THE POPE, THE MEDIA, AND THE SEXUAL ABUSE SCANDALS

Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, speaks about the recent abuse scandals and the accusations against the Pope.

Pope Benedict XVI has come under intense scrutiny over the last few weeks, regarding the sexual abuse scandals. This page seeks to set out the facts, in an attempt to rectify and combat some of the biased and incorrect media coverage that has surrounded this issue. Sexual abuse of children is a horrific crime. No coverage of this issue would be complete without a frank acknowledgement of the errors that have been made in the handling of child sexual abuse cases in the past. Pope Benedict XVI has apologised on behalf of the entire Catholic Church, and met with victims in several countries. At the same time, it is important to recognise the extraordinary efforts that the Church now goes to assist victims of sexual abuse in their healing, to remove offenders from positions of responsibility, and to safeguard children in our institutions and parishes.

 

What has the Pope done to help victims of sexual abuse?

Pope Benedict has done more than any other Pope in history to clean up this crisis in the Church. He is the first Pope to implement such decisive strategies to actively rid the Church of abuse, and to extend his hand in apology to victims. Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for several years, but had no responsibility for investigating cases of sexual abuse until 2001. Once opening these files, Ratzinger was the first in the Church to deal with the crisis in a serious manner.

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What are the claims against Pope Benedict XVI?

Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), has been accused of covering up world-wide allegations of child sex abuse by priests. Click below to see the true timeline of events in these particular cases.

Fr Lawrence Murphy, Milwaukee

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The 1985 letter involving Fr Stephen Kiesle

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Celibacy and the priesthood – is there a connection?

In the light of these scandals, there have been claims that there is a connection between the celibacy of the Catholic priesthood, and paedophilic tendencies. There is absolutely no connection between the state of celibacy and those that commit sexual abuse. Catholic priests are not more likely to be paedophiles than other groups of men.

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How does the Church handle allegations of sexual abuse? What is the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith?

The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) is responsible for investigating delicta graviora, which are crimes considered the most serious by the Catholic Church, and include: crimes against the Eucharist, crimes against the sanctity of the Sacraments of Penance, and crimes against the 6th commandment (Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery) committed by a cleric against persons under the age of 18.

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Have there been improvements in the way the Church handles allegations of sexual abuse?

Since Cardinal Ratzinger and the CDF assumed responsibility for the handling of these cases in 2001, they are now being handled faster and more efficiently. With strict guidelines and protocols implemented by all parishes and dioceses, the Catholic Church is today one of the safest place for children.

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Why is it always the Catholic Church?

It can seem that the Catholic Church is the only organisation that is accused of sexual abuse, and that this problem is particularly endemic to the Catholic clergy. This is not true.

"We don't see the Catholic Church as a hotbed of this or a place that has a bigger problem than anyone else," said Ernie Allen, president of the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. "I can tell you without hesitation that we have seen cases in many religious settings, from travelling evangelists to mainstream ministers to rabbis and others." (Quoted in 'Mean Men').

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Responsible Media Coverage

The response of the press to these events has been overwhelming. Below is a comprehensive list of news articles that show fair, quality reporting.

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