Catholic priests call for talks on equality for women

Twelve clerics seek open discussion of issue and say sanctions have silenced those in favour

Fr Tony Flannery is one of 12 priests who could “no longer remain silent because to do so colludes with the systemic oppression of women within the Catholic Church”. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Fr Tony Flannery is one of 12 priests who could “no longer remain silent because to do so colludes with the systemic oppression of women within the Catholic Church”.

By Patsy McGarry

Twelve Catholic priests have issued a joint statement calling for open discussion on the need for equality for women in the church, including where priesthood is concerned.

“Discriminating against women encourages and reinforces abuse and violence against women in many cultures and societies,” they say.

The priests, many of whom have been prominent in the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), are Frs Tony Flannery, Eamonn McCarthy, Kevin Hegarty, Roy Donovan, Pádraig Standún, Adrian Egan, Benny Bohan, Seán McDonagh, John D Kirwin, Ned Quinn, Donagh O’Meara, and Tony Conry.

“We believe that we can no longer remain silent because to do so colludes with the systemic oppression of women within the Catholic Church. So, in the spirit of Pope Francis constant encouragement of dialogue, we are calling for free and open discussion concerning the full equality of women in all facets of church life, including all forms of ministry,” they say.

Their statement begins with a quotation from St Paul’s letter to the Galatians, that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ”

Pope John Paul II

It notes how “in the Catholic Church women, despite being equal to men by virtue of their Baptism, are excluded from all positions of decision making, and from ordained ministry” and how “in 1994 Pope John Paul II declared that the exclusion of women from priesthood could not even be discussed in the church.”

This, they say, was reaffrimed and even strengthened by Pope Benedict who insisted “that it was definitive and that all Catholics were required to give assent to this view”.

Pope Francis “has said that Pope John Paul II had reflected at length on this matter, had declared that women could never be priests and that, therefore, no further discussion on the ordination of women to ministry is possible”.

The 12 priests say “we, the undersigned, believe that this situation is very damaging, that it alienates both women and men from the church because they are scandalised by the unwillingness of church leaders to open the debate on the role of women in our church. This alienation will continue and accelerate.”

They were “aware that there are many women who are deeply hurt and saddened by this teaching. We also believe that the example given by the church in discriminating against women encourages and reinforces abuse and violence against women in many cultures and societies.

“It is also necessary to remember that women form the bulk of the congregation at Sunday Mass and have been more active in the life of the local churches than many men.”

The “strict prohibition on discussing the question has failed to silence the majority of the Catholic faithful,” they say.

“Survey after survey indicates that a great many people are in favour of full equality for women in the church. But it has managed to silence priests and bishops, because the sanctions being imposed on those who dare to raise the question are swift and severe.”

Full statement at or

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The synod, before and after

The synod on the family was closed before having been initiated. The possibility of a serious discussion with respect to homosexual people was already eliminated in the time of its preparation, when the church was not even able to scientifically verify its own false language: today it goes on – in an ideological way – speaking about “tendencies” instead of “sexual orientation” of human people. In the preparation of the synod, Church has ridiculed and eliminated the homosexual question, deceiving the expectations of humanity for a serious and respectful discussion of the experience of humanity and the scientific knowledge related to the persons belonging to non-heterosexual minorities and their family life, their life of love.

synod headsThe synod doesn’t have “laying closed hearts, which bare the closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families” (Francis, Conclusion of the Synod of Bishops, 24.10.2015). On homosexual persons, on their families and children the synod has produced only a homophobic closing of the reason and the heart. The synod has been incapable of reading the reality of homosexual people and considering them in their human dignity and in their aspirations of love. Such people are only considered inside their own families, almost as they were immature people who require a special care from the other members of the family, all of that behind the dishonest and insensitive “respect”. Without any indication for the life of homosexual people, the synod has only repeated the worst of the documents of the Congregation for the doctrine of the faith: “between the homosexual unions and the God’s plan for marriage and family doesn’t exist remote analogy”. Such repetition is shameful and offensive to the reality of the homosexual and lesbian families, and to their happy children. One wonders if for living according to the wish of synod this persons should get rid of their families and children. Behind the conclusions of the synod dangerous antihuman insinuations can be glimpsed, inciting to arouse sense of guilty and inferiority, of complex and negativity between children and their homosexual fathers or their lesbian mothers. The position of the Congregation repeated by the synod is the offense to the reason, to the human reality and to the Christian sensibility taught by Jesus. It is not the humble discernment of the reality, wished by the Pope Francis. It is an ignorant abuse of the spiritual power of Church.Krzysztof_Charamsa

