06/22/17

Archbishop: Church of England ‘colluded’ to hide sex abuse

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The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby listens to debate at the General Synod in London on Feb. 13, 2017.

By Sylvia Hui

The Church of England “colluded” with and helped to hide the long-term sexual abuse of young men by one of its former bishops, the head of the church said Thursday.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby apologized to the victims of ex-bishop Peter Ball as his church published a damning report that detailed how senior leaders did little about allegations against Ball over years and even appeared to cover up the case.

Welby ordered the independent report after Ball was convicted and imprisoned in 2015 for misconduct in public office and indecent assaults against teenagers and young men from the 1970s to 1990s. Ball, who admitted to abusing 18 young men, was released after serving 16 months.

The report said Ball’s conduct “caused serious and enduring damage to the lives of many men,” but at the time the church trivialized it, partly because of a lack of understanding about safeguarding vulnerable adult men.

Some victims reported that Ball, 85, encouraged them to engage in “spiritual exercises” involving naked praying and cold showers. One of his victims, Neil Todd, later took his own life.

“The church, at its most senior levels and over many years, supported him unwisely and displayed little care for his victims,” the report said.

Ball was arrested in 1992 for suspected indecent assault and given a police caution. He retired as bishop of Gloucester, but was allowed to continue work in churches and schools for years. He was not prosecuted until two decades later.

The report said George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, believed Ball to be “basically innocent” and played a lead role in enabling Ball’s return to ministry.

Carey and other church leaders also appeared to try to cover up the problem when they failed to pass on letters that raised concerns about Ball to police, the report said.

The church said Thursday that Welby has asked Carey to “consider his position” as an honorary assistant bishop in Oxford in light of the report.

Describing the report as “harrowing reading,” Welby said: “The church colluded and concealed rather than seeking to help those who were brave enough to come forward.”

“This is inexcusable and shocking behavior,” he said, adding that while most of what happened took place years ago “we can never be complacent, we must learn lessons.”

Vickery House, a retired Anglican priest who worked under Ball, was sentenced in 2015 to 6 ½ years in prison for sex attacks on teenagers and young men in the 1970s and ’80s.

Last year the church published a review that said senior clergymen were reportedly told of an unnamed priest’s alleged abuse of a young man, but the victim’s repeated attempts to get help and justice didn’t get anywhere.

The Anglican and Catholic churches are among institutions being investigated in a wide-ranging British probe into child sex abuse after it emerged that entertainers, clergy, senior politicians and others were implicated in decades-old abuse.

Complete Article HERE!

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06/18/17

A tale of two Cardinals: One offering welcome to LGBT Catholics and one withholding it

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Cardinal_Dolan

By Cahir O’Doherty

Four years ago Pope Francis stunned the Catholic world by declaring “if a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person?”

You’re the pope, came the answer – and if you’re going to take judging gay people off the table, then shouldn’t the church?

The implications of Francis’ statement are profound and are playing out internationally at a pace that – by the glacial standards of the church – might be called breakneck.

Here in the U.S. two prominent Irish American cardinals are already offering widely differing responses to the pope’s dramatic change in tone, if admittedly not in doctrine.

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, 65, was profiled this week in The New York Times for welcoming a group of openly gay people to mass.

An invitation “by a leader of Cardinal Tobin’s standing in the Roman Catholic Church in this country would have been unthinkable even five years ago,” the Times states, undeniably.

Tobin, who hails from Detroit, is Irish American on both sides and “is among a small but growing group of bishops changing how the American church relates to its gay members,” the Times says. “They are seeking to be more inclusive and signaling to subordinate priests that they should do the same.”

But in New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, 67, appears to be resisting any reconsideration in tone or doctrine over gays. This week he signaled he would take a different approach by publicly endorsing Daniel Mattson’s controversial new book, “Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay, How I Reclaimed My Sexual Identity and Found Peace.”

Mattson, a writer and public speaker, admits he is only attracted to the same sex but he refuses to call himself gay. In his new book he writes he only made “peace” with his same-sex attractions and his religious faith by embracing a life of chastity.

