Satya2010-04-05 01:05:55
I am really amazed at the silly remarks of both Emanuel and Jack who do not seem to admit about the problem within the catholic church. Rather than seeing the problem as it is, they go onto questioning the wisdom of the article and the writer. Silly and sly attempts by them to mask the crime of the church. So overwhelming is the sexual abuse within the church, Maureen Dowd of the NY Times calls it 'A Devil of a scandal.' She writes in the Saturday issue, "As this unholy week of shameful revelations unfurls, the Vatican is rather overplaying its hand. At the moment, the only thing between Catholics and God is a defensive church hierarchy that cannot fully acknowledge and heal the damage it has done around the globe. How can the faithful enjoy Easter redemption when a Good Friday service at the Vatican was more concerned with shielding the pope than repenting the church’s misdeeds? ... It is in crises that leaders are tested, that we get to see if they succumb to their worst instincts or summon their better angels. All Benedict has to do is the right thing." There, the pope has simply failed to provide the needed leadership.
Dowd quotes Ireland’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, "Shameful abuse took place within the church of Christ. The response was hopelessly inadequate.”
The catholic church is now comparing the charges against it to the jewish holocaust. Fact is such silly comparisons either will not be able to hide the failure of the church. Benedict should resign for the good of the church.

Satya2010-04-05 16:58:24
Further to my note before: here is the latest. The late pope John Paul II is equally to blame for the abuse of children in the catholic church. The Time of London reports:
The most serious claims related to Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, an Austrian friend of John Paul’s who abused an estimated 2,000 boys over decades but never faced any sanction from Rome. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Groer’s successor, criticised the handling of that scandal and other abuse cases last week after holding a special service in St Stephen’s cathedral, Vienna, entitled “Admitting our guilt”.

Schönborn condemned the “sinful structures” within the church and the patterns of “silencing” victims and “looking away”... The Groer affair became public in 1995 when former pupils of an elite Catholic school accused him of sexual abuse.

After an outcry, Groer was replaced and made the prior of a convent. He was never punished and issued only a vague apology in 1998 before retreating to a nunnery where he lived until his death in 2003. Some of his victims were offered “hush money” from the church... In Europe there are signs of the faithful turning their backs on the church in large numbers. In Austria alone more than 20,000 Catholics left the church in March.

In America there was a furious response by Jewish groups to a Good Friday sermon by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Benedict’s personal preacher, in which he compared the wave of attacks on the church to anti-Semitism.

Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, of the American Jewish Committee, protested: “So far I haven’t seen Saint Peter burn. The Vatican is trying to turn the persecutors into victims.”
(Reference: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article7086738.ece)

Satya2010-04-06 23:24:22
Here is the latest from the NY Times: A Catholic priest who has been criminally charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in Minnesota six years ago is still working in his home diocese in India despite warnings to the Vatican from an American bishop that the priest continued to pose a risk to children, according to church documents made public on Monday. The documents show that the American bishop warned the Vatican that the priest was accused of molesting two teenage girls whose trust he gained by promising to discuss their interest in becoming nuns.

A county attorney in Minnesota is seeking to extradite the priest from India in a criminal case that involves one of the girls, who said the priest had forced her to perform oral sex and had threatened her and her family.

The case took place during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, who has recently come under fire for his role in cases of sexually abusive priests in Germany and Wisconsin.

The case was handled after the Vatican clarified and streamlined its procedures in 2001 to respond to accusations of sexual abuse by priests. In the midst of a growing scandal, the Vatican has sought to defend the pope by pointing out that he was both an architect and a promoter of these procedures. ... The priest, the Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, was working temporarily in the Diocese of Crookston, Minn., which like many United States dioceses is bringing in priests from India because there are not enough American priests to serve its parishes. Father Jeyapaul ministered to three parishes simultaneously in Crookston, where he was accused of misappropriating church funds as well as sexual abuse.

