May 23, 2013

House Rejects Study With Ties to Scientology

The Illinois House on Wednesday rejected an attempt to take a closer look at the field of psychiatry and its role in shaping Illinois law.

The sticking point for some lawmakers was a group backing the proposal.

As the field of psychiatry publishes its first new diagnostic manual in more than a decade, it has been attracting a lot of discussion.

The House resolution would have created a task force to comb through thousands of pages of Illinois laws and regulations, looking for the influence of psychiatry that “may have been recently discredited.”

Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) said she just wanted to start a conversation about psychology.

“We’ve seen the headlines in the newspaper about doctors over-medicating adults, as well as children, because there’s money involved,” Flowers said.

But Rep. Ed Sullivan (R-Mundelein) told fellow lawmakers one of the groups supporting the effort is backed by the Church of Scientology.

“I bring this up because my family has some issues — has had some exposure — with the church of Scientology,” Sullivan says. “And without getting into details, it hasn’t been very good.”

The final vote was 22 yes — with the majority, 92, voting no.

Pope Francis
(Michael Sohn/AP)
May 12, 2013

Pope Canonises 800 Italian Ottoman Victims

Pope Francis has proclaimed the first saints of his pontificate in a ceremony at the Vatican - a list which includes 800 victims of an atrocity carried out by Ottoman soldiers in 1480.

They were beheaded in the southern Italian town of Otranto after refusing to convert to Islam.

Their names are unknown, apart from one man, Antonio Primaldo.

Within two months of taking office, Pope Francis has proclaimed more saints than any of his predecessors.

Among those canonised on Sunday were two Latin American nuns - Laura Montoya from Colombia and Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala from Mexico - who both died in the 20th Century.

Colombia's first saint, Mother Laura Montoya dedicated her life to helping indigenous people while the woman named by Pope Francis as Mother "Lupita" sheltered Catholics during a government crackdown against the faith in the 1920s.

The Italian "Martyrs of Otranto" were executed after 20,000 Turkish soldiers invaded their town in south-eastern Italy.

There was no hint of any anti-Islamic sentiment in the homily that Pope Francis delivered before tens of thousands of worshippers gathered in St Peter's Square, the BBC's David Willey in Rome reports.

While it was Francis's predecessor, Pope Benedict, who gave the go ahead for their canonisations, the new pope is continuing the process of honouring a new generation of modern as well as historic martyrs, our correspondent says.

Later this month an Italian priest, Fr Giuseppe Puglisi, who was murdered by the Sicilian mafia 20 years ago will be beatified - the last step before being declared a saint.

Pope Francis
(Michael Sohn/AP)
April 05, 2013

Pope Seeks Decisive Action Against Sex Abuse

Pope Francis directed the Vatican on Friday to act decisively on clergy sex abuse cases and punish pedophile priests, saying the Catholic Church's "credibility" was on the line.

The announcement was quickly dismissed by some victims' advocates as just more talk, while others lobbying for reform in the church held out hope the new pontiff might challenge the Vatican's bureaucratic culture seen as fostering a cover-up mentality.

Clergy abuse victims called for swift and bold action from Francis as soon as he was elected pope last month. Yet in his homeland, Roman Catholic activists had characterized him as being slow to act against such abuse in his years heading the Argentine church.

The Vatican's brief announcement about Francis' meeting Friday with the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — the office that shapes and enforces policy on what to do about any abuse allegations and what happens to the abusers — depicted Francis as urging assertive action to protect minors.

"The Holy Father in a special way urged that the Congregation, following the line sought by Benedict XVI, act decisively in sex abuse cases, above all promoting measures to protect minors, assistance for all those who in the past suffered such violence, necessary measures against the guilty," the statement said of Francis' meeting with Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller.

The Vatican quoted Francis as saying abuse victims were always present "in his attention and in his prayers." It was the first announcement by the Vatican that Francis had made dealing with clergy sex abuse a priority of his fledgling papacy, and the pontiff seemed to be putting Mueller on notice that he would tolerate no easing of the crackdown.

