02/14/16

Catholic Leaders Say Zika Doesn’t Change Ban on Contraception

Zika

As the Zika virus spreads in Latin America, Catholic leaders are warning women against using contraceptives or having abortions, even as health officials in some countries are advising women not to get pregnant because of the risk of birth defects.

The challenge posed by Zika for the Roman Catholic Church comes as Pope Francis is making his first trip to Mexico, where the virus appears to be spreading.

After a period of saying little, bishops in Latin America are beginning to speak up and reassert the church’s opposition to birth control and abortion — positions that in Latin America are unpopular and often disregarded, even among Catholics.

“Contraceptives are not a solution,” said Bishop Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, the secretary general of the National Council of Bishops of Brazil, and an auxiliary bishop of Brasília, in an interview. “There is not a single change in the church’s position.”

He urged couples to practice chastity or use “natural family planning,” a method in which women monitor their menstrual cycles and abstain from sex when they are fertile.

This is not a stance likely to win many new followers. South America happens to be the continent with the highest proportion of Catholics who already disagree with the church on abortion and birth control, according to a large international poll commissioned by Univision in 2014. Seventy-three percent of Catholics in Latin America said that abortion should be allowed in some or all cases, and 91 percent supported the use of contraceptives — a higher percentage even than in Europe or the United States.

While church leaders frequently say that doctrine is not determined by polls or popularity contests, they are nevertheless sensitive to counts of their flock. And the Catholic Church has been losing adherents in Latin America in recent decades as people leave to join evangelical and Pentecostal churches, or reject religion entirely.

Nearly 70 percent of adults in Latin America still identify as Catholic, but that is down from 94 percent in 1950, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. Much of the fall-off has occurred in just the last generation.

No Vatican department has yet issued a statement about the Zika issue, and it is not clear whether Pope Francis will address it during his trip to Mexico, where he will be until Thursday, said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, the English-language media attaché to the Vatican’s press office.

“The Vatican is very well aware of the seriousness of this issue, and the Holy Father is very aware of it,” Father Rosica said. “We’re waiting to see how the local churches in those countries respond.”

But Father Rosica said church teaching on abortion and contraception remains the same. The Zika epidemic, he said, presents “an opportunity for the church to recommit itself to the dignity and sacredness of life, even in very precarious moments like this.”

The five countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that have advised women to delay pregnancy are Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Colombia and Jamaica. But access to contraception is limited throughout the region, especially for poor and rural women. Abortion is restricted in many countries, and it is illegal without exceptions in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Nicaragua, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes of the Aedes genus, but researchers have found some cases transmitted by sexual contact. Experts are not yet sure whether Zika is the cause of a sudden surge in babies born in Brazil with microcephaly — unusually small heads and, often, damaged brains. Microcephaly could lead to serious disabilities — but not always.

There is no vaccine for the Zika virus, and no cure for microcephaly. The World Health Organization this month declared the Zika epidemic an international public health emergency. The organization advised that women should have full access to a range of contraceptive options, as well as “safe abortion services to the full extent of the law.”

Many church officials are wary that the Zika epidemic will lead to the loosening of laws on abortion and contraception. Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, who serves on Pope Francis’ nine-member advisory council, denounced the notion of “therapeutic abortions” for women carrying babies with microcephaly. He spoke at a Mass attended by the Honduran president and first lady.

“Therapeutic means curative, and abortion doesn’t cure anything,” he said, according to a report in the newspaper La Tribuna. “It takes innocent lives away.”

Cardinal Odilo Scherer of São Paulo said recently that mothers must accept babies born with microcephaly “as a mission,” and that abortion was out of the question. However, he appeared to open a door to using condoms, saying that is “personal choice” because a new life has not yet been formed.

The papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, issued by Pope Paul VI in 1968, said that artificial contraception was forbidden because sexual intercourse must always be open to procreation.

“The teaching is fairly clear that contraception is not ethically permissible,” said Christopher Kaczor, a professor of philosophy at Loyola Marymount University, in Los Angeles, and a corresponding member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life.

“That doesn’t mean a couple has to have a child,” he said, because it is possible to use natural family planning methods.

He and other Catholic scholars cited a study showing that when used properly, natural family planning is as effective as birth control pills. However, the United States Department of Health and Human Services reports that the failure rate for natural family planning is 25 out of 100 women, while for birth control pills it is five out of 100.

Other Catholic moral theologians say the church’s ban is not so clear-cut. The Rev. James Bretzke, a moral theologian at Boston College, said that some theologians interpreted a passage in Humanae Vitae as an “escape clause” that essentially permitted women to use an artificial means of contraception if it had the effect of curing or treating disease — for example, using birth control pills to treat menstrual pain or acne. Theologians could apply the same approach to the Zika situation, he said.

