“People who say homosexuals are sick are sick themselves”

By JAN MARTÍNEZ AHRENS

Raúl Vera is the Mexican bishop who holds the record for death threats. He has survived more than one attempt on his life, and his work in favor of missing persons, immigrants, children and juveniles, indigenous populations, prostitutes and pariahs of all types has earned him the undying hatred of many, including the drug rings.Bishop Raul Vera Lopez

Yet the threats seem to leave no mark on him. An engineer by trade and an intellectual son of May 1968, the 69-year-old Dominican friar has forged himself a legend as an untamed soul.

His first test came in 1995 when Juan Pablo II sent him to Chiapas in the middle of the Zapatista effervescence. His mission: to bring order to the diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas, which was then headed by the charismatic Samuel Ruiz, a champion of liberation theology and supporter of pro-indigenous theories. But the man who was supposed to wrest power away from the unruly Ruiz and return the diocese to the path of conservatism ended up supporting the local clergy instead.

Rome never forgot. As punishment, four years later Vera was transferred to Saltillo, in the arid northern state of Coahuila. It was to no avail. Vera returned to the trenches, facing up to the government and to the fearsome drug cartel of Los Zetas.

Meanwhile, his charged rhetoric against inequality and “liberal capitalism” has distanced him from the rest of Mexico’s bishops, who are aristocratic and wed to orthodoxy.

For a long time, Raúl Vera was the Catholic Church’s black sheep, the old-fashioned left-winger. But that was until the ideological earthquake represented by the new pope, Francis I, gave renewed relevance to his words. Now, other bishops are suddenly turning to Vera for guidance.

Question. What visits would you recommend to the Pope when he comes to Mexico?

Answer. To begin with, he should become familiar with the migrants’ route. I would also make him visit a prison, because he likes going to prisons. I would also take him to the outskirts of a large city, because he says we should go to the periphery. I would organize a visit on the basis of what he is asking us to do. And I would make sure that the poor and the indigenous were standing in the front row, because that is something that doesn’t usually get done.

Q. Not long ago you baptized the daughter of a lesbian couple. What do you think about homosexuality?

The true meaning of life lies in the community, in caring for the weak”
A. That is a topic that we have refused to address. The people who say homosexuals are sick are sick themselves. The Church needs to come to them not with condemnation, but with dialogue. We cannot cancel out a person’s richness just because of his or her sexual preference. That is sick, that is heartless, that is lacking common sense.

Q. Is it not the same with abortion?

A. I share the Church’s views on abortion, and see it as murder. The difference lies in how you penalize it. Abortion, just like same-sex marriage, has served us subterfuge to tell ourselves that we in the Church have our morals. It is very easy to go against a woman who has an abortion, it poses no trouble and we have support from the ultraconservative right. When there was a national campaign against abortion here, I organized rosary recitations to reflect on the defense of the lives of migrants, miners and women as well as the unborn. But we are hypocrites. It would seem that the only moral rules deal with condemning same-sex couples and abortions. You do that and you’re the perfect Christian.

Q. Would you make prostitution legal?

A. No, that would be legalizing female exploitation. I believe in the dignity of women. Prostitutes are extremely damaged women, but they must never lose their dignity and their right to be respected. We are reaching horrible extremes in connection with trafficking and exploitation.

Q. You have confronted the drug cartels in public. Do you fear for your life?

I learned that in order to defend human life, you have to put your own life on the line”
A. In Chiapas I learned that you have to risk your life if you want to stand on the side of the poor. I learned that in order to defend human life, you have to put your own life on the line. There is no other way to be a shepherd.

Q. Mexico officially has more than 13,000 missing persons. In two northern villages, the drug rings took away 300 people in full daylight within the space of days, and authorities did nothing about it. What is happening?

A. Impunity is allowing this to happen. Disappearances come with the elimination of all evidence that might aid persecution of the crimes. First the people disappear, then their bodies.

