01/29/16

Inside the secret gay movement at one of America’s most homophobic colleges

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born-again this way

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by Peter Moskowitz

Five people are watching TV on a laptop on a tepid winter Thursday night in a cozy red house, in an unremarkable suburb 30 miles west of Chicago. This scene would be totally banal except that all five are gay, and that would be probably ho-hum, too, except all five are connected to a place where the mere fact of their sexualities causes enough of a stir to make said scene not only unusual, but controversial.

All five are students and alums of Wheaton College, one of the most prominent evangelical schools in the country—and therefore routinely named one of the least LGBT-friendly colleges in the U.S. by Princeton Review. This is a place that hosts lectures by “converted” straight people, a place that proudly boasts the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, named for the famous evangelical Christian and Wheaton alum who was passionately anti-gay.

The room is a clash of pride and internal conflict, out-loud activism and secrecy. This weekly gathering, hosted in the house of an alum named Lora Wiens, is not exactly clandestine, but it’s not advertised, either; most people find out about it through friends of friends. Wiens, who owns this house with her partner, tells me the kids gathered there that night face more risk than they realize by being openly gay on campus. Wiens’ wife won’t let me use her name in this story out of fear she’d be fired from her job. Most of the college students want pseudonyms, too.

Yet these kids also appear prouder, more confident, and more willing to talk about their sexuality than than most gay people I know in New York City. They definitely seem surer of themselves than I was at their age, and I went to Hampshire College, one of the most queer-friendly, hippy-dippy places in the nation. Maybe that’s what happens when you’ve been forced to question yourself year after year. You come to a decision: You either hide, or you boldly proclaim who you are and project confidence, even if you don’t always feel it.

So while keeping things on the down-low is a requirement for sitting in on this meeting, Wiens’ living room feels irrepressibly gay. There is the sitcom of choice (Modern Family), the college students’ tight-pants Urban Outfitters aesthetic, and the fact that everyone talks very openly about gayness, about wanting partners, about being asked stupid questions by straight people on campus: “If one man in a relationship makes more money,” one junior recalls being asked by an ignorant student, “does that make you the man?” The room erupts with laughter.

001After Modern Family, over glasses of soda and water (this is a Christian crowd, after all), the group watches a video produced for a college project by one of the students about life on campus. There are several scenes of Wheaton kids walking around the school. It was shot so their faces could not be seen.

The director points out which body parts belong to other known LGBT students on campus: “He’s gay, she’s gay, he’s gay,” they say every time a familiar shoulder blade or set of feet flashes on screen. The four others at Wiens’ house applaud after the video was over. Knowing which feet are gay: This is progress.

Imagining a Wheaton where showing openly gay students’ faces on video would be okay? It seems years, even decades away.

It’s easy to forget, at least in places like New York or San Francisco, that the Supreme Court struck down the important parts of the Defense of Marriage Act less than three years ago. In an age when gay people are featured as main characters in TV shows, lauded by pop stars, and show up regularly in The New York Times real estate section pieces like any other annoyingly wealthy couple on the hunt for an overpriced apartment, it’s easy to forget there’s another America, the GOP’s “real America,” the one where being gay is still a thing.

Wheaton College—nestled in the heartland, yet kissing a city border— might be a barometer for that America.

Boystown, the Chicago neighborhood where opening Grindr might cause your phone to explode, is only an hour away by train. But the small city of Wheaton feels stuck in time, immune from the social and economic pressures of the last decade. Its large brick and white wood houses are nearly all framed well by Christmas decorations in early December. Its quaint downtown streets show no sign of anything that could be deemed family-unfriendly. The town is rumored to have the most churches per capita of any place in America. Wheaton was a dry city until 1985.

And the college, located on a hill as if it were the centerpiece of the town, is known as the “Harvard of Evangelical colleges.” When the administration began termination procedures for a professor who stood in solidarity with Muslims by wearing a hijab to class, it made national news for weeks. Every move Wheaton makes, one prominent Evangelical told me, sends shudders through the rest of conservative Christian America.

So when LGBT students and alums come together here to meet and to push the administration toward acceptance, it could have ramifications far beyond campus borders. Wheaton College could be a canary in the mine for gay acceptance in this other America, the one forgotten by the relentlessly upbeat coverage of gay rights in major cities.