“My prediction is this Zika virus is going to reignite the unresolved debate that’s existed since 1968 about the moral status of artificial contraception when applied to extraordinary cases,” Father Bretzke said.

“Now we have not just an individual extraordinary case, but a situation in which these cases are extraordinary for a large group of people,” he said. “You’ve got one competing value — to have every act open to procreation — running up against another competing value — which is to protect the public health.”

The Catholic Church faced intense pressure as the AIDS epidemic spread to lift its ban on the use of condoms to help prevent transmission of the disease. Some nuns and priests who treated AIDS patients, and even the South African Bishops Conference, publicly said that the church should make an exception for married couples to use condoms when one partner tested positive for H.I.V.

Then in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI was quoted in a book saying that in some exceptional cases, when the motivation is to prevent disease rather than pregnancy, using a condom could be a “first step” towards moral responsibility. He said that this might be the case for a prostitute who uses a condom. Benedict’s remark set off widespread controversy and speculation about whether the Vatican would officially issue an exception or change to doctrine. But none came.

Complete Article HERE!

02/6/16

Critic of Vatican refuses to step down from sex abuse commission

File under:  No Surprise Here!

 Peter Saunders poses before a news conference in Rome, Italy February 6, 2016.

Peter Saunders poses before a news conference in Rome, Italy February 6, 2016.

A prominent and outspoken British member of a papal advisory commission on sexual abuse by the clergy on Saturday refused to step down despite a no-confidence vote, and said only Pope Francis could dismiss him.

A Vatican statement issued earlier said that “it was decided” at a commission meeting that Peter Saunders would take a leave of absence. Saunders, head of Britain’s National Association for People Abused in Childhood, would now “consider how he might best support the commission’s work”, it said.

But Saunders, who as a child was abused by two priests, told a hastily called news conference: “I have not left and I am not leaving my position … the only person who can remove me is the person who appointed me, the pope.”

Saunders said he had not been aware of the Vatican’s statement until after it was issued.

Saunders had been publicly critical of the commission, which was set up in 2014. Made up of clerics and lay people from around the world, its task is to help Pope Francis establish “best practices” in dioceses around the world to root out sex abuse in the Church. Eight of its 17 members are women and two are themselves victims of abuse by clerics.

Saunders said that on Saturday morning the commission had taken a near-unanimous vote of no-confidence against him, accusing him of being hard to work with and a “campaigner”, and of talking too much to the media.

“A DISGRACE”

“For me, as a survivor, the commission is a disgrace,” Saunders said. “They believe that child abuse is behind us, but it is in no way behind us …

“I made it clear that I would not be a member of a public relations exercise. The protection of our children is much more important than that.”

Another commission member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was “deeply committed to the protection of children”, but that its brief was to advise and not investigate or judge.

In a worldwide sex abuse scandal, which first became prominent in Boston in 2001, abusers were shunted from parish to parish instead of being defrocked and handed over to authorities.

A year ago, Saunders criticized Francis for appearing to endorse parents who spanked their children in order to discipline them.

And in April, Saunders and three other lay commission members met with a top Vatican official to complain about the appointment of a bishop in Chile who had been accused of covering up abuse by a priest.

Saunders said on Saturday that the pope should dismiss Juan Barros as bishop of Osorno, as a test of his “seriousness on stopping child sex abuse”. Barros denies having known that abuse took place.

Complete Article HERE!

11/6/15

The synod, before and after

The synod on the family was closed before having been initiated. The possibility of a serious discussion with respect to homosexual people was already eliminated in the time of its preparation, when the church was not even able to scientifically verify its own false language: today it goes on – in an ideological way – speaking about “tendencies” instead of “sexual orientation” of human people. In the preparation of the synod, Church has ridiculed and eliminated the homosexual question, deceiving the expectations of humanity for a serious and respectful discussion of the experience of humanity and the scientific knowledge related to the persons belonging to non-heterosexual minorities and their family life, their life of love.

