The private Catholic chapel where two Spanish men celebrated their civil “marriage” last weekend is subject to “canonical effects” and deconsecration, according to the Archdiocese of Madrid and a Catholic priest with jurisdiction in the area.
The Holy Trinity chapel, located on the grounds of the Finca El Campillo, a property used as a wedding venue in the town of El Escorial, was the scene of a celebration of the two men’s civil marriage last Saturday.
Cristina González Navarro, who owns the property, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, that at the event inside the chapel “there was no priest” and that “a wedding wasn’t held,” but she refused to offer more details about what the ritual consisted of.
What is known, through images posted on social media, is that the chapel was full of guests and that the men, dressed in formal attire and holding hands, left the chapel walking down the aisle as a Catholic bride and groom do at the conclusion of a wedding ceremony for the sacrament of marriage.
According to photos on social media, some elements of the Catholic liturgy apparently were used during the ceremony, including an image of the Virgin of Hakuna by sculptor Javier Viver.
The two men exchanged rings and at one point knelt on white kneelers in front of the sculpture of the Virgin and before a cross made of two branches tied together.
On the shoulders of the men was draped a white cloth with blue stripes in a gesture similar to the one used in the veiling rite of the Mozarabic liturgy. In this Catholic rite, the wife’s head and the husband’s shoulders are covered and as they kneel they receive a blessing.
Statement from the Archdiocese of Madrid
Father Florentino de Andrés, pastor of St. Bernabé parish in El Escorial, told ACI Prensa that the chapel has not been deconsecrated and that the ceremony was carried out without his knowledge. The priest was emphatic that “it was not with my permission.”
De Andrés also said that he will speak with the owners of the property to determine what took place and if confirmed as reported, he will call for the chapel to be deconsecrated.
The Archdiocese of Madrid also weighed in with a statement confirming that “it was not informed or consulted about the possibility of holding said celebration, being a unilateral act of the property [owners] that will have canonical effects in this regard. In no case is it permitted to perform a civil marriage within a religious venue.”
The Feb. 26 statement stressed that “family chapels can only be used for the purpose that the Church grants them,” and therefore “they cannot be a place for public religious celebrations, unless expressly authorized by the diocese.”
In addition, the archdiocese specified that “they cannot be used for commercial purposes or as places for civil celebrations of any kind. In fact, at the time [they were built] they were intended to be solely for the private devotional use of the family that owned it and in no case to be offered as an optional for-profit service of a company that plans social events.”
Beyond the controversy over the improper use of a Catholic church, those who own chapels that are located on private land are subject to ecclesiastical regulations (canons 1115 et seq.) for the correct use of these sacred places, as summarized by the Archdiocese of Madrid in its statement.
A Catholic bishop in Kenya urged wider discussions on homosexuality, as some religious leaders demand a crackdown on LGBTQ activities in the East African nation.
Christian and Muslim leaders Feb. 1 urged Kenya’s president to take a strong stand against homosexuality to protect the people’s “religious, cultural, and traditional ideals,” the statement said.
Anti-LGTBQ laws are common across Africa, with Ghana’s parliament passing a bill Feb. 28 that imposes a prison sentence of up to three years for anyone convicted of identifying as LGBTQ and a maximum five-year jail term for forming or funding LGBTQ groups.
The latest sign of growing opposition to same-sex groups in African culture also may give a glimpse into why the declaration “Fiducia Supplicans” (“Supplicating Trust”) on “the pastoral meaning of blessings” was so widely rejected on the African continent.
Gay sex is already against the law in Ghana — it carries a three-year prison sentence. Half of the continent’s countries impose some kind of penalty for gay sex, ranging from imposing the death penalty in four African countries to handing down prison sentences in most of northern and eastern Africa. In December, Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye said in a radio broadcast that he asked Burundians living abroad who practice homosexuality “not to return home,” The Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, religious leaders who protested in Nairobi against “a subtle growth of activities by groups and organizations promoting” an LGBTQ “agenda” pointed to the Kenyan president saying that Uganda and Tanzania had “shown the way in their unequivocal stand against these evils.”
Uganda’s anti-LGBTQ law prescribes the death penalty for certain homosexual acts, while same-sex activity in Tanzania can earn one a life sentence.
Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, but Kenyan Bishop Peter Kihara Kariuki of Marsabit urged public participation and consultations to gauge the people’s feelings and where they stand on the issue before any further actions are taken or any new laws made.
“This is the time for Kenya to have discussions on LGBTQ issues before any law is signed or any classroom teaching is embraced and put before the children,” Bishop Kariuki told OSV News. “There should be an amicable understanding of what is wanted, what is acceptable and what is not.”
