Sex abuse scandal overshadows Pope’s British tripSeptember 14th, 2010 - 2:58 pm ICT by IANS
Rome, Sep 14 (DPA) Virtually on the eve of Pope Benedict XVI’s state visit to Britain, a dossier issued in Belgium has suggested more than 300 cases of child sexual abuse by clergy — a fresh and grim reminder of the widespread scandal that has severely tarnished the Catholic Church’s reputation over the past year.
And as with recent trips to Malta and Portugal, ahead of his Sep 16-19 trip to England and Scotland, the pontiff is facing calls to meet local abuse victims.
Though not on the visit’s official itinerary, such encounters “cannot be excluded”, according to papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi.
Lombardi also hinted that — as with Benedict’s April meeting with Maltese victims — if such an event were to take place in Britain, it would be without prior announcement and away from the media’s spotlight.
In Britain, much of the clamour around the scandal has been raised by atheists and gay rights groups - who are fundamentally opposed to the pope across a range of issues.
The reality is that the country’s small Catholic Church has not been as tarnished by the scandal, which has mostly involved cases recorded in the US, other countries in Europe - including the pontiff’s native Germany - and Latin America.
Besides the beatification of 19th century Anglican convert to Catholicism, John Henry Newman, the Vatican has indicated that Benedict’s priority during his visit Britain is to provide inspiration to Catholics living in an increasingly secular society.
The pontiff will also seek to improve relations with the Anglican Church in pursuit of one of the stated principles of his pontificate - Christian unity.
A series of planned events, including meetings with Queen Elizabeth II, joint prayers with the head of the Anglican Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and Newman’s beatification ceremony, are likely to attract most of the public interest and media coverage related to papal visit.
Yet there are signals that the abuse issue will also surface during the three-days of Benedict’s stay.
There are reports that the former abbot of London’s prestigious Catholic St Benedict’s School, has been summoned back to Britain from Rome in connection an investigation into sexual abuse at the institution.
According to the Independent on Sunday newspaper, the 80-year-old Lawrence Soper will voluntarily return to answer the authorities’ questions.
Meanwhile, a group representing victims, the Minister And Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors has said it will attempt to hand over to Benedict a copy of a book containing details of alleged cases.
But the Vatican appears to have also played its part in potentially placing the abuse issue in the public glare, according to US Vatican expert John Allen.
Writing for the National Catholic Reporter, Allen pointed to the announcement that Cardinal Sean Brady of Ireland is to accompany the pope in Scotland and England.
Brady has been implicated in the abuse crisis that has rocked the Irish church since the findings of an inquiry were published in 2009. These include charges that in the 1970s he participated in pressuring the victims of a notorious abuser into accepting a gagging order.
The way the 83-year-old Benedict is dealing with the scandal is becoming a defining point of his pontificate, and while supporters say he is taking decisive action to prevent such abuse from taking place in the future, others continue to accuse him of not doing enough.
Critics in particular cite the alleged reluctance by the Vatican to introduce clear and swift directives for removing from office and reporting to civil authorities so-called predator priests.
Many also say this helps perpetuate the cover-up in which - as Benedict himself admitted in a pastoral letter to Ireland on the scandal - bishops and other top clerics showed more concerned with protecting the church’s reputation than with the victims’ plight.
“If Brady is spotted at the pope’s right hand, it could spark a new round of commentary about how Benedict ‘doesn’t get it,’” Allen wrote.
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- Pope 'truly sorry' for sexual abuse by Irish priests - Mar 20, 2010
- Sex abuse victims meet Vatican spokesman - Nov 02, 2010
- Vatican urges prudence in assessing WikiLeaks documents - Dec 14, 2010
- Pope Benedict's butler to face trial for stealing letters - Aug 13, 2012
- Protests as pope apologises for sex abuse 'crimes' (Second lead) - Sep 18, 2010
- Pope John Paul II To Be Beatified By Vatican On May 1 - Jan 15, 2011
- 4,000 cases of Catholic priests abusing kids probed - Feb 08, 2012
- Ordaining women priests is a 'crime against faith': Vatican - Jul 16, 2010
- John Paul II's beatification may draw a million pilgrims to Rome - Apr 28, 2011
- Smaller crowds anticipated in UK for the papal visit - Sep 15, 2010
- Pope signs letter on child abuse cases in Ireland - Mar 19, 2010
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