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!

Gay priests ask Pope Francis to reconsider banning gay men from priesthood

Working Group of Catholic Gay Pastors warns scapegoating gay priests will not solve the causes of recent sex abuse scandals

An organization of gay Catholic priests has written a letter to Pope Francis asking him not to endorse efforts to ban gay men from becoming priests.

The letter, a copy of which was released Wednesday, comes a week before bishops from around the world are expected to convene a meeting in Vatican City to address the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

Unfortunately, conservative interests are expected to hijack the meeting to push their own agenda: banning all gay men from the priesthood, based on an outdated stereotype that a person cannot experience same-sex attraction and be celibate.

The letter, signed by the chair of the Netherlands-based Working Group of Catholic Gay Pastors on behalf of the group’s members, objects to Francis’ past statements and a recent papal document advocating a continuation of policy (in place under Francis’ predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI) that prevents openly gay men from being ordained as priests.

“Although the document states that the Church deeply respects the persons in question, it also makes the arbitrary and unfounded statement that: ‘Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating appropriately to both men and women,’” the letter reads.

The group then enumerates and explains the reasons why it believes there should not be a ban on gay priests, noting that there are already countless numbers of priests who are gay, and that their sexual orientation alone does not disqualify them from living a celibate life or being able to provide religious guidance to their congregations.

“Heterosexual and homosexual seminarians and priests who are aware of the nature of their sexuality, who accept it as given by God, who are not ashamed about it, who can (learn to) speak about it in an appropriate and meaningful way, and who (learn to) deal with it properly in their role as a priest (or seminarian, are not the problem in our opinion,” the letter reads. “On the contrary, they can and do function well and have a valuable role to play within our Faith and Church.”

In contrast, the group argues, it is priests who “deny, disown, or suppress” their sexuality who are more likely to have problems, which can manifest themselves in the form of abuse or sexually inappropriate conduct.

“We have the distinct impression that the Vatican and the Congregation for the Clergy and perhaps even you yourself, tend to suggest that those priests who are openly gay are the ones responsible for the sexual abuse of children and minors. We disagree with this,” the letter continues.

“We believe that the current major crisis with respect to this context is primarily the result of the disapproval, suppression, denial and the poor integration of sexuality, and especially homosexuality, on the part of many individual priests and within our Church as a whole. One is simply unable or unwilling to discuss it, or banned from mentioning it, except within the sacrament of confession. In our view this is detrimental to the Church as a whole and to the priests themselves in particular.”

The priests also thank Pope Francis for showing consideration and compassion to gay and lesbian Catholics, but the current policy banning gay priests is in conflict with that consideration. As such, they ask Pope Francis to “review and correct the stipulation in Il dono della vocazione presbiterale that by definition disqualifies homosexual candidates to the celibate priesthood.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director, New Ways Ministry, a national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBTQ people and the Church, says that, after a summer of headlines exposing several major abuse scandals, it has become apparent that the church hierarchy — and particularly conservative elements within it — are positioned to blame the presence of gay priests as one of the roots of the sexual abuse crisis.

Cardinal McCarrick’s case, which received the most attention, was not a case of pedophilia. It was a case of adult non-consensual sex,” DeBernardo says. “So it quickly got labeled that this was not pedophilia, but a problem with gay priests. And a lot of the anti-gay forces in the Church quickly glommed onto that, and saw it as an opportunity. And it has since snowballed to becoming one of the issues that will be discussed [at next week’s meeting].”

DeBernardo says that, even though Catholic Church teaching is not to condemn homosexuality, but only homosexual acts, there has been a deliberate conflation of being gay with being sexually active.

“There are anti-gay advocates in the Church who have, since a long time ago, believed the myth that if you are gay, you are sexually active, which is a totally ignorant and irresponsible definition,” says DeBernardo. “While there are some gay priests who have not been able to live up to vows of celibacy, there are many heterosexual priests who have not as well. And there are many more gay priests who have lived up to that promise.

“The other reason I think they’re trying to rid the Church of gay priests is that they do not want to admit that gay people have lived holy lives and lives of service to the Church,” he adds.

