Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Benedict XVI in Church Abuse History: A Proper Perspective

When Benedict XVI went to New York he was greeted by two different groups in two opposing and different ways: The OD Opus Dei welcomed him with chants and with 2 huge banners and protected him "like a baby in his mother's womb" while SNAP Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests greeted him with non-stop protests, demonstrations and a call to the UN United Nations to investigate the Pope and the Vatican for violating the Charter of Rights of Children. Why such dichotomy of welcome to Benedict XVI? The answer is simple, Opus Dei and SNAP were treating Benedict the way he has treated them respectively for the past 27 years.

Opus Dei websites versus SNAP Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

Go to any Opus Dei website and you see only praises for the Pope and John Paul II who gave Opus Dei the Vatican, all its wealth and powers during the past 27 years, and forever. That is why we dub Benedict XVI as Opus Dei Pope #2. Even the Jesuits were not allowed to visit any other room at the Vatican Palace except one Hall where their pictures were taken and the Sistine Chapel like any tourists. The Opus Dei is the new Goliath of the 21st Century. Go to the small website of SNAP and you'll see the endless daily struggle of victims of pedophile-priests and their call for the Bishops to stop covering-up these priests-criminals and to get rid of these holy-predators.

Opus Dei's "father" versus SNAP's "criminal"

To demonstrate our point of the dichotomy between Opus Dei and SNAP, here is an article by an Opus Dei member that describes the Opus Dei's King Herod welcome for Benedict. Following it is SNAP's letter to the United Nations to investigate Benedict as a criminal. Yes, Opus Dei welcome Benedict as a "father" while SNAP welcome him as a "criminal", the innocent versus the guilty! After SNAP's letter are articles of the British The Guardian who see the American media as the Pope's personal media spinner. Thanks to Europeans, again, from Rome's La Sapienza to England, The Guardian reminds us in America and the world of the Pope's true guilty role in the crime of Priest-Pedophilia.

Pope Gets Pass on Church Abuse History
Media overlook Benedict's record of downplaying the issue


The Guardian Pope 'obstructed' sex abuse inquiry
Confidential letter reveals Ratzinger ordered bishops to keep allegations secret

The Guardian Vatican told bishops to cover up sex abuse
Expulsion threat in secret documents. Read the 1962 Vatican document (PDF file)

All these are posted below in full for scholars' and readers' convenience
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OPUS DEI

NY Welcomes Pope Benedict XVI

Opus Dei Awakens to Pope's Visit


http://catholicism.suite101.com/article.cfm/new_york_welcomes_pope_benedict_xv

© Susan Gosine
Apr 13, 2008
(Excerpt)

Protest, chants and cheers for Pope's visit. Thousands of police officers deployed to keep Pope Benedict safe during his three-day visit to New York City.

New Yorkers are gearing up for the first visit of Pope Benedict XV1 next week. Opus Dei is preparing two giant banners, millions of faithful are expected to flock to the city and the NYPD and Secret Service are pooling all their resources to ensure the visit passes without incident. And New York City Catholic teachers are planning to greet the Pope with picket lines and chants.

The Opus Dei Headquarters in New York is practicing chants, cheers and songs to perform for the pope. The group hopes to attract his attention with two 30-foot banners. One will portray the New York City skyline with the words "Omnes cum Petro," calling on all Christians to see the pope as the head of the church. It was taken from the opening of an Opus Dei prayer. The second banner will portray the pope's coat of arms splayed across an American flag with the words "Gratias tibi Benedictus XV1" ("Thank you, Pope Benedict"). (Bold emphasis added)

The New York City Police Department will deploy thousands of officers to form a tight security net around the pope to ensure his safety. The bullet proof Pope mobile will be surrounded by armed plain clothes and uniformed officers with thousands others interspersed throughout the city and in the throngs. Snipers will be positioned on roof tops and national security helicopters will patrol the air space over the city. Streets will be blocked and traffic diverted. Subway services and buses will be affected. Bags and backpacks will be searched. Manholes and garbage will bins checked. Every measure will be taken to ensure that Pope Benedict XV1 will be safe as a babe in its mother's womb while visiting New York City.

....

Catholic advertising of Opus Dei, the new Illuminati replacing the Jesuits (if ever the Jesuits were one)

http://www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=27518

Opus Dei is a personal prelature founded in 1928 by St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer in Madrid, Spain. Its principle aim is to help people come closer to God in their work and everyday lives. It has 88,000 members worldwide, 3,000 in the United States.

