Dublin priests’ morale is at an ‘all time low’

Morale of clergy in the Dublin diocese is at an ”all time low” according to the now resigned chairman of the Priests Council, Fr Aquinas Duffy.

Fr Duffy, who resigned in recent weeks, said he resigned from the position due to time constraints and felt that, as the three year term had just started, it was best to go now and let someone else give it ”the time that it deserves”.

Asked about the morale of the clergy, he said it is at an ”all time low” and he included lay people also.

He added that there is ”frustration at trying to change Church structures so that real change comes about. In some ways we need to start moving to a collaborative style of structure and not hierarchial.”

He said there were some ”beginnings there at parish level” but that at ”structural level there needs to be diocesan councils that have real say”.
The urgency around this, he said, is very real as ”we are moving into a situation in the future where the main function of the priest is to serve sacramentally”.

Asked what needed to be done to raise morale, he said that there is a need to ”encourage and build people up. Many feel disillusioned and sometimes abandoned.
”If only we had good planning for the future. The lack of planning causes disillusionment,” added Fr Duffy.

Full Article HERE!

Why the pope must face justice at The Hague

When it comes to holding the Catholic Church accountable for sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy, all roads lead to Rome. That is what my organisation, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap), concluded after years of seeking justice in other venues and being turned away.

On 13 September, we travelled to the Hague to file an 84-page complaint and over 20,000 pages of supporting materials with the international criminal court, documenting our charge that the pope and Vatican officials have tolerated and enabled the systematic and widespread concealing of rape and child sex crimes throughout the world.

Holding childhood photographs that tell a wrenching story of innocence and faith betrayed, and joined by our attorneys from the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, we stood up and demanded the justice that has so long been denied. The New York Times called the filing “the most substantive effort yet to hold the pope and the Vatican accountable in an international court for sexual abuse by priests”.

No doubt, many people of faith are shocked that we would accuse a world church leader of crimes against humanity – a man considered by many to be infallible. But the man who is infallible must also be accountable.

By the Vatican’s own account, “only” about 1.5-5% of Catholic clergy have been involved in sexual violence against children. With a reported 410,593 priests worldwide as of 2009, that means the number of offending priests would range from 6,158 to 20,529. Considering that many offenders have multiple victims, the number of children at risk is likely in the tens, or even hundreds, of thousands.

We believe the thousands of pages of evidence we filed this week will substantiate our allegations that an operation has been put in place not only to hide the widespread sexual violence by priests in all parts of the world, but also to obstruct investigation, remove suspects out of criminal jurisdictions and do everything possible to silence victims, discredit whistleblowers, intimidate witnesses, stonewall prosecutors and keep a tighter lid than ever on clergy sex crimes and cover-ups. The result of this systematic effort is that, despite a flood of well-publicised cases, many thousands of children remain vulnerable to abuse.

While many pedophile priests have been suspended in recent years, few have been criminally charged and even fewer defrocked. Worse, no one who ignored, concealed or enabled these predators has suffered any consequences. At the head of this hierarchy of denial and secrecy is the pope, who has served as an enabler of these men. We believe the Vatican must face investigation to determine whether these incidences have been knowingly concealed and clergymen deliberately protected when their crimes have come to light.

I know this story well, because I was sexually abused by a parish priest, from my time in junior high school until graduation. Because of the shame and trauma, several years passed before I was able to tell anyone. By that time, it was too late to file criminal charges. Church officials refused to restrict that priest’s access to children or take action against him for several more years, despite other victims coming forward.

Indeed, powerful factors prevent all but the most assertive, healthy and lucky victims from seeking justice. Many others succumb to drugs, anorexia, depression or suicide when the pain of innocence betrayed becomes too much to bear. A recent investigation in Australia revealed a case in which 26 among the numerous victims of a particular priest had committed suicide.

For the safety of children and the prevention of yet more heinous wrongdoing, the international criminal court may be the only real hope. What other institution could possibly bring prosecutorial scrutiny to bear on the largest private institution on the planet?

Our journey for justice has been a long one, and it’s not over yet. But we know where it must end: with justice at The Hague.

Full Article HERE!

NZ Synod votes for full inclusion of lesbian and gay people in ministry

The Auckland Diocesan Synod held on 4 September, 2011, debated and passed overwhelmingly a motion in support of the full inclusion of lesbian and gay people in ministry.