The lack of sensitivity of Jesus in the synod is a deplorable and particularly serious irresponsibility of Catholic Church. For years I have experimented this irrational multilevel closing of Church. I have experimented the sabotage of the pontificate and Pope Francis’ synods by the Congregation for the doctrine of the faith, where I worked. This way, at the beginning of the synod, with priestly passion, I had asked in my letter to Pope Francis to take seriously in consideration the dignity of homosexual people, of their families and their children. I considered that the Pope is the only person that can stop the absurdity of the retrograde impositions. Today I make public my letter (the next post), taking note of the insensibility and the hateful refusal of persons belonging to sexual minorities. That synod, in mouth of a Father of Synod, has only known to compare homosexual people to the Nazi and to the enemies of humanity. In civil societies such offenses should be denounced: they are defamatory and they arouse hate homophobic hate. The silence of Church on that subject is embarrassing.

Krzysztof Charamsa
Barcelona, 29/10/2015.

Complete Article HERE!

Jury Awards Plaintiff $8.1 Million in Duluth Clergy Abuse Case

By Virginia Carter

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary

The jury attributed 60 percent fault to the Diocese of Duluth and the other 40 percent to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a religious order based in St. Paul. The victim testified that he was molested by the Rev. James Vincent Fitzgerald for two weeks and that church officials failed to adequately supervise the priest, leading to the sex assault. It’s the first such case to go to trial under Minnesota’s Child Victims Act, which temporarily lifted the statute of limitations to allow victims to sue for sexual abuse which occurred decades ago. The award was less than the $11.7 million Weis had been seeking.

Attorneys said it was the first lawsuit to go to trial under Minnesota’s Child Victims Act, passed in 2013. That law opened a three-year window to file claims for older incidents of abuse.

In 1978, he traveled to the St. Catherine Parish in Squaw Lake, Minn., part of the Diocese of Duluth. It’s rare for a clergy sexual abuse case to actually reach a jury verdict. Anderson had asked jurors in his closing arguments Tuesday to find the diocese 90 percent responsible and the Oblates 10 percent responsible.

Diocese attorney Susan Gaertner declined to comment after the verdicts were read. They awarded Doe 30 $8.1 million for pain, suffering, loss of earnings and future medical costs. Fitzgerald, who worked at six parishes within the Diocese of Duluth between 1957 and 1983, died in 2009. “Through coming forward and standing up to them and taking this case to trial, that whole process was transformative for this survivor”, Finnegan said. “I think this verdict sends a clear message that juries are not going to stand still anymore and sympathize with the church”.

Anderson said he expects the diocese to appeal the verdicts and challenge the monetary award. Law experts say this verdict sets an important precedent for the hundreds of abuse cases that are pending right now against the Archdioses of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and other diocese in Minnesota. Wednesday, he said that he supported the jurors’ findings. “The reality is that the diocese has limited resources”, she said.

Complete Article HERE!

Haitian officials look into new allegations against man who founded orphanage

Michael Geilenfeld won a defamation case against a Freeport man in a federal civil trial in Portland this past summer.

Haitian investigators are looking into new allegations of child sex abuse against an American man who founded an orphanage for boys in Haiti’s capital decades ago and who successfully sued a Freeport, Maine, man for defamation this summer.

Police with an arrest warrant searched unsuccessfully Friday for Michael Geilenfeld at a modest private residence in a mountainside community above Port-au-Prince and the nearby Wings of Hope home for about 30 physically and mentally disabled children and young adults. On its website, the facility says it is a “critical part” of Geilenfeld’s charitable organization.

Geilenfeld and his North Carolina charity, Hearts with Haiti, this year sued Paul Kendrick of Freeport for defamation. In July, a federal jury in Portland, Maine, agreed with Geilenfeld and the charity that Kendrick had been reckless and negligent in launching an email campaign spreading false claims that Geilenfeld had sexually abused some orphans in his care.

