Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 19, 2010
Lombardi defends Pope Benedict
Papal spokesman lambastes media for 'unfounded insinuations,' unbalanced account of sexual abuse
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
VATICAN CITY - The Vatican spokesman has strongly defended Pope Benedict as a credible leader on the issue of priestly sex abuse.
The pope's respect for truth and transparency stand in contrast to the "criticism and unfounded insinuations" of recent weeks, said the spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.
In a lengthy commentary April 9, Lombardi said that the recent disclosures of past cases of abuse of minors by priests had demonstrated that the wounds in the Church run deep and require greater pastoral attention.
But he said the Church was taking the correct approach by reaching out to victims, strengthening its own procedures against offenders, encouraging cooperation with civil authorities and improving the screening of priesthood candidates.
Lombardi criticized the media for treating sexual abuse as if it were only a Church problem. The crisis, he said, is extensive and goes well beyond the boundaries of the Catholic clergy.
Responding to widespread criticism of the pope and the Vatican for allegedly failing to act more decisively against priest abusers, Lombardi said the Church's current policies of transparency and firmness reflected the pope's own determination to address the problem.
"Pope Benedict XVI, a coherent guide along the path of rigour and truth, merits all respect and support," he said.
"He is a pastor well capable of facing - with great rectitude and confidence - this difficult time in which there is no lack of criticism and unfounded insinuations," he said.
Church leaders can learn from Pope Benedict "the constancy necessary to grow in truth and transparency" and to respond patiently to "the slow and gradual release of partial or presumed 'revelations' which seek to undermine his credibility," he said.
The spokesman added that this same "patient and solid love of truth" should be shown not only by everyone in the Church but also by those in society who communicate and write.
In response to the barrage of media criticism of the pope and his aides, Lombardi and other Vatican officials have pointed out that even as a cardinal, Pope Benedict pushed hard for stricter measures for prosecuting and defrocking priest abusers.
As pope, he has repeatedly condemned such abuse as a terrible sin and crime, and has met with sex abuse victims in the United States and Australia.
Lombardi said the recent events have revealed, in a striking manner, that although most of these sex abuse cases go back decades, the "inner wounds" are evidently still open.
"Many victims do not seek financial compensation but inner assistance, a judgment on their painful individual experiences," he said.
While the cases may be old and the number of new allegations diminishing, he said, "for many people the road to profound healing is only now beginning, and for others it has yet to start."
The spokesman reiterated Pope Benedict's willingness to hold new meetings with victims of abuse.
"Alongside concern for victims we must continue to implement, decisively and truthfully, the correct procedures for the canonical judgment of the guilty, and for collaborating with the civil authorities in matters concerning their judicial and penal competencies, taking the specific norms and situations of the various countries into account," he said.
CLIMATE OF TRUST
"Only in this way can we hope effectively to rebuild a climate of justice and complete trust in the ecclesiastical institution," he said.
Lombardi said the question of maturity in sexual matters was important when it comes to accepting candidates for the priesthood.
But he said the issue touches on a wider problem in society, which has been affected by a "sexual revolution" and a process of general secularization.
He faulted the media for failing to adequately report the extent of the sexual abuse problem, and for failing to make it clear that the Church was dealing with a problem shared by many institutions.
For example, he said, a recent document on mistreatment of children in the United States reported that in 2008, there were more than 62,000 perpetrators of sexual abuse against minors. Of that number, he said, the proportion of Catholic priests was so small as not to be taken into consideration as a group.
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