By Tom Bethell
The other day my wife and I went to the Pontifical High Mass at the National Shrine in Washington. The occasion was the fifth anniversary of Benedict XVI's papacy. The pope has gone out of his way to revive the old Mass (Tridentine rite), and the organizers had been looking for some publicity. The Shrine is an enormous place, seating 3,500 people, and a half-empty church wouldn't look so good. Answered prayer:
A few days before the event, the Mass attracted huge press attention. But not of the desired kind.
The planned celebrant was Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos of Colombia, who was prefect for the Congregation of the Clergy in Rome in the years 1996-2006. In other words, he was one of the leading curial officials during the later years of Pope John Paul II. Castrillon turned 80 last July, so he is no longer a voting cardinal.
Then the never-ending saga of sexual abuse reared its ugly head. It was revealed that in 2001 Castrillon had written an embarrassing letter to a French bishop, commending him for refusing to report a criminally abusive priest to the police. The priest had sexually abused 11 minor boys and was later sentenced to 18 years in prison. The bishop received a three-month suspended sentence for not reporting the crimes, in violation of French law. Castrillon had written to the bishop (of Bayeux-Lisieux):
I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil administration. You have acted well and I am happy to have a colleague in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and of all other bishops in the world, preferred prison to denouncing his son, a priest.Then, on April 16, speaking in Spain at a conference on the legacy of John Paul II, Castrillon really stirred up trouble. He said that in 2001 he had shown this letter to John Paul II, who had authorized him to send it. Then it was posted on the website for the Congregation for the Clergy, where it has long been a public record. It was deliberately publicized just as Cardinal Castrillon was due to arrive in Washington for an event celebrating the pope's anniversary. The goal, surely, was to add to the negative publicity already heaped on Pope Benedict. The letter, of course, actually implicated his predecessor, John Paul II, in tolerating the cover-up of criminally abusive priests. (Read more.... )