Pope Benedict set to cancel Irish visit after harsh criticism of Vatican

Pope Benedict is said to be reviewing his planned trip to Ireland next year after the Irish government issued harsh criticism of the Vatican over the latest church cover up scandal, according to the Irish Independent.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny and Deputy Leader Eamon Gilmore have slammed the Vatican for their policy of urging bishops not to accept the guidelines laid down by the Irish hierarchy on reporting child abuse.

The criticism came after the retired Bishop of Cloyne John Magee was harshly criticised after 19 priests in his diocese suspected of pedophilia were given kid gloves treatment, apparently at the behest of the Vatican.

Enda Kenny stated it was “disgraceful” that the Vatican ignored child protection safeguards agreed by the Irish bishops while the Papal Nuncio was summoned to the Foreign Ministry by Gilmore who demanded an explanation for Rome’s “inappropriate” intervention” in Irish affairs.

Kenny’s parliamentary party chairman Charles Flanagan called for the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, to be expelled, a move that had 72 percent public support according to a journal.ie poll.

The Vatican had declared the Irish bishops’ 1996 Groundwork Document, which urged strict reporting to police and a major crackdown on pedophiles, as “a mere study document.”

They claimed it conflicted with canon law. Benedict was expected in Ireland in June for the Eucharistic Congress in Ireland but the harsh reaction to the Cloyne report has put those plans on hold.

There will be great interest in government circles about how Pope Benedict handles the Cloyne report when it is given to him.

Bishop Magee, now retired is in the US and has been out of contact after the outraged media and public reaction to the report.

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Pro-gay bishop under fire

An unidentified group of people hung blankets on the railing that surrounds the Cathedral of Saltillo, Mexico with a message for Bishop Raul Vera Lopez: “We want a Catholic bishop.”

Employees at the Cathedral of Saltillo said they do not know who hung up the blankets or who took them down. “We don’t have them, and nobody here took them down,” said one employee.

According to the Mexican daily Vanguardia, the bishop chose not to respond to the July 12 protests against his leadership in the Diocese of Saltillo, where he has promoted and supported the San Elredo homosexual community, despite its positions that are at odds with Church teaching on homosexuality.

The diocese’s office of communications said Bishop Vega may issue a statement once he has been fully informed of the incident.

In June of this year, Noe Ruiz, the coordinator of San Elredo, said the group planned to ask newly elected local officials in the State of Coahuila to establish policies that respect homosexuals.

Ruiz added that his group planned to propose that same-sex couples be allowed to adopt and receive social security benefits, and that civil unions between them be called “marriage.”

The Diocese of Saltillo

In March of this year, Bishop Vera published a statement on the diocesan website expressing support for the “sexual, family and religious diversity forum.”

The event was aimed at “eradicating what some sectors of the Church believe about homosexuality” — especially the belief “that homosexual actions are contrary to God.”

Ruiz told CNA the purpose of the forum was to show that “two men or two women can raise a child and live normally like everyone else.”

Pro-family groups in Saltillo, such as the Familias Mundi Association, disagreed with that argument.

“We do not agree with forming same-sex families because families come from marriage, and marriage is a vocation that occurs between two people of the opposite sex who complement one another.”

CNA also interviewed Fr. Leopoldo Sanchez, who until a few months ago was the spiritual director for Courage Latino in Mexico, a ministry for homosexuals who wish to live according to the Church’s teachings.

“The Church reminds us that the right path is the path of love, a love that is lived in chastity, and absolutely all Christians are called to this, regardless of whether they have same-sex attraction or not,” he said.

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Vatican denies ordering bishops’ silence

IN THE first sign of a reaction by the Vatican to the Cloyne report, its press officer has claimed the Holy See never instructed Irish bishops to withhold information on abuse cases.

Fr Federico Lombardi said that, instead, the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference was told at a meeting in Rosses Point, Sligo, in November 1998 that neither the Church nor its priests should impede the course of civil justice.

Fr Lombardi’s statement rejected criticism of the Congregation of the Clergy, which undermined the Irish Church’s framework child protection document in 1997 by advising that mandatory reporting of abuse allegation could be contrary to canon law.

The Cloyne report considered this intervention by the Vatican, in 1997, to be entirely unhelpful because it told the Irish bishops that the adoption of their framework document could be “highly embarrassing” for diocesan authorities.

Fr Lombardi’s statement, delivered through Vatican Radio, said that the Congregation of the Clergy was only ever told that the framework was a working document from a bishops’ committee and not the agreed position of the Episcopal Conference.

He said its response was not an invitation to disregard Irish civil law, because there was no law in place at the time to require mandatory reporting.

He also said that, in 1998, the prefect to the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Castrillion Hoyos, told the meeting in Sligo that the Church should not stand in the way of criminal investigations.

Fr Lombardi said the criticism of the Vatican since the publication of the Cloyne report went beyond any comments Ms Justice Yvonne Murphy made in the document itself, which he said were more balanced.

However, the survivors’ group One in Four described Fr Lombardi’s intervention as “wholly inadequate”.

Its executive director, Maeve Lewis, said his statement was an attempt to deny the findings of the Cloyne report.

“Fr Lombardi’s response completely lacks substance and is part of the now familiar refusal by the Vatican to acknowledge that the culture of loyalty and secrecy which facilitated the sexual abuse of children extended far beyond the Irish Church and that it was supported by official Vatican policy,” she said.

“It is further evidence, if it were needed, that the Vatican’s claim to prioritise the safety of children is completely lacking in credibility.

“It underlines the importance for the Irish state to ensure that an unequivocal legal framework is in place to protect children and to punish those who withhold information or place children in danger,” said Ms Lewis.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has already asked the papal nuncio in Ireland, Dr Giuseppe Leanza, to return to him with a full explanation on the comments made by the Vatican in 1997.

