03/8/17

Catholic nun blasts ‘male power’ in blunt talk at the Vatican

Sister Simone Campbell speaks onstage at the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

Catholic activist Sister Simone Campbell suggested senior clergy at the Vatican are more preoccupied with power than confronting issues that affect the faithful, like clerical sexual abuse.

The U.S. nun, leader of the “Nuns on the Bus” campaign that toured America during recent election cycles, spoke frankly in an interview ahead of a conference being held at the Vatican on Wednesday to celebrate women’s contributions to peace.

“The institution and the structure is frightened of change,” Campbell told Religion News Service. “These men worry more about the form and the institution than about real people.”

Referring to Marie Collins, who last week resigned from the panel appointed by Pope Francis to look into allegations of past Vatican obstruction of child sex abuse investigations, Campbell said: “Blocked by men. Isn’t this the real problem within the church?”

“The effort to keep the church from stopping this sort of thing is shocking,” she added. “It is about male power and male image, not people’s stories. The real trouble is they have defined their power as spiritual leadership and they don’t have a clue about spiritual life.”

Campbell said she was shocked, and also moved, to have been included on the guest list for the Vatican conference.

She was among the American nuns targeted in the controversial investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious that was authorized in 2012 under then-Pope Benedict XVI. The Vatican investigators charged the American sisters were straying too far from traditional doctrines, but Pope Francis, who was elected in 2013, put an end to the investigation in 2015.

Campbell noted that senior members of the Curia, or Vatican administration, were at a spiritual retreat outside Rome all this week and so unable to attend the women’s conference.

“I don’t know if it’s a slap in the face or evidence of how much power they think we have,” she said.

Campbell heads Network, a social justice organization currently lobbying U.S. legislators in both houses of Congress to protect and maintain affordable health care.

She acknowledged the church was changing but said it was “outrageous” that it was failing to respond to the sex abuse crisis more effectively. While noting that Francis was seeking to create a more inclusive church, Campbell expressed concern about the church hierarchy and the response to clerical abuse.

“Most of the guys who run this place haven’t dealt with an ordinary human being who’s been abused, an ordinary woman or a boy who has been abused,” she said.

“If you don’t deal with the people you don’t have your heart broken open. The bureaucracy is so afraid of having their heart broken that they hide.”

No Vatican officials are scheduled to speak at the conference, which has drawn leaders and activists from around the world.

At a media conference on Monday, Kerry Robinson, an American who is global ambassador of the Leadership Roundtable, said her foundation, which promotes best practices and accountability in Catholic Church management and finances, was working to help churchmen solve challenges and ensure women advance in the church.

“I think the conversations we are having with cardinals are having an impact,” Robinson said.

This is the fourth consecutive year that the Vatican has held the women’s event to coincide with the U.N.-sponsored International Women’s Day.

Complete Article HERE!

03/8/17

The Catholic church is ‘shocked’ at the hundreds of children buried at Tuam. Really?

The discovery of remains at a former home for unmarried mothers shows that Ireland is still in denial over a horrific legacy

Engineers use ground-penetrating radar to search the mass grave at the former mother and baby home in Tuam, County Galway.

It has been confirmed that significant numbers of children’s remains lie in a mass grave adjacent to a former home for unmarried mothers run by the Bon Secours Sisters in Tuam, County Galway. This is exactly where local historian Catherine Corless, who was instrumental in bringing the mass grave to light, said they would be. A state-established commission of inquiry into mother and baby homes recently located the site in a structure that “appears to be related to the treatment/containment of sewage and/or waste water”, but which we are not supposed to call a septic tank.

The archbishop of Tuam, Michael Neary, says he is “deeply shocked and horrified”. Deeply. Because what could the church have known about the abuse of children in its instutions? When Irish taoiseach Enda Kenny was asked if he was similarly shocked, he answered: “Absolutely. To think you pass by the location on so many occasions over the years.” To think. Because what would Kenny, in Irish politics since the 70s, know about state-funded, church-perpetrated abuse of women and children? Even the commission of inquiry – already under critique by the UN – said in its official statement that it was “shocked by this discovery”.

If I am shocked, it is by the pretence of so much shock. When Corless discovered death certificates for 796 children at the home between 1925 and 1961 but burial records for only two, it was clear that hundreds of bodies existed somewhere. They did not, after all, ascend into heaven like the virgin mother. Corless then uncovered oral histories from reliable local witnesses, offering evidence of where those children’s remains could be found. So what did the church and state think had happened? That the nuns had buried the babies in a lovely wee graveyard somewhere, but just couldn’t remember where?

