Michael O’Flaherty to Head Northern Irish Human Rights Commission

Michael O’Flaherty, who is still formally a Catholic priest and who was heavily involved in the creation of a radical gay rights document, is to take over as the head of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

O’Flaherty, who has not been attached to any diocese for some years but has never been formally laicised, was a leading figure in the drafting of the Yogyakarta Principles, which advocates, among other things, legalising gay adoption.

He is to take over from Professor Monica McWilliams in September.

O’Flaherty, who currently serves as Ireland’s UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) member, is also a Professor of Applied Human Rights at the University of Nottingham. In 2008 The Irish Catholic newspaper reported that the Irish government’s Department of Foreign Affairs had undertaken “extensive lobbying” on his behalf to ensure that he was re-elected as a representative on the HRC.

The newspaper said that Professor O’Flaherty “campaigns on a radical gay rights agenda” and that he was a Galway priest, but had “not ministered in the Galway diocese for a number of years.” Subsequent to the Irish government’s lobbying, he was re-elected to the UN Committee on Human Rights.

Professor O’Flaherty, who is an academic at the University of Nottingham, will take up the post on September 19 and will be paid €87,500. Mr Paterson has also appointed an entirely new set of commissioners, with none of the existing commissioners being re-appointed.

They will be replaced by victims’ advocate Alan McBride, Singapore-born former Equality Commission member Paul Yam, former senior social worker Marion Reynolds, retired PSNI chief inspector Milton Kerr, NIPSA general secretary John Corey, former civil servant Christine Collins and Grania Young, director of the Chartered Institute of Housing in Northern Ireland.

Professor McWilliams said she was “delighted” by the choice of her successor and added “His outstanding reputation is a great reassurance for the future work of this commission.”

The Yogyakarta Principles, drafted in 2006, is a document that sets out sweeping and detailed recommendations about advancing homosexual and transsexual rights.

Among its many recommendations are the introduction of gay adoption, the right of prisoners to have “gender-reassignment treatments”, the use of schools to ensure that children are educated to have “understanding of and respect for … diverse sexual orientations and gender identities,” positive discrimination to favour gay individuals and the suggestion that freedom of expression may have to be limited to protect gay rights

Currently, the Principles have no legal status. However, according to C-Fam, a Catholic human rights body that monitors the UN and the EU, the lobbying effort of these three groups is an attempt to elevate them to the status of “soft law.” This would enable bodies charged with reviewing countries’ compliance with international treaties be referenced in more formal contexts, such as by the UN committees, which monitor the implementation of international treaties.

In turn this would allow homosexual rights’ groups to argue that domestic legislation on such issues should give way to new, evolving soft-law international norms, despite the absence of reference to such “norms” in actual hard-law treaties ratified by sovereign nations.


Miami’s Catholic leaders accused of running underground gay sex mafia

In disturbing news: One of Florida’s most powerful Catholic leaders is being accused of running the Miami Archdiocese like a gay sexual mafia boss.

Gawker reports that a group of Catholics from South Florida calling their organization Christifidelis had launched a major investigation into the activities of Archbishop Emeritus John C. Favalora. In a report from Christifidelis called “Miami Vice,” the group found that Favalora was part owner of a company that manufactured an aphrodisiac drink and took trips to Key West with “gay associates.”

He also reportedly had sexual relationships with several underlings, including at least two monsignors, a rector, and a former student. The report indicated that many other priests in South Florida are gay and have live-in boyfriends. Some engaged in pedophilia.

Favalora resigned eight months before his 75th birthday, when archbishops routinely retire. Soon after, new archbishop Thomas Wenski was supposedly brought in to “clean up Favalora’s mess,” a source told Gawker. Many of the 35 priests named in the report had either retired or been reassigned.

The full story can be read in graphic detail at Gawker.

Monsignor, other clerics to stand trial together

Monsignor William Lynn, former head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for Clergy, and three other current or former priests were ordered Friday to stand trial together for conspiracy to endanger the welfare of children.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Lillian Ransom denied defense motions to throw out the conspiracy charges against Lynn and the other defendants in the high profile case involving sexual assaults on two boys in the 1990s.

Revs. Charles Engelhardt, 64, and Edward Avery, 68, and Bernard Shero, 47, a former 6th grade teacher at St. Jerome’s School in Northeast Philadelphia, were charged earlier this year the rape and sexually assault of a 10-year-old boy in 2000.

Another priest, the Rev James Brennan, 47, is charged with raping and sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in 1996.

Ransom also ruled that all the defendants would be tried together.

Attorneys for Lynn objected to the judges decision to allow child endangerment charges against the monsignor, saying the law did not apply to his actions. Lynn’s charges stem from assigning the priests to the parishes. His lawyers argued that to endanger a child the accused has to have been supervising the child. Lynn did not supervise any of the children, they said.

Ransom did throw out one conspiracy count against Shero, saying that the lay schoolteacher was not in conspiracy with the priests. Shero is charged with the rape and assault of a boy identified as “Billy,” who said he was sodomized by Shero at St. Jerome’s.

As head of the clergy office, Monsignor Lynn oversaw all priest personnel issues, which included advising Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and his successor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, on the assignment of priests; interviewing persons who reported sexual abuse by a priests; and overseeing the treatment of clergy known to have abused children.

Judge halts release of cardinal’s secret testimony

A judge on Monday halted the release of 1,200 pages of grand jury testimony of a Roman Catholic cardinal relating to his handling of priest sex-abuse complaints in Philadelphia.

Prosecutors filed Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua’s secret testimony from 2003 to support conspiracy charges filed this year against a high-ranking church official, they said in court papers filed Friday.

Monsignor William Lynn, 60, is charged with conspiracy and child endangerment for allegedly transferring priest-predators without warning. Lynn served as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, mostly under Bevilacqua.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday that Bevilacqua, the former archbishop, had testified that accused priests “would not be able to function” at new parishes if people were warned of their backgrounds.

Grand jurors found the leader of the Philadelphia archdiocese “excused and enabled” the attacks, and was “not forthright” and “untruthful” during 10 grand jury appearances over eight months, the newspaper reported.

He was not charged because the statute of limitations had run out.

Common Pleas Judge Lillian Ransom put a hold on the further release of the grand jury testimony and other documents filed Friday.

She did not immediately return a call for comment on her action Monday.

Neither side asked to have the documents sealed, and the court docket did not list any such seal.

Lynn is the only U.S. church official ever charged in the sex-abuse scandal for his administrative actions.

Four others — two priests, an ex-priest and a former teacher — are charged in the same criminal case in Philadelphia with raping boys.

The prosecution filings Friday came in response to Lynn’s motion to have the charges dismissed.

The motion will be argued at a key hearing Friday.

Defense lawyers assert that he had no children in his care and cannot therefore be charged with endangering them.

In their 65-page response, obtained by The Associated Press, prosecutors argue the charge can apply to anyone with a duty to protect the general “welfare” of children, and not just those with direct supervision of them.

The archdiocese was charged with protecting children at its schools and parishes, prosecutors

They said Lynn and other church officials did not necessarily seek to harm children, but “knowingly put them in harm’s way.”

Lynn’s lawyers declined comment Monday, citing an ongoing gag order in the case.