London, England, Oct 2, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, president of the bishops' conference of England and Wales, will file a complaint with the BBC over a recently aired documentary, which accuses Pope Benedict XVI of covering up child abuse by priests.
The cardinal-archbishop of Westminster intends to address his letter of protest to Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC.
The documentary, “Sex Crimes and the Vatican”, which aired Oct. 1 on BBC1 Panorama, claims to reveal how, in 2001, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, issued a “secret Vatican edict” telling the world's Catholic bishops to put the Church before children's safety, reported The Evening Standard.
It describes a 39-page document, “Crimen Sollicitationis,” as an updated version of a 1962 Vatican order which, it claims, laid down the rules for covering up sex scandals.
The film claims Cardinal Ratzinger enforced the document for 20 years. It reportedly includes an oath of secrecy, enforceable by excommunication. The program said he advised Church leaders to encourage complainants, the accused, and witnesses to talk about abuse allegations rather than report them to the police.
Fr. Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer dismissed from his Vatican post after publicly criticizing its handling of child abuse, appears in the film, saying the document was an explicit written policy to cover up abuse.
But in a statement, issued on behalf of the bishops’ conference, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham explains that the document was not directly concerned with child abuse at all, but with the misuse of the confessional. Archbishop Nichols is also chairman of the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults.
"This has always been a most serious crime in Church law. The program confuses the misuse of the confessional and the immoral attempts by a priest to silence his victim,” reads the statement.
The statement describes the documentary as an "unwarranted, prejudiced attack on a revered world religious leader" and says “the BBC should be ashamed of the journalism used to create this unwarranted attack on Pope Benedict XVI.”
The bishops said the documentary used "sensational tactics and misleading editing, old footage and undated interviews".
The statement says the BBC misrepresented two documents and "uses them misleadingly to connect the horrors of child abuse to the person of the Pope".
"The second document, issued in 2001, clarified the law of the Church, ensuring that the Vatican is informed of every case of child abuse and that each case is dealt with properly,” the statement clarifies. “This document does not hinder the investigation by civil authorities of allegations of child abuse, nor is it a method of cover-up, as the program persistently claims.”
The bishop said the Catholic Church in England and Wales is dealing responsibly with incidents of child abuse, “with transparency and care.”
Vatican City, Oct 2, 2006 (CNA) - Prior to heading back to the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI made a final Angelus Address at Castelgandolfo, speaking of two themes central to the month of October – the Rosary and World Missions.
The Pope began by recalling that, "next Saturday, October 7, we will celebrate the feast day of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary.” The annual celebration of the feast, “is as if, every year, the Virgin invites us to rediscover the beauty of this prayer, so simple and so deep," Benedict said.
Pope Benedict also remembered Pope John Paul II, who he called “a great apostle of the Rosary." It was John Paul’s great devotion to the Marian prayer which led him to write the Apostolic Letter "Rosarium Virginis Mariae."
"The Rosary is a contemplative and Christo-centric prayer,” Benedict continued, “inseparable from the Holy Scriptures.”
“It is the prayer of the Christian advancing in his pilgrimage of faith, in the following of Jesus, preceded by Mary," he said.
The Pope invited all to recite the Rosary during the month of October, "in the family, in the community and in the parishes for the Pope's intentions, for the mission of the Church and for world peace".
The Holy Father also spoke about the World Missionary Day, which will be celebrated on October 22nd, asserting that "the Church is, by its nature, missionary."
The intrinsic mission of the Church, he said, is "the continuation of Christ's mission: to bring God's love to all, proclaiming it with words and the concrete testimony of charity.”
The Pope noted that in a message for the upcoming World Missionary Day, he called charity as “the soul of the mission.”
The Holy Father recalled two saints who are patrons of the missions, St. Francis Xavier and St. Therese of Lisieux. The Pope focused on St. Therese, who’s feast it was Sunday, praying that “she, who showed that the 'little' way to holiness is through abandoning oneself in trust to the love of God, might help us in being believable witnesses to the Gospel of Love."