Or maybe the church and state are expressing shock that nuns in mid-20th century Ireland could have so little regard for the lives and deaths of children in their care. The Ryan report in 2009 documented the systematic sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children in church-run, state-funded institutions. It revealed that when confronted with evidence of child abuse, the church would transfer abusers to other institutions, where they could abuse other children. The Christian Brothers legally blocked the report from naming and shaming its members. Meanwhile, Cardinal Seán Brady – now known to have participated in the cover-up of abuse by paedophile priest Brendan Smyth – muttered about how ashamed he was.

The same year, the Murphy report on the sexual abuse of children in the archdiocese of Dublin revealed that the Catholic church’s priorities in dealing with paedophilia were not child welfare, but rather secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of its reputation and the preservation of church assets. In 2013, the McAleese report documented the imprisonment of more than 10,000 women in church-run, state-funded laundries, where they worked in punitive industrial conditions without pay for the crime of being unmarried mothers.

So you will forgive me if I am sceptical of the professed shock of Ireland’s clergy, politicians and official inquiring bodies. We know too much about the Catholic church’s abuse of women and children to be shocked by Tuam. A mass grave full of the children of unmarried mothers is an embarrassing landmark when the state is still paying the church to run its schools and hospitals. Hundreds of dead babies are not an asset to those invested in the myth of an abortion-free Ireland; they inconveniently suggest that Catholic Ireland always had abortions, just very late-term ones, administered slowly by nuns after the children were already born.

As Ireland gears up for a probable referendum on abortion rights as well as a strategically planned visit from the pope, it may be time to stop acting as though the moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy of the Catholic church are news to us. You can say you don’t care, but – after the Ryan report, the Murphy report, the McAleese report, the Cloyne report, the Ferns report, the Raphoe report and now Tuam – you don’t get to pretend that you don’t know.

Two members of my family were born in the Tuam home, lived short lives there, and are likely lying in that septic tank – sorry, in that structure that “appears to be related to the treatment/containment of sewage and/or waste water”. Their mother died young, weakened from her time in the custody of the church. Because of this I understand that otherwise good, kind people in Ireland handed power over women and children’s lives to an institution they knew was abusive. And I wrestle with the reality that – in our schools and hospitals – we’re still handing power over women and children’s lives to the Catholic church. Perhaps, after Tuam, after everything, that’s what’s really shocking.

Complete Article HERE!

02/6/17

Nun receives death threats for suggesting Mary was not a virgin

Lucía Caram sparks anger in Spain after appearing to contradict Catholic teaching on perpetual virginity of mother of Jesus

Sister Lucía Caram created a storm by saying: ‘I think Mary was in love with Joseph and that they were a normal couple – and having sex is a normal thing.’

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A nun in Spain who says she received death threats for suggesting that Mary probably had sex with her husband, Joseph, has apologised for any offence caused but accused her critics of deliberately misunderstanding her point.

Sister Lucía Caram, a well-known Dominican nun with more than 183,000 Twitter followers, appeared to contradict church teaching when she appeared on Spanish TV on Sunday to discuss sex and faith.

“I think Mary was in love with Joseph and that they were a normal couple – and having sex is a normal thing,” she told the Chester in Love show, adding: “It’s hard to believe and hard to take in. We’ve ended up with the rules we’ve invented without getting to the true message.”

Caram, who was born in Argentina but lives in a Catalan convent, said sexuality was a God-given, basic part of every individual and a means of self-expression. However, she said it was something the church had long struggled with.

“I think the church has had a poor attitude to it for a long time and has swept it a bit under the carpet,” she said. “It wasn’t a taboo subject; it was more something that was considered dirty or hidden. It was the denial of what I believe to be a blessing.”

The nun’s remarks prompted a wave of online anger, including an online petition for her to be suspended from her order.

Her views were quickly disowned by the Bishop of Vic, who responded with a statement reminding people that Mary’s virginity had been an article of faith since the church’s inception.

“[It] was gathered and proclaimed by the Second Council of Constantinople, being the primary Marian dogma observed by Catholic and Orthodox Christians,” it said.

“We remind people that these remarks do not conform to the faith of the church and regret the confusion they may have caused to the faithful.”

