09/15/17

Vatican diplomat recalled amid child porn investigation

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By NICOLE WINFIELD and MATTHEW LEE

A high-ranking priest working in the Vatican’s embassy in Washington has been recalled after U.S. prosecutors asked for him to be charged there and face trial in a child pornography investigation, Vatican and U.S. officials said Friday.

The diplomat was suspected of possessing, but not producing or disseminating, child pornography including images of pre-pubescent children, a U.S. source familiar with the case said. The source was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Vatican declined to identify the priest, but said he was currently in Vatican City and that Vatican prosecutors had launched their own probe and sought evidence from the U.S.

If the accusations pan out, the case would be a major embarrassment for the Vatican and Pope Francis, who has pledged “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse. The diplomat would be the second from the Vatican’s diplomatic corps to face possible criminal charges for such crimes during Francis’ papacy. And any trial in the Vatican would come as Francis’ own financial czar, Cardinal George Pell, is on trial in his native Australia for alleged historic sex abuse cases.

The State Department said it had asked the Vatican to lift the official’s diplomatic immunity on Aug. 21. It said that request was denied three days later. For the State Department to make such a request, its lawyers would have needed to be convinced that there was reasonable cause for criminal prosecution.

The circumstances that prompted prosecutors to make the request, however, weren’t clear. The Justice Department, which would have brought any charges, didn’t immediately comment, and the Vatican gave no details about what, if any, evidence had been provided to persuade it to recall the priest.

In a statement, the Vatican said the State Department had notified the Vatican on Aug. 21 of a “possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images” by one of its diplomats in Washington.

A U.S. official familiar with the case said the priest was a senior member of the Vatican embassy staff. The Vatican yearbook lists three counselors who work under the nuncio, or ambassador.

The Vatican said recalling the priest was consistent with diplomatic practice of sovereign states. In declining to identify him, the Vatican said the case was subject to confidentiality while still under investigation. It said the Vatican had asked for information about the case from the U.S; it wasn’t clear if any had been provided.

The Vatican has recalled envoys before, including its then-ambassador to the Dominican Republic, who was recalled in 2013 after being accused of sexually abusing young boys on the Caribbean island.

The Vatican justified its decision to remove Monsignor Jozef Wesolowski from Dominican jurisdiction by submitting him first to a canonical court proceeding at the Vatican, and then putting him on trial in the Vatican’s criminal court, which has jurisdiction over the Holy See’s diplomatic corps.

Wesolowski was defrocked by the church court. But he died before the criminal trial got underway. Dominican prosecutors initially balked at the recall, and they never filed charges because of his immunity.

After he was defrocked, Wesolowski lost his diplomatic immunity and the Vatican said he could be tried by other courts. However, it refused to provide Dominican authorities with information about his whereabouts or how even he had pleaded to the charges.

The Vatican doesn’t have extradition treaties.

The Vatican in 2013 specifically criminalized child porn possession, distribution and production in its criminal code. Possession carries a possible jail term of up to two years and a 10,000-euro fine. Distribution can be punished with a term of up to five years and a 50,000-euro fine, while the most serious offense of production can bring a 12-year term and 250,000-euro fine.

The head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, said the case was serious and that he hoped the Vatican would be “forthcoming with more details.”

“We reaffirm that when such allegations occur, an immediate, thorough and transparent investigation should begin in cooperation with law enforcement and immediate steps be taken to protect children,” DiNardo said in a statement.

Francis has a spotty record on handling sex abuse cases. He won praise from advocates of survivors of abuse for having established a commission of experts to advise the church on keeping pedophiles out of the priesthood and protecting children. But the commission has floundered after losing the two members who themselves were survivors of abuse.

Francis’ promotion of Pell to be his finance czar when allegations abounded in Australia about his past conduct, as well other appointments, in-house decisions and his scrapping of a proposed tribunal to prosecute negligent bishops also have raised questions.

Complete Article HERE!

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09/13/17

The Catholic Church’s child sexual abuse tragedy revealed in groundbreaking Australian five-year study

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Celibacy a key risk factor in child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, report finds A groundbreaking Australian study describes child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church as a global tragedy

Report: RMIT University’s Professor Des Cahill giving evidence at the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sexual abuse in 2012.

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MANDATORY celibacy, the denigration of women and the Catholic Church’s “deeply homophobic environment” are key factors in the church’s global child sexual abuse tragedy, a ground-breaking Australian research study by two former Catholic priests has found.

Mandatory celibacy “remains the major precipitating risk factor for child sexual abuse”, Dr Peter Wilkinson and Professor Des Cahill of RMIT University’s Centre for Global Research found after a five-year study into systemic reasons for child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.

