The Catholic Church is bursting with secrets. Investigating one will unravel them all.

Pope Francis in Rome on Feb. 14.

By Garry Wills

The New York Times published an extraordinary article this week based on interviews with two dozen gay Catholic priests and seminarians in 13 states. “Out” men and women today are often widely admired, but most of the interviews had to be conducted anonymously because the Vatican still treats homosexuality as “objectively disordered” — a policy that persists even though the representation of gay men in the priesthood is higher, probably far higher, than in the general population.

The relevant catechism about sexuality does not condemn people with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies,” just those who act on those tendencies. In other words, you can be gay so long as you don’t do anything about it. The Times article rightly presents this distinction as a trial for the priests involved — one of the last major throwbacks to the era of “the love that dare not speak its name” (as Oscar Wilde’s partner, Lord Alfred Douglas, put it). But I wondered how the church’s policy on homosexuality affects men and women, as well as boys and girls, who are not priests.

The gay priest is required, generally, to uphold the official teaching of his church and of his superiors, making him a collaborator in the suppression of his gay brothers and sisters outside the clergy. In this way, without intending to, the victimized become victimizers. How does that play out, to take an example, in the confessional? If a penitent confesses homosexual activity to a gay priest, does the priest channel God’s forgiveness of a sin that he does not himself consider a sin? This is just one of the many ways in which we Catholics, if we refrain from criticizing this particular stance of our church, contribute to the persecution of the LGBTQ community.

The deepest irony is that a priest who is required to go against his nature is told that he must do this because of “natural law.” The church’s quaint theory of natural law is that the first biological use of an activity is the only permissible use of that activity. If the biological use of sex is for procreation, any other use is “against nature.”

The absurdity of this view is made clear by considering the first biological use for eating: the sustenance of life. If every other use of nutrition is against nature, then any diet beyond what is consumed for life-maintenance is a sin — in other words, no wedding cakes, no champagne toasts. Yet the church continues to adhere to so-called natural law because it underpins doctrine on all sexual matters, including the condemnations of abortion, contraception, in vitro fertilization and stem-cell research.

Given the stakes in these and other matters, the ban on gay sex involves a larger “church teaching” than the single matter of homosexuality.

Priests and bishops who cover up male homosexuality are prone to a mutual blackmail with those who commit and conceal heterosexual acts by the clergy — sometimes involving women, including nuns, who have been victimized by priests. The Times’s portrait of gay priests was followed by a powerful Feb. 18 article revealing that the church has internal policies for dealing with priests who father children. The Vatican confirmed, apparently for the first time, that a priest with progeny is encouraged to ask for release from his ministry “to assume his responsibilities as a parent by devoting himself exclusively to the child” — there being no requirement in canon law that a priest perform this basic act of love for his offspring and the child’s mother.

Secrecy in one clerical area intersects with secrecy in others. There is an implicit pledge that “your secret is safe with my secret.” If there are gay nuns — and why would there not be? — that adds another strand to the interweavings of concealment.

The trouble with any culture that maintains layer upon layer of deflected inspections is that, when so many people are guarding their own secrets, the deep examination of an institution becomes nearly impossible. The secrecies are too interdependent. Truly opening one realm of secrecy and addressing it may lead to an implosion of the entire system. That is the real problem faced this week by Pope Francis and the church leaders he has summoned from around the world for a conference at the Vatican to consider the labyrinthine and long-standing scandals of clerical sex abuse.

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican envoy to France investigated over sex assault allegations: Paris city hall

Archbishop Luigi Ventura

by Simon Carraud

French authorities are investigating allegations that the Vatican’s ambassador to France molested a junior official in Paris’ City Hall, a City Hall official said on Friday.

The official told Reuters that Archbishop Luigi Ventura, 74, who has held the post in Paris for the past decade, was suspected of having touched the buttocks of the male junior staffer during Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s New Year address.

Ventura “caressed in an insistent and repeated manner the young man’s buttocks during the ceremony. He put his hands on his buttocks several times,” the City Hall official said.

A judicial source confirmed a preliminary investigation against Ventura was underway.

The Vatican learned about the investigation from the media, spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said.

“The Holy See is waiting for investigation’s conclusion,” he added.

Pope Francis has come under fire over the Roman Catholic Church’s handling of a long-running sexual abuse crisis.

While much of the recent focus has been on the United States, Australia and Chile, the trial last month of the Archbishop of Lyon put the spotlight on Europe’s senior clergy again.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin is charged with failing to act on historic allegations of sexual abuse of boy scouts by a priest in his diocese. A verdict is due on March 7.

The Paris City Hall official said the allegations against Ventura involved a male employee from the mayor’s international relations team. He had been tasked with looking after Ventura during the ceremony.