Cardinal Tobin

Paraphrasing Elisabeth Elliot, Mattson writes: “When a man or woman, a boy or girl, accepts the way of loneliness for Christ’s sake, there are cosmic ramifications. That person, in a secret transaction with God, actually does something for the life of the world. This seems almost inconceivable, yet it is true, for it is one part of the mystery of suffering which has been revealed to us.”

For “the life of the world”, Mattson has decided to remain chaste and embrace loneliness “in a transaction” with God. Although he admittedly still “suffers” from same sex attractions, his self-imposed chastity makes it impossible for him to express that part of himself, ever.

Dolan was effusive in his praise for Mattson’s sobering decision this week. “Mattson… shares with us how he has come to understand and accept God’s loving plan for his life, as well as the beauty and richness of the Church’s teaching on chastity…”

For Dolan and Mattson the “beauty and richness” of an LGBT orientation is only to be found in its total abnegation.

Given how apparently hard line he is on the matter, it’s no wonder Dolan was up with the larks to appear on CBS’s “This Morning” four years ago in a visit that clearly intended to reassure conservative Catholics it was business as usual regarding gay people, despite Francis’ surprising change in tone.

Now, four years later, if you’re LGBT and Catholic, the kind of welcome you receive in any Catholic church depends on which Catholic church you’re sitting in.

“The church must say it’s sorry for not having comported itself well many times, many times,” Francis said in his now famous interview four years ago.

“I believe that the church not only must say it’s sorry… to this person that is gay that it has offended,” said the pope. “But it must say it’s sorry to the poor, also, to mistreated women, to children forced to work.”

“When I say the church: Christians,” Francis later clarified. “The church is holy. We are the sinners.”

For Cardinal Tobin the very Irish act of offering welcome, which is extended to one and all, is a deep expression of his private faith in public action.

“The word I use is welcome,” Tobin told the Times. “These are people that have not felt welcome in other places. My prayer for them is that they do. Today in the Catholic Church, we read a passage that says you have to be able to give a reason for your hope. And I’m praying that this pilgrimage for them, and really for the whole church, is a reason for hope.”

Conservative clergy members have suggested that alongside Tobin’s welcome to gay Catholics he should have offered them a stern challenge to consider their ways, but the Cardinal demurred.

“That sounds a little backhanded to me,” he said. “It was appropriate to welcome people to come and pray and call them who they were. And later on, we can talk.”

After the Mass, he received “a fair amount of visceral hate mail from fellow Catholics,” Tobin says. One parishioner even went so far as to organize a letter-writing campaign calling on other bishops to “correct” him.

“And there’s a lot to correct in me, without a doubt,” Cardinal Tobin told the Times. “But not for welcoming people. No.”

For over two and a half decades gays were a line in the sand issue for the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee – and an unasked for complication to Dolan’s own ministry.

Having finally squared that circle, it’s remarkable to see the LGBT issue has lost none of it’s ability to divide Irish Americans and the Church from each other, even when the Irish Americans in question are high-ranking members of the Church themselves.

Complete Article HERE!

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06/16/17

Catholic Church Says Sexual Abuse by Clergy Still Unresolved With 25 New Cases: Annual Report

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Sexual abuse by clergy continues to be a problem within the Roman Catholic Church, according to a recent annual report.

By Michael Gryboski

The Church’s National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People found in May that between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016, there were 1,232 abused individuals who brought forth 1,318 allegations of sexual abuse by clergy.

“These allegations represent reports of abuse between a specific alleged victim and a specific alleged accused, whether the abuse was a single incident or a series of incidents over a period of time,” noted the annual report.

“Compared to 2014 and 2015, the number of allegations has continued to increase. This is due to six dioceses experiencing an influx of allegations during the 2016 audit year. Of the increase in these six dioceses, two were due to bankruptcy proceedings and the other four were due to the state opening the statute of limitations.”

While these allegations involved incidents of abuse from as far back as the 1940s, the report noted that 25 of the credible allegations came from “current minors.”

In a letter dated from March that was included in the report, National Review Board Chairman Francesco C. Cesareo stressed the need to stay vigilant in combating sex abuse within the Church.

