Category Archives: Holy See

Promoter of Justice Msgr Charles J. Scicluna speaks on Pedophilia

Charles J. SciclunaIn an unusual step, the Vatican official who deals with matters of justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith speaks publicly (March 13, 2010) on the sexual abuse crisis we are facing. Prayers, please! This is going to be a bumpy ride. John Allen’s article on this subject may be helpful.

Given below is the text of an interview, published today by the Italian newspaper L’Avvenire, with Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, promoter of justice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, concerning the investigative and judicial activities of that dicastery in cases of “delicta graviora”, which include the crime of paedophilia committed by members of the clergy:

Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna is the “promoter of justice” of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He is effectively the prosecutor of the tribunal of the former Holy Office, whose job it is to investigate what are known as “delicta graviora”; i.e., the crimes which the Catholic Church considers as being the most serious of all: crimes against the Eucharist and against the sanctity of the Sacrament of Penance, and crimes against the sixth Commandment (“thou shall not commit impure acts”) committed by a cleric against a person under the age of eighteen. These crimes, in a “Motu Proprio” of 2001, Sacramentum sanctitatis tutela” [the Vatican Latin version is here], come under the competency of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In effect, it is the “promoter of justice” who deals with, among other things, the terrible question of priests accused of paedophilia, which are periodically highlighted in the mass media. Msgr. Scicluna, an affable and polite Maltese, has the reputation of scrupulously carrying out the tasks entrusted to him without deferring to anyone.

Question: Monsignor, you have the reputation of being “tough”, yet the Catholic Church is systematically accused of being accommodating towards “paedophile priests.”

Answer: It may be that in the past – perhaps also out of a misdirected desire to protect the good name of the institution – some bishops were, in practice, too indulgent towards this sad phenomenon. And I say in practice because, in principle, the condemnation of this kind of crime has always been firm and unequivocal. Suffice it to recall, to limit ourselves just to last century, the famous Instruction “Crimen sollicitationis” of 1922.

Q: Wasn’t that from 1962?

A: No, the first edition dates back to the pontificate of Pius XI. Then, with Blessed John XXIII, the Holy Office issued a new edition for the Council Fathers, but only two thousand copies were printed, which were not enough, and so distribution was postponed sine die. In any case, these were procedural norms to be followed in cases of solicitation during confession, and of other more serious sexually-motivated crimes such as the sexual abuse of minors. [The 1962 text of Crimen sollictationis: Crimen sollicitationis.pdf]

Q: Norms which, however, recommended secrecy…

A: A poor English translation of that text has led people to think that the Holy See imposed secrecy in order to hide the facts. But this was not so. Secrecy during the investigative phase served to protect the good name of all the people involved; first and foremost, the victims themselves, then the accused priests who have the right – as everyone does – to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The Church does not like showcase justice. Norms on sexual abuse have never been understood as a ban on denouncing the crimes to the civil authorities.

Q: Nonetheless, that document is periodically cited to accuse the current Pontiff of having been – when he was prefect of the former Holy Office – objectively responsible for a Holy See policy of covering up the facts…

A: That accusation is false and calumnious. On this subject I would like to highlight a number of facts. Between 1975 and 1985 I do not believe that any cases of paedophilia committed by priests were brought to the attention of our Congregation. Moreover, following the promulgation of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, there was a period of uncertainty as to which of the “delicta graviora” were reserved to the competency of this dicastery. Only with the 2001 “Motu Proprio” did the crime of paedophilia again become our exclusive remit. From that moment Cardinal Ratzinger displayed great wisdom and firmness in handling those cases, also demonstrating great courage in facing some of the most difficult and thorny cases, “sine acceptione personarum”. Therefore, to accuse the current Pontiff of a cover-up is, I repeat, false and calumnious.

Q: What happens when a priest is accused of a “delictum gravius”?

A: If the accusation is well-founded the bishop has the obligation to investigate both the soundness and the subject of the accusation. If the outcome of this initial investigation is consistent, he no longer has any power to act in the matter and must refer the case to our Congregation where it is dealt with by the disciplinary office.

Q: How is that office composed?

A: Apart from myself who, being one of the superiors of the dicastery, also concern myself with other matters, there are the bureau chief Fr. Pedro Miguel Funes Diaz, seven priests and a lay lawyer who follow these cases. Other officials of the Congregation also make their own vital contribution depending upon the language and specific requirements of each case.