Francis's expressed intentions left some victims' advocates unimpressed.

"Once again, has have happened hundreds of times already, a top Catholic official says he's asking another top Catholic official to take action about pedophile priests and complicit bishops," said Barbara Dorris, an official of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a U.S.-based organization.

"Big deal. Actions speak louder than words. And one of the first actions Pope Francis took was to visit perhaps the most high-profile corrupt prelate on the planet, Cardinal Bernard Law, who remains a powerful church official despite having been drummed out of Boston for hiding and enabling crimes by hundreds of child molesting clerics," Dorris said in a statement.

Others were cautiously giving Francis the benefit of doubt — for now.

The church has "not done anything to remove bishops and cardinals who covered up, or protected those who covered up" the abusers, said James Post, a professor at Boston University's School of Management who teaches corporate governance, accountability and ethics. "That's the bureaucratic defense that has to be broken. It's a huge challenge" for Francis, Post said in a telephone interview.

Post, who is also a founder of, and serves as an advisor to, Voice of the Faithful, a nationwide lay organization in the United States pushing for church reform, described the mandate to Mueller as "strongly symbolic" but one which should "be translated into forceful enforcement" of the policy.

This "may be a first step toward action and a test of whether the curia, the Vatican's notorious bureaucracy, will blunt the new pontiff's instruction," Post said. Some of those involved in protecting perpetrators "are almost certainly members of the curia," and it may well boil down to whether Francis has the skill and drive "to weed them out," Post said in a separate statement.

The clergy child abuse scandals in many countries have drained morale and finances from the church, driving countless Catholics away, especially in Western Europe. Some dioceses have had to close parishes and take other drastic actions after paying out millions for counseling and other compensation to victims in cases settled in and out of court.

On March 19 — the day Francis was formally installed as pope — an activist group in Buenos Aires urged him to apologize for what it called church protection for two priests later convicted of sexually assaulting children. Separately, a lawyer for some of the victims said the future pope, then-Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, had not met with or helped the abuse victims and contended that mid-level church officials who covered up the abuse haven't lost their jobs.

Bishop Accountability, a prominent church activist group, has described Bergoglio as being behind the curve in the Catholic Church's global struggle to deal with widespread cases of sex abuse by its clergy. It also has urged him to order his former diocese in Buenos Aires to release the complete files on the two abusive priests.

Many victims' advocacy groups contend that the late Pope John Paul II was too protective of clergy, and that a de facto policy of shuffling abusive priests from parish to parish or diocese to diocese held sway under his long papacy.

Benedict, his successor, was the first pope to meet with those who were sexually abused by clergy. In 2010, Benedict issued an apology to Ireland for chronic abuse there over several decades. He also ordered a drastic overall of a conservative religious order, the Legionaries of Christ, which was a favorite of John Paul, but whose founder sexually abused seminarians.

However, Benedict disappointed victims by not disciplining church higher-ups who had shielded the abusive priests.

Francis has set a tone of humility for his papacy and victims will be watching closely to see if he will meet with them, promote zero tolerance for abusers and perhaps issue an overarching church apology for the systemic cover-ups by church hierarchy in many countries.

As for the issue with Cardinal Law, Francis saw him the morning after his election as pope when he went to St. Mary Major's Basilica in Rome. Law, the disgraced former archbishop of Boston, was among several prelates who came to the basilica in hopes of seeing the pope. Law had been named by John Paul to head the basilica, a plum post for aging clerics. Law later retired from that post.

Pope Francis
(Michael Sohn/AP)
March 16, 2013

Pope Francis Wants Church for the Poor

Pope Francis offered intimate insights Saturday into the moments after his election, telling journalists that he was immediately inspired to take the name of St. Francis of Assisi because of his work for peace and the poor — and that he himself would like to see "a poor church and a church for the poor."

"Let me tell you a story," Francis said in a break from his prepared text during a special gathering for thousands of journalists, media workers and guests in the Vatican's auditorium.

Francis then described how he was comforted by his friend, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, as it appeared the voting was going his way and it seemed "a bit dangerous" that he would reach the two-thirds necessary to be elected.

When the threshold was reached, applause erupted in the frescoed Sistine Chapel.

"He (Hummes) hugged me. He kissed me. He said don't forget about the poor," Francis recalled. "And that's how in my heart came the name Francis of Assisi," who devoted his life to the poor, missionary outreach and caring for God's creation.

He said some have wondered whether his name was a reference to other Francis figures, including St. Frances de Sales or even the co-founder of the pope's Jesuit order, Francis Xavier.

But he said he was inspired immediately after the election when he thought about wars.

St. Francis of Assisi, the pope said, was "the man of the poor. The man of peace. The man who loved and cared for creation — and in this moment we don't have such a great relationship with creation. The man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man."

"Oh how I would like a poor church and a church for the poor," Francis said, sighing.

He then joked that some other cardinals suggested other names: Hadrian VI, after a great church reformer — a reference to the need for the pope to clean up the Vatican's messy bureaucracy. Someone else suggested Clement XV, to get even with Clement XIV, who suppressed the Jesuit order in 1773.

The gathering in the Vatican begins a busy week for the pontiff that includes his installation Mass on Tuesday.

Among the talks, the Vatican said Saturday, will be a session with the president of Francis' homeland Argentina on Monday. The pope has sharply criticized Christina Fernandez over her support for liberal measures such as gay marriage and free contraceptives.

But the most closely watched appointment will be Francis' journey next Saturday to the hills south of Rome at the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo for lunch with Benedict XVI, a historic encounter that brings together the new pope and the first pope to resign in six centuries, which set in motion the stunning papal transition.

The Saturday meeting between the two will be private, but every comment and gesture on the sidelines will be scrutinized for hints of how the unprecedented relationship will take shape between the emeritus pontiff and his successor.

Benedict has promised to remain outside church affairs and dedicate himself to prayer and meditation. Pope Francis, however, has shown no reluctance to invoke Benedict's legacy and memory, in both an acknowledgment of the unusual dimensions of his papacy and also a message that he is comfortable with the situation and is now fully in charge.

World leaders and senior international envoys, including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, are expected on Tuesday for the formal installation of Pope Francis, the first Latin American pope. It offers the new pope his first opportunities to flex his diplomatic skills as head of the Vatican City State.

But the most potentially sensitive talks could come with Fernandez after years of open tensions over the then-archbishop's strong opposition to initiatives that led Argentina to become Latin American country to legalize gay marriage. He also opposed — but failed to stop — Fernandez from promoting free contraception and artificial insemination.

In one of his first acts as pope, Francis phoned the Vatican ambassador in Buenos Aires and urged him to put out the word that he didn't want ordinary Argentines flocking to Rome for the Mass, urging them to use the money instead for charity.

Also Saturday, the pope confirmed all the current Vatican officials in their jobs "for the time being," the Vatican said, noting that he will take time before deciding to make changes in the church administration, which has been tarnished by leaked documents that raise questions about financial transparency and possible attempts to protect scandal-tainted clerics.

During his audience with journalists Saturday, Francis poured on the charm, thanking journalists for their work covering the election — "and you have worked, eh?" he said chuckling. He urged them to view the church not as a political entity but as a "dramatically spiritual" human institution and learn its true nature "with its virtues and its sins."

"The church exists to communicate this: truth, goodness and beauty personified. We are all called not to communicate ourselves, but this essential trio."

In a recognition that not all journalists in the room were Christian or even believers, he offered a blessing without the traditional Catholic formula or gesture, saying he would bless each one in silence "respecting your conscience, but knowing that each one of you is a child of God. May God bless you."

