Clergy abuse threatens to tarnish pope’s legacy

Clergy abuse threatens to tarnish pope’s legacy

By VICTOR L. SIMPSON
The Associated Press
Friday, March 26, 2010; 9:06 PM

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is facing one of its gravest crises of modern times as sex abuse scandals move ever closer to Pope Benedict XVI – threatening not only his own legacy but also that of his revered predecessor.

Benedict took a much harder stance on sex abuse than John Paul II when he assumed the papacy five years ago, disciplining a senior cleric championed by the Polish pontiff and defrocking others under a new policy of zero tolerance.

But the impression remains of a woefully slow-footed church and of a pope who bears responsibility for allowing pedophile priests to keep their parishes.

In an editorial on Friday, the National Catholic Reporter in the United States called on Benedict to answer questions about his role “in the mismanagement” of sex abuse cases, not only in the current crisis but during his tenure in the 1980s as archbishop of Munich and then as head of the Vatican’s doctrinal and disciplinary office.

It all comes down to the question of what the pope knew and when. The answer will almost certainly determine the fate of Benedict’s papacy.

As he approaches Holy Week, the most solemn period on the Christian calendar, victims groups and other critics are demanding Benedict accept personal responsibility. A few say he should resign.

Some fear the crisis will alienate Catholics from the church, with a survey in Benedict’s native Germany already showing disaffection among Catholics while there is deep anger in once very Catholic Ireland.

As the climate worsens, the Vatican is showing increasing impatience and even anger, denouncing what it says is a campaign to smear the pope.

L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said this week there was a “clear and despicable intention” to strike at Benedict “at any cost.”

But as attention focuses on Benedict, a perhaps thornier question looms over how much John Paul II, beloved worldwide for his inspirational charisma and courageous stand against communism, knew about sex abuse cases and whether he was too tolerant of pedophile priests.

John Paul presided over the church when the sex abuse scandal exploded in the United States in 2002 and the Vatican was swamped with complaints and lawsuits under his leadership. Yet during most of his 26-year papacy, individual dioceses and not the Vatican took sole responsibility for investigating misbehavior.

Professor Nick Cafardi, a canon and civil lawyer and former chairman of the U.S. bishops lay review board that monitored abuse, said Benedict was “very courageous” to reverse Vatican support for the Legionaries of Christ, a sex scandal-tainted organization staunchly defended by John Paul.

John Paul was already ailing from Parkinson’s disease when the U.S. scandal erupted, a factor supporters say may have kept him from initially realizing its scope.

While Cardinal Bernard Law became the most high-profile church figure to fall, resigning as archbishop of Boston over the scandal, John Paul gave him a soft landing, appointing him as head of a Rome basilica and keeping him on various Vatican committees.

The world-traveling John Paul has been put on a fast track for sainthood by Benedict in response to popular demand. Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, the emeritus head of the Vatican’s saint-making office, said this week that historians who studied the pope’s life didn’t find anything problematic in John Paul’s handling of abuse scandals.

“According to them there was nothing that was a true obstacle to his cause of beatification. They are very strict,” Saraiva Martins said.

For Benedict, a quiet intellectual who will be 83 next month, the scandal must be trying.

Until recently, Benedict had received high marks for his handling of sex abuse – seen as a bright spot amid turmoil over his remarks linking Islam to violence and his rehabilitation of an ultraconservative bishop who denies the Holocaust.

Shortly before his election as pope in 2005 he had denounced “filth” in the church – widely viewed as a reference to clerics who abused children. He proclaimed a policy of zero tolerance for offenders and met and prayed with victims while traveling in the United States and Australia.

Benedict won praise for moving against the Legionaries of Christ, the conservative order once hailed by John Paul that fell into scandal after it revealed that its founder had fathered a child and had molested seminarians.

The Vatican began investigating allegations against the Rev. Marcial Maciel of Mexico in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until 2006, a year into Benedict’s pontificate, that the Vatican instructed Maciel to lead a “reserved life of prayer and penance” in response to the abuse allegations – effectively removing him from power.

But reaction changed as the abuse scandal moved across Europe and into Benedict’s native Germany in recent months, touching the pontiff himself with a case dating to his tenure as archbishop of Munich.

The former vicar general of the Munich archdiocese has absolved the pope of responsibility in the case of the Rev. Peter Hullermann, accused of abusing boys.

