10/31/17

No surprise that Bishop Robert Morlino and Co. imperil Christianity’s good name, again

Robert Morlino, bishop of the Diocese of Madison, gives his homily during an ordination Mass at St. Maria Goretti Catholic Parish in Madison in 2015.

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At least two online petitions have been started to protest the decision by Madison’s ironically conservative Catholic diocese to provide advice to priests on whether some gay deceased should be denied funeral rites.

As a Christian, I find it repugnant that any religious institution calling itself Christian would wobble on whether to give a grieving family a Christian burial for their loved one. As if deeming homosexuality a sin weren’t silly enough, the Catholic Church considers denying spiritual comfort to the families of gay people.

Just as bad is the harm such un-Christ-like behavior could do to Christianity’s brand and its relationship to government.

One of the petitions calls for Pope Francis to remove Madison Bishop Robert Morlino from his position, while the other calls on Morlino to rescind the guidance allowing priests to deny full funeral rights to gay Catholics. Both miss the point.

Recalling Morlino isn’t going to suddenly cause the church to fully accept gays and become what my denomination calls “open and affirming.” Francis has talked a better talk on this issue, but he’s yet to walk a better walk — which is why it wouldn’t be in line with Catholic teachings for the Madison diocese to declare that the gay deceased are entitled to funeral rites.

Refusing the rites to a specific class of people doesn’t raise the same kinds of constitutional questions raised by, say, a baker refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding.

“The courts, in the name of protecting religious liberty, typically have given religious organizations fairly wide latitude to engage in practices that might seem to be discriminatory in a secular context,” said Shawn Peters, an expert in religious freedom from UW-Madison.

The, ahem, good news is that if a gay person or her family wants a Christian burial, there are plenty of Christian churches that will provide it — as long as those wanting the funeral don’t consider Catholicism is the only true Christianity, in which case they shouldn’t expect a Catholic funeral anyway.

The bad news is that because of the Catholic Church’s considerable size and influence, the pronouncements of Morlino and Co. put Christianity generally in a bad light, while making it look as if longstanding tax breaks for Christian churches and clergy amount to government endorsement of bigotry.

Peters said he didn’t think that in our “current political environment” tax breaks for religious organizations are “seriously at risk.” But earlier this month a federal judge struck down a tax break for clergy housing allowances.

I’m not sure any occupation should be singled out for a housing-related tax break, although it seems a small indulgence given how little clergy are paid and how much they help raise for charity the government might otherwise have to provide. One 2013 analysis estimated Catholic groups spent some $30 billion on social services annually, although some of their funding comes from government.

Christians can find evidence of such mission work just about every Sunday at church. But the work looks less Christ-like if the church deems some people unworthy of Christ’s grace, including after they die.

Complete Article HERE!

10/27/17

Clerical sex abuse disclosures skyrocket in pope’s Argentina

In this Oct. 11, 2017 photo, Karen Maydana, center, Mailin Gobbo, behind right, and Yasmin Detez, behind left, pose for a photo at San Jose Obrero church in Caseros, in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The schoolmates returned to the church and adjacent school they’d attended to describe to journalists what had happened, saying they hoped it would help protect children.

Karen Maydana says she was 9 years old when the Rev. Carlos Jose fondled her at a church pew facing the altar. It was her first confession ahead of her first Holy Communion.

She blames the trauma of that moment in 2004 for a teenage suicide attempt. And yet she never spoke about it publicly until this year. After hearing that two women who attended her school in the Argentine town of Caseros were allegedly abused by the same priest, she joined them as complainants in a case that in July led to his arrest for investigation of aggravated sexual abuse.

“Unfortunately, there are many of us. But speaking about it now also gives you strength to carry on,” Maydana, 22, said. “I have a 9-year-old niece who’s receiving her Communion this year, and this is not going to happen to her.”

The allegations are part of a growing trend: While Pope Francis struggles to make good on his “zero tolerance” pledge to fight clerical sex abuse worldwide, victims in his native Argentina are denouncing abuses in unprecedented numbers. An analysis by The Associated Press shows that the number of clerics publicly identified as alleged sexual abusers has increased dramatically in the last two years.

Experts attribute the spike to a cultural shift as victims feel more emboldened to denounce abuse, prosecutors are more inclined to investigate complaints of even decades-old abuse, the media are increasingly aggressive about reporting them and courts are willing to hand down stiff sentences.

