- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The main celebrant of a pontifical solemn high Mass on Saturday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception has been asked to step aside by organizers because of security concerns following reports he was linked to the Catholic Church’s clergy abuse scandal.

According to a statement by the Bethesda-based Paulus Institute, Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos has agreed to step aside from celebrating the Mass, which has been in the planning for three years. It will be the first time in about 50 years that the Tridentine Mass, conducted in Latin, will be said from the Shrine’s high altar.

Organizers now are searching for a bishop or cardinal who is proficient in how to celebrate the complicated rite.

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The 80-year-old cardinal was named in the French press reports last week for praising French Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux-Lisieux in a 2001 letter for refusing to denounce one of his priests, the Rev. Rene Bissey, who went on to be sentenced to 18 years in jail for raping a boy and abusing 10 other young men. The bishop received a suspended three-month jail sentence for not reporting the priest to police.

The French cleric later said he did not tell police about the perpetrator because he could not violate the confidentiality of the confessional. But according to news reports, the bishop also had been informed about the abuse outside the confessional by the mother of one of the victims.

“I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil administration,” Cardinal Hoyos wrote in French. “You have acted well and I am pleased 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 and priest.”

On Tuesday, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) called on Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl to intervene to prevent the cardinal from celebrating the Mass and hinted it might demonstrate Saturday if its demands were not met.

Ken Wolfe, who is helping the Paulus Institute organize the Mass, said mounting security concerns and prominent news reports about the cardinal concerned Paulus Institute officials to the point that they decided it was best for Cardinal Hoyos, who was slated to fly to Washington from Rome, to step aside.

“The Paulus Institute regards all sexual abuse as tragic and a heinous sin and supports Pope Benedict’s fight to rid this disease from the Church,” the draft read. “It stands on the side of every victim of clerical sexual abuse and earnestly desires to bind up the wounds done to their human dignity, to vindicate their civil and canonical rights, and to help them in the restoration in Christ of all they have lost. “To that end, the Paulus Institute supports the directives by the Supreme Roman Pontiff and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that all bishops should report crimes of sexual abuse to the police in accordance with the requirements of civil law. However, the Paulus Institute is not competent, nor does it have the facts, to form an opinion about the recent media reports concerning Cardinal Castrillon.”