While then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was involved in a 1980 decision to transfer Hullermann to Munich for therapy, Ratzinger’s then-deputy took responsibility for a subsequent decision to let the priest return to pastoral duties. Hullermann was convicted of sexual abuse in 1986.

However, the New York Times reported Friday that Ratzinger was copied in on a memo stating Hullermann would be returned to pastoral work within days of beginning psychiatric treatment. The archdiocese insisted Ratzinger was unaware of the decision and that any other version was “mere speculation.”

In another case, documents show the Vatican office responsible for disciplining priests, while headed by Ratzinger, halted a church trial of a Milwaukee priest accused of molesting some 200 deaf boys from 1950-1975.

Two Wisconsin bishops had urged the Vatican to approve the proceeding against the Rev. Lawrence Murphy, arguing that even though it was years after the alleged abuse, the deaf community in Milwaukee was demanding justice. The trial was approved in 1997, only to be halted after an appeal by the priest to Ratzinger. Murphy died in 1998.

Murphy’s eventual punishment was a restriction on celebrating Mass and on visiting the deaf community.

Such light disciplinary measures remain the norm in the majority of sex abuse cases.

Of the 3,000 cases the Vatican has received since 2001, only 20 percent have gone to a full canonical trial, the Vatican’s chief prosecutor Monsignor Charles Scicluna said. Disciplinary sanctions were imposed in 60 percent, such as priests being ordered to live a retired life of prayer and not celebrate Mass publicly; in only 10 percent were the accused priests defrocked.

The abuse crisis in the United States, which involved 4 percent of the American priesthood, showed a pattern of bishops covering for errant clerics, at times moving them from parish to parish. The latest documents point to Vatican complicity, although the Vatican denies there was any cover-up.

Defenders of Benedict, such as British Archbishop Vincent Nichols, say that as cardinal he made important changes in church law to crack down on offenders and was not an “idle observer.”

French bishops rallied around Benedict in a letter on Friday, saying while they deplored clerical sex abuse, the issue “is being used in a campaign to attack you personally.”

Still, it is in Germany where Benedict’s popularity has taken a real hit.

A poll in Stern magazine released this week shows only 39 percent of Germany’s Catholics trust the pope, down from 62 percent in late January. Some 34 percent trust the Catholic church as an institution, down from 56 percent in January. The margin of error was 2.5 percentage points.

Rainer Kampling, a professor of Catholic theology at Berlin Free University, says the idea that the pope might resign – slipping polls not withstanding – is hardly realistic. “The pope is not a politician,” he said.

Herbert Kohlmaier, chairman of an Austrian Catholic group that has criticized Benedict, also said a resignation shouldn’t be expected. “They certainly won’t let a symbolic figure like that go.”

While church law allows for the resignation of a pope, there are few precedents over the church’s two millennium history. The last was by 15th-century Pope Gregory XII, and that was not over scandal but rather a schism in the church.

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Charlie Daniels Calls U.S. Government a ‘Dictatorship’

Charlie Daniels Calls U.S. Government a ‘Dictatorship’

 

Charlie DanielsHe may proudly sing patriotic songs, including ‘This Ain’t No Rag, It’s a Flag’ and ‘My Beautiful America,’ but now Charlie Daniels says he’s angry and disappointed by leadership in his home country. Speaking out against the recent health-care reform bill, Charlie says America is on a fast downward spiral.

“We no longer have a representative government; we essentially have a dictatorship that is willing to force their will on us regardless of what we want,” he says in a March 22 post on his website’s “Soapbox and Message Board” titled ‘Black Monday.’ “This is the most despicable act ever perpetrated on the American public by the most dishonorable congress we’ve ever had.”

But most of the blame, the musician continues, falls on the Commander-in-Chief. “[President] Obama claims this program will actually cut the budget, but anybody with a brain in their heads knows that it will not only not cut the budget, but will cost trillions of dollars that we just don’t have, adding catastrophic amounts to the national debt.”

He continues, “I have always had unfailing faith in the American ability to persevere, to bounce back and overcome almost anything, but people, this health care bill will change America into something that will resemble a police state.”

He then closes the post by issuing a bleak preview of where he believes the country is heading. “America is on it’s way to becoming the largest banana republic on earth,” he warns. “Pray for our troops, and for our country.”

