Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) are planning to protest the forthcoming Pontifical High Mass, scheduled for this Saturday, 24th of April, at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.
More specifically, SNAP is focusing its protestations on the presence of Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, an extremely controversial figure in the recent sexual abuse scandal that has plagued the Catholic Church.
A Pontifical High Mass, also called a Solemn High Mass, will be given in what is known as the “Extraordinary Form”, which means it will be conducted in Latin and will differ from a regular Mass in its procedure and content. It will be the first of its kind at the National Cathedral in almost 50 years. The event has taken several years to plan and coincides with the fifth anniversary of the current Pope Benedict XVI’s inaugural papal mass, making it an event of particular significance in the eyes of the Church and its followers.
Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, now retired but scheduled to lead the Mass, has been a high-profile figure in the scandal. A letter written by the Cardinal in 2001 praised french Bishop Pierre Pican for shielding a priest, Reverend Rene Bissey, from prosecution by civil authorities in France despite Bissey’s private admission that he had engaged in various forms of sexual abuse with more than 10 boys in his charge.
Bissey was eventually tried, convicted and imprisoned for the repeated rape of a young boy and for abusing many others.
“After consulting the pope … I wrote a letter to the bishop congratulating him as a model of a father who does not hand over his sons,” the Cardinal is quoted to have said on the matter. The letter in question referred to Pican’s protection of Bissey and contained a commendation of the Bishop’s conduct.
“I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil administration.” the Cardinal wrote.
Activists working on behalf of the victims of abuse cite this as damning evidence of a calculated and deliberate cover-up, and say it is a prime example of the Catholic Church putting its own interests ahead of the public good.
At the time of writing there are no plans to cancel the Mass and, despite the controversy, the Cardinal is still scheduled to lead it.