“It’s a domino effect,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a U.S.-based group that compiles a clergy abuse database.

In the U.S., confidential files on hundreds of pedophile priests have been released either through civil litigation, settlements or court order. The contents have revealed that top church officials worked behind the scenes to control the sex abuse scandal and keep it from authorities as well as parishioners.

“What is really remarkable here is that the survivors in Argentina don’t have the same powerful legal tools that we see in other countries,” Barrett Doyle said. “And yet, we’re still seeing the significant increase in cases.”

The AP compiled a list of 66 priests, nuns and brothers who have been accused since 2001 of abusing dozens of people, most of them children. The figures were gathered from testimonies by victims, judicial and church documents, and local media reports corroborated in conjunction with the BishopAccountability.org database. The number of new reports remained in the single digits each year from 2000 to 2015. But since the start of last year, victims have named 21 more, most accused of decades-old abuse.

“In Argentina, the abuse crisis is just beginning,” said San Francisco Bishop Sergio Buenanueva in Cordoba province, who leads a church council on clerical abuse. “I’m sure the Argentine church is going to face increasing numbers of these disclosures.”

To deal with the expected increased caseload, he said the church is planning to create its first comprehensive database of clerical abuse.  Buenanueva also recently returned from the Vatican, where he met with members of Francis’ sex abuse advisory commission to discuss prevention policies for Argentina, including training of clergy to detect potential abusers and victims.

Abuse survivors are taking action too. Maydana, and her schoolmates Mailin Gobbo, 29, and Yasmin Detez, 25, recently visited the church and adjacent school they had attended to describe to journalists what had happened, saying they hoped it would help protect children. Four other women have joined their case since they reported the priest to law enforcement.

“I don’t care about exposing myself as long as it leads other people to talk,” said Gobbo, who decided to speak publicly after the birth of her daughter.

The priest is accused of abusing Gobbo and Detez at a pool and at their school.

“He’d make me sit on his lap and ask me if I had been naughty while he kissed my neck and fondled me,” Detez said while Gobbo shed tears next to her.

Jose has told the court he is innocent and said the statute of limitations has expired in any case. He is appealing the arrest order.

Some of the accused remain in the ministry. In several cases, no canonical or judicial investigation was carried out. Some were probed and dismissed. Others, especially in recent years, have led to arrests and convictions.

A court in Entre Rios province this year sentenced a Colombian priest, the Rev. Juan Diego Escobar Gaviria, to 25 years in prison for sexually abusing four boys, one of them 10 years old. It was one of the stiffest sentences handed down to date against a pedophile priest in Argentina.

 ”I feel satisfied with the sentence,” said Alexis Endrizzi, 18, who was molested by Escobar when he was 12. “It sided with the victims.”

Two other priests are awaiting trial on pedophilia charges after they were accused this year in the same small province.

In one of the most shocking cases, prosecutors say at least 20 children at the Provolo Institute for deaf and mute children in Mendoza province were abused. Some of the victims say they were molested by an Italian priest, the Rev. Nicola Corradi, who also had been accused by some of the dozens of abuse victims at the Provolo’s school in Italy but never faced justice there. Corradi, now elderly, was formally charged by Argentine prosecutors in November and is under house arrest awaiting trial in Argentina. Corradi’s attorney declined to comment on his client’s plea or any other detail of the case.

Advocates of priestly abuse victims question how Francis could have been unaware of the allegations against Corradi since he was publicly named by the Italian victims starting in 2009 and most recently in 2014.

One of the cases that has festered for years is that of the Rev. Hector Ricardo Gimenez, who had been detained after several abuse complaints in 1985 and 1996, but was freed by the courts.

In 2013, Julieta Anazco led other women in publicly confronting Gimenez as he celebrated Mass at a hospital chapel, accusing him of abusing her and many others as children decades before.

“He’d jump into the shower with the excuse of washing us,” said Anazco, who went on to become president of the Survivors’ Network of Ecclesiastical Abuse.

The Archbishopric of La Plata said in a statement to the AP that the church had found Gimenez guilty of previous abuses and that he had been banned from ministerial duties, a common church sanction for elderly priests accused of abuse.

It also said that Anazco came to a meeting at the La Plata archbishopric in 2015, and that an official for the archdiocese heard her complaints and “shared the cruelty of these crimes and the importance that no one guilty of them remains unpunished.”   

