‘Crisis of leadership’ in church, says dissident theologian Küng

DISSIDENT CATHOLIC Church theologian Hans Küng says the church’s failure to deal with global clerical sex abuse is proof that it is suffering a “crisis of leadership”.

Küng (83), for many years an outspoken critic of the Holy See, makes the criticism in his most recent book, Ist Die Kirche Noch Zu Retten? (Can The Church Still Be Saved?), published this year but recently released in Italian.

Küng draws a correlation between celibacy and paedophilia. In yesterday’s Rome daily La Repubblica, Küng states: “People are always trying to deny the correlation between the abuse of minors by priests and the ruling on priestly celibacy but in the end you cannot avoid it.” He argues that priestly celibacy might well have kept women out of “all church ministery”, but in the process it [the church] has accentuated the “risk of paedophilia”. As part of the way forward, Küng calls on the church to embrace the ordination of women, thus advancing “equal dignity with men”.

He refers to the church as “truly sick”, adding that the cause of that malady is the “system of Rome government” that has evolved in the last millennium. “The defining traits are . . . the monopoly of power and truth, clericalism, juridicalism, misogyny, a hatred of sex and a profane use of the power of religion. The papacy is not to be abolished, rather it needs to be renewed so that it becomes a Petrine service based on the Bible. What does have to be abolished, however, is the . . . mediaeval-style Rome government.”

Küng says he would not have written his most recent book if Pope Benedict indicated how the church should develop “in the spirit of Vatican Council II”. But he argues that the pontiff has preserved with the politics of restoration initiated by his predecessor John Paul II.

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Msgr. Lynn got standing ovation at Chaput dinner, say those at event

Msgr. William J. Lynn, the former church official awaiting trial for allegedly protecting sexually abusive priests, drew words of encouragement from Philadelphia’s new archbishop and a standing ovation from scores of priests at a private gathering last month, according to people familiar with the event.

During the invitation-only dinner for Archbishop Charles J. Chaput at a parish hall in Montgomery County, Chaput singled out Lynn in the crowd and noted how difficult the ordeal has been for him, according to one priest who attended and two people briefed by others at the gala.

Much of the audience, which included hundreds of priests, then stood and applauded, said the sources, who asked not to be identified.

The exchange, in a banquet room at St. Helena’s in Blue Bell, spanned just seconds in a talk by Chaput on changes and his vision for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. But it reflected one of the strongest signals of support for Lynn since his arrest and suspension from ministry in February.

It came as Chaput, who last month took the helm of the 1.5 million-member archdiocese, strives to bond with his new flock and the hundreds of priests who are the face of the church in the region’s towns and parishes.

Told how sources described the event, Donna Farrell, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, declined this week to discuss what she said was a private gathering for Chaput and the priests. She said Chaput was away at a retreat and would not elaborate on his remarks.

Chaput, who previously headed the Archdiocese of Denver, has spoken only sparingly of the sex-abuse allegations involving the Philadelphia priests, saying he needed time to absorb the facts and issues.

But in an interview with the Associated Press the day before his Sept. 8 installation, Chaput said of the case against Lynn: “It’s really important to me, and I think to all of us, that he be treated fairly and that he not be a scapegoat.”

Jeffrey Lindy, one of Lynn’s defense attorneys, said he was gratified to hear about the ovation for the monsignor. “He’s a real good person,” Lindy said.

Citing a gag order in the case, a spokeswoman for Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said Tuesday that the office had no comment.

Lynn, 60, faces a March trial in Philadelphia, along with two priests, a defrocked priest, and a former Catholic school teacher.

Two of the clerics and the teacher are charged with raping a 10-year-old altar boy at St. Jerome’s, a Northeast Philadelphia parish in the late 1990s. The other priest allegedly molested a 14-year-old boy at his apartment in 1996.

Lynn is not accused of assaulting children, but rather of conspiracy and endangerment for taking steps that enabled the other priests to allegedly molest the boys.

As the secretary for clergy from 1992 until 2004, he recommended where archdiocesan priests are assigned. That included assignments for those who had previously been accused of molesting children. He is believed to be the first church official in the nation charged with covering up clergy sex abuse.

