The Catholic Church is bursting with secrets. Investigating one will unravel them all.

Pope Francis in Rome on Feb. 14.

By Garry Wills

The New York Times published an extraordinary article this week based on interviews with two dozen gay Catholic priests and seminarians in 13 states. “Out” men and women today are often widely admired, but most of the interviews had to be conducted anonymously because the Vatican still treats homosexuality as “objectively disordered” — a policy that persists even though the representation of gay men in the priesthood is higher, probably far higher, than in the general population.

The relevant catechism about sexuality does not condemn people with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies,” just those who act on those tendencies. In other words, you can be gay so long as you don’t do anything about it. The Times article rightly presents this distinction as a trial for the priests involved — one of the last major throwbacks to the era of “the love that dare not speak its name” (as Oscar Wilde’s partner, Lord Alfred Douglas, put it). But I wondered how the church’s policy on homosexuality affects men and women, as well as boys and girls, who are not priests.

The gay priest is required, generally, to uphold the official teaching of his church and of his superiors, making him a collaborator in the suppression of his gay brothers and sisters outside the clergy. In this way, without intending to, the victimized become victimizers. How does that play out, to take an example, in the confessional? If a penitent confesses homosexual activity to a gay priest, does the priest channel God’s forgiveness of a sin that he does not himself consider a sin? This is just one of the many ways in which we Catholics, if we refrain from criticizing this particular stance of our church, contribute to the persecution of the LGBTQ community.

The deepest irony is that a priest who is required to go against his nature is told that he must do this because of “natural law.” The church’s quaint theory of natural law is that the first biological use of an activity is the only permissible use of that activity. If the biological use of sex is for procreation, any other use is “against nature.”

The absurdity of this view is made clear by considering the first biological use for eating: the sustenance of life. If every other use of nutrition is against nature, then any diet beyond what is consumed for life-maintenance is a sin — in other words, no wedding cakes, no champagne toasts. Yet the church continues to adhere to so-called natural law because it underpins doctrine on all sexual matters, including the condemnations of abortion, contraception, in vitro fertilization and stem-cell research.

Given the stakes in these and other matters, the ban on gay sex involves a larger “church teaching” than the single matter of homosexuality.

Priests and bishops who cover up male homosexuality are prone to a mutual blackmail with those who commit and conceal heterosexual acts by the clergy — sometimes involving women, including nuns, who have been victimized by priests. The Times’s portrait of gay priests was followed by a powerful Feb. 18 article revealing that the church has internal policies for dealing with priests who father children. The Vatican confirmed, apparently for the first time, that a priest with progeny is encouraged to ask for release from his ministry “to assume his responsibilities as a parent by devoting himself exclusively to the child” — there being no requirement in canon law that a priest perform this basic act of love for his offspring and the child’s mother.

Secrecy in one clerical area intersects with secrecy in others. There is an implicit pledge that “your secret is safe with my secret.” If there are gay nuns — and why would there not be? — that adds another strand to the interweavings of concealment.

The trouble with any culture that maintains layer upon layer of deflected inspections is that, when so many people are guarding their own secrets, the deep examination of an institution becomes nearly impossible. The secrecies are too interdependent. Truly opening one realm of secrecy and addressing it may lead to an implosion of the entire system. That is the real problem faced this week by Pope Francis and the church leaders he has summoned from around the world for a conference at the Vatican to consider the labyrinthine and long-standing scandals of clerical sex abuse.

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Vatican reveals it has secret rules for priests who father children

Spokesman says guidelines for those who break celibacy vows will not be made public

Cardinals and bishops at a canonisation ceremony at St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

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The Vatican has acknowledged for the first time the existence of secret guidelines for priests who break their vows of celibacy and father children.

However, it declined to make its advice public, saying it was an internal matter. Alessandro Gisotti, a Vatican spokesman, told the New York Times that the “fundamental principle” of the 2017 document was the “protection of the child”.

The document requests that a cleric who has fathered a child leaves the priesthood to “assume his responsibilities as a parent by devoting himself exclusively to the child”. Gisotti told CBS News that the document was “for internal use … and is not intended for publication”.

Survivors of clerical sexual abuse from around the world are gathering in Rome this week to hold vigils and protests outside an unprecedented summit of senior bishops and other church figures called by Pope Francis.

The number of children born to priests is unknown although one support group, Coping International, has 50,000 users in 175 countries. Some children are the result of consensual relationships, but others are the result of rape or abuse.

According to Vincent Doyle, the son of a priest and the founder of Coping International, the issue of clerical offspring is “the next scandal” to confront the church. “There are kids everywhere,” he told the New York Times.

