07/28/13

New sex abuse crisis in Scottish Catholic church

Priest claims he was abused by older cleric, and church is punishing him for speaking out

By Catherine Deveney

The Catholic church in Scotland faces a fresh sex-abuse crisis involving some of the country’s senior clerics. The Observer has seen documents suggesting a scandal similar to the one that led to the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien as Archbishop of Edinburgh and St Andrews.

Paul MooreAs a seminarian, a priest known as “Father Michael”, who wishes to remain anonymous while an appeal to Rome is made, said he was sexually assaulted by a parish priest, Father Paul Moore. Father Michael said the church failed to deal appropriately with his complaint over a 17-year period, and that he is now being ousted from the church while, he feels, his abuser is being protected.

Father Michael is recovering from cancer but has been refused permission by Bishop John Cunningham of Galloway to reduce his workload during his convalescence.

The church has demanded that he resign or face removal. The priest, who reported Moore to the police in 1997, said he feels this treatment amounts to punishment for whistle-blowing.

“It’s a tragic story,” said Father Michael. “It’s about cover-up, deceit and lies. The church is a big mafia, and they trash you. They will do everything to destroy me.”

The bitter internal division comes just days after the “new broom” appointment of Vatican diplomat Leo Cushley to replace O’Brien, who resigned after admitting inappropriate sexual behaviour towards priests in his care. Father Michael requested Cardinal O’Brien’s intervention in 1996 and again in 2013. O’Brien expressed “shock”, he said, but said he could not help. Father Michael also appealed to Cunningham’s predecessor, Bishop Maurice Taylor, and, recently, to O’Brien’s temporary successor, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia. Tartaglia, the senior cleric in Scotland, claimed he could not help as he had no authority in the matter. “I think it is better for me to return these documents to you,” he wrote in March 2013.

Father Michael alleged the assault took place at St Quivox church in Prestwick in 1996. “I woke to find Moore fondling me under the bedclothes. I placed a chair behind the door and would sometimes hear it rattling,” he said. He claimed the incident was repeated and he didn’t know where to turn.

While Moore was away from the parish, a young man visited. He claimed to Father Michael that Moore had sexually abused him as an altar boy. He gave Father Michael details of another alleged victim.

Father Michael claims that Taylor insisted he remain in the parish and advise Moore to visit him. Confronted by Father Michael, he alleges Moore reacted violently and a scuffle broke out. Suddenly, Moore began to weep, confessing everything, including inappropriate behaviour with relatives. He also admitted the abuse to Taylor.

Moore emerged, euphoric, from a subsequent meeting with Taylor. He understood that the bishop said Moore had come voluntarily, so nobody could blame him. Father Michael said he was instructed by Taylor to remain silent. But he became suicidal and informed police about the incident with Moore.

Taylor later said that he spoke to the authorities, but that was after Father Michael had reported the matter to the police. The Procurator Fiscal told Father Michael the case would proceed, but it did not happen.

Moore, who now lives in a church-owned home, is reported to have said that he regretted any of his actions being seen as abusive, and he had not intended them to be so. Taylor refused Father Michael’s repeated pleas for help, it is understood, only allowing him counselling when a centre waived the fee. Moore, however, was sent to Southdown, a Canadian treatment centre for clergy with psychological problems, for reasons that were not made clear. “A letter has been issued to the parish saying I am on leave of absence after sabbatical,” he wrote to Father Michael.

When Moore returned from Canada he went to Fort Augustus Abbey, following which Taylor tried to place him in a home for the elderly in Scotland. Protests ensued and Moore retired to the church property. “He should have been laicised,” insisted Father Michael.

When Taylor retired, Father Michael lobbied his successor. “I know Maurice made mistakes but it’s too late,” Bishop Cunningham allegedly told him. “What would Maurice think of me?”

In 2004, Father Michael was posted to a three-church parish. He merged two but when he was diagnosed with cancer, doctors advised him to drop the third. In February, the Diocese’s vicar general, Willie McFadden, told parishioners to put complaints in writing. Father Michael was told there were 23 complaints but more than 130 letters of support, including one from the parish council, which has petitioned Rome. “This is really about his stance over Paul Moore,” one member claimed.