synod headsThe synod doesn’t have “laying closed hearts, which bare the closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families” (Francis, Conclusion of the Synod of Bishops, 24.10.2015). On homosexual persons, on their families and children the synod has produced only a homophobic closing of the reason and the heart. The synod has been incapable of reading the reality of homosexual people and considering them in their human dignity and in their aspirations of love. Such people are only considered inside their own families, almost as they were immature people who require a special care from the other members of the family, all of that behind the dishonest and insensitive “respect”. Without any indication for the life of homosexual people, the synod has only repeated the worst of the documents of the Congregation for the doctrine of the faith: “between the homosexual unions and the God’s plan for marriage and family doesn’t exist remote analogy”. Such repetition is shameful and offensive to the reality of the homosexual and lesbian families, and to their happy children. One wonders if for living according to the wish of synod this persons should get rid of their families and children. Behind the conclusions of the synod dangerous antihuman insinuations can be glimpsed, inciting to arouse sense of guilty and inferiority, of complex and negativity between children and their homosexual fathers or their lesbian mothers. The position of the Congregation repeated by the synod is the offense to the reason, to the human reality and to the Christian sensibility taught by Jesus. It is not the humble discernment of the reality, wished by the Pope Francis. It is an ignorant abuse of the spiritual power of Church.Krzysztof_Charamsa

The lack of sensitivity of Jesus in the synod is a deplorable and particularly serious irresponsibility of Catholic Church. For years I have experimented this irrational multilevel closing of Church. I have experimented the sabotage of the pontificate and Pope Francis’ synods by the Congregation for the doctrine of the faith, where I worked. This way, at the beginning of the synod, with priestly passion, I had asked in my letter to Pope Francis to take seriously in consideration the dignity of homosexual people, of their families and their children. I considered that the Pope is the only person that can stop the absurdity of the retrograde impositions. Today I make public my letter (the next post), taking note of the insensibility and the hateful refusal of persons belonging to sexual minorities. That synod, in mouth of a Father of Synod, has only known to compare homosexual people to the Nazi and to the enemies of humanity. In civil societies such offenses should be denounced: they are defamatory and they arouse hate homophobic hate. The silence of Church on that subject is embarrassing.

Krzysztof Charamsa
Barcelona, 29/10/2015.

Complete Article HERE!

10/20/14

Trial showed that Kansas City diocese hasn’t learned enough from its past

By Mary Sanchez

The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph showed itself as a forgiving, diligent shepherd in the civil trial just concluded.

But the sheltering love was for priests’ welfare first. Less attention was apparent for parishioners’ concerns, and certainly not for vulnerable children.

Given the testimony of denial by multiple priests, it’s questionable how far deeply ingrained attitudes have really shifted. In recent years, changes came about when the diocese was forced through repeated pleas by the faithful, multimillion-dollar settlements and court orders.

The trial’s conclusion was halted by a nearly $10 million settlement that lumped together multiple cases. But the jury trial was intended to weigh the sexual abuse accusations of a former altar boy, now a 44-year-old man.

Nearly two weeks of proceedings put on public display how the diocese for five decades — through four bishops — rationalized its decisions and struggles with pedophile priests.

The diocese put forth a shameful record in its own defense.Finn

Letters and verbal complaints of specific troubling incidents, dating back to the mid-1970s, were initially dismissed. Sexually inappropriate advances were seen as raucous and drunken behavior, something that a priest could be chided for and then ushered back to the rectory. There seemed to be a belief, a misplaced hope, that treating a priest for alcoholism could also cure pedophilia, as if the criminal behavior was only contingent upon the drinking. For some bishops, there appeared to be confusion about the difference between homosexuality and the sexual abuse of children.

The church can choose to see the first as sinful. But to attack an innocent child is a crime. Such lack of common sense, that inability to separate church doctrine from criminal acts, is baffling.

In the 1980s, the diocese put its faith into what one expert testified was once common, moving a priest known to be struggling with sexual issues to a job as a hospital chaplain. One of the lawsuits settled this week was filed by a man who said he awoke from surgery to find a priest masturbating him.

Some of the deceased bishops’ actions can be understood better in the context of the times. Society in general is thankfully more informed about sexual abuse, how children are groomed to be victims.

But it’s a shallow defense.

Federal laws mandating that certain people must report suspected child abuse have been around since the mid-1970s. They always included clergy.

The priest in this case was still a priest when he died in 2013. He had been barred from performing some religious rites, but he was never formally defrocked. Monsignor Thomas O’Brien was treated as just another retired priest, his well-being taken care of as if he had served God and the diocese well in his time on Earth.

Before the settlement, O’Brien alone had already cost the diocese more than $7 million. And he’s just one priest who has been accused.

The question has always been, to what extent did the diocese shield its clergy at the cost of its flock? And why?

After this trial, we know more. But the jury was never going to hear the full story. Crucial information, broader context, was not allowed due to legal agreements between the parties to limit the case. Yet those elements draw a better picture of how the diocese mismanaged these problems, with one poor decision often leading to another.