Catholic children, and particularly boys, remained at risk from “psychosexually immature, sexually deprived and deeply frustrated priests and religious brothers”, and the “deeply homophobic environment” within the church and its seminaries “contributes to psychosexual immaturity”, the report released on Wednesday found.

An assessment of 26 key Catholic child sexual abuse studies around the world, including the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry into Maitland-Newcastle diocese, a Victorian parliamentary inquiry and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, shows about one in 15 priests commit offences against children.

Rates differ across dioceses and among religious congregations. The risk of offending is much higher among religious brothers with little contact with women, who were educated at male-only schools, appointed to male-only schools and living in all-male communities, the report found.

“The lack of the feminine and the denigration of women within church structures is one key, underlying risk factor in the abuse,” Dr Wilkinson and Professor Cahill said.

Peter Wilkinson and I set out to try to answer the question: Why has the Catholic Church and its priests and religious brothers, more than any other religious denomination, become synonymous with the sexual mistreatment of children? – RMIT University Professor Des Cahill on new report

A decision by Pope Pius X in 1910 to lower the confessional age to seven indirectly put more children at risk of abuse, and popes and bishops created a “culture of secrecy” which led to “gross failures in transparency, accountability, openness and trust”, they found.

The study explored how Catholic organisational policies, practices, processes and attitudes predisposed, influenced and facilitiated individuals to commit sexual and physical abuse against children.

It also explored how the church’s theological frameworks, organisational structures, governance processes and culture contributed to the abuse and church leaders’ inadequate responses.

It included an assessment of the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry in 2013 into offending by priests Denis McAlinden and Jim Fletcher in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese over decades, and the responses of former bishops Leo Clarke and Michael Malone.

The report concluded McAlinden, an Irish Redemptorist priest sent to Australia in 1949 at the age of 26, was one of the country’s “most prolific paedophile priests”, whose transfer from Ireland was because his religious leader “wanted McAlinden out of Ireland, and far-away Australia seemed a good bet”.

Professor Cahill and Dr Wilkinson said the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry, headed by Margaret Cunneen, SC, had “undoubted achievements”, but it was unfortunate that it did not examine all cases of priest offending in the Diocese of Maitland–Newcastle in the post-World War II period.

“It is also unfortunate that, because of its technical and narrow legal focus, it did not examine the personal, family and seminary circumstances of either offender, or the structural and systemic factors that permitted McAlinden and Fletcher to offend for so long without being held accountable,” they found.

The lack of the feminine and the denigration of women within church structures is one key, underlying risk factor in the abuse. – Professor Des Cahill and Dr Peter Wilkinson

The groundbreaking report, Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: An Interpretive Review of the Literature and Public Inquiry, is believed to be the first informed by researchers with significant theological training and knowledge of church practices. Both men trained as Catholic priests and later left the priesthood.

Professor Cahill is Professor Emeritus of intercultural studies in the school of global, urban and social studies at RMIT University in Melbourne. Dr Wilkinson is a founding member of the Melbourne-based Catholics for Renewal group.

“Peter Wilkinson and I set out to try to answer the question: Why has the Catholic Church and its priests and religious brothers, more than any other religious denomination, become synonymous with the sexual mistreatment of children?” Professor Cahill said.

“From any perspective, whether in size, complexity or historical legacy, the Roman Catholic Church is an awesome entity. One may not like the Catholic Church, but no one can ignore it.”

While the global Catholic Church child sexual abuse issue had been described as a crisis, scandal, nightmare or scourge, “the sexual and emotional abuse of children within Catholic settings by priests, religious brothers and sisters, is ultimately a tragedy of immense proportions”, he said.

The report found that by 2015 the number of baptised Catholics in the world was 1.285 billion people, or 17.7 per cent of the world population.

Growth in the church was particularly strong in Africa, while in Asia and the Americas growth was in proportion to the population growth in each continent.

Between 1975 and 2015 the number of priests worldwide increased by just 2.7 per cent. The number of religious sisters and brothers declined significantly, with a 30 per cent drop in the number of sisters, and a 21 per cent drop in the number of brothers.

In 2014 6263 priests were ordained, 4484 priests died and 716 “defected”, or resigned.

There were 136,572 church mission stations around the globe without a resident priest, the report found.

Complete Article HERE!

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08/31/17

Inside the ‘glass closet’ of a gay Catholic teacher

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By Alex Ryan
 

Being both gay and Catholic leads to a somewhat fraught existence. On one hand, we have our Catholic peers who, frequently, have trouble empathising with what it means to be ‘intrinsically disordered’. On the other, we have our queer friends who are, understandably, sceptical of our allegiance to an organisation that has a deep history of discrimination towards people like us.

 
This existence is further complicated for those of us who choose to partake in ministry that sees us employed by the Church.