Opus Dei officials expected approximately 250 high school boys from the New York City area to participate in their activities when the pope arrives, along with 50 from Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington, and about 10 people from Guatemala. Plans called for daily Mass, prayer and a party.

Two Opus Dei priests, Fathers Robert Brisson and Javier Garcia, both administrators for the prelature on the national level, were scheduled to serve as television commentators during the pope's Yankee Stadium Mass. {Of course, Mother Angelica the Diamond Bride carried all the papal Masses and activities live in EWTN}

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SNAP's protests

For Immediate Release:
Monday, April 14, 2008

Clergy abuse victims want UN to investigate Vatican

Pope violates international charter on children, they say

At least twice, Holy See has failed to submit required reports

Pontiff's one report ignored church's own clergy sex crimes & cover ups, SNAP says

Thousands of predator clergy pose current threat to children worldwide, group believes

What

At a news conference, clergy sex abuse victims will call on the United Nations to launch a investigation into the role of Pope Benedict and Vatican officials in the widespread cover-up of sex crimes against children. Victims also want the U.N. to take action for the Pope's refusal to submit required reports as a signatory of the U.N. Charter on the Protection of the Rights of Children.

When

Monday, April 14, 1:30

Where

In New York City, Millennium UN Plaza Hotel, One United Nations Plaza, 44th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenue) (The Governor's Room, 2nd floor)

Who

Several clergy sex abuse victims and their supporters, including a Chicago woman who heads a self-help support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org).

Why

On Friday, April 18, Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to speak before the United Nations yet the Vatican continues to violate a major UN Charter on the Protection of the Rights of Children, of which the Vatican is a signatory.

The widespread sexual abuse of children and the cover up of child sex crimes by church officials poses a major global human rights threat to children. In the U.S. alone, nearly 6,000 sex offender clergy have been acknowledged by church officials to have sexually assaulted children. If this number holds worldwide, there are likely 20,000 sex offender clerics around the globe.

In a letter being sent to UN officials today, leaders of SNAP are calling on the United Nations to launch a full-scale, global investigation into the commission and cover up of sex crimes against children by Catholic clergy, bishops and church officials around the world.

Victims are concerned that Pope Benedict, who will undoubtedly chastise nations this week for human rights violations, is administering a world wide institution in which human rights violations against children are an historic, ongoing and daily occurrence.

Under his leadership in the Vatican for the last 27 years - as Pope and formerly as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith - thousands of predator priests have raped, sodomized and sexually brutalized thousands of children.

Countless church officials who kept silent about the crimes - or actively concealed them – have neither lost their jobs or faced reprimand by the Pope.

National and international criminal authorities have had little, if any, cooperation from church officials in stemming the tide of child sex crimes by clerics, or have been notified when church officials transfer known pedophiles across international boundaries.

Clergy sex abuse victims list 'America's worst Cardinals'

Group cites 5 prelates who are mishandling child molestation

SNAP wants Pope to "show he means business" by censuring "at least one of them"

The cases show that "church cover ups and reckless continue," self help group says

Heads of Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Boston archdioceses are criticized

WHAT

At sidewalk news conferences, while holding signs and childhood photos, clergy sex abuse victims will

-- disclose a list of what they call 'America's five worst Cardinals' (in terms of the sex abuse & cover–up scandal ),

-- outline recent incidents by each that show their continuing recklessness, secrecy and duplicity, and

-- publicly urge the Pope to chastise just one of them for the recent misdeeds.

WHEN

Wednesday, April 16, from 1:00 p.m. until 2:30 p.m.

WHERE

Outside the Guy Mason Recreation Center & Park (202-282-2180), 3600 Calvert NW (corner of Observatory Circle) in Washington DC

WHO

A handful of women and men who were molested as kids by Catholic clergy and who head a nationwide a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org)

WHY

Today, at 1:00 p.m., Pope Benedict meets with roughly 16 US Cardinals. A few blocks away, victims will hold 5 large signs, with color photos of (and fact sheets about) the five current US Cardinals who, they feel, have mishandled or are severely mishandling recent child sex abuse cases.

SNAP's focus is less on the cardinals' overall track record on child molestation and cover ups, but rather highlights the prelates' misdeeds since 2002, when the US bishops adopted an allegedly binding national sex abuse policy.