Anazco’s criminal complaint initially was dismissed, but was later reopened and remains pending, according to her attorney.

The AP tried to reach Gimenez, who is in his eighties, at the nursing home where he now lives in the city of La Plata but he declined to comment.

No official numbers on clerical abuse have been published by Argentina’s church, government or its judicial system, and the issue is still something of a taboo.

But Pope Francis tried to break the stigma by phoning Rufino Varela after he revealed that he had been abused as a child by a priest at a school that Argentine President Mauricio Macri also attended. Other students at the school told the AP that they suffered abuse by the same priest, who has since died.

Francis has pledged “zero tolerance” for abuse, but he has also said he never had to confront the issue as archbishop of Buenos Aires, where he served from 1998 to 2013. Recently, he has acknowledged that the church was “late” in recognizing the scale of abuse and the damage it wreaked on victims, and said the practice of cover-up and moving pedophiles around was to blame.

Many Argentine victims of abuse say they feel abandoned by the church.

 ”You realize the complicity, the cover-up of the church hierarchy that goes all the way up to the Vatican,” Anazco said.

Complete Article HERE!

10/27/17

Madison diocese advice to priests on LGBT funerals causes grief

File Under:  Insulated, monolithic, callous, tone deaf church power structure

 

A top aide to Bishop Robert Morino issued guidance to priests in the Catholic Diocese of Madison that critics say could limit the availability of funeral rites within the church for gay people.

Vicar General James Bartylla emailed a newsletter to priests earlier in October, with the bishop’s approval, that says rites “may be denied for manifest sinners” if they would cause unavoidable “public scandal of the faithful,” the Wisconsin State Journal reported this week.

The message laid out a series of “general considerations” for priests to keep in mind if asked to perform Catholic funeral rites by a deceased person’s family or same-sex partner, including whether “the deceased or the ‘partner’ was a ‘promoter of the gay lifestyle.’”

The “attitude” of the deceased’s family members, especially toward the church, and whether the deceased person showed “some signs of repentance before death,” also were cited as prominent considerations.

“My short answer to pastors and parochial vicars in these cases is to think through the issue thoroughly and prudently,” Bartylla wrote in the email. “The pastoral task is to minimize the risk of scandal and confusion to others amidst the solicitude for the deceased and family.”

Vicar General James Bartylla (she’s got issues)

Diocese spokesman Brent King in emails to the newspaper stressed what he described as the advisory nature of the vicar general’s message.

“The only word used in Saturday’s email was ‘consideration’ or ‘considerations,’” King said. “There were no directives, bans, or even real guidelines. other than what is written in canon law. If there was any directive, it was, ‘Think through the issue thoroughly and prudently.’”

The newsletter said any surviving partner “should not have any public or prominent role” at any church funeral rite.

It also said there should be no mention of the surviving partner’s name and no reference to “the unnatural union” in “any liturgical booklet, prayer card, homily, sermon, talk by the priest, deacon, etc.?…”

An advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics said the message only served to distance LGBT people and their families from the church.

“This document is the very antithesis of pastoral care,” Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, said in a statement . “It shows that this bishop believes that lesbian and gay people who have lived a deep commitment to a spouse or partner should be demeaned even in death. Our families could be refused the sacraments of our faith at the moment of their greatest grief.”

A diocesan statement criticized the public airing of Bartylla’s message, which emerged through the Minnesota-based progressive Catholic blog Pray Tell.

“Those who place at risk the ability of the bishop to communicate with his priests confidentially do a grave harm to the Church and perform, indeed, what Sacred Scripture calls ‘a work of darkness,’” the statement said.

Complete Article HERE!

10/20/17

Time to end celibacy and ban on females in priesthood: cleric

Fr Paddy O’Kane

By Brett Campbell

A Londonderry priest has called on the Catholic Church to acknowledge changing times and “take another look” at its position on celibacy and women priests.

Fr Paddy O’Kane, of Holy Family Church in Ballymagroarty, said such a move could help address a growing crisis which has left a quarter of parishes around the world without a resident priest.

“Many priests might choose to be celibate, but for those who want to get married it should be an option,” he added.

Fr O’Kane warned the shortage of clergy is impacting on dioceses across Ireland. “Priest-less parishes are appearing all over Ireland and may be here in this diocese before long,” he added.

“The Church needs to adapt to these changing times. We may have to take another look at celibacy and women priests.”