When he announced the charges in February, Williams, the prosecutor, said Lynn “went out of his way to put known abusers into contact with adolescents.”

Lindy and Thomas Bergstrom, Lynn’s attorneys, have called the allegations untrue, unfair, and the product of overzealous prosecutors.

The archdiocese is paying their fees.

After Lynn’s arrest, some parishioners at St. Joseph’s in Downingtown, where he has been pastor since 2002, praised his work there. And several priests have attended his pretrial hearings, flanking him outside the courtroom.

The criminal charges accompanied a grand jury report that accused the archdiocese of failing in its efforts to root out abusive priests and help victims.

Responding to that report, Chaput’s predecessor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, placed two dozen other priests on administrative leave while the archdiocese reexamines old allegations that they sexually abused or acted inappropriately around children. Those reviews are pending.

Like Lynn, the suspended priests are barred from publicly celebrating Mass, ministering as a priest, or returning to their parishes. But Lynn and many of the others on leave were invited to the dinner for Chaput in the week after his Sept. 8 installation. Some but not all the suspended priests attended, the sources said.

The arrests and suspensions rocked the archdiocese and strained the relationship between the administration and some parish priests.

In July, scores of area priests formed an independent group, the Association of Philadelphia Priests, to unite their interests and serve as an advocate for priests’ rights and church reform. The leaders of the group met privately with Chaput last month and found him to be “open, supportive, and encouraging,” according to a note posted on their website.

In his remarks to the Associated Press about Lynn, Chaput also said it was important that “those that are conducting the trial treat him fairly, and that they don’t pore into his life responsibility for things he didn’t do.”

Last month, Lynn’s attorneys asked Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina to dismiss the charges, move the trial out of the region, or at least lift her gag order, which bars the defendants and attorneys from publicly commenting on the case.

In their motions, Bergstrom and Lindy complained that court filings by prosecutors had “created a one-sided, and, in certain cases, a distorted view” of Lynn and grand jury testimony he gave seven years ago about his handling of abuse accusations.

Sarmina could rule on those motions Friday, when all sides are due in her courtroom for a status hearing.

Also pending is a request by prosecutors to question Rigali’s predecessor, Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, in open court. His attorney has argued that the 88-year-old cardinal, suffering from dementia and cancer, is unfit to testify.

Sarmina postponed a hearing on the matter last month.

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Diocese of Wilmington emerges from bankruptcy

The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington on Monday completed the transfer of more than $77.4 million to a trust fund for survivors of clergy abuse, and with the payment the 143-year-old diocese emerged from bankruptcy after almost two years.

Diocese attorney Anthony G. Flynn said the money changed hands by wire transfer and check, starting last Friday.

The money was part of an extensive list of settlement terms included in the plan confirmed in July by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Sontchi. The diocese filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2009 after survivors of clergy abuse filed about 150 lawsuits under provisions of the 2007 Child Victims Act. The 2007 law opened a two-year window during which claimants could file civil suits that otherwise would have been barred by the statute of limitations.

Detailed reports — accounting for each penny of the money — are required before payment reaches survivors, a process likely to extend into mid-October, according to Wilmington attorney Stephen Neuberger, whose firm represented the majority of abuse survivors who had sued the diocese.

“So many of these survivors have been fighting for their entire lifetime for some small bit of justice,” Neuberger said. ” … At least now they can close the book on this chapter of their lives. And they can take a large measure of satisfaction from the fact that what they’ve accomplished in this hasn’t happened in every state.”

With the transfer complete and the plan in effect, the diocese and all of its parishes on Monday were released from any further litigation by those claimants.

Last week, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales also were released from all pending cases after meeting settlement terms in 39 claims against a dozen of their priests. Two of those cases were filed against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and are not included in the Wilmington trust fund, but $23.5 million of the $24.8 million settlement will go to the trust.

Still pending — and in mediation — are 16 cases against other religious orders, said Wilmington attorney Mark Reardon, who represents the orders involved in most of those cases.

