April 20, 2005

Bishop urges love, support

Telegram & Gazette


WORCESTER— Bishop Robert J. McManus yesterday said he was pleased that the cardinals chose to quickly elect a new pope, and he called on area Catholics to respond with love and support for Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now called Benedict XVI, as he begins his pontificate.

Reaction to the election of Cardinal Ratzinger, who has a reputation as a doctrinal hard-liner, varied in Central Massachusetts yesterday, but people interviewed generally indicated they want to give him a fair chance.

“Many of us have learned a great deal from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as prefect for the Doctrine of the Faith,” said Bishop McManus, head of the Worcester Diocese. “I have had the distinct privilege of meeting him and learning from his writings and his leadership, as I pursued my studies in moral theology in Rome.”

Phil Saviano, formerly of Douglas, was in Rome yesterday as a representative of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. He said in a telephone interview that he had just gotten into his hotel room when word came there was a new pope.

“Rather than run out into the streets and down into St. Peter’s Square, I just watched it on television,” he said.

Mr. Saviano said that since the new pope has a reputation as a conservative, he hopes that he will take a “conservative” approach in ending the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church by ridding it of abusive priests and disciplining bishops that cover up for the abuse.

SNAP is taking a hopeful stance toward Benedict XVI. Cardinal Ratzinger did not appear on their list of who should not be elected pope.

“Cardinal Ratzinger did reopen the church investigation of Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, and that gives us some hope,” he said. Rev. Maciel has been accused by a number of men of sexually abusing them when they were youngsters. The priest retained the support of Pope John Paul II.

Mr. Saviano, who alleges he was sexually abused by the Rev. David A. Holley when he was at St. Denis Parish, East Douglas, said SNAP held a news conference in Italy yesterday to discuss its call for further investigation of Rev. Maciel but attendance was sparse.

“All attention was on the smokestack at that point,” he said.

Brian O’Connell, member of the Worcester School Committee and an active Catholic layman, urged caution in pre-judging the new pope. As a student at the College of the Holy Cross, Mr. O’Connell did a study of Cardinal Ratzinger. The cardinal was active in the Second Vatican Council and at the time was quite progressive in his views. There is always a chance the new pope will moderate some of his conservative views now that he is pope, he said. As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, his job was to “enforce orthodoxy” but he has a different role now, Mr. O’Connell said.

William Shea, who heads the Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture at Holy Cross, said he was surprised at the quick election. He described the new pope as the smartest of the cardinals, especially when it comes to theology. “He’s a first-rate theologian, and I don’t always agree with him but he is first-rate,” he said.

“If people thought Pope John Paul II was conservative, the new pope is even more conservative,” Mr. Shea said. He expects the new pope to enforce his doctrinal standards in the Catholic colleges and universities. He predecessor mandated that all theology professors in Catholic institutions receive a “mandatum” or approval from the local bishop indicating they teach Catholic doctrine. Many schools and professors have ignored the directive and refused to comply.

The Rev. Diane C. Kessler, executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, said the council offers its prayers and support to the new pope. “One of the insights Christians and their churches have gained through the ecumenical movement is that actions within any church have ripple effects for all churches,” she said.

U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry, who ran afoul of the church hierarchy over his support of abortion rights when he was a presidential candidate, offered his support. “Like all Catholics, Teresa and I pray for the Holy Father, extend our hopes for the church, and hope that Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate will touch the world in the same way Pope John Paul II did, reaching out to all people everywhere to find common ground, and guiding the faithful in a time of challenge and change across the globe.”

The new pope goes into his pontificate with some legal issues. Daniel J. Shea of Houston, who recently received a $1.4 million settlement from the Worcester and Fort Worth dioceses in connection with alleged abuse of his client by the Rev. Thomas H. Teczar, has named Cardinal Ratzinger personally in a lawsuit involving alleged sexual abuse of three boys by a priest in the Houston diocese.

A judge ordered all parties in the suit, which Mr. Shea said would include the new pope, to attend a conference on Tuesday but the judge yesterday amended the order to make attendance non-mandatory. Now that the former cardinal is head of a sovereign state, Mr. Shea said he believes he will use diplomatic or sovereign immunity to avoid being involved in the suit.

Cardinal Ratzinger was named because of a 2002 memo he wrote indicating that all cases of clergy sexual abuse needed to be sent to Rome and not handled at the diocesan level.

Posted by kshaw at April 20, 2005 07:31 AM