The fact that any students are willing to meet with me was a sign of momentum. A few years ago this story likely wouldn’t have even been possible. But Wheaton’s campus is still light years away from being a queer haven. The college’s administration believes Christ can help change sexuality. Its “Community Covenant,” a document every incoming student is required to sign their first day at school, prohibits “sexual immorality,” and that includes “homosexual behavior.” When I asked the college’s PR person LaTonya Taylor whether the college would affirm same-sex relationships, her answer was clear: “No.” (And then she directed me to the Community Covenant.

When Wiens went to Wheaton, first as an undergrad in the mid-1990s and then as a grad student in the school’s psychology program ten years later, coming out was out of the question. The psychology department didn’t outright teach conversion therapy—the much-discredited practice of psychologists coaching people to change their sexualities, banned in several states—but professors made clear their feelings about sexuality in other ways.

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“The assumption was still that it is a sin,” Wiens says. “There were comments that were ignorant or homophobic being made pretty much every week. It was definitely not a comfortable place to be.”

For decades after Wheaton, Wiens and other LGBT Wheaton alums kept in touch only through a newsletter sent out sporadically by one alum. In 2011, Wiens and a few dozen others launched OneWheaton, a support and advocacy group that now throws annual homecomings for LGBT Wheaton grads each year near the school. Wiens is now the organization’s chair. The school won’t allow it to be held on campus, but because it’s an alumni group, OneWheaton has the privilege of being public and proud about sexuality.

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“Your sexual identity is not a tragic sign of the sinful nature of the world,” the group’s founding letter reads. “You are not tragic. Your desire for companionship, intimacy and love is not shameful. It is to be affirmed and celebrated just as you are to be affirmed and celebrated.”

There hasn’t been much policy progress made at Wheaton in the four years since then, but Wiens says the comfort levels of the students have increased tremendously. The fact that on many Thursdays somewhere between three and 10 students come to her house and talk openly about being gay, about wanting boyfriends or girlfriends, is proof.

Still, Wiens says, she worries about the risks inherent in becoming more comfortable.

“The undergrads, they skate on thin ice,” she says. “You can still get expelled for being in a relationship. Professors can still be fired for saying homosexuality isn’t a sin. I don’t think they realize how much they’re at risk.”

There aren’t any known cases where professors have been fired just for supporting the LGBT community. At least explicitly. The professor suspended after wearing a hijab was already on thin ice after the administration spotted a picture of her on Facebook at Chicago’s gay pride parade. In 2014, the school hired Julie Rodgers, a lesbian who had vowed to remain celibate in order to keep from sinning, as a spiritual counselor. But in the summer of 2015, Rodgers wrote on her personal website that her views on sexuality had “evolved,” that she viewed same-sex relationships as okay.

“I’ve become increasingly troubled by the unintended consequences of messages that insist all LGBT people commit to lifelong celibacy,” Rodgers wrote.

She left the school. Even though she wasn’t technically fired, students and alums say there was no way she could have stayed.

There’s a generational divide at Wheaton. It’s hard to find Wiens’ fear of reprimand in the faces and voices and styles of Wheaton’s current LGBT students.

You might not be able to tell Andrew*, a junior at Wheaton, is gay just by looking at him: In a knit sweater and jeans, plastic-rimmed glasses and a beanie, he looks like most college guys. But he’s carefree about his sexuality and unconcerned about who might overhear him proclaim it.

At a local coffee shop packed with Wheaton students, Andrew reveals himself to be like a lot of gay kids at Wheaton: He’s from a deeply conservative Christian background, he’s deeply connected to his faith, and it’s obvious he’s spent a lot of time reconciling his background with his sexuality and the desires that stem from it.

“I was leaning a lot more to the Christian side,” he tells me. “I still have this huge internal struggle because I can see myself very happy with a husband one day and living on the Upper East Side of New York, going to galas and having two kids: one playing tennis and the other one doing ballet.”

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Andrew seems to harbor little ill will towards those who see his sexuality as a sin. To Andrew, the college’s President Philip Ryken—a man who has stated he’s committed to upholding the view that sexuality is changeable and homosexuality is sinful— is “the coolest dude ever. Yes, he believes a certain way, but also he’s loving and he wants to hear you out and talk with you.”