Afterwards, Francis met with some of the senior Vatican communications officials as well as a handful of journalists, including one who offered him a mate gourd, the small cup with straw that holds the traditional Argentine herbal tea that Francis loves. Those who knew him embraced him warmly.

"Simple, simpatico and very direct," is how Iacopo Scaramuzzi, the Vatican correspondent for the Italian news agency TMNews, described his brief greeting with the pope.

Alessandro Forlani, a visually impaired journalist for Italian RAI radio, approached the pope with his seeing eye dog Asia.

"He has a special relationship with creation in the spirit of St. Francis," Forlani said afterward. "I asked for a blessing for my wife and daughter at home. He added 'a blessing for the dog too' and bent down to bless it."

Pope Francis
March 13, 2013

Argentine Jorge Bergoglio Elected Pope Francis

Argentine Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope Wednesday and chose the papal name Francis, becoming first pontiff from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium.

A stunned-looking Bergoglio shyly waved to the crowd of tens of thousands of people who gathered in St. Peter's Square, marveling that the cardinals had had to look to "the end of the earth" to find a bishop of Rome.

He asked for prayers for himself, and for retired Pope Benedict XVI, whose stunning resignation paved the way for the tumultuous conclave that brought the first Jesuit to the papacy. The cardinal electors overcame deep divisions to select the 266th pontiff in a remarkably fast conclave.

Bergoglio had reportedly finished second in the 2005 conclave that produced Benedict — who last month became the first pope to resign in 600 years.



After announcing "Habemus Papum" — "We have a pope!" — a cardinal standing on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica on Wednesday revealed the identity of the new pontiff, using his Latin name.

The 76-year-old archbishop of Buenos Aires has spent nearly his entire career at home in Argentina, overseeing churches and shoe-leather priests.

Tens of thousands of people who braved cold rain to watch the smokestack atop the Sistine Chapel jumped in joy when white smoke poured out a few minutes past 7 p.m., many shouting "Habemus Papam!" or "We have a pope!" — as the bells of St. Peter's Basilica and churches across Rome pealed.

Chants of "Long live the pope!" arose from the throngs of faithful, many with tears in their eyes. Crowds went wild as the Vatican and Italian military bands marched through the square and up the steps of the basilica, followed by Swiss Guards in silver helmets and full regalia.

They played the introduction to the Vatican and Italian anthems and the crowd, which numbered at least 50,000, joined in, waving flags from countries around the world.

"I can't explain how happy I am right down," said Ben Canete, a 32-year-old Filipino, jumping up and down in excitement.

Elected on the fifth ballot, Francis was chosen in one of the fastest conclaves in years, remarkable given there was no clear front-runner going into the vote and that the church had been in turmoil following the upheaval unleashed by Pope Benedict XVI's surprise resignation.

A winner must receive 77 votes, or two-thirds of the 115, to be named pope.

For comparison's sake, Benedict was elected on the fourth ballot in 2005 — but he was the clear front-runner going into the vote. Pope John Paul II was elected on the eighth ballot in 1978 to become the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

Patrizia Rizzo ran down the main boulevard to the piazza with her two children as soon as she heard the news on the car radio. "I parked the car ... and dashed to the square, she said. "It's so exciting, as Romans we had to come."

March 13, 2013

Government Doesn't Appeal Lindh Prison Prayer Ruling

A federal prison in Indiana on Wednesday was expected to begin allowing American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh and other Muslim inmates housed in his tightly controlled unit to start holding daily ritual group prayers.

The government had until Tuesday to appeal U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson's Jan. 11 ruling allowing the daily group prayers, but it didn't. Magnus-Stinson found that a prison policy preventing Lindh and the other Muslims in his unit from praying together daily when not locked in their cells violated a 1993 law banning the government from curtailing religious speech without showing a compelling interest.