City Hall filed a complaint against Ventura to Paris Prosecutor Remy Heitz’s office on January 23, six days after the alleged molestation

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic Bishops Still Don’t Get It

Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago (pictured) to be part of the organizing committee for the Vatican’s global bishops meeting to address clerical sexual abuse taking place in February

by Timothy D. Lytton

Recent revelations that U.S. bishops are still concealing allegations of clergy sexual abuse made headlines this past summer and again this Christmas season. A grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania found that bishops in that state failed to report abuse committed by 300 priests against 1,000 children. A report by the Illinois attorney general concluded that bishops in the state withheld the names of more than 500 priests accused of sexually abusing minors.

The U.S. Catholic hierarchy is once again asking forgiveness and promising reforms to earn back the trust of parishioners and the American public. Bishops from across the country are meeting north of Chicago during the first week of January for a spiritual retreat of quiet reflection to “seek wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit” and to “pray for the survivors of sexual abuse.” A few weeks later, in February, the presidents of bishops’ conferences around the world will gather in Rome for a Vatican summit on the crisis to launch “a worldwide reform.”

This pattern of periodic revelations of coverup followed by expressions of remorse and promises of reform is a familiar one – and it is likely to persist so long as the Catholic hierarchy continues to blame the scandal on the sexual misconduct of priests rather than the lack of accountability for their own duplicity.

History of Coverup

Personnel files in dioceses around the U.S. contain allegations of sexual misconduct against priests dating back to the 1930s. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops discussed the problem in closed-door meetings starting in the 1970s. Every U.S. bishop knew about the problem, but not one of them reported it to criminal justice authorities.

The scandal first came to light when a lawsuit against a Louisiana diocese filed by victims of a serial child molester Father Gilbert Gauthe made national headlines in 1984 and prompted other victims to speak out. In response, the bishops dedicated an entire day of their semiannual conference to examining the psychological, legal, and moral aspects of clergy sexual abuse. They issued public apologies, expressed empathy for victims, and instituted reforms.

The crisis flared up again eight years later in 1992, when sexual abuse victims publicly exposed Father James Porter, who molested more than 100 known victims between the ages of 6 and 14, and whose predations were well known among his colleagues and superiors within the Church. Again, the bishops dedicated a day of their annual conference to the issue and adopted a nonbinding set of Five Principles to respond to the crisis, pledging prompt response to allegations, removal of accused priests, increased reporting to law enforcement, victim outreach, and greater official transparency. An ad hoc committee issued a three-volume report called Restoring Trust.

In 2002, the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reports again

Cardinal Bernard Law became a symbol of the Catholic Church’s systematic protection of pedophile priests.

shined a spotlight on the bishops’ coverup of clergy sexual abuse. The most egregious offender in this round of revelations was Father John Geoghan, who reportedly abused more than 800 victims over a 33-year period. His crimes were concealed by no fewer than six bishops, including Cardinal Bernard Law, the archbishop of Boston and arguably the most powerful figure in the U.S. Catholic Church. Once again, the bishops issued apologies and published new reforms in the Charter for the Protection of Children & Young People, a binding policy that proclaimed “zero tolerance” for clergy sexual abuse within the Church.

Fathers Gauthe, Porter, and Geoghan were merely poster children for the scandal. By the bishops’ own reckoning, diocesan files contained sexual abuse allegations against 4,392 priests by 10,667 victims between 1950 and 2002. Lawsuits forced the bishops to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to victims, and ongoing revelations of coverup eroded the U.S. Catholic hierarchy’s moral authority.

Bishops Deflect Blame

Through it all, and still today, the bishops have attempted to deflect blame for the crisis onto others -portraying themselves as the victims of unfair media coverage and a popular culture that has corrupted the Church.

In response to the Illinois attorney general report, Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, issued a statement expressing “profound regret for our failures to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse” followed by a reminder that “the vast majority of abuses took place decades ago.” Translation: we’re very sorry for the misdeeds of our predecessors.

Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, New York, issued a statement in response to the Pennsylvania grand jury investigation explaining that “I do not see how we can avoid what is really at the root of this crisis: sin and a retreat from holiness” – by which he meant disregard of “our Church teaching [that] it is a grave sin to be ‘sexually active’ outside of a real marriage covenant.”


 
He went on to lament that “contemporary culture in our part of the world now holds it normative that sex and sexual gratification between any consenting persons for any reason that their free wills allow is perfectly acceptable,” and he called for “a culture of chastity” to “drive the evil behaviors among us from the womb of the Church.” Translation: the real sin here is not the misconduct of church officials but contemporary attitudes towards sexuality that have eroded traditional values and corrupted the clergy.

To be fair, children are safer as a result of reforms implemented by Church officials in response to the scandal. The Church no longer provides a safe hunting ground for predators like Gauthe, Porter, and Goeghan, who abused dozens or hundreds of victims over decades.

