Cardinal George Pell To Face Sexual Assault Charges In Australia


Cardinal George Pell arrives at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday in Melbourne, Australia.

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A magistrate in Australia has ordered Cardinal George Pell, one of the Vatican’s senior-most officials, to stand trial on sexual abuse charges involving allegations from multiple individuals dating back decades.

Pell is the highest-ranking Vatican official to be charged in the church’s long-standing sex abuse scandal.

Although Melbourne Magistrate Belinda Wallington dismissed many of the charges against Pell, who was appointed archbishop of Sydney in 2001 and later oversaw the Vatican’s finances under Pope Francis, she said that the prosecution’s case was strong enough to warrant a jury trial on the remaining charges.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Wallington, following a month-long hearing committed the 76-year-old cleric “on charges against multiple complainants, involving alleged sexual offending at a swimming pool in the 1970s in Ballarat [near Melbourne], where the accused man was then working as a priest; and at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in 1990s, when he was the then Archbishop of Melbourne.”

Asked for a plea, a seated Pell – who has consistently denied wrongdoing — clearly announced, “Not guilty.”

Last year, Pell stated publicly, “I am innocent of these charges, they are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”

Lawyers for Pell had argued that all the allegations were untrue and should be dismissed.

More than 30 witnesses testified in the four-week hearing. The Associated Press writes, “His alleged victims testified in the first two weeks of the preliminary hearing via a video link from a remote location to a room closed to the media and public.”

Pell, who is free on bail, was due to appear in County Court on Wednesday to hear his trial date.

The Herald reports:

“After the magistrate left the bench, a group of people at the back of the court room clapped.”

… Cardinal Pell left the court building at 11.55am, and was jeered by people outside the building as he got in a white car and was driven away. A wall of police officers stood on the bottom two steps of the court building to ensure he was not surrounded by media.”

Complete Article HERE!

Glenstal monk urges church to change attitude on sexual ethics

Fr Mark Patrick Hederman calls for church to modernise its approach to sexuality

Fr Mark Patrick Hederman: “It is surely time to take a more comprehensive approach to the ethics of sexual behaviour.”

The Catholic Church’s “stifling teachings on sex” need to be dramatically modernised, a Benedictine monk has said.

Fr Mark Patrick Hederman, the former abbot of Glenstal in Limerick, said the church also needs to address its subjugation of women and open a national discussion on sex, celibacy and ethics.

He said the progressive attitude shown by the nation in the marriage equality referendum have not been reflected in all parts of society.

“Now that we have legislated for gay marriage and accepted the fact that sexuality does happen for reasons other than procreation; now that we also recognise that some of the most heinous sexual crimes have been perpetrated within the ‘sanctity’ of marriage; it is surely time to take a more comprehensive approach to the ethics of sexual behaviour,” he said.

“Every or any sexual activity can be good or evil, and the act itself right through to the moment of orgasm is always somewhere on a spectrum between selfish egotism and altruistic communion.”

Fr Hederman (72), a former headmaster in Glenstal Abbey, said that for centuries sex in Ireland was only talked about in the context of “the natural law of God and confined to religious discourse”.

Reality check

However, he believes the time has come to have a greater conversation and for the church to have “a reality check” on its ideals.

In relation to a person’s emotional or sexual life, he said in the past it was as if the church felt such a life did not exist.

“It was presumed that it arrived fully fledged in the marriage bed, the only location where its practice was permitted. Even the most basic courses on love-making teach that a man has to train himself to prevent orgasm occurring prematurely before it can be shared with his partner.

“This does not come naturally. On the contrary, the natural orgasm and ejection of sperm for a man is unencumbered and immediate. That is the biological way, the optimum performance in terms of procreation and reproduction of the species.

“Lovers have to learn, discipline themselves, and gain a control which will help them to be sexual in a way that makes them sensitively reciprocal. Otherwise sexuality is the tool of selfish individuality and autistic monologue,” he writes.

Rejected lifestyles

Fr Hederman is a prolific author and his latest book, The Opal and the Pearl, is published this week and calls for a more modernised attitude from the church on sex. The book takes its title from a letter from James Joyce to Nora Barnacle in 1909.

In it, he writes that Catholics who wish to remain “conservative and old-fashioned”, should avoid being “sectarian and supportive of values and lifestyles which have been rejected by the majority of 21st-century families.

“Otherwise we are categorised as out-of-date leftovers from a previous era, such as the Amish communities in America and Canada.”

Fr Hederman said that while he believes in celibacy and the condition of Christian chastity, “I don’t believe that everyone who wants to devote their life to God should be required to be celibate.”
He said the progressive attitude shown by the nation in the marriage equality referendum have not been reflected in all parts of society.

