What Pope Benedict Knew About Abuse in the Catholic Church

pope Benedict XVI, in 2007
Pope Benedict XVI, in 2007, with his brother Georg Ratzinger, who, from 1964 to 1994, was the director of a Catholic boys’ choir that is the subject of a recent sex-abuse investigation.


The election of Pope Francis, in 2013, had the effect, among other things, of displacing the painful story of priestly sexual abuse that had dominated public awareness of the Church during much of the eight-year papacy of his predecessor. The sense that the Church, both during the last years of Benedict and under Francis, had begun to deal more forcefully with the issue created a desire in many, inside and outside the Church, to move on. But recent events suggest that we take another careful look at this chapter of Church history before turning the page.

During the past week, a German lawyer charged with investigating the abuse of minors in a famous Catholic boys’ choir in Bavaria revealed that two hundred and thirty-one children had been victimized over a period of decades. The attorney, Ulrich Weber, who was commissioned by the Diocese of Regensburg to conduct the inquiry, said that there were fifty credible cases of sexual abuse, along with a larger number of cases of other forms of physical abuse, from beatings to food deprivation.

The news received widespread attention not only because of its disturbing content but because the director of the Regensburg boys’ choir from 1964 to 1994 was Georg Ratzinger, the older brother of Joseph Ratzinger, who became Benedict XVI. Joseph Ratzinger was the Archbishop of Munich from 1977 until 1981, when he went to head up the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which establishes theological orthodoxy and was also one of the branches of the Church that dealt with priestly sexual abuse.

The developments in Germany raised the question of what the two Ratzinger brothers knew about the abuse in the Regensburg choir. Most of the sexual abuse took place, apparently, at a boarding school for elementary-grade students connected to the choir. The chief culprit, according to Weber, was Johann Meier, the boarding school’s director from 1953 until 1992. The composer Franz Wittenbrink, a graduate of the school, told Der Spiegel magazine, in 2010, when the abuse scandal became public, that there was “a system of sadistic punishments connected to sexual pleasure.”

At that time, Georg Ratzinger, who was on the three-person supervisory board of the elementary school, acknowledged that some choirboys had complained about the punishments they received at the school. “But I did not have the feeling at the time that I should do something about it,” he told the Passauer Neue Presse, in 2010. “Had I known with what exaggerated fierceness he was acting, I would have said something.”

In fact, accusations of abuse surfaced and were investigated in 1987, but no one saw fit to remove Meier from his post until the year of his death. When asked at his press conference last week whether Georg Ratzinger had been aware of the abuse, Weber replied, “Based on my research, I must assume so.” He estimated that a third of the students in the choir had suffered some form of abuse. Georg Ratzinger has said that he routinely slapped choirboys when their performance was not up to snuff, standard treatment until Germany banned corporal punishment, in the early eighties. So far, the Regensburg diocese has offered compensation of twenty-five hundred euros for each victim.

In the early nineties, a monk who worked at the Vatican told me, “You wouldn’t believe the amounts of money the church is spending to settle these priestly sexual-abuse cases.” He was not exaggerating. By 1992, Catholic dioceses in the U.S. had paid out four hundred million dollars to settle hundreds of molestation cases. These financial settlements were reached largely to keep the victims quiet: in almost all cases, the documents were sealed and the victims signed a non-disclosure agreement. Given the enormous amounts of money involved, the men running the Vatican were well aware of the problem.

The basic outlines of the sex-abuse scandal were already evident that year when Jason Berry, an American journalist, published his first book, “Lead Us Not Into Temptation.” (While the “Spotlight” team at the Boston Globe is rightly getting its moment of glory, praise is also due to Berry, whose pioneering work on the subject, a decade earlier, was done with far less institutional support.) As Berry reported, Ray Mouton, a lawyer whom the Church hired in 1985 to defend a pedophile priest in Louisiana, warned that, if the Church did not adopt a policy for helping victims and removing pedophiles from the ministry, it could face a billion dollars in losses from financial settlements and damage awards in the next decade. It turned out that Mouton had actually underestimated the financial cost of the crisis. By 2006, the Church had spent $2.6 billion settling sexual-abuse cases, as Berry wrote in the 2010 edition of “Vows of Silence,” his second book on the pedophile crisis, which he co-authored with fellow-journalist Gerald Renner.

