.- A bishop defended the Holy Father's role in combating clerical sex abuse to a self-described “Catholic” protest group in Arizona, who recently urged others not to give to the Church during an annual collection.
Calling themselves, “Send the Bishops a Message,” the group chose the annual Peter's Pence Papal Collection Day to encourage individuals to support other charities instead of the Church as a way to express dissatisfaction with the way they believe the Pope has handled clerical sex abuse cases.
“We're here for two things,” said organizer Frank Douglas to local KVOA news on Sunday. “To protect children and to heal the wounded.”
“There are still sexual predators in the Catholic church and they're being hidden by the bishops and the Pope,” claimed Douglas.
The group's website further asserted that “Church officials have adamantly refused to accept responsibility for their grave moral failures in the clergy sex abuse crisis. They repeatedly 'apologize,' but neither admit to covering up sex crimes against children nor accept their part in the horrendous scandal brought down upon Catholics everywhere.”
In a statement contradicting the protestors, Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson wrote on Sunday that “Clearly, Pope Benedict encourages and supports efforts within the Church to put in place effective ways of preventing and responding to sexual abuse of minors.”
“The Holy Father has expressed his profound sorrow and regret about the sin and crime of sexual abuse by priests and the failure of some bishops to respond appropriately to abuse of children by priests,” the bishop added. “He made this very clear in his statement to the thousands of priests gathered in St. Peter's Basilica two weeks ago to conclude the Year for Priests.”
“He has expressed his deep sorrow to victims of abuse personally in face-to-face meetings on several occasions,” the prelate continued. “He has established a special study of the tragedy of abuse within the Church in Ireland.”
“He has consistently supported the efforts of the U.S. Bishops to address child abuse by priests and to support the zero tolerance policy. In dioceses across the U.S., including our Diocese of Tucson, significant policies and procedures have been put in place to provide safe environments for children and vulnerable adults.”
Speaking on the importance of the annual collection and its global benefits, Bishop Kicanas said that the “charities supported by the gifts of Catholics to the Peter's Pence Collection do immense good throughout the world. Catholics can be assured that their gifts are used only to support the charitable ministries of the Holy Father in desperately poor and struggling nations.”
“Because of this worldwide collection,” he added, “the Holy Father is able to personally direct charity on behalf of the entire Church. The collection provides for the needs of the Church in struggling parts of the world, including providing humanitarian assistance to victims of war, oppression and natural disasters.”
“We can all be very proud of how our gifts and the sharing of our blessings benefit countless numbers of people, especially the littlest and weakest among us,” Bishop Kicanas concluded.