The list includes Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, and Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston.

George is cited for ignoring the 2005 advice of his lay review board to suspend a young accused pedophile priest, Fr. Daniel McCormack, who'd been recently arrested because of abuse allegations. George kept McCormack in active parish ministry despite repeated reports of McCormack's suspected abuse (going back to his seminary days). Months later, prosecutors say he molested several boys, one "on an almost daily basis" until he was arrested against in 2006.

O'Malley is cited because last month, church officials disclosed that his archdiocese (the epicenter of the US abuse crisis) is in serious violation of the national sex abuse policy for the second year in a row. One in five Boston Catholic kids are not getting the sex abuse prevention training that was promised for each child by O'Malley and his peers six years ago.

The Pope/Cardinals meeting is at the Vatican Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue (in the residence across from the US Naval Observatory). There is free parking at this location.


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The Europeans see the Pope differently from the Americans, they are more truthful and realistic.

The 67 Professors and students and La Sapienza University in Rome protested the Pope's speech and visit on their oepning day of school last January and the Pope cancelled his visit and speech. All road leads to Rome indeed because those Romans can see the Wolf within the Pope while the Americans the Land of Shrek has embraced the Shark Pope. And now, kudos to the British who set the record straight about the track record of Benedict XVI role in the 27-year criminal cover-up of the John Paul II Pedophile Priests Army as this article explains to us.

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting

Media Advisory

Pope Gets Pass on Church Abuse History
Media overlook Benedict's record of downplaying the issue


4/29/08

During his recent visit to the U.S., Pope Benedict's crusade against child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy garnered much approving ink. The Washington Post (4/21/08) credited him with "directly confront[ing] the clergy sex-abuse crisis," while the New York Times 4/19/08) said he "has persistently addressed the scandal of child sexual abuse by priests." In all, hundreds of stories were published on the subject.

But has Benedict "persistently addressed" the scandal? Not according to London's Observer newspaper. The Observer reported (8/17/03 , 4/24/05full articles below)) that in 2001, Benedict, then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, sent a confidential letter to church bishops invoking a 1962 doctrine threatening automatic excommunication for any Catholic official who discussed abuse cases outside the church's legal system. At the time, Ratzinger headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office responsible for investigating abuse claims.

In 1994, according to sources quoted by the Observer, Ratzinger personally dismissed charges of sex abuse against Father Marcial Maciel, the head of an influential conservative seminary in Mexico, and a personal confidant to then-Pope John Paul II. Maciel was accused of abusing several children over decades. According to the paper, Ratzinger dismissed the case, telling a reporter at the time, "One can't put on trial such a close friend of the pope."

In 2006, Benedict asked the 86-year-old Maciel to retire, following a new investigation that began shortly before Ratzinger ascended to the papacy. Citing speculation about why Ratzinger reopened the Maciel case, the Observer (8/24/05) reported:

"His reasons for revisiting the case, though, remain unclear. One theory is that Ratzinger learned that confidential evidence will soon spill into the public domain and that he has decided to act ahead of this. Others suggest that he initiated the investigation for political reasons, to help boost his chances of being elected pope."


In the years immediately before he became pope, Ratzinger dismissed media coverage of the abuse scandal as anti-church bigotry (Zenit, 12/3/02), saying, "I am personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of the sins of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign." His reputation on the issue was so well known that it prompted media speculation that, as pope, Ratzinger would not distinguish himself on the abuse issue. As the Los Angeles Times editorialized (5/26/05) shortly after Ratzinger was elected pope:


"The new pope is unlikely to bring more transparency to the issue. Three years ago, he said the whole scandal was a 'planned campaign' by the news media to discredit the church. All the more reason why detailed disclosure is necessary, and why it may be up to local church leaders -- and the local church faithful -- to make it happen."


If the entire scandal was simply an organized media campaign to hurt the church, the media conspiracy was certainly falling down on the job during April's papal visit. Though these stories have all been reported in one form or another in the U.S. press, during a papal visit that featured a crusade against child sex abuse as a major theme, the information was virtually impossible to find in reporting about Benedict's new crusade.

