Cardinal Keith O’Brien faces new abuse claims

By MARTYN McLAUGHLIN

A FORMER trainee priest is to take legal action against Cardinal Keith O’Brien after claiming the cleric abused, groped and kissed him during a visit to a seminary.

cardinal-keith-o-brien-QUITSThe ex-seminarian, who was a teenager at the time of the incident, alleges that the disgraced former Archbishop of St
Andrews and Edinburgh abused him after inviting him into his room following dinner for an alcoholic drink.

The victim’s solicitor said his client had been left “disturbed” by allegations surrounding the cardinal in recent weeks, which had “brought the past back.” He decided to come forward in the hope of encouraging any other victims to speak out.

The claims by the former trainee priest, now married with children, are separate from the allegations that the cardinal “behaved inappropriately” towards three priests and a former priest in the 1980s.

With the Catholic Church in Scotland left in turmoil following the events of the past three weeks, the latest revelations have cast further shadows over the Vatican and will put added pressure on Pope Francis to mount a detailed investigation into the beleaguered cardinal.

Since the initial raft of allegations were made against him, the 74-year-old has stood down as an archbishop, and apologised to the church and the country for his sexual conduct, which had, he said, “fallen below the standards expected” of a priest, archbishop and cardinal.

The cardinal, who turns 75 on Sunday, vowed to spend the rest of his life in retirement, with no further part in the public life of the church in Scotland. While he chose not to participate in the recent papal conclave he is still a cardinal, and the possibility remains that Pope Francis could strip him of his red mitre.

The man at the centre of the latest allegations left the priesthood months after the alleged incident of abuse in the 1980s. He had been attending a senior seminary college after spending four years at Aberdeen’s Blairs College, where the cardinal was rector between 1980 and 1985.

In an interview recalling the alleged abuse when he was 19, he said: “We’d have some sort of drink in his room, beer or wine. He was just chatting away about the past, the future, and so on. He had been talking about himself, how he was going places, his career had been mapped out and that it was for God to decide.

“I can’t remember the exact phrase he used but he told me he would always look after me and how good a priest I’d be. Until this stage I’d thought how excellent it would be to be a priest in his diocese.

“But that’s when it happened. After a few minutes he released me and I was able to make my excuses and go. As an adult looking back, I ask myself how it could have happened. Neither of us was drunk.”

The former priest, now in his 50s, has asked to remain anonymous because he has children. His solicitor, Cameron Fyfe, said he thought the incident had been isolated until the recent

allegations came to light.

Mr Fyfe told The Scotsman: “My client told me he found the recent allegations very disturbing and they brought the past back, and made him decide to do something about it. I think he also thought there are other victims out there, and if he was to speak then others might come forward.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis called to restore the Church

Leonardo Boff’s weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia and in Portuguese on his blog. Some of his older columns are available in English at LeonardoBoff.com.

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

On the social networks, I had proclaimed that the future pope would be named Francis. And I was right. Why Francis? Because Saint Francis’s conversion began when he heard the Crucifix in Saint Damian’s Chapel say to him, “Francis, go and restore my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.” (St. Bonaventure,Legenda Maior II, 1).

leonardoboff1Francis took these words literally and rebuilt the Portiuncula Chapel in Assisi which still exists inside a huge cathedral. Then he realized that restoring the “Church that Christ saved through his blood” (ibid) was a spiritual matter. It was then that he started his movement for renewal of the Church that was presided by the most powerful pope in history, Innocent III. He began to live with the lepers and arm in arm with one of them, he went along the way preaching the gospel in the vernacular and not in Latin.

It’s good to know that Francis was never a priest but just a layman, Only at the end of his life, when the popes forbade lay people to preach, did he agree to become a deacon, on the condition that he not receive any kind of remuneration for the post.

Why did Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio choose the name Francis? I think it’s because he realized the Church is in ruins because of demoralization due to the various scandals that have affected the most precious thing it had: morality and credibility.

Francis isn’t a name; it’s a plan for a Church that is poor, simple, gospel-centered, and devoid of all power. It’s a Church that walks the way together with the least and last, that creates the first communities of brothers and sisters who recite the breviary under the trees with the birds. It’s an ecological Church that calls all beings those sweet words “brothers and sisters”. Francis was obedient to the Church and the popes and at the same time he followed his own path with the gospel of poverty in hand. So theologian Joseph Ratzinger wrote: “Francis’ ‘no’ to this imperial type of Church couldn’t be more radical; it’s what we could call a prophetic protest.”(in Zeit Jesu, Herder 1970, 269). Francis doesn’t talk; he simply inaugurates something new.

