The Vatican has announced the arrest of a diplomat accused in a U.S.-Canada-Vatican investigation of child pornography.
The Vatican on Saturday said Monsignor Carlo Capella was being held in gendarmerie barracks inside the Vatican, and that his arrest follows a Vatican investigation.
Capella was recalled from the United States by the Vatican secretary of state last year after being caught up in a three-nation investigation into child porn. Police in Windsor, Ontario said Capella allegedly uploaded child porn from a social networking site while visiting a place of worship from Dec. 24-27, 2016
The Vatican recalled Capella after the U.S. State Department notified it on Aug. 21 of a “possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images” by one of its diplomats in Washington.
A group of Catholic priests in Brazil have been arrested, accused of embezzling £426,000 of church donations, funeral fees and fundraising cash.
The Bishop of Formosa, Jose Ribeiro, along with five clergymen and three lay people were detained in prison in Goiás this week charged with stealing over 2 million reais (£426,000) from church funds.
A police raid on one of the priests’ home saw officers prise open a false wall in to find some £19,200 in plastic bags hidden in a secret storage space.
It’s alleged the money was stolen over a three-year period from tithes, donations, fundraising events and from fees collected for ceremonies such as baptisms and weddings.
According to state prosecutors, the bishop, who was appointed to the Formosa diocese in 2014, is suspected of leading a sophisticated scheme that diverted funds from church coffers.
Phone taps uncovered the alleged web of deceit with conversations apparently revealing how the group
laundered the money by purchasing a cattle ranch, a lottery agency, mobile phones, luxury cars, designer watches and gold chains. Large amounts of cash in foreign currencies were also found.
Prosecutor Fernanda Balbinot, said: ‘There were indications the money was used for personal expenses and that cars from the Formosa diocese were used for private purposes.
‘Instead of presenting tax bills and expense receipts with the correct amount, documents were allegedly produced saying there was nothing to declare.’
The investigation is reported to have also uncovered evidence that priests, involved in the scheme, paid the bishop a monthly ‘protection allowance’ of between 7,000 to 10,000 reais (£1,500 to £2,100) to keep their jobs.
Prosecutor Douglas Chegyry said to Brazilian media: ‘The information we have obtained is that in order to remain in the more profitable parishes that generated more money, the priests paid a cash allowance to the bishop.’
In the raid on the home of one of the accused, Monsignor Epitácio Cardoso Pereira, agents used a penknife to prise open the fake panels to discover 90,000 reais (£19,200) in plastic bags hidden in a secret storage space.
They also seized three iPhones, a Macbook and found more money hidden in draws around the home which the defendant claimed did not belong to him.
Police officers were later filmed taking hours to count the haul.
The investigation into the Formosa Diocese accounts began last year after members of the congregation alleged irregularities and misuse of assets by the Catholic Church.
Churchgoers also claimed the expenses of the episcopal house rose disproportionately, from 5,000 reais to 35,000 reais (£1,000 to £7,500) following the arrival of Bishop Ribeiro. At the time, the cleric denied any wrongdoing.
Prosecutors have charged the defendants with misappropriation, money laundering, ‘ideological falsehood’ and criminal association.
Lawyers for the accused refute the charges and said they will prove their clients innocence.
Two days after the arrests, Pope Francis named Father Paulo Mendes, who is archbishop of Uberaba, as a temporary replacement in the Goiás diocese which has 33 churches distributed over 20 parishes.
Former leader of the Roman Catholic church in Scotland who resigned after revelations about his relationships with young priests
The charge of hypocrisy, if proved, can destroy the career of any cleric, and Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who has died aged 80, was caught out spectacularly failing to practise what he had so vehemently preached. As the leader of the Catholic church in Scotland from 2003, he opposed very publicly, and in often intemperate language, all efforts to end discrimination against those in same sex relationships. Gay marriage, he said, was “grotesque”.
But then, with the media spotlight on him in February 2013 as the only British voter at the forthcoming conclave of cardinals to elect a new pope, it was revealed that O’Brien himself had had a homosexual relationship. His subsequent fall from grace was as spectacular as it was unprecedented. The Vatican, usually to be found denying such revelations and standing by senior clerics against all odds, effectively sacked O’Brien overnight and banned him from attending the conclave. (It turned out that they had known of the allegations against him since at least the previous year but, sadly typically, it was only when the charges were made public that action was taken.)