The Grand Ole Opry member, who recently returned to stage after recovering from a mild stroke he suffered earlier this year, is already back on the road with his band. (He also hints that skydiving may be in his future!)

Binyamin Netanyahu humiliated after Barack Obama ‘dumped him for dinner’

Binyamin Netanyahu humiliated after Barack Obama ‘dumped him for dinner’

 Binyamin Netanyahu addresses the AIPAC Conference

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The President was said to have walked out of the meeting, saying to Mr Netanyahu: ‘Let me know if there is anything new’

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Giles Whittell, Washington, and James Hider, Jerusalem

For a head of government to visit the White House and not pose for photographers is rare. For a key ally to be left to his own devices while the President withdraws to have dinner in private was, until this week, unheard of. Yet that is how Binyamin Netanyahu was treated by President Obama on Tuesday night, according to Israeli reports on a trip viewed in Jerusalem as a humiliation.

After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisers and “let me know if there is anything new”, a US congressman, who spoke to the Prime Minister, said.

“It was awful,” the congressman said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House telephone line. Another said that the Prime Minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea”.

Left to talk among themselves Mr Netanyahu and his aides retreated to the Roosevelt Room. He spent a further half-hour with Mr Obama and extended his stay for a day of emergency talks to try to restart peace negotiations. However, he left last night with no official statement from either side. He returned to Israel yesterday isolated after what Israeli media have called a White House ambush for which he is largely to blame.

Sources said that Mr Netanyahu failed to impress Mr Obama with a flow chart purporting to show that he was not responsible for the timing of announcements of new settlement projects in east Jerusalem. Mr Obama was said to be livid when such an announcement derailed the visit to Israel by Joe Biden, the Vice-President, this month and his anger towards Israel does not appear to have cooled.

Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, cast doubt on minor details in Israeli accounts of the meeting but did not deny claims that it amounted to a dressing down for the Prime Minister, whose refusal to freeze settlements is seen in Washington as the main barrier to resuming peace talks.

The Likud leader has to try to square the rigorous demands of the Obama Administration with his nationalist, ultra-Orthodox coalition partners, who want him to stand up to Washington even though Israel needs US backing in confronting the threat of a nuclear Iran.

“The Prime Minister leaves America disgraced, isolated and altogether weaker than when he came,” the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz said.

In their meeting Mr Obama set out expectations that Israel was to satisfy if it wanted to end the crisis, Israeli sources said. These included an extension of the freeze on Jewish settlement growth beyond the ten-month deadline next September, an end to building projects in east Jerusalem and a withdrawal of Israeli forces to positions held before the second intifada in September 2000.

Newspaper reports recounted how Mr Netanyahu looked “excessively concerned and upset” when he pulled out a flow chart to show Mr Obama how Jerusalem planning permission worked and how he could not have known that the announcement that hundreds more homes were to be built would be made when Mr Biden arrived in Jerusalem.

Mr Obama then suggested that Mr Netanyahu and his staff stay at the White House to consider his proposals so that if he changed his mind he could inform the President right away. “I’m still around,” the daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot quoted Mr Obama as saying. “Let me know if there is anything new.”

With the atmosphere so soured by the end of the evening, the Israelis decided that they could not trust the telephone line they had been lent for their consultations. Mr Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, his Defence Minister, went to the Israeli Embassy to ensure that the Americans were not listening in.

The meeting came barely a day after Mr Obama’s health reform victory. Israel had calculated that he would be too tied up with domestic issues to focus seriously on the Middle East.

CBO report: Debt will rise to 90% of GDP

Palin Makes Fans Uneasy by Backing McCain Tea Party Favorite Heads to Arizona to Help Running Mate Battle a Primary Challenge From Immigration Foe Hayworth

Palin Makes Fans Uneasy by Backing McCain

Tea Party Favorite Heads to Arizona to Help Running Mate Battle a Primary Challenge From Immigration Foe Hayworth  

By TAMARA AUDI and AARON ZITNER

PHOENIX—Like many of his fellow tea party activists, Lee Earle adores former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. But when Ms. Palin shows up at a pair of rallies in Arizona on Friday and Saturday, he won’t be attending.