Most cases of abuse were handled (or not handled) by local bishops and archbishops, but some were adjudicated by Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The most prominent of these cases was that of Father Marcial Maciel, a favorite of Pope John Paul II and the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, a powerful Mexican religious order that, at its pinnacle, included eight hundred priests, fifteen universities, and a hundred and fifty prep schools, as well as a lay movement with a reported seventy thousand followers.

In the seventies and eighties, former members of the Legionaries reported that, as young boys, they had been sexually abused by Maciel. As the Church later acknowledged, the complainants were highly credible and had no ulterior motives: they were not seeking monetary compensation or notoriety. They followed Church procedures by filing formal charges through ecclesiastical courts in Rome, but nothing was done. In fact, Pope John Paul II called on Maciel to accompany him on papal visits to Mexico in 1979, 1990, and 1993.

When one of the former Legionaries expressed his frustration, in the lawsuit, about the Church’s inaction, Berry and Renner reported in their book, the Legionaries’ own canon lawyer, Martha Wegan, who made no secret that her first loyalty was to the Church, replied, “It is better for eight innocent men to suffer than for millions to lose their faith.”

Cardinal Ratzinger reopened the case against Father Maciel in 2004, and, when he became Pope, in 2006, he acknowledged the validity of the claims, forbidding Maciel to continue his ministry and limiting him to a “life of prayer and penitence.” The Vatican found Maciel guilty of “very serious and objectively immoral acts . . . confirmed by incontrovertible testimonies” that represent “true crimes and manifest a life without scruples or authentic religious sentiment.

Though the sexual-abuse crisis reached its peak in the public sphere during Benedict XVI’s papacy, the single figure most responsible for ignoring this extraordinary accumulation of depravity is the sainted John Paul II. In the context of his predecessor’s deplorable neglect, Pope Benedict gets slightly higher marks than most. In 2001, he acted to give his office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, jurisdiction over all sexual-abuse cases, and soon he began to push the Maciel investigation, despite considerable Vatican opposition. After ascending the throne of St. Peter, he became the first Pope to kick predator priests out of the Church: in 2011 and 2012, the last two full years of his papacy, the Church defrocked three hundred and eighty-four offending priests.

That said, it was too little, too late. As the second-most-powerful man in John Paul II’s pontificate, Ratzinger had more ability to know and to act than almost anyone. The actions he finally did take were largely dictated by a series of embarrassing scandals: his move to take control of pedophilia cases in 2001 closely followed scandals in the U.S., Ireland, and Australia, and staggering financial settlements for American plaintiffs. The decision to reopen the case against Maciel would almost certainly not have happened without the courageous reporting of Berry and Renner. And the zero-tolerance policy that led to the systematic defrocking of abusive priests happened only after the annus horribilis of 2010, in which a new sexual-abuse scandal seemed to explode every week and loyal parishioners left the Church in droves.

Ratzinger understood better than most, if late, that priestly abuse was the negation of everything the Church was supposed to stand for. But, for much of his career, his focus and priorities were elsewhere. During most of his tenure, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was too busy disciplining anyone who dared step out of line with Church teachings on personal sexuality and family planning to bother with the thousands of priests molesting children. In 2009, a nun named Margaret McBride sat on the ethics committee of a San Diego hospital that had to decide the case of a pregnant woman whose doctors believed that she (and her fetus) would die if they did not terminate her pregnancy. The committee voted to allow an abortion, and the woman’s life was saved. Almost immediately, McBride’s bishop informed her of her excommunication. It took multiple decades and thousands of cases of predatory behavior to begin defrocking priests, but not much more than twenty-four hours to excommunicate a nun trying to save a human life. In 2011, also under Pope Benedict, the Vatican lifted its excommunication of McBride.

A reëxamination of the sexual-abuse scandal may help the Church reconsider the standoff between traditionalists and progressives during Francis’s papacy. The traditionalists, who oppose changes such as offering communion to remarried couples, bemoan the good old days when papal authority was unquestioned, civil authorities treated the Church with extreme deference, and parishioners obeyed without objection. They have forgotten that those good old days were also a time when children were slapped, beaten, and often sexually abused, and priests, bishops, parents, and police looked away.

Complete Article HERE!

A ‘gay lobby’ at the Vatican? One cardinal says it’s real, and Pope Francis is responding

Extraordinary Assembly of Synod of the Bishops on the Family 1, Oct. 2014.