The jury awarded $7.5 in damages to the charity and $7 million to Geilenfeld.

Kendrick said Saturday that he welcomed the new investigation of Geilenfeld.

“In my mind, children in Haiti are still not safe from Michael Geilenfeld,” Kendrick said. “Now, Haiti officials are stepping in and I applaud that.”

Kendrick said a U.S. District judge in Portland dismissed a motion to order a new trial and another asking that the award be determined excessive in the defamation case. He said his lawyer will file an appeal with the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this month.
Geilenfeld is already the subject of another criminal case in Haiti that accused him of sexually abusing boys in his care. He spent 237 days in detention before being released in April by a Haitian judge who dismissed the charges in a brief trial that was not attended by the accusers, now adults. But the country’s justice minister granted a re-examination of the case and it is now in court again on appeal.

In the trial in Maine, Geilenfeld had testified that he believed the false accusations of sexual abuse lingered against him in impoverished Haiti because he was a gay man in what he described as a homophobic country.

Geilenfeld, an Iowa native and former Catholic brother, founded the St. Joseph Home for Boys in Haiti’s capital in the 1980s. At the defamation court case in Maine, which saw seven Haitian men testify they were molested as youngsters by the American man, Geilenfeld said he was inspired by Mother Teresa’s missionary work to do good works in Haiti. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Kendrick said Saturday that the jury was misled by “a charming child molester.”

During the search Friday at the Wings of Hope facility in Fermathe, a government official who accompanied police showed reporters an arrest warrant for Geilenfeld signed Thursday by General Prosecutor Jean Abner Emile. Geilenfeld returned to Haiti after the Maine defamation case was completed.

Haitian authorities questioned staff members about Geilenfeld’s whereabouts. Communications director Renee Dietrich told them she had spoken to him several days ago but didn’t know where he was. She also showed them unanswered calls she made to him on her cell phone.

Dietrich declined to speak to reporters with The Associated Press who witnessed the Friday police searches, referring all queries to Geilenfeld’s U.S. lawyer, Peter DeTroy, whose law firm is in Portland, Maine. He did not respond to an email seeking comment and has previously said he has no involvement with legal matters in Haiti.

Alain Lemithe, Geilenfeld’s Haitian lawyer, said he was confident that his client would prevail in Haiti’s appeals court in the coming weeks and said the timing of new allegations appeared to be “very suspicious.”

Haitian investigators were accompanied Friday by Valerie Dirksen, a real estate agent from the Atlanta metropolitan area who says she sponsors two young Haitian men who claim they were abused by Geilenfeld when they were under his care as boys.

According to Dirksen, the new arrest warrant for Geilenfeld was issued after a magistrate judge visited the St. Joseph Home for Boys and found three youngsters residing there with him, a violation of an earlier mandate by Haiti’s child welfare authority.

“I will stay here in Haiti until he is arrested,” she said outside the Wings of Hope home.

Complete Article HERE!

Peru Catholic Society Admits Sex Abuse Probe against Founder

A secretive Roman Catholic society with chapters across South America and in the U.S. has revealed under pressure that a Vatican investigator is looking into allegations that its founder sexually molested young recruits.

Sodalitium Christianae VitaeThe scandal at the Peru-based Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, or Sodalitium for Human Life, has close parallels to other recent cases of charismatic Catholic leaders in Latin America being accused of sex abuse — as well as the church dragging its feet on investigating claims and trying to keep scandals quiet.

This week, Sodalitium’s general secretary disclosed the Vatican investigation after two journalists published a book detailing the accusations against founder Luis Fernando Figari, 68.

Co-author Pedro Salinas, a former society member, has been publicly accusing Figari since 2010 of physical, psychological and sexual abuse. According to the book, three men lodged complaints the following year with a Peruvian church tribunal alleging Figari sexually abused them when they were minors.

There is no indication the tribunal did anything with the case, including notifying prosecutors. Nor is it known when the Vatican was advised.

Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, the conservative archbishop of Lima with jurisdiction over the tribunal, was quoted as telling the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio this week that case is “regrettable and painful” and claiming

“We have acted with absolute transparency and rapidity,” he said.