“Now that we have legislated for gay marriage and accepted the fact that sexuality does happen for reasons other than procreation; now that we also recognise that some of the most heinous sexual crimes have been perpetrated within the ‘sanctity’ of marriage; it is surely time to take a more comprehensive approach to the ethics of sexual behaviour,” he said.

“Every or any sexual activity can be good or evil, and the act itself right through to the moment of orgasm is always somewhere on a spectrum between selfish egotism and altruistic communion.”

Complete Article HERE!

Does it matter whether Archbishop John Nienstedt is gay?

By Tim Gihring

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When allegations of a sex-abuse coverup began to leak out of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis a couple years ago, they were always accompanied by another, seemingly unrelated set of accusations: the bumbling attempts of Archbishop John Nienstedt, then the leader of the archdiocese, to have sex with men.

“The archbishop has been known to go ‘cruising’ (and I am not referring to the type of cruising one does on a ship in the Caribbean) and, on one occasion, purchased ‘poppers’ (and not the exploding candy preferred by elementary school students) and followed another gentleman to his car for, well, the type of activity that men purchase ‘poppers’ for…,” wrote Jennifer Haselberger, the whistleblower whose allegations prompted Nienstedt’s resignation last summer. On her website, Haselberger helpfully links to Wikipedia’s entry on poppers: basically disco-era sex drugs.

In late July, more stories of Nienstedt’s “promiscuous gay lifestyle,” as a fellow priest put it, were released by prosecutors. Most relate to his time in Detroit, where he moved up the clerical ladder in the late 1970s and ’80s. He’s said to have frequented a gay bar just across the border in Canada, whimsically called the Happy Tap.

But even if the allegations are true, it doesn’t mean that Nienstedt is sympathetic to sexual abuse — a link between homosexuality and priestly pederasty is as unproven as it is enduring. Nor does it mark Nienstedt as unusual. Catholic researchers estimate that as many as 58 percent of priests are homosexuals. To confirm that he desired men would be like discovering that the pope is Catholic.

But Nienstedt is not just any priest, of course. He staked his tenure in Minnesota fighting marriage equality — and using church money to do so. No other archbishop in the country has gone so far as to condemn the families and friends of gays and lesbians for abetting “a grave evil.”

Nienstedt, who now lives in California, writing and editing for a Catholic institute, has publicly denied that he is gay. He recently declared, as no straight guy ever has: “I am a heterosexual man who has been celibate my entire life.”

For gay Catholics, if Nienstedt does share their desires, the deceit would be heartbreaking, “a sickening level of hypocrisy,” as one described it. It may also help explain why Nienstedt not only neglected the sins of priests, but covered them up, a pattern of denial that would be hard to fathom if it were not so deeply personal.

A different era

When gay Catholics in the Twin Cities first came together, in the late 1970s, they asked to meet with then-Archbishop John Roach. They were looking for compassion and understanding, if not acceptance — and to a remarkable degree they got it.

With Roach’s blessing, the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM) — an independent group of local Catholics based in St. Paul — introduced a sort of sensitivity training in parishes and in nine of the 11 local Catholic high schools. It was intended to help priests, teachers, and administrators better serve gays and lesbians, and it lasted for nearly 20 years.

“During the peak of our work,” one of the group’s co-founders told me several years ago, “we became almost mainstream.” In 1989, the archdiocese awarded its Archbishop John Ireland Award to another CPCSM co-founder for his social-justice activism on behalf of gays and lesbians.

The efforts paid off: “If it was okay to bash someone in the past, it isn’t now,” reported the director of Catholic Education and Formation Ministries in 1998. “We’re trying to teach kids what’s right.” When conservative activists objected that same year, the archdiocese defended the Safe Schools initiative.

Michael Bayly, a gay Catholic who until last year headed up the CPCSM, began compiling this history in 2009, shortly after Nienstedt became archbishop. He worried at the time that “there are some who would like to downplay or even deny such a relationship.”

But the church’s openness wasn’t limited to the Twin Cities. Bayly recalls that in 1994, when he moved to Minnesota, a bishop from Detroit came to talk with gay and lesbian Catholics on how — to quote the advertisement for the dialogue — a “wholeness in sexual expression” can be “deeply human and truly spiritual.”

In fact, Detroit was known as one of the most open-minded districts of the church. And as Nienstedt was starting out there, he was imbued with its liberal spirit.