She said her ruling didn't prohibit less restrictive security measures in the Communications Management Unit, which houses terrorists and other inmates the government doesn't want freely communicating with the outside world.

It wasn't immediately known if the prison began allowing the daily group prayers Wednesday. Prison officials didn't respond to a phone message seeking comment and a spokesman said U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett was traveling and unavailable to comment.

Ken Falk, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which represented Lindh in a lawsuit challenging the prison policy, said he intended to make sure the prison had begun allowing the daily prayers.

"We are proud that our son stood up for his fundamental right of religious freedom," Lindh's family said in a statement. "We are glad the warden now will now accommodate John's right to pray in accordance with the requirements his conscience and his religious faith."

Group prayers had been allowed once a week and on high holy days such as Ramadan or Christmas in the Terre Haute prison. But at other times, inmates had to pray alone in their cells.

Lindh said that didn't meet the Quran's requirements, and that the Hanbali school of Islam to which he adheres requires him to pray daily with other Muslims.

Lindh is serving a 20-year sentence for aiding the Taliban during the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. He was captured by U.S. troops that year, and in 2002 pleaded guilty to supplying services and carrying explosives for the now-defunct Taliban government. He is eligible for release in 2019.

Raised Catholic, the California native was 12 when he saw the movie "Malcolm X" and became interested in Islam. He converted at age 16. Walker told Newsweek after his capture that he had entered Afghanistan to help the Taliban build a "pure Islamic state."

Lindh joined the prayer lawsuit in 2010, three years after being sent to the prison near the border between Indiana and Illinois. The suit was originally filed in 2009 by two Muslim inmates in the unit, but it got far more attention when Lindh joined the case. The other plaintiffs later dropped out as they were released or transferred from the prison.

Cardinals gathered in Vatican City on Monday, a day before the papal selection process known as the conclave begins.
(Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
March 11, 2013

A Rough Guide to The Papal Conclave

The stage is now set for the opening act of one of the more spectacular and intriguing theatrical dramas on the planet: the election of a pope.

In Rome, TV camera crews have set up their positions on big platforms overlooking St. Peter's Square and the Vatican, where the secretive process will begin Tuesday.

Bookies are raking in bets, even though veteran Vatican watchers insist that no obvious front-runner has emerged from a wide field of possible candidates to replace Benedict XVI, the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years.

After a tsunami of scandals about clerical sex abuse and cover-ups, Vatican mismanagement and corruption — and more besides — this is the Roman Catholic Church's chance to generate some positive headlines as attention focuses on the mysterious workings of what's known as the conclave.

Conclave — from the Latin for "with a key" — is a historic term that refers to the fact that the cardinals charged with the task of electing a new leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics will do so locked within the Vatican.

Most of the 115 "cardinal electors" will be housed in two-room suites in a guesthouse run by nuns. The accommodation is, by all accounts, modest — three- rather than five-star.

On hand is a team of cooks, doctors (the average age of this group of cardinals is 72), priests (to take confession) and technicians to enforce a communications blackout, both in the guesthouse and the Sistine Chapel, where the balloting takes place. The Vatican is determined to prevent any outside interference — or news leaking out from a tweeting cleric.

"The phone doesn't work, the TV doesn't work. They have no e-mail, they have no Internet, they have no cellphones," says Father Thomas J. Reese of the National Catholic Reporter, who is an authority on the workings of the conclave.

On Tuesday morning, the "cardinal electors" will celebrate Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. Then, mid-afternoon, they walk into the Sistine Chapel in procession while singing prayers, and take their places.

Within the chapel, the scene must surely be stunning — a throng of cardinals, wearing blood-red robes, sashes and crucifixes beneath the pulsating blue, silver and gold hues of the Renaissance frescoes that adorn the Sistine's vaulted ceiling.

"The cardinals recognize this is the most important thing they will ever do in their lives. This is the high point of being a cardinal," Reese says.

"In the Sistine Chapel, they are sitting in absolute silence with Michelangelo's Jesus at The Last Judgment staring down from them from the wall."

