Archbp. Nichols about Pope Benedict’s handling of the abuse procedure

This is via Damian Thompson:

Cardinal Ratzinger acted powerfully against abusers, says Archbishop Vincent Nichols

By Damian Thompson 

At last – Archbishop Vincent Nichols, writing in The Times, has explained how far-reaching the former Cardinal Ratzinger’s reforms of Vatican procedures were after he took over responsibility for dealing with abuse allegations in 2001. More should have been done, and much earlier. But, although his record was not perfect, Ratzinger was part of the solution, not the problem. [Make sure you fix that in your mind.] And we need to bear that in mind when we listen to commentators like the monumentally pompous ex-Jesuit Michael Walsh scoring points against their old enemy. Oh, and if anyone is under the impression that veteran BBC Rome correspondent David Willey doesn’t have an axe to grind, let me put you right on that one.

Here’s the quote from Archbishop Nichols. He may not be on quite the same liturgical wavelength as the Pope, but he can recognise a hit job when he sees one:

    What of the role of Pope Benedict? When he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he led important changes made in church law: the inclusion in canon law of internet offences against children, the extension of child abuse offences to include the sexual abuse of all under 18, the case by case waiving of the statue of limitation and the establishment of a fast-track dismissal from the clerical state for offenders. He is not an idle observer. His actions speak as well as his words.

Well said, Archbishop Vincent.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Genna says:

    And totally undermined by Bishop Conry of Arundel and Brighton diocese in a subsequent BBC radio interview.

    He didn’t think the media had been too rough on the Pope and accused the Vatican of being “paranoid”.

    He said it “might” have been unfair to some top-level individauls to level blame at them. The interviewer asked, “Might have been?” He replied, “Yes, might have been.”

    When asked if he thought Catholics still trusted the Pope, he replied that they still trusted the institutional Church and their parish priests. When pressed if he thought they trusted the Pope specifically his reply: “Er, yes, I think so…”

    For those who are able to listen to his performance

    With friends like this . . . . . .

  2. kelleyb says:

    Ratzinger was part of the solution, not the problem.
    Thank God.

  3. lucy says:

    Long live Papa Benedict. We’re praying for you, Fr. Z, after your well appointed rant.

  4. TJerome says:

    This all makes sense when you look and see the man. Pope Benedict is very holy and has always taken whatever office he holds or held in the Church very seriously. Archbishop Nichols strongly supportive statement is the antidote that is needed. I doubt the New York Slimes will carry his quote because it is “against the agenda.” Tom

  5. TJerome says:

    By the way, has anyone seen a defense of the Pope by Archbishop Dolan of New York? He’s usually pretty good at taking on scum like the New York Times.

  6. TJerome —

    Ask, and ye shall receive.

    You’re familiar with the crescendo of recent stories on the sad and disturbing case of a German priest accused in 1979 of the vicious crime and sin of sexually abusing minor boys. When these hideous allegations came to the attention of this priest’s archbishop, a man by the name of Joseph Ratzinger — who now happens to be the bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI — he rightly removed the priest and ordered him to report for residential assessment and therapy.

    The shock of the original abuse is intensified because, tragically, upon his release from treatment, the priest was reassigned to parish work, although not by Archbishop Ratzinger. Horribly, as often was the case, the Reverend Peter Hullerman went on to abuse teenagers again.

    Sad and sickening, a story all too familiar to us, as we Catholics in the United States have had to face this same ulcer ever so frequently over the last nine years. Scabs are reopened, anger rekindled, trust painfully restored now being chipped-away-at again, victim-survivors, their families, the vast majority of priests, and faithful Catholics, all hurt anew.

    Pope Benedict XVI himself has expressed hurt, anger, sorrow, and contrition. As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and now as Pope, he is seen as one “who gets it” when it comes to the horror of clergy sexual abuse, and who has placed the full force of the Apostolic See, the Vatican, behind efforts to reform. Who can forget his forthright references to this scourge at least half-a-dozen times in his visit to our country nearly two-years ago, and his moving meeting with victim-survivors? And now we have his blunt, realistic Pastoral Letter to Ireland on the crises there. He must be asking, as we all do, “When will it all end.”

  7. There was a lot more before and after the part about the Pope. I forgot to add the tag end of his column, which is very strong:

    As another doctor, Paul McHugh, an international scholar on this subject at Johns Hopkins University, remarked, “Nobody is doing more to address the tragedy of sexual abuse of minors than the Catholic Church.”

