VATICAN CITY — Breaking developments that update the post below: Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi today issued a written commentary that rejects accusations of a Vatican cover-up on priestly sex abuse and says efforts to personally involve Pope Benedict XVI in questions of abuse have clearly failed.
Father Lombardi’s note makes three main points:
1. The German bishops’ conference has taken the right approach to discovering and dealing with abuse cases, in a way that might serve as a model in other countries. One point underlined by the bishops is that the issue of celibacy has no connection with the issue of pedophilia.
2. An interview with Msgr. Charles Scicluna, who deals with sex abuse cases at the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation, shows that far from trying to hide such cases, the congregation — under the leadership of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict — has made a far-reaching effort to discover and punish these crimes.
3. The Archdiocese of Munich has made it clear that the pope, when he was archbishop of Munich, was unconnected with decisions involving a priest who relocated to the archdiocese and later committed abuse.
“It is evident that over recent days some people have sought — with considerable persistence, in Regensburg and Munich — elements that could personally involve the Holy Father in questions of abuse. To any objective observer, it is clear that these efforts have failed,” Father Lombardi said.
The note was titled “A clear route through stormy waters.” Here is an English translation released by the Vatican Information Service:
At the end of a week in which a large part of the attention of the European media has been focused on the question of sexual abuses committed by people in institutions of the Catholic Church, we would like to make three observations:
Firstly, the line being taken by the German Episcopal Conference has shown itself to be the right way to face the problem in its various aspects. The declarations of the president of that conference, Archbishop Zollitsch, following his meeting with the Holy Father, recap the strategy laid down in the conference’s recent assembly and reiterate its essential operational aspects: recognition of the truth and help for victims, reinforcement of preventative measures and constructive collaboration with the authorities (including the judicial authorities of State) for the common good of society. Archbishop Zollitsch also unequivocally reiterated the opinion of experts according to whom the question of celibacy should in no way be confused with that of pedophilia. The Holy Father has encouraged the line being followed by the German bishops which – even taking account of the specific context of their own county – may be considered as a useful and inspiring model for other episcopal conferences that find themselves facing similar problems.
Furthermore, an important and wide-ranging interview given by Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, promoter of justice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gives a detailed explanation of the significance of the specific canonical norms established by the Church over the years to judge the heinous crimes of sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy. It is absolutely clear that these norms did not seek, and have not favored, any kind of cover-up of such crimes; quite the contrary, they initiated intense activities to confront, judge and adequately punish the crimes in the context of ecclesiastical legislation. And it must be remembered that all this was planned and set in motion when Cardinal Ratzinger was prefect of the Congregation. The line he followed was always one of rigor and coherence in dealing with even the most difficult situations.
Finally, the archdiocese of Munich has replied, with a long and detailed communique, to questions concerning the case of a priest who moved from Essen to Munich at the time in which Cardinal Ratzinger was archbishop of that city, a priest who subsequently committed abuses. The communique highlights how the then archbishop was completely unconnected with the decisions in the wake of which the abuses took place. Rather, it is evident that over recent days some people have sought – with considerable persistence, in Regensburg and Munich – elements that could personally involve the Holy Father in questions of abuse. To any objective observer, it is clear that these efforts have failed.
Despite the storm, the Church clearly sees the route she must follow, under the sure and rigorous guidance of the Holy Father. As we have already had occasion to observe, it is our hope that this torment may, in the end, help society as a whole to show ever greater concern for the protection and formation of children and adolescents.