Belief Beat

Given the daily — sometimes hourly — influx of Catholic news lately, I’m introducing Pope Watch, my daily digest of the Vatican’s response to the global clergy sex abuse scandal, including the New York Times’ ongoing investigative coverage and commentary, and other headlines.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday (the same day for all Christians this year, including the Eastern Orthodox branch), the start of Holy Week, leading up to Easter. The Associated Press reported that Pope Benedict made no direct reference to the scandal in his homily, though one of the prayers during Mass was “for the young and for those charged with educating them and protecting them.” Some sex abuse victims took offense at something else he said, however: “From God comes the courage not to be intimidated by petty gossip.”

In New York, Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s defensive Palm Sunday remarks were far less veiled, comparing Pope Benedict’s metaphorical crucifixion by the media to what Jesus had endured this week, and asking Catholics to pray for him:

“Does the Church and her Pastor, Pope Benedict XVI, need intense scrutiny and just criticism for tragic horrors long past? Yes! He himself has asked for it, encouraging complete honesty, at the same time expressing contrition, and urging a thorough cleansing. All we ask is that it be fair, and that the Catholic Church not be singled-out for a horror that has cursed every culture, religion, organization, institution, school, agency, and family in the world.”

The AP also reports that retired Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a one-time candidate for the papacy, was quoted Sunday saying that celibacy should be reconsidered, as a way to prevent further abuse cases. It’s not clear whether he thinks mandatory chastity leads to deviant sexual behavior, that lifting the requirement would create a wider pool of applicants to the priesthood, both or neither. What do you think?

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