Castelgandolfo, Italy, Oct 2, 2006 (CNA) - Concluding his traditional stay at Castelgandolfo Sunday, Pope Benedict offered thanks and blessings for the many personnel who worked to make his stay safe and successful.
Pope Benedict XVI bid his farewells to Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano (the diocese in which Castelgandolfo is located), the religious communities, the civil authorities and the personnel in charge of security during his stay in the summer residence.
The Pope said, "A dear salutation to the Jesuits of the Vatican Specola and the religious and lay communities present in Castelgandolfo. During these months I have felt their spiritual closeness and give them my heartfelt thanks, with the wish that all may correspond with renewed generosity to God's call, using all energies for the service of the Gospel."
The Holy Father also thanked the mayor and the municipal council and inhabitants of Castelgandolfo "who were so attentive to my person and to those who spent their summer with me." The Pope’s brother, Fr. Georg Ratzinger, is said to have spent a good deal of time at the Pontifical retreat and the Pope’s personal staff, including his personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein.
Benedict XVI also praised the "courtesy and hospitality (...) for the many pilgrims and visitors who came to see the Pope, especially for the Sunday Angelus."
He went on to express his appreciation to all those who served and protected him, mentioning also, the members of the airforce who offered their services to transport the Pope by helicopter a few times.
"To each and everyone,” the Pope said, “my most sincere thanks and the assurance of a constant memory in prayer for each of you as well as those dear to you."
He concluded by asking "God to recompense all for their dedication and faithfulness with which you accomplished the duties entrusted to you."
Since the 16th century, Pope’s have traditionally worked from their residence in the lakeside town of Castelgandolfo during the months of August and September – when many Romans escape the oppressive heat of Rome by heading to the mountains or beaches of Italy.
Beirut, Lebanon, Oct 2, 2006 (CNA) - Although the conflict in Lebanon has ended, peace has yet returned for the inhabitants of a mostly Maronite Catholic town who fear Hezbollah will turn their country into an Islamic nation.
Christians, mostly Maronite Catholics, now make up only 40% of the population of Lebanon. The middle-eastern country once boasted a majority Christian population, but is now being increasingly populated by Muslims, including Shiites who are represented, in large part by, militant group Hezbollah.
A reporter working for the Mexican daily “El Universal” published a story last week, focusing on the shifting circumstances in Rmaich, a Maronite town of 8,000 inhabitants located two kilometers from the Israeli border. The town was not destroyed during the recent conflict between Hezbollah and neighboring Israel, but residents still live in constant fear.
Residents say Hezbollah is not welcome in Lebanon and that their goals are not shared by most Lebanese.
“Let them go to Iran or Syria. They are not Lebanese and they are destroying our country,” said one man identified as Elias Sumani about Hezbollah. His family had to live two months without gas and water due to the conflict that began on July 12.
According to the story, Rmaich “was an enclave where more than 30,000 displaced Shiites found refuge in homes and schools during the conflict, which forced them to live in almost precarious conditions.”
“Like good Christians we took in those who were in need. The inhabitants of Aaita ech Chaab (controlled by Hezbollah) took refuge here and families gave them assistance,” a local resident said.
“We act this way, but in reality we fear them,” Sumani explained. “The Shiites are dangerous. If they want an Islamic nation, let it not be in Lebanon. If you listen to them you see they are not Lebanese. We need to be clear about this,” he said.
Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch has denounced Hezbollah as “a state within a state, supported by Iran. After the war this is something we will not accept.”
Archbishop Chucrallah-Nabil El-Hage of Tyre said, “The most important thing is to stay in this land” despite other daily problems, such as unemployment, that Christians face amidst a Muslim majority.
Washington D.C., Oct 2, 2006 (CNA) - Four Supreme Court justices attended the annual Red Mass, which is traditionally held each autumn to mark the beginning of the court’s new term and draws members of the legal community, Presidential Cabinet members, and occasionaly the President himself.
Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington presided at yesterday’s Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, where the Red Mass has been held since 1952.
Four of the five Catholic Supreme Court justices — Chief Justice John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas — attended, reported The Associated Press. Justice Samuel Alito did not attend.
“Morality and ethical considerations cannot be divorced from their religious antecedents. What we do and how we act, our morals and ethics, follow on what we believe,” the archbishop said in his homily. “The religious convictions of a people sustain their moral decisions.”
Faith and politics are distinct, yet interrelated, he continued, citing Pope Benedict’s Deus Caritas Est.
“Politics and faith are mingled because believers are also citizens. Both Church and state are home for the same people,” he stated.
Also present were members of President George Bush's Cabinet — including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson — foreign ambassadors and members of the capital's legal community, reported the AP.
The Red Mass dates to 13th century and is conducted to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance for those who seek justice. It takes its name from the red vestments, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, worn by the celebrants.
Stamford, Conn., Oct 2, 2006 (CNA) - Just when the release of two Catholic bishops from detention seemed to indicate a positive change in between China and the Roman Catholic Church, Chinese authorities have arrested two Catholic priests returning from a trip to Europe.
Frs. Shao Zhoumin and Jiang Sunian, vicar general and chancellor respectively of Wenzhou diocese in Zhejiang Province were arrested Sept. 25 in Shenzhen of Guangdong Province and taken away to an unknown location.
There still no indication of their whereabouts or the reason for their arrest, according to a release from the Cardinal Kung Foundation. Authorities did take away a number of books and photos that the priests brought back from Europe.
Both priests were previously arrested on Oct. 27, 2005 after they concelebrated a Mass with other priests to close the Eucharistic Year. Fr. Shao was also arrested in 1999.
In 1999 Fr. Jiang was first detained for publishing hymnbooks. He was sentenced to a six-year jail term and fined approximately US$32,000; he was released in 2003.
“Following the consecutive releases from jail of Bishop An Shuxin and Bishop Jia Zhiguo within the last 40 days, the hunt-down and arrests of these two priests in Shenzhen, which is thousands of miles from their home in Wenzhou, is a sign of the issue of religious freedom turning for the worse,” said Joseph Kung, president of the Cardinal Kung Foundation, in a statement.
“We had hoped that the releases of Bishop An and Bishop Jia were not isolated cases, but rather the beginning of the release of hundreds of other imprisoned religious. We were wrong,” he continued.
“These two arrests … dashed our hopes and proved that ours was wishful thinking.”
Kung said these two arrests also indicated that China “is simply not sincere about improving its relationships with the Vatican and its human rights policy.”
The Kung Foundation renewed its call for the International Olympic Committee to move the Olympic Games scheduled to be held in China in 2008.
Washington D.C., Oct 2, 2006 (CNA) - The United States bishops are expected to vote on a proposed restructuring of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and its offices at their annual November plenary meeting in Baltimore.
The restructuring is aimed at creating a more focused, smaller, and less costly conference.
The Committee on Priorities and Plans, responsible for strategic planning and chaired by Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe, drew up the proposed plan, which it believes would increase flexibility, responsiveness, creativity, and collaboration.
The plan would reduce the USCCB’s 68 committees, subcommittees, and task forces to 34. Staff offices would be restructured, contributing to a 16 percent or $1.9-million reduction in the annual diocesan assessment toward the USCCB yearly budget.
The Committee on Priorities and Plans would also provide more oversight to assure that the USCCB emphasizes major themes or priorities in three-to-five-year cycles. The proposed priorities for 2008 to 2011 include an initiative supporting marriage, vocations to priesthood and religious life, faith formation based on sacramental practice, and the life and dignity of the human person.
USCCB Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) and Catholic News Service (CNS) are not part of the present restructuring. Without MRS and CNS, there are 225 current USCCB employees. Over the past two years, about 35 positions became vacant through attrition and are not expected to be filled. It is expected that another 28 positions will be eliminated.