After the cardinals have sworn oaths — to observe the rules and maintain secrecy — everyone who is not part of the conclave is ordered out with the announcement "Extra omnes!" or "Everybody out!"

The cardinals likely will vote once Tuesday, writing their choice on a small ballot paper. They walk up, one by one, and deposit this in an urn on an altar. Papers are counted by three cardinals, one of whom reads out the names. A two-thirds majority is required.

After the first day, there are two ballots each morning and two each afternoon until a pope is elected.

Ballot papers are burned in a stove inside the Sistine Chapel that's connected to a chimney on the roof.

If there is no victor, the smoke — with the help of some chemicals — comes out black. White smoke signals a new man has been chosen.

That, at any rate, is what's supposed to happen.

"It's never worked all that well," Reese says. "I wish they'd test it and make sure it works before they go into the conclave, because last time the smoke came out gray. Everybody was [asking], 'Is it white? Is it black?' "

The selected candidate is asked if he accepts the post. He can, theoretically, refuse, though this is extremely unlikely. (Pope John Paul I is said to have come close, muttering, "No, oh, please no" when he was asked.)

He chooses his new name, the cardinals pledge obedience, and the new pontiff is then dressed in his white robes with the help of a tailor. Three sizes have been prepared: small, medium and large.

This is the moment when a cardinal appears on a balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square to announce the news.

"Everybody's cheering," says Monsignor Kevin Irwin, professor of liturgical studies at The Catholic University of America. "And he [the cardinal] says, 'I announce to you good news. We have a pope.' — in Latin."

The cardinal then gives the name of the new pope, who eventually appears on the balcony and delivers a blessing before the cheering crowds in St. Peter's Square, to Rome and the world beyond.

The concept of the conclave is believed to date back some 770 years, when the papacy was vacant for a year and a half because no one could agree who the next pope should be. The people and senators of Rome grew so fed up that they locked up the cardinals until they reached an agreement.

Over the centuries, some conclaves have lasted months. That is not expected this time — though nothing is certain. There is speculation about divisions among the cardinals, including between the Curia, which is the Vatican administration, and cardinals from elsewhere. But the last time a conclave dragged on beyond five days was in 1831.

So keep your eyes on that smoke.

March 03, 2013

Cardinals in Rome to Begin Talks on Next Pope

Roman Catholic cardinals from around the world are due to meet in Rome to begin the process of electing the next Pope.

The College of Cardinals will hold daily talks leading up to a conclave in which a new Pope will be chosen.

The election process comes after Pope Benedict XVI stepped down after nearly eight years in office leading the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

He was the first pontiff to resign in 600 years.

The first pre-conclave meeting on Monday morning is to be headed by the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

Cardinals - known as the "princes" of the Church - will discuss future challenges to the Church and discreetly weigh up possible papal candidates.

The conclave - to be held in the Sistine Chapel - is expected to take place next week.

Correspondents say the 115 cardinal electors, those under the age of 80 who will take part in the conclave, will want the new Pope to be officially installed in time to preside over Holy Week.

Ceremonies start with Palm Sunday on 24 March and culminate in Easter the following Sunday.

The BBC's David Willey in Rome says strict precautions against leaks of unauthorised information will be in operation at the Vatican until the next Pope has been chosen.

Technicians will debug the cardinals' lodgings and mobile phones will be banned altogether during the conclave.

Britain's formerly most senior Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, has said he will not take part in the conclave after standing down amid allegations of improper behaviour.

On Sunday, he admitted his sexual conduct had at times "fallen beneath the standards expected of me".

He apologised and asked forgiveness from those whom he had "offended".

Cardinal O'Brien resigned as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh last Monday after three priests and a former priest made allegations against him dating back to the 1980s.

Benedict, 85, officially ceased to be the Pope on Friday.

He left the Vatican in a motorcade before being flown by helicopter to the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo, near Rome.