“Our culture of silence or putting things aside, because we do not speak about those issues … will make them go underground, only to eat what we are supposed to be protecting,” added the bishop.
Charles Kanjama, a Catholic lawyer and chairman of Kenya Christian Professional Forum, is less prone to consultations and urged President William Ruto on Feb. 1 to keep “his pledge against LGBTQ activities in the country.”
In the religious leaders’ statement, Kanjama and other signatories said “we will not remain silent, we will always be vigilant and soldier on in fighting for the protection of family values from the evil machinations. This remains our commitment,” they said.
In a petition sent to the parliament, Christian and Muslim leaders urged the legislators to “inquire into the proliferation of LGBTQ” activities over the last 10 years. They cited “persistent, well-choreographed and well … funded attempts” by LGBTQ activists to change the laws banning homosexuality.
The leaders also pointed to the education sector in Kenya, saying some grade 4 books and study materials contained LGBTQ material.
“This is an affront on future generations and seeks to further confuse and mislead our young children,” said the petition.
The latest debate is only a drop in the ocean of cultural contexts in Africa, where the bishops rejected the papal declaration “Fiducia Supplicans.”
Citing cultural differences and doctrinal confusion, the bishops’ conferences across Africa ruled that same-sex blessings would not be carried out in the continent.
“Fiducia Supplicans” issued Dec. 18, 2023, stated that Catholic priests could bless a same-sex or other unmarried couple. However, it cannot be a formal liturgical blessing, nor give the impression that the church is blessing the union as if it were a marriage.
Among the first to oppose the document’s guidelines were the bishops of Malawi. The day after the Vatican declaration was published, the Malawian bishops’ conference banned the blessing of same-sex couples to “avoid confusion among the faithful.”
“The declaration … should be rejected in totality and we Catholics uphold the Gospel teaching and Catholic traditional teachings on marriage and sexuality,” Bishop Paul Kariuki Njiru of Wote, Kenya, said in a letter to men and women religious Dec. 27, 2023.
Earlier, Archbishop Martin Kuvuva Musonde of Mombasa, president of the Kenyan bishops’ conference, said the church was very clear on family and marriage.
Bishop Kariuki of Marsabit agreed that the document had not changed the teaching of the church on the family.
“(The pope) was only saying that there are blessings, not like those we do in the church, it is a social kind of attention, like … a child telling the father or mother, ‘Bless me, as I go, so that I can be safe,'” said Bishop Kariuki.
“This mother, this father are not priests, but because they are the parent, before God, the child seeks for a blessing. These kinds of blessings are not related in any way to LGBT or even gender,” he said. “That is what the pope meant; to start looking at cultural expressions in a positive way.”
Father Stephen Njure, a lecturer at the department of philosophy, religion and theology at Moi University in western Kenya, said when it came to embracing the LGBTQ community, the church is explicit in its conduct.
“Sexuality is a gift from God and it is like God wanted people to participate in his creative work,” he said, adding that when sexuality is separated from that kind of intention, “and it is left to be the gratification of human whims, then it goes against God’s will,” said Father Njure, a priest of Eldoret Diocese.
The reaction to “Fiducia Supplicans” by several bishops’ conferences around the world prompted the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith to issue a clarification on Jan. 4 signed by Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, the prefect, and Msgr. Armando Matteo, secretary of the dicastery’s doctrinal section.
Calling the negative statements by some bishops’ conferences as “understandable,” the dicastery said the statements “cannot be interpreted as doctrinal opposition, because the document is clear and definitive” on the church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality.
The dicastery also said that cultural considerations must be made when applying the declaration’s proposal, especially in countries where homosexuality is outlawed.
A New Orleans man who says he survived clergy abuse says he was trapped in a sex trafficking ring run by the Catholic church.
Richard Coon is telling his raw and emotional story for the first time in detail. He says his experience with sexual abuse was one compared to being in a sex ring.
A warning: some of the details he shared are graphic.
Coon said his story involves three men linked to the Catholic church who are now all dead.
Coon’s story involves allegations of rape, an extravagant vacation, drugs and a suicide attempt.
“There are so many victims that don’t have a voice,” Coon said.
Coon, 57, said he is giving his 10-year-old self a voice for the first time.
“I was just so confused because none of it made sense. None of it related to anything I was taught growing up in the church, I was such an active person in the church,” Coon said.
The Catholic Church was Coon’s life. Coon said he met his first accused abuser in the 1970s.
Coon said a high-ranking employee at a Catholic school befriended him and began grooming him.
Coon claims it started with touching and then progressed to oral sex. He said the abuse continued and escalated until he was 15 years old.
