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World News | Despite blame, Benedict fights sex abuse more than past popes

World News | Despite blame, Benedict fights sex abuse more than past popes

VATICAN CITY, Jan. 1 (AP) — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, recognized as one of the most prolific Catholic theologians of the 20th century, was a teacher and pontiff who proclaimed the faith through numerous books, sermons and speeches .

But he has seldom been praised for another important aspect of his legacy: doing more than anyone before him to reverse the Vatican’s sexual abuse of clergy.

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As cardinal and pope, Benedict pushed for a revolutionary overhaul of canon law to make it easier to remove predatory priests, firing hundreds of them.

He is the first pope to meet abuse survivors. He toppled his revered predecessor in the most egregious case in the Catholic Church of the 20th century, finally taking action against a serial pedophile worshiped by St John Paul II’s inner circle.

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But there is still much work to be done, and after his death on Saturday, abuse survivors and their advocates made it clear they see little to commend his record, noting that he, like the rest of the Catholic hierarchy, protected Catholicism. A system that overshadows the needs of victims in the image of the society is in many ways exemplified by the paperwork that fuels the problem.

“In our view, Pope Benedict XVI is taking to the grave the church’s darkest secrets of decades,” said SNAP, a leading US-based group for survivors of clergy abuse.

Matthias Katsch of Eckiger Tisch, an organization representing survivors in Germany, said Benedict would go down in history as “a person who has long been responsible for a system of which they were a victim,” according to the dpa news agency.

In the years since Benedict resigned in 2013, a scourge he believed to involve only a handful of primarily English-speaking countries has spread across the globe.

Benedict refused to take personal or institutional responsibility for the problem, even after he himself was blamed by an independent report for handling four cases while he was bishop of Munich. He has never sanctioned any bishop who harbored abusers, nor has he made it mandatory to report cases of abuse to the police.

But Benedict has done more than any of his predecessors combined, and especially more than John Paul, overseen a public outburst of wrongdoing. After initially dismissing the issue, Pope Francis followed in Benedict’s footsteps by approving stricter protocols aimed at holding hierarchies accountable.

“He (Benedict) acted like other popes did when he was pressured or coerced, but his Pope reacted on this core issue,” said Terrence McKiernan, founder of the online resource BishopAccountability, which he said was “actually like other popes.” Website tracks global clergy abuse cases and cover-ups.

Former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Faith for a quarter of a century, saw the scope of sexual abuse firsthand as early as the 1980s. Cases arrived at the Vatican sporadically from Ireland, Australia and the United States, where Ratzinger tried as early as 1988 to persuade the Vatican’s legal department to let him quickly depose the abusive priest.

Vatican law at the time called for punishing priests through lengthy and complex canonical trials, only as a last resort when more “pastoral” initiatives failed to heal them. The practice proved disastrous, allowing bishops to move perpetrators from one parish to another, where they could rape and harass again.

The legal office rejected Ratzinger in 1988, citing the need to protect the pastor’s defense.

In 2001, Ratzinger convinced John Paul to let him confront the issue, ordering that all cases of abuse be sent to his office for review. He hired a little-known teaching lawyer, Charles Scicluna, as his chief sex crimes prosecutor, and together they began to act.

“We used to discuss cases on Fridays; he used to call it Friday Confession,” recalls Sciclona, ​​who was Ratzinger’s prosecutor from 2002 to 2012 and is now the archbishop of Malta.

Under Ratzinger as cardinal and pope, the Vatican authorized fast-track administrative procedures to rescue egregious abusers. Changes to canon law allowed exemptions from the statute of limitations for sexual abuse on a case-by-case basis; raised the age of consent to 18; and expanded norms protecting minors to also cover “vulnerable adults.”

The changes had an immediate impact: Between 2004 and 2014 — Benedict’s eight-year papacy plus the year after his term ended — the Vatican received some 3,400 cases, according to the only publicly available statistics from the Vatican. case, dismissed 848 pastors and imposed lesser punishments on another 2,572.

