Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Abuse survivors protest cardinal's visit to DC

Last updated April 20, 2010 2:07 p.m. PT

Abuse survivors protest cardinal's visit to DC

WASHINGTON -- Advocates for victims of sexual abuse by priests appealed to the pope and the archbishop of Washington on Tuesday to keep a retired Vatican cardinal from celebrating Mass at the nation's largest Roman Catholic church.

Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos is scheduled to celebrate a special Latin Mass on Saturday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in honor of the fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's inauguration.

The now-retired cardinal wrote a letter in 2001 congratulating a French bishop for shielding a priest who was convicted of raping minors. At the time, Castrillon Hoyos headed the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, which is in charge of priests throughout the world.

Castrillon Hoyos, 80, told an audience at a Catholic university in Murcia, Spain, last week that Pope John Paul II saw the letter and authorized him to send it to bishops worldwide.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said it faxed letters Tuesday to Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl and to the pope's representative in Washington, asking them to intervene to stop Castrillon Hoyos from celebrating the Mass.

"This cardinal's letter may be the single most hurtful thing we've seen written in the last decade," said David Clohessy, executive director of the survivors' group, known as SNAP.

Clohessy said allowing Castrillon Hoyos to celebrate the Mass "rubs salt into the already deep and fresh wounds."

"We believe it's crucial that church officials create a climate that encourages victims and witnesses and whistle-blowers to expose predators. And when wrongdoers are honored, it creates the opposite climate," he said.

The archdiocese said SNAP should take the issue up with the Paulus Institute, a group that promotes the Catholic liturgy and is organizing the Mass. The institute didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

But SNAP said it had not contacted the institute and believed church officials should intervene. Clohessy maintained that an archbishop can stop any priest from functioning in his territory.

Asked whether Wuerl had such authority, archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Gibbs said: "A cardinal in the church normally can celebrate Mass in a diocese."

Castrillon Hoyos' 2001 letter praised Bishop Pierre Pican, who received a three-month suspended prison sentence for concealing knowledge about the clergyman, the Rev. Rene Bissey. The priest himself was sentenced to 18 years for sexually abusing 11 minors.

It's not the only example of the cardinal apparently taking the side of a priest accused of abuse. Documents obtained by The Associated Press show that when Bishop Manuel Moreno of Tucson, Ariz., tried to defrock Monsignor Robert Trupia in the 1990s, Castrillon Hoyos also stood in the way.

When Trupia was confronted with an allegation of sexually abusing a boy, Moreno said Trupia "expressed relief that 'this was the only case that had been brought to my attention,'" according to internal church documents obtained by AP.

Trupia wanted to be allowed to retire in good standing rather than be defrocked. Moreno refused.

But in an Oct. 31, 1997 letter to Moreno, Castrillon Hoyos wrote that the Congregation for the Clergy had ruled in favor of Trupia, saying the punishments of the priest "seem to be without canonical basis."

Trupia was eventually defrocked in August 2004, 12 years after Moreno first suspended him.


Associated Press Writer Matt Sedensky in Miami contributed to this report.

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