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EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. (RNS) Less than 24 hours after calling for Pope Benedict XVI to step down, a Massachusetts priest has been rebuked by his local bishop.
A longtime critic of how the church has handled the sexual abuse crisis, the Rev. James J. Scahill delivered four sermons over the weekend suggesting that the 82-year old pope should take greater responsibility for solving the church’s clergy abuse problems or resign.
The sermons, delivered from the pulpit at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, made Scahill one of the first priests in the nation to call for the pope’s departure.
In a response issued Monday (April 12), Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell of Springfield faulted Scahill for raising the issue on a Sunday meant to foster reconciliation and forgiveness in the church.
“There is a sad irony in that Father Scahill’s remarks were delivered on Divine Mercy Sunday,” said McDonnell, adding the church has expressed “tremendous sorrow, sadness and shame” about clergy abuse cases.
“The church leadership knows how difficult it is for those who have suffered abuse at the hands of clergy who should have been signs of God’s love rather than inflictors of pain,” the bishop said.
Scahill had criticized the church’s handling of clergy abuse cases, citing questions about the pope’s own role in overseeing abuse investigations as a Vatican official for nearly 25 years before his 2005 election.
“There were standing ovations at two Masses, and applause at the others” said Scahill, who first spoke out when the sexual abuse scandal erupted in the U.S. church in 2002.
One parishioner “booed very boisterously and called me a heretic,” Scahill added.
The priest chose the weekend to call for pope’s resignation because it was the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, also known as “Doubting Thomas” for his initial skepticism about Jesus’ resurrection.
“I think a lot of laypeople have strong doubts as to the veracity of our church leaders, in terms of what was known, for how long and by whom” Scahill said.
— Jack Flynn / The Republican
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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