Tolerance for different points of view was a common theme among the students I interviewed. Sure, they felt pressure because most non-LGBT students and professors at Wheaton disagreed with their sexuality. But they agreed with their peers about so much more: about how to live compassionately, about how to embody Christian principles in life. Andrew and several others told me they were glad they came to terms with their sexuality at Wheaton. At a secular school, they feared embracing their sexuality might also mean discarding their faith.

But, at least for now, there’s no way to be both completely out and completely Christian on campus.

Even the gay students who are happy at Wheaton acknowledge there’s a reason they’re afraid to be fully out on campus—and back home, for that matter. They fear taunts, public attention, lectures from professors and administrators.

“My suspicion is that if we were to say, ‘We’re in a relationship and we believe that that’s okay,’ [our] integrity would be challenged,” one female student dating another woman tells me. “People would say that you don’t belong here because you signed the Community Covenant. That is the cognitive dissonance that we live with every day.”

Last year, a straight ally of LGBT students had an apple thrown at him for questioning the school’s stance on homosexuality. And a few weeks ago, Andrew walked into his advisor’s office and said he’d been feeling stressed and overworked. His advisor asked Andrew if he was gay, and he replied “yes.”

“Then I get an hour and a half lecture about how being gay is a lifestyle that you shouldn’t go down, and it’s not natural and you’ll have a better life and a legacy if you’re not,” Andrew recalls. “I was a little scared because I was wondering what does this mean for me as his advisee? Will he not like me anymore? Will this mean that I’m not going to get a recommendation from him?”

Andrew is charismatic, unfazed by homophobia, and confident enough to resist his advisor’s rhetoric. But what about others?

“I do need to talk to him and say, “Hey, I hope you don’t talk like that to anyone else because you never know what their mindset could be,’” Andrew said. “They could be having the worst month ever dealing with their sexuality. You tell them this and they go kill themselves.”

Most LGBT Wheaton students know the horror stories: In 1987, a gay student named Stephen Thyberg walked off Wheaton’s campus onto the nearby commuter rail tracks and waited for a train to run him over. In 2007, another gay student named Stephen Hampton followed in Thyberg’s footsteps. He was 21. Several people I spoke with who were close with Hampton said struggles over his sexuality were the main factor in his suicide.

“At Wheaton, he came to believe God was a masochist,” one of Hampton’s friends tells me over the phone from California. “That was the only way he could reconcile being gay with what he was being taught at Wheaton.”

It’s impossible to know how many others couldn’t hold it together at Wheaton because of their sexuality. Several people told me about other suicides, drop-outs, drug problems, and depressions they suspect were at least partially linked to struggles over sexuality.

The administration said it tries to be supportive: “We recognize that the needs of LGBT students present a particular challenge in a community like Wheaton’s,” LaTonya Taylor said in an email. “Our hope is that every student can find a home and supportive friendships here, and we work hard to prevent students from becoming isolated or feeling alone.”

In 2013, the college formally recognized a group that had been meeting informally called Refuge. The group, unlike other student groups, is not allowed to advocate for policy within or outside of Wheaton. Every flyer it puts up must be approved by the administration. Still, it’s become one of the only safe spaces (the other one being Wiens’ house), where students can discuss being gay, or be themselves without fear of being chastised or just looked at funny.

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But even with Refuge, OneWheaton, and the meetings at Wiens’ house, the pressure of being gay at Wheaton is too much for many to bear. Several told me they’d had suicidal thoughts while at Wheaton. Others told me they’d been depressed. But even for those who made it through relatively unscathed, even for those who’ve entered Wheaton after the campus has started to feel incrementally safer for queer students, the scars of being LGBT at a place like Wheaton don’t seem to heal quickly.

meet Sara Kohler in downtown Chicago in the basement cafeteria of a skyscraper across the street from the law firm at which she now works. Kohler, plainspoken and quiet, is 23 and graduated from Wheaton last May. While she eats leftover mac and cheese from a takeout container, she tells me she’d grown up in a conservative household in one of Chicago’s northern suburbs, and she didn’t really think about her sexuality at all until Wheaton.

During Kohler’s freshman year, the school held an event called, “Is Homophobia a Problem at Wheaton?” The event consisted of the stories of LGBT students at Wheaton projected as black text on a white screen. They were read aloud to the assembled students by members of the school’s drama department so that the LGBT students wouldn’t be outed.

“I was squirming a lot, trying to look down,” Kohler says. “But I resonated so deeply with their experiences that I was crying in my seat. And you only really cry for one reason if you’re at an event like that.”