A commission set up by Francis to tackle clerical sexual abuse was tasked with looking at how the church should respond to the issue of priests’ offspring.

Irish bishops have published their own guidelines, saying that if a priest becomes a father, the “wellbeing of his child should be his first consideration”. The document adds: “A priest, as any new father, should face up to his responsibilities – personal, legal, moral and financial. At a minimum, no priest should walk away from his responsibilities.”

Some people have argued the Roman Catholic church should drop its requirement for priests to take a lifelong vow of celibacy. They say it may be a factor in sexual abuse, and that it deters people from signing up for the priesthood, with many countries now having an acute shortage of priests.

The eastern Catholic churches have a long tradition of married priests, and exceptions to the celibacy rule have been made on a case-by-case basis for former Anglican priests who convert to Catholicism.

But last month, Francis said he was opposed to any general change to the centuries-old tradition. “Personally, I think that celibacy is a gift to the church,” he said. “I would say that I do not agree with allowing optional celibacy, no.”

Exceptions could be considered in “very far places” where there was “a pastoral necessity” owing to a lack of priests, he said.

Complete Article HERE!

The Catholic church is still making excuses for paedophilia

Cardinals around the world are joining the pope at a forum on tackling abuse. But only radical reform can solve the crisis

The Catholic church needs Pope Francis to come out fighting on the issue of abuse. But the signs are not good.

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When the first meeting in the Vatican of cardinals from around the world to discuss clerical sexual abuse was announced, hopes were high among Catholics. Finally, it seemed, the courageous, mould-breaking Pope Francis was going to force through root-and-branch reforms to tackle the scandal that has done such damage to the reputation of the institution he leads.

Yet even before 180 cardinals assemble on Thursday in Rome for this unprecedented four-day summit, the chance of such prayers being answered is looking increasingly remote. The Vatican press office has been downplaying the event as simply an opportunity to remind senior clerics of the patchy efforts that global Catholicism has made this past quarter of a century to address the thousands upon thousands of cases of priests molesting, abusing and traumatising children in their care.

To be fair, a reminder is no bad thing, since there is a long list of bishops around the globe who still make negative headlines because they refuse to take this crisis seriously, and put protecting the institution before the victims of predator priests.

Even in the Vatican itself, the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith has refused a very basic request from the Commission for the Protection of Minors, set up by Francis in 2014, to send a letter acknowledging receipt of every new report of abuse that reaches it.

There is so much that the summit could insist be done better, but it will require the pope to come out fighting. And on that score, the omens are not good. On his return flight from his latest overseas trip – to a World Youth Day gathering in Panama at the end of last month – Francis offered scant encouragement. “The problem of abuse will continue,” he told reporters, as if it were as inevitable as the sunrise. “It is a human problem.”

He sounds as much in denial as his predecessors. When the first shocking disclosures of clerical abuse emerged in the 1990s, Pope John Paul II referred to those clerics who abused children as a “few bad apples”. His successor, Benedict XVI, pointed an accusing finger instead at the high number of closeted gay men in the clergy. Though it flies in the face of all secular, scientific and psychosexual orthodoxy, the leaders of Catholicism (as many as 80% of them gay themselves, according to a new book by sociologist Frederic Martel) persist in equating same-sex adult sexual attraction with the violent rape of children by grown men.

Francis resorted to an even more outdated explanation in September last year. In language that owed much to medieval theology, he blamed it all on the devil, a malign force tempting otherwise good priests to sexually abuse children.

So is there really any possibility that this gathering in Rome might just be a road-to-Damascus moment for Catholicism in a crisis that has shaken it to its core? Naively, perhaps, I continue to hope so. Back in June 2011 I wrote in these pages of the profound blow to my own faith of learning that our beloved priest and family friend, Father Kit Cunningham – who had married us and baptised our children, one of whom was named after him – was not the eccentric but essentially good man of God that I had always believed him to be, but a child abuser whose past crimes had been known to his religious superiors, who didn’t breathe a word of it.

The logical thing would have been to walk out then, but I clung to the notion that the failings of individuals didn’t make redundant the Catholicism that is so much a part of me. And so I have persisted, but it has not helped when church leaders trot out the same discredited excuses in place of mature reflection on how things need to change.

Perhaps the most misleading excuse given is that Catholicism is just the same as others, including the BBC, that have faced charges over harbouring those who abuse children. However, a range of studies suggests that Catholicism is different. The number of paedophiles found in the male population at large is usually put at anywhere up to 4%. Yet the recent Australian Royal Commission on child sex abuse by Catholic priests suggests the figure in clerical ranks is as high as 7%. That’s almost double, and should be ringing alarm bells.