Nearly half of the removals occurred in the last two years of Benedict’s pontificate.

“There is always a tendency to think that these allegations of this scourge are something orchestrated by enemies of the Church,” said Cardinal George Pell of Australia, a victim.

“Pope Benedict was very, very clearly aware that there was a factor, but the problem was much deeper, and he acted effectively to address it,” said Pell, who was ultimately acquitted after serving 404 sentences A day in solitary confinement at the Melbourne Detention Centre.

One of the first cases on Ratzinger’s agenda after 2001 was the collection of testimonies from the victims of Pastor Marcial Maciel, founder of the Mexican Legion of Christ. Despite extensive Vatican documents from the 1950s showing that Marciel raped his young seminarian, the priest was courted by John Paul’s Holy See for his ability to bring vocations and donations.

“Compared to the harm done to me by Maciel’s abuse, it was later the harm and abuse of power from the Catholic Church: secrecy, disregard of my complaints,” said Juan Vaca, one of Maciel’s original victims. ) said he, along with other former seminary students, filed a formal canonical lawsuit against Maciel in 1998.

Their case has been on hold for years because powerful cardinals on Ratzinger’s board, including Cardinal Angelo Sodano, John Paul’s powerful secretary of state, blocked any investigation. They claim the allegations against Maciel are merely defamatory.

But Ratzinger ultimately prevailed, and Vaca testified against Scicluna on April 2, 2005, the day John Paul died.

Ratzinger was elected pope two weeks later, and only then did the Vatican finally sanction Maciel to a lifetime of penalty and prayer.

Benedict then took it a step further, ordering an in-depth investigation into the 2010 order that identified Masil as a religious fraud who sexually abused his seminary students and created a cult-like order to cover up his crime.

Even Francis praised Benedict’s “courage” in going after Marcier, recalling that in the early 2000s “he had all the documents” to take action against Marcier, but was outbid by him before he became pope. Someone more powerful stopped it.

“He was a brave man who helped so many people,” Francis said.

In other words, Benedict’s courage to violate the agreement only ends there.

When Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn publicly criticized Thornborn for preventing the Vatican from investigating another high-profile serial abuser — his predecessor, the Archbishop of Vienna — Benedict Te summoned Schönborn to Rome and reprimanded him in front of Sodano. The Vatican issued a high-profile condemnation of Schoenborn for speaking the truth.

Then, an independent report commissioned by his former Munich diocese accused Benedict of four cases during his presidency as bishop in the 1970s; Benedict, long retired as pope at the time, apologized for any “serious mistakes,” But denied any personal or specific wrongdoing.

In Germany on Saturday, the pro-reform We are Church group said in a statement that he had made “unbelievable statements” about the Munich report “that he himself has seriously damaged his reputation as a theologian and church leader and employee of truth”. reputation.'”

“He is not prepared to plead guilty in person,” it added. “Hence, he has done significant damage to the bishop and the Pope’s office.”

American Survivors of the Road to Recovery group said Benedict as cardinal and pope was part of the problem.

“He, his predecessors, and the current Pope have refused to use the Church’s vast resources to help victims heal, gain some closure, and restore their lives,” the group said in a statement calling for transparency.

But the Rev. Federico Lombardi, Benedict’s longtime spokesman, said Benedict’s actions on sexual abuse were one of many underappreciated aspects of his legacy that deserved praise, Because it paves the way for more far-reaching reforms.

Lombardi recalled Ratzinger’s 2005 prayer for the Colosseum Good Friday procession as evidence that the future pope knew the problem earlier and better than anyone else in the Vatican. How serious.

“How much filth there is in the Church, especially among the clergy who are supposed to be all His (Christ’s),” Ratzinger wrote in a meditation on the high-profile Holy Week processions.

Lombardi said he did not understand the experience behind Ratzinger’s words at the time.

“He saw the seriousness of the situation more clearly than anyone else,” Lombardi said. (Associated Press)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)

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