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European prelates speak on abuse,
priestly celibacy: a connection?

March 11, 2010
Vienna's Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has said that the broadening sex-abuse scandal indicates a need to re-think the training that priests receive. The Austrian prelate called for a thorough and "unflinching" discussion of the possible causes for sexual abuse by Catholic priests. No topics should be taboo during that discussion, the cardinal said; he called for a frank evaluation of how priests have handled the consequences of the sexual revolution that began in the 1960s, and analysis of how priests are trained for a life of celibacy.

Several English newspapers reported that Cardinal Schönborn had said that priestly celibacy is the root cause of the sex-abuse problem. He did not. Nor did he call for an end to clerical celibacy. As spokesman for the Vienna archdiocese, responding to these interpretations of the cardinal's statement, issued a clarification that Cardinal Schönbron "did not call into question celibacy in any way." His focus was on how young men are prepared to live with that discipline.

In Rome the prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, confirmed that Church leaders are not planning any change in the rule of priestly celibacy, which he described as "a gift from the Holy Spirit."

Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiga, asked whether he saw a connection between celibacy and abuse, replied: 'I don't understand how there can be a link." Archbishop Gerhard Mueller of Regensberg, Germany, was even more dismissive, saying that any claim to see a connection was "nonsense."

Irish bishops to undertake ‘penitential acts’ in reparation for abuse

March 11, 2010
The bishops of Ireland have agreed to “undertake and lead penitential acts” in their dioceses “to acknowledge the truth and reflect on the failures of the Church” with regard to the clerical abuse of children, according to a March 10 statement issued at the conclusion of the bishops’ spring meeting.

The bishops “reiterated their profound regret and sorrow that the avoidance of scandal and the preservation of the reputations of individuals and of the Church took precedence over the safety and welfare of children,” the statement added.

The Irish bishops also welcomed the March 9 statement of the Holy See Press Office on the clerical abuse of children. “Fr. Lombardi’s statement addresses misinformation which exists in the public domain around the 2001 Letter 'De delictis gravioribus' [‘On grave crimes’],” the bishops noted. “It was made clear to the bishops in Rome that the 2001 Letter in no way precluded Church authorities from their civil obligations especially in regards to reporting and cooperating fully with the civil authorities. This important matter has been consistently misrepresented in some quarters.”

Pope mourns Egyptian Muslim leader

March 11, 2010
Pope Benedict XVI has sent a message of condolence to the Al Azhar University in Cairo upon the death of the institution's longtime leader, Sheik Mohammend Sayyed Tantawi.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, sent a telegram indicating that the Pontiff "has asked me to convey to your community and to the family of Sheikh Tantawi his heartfelt and prayerful condolences." He said that the Pope had looked upon the Islamic cleric as "a valued partner in the dialogue between Muslims and Catholics."

Cardinal Bertone added his own personal condolences, saying that he had happy memories of meeting with Sheik Tantawi during the sessions of the joint Islamic-Catholic commission they had established.

Vatican newspaper: Greater presence of women could have prevented abuse scandals

March 11, 2010
Lucetta Scaraffia argues in a L’Osservatore Romano article that an increased presence of women, both religious and lay, in the “decisional spheres” of the Church could have helped prevent the “painful and shameful” clerical abuse scandal.

The Italian historian and journalist cites the example of St. Daniel Comboni (1831-81), who established missions in Sudan. According to Scaraffia, the saint believed that the presence of nuns is “essential” in the missions because they are a “defense and a guarantee” of the missionary priest’s chastity. Otherwise, Scaraffia writes, the isolated priest would “not improbably” be tempted to unchastity with women or boys.

Pope John Paul II’s 1988 apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem and a 2004 letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith called for a “greater feminine presence in the Church,” Scaraffia adds, but these documents have yet to be fully implemented.