Q: That office has been accused of working little and slowly…

A: Those are unjustified comments. In 2003 and 2004 a great wave of cases flooded over our desks. Many of them came from the United States and concerned the past. Over recent years, thanks to God, the phenomenon has become greatly reduced, and we now seek to deal with new cases as they arise.

Q: How many have you dealt with so far?

A: Overall in the last nine years (2001-2010) we have considered accusations concerning around three thousand cases of diocesan and religious priests, which refer to crimes committed over the last fifty years.

Q: That is, then, three thousand cases of paedophile priests?

A: No, it is not correct to say that. We can say that about sixty percent of the cases chiefly involved sexual attraction towards adolescents of the same sex, another thirty percent involved heterosexual relations, and the remaining ten percent were cases of paedophilia in the true sense of the term; that is, based on sexual attraction towards prepubescent children. The cases of priests accused of paedophilia in the true sense have been about three hundred in nine years. Please don’t misunderstand me, these are of course too many, but it must be recognised that the phenomenon is not as widespread as has been believed.

Q: The accused, then, are three thousand. How many have been tried and condemned?

A: Currently we can say that a full trial, penal or administrative, has taken place in twenty percent of cases, normally celebrated in the diocese of origin – always under our supervision – and only very rarely here in Rome. We do this also in order to speed up the process. In sixty percent of cases there has been no trial, above all because of the advanced age of the accused, but administrative and disciplinary provisions have been issued against them, such as the obligation not to celebrate Mass with the faithful, not to hear confession, and to live a retired life of prayer. It must be made absolutely clear that in these cases, some of which are particularly sensational and have caught the attention of the media, no absolution has taken place. It’s true that there has been no formal condemnation, but if a person is obliged to a life of silence and prayer, then there must be a reason…

Q: That still leaves twenty percent of cases…

A: We can say that in ten percent of cases, the particularly serious ones in which the proof is overwhelming, the Holy Father has assumed the painful responsibility of authorising a decree of dismissal from the clerical state. This is a very serious but inevitable provision, taken though administrative channels. In the remaining ten percent of cases, it was the accused priests themselves who requested dispensation from the obligations deriving from the priesthood, requests which were promptly accepted. Those involved in these latter cases were priests found in possession of paedophile pornographic material and, for this reason, condemned by the civil authorities.

Q: Where do these three thousand cases come from?

A: Mostly from the United States which, in the years 2003-2004, represented around eighty percent of total cases. In 2009 the United States “share” had dropped to around twenty-five percent of the 223 cases reported from all over the world. Over recent years (2007-2009), the annual average of cases reported to the Congregation from around the world has been two hundred and fifty. Many countries report only one or two cases. There is, then, a growing diversity and number of countries of origin of cases, but the phenomenon itself is much reduced. It must, in fact, be borne in mind that the overall number of diocesan and religious priests in the world is four hundred thousand, although this statistic does not correspond to the perception that is created when these sad cases occupy the front pages of the newspapers.

Q: And in Italy?

A: Thus far the phenomenon does not seem to have dramatic proportions, although what worries me is a certain culture of silence which I feel is still too widespread in the country. The Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) offers an excellent technical-juridical consultancy service for bishops who have to deal with these cases. And I am very pleased to observe the ever greater commitment being shown by Italian bishops to throw light on the cases reported to them.

Q: You said that a full trial has taken place in around twenty percent of the three thousand cases you have examined over the last nine years. Did they all end with the condemnation of the accused?

A: Many of the past trials did end with the condemnation of the accused. But there have also been cases in which the priest was declared innocent, or where the accusations were not considered to have sufficient proof. In all cases, however, not only is there an examination of the guilt or innocence of the accused priest, but also a discernment as to his fitness for public ministry.

Q: A recurring accusation made against the ecclesiastical hierarchy is that of not reporting to the civil authorities when crimes of paedophilia come to their attention.

A: In some English-speaking countries, but also in France, if bishops become aware of crimes committed by their priests outside the sacramental seal of Confession, they are obliged to report them to the judicial authorities. This is an onerous duty because the bishops are forced to make a gesture comparable to that of a father denouncing his own son. Nonetheless, our guidance in these cases is to respect the law.

