09/26/11

Nun scolds Catholic Church about sex abuse

A Roman Catholic nun says the church hasn’t properly addressed the issue of sexual abuse at the hands of priests since the Mount Cashel orphanage scandal of the 1980s.

Sister Nuala Kenny, a pediatrician who was a member of a commission that looked into child sexual abuse by priests in St. John’s, N.L., from 1989-91, said the reaction from clergy was to turn a blind eye to the abuse and to move the offending priest to a new parish.

“It nearly killed me to be a nun, a baby doctor, sitting there listening to people describe what had happened when men of God, priests of my church, had offended against their children and teenagers,” Kenny told about 200 people at the Dalbrae Academy in Mabou.

“It nearly broke my heart. The devastation that occurred was truly heartbreaking, but I thought we learned something, I thought we wrote something important.”

The commission that Kenny served on recommended the creation of the Canadian Conference on Catholic Bishops ad hoc committee on child sexual abuse.

Without participation by Canadian bishops to deal with the systemic problems that made sexual and physical abuse possible, the church can’t begin to heal itself so it can tackle other problems, such as declining church attendance, she said.

“We have not addressed, ‘Why has it happened the way it has happened? Why have we dealt with it the way we have?’ ”

Full Article HERE!

09/23/11

Bishops warn of ‘national conflict’ over gay marriage

The nation’s top Catholic bishop issued a stern challenge to the Obama administration’s decision not to support a federal ban on gay marriage, and warned the president that his policies could “precipitate a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions.”

In a letter sent Tuesday (Sept. 20), Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who heads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he and other prelates have grown increasingly concerned since the administration announced last February that it would no longer defend the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act in court.

The Obama administration says it believes the law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman is unconstitutional.

Dolan said the bishops are especially upset that the administration and opponents of DOMA are framing their argument as a civil rights issue, which he said equates “opposition to redefining marriage with either intentional or willfully ignorant racial discrimination.”

He also argued that traditional marriage is best for society, and that treating gay marriage as a civil right would lead to discrimination against believers and against church agencies that could not, for example, accommodate gay couples as adoptive parents.

“The administration’s failure to change course on this matter will … precipitate a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions and to the detriment of both institutions,” Dolan warned.

The two-page letter was followed by a three-page analysis from the USCCB’s legal staff that charges the administration with “hostility” to traditional marriage and a “new, more aggressive position” on behalf of gay marriage. In especially strong language, it also argues that the administration treats millions of Americans who oppose gay marriage “as if they were bigots.”

The tenor of the bishops’ warning appears to signal an escalation in their battle against gay marriage, as well as a hardening of their opposition to Obama just as the 2012 presidential campaign gets underway. The bishops’ new hard line was welcomed by conservatives, and it comes as Obama is facing record-low opinion ratings.

The bishops’ stance carries risks, however, as voters appear to be focused on the state of the economy more than gay marriage. Moreover, polls show a steady erosion of opposition to gay rights of all kinds among the U.S. population, with Catholics more open to endorsing gay relationships than many other faith groups.

The bishops have been careful to frame their opposition to Obama’s policies in the context of religious freedom and defending the right of individuals and religions to act according to the dictates of their conscience.

On Monday (Sept. 19), the day before Dolan sent his letter to Obama on gay marriage, the bishops of Washington, Maryland and Delaware sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that strongly objects to proposed regulations mandating health care coverage of contraception.

For the Catholic Church, which considers the use of artificial birth control a sin, the mandate is “a radically new and unprecedented attack on religious freedom,” said Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O’Brien and Wilmington Bishop W. Francis Malooly.

Full Article HERE!

09/23/11

Canadians losing faith in religion

Many link traditional institutions with religious conflict, survey finds.

It’s no secret fewer Canadians attend church today than 20 years ago, but what may be surprising is almost half of Canadians believe religion does more harm than good, according to the results of a survey conducted by Ipsos Reid.

Explanations from experts vary – from fear of extremists and anger toward individuals who abuse positions of power, to a national “forgetting” of Canadian history.