Associated PressSarah Palin listens to daughter Piper after speaking at the Orange County GOP executive committee dinner in Orlando, Fla., this month. Ms. Palin will attend rallies for Sen. John McCain in Arizona Friday and Saturday.

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That’s because Ms. Palin is coming to stump for her former running mate, Sen. John McCain. Mr. Earle is backing J.D. Hayworth, Mr. McCain’s challenger in the Republican primary on Aug. 24. Mr. Hayworth, a former congressman and talk-radio host, has become a darling for some in the tea party movement.

“Most of the tea party people I know are disappointed with her decision” to support Mr. McCain, says Mr. Earle. “But we understand she’s fulfilling an obligation to Sen. McCain for pulling her from obscurity.”

Like many Republicans, Ms. Palin is trying to navigate a political order transformed from 2008. Mr. McCain was the Republican nominee for president in 2008, but he is now fighting off an aggressive primary challenge in a state he has represented since 1983.

Question of the Day

A Rasmussen Report released March 16 shows Mr. McCain ahead by seven points, with a margin of error of plus or minus four points. Earlier polling put Mr. McCain ahead by 22 points.

Arizona’s primary race “went from very sleepy to being very captivating,” says Randy Pullen, chairman of the state’s Republican Party.

Ms. Palin has served as a rallying force for the tea party movement. In February, a gathering billed as the first national tea party convention, which had been marked by infighting and cancellations, heard a rousing keynote address from Ms. Palin in which she took aim at President Barack Obama. On Saturday, organizers say she will attend a tea party rally in Searchlight, Nev., the hometown of Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, after campaigning that day for Mr. McCain.

Yet not all of Ms. Palin’s policy stances are in synch with the bulk of thinking in the disparate tea party groups.

Like many conservative activists, she criticizes the government’s rescue of the financial system and Mr. Obama’s stimulus package. This week, she began soliciting donations to campaign against Democrats who represent Republican-leaning districts but who voted for Mr. Obama’s health care legislation.

On immigration, however, Ms. Palin parts with the hard line of some tea party activists. As a candidate for vice president, Ms. Palin told Univision, the Spanish-language TV network, that she supported a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers.

“I do, because I understand why people would want to be in America—to seek the safety and prosperity, the opportunities, the health that is here,” she told the network. At the same time, she said she opposed “total amnesty.”

That puts Ms. Palin closer to the position of Mr. McCain on an issue that will loom large in the Arizona primary. It also places her at odds with Mr. Hayworth, a leading opponent of the 2007 push by Mr. McCain and other lawmakers to create a pathway to citizenship for some illegal immigrants while strengthening border security. Some tea party members and conservatives are still angry over Mr. McCain’s leadership on that effort.

Ms. Palin’s stance on free trade also appears different from that of some tea party members. Some activists say on blogs and websites that their goals include repealing the North American Free Trade Agreement and other free trade agreements—though the point is not a major focus of the groups, and it is unclear that there is broad agreement on the issue. Ms. Palin, by contrast, has defended free trade, arguing in her book, “Going Rogue: An American Life,” that protectionism helped cause the Great Depression.

In a September speech to an investor conference in Hong Kong, Ms. Palin also said she foresaw “a future of more trade with China,” as long as China strengthened intellectual property enforcement and other legal protections. “We need to avoid protectionism and China’s flirtation with state assisted national champions,” she said. “On our part, we should be more open to Chinese investment where our national security interests are not threatened.”

Bringing in Ms. Palin is a slightly awkward move by the McCain camp. Since the presidential campaign ended, McCain aides have aired a lot of criticisms of the former running mate, and in “Going Rogue,” Ms. Palin called the McCain campaign disorganized and slow to focus on the economy.

ReutersA supporter attends former GOP Rep. J.D. Hayworth’s announcement of his Senate bid in Phoenix last month.

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However, neither Ms. Palin nor Mr. McCain have criticized each other directly. Mr. Rogers says the relationship between the two “is strong. …She’s coming to Arizona because she knows Sen. McCain is the right kind of leader for Arizona.”

Several tea party organizers interviewed for this article said they supported Mr. Hayworth or Jim Deakin, another GOP challenger. But earlier this month, four tea party groups here said they would not endorse any candidate in the primary.