Q. Would legalizing drugs be a solution?

A. That will not be a solution.

Q. Why not?

A. Absolutely not. Drugs go hand in hand with the depreciation of human life. The decomposition of man does not come from drugs; man turns to drugs, like he turns to alcohol, for other reasons. To some, life has no meaning and they need drugs to find that meaning. Others have no other place to go. Legalizing drugs will not solve the problem of why people use drugs in the first place.

Q. Are you a Socialist?

A. I do not consider myself a Socialist. I have not read Marx, I was not an activist, and I never liked the theory of conversion into a dictatorship. We all have the same rights and the same dignity, but we also have freedom. Yet I have never supported the methods of capitalism. The true meaning of life lies in the community, in caring for the weak and sharing equally in the bounty of the land. All of this I learned from the indigenous world, from the poor and the peasants. They taught me the value of human life and shared their capacity to feel joy. They taught me how to laugh.

Complete Article HERE!

Lutheran Archbishop apologises to gays for “cruel treatment”

Kari Mäkinen, the Archbishop of Finland’s Evangelical Lutheran Church has apologised to homosexuals and other sexual minorities for the cruel treatment meted out to them. Mäkinen’s comments were reported at the public forum SuomiAreena.

 

Kari Mäkinen

The head of Finland’s Lutheran Evangelical Church publicly apologised to homosexuals and other sexual minorities for what he said was the cruel treatment they had received.

“When I think of the outside pressure and treatment that we have been guilty of displaying towards sexual minorities as a church and as a society for decades and how it still continues, I think it’s time for an apology. Without any explanations or prevarications,” he declared.

Mäkinen added that “cruelty is cruelty” even if it has become more subtle than before. He said he hoped that his apology would encourage others in the church and in society to follow suit.

Complete Article HERE!

Church of England General Synod backs women bishops

The Church of England has voted to allow women to become bishops for first time in its history.

 

York Synod

 

 

Its ruling General Synod gave approval to legislation introducing the change by the required two-thirds majority.

A previous vote in 2012 was backed by the Houses of Bishops and Clergy but blocked by traditionalist lay members.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said he was “delighted” but some opponents said they were unconvinced by the concessions offered to them.

The crucial vote in the House of Laity went 152 in favour, 45 against, and there were five abstentions. In November 2012 the change was derailed by just six votes cast by the lay members.

In the house of Bishops, 37 were in favour, two against, and there was one abstention. The House of Clergy voted 162 in favour, 25 against and there were four abstentions.

 

 

Analysis By Robert Pigott, religious affairs correspondent, BBC News

It is hard to exaggerate the significance of today’s decision at the York Synod.

It breaks a hitherto unbroken tradition of exclusively male bishops inherited from the first Christians almost 2,000 years ago.

Some Anglicans see it as a “cosmic shift” – arguing that the Church’s theology has been changed by its acceptance that men and women are equally eligible to lead and teach Christianity.

With the decision, the Church is acknowledging the importance secular society places on equality, signalling that it wants to end its isolation from the lives of the people it serves.

The legislation leaves traditionalists relying largely on the goodwill and generosity of future women bishops, a source of anxiety for many, but heralded by some as a sign of a new culture of trust and co-operation in the Church.

With the even more divisive issue of sexuality on the horizon, the Church will need that culture as never before.

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Before he announced the vote, the Archbishop of York John Sentamu, asked for the result to be met “with restraint and sensitivity”. But there was a flurry of cheers when it was announced.

The result overturned centuries of tradition in a Church that has been deeply divided over the issue.

It comes more than 20 years after women were first allowed to become priests. More than one-in-five of priests in the church are now female.

The motion will now go before Parliament’s ecclesiastical committee, which examines measures from the Synod. The Synod would then meet again on 17 November to formally declare that women can be bishops.

‘Big moment’The first woman bishop could potentially be appointed by the end of the year.

The Dean of Salisbury, the Very Reverend June Osborne: “It’s one more barrier down”

The vote followed after almost five hours of debate at the University of York.

The Dean of Salisbury, the Very Reverend June Osborne, said it was a “historic day”.

