by Andrea Tornielli
In Vatican Insider
The Pope has not vacillated in the face of all kinds of old and new scandals that have surfaced. For example, he has established standards that are even more severe than the ones he suggested to John Paul II 10 years ago. The victims take priority, as he first showed with his personal stance and now with the new guidelines on abuse aimed at the bishops’ conferences and published last Monday. He has charged the bishops with the responsibility of serving as “fathers and brothers” to their clergy. But most importantly, he has acted, far from the spotlight, with determination during the first six years of his papacy.
One month after he was elected in May 2005, Ratzinger banned Father Gino Burresi, founder of the Congregation of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, from any public ministry for sexually abusing his young followers. The priest had been the object of huge coverage for years and the offences he had committed had expired under the statue of limitations. Shortly thereafter came the famous decision on Father Macial Maciel, the former founder of the Legion of Christ, who was found guilty of serious abuse.
In September 2008, Benedict XVI laicized don Lelio Cantini, the charismatic priest from Florence and leader of an active community that saw a number of clergymen emerge from its ranks. He too was guilty of repeatedly abusing minors. In July of the following year, he cracked down on a German clergyman belonging to the Missionaries of the Holy Family of Munich, while in February 2010, with a decree that cannot be appealed, Ratzinger defrocked don Marco Dessi, a missionary in Nicaragua, before the end of his civil trial for sexually abusing minors. The following month, don Andrea Agostini, a priest in the diocese of Bologna who supervised a catholic nursery school in Ferrara, was dismissed from the clerical state for pedophilia. In October 2010, don Nello Giraudo from the diocese of Savona met the same fate, while at the beginning of this year Fernando Karadima, the powerful and influential priest from Chile, was forced to retire despite the fact that the offences had expired under the statute of limitations. A quick decision is also expected regarding don Riccardo Seppia, the priest from Genoa who is a cocaine addict and predator of young boys.
A year ago, at the height of the scandals that occurred mainly in the United States, Ireland and Germany, Benedict XVI made a dramatic pronouncement that «the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from enemies on the outside» but «is born from the sins within the church». He linked these events to the message of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Portugal during the last century, claiming that «We delude ourselves if we think that the prophetic mission of Fatima has come to an end».
In the interview book “Light of the World”, the Pope also supported the media and their role in the affair «The media would not have been able to provide those reports if the sin had not existed in the Church...as long as it is a matter of bringing the truth to light, we should be grateful». A lesson of great humility, which seen from the outside could be even better understood inside the Church.