Promoted and protected

In 1977, as the era of disco and poppers was in full swing, Nienstedt was 30, a newly minted priest in Detroit, and he became the secretary to Cardinal John Dearden, characterized by the New York Times as a “leading liberal voice in the Church.” Nienstedt himself described his mentor’s views to the Times as aligned “with the mind of the Church.”

But something changed after Dearden’s retirement in 1980, when Nienstedt went to work and study in the Vatican, which was shifting toward the neo-conservatism of the new Pope John Paul II. As a leading critic of Nienstedt has noted, the ambitious young priest saw first-hand “the changes John Paul II sought in the church and the kind of bishops whom he wanted.” When he returned to Detroit in 1985, Nienstedt’s new boss was a favorite of the pope, and, sure enough, in time Nienstedt adopted his views.

For pushing back on gays in the church, among other issues, Nienstedt would be promoted and promoted and promoted again. He would also be protected: Among the revelations in the documents unsealed last month is that the Vatican envoy to the United States quashed an investigation into Nienstedt’s homosexual activity and ordered evidence destroyed.

The evidence that exists, in the form of corroborated witness accounts, suggests that Nienstedt spent his time in Minnesota, from 2001 to 2015, living a precarious double life: indulging his homosexual tendencies, even as he railed against them.

Haselberger, who worked closely with Nienstedt in the archdiocese office as an adviser on church law, believes his proclivities help explain why he coddled abusive priests — he may have been attracted to them. And the so-called Delegate for Safe Environment, a priest overseeing child-abuse prevention in the archdiocese, came to the same conclusion about Nienstedt two years ago: being gay “affected his judgment.”

But Nienstedt’s silence protected far more priests than he could have known or been attracted to — dozens across Minnesota. And aside from suspicions of a relationship with one of the most notorious, Curtis Wehmeyer, his intervention — or lack of it — appears less about personal favor and more about institutional preservation. He saw sin, and looked the other way.

Instead, the deal that Nienstedt long ago made for the benefit of his career — to follow the church into conservatism — now seems a kind of ecclesiastical quid pro quo: if he covered for the sins of the church, the church would cover for his. The internal investigation of him, reportedly quashed by the Vatican, had been his idea — he was that confident that his name would be cleared.

But the deal may also have been a trap. By closing the door to homosexuality, marking its expression as the work of Satan and the most aberrant of sins, Nienstedt had nowhere to go with his own desires. He left himself no way out.

At the end, as multiple investigations closed in, Nienstedt still stuck to the pattern, claiming both that he was unaware of abusers under his watch and that any accusations of homosexuality were merely retaliation for his anti-gay policies. He had no choice but to double down on denial.

Complete Article HERE!

Remarried couples should abstain from sex, Philadelphia Catholic church says

File Under:  AS IF!

 

Archbishop Charles Chaput also stated that gay Catholics should also ‘live chastely’ in new rules issued after Pope Francis urged more acceptance of others

 

Charles Chaput, the Philadelphia archbishop, is known as one of the staunchest conservative leaders in the US Catholic church.
Charles Chaput, the Philadelphia archbishop, is known as one of the staunchest conservative leaders in the US Catholic church.

Catholics in Philadelphia who are divorced and civilly remarried will be welcome to accept Holy Communion – as long as they abstain from sex and live out their relationships like “brother and sister”.

New guidelines published by the conservative archbishop of Philadelphia this month also called on priests within the archdiocese to help Catholics who are attracted to people of the same sex and “find chastity very difficult”, saying such individuals should be advised to frequently seek penance. Because same-sex attraction takes “diverse forms”, the archdiocese also said that some people can still live out a vocation of heterosexual marriage with children, notwithstanding “some degree of same-sex attraction”.

The guidelines, which took effect on 1 July, come three months after Pope Francis urged bishops to be more accepting of Catholics who lived outside of the church’s social teaching and doctrine, including people who have divorced and remarried, and people in same-sex relationships. The pope’s views were published in April in a document titled Amoris Laetitia (Joy of Love), which was hailed as potentially groundbreaking. Because the document called on bishops to show greater mercy and flexibility to bring Catholics back to the church, while also calling on bishops not to veer from church doctrine, it was seen as giving both traditional and more progressively minded bishops the chance to interpret the document as they saw fit.

The Philadelphia archbishop, Charles Chaput, is known as one of the staunchest conservative leaders in the US Catholic church, a view that is reflected in the rules the archdiocese published.

John Allen, a veteran Vatican journalist, said he believed Philadelphia was among the first archdiocese to publish such rules based on its interpretation of Amoris Laetitia.