“In the past few years, there have been several high-profile international situations involving perceived religious conflicts, as well as the anniversary of 9/11, and I think when people see those, it causes them to fear religion and to see it as a source of conflict,” said Janet Epp Buckingham, associate professor at Trinity Western University in Ottawa.

Religion seems to be a key player in many of today’s top stories, from stand-alone events – such as the 2005 riots in the suburbs of Paris linked to the French government’s proposed burka ban, and rightwing Christian Anders Behring Breivik’s shooting rampage in Oslo, Norway – to more drawn-out sagas, such as child abuse in the Catholic Church, and the perception that Christians are constantly campaigning against gay marriage and abortion.

Canadians who don’t participate in religion themselves experience it in the news, which can sensationalize the negatives aspects of religion, said Dr. Pamela Dickey Young, the principal of the School of Religion at Queen’s University, in Kingston, Ont.

Dickey Young said that had the survey asked if religious people did more harm than good, the answer would have been very different.

“To me, that means people think religion is harmful, but people who are religious aren’t particularly harmful,” she said.

The survey, which was conducted ahead of the launch of a new Global TV show – Context – about religion in Canada, also found that 89 per cent of Canadians are comfortable being around people of different faiths.

Dickey Young said when she asks most of her firstyear students if they’re religious, they say no. When she asks if they are spiritual, they say yes.

She said this follows a general trend among Canadians who are turning away from organized religion – which is seen as a concrete set of pre-ordained rules – in favour of a more personalized spiritual journey.

But, on the question of whether religion does more harm than good, Rev. Canon Dr. Bill Prentice said: “We forget our history.”

He pointed out that the first hospitals, schools and universities in Canada were founded by religious institutions, or at the very least, have a religious foundation.

Prentice, director of Community Ministry for the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa, said churches continue to “do good works” across the country, managing food banks, social programs, and helping the country’s homeless find shelter.

These charities “would not exist if the churches pulled out because the volunteer sector in the religious communities does work that wouldn’t otherwise go on,” he said.

“I think we take for granted all the positive things that religious institutions are doing in our society, because they’re working in the background and they’re working with marginalized people,” said Epp Buckingham.

“They’re the first on the ground when there’s a humanitarian disaster or a tornado or a hurricane, and they’re often the unsung heroes.”

Dan Merkur, a visiting scholar in the department for the study of religion at the University of Toronto, said he thinks there are massive changes happening in organized religion worldwide.

In the 1960s and ’70s, he said, most clergy tried to “rationalize” religion by making it logical. But these days, he said, the trend is toward social work and counselling, suggesting that clergy “want to listen to people and help them through their troubles.”

This, said Merkur, could be a reaction to fewer people in the pews, or it could be the natural course of religious philosophy.

Full Article HERE!

09/23/11

Priesthood should be open to male, female, married or celibate – Fr Sean McDonagh

The call by the retired Bishop for Derry for the Church to change its position on mandatory celibacy for priests does not go far enough, according to Association of Catholic Priests co-founder, Fr Sean McDonagh.

The Columban priest was responding to comments made on the Church’s policy on celibacy by Dr Edward Daly in his memoirs A Troubled See: Memoirs of a Derry Bishop.

Dr Daly, who was Bishop of Derry between 1974 and 1993, describes celibacy in his book as, “an obligation that has caused many wonderful potential candidates to turn away from a vocation, and other fine men to resign their priesthood at great loss to the church.” Elsewhere Dr Daly writes, “If things continue as they are, a lot of parish communities will not have a priest in a few years’ time, and those that they have will be older, weary and greatly overworked.”

He asks why celibacy should be “the great sacred and unyielding arbiter, the paradigm of diocesan priesthood?”

In his memoirs, Dr Edward Daly said he hoped, “that senior members of the clergy and laity make their views more forcefully known” on the issue of celibacy and he said these were views that were often expressed privately but seldom publicly.