The influential Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga has acknowledged the presence of a “gay lobby” in the Vatican. In a new interview, he says that Pope Francis has adopted a gradual approach to address it – and that Catholic teaching won’t change.

The Honduran newspaper El Heraldo asked the cardinal whether there actually was an attempted or successful “infiltration of the gay community in the Vatican.”

Cardinal Maradiaga responded: “Not only that, also the Pope said: there was even a ‘lobby’ in this sense.”

“Little by little the Pope is trying to purify it,” he continued. “One can understand them, and there is pastoral legislation to attend to them, but what is wrong cannot be truth.”

Cardinal Maradiaga is the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras and the coordinator of the Council of Cardinals who advise Pope Francis on the reform of the Curia.

HIs interview, published Jan. 12, also touched on some perceptions about Pope Francis.

The newspaper said some people have interpreted Pope Francis’ other remarks to think there was a possibility the Church would support same-sex marriage.

The cardinal rejected this possibility.

“No, we must understand that there are things that can be reformed and others cannot,” he said. “The natural law cannot be reformed. We can see how God has designed the human body, the body of the man and the body of a woman to complement each other and transmit life. The contrary is not the plan of creation. There are things that cannot be changed.”

A previous report about the Pope working to counter the “gay lobby” was widely read, but its accuracy was uncertain.

In June 2013 the left-leaning Chilean Catholic website “Reflexión y liberación” claimed that Pope Francis had told a meeting of the Latin American Confederation of Men and Women Religious that there is a “gay lobby” in the Church and “we have to see what we can do (about it).”

However, the Latin American Confederation of Men and Women said that this report rested on a summary account that relied on the memory of participants, not a recording. This summary was intended for meeting participants and was not intended for publication. The confederation said the reported assertion “cannot be attributed with certainty to the Holy Father.”

Pope Francis in a July 28, 2013 in-flight interview returning to Italy from Brazil briefly discussed this alleged lobby in the context of penitence, confession and God’s forgiveness.

“So much is written about the gay lobby. I have yet to find anyone who can give me a Vatican identity card with ‘gay’ [written on it]. They say they are there,” the Pope said.

He said that all lobbies are bad and “the gravest problem for me.” Citing the Catechism’s teaching against marginalizing homosexual persons, he said, “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, well who am I to judge them?”

Cardinal Maradiaga also spoke to El Heraldo about reform and changes to the Church.

“We should not expect there will be major reforms in the doctrine of the Church,” he said. “The reform is the organization of the Curia.”

He acknowledged resistance to Curia reform, saying there are people who “resist any changes” precisely because “they do not know the life of the Church.”

The Church is “not merely a human institution,” he explained. Rather, it is “humane-divine” and “natural and supernatural.” This means “there are things that do not really depend on what is human.”

The cardinal’s remarks on a “gay lobby” follow years of increasingly prominent agitation for doctrinal change from non-Catholics and some Catholics.

As CNA has reported previously, LGBT activists have backed conferences and advocacy events to counter the narrative of the Catholic Church, especially during its synods on the family. These actions include the formation of a coalition called the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics and an advocacy campaign that targeted synod attendees in hopes of countering the influence of bishops from West Africa.

Complete Article HERE!

BREAKING: Episcopal Church suspended from Anglican Communion

File under:  Oh SNAP!


(RNS1-may13) England’s best-known cathedral and mother church of the 77 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion will stay open to the public despite the fact that two-thirds of the historic building is in urgent need of repair. For use with RNS-CANTERBURY-BRIEF, transmitted on May 13, 2013, Photo by Trevor Grundy.
England’s best-known cathedral and mother church of the 77 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion will stay open to the public despite the fact that two-thirds of the historic building is in urgent need of repair. For use with RNS-CANTERBURY-BRIEF, transmitted on May 13, 2013

In a move that took some by surprise, the Anglican Communion voted to censure its American branch, the Episcopal Church USA.

At a private meeting in Canterbury, England, the home of the Anglican Communion, leaders voted Thursday  (Jan. 14) to suspend the Episcopal Church from voting and decision-making for a period of three years.

The move is a reaction to a string of Episcopal Church decisions stretching back to 2004 when it elected Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as a bishop. In July, the Episcopal Church voted to allow its clergy to perform same-sex marriages, something the majority of the other churches in the communion do not approve.