She told the BBC: “I don’t think you can overstate the fact that the Church of England allowing women to take up the role of bishop is going to change the Church.

“I think it’s going to change our society as well because it’s one more step in accepting that women are really and truly equal in spiritual authority, as well as in leadership in society.”

The Reverend Lindsay Southern, from the parish of Catterick with Tunstall, North Yorkshire, said “it’s been a really long journey but we were so pleased with the graciousness of the Synod debate”.

But Lorna Ashworth, a lay member of the Synod who voted against women becoming bishops, suggested it was “not going to be a smooth road ahead”.

She said she had no plans to “run away” from the Church but predicted there could be “difficulties” in a number of areas, such as those involving new priests opposed to the changes.

Another lay member, Susie Leafe, director of the conservative evangelical group Reform, said she was “very disappointed” by the vote.

“There is still at least a quarter of the Church for whom this package does not provide for their theological convictions,” she said.

The motion had the backing of the Archbishop of Canterbury and Prime Minister David Cameron.

Speaking in the debate, Archbishop Welby said Church of England bishops were committed to meeting their needs should the legislation be passed.

It contained concessions for those parishes that continue to object to the appointment of a women bishop – giving them the right to ask for a male alternative and to take disputes to an independent arbitrator.

In a statement issued by Lambeth Palace later, Archbishop Welby said: “Today marks the start of a great adventure of seeking mutual flourishing while still, in some cases disagreeing. The challenge for us will be for the church to model good disagreement and to continue to demonstrate love for those who disagree on theological grounds.”

The Archbishop of York said it was a “momentous day”.

He said: “Generations of women have served the Lord faithfully in the Church of England for centuries. It is a moment of joy today: the office of Bishop is open to them.”

Women celebrating outside the General Synod after the vote
There were celebrations outside the General Synod meeting at York University

Mr Cameron said it was a “great day for the Church and for equality”.

And writing on Twitter, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg praised Archbishop Welby’s “leadership” on securing the Yes vote, adding that it was a “big moment” for the Church of England.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said it was “wonderful news”.

But Prebendary David Houlding, a member of the Catholic Group on the General Synod, who voted against the legislation, expressed concerns at the potential impact the result could have on relations with the Catholic Church.

The Anglican Communion has the largest Christian denomination in Britain and a presence in more than 160 countries. Women bishops are already in office in a number of provinces including the US, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis says 2% of clerics are sexual abusers

Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, quotes Pope Francis

pope-gif-jan-151

About two per cent of Roman Catholic clerics are sexual abusers, an Italian newspaper on Sunday quoted Pope Francis as saying, adding that the pontiff considered the crime “a leprosy in our house”.

But the Vatican issued a statement saying some parts of a long article in the left-leaning La Repubblica were not accurate, including one that quoted the Pope as saying that there were cardinals among the abusers.

The article was a reconstruction of an hour-long conversation between the pope and the newspaper’s founder, Eugenio Scalfari, an atheist who has written about several past encounters with the Pope.

Pope disheartened by ‘very grave’ data

“Many of my collaborators who fight with me (against paedophilia) reassure me with reliable statistics that say that the level of paedophilia in the Church is at about two per cent,” Francis was quoted as saying.

“This data should hearten me, but I have to tell you that it does not hearten me at all. In fact, I think that it is very grave,” he was quoted as saying.

The pope was quoted as saying that, while most paedophilia took place in family situations, “even we have this leprosy in our house”.

According to Church statistics for 2012, the latest available, there are about 414,000 Roman Catholic priests in the world.

The Vatican issued a statement noting Scalfari’s tradition of having long conversations with public figures without taking notes or taping them, and then reconstructing them from memory. Scalfari, 90, is one of Italy’s best known journalists.

While acknowledging that the conversation had taken place, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi issued a statement saying that not all the phrases could be attributed “with certainty” to the Pope.

Lombardi said that, in particular, a quote attributed to the Pope saying cardinals were among the sex abusers was not accurate and accused the paper of trying to “manipulate naive readers”.

Last week, the Argentine Pope held his first meeting with victims of sexual abuse by priests.

