Must read: Michael, over at The Wild Reed, continues his 2013 Queer Appreciation series with an Annie Proulx essay.
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SHAMED cardinal Keith O’Brien may be called to give evidence in court over allegations that a priest raped a young boy.
The potentially explosive case will force the former head of the Catholic Church in Scotland back into the public eye despite efforts by the Vatican to secure him a low profile.
Christopher Williams, now 33, claims he was raped and abused by a priest, who has since died, in the 1990s.
Papers detailing his £100,000 civil personal injury case have been lodged in the Court of Session and the case is likely to be heard early next year.
Christopher’s legal team say they cited O’Brien, 75, because he had been told about the allegations.
Lawyer Cameron Fyfe said: “The Church say the priest involved was pursuing his own ministry, which is quite an interesting take.
“They have even denied that it is a priest’s duty to spread the word of God, which is astonishing given that is what they done for hundreds of years.
“We understand this may be a difficult situation given what’s happened with the cardinal and his apparent determination to stay out of the public eye.
“But there are procedures we can take to ensure he is cited to appear in court.”
O’Brien will be the highest ranking Church official ever asked to give evidence in a child abuse case.
Christopher claims he was raped and abused in a chapel house over a five-year period.
He was later sentenced to 100 hours’ community service for three break-ins at the house where he says the rape happened – incidents he describes as “cries for help”.
Hugh McLaughlin, a commentator on Catholic Church issues, said the lawyers face a difficult job finding O’Brien to serve court papers on him.
The Vatican rejected the shamed cardinal’s plans to retire to East Lothian and it is thought he has been told to stay away from Scotland.
McLaughlin said: “It will be an uncomfortable situation for both the Church and the cardinal.
“But he will be required to give evidence and tell the truth as anyone else would.
“The biggest problem is that lawyers acting for the claimant may have difficulty finding the cardinal to serve any summons. Without that, they cannot force him to give evidence.
“But even if the cardinal goes into refuge at the Vatican, he can still be compelled to attend court in Scotland by way of an application to the Vatican City Court.”
O’Brien, Britain’s most senior Catholic, stood down in February after initially denying allegations of inappropriate behaviour following accusations by several priests.
He later admitted improper sexual behaviour.
O’Brien’s whereabouts are unknown after he was forced to abandon plans to retire to Dunbar, East Lothian, amid Vatican fears about his public profile.
Christopher, of Blackburn, West Lothian, declined to comment on his court case.
When he first made the rape claims, senior Church figures called the police but Christopher was too traumatised to speak to them at that time.
He gave an interview after first making the claims at the time of the Pope’s visit to the UK in 2010, saying: “It’s blighted my life and I’ve struggled with depression and feelings of worthlessness.”
Locum priest Father John Robinson, who is supporting Christopher, has repeatedly asked the Church for counselling for him.
Fr Robinson has also written to every bishop in Scotland asking for help for Christopher.
He said: “Very sadly no help has been forthcoming from the Church and Christopher had no choice other than to raise the legal action.”
A Catholic Church spokesman said: “It is the policy of the Church and all its officials to offer full cooperation in any investigations or legal action.”
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By Philip Pullella
A senior Catholic cleric with connections to the Vatican bank was arrested on Friday for plotting to help rich friends smuggle tens of millions of euros in cash into Italy from Switzerland, in the latest blow to the Vatican’s image.
Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, 61, who worked as a senior accountant in the Vatican’s financial administration, was arrested along with an Italian secret service agent and a financial intermediary in a tale that reads like a spy novel.
It involves police wiretaps, a private plane rented to collect the cash from Locarno, burned cell phones, an allegedly corrupt secret services agent who promised to get the money past customs and a shady financier.
Details of the case against Scarano will come as an acute embarrassment to Pope Francis, who, since his election in March, has pointedly eschewed many of the trappings of office and sought to stress the importance of a simple life of devotion.
Only two days ago, the Vatican announced he had set up a commission of inquiry into the Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), which has been hit by a number of scandals in the past decades.
Scarano, who was arrested in a Rome parish and taken to Rome’s Queen of Heaven jail, had hatched a plot to bring up to 40 million euros ($52 million) into Italy for a family of shipbuilders in his hometown of Salerno in southern Italy, magistrate Nello Rossi told reporters.
Rossi is already investigating the Vatican bank for money laundering, and the latest arrests stemmed from that.
Rossi and fellow magistrate Stefano Pesci said there was no indication so far that the bank was directly involved in the attempt to bring the money into Italy, but that the investigation was continuing and more searches were underway.
Scarano is under separate investigation in southern Italy in relation to his accounts in the Vatican bank.
CELL PHONES DESTROYED
According to Rossi, in July last year Scarano engaged Giovanni Zito, a paramilitary Carabiniere policeman on loan to the secret services, to help him get the money, which was in a Swiss bank, into Italy without tax and customs controls.
The third person arrested was Giovanni Carenzio, a financial broker with offices in Switzerland and the Canary Islands and who was acting as the fiduciary for the owners of the money.
The three originally planned to bring back 40 million euros in cash but later reduced it to 20 million euros.
A private plane went to Locarno from Rome and waited several days before returning to Rome without the money.
The cash never left Switzerland because of disagreements and nervousness among the three, Rossi said, adding that cell phones that were used were later destroyed by being burned.
Zito had promised to use his position in the secret services to avoid customs controls. The plane was to have been met on the runway of a Rome airport and the cash taken under armed escort to Scarano’s home in Rome, Rossi said.
Even though the money never left the Swiss bank, Zito demanded the payment he had been promised for his services.
Scarano gave Zito two checks, one for 400,000 euros and another for 200,000 euros. Zito cashed the first check but Scarano blocked the second before Zito could cash it by filing a false report that it had been lost.
VATICAN READY TO COOPERATE
Asked if money laundering was involved, Rossi said that would depend if the continuing investigation determined that the original source of the money was criminal activity.
“We are trying to determine the origin of the vast amount of money that was at the disposal of Scarano, who is the holder of several accounts at IOR,” Rossi said.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Vatican authorities stood ready to cooperate with the Italian investigation, but had so far received no official request.
He said the FIA, the Vatican’s own financial intelligence authority, was following the case and would take action if necessary.
Scarano worked for years as a senior accountant for a Vatican department known as APSA, whose official title is the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See.
He was suspended from his duties several weeks ago when he was placed under investigation by magistrates in Salerno.
In that investigation, his lawyer Silverio Sica said wealthy friends had donated money to Scarano in order for him to build a home for the terminally ill.
According to Sica, his client wanted to use that money to pay off his mortgage so he could sell a property in Salerno and use the proceeds to build the care home.
Apparently to cover his tracks, Scarano has been accused of taking 560,000 euros in cash out of his account in the Vatican bank and giving various amounts to friends who gave him checks in exchange.
He then deposited the checks into an Italian bank account to pay off the mortgage. ($1 = 0.7691 euros)
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