He has vowed "unconditional obedience and reverence" to his successor.

The German pontiff, who was born Joseph Ratzinger, will continue to be known as Benedict XVI, with the new title of "pope emeritus".

The theologian is expected to retire to a monastery on a hill inside Vatican City. Officials say he will not be able to intervene publicly in the next papacy although he may offer advice.

Pope Benedict XVI
February 28, 2013

Pope Benedict Leaves A Church Mired In Crises

Today is the last day of the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI. Just two weeks ago, the German-born pope stunned the world by announcing he would be the first pope to resign in 600 years.

After eight years on the throne of St. Peter, Benedict leaves behind a church in crisis.

Since the announcement, bulletins issued by the Vatican have ranged from the lofty — how Benedict will retire to a life dedicated to prayer and study — to the mundane, such as the details of packing the pope's personal belongings and what he'll leave behind.

In a sign that even the Vatican was totally unprepared for the resignation, it took two weeks to decide Benedict's new title and what he would wear.

And while the cardinals publicly praise Benedict for his courageous act, privately many are re-assessing his legacy.

"They're sympathetic with Benedict, but they saw that really he was not able to push through some big items on his agenda," says John Thavis, author of the recently published Vatican Diaries. "They see Benedict as perhaps a frustrated pope, frustrated in his ambitions, frustrated in part by his own top officials, and I think that's where we're seeing some more open criticism than we ever saw before".

Benedict's papacy has been marred by crises: He angered Muslims when he quoted inflammatory remarks on Islam and violence; he offended Jews when he lifted the excommunication of a traditionalist Holocaust-denying bishop; and he was severely reprimanded by European politicians over his remarks that condoms help spread AIDS. He also failed to restore unity with Anglicans and Orthodox.

The scandal that has most haunted Benedict is that of children abused by pedophile priests.

Before becoming pope, as theological watchdog, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had overseen many cases of clerical sex abuse.

David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests (SNAP), says Benedict has been credited for meeting with and apologizing to victims and issuing new guidelines on handling cases, but he has not sanctioned one bishop for covering up abuse cases.

"Pope Benedict came into office knowing more about abuse than any other Catholic official on the planet, and I think many victims and many Catholics had some real hope that he would clean house, and he clearly didn't," Clohessy says.

The sex abuse cloud will hang over the conclave to elect the new pope. As will a confidential report on last year's embarrassing leaks of private papers that revealed corruption and turf battles within the Vatican. Benedict has left the report for his successor's eyes only, but many cardinals are already asking to be briefed on its contents.

Massimo Franco, author of numerous books about the Vatican, says the scandals have revealed Benedict to be a poor manager and a victim of the powerful administrative apparatus known as the Roman Curia.

In speculating on why the 85-year-old pontiff is stepping down, Franco says in the past, popes were always protected by their inner circle.

"With Pope Benedict XVI, we saw the reverse — we saw the pope obliged to defend his advisers who were attacked, and the outcome was that the pope was overexposed and eventually was forced to resign," he says.

When the resignation becomes official Thursday at 8 p.m., when Benedict is at the Castel Gandolfo summer residence, spokesman Father Tom Rosica says, the Vatican enters what's known as the sede vacante — the Holy See becomes empty.

"And very symbolically, we will see the doors or the gates of Castel Gandolfo close, and the Swiss Guards will leave at that point," Rosica says. "They leave because the Swiss Guards are assigned to protect the pope; he is no longer pope at 8 o'clock in the evening, so they are no longer protecting him."

As a retiree, Benedict's security will be ensured by Vatican police.

But it's still unclear what influence the pope emeritus will wield and how two popes will co-exist inside the Vatican.


Bernie McDaid
(Tovia Smith/NPR)
February 27, 2013

As Pope Resigns, Clergy Abuse Survivors Remember 2008 Meeting

Among those watching the papal transition closely are survivors of clergy sexual abuse, including a handful who were selected to meet with Pope Benedict XVI five years ago as the crisis raged.