“It is important for the bishops not to conclude that sexual abuse of minors by the clergy is a thing of the past and a distant memory,” wrote Cesareo.

“Any allegation involving a current minor should remind the bishops that they must rededicate themselves each day to maintaining a level of vigilance that will not permit complacency to set in or result in a less precise and less thorough implementation of the [Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People].”

At the start of the 21st century, the Catholic Church was rocked by an international scandal surrounding a wave of sexual abuse allegations leveled against priests and efforts by church leaders to cover up said abuse.

In response, the Church took measures to defrock priests and prevent future abuse cases. This included the creation of the National Review Board and its later expansion.

By 2014, the Church also spent approximately $3 billion due to the scandal, with the money going to settlements with victims and child protection initiatives.

The National Review Board’s latest annual report comes not long after Pope Francis oversaw prayers at a Good Friday service in April wherein he appeared to ask forgiveness for the Church’s sex abuse scandal.

According to Reuters, this allusion to the scandal came when the pontiff mentioned the “shame for all the times that we bishops, priests, brothers and nuns scandalized and wounded your body, the Church.”

Complete Article HERE!

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06/14/17

Let’s call child sexual abuse in the church what it is: Catholic extremism

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I’m taken with Abbott’s notion that we need to correctly name a challenge in order to meet it. Bland labels allow abusers to hide behind their institution

‘As a Catholic, I shudder at the thought. But I know that such labels would be truthful’

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Call it the Abbott Test for Moral Action. We can’t defeat a threat until we properly identify and name it, and the most important threats are those that have already proven deadly.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott led a chorus of voices last week demanding that political leaders define recent deadly terrorist attacks as Islamic. Abbott rejected concerns that such comments could inflame anti-Islam sentiment: “Islamophobia hasn’t killed anyone,” he said.

Abbott is wrong on that point. The recent murders in Portland, Oregon appear to be just the latest prompted by “Islamophobia.” But Abbott is right that we ought to correctly identify the mortal threats we face.

I’ve never had a problem using phrases like “radical Islam” or “extremist Islamic terrorists.” Being theologically trained, I understand that scripture is always interpreted in context and culture, and some interpretations are radical, extreme and seriously flawed.

I’m taken with this Abbottian notion that society needs to correctly name a challenge in order to meet it. I don’t often agree with the former prime minister, but he’s correct that we could better define those things that are currently killing Australians.

Let’s start with “institutional sexual abuse”. The current royal commission into institutional sexual abuse has heard thousands of submissions from victims and their families. Too many victims’ stories include suicide. In Ballarat, one police officer compiled a dossier of 43 deaths – suicides, overdoses and others – attributable to sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests and brothers in that diocese alone. (Another police report, Operation Plangere, disputed this finding, but Louise Milligan’s carefully researched book “Cardinal” lays out the flaws in Plangere’s investigations.)

“Institutional sexual abuse” is a phrase that describes where the abuse occurs rather than who perpetrated the abuse and who the victims are. I acknowledge the phrase has validity insofar as there are common factors in institutions that foster abuse, including absolute control of vulnerable people, lack of oversight, and a preference for organisational processes over the rule of law.

But the label “institutional sexual abuse” is too bland to confront us with the terror and deadly impact on the victims. It allows abusers – individually or as a class – to continue hiding behind the institution.

The phrase also fails to catch the important differences between institutions that lead some organisations to support more awful and systematic abuse than others.

The royal commission has heard from victims of abuse in many religious and state-run institutions, but the Catholic church (my church, and Abbott’s too) stands out. Over 4,000 cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic church were reported to the royal commission. These reports showed wilful ignorance by church leaders, systematic shielding of abusers and a continual preference for the perpetrator and the institution over the victim.

The royal commission is likely to make findings about how church beliefs and structures allowed abuse to occur. In Australia and elsewhere, such as in Ireland, priests, bishops and nuns have testified to a belief that prayer could cure paedophiles. Some have pointed to a belief that it was God’s work to protect the church’s reputation by not reporting abuse to the police. Had the church been drawn into such scandal, thousands of souls might have lost their faith and been in jeopardy.