    That, of course, is another headline you’ll never see.

  8. shane says:

    While I applaud Archbishop Nichols for taking this step, and while he brings our attention to some pertinent facts, the overall content leaves much to be desired. Archbishop Dolan’s pieces are much better.

  9. TJerome says:

    Suburbanbanshee, much obliged

  10. irishgirl says:

    Thanks Suburbanbanshee, for that response by Archbishop Dolan!

    I, for one, am getting pretty sick and tired of the secular media’s agenda!

  11. 15yankees says:

    Perhaps JP II “the Great” should have done less sightseeing and more overseeing.

  12. sejoga says:

    I agree with 15yankees. JPII was a patently holy man and a great face for the Church during a time when faithlessness really started to sweep the globe, but he was a far-cry from a “great” Pope, in my humble estimation.

    And I don’t understand why everyone goes to the highest possible official and blames THAT person, as if it were Joseph Ratzinger’s fault for not being able to wiggle his little finger and make every priest from Boston to Singapore to Johannesburg retroactively chaste. The fact is, most of these problems aren’t as much problems of the “institutional Church” somehow insidiously and surreptitiously propagating pedophilia throughout the world… it’s a problem of individual pastors and bishops who, when faced with an overwhelming problem of grave moral consequence, consistently decided to punt the issues and simply smooth things over quietly. It’s only a global problem because it was mishandled locally, everywhere. And the fact that everyone was predisposed to mishandle it is more the fault of the last century’s lack of faith and discipline than the fault of the “institutional Church”.

    It makes me understand more fully the historical legal precedent that “the King can do no wrong.” To our mind this sounds wicked and backwards… but the legal protections afforded to people like kings (or popes) was to prevent just this sort of character assassination. No king truly had the authority to perpetrate crimes against his countrymen; everything he did was accomplished by those who were complicit in his crimes. And if the king’s person wasn’t to be shielded from legal ramifications for problems, nothing was to stop vassals from perpetrating crimes “in the King’s name” in order to justify sedition and mutiny.

    Not that I’m suggesting that if the Pope were actually implicated in any of this (and he’s not) he should be untouchable, but I understand the sentiment now behind “the King can do no wrong”. Even if Pope Benedict were the most villainous criminal on the face of the earth and he had somehow orchestrated all of this, it wouldn’t exonerate all the people below him who have as much “blood” on their hands. And the fact that so many people at lower levels are guilty as sin in all of this makes it that much more apparent why THEY are the ones most wanting to see the innocent Pope take the fall.

    It’s pretty disgusting. It’s amazing that Christians, of all people, don’t see the inherent evil in deliberately scapegoating their own faults and grievances in an innocent man.

  13. sejoga says:

    It seems 15yankees’ comment has been removed, but I still agree with the sentiment that Benedict has done more to resolve this problem than John Paul did, and yet the one is demonized while the other is (albeit rightfully) lauded for his virtue.

  14. Maltese says:

    I’m glad Donohue is set to strike back with a full-page counter-measure.

    Still, I can’t help but think the general “call to holiness” was sublimated by a Church-gone-worldly, beginning around 1950, and culminating in the Second Vatican Council (which was adopted by those who thought they now had license to reject a 2,000 tradition.)

    Not that the blame can be squarely laid on VII–it was the symptom, but not necessarily the cause of the malaise, even if it is used as the current vehicle the virus uses to continue to assault the body of Christ.

    The liturgical demise of the Church actually began a dozen or so years before VII with such groups as the St. Severin movement in Paris (launching their ungodly endeavors from the earliest surviving church in Paris). But VII certainly flamed the fires, and the “call to holiness” and self-sacrifice seemed all but lost. Nuns, caught-up in the infernal “spirit” of the times, lost their habits, and did more than cohabit with each other. Priests, believing their celibacy was relative, started to seduce young men and boys, thinking, perhaps, that they were helping them “find” their sexuality; or, more likely, just unleashing their torrid and diabolical desires on the innocent.

    In all of this, the call to holiness was lost by clergy believing they were entitled to more than a life of sacrifice and holy commitment to the betterment of souls…

  15. anj says:

    Fr. Z, Is there some way that we can express our support for the Holy Father? The media feeding frenzy and false accusations really angers me.