Which suggests, contrary to Cardinal Ratzinger's claim, that journalists would sooner make use of the memory hole than publish accurate information that might embarrass the pope or his church. (bold emphasis added)

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The Guardian UK

Vatican told bishops to cover up sex abuse
Expulsion threat in secret documents

Read the 1962 Vatican document (PDF file)

Antony Barnett, public affairs editor The Observer, Sunday August 17 2003 Article historyAbout this articleClose This article appeared in the Observer on Sunday August 17 2003 . It was last updated at 01:27 on August 17 2003. The Vatican instructed Catholic bishops around the world to cover up cases of sexual abuse or risk being thrown out of the Church.
The Observer has obtained a 40-year-old confidential document from the secret Vatican archive which lawyers are calling a 'blueprint for deception and concealment'. One British lawyer acting for Church child abuse victims has described it as 'explosive'.

The 69-page Latin document bearing the seal of Pope John XXIII was sent to every bishop in the world. The instructions outline a policy of 'strictest' secrecy in dealing with allegations of sexual abuse and threatens those who speak out with excommunication.

They also call for the victim to take an oath of secrecy at the time of making a complaint to Church officials. It states that the instructions are to 'be diligently stored in the secret archives of the Curia [Vatican] as strictly confidential. Nor is it to be published nor added to with any commentaries.'

The document, which has been confirmed as genuine by the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, is called 'Crimine solicitationies', which translates as 'instruction on proceeding in cases of solicitation'.

It focuses on sexual abuse initiated as part of the confessional relationship between a priest and a member of his congregation. But the instructions also cover what it calls the 'worst crime', described as an obscene act perpetrated by a cleric with 'youths of either sex or with brute animals (bestiality)'.

Bishops are instructed to pursue these cases 'in the most secretive way... restrained by a perpetual silence... and everyone... is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office... under the penalty of excommunication'.

Texan lawyer Daniel Shea uncovered the document as part of his work for victims of abuse from Catholic priests in the US. He has handed it over to US authorities, urging them to launch a federal investigation into the clergy's alleged cover-up of sexual abuse.

He said: 'These instructions went out to every bishop around the globe and would certainly have applied in Britain. It proves there was an international conspiracy by the Church to hush up sexual abuse issues. It is a devious attempt to conceal criminal conduct and is a blueprint for deception and concealment.'

British lawyer Richard Scorer, who acts for children abused by Catholic priests in the UK, echoes this view and has described the document as 'explosive'.

He said: 'We always suspected that the Catholic Church systematically covered up abuse and tried to silence victims. This document appears to prove it. Threatening excommunication to anybody who speaks out shows the lengths the most senior figures in the Vatican were prepared to go to prevent the information getting out to the public domain.'

Scorer pointed out that as the documents dates back to 1962 it rides roughshod over the Catholic Church's claim that the issue of sexual abuse was a modern phenomenon.

He claims the discovery of the document will raise fresh questions about the actions of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.

Murphy-O'Connor has been accused of covering up allegations of child abuse when he was Bishop of Arundel and Brighton. Instead of reporting to the police allegations of abuse against Michael Hill, a priest in his charge, he moved him to another position where he was later convicted for abusing nine children.

Although Murphy-O'Connor has apologised publicly for his mistake, Scorer claims the secret Vatican document raises the question about whether his failure to report Hill was due to him following this instruction from Rome.

Scorer, who acts for some of Hill's victims, said: 'I want to know whether Murphy-O'Connor knew of these Vatican instructions and, if so, did he apply it. If not, can he tell us why not?'

A spokesman for the Catholic Church denied that the secret Vatican orders were part of any organised cover-up and claims lawyers are taking the document 'out of context' and 'distorting it'.

He said: 'This document is about the Church's internal disciplinary procedures should a priest be accused of using confession to solicit sex. It does not forbid victims to report civil crimes. The confidentiality talked about is aimed to protect the accused as applies in court procedures today. It also takes into consideration the special nature of the secrecy involved in the act of confession.' He also said that in 1983 the Catholic Church in England and Wales introduced its own code dealing with sexual abuse, which would have superseded the 1962 instructions. Asked whether Murphy-O'Connor was aware of the Vatican edict, he replied: 'He's never mentioned it to me.'

Lawyers point to a letter the Vatican sent to bishops in May 2001 clearly stating the 1962 instruction was in force until then. The letter is signed by Cardinal Ratzinger, the most powerful man in Rome beside the Pope and who heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - the office which ran the Inquisition in the Middle Ages.

Rev Thomas Doyle, a US Air Force chaplain in Germany and a specialist in Church law, has studied the document. He told The Observer: 'It is certainly an indication of the pathological obsession with secrecy in the Catholic Church, but in itself it is not a smoking gun.

