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VATICAN CITY - Ten years after a historic papal response to clerical sex abuse, the Vatican urged priests to strive for greater holiness in their own lives so that they might effectively minister to others and reverse the tide of atheism.

In its annual letter to priests for 2012, the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy focused on Blessed John Paul II's 2002 Holy Thursday letter to clergy, in which the late pope responded to the growing revelations and scandal of sexual abuse of minors by priests.

Published in Vatican

PHILADELPHIA - State prosecutors and defense lawyers for Msgr. William J. Lynn and Father James J. Brennan all decried the issue of sexual abuse of children at the start of a criminal trial March 26 in Philadelphia.

Despite that apparent agreement, the attorneys embarked on sharply divergent paths as they made opening arguments before presiding Judge M. Teresa Sarmina and jurors at the beginning of the trial for Msgr. Lynn, 61, former secretary for clergy of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and Father Brennan, an archdiocesan priest.

Published in International

WARSAW, Poland - A prominent victim of clerical sex abuse has rejected the Polish church's stance that it is following a zero-tolerance policy toward priests and offers moral support for victims.

Ewa Orlowska, whose book about her ordeal, "I Accused a Priest," was published in 2008, charged that the church is holding "victims up to ridicule" while "behaving as if nothing has happened."

Published in International

OXFORD, England - The Dutch church has pledged to fully cooperate with investigations into reported claims that Catholic institutions castrated boys and young men in their care to rid them of homosexuality.

Bert Elbertse, spokesman for the Dutch Catholic bishops' conference, said the bishops found the reports "shocking and appalling" and that they "condemn and regret such practices in the strongest possible terms."

"Our church has been badly damaged by accusations of sexual abuse. The fact that people were unsurprised by these latest claims suggests our image couldn't get any worse," he said.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - A Vatican-appointed investigation of the church in Ireland recognized serious shortcomings in the handling of accusations of the sexual abuse of minors, yet found that bishops, clergy and lay faithful are doing an "excellent" job in creating safe environments for children today.

The investigators found that Irish bishops need to update their child protection guidelines, establish "more consistent admission criteria" for seminarians, and formulate policies on how best to deal with clergy and religious accused of abuse.

Published in International

DUBLIN - Cardinal Sean Brady said the Catholic Church will cooperate fully with a government-led investigation into institutional abuse being launched in Northern Ireland.

A similar inquiry in Ireland -- the Ryan Commission -- reported in 2009 and found that physical abuse was widespread and sexual abuse was endemic in many institutions for boys run by members of religious congregations.

Published in International

PHILADELPHIA - Lawyers for a Philadelphia archdiocesan priest failed Feb. 27 in their bid to have charges of child endangerment and conspiracy dismissed before the priest's case went to trial.

As a result, arguments are still set to begin March 26 in the trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn, who had been an aide to recently deceased Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who was Philadelphia's archbishop from 1988 until his retirement in 2003.

Msgr. Lynn, 61, is accused of having failed to protect children from two priests who were under his direction when he served as secretary of the clergy for the archdiocese from 1992 to 2004. In that role, he was responsible for recommending the assignment of priests in the archdiocese.

Published in International

WINDSOR, Ont. - Four former Windsor students of Fr. William ”Hod” Hodgson Marshall are suing the priest, the Congregation of St. Basil and the diocese of London for claims arising from sexual abuse for which the now 89-year-old priest has been convicted.

Marshall was sentenced last June to two years in jail after pleading guilty to 17 counts of indecent assault between 1962 and 1985 for cases that arose in Windsor, Toronto and Sudbury. Marshall was a teacher, coach and principal at schools in those cities.

Published in Canada

WARSAW, Poland - The spokesman for the Polish bishops' conference defended its handling of sexual abuse accusations against Catholic clergy as the bishops prepared to adopt guidelines on the issue.

"The church is the only institution in Poland systematically dealing with this -- no one else is," said Father Jozef Kloch, conference spokesman. "Although we're being used as a whipping boy, we know from data there's a much lower incidence of pedophilia among Catholic priests than clergy from other denominations, as well as teachers, home care employees, sports coaches and, unfortunately, parents and relatives."

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - A high-profile U.S. lawsuit accusing Pope Benedict XVI of covering up sexual abuse has been withdrawn.

Lawyers for the plaintiff in John Doe 16 v. Holy See filed a notice of voluntary dismissal Feb. 10, bringing the case effectively to an end.

The lawsuit was filed in April 2010 in the U.S. District Court in Milwaukee by an unnamed Illinois man who claimed he had been molested by Fr. Lawrence Murphy during the latter's time on the staff of Milwaukee's St. John's School for the Deaf. The lawsuit claimed that the Vatican "has known about the widespread problem of childhood sexual abuse committed by its clergy for centuries, but has covered up that abuse and thereby perpetuated the abuse."

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - The take-away message from a Vatican-backed symposium on clerical sex abuse was clear: Victims, truth and justice come first. And the church can no longer wait for a crisis to erupt before it begins to address the scandal of abuse.

"We do not need to wait for a bomb to explode. Preventing it from exploding is the best response," said Philippine Archbishop Luis Tagle.

Published in International

ROME - The Vatican's top sex abuse investigator called for greater accountability under church law of bishops who shield or fail to discipline pedophile priests.

Msgr. Charles Scicluna, promoter of justice for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, made his remarks to reporters in Rome Feb. 8, after addressing an international symposium on clerical sex abuse.

Published in International

ROME - Cardinal Marc Ouellet led a penitential vigil to show contrition for the sexual abuse of children by priests and for the actions of Catholic officials who shielded the perpetrators from justice Feb. 7.

Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, presided over the vigil during a week-long symposium attended by representatives of 110 bishops’ conferences and 30 religious orders. The Feb. 6-9 conference, “Toward Healing and Renewal,” launched a global initiative aimed at improving efforts to stop clerical sexual abuse and better protect children and vulnerable adults. It was held at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University and is supported by the Vatican Secretariat of State and several other Vatican offices.

Published in International

ALTOONA, Pa. - Although Joe Paterno will be remembered as "a legend throughout our region and throughout our country," Bishop Mark  Bartchak said the iconic football coach will be best remembered in the diocese of Altoona-Johnstown as "a good Catholic, a family man and a friend to many."

Bartchak made his comments Jan. 22 at a news conference at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona, prior to a prayer service celebrating Respect for Life.

Published in International

Is it over? Yes and no. It was 10 years ago this month that the sexual abuse crisis exploded in the archdiocese of Boston, with reverberations across the world.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, sent to Boston in 2003 as archbishop to right the reeling ship, has written at length on the 10th anniversary. He is quick to argue that the sexual abuse crisis is not over. It’s not over principally because sexual abuse is not something a victim simply gets over. It’s also not over because the process of purification and penance is a path the Church cannot abandon.

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza