A recent decree by a Vatican congregation removing the well-known founder of a religious order from active ministry could indicate how Pope Benedict XVI will handle the sexual abuse crisis.
The action also may provide some hint of how the Vatican could handle other high profile cases of a similar nature, including one involving the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, a worldwide religious order.
The case has significance for at least three reasons: it's the first such decree under Levada and the new pope; Burresi is a widely known mystic and Fatima devotee sometimes compared by his followers, including groups in the United States and Canada, to the Capuchin mystic and saint Padre Pio; and finally, because it involves action against a widely known founder of a religious community on the basis of decades-old accusations.
This last point, observers say, could potentially have implications for how the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith eventually handles similar cases, such as charges of sexual abuse against Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. Maciel has been accused by a number of former seminarians of sexual abuse. His case is reportedly under investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Read the complete article CDF acts against a religious founder from The Word From Rome.
As John Allen points out, this move against Father Gino Burresi could serve as the prototype for such a move in the case of Father Maciel, founder and former head of the Legionaries of Christ. Despite the confusion created by certain announcements earlier this summer regarding the case of Father Maciel, it would seem according to Allen that the investigation still exists.
A report cited by Allen that was written by a commission of cardinals is instructive not only in Burresi's case, but also in light of recent events surrounding the CDF's investigation of Maciel. (See this entry and others subsequent for the story on Maciel's investigation that came about in late May and into June.)
In its conclusion, the report urged the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to take administrative action against Burresi despite the statute of limitations. One concern, the report suggested, was that if no action resulted, Burresi's followers would interpret the investigation as evidence of unfair hostility against him.
"It should not be forgotten that during this process some persons said that the accused 'would come out of it triumphant, more esteemed than ever, and thus without any shadow, indeed more glorious than before,' " the judges wrote.
"[They said] 'that the Secretariat of State defends Fr. Gino, thus victory is assured.' If no new limitation is applied to his ministerial liberty simply due to the fact that the proven offenses have been prescribed [by the statute of limitations], probably the sentence of this court will be used as an instrument of propaganda in favor of the accused. He will be able to continue to do harm to those psychologically weak persons who place themselves under his spiritual direction."
Allen points out just who that reference to the Secretariat of State could be referring to, but it is merely his speculation. But in any case, it is interesting that once again, State is seen as a 'protector' of someone who was under investigation by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.