ROME – As thousands of priests arrived in Rome for events marking the end of the Year for Priests, two other groups of Catholics arrived with some very specific requests.
The U.S.-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, held a news conference in Rome June 8 asking Pope Benedict XVI to make a public apology for clerical sex abuse during the closing ceremonies for the Year for Priests and to back it up with a pledge that any priest who abuses a minor anywhere in the world immediately will be removed from the priesthood.
While Vatican rules insist priests accused of abuse be removed from ministry immediately, dismissal from the priesthood is only one of the possible penalties for the crime of sex abuse.
SNAP also asked Pope Benedict to explain how he personally dealt with accusations against priests when he was a bishop in Germany and later when he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Joelle Casteix, SNAP’s Southwest regional director, said the June 9-10 closing ceremonies for the Year for Priests are “the moment for Pope Benedict to be a man of God” and take concrete action to ensure that no child is ever again harmed by a Catholic priest.
Peter Isley, the Midwest regional director, said the group also wants Pope John Paul II’s sainthood cause put on hold while an independent investigation is conducted regarding his policies on priests who sexually abused minors.
Barbara Dorris, SNAP’s victims’ outreach director, said the pope has to say something about the abuse scandal during the closing ceremonies for Year for Priests because “it’s the elephant in the room.”
Also June 8, members of several groups advocating for women’s ordination held a news conference in Rome, then walked to St. Peter’s Square to hand out leaflets. After just a few minutes, police asked the women – three of whom were wearing Roman collars – to leave, and they did.
“I am an ordained Roman Catholic priest,” Mary Ann McCarthy Schoettly from Newton, N.J., told reporters. “We have come to Rome to celebrate with our fellow priests.”
Schoettly, who said she was ordained in 2008 and excommunicated, said that while the Catholic Church does not recognize her ordination or the priesthood of other Catholic women, “we are not going away.”
Erin Sainz Hanna, executive director of the U.S.-based Women’s Ordination Conference, told reporters, “The Vatican is all too happy to turn a blind eye when men in its ranks destroy the lives of children and families, but jumps at the chance to excommunicate women who are doing good works.”
In 2008, the doctrinal congregation formally decreed that a woman who attempts to be ordained a Catholic priest and the person attempting to ordain her are automatically excommunicated. In 1994, Pope John Paul said the church’s ban on women priests is definitive and not open to debate among Catholics.