He told them the Church should “weep and make reparation” for crimes that he said had taken on the dimensions of a sacrilegious cult. He vowed zero tolerance for abusers and said bishops would be held accountable if they covered up crimes by priests in their diocese.

Complete Article HERE!

Report: Archbishop Nienstedt being investigated by firm hired by archdiocese

Surprise, Surprise!

By Grant Gallicho

Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis is being investigated for “multiple allegations” of inappropriate sexual conduct with seminarians, priests, and other men, according to the archbishop’s former top canon lawyer, Jennifer Haselberger. The investigation is being conducted by a law firm hired by the archdiocese. Nienstedt denies the allegations.

Nienstedt02The investigation was spurred by information the archdiocese received late last year, according to another person with knowledge of the investigation. (This inquiry is not related to a December 2013 accusation that Nienstedt touched a boy’s buttocks during a confirmation photo shoot. The archbishop denied that allegation, and, following an investigation, the county prosecutor did not bring charges. Reportedly the case has been reopened.) Near the end of the year, it came to light that a former Twin Cities priest had accused Nienstedt of making unwanted sexual advances.

The archbishop agreed to hire an outside law firm to investigate the accusation. By early 2014, the archdiocese had selected the top-ranked Minneapolis firm of Greene Espel. Nienstedt, along with auxiliary bishops Lee Piché and Andrew Cozzens, flew to Washington, D.C., to inform the apostolic nuncio of the allegations. Over the course of the investigation, lawyers have interviewed current and former associates and employees of Nienstedt—including Haselberger, who resigned in protest in April 2013.

“Based on my interview with Greene Espel—as well as conversations with other interviewees—I believe that the investigators have received about ten sworn statements alleging sexual impropriety on the part of the archbishop dating from his time as a priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit, as Bishop of New Ulm, and while coadjutor and archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis,” Haselberger told me. What’s more, “he also stands accused of retaliating against those who refused his advances or otherwise questioned his conduct.”

The allegations are nothing more than a “personal attack against me due to my unwavering stance on issues consistent with church teaching, such as opposition to so-called same-sex marriage,” Nienstedt said in a written statement. He also suspects that accusers are coming forward because of “difficult decisions” he has made, but, citing privacy laws, he would not elaborate.

“I have never engaged in sexual misconduct and certainly have not made any sexual advances toward anyone,” Nienstedt told me. “The allegations are a decade old or more, prior to my service as archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis,” he continued, emphasizing that “none of the allegations involve minors or illegal or criminal behavior.” The “only accusation,” Nienstedt explained, is of “improper touching (of the person’s neck),” and was made by a former priest.

The archbishop has been under intense scrutiny since September 2013, when Haselberger went public with damning accounts of the way the archdiocese had dealt with clerics accused of sexual misconduct. One of those priests was Curtis Wehmeyer, a man with a history of inappropriate sexual behavior who was nevertheless promoted by Nienstedt to become pastor of two parishes. Wehmeyer went on to molest children at one of those parishes. One of the questions investigators have been asking is whether the archbishop had an unprofessional relationship with Wehmeyer.

“Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer was an archdiocesan priest and I was his archbishop,” Nienstedt said. He characterized his relationship with Wehmeyer as “professional” and “pastoral,” and explained that it preceded his “learning of [Wehmeyer’s] sexual abuse of minors.”

Nienstedt was named an auxiliary bishop of Detroit in 1996, and became bishop of New Ulm, Minnesota, in 2001. Just six years later he was appointed coadjutor of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. He was installed as archbishop in 2008. Before long, Nienstedt had established one of the signature issues of his episcopate: homosexuality. His statements on that issue add controversy to the investigation of his own behavior.

“Those who actively encourage or promote homosexual acts…formally cooperate in a grave evil and, if they do so knowingly and willingly, are guilty of mortal sin,” Nienstedt wrote late in 2007. That echoed a column he wrote the year before—while bishop of New Ulm—cautioning Catholics against watching Brokeback Mountain, a film about two married cowboys who fall for one another. He wondered whether Hollywood knew just how dangerous their “agenda” was: “Surely they must be aware that they have turned their backs on God and the standards of God in their quest to make evil look so attractive.”