On Wednesday, Caram issued a statement in which she said she had received death threats after her TV appearance.

“When asked about the Virgin Mary, I said that, as I see it, Mary obviously loved Joseph … I wanted to say that it wouldn’t shock me if she had had a normal couple’s relationship with Joseph, her husband.

“This shocked a lot of people, perhaps because there was no opportunity for clarification. But I think that my fidelity to, and love for, the church, the gospel and Jesus’s project are clear – as it the certainty that sex is neither dirty nor something to be condemned, and that marriage and sex are a blessing.”

She added that while she apologised to anyone who felt offended, she was worried by the “fragmented, ideological and perverse” way in which her remarks had been interpreted. The nun said that “some heretic-bashers, thirsting for vengeance and driven by hatred” had lied about her and made “serious threats, including to my life”.

It is not the first time that the nun has found herself in trouble with her superiors. A self-declared “pain-in-the-arse nun”, she has engaged in politics and made plain her enthusiasm for Catalan independence.

Complete Article HERE!

11/17/16

Why nuns are silent about sexual abuse within the Catholic church in India: It’s never taken seriously

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“If it comes out, it will be like a tsunami,” the nun Manju Kulapuram said, earlier this year, about the rampant sexual abuse of women by the men of the Catholic church in India. Evidently, Kulapuram was onto something — and it’s across denominations, nor confined just to the Catholic church. Unlike other work places, which in theory are meant to have set up mandatory internal complaints committees, there is no formal institution in place that addresses sexual abuse inflicted by members of the clergy.

On 14 November, a woman based in Kozhikode registered a police complaint about a parish priest in Nadakkavu St Mary’s English Church. She alleged that he sexually harassed her over email and messages after she contacted him with a request to pray for her daughter on her birthday in August. She complained to the bishop at the Malabar Diocese of the Church of South India, even showing him copies of the interactions with the priest, but was not taken seriously: the bishop said there were plenty of other churches in Kozhikode that she could attend. Although the priest was briefly transferred to Nilambur in September, he was back at Nadakkavu in just over a month. It was only after she contacted the police through Anweshi, a women’s counselling centre that a case was registered and the priest was charged under Section 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman).

nuns-ptiNumerous cases have not made it that far. A 2016 report suggested that when higher-ups of the church are alerted to these incidents, they often choose to either ignore them or, at the most, transfer the perpetrator. Sr. Kulapuram says that a fellow nun was videotaped while bathing, by a seminarian, while they were both attending a seminar away from home; she was dissuaded from pursuing the legal route and told that she’d get justice from the church. This never materialised — the priest was sent to Rome to continue his theological studies, and the victim abandoned religious life altogether. A version of the familiar promotion-for-accused and demotion-for-victim model.

Things may have changed since the 1950s, when fellow priests are said to have advised Reverend Louis Brouillard, a serial child molestor in Guam, to do regular penance instead of stopping him. But abusers still tend to get off with minimal official punishment.

A case in point is the apparent reinduction of a convicted child molestor, Father Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, into the Roman Catholic Church of South India in January. One of his victims from Minnesota says that she was 14 when he first raped her in his parish office, and during the year-long period of abuse, he forced her to say that she contributed to his becoming impure. Although Jeyapaul was sentenced to one year of prison in Minnesota, where he had been posted previously, in 2015, he served a shorter prison term under the condition that he would not return to work that kept him in contact with children. When he returned to India, a bishop lifted the five-year-old suspension, apparently in consultation with Rome.

This August, Shanthi Roselin took on the Catholic church after an investigation into the murder of her 17-year-old daughter by a Walayar priest in Kovai, Tamil Nadu, three years ago, revealed that church authorities were very much aware of her having been sexually assaulted. Strangely enough, they reported it to Rome while hiding the information from the local police. A report in The Indian Express describes Roselin reiterating how unfathomable the priest’s breach of trust was by stating repeatedly, “He was our God”. The police finally arrested five Catholic priests associated with the intentional omission of crucial information about the girl. But the leniency and the long delays give perpetrators ample time to threaten their victims. This was frighteningly apparent in a case where a Catholic priest in Kerala, who had abused a man for over a year, had his brothers intimidate the victim with death threats and demand that he withdraw his complaint to Church authorities.

Another in-depth study of sexual abuse by the clergy cited Virginia Saldanha, who had worked for years with the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, and said that the frequent cry about sexual assault complaints being dealt with ‘in-house’ really meant that the victim would be harried.