There will be greater use of outside consultants to assist committees, such as the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. The Department of Education would be divided into two separate offices, one for evangelization and catechesis and the other for Catholic education.
In another change, the natural family planning office would move from the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities to an office that would address the laity, marriage, family life, and youth.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 2, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Jorge Lozano, Bishop of Gualeguaychu and head of youth ministry for the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina, has criticized political leaders for focusing sexual policies on mere genital activity rather than considering proper sexual formation.
In an article published by the Argentinean daily “La Nacion,” the bishop recalled two well publicized cases of sexual abuse and rape in his country. The bishop worried that the overarching issues of the cases “may become blurred.”
In both instances, he said, “the so-called debate was over abortion” and the sexual education of teenagers. Unfortunately, he pointed out, “little was said about the sexual education of adults, who were responsible for this outrage against intimacy.”
“We adults speak of how young people live out their sexuality and we organize educational programs that they need. And what about at home? Aren’t adults the greatest consumers of pornography? Are not adults the ones who run the business of sex trade and human trafficking?” the bishop asked.
Bishop Lozano said that in today’s society, “the sexual act is increasingly divorced from mutual consent, from dialogue, from interpersonal encounter, and from love.” In the exaltation of pleasure, he said, the satisfaction of the body is sought without any connection to the person.
In this sense he criticized the “sexual health and reproductive” public policies for being oriented towards “a view of genital activity disconnected not only from the person but also from love and from sexuality itself…. We need to go from ‘pubic policies’ to true public policies. To think of sexuality as mere genital activity is reductionist.”
Bishop Lozano also criticized a new law that legalizes tubal ligations and vasectomies, which “without any debate in society and barely any congressional debate” has turned a crime into a right. He said it appears that the legislation is aimed at keeping poor people, who are already marginalized, from reproducing, as if they were “the cause of underdevelopment and poverty,” when in reality these are caused by “the concentration of riches in the hands of a few and the accumulation of poverty in many.”
The bishop said public policy should address real, not imagined, problems. “The poor ask how they will feed their children, not how to have them. We love them by giving them more space in our lives, not by telling them how many children we are willing to let them have.”
Lastly, the bishop reminded Argentineans that the real concern is to make life for all more dignified and “to make the arrival of new life just as desired as life itself.”
Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 2, 2006 (CNA) - Auxiliary Bishop Jose Trinidad Gonzalez Rodriguez of Guadalajara, Mexico, made a special plea to Our Lady of Zapopan this week to “work a miracle again and bring reconciliation, justice, and peace to the nation.” The country is still attempting to recover from a highly disputed presidential elections, which were held in July.
Bishop Rodriguez noted that in the past, “Our Lady of Zapopan brought about the non-violent pacification of the peoples of Jalisco and the inhabitants of what is today Nochistlan, Zacatecas. She brought about reconciliation and peace.”
“That is what we want to ask that she grants all Mexico, a time of peace. But peace has conditions. There will be no peace without justice. The new name of peace, John Paul II said, is justice. And justice is prepared when we embark upon the path of reconciliation. Reconciliation demands forgiveness. Reconciliation means and demands humility,” the bishop noted.
The bishop also noted that Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniquez of Guadalajara has offered a special intention for the celebrations of Our Lady of Zapopan: “Praying for reconciliation, justice and peace in Mexico.”
Santiago, Chile, Oct 2, 2006 (CNA) - The president of the Chilean Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Alejandro Goic, has reiterated his call to resolve a strike by the country’s health care workers that has paralyzed the country’s health care system for more than three weeks.
Last week Bishop Goic met with Ricardo Fabrega, of the Ministry of Health, and Roberto Alarcon, president of the National Confederation of Health Care Workers, in order to foster discussions aimed at overcoming a labor dispute.
Bishop Goic said that the Church would do all it could to encourage both parties to come to an agreement and end the strike.