At first, O’Brien simply retreated to a retirement home in East Lothian, but his continuing presence in Scotland fuelled the row about his past behaviour. Allegations were made of cronyism, financial misconduct and a culture of secrecy. It was revealed by another Scottish bishop that, in 2012, O’Brien had blocked plans by his episcopal colleagues to commission an investigation into claims of child abuse by priests going back 60 years.
The Vatican stepped in and ordered O’Brien to leave the country. It sent in its own investigator, and appointed, Leo Cushley, a Motherwell-born Vatican official as O’Brien’s successor in the archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh. To Cushley fell the task of repairing the damage done by the O’Brien scandal which, he said, had “distressed many demoralised faithful Catholics and made the church less credible to those who are not Catholic”. In March 2015, Pope Francis formally accepted O’Brien’s resignation, but allowed him to keep the title cardinal, while ordering him not to set foot in Scotland, nor to say mass or appear in public.
It is tempting to dismiss O’Brien as a prime example of the sort of double standards in matters of sexual morality that has for so long plagued and discredited a Catholic leadership fond of promoting a set of near-impossible standards in intimate relationships for the laity that has alienated so many of the faithful. And, indeed, he was. But O’Brien was not an out-and-out reactionary, nor was he always so out of touch with reality. The very day before he was outed, he had spoken up bravely, forcefully and sensibly against his Church’s cherished official line that married men could not be priests.
With hindsight, he may even have been making a veiled reference to his own private circumstances when he said: “It is a free world and I realise that many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy as they lived out their priesthood and felt the need of a companion, of a woman, to whom they could get married and raise a family of their own.”
It was a remark that arguably chimed better with the humane Keith O’Brien that many had come to know and respect in the years before he became leader of the Scottish Catholic church. As the number two figure in the hierarchy north of the border from 1985, he had won a reputation in church circles and beyond as a thoughtful, grounded and occasionally outspokenly liberal figure.
The change in O’Brien’s public persona happened overnight. The Vatican’s announcement in 2003 that O’Brien, the archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, was to become Scotland’s third cardinal since the Reformation, was inevitably followed by a round of interviews. In them, he reiterated what he had said many times before – that there needed to be more discussion within the church on contentious subjects such as clerical celibacy and contraception. He would welcome a fresh look at church teaching on the latter, he told reporters.
Within hours of these remarks being published, however, he was busy backtracking. During a routine service in St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, he surprised worshippers by reading out a personal “profession of faith” that, it was said, had been forced on him by the Vatican. In it he pledged 100% backing to the church’s ban on all artificial contraception and its insistence that priests be male and celibate.
O’Brien thereafter never returned to his previous concerns for dialogue and did not depart from the letter of church teaching in his public pronouncements, right up to his remarks on priestly celibacy on the eve of the papal conclave. And while he maintained his former genial ease when speaking in pulpits, on platforms or in TV studios, his message became ever more uncompromising and, some said, political.
In 2007, marking the 40th anniversary of the introduction of the Abortion Act, he warned pro-choice Catholic legislators that they could not regard themselves as full members of the church and provocatively (and insensitively, some said) described the termination rate in Scotland as equivalent to “two Dunblane massacres a day”.
O’Brien, a former school science teacher, described proposals in the human fertilisation and embryology bill to allow scientists to create part-human, part-animal embryos for use in stem-cell experimentation, as “Nazi-style experiments” and “a monstrous attack on human rights, human dignity and human life”. Within days, the Labour government had capitulated and conceded what it had previously been refusing – a free vote on the most contentious clauses for MPs.
It caused O’Brien to be held up by traditionalist Catholics south of the border as a rebuke to their own leaders. The English and Welsh Catholic church, a separate entity in the eyes of the Vatican, had by contrast tended to adopt a softly-softly stance in the political arena, working increasingly behind closed doors in Whitehall and Westminster to raise concerns with ministers and anxious not to be seen as out on a limb. O’Brien’s success in forcing Brown into a U-turn may even have caused his English and Welsh counterparts to take a more robust stance, notably in opposing gay marriage, albeit to no avail.
The son of Alice (nee Moriarty) and Mark O’Brien, he was born in Ballycastle, County Antrim. His father, who had served with distinction in the Royal Navy during the second world war, was unable to find work on being demobbed, a result of the sectarianism in Northern Ireland workplaces at the time. The family was forced to emigrate to Scotland. The memory lived on with O’Brien who, as cardinal, tackled head-on what he called Scotland’s “secret sectarianism”, and attended Celtic-Rangers matches with other church leaders to try to calm the religious rivalry that traditionally accompanied such games. He even pushed – unsuccessfully – for the Act of Settlement to be amended to remove the bar on a Catholic monarch because it was a tacit endorsement of anti-Catholic prejudice.