In June, Bishop Cunningham insisted that Father Michael, who is in his mid-fifties, retire. Still physically weak, he sought counselling. Supportive letters from both his doctor and his therapist were sent to the Bishop but he feels they were used against him.

Last week, a letter signed by Bishop Cunningham told Father Michael he must retire because of “your ill-health, both physical and psychological, as you yourself have detailed to me in your letters and in those sent by your medical doctors and psychotherapist”.

Father Michael has been told to leave by mid-August. “What I have had to face is something very evil. Had I known what I would experience when I was lying on the floor at ordination, I would have stood up and walked out. I focused my life on priesthood, thinking it was about goodness, kindness and everything I wanted to aspire to. I discovered it was nothing like that.”

The Catholic Church refused to comment, “due to the complex legal situation, criminal, civil and canonical”.

Complete Article HERE!

07/27/13

Evangelizing the institutional church: an interview with Helmut Schüller

By Jamie Manson

Much has been written about Austrian priest and reformer Helmut Schüller since he opened his 15-city U.S. tour, called “The Catholic Tipping Point,” in New York last week.
Schüller has been making news in the Roman Catholic church reform movement since 2006, when he and a group of fellow priests organized the Austrian Priests’ Initiative. In 2011, they made global headlines when they launched the “Call for Disobedience,” an appeal to the Vatican to address the shortage of priests and other predicaments facing the institutional church.

Father Helmut SchüllerThe Austrian Priests’ Initiative is concerned that the dwindling number of clergy is impacting the quality of pastoral care offered to baptized Catholics. Their “Call for Disobedience” suggests reforms such as the ordination of women and married men to address this unfolding crisis.

What makes Schüller an intriguing figure among reformers is that he is not simply an upstart parish priest. He spent years as a hierarchical insider, filling the very public roles of president of Caritas Austria and vicar general under Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn. He has the rare insight of one who has served both in the hierarchy and in the parish. Rarer still, he has risked his position and privilege to be in full, outspoken solidarity with lay Catholic reformers.

Hours before Schüller’s July 16 debut in New York City, he and I sat down for an interview. Since many of the goals and ideas we discussed — such as the plan for an international meeting of priests, the new evangelization, his thoughts about Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s barring him from speaking, and the institutional church’s treatment of same-sex couples — have not made it into most of the media coverage of his speaking engagements, I am offering the text of our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity.

There’s more to NCR than what you read online. Preview our Spirituality special section from the July 19 edition.
You are using your summer break to embark on a 15-city U.S. tour. What are you hoping to accomplish?

This tour is a way for reform organizations and reform-minded priests to connect with one another. Our goal is to build up an international network of reform movements. We want to make public our sorrows, questions, issues and desire for our church and make it clear that reform-minded Catholics can be found throughout Europe and the United States.

In the United States, there aren’t many priests who openly belong to church reform groups. How will you reach out to them?

As I travel city to city, I’ll be meeting with priests informally in closed sessions. I’m encouraging priests in the U.S. to stay together with the lay movements. The priests here are cautious because there is a lot of pressure from the American bishops. We must be advocates for the people of God, especially when their initiatives are sidelined. I’m not completely familiar with the situation in the U.S. I’m hoping that the next few weeks will enrich my point of view of the struggles here.

Are reform movements in Austria similarly sidelined?

In Austria, we are in somewhat of a different situation. It is clear to our bishops that reformers have a very large majority behind them. We estimate that, in Austria, 80 percent of the Catholic faithful and two-thirds of the priests agree with our platform. If there is pressure from the bishops, the media helped to make it public. The bishops can’t sideline us easily because of public pressure.

Is there a plan to gather reform-minded priests together for a meeting?

The Austrian Priests’ Initiative, which I helped to found, is calling 2013 “a year of internationalization.” In October of this year, we are planning an international meeting of priests from Austria, Germany, France, Ireland, Great Britain, the U.S. and other countries to try to enlarge our network and further discuss the “Call to Disobedience.”