“Given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies . . . ” a statement issued by the Anglican Communion reads. “They will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.”

“The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union,” the statement continues. “The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.”

The Anglican Communion consist of 44 member churches from around the world, representing about 85 million Christians. The Episcopal Church has about 1.8 million U.S. members, who now find themselves without a voice in denominational decisions.

The suspension comes after four days of discussions among church leaders — known as “primates” in church parlance — over the Episcopal church’s position on homosexuality in relation to the position of the broader Anglican Communion. The meetings apparently got testy — British Christian media reported the Archbishop of Uganda, among the most conservative of Anglican branches, walked out amid disagreements.

Jeffrey Walker, the Anglican program director at the Institute for Religion an Democracy in Washington, D.C., said the suspension of the Episcopal Church is significant, but does not, at this point, represent a schism, or irreparable rupture, within the Anglican Communion.

“This is not kicking the Episcopal Church out of the Anglican Communion, but it is saying is that by making these decisions for the past 12 or so years the Episcopal Church has created this distance and there will be consequences to those decisions.”


The Anglican Communion consist of 44 member churches from around the world, representing about 85 million Christians. The Episcopal Church has about 1.8 million U.S. members.

The Lambeth Palace press office did not respond to requests for comment about the vote, which was leaked to the media.

Complete Article HERE!

WATCH: Gay Dads Baptize Their Daughter

“It’s important for both of us that Rosie grow up in the Church,” says one of the dads.

Gay Dads Baptize Their Daughter

In documentary filmmaker Eric Kruszewski’s second video on the LEAD Ministry, a LGBT group within the Saint Matthew Catholic Church in Baltimore, we follow a gay couple as they take their daughter to be baptized.

“The kind of support St. Matthews has given us has been tremendous,” says one of the dads. “Tremendous in the sense of a place where can go and honor our relationship with each other. When we were going through our difficulty with adoption, it was a place we could go to cry and center ourselves spiritually.”

Watch the video below:

Complete Article HERE!

WATCH: Inside A LGBT-Friendly Catholic Church

Documentary filmmaker Eric Kruszewski shows that being Catholic and being gay are not mutually exclusive.

being Catholic and being gay

By Jesse Steinbach

To identify as a gay devout Catholic seems contradictory to many people—and for good reason. The Church, both historically and presently, continues to debate the sinfulness of homosexuality: traditionalists condemn it, religious liberals accept it, and a host of individuals (often closeted themselves) are lost in a gray mist of confusion, hate, and more often, self-loathing.

The LGBT Educating and Affirming Diversity (LEAD) Ministry within the Saint Matthew Catholic Church in Baltimore seeks to harmonize religious and sexual orientations, while providing church-goers with a community and place of congregation that is unanimously accepting. Most recently, documentary filmmaker Eric Kruszewski crossed paths with LEAD and was so moved by the group’s mission statement, decided to create a documentary series.

Kruszewski explains:

“I was raised Catholic, but have not practiced my faith in years. And before this project, I had never heard of Saint Matthew Catholic Church. One of the parishioners knew my work and me. So when we bumped into each other at a media event, she told me, ‘I have a story for you…’”

When Kruszewski finally met the LEAD members, he was taken by their hospitality and warmth, both directed towards himself and to each other:

“The first time I met the LEAD members was during their monthly meeting. When a lesbian couple announced they were getting married and moving into a new apartment, another member offered rooms-worth of furniture to get them started. When a newcomer was introduced to the group, the room was pin-drop quiet as he/she shared an intimate story of love and heartbreak. It was clear that there was something special within this congregation.”

Kruszewski quickly felt the need to honor LEAD with a documentary he could share:

“There’s no way I can fully understand what it’s like to be an LGBT Catholic in 2016. But through interviews, the documentary process and getting close to the individuals portrayed in these videos, my goal was to accurately capture their thoughts, feelings and experiences. Perhaps the video series becomes a platform for open discussion surrounding LGBT Catholics acceptance, as well as fuel to keep alive their passion for change and desire for full inclusion. After all, before they knew their sexuality, the Saint Matthew LGBT people were baptized Catholic. Why should that change upon discovering themselves?”

Throughout this week, we will be posting individual videos about LEAD members.

Kruszewski’s first video below is a mere introduction to the many people who identify as Catholic and LGBT:


Complete Article HERE!