Jurors were not told that one altar boy took his own life. They were not to know that O’Brien was believed to molest boys in tandem with another priest, Thomas Reardon, who has left the priesthood and has also been the subject of many lawsuits.

And they could hear no mention of former priest Shawn Ratigan.

Ratigan, sentenced last year to 50 years in prison for child pornography, is the link that makes the diocese’s past history so disturbing. Because the diocese used some of the same rationalizations initially for Ratigan’s behavior as they used in the 1970s and 1980s.

A long letter from a parish school principal detailed disturbing behavior by Ratigan toward children. The letter was not taken seriously by diocese officials. When disturbing pictures were found on Ratigan’s computer, he was simply shifted to another location and he abused again. Those decisions led to the misdemeanor charge of failure to report suspected abuse against the sitting bishop, Robert Finn.

It is only because of the Ratigan criminal trial that this civil proceeding came to be. Publicity about Ratigan’s case was the kick-start that brought these new allegations forward. So the past of the diocese is intricately linked to its more recent woes.

Certainly the addition of two non-clerical ombudsmen to handle allegations of abuse is significant. The two female workers have made prompt and appropriate reports. Most important, they’ve kept the diocese in compliance with the law when accusations have been raised the past three years.

Finn would not allow any non-monetary agreements to be tacked to this settlement. The diocese is still reeling from its breach of similar agreements to keep it on track, doing the right thing for parishioners. That lapse cost the diocese $1.1 million earlier this year.

These cases are not just about money. Lives have been ruined.

Among the most stoic in the courtroom were Don and Rosemary Teeman, with whom the diocese settled a lawsuit last year. Their son Brian committed suicide after serving as an altar boy at the same time as the plaintiff in this case.

These forever-grieving parents listened to detailed accounts suggesting the diocese knew this priest was a danger before he met their son. They believe Brian took his life after being molested by O’Brien.

No testimony changes their reality. The Teemans have two grandsons by their daughter. One boy bears a remarkable likeness to Brian.

But they do not have their son.

“They should have done something; it could have been stopped,” Rosemary Teeman commented midway through the trial. “I’d have a bigger family.”

Upon that truth is where the diocese should begin post-trial reflection.

Complete Article HERE!

04/17/14

Roman Catholic Church refuses survey request

The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has turned down a request by members for the results of a sexual ethics survey to be made public.

 

The unprecedented worldwide poll was commissioned by Pope Francis.

Reformers said refusing to publish the results would suggest the Church was not sincere about sharing responsibility with lay people.

A Church spokesman said a senior Vatican official had expressly asked for summaries to remain confidential.

Sensitive subjects

FrancisThe survey was sent to Catholic bishops around the world last November, with instructions to consult as widely as possible.

It tackled sensitive subjects such as contraception, cohabitation and homosexuality.

BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said the 39-question survey – designed to inform a Vatican conference on family life in October – had been enthusiastically greeted by rank-and-file Catholics.

Many Catholics saw the inclusion of such questions as a sign that Church teaching in such difficult areas might be reformed, and that lay people might be allowed a greater say in how the Church was governed, he added.

Father Marcus Stock, general secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the questionnaire was a “much broader consultation than just a survey”.

He said orders had come from the Pope, via Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, that the information should not be made public until after October.

Pope Francis is calling bishops to Rome to discuss possible reform that considers modern social realities.

The consultation is part of the preparation for the extraordinary meeting of the Synod of Bishops, which will focus on the subject of family.

Fr Stock acknowledged there were “great expectations” of the process, but insisted bishops’ decisions should not be predetermined.

“The reflection of the bishops during the Synod must not be predetermined by individual groups or by the concerns of northern Europe alone,” he said.

“It’s a world-wide consultation.”

‘Dialogue and transparency’

A Call to Action, a group working for reform in the Church, said people who had completed this “challenging” questionnaire would be saddened and perplexed if the results were withheld.

Jean Riordan, chair of the group’s national leaders team, told the Today programme that “dialogue and transparency” would help the process – and not put pressure on bishops or predetermine their decisions.

“Groups within the Church are not necessarily pressure groups, we are not a pressure group, we are not a dissident group” she said.

“We are not actually disputing much of Church teaching. What we’re saying is Church teaching should be formed by consulting.”

Other Churches which have published summaries of the responses, including those in Germany and Austria, have described a wide gap between Church teaching and the behaviour of ordinary Catholics.

However, Fr Stock ruled out similar action in England and Wales.

The Pope has signalled greater openness, and has said the Catholic Church is too tied up in “small-minded rules”.

Complete Article HERE!