Saturday, April 17, 2010

On the Road, the Storms Follow

The Pope might be getting an "ecstatic welcome" on (98% Catholic) Malta... but the specter of the crisis is never far beneath the surface, the NCR's John Allen relays, summarizing the developments just from today:
• In Italy, an essay in the official newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference described a Nazi smear campaign against the Catholic church based on reports of pedophile priests which was orchestrated by Joseph Goebbels in 1937, hinting that criticism voiced on the same theme in recent weeks bears striking parallels;
• In Spain, a defiant Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, now 81 [sic -- he's 80] and retired, insisted that he had the approval of Pope John Paul II when he sent a letter to a French bishop in 2001 applauding him for not reporting an abuser priest to the police;
• In Germany, a report in the Der Spiegel newsmagazine, citing anonymous sources, claims that an official in the Archdiocese of Munich who claimed that he, not then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, had allowed an abuser priest back into ministry, is now saying that he felt pressure to take the blame and thus to “take the pope out of the firing line.”
As if the trio wasn't enough, the months-long shockwaves of revelations across Europe have touched the pontiff's weekend stop, with the Malta curia revealing last month that some 45 cases of abuse had been reported to it over the last decade, half of which were deemed as lacking credibility.

The island's top prelate, Archbishop Paul Cremona, met with a group of victims early this week, and while Vatican officials are said to be formally keeping a "noncommittal" line on a papal meeting with Maltese survivors, that the possibility hasn't been rejected outright indicates the likelihood of such a session tomorrow before the Pope departs for Rome.

The "noncommittal" tack was similarly the case before Benedict's unprecedented meetings with victims in Washington and Sydney, both in 2008, and each kept unannounced until after the fact out of respect for the sensitivity of the moment, and to avoid any chance of a "media spectacle."

Still, amid widespread public perception of the Holy See's "bad job" in handling the crisis, on the eve of his fifth anniversary on Peter's chair, the pontiff's approval ratings on these shores have taken a significant hit.

PHOTOS: Getty(1); AP(2)