- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Colombian cardinal slated to be the main celebrant of a pontifical solemn high Mass Saturday at the Washington’s National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception has stepped aside because of security concerns after his name surfaced in the church’s clergy-abuse scandal.

Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, 80, was named in the French press last week for writing a 2001 letter praising French Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux-Lisieux for refusing to denounce one of his priests, the Rev. Rene Bissey, who went on to be sentenced to 18 years in prison 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.

“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.”

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The French cleric later said he did not tell police about the abuser 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.

On Tuesday, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) called on Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl to block Cardinal Hoyos’ participation and hinted they might demonstrate at Saturday afternoon’s service if their demands were not met.

At the Vatican Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI, who has faced criticism for his handling of the abuse scandal, said the Catholic Church was taking action against pedophile priests, citing his visit Sunday with abuse victims in Malta.

The pope said, “I shared their suffering and, with emotion, I prayed with them, assuring them that the church was acting” to address the crimes, according to a report by Agence France-Presse.

Speaking at his weekly general audience, the pope said he told the Maltese victims in the tearful meeting “not to be afraid of life’s storms or even shipwrecks, because the love of God is greater than storms or shipwrecks.”

It was an allusion to the shipwreck of the apostle Paul on Malta 1,950 years ago, an anniversary that the pope marked with his visit.

According to the Bethesda, Md.-based Paulus Institute, which is helping organize Saturday’s Mass, Cardinal Hoyos agreed to step aside in light of the controversy. The service at which he was to preside will be the first time in 45 years that the Tridentine Mass, conducted in Latin, will be celebrated from the high altar of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Kenneth Wolfe, who is helping the Paulus Institute with the music for the Mass, said the cost of hiring extra security and the news reports about the cardinal worried Paulus Institute officials to the point where they decided it was best for Cardinal Hoyos - who was slated to fly first-class to Washington from Rome for the service - 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,” read a statement posted Wednesday afternoon on the institute’s website. “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 [Pope Benedict] 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 about recent media reports concerning Cardinal Castrillon.”

SNAP officials were not mollified.

“The pope and Archbishop Wuerl had a chance to show true leadership,” SNAP Outreach Director Barbara Dorris said in a statement. “Both, however, showed their true colors by once again refusing to take action about a corrupt colleague.”

The statement added, “We’re disappointed that no church official on the planet - in the Vatican or a single one of the world’s 5,000 dioceses - is brave enough to clearly denounce Castrillon Hoyos’ inexcusable recklessness.”

However, Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for Archbishop Wuerl, said that a cardinal has “universal faculties” - meaning that he can celebrate Mass, especially at a private event like the National Shrine service, anywhere without having to ask permission of the local bishop.

Organizers of the National Shrine Mass are now seeking a bishop or cardinal who is proficient in how to celebrate the complex rite to replace Cardinal Hoyos.

One small complication involved in having a bishop celebrate is that a “cappa magna” - a ceremonial cloak with a long train and a silk or fur-lined hood specially ordered for Saturday’s Mass from the papal outfitter Gammarelli’s in Rome - is in red. Only cardinals can wear that color.

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