Video: Vatican scandal heats up during Holy Week

  1. Closed captioning of: Vatican scandal heats up during Holy Week

    >> "today."

    >>> we turn to the latest growing crisis for the catholic church and the intensifying heat on the pope and senior ranks. another crisis over allegations of child abuse , this comes during holy week, of course, observed by a billion catholics around the planet. there is growing pressure on the pope to address this once and for all. our own ann thompson is in rome tonight. ann , good evening.

    >> reporter: good evening, brian. once again tonight pope benedict chose not to address the widening crisis, instead focusing on his predecessor, john paul ii . at an elaborate mass inside st. peter's basilica, the church marked the fifth anniversary of pope john paul ii 's death. scenes of mourners jamming vatican city to pay respects to the charismatic leader now a memory. john paul 's legacy and pope benedict 's papacy clouded by sexual abuse under their watch.

    >> there is always the feeling it is going to blow over. oh, it is not as big as people think it is. it is big. and it's not going blow over.

    >> reporter: across europe a drum beet of accusations, ireland, switzerland, the netherlands. in germany 300 claims of abuse. from 62% in january before the scandal broke to 39% today the poll shows trust in the pope. around the world church leaders cape to the defense of the pope. in new york the archbishop compared him to jesus.

    >> no one has been more vigorous of cleansing the church of the sickening sin and crime than the man we call pope benedict xvi .

    >> reporter: the pope's palm sunday sermon, a boston survivor gary bergeron.

    >> intimidation is what we felt decades ago when we started coming forward . petty gossip is what our claims were called.

    >> reporter: some want european bishops to institute a zero tolerance policy and learn from the american crisis.

    >> some of them are going to have to take a bullet for the church. some are going to have to stand up and say i did this. i made a mistake. i take responsibility and i resign. that is what people look for in a leader.

    >> reporter: in ireland already two bishops have stepped down and three more have offered to resign. offers that have yet to be accepted by pope benedict . brian?

    >> ann thompson in rome for us tonight, ann , thanks for that.

updated 3/29/2010 4:13:53 PM ET 2010-03-29T20:13:53

Pope Benedict XVI hailed the legacy of John Paul II Monday five years after his death, while questions swirl over the late pontiff's record in combatting pedophile priests and whether a miracle needed for his sainthood really happened.

During an evening Mass in St. Peter's Basilica to pay tribute to the late pope, Benedict told pilgrims from John Paul's Polish homeland that his predecessor had "without interruption taught us to be faithful witnesses to faith, hope and love."

Krakow Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who for decades was John Paul's personal secretary, was among the prelates at the commemoration. Also attending was Cardinal Bernard Law, who after resigning as Boston archbishop in the sex abuse scandal which rocked his diocese, was put in charge of a prestigious Rome basilica by the late pope.

The 84-year-old John Paul died April 2, 2005, after battling Parkinson's disease. The commemoration was early because April 2 this year falls on Good Friday, when Benedict will preside over Lenten services at the Vatican and at the Colosseum in Rome.

Immediately after John Paul's death, faithful began clamoring for his sainthood, and Benedict in December signed a decree proclaiming his predecessor "venerable" for his holy virtues.

Doubts about Parkinson's miracle
At first, the inexplicable healing of a young French nun from Parkinson's disease had initially seemed like the miracle required for remarkably swift approval for beatification, the last formal step before canonization. The nun, who had prayed to John Paul for years, woke up one morning two months after his death, seemingly inexplicably cured of the progressively degenerative neurological disorder.

But a Polish newspaper recently reported that doubts had been cast about whether the nun might not have had Parkinson's at all. Without citing sources, Rzeczpospolita, one of Poland's most respected and dailies, said the Vatican had summoned new experts to scrutinize the case.

The Vatican's former head of its saint-making office, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, indicated two medical consultants might have had doubts.

According to the National Parkinson Foundation, an estimated 20 percent of patients thought to have the disease were found at autopsy not to have had it.

"Most movement disorders experts would agree that miracle cures of Parkinson or other movement disorders usually have a psychogenic component to the illness," the foundation's Dr. Michael S. Okun said when asked by e-mail by The AP about Parkinson patients.

While another possible miracle might be found from the many allegedly inexplicable healing experienced by those devoted to the late pope, a potentially more serious shadow has been cast on the beatification process. Intense scrutiny is being thrown on how the Vatican handled sex abuse cases from dioceses around the world, particularly an explosion of complaints from U.S. faithful, during John Paul's 26 year papacy.

Pope’s record under scrutiny
The harsher look at the Vatican's policy on sex abuse has come as Benedict's own record on dealing with the problem is being scrutinized in his native Germany, when he was Munich archbishop, as well as his long tenure at the Vatican as John Paul's watchdog for purity in the Catholic church.

John Paul's transfer of Cardinal Law to St. Mary Major's, one of Rome's most storied basilicas, was seen by many abuse victims as rewarding, not punishing, the Boston cleric for a policy by which many molester priests were shuttled from parish to parish, instead of removed from contact with children.

And John Paul held up as a model, the rigorously conservative founder of the Legionaries of Christ, who was later revealed to have fathered a child and had molested seminarians.

The Vatican began investigating allegations against the Rev. Marcial Maciel of Mexico in the 1950s, but it wasn't until 2006, a year into Benedict's pontificate, that the Vatican instructed Maciel to lead a "reserved life of prayer and penance" in response to the abuse allegations — effectively removing him from power.

A Pole who was honoring John Paul in Monday evening's St. Peter's Basilica commemoration said she had no doubt that her late compatriot was "already a saint.

"I hope that he becomes a saint soon, because you feel that the years are going by," Magdalena Wolinska said. "As far as I'm concerned, they are holding back on the beatification, but not because of the sex scandal, but because of other reasons," she said, in a reference to the doubts about a miracle.

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