“It was so confusing to me because it really hurt, and I told him to stop,” Coon said. “I was hurting, I was crying, and he wouldn’t stop, and I couldn’t understand how a human would continue to assault a kid that was in pain. This is supposed to be someone I could trust. It just changed my life.”
While Coon’s life changed, he said he hid the trauma.
Coon says he channeled the pain into the sport of diving.
He said after he graduated high school, a priest approached him at an area pool.
“He introduced himself to me as a photographer and asked if he could take pictures of me diving for his portfolio. In return, I would get copies of all the pictures. I agreed to it. He also informed that he was a priest,” Coon said.
Coon said a new trust was formed again, and what he thought was a friendship started.
According to Coon, right before his 20th birthday, he was invited by the priest to attend a trip in the Caribbean.
Coon said he was still living with his parents and said he was allowed to attend because priests were on the trip.
While on the boat, Coon claims he was given drugs.
“They gave us these little squares of paper and told us to put them under our tongues,” Coon said. “I didn’t question him; he was a priest. I figured it was something to prevent us from getting sick. I did it, and it turned out to be LSD. I questioned to him on the boat, ‘How can you be a Catholic priest and live a gay lifestyle?’ It didn’t make sense to me; it was the opposite of anything I had been taught. His response was within the hierarchy of the Catholic church, there exists an elite secret society, and in that secret society it was made up of God’s most favorable men and that the highest form of love was between two men.”
Coon feels he was preyed on and, at the time, truly believed he was part of a secret society.
After returning home, Coon said he was introduced to ecstasy.
Coon said the priest invited him for a weekend stay at a rectory on the North Shore.
“In the middle of the night, I woke up, and he was naked in bed with me and was fondling me, and I said, ‘Stop what are you doing.’ He did stop, said he was sorry and left the room,” Coon said.
Coon said he was brainwashed and at one point and thought he was supposed to be in a relationship with a priest.
Coon said he was offered a tour at a seminary where he says he met a reverend and brought to a private suite.
“He comes up to me, puts his hands on my shoulders and starts kissing me. I was in shock. He led me back to the bedroom and started undressing me,” Coon said. “He lays me down, gets on top of me, and there was no penetration, and he went to put lotion on us. I felt assaulted and confused. I walked back to my car. As soon as I closed the door, I started screaming and crying. I felt like I had disrespected the church. I felt like I defiled the archbishop’s space.”
Coon said he continued to mask his pain, but it wasn’t enough. He says it got so bad he tried to kill himself.
“It was carbon monoxide,” Coon said. “I covered myself with plastic and took Valium to go to sleep and just hoped I didn’t wake up. At the very last minute, I sent a text out to the people I loved and the people I knew were there for me, and they came and saved me.”
Coon said he was able to get help and intense therapy. In December 2018, he said his therapist advised him to go to the police.
WDSU uncovered this report from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office when Coon came forward to report his alleged rape.
The JPSO record states Coon recalled 35 times when he said he was sexually abused by the man he met as a child in the 1970s.
According to the report in one in instance, he described Coon’s alleged abuser getting on top of him, pinning him down, with his arm across Coon’s neck and raping him. The report says Coon begged him to stop, and that was the last time Coon saw the man.
According to the report, the man Coon accused of raping him — who was 74 years old in 2018 — stated to investigators he does not remember if he touched any underage boys inappropriately.
According to the report, the man stated he did not rape anybody.
The report says that based on a lack of evidence, the case was closed without an arrest.
“It hurt, but at the same time, I felt like I had been heard. That’s a lot for someone that goes through this,” Coon said.
Coon has filed a civil claim against the Archdiocese of New Orleans, but what he wants most is for the bankrupt archdiocese to be transparent in releasing sealed and crucial records.
“Gregory Aymond decided to double down on the cover-up. I have no respect for him whatsoever,” Coon said. “He could have put this whole thing to an end by releasing the files. I think it’s a disgrace.”
In 2018, the archdiocese released a list of credibly accused priests, and Aymond says he’s committed to continuing to be transparent, but Coon says transparency has not happened.
Dioceses in other cities have released detailed records for the public outlining sex abuse allegations within the diocese.
“We should be one of those archdioceses where we are on the road to healing, and we are not, and it’s all because of Gregory Aymond. He needs to step down as archbishop. He says one thing and does another,” Coon said.
Coon said he finds some peace in knowing that his story is being told.
“It is very healing. One of the best things a survivor can do, and it’s monumental, is to tell the story and admit what happened to them. You are well on your way to healing if you are able to do that, and my voice was silenced for 3 1/2 decades. I didn’t feel like I could speak,” Coon said.