Satya2010-04-10 17:27:56
More on church sex scandal from the NY Times, April 9, 2010:
The priest, convicted of tying up and abusing two young boys in a California church rectory, wanted to leave the ministry. But in 1985, four years after the priest and his bishop first asked that he be defrocked, the future Pope Benedict XVI, then a top Vatican official, signed a letter saying that the case needed more time and that “the good of the Universal Church” had to be considered in the final decision, according to church documents released through lawsuits... The letter that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later pope, wrote in Latin in 1985, mentions Father Kiesle’s young age — 38 at the time — as one consideration in whether he should be forced from the priesthood... John S. Cummins, the former bishop of Oakland who repeatedly wrote his superiors in Rome urging that the priest be defrocked, said the Vatican in that era, after the Second Vatican Council, was especially reluctant to dismiss priests because so many were abandoning the priesthood.

As a result, he said, Pope John Paul II “really slowed down the process and made it much more deliberate.”

Della2010-04-14 12:53:34
Emanuel Paparella:

Prophet Mohammed's marriage took place in the 6th Century, when life expectancy was lower and so people got married at a younger age.

It is said that the Virgin Mary gave birth at 11 or 12, (while married to Joseph), but you don't mention this do you?

Back then, when boys and girlshit puberty, it was time to get them married off.

Satya2010-04-16 18:44:48
Della raised a very valid point. If we are to weigh everything that happened some 14 centuries ago using our 21st century scale then we truly do a terrible thing. I know many Indian old couples that were married in the early 20th century when they were not even ten years old. By the way, I am told that there is much controversy as to the age when Ayesha was wed to the prophet of Islam. From historical records, there are evidences that suggest that she was close to the age of Fatima, the daughter of the prophet, which would put her age around 17 and not six.
In support of the above, I share information below from some websites that discuss the matter thoroughly.
"A great misconception prevails as to the age at which Aisha was taken in marriage by the Prophet. Ibn Sa‘d has stated in the Tabaqat that when Abu Bakr [father of Aisha] was approached on behalf of the Holy Prophet, he replied that the girl had already been betrothed to Jubair, and that he would have to settle the matter first with him. This shows that Aisha must have been approaching maturity at the time." [Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad, 1992 U.S.A. edition, p. 30, note 40.]
The famous classical historian of Islam, Ibn Jarir Tabari, wrote in his ‘History’: “In the time before Islam, Abu Bakr married two women. The first was Fatila daughter of Abdul Uzza, from whom Abdullah and Asma were born. Then he married Umm Ruman, from whom Abdur Rahman and Aisha were born. These four were born before Islam.” [Tarikh Tabari, vol. 4, p. 50.]
The compiler of the famous Hadith collection Mishkat al-Masabih, Imam Wali-ud-Din Muhammad ibn Abdullah Al-Khatib, who died 700 years ago, has also written brief biographical notes on the narrators of Hadith reports. He writes under Asma, the older daughter of Abu Bakr: “She was the sister of Aisha Siddiqa, wife of the Holy Prophet, and was ten years older than her. … In 73 A.H. … Asma died at the age of one hundred years.”
This would make Asma 28 years of age in 1 A.H., the year of the Hijra, thus making Aisha 18 years old in 1 A.H. So Aisha would be 19 years old at the time of the consummation of her marriage.

Now let's look at the Mary and Joseph story. These accounts are summed up in the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913 edition, which is available online, as follows:

“It will not be without interest to recall here, unreliable though they are, the lengthy stories concerning St. Joseph’s marriage contained in the apocryphal writings. When forty years of age, Joseph married a woman called Melcha or Escha by some, Salome by others; they lived forty-nine years together and had six children … A year after his wife’s death, as the priests announced through Judea that they wished to find in the tribe of Juda a respectable man to espouse Mary, then twelve to fourteen years of age, Joseph, who was at the time ninety years old, went up to Jerusalem among the candidates; a miracle manifested the choice God had made of Joseph …”

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