News / Europe

    Sex Abuse Scandal Threatens Pope's Focus on Europe's Christian Roots

    Five years after being elected pope, Benedict XVI is reeling from church sex scandals that risk undermining a central mission of his papacy: promoting Europe's Christian heritage.

    On a sunny April morning five years ago, the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI explained his choice of a papal name to thousands of pilgrims massed in St. Peter's Square.  He cited, among other things, one of Europe's patron saints - St. Benedict of Norcia.  The pontiff called him a fundamental point of reference for Europe's unity, and a strong reminder of the region's Christian roots.

    Promoting Europe's Christian heritage is a centerpiece of Benedict's papacy.  But some religion analysts fear that mission is threatened by the pedophilia crisis that has battered the Roman Catholic Church, along with some media reports, strongly denied by the Vatican, that Pope Benedict may have been responsible for some of the failings of abusive priests.

    Philippe Portier is director of the Group on Society, Religion and Secularity at the French National Center for Scientific Research, in Paris.

    Portier says the pedophilia scandals are seriously weakening the pope's project to re-Christianize Europe.  He believes the church will have great difficulty in regaining the confidence of Catholic activists who can put that goal into action.

    Isabelle de Gaulmyn, head of the religion section for France's La Croix newspaper, agrees.

    De Gaulmyn describes the fallout of the pedophilia reports as disastrous, and damaging to the church's efforts to have a legitimate voice in society, in the long term.

    Pope Benedict inherited the project to promote Europe's Christian roots from his predecessor John Paul II.  A slew of statistics show a drift away from the church by Christians of all denominations.  In France, for example, about 70 percent of the population considers itself Catholic, but only about 20 percent attend mass, even occasionally.

    Earlier this decade, the Catholic church worked hard, but unsuccessfully, for a mention of Europe's Christian heritage in a draft, and ultimately discarded, European constitution.  Last year, the 27-member European Union finally adopted the Lisbon Treaty to strengthen and streamline its institutions.  The treaty simply refers to a dialogue with churches.

    But Johanna Touzel, spokeswoman for the Brussels-based Commission of the Bishops Conferences of the European Union, says the church still has an impact on an EU-wide level.

    "First thing, we are not [only] promoting Christian roots, we are promoting human dignity and common good in all EU policies.  And this is a major difference because on these two [values] you can have non-Christians who can share them," she said,

    Touzel says the pedophilia scandal has not directly affected the conference's work, but she acknowledges the church is clearly weakened because of it.

    "I can only hope that this kind of earthquake in our church will lead to necessary reforms because an institution like the church [which] is eternal, still needs to reform itself to keep pertinent in the 21st century," she added.

    Some church supporters believe the scandal will help re-energize the church and that the pope's evangelizing message for Europe will not be lost.  That includes Jean-Pierre Delville, a priest and theologian at the Catholic University of Leuven, in Belgium.

    Father Delville says the Catholic church cannot promote Europe's Christian roots without purifying its own roots from the sin and suffering caused by abusive members.  He points to Belgium as an example.  A separate, high-profile 1996 court trial of a pedophile and murderer sparked wider soul searching within Belgian society, and prompted the church to crack down on sex abuses.

    Church supporters can also take heart in a new poll published by France's La Croix newspaper.  It indicates 61 percent of Europeans believe Christian messages and values are still meaningful, even though it says seven out of 10 believe Christians do not do a good job communicating them.

    Spokesman Christian Weisner, of the international Catholic reform movement We are Church, points to the past.

    "In my heart and my brain, I think there is a deep hope that the church will overcome this crisis as it overcame other crises in history," said Weisner.

    In France, Monsignor Tony Anatrella, a psychoanalyst and expert on priests and pedophilia, has no doubt Pope Benedict will continue to push his message of Europe's Christian roots, regardless of his present problems.

    Monsignor Anatrella says Benedict is a determined pope who will not be swayed by the events of the moment.

    You May Like

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.