What motivates the “Call to Disobedience”and all of this organization by priests in Austria?

The priests in Austria have realized that after we retire, our communities will be merged. The priest shortage is an urgent, desperate situation. The lay members of our communities are the ones who are building up the church. The more parishes merge, the more that priests are losing the chance to walk with members of their communities through their daily lives. This is about more than compassion. It is about companionship and solidarity with laypeople. Life is not going to get any easier, and we want to offer people the service of the church.

Our second motivation comes from the questions that have arisen out of our pastoral care of our parish communities. The church’s doctrines on divorced and remarried Catholics and same-sex couples have created a lot of pastoral problems. We need a new teaching model on sexual relations. Our teaching should concentrate on the quality of relationships, not the form. Rather than condemning remarried Catholics or same-sex couples, we should be asking: How are they living in relationship? Are they respecting one another’s dignity? We have to respect that people want to live together, that they feel responsible for one another, and that they care for one another.

How did you become the public face of the Austrian Priests’ Initiative?

I was president of Caritas Austria and also served as vicar general for Cardinal Christoph Schönborn. I am better known in Austria because of these public roles, so I became the speaker of group. It helps with the media because they tend to only respect individual persons rather than whole movements. But the initiative is not my movement. A group of priests founded it, and we work as a community. We have a board that meets regularly to reflect on our work, discuss problems and give assistance to parish priests who are alone.

Some have claimed that the Roman Catholic church in Europe is either dying or being replaced by secularism. How do you respond to those claims?

Because of the history of reformation in Europe, the church has had to seriously engage with modern society. This doesn’t mean the church is dying. It is simply struggling with the questions of modernity. Yes, some faith communities are small, but they are very active.

We are confronting the questions, not giving in to secularism. Some want a “contrast church” that is contrary to society. But that’s not the idea of Jesus or the Gospels. The church should go into society and share the daily lives of the people.

Early in his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of re-Christianizing Europe. Pope Francis appears passionate about the new evangelization. Do you think Europe needs to be evangelized?

If evangelization means that the Gospel has to be brought from “us” to “them” and that “they” have to accept that we [the hierarchy] have the wisdom, then I think there will not be success with the new evangelization. The first evangelization that is needed is the evangelization of the church.

Pope Francis seems to have started it now: to be simple, for the poor, to separate himself from wealth. Evangelization has to meet the people, to understand their questions, to understand changes in society, to respect that this modern society has realized a lot of originally Christian ideas, and to find again the origin of our Gospel.

If the new evangelization should become a monologue, there will be a problem. Yes, we have to preach the Gospel, but we must bring it in the language of our time. That’s not watering down the Gospel, but coming into dialogue with world about the Gospel.

What do you think of the claim that we are living in a “culture of death”?

The Second Vatican Council had an optimistic view of modern society. There was no talk of a culture of death. The bishops respected the successes of human society. Of course, Gaudium et Spes recognized that modern society has its darkness, chaos and conflict, but it also recognized that modern society developed the ideas about a fair and just society, about the equal participation of human beings, and the right to individual conscience. This really is the spirit of the [United Nations’] Declaration of Human Rights, and the council respected it.

Mater et Magistra made the point that the church’s position is not to look down on society and say it is dying, but rather to look at what is good in society and discuss what is problematic. The church should be a good companion to modern society. Of course, this is risky. It’s more comfortable to be in a fortress. But the way of Jesus is to go with the people wherever they are.

You were banned from speaking on Catholic grounds in Boston by Cardinal Sean O’Malley. Does it concern you that Cardinal O’Malley was one of eight cardinals Pope Francis chose for his “kitchen cabinet” of advisers?

Well, it’s not really a sign of hope, but let it be. These are the old-fashioned reflexes of an old-fashioned system of thinking. Rather than forbidding these discussions, the hierarchy could instead ask to be represented in these conversations. To forbid someone to speak is a sad thing, but the real sadness is forbidding people to listen.