Q: And what about countries where bishops do not have this legal obligation?

A: In these cases we do not force bishops to denounce their own priests, but encourage them to contact the victims and invite them to denounce the priests by whom they have been abused. Furthermore, we invite the bishops to give all spiritual – and not only spiritual – assistance to those victims. In a recent case concerning a priest condemned by a civil tribunal in Italy, it was precisely this Congregation that suggested to the plaintiffs, who had turned to us for a canonical trial, that they involve the civil authorities in the interests of victims and to avoid other crimes.

Q: A final question: is there any statue of limitation for “delicta graviora”?

A: Here you touch upon what, in my view, is a sensitive point. In the past, that is before 1889, the statue of limitations was something unknown in canon law. For the most serious crimes, it was only with the 2001 “Motu Proprio” that a statute of limitations of ten years was introduced. In accordance with these norms in cases of sexual abuse, the ten years begin from the day on which the minor reaches the age of eighteen.

Q: Is that enough?

A: Practice has shown that the limit of ten years is not enough in this kind of case, in which it would be better to return to the earlier system of “delicta graviora” not being subject to the statue of limitations. On 7 November 2002, Venerable Servant of God John Paul II granted this dicastery the power to revoke that statue of limitations, case by case following a reasoned request from individual bishops. And this revocation is normally granted.

Documents between 1939-45 on Pius XII papacy

The Vatican Publishing House is making available, free of charge on the internet, more than 8,000 pages of the Actes et Documents du Sainte-Siège relatifs à la Seconde Guerre Mondiale (1965-1981) edited by Jesuit Fathers Pierre Blet, Angelo Martini, Robert A. Graham and Burkhart Schneider.


vatican secret archive.jpgThe release of these documents are the result of a request of the Pave the Way  Foundation (PTWF) made to the Holy See to digitalize and publish 5,125 documents of the Vatican Secret Archives dated from March 1939 to May 1945. PTWF president Gary Krupp said his Foundation aims to remove the barriers between Catholic and Judaism. He told Jesús Colina of Zenit, “In the futherance of our mission we have recognized the papacy of the war time Pope Pius XII as a source of friction impacting over one billion people.”


More information on the Vatican Secret Archives may be found here.

Pope speaks to the Diplomatic Corps for 2010

What follows are excerpts of an address the Holy Father gave to the
Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See today, January 11. I selected what I thought were some germane points for our consideration.


Pope with Diplomats.jpg

The Church is
open to everyone because, in God, she lives for others! She thus shares deeply
in the fortunes of humanity, which in this new year continues to be marked by
the dramatic crisis of the global economy and consequently a serious and
widespread social instability. In my Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, I invited
everyone to look to the deeper causes of this situation: in the last analysis,
they are to be found in a current self-centred and materialistic way of
thinking which fails to acknowledge the limitations inherent in every creature
Today I would like to stress that the same way of thinking also endangers
creation. Each of us could probably cite an example of the damage that this has
caused to the environment the world over. I will offer an example, from any
number of others, taken from the recent history of Europe. Twenty years ago,
after the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the materialistic and
atheistic regimes which had for several decades dominated a part of this
continent, was it not easy to assess the great harm which an economic system
lacking any reference to the truth about man had done not only to the dignity
and freedom of individuals and peoples, but to nature itself, by polluting
soil, water and air?
The denial of God distorts the freedom of the human
person, yet it also devastates creation
. It follows that the protection of
creation is not principally a response to an aesthetic need, but much more to a
moral need, in as much as nature expresses a plan of love and truth which is
prior to us and which comes from God.

It is proper, however, that this concern
and commitment for the environment should be situated within the larger
framework of the great challenges now facing mankind
. If we wish to build true
peace, how can we separate, or even set at odds, the protection of the
environment and the protection of human life, including the life of the unborn?

It is in man’s respect for himself that his sense of responsibility for
creation is shown. As Saint Thomas Aquinas has taught, man represents all that
is most noble in the universe
(cf. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 29, a. 3).
Furthermore, as I noted during the recent FAO World Summit on Food Security,
“the world has enough food for all its inhabitants” (Address of 16
November 2009, No. 2) provided that selfishness does not lead some to hoard the
goods which are intended for all.

