.- Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See's Press Office, released a statement on Saturday morning in which he made three "observations" regarding sexual abuse by people and in institutions of the Catholic Church. He also dismissed as unfounded attempts to link the Pope to a decision to transfer a priest found to have committed sexual abuse when Benedict XVI was Archbishop of Munich.
The first of the three "observations" made by Fr. Lombardi was to point out that the "line taken" by the German Bishops' Conference has been confirmed as the correct path to confront the problem in its different aspects.
Fr. Lombardi included some elements of the statement made by Archbishop Robert Zollitsch at a Friday press conference following his audience with the Pope. The Vatican spokesman highlighted the approach established by the German bishops to respond to the possible abuses: "recognizing the truth and helping the victims, reinforcing the preventions and collaborating constructively with the authorities - including those of the state judiciaries - for the common good of society."
Fr. Lombardi drew attention to Archbishop Zollitsch's affirmation, without any doubts, of the expert opinion that the vow of celibacy of the priest has no relationship to cases of pedophilia.
He also reaffirmed that the Holy Father supports the German bishops in their plan and that this approach could be considered "useful and inspiring" to other episcopal conferences in similar situations.
Secondly, Fr. Lombardi referred to the interview given to Avvenire by the "promoter of justice" from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Monsignor Charles Scicluna, who explained in detail the norms of the Church for investigating cases of sexual abuse of minors.
The Vatican spokesman highlighted the most important element of the interview: that the Church has in no way promoted hiding the crimes, but has put an "intense activity" in motion to confront, judge and punish them in an appropriate manner "within the framework of ecclesiastical ordinance."
He also wrote that it is important to note that special attention was given to these themes when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, was the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
"His line has always been that of rigor and coherence in confronting even the most difficult situations," added Fr. Lombardi.
The final observation Fr. Lombardi made was that a recent communique from the Archdiocese of Munich answers questions about a priest who was found guilty of abuses after being transferred from Essen to Munich, where Cardinal Ratzinger was archbishop at the time. The communique, he stressed, shows that the archbishop was completely "extraneous" to the decisions made after the abuses were verified.
"It's rather evident that in recent days there are those who have sought - with a certain tenacity, in Regensburg and in Munich - elements for personally involving the Holy Father in the questions of the abuses. For every objective observer, it's clear that these efforts have failed," he stated.
The Vatican spokesman concluded by reaffirming that "despite the tempest," the Church sees the course to follow "under the sure and rigorous guide of the Holy Father."
Fr. Lombardi concluded by expressing his hope that the process might help all of society to "take charge" of improving ways to protect and form children and youth.