'If, however, this document actually has been the foundation of a continuous policy to cover clergy crimes at all costs, then we have quite another issue. There are too many authenticated reports of victims having been seriously intimidated into silence by Church authorities to assert that such intimidation is the exception and not the norm.

'If this document has been used as a justification for this intimidation then we possibly have what some commentators have alleged, namely, a blueprint for a cover-up. This is obviously a big "if" which requires concrete proof.'

Additional research by Jason Rodrigues

The Guardian UK

Pope 'obstructed' sex abuse inquiry
Confidential letter reveals Ratzinger ordered bishops to keep allegations secret

Jamie Doward, religious affairs correspondent The Observer, Sunday April 24 2005 Article historyAbout this articleClose This article appeared in the Observer on Sunday April 24 2005 . It was last updated at 09:58 on April 25 2005. Pope Benedict XVI faced claims last night he had 'obstructed justice' after it emerged he issued an order ensuring the church's investigations into child sex abuse claims be carried out in secret.
The order was made in a confidential letter, obtained by The Observer, which was sent to every Catholic bishop in May 2001.

It asserted the church's right to hold its inquiries behind closed doors and keep the evidence confidential for up to 10 years after the victims reached adulthood. The letter was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was elected as John Paul II's successor last week.

Lawyers acting for abuse victims claim it was designed to prevent the allegations from becoming public knowledge or being investigated by the police. They accuse Ratzinger of committing a 'clear obstruction of justice'.

The letter, 'concerning very grave sins', was sent from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that once presided over the Inquisition and was overseen by Ratzinger.

It spells out to bishops the church's position on a number of matters ranging from celebrating the eucharist with a non-Catholic to sexual abuse by a cleric 'with a minor below the age of 18 years'. Ratzinger's letter states that the church can claim jurisdiction in cases where abuse has been 'perpetrated with a minor by a cleric'.

The letter states that the church's jurisdiction 'begins to run from the day when the minor has completed the 18th year of age' and lasts for 10 years.

It orders that 'preliminary investigations' into any claims of abuse should be sent to Ratzinger's office, which has the option of referring them back to private tribunals in which the 'functions of judge, promoter of justice, notary and legal representative can validly be performed for these cases only by priests'.

'Cases of this kind are subject to the pontifical secret,' Ratzinger's letter concludes. Breaching the pontifical secret at any time while the 10-year jurisdiction order is operating carries penalties, including the threat of excommunication.

The letter is referred to in documents relating to a lawsuit filed earlier this year against a church in Texas and Ratzinger on behalf of two alleged abuse victims. By sending the letter, lawyers acting for the alleged victims claim the cardinal conspired to obstruct justice.

Daniel Shea, the lawyer for the two alleged victims who discovered the letter, said: 'It speaks for itself. You have to ask: why do you not start the clock ticking until the kid turns 18? It's an obstruction of justice.'

Father John Beal, professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America, gave an oral deposition under oath on 8 April last year in which he admitted to Shea that the letter extended the church's jurisdiction and control over sexual assault crimes.

The Ratzinger letter was co-signed by Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone who gave an interview two years ago in which he hinted at the church's opposition to allowing outside agencies to investigate abuse claims.

'In my opinion, the demand that a bishop be obligated to contact the police in order to denounce a priest who has admitted the offence of paedophilia is unfounded,' Bertone said.

Shea criticised the order that abuse allegations should be investigated only in secret tribunals. 'They are imposing procedures and secrecy on these cases. If law enforcement agencies find out about the case, they can deal with it. But you can't investigate a case if you never find out about it. If you can manage to keep it secret for 18 years plus 10 the priest will get away with it,' Shea added.

A spokeswoman in the Vatican press office declined to comment when told about the contents of the letter. 'This is not a public document, so we would not talk about it,' she said.

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The Guardian UK

The Pope, the letter and the child sex claim

A series of paedophile allegations against a senior papal confidant are haunting Benedict XVI. How he deals with them will be his first major test, writes Jamie Doward

Jamie Doward
The Observer,
Sunday April 24 2005

This article appeared in the Observer on Sunday April 24 2005 . It was last updated at 09:58 on April 25 2005.

Of all the matters lurking in the overflowing in-tray of the new Pope Benedict XVI, the long-running and emotive issue of paedophile priests is the most damaging - not just to the church, but to his own personal standing.

