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Argentinean archbishop accused of seminary sex abuse resigns

World Church News - 5 October 2002

Selected news stories from the print edition:
  1. Americas
  2. Europe

Americas

Archbishop accused of abuse resigns. An Argentine archbishop has submitted his resignation following accusations that he sexually abused seminarians. In a written statement issued on 25 September, Archbishop Edgardo Gabriel Storni of Santa Fe de la Vera Cruz denied the charges, saying his resignation "in no way signifies guilt on my part, nor does it mean I accept the allegations".
  Argentine church officials said Archbishop Storni had submitted his resignation to the Pope a week earlier, after meeting him in early September during the Argentine bishops' ad limina visit to Rome. In his statement made from Rome, Archbishop Storni wrote that in the face of the "unstoppable manoeuvres against archdiocesan persons and institutions, perplexity grips all, at all levels". He had come to the conclusion, he said, that he had to seize "this very grave moment and break this infernal circle".
  The Vatican press office announced on 26 September that it had no information as to whether the Pope would accept the resignation.
  The allegations were made in a book exploring the power of the Catholic Church in Argentina, published in August by the Argentine journalist Olga Wornat. She writes that the 66-year-old archbishop sexually abused at least 47 men, including minors at the seminary of Santa Fe archdiocese, north-west of Buenos Aires. In her book, Nuestra Santa Madre (Our Holy Mother), Wornat says that the Vatican investigated Archbishop Storni in 1994 after almost a decade of rumours of sexual abuse, which began shortly after his appointment in 1984, but dropped the case because of lack of evidence.
  Argentine authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the allegations.

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Europe

Shock waves from cardinal's criticism of laity. A leading German cardinal has attacked Catholic organisations in his country and warned that the Church is itself at risk of becoming a mere organisation. Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne, said that within Catholic commissions and councils there were many representatives who lacked any real faith. Instead of vital belief, he said, what emerged from these organisations was a self-made ideological faith, which was only Catholic in name.
  The cardinal made his remarks on 25 September, during the week-long autumn plenary meeting of the German bishops' conference in Fulda. Referring to Catholic lay organisations as "this jumble of apparatus, structures, responsibilities and competencies", he told the assembly that "the Holy Spirit must enter like a storm and blow everything away which relativises the voice of the Church or its prophetic words, and darkens the light of its message".
  The president of the Central Committee of German Catholics, Hans Joachim Meyer, responded that the cardinal had no idea of the engagement and witness to the faith of the Catholic laity. He accused him of avoiding dialogue with his own organisation, a council of 230 members representing lay people who take an active role in church and social affairs.
  Other Catholic organisations also reacted angrily: the chairman of the Union of German Catholic Youth, Knuth Erbe, accused the cardinal of spiritual arrogance and called on Germany's bishops to praise the work of the laity.
  The chairman of the Union of German Catechists, Karl Heinz Schmidt, said that even if Cardinal Meisner's accusations were justifiable in a few individual cases, it was irresponsible publicly to criticise teachers, catechists and the many volunteers within church organisations. In an open letter to Cardinal Meisner, Schmidt wrote that lay people deserved encouraging signs of solidarity and not to be cast under suspicion.
  Bishop Heinrich Mussinghoff of Aachen rejected Cardinal Meisner's criticisms and said his views were not representative of those of the German bishops' conference. He told the regional Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper that after the cardinal's speech he thought to himself, "My God, how godless the archdiocese of Cologne has become."
  Cardinal Meisner renewed his criticisms during a broadcast on Cologne's Cathedral Radio on 26 September, although he added that they were aimed not just at the lay community but also at the clergy. He demanded cuts in the organisational structures of the many Catholic organisations which he claimed were suffocating the Church. The Church would only find its vitality again if it purified itself, he said. He added that he was not calling for the disbanding of certain groups, but rather for their conversion.


Impasse ends between priest and bishop. A year-long confrontation between an Irish curate and his diocesan authorities has ended, after 71-year-old Fr James Cashman agreed to accept a post as a convent chaplain as proposed by Bishop Eamon Walsh of Ferns, Fintan Deere reports from Dublin.
  The bishop's office has confirmed that Fr Cashman, who barricaded himself into the presbytery in St Leonard's parish a year ago after claiming he was being "forced" to retire, has agreed to vacate the house and move to Wexford town to become chaplain to the Loreto convent.
  The deadlock began after Dr Walsh's predecessor, the former Bishop Brendan Comiskey*, appointed a new curate to St Leonard's. Fr Cashman refused to leave the house for some months and petitioned Rome to intervene in the case. He was supplied with provisions by neighbours who were concerned about his welfare. Meanwhile, the new curate, Fr Paddy Banville, had to reside in temporary accommodation ten miles outside the parish.
  In recent months, Fr Cashman was seen out and about locally on occasion, signalling an easing of the tension between him and the bishop's office.

[ * Bishop Brendan Comiskey, of the diocese of Ferns in south-east Ireland, announced his resignation on Monday April 1 2002, over allegations that he protected a paedophile priest. It was a day before a documentary was to be shown in Ireland about Father Sean Fortune, who sexually abused dozens of boys in the 1980s and 1990s. -- see "Bishop resigns over sex cleric," The West Australian, Wednesday April 3 2002, p 25 ]


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