O’Brien completed a degree in chemistry and mathematics at Edinburgh University and was ordained a priest in 1965. He initially combined being a curate with teaching in the local Catholic high school in Cowdenbeath, but from 1972 had his own parishes in first Kilsyth and then Bathgate. In 1978 he was named spiritual director of St Andrew’s College at Drygrange, and then in 1980 rector of St Mary’s College, the junior seminary (since closed) at Blairs. It was at these institutions that what he later referred to as “drunken fumblings” took place with younger men in his care.
In 1985, he was named to succeed Cardinal Gordon Grey as archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh. It was not until Grey’s death in 1993, however, that Rome had to name a new Scottish cardinal. While O’Brien had a good working relationship with his only other rival for the honour, his Glasgow counterpart, Archbishop Thomas Winning, the two were very different characters. Winning was a spiritual pugilist, a self-conscious prince of the church, a man of firm and traditional opinions, qualities which won him the nod from Rome.
Operating in Winning’s shadow had its advantages for O’Brien. In 1996, when Roddy Wright, the bishop of Argyll, was engulfed in scandal on account of his relationships with women, it was technically O’Brien’s responsibility to sort out the mess, but Winning took charge – and on this occasion the flak for the Church’s hypocrisy.
And in 1999, at a synod of European bishops, while Winning was patiently engaged in lobbying Vatican officials, O’Brien was able to win plaudits for coming clean in public about the degree of Rome’s control and interference in local churches. He told reporters, in relation to a joint pastoral plan of the Scottish and English bishops that Vatican officials had vetoed, that “we [bishops] know that we are vicars of Christ in our own dioceses, but the bishops here in Rome don’t think that”.
However, with Winning’s sudden death in 2001, O’Brien’s turn as cardinal had come – and with it the behaviour expected of those in this exclusive club of 120 or so international leaders of the Catholic church. He was not entirely orthodox. He celebrated his consecration in Rome as a cardinal, for example, by waving the Scottish flag in St Peter’s Square, a typically exuberant and relaxed gesture captured in a picture that graced many newspaper front covers around the world.
But in public, he ceased to express doubt or admit that anything other than the official church line had merit. He became a formidable political operator, helped by the fact that the new Scottish parliament was located in his diocese. He was courted in particular by Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish Nationalists, who was anxious to break the traditional close link between Scotland’s Catholics and the Labour party. In 2006, O’Brien appeared to endorse aspirations for Scottish independence, though he later played down the remark.
In private, friends said, O’Brien remained the same man he had always been – laid-back, self-deprecating, funny – but those who had hoped this persuasive prelate might be a force for reform in the upper echelons of the church were disappointed.
He lived out his retirement in exile in Northumberland and then Newcastle, but his name will remain as a rebuke to the church’s sometimes overbearing claim to moral authority in all matters.
The Vatican on Friday removed the suspended Guam archbishop from office and ordered him not to return to the island after convicting him of some charges in a sex abuse trial.
The Vatican didn’t say what exactly Archbishop Anthony Apuron had been convicted of, and the sentence was far lighter than sentences handed down against high-profile elderly prelates found guilty of molesting minors. It amounts to an early retirement anywhere in the world but Guam, a remote U.S. Pacific territory.
Apuron, 72, is just shy of the retirement age of 75.
The Vatican spokesman declined to comment. Calls placed to the tribunal judge weren’t answered. Apuron’s whereabouts weren’t immediately known, but he was in Rome last month.
Pope Francis named a temporary administrator for Guam in 2016 after Apuron was accused by former altar boys of sexually abusing them when he was a priest. Dozens of cases involving other priests on the island have since come to light, and the archdiocese is facing more than $115 million in civil lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse at the hands of priests.
Apuron strongly denied the charges and said he was a victim of a “calumny” campaign. He wasn’t criminally charged. The statute of limitations had expired.
A statement from the tribunal in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles sex abuse cases, said Apuron had been convicted of some of the accusations against him. It said he had been ordered removed from office and could no longer live in the archdiocese of Guam.
The conviction and sentence can be appealed. If Apuron appeals, the penalties are suspended until the case is resolved.
In the past, when an elderly or infirm priest has been convicted by the Vatican of sexually abusing minors, he has often been removed from ministry and sentenced to a lifetime of “penance and prayer.” Younger priests convicted of abuse have been defrocked, removed from ministry or forbidden from presenting themselves as priests.