Even the Vatican’s own newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, has suggested that the absence of women in leadership roles plays a part. Statistically, women are far less likely to sexually abuse children. Yet Catholicism clings to the almost laughable explanation that, because there were only men at the Last Supper, only men can be priests.

The product of this stubbornness is a secretive, male culture at the top of Catholicism where large numbers of priests routinely break their vows of celibacy. It is an appalling moral failure and needs to end now, but that will involve rethinking an entire approach to sexuality in Catholicism that is peculiar, punitive and often plain perverse. The Jesus of the gospels had almost no interest in such matters. Why does the Church leadership? It is a question that would take more than four days to answer, were it even to make it on to the agenda in Rome this week.

Instead, expect more make-do-and-mend, fine words, dramatic gestures, and then crossing of fingers and hoping it will all go away.

It won’t. And faithful but despairing Catholics will continue quietly to depart the pews.

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican expels US ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick from priesthood

Former Washington DC archbishop becomes the highest-ranking churchman to be dismissed from clerical state.

McCarrick was appointed cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II.

Disgraced former US Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been expelled from the Roman Catholic priesthood following allegations against him, including sexual abuse of minors, the Vatican announced.

McCarrick, 88, who became the first Roman Catholic prelate in nearly 100 years to lose the title of cardinal in July, has now become the highest profile church figure to be dismissed from the priesthood in modern times

Saturday’s announcement comes as the Church is still grappling with a decades-long sexual abuse crisis that has exposed how predator priests were moved from parish to parish instead of being defrocked, or turned over to civilian authorities in countries across the globe.

With the ruling, Pope Francis appears to be sending a signal that even those in the highest echelons of the hierarchy will be held accountable.

The ruling, made by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith three days ago, was announced ahead of next week’s meeting at the Vatican between the heads of national Catholic churches to discuss the global abuse crisis.

McCarrick appealed the decision, which was made secretly in the first instance on January 11, but it was upheld earlier this week and the pope has ruled that no further appeal would be allowed.

Defrocking means McCarrick can no longer call himself a priest or celebrate the sacraments, although he would be allowed to administer to a person on the verge of death in an emergency.

McCarrick was named as cardinal, or prince of the church, by Pope John Paul II, who was himself accused of overlooking allegations of sex abuse by Fr Marcial Maciel, perhaps the 20th century Catholic Church’s most notorious pedophile.

Fall from grace

The allegations against McCarrick, whose fall from grace stunned the US Catholic church, date back to decades ago when he was still rising to the top of the hierarchy there.

McCarrick, who became a power-broker as Archbishop of Washington, DC from 2001 to 2006, has been living in seclusion in a remote friary in Kansas.

He has responded publicly to only one of the allegations, saying he has “absolutely no recollection” of an alleged case of sexual abuse of a 16-year-old boy more than 50 years ago.

A Vatican statement said McCarrick was found guilty of the crimes of sexual abuse with minors and adults and the separate crime of solicitation, both with “the aggravating factor of the abuse of power”.

Pope Francis ordered a “thorough study” last year of all documents in Holy See offices concerning McCarrick.

McCarrick had already received one of the most severe punishments short of defrocking. When the pope accepted his resignation as cardinal last July, he also ordered him to refrain from public ministry and live in seclusion, prayer and penitence.

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican envoy to France investigated over sex assault allegations: Paris city hall

Archbishop Luigi Ventura

by Simon Carraud

French authorities are investigating allegations that the Vatican’s ambassador to France molested a junior official in Paris’ City Hall, a City Hall official said on Friday.

The official told Reuters that Archbishop Luigi Ventura, 74, who has held the post in Paris for the past decade, was suspected of having touched the buttocks of the male junior staffer during Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s New Year address.

Ventura “caressed in an insistent and repeated manner the young man’s buttocks during the ceremony. He put his hands on his buttocks several times,” the City Hall official said.

A judicial source confirmed a preliminary investigation against Ventura was underway.

The Vatican learned about the investigation from the media, spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said.

“The Holy See is waiting for investigation’s conclusion,” he added.

Pope Francis has come under fire over the Roman Catholic Church’s handling of a long-running sexual abuse crisis.

While much of the recent focus has been on the United States, Australia and Chile, the trial last month of the Archbishop of Lyon put the spotlight on Europe’s senior clergy again.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin is charged with failing to act on historic allegations of sexual abuse of boy scouts by a priest in his diocese. A verdict is due on March 7.

The Paris City Hall official said the allegations against Ventura involved a male employee from the mayor’s international relations team. He had been tasked with looking after Ventura during the ceremony.

City Hall filed a complaint against Ventura to Paris Prosecutor Remy Heitz’s office on January 23, six days after the alleged molestation

Complete Article HERE!