Jeremy Younger, Coordinator of Changing Attitude New Zealand, has forwarded a report of the meeting which is published on the Changing Attitudes web site – address below. Mr Younger writes:

It was a significant day in the ongoing struggle to end discrimination against LGB&T members of the Anglican Church in New Zealand for two reasons.

For the first time an Auckland Diocesan bishop said publicly in his Charge that he would discern and ordain LGB&T candidates for ordained ministry, including if they were in committed same-sex relationships. He qualified that support by saying ‘should the appropriate basis for change be found within the church’ – namely some level of agreement in the House of Bishops and an understanding of, or change to, Canon Laws that would permit this. The relevant paragraphs of his address are printed below.

Secondly, the Diocesan Synod debated and passed overwhelmingly a motion in support of the full inclusion of lesbian and gay people in ministry and committed to the listening process, initiated, as the bishop says, after Lambeth 1998. Auckland’s goals and the commitment made in the motion are exactly the same as Changing Attitude England’s and are the focus of our Conference on 24 September in Birmingham.

The Synod motion [as amended with clauses 3, 4, and 5] read:

“That this Synod

[1] Holds that sexual orientation should not be an impediment to the discernment, ordination, and licensing of gay and lesbian members to any lay and ordained offices of the Church; and further

[2] persons in committed same-sex relationships likewise should not be excluded from being considered for discernment, ordination, and licensing to any lay and ordained offices of the Church.

[3] commits to an intentional process of listening to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, organized by the Archdeacons in consultation with the gay and lesbian community.

[4] commits to an ongoing discussion with the ministry units, asks the Archdeacons to facilitate this, and invites responses to those discussions to be submitted to Diocesan Council by 31st March 2012; and

[5] commits to support the process and work of the Commission to be appointed by General Synod Standing Committee, as resolved at its meeting in July 2011.”

This motion was put in parts, and members voted via a paper ballot. The most contentious clause, [2], passed by nearly a two-thirds majority.

Never before has an Auckland Synod so clearly, overwhelmingly, and emphatically endorsed the being, relationships and ministry of its gay and lesbian members.

Two comments from gay members of the House afterwards were “for the first time, after all these years, I feel affirmed by my Church” and “this has drawn a line in the sand that has not been drawn before, and we will never go back”.

The text of the Bishop’s Charge follows the report above at:

Full Article HERE!

Polish Catholic journal criticizes church over abuse

A Catholic journal has criticized the Polish church’s handling of sexual abuse by priests, following repeated claims that local church leaders failed to confront the problem.

“The harm caused by sexual molestation of children is unquestionable, but the evil is much greater when pedophilia occurs in the community of faith, and when, in a falsely conceived defense of the church, the authorities hide the facts, conceal the perpetrators and ignore the suffering victims,” the Wiez bimonthly said in an editorial in its August-September edition, dedicated to clergy sexual abuse.

The journal questioned whether the Polish church’s handling of abuse claims complied with Vatican instructions and whether the good of the church meant “the good name of clergy or the good of the weakest.”

“In Poland, church superiors react in different ways. Sometimes sentences are passed on the quiet against priest-pedophiles in secular courts. Sometimes, everything is consistently denied,” it said.

However, the Catholic archbishop in charge of legal affairs for the Polish bishops’ conference told Wiez abuse accusations were best handled with pastoral care and “appropriate therapy” and said the bishops would not be publishing guidelines on the issue adopted in 2009.

Archbishop Andrzej Dziega of Szczecin-Kamien said he believed Poland’s Catholic bishops had their own “competence and experience” on sexual molestation and would not need a commission — like that established by the church in neighboring Germany — to examine abuse cases.

“The duty to handle cases, appropriately establish the truth and define the scope of responsibility of concrete people lies with the church superior — but this remains an internal church activity and does not replace the competence of the wider judicial process,” he said.

“Personally, I’m in favor of totally separating church and secular procedures, upholding the civic rights that belong to everyone in the state and the rights of believers in the church community,” he said.

Jakub Spiewak, president of the Kidprotect Foundation, which runs a hotline for abuse victims and seven separate child-protection programs, told Catholic News Service Sept. 12 that the Catholic journal’s warnings were “important and unprecedented” and said some bishops had shown “extraordinary laxity” toward abuse cases.

