WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The leader of Poland's Catholic Church has come under a wave of condemnation by appearing to suggest that children are partly to blame for being sexually abused by priests.
Archbishop Jozef Michalik, head of Poland's influential Episcopate, was commenting this month on revelations about Polish pedophile priests. A child from a troubled family, Michalik told reporters, "seeks closeness with others and may get lost and may get the other person involved, too."
The words triggered an immediate uproar — one that Michalik tried to stamp out the same day by apologizing and saying he had been misunderstood. He had not, he said, meant to suggest that child victims were in any way responsible.
But the damage was done.
Ordinary citizens joined prominent politicians in expressing outrage, and intense debate continues more than two weeks later. The media pointed out that Michalik had supported a parish priest convicted in 2004 of child sex abuse, and one of the priest's victims said she was horrified by Michalik's latest remarks.
"Archbishop Michalik's words make us feel fear and revulsion," Ewa Orlowska said.
The archbishop's comments forced the Episcopate's spokesman, the Rev. Jozef Kloch, to state that Poland's church has "zero tolerance" for pedophilia but that it needs to learn how to approach and talk about the matter. The controversy has since led bishops under Michalik to apologize for "priests who have harmed children."
It all comes amid a tide of allegations that Poland's church is sweeping cases of sex abuse under the carpet, putting it at odds with Vatican efforts since 2001 to punish abusers. The scrutiny has also further undermined the church's status in Poland as a moral and political leader — cemented by Polish-born Pope John Paul II through his critical role in inspiring the fight against communism. The church's defenders say that priests are being singled out for condemnation when teachers and sports coaches have also been caught sexually abusing kids.
John Paul himself came under criticism for a reluctance to heed accusations against priests. While the Vatican in 2001 ordered bishops to submit cases of alleged pedophilia to the Holy See's review, it was largely the initiative of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. After the church sex abuse scandal erupted in 2002 in the United States, Ratzinger pressed for faster ways to permanently remove abusers from the church.
The crackdown against pedophile priests gained intensity once Ratzinger became Benedict XVI. In 2011, Benedict instructed bishops' conferences around the world to submit their own guidelines for keeping molesters out of the priesthood and to protect children.
Poland's Episcopate has issued guidelines for the church's punishment of priests and support for the victims. But it sees no need to report priests to state investigators and says that the financial compensation rests with the wrongdoer, not with the church. That approach may soon be tested by a man who is readying Poland's first sex abuse lawsuit against the church.
In several countries, including the U.S., Canada and Australia, the church has been paying millions in compensation over sex abuse cases.
Michalik also recently raised eyebrows by saying that the roots of pedophilia lay in pornography and divorce, both of which are "painful and long-lasting wounds."
The debate started last month after Dominican Republic investigators revealed child sex abuse allegations against two Polish clergymen: Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the Vatican's ambassador, and Rev. Wojciech Gil, a parish priest. Wesolowski has been forcibly removed by the Vatican. Gil has denied sex abuse and suggested that Dominican drug mafia is taking revenge on him for his educational work.
Some 27 Polish priests have been tried for sex abuse since 2001, but most cases ended in suspended prison term — indicating a general leniency for the church in Poland, where religion is taught in schools and senior church officials attend state ceremonies.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Entities affiliated with the Roman Catholic church have contributed more than $300,000 toward a Missouri ballot initiative that would authorize state tax credits benefiting private schools.
Records at the state Ethics Commission show the group Missourians for Children's Education was established this past week to support the potential 2014 ballot initiative.
It was launched with a $300,000 contribution from the Archdiocese of St. Louis and more than $11,000 from the Missouri Catholic Conference.
The initiative would allow a 50 percent tax credit for businesses and individuals who donate to nonprofit organizations that provide scholarships for children to attend private schools or that provide financial aid for public school programs.
Up to $90 million of tax credits would be allowed annually.
The Supreme Court invalidated parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, but the Archdiocese of St. Louis is standing firm on its opposition of gay marriage.
The Archdiocese says in a statement that "marriage predates both the U.S. government and Western civilization". The statement also states the ruling does not change the Archdiocese "responsiblity to defend marriage as being between one man and one woman".
Wednesday's ruling allows same-sex couples to receive the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.
The full statement from the Archdiocese is below:
The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and to dismiss the California Proposition 8 appeal does not change the reality of marriage, nor does it change the Archdiocese of St. Louis's responsibility to defend marriage as being between one man and one woman. It is important to note that marriage predates both the U.S. government and Western civilization.
From a Catholic perspective, it is not enough to offer the Church’s position on same-sex union without also saying how it fits into a broader understanding of the sacrament of marriage, human sexuality, and the Gospel of Life as taught by Blessed John Paul II. The vocation to serve God and society through married life is a sacred union in which man and woman become one flesh. The Catholic Church does not condemn individuals for having same-sex attraction. She teaches that all people are called to responsibility regarding sexuality. The sexual union of a man and woman, when not obstructed by contraceptives, is the kind that is open to life even if new life is not the result.