For me, being banned from speaking is not dramatic — I’ll just go to another church. But for a bishop to say, “You must not listen”? That’s just not possible in our time. We live in an open society. People can get information wherever they want. But this vision of a church where the baptized are “protected” against getting information that the bishop doesn’t want them to have? It is a ridiculous point of view, I think. Maybe what we are seeing are the last reflexes of a dying system. I feel that these ways are fading out. Let’s forget it and be hopeful.

What about the hierarchy’s claim that you are creating disunity in the church?

In these conversations, we are gathering people here who are engaged in this church. They have discussions with me and one another, and then they return to their communities and continue their work for the church. We are not driving them out of the church; we are inspiring them to continue to ask for reform. It is their church. If the bishop could see who the people are who are gathering here, they would not be afraid that we are dividing the church. I think the contrary is happening. I have had people say to me: “I would have left, but after hearing you, I feel there is some hope in fighting for the church and its reform, so I will stay.”

What are the first steps you would like to see the pope and the bishops take in bringing about reform?

One of the important steps would be to encourage the bishops to be with the people, not to be against them in the name of the Vatican. A key move will be to decentralize papal authority and to call the bishops to collegiality and shared responsibilities. The bishops’ synod must function like a real synod. It’s the only way to give the bishops the possibility of filling the space with new ideas. Also, laypeople must be brought into the church’s decision-making. We must put pressure on church leaders to open dialogue and to use the gifts and charisms of the faithful.

What do you say to those who argue that your issues with the institutional church are unique to Europe and the U.S. and that the majority of the Roman Catholics who live in the global South and Asia do not share these concerns?

These societies will be confronted with same questions. Our Latin American and South American colleagues are already saying to us, “Don’t think we don’t have the same problems.” Globally, societies are changing very quickly. In 10 or 20 years, the global South will face the same questions we [face]. In mega-cities, they already are. Church leaders must not hope they can get around these questions. They will arise. Maybe the church in Europe and the U.S. should be thought of not as a dying church, but as a laboratory for the future, where the church engages with the modern society. We should not overestimate the numbers of people going to church, and we should not underestimate the problems the church is facing.

Complete Article HERE!

07/27/13

Tutu: I’d prefer hell over homophobic heaven

File under: The Real (and only) Christian Response

 

 

South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu says he would rather go to hell than worship a homophobic God.Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The 81-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate told the launch of a UN “Free and Equal” campaign in Cape Town that there’s no religious justification for anti-gay prejudice.

“I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven,” Tutu said. “No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place… I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.”

He added: “I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level.”

Complete Article HERE!

07/23/13

Ohio Officials Ordered To Recognize Gay Couple’s Marriage

Married on July 11 in Maryland, John Arthur is in hospice care and “certain to die soon.” He and his husband have sued to ensure their marriage is recognized by Ohio officials at Arthur’s death.

By Chris Geidner

A federal judge in Ohio ordered state officials Monday to recognize the marriage of two men that was performed in Maryland on the death certificate of an Ohio resident in hospice care who the judge says “is certain to die soon.”

John Arthur & husband“The end result here and now is that the local Ohio Registrar of death certificates is hereby ORDERED not to accept for recording a death certificate for John Arthur that does not record Mr. Arthur’s status at death as ‘married’ and James Obergefell as his ‘surviving spouse,’” Judge Timothy Black wrote in granting the couple a temporary restraining order Monday. The order is in effect until 5 p.m. Aug. 5, unless the court extends the order at a later date.

“By treating lawful same sex marriages differently than it treats lawful opposite sex

marriages,” the judge concluded, Ohio’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages and Ohio’s statute addressing the same issue “likely violate[] the United States Constitution.”

The couple’s attorney, Al Gerhardstein, said in a statement, “This order is a major step on the march toward marriage equality in Ohio.”

Addressing the constitutional question, Black explained, “Although the law has long recognized that marriage and domestic relations are matters generally left to the states, the restrictions imposed on marriage by states, however, must nonetheless comply with the [U.S.] Constitution.”