“I’d prefer the church to draw conclusions from the mistakes of others, rather than waiting to make its own, since people will be hurt when it does,” he said.
“But it sometimes seems as if the church is thinking like a child — that if it closes its eyes, the danger will go away,” he added. “People won’t tolerate a situation in which priests are above the law, answering only to their bishops and claiming different rights and duties than other citizens.”

Leading Catholics, including Poland’s children’s rights spokesman, have urged the church to adopt clear procedures for handling various abuse claims since the 2002 resignation of the Archbishop Juliusz Paetz of Poznan for molesting seminarians.
In 2008, a Dominican, Father Marcin Mogielski, was suspended by the church after testifying to prosecutors about abuse by the priest in charge of Catholic schools in the Szczecin-Kamien Archdiocese.

Other cases have involved allowing convicted abusers to remain in their parishes.
Writing in the journal, a Catholic psychologist, Ewa Kusz, said the Polish church lacked psychological checks for its seminarians and priests or “transparent norms” for vetting lay and religious employees and had no policies or norms for handling abuse accusations.

She added that there was a “lack of cooperation between church and state” on abuse issues and said church cooperation with clinical professionals also “left much to be desired.”

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, co-author of a book on pedophile priests, told Wiez the situation in Poland was comparable to that of Germany before a wave of abuse scandals in 2010, when “cases from the past were partly known about, but the scale of the problem wasn’t understood or dealt with.”

“If the church in Poland doesn’t confront this reality and doesn’t take the bull by the horns, the same thing will happen which we witnessed in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Austria and recently in Belgium,” the priest said.
“If the church doesn’t know how to react to such situations because it hasn’t bothered to ascertain the facts, its image will suffer much more than if it had said, ‘Yes, we had such cases — they were very painful, but we tackled them.'”

Full Article HERE!

‘Disobedient’ Austrian Catholics preach message of reform

Disgruntled Roman Catholics in Austria have not only been breaking bread at their weekly masses – they have also been breaking with tradition.

A total of 329 priests – one in ten of all priests in Austria – are openly supporting the call for reform that they say is needed to breathe life back into the church.

The movement calls for male priests to be allowed to marry, ending the church’s celibacy rule. The would-be reformers also want women to be able to enter the priesthood and urge greater acceptance of divorce.

The group wants women, as well as men, to be ordained
Rather than simply appealing for reforms, the group has declared it will break ecclesiastical rules by giving communion to Protestants and remarried divorced Catholics. It will also allow lay people – men and women – to preach and to lead head parishes without a priest.

The dissidents’ main spokesman is Father Helmut Schüller, who claims that a shortage of priests makes reform essential. In the entire southern state of Carinthia, not one single priest will be ordained this year.

“We’re presenting suggestions for how we can continue, when we have no replacements,” said Schüller. “How we can find people from our own ranks – for example our own parish members who can simply continue on? We’ve been thinking about this for years.”

It might be too early to call it a schism but unlike the congregations in Austrian churches, the number of “disobedients” is on the increase.

Moral justification

One woman, a religion teacher who wished to remain anonymous, claims she has right on her side when she breaks church law.

“One can only change a law by breaking the law,” she said. “When we come to a law that is spelt out the way it is now – that does not address our requirements and our rights but actually restricts them – then I believe I have the right to violate it.”

Schönborn has said that Catholics should stick to the rules
Head of the Roman Catholic Church in Austria, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, says he is shocked by the open call to defy church doctrine. In a letter he told the rebels they should leave the Church if they do not wish to play by the rules.

Calls for a more liberal church are not new in Austria, says religion commentator Markus Veinfurter, who claims there are no signs that the establishment will listen. “They are all raising the same issues,” said Veinfurter. “But there is no movement in the church whatsoever, as far as the hierarchy is concerned.”

A public opinion poll shows most Austrians, 76 percent of those surveyed, support the priests’ demands and their disobedience.

“Where does it lead?” said Veinfurter. “I think people will go on leaving the Church, people, even those from the innermost part of the church will lose their allegiance. Maybe in a few years time the bishops will be on their own.”

Full Article HERE!