DeBernardo worries that the Church risks failing to address the underlying causes of the sexual abuse crisis if they are obsessed with scapegoating only gay priests. Instead, he says, bishops and clergy should be looking at the secretive culture of the church, its treatment of priests as better or holier than they lay people in their parishes, a lack of support systems for priests — including discussions of what healthy celibacy looks like — and the lack of a screening process that might raise warning flags about would-be abusers.

DeBernardo also adds there may be more sinister motivations behind the scapegoating, including a desire to push the Church in a more authoritarian or conservative direction.

“The ones calling for scapegoating of gay priests are same ones who want to bring down the papacy of Pope Francis, because they see him as too liberal,” he notes. “Making the charge that he’s protecting gay priests is a way of weakening his authority. And it’s effective, because how do you prove there aren’t gay priests? It’s like the bogeyman in the closet. If you bring it up, it’s assumed that it’s real.”

Complete Article HERE!

Dying Irish priest writes celibacy is a sin against God and nature

Father Daniel O’Leary.

An Irish-born priest spoke out against celibacy in the priesthood in the final days of his life.

A priest born in County Kerry has used his final words to question the compulsory celibacy undertaken by priests in the Catholic Church. Fr Daniel O’Leary died in England on January 21, 2019, but used his final column with international Catholic weekly The Tablet to voice his dissent to the requirement.

O’Leary, a well-known spiritual writer, was diagnosed with cancer last June, and wrote the piece, which was published posthumously, so as to be “free of fear and bitterness, and full of love and desire, as I step up for the final inspection.”

“I now believe, with all my heart, that compulsory celibacy is a kind of sin, an assault against God’s will and nature,” O’Leary stated. 

“I’m just pointing out that one of the fall-outs of mandatory celibate life is the violence it does to a priest’s humanity, and the wounds that it leaves on his ministry.

“Please remember, I’m only recalling the memories, convictions and awakenings that are filling my soul during these ever-so-strange final days and nights,” he added, acknowledging that some within the church would regard his words as traitorous.

Describing clericalism as “a collective malaise,” O’Leary continued to write: “The enemy, we were warned, back in the 1950s, was a failure in prayer; falling in love was the cancer; suppression, sublimation and confession were the cure. Emotion was the threat; detachment was the safeguard; becoming too human was the risk; the subtle carapace of clericalism was the precaution.

“[It] keeps vibrant, abundant life at bay; it quarantines us for life from the personal and communal expression of healing relationships, and the lovely grace of the tenderness which Pope Francis is trying to restore to the hearts of all God’s people.”

Father Daniel O’Leary was born in Rathmore, Co Kerry in 1937. He trained to be a priest in All Hallows College, Dublin, before moving to England.

An award-winning author of 12 books, he was a regular contributor to The Tablet, The Furrow and other publications, and held Masters degrees in theology, spirituality and religious education.

Complete Article HERE!

Senator criticises pope’s ‘no room’ for gay clergy in church comment

‘Being gay is not transient, it’s not a phase,’ says former seminarian Jerry Buttimer

‘In our societies it even seems that homosexuality is fashionable,’ says Pope Francis.

By Barry Roche

Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer has expressed disappointment at Pope Francis’ declaration that there is “no room” in the Catholic church for gay priests.

“The issue of homosexuality is a very serious issue that must be adequately discerned from the beginning with the candidates,” Pope Francis says in a book released in Italy on Saturday.

“In our societies it even seems that homosexuality is fashionable and that mentality, in some way, also influences the life of the church.”

Writing in The Strength of Vocation, Pope Francis says some priests did not exhibit any homosexual inclinations when they joined the priesthood only for it to emerge later but he reminded the faithful that the Catholic Church views homosexual acts as sinful.

“In consecrated and priestly life, there’s no room for that kind of affection. Therefore, the church recommends that people with that kind of ingrained tendency should not be accepted into the ministry or consecrated life

Mr Buttimer, who is gay and studied for five years as a seminarian in Maynooth in the 1980s, said the Pope seemed to be delivering a very traditional message with regard to people from the LGBT community which was at odds with some of his initial comments regarding gay people.

Pope Francis was now adopting “ a very hardline” approach to the LGBT community and to say that homosexuality was about being fashionable failed to recognize that people’s sexual orientation was a fundamental part of their being, he said.

