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Local Catholics stand firm despite sex abuse

Published:Monday | April 5, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Pope Benedict XVI gestures to faithful during the 'Urbi et Orbi' (To the City and the World) message at the end of the Easter Mass in St Peter's Square at the Vatican. - AP
Congregants worship at the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral of Montego Bay during Easter Sunday Mass. - Kyle MacPherson/Freelance Photographer

Laura Redpath, Senior Staff Reporter

Churchgoers attending Easter Sunday Mass at the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Montego Bay, St James, yesterday reaffirmed their faith in Catholicism despite the latest round of child sex abuse that has jolted church officials worldwide.

Congregants in the Second City were in harmony with the Easter message delivered in the Vatican's St Peter's Square yesterday, one of the church's holiest days, as Cardinal Angelo Sodano described, during Sunday Mass, criticism of the pope as "vile".

"I endorse that," said Elijah Duhaney, who has been a Jamaican Roman Catholic all his life and serves as an usher. "It's just everyday gossip."

Duhaney said religious commitment made him "very emotional" and "very passionate", and insisted that the allegations had no impact on his faith.

The Catholic Church - Pope Benedict XVI in particular - has in recent weeks suffered an image battering, with Benedict being accused of doing little to penalise paedophile priests, including one in the United States who sexually abused more than 200 deaf children.

Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, head of the Anglican Communion, jumped into the fray in a BBC interview to be aired today, condemning the Catholic Church in Ireland as "losing all credibility". There have been recent revelations of tens of thousands of paedophilia cases involving Catholic clergy.

Williams - already chafing since the pope formally wooed Anglican priests mulling over a schism because of anger at the ordination of women as bishops, as well as the admission of gays into priesthood - later apologised.

Faith unshaken

Mary McFayden yesterday told The Gleaner Catholicism meant "everything" to her and that she has been following the faith for more than 60 years. She is also an active member in church ministry, including music and altar services.

"I believe (the pope) when he says he's sorry," she said. "And I am disappointed in what was done."

Allan Woodstock, a member of St Joseph's Covenant Keepers, said he stayed glued to updates on the latest happenings in the church.

"I am proud to be a Catholic," he declared.

Woodstock, who is a former Jamaica Defence Force soldier, has been a Catholic since the 1940s. Though his mother, who was a member of The Salvation Army, persuaded him to attend the Anglican parish church, Woodstock said his spiritual journey wended its way back to the Catholic Church.

"I found (Catholicism) quite interesting. I want to be in the chosen few.

"I believe in the Catholic faith," he said, before reciting part of the Catholic Apostles' Creed.

Abusers must pay

Woodstock said while he was disturbed by the tsunami of paedophilia cases affecting the church in Europe, he did his best to put them behind him. However, he declared that any man who sexually molested children should have the book thrown at him.

He also called for the vatican to implement reforms.

"(Officials) should modernise (Catholicism), allowing the priests to marry. Give them that privilege," Woodstock added.

Priests' vow of celibacy has been offered by some analysts as a possible fuel to the paedophilia fire, but Achbishop of Kingston, the Most Rev Donald Reece, has dubbed those claims facile and simplistic.

Reece, however, said optional celibacy - granting married men admission to the priesthood - should be put back on the table for consideration as a rite of passage. Currently, that privilege is only extended in the Eastern Church, or to married Anglican priests who cross over into Western Catholicism.