I am a gay man and, also, a religion teacher in a Catholic school. Recently, I’ve begun to wonder if my teaching days are numbered, particularly given Archbishop Denis Hart’s comments (reported, but since clarified) about Catholic organisations firing gay staff.

It’s the great unspoken rule of Church organisations that gay people must fly under the radar. A ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy is implied, but all of us are acutely aware we work in one of the few jobs not protected by anti-discrimination laws. This black cloud hangs over our every public action because, for some reason, teachers’ lives are something our communities feel entitled to know and talk about.

Whether it’s our social media posts, or even just holding our partner’s hand in public, we must carefully curate our outward appearance so as to not technically break Church rules, even if many of us live in a ‘glass closet’. Though we know it is unlikely we will be fired, we also know the potential is there if the wrong student or parent catches whiff of our supposedly un-Christian behaviour.

Last year I got my first long-term boyfriend since becoming a teacher. This was an exciting time for me, as it was part of embracing my queer identity. But what should have been a joyous occasion led to a great deal of anxiety. I had to explain to a man I cared about that, even though I wasn’t ashamed of him, I couldn’t risk listing him as my partner on Facebook. I was lucky that he was understanding, though it still hurt to explain it to him.

You may think this isn’t a big deal, but I would challenge the average person to go weeks, months, and years without mentioning any aspect of their love life to any coworker. The stress of hiding a major part of life is not insignificant; one wrong move and our livelihood is on the line. This is not to mention that, with the personal scrutiny school administration positions face, our career advancement opportunities in Catholic schools are limited.

People ask: ‘Why don’t you just move into the state system?’ It’s a fair question. But my answer is simple: I just don’t want to. I love working in a place where my faith is ingrained in the everyday routine; a place where Catholicism’s history and tradition are taught, explored and questioned.

Ever since I decided I wanted to be a teacher, I wanted to teach religion. Though it’s not my job to convert students, like in the old catechetical model of Catholic schools, I hope students can at least leave my classroom with an appreciation of how faith contributes to our world. I’m gay, but I’m also Catholic.

LGBTIQ+ people have a lot to contribute to our Catholic schools. To deny our students access to amazing teachers is surely a greater assault to ‘decency’ than what these teachers are doing in the privacy of their own homes. This, of course, leads to the question that many queer Catholics have about the institutional Church: Why is the same level of scrutiny not applied to our heterosexual colleagues?

I know a great many Church employees who live in open defiance of its teachings. People who are divorced, remarried without annulment, married outside the Church, cohabiting before marriage, have children out of marriage, or are engaging in premarital sex. I have also worked with many people who don’t even identify as Catholic. Surely if we are using adherence to Catholic belief as our yardstick for employability, then people who openly reject papal authority (e.g. Protestants), or reject belief in the Holy Trinity (eg. non-Christians) would fall short of the mark.

I’m not, of course, advocating that people in these groups should be excluded from employment in Catholic institutions — on the contrary. Rather, this is just to illustrate that to single out gay Catholic employees is to arbitrarily discriminate against an already vulnerable group. That, surely, would be a plank in the Church’s eye far bigger than the speck in mine.

Complete Article HERE!

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08/26/17

Majority of Catholics support same-sex marriage in Australia: Equality Campaign poll

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A MAJORITY of Catholics, Christians and other religious people support gay marriage and will likely vote for it in the postal survey, according to a new poll.

marriage equality.jpg

The research shows 58 per cent of people of faith back the “yes” campaign, compared with 79 per cent of non-religious Australians.

Catholics and non-Christians were more likely to support same-sex marriage, with two thirds of both of those groups saying they were in favour.

The polling, commissioned by the Equality Campaign, was conducted last week by Jim Reed of Newgate Research who surveyed 1000 people online, Fairfax reports.

t comes as the Archbishop of Melbourne urged Catholics to vote against same-sex marriage “for the health and future” of society.

Denis Hart last week wrote an open letter urging Catholics to vote in the optional postal survey when forms go out in September.

“We sincerely believe that there is a core and fundamental wisdom and truth in the traditional definition and understanding of marriage that should not be ignored and is worth keeping for the health and future of our society,” he wrote.

He warned future gay marriage legislation could infringe rights of freedom of religion and conscience.

“It could result in restrictions on the right of ministers of religion and religious bodies and organisations having the freedom to teach, preach and speak about marriage between persons of the same sex being contrary to their religious or conscientious beliefs,” he wrote.

Archbishop Denis Hart

Archbishop Denis Hart urged Catholics to vote against same-sex marriage.

Archbishop Hart called for an “active and respectful” debate, urging Catholics to welcome gay Australians as brothers and sisters.