“My suspicion is that those who are inclined to a more progressive reading [of Amoris Laetitia] are not going to put out documents to say so. It will quietly be made clear to priests that it is OK under certain circumstances, for example, to allow some people to quietly come back to communion,” Allen told the Guardian. “My suspicion is that the more traditional line [adopted by some bishops] will be more public.”

Allen said that he did not think Pope Francis would be surprised by Chaput’s reading of the papal document, since he is likely aware of traditional interpretations of his document.

In its examination of homosexuality, the Philadelphia guidelines state that two people in an “active, public same-sex relationship, no matter how sincere, offer a serious counter-witness to Catholic belief, which can only produce moral confusion in the community.

“Those with predominant same-sex attractions are therefore called to struggle to live chastely for the kingdom of God. In this endeavor they have need of support, friendship and understanding if they fail,” the rules state.

But the greatest attention in the guidelines are focused on couples who are divorced and civilly remarried who have not obtained an annulment of their first marriage.

While divorced and remarried couples should be welcomed by the Catholic community, and not be seen as outside the church, the archdiocese said they are required by church teaching to refrain from all sexual intimacy.

“This applies even if they must (for the care of their children) continue to live under one roof. Undertaking to live as brother and sister is necessary for the divorced and civilly-remarried to receive reconciliation in the Sacrament of Penance, which could then open the way to the Eucharist,” the archdiocese said.

Priests are also directed to consider Catholic couples who are living together but are not married, including whether the couple have had children born in these “irregular unions”. If a priest senses that one person in the couple is reluctant to take the plunge, the archdiocese recommended trying to break up the pair.

“Often cohabiting couples refrain from making final commitments because one or both persons is seriously lacking in maturity or has other significant obstacles to entering a valid union. Here, prudence plays a vital role. Where one or another person is not capable of, or is not willing to commit to, a marriage, the pastor should urge them to separate,” the guidelines state.

If the cohabitating couple seems ready to tie the knot but is just a bit slow, the priest should encourage them to practice chastity.

“They will find this challenging, but again, with the help of grace, mastering the self is possible – and this fasting from physical intimacy is a strong element of spiritual preparation for an enduring life together,” it said.

 Complete Article HERE!

In his first remarks since resigning, Nienstedt denies allegations in affidavits

By and and

The former archbishop makes his first remarks since resigning in June.

Former Archbishop John Nienstedt said he remains “dumbfounded” by the allegations of personal misconduct that emerged last year during an internal church investigation of his behavior — a report that the archdiocese now is considering making public.

“It pains me deeply that my good name and reputation have been put into question by allegations that are entirely false and based wholly on rumor, hearsay, or innuendo,” said Nienstedt last week, in written responses to questions from the Star Tribune.

Commissioned by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the probe looked into claims that Nienstedt had engaged in behavior that was inappropriate for a priest. The Star Tribune has learned that investigators collected affidavits from priests, former seminarians and a former priest alleging actions, some dating to the Detroit area in the early 1980s, that range from inappropriate touching to visiting a gay nightclub.

Nienstedt resigned June 15, after Ramsey County prosecutors filed criminal and civil charges against the archdiocese, alleging “failure to protect children.” Nienstedt said he hoped his resignation would “give the archdiocese a new beginning.”

But the existence of the investigation has become yet another dilemma for a church sharply criticized for its handling of dozens of cases of alleged sexual abuse by priests. Earlier this year it filed bankruptcy to help deal with the mounting financial toll of those cases.

Some priests and parishioners are pressing interim Archbishop Bernard Hebda to make last year’s investigation of Nienstedt public. He must balance those demands against the promise of confidentiality granted to those who participated in the investigation, as well as the possible implications — if any — it could have in the criminal case brought by Ramsey County.

Hebda has pledged to “resolve the matter in a way that is reasonable and fair.” Nienstedt said he wants the issue behind him so that his name can be cleared.

“It is frustrating, both for me and the public, that this process has gone on for so long,” Nienstedt said in his first remarks to the media since his resignation. “I was dumbfounded because the allegations were so far-fetched and utterly untrue.”

Investigation begins

The archdiocese declined to answer questions about the investigation. Last year, it hired the Greene Espel law firm in Minneapolis to look into allegations of clergy misconduct involving Nienstedt and adults. The law firm’s work ended last summer, and the chancery hired Minneapolis criminal defense attorney Peter Wold to complete the probe.

Greene Espel has publicly disputed claims by the archdiocese that Nienstedt did not intervene in the investigation.

The firm conducted interviews and collected affidavits, or sworn statements, from people who worked with or knew Nienstedt. The Star Tribune has confirmed that five Catholic priests, one former priest and a former seminarian were among those who provided affidavits.