The new pontiff has been accused of failing to investigate a series of abuse claims made against one of his predecessor's closest supporters - a failure which has come to be seen as typical of the Catholic Church's determination to keep a lid on the scandal of priests who breach their position of trust.

The story goes back to the Nineties when the new Pope - then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office responsible for investigating abuse claims.

One of the most high-profile of such claims was made by Professor José Barba Martin, a 68-year-old professor of humanities at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México. He is one of nine former members of the Rome-based Legion of Christ who allege they were abused by the religious order's powerful founder, Marcial Maciel.

Maciel, 84, set up the ultra-conservative order in 1941. Today it has around 500 priests and 2,500 seminarians in 20 countries. It may be small, but its influence is significant. Maciel, who stood down as the order's head in January because of his age, was a confidant of Pope John Paul II, who praised him as an 'efficacious guide to youth'. For decades, Barba Martin kept silent about the abuse claims which are strenuously denied by Maciel and the Legion of Christ. It says the accusers are 'attempting to tar the Vatican... with the stain of these false allegations.'

But, in December 1994, Barba Martin saw an advertisement in a newspaper in Mexico City celebrating Maciel's half a century as a priest and picturing him with John Paul II, and decided to act. At first Barba Martin and other former members of the Legion attempted to raise their allegations with the Vatican, their case becoming a cause célèbre among groups trying to expose abuse within the church, and what they saw as the efforts of its senior hierarchy to cover it up.

'We are modest instruments of history. We have to play our own part to produce a possible change,' Barba Martin told The Observer. 'The problem of sexual abuse within the church has been "cloned" to second and third generations. It has become an epidemic situation.'

The nine filed their case before the Vatican's courts, and persuaded intermediaries to carry a letter to Ratzinger outlining abuse allegations against Maciel. According to one of the intermediaries, Father Alberto Athie, when confronted with the allegations Ratzinger simply said Maciel had brought many 'benefits' to the church and that it was a 'touchy problem'. The Vatican denies Athie's claim.

On 24 December 1999, Ratzinger's secretary, Father Gianfranco Girotti, wrote to the men saying that their claims - many allegedly corroborated by each other's detailed testimonies - had been examined but, for the time being, the Vatican considered the matter closed. In a last-ditch attempt to persuade Ratzinger to change his mind, another letter was despatched to him in 2002 through an intermediary. It went unanswered.

For support groups campaigning on behalf of abuse victims, Ratzinger's apparent reluctance to investigate the claims against Maciel was a crushing blow, but one that did not surprise critics of the new Pope.

Ratzinger's role in protecting the church against scandal became apparent four years ago. In May 2001, he sent a confidential letter to every bishop in the Catholic church reminding them of the strict penalties facing those who referred allegations of sexual abuse against priests to outside authorities.

The letter referred to a confidential Vatican document drawn up in 1962 instructing bishops on how to deal with allegations of sexual abuse between a priest and a child arising out of a confessional.

It urged them to investigate such allegations 'in the most secretive way... restrained by a perpetual silence... and everyone... is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office... under the penalty of excommunication'.

'What really bothers me about this document is the way it suggests that what happens in the confessional should stay in the confessional,' said Carmen Durso, a Boston lawyer who has represented scores of American victims abused by priests.

'In the cases I've dealt with, the paedophiles frequently use the confessional to try and initiate contact with youngsters.' Ratzinger also oversaw the creation of Essential Norms, a 2002 document that reaffirmed the church's right to retain its authority over abuse allegations.

Ratzinger went as far as to slap the wrist of a reporter who dared to ask him about the Maciel investigations. 'One can't put on trial such a close friend of the Pope as Marcial Maciel,' Ratzinger said on another occasion.

Campaigners say Ratzinger's actions show he was prepared to use every means possible to ensure that abuse allegations were not investigated by authorities outside the church.

'We know that in the past few decades the church has tried to keep the abuse issue hidden,' said Mary Grant, a director of a support group of men and women called Snap: the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

The organisation is now seeking an urgent meeting between alleged victims and the new pontiff. 'Ratzinger himself has preferred to dismiss the allegations as a media creation rather than address them,' added Grant.

But a report by the Catholic Church itself estimated that some 4,450 of the Roman Catholic clergy who served between 1950 and 2002 have faced credible accusations of abuse.