“Like all human beings they are created in the image and likeness of God,” he wrote. “They have a right to expect to be loved and welcomed and not subject to unjust discrimination.”

He told ABC radio on Wednesday homophobic material disseminated as part of the campaign against same-sex marriage was “totally inappropriate”, insisting both sides should express their ideas with conviction instead of creating a campaign of hate.

Meanwhile, a recent Newspoll found 67 per cent of respondents “definitely will” vote in the poll.

Fifteen per cent said they probably will fill out the ballot while three per cent are planning to abstain.

Support for same-sex marriage remains relatively unchanged from a survey last September, with 63 per cent of those polled saying they would vote “yes: — compared to 62 per cent a year ago.

Nearly half of the 1675 respondents say they support the postal ballot, similar to an Essential poll last week.

Complete Article HERE!

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07/7/17

The way ahead for gay Catholics

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Two years ago Cardinal Vincent Nichols asked me to be his liaison and chaplain to the Farm Street LGBT group in central London

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Two years ago Cardinal Vincent Nichols asked me to be his liaison and chaplain to the Farm Street LGBT group in central London. That same week I was invited to be chaplain to the London chapter of Courage, an international support group. My work includes one-to-one spiritual guidance, helping with reflection days and accompanying both groups as an official representative of the Church.

Ministry to homosexual Catholics (transgenderism would need a separate article) takes place in two main contexts. First, groups like the Farm Street group set up by gay people themselves or their relatives, where everyone knows they are welcome, whatever their situation, and issues can be openly discussed. Such groups often later seek the support of their local bishop and priests.

Secondly, bishops or priests can set up groups themselves, and even obtain Vatican recognition, provided they are explicit in their adherence to Church teaching. Courage is such a group, set up by Fr John Harvey in America with the support of bishops there, and now present in several countries. Members describe themselves not as gay but as “experiencing same-sex attraction” and aim at lifelong sexual abstinence – but not at changing their sexual orientation.

Pastoral care of homosexual people is essentially the same as all ministry: seeking to communicate the unconditional love of Christ and his Church, and to accompany people on their journey towards holiness. But in practice this particular ministry encounters powerful feelings of pain and anger which can cause difficulties.

LGBT people often feel hurt by the Church, either because of the way its teaching comes across, or through concrete experiences of rejection, or both. Those from non-Western cultures are sometimes even in danger of their lives, while some other Catholics seem threatened by the very existence of gay people and react angrily towards attempts to accommodate them within the Church.

There is also a wide range of attitudes, experiences and behaviour among gay Catholics themselves. Some long for a permanent relationship, while others admit that relationships are not important for them, and they simply want sex. With the availability of gay websites and apps, and well-known pick-up spots, most gay people in our society can easily have sex whenever they want.

We sometimes meet men who had a lot of casual sex but came to realise it did not make them happy. They may then seek help in leading a chaste life. Courage provides them with a supportive group, modelled on twelve-step programmes, in which personal sharing enables exploration of the relationship between sexual desires and other aspects of life, and so helps mitigate the compulsive element which can easily affect sexual behaviour. Others are looking for a long-term relationship, but may go through several sexual partners in the search, sometimes remaining good friends with them after the sexual relationship has ended.

But one thing is common to virtually all LGBT Catholics today: they will not take the Church’s teaching on trust, but must learn from experience. Even those who hold a very traditional attitude have likely arrived at it through many experiences.

This being so, ministers to gay Catholics need two main resources: a moral theology that can face the critical scrutiny of life experience; and a well-grounded spirituality of discernment. These can help LGBT Catholics look honestly at their behaviour, see where it is leading them and discover alternatives where indicated.

The moral theology I have found most helpful in this ministry is that of the Belgian Dominican Servais Pinckaers, who shows that from biblical times to St Thomas Aquinas, Catholic moral theology was essentially based on the search for true happiness, on earth and in heaven, and on the cultivation of virtues leading to it – a happiness deeper than mere pleasure, and consisting above all in communion with God and his holy people.

A theology based on observing rules was a later distortion, and led by reaction in the 1960s to an equally unhelpful liberalism.

In Pinckaers’ perspective, moral theology does not just define what one is allowed to do, or the minimum one must do, but joins hands with spirituality in promoting the search for holiness through loving God and neighbour to the uttermost. Ignatian discernment of spirits is the obvious spiritual partner for such a theology.

Thus the most important gift the minister can offer LGBT people, after unconditional love and welcome, is encouragement to a deep spiritual life of friendship with Christ, based on the traditional practices of Mass, Confession, Adoration, Lectio Divina and the rosary. Without this, discernment loses itself in subjective states of mind; with it we begin to see which path leads to heaven and which to hell, and to marry personal experience with the wisdom of the Church.

Complete Article HERE!

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