07/31/12

Rafael Venegas and Luis Jose Cuevas, Catholic Priests, Accused of Sex Crimes Against Females

At least this can be said of the pending charges against two Roman Catholic priests from Southern California parishes–including St. Athanasus Church of Long Beach: only one of the four accusers is a child and all are female. The latest case involves Father Rafael Venegas, who is accused of sexual battery against a 20-year-old woman on the grounds of his St. Anne Catholic Church in Santa Monica.

The woman, who is not a parishioner, claims the assault happened in September 2011, and the Santa Monica Police Department launched an investigation July 1.

Venegas turned himself in on Monday after the city attorney charged the priest with one count of sexual battery and one count of providing alcohol to a minor.

Venegas made his $20,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Friday.

Father Luis Jose Cuevas, 67, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to groping a 14-year-old girl and two women in their 20s while working at St. Athanasus, which is also where the assaults allegedly happened.

The women reported first to the archdiocese and then to Long Beach Police that they were each groped by Cuevas this past February.

Cops say that during the ensuing investigation, the teen came forward to accuse the priest of inappropriately touching “an intimate part” of her body for his sexual arousal in July 2010.

The archdiocese, which removed Cuevas from all ministry, issued a statement that was read at weekend masses indicating the Holy See considered the allegations credible and that it “takes all such matters seriously . . .”

Well, at least now it does.

07/31/12

What if the Catholic Church Responded to Its Sex Scandal The Way the NCAA Did to Theirs?

By Mike Rivage-Seul

Many were pleasantly surprised by the severity of the sanctions the National Collegiate Athletic Association placed on Penn State following its investigation of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal. The NCAA’s measures evidenced an appropriately serious approach to unspeakable crimes. At the same time, however, the athletic association’s aggressive sanctions contrasted sharply with the lack of appropriate response to much greater crimes on the part of Roman Catholic clergy. It made some wonder what it might look like if the Catholic Church handled its infinitely larger scandal in a fashion similar to that of the NCAA.

Of course, the Penn State’s board of trustees had initially tried to defuse its shameful situation by having the institution’s president resign and by firing Joe Paterno, the football program’s legendary coach. Eventually, they even removed “Joepa’s” statue that (dis)graced the entrance way to the football stadium in Happy Valley.

But the NCAA went far beyond that — even further than most had expected. It appointed high profile Independent Counsel, Louis Freeh, to investigate responsibility for Sandusky’s crimes and the cover-up that followed. Then in the wake of Freeh’s damning final report, it fined the University $60 million dollars — the amount the football program takes in annually. It ordered the program to vacate its winnings since 1998 (thus depriving Paterno of his legacy as the winningest coach in NCAA football history). It forbade the program to extend any football scholarships for the next four years, and released all of its current players from their ties to Penn State, making them immediately eligible to play elsewhere. The football program will be devastated for years to come.

The NCAA’s bold sanctions couldn’t be further from the response of the Roman Catholic hierarchy to its child abuse scandal. There instead the “old boy” defense of the institution and the members of its all male club kicked in just as it did at first inside Penn State’s football program when the Sandusky crimes initially came to light. At Penn State, the wagons were circled, Sandusky was mildly chided while everyone in charge from the University president and Joe Paterno on down denied any knowledge or responsibility. The attitude that “boys will be boys” threatened to carry the day.

The equivalent of that attitude and (non)response still prevails within the Holy City despite the shameful involvement of priests in raping and otherwise sexually abusing children on a worldwide scale that absolutely dwarfs anything that happened in Happy Valley. In the face of thorough investigations by independent groups (e.g. the absolutely devastating indictment published last year in Ireland) the Cardinal of New York invoked the “bad apples” defense, and protested that “only” a small portion of the clergy was tainted.

But what would it have looked like if (impossibly!) the Catholic Church had responded like the NCAA?

If it had done so:

  • Pope Ratzinger would have resigned immediately.
  • All cardinals and bishops who had covered up the scandal would have been removed from office.
  • The canonization process for John Paul II would have been terminated, because of the way he down-played the sex scandal. This would be the equivalent of removing Joepa’s statue.
  • An investigation independent of the Vatican would have been launched headed by an unimpeachable figure — say the Dali Lama, perhaps joined by Sr. Pat Farrell, President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) which is currently being investigated by the Vatican.
  • Upon completion of its investigation (assuming it would have reached conclusions similar to the one in Ireland), the commission would have:
  • Fined the Catholic Church $500 billion — the equivalent of one year of the R.C. church income. The money would be used world-wide to aid victims of sex abuse and to institute programs to educate clergy about human sexuality using the best insights of current sociology and psychology.
  • Removed from the list of genuine popes all those whose public crimes made them unworthy of the title “Vicars of Christ.” Here the Borgia popes come to mind, as well as Pope Pius XII for his silence about the Jewish Holocaust. (Obviously, the process of his canonization would be abruptly ended.) This would be the rough equivalent of Penn State’s vacating its football wins since 1998.
  • The exclusion of women from the priesthood would be reversed, and seminary scholarships would be extended world-wide to women desiring to receive Holy Orders.
  • Mandatory celibacy would of course be set aside as a requirement of the priesthood — and a major contributor to the issue at hand.
  • A reforming Church Council (Vatican III?) would be ordered to deal with the sex abuse and related problems — to be attended only by bishops not involved in the abuse scandal and subsequent cover-up. Their places would be taken by women elected by national bodies equivalent to the LCWR in the United States.