Writing for Derry Now, Fr O’Kane also hinted that Pope Francis may soon fulfil a special request by Brazilian bishops to allow married Anglican converts to resume their priestly ministries.

Such a move in a country which has 140 million Catholics would alleviate the severe problem which is also manifesting itself throughout Ireland.

Earlier this year the Pope said he may consider ordaining married men – under very specific circumstances – to counter the shortage of clergy, but ruled out dropping celibacy as a requirement for the priesthood.

“This year the national seminary in Maynooth had only eight students entering to study for the priesthood – half of these will probably leave during their training,” Fr O’Kane said.

The priest admitted that while his own celibacy had allowed him to live a life devoted to serving others, it had come at a personal cost.

“There are times I miss having a family and there are many times of loneliness and there have been times I have only held on to my faith by a hair’s breadth,” he said.

Fr O’Kane also expressed surprise at the number of pilgrims he has encountered who support a change in position.

Complete Article HERE!

10/19/17

NZ priest’s secret children to come out of hiding

The secret children of a Catholic priest in New Zealand are about to reveal their identity to their local bishop, and a New Zealander who personally briefed the Pope on the topic says the Vatican has recognised the right to know one’s parents

By Phil Pennington

The adult siblings are among thousands internationally who have contacted the Coping International website, which offers support to the children of clergy.

The site’s founder Vincent Doyle – an Irish man who himself is the son of a priest – said he expected many more New Zealanders who are priests’ children, or their mothers, to come forward as they gained courage to speak up.

“We’ve been contacted from a number of people in New Zealand – one family where there’s more than one child to the same priest, to the same woman – but they’re going to be making moves in the coming future to the respective diocese and they’ll be contacting the bishop concerned.”

The family had contacted his website in the last three months, and granted him permission to speak a little about their situation, but most details remained confidential such as how many children there were and where they had grown up.

They were among 13,500 people worldwide who had been in touch with Mr Doyle since he started the website in late 2014.

Vincent Doyle meets Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the United Nations, in mid-October to talk about the children of clergy.

His site gained international prominence in August this year when featured in a new series by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight unit, which is famous for exposing clerical sex abuse of children.

The response to the website has forced the Vatican to acknowledge the issue, and last month it began working on guidelines for how to respond.

“The expectation would be that the [priest] should go and be a father to his child,” said Bill Kilgallon, an Aucklander who personally briefed the Pope last month on the issue as part of the Pontifical Commission to help protect children.

Mr Kilgallon said the Catholic Church had no idea yet how many children have been conceived by priests.

The search phrase “I am pregnant and the father is a Catholic priest” featured in about 1500 of 96,000 hits on Coping International’s website, which its founder pointed out would be mostly from English speakers with Internet access.

“How many don’t fall into that category?” Mr Doyle said.

A psychotherapist in his 30s, he found out six years ago that his godfather, Father John Doyle, was also his biological father.

He made the realisation when he came across some poetry the priest had written, and had since taken his father’s name.

The church hierarchy had mostly responded well when children had come forward, Mr Doyle said, although some priests had been shocked or resistant.

The youngest child they had been alerted to was just three years old, and the oldest an 80-year-old woman. In one case, they knew of a priest who had six children by different women, while one priest who worked in the United States had a family in the Philippines.

Mr Doyle insisted the clerical response was not the priority for his organisation, but rather the goal was to help children whose mental health had suffered without knowledge of their father, or having to keep that knowledge secret as with the New Zealand family.

“There have been efforts to kind of stifle their wellbeing, and to keep them quiet and enforce secrecy,” Mr Doyle said.

“This secrecy more than often comes from family or relatives or friends: the community around you. Not the Pope, the Vatican, the bishop, especially in today’s society in a country like New Zealand.

“They must, must get this right. This is the first time in history the church has really done this … they can’t just put out some guidelines… If they mess this up they will traumatise thousands of people.”

Mr Kilgallon acknowledged there might be complications, such as a priest’s financial obligations to a child, or the need for DNA paternity testing, but these were purely secondary to the primary responsibility of the priest.

“We’ve acknowledged … children have rights and one of the rights is to know their parents.”

“The difficulty is when children are born in a situation where the father is a priest who’s not supposed to be in a relationship and fathering children. This can often lead to the relationship being kept secret, the identity of the father being denied to the child.”

Complete Article HERE!