Kohler felt like she was losing her ties to Christianity as she tried to reconcile it with her sexuality. One of her good friends, another gay student at Wheaton, attempted suicide. Another left because they couldn’t deal with the pressure of being gay. During her senior year Sara began drinking a lot. She made it through Wheaton, but just barely.

The struggle to be out at Wheaton “has a lot to do with how closely you hold the idea of being Christian and being gay,” Kohler says. “If you hold both of those very tightly, you’re not going to be okay, because there’s too much dissonance. Wheaton has it set up so that there is no way to be both.”

Students are challenging Kohler’s theory, getting more comfortable with holding those two things at once. The fact that Wheaton has a few, small, safe spaces for LGBT students was remarkable to older alumni. But most people I asked either rolled their eyes or laughed when I asked if the college as a whole would become a safe space anytime soon.

For many, it seems the best way to reconcile faith and sexuality is to leave the particular brand of faith pushed by Wheaton behind, and move on.

I’d met Kohler just hours after I’d met several students at Wheaton, but Wheaton felt weeks behind me, a hazy memory. Kohler tells me she came out to her coworkers recently. Their response, she says, amounted to a big shrug. After struggling for four years to be gay at Wheaton, Kohler was surprised by their nonchalance.

“They were like, “Oh cool,’” Kohler says. “It was like it was pedestrian. Which I guess it is.”

*not his real name

Complete Article HERE!

01/28/16

Irish American Cardinal Raymond Burke blames women for church’s problems

File under:  What A Twit!

By 

The crisis in Catholicism apparently has one source: women. According to Cardinal Raymond Burke, since the 1960’s women have “feminized” the church and discouraged “manly” men from participating in clerical life.

RL Burke in cappa2

“Yeah, because this is how manly men dress.”

Burke, 66, the firebrand conservative who was recently demoted by Pope Francis to the ceremonial post as patron of the Order of Malta, pointed to the introduction of altar girls as an example.

Serving mass is a “manly” job argues the Irish American Cardinal, and so the participation of women and girls in the daily life of the church has had a chilling effect that has led to a drop in morale and priestly vocations.

“Young boys don’t want to do things with girls. It’s just natural,” Burke, a Wisconsin native with Tipperary roots, told a group called The New Emangelization (a conservative organization that exists to put the “man” back in evangelization).

“It requires a certain manly discipline to serve as an altar boy in service at the side of priest, and most priests have their first deep experiences of the liturgy as altar boys.”

“If we are not training young men as altar boys, giving them an experience of serving God in the liturgy, we should not be surprised that vocations have fallen dramatically,” he said.

So it’s not the international abuse crisis that has most led men to reconsider joining the church, it’s girl cooties. And feminism, of course.

“The radical feminism which has assaulted the Church and society since the 1960s has left men very marginalized,” said the Cardinal, a member of one of the oldest and most enduring men’s groups on earth.

“Apart from the priest, the sanctuary has become full of women. The activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and have become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved.”

Not only do boys not want to share altar time with the girls, they resent how much better girls do their jobs apparently.

“The girls were also very good at altar service. So many boys drifted away over time. I want to emphasize that the practice of having exclusively boys as altar servers has nothing to do with inequality of women in the Church.”

There you go again girls, breaking into places where you don’t belong and doing a better job at it. Have you no shame?

Actually, what you ladies did wasn’t just invasive it was terrible, as Burke underlines.

“There was a period of time when men who were ‘feminized’ and confused about their own sexual identity had entered the priesthood; sadly some of these disordered men sexually abused minors; a terrible tragedy for which the Church mourns.”

There you have it, it was the feminists with their “feminizing” that was the real engine of the molestation crisis. I’m sure that you’re reading this and having an Aha! moment. Who could disagree?

Burke, it should be emphasized, is not calling for complementary roles to be performed by both sexes in the life of the church, comporting to their sex. He’s simply calling for a removal of all female influence, because it leads men astray and tarnishes or ruins things.

No wonder Pope Francis thought he’d be better off sent to pasture rather than pastoring.

Complete Article HERE!

01/28/16

Club Fight: Tenn. Residents Complain About High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance

By Rob Boston

At public schools around the country, students, mostly high schoolers, are forming Gay-Straight Alliance clubs. Fundamentalist Christians often freak out over the existence of these clubs, like these people are doing in Winchester, Tenn.