I think Pope Francis has in mind a church outside the palaces and symbols of power. He showed it when he appeared in public. Normally the Popes and mainly Ratzinger would put over their shoulders the mozzetta, that short capelet embroidered in gold that only emperors could wear. Pope Francis came dressed only in white. Three highly symbolic points stand out in his inaugural address.

First: He said that he wants to “preside with charity”, something that has been called for since the Reformation and by the best theologians of ecumenism. The Pope should not preside as an absolute monarch, clothed in sacred power, as provided for in canon law. According to Jesus, he should preside in love and strengthen the faith of the brothers and sisters.

Second: He gave a central place to the People of God, as Vatican II highlighted but which had been left aside by the two previous popes in favor of the hierarchy. Pope Francis humbly asked the people of God to pray for him and bless him. Only afterwards would he bless the people of God. This means that he’s there to serve and not be served. He asked them to help him build a path together and called for brotherhood for all humankind, where human being don’t recognize each other as brothers and sisters but are tied to economic forces.

Finally, he avoided all spectacle in the figure of Pope. He didn’t extend both arms to greet the people. He remained still, serious and sober, even frightened, I would say. One only saw a white figure who greeted the people affectionately. But he radiated peace and confidence. He showed his mood by speaking without official-sounding rhetoric, like a pastor speaks to the faithful.

It’s worth mentioning that he’s a pope who comes from the Great South, where the poorest of humankind are and where 60% of Catholics live. With his experience as pastor, with a new view of things, from below, he will be able to reform the Curia, decentralize the administration, and give the Church a new and credible face.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis’ run-in with Benedict XVI over the Prophet Mohammed

Pope Francis came close to losing his position within the Catholic Church after he criticised his predecessor seven years ago.

By Alasdair Baverstock

Benedict XVI meets Cardinal BergoglioIn 2005, then Pope Benedict, while quoting from an obscure medieval text, declared that the Prophet Mohammed, founder of the Islamic faith, was “evil and inhuman”, enraging the Muslim population and causing attacks on churches throughout the world before an apology was issued.

Reacting within days to the statements, speaking through a spokesman to Newsweek Argentina, then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio declared his “unhappiness” with the statements, made at the University of Regensburg in Germany, and encouraged many of his subordinates with the Church to do the same.

“Pope Benedict’s statement don’t reflect my own opinions”, the then Archbishop of Buenos Aires declared. “These statements will serve to destroy in 20 seconds the careful construction of a relationship with Islam that Pope John Paul II built over the last twenty years”.

The Vatican reacted quickly, removing one subordinate, Joaquín Piña the Archbishop of Puerto Iguazú from his post within four days of his making similar statements to the Argentine national media, sending a clear statement to Cardinal Bergoglio that he would be next should he choose to persist.
Reacting to the threats from Rome, Cardinal Bergoglio cancelled his plans to fly to Rome, choosing to boycott the second synod that Pope Benedict had called during his tenure as pontiff.

“The only thing that didn’t happen to Bergoglio was being removed from his post”, wrote investigative journalist Horacio Verbitsky in his column in left-wing daily newspaper Página/24. “The Vatican was very quick to react,”
Cristina Kirchner, the Argentina president, stated at the time that such diatribes were “dangerous for everyone”.

Complete Article HERE!

The Pope’s inbox: Top priorities for Benedict’s successor

Pope Benedict XVI’s successor takes the helm at a difficult time for the Catholic Church.

By Michael Hirst

In the West, the Church is struggling to fill pews as congregations dwindle, while the number of priests is also falling.

Meanwhile, the rise of evangelical Churches, especially in Latin America and Africa, is checking the growth of Catholic congregations, which are also threatened in some areas by religious intolerance.

Benedict XVI rejected calls for a debate on the issue of clerical celibacy, and reaffirmed the ban on Communion for divorced Catholics who remarry.

Equality laws being debated in several Western countries are a major issue. Benedict XVI has said the Church’s strict positions on abortion, euthanasia and homosexuality are “not negotiable”, and such outspoken orthodoxy has alienated liberal-minded Catholics.

And the next Pope will also have to shore up confidence in an institution that been rocked for several years by the sexual abuse of minors by priests.