‘In god’s image’

“Being gay is not transient, it’s not a phase, it’s not a passing stage of one’s life – I’ve always made the point that, as a Christian, as a Catholic, I was born and am born in the image of the god who created me and the god that I pray to and worship,” said Mr Buttimer.

“For me, this is disappointing from Pope Francis whom I thought, given his initial statements that he would not judge people, would have travelled a journey of being more open, and understanding and accepting of LGBT people but obviously I was wrong.”

Mr Buttimer said one of the fundamentals of the priesthood was that it was a celibate ministry but to say that applies to just homosexual priests without stressing that similar principles should apply to heterosexual priests was “wrong and deeply unfair”.

“The church would be a better church, a more enhanced church by having a ministry that is open to all and it just baffles that the Pope, on one level seems to be a welcoming man and then in the next breath shuts the door completely to members of the LGBT community,” Mr Buttimer said.

“There are many committed Christians and Catholics who are gay, some of them are afraid to come out but they make very fine contributions in the liturgy as lay readers and lay ministers of the Eucharist and they do a wonderful job in our churches, in our classrooms, in our choirs and as part of parish councils.”

Complete Article HERE!

The 2018 Catholic clergy sex abuse crisis brings new energy — and anti-gay activists — into the survivors’ movement

James Grein, who says he was sexually abused for years by ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, stands with Church Militant leader Michael Voris at the group’s rally outside the bishops’ conference on Nov. 13, 2018 in Baltimore

By Michelle Boorstein

For nearly two decades, to be an advocate for survivors of Catholic clergy sex abuse was often to be a lonely protester, frequently ignored or sometimes even maligned as disrespectful by some Catholics and clergy.

That has changed dramatically since June, when clergy abuse scandals surfaced again in the U.S. church. Enormous energy has been pumped into the movement, with parishes around the country holding crowded listening sessions on the topic, bishops making abuse the focus of their annual fall meeting this week and legislators finding new support for measures to expand statutes of limitation for child sexual abuse.

But the victims’ advocacy movement is also being transformed by bitter ideological divides among Catholics. That chasm was dramatically on display this week at the semi-annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore.

Monday’s two public events were dominated by the older groups — research site BishopAccountability and SNAP — whose leaders focus on oversight and justice and participate less in the controversial debates over the perceived roles of celibacy and homosexuality in the crisis. A dozen or so people attended each of those events, and around 20 came Tuesday to stand with survivors who raised signs with words including “truth” and “reform.”

A few hours later, the right-wing advocacy group and news site Church Militant hosted more than 300 protesters under a pavilion for a revival-like rally. The profile of the group, whose leaders and web site blame abuse scandals on homosexual priests and a general falling away from orthodoxy, got a boost Tuesday as James Grein, one of two people who this summer accused ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of child sexual abuse, appeared for the first time in public at the rally.

The crowd roared as Grein singled out a pope who some on the right wing see as heretical and politically too liberal.

“Jesus’ law is much higher than pontifical secrets. It’s not Francis’ church, it’s Jesus Christ’s church,” said Grein, who says McCarrick abused him for nearly two decades, starting when he was a boy. McCarrick’s suspension in June launched the current scandal in the church.

While mainstream survivors groups declined to team up with Church Militant in Baltimore, its hefty social media audience — 200,000 Facebook followers — adopted the abuse scandals as a cause this summer.

The older survivors’ groups have shied away from Church Militant in part because it does not routinely cover female victims of clergy sex abuse or go after conservative bishops who have allegedly abused. These groups want to keep the focus on goals like identifying abusers and creating policies and practices that require transparency and help victims.

“I feel like they’re using victims for a political agenda and I’m concerned about that. They’re using this to kind of get to where they want to be,” SNAP’s regional director, Becky Ianni, said of Church Militant. “And I hate when someone uses victims. Victims aren’t conservative or liberal. We’re victims. And that’s what people need to focus on.”

At the same time, Church Militant represents a large new audience for some longtime advocates who want to keep attention on abuse— even as its approach presents land mines for long-established groups.

Referring to Church Militant and other far-right websites like Breitbart and LifeSite that have taken up aspects of the cause, BishopAccountability co-director Anne Barrett Doyle said, “I see they perform a service to some extent in that they expose predatory bishops and predatory priests that mainstream press aren’t yet covering. But at the same time, because they have a different goal, their goal isn’t simple justice and accountability and transparency — there is a bias.”