However, so long as the bishops continue to focus on the failings of others and on fighting culture wars, rather than removing bishops who conceal crimes and transforming the culture of impunity within the Catholic hierarchy, the clergy sexual abuse scandal will not go away.

Complete Article HERE!

Researching clergy sex abuse can take a heavy emotional toll: 3 essential reads

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Abuse by Catholic priests was the biggest religion story of 2018, driven by a Pennsylvania grand jury report that exposed its massive scale and cover-ups. Scholars writing for The Conversation brought facts to our readers that had taken them years to research.

As we became partners in unpacking this complex research, I came to better understand the tremendous challenges that these scholars faced – as well as the personal toll this research took.

Here are three pieces from our 2018 clergy sex abuse coverage to explain some of the issues that scholars grappled with.

1. The emotional toll

Brian Clites, a religion scholar at Case Western Reserve University, wrote about the long history of abuse by priests, including a time when it was believed that prayer could heal the abusers. In 1947, Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, who began his ministry in Boston and Quebec, moved to New Mexico and founded the Servants of the Paraclete, a new order of Catholic priests “devoted to healing deviant clergy.”

From 2011 to 2017, Clites interviewed 60 survivors in Chicago, Boston and Pennsylvania. Each interview lasted about three hours. He also attended survivor events in Chicago. The years took an emotional toll, as he told me. “I would often cry while reading the documents that survivors shared with me,” he said.

Describing working last summer long-distance with two female survivors who were suicidal, he said, “It was difficult to fall asleep not knowing whether they would make it through the night.”

2. The Vatican bureaucracy

Melissa Wilde, a scholar at University of Pennsylvania, explores some difficult doctrinal changes made possible by an assembly of Roman Catholic bishops held between 1962 to 1965 – a meeting that came to be known as Vatican II.

Wilde spent seven years researching the Vatican before even beginning to write. “I was the first researcher,” she said, to “ever see many of these documents.” Some of the documents she obtained were part of “the Vatican Secret Archive.”

But other materials like letters and other personal correspondence, as well as information on various conservative and progressive groups, were scattered around the world. So, she said, “In the end, I gathered materials from six archival collections, in seven languages.”

In addition, she noted, was the work of managing the reams of information she collected. “Creating a database of Council votes with which I could assess national patterns took years.”

3. Canon laws

As one can imagine, it wasn’t possible to tell these stories in 800 words – the average length of a Conversation piece – without hours of trying to figure out how to tell the story and which story to tell.

Carolyn M. Warner, a professor at Arizona State University, spent some precious hours working on a piece on a complex set of canon laws that lay out the theology of the Church and which can be changed only by the pope. In a short piece, Warner managed to encapsulate close to two thousand years of Church history.

Her piece explained how the canons were created and the changes that came about over the years. She wrote about how a “canon to avoid scandal” came to be added in the laws, because of a deeply held conviction to “promote and safeguard the faith,” and how such a canon compounded the issue of secrecy around errant priests.

With Catholic orders and diocese releasing lists of priests found to be “credibly accused,” we can expect ever more revelations about the trauma of survivors to come out in 2019. Perhaps it’s worth remembering, it’s the years of work by many – scholars, journalists and activists – that helped bring this story to light.

Complete Article HERE!

Third-Ranking Vatican Official Convicted of Sexually Abusing Choir Boys

Vatican Treasurer Cardinal George Pell is surrounded by Australian police as he leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court in Australia, October 6, 2017.

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Cardinal George Pell, the third-ranking official in the Catholic Church, has been convicted in Australia on charges related to the sexual abuse of two choir boys in the 1990s, The Daily Beast reported Tuesday.

Pell, the Church’s finance chief and the highest-ranking Vatican official ever to be tried for sexual abuse, left Rome in June 2017 to stand trial in Melbourne. A judge granted the prosecutor’s request for a gag order ahead of the trial in order to “prevent a real and substantial risk of prejudice to the proper administration of justice.”

Two choir boys accused Pell of abusing them in a backroom at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where they sang, when he was the archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s.

Pell is due to be tried again in the coming months for allegedly abusing two other boys at a swimming pool in Victoria in the 1970s, when he was a priest there, according to the Guardian.

The Australian Daily Telegraph hinted at the Tuesday verdict on its homepage while mocking that country’s censorship rules, which prevent the details of criminal proceedings from being made public.

The verdict comes at the end of a year rife with reports of widespread sexual misconduct by members of the Catholic clergy. A Pennsylvania grand-jury report released in August exposed the sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children by 301 priests in Pennsylvania churches over 70 years.

Following the release of the report, Pope Francis asked Catholics to forgive the Church’s failure to confront the “culture of death” fostered by predatory clergy.

Complete Article HERE!