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Papal mystery

• The Pope says that it "remains a mystery" that people who regularly "received the Lord's body and confessed their sins" committed the offence of child abuse.

The real mysteries are why the 'holy' Catholic hierarchy was preoccupied with the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the church's reputation and the preservation of its assets and why the welfare of children did not figure at all in its list of priorities.

Other unsolved mysteries vis-a-vis the church include:

1. The treatment by the Catholic hierarchy in Germany of the paedophile priest who sexually abused 'Wilfred F' in 1979. Wilfred was an 11-year-old boy who was taken on a trip to the mountains by a priest. He was given alcohol, stripped and forced to perform a sexual act on the priest. The priest was transferred from Essen to Munich for therapy by the then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger. Soon after, Ratzinger's deputy sanctioned the return of the priest to 'pastoral' work, whereupon he continued to abuse children.

2. The record of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with regard to dealing with child sexual abuse, in particular the 2001 confidential letter from the then Cardinal Ratzinger to bishops, in which he reminded them of the extreme gravity of a certain crime, namely the reporting of the rape and torture. This letter asserted that any such accusations were to be dealt with within the church's own jurisdiction, that any sharing of evidence with the authorities was prohibited and that cases were to be investigated in secret and be subject to perpetual silence under the penalty of excommunication.

3. The reluctance of church authorities, until shortly before the Pope was elected, to investigate claims against Marcial Maciel, the serial sexual abuser and drug addict with two secret families and confidant of Pope John Paul II, who praised him as an 'efficacious guide to youth'.

Rob Sadlier
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16

Irish Independent