Before the 2010 midterm elections, Nienstedt turned his attention to the burgeoning gay-marriage movement. He recorded an introduction on a DVD opposing gay marriage, which was sent to four hundred thousand Minnesota Catholics. The same year a Catholic mother wrote to him pleading for acceptance for her gay son. He recommended she consult the Catechism. “Your eternal salvation may well depend upon a conversation [sic] of heart on this topic,” he replied. And in 2012, Nienstedt led a coalition of religious leaders pushing for an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Reportedly, Nienstedt committed $650,000 to those efforts. The amendment failed.

But by the fall of 2013, Nienstedt’s focus would be pulled away from gay marriage to an issue of greater urgency: the sexual abuse of children by priests. In September of last year, Minnesota Public Radio reported that the archdiocese was aware of Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer’s history of misconduct when Nienstedt promoted him to pastor. He refused to inform the parish staff of Wehmeyer’s troubling past. The cleric eventually molested the children of a parish employee.

As MPR and other news outlets continued coverage of that and related stories, Archbishop Nienstedt announced a task force that would review “any and all issues” related to clergy misconduct. Its fifty-three page report—released April 14—criticized the archdiocese for “serious shortcomings,” but did not mention the investigation of Nienstedt. That’s because the task force “was established to review the archdiocesan policies on clergy misconduct toward minors,” Nienstedt said. By the time Greene Espel learned about the task force, the group had “disbanded,” having completed its report, according to Bishop Piché. “Nevertheless,” he continued, “a call from an archdiocesan official promptly was made to a former member of the task force.” The task force has stated that it will not speak publicly about its report. *

Around the time the task force published its report, Greene Espel attorneys phoned Haselberger to set up a meeting, but she was skeptical. “There is no precedent in the church for an investigation of this kind,” she told me. Since she resigned last year, “the archdiocese has been distinctly hostile toward me.” That “caused me to wonder if this was some sort of trick.” Her skepticism diminished when she met with the lawyers days later. They produced a January 31 letter from Nienstedt to auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché authorizing him to oversee an investigation, Haselberger said, along with an e-mail naming another priest to act as a liaison between the archdiocese and the investigators.

“I did this for the benefit of the archdiocese,” Nienstedt explained, because “I knew it would be unfair to ignore the allegations simply because I knew them to be false.” And that’s what he would have done if he learned of similar allegations against any priest, the archbishop said.

Haselberger informed Greene Espel attorneys of a letter she’d seen from Wehmeyer to Nienstedt thanking the archbishop for a recent dinner. She also told investigators that the archbishop had asked for assistance in arranging for him to visit Wehmeyer in the inpatient sex-offender treatment program where he was residing before sentencing. At the time he had not met with Wehmeyer’s victims or their family, according to Haselberger. The archbishop denied that he sought such assistance, and said he never visited Wehmeyer in prison or at any treatment facility.

Greene Espel lawyers wanted to know whether Nienstedt asked to visit any other detained priests. Two other priests had been in jail while Nienstedt was in St. Paul. They had both been released by January of 2013, when Nienstedt wanted to visit Wehmeyer. “To my knowledge,” Haselberger replied, “he never visited them or expressed any desire to do so.” As far as she could recall, Nienstedt struck up a friendship with Wehmeyer “after I warned him about Wehmeyer’s history in 2009.” Nienstedt said that the two had a “professional, pastoral relationship” before he learned that Wehmeyer had abused children.

Haselberger asked the Green Espel attorneys what the firm planned to do with the information it was gathering. “They said that their task was to investigate, and that they would be providing a report to the archdiocese,” she said. Once the report is complete, Nienstedt told me, it will be given to the pope’s ambassador to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who will presumably inform the pope about its contents.

“I pray that the truth would come out as a result of the investigation,” Nienstedt said.

Complete Article HERE!

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