Of course, nothing like the results just described is remotely possible. Roman Catholic insulation from the external processes necessary to achieve such outcomes prevents that eventuality. The only external source capable of moving the church in the desired direction belongs to the Catholic faithful itself. It alone has the authority to withhold church attendance and contributions till the desired decisions of reform are taken.

But not to worry: such pressure from the faithful will eventually be applied willy-nilly. That is, the faithful will either wage a purposeful campaign of withholding attendance and financial support in the light of failed church leadership.

Or alternatively (and more likely) the once-faithful will be driven away from the church as the realization dawns that a college sports organization possesses sounder moral character than what pretends to be the “Mystical Body of Christ.”

Complete Article HERE!

07/29/12

New York university boss resigns after allegations

One of Fordham University‘s top administrators resigned his post on Friday. His resignation closely followed allegations that he had sexually abused a young boy over 42 years ago.

James Liguori, the former president of Iona College and most recently, the executive director of Fordham’s Westchester campus, stepped down just one day after his alleged victim’s lawsuit was made public, according to NY Daily. Fordham University released a statement regarding Brother Liguori’s resignation, partially touching upon the allegations that he had molested a boy in 1969:

“On Thursday, July 19, 2012, Fordham University learned that an advocacy group has claimed a lawsuit alleging child abuse was filed in 2008 against Brother James A. Liguori, associate vice president and executive director for Fordham Westchester,” the statement read. “Brother Liguori passed a criminal background check in fall 2011, when he was hired by Fordham. University officials began investigating immediately, and on Friday, July 20, Brother Liguori submitted his resignation, effective immediately.”

The alleged victim first reported the abuse (which occurred in 1969) in 2008, according to his attorney. He lives in Orange County, California, and claims that Liguori abused him at the Cardinal Farley Military Academy in Rhinecliff, according to a release from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Liguori is 69-years-old and is a member of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers.

The religious order’s bankruptcy case, filed last year as their assets began to disappear over various sex-abuse cases, opened the door for the case against Liguori to find its way into the public eye, reports the Poughkeepsie Journal.

Complete Article HERE!

07/29/12

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia’s gay MP remark ‘adds to family’s grief’

The partner of the late Labour MP David Cairns has said anti-gay remarks by the new Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow have added to his “grief and pain”.

Dermot Kehoe spoke after it emerged Archbishop Philip Tartaglia appeared to link Mr Cairns’ death to his sexuality.

The Roman Catholic clergyman made his remarks at a conference earlier this year on religious freedom and equality at Oxford University.

Archbishop-designate Tartaglia said he had not meant to cause offence.

Mr Cairns, who was Labour MP for Inverclyde and a former Catholic priest, died at the age of 44 in May last year.

He had been admitted to hospital in London a number of weeks before his death suffering from acute pancreatitis.

The controversial remarks by the then Bishop of Paisley were made in April in answer to a question from the university audience.

Without prompting, Archbishop Tartaglia raised the issue of the death of Mr Cairns, saying: “If what I have heard is true about the relationship between physical and mental health of gay men, if it is true, then society has been very quiet about it.

He [Archbishop elect Philip Tartaglia] is sorry for any hurt which has resulted, there was certainly no offence or judgement intended in his words”

Catholic Church spokesman for Archbishop Philip Tartaglia
“Recently in Scotland there was a gay Catholic MP who died at the age of 44 or so and nobody said anything and why his body should just shut down at that age, obviously he could have had a disease which would have killed anyone, but you seem to hear so many stories about this kind of thing.

“But society won’t address it.”

Mr Kehoe said the clergyman’s remarks had been made in complete ignorance.

He told BBC radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “The Archbishop elect brought up David Cairns himself. He wasn’t asked about him, he chose to bring him up and essentially he implied that David’s death was due in some way homosexuality and his being gay.

“This is not only in complete ignorance of the facts in this case.”

Mr Kehoe added that to take a personal tragedy and to make it political “was more than upsetting, it is deeply painful”.

He went on to say: “This has not only upset me and David’s family, but it added to our grief and pain and he [Archbishop elect Tartaglia] hasn’t shown any contrition for doing this.”

A spokesman for Archbishop Tartaglia said: “The Archbishop-elect’s words have been taken out of context.