  16. The Catholic League has posted this short and remarkably in point response to the current media blitz on the pope:


    March 26, 2010

    “Pope Was Told Pedophile Priest Would Get Transfer.” That’s the headline in today’s New York Times piece on the pope. Yet the Times offers absolutely no evidence to support this charge. All it says is that his office “was copied on a memo” about the transfer of Peter Hullermann. According to Church officials, the story says the memo was routine and was “unlikely to have landed on the archbishop’s desk.”

    Let’s say Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, now the pope, did in fact learn of the transfer. So what? Wasn’t that what he expected to happen? After all, we know from a March 16 Times story that when Ratzinger’s subordinates recommended therapy for Hullermann, he approved it. That was the drill of the day: after being treated, the patient (I prefer the term offender) returns to work. It’s still the drill of the day in many secular quarters today, particularly in the public schools. A more hard-line approach, obviously, makes more sense, but the therapeutic industry is very powerful.

    In other words, there is no real news in today’s news story. So why print it? To keep the flame alive. Look for the Times to run another story saying they have proof Ratzinger knew of the transfer. Did they think that after he approved the therapy that Hullermann would be sent to the Gulag?

    Yesterday’s Times story on the half-century old case concerning Father Lawrence Murphy will be the subject of an op-ed page ad in Tuesday’s New York Times. Meanwhile, I am taking advantage of every TV opportunity to set the record straight. The pope is a great man, and the Catholic League is proud to stand by him.

    So the CL’s reply. There is a further matter on which I have been unable to get any information. It seems that the perpetrator was a priest incardinated in the diocese of Essen, and was only in the then Cardinal Ratzinger’s diocese for treatment (which he seems to have resisted and refused). So his return to his own diocese means that he was the responsibility of his own bishop, not the bishop of a diocese were he was simply living for treatment. Fr. Z. do you have any clarification about this?

  17. michaeljayp says:

    Not a comment, dear Father Zuhlsdorf, so much as a brief note to you. My wife, Margaret, and I are getting on in years. Neither of us is computer literate – as evidenced by my trouble in logging in! But we look at your posts every day and have come to love you dearly. The tortures that afflict you right now we share with you. We are, and have long been, sustained in our Faith by the holiness and the dedication of priests like you. We have prayed for you each evening as we say our Rosary. And you will remain in our prayers. The rottenness that has come to light in recent years is horrifying, but really there is so much goodness in this vale of tears. Your example reminds us of that. Be of good cheer, dear Father Z.
    Michael Ryan,
    Melbourne, Australia.

  18. JARay says:

    I posted the following today to a well-known Catholic blog:-

    “I don’t know if you read Portuguese or not but the following is the latest post on your blog:-

    O anticristo é o Papa, que agora se mostra um pedófilo. Ser anticristo é ser contra a guerra, afavor da saúde e dos pobres? Se for assim eu também sou.

    Posted by: Marco Aurelio | Mar 26, 2010 11:23:14 AM

    I will offer my translation of this posting:-

    “The antichrist is the Pope, who now shows himself (to be) a pedophile. Is being the antichrist being against war and in favour of health for the poor? If it is then I also am (antichrist).

    I take exception to such a posting and I ask you to remove it.

    Sincerely, as a faithful Catholic who is completely fed up with the vicious attacks being made on our Holy Father, by a biased, anti-Catholic media,”

  19. JARay says:

    Happily, I now report that this offensive comment has been removed by the blog owner

  20. Dorothy says:

    Regarding this from Fr Thompson’s comment at 11.09 pm on 26th March:

    “There is a further matter on which I have been unable to get any information. It seems that the perpetrator was a priest incardinated in the diocese of Essen, and was only in the then Cardinal Ratzinger’s diocese for treatment (which he seems to have resisted and refused). So his return to his own diocese means that he was the responsibility of his own bishop, not the bishop of a diocese were he was simply living for treatment.”

    This concerned me too. But the priest appears to have worked from 1980 to the present in parishes of the Munich-Freising archdiocese. It was from one of these parishes that he was removed at the time of the offences in the mid-80s, and he was tried in court at a town nearby. It really does look as if he must have been formally transferred from Essen to Munich. I’d be glad to be corrected on this point.

    My heart goes out to the victims of all these horrible cases – and my heart goes out to our dear Holy Father.

  21. cmm says:

    Father Z.,

    I admire the way in which you are willing to look at details in depth to figure out the truth. Then the Holy Spirit will help us move forward, even if some of the media are reacting like sharks smelling blood.