Whenever this happens, I have to explain, once again, who made it possible for students to form Gay-Straight Alliances at public secondary schools.

It was fundamentalist Christians.

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That’s right. Public secondary schools can have Gay-Straight Alliances because of something conservative Christians did more than 30 years ago.

Come with me now back to those halcyon days of 1984. “When Doves Cry” by Prince – he was just plain old Prince then, none of this “artist formerly known as” stuff – was riding at the top of the music charts. “Ghostbusters” was the top-grossing film. Lots of women were sporting big wavy perms, and skinny ties were hot for men. Cars were boxy, and Apple launched a new personal computer called the Macintosh.

In Congress, legislators passed something called the Equal Access Act. They had been prodded to do it by a coalition of conservative Christian and Religious Right groups. These organizations wanted students at public secondary schools to have the right to form Bible clubs that would meet during non-instructional time (usually defined as just after school).

Now, Congress couldn’t pass a law that covered only Christian groups and Bible clubs; it had to be broader than that to pass legal muster, and it was. Under the Equal Access Act, if a school permits any club not directly related to the curriculum to meet, it must allow them all. (The only exceptions are clubs that might cause a disruption, like a racist club.)

When all of this was going on, Americans United said to the Religious Right groups, “Hey, are you sure you want to do this? You do realize that this means kids can form atheist clubs and all that, right?”

But the Religious Right groups said they were sure they wanted to do it. In fact, they insisted that they would be cool with all of the groups kids chose to form.

The Equal Access Act survived review before the Supreme Court in 1991. Jay Sekulow, an attorney then associated with TV preacher Pat Robertson, successfully argued the case.

Flash forward to 2016. Kids are now using the act to form Bible clubs, Jewish clubs, atheist clubs, manga clubs, gaming clubs – and Gay-Straight Alliances.

Americans United had some concerns at the time, but as it happened, things worked out pretty well with the Equal Access Act. The clubs are student-run and student-initiated. They take place after hours, and no one has to attend. It’s entirely voluntary.

Yet in Winchester, some people are not reacting well to the creation of the Gay-Straight Alliance. John Wimley, a local resident who doesn’t like the club, told WBRC-TV, “I don’t understand it. I don’t understand where they’re coming from, and I want answers. Everybody wants answers.”

Here’s your answer, Mr. Wimley: A federal law championed largely by Religious Right groups that was approved by Congress, signed by President Ronald W. Reagan and upheld by the Supreme Court has given students at Franklin County High School the legal right to form a Gay-Straight Alliance. As WBRC noted, the school already has a student-run Bible club. Thus, officials at the school are legally required to allow this one too.

That’s why it’s called the Equal Access Act.

The Gay-Straight Alliance is already meeting at Franklin High. I doubt school officials will try to stop it because if they did that, any number of lawyers would be more than willing to step in and help the club members secure their legal rights.

I don’t know what happened the first time the students who formed the alliance got together, but I hope they took a moment to thank the movement that made it all possible: the Religious Right.

Complete Article HERE!

01/26/16

Irish priest punished by Florida bishop for informing on pedophile colleague

By Cathy Hayes

Young christian priest in cassock arrested and handcuffed

Tyrone priest, Fr John A Gallagher is being punished by unresponsive bishops and Vatican for doing the “right thing,” and having Indian pedophile, Fr Jose Palimatton, investigated by police.

A priest, originally from County Tyrone and now based in the United States, claims he has been “frozen out” of the Catholic Church after calling the police to investigate a fellow clergyman who had shown child-porn images to 14-year-old parishioner.

Fr John A Gallagher (48), from Strabane, Co Tyrone, is now living in a holiday home belonging to one of his friends and parishioners. He says the locks on his parochial house were changed and he was placed on medical leave by his bishop in the Diocese of Palm Beach, FL. Gallagher says he was told by the Catholic Church to put a pedophile priest on a plane back to India rather than cooperate with the police.

Gallagher has been living in the United States since 2000. Prior to this he served in the Long Tower parish in Derry. He is well-known in the Catholic community in the US and has made several religious music records and TV appearances. In 2012 he received a personal note from Pope Benedict XVI thanking him for his work, but Gallagher said this was little comfort as he felt “the wrath” of the Church in the past year.

Father John A Gallagher, from Strabane, County Tyrone.