Nine cases name former Capuchin friar Paul Daleo, the Capuchin order, St. Edmond’s Academy and the Brothers of Holy Cross, who run St. Edmond’s, where Daleo taught from 1978-83, Reardon said. Reardon said he hopes those claims will be resolved before an Oct. 25 trial date set in the case of Wilmington claimant Matthias Conaty.

“It is my daily work and my nightly prayer to have those resolved tomorrow,” Reardon said.

Five other cases against St. Edmond’s and Holy Cross are pending against a lay teacher, John Fleming, Reardon said, and two other cases, related to two deceased priests, are pending against the Norbertines and Archmere Academy.

Payment to survivors will be determined by a complex scoring system finalized by retired U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas Rutter.

In addition to the money for the survivors’ trust fund, Flynn said the diocese also has deposited $5 million into a trust fund for lay employees of the diocese as part of its assurances that it will cover future pension payments as required by the approved plan.

Yet to be completed are nonmonetary obligations required by the plan, including release of abuser priest personnel files and appointment of a special arbitrator and a child protection consultant. Deadlines for those requirements were extended by agreement of all parties.

But Monday’s release from bankruptcy is an important day for the diocese, Flynn said.

“It’s a very important day from an operational perspective,” he said. “We have a lot of things to do to implement this plan — and the nonmonetary provisions are an important part of that. So it’s not that the job is over, but the bankruptcy is over. … The cloud has been removed and the diocese can now move toward planning for the future.”

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125 priests, lay clergy involved in sex abuse cases

In July 2011, Pope Benedict XVI had publicly expressed his shame over the evils of clerical child abuse during a visit to Australia, saying he was deeply sorry for the abuse of children by predatory priests, and now in September 2011, just two months after the Pontiff s eyebrow-raising statement, a former Aussie priest has been charged with 60 fresh offences relating to sex assaults on boys while he was working at a Sydney boarding school during the 1970s and 80s.

Interestingly, as an in-depth research conducted by The News International on this subject shows, this particular incident has surfaced hardly four months after the Vatican had issued guidelines for bishops worldwide on May 16, 2011, whereby they were directed to develop clear and coordinated procedures for dealing with the sexual abuse allegations by May 2012 and cooperate with the police in investigating allegations of sexual abuse by the clergy, though they were asked not make such reporting mandatory. (Reference: The New York Times edition of May 16, 2011).

This is what the Agence France-Presse (AFP) had reported on the latest Sydney incident: Police would not confirm the identity of the man, saying only that they had arrested a 65-year-old on Tuesday (September 13) in southwestern Sydney and that he has since been released on bail.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) said the suspect was a former Catholic priest who taught at the prestigious St Stanislaus College in Bathurst, west of Sydney, in the 1970s and 80s.

The college, according to the Paris-based AFP, had made headlines last month after former students came forward alleging they were molested during late-night prayer sessions.

The AFP had further stated in its afore-cited report: The former priest has already appeared in Bathurst Local Court in August on 33 other charges relating to sexual assault and gross acts of indecency on juveniles aged between 10 and 18. Reports said his court appearance prompted eight more alleged victims to make further allegations against the former cleric.

A latest September 15, 2011 report carried by the website of Swissinfo, a nine-language news and information platform produced by Switzerland s Public Broadcasting Corporation, the Catholic Church in this touristy Alpine nation has released new details of sexual abuse committed by priests and pastoral workers over the past 60 years.

Swissinfo states: Overall, 146 victims came forward to report abuse to Swiss dioceses in 2010 the first year in which detailed statistics have been presented by the church. The abuse was carried out by 125 priests and lay clergy, an expert commission of the Swiss Bishops Conference said on Thursday (September 15). The statistics broke down in more detail who the victims and perpetrators were and when the incidents had taken place since 1950. Abuse ranged from sexual harassment to rape. Most of the victims were teenage boys (25 per cent) and adult men (23 per cent). Another 20 per cent were children aged below 12 years. Half of the incidents were carried out by parish priests and 26 per cent by ordained men.

The official Swiss website had maintained, Most of the abuse happened between 1950 and 1980. Ten per cent of cases took place during the past decade. Confirmation of the abuse first came to light more than 16 months ago when the church announced cases reported from January-May 2010.