    We are at polar opposite regarding liturgy and politics, but I still read this blog from time to time because of your integrity that comes across very clearly. First, the truth: if you ever became a bishop, that could be your motto!

    John Allen says: we need to know the truth.
    Thomas Reese says: we need to know the truth.
    You say: we need to know the truth.
    Committed Catholics from all across the spectrum agree on that. Then we’ll try to discern how to make sense out of it.

  22. Maltese says:

    cmm: the truth is that the Church is infiltrated with modernists (among some very holy men as well); and many of the churchmen who took the Oath against Modernism before Vatican II broke their pledge.

  23. TJerome says:

    I believe this is a media conspiracy in this Country to deflect attention from Obamacare and to destroy the bishops credibility if they try to do something about the fake Catholics who supported it. The NYT is diabolical, full of fake Catholics at the highest levels, e.g. Bill Keller, Maureen Dowd, etc.

  24. TJerome says:

    If the New York Archdiocese subscribes to the New York Times it should cancel every subscription and all faithful Catholics should do so as well. And the Times should be told why as to the cancellations.

  25. Fr_Sotelo says:

    The article today in the New York Times, “Doctrine Preoccupied Benedict as Archbishop” takes a very different tact than the previous hit jobs, and at least quotes various people who offer an apologetic for Cardinal Ratzinger when he was Archbishop of Munich.

    The thrust of the article was that Benedict was not a man of the nuts and bolts details of running an archdiocese, but a university professor who preoccupied himself with the problems of heterodoxy. This latest piece by the Times deals more with the facts, and less with speculation.

  26. @Fr_Sotelo

    This article seems to me to be yet another “hit piece” indicating the then Cardinal was too busy worrying about doctrinal errors (of which the NYT seems to be dismissive of) to worry about the sexual abuse.

    This one seems to paint him as neglectfully aloof, intolerant and the like.

    It also seeks to continue the insinuations that the now Pope had to have known about the transfer.

    So I would hardly call it more factual.

    Link to article here:

  27. TJerome says:

    Fr. Sotelo, do you purchase the Times, the defiler of the Faith?

  28. Fr_Sotelo says:


    I think that quotations from people who were actually there at the time and knew Cardinal Ratzinger in Munich are much better than speculations out of thin air that Ratzinger knew this priest was a pedophile and gave him a parish assignment anyways.

    And most people quoted are not taking swipes as the Pope. It is one thing to say he was an aloof professor who left management to subordinates (the thrust of this article), and quite another thing to call him the friend of pedophiles who is a hypocrite on the question of protecting children (the thrust of the previous articles). I’ll take the former over the latter if I have to hear anything in public about the Holy Father.


    I don’t know what that question has to do with the present speculation of the Holy Father’s innocence. Like Fr. Z, I read articles of interest which are sent to me. Of the ordination vows I took, not reading articles from the Times was not one of them. Please contribute something about the message here. It would be far more interesting than wishing to examine the reading lists of all the posters.

  29. Fr_Sotelo says:

    To answer the question, I don’t purchase any subscriptions to any papers except the local paper. This has a circulation of about 1500 and is not known to defile anything, except on occasion the rules of English grammar.

  30. @Fr_Sotelo

    I’m inclined to believe neither to be honest.

    The thing I find interesting is that most of the article seems to base itself on Andreas Englisch and some others who were not directly involved, with some irrelevant side comments from priests which the NYT used to insinuate that the Pope was ignoring these other issues in favor of doctrine.

    However I was not criticizing you, but rather the article you mentioned. My apologies if it sounded like an attack on you through a bad choice of phrases on my part.

  31. shane says:

    Gerald Warner has another article on the abuse scandals in today’s Scotland on Sunday:

  32. TJerome says:

    Father Sotelo, I’m glad a good priest like you isn’t providing them with financial support. For the good of the Country the Times needs to fold. For too many years they have been printing editorials masquerading as news stories. It has become a viewspaper, of the most leftist kind. I believe their motivation in printing these execrable accounts on the Holy Father at this particular time is designed to discredit the Church and pro-life Catholics, to make their voices less credible in condemning ObamaCare. It’s a play from the Saul Alinsky playbook.

  33. catholicmidwest says:

    “I believe this is a media conspiracy in this Country to deflect attention from Obamacare and to destroy the bishops credibility if they try to do something about the fake Catholics who supported it. ”

    Agree. The timing is perfect, no?

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