Another study, produced last year by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, reported that there had been 10,667 victims of abuse over the last 50 years in the US alone. Campaign groups say the true figure may be significantly higher, especially in developing countries, where priests known to have committed abuse in the west were quietly despatched by bishops desperate to avoid scandal. In addition, abuse claims in developing countries are more likely to have gone unreported, while deference to priests is such that their actions can go unchecked.

Inevitably, lawyers have had a field day as a trickle of early abuse claims that surfaced in the Eighties became a flood in the Nineties. Already it is estimated the church has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars globally to settle claims. Snap estimates that anything between $400 million and $1.3 billion has been paid to victims, and that the final estimate could be as high as $5bn.

The Catholic church's reputation has been damaged worldwide. In the US a 16-month investigation by the Massachusetts Attorney General's office concluded in 2003 that Roman Catholic priests and church staff in the Boston archdiocese molested more than 1,000 children over six decades.

Last February, Dr Kathleen McChesney of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops warned that many more cases were yet to come to light in the US. 'In 2004 at least 1,092 allegations of sexual abuse were made against at least 756 Catholic priests and deacons in the United States,' McChesney said.

Two years ago the Irish government revealed that the bill to compensate victims of sexual abuse by clergy could total €1bn.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales, was forced to appoint child protection representatives in every parish in a bid to quash criticism that it had ignored abuse claims. Between 1995 and 2001, 21 Catholic priests were convicted of sexually abusing children in England and Wales. Murphy O'Connor himself was attacked for failing to report allegations against Michael Hill, a priest in his charge when he was Bishop of Arundel and Brighton. Hill was convicted of abusing nine children.

Now, with a new Pope in the Vatican, the hope for the abuse victims is that the church will start to investigate their allegations. 'I have mixed feelings about Cardinal Ratzinger becoming Pope,' said Barbara Blaine, founder and president of Snap. 'He has been so slow to deal with the Maciel case, but then if he brings the qualities that earned him his reputation as a papal enforcer to addressing the sex abuse scandal, that will be a good thing.'

In what is likely to be seen in some quarters as a clear sign that the Vatican believes it must now confront the abuse scandal, The Observer has learnt that, earlier this month, shortly before he was elected Pope, Ratzinger despatched special envoys to several cities across the globe to take testimonies from Maciel's alleged victims in confidence.

His reasons for revisiting the case, though, remain unclear. One theory is that Ratzinger learnt that confidential evidence will soon spill into the public domain and that he has decided to act ahead of this. Others suggest that he initiated the investigation for political reasons, to help boost his chances of being elected Pope.

What is irrefutable though is that, shortly after he was elected the spiritual head of more than one billion Catholics last week, Ratzinger approached Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago. The last time the two men talked, George raised the abuse crisis with Ratzinger and pressed him to intervene.

In perfect English, the new Pope assured George that he remembered their last conversation and would 'attend' to the matter. The reign of Benedict XVI may well be judged on whether he holds true to his word.

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Comment of frig1 that hits the bull's-eye of Benedict XVI's hypocrisy:

Well, how nice to proclaim that the Pope has the "right" to insist that no pedophile serve as a priest. Until forced to something about this sexual perversity the Catholic Church spent a good deal of time and lots of its money protecting their priestly offenders. While the Church should always lead the way in eliminating such abuses in society, it has instead used payoffs and transfers to cover up these sins of the priesthood. It wasn't until the scandal in the United States that the Pope even went pubic in an intentional way about this issue. Basically, his hand was forced. What has he said or done or recommended about this abuse when he was a cardinal, or a bishop, or a priest himself? (Bold emphasis added)

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Links:

Opus Dei Pope #2-Benedict XVI stomped Barbara Blaine & David Clohessy & SNAP protesters & victims of Priest-Pedophilia --- like Dust in the Wind

John Paul II Octopus Dei leash on Andrew Greeley

John Paul II, VOTF, Diamond Bride Mother Angelica

John Paul II & VOTF Voice of the Faithful & Tom Doyle's letter to VOTF

John Paul II Christmas gift to Totus Tuus Mary

John Paul II and the Vatican Billions:BOYCOTT JPII memorabilia

Opus Dei Pope #2-Benedict XVI the Wolf within the Shepherd

Opus Dei Pope #2-Benedict XVI red shoes versus sandals of Christ

Opus Dei Pope #2 - Benedict XVI effeminate voice is GAY Pope

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