Although the Catholic sex abuse cases in nations like Canada, Ireland, the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Belgium, France, and Germany etc have received significant media attention since the 1980s, after Father Donald Roemer of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles had pleaded guilty to felonious sexual abuse of a minor, most television channels and newspapers on the planet are now using the harshest possible language against the church and the clergy while reporting these incidents.

Had all been well at the Vatican and had the followers of Christianity been happy with their religious leaders, the CNN would not have aired these words in its September 16, 2010 report when the Pope was about to start his visit to Britain: There has already been widespread outcry over the estimated 12 million pounds ($18.7 million) British taxpayers are having to pay for the visit, though Christopher Patten, the Prime Minister s representative for the papal visit, has pointed out that one day of last year s G-20 summit in London cost 20 million pounds. Criticism has also focused on the armed police squads needed to protect a religious figurehead previously targeted by attackers. Along with anger about the Vatican s response to child and sexual abuse, there is criticism over the pope being granted a state visit, given the Catholic Church s attitudes towards gender equality and homosexuality.

The CNN had further reported on September 16, 2010: British people feel overwhelmingly that the Pope has not done enough to punish priests who abuse children. Three out of four British people and two out of three Catholics in the country say he should do more to punish the abusive clergy.

Till date dozens (if not hundreds) of the accused priests have been forced to resign in every nook and cranny of the globe. Many of these priests, whose crimes fell within statutes of limitation, are languishing in jail. Some have been defrocked. (Reference: The New York Times of August 31, 2006).

For example, Bernard Francis Law (born 1931), Cardinal and Archbishop of Boston had resigned after Church documents were revealed which suggested he had covered up sexual abuse committed by priests in his archdiocese. On December 13, 2002, Pope John Paul II had accepted Law s resignation as Archbishop and had posted him to the American Catholic church in Rome. (Reference: The New York Times of May 28, 2004).

Similarly, James Porter (1935-2005) was a Roman Catholic priest who was convicted of molesting 28 children. He had admitted sexually abusing at least 100 children of both sexes over a period of 30 years, starting in the 1960s. (References: The Boston Globe of April 13, 2004 and NBC News Channel report of February 11, 2005).

In 1995 Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer had to resign from his post as Archbishop of Vienna, Austria, over allegations of sexual abuse, although he remained a Cardinal. (Reference: The BBC report of April 14, 1998)

On April 7, 2010, it was revealed that a former bishop of the Norwegian Catholic Church, Georg Muller, had confessed to the police in early January 2010 that he had sexually abused an under-age boy 20 years earlier. Muller was made to step down as a bishop in July 2009. (Reference: Reuters report of April 7, 2010).

Various lawsuits against the custodians of the church have been filed in the United States and Ireland etc till date, whereby plaintiffs have alleged that some priests had sexually abused minors and that their superiors had conspired to conceal and otherwise abet their criminal misconduct.

Some had even accused the incumbent Pope for covering up complaints against his subordinate colleagues.

On 22 April 2010, a lawsuit was filed in the Milwaukee Federal Court by an anonymous plaintiff against the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI for having covered up abuse cases to avoid scandal to the detriment of the concerned children.

In February 2011, two German lawyers initiated charges against Pope Benedict XVI at the International Criminal Court.

In 2004, the John Jay Report, commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, had tabulated a total of 4,392 American priests against whom allegations of sexual abuse had been made. (References: The National Catholic Weekly edition of March 22, 2004 and the 2004 Catholic News Service Report titled John Jay Study Reveals Extent of Abuse Problem )

The Catholic News Service (CNS) is an American news agency covering the Roman Catholic Church since 1920 and is a leading source of news for Catholic print and broadcast media throughout the world.

A glance through the above-quoted references, particularly the 2004 Catholic News Service Report, shows that the 2004 John Jay Report was based on surveys completed by the Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States. It was based on a study of 10,667 allegations against 4,392 priests accused of engaging in sexual abuse of a minor between 1950 and 2002.

