Pope's Priest Calls for Sexual Abuse Penance

MaltaMedia News [Malta]
December 16, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI's personal priest, Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, asked the pontiff on Friday to declare a day of fasting and penance to express the Roman Catholic Church's solidarity with the victims of clerical sexual abuse, reported Associated Press.

The plea follows Malta being in the limelight after United States Republican Congressman Mark Foley's claims that he was molested by a clergyman. Gozitan Fr. Anthony Mercieca, had later come forward saying that he had an "intimate relationship" with Mark Foley in the 1960s.

Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa denounced the "abominations" committed inside the church "by its own ministers and pastors". He added that the church has "paid a high price for this," according to Associated Press. The Vatican said it had no immediate comment on the speech. Although Pope Benedict XVI's reaction was not immediately known, the pontiff recently said the church must urgently rebuild confidence and trust damaged by clerical sex abuse.

Roman Catholic Churches in both Ireland and the U.S. have been hard hit by scandals related to sexual abuse.

In turn, this year Malta was at the centre of an alleged case of sexual abuse when Congressman Mark Foley claimed he had been abused by a clergyman. The Congressman resigned from the U.S. Congress in September after a number of suggestive e-mails to young male pages were uncovered. After Mark Foley's claims, Fr. Mercieca admitted to an intimate two-year relationship he had withthe then teeange alter boy in Florida in the 1960s. Fr. Anthony Mercieca described a series of encounters that he said Mark Foley might perceive as sexually inappropriate.

Later during the month of October a second former altar boy, John Doe No.26, alleged that he was sexually abused by Fr. Anthony Mercieca. The priest denied these claims. He is in turn expected to be called to Miami to give testimony in court, after an unnamed 41-year-old man filed a $10 million civil lawsuit against the Miami Archdiocese. The lawsuit charges the Miami Archdiocese with negligence in allowing Fr. Mercieca to have had "unfettered" contact with young boys despite having a "history of sexual perversity and inappropriate contact with children".


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