Pope Seen as a Leader Ridding Church of "Filth"

Italian Prelate Notes Rigor in Bringing Justice to Sex Abuse Victims

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ROME, MARCH 16, 2010 (Zenit.org).- First as the prefect for the Church’s doctrinal congregation, and now as Pope, Benedict XVI has made a decisive contribution to the Church’s battle against the sexual abuse of minors, according to an Italian bishop specialized in canon law.

Bishop Giuseppe Versaldi of Alessandria, Italy, defended the Holy Father’s “rigor” in the effort to stop abuse in the Church. His reflection was published in Sunday’s edition of L’Osservatore Romano.

The prelate noted that the Church — “contrary to the deformed image that is presented — is the institution that has engaged in the most decided battle against the sexual abuse of minors, beginning from within.” In this effort, Bishop Versaldi said, Benedict XVI has made a “decisive impulse.”

Recalling the future Pope’s 20 years at the helm of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the prelate affirmed that “precisely from that observatory, Cardinal Ratzinger had the possibility to follow cases of abuse that were denounced and he fostered a more rigorous reform, including legislative, in this matter.”

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published in 2001 a document with guidelines for cases of sexual abuse. The document has been portrayed as the Vatican’s effort to silence sexual abuse, but in reality, it emphasizes the seriousness of these crimes, to the extent that judgements regarding them are reserved to the Holy See.
Shepherd

Bishop Versaldi, who is a retired professor of canon law and psychology from Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University, added that from the Chair of Peter, Benedict XVI has continued “a style of government that aims for the purification of the Church, eliminating the ‘filth’ that nests in it.”

“Benedict XVI has shown himself to be a vigilant shepherd of his flock,” the prelate affirmed. “[…] Thanks to the Pope’s greater rigor, various episcopal conferences are [now] clarifying cases of sexual abuse, and collaborating with civil authorities to bring justice to the victims.”

Clear condemnation

The Italian prelate also reiterated the Church’s “unconditional condemnation of these extremely grave crimes, which are repugnant to the conscience of any person.”

“If, in addition, these crimes are committed by persons who have a role in the Church, persons in which special trust is placed by the faithful and, in particular, by children, then the scandal is even more grave and condemnable,” he said. “The Church does not intend to tolerate any uncertainty about the condemnation of the crime or about the removal from the ministry of one who stains himself with such infamy, together with just reparation to the victims.”

Bishop Versaldi also lamented a false portrayal of the Church and its discipline regarding celibacy.

“It is unjust,” he said, “not to recognize in it, and especially in Benedict XVI, the merit of an open and decisive battle against the crimes committed by its priests. […] The rigorous and clear line taken by the Holy See must be accepted by the Church, and not just the Church, to guarantee truth, justice and charity to all.”

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