The end result of this flawed theology and ecclesiology is the nauseating, terrifying, grotesque, ritualised and repeated violent assaults and rapes of children by Catholic clergy and religious.

Should we label this “Catholic terrorism”? The Australian victims of sexual abuse have been terrorised by the Catholic church, no doubt. Is it “radical Catholic ideology” or “extremist Catholic belief” to cover up the sin of sexual abuse for “the greater good”? It’s hard to deny it.

As a Catholic, I shudder at the thought. But I know that such labels would be truthful. And I know, as Abbott argues, that if we really want to solve the problem of the child sexual abuse by Catholic religious (priests, brothers and nuns) then we should name it appropriately.

I posed this question on Twitter last week: should we call this Catholic extremism? One of the police officers who blew the whistle on the sexual abuse of children in the Australian Catholic church, Peter Fox, responded “I’d call it organised crime.” He’s right. But it is more than that. It is a warped, extreme and deeply flawed interpretation of the Catholic faith that led to such crimes.

And we should not comfort ourselves that this distorted theology and these crimes are necessarily a thing of the past. If anything, seminaries are becoming more orthodox and traditional. Little has changed in structure or governance of the Catholic church. As Cardinal Pell told commissioner McClellan, the church’s structure came from God. Why would the church change it?

Under the Abbott test, we should call such flawed thinking out. We must name it. It’s Catholic extremism. It’s killing and terrorising Australians.

Unless we see it for what it is, we will remain powerless to stop it.

Complete Article HERE!

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06/2/17

Church saw sharp rise in clergy sex abuse victims who came forward last year

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The number of victims who brought new claims of sexual abuse by clergy rose sharply last year, fueled in large part by a surge of allegations from Minnesota, according to a report released Thursday by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

That state temporarily lifted its statute of limitations in 2013 to allow alleged victims older than 24 to sue for past abuse, and the deadline to file such claims was in late May 2016, according to the report. The deadline is believed to have prompted a rush of last-minute filings.

The annual report from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which covers July 2015 to June 2016, said 911 victims came forward with allegations the church deemed credible, the vast majority of which were from adults who said they were abused when they were children.

That was up from 384 in the previous 12-month span, and it marked the highest total since 1,083 victims came forward in 2004, the first year the bishops conference published an annual report on the topic amid the fallout of the abuse crisis that was exposed in the early 2000s.

“I am grateful that allegations are being reported,” Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the conference’s Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection, wrote in the report. “I am grateful that alleged victims are being treated with sensitivity and care. I am grateful that alleged offenders are offered treatment and supervision. But much work is still needed.

“May God bless our victims/survivors and our endeavors toward healing, justice, and peace,” he added.

The report did not break down the number of complaints in the most recent year that came from Minnesota but said they were a “substantial portion.”

The report also noted that the November 2015 release of the movie “Spotlight,’’ which recounted The Boston Globe’s investigation of the clergy-abuse crisis, “helped bring the issue back into the mind of the general public.’’

“As the movie illustrates, it was because of a few brave individuals who had the courage to come forward that the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church was brought to light,” the report says.

Victims who came forward during the most recent reporting year included 26 minors, the report said.

The report’s definition of “minors” included people under age 18 or anyone who “habitually lacks the use of reason.”

As of June 30, 2016, two of the 26 cases had been substantiated, while 11 had been deemed unsubstantiated by church officials. The rest remained under investigation, the report said.

The offenders in the substantiated cases were removed from ministry, as were 26 other priests or deacons accused of past abuse, officials said.

The report did not break down the location of the allegations but said its data was based on information from all 196 diocese and eparchies of the bishops conference, which includes the Archdiocese of Boston, and from 180 of the 232 religious institutes of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men.

The latest figures mean that between 1950 and June 2016, more than 18,500 people nationwide made clergy abuse allegations deemed credible by US Catholic officials, and more than 6,700 clerics have been accused of abuse, church records show.

Activists have questioned whether the church’s count of clergy sex abuse victims is lower than the actual total.

The abuse crisis has cost the church billions of dollars.

Between 1950 and June 2016, about $3.7 billion was spent on settlement-related costs, including $141 million during the most recent year, according to the church.

Complete Article HERE!

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