Pope Francis, however, has intervened in a handful of cases to lower sentences, and there are several high-ranking prelates in the Vatican who oppose defrocking convicted molesters and have long lobbied for more lenient sentences against their brother priests.
In the case of Apuron, no restrictions on his ministry as a priest were announced in the Vatican statement.
An ailing, wheelchair-bound Apuron greeted Francis at the end of the pope’s Feb. 7 general audience.
The Catholic community on Guam has been convulsed by the Apuron scandal, with weekly protests also involving accusations of grave financial problems in the archdiocese and the purchase of a valuable property by Apuron for a diocesan seminary that he actually turned over to a controversial Catholic movement to run.
A lay group that agitated for Apuron’s removal, “Concerned Catholics of Guam,” was decisive in pushing for an investigation into the archdiocesan seminary, which Apuron opened in 1999 and moved to an 18-acre (seven-hectare) property thanks to a $2 million anonymous donation.
A Vatican-backed inquiry into the seminary found that the property’s control had effectively been transferred to the Neochatechumenal Way administrators without Vatican approval.
The seminary controversy came to a head when the Carmelite order of religious sisters revealed it had provided the $2 million donation, but said the money had been intended for an archdiocesan seminary to train diocesan priests, not a Neocatechumenal Way seminary to train missionaries.
In a remarkable 2016 news conference to denounce the transfer, Carmelite Mother Superior Dawn Marie came out of her cloister and announced that her small community of nuns had left the island after a 50-year presence because of the “toxic environment” created by the controversy.
“My mother, almost 90 years of age, had to discover that from the Belfast Telegraph three weeks ago.”
By Paul Hosford
FORMER IRISH PRESIDENT Mary McAleese has defended her comments about the Catholic Church’s attitudes to women, while revealing her brother was abused by a priest.
Speaking in Rome last week, McAleese said that she believed women should be ordained as priests.
“Pope Francis has said that the issue of women’s ordination isn’t up for discussion, that women are permanently excluded from priesthood.
“I believe that women should be ordained, I believe the theology on which that is based is pure codology. I’m not even going to be bothered arguing it. Sooner or later it’ll fall apart, fall asunder under its own dead weight.”
She said that many in the Church had made Jesus Christ a “rather unattractive politician who is just misogynistic and homophobic and anti-abortion”.
The former President, a devout Catholic, today defended those comments and spelled out her frustrations with the Catholic Church. In a wide-ranging, emotional interview she told Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio One that she felt free to make the comments.
“I’m asking you a question now – do you think there’s a book somewhere – have you seen a book of phrases that are appropriate for ex-Presidents to use?
“I don’t think there is. I’m not speaking as a President or ex-President, I’m speaking as a member of the church.
“My church tells me I have a duty to offer my opinion on matters that I believe are for the good of the church.”
McAleese said that women had “drifted” from the church and said that the church would “pay a price for that”.
She said the hierarchical church needed a major overhaul, but paid tribute to the pastoral church, which she said was “infused with love”.
McAleese became upset when asked about Malachy Finnegan. Fr Malachy Finnegan, who died in 2002, was a teacher at St Colman’s College in Newry from 1967 to 1976. Abuse claims against him were detailed in a BBC Spotlight programme in February. The revelation that John McAreavey had officiated at the funeral mass of Finnegan led to his resignation as bishop of Dromore earlier this month.
McAleese said that Finnegan’s abuse had touched her family.
My youngest brother, my baby brother, the youngest of nine children, was seriously, physically, sadistically abused by Malachy Finnegan.
My mother, almost 90 years of age, had to discover that from the Belfast Telegraph three weeks ago.
“My wonderful and so loved brother…to think that he never felt he could tell anyone…”
McAleese said that the abuse went on for her brother’s entire time at the school.
“The first complaints about Malachy Finnegan go back to the 1970s, which means there is a body of evidence of people able to do something about this, but didn’t.”
She said that there is “very serious questions to be asked” and said that it “shouts for an inquiry”.
She went on to say that she believes that the debate on Eighth Amendment should take heed of the opinions of obstetricians who believe the law fails in its stated aims of protecting women.
She said that “at the moment” that testimony is “quite compelling” and has raised questions for her. However she said it was “infinitely more complicated” than the same-sex marriage debate.
“I would say very strongly that we’re being offered two models – a medical intervention model and it may very well be that that is so tightly drawn that obstetricians say a mother’s life is at stake.
“The move to a non-medical model – where a foetus is healthy – is quite a jump for the Irish people. But that is a matter for the Oireachtas.
She said that she had a “lot of reading to do” before the vote, but said that she would not be involved in the campaign in any way.