Fr Lombardi delivered his statement on Vatican Radio under the guise of a personal comment rather than an official one.

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True to Episcopal Church’s Past, Bishops Split on Gay Weddings

The Episcopal Church, which has been strained by gay-rights issues since the election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire eight years ago, is now divided over how to respond to the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York.
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Bishop Lawrence C. Provenzano will let priests in Brooklyn, Queens and on Long Island officiate at same-sex weddings. In some other New York dioceses, bishops will not or are undecided.

As a result, gay and lesbian Episcopalians will be allowed on Sunday to get married by priests in Brooklyn and Queens, but not in the Bronx or Manhattan or on Staten Island; in Syracuse but not in Albany.

That is because the church has not taken a firm position nationally on same-sex marriage, leaving local bishops with wide latitude to decide what priests may do when the law takes effect in New York State. In the state, with six Episcopal dioceses, the bishops are split: two have given the green light for priests to officiate at same-sex marriages, one has said absolutely not, two are undecided and one has staked out a middle ground, allowing priests to bless, but not officiate at, weddings of gay men and lesbians.

The Episcopal Church, known as one of the most welcoming to gay men and lesbians among mainline Protestant denominations, finds itself in an uneasy position on the issue — embracing neither the clear stance against same-sex marriage taken by Roman Catholic, evangelical Protestant, Muslim, Mormon and Orthodox Jewish leaders, nor the supportive position of Reform Jewish, Unitarian Universalist and many liberal Protestant leaders. The Episcopal Church is a small denomination — the church claims 172,623 members in New York State — but is also prestigious and influential.

Now, gay and lesbian Episcopalians are finding their joy at the legalization of same-sex marriage tempered by the ambiguity over where they stand in their church.

“The Episcopal Church should really communicate that God loves everybody,” said Roy Kim, 40, who is engaged to an Episcopal priest, the Rev. Clayton Crawley. “The Episcopal Church does do that better than most churches, but it’s a great opportunity now to really, unequivocally say that.”

He and Father Crawley worship at St. Paul’s Chapel, which is part of Trinity Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. In keeping with the local bishop’s directive, Trinity’s priests will not officiate at same-sex marriages, and the parish has not decided whether to allow them to bless such unions.

The Episcopal Church’s rules define marriage as a “union of a man and a woman” but also say the clergy must “conform to the laws of the state” governing marriage. In 2009, the denomination approved a resolution saying that “bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church.”

But New York State’s bishops differ over just what a “generous pastoral response” means, and even the bishops most supportive of gay rights are struggling to balance their desire to sanctify the relationships of all of their parishioners with their reluctance to further alienate conservative Anglicans in Africa and even the United States.

The bishops of the Long Island and Central New York Dioceses have authorized priests to preside at same-sex weddings; the bishop of the New York Diocese (which includes three of the city’s five boroughs) is allowing them to bless but not officiate at such rites; the bishop of the Albany Diocese is barring any involvement by priests; and the bishops of the Rochester and Western New York Dioceses remain undeclared.

“It could appear to someone looking from outside the church that this is all we’re talking about, and it isn’t,” said Bishop Lawrence C. Provenzano of the Long Island Diocese. “It finds its place in the larger question of how you minister to the wider world.”

Bishop Provenzano, whose diocese includes Brooklyn and Queens, concluded that a “generous response” allowed presiding over the marriage rite. But Bishop Mark S. Sisk of the New York Diocese found that the “generous response” resolution did not supersede the canon law defining marriage.

“The landscape regarding marriage is still changing across the country, within the church and for gay or lesbian couples themselves,” Bishop Sisk, who supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, said in an interview conducted by e-mail. “The church is still in the process of creating liturgies for these rites and incorporating them into church law.”

A number of gay Episcopalians professed sympathy for what they viewed as Bishop Sisk’s effort to balance competing views.

“That’s a fair middle-of-the road-position,” said Mary O’Shaughnessy, coordinator of the New York metropolitan area chapter of Integrity USA, which advocates equal treatment for gay men and lesbians in the Episcopal Church. “There is nothing that I will call homophobic about that.”

Derek Baker, 46, also expressed understanding for Bishop Sisk’s predicament.

“He’s between a very pointy rock and a very firm hard place,” said Mr. Baker, who plans to have his marriage blessed at the Church of the Ascension in Greenwich Village, where he has been a parishioner for two decades.

The situation is particularly awkward for gay priests like Father Crawley. Bishop Sisk has said that gay and lesbian priests “living in committed relationships” should marry — even though they cannot do so in church.

“That’s called hypocrisy,” said the Rev. Michael W. Hopkins, rector of the Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene in Rochester. Father Hopkins is a past president of Integrity USA.

But Bishop Sisk responded, “The expectation that clergy in relationships will marry is not a demand, nor does it come with a specific timeline.” He also said clergy members could be creative in fashioning liturgies that might include a civil marriage conducted in the church but solemnized by a secular official, followed by a pastoral blessing offered by a priest.

Some gay and lesbian Episcopalians said they were content to allow the church to proceed slowly because they believed it was moving in what they viewed as the right direction. The issue of same-sex marriage will most likely be raised again at the church’s next national conference, next summer.

“The bishop might be completely behind gay marriage, but he also understands that unless we have the conversation, and unless we are patient, the church will break,” said Javier Galitó-Cava, a gay Episcopalian and actor who worships at St. Paul’s. “I want to kick and scream and say ‘How dare you, I’m not a second class citizen’ — but if I want this to happen, for myself and for my children, we have to take it one step at a time.”

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