I would like to stress again that the
protection of creation calls for an appropriate management of the natural
of different countries and, in the first place, of those which are
economically disadvantaged. I think of the continent of Africa, which I had the
joy of visiting last March during my journey to Cameroon and Angola, and which
was the subject of the deliberations of the recent Special Assembly of the
Synod of Bishops. The Synod Fathers pointed with concern to the erosion and
desertification of large tracts of arable land as a result of overexploitation
and environmental pollution (cf. Propositio 22). In Africa, as elsewhere, there
is a need to make political and economic decisions which ensure “forms of
agricultural and industrial production capable of respecting creation and
satisfying the primary needs of all”
(Message for the 2010 World Day of
Peace, No. 10).

How can we forget, for that matter, that the struggle for
access to natural resources is one of the causes of a number of conflicts, not
least in Africa, as well as a continuing threat elsewhere? For this reason too,
I forcefully repeat that to cultivate peace, one must protect creation!
Furthermore, there are still large areas, for example in Afghanistan or in some
countries of Latin America, where agriculture is unfortunately still linked to
the production of narcotics, and is a not insignificant source of employment
and income. If we want peace, we need to preserve creation by rechanneling
these activities
; I once more urge the international community not to become
resigned to the drug trade and the grave moral and social problems which it

To carry our reflection further, we must remember that the problem of
the environment is complex
; one might compare it to a multifaceted prism.
Creatures differ from one another and can be protected, or endangered, in
different ways, as we know from daily experience. One such attack comes from
laws or proposals which, in the name of fighting discrimination, strike at the
biological basis of the difference between the sexes. I am thinking, for
example, of certain countries in Europe or North and South America
. Saint
Columban stated that: “If you take away freedom, you take away
dignity” (Ep. 4 ad Attela, in S. Columbani Opera, Dublin, 1957, p. 34).
Yet freedom cannot be absolute, since man is not himself God, but the image of
God, God’s creation
. For man, the path to be taken cannot be determined by
caprice or willfulness, but must rather correspond to the structure willed by
the Creator


37 killed for being Christian

cross detail3.jpgLiving and dying in Christ in 2009 was way too common.
Especially the dying part.  Pope
Benedict’s Christmas homily notes that “The Church everywhere proclaims the
Gospel of Christ, despite persecutions, discriminations, attacks and at times hostile
indifference. These, in fact, enable her to share the lot of her Master and
Lord.” Many of the 37 people killed this past year met hostility for their
acceptance of Christ as Savior, others were easy targets because they were
priests or nuns or in some way connected with the Church. Being killed for
being Christian is not the same as saying the 37 were martyrs for the faith.
Some may be legitimate martyrs, but not all.

Those who died:

Fr Joseph
Bertaina, of the Consolata Missionaries, killed January 16, 2009, Langata,

Fr Eduardo de la Fuente Serrano, 61, killed February 14, 2009, Havana,

Fr Juan Gonzalo Aristizabal Isaza, 62, killed February 22, 2009, Medellin,

Fr Daniel Matsela Mahula, 34, killed February 27, 2009, Jouberton,
South Africa

Fr Lionel Sham, 66, killed March 7, 2009, Mohlakeng, South Africa

Révocat Gahimbare, killed March 8, 2009, Karuzi, Burundi

Fr Gabriel Fernando
Montoya Tamayo, 40 & Fr Jesús Ariel Jiménez, 45, Redemptorists, killed
March 16, 2009, La Primavera, Colombia

Fr Ramiro Luden, 64, killed March 20,
2009, Recife, Brazil

Fr Lorenzo Rosebaugh, 74, Missionary Oblates of Mary
Immaculate, killed May 18, 2009, lta Verapaz, Guatemala

Fr Ernst Plöchl, 78,
Congregation of the Missionaries of Mariannhill, killed May 31, 2009 Cape
Province, South Africa

Mr Jorge Humberto Echeverri Garro, 40, killed June 11,
2009, Colonos, Panama Arauca, Colombia

Fr Habacuc Benítez Hernández, 39, and
Seminarians Oregon Eduardo Benitez, 19, and Silvestre Gonzalez Cambron, 21,
killed June 13, 2009, Tierra Caliente, Guerrero, Mexico