The group left the meeting hopeful that that Benedict would make significant changes in how the church handled both past and current cases. Among those at the meeting were Olan Horne and Bernie McDaid.

It would be hard to blame Horne or McDaid for being cynical, having survived repeated sexual abuse by their priest only to find out that it had also happened to thousands of others and was covered up by the church. It's little wonder they reacted as they did when they heard the pope was resigning.

"My mind just immediately went to that there was a scandal or something behind it," says Horne.

Since then Horne has read the stories swirling around and heard the news that Britain's most senior Catholic cleric resigned amid allegations of inappropriate behavior with priests. Secrets have a way of coming out, Horne says, not that it brings him any satisfaction.

"My intent never was to inflict shame and damage. I've come from shame and damage. I want to work the problem. I don't want to work the Catholic Church," says Horne.

It was that conciliatory bent that earned Horne and McDaid one of just five invitations to represent survivors in that 2008 meeting with the pope. McDaid keeps a framed photo of the moment right by his front door.

"He stood on a little box so he could be my height, and he grabbed my hands and held tight," he says.

McDaid told the pope about his pain — physical, emotional and spiritual — and his lifetime of doubts and distress. Horne gave the pope a picture of himself as a young boy, hoping it would remind the pontiff of the children he needs to protect.

Benedict offered apologies and prayers, and both McDaid and Horne left feeling like he got it.

"Right after I met the pope, I kept saying, 'Was I foolish, actually, for putting myself in a position to maybe be taken for a photo opportunity?' But I took it as a genuine move, and I know that he sincerely responded," Horne says.

Since that day, however, Horne says he's been disappointed — so much so he's taken his framed photo of the meeting down from the wall at his house. Horne says he was frustrated there was no follow-up, and even as the issue of child sexual abuse continued to rock the church and other institutions, he says the pope failed to step up and assert the moral authority or be the model he could have.

"For me, it's been a vacuum. I don't think there was leadership," Horne says.

"They were trying to move on, and Benedict was at the forefront of trying to move on, and so I say he failed miserably," McDaid says.

McDaid says he's not sorry to see Benedict leave.

"One down and many more to go. That's kind of mean-spirited, but it's coming from the painful side of me," he says.

McDaid says it hurts that the church has not removed all the bishops and cardinals who were complicit in the cover-up, including in his case. And, he says, it's appalling that some of them will help choose the next pope — for example, Cardinal Roger Mahony, who's facing an onslaught of litigation in Los Angeles.

"And what's he do? Right after a deposition, he leaves the deposition and gets on a plane and goes to Rome. Give me a break," McDaid says.

And Sean Patrick O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, has also gone to Rome and is one of those mentioned as a possible successor to Benedict, albeit a long shot. O'Malley earned credibility among survivors for the way he handled claims early on and for enacting new policies to prevent abuse.

McDaid says picking O'Malley would be a sign that the church understands the ongoing depth and breadth of the issue.

"He saw it firsthand. That's all I've got to go on. That doesn't mean I'm delighted, but he's the best they've got," McDaid says.

For his part, however, Horne says he doesn't think it matters at all who becomes pope.

"My belief and hope has never come from what the Vatican is going to do. It won't be the Catholic Church that fixes this problem," Horne says.

Rather, Horne says, survivors and their supporters will drive change, regardless of whether the next pope presses the issue more forcefully.

"If it is done, great. If it isn't, then we just have more work to do in the streets from the bottom up. And it says it even in the Bible, if you have an issue with a man, take it up with him directly," Horne says.

Five years after his extraordinary meeting with Benedict, Horne doesn't know whether he'll ever have such an audience again. But he says he does have a date with Cardinal O'Malley set for April and intends to keep it — whether O'Malley is wearing red shoes in Rome or his brown frock back in Boston.


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