In one affidavit, a priest in Harrison Township, Mich., reported seeing Nienstedt at a gay nightclub in Windsor, Ontario, just across the border from Detroit in the 1980s. “I recall seeing John — and there is no doubt in my mind that it was him based on my prior interactions with him — at the Happy Tap,” the Rev. Lawrence Ventline wrote in his affidavit. “He appeared to wave me off as I was coming — and I backed off because I did not want impose on him.”

Another affidavit from a Michigan priest said that Nienstedt pulled up to his car in an area frequented by gay men one December in the early 1980s and asked him if he had any “poppers,” an inhalant used by gay men to enhance sexual pleasure. When he got into Nienstedt’s car, and Nienstedt recognized him as a former student, he changed the subject, the priest told the Star Tribune.

A former seminarian at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, James Heathcott, also filed an affidavit. He said that Nienstedt — who was the seminary’s rector — expelled him after he refused an invitation to join Nienstedt and two other seminarians on a private weekend at a ski chalet in the late 1980s.

In addition, the Star Tribune obtained a 2014 letter sent by a former student at Sacred Heart Seminary to former auxiliary bishop Lee Piché, who oversaw the Nienstedt investigation, alleging that Nienstedt touched his buttocks after a dinner together one night between 2000 and 2002. Joseph Rangitsch said he protested and Nienstedt replied he could “make things unpleasant for you very quickly.”

Nienstedt denies claims

Nienstedt denied all the allegations, point by point and in general. He also stressed that none of the people who filed affidavits claimed that he “ever abused any minor, had a sexual relationship with any individual, or committed any crime.”

The former archbishop insisted he never set foot in a gay nightclub or visited gay cruising spots. He said he was not even in Detroit in December 1982, when the Michigan priest claims he asked for the “poppers.” He was assigned to the Vatican Secretariat of State in Rome and was not allowed to come home for the holidays.

He acknowledged he drove by the park in question somewhat regularly — by necessity.

“When I was Cardinal John Dearden’s secretary, the Cardinal’s residence where I lived was near the alleged park,” he wrote. “I had to drive through the park to get to other destinations within the city of Detroit.”

Nienstedt said Heathcott was not expelled from the seminary but left on his own after informing the seminary he did not feel called to be a priest. The ski trip, added Nienstedt, was open to seminarians and faculty — not a “private chalet.” “Anyone who wanted to go could sign up,” he said.

Nienstedt said he had no memory of meeting Rangitsch and said he was no longer rector at the seminary at the time of that alleged incident. Nienstedt’s attorney points out that Rangitsch has a criminal record in Montana, including misdemeanor convictions for sexual assault.

Nienstedt believes some of the accusations are “retribution” for his stance on social issues. As auxiliary bishop in Detroit, he ended the gay community’s use of a Catholic church for liturgies. In Minnesota, he led an unsuccessful campaign to amend the Minnesota Constitution to ban gay marriages.

“Certain groups in Detroit began spreading untrue rumors about me following difficult decisions I made as the rector of the Detroit seminary and as an Auxiliary Bishop,” he said. “Some priests in Detroit also vehemently disagreed with my positions and decisions.”

Nienstedt added that he didn’t air all the evidence he has against those who made charges “because it would be a disservice to the people who cooperated with the investigation under a promise of confidentiality.”

The affidavits are among many documents and interviews compiled by investigators last year that Hebda is now reviewing.

Next steps

Meanwhile, Ramsey County still has an active investigation in its criminal prosecution of the archdiocese, which charges that the “highest level of leadership” failed to protect children from pedophile priests. St. Paul police confirmed it executed a search warrant on the archdiocese chancery in June. A court hearing in that case is set for Aug. 25.

If and when the church’s internal investigation is released, said Nienstedt, “I remain hopeful that, in the final evaluation, I will be exonerated.”

Since resigning June 15, Nienstedt has been spending time with friends and family. He said he would like to “continue in ministry in one form or another.”

The former archbishop said he’d like his legacy to be the archdiocese’s strengthened child protection protocols developed with clergy abuse victims, the hiring of excellent leadership to oversee ministerial standards, and initiatives to strengthen parishes and schools.

What the archdiocese decides to do with the investigation is being monitored by Twin Cities Catholics as well as national Catholic authorities, who say the St. Paul situation is extremely rare.

Facing scores of priest abuse claims, bankruptcy, civil and criminal charges — and the Nienstedt investigation controversy — the archdiocese is in uncharted terrain.

“I rarely say anything is unique in the Catholic Church, but this is a pretty unique situation,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, senior analyst for National Catholic Reporter.

Complete Article HERE!