To that end, the court examined the Supreme Court’s decision striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act this June in United States v. Windsor, the 1996 decision in Romer v. Evans, and in other decisions addressing differential treatment found to be unconstitutional under the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws.

Looking at Ohio’s bans on recognizing same-sex couples’ out-of-state marriages, while acknowledging its recognition of the marriages of opposite-sex couples who would not be allowed to marry in Ohio, Black concluded, “The purpose served by treating same-sex married couples differently than opposite-sex married couples is the same improper purpose that failed in Windsor and in Romer: ‘to impose inequality’ and to make gay citizens unequal under the law.”

According to the order, Obergefell and Arthur live in Cincinnati, Ohio, and “have been living together in a committed and intimate relationship for more than twenty years.” The order also notes “they were very recently legally married in the state of Maryland pursuant to the laws of Maryland recognizing same sex marriage.”

The order notes that Arthur is dying of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which prompted the couple to fly to Maryland on July 11 to get married.

As Black put it, the couple “traveled to Maryland in a special jet equipped with medical equipment and a medical staff necessary to serve Mr. Arthur’s needs, whereupon Plaintiffs were married in the jet as it sat on the tarmac in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. They returned to Cincinnati that same day.”

The lawsuit seeking to have the couple’s marriage recognized was filed against Gov. John Kasich and other state and local officials on July 19.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office defended the state’s laws in filings with the court on Monday, but Cincinnati city lawyers representing Dr. Camille Jones, the vital statistics registrar for the city, declined to defend the law, telling the court, “The City will not defend Ohio’s discriminatory ban on same-sex marriages,but the City’s vital statistics registrar is bound to follow Ohio law until that law is changed or overturned.”

Asked about the court’s issuance of the order on Monday evening, Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols told BuzzFeed, “We don’t comment on pending litigation other than to say the that the governor believes that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Complete Article HERE!

07/20/13

Pope’s bank clean-up man ‘found stuck in lift with rent boy’

As the man charged with cleaning out the stables at the scandal-struck Vatican bank, Monsignor Battista Ricca will need Machiavellian cunning, good fortune and a whiter-than-white record to have even a fighting chance.

Monsignor Battista RiccaBut Pope Francis’s new banker appears to possess none of these attributes after it was reported yesterday that he was found stuck in a lift with a rent boy. Msgr Ricca, as Francis’s new primate with responsibility for the troubled financial institution, known officially as the IoR (Institute for Religious Works), is supposed to usher in new transparency and badly needed reforms after years of financial scandal.

Earlier this month, a major report from finance police and magistrates warned that a lack of checks and controls by the IoR and the Italian financial institutions it had dealings with made the Vatican’s bank a money-laundering hot spot.

It is claimed that Msgr Ricca, 57, impressed Francis with the way he ran three key residences used by cardinals, bishops and priests visiting Rome. But detailed claims have emerged detailing how in 1999, Ricca took a Vatican diplomatic posting in Uruguay and moved his lover, Patrick Haari, a Swiss army captain, in with him, to the outrage of church figures and locals in the conservative South American nation. Captain Haari was forced out by the hardline Polish nuncio Janusz Bolonek in 2001.

But there were more problems for Ricca when he was attacked in a cruising ground that year, and soon after firemen had to rescue him from a broken lift, in which he was trapped with a youth known by local police. The weekly news magazine L’Espresso claims that Msgr Ricca was able to get the position as IoR prelate because the supposedly powerful “gay lobby” in the Vatican airbrushed his colourful CV.

Gay sex scandals at the Vatican have made the headlines before. In 2010 it emerged that one of Pope Benedict’s ceremonial ushers and a member of the Vatican choir were involved in a gay prostitution ring.

Vatican spokesman Padre Federico Lombardi sought to dismiss the claims about Msgr Ricca’s private life. “What has been claimed about Msgr Ricca is not credible,” he said. Msgr Ricca himself has not yet responded to the allegations. But La Repubblica noted that the Vatican had emphasised that his appointment as prelate for the IoR was technically an interim one, thus raising the possibility that the job might not last long.

Complete Article HERE!