Here are some of the major issues facing the next Pope once he is elected.

Managing the Vatican

vatileaksThe recent leaking of Vatican documents by the Pope’s butler have exposed the Church’s central government – the Curia – as a seriously dysfunctional institution.

It appears to be “riddled with rival factions and there were accusations of corruption in high places”, says veteran Vatican analyst Clifford Longley.

“The reform of the Vatican, which he only began at the margins, has a long way to go yet,” says Mr Longley. “Decentralisation is now imperative. His successor has a huge and unenviable task.”

Systems of oversight need to be put in place to ensure corruption is detected and halted, while Vatican financial transactions need to be made more transparent.

Equality laws
husband & husband“The one issue which overshadows all others is the growing pressure on Catholics because of equality laws in the West,” says Catholic commentator Austen Ivereigh.

Gay marriage legislation in France and the UK, the closure of Catholic adoption agencies in the UK, the battle in US courts between leading Catholic institutions and the State over sexual equality are all serving to have a chilling effect on the Church in the West, he says.

“Equality laws such as same-sex marriage make Christians and church organisations vulnerable to lawsuits and anti-discrimination claims.”

Ultimately, says Mr Ivereigh, the State could be developing positions through equality legislation that will serve to marginalise Catholics and the presence of the Church in public life.

“There is no bigger file in the Pope’s inbox,” he says.

Sex abuse
USCCB and Survivors of AbuseBenedict XVI has spoken of the Church’s shame for “unspeakable crimes” committed by paedophile priests, as well as offering heartfelt apologies to victims, groups of whom he has met during his trips overseas.

But many critics feel the Vatican was – and still is – far too slow, too reluctant and too secretive when it comes to acknowledging and investigating sexual abuse.

The new Pope will have the task of continuing to ensure perpetrators are held to account, and to ensure the changes introduced by Benedict XVI are implemented – particularly when it comes to bishops signing up to child protection guidelines.

David Clohessy, Executive Director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, told the BBC: “The next pontiff must do more to safeguard children.

“He should stop issuing apologies and making gestures, and instead demote bishops who continue to conceal heinous crimes.

“And he should insist that prelates work with secular authorities to craft and pass stronger child sex laws across the globe.”

The role of women
VATICAN-NUNS/Benedict XVI acknowledged progress on promoting women within the Church – particularly in its administrative bodies – was too slow.

In 2007 he pointed out that while Jesus chose 12 men as apostles, “among the disciples many women were also chosen. They played an active role within the context of Jesus’s mission”.

Despite this, though, he has refused to countenance women priests, delivering a fierce rebuke last year to Catholics who challenged the Church’s teaching.

And while certain women have risen to posts in the Vatican, others considered “difficult” have been removed, says Dr Gemma Simmonds, Director of the UK’s Religious Life Institute.

An investigation into statements made by a group of Catholic nuns in the US on homosexuality and the male-only priesthood caused controversy. Fr Drew Christiansen, a Jesuit priest and visiting scholar at Boston College, says it is one of the key shortcomings of the pontificate.

“The USA owes a huge debt to generous, heroic sisters who have dedicated their lives to offering education, healthcare and pastoral provision only to be subjected to an intrusive, inherently hostile process of investigation for alleged doctrinal errors,” says Dr Simmonds.

“The contrast between their treatment and that of paedophile clergy has caused widespread scandal.”

It is widely acknowledged that a culture shift needs to take place within the Vatican, and the Pope will be expected to promote women into senior management positions in the Curia.

Interfaith tensions
earth-globe-spaceThe welfare of persecuted Christians around the world, particularly in troubled areas of the Middle East, Asia and Africa, will be a major issue for the next Pope.
Pope Benedict XVI at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem on 12 May, 2009 The exodus of Christians from the Holy Land will be a troubling issue for the next Pope

The ongoing exodus of Christians from the Holy Land will add significance to the Pope’s approach to relations with Jews and Muslims.

Such a bridge-building attempt was not welcomed in some Muslim circles, particularly coming shortly after the Pope quoted from a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who labelled the Prophet Muhammad “evil and inhuman”.

Benedict XVI’s successor will be challenged to find common ground with Islam, which is on the rise in Africa and Asia where Roman Catholicism has a large base.

Benedict XVI irked Jews by forwarding the path of Pope Pius XII to sainthood despite criticisms that the wartime Pope did not do enough to prevent the Holocaust. He also angered some in the Church of England by encouraging those disaffected with Anglicanism to convert to Catholicism.