Responding, Fr Sean McDonagh called on the Irish hierarchy to support the retired Bishop’s call rather than going “down the cul de sac” of a married diaconate, which, he warned, would “clericalise laity” instead of looking to a “different kind of priesthood.”

Speaking to UK Catholic weekly, The Tablet, Fr Sean McDonagh commented, “I would go further than that – it should be open to male, female, married or celibate.”

He told ciNews that he was not the first voice in the Church to call for women priests, and referred to Cardinal Martini of Milan’s writings, and biblical scholar, Professor Jerome Murphy O’Connor.

Fr McDonagh also called on the bishops to conduct a survey among the laity to assess people’s level of satisfaction with the new translation of the Roman missal, which he said had been “imposed” by Rome. The Columban missionary told ciNews that a number of women in his congregation last Sunday had voiced their opposition to the new translation and particularly to the use of non-inclusive language.

Fr McDonagh, who is a linguist, urged anyone who is unhappy with the new translation to write to the bishops and outline their difficulties. He added, “The anecdotal line is that everyone is happy with it.” But he said, “People should tell the truth about what has happened. People were not consulted on it.”

“I would like to see, within a year or a year and a half at the most, a really good survey done to find out what people really think of it.” The survey, he said, needed to include all age groups.

Referring to Vatican II, the ACP co-founder said its basic insight had been that the liturgy is for everyone and that the Church should be facilitating participation. “If you are starting to use archaic language, you are not facilitating partnership and participation for a lot of people – why do that?” he asked.

Referring to the fact that just 200 students out of 55,000 who sat the Leaving Certificate studied Latin, Fr McDonagh asked, “What has Latin got to offer?” and he suggested to ciNews that the proponents of the new translation are “operating out of a world that doesn’t exist.”

He queried whether they were intent on returning to pre Vatican II approach “when the laity were basically an audience and could not participate because they did not understand or speak Latin?”

Fr McDonagh said the new translation demonstrated “incompetence” in the decision to follow a literalist translation rather than use dynamic equivalence.

Full Article HERE!

09/23/11

Priest sex abuse victims rally in Catholic Poland

An international group representing victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests rallied in central Warsaw on Sunday to highlight the issue in the devoutly Roman Catholic country.

“It would be naive to think that there are no victims of sexual crimes by Polish priests. We suspect that there are children who have been violated and raped,” SNAP president Barbara Blaine told AFP.

“We’re here to reach out to the victims, so they know about organisations like SNAP,” she said, referring to the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

The organisation has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute Pope Benedict XVI and three other Vatican officials for crimes against humanity for “their direct and superior responsibility for the crimes against humanity of rape and other sexual violence committed around the world.”

“Crimes against tens of thousands of victims, most of them children, are being covered up by officials at the highest level of the Vatican,” Pam Spees, a lawyer for the group said in a statement.

“Paedophiles in the church. We want the truth,” read a banner held by SNAP representatives who rallied and distributed pamphlets outside the imposing Holy Cross church near Warsaw’s Old Town.

The protest drew flak from some some of the faithful leaving after Sunday prayers.

“It’s a lie to accuse Polish priest. Go to the US or England to protest,” exclaimed Alicja Krawczyk.

According to Blaine, similar attitudes of denial were prevalent for years in the United States and Britain when the taboo issue was initially raised.

“Poland is at the beginning of a long road,” Blaine, who founded SNAP in 1988, told AFP.

SNAP representatives are currently on a European tour to raise awareness of their cause having already made stops several European capitals including Brussels, Berlin, Paris and Vienna before Warsaw.

The group plans to be in Madrid on Monday and to protest at the Vatican on Tuesday.

Despite several cases of child sex abuse by priests having surfaced in Poland in recent years, none provoked widespread outrage.

Uniting around 10,000 people who allege they were sexually abused by Catholic priests as children, SNAP hope those who have suffered similar abuse in Poland will be more willing to step forward as the issue gains more public exposure.

Blaine said several victims people had contacted her after she an August visit to Poland.

More than 90 percent of Poles are Roman Catholic.

Full Article HERE!