No criminal probe was opened in Peru until after the mid-October publication of “Half Monks, Half Soldiers.” Prosecutors, though, say the statute of limitations has almost certainly run out as the alleged crimes occurred in the 1980s and 1990s.

Founded in 1971, Sodalitium has a presence in schools and churches and runs retreat facilities with communities in Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Italy and the United States. Its members are mostly lay Catholics but also include clergy.pplffchile051208

After the book’s release, the society issued three successive press releases as a public clamor for greater accountability and transparency intensified.

First, the society revealed that Figari, who is not a priest, has been living in relative isolation at a Sodalitium community in Rome since 2010 and has been out of public life and governance of the society since then. At the time of his departure as general secretary, Sodalitium said only that Figari was stepping down for health reasons.

It added that the society’s current leader, Alessandro Moroni, decided in 2014 to intensify the regime of “prayer and retreat” being followed by Figari

The statement also noted Figari wasn’t alone in being accused: The book says the society’s No. 2, the late German Doig, was accused of sexually assaulting a minor. He died in 2001. A decade later, after the allegations against him first surfaced, the society said his candidacy for beatification had been canceled.

In a second statement Oct. 21, the society said the book’s allegations were “plausible” and needed to be thoroughly investigated. It said it created a committee to hear complaints from other possible victims and asked forgiveness, calling the accusations against Figari “cause for deep grief and shame.”

peru211It said Figari insists he is innocent, though it notes he hasn’t said so publicly.

This week, the third release disclosed that the Vatican had on April 22 named a local bishop to investigate the society. Figari departed Lima three days later for Europe, according to local published reports.

The book’s co-author, Paola Ugaz, said she and Salinas wrote in January to the Vatican office in charge of apostolic church societies detailing the allegations against Figari. They never got an answer, she said. But the official to whom they wrote, Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, signed the April 22 decree.

The scandal is similar to one in Chile involving the Rev. Fernando Karadima, a charismatic priest who in 2011 was sentenced by the church to a lifetime of penance and prayer for sexually abusing young people. The local archbishop sat on allegations against Karadima for years, refusing to believe them, and only passed them on to the Vatican after the scandal exploded globally in 2010.

The case also has parallels to a scandal at the Legion of Christ, which was headed by the late Mexican priest Marcial Maciel. The Vatican under St. Pope Paul II ignored decades of credible abuse allegations against Maciel and discredited his victims. Only in 2006 did it act, giving him the same sentence as Karadima.

The Peruvian bishop assigned to the Figari probe, the Rev. Fortunato Pablo Urcey of Chota, is ordered by the decree to “verify the true authenticity of accusations” past and new against Figari and file a full report.

But Urcey, the secretary general of Peru’s council of churches, said in a radio interview this week that he didn’t consider himself an investigator as much as a supporter of Sodalitium.

In an interview with RPP radio, he said he had no plans to interview the ex-members who filed the complaints or to read the book.

“I like the designation ‘visitor’ better than ‘investigator’ because I’m not an investigator,” he said, recalling his official title as an “apostolic visitor.” Three times during the interview, Urcey said he would do all he could to “save the charism of this congregation,” a reference to the spirituality that makes it unique.

Urcey did not return phone messages left by The Associated Press. Efforts to reach a spokesman for the Lima ecclesiastic tribunal also were unsuccessful. The body’s deliberations are secret.

The society’s current leader, Moroni, said in an interview with the newspaper El Comercio this week that he contacted the tribunal about the accusations against Figari more than two years ago.

Tribunal officials responded that “they are an independent body and they didn’t have to give us any kind of information until they reached a decision,” he said.

In an article published Friday, Salinas, the co-author, urged that Moroni be removed, calling him complicit in a culture of abuse that Salinas said included Figari’s burning of his flesh with a candle flame for about a minute in front of fellow initiates.

A Peruvian non-governmental organization, the Institute for Defense of the Rights of Minors, asked prosecutors last week to investigate Cipriani, Lima’s archbishop and an Opus Dei member, for obstruction of justice.

Its president, Daniel Vega, said none of the men who filed complaints against Figari with the tribunal were ever contacted by it afterward.

“There is a recurring conduct of the cardinal and his entire team of covering up crimes and not informing the criminal justice system.”

AP Vatican correspondent Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.

Complete Article HERE!