We understand that married persons imitate the way Christ offers His body completely and permanently to the Church so that we might have life, and have it abundantly. This truth is written into our bodies as well as on the pages of the Old and New Testaments. While the law can allow other things to be called marriage, it cannot make them into the kind of union that is marriage.
OGDEN, Utah (AP) - Doctors say a Utah man shot in the head by his son-in-law during a Father's Day Catholic Mass is expected to survive.
Dr. Barbara Kerwin of McDay-Dee Hospital in Ogden says James Evans is still in critical condition but expected to live. She says the bullet went through his jaw and cheek, missing the brain.
Police say 35-year-old Charles Richard Jennings Jr. walked into Mass hand-in-hand with his wife, Evans' daughter. Authorities say Jennings went up to Evans and shot him near the back of the Saint James the Just Catholic Church in Ogden.
Jennings was captured Sunday afternoon after fleeing in a stolen pickup truck.
Ogden police don't yet know the motive of the shooting.
The Rev. Eric Richsteig says Jennings had previously made threats but didn't elaborate.
Only a handful of popes have ever done so.
The last was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism, a dispute among competing papal claimants. The most famous resignation was Pope Celestine V in 1294; Dante placed him in hell for it.
Benedict is saying farewell this morning to his closest advisers in Clementine Hall at the Apostolic Palace. Then shortly before 5 p.m., he will leave the palace for the last time as pope and fly by helicopter to the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.
Benedict Greets Cardinals on Last Day As Pope
Exactly at 8 p.m. — when his resignation takes effect — the doors at Castel Gandolfo will close and the papacy that began on April 19, 2005, will come to an end.
Tens of thousands of people toting banners saying "Grazie!" - "thank you" - jammed the piazza to bid farewell to the pope at his final general audience - the appointment he has kept each week to teach the world about the Catholic faith.
Pilgrims and curiosity-seekers picked spots along the main boulevard leading to the square to watch Wednesday's event on giant TV screens. Some 50,000 tickets were requested for Benedict's final master class, but Italian media estimated the number of people actually attending could be double that.
"It's difficult - the emotion is so big," said Jan Marie, a 53 year old Roman in his first years as a seminarian. "We came to support the pope's decision."
With chants of "Benedetto" erupting every so often, the mood was far more buoyant than during the pope's final Sunday blessing and recalled the jubilant turnouts that often accompanied him at World Youth Days and events involving his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
Benedict on Thursday will become the first pope in 600 years to resign, a decision he said he took after realizing that, at 85, he simply didn't have the strength of mind or body to carry on. He will meet Thursday morning with cardinals for a final time, then fly by helicopter to the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo south of Rome.
There, at 8 p.m., the doors of the palazzo will close and the Swiss Guards in attendance will go off duty, their service protecting the head of the Catholic Church over - for now.
Many of the cardinals who will choose Benedict's successor were in St. Peter's Square for his final audience, including retired Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, object of a grass-roots campaign in the U.S. to persuade him to recuse himself for having covered up for sexually abusive priests. Mahony has said he will vote.
Vatican officials say cardinals will begin meeting on Monday to decide when to set the date for the conclave to elect the next pope.
But the rank-and-file in the crowd on Wednesday weren't so concerned with the future; they wanted to savor the final moments with the pope they have known for eight years.
"I came to thank him for the testimony that he has given the church," said Maria Cristina Chiarini, a 52 year old homemaker who traveled by train early Wednesday from Lugo, near Ravenna, with some 60 members of her parish. "There's nostalgia, human nostalgia, but also comfort, because as a Christian we have hope. The Lord won't leave us without a guide."
Last March, a St. Louis Circuit Court judge had ruled against the Archdiocese claim, and affirmed St. Stan's ownership of its property. The Archdiocese appealed the ruling, but is now backing down.
Wednesday, the two parties released the following joint statement:
"The Archdiocese of St. Louis and St. Stanislaus have resolved their legal dispute. The Archdiocese will dismiss its appeal and the judgment of the trial court is now final. St. Stanislaus has agreed that it will not hold itself out as affiliated in any way with the Archdiocese of St. Louis or the Roman Catholic Church. Neither side made any payments to the other as part of this resolution. All other terms of the resolution are confidential. By bringing this legal dispute to an end, we pray that this will help to initiate a process of healing.”The church is located just north of downtown St. Louis at 1413 North 20th Street.
Benedict received a lengthy standing ovation when he entered the packed audience hall Wednesday. He was interrupted by applause by the throngs of people, many of whom had tears in their eyes.
At the start of his audience, he repeated in Italian what he had told cardinals Monday in Latin: that he simply didn't have the strength to continue. He said "I did this in full liberty for the good of the church."
He asked the faithful "to continue to pray for the pope and the church."
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church.
After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.
Pope Benedict XVI Sends First Tweet Watch Video However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.
For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
From the Vatican, 10 February 2013 BENEDICTUS PP XVI