WDSU reached out to the Archdiocese of New Orleans for an on-camera interview regarding this story last week.
A spokesperson declined and said by phone they do not comment on pending litigation.
WDSU was told a statement regarding additional questions would be sent.
A spokesperson sent the following response, “Sorry, we have nothing to add.”
Two former nuns have called on Pope Francis to initiate an independent investigation into a once-prominent Jesuit artist-priest who they allege sexually abused them, including by forcing them to have threesomes and making them watch pornography so they would “grow spiritually”.
Speaking publicly for the first time, Mirjiam Kovac and Gloria Branciani said the wall of silence surrounding Marko Rupnik, who has been accused by several women of sexual, psychological and spiritual abuses dating back three decades, had finally “crumbled”.
The women are former members of the Ignatius of Loyola community, an order co-founded by Rupnik, whose mosaics adorn the walls of some Vatican chapels and other churches.
“We were all young girls, full of ideals,” Kovac said during a press conference in Rome. “But these very ideals, together with our training in obedience, were exploited for abuses of various kinds: of conscience, of power, spiritual, psychic, physical and often sexual.”
Both women reported Rupnik to senior Catholic church officials in the early 1990s, but claim they were repeatedly rebuffed and dismissed.
Rupnik was excommunicated in 2020 for absolving a woman with whom he had sex; the absolution of a “sexual accomplice” is among the most serious crimes under canon law. But he was reinstated two weeks later after he repented.
In 2022, allegations against Rupnik made by nine women were dismissed by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF), citing the canonical statute of limitations.
Rupnik, however, remains a priest and was accepted into a diocese in Koper, in his native Slovenia, in October 2023. That same month, Pope Francis ordered the DDF to reopen the case, although Laura Sgrò, a lawyer representing Kovac and Branciani, said she had received no information relating to the new investigation.
Branciani alleged on Wednesday that she and another nun were forced to have a threesome with Rupnik “because he said it was like the [Holy] Trinity”.
The incident allegedly occurred in the home of a friend of Rupnik in Gorizia, a city in northern Italy. “The most terrible aspect of this threesome was that afterwards, we never spoke to each other about it,” she said. “We were both completely blocked … I was very tired, I felt empty and could no longer feel feelings of any kind other than a deep pain and sense of failure.”
Branciani also alleged to journalists that Rupnik forced her to watch pornography “to help me ‘grow spiritually’”.
Rupnik has not publicly commented on the accusations. The Guardian did not receive a response to an email sent to the Aletti Centre, a religious art centre in Rome founded by Rupnik with which he is still associated. Maria Campatelli, the director of the Aletti Centre, said last year that the accusations were “defamatory and unproven”.
The Koper diocese said it was unable to provide a statement on Wednesday, and referred to one made in October last year which said: “So long as Rupnik is not found guilty in a court of law, he enjoys all the rights and duties of a diocesan priest.”
A Holy See spokesperson, Matteo Bruni, told journalists the Vatican was gathering “all available information on the case” to “determine which procedures it would be possible and useful to implement”.
Anne Barrett Doyle, a co-founder of BishopAccountability, which tracks alleged clergy sexual abuse cases, said the church’s “secret” handling of the allegations against Rupnik bore all the earmarks of “an old-time cover-up”, similar to that of Theodore McCarrick, a former archbishop whom the Vatican defrocked in 2019 after finding him guilty of sexually abusing children.
“This case represents not only the church’s continued protection of powerful abusers, but its particular indifference to the sexual abuse of adult women,” said Doyle. “The pope made abuse of vulnerable adults a church crime, but we see little evidence that the new rule has made a difference.”
It is rare for nuns to speak publicly about alleged abuse by priests, an issue that has blighted the Catholic church for decades. There is also scant care for abused nuns, many of whom have been thrown out of their orders and made homeless. Some have claimed to have become pregnant by priests and then forced to have abortions.
One of Pope Francis’s most vocal allies in the Church hierarchy in the United States has criticised the reaction among some Catholics in the country to Fiducia Supplicans.
Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego has said that while it’s fine for a priest concerned about protecting the institution of marriage to refuse to offer blessings of persons in same-sex relationships, much of the opposition in the US to a Vatican document authorising the non-liturgical blessings of couples in irregular situations, including same-sex couples, is rooted not in doctrinal principle but what he called an “enduring animus” against gays and lesbians.
“It is wholly legitimate for a priest to personally decline to perform the blessings outlined in Fiducia because he believes that to do so would undermine the strength of marriage,” the cardinal said on 16 February.