Father John A Gallagher, from Strabane, County Tyrone.

A local police chief in Palm Beach has also voiced his concern over the treatment of Gallagher and wrote to the Church to complain.

The incident took place in January 2015. Gallagher, who has remained silent on the matter until now, has written to bishops and cardinals in Ireland and America as well as the Vatican but has been unable to locate the Indian clergyman in question. He said he has not received a satisfactory response from the Catholic Church.

The Belfast Telegraph reports that Fr Jose Palimattom, who had been at the parish of the Holy Name of Jesus Christ in West Palm Beach for just one month, approached a 14-year-old boy after Mass. The priest showed the boy as many as 40 images of naked boys. According to ABC news, the tag words in the images included “little boys,” and “young boys 10-18 yoa.”

Palimattom (48), a priest of the Franciscan Province of St Thomas the Apostle in India, was serving a two-year residency at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in West Palm Beach from December 2014.

Fr Jose Palimatton. Photo: Facebook.

Fr Jose Palimatton.

Police say he was in the first stages of grooming the boy.

The night after Palimattom had shown the young boy the photos he sent him a Facebook message which read “Good night. Sweet dreams.”

The young boy told a friend who reported this to the Church choirmaster, who immediately informed Fr Gallagher.

The Irish priest says that on the night he found out he was told by a Florida Church official, “We need to make him go away, put on a plane.”

He had been instructed to put Fr Palimattom on a plane to Bangalore. Gallagher was also told “do not keep written notes,” by the same official.

All of this has been recorded in documents, filed with the Vatican, by a specialist Canon Lawyer on behalf of Gallagher. These were sent to Cardinal Gerhard Muller, Prefect of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in Rome.

Rather than following the Church’s instruction to “make him go away,” Gallagher interviewed Fr Palimattom along with one of his parishioners, a retired police officer. The parishioner took notes at the meeting.

Palimattom admitted to showing nude pictures of boys to the teen. He also admitted that he had sexually assaulted boys in India before arriving in the US. A few hours later he repeated this confession to detectives from the specialist unit of the West Palm Beach Police.

Gallagher contacted the police, following the rules the Catholic Church had set down after hundreds of cases of sexual abuse carried out by the clergy on children.

At the time the Palm Beach diocese released a statement saying that despite prior investigation they had no knowledge of Palimattom’s previous assaults in India.

They said, “As part of its due diligence, the diocese completed a background screening which also included a screening in India, and received a Certificate of Aptitude from the Minister Provincial in India. During this background process, no prior misconduct was revealed.”

Palimattom admitted, ABC news reported, that the prior assaults were not on record as they had not been reported to police. It was also claimed by the media that Palimattom was under orders from the Church to avoid being in the company of minors without other adults in attendance.

Having reported Palimattom’s actions to the police, and despite the fact that he was following the Catholic Church’s own rules, it was made clear to Gallagher that his actions were not approved of.

He said, “It was made clear to me that what I had done (co-operating with the police) wasn’t what I should have done.

“It was a very distressing time for me and the parish. But we had a special Mass and I told the congregation what had happened. I told them it was now in the hands of the rightful authorities, the police.

“Palimattom was on the local TV news as his arrest became public. I did the right thing.”

He was arrested and his bail set at $10,000. The Catholic Church dealt with the victim’s family through lawyers and an out-of-court settlement was made. Palimattom has been sent back to India to an undisclosed location.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In late April 2015 Gallagher was called to meet with the Bishop of Palm Beach, Gerald Barbarito. Three other Church officials were in attendance. Gallagher was in line to be promoted and was surprised to receive a phone call the day after their meeting telling him he was being demoted.

The Irish priest said, “No reason was given. I asked if I could meet with him again and this was refused. He said if I didn’t wish to be demoted and moved to another parish, I should leave the priesthood.”

Four weeks later Gallagher was rushed to hospital with a suspected heart attack. He had become unwell while hearing Confession.

Gallagher said Bishop Barbarito visited him in the hospital but did not anoint him or bring him Communion.

Six days later Gallagher asked Dominican nun, Sister Ann Monahan, to retrieve files on the Palimattom scandal from his office at the Holy Name of Jesus Christ church. She retrieved the files but later when she returned a church official stopped her and took the keys to the building from her. The 84-year-old nun has now been officially retired.