In general, relations with Anglicans and Jews seem to be on a good footing. But the new Pope will have to tread carefully to build bridges with the Muslim world while not alienating Jews and without being seen to pander to Islamic extremism.

Smaller congregations, fewer priests
Pope twitterThere are 1.2 billion Catholics around the world, a large proportion of whom (42%) come from Latin America. Europe, Catholicism’s historic heartland, is now home to just a quarter of Catholics.

However, Benedict XVI seemed reasonably untroubled by this numerical decline, envisioning a smaller, but more faithful, Church.

Key for his successor will be to consolidate this changing position of the Church within society. As it becomes more distant from official institutions, says Austen Ivereigh, the Church will have to ensure that those within the pews – and those who lead them – are well supported.

Similarly, it must continue to ensure it takes advantage of modern technology to spread its message.

The appointment of Fox News’ Rome correspondent Greg Burke as an adviser in 2012 signalled a modern communications strategy at the heart of Vatican decision-making that had previously been lacking. And then the Pope took to Twitter.

His successor will be expected to take a similarly enthusiastic approach to modern technology.

Complete Article HERE!

Well good luck to you sir!

Argentina’s Pope Bergoglio a moderate focused on the poor

By Alejandro Lifschitz

The first Latin American pope, Argentina’s Jorge Bergoglio is a moderate known for his strong negotiating skills as well as a readiness to challenge powerful interests.

pope francisHe is a modest man from a middle class family who is content to travel by bus.

Described by his biographer as a balancing force, Bergoglio, 76, has monk-like habits, is media shy and deeply concerned about the social inequalities rife in his homeland and elsewhere in Latin America.

“His character is in every way that of a moderate. He is absolutely capable of undertaking the necessary renovation without any leaps into the unknown. He would be a balancing force,” said Francesca Ambrogetti, who co-authored a biography of Bergoglio after carrying out a series of interviews with him over three years.

“He shares the view that the Church should have a missionary role, that gets out to meet people, that is active…. a church that does not so much regulate the faith as promote and facilitate it,” she added.

“His lifestyle is sober and austere. That’s the way he lives. He travels on the underground, the bus, when he goes to Rome he flies economy class.”

The former cardinal, the first Jesuit to become pope, was born into a middle-class family of seven, his father a railway worker and his mother a housewife.

He is a solemn man, deeply attached to centuries-old Roman Catholic traditions. Since rejecting a comfortable archbishop’s residence, he has lived in a small apartment outside Buenos Aires where he spends his weekends in solitude.

In his rare public appearances, Bergoglio spares no harsh words for politicians and Argentine society, and has had a tricky relationship with President Cristina Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner.

TURBULENT TIMES

Bergoglio became a priest at 32, nearly a decade after losing a lung due to respiratory illness and quitting his chemistry studies. Despite his late start, he was leading the local Jesuit community within four years, holding the post from 1973 to 1979.

Bergoglio’s vocational success coincided with the bloody 1976-1983 military dictatorship, during which up to 30,000 suspected leftists were kidnapped and killed — which prompted sharp questions about his role.

The most well-known episode relates to the abduction of two Jesuits whom the military government secretly jailed for their work in poor neighborhoods.

According to “The Silence,” a book written by journalist Horacio Verbitsky, Bergoglio withdrew his order’s protection of the two men after they refused to quit visiting the slums, which ultimately paved the way for their capture.

Verbitsky’s book is based on statements by Orlando Yorio, one of the kidnapped Jesuits, before he died of natural causes in 2000. Both of the abducted clergymen survived five months of imprisonment.

“History condemns him. It shows him to be opposed to all innovation in the Church and above all, during the dictatorship, it shows he was very cozy with the military,” Fortunato Mallimacci, the former dean of social sciences at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, once said.

Those who defend Bergoglio say there is no proof behind these claims and, on the contrary, they say the priest helped many dissidents escape during the military junta’s rule.

But in the Vatican, far removed from the dictatorship’s grim legacy, this quiet priest is expected to lead the Church with an iron grip and a strong social conscience.

In 2010, he challenged the Argentine government when it backed a gay marriage bill.

“Let’s not be naive. This isn’t a simple political fight, it’s an attempt to destroy God’s plan,” he wrote in a letter days before the bill was approved by Congress.

Complete Article HERE!