But, he went on to say, “it is particularly distressing in our own country that the opposition to Fiducia focuses overwhelmingly on blessing those in same-sex relationships, rather than those many more men and women who are in heterosexual relationships that are not ecclesially valid.”
McElroy, who’s widely seen as a leader of the progressive wing of the US Church and a strong Francis supporter, added: “It is crucial to emphasise that Fiducia simply clarified questions about the permissibility of a priest pastorally blessing persons in irregular or gay unions in a non-liturgical setting and manner. No change in doctrine was made.”
McElory didn’t specify which sorts of non-ecclesially valid relationships he had in mind, but couples who live together outside of marriage would come under this.
“If the reason for opposing such blessings is really that the practice will blur and undermine the commitment to marriage, then the opposition should, one thinks, be focusing at least equally on blessings for these heterosexual relationships in our country,” he said.
“We all know why it is not,” McElroy said, attributing it to “an enduring animus among far too many toward LGBT persons”.
Noting that Fiducia Supplicans has stirred intense debate around the world, including a statement from the bishops of Africa to the effect that such blessings would be inappropriate in their cultural context, McElroy cited these “diverging pastoral paths” as a positive example of decentralisation.
“We have witnessed the reality that bishops in various parts of the world have made radically divergent decisions about the acceptability of such blessings in their countries, based substantially on cultural and pastoral factors as well as neo-colonialism,” he said.
“This is decentralisation in the life of the global Church,” McElory said, implying that such differences in principle can be positive, reflecting adaptation to local cultures.
Nonetheless, he insisted that decentralisation should not become an excuse for anti-gay prejudice.
“This decentralization must not obscure in any manner the religious obligation of every local church in justice and solidarity to protect LGBT persons in their lives and equal dignity,” he said.
McElroy, 70, was speaking during a session of the Religious Education Congress sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest annual Catholic gathering in North America, on the subject of Pope Francis’s ongoing Synod of Bishops on Synodality.
McElroy said that in the listening sessions which led up to last October’s month-long meeting of the synod in Rome, issues related to the LGBT+ community loomed large.
“The searing question of the Church’s treatment of LGBT+ persons was an immensely prominent facet of the synodal dialogues,” he said. “Anguished voices within the LGBT communities, in unison with their families, cried out against the perception that they are condemned by the Church and individual Catholics in a devastating way.”
McElroy conceded that among the bishops and other participants gathered in Rome, there was disagreement on the subject, listing it among what he called areas of “deep divide” in the assembly. The other areas included how to empower laity without undercutting the hierarchical nature of the Church, the extent and limits of inculturation and decentralisation, and the possible ordination of women deacons.
McElory also described areas of strong consensus in the meeting, such as the need to open up more roles in the Church to laity. He cited the example of how in his own diocese he was unable to name a veteran administrator to the role of “moderator of the curia” because, under existing church law, that role is restricted to priests.
As a result, McElroy told the crowd, he simply appointed the layman as “vice-moderator of the curia” and refused to select a moderator. He predicted that when the Synod of Bishops reaches its conclusion this October, reforms on such matters could come quickly.
“I think there will be a lot of progress on questions like this,” he said.
In terms of the single most powerful theme to emerge from last October’s summit, McElory said it was the sense that the time has come for a “paradigm shift” with regard to the inclusion of women in the Church.
McElroy said that while there were contrasting opinions on women deacons, a more “full-bodied” discussion ensued beyond a “binary” yes or no. For example, he said there was some discussion of perhaps ending the transitional diaconate, which would make ordination as a deacon the final step before priesthood.
Doing so, McElroy said, might sever the connection between the diaconate and the priesthood, which “could make it easier to have women deacons”.
In response to question about the perception that certain American bishops are anti-Francis, McElroy said the political dimension is less important than a bishop having a pastoral orientation.
“The ultimate criterion for a bishop is, is he pastoral? The question of whether he’s strongly pro-Francis, medium Pope Francis, Okay but not great with Pope Francis, leaning for or against, is secondary,” he said.
Going forward, he explained, a major practical challenge for the Church will be to find ways to make it more participatory and rooted in listening, but without replicating the cumbersome system of the synod itself.
“The process of discernment used in Rome is far too time-consuming to use with regularity in parish and diocesan life and decision-making,” he said. “It won’t work here.”
Instead, McElroy called for “analogical methods of discernment” which would be “practical for general use in our diocese and our parishes and groups of faith”.
With regard to Catholic doctrine, without offering specific examples McElroy suggested that in general it is time for change.
“It is becoming clear that on some issues, the understanding of human nature and moral reality upon which previous declarations of doctrine were made were in fact limited or defective,” McElroy said.