When Gallagher got out of the hospital he found the locks on the parochial house had been changed and a new priest appointed to his parish. Under the bishop’s orders Gallagher was due to leave one month later, in July.

Gallagher said, “I was in shock. I had just suffered a suspected heart attack and wanted to return to my home to recover. Instead, I was homeless.”

In a letter the Bishop suggested that Gallagher needed “treatment” for his mental health. An all-expenses paid trip was offered to him, to a clinic in Pennsylvania. Gallagher refused and has been on paid leave since.

When the police, who were investigating the Palimattom case, learned of Gallagher’s absence they wrote to Church leaders, including Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the head of the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection, a group established by Pope Francis in 2014.

Chief Deputy in the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office Michael Gauger, who has been a cop for 44 years, said this was not the first time that the Church has impeded investigations.

He wrote, “Due to Fr Gallagher’s co-operation the case was swiftly resolved and the opportunity for additional crimes was diminished.

“Educated in the pattern of behavior by those engaged in this inappropriate behavior, the crime could have escalated to something physical which would have been devastating to the victim as well as the Catholic Church.”

Chief Deputy Gauger urged Cardinal O’Malley to ensure the Irish priest received “accolades for his compliance with criminal investigators.”

Another detective working on the case had written a memo to Gauger on May 5, 2015, before Gallagher’s heart attack. Detective Debi Phillips also said she had been hindered by the Church in the past and expected to face the same opposition in Gallagher’s case. However, she was wrong.

She wrote, “Reverend Gallagher and his staff provided timely evidence that was needed to arrest and ultimately convict Jose Palimattom for the felony charge of Showing Obscene Material to a Child.

“If it wasn’t for the co-operation … other children would have also been victimized.”

Gallagher communicates with his Bishop, Gerald Barbarito, only through his canon lawyer.

Gallagher did receive a response from Dublin’s Archbishop, Diarmuid Martin, who wrote back to him and left a voice message. Gallagher now believes that the Church in Ireland can help “break the wall of silence over here (in Florida).”

He continued, “Because of the structure of the Church, each diocese is run separately from the other, so there is no broad church.

“This is now 2016 and this is what happens to whistleblowers in the Catholic Church.

“Pope Francis speaks of ridding our church of the crimes of sexual abuse and being open and honest about doing it. I haven’t seen that in Pope Francis’s Church yet.”

When contacted, none of the parties – from Gallagher’s Palm Beach Diocese, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in Rome, or Palimattom’s order in India, the Franciscans Province of St Thomas The Apostle – was available for comment, at the time of this report’s publication.

Complete Article HERE!

01/21/16

Italy MPs want couples who use surrogate mums jailed

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Italy’s upcoming parliamentary battle over gay civil unions has opened with a group of senators proposing prison terms for couples who use overseas surrogate mothers to have a child.

In a move branded “indecent” by Italy’s biggest gay rights group, Catholic senators from Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party have tabled an amendment to draft legislation legalizing same sex unions which would require gay couples to prove they had not used a surrogate.

If they cannot, the partner who is not the biological father would not be allowed to adopt the child and a judge would be entitled to have the child placed in care and put up for adoption.

The amendment also envisages prison terms of up to two years and fines of up to €1 million for using a surrogate overseas, regardless of whether the practice is legal in the country concerned. Similar penalties are already in place for anyone entering a surrogacy arrangement in Italy.

“This is indecent. A law intended to recognize rights cannot be transformed into a criminalizing one that talks about prison,” said Gabriele Piazzoni, the national secretary of rights group Arcigay.

The civil unions bill is to be debated by the Senate from January 28th and numerous other amendments are expected to be tabled before a deadline on Friday as conservative lawmakers backed by the Catholic Church mount a rearguard action against it.

The bill is expected to finally pass after examination by both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies but supporters fear key articles could be watered down or removed.

Opponents, meanwhile, have threatened a constitutional challenge and a campaign for a ratifying referendum if parliament approves gay unions that they think resemble marriage too closely.

Italy is the last major Western European country not to have enacted legislation enabling gay couples to have their relationships legally recognized.

Opinion polls suggest a majority of voters support same-sex couples’ rights to enter civil unions but that the electorate is more evenly split on issues related to adoption, surrogacy and medically assisted procreation.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano sparked outrage earlier this month when he said the use of paid surrogate mothers should be treated like a sex crime.

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