“They were made in answer to an audience question at a lecture he gave on religious freedom in Oxford 14 weeks ago.

“He had no previous knowledge of the question, which was not related to his speech. In his reply he mentioned a situation he had been closely involved in, namely the funeral arrangements for the late David Cairns.

“The archbishop knew David Cairns, met him regularly at events in Inverclyde, and got on well with him, and was personally involved in his funeral arrangements. He is sorry for any hurt which has resulted, there was certainly no offence or judgement intended in his words.”

But Mr Kehoe rejected the clergyman’s apology.

Speaking to BBC Scotland he said the remarks had not been taken out of context.

Mr Kehoe said that in his view Archbishop Tartaglia was using the situation to “influence the government” to stop its plans for same-sex marriage.

He explained: “He [the archbishop] volunteered this information. It wasn’t something he was asked about specifically.

Dermot Kehoe says Philip Tartaglia should ‘show contrition’ for using David Cairns’ death to make a point about public policy
“It was something he had been cogitating about, and not only that, but he had also used it in an attempt to influence public policy.

“He’s taking a personal tragedy, he’s applying a layer of ignorance of the situation and prejudice on the top, and then trying to influence the government of Scotland with it.”

Gay marriage move
The controversy over the Catholic clergyman’s remarks come on the day the Scottish government announced plans to introduce same-sex marriage north of the border.

A Requiem Mass was held for Mr Cairns at his boyhood parish of St Patrick’s Church in Greenock.

The service was celebrated by Father John Morrison, who said that, as a politician, Mr Cairns “was a man of hope”.

The day before the funeral, former prime minister and high-profile Catholic Tony Blair delivered a reading at a special Mass at Mr Cairns’ former church in Clapham.

Complete Article HERE!

07/23/12

Female bishop speaks up for views, talks about ‘Womenpriest Movement’

Bishop Patricia Fresen says she dreams of establishing a church in which people of all genders, races and sexual orientations are treated equally and allowed to assume positions of leadership.

Fresen, a leader of the Roman Catholic Womenpriest Movement, spoke Sunday to members of the Mary Magdalene First Apostle Church about the need for an all-inclusive church after Mass at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

“There needs to be an emphasis on what unites us, rather than what divides us,” she said.

Fresen’s story
Born and raised in South Africa, Fresen was a nun in the Dominican Sisterhood for 45 years. She taught at St. John Vianney Seminary in Pretoria, South Africa, and at St. Augustine’s University in Johannesburg.

In 2003, Fresen was ordained a priest, which is a role the Roman Catholic Church reserves solely for men. As a result, she was excommunicated from the church and forced to leave her teaching positions.

Two years later, she was appointed a bishop and has been instrumental in bringing what supporters call the Womenpriest Movement to the United States. It is not recognized by the Catholic Church.

The Womenpriest Movement has support but there is still resistance, Fresen said.

“The resistance comes from a great fear of women and sexuality, and the long patriarchal tradition of the Roman Catholic Church,” she said.

Structure
Fresen said members of the Womenpriest Movement still consider themselves Catholic, but there are fundamental differences in how the churches are structured.

The Womenpriest Movement’s church is non-hierarchical and has a circular model in which leaders work in teams. Fresen said there are six regions of the Womenpriest Movement in the U.S.: North, West, South, East, the Great Waters region and the Midwest region.

Each region is led by a bishop, administrator and program director who are all elected by the people, Fresen said. The administrator is the main position in charge while the bishop has pastoral responsibilities and guides priests and deacons.

The second main difference between the churches is that women are allowed to hold leadership positions and nearly all the women involved in the Womenpriest Movement are married. Fresen said celibacy is not a requirement of ordination and neither is a vow of obedience to the bishop.

Fresen said the Womenpriest Movement advocates showing mutual respect for all religions, and expressing different cultures through liturgy and music.

Regina Nicolosi, bishop of the Midwest region of Roman Catholic Womenpriests, said it is important to her to spread the message of the movement because she believes in total equality for men and women.

Nicolosi said the law that does not allow women to be ordained as priests in the Roman Catholic Church is unjust, and she feels a strong call to advocate against the law.

“Being part of the Womenpriest Movement has helped me answer that call,” she said. “I want to belong to a church that is accepting of all races, all genders, all sexual orientations and takes that very seriously.”

Fresen said she uses humor to cope with the unjust structures of the Roman Catholic Church, and if the Womenpriest Movement is strong in its beliefs, “the church will back down, like a bully usually does.”

Fresen told audience members they must lose all fear of excommunication if the Womenpriest Movement is to be successful. She cited Nelson Mandela as an example of someone who spent 27 years in prison because he refused to obey what he considered an unjust law.

“In good conscience, one must not obey an unjust law … but you must be prepared to pay the price,” Fresen said.

Complete Article HERE!