The John Jay report, whose printed version had caught the light of the day in June 2004, had stated that there were approximately 10,667 reported victims (younger than 18 years) of clergy sexual abuse during this period: Around 81 percent of these victims were male. While 22.6 per cent were age 10 or younger, 51 per cent were between the ages of 11 and 14, and 27 per cent were between the ages to 15 to 17 years.

Of these 4,392, approximately 56 per cent had one reported allegation against them; 27 per cent had two or three allegations against them; nearly 14 per cent had four to nine allegations against them; three percent (149 priests) had 10 or more allegations against them. These 149 priests were responsible for almost 3,000 victims, or 27 percent of the allegations. Almost 70 per cent of these priests were ordained before 1970.

In 2009, the former Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Edward Egan, had ignited heated discussions amongst his followers and Catholic Scholars when he said the church should consider ending celibacy rules and allow priests to marry.

The 76-year-old cardinal, who had presided over 2.5 million New York Catholics for at least eight years, had made these comments at the end of his stipulated tenure on March 10, 2009, but it was enough to get tongues wagging about the centuries-old church requirement.

According to the New York Times, the Vatican had signalled in the past that it was a closed issue, despite some indications of a discussion in the 1960s.

However, the last three popes, including Pope Benedict, have killed any discussion of lifting the celibacy rules, the newspaper had reported.

NBC television reported on March 23, 2009: Cardinal Egan s remarks come at the end of his tenure as New York Archbishop, raising questions about the motivation behind them. Was the conservative Cardinal giving a matter of fact response to a question of church law or was he really a reformer at heart? Regardless of his intent, the timing of these remarks has raised eyebrows. In 2003, 163 priests in the Milwaukee Archdiocese had petitioned the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to consider the idea of lifting the celibacy rules because of the shortage of priests. Their petition was adamantly denied.

A thorough study of books like The struggle for Celibacy: the culture of Catholic seminary Life by Paul Stanosz and The Power of Abstinence by Kristine Napier would reveal that Celibacy (state of being unmarried) is viewed differently by the Catholic Church and the various Protestant communities

In the Latin Catholic Church, clerical celibacy is mandated for bishops and, as a general rule, for priests and for deacons who intend to become priests.

In Eastern Christianity, which comprises the Christian traditions and churches that developed in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, Northeastern Africa, India and parts of the Far East, celibacy is mandatory for all bishops and for any priest who has been ordained while unmarried or who has lost his wife.

On the other hand, most Protestant churches are known to reject clerical celibacy.

It is common knowledge that in recent past, both Protestants and Catholics have agreed on numerous issues, yet clerical celibacy remains a dividing point between the followers of the two faiths in Christianity.

The Vatican, over the years, has allowed married priests to function by accepting them into the ranks of the Roman Catholic priesthood.

A sharp decline in the number of Catholic priests, the exodus of thousands of pastors who marry and leave the priesthood, coupled with sexual scandals of clerics and the lawsuits being filed against many of them for sexually abusing children in their care, has sparked international debates to eliminate the celibacy requirement for the priesthood and institute the ordination of married priests.

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Nun scolds Catholic Church about sex abuse

A Roman Catholic nun says the church hasn’t properly addressed the issue of sexual abuse at the hands of priests since the Mount Cashel orphanage scandal of the 1980s.

Sister Nuala Kenny, a pediatrician who was a member of a commission that looked into child sexual abuse by priests in St. John’s, N.L., from 1989-91, said the reaction from clergy was to turn a blind eye to the abuse and to move the offending priest to a new parish.

“It nearly killed me to be a nun, a baby doctor, sitting there listening to people describe what had happened when men of God, priests of my church, had offended against their children and teenagers,” Kenny told about 200 people at the Dalbrae Academy in Mabou.

“It nearly broke my heart. The devastation that occurred was truly heartbreaking, but I thought we learned something, I thought we wrote something important.”

The commission that Kenny served on recommended the creation of the Canadian Conference on Catholic Bishops ad hoc committee on child sexual abuse.

Without participation by Canadian bishops to deal with the systemic problems that made sexual and physical abuse possible, the church can’t begin to heal itself so it can tackle other problems, such as declining church attendance, she said.

“We have not addressed, ‘Why has it happened the way it has happened? Why have we dealt with it the way we have?’ ”

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