“J.D. [Hayworth] likes to say he is the tea party candidate, but the tea party is not a monolith,” says Mr. Rogers. “Mr. McCain has plenty of support among those groups.”

Trent Humphries, co-organizer of the Tucson Tea Party, says his group includes supporters of Sen. McCain and Mr. Hayworth. Mr. Humphries is undecided, but plans to attend Mr. McCain’s Tucson rally.

In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Hayworth said it was support from Tea Party activists that prompted him to run against Mr. McCain. He said the effect of Ms. Palin’s presence on the campaign “has been one of the most-asked questions since the campaign began. I guess we’ll see.”

Mr. Hayworth said he has never met Ms. Palin, “but we have a lot in common. …I welcome her support following the primary.”

While Ms. Palin is in Tucson on Friday, Mr. Earle, the tea party activist, will be at a rally in Phoenix with antitax protester Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, “Joe the Plumber,” who gained fame during the 2008 election. “But I still love Sarah,” he says.

—Laura Meckler contributed to this article. Write to Tamara Audi at tammy.audi@wsj.com

 

 

 

Resistance Is Not Futile

Resistance Is Not Futile

Republicans must make it clear to the American people that this is only the beginning of the debate.

By PHIL GRAMM

For every dollar’s worth of health care that Americans received last year, they paid a dime and somebody else paid 90 cents. If you bought food the way you buy health care—where 90% of everything you put in your basket was paid for by your grocery insurance policy—you would eat differently and so would your dog. We have the best health-care system in the world, but as rich as America is we can’t afford it.

Any real debate about health-care reform has to be centered on solving the problem of cost. Ultimately, there are only two ways of doing it. The first approach is to have government control costs through some form of rationing. The alternative is to empower families to make their own health-care decisions in a system where costs matter. The fundamental question is about who is going to do the controlling: the family or the government.

President Obama and his congressional allies systematically excluded every major proposal to empower consumers to control costs. From beginning to end, they insisted on a government-run system. That’s why compromise was never possible.

The plan signed into law by the president on Tuesday is simply a hodgepodge of schemes to expand insurance coverage and government power with no coherent program to control cost. By contrast, the old Clinton health-care bill was a plan to control costs through health-care purchasing cooperatives, standards of medical practice, and penalties for providers who violated those standards. When Americans came to understand the loss of freedom resulting from the Clinton plan, they rejected it. The Democrats learned from that experience. This time around they simply left their cost control component to be added later.

Even though the Obama bill became far more unpopular than the Clinton bill ever was, the daunting size and rigid commitment of the Democratic majority to a government-run system was such that they could override public opinion. Now the Democrats are out to make Americans like their plan—or at least get them to acquiesce to it. But as Gandhi once explained, 40,000 British troops cannot force 300 million Indians to do what they will not do.

Republicans have a job to do. They must make it clear to the American people that this is only the beginning of the debate. There will be two congressional elections and a presidential election before the government takeover is implemented in 2014.

I believe that Republicans should take the unequivocal position that if they are given a majority in Congress in November, they will stop the implementation of the government takeover. And if a Republican is elected president in 2012, they will do with Mr. Obama’s health-care bill what the American voters will have done to the Democrats: throw it out. If the voters demand change in November, even the Democrats who remain in Congress will help give it to them.

If Republicans don’t want America to follow Britain and Canada down the road to socialized medicine, they must change the system so that families have more power to control their own health-care costs. This will entail real changes like tax deductions for health insurance, not for prepaid medicine; refundable tax credits for families to buy their own insurance; freedom to negotiate with insurance companies; rewarding healthy lifestyles; tort reform; and reforming Medicare and Medicaid so every consumer has deductibles and copayments based on their income. This system will require Americans to make choices in health care—just as they do in every other area of their lives.

There is one more overwhelming reason freedom is so critical in health care. In the end, even the greatest health-care system in the world fails. At 92, my mother decided to stop going to the hospital, stop going to the doctor, stop taking her medicine, and to die in her own bed. It was a free choice, and she made it. For her family, it was a painful choice, but she died as she lived—proud and free. Government bureaucrats did not make that decision; she did. And that made all the difference.

Mr. Gramm, a Republican, was a senator from Texas from 1985 to 2002 and served as chairman of the Health subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Finance.

 

Canadian free Press “Obama the Muslim meets Netanyahu the Jew”