Wednesday, April 16, 2008

David Gibson on the "genesis" of Ratzinger's concern over clergy sex abuse

According to David Gibson (Benedictions), the genesis of his statements went back to a meeting that took place more than four years ago, not with other bishops, but with leaders of the lay review board set up to keep an eye on how the American hierarchy was complying with their own guidelines:

[Following the termination of Frank Keating], a well-respected Chicago jurist, Anne Burke, was then named to lead the blue-ribbon panel of 13 lay leaders, and while she was more politic in public, she found it tough going as she tried to arrange meetings with various bishops about the issue. She got nowhere, and in frustration, Burke and other board members started calling and faxing various Vatican offices asking if they could fly over, at their own expense, to meet with them. A few offices responded, among them the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

In January 2004, Burke and several other board members met with Ratzinger and his aides in his offices, for a full two-and-a-half hours. They set out the scope and depth of the scandal, which Ratzinger (and other Vatican officials) said they had not known. The U.S. bishops, Burke said, weren't giving the Vatican the full story. Ratzinger listened attentively, and at the end of the meeting stood up and promised the lay leaders he would get back to them. His time and response was something that one of the cardinal's top aides told Burke was very unusual.

“Cardinal Ratzinger was far more open to meeting with members of the national review board than our own bishops and cardinals,” Burke later told Newsday. Burke said Ratzinger was very engaged in the topic, beyond the fact that his department was charged with dealing with most cases to determine whether a priest should be defrocked, or “laicized” in church terms. “He took in everything we had to say and answered our questions. And we pulled no punches: We told him what was going on in terms of the extent of the actual abuse by the priests and about our dismay with the U.S. church hierarchy." ... Read More)