Asked for comment on the role of Church Militant, the bishops’ conference issued a statement saying the umbrella group “supports everyone’s right to a peaceful protest.”

Until this summer, posts on the Church Militant site were primarily focused on aggressively fighting advancements toward gay equality in the church, as well as some conservative secular politics. A typical headline is: “The Depth of My Anger Over Decades of Effete Priests.”

Michael Voris, a former television reporter who founded Church Militant in 2012, said the McCarrick case shifted his group’s focus.

Voris in 2016 released a video saying that for much of his 30s, he had multiple sexual relationships with men, including those with whom he lived. He portrayed himself as a victim of the devil.

Voris said the McCarrick scandal — in which many top clergy in Rome and in the United States are alleged to have known of at least rumors that McCarrick was harassing male seminarians — merges with his followers’ belief that a cabal of gay top clergy is at the core of church division.

“Since McCarrick, there is a lot more anger from faithful Catholics who feel like they’ve been duped. They feel like they’ve been lied to by the establishment,” he told the Post.

It was hard for conservative Catholics to go after the establishment, Voris said, but “not anymore.”

There was the feeling, he said: “’Well, they’re the successors of the apostle. We have to look at things in a charitable way,’” he said. “But the fact that McCarrick was the one who ran the show, and he was covered up for — that was the last straw.”

This isn’t the first time the survivors’ movement has seen disagreement, said some long-term watchers. The key division decades ago, in the 1990s and early 2000s, they said, was more about tactics. Some groups like the Linkup, now faded, were focused on healing and care for survivors, while SNAP was more about confronting the church and publicizing crimes.

It’s also not the first time the ultraconservative wing of the church was focused on the topic of abuse. Terry McKiernan, Barrett-Doyle’s partner at BishopAccountability, said some of the most aggressive reporting on the issue in the 1980s and early 1990s was by the Wanderer, a 151-year-old Catholic newspaper whose motto is “No one can be at the same time a sincere Catholic and a true Socialist.” Some of the earliest reporting on rumors of McCarrick’s behavior with seminarians in the early 2000s appeared on conservative blogs.

McKiernan said liberals and conservatives tend to focus on abusers who fall in their opposing ideological camps but that he feels it has been — until now — harder for orthodox Catholics to display leadership on the issue.

“Conservative Catholics didn’t want any activism that seemed to be counter to the power structures of the church, which they respected and felt had doctrinal valiance,” McKiernan said. “McCarrick gave them permission to be aggressive but still be thinking with the mind of the church.”

Some survivors and leaders at events in Baltimore said they see in 2018 a far greater level of interest in the topic of abuse among the typical churchgoing Catholic.

“What I’m seeing for the first time is we have Catholics joining us in droves. I have Catholic groups saying: ‘What can we do for survivors?’ ” Ianni said. While there was huge publicity in the early 2000s around the Boston crisis, the interest seemed to come and then go, as faithful Catholics believed the leadership that the problem was all cleaned up.

Then came Chile. And Ireland. And the grand jury reports in Pennsylvania And Buffalo. And McCarrick. And more than a dozen state investigations into clergy sex abuse.

Ianni said lay Catholics may be “realizing they are the church. Maybe for the first time, they’re finding their voices.”

Shaun Dougherty, a survivor originally from Johnstown, Pa., stood Monday with a sign outside the Baltimore Marriott. He said he believes it is now more comfortable for victims and advocates who speak out, but that’s not enough.

“We see so many tragedies today — Parkland, Las Vegas,” he said, citing recent mass shootings. “And people poured into the streets and marched for reforms. In Pennsylvania, we had wall-to-wall media coverage [of the grand jury report], and we couldn’t even pack the [state] Capitol for reforms. The fact that parishioner support is not there is very hard to take.”

Dougherty said the focus on celibacy or homosexuality as the solution is a distractions to the movement. “The Roman Catholic bishops have a serious problem with child molestation, and they are conferencing here to figure out how to get away with it,” he said. “A lot of this other stuff bogs it down.”

Complete Article HERE!