Shalini Mulackal, the first female president of the Indian Theological Association, confirms, is that nuns rarely disclose incidents because of the surrounding taboo

 
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India announced in August that it was going to draft a policy after a letter from the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace, an advocacy group for religious women, told them that the number of cases of sexual abuse were increasing. Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, the secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said the tentative title was ‘Policy on Sexual Harassment in Work Places’, suggesting it would mirror the policies used in other work places. He was vague about the contents of the draft, but insisted it would address sexual harassment in the Church “systematically and comprehensively”.

Others have rather less faith in the glacial pace or trajectory of the Catholic Church. Because the Lord may move in mysterious ways. In September, Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, the head of a Christian women’s collective, argued at a meeting of Christian women’s groups in Hyderabad, that individuals should move outside the Catholic Church and follow the law. The meeting ended with the decision to start a legal subcommittee under the Indian Christian Women’s Movement to record cases of harassment and assault, provide counseling for victims and introduce new protocols for dealing with sexual abuse.

In 2015, Spotlight took to the big screen the real-life cover-up of decades-long child abuse by Roman Catholic priests in Boston. When the film was released, the Boston archdiocese told the media that there is “zero abuse” taking place today — sounding about as believable as the statement made in April this year by Philemon Doss, the president of the Conference of Diocesan Priests of India: “In India, it [child sex abuse] is not very rampant, maybe in foreign countries [it is].”

That the Vatican formally created a church tribunal for addressing and holding accountable bishops who were involved in cover-ups of sexual assault only in 2015 is appalling. Perhaps the guidelines for tackling sexual abuse that were formulated by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in late September will resemble the policies used by other workplaces. But the situation at the moment, as Shalini Mulackal, the first female president of the Indian Theological Association, confirms, is that nuns rarely disclose incidents because of the surrounding taboo. When they do, the bishops in charge don’t do much besides transferring the priest accused of sexual abuse or offer him counselling. Or send them on a Roman Holiday.

Complete Article HERE!

09/29/16

Kicking the habit: two former nuns married in civil ceremony in Italy

Federica and Isabel fell in love while working at rehab center for drug addicts and renounced being nuns but say they have not lost their faith

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 Italy earlier this year legalized civil unions, angering the Vatican.

Italy earlier this year legalized civil unions, angering the Vatican.

Federica and Isabel’s love story was not that unusual, apart from one detail.

The affair, which culminated in a civil union this week in the Italian town of Pinerolo, began “slowly” according to their friend, Franco Barbero. The two had a lot in common, having both decided to devote their lives to charitable work.

They fell in love working at a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts, but there was just one hitch.

Both were already married to the Catholic church.

Federica and Isabel were Franciscan nuns when they met and fell in love, and have both since renounced their vocation and spoken out against the church’s position against homosexuality.

“God wants people happy, to live the love in the light of the sun,” Isabel recently told La Stampa, the Italian daily newspaper. The two brides said that they have not lost their faith and would not otherwise have wanted to leave the church.

“We call upon our church to welcome all people who love each other,” added Federica, her new bride.

The courtship and civil union comes about one year after a Vatican official, Krzysztof Charamsa, publicly abandoned the church after announcing that he was gay and in love. Charamsa was sacked and defrocked after admitting he was in love with another man.

The two women were joined in a civil union in a ceremony behind closed doors in Pinerolo’s city hall, about 24 hours before they had planned. The ceremony was supposed to take place on Thursday, but the time was changed after the media were alerted to the story and the couple wanted to avoid a media frenzy.

Luca Salvai, the Five Star Movement mayor who performed the ceremony, told La Stampa: “We have guaranteed the right to privacy for this couple, who asked for discretion.”

He added that the couple were expected to remain in Pinerolo, which is near the city of Turin.

“Yesterday morning they arrived by themselves, scared by all the clamor, and after the ceremony they left by themselves in silence, one next to the other,” Salvai said.

It was the second same sex civil union ceremony performed in the town of Pinerolo since Italy passed legislation to legalise same-sex unions earlier this year. The couple are also due to participate in a religious service by their friend, Barbero, a former priest who was suspended because of his support of gay marriage.

“I can assure you that not all [of the other nuns] were against this. They have been criticised, but also understood by some sisters. Just as there are many good priests who do not condemn these kind of choices. I must add, for the record, that it is not the first time that I happen to marry two sisters,” he said.

Complete Article HERE!