Saturday, March 27, 2010

Vatican's "Voice": For "Credibility's" Sake, The Response "is Crucial"

While continuing to cast blame on "media attacks" for the recent spate of stories on sex-abuse and serial mishandling of allegations in the church, even the Vatican's lead spokesman conceded today that "the way in which the church deals with [its response] is crucial for her moral credibility."

Still, in his comments -- made in an editorial that ran earlier today over Vatican Radio -- Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi prefaced the point with a judgment that the continuing "wide coverage" the various stories have received in the global press "is no surprise.

"The nature of the question is such as to attract the attention of the media," the Holy See's lead spokesman said.

"The truth is that the cases that have come to public attention generally took place some time ago, even decades ago," Lombardi added, "although recognizing them and making amends with the victims is the best way to restore justice and to achieve that 'purification of memory' which enables us to look to the future with renewed commitment, with humility and trust."

Topping the latest front in the pontiff's defense, the front-page lead column of today's L'Osservatore Romano carried an op-ed by Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster originally run in The Times of London which -- in its unedited form -- saw the prelate confess that "I am ashamed of what has happened" while praising Benedict's enhanced action in recent years as proof that the Pope "is not an idle observer. His actions speak as well as his words."

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While Holy Thursday's first Mass might be liturgically dedicated to the priesthood on the "anniversary" of its institution, tomorrow's Palm Sunday observance brings another close encounter with the story-line of the global revelations: at the Vatican, in Italy and across most of the Catholic world, Holy Week's opening day is likewise held as the church's annual World Youth Day, this year's marking the 25th such observance since its institution by Pope John Paul II in 1986.

The Palm Sunday WYD for the dioceses of the world is delayed every third year when, in the summer, the celebrated global gathering takes place, its next occurrence at Madrid in August 2011. In the United States, however, the national observance in the local churches was long ago transferred to the 30th Sunday in Ordinary time.

On a related note, Pope Benedict will celebrate a memorial Mass on Monday night in the Vatican Basilica to commemorate the fifth anniversary of his predecessor's death. While Papa Wojtyla died in the evening of 2 April 2005, the date's coincidence with this year's Good Friday necessitated an earlier scheduling for what's become a standing annual event.

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In Ireland, meanwhile, a spokesman for Cardinal Sean Brady has said that he "would not dignify with a response" the assertion of today's lead story in the country's leading newspaper: that Rome "will force" the Isle's top prelate "to quit if he refuses to resign over the growing child abuse scandal."

As a young priest and part-time secretary to his bishop, in 1975 the current cardinal-primate of All Ireland served a notary at a canonical process that secured confidentiality oaths from two teenage boys as they testified against Norbertine Fr Brendan Smyth, whose prolific history of abuse would eventually make him the island's most notorious predator-priest. The recent disclosure has drawn further public fury in Ireland in the wake of November's Murphy Report on abuse and cover-up in the archdiocese of Dublin and the pontiff's pastoral letter last week to the Isle's Catholics, itself the focus of a conflicted public reaction.

After stating in the face of growing calls for his departure that he'd only stand down at the pontiff's behest, in his St Patrick's Day homily the reigning successor of St Patrick said that he would "be reflecting carefully" on his position "as we enter into Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost."

PHOTO: Getty