Fr Gisley Azevedo
Gomes, 31, Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata of Our Lord Jesus Christ, killed
June 15, 2009, Brazlandia, Brasilia

Fr Mariano Arroyo Merino, 74, killed July
13, 2009, Shrine of Our Lady of the Rule, Cuba

Mr Ricky Sukaka Agus, 27,
Caritas worker, killed July 15, 2009, Musezero, North Kivu, DR of Congo

Fr Mukalel James, 39, killed July 30, 2009, Mangalore, Karnataka,

Fr Leopoldo Cruz, Redemptorist, killed August 24, 2009, El Salvador

Cecilio Lucero, Filipino, 48, killed September 6, 2009, Northern Samar
province, Philippines

Fr Roger Ruvoletto, 52, Fidei Donum missionary, killed September
19, 2009, Manaus, Brazil

Fr Evaldo Martiol, 33, killed September 26, 2009,
Santa Caterina, Brazil

Fr Danilo Oscar Cardozo 57, killed September 27, 2009,
Villavicencio, Colombia

Mr William Quijano, 21, Community of St. Egidio in El
Salvador, September 28, 2009, Apopa, San Salvador

Fr Edward Hinds, 61, killed
October 24, 2009, Chatham, New Jersey

Fr Louis Jousseaume, 70, killed October
26, 2009, Tulle, France

Sr Marguerite Bartz, 64, Sisters of the Blessed
Sacrament, killed October 31/November 1, 2009, Navajo, New Mexico

Fr Hidalberto
Henrique Guimaraes, 48, killed November 7, 2009, Maceió, Brazil

Fr Miguel Angel
Hernandez, 45, Capuchin Franciscan, killed November 8, 2009, Ocotepeque
Honduras, and found dead in a province of eastern Guatemala

Fr Jean Gaston
Buli, killed on November9/10 2009, Bunia, DR of Congo

Daniel Cizimya Nakamaga, 51, killed December 6, 2009, Kabare, DR of Congo

Fr Louis Blondel, 70, Missionaries of Africa, killed December
6 /7, 2009, Pretoria, South Africa

Sr Denise Kahambu Muhayirwa, 44,
Trappistine, killed December 7, 2009, Murhesa, DR of Congo

Jeremiah Roche, Society of St. Patrick for Foreign Missions, killed December
10/11, 2009, Kericho, Kenya

Fr Alvino Broering, 46, killed December 14, 2009,
Santa Catarina, Brazil

Fr Emiro Jaramillo Cardenas, 73, killed on December 20,
2009, Santa Rosa de Osos, Columbia

We are never very far from offering our
lives for Christ. The day after Christmas we observe the feast of the first
martyr, Saint Stephen, a deacon and one of the seven chosen to serve the
Church. In his Angelus address Pope Benedict recalled for us that

witness, like that of the Christian martyrs, shows our fellow men and women, so
often distracted and disoriented, in whom they must place their trust in order
to give meaning to life.
The martyr is, in fact, the person who dies in the
certainty of being loved by God and, placing nothing before love for Christ,
knows he has chosen the better part
. Fully identifying himself with the death
of Christ, he realizes that he is a life-giving seed that opens the way for
peace and hope in the world. Today, presenting us St. Stephen the Deacon as a
the Church is also showing us that acceptance and love for the poor is
one of the privileged ways to live the Gospel and to bear credible witness
before the world of the Kingdom of God that is to come
. (Angelus, December 26,

Rome Reports filed this story.

Vatican Council to Make Media Yellow Pages

Yellow Pages online.jpgThe
Pontifical Council for Social Communications
has opened a Web portal to collect
and provide information on Catholic media around the globe. The portal,, was launched in
collaboration with the Latin American Episcopal Conference and SIGNIS, the
World Catholic Association for Communication. It is currently in Spanish, English and French; Portuguese is forthcoming.

directory has a “wiki” structure, meaning that is is designed to be
completed and updated by users. It also functions as a search engine for radio
or television stations and for production companies. According to the site, the
portal’s main goal is to “facilitate communication within the Catholic
mass media world so that they can interchange common ideas and projects.”
The name intermirifica refers to the only document from the Second Vatican
Council dedicated to social communications. The site explains that the portal
“hopes to become ‘the yellow pages’ of the Church’s mass media.”

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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