A First in 643 Years? Anti-Gay Denver Archbishop Warns of Catholic ‘Schism’

Archbishop, Samuel J. Aquila

By

Denver’s Archbishop, Samuel J. Aquila, has entered the fray in an internecine battle which some fear could split the Catholic Church. Last week, Aquila joined 73 other bishops from around the globe in signing an open letter to the bishops of Germany regarding a series of reform-minded conferences in the German church known as the Synodal Path.

Triggered by revelations of priestly sexual abuse in the German Church, the Synodal Path–also translated as Synodal Way–is intended to bring together clergy and laypeople to address the exercise of power and authority within the church, and has waded into topics regarding sexual morality, priestly celibacy, and the role of women in the church. The assembly first met in 2019 and is scheduled to conclude in 2023, per Catholic News Agency.

Georg Bätzing, chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, emphasized the importance of the process in healing the church from years of scandals and abuse, saying, “only in this way will we achieve new credibility and new trust in the public and among the faithful, which we have squandered.”

In February, the assembly signaled its support for amending church teachings on homosexuality and same-sex relationships. According to reporting from ABC after the synod’s February meeting, the group “approved at an assembly last week calls to allow blessings for same-sex couples, married priests and the ordination of women as deacons. It also called for church labor law to be revised so that gay employees don’t face the risk of being fired.”

It was this stance which elicited the response from Aquila and the others.

The letter, titled a “Fraternal Open Letter of Correction,” lists as its primary concern that the German bishops’ actions “undermine the credibility of Church authority…and the reliability of Scripture.” The bishops who signed the letter warn that the Synodal Path process “has implications for the Church worldwide,” and that “the potential for schism” in the church will “inevitably result.”

Dovetailing neatly with current culture war issues in American politics, the signatories of the letter accuse the German bishops of being influenced not by Scripture but by “contemporary political [and] gender ideologies.” The letter goes so far as to say that the reform-minded German bishops, “display more submission and obedience to the world and ideologies than to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.”

Aquila, Archbishop of a diocese which encompasses all of northern Colorado, is more than a signatory to the letter, though. He is also featured in the text. In the opening paragraphs of the letter, the bishops recommend that the German church leaders read a previous open letter published by Aquila in May 2021, which covered much of the same ground.

For church observers, it’s no surprise that Aquila is featured prominently in the recent letter. The socially conservative clergyman, no stranger to controversy, has waded into a number of culture war battles over the years. Aquila, who famously blamed LGBTQ people for priestly sexual abuse of children, is a staunch opponent of abortion rights for women and was a driving political force behind the anti-abortion ballot measure, Prop. 115, in 2020. Abortion is not the only issue on which Aquila is outspoken, though. In 2019, he opposed a sex-ed bill at the state legislature. In May 2021, he made headlines again when he argued in favor of denying Communion to President Joe Biden, a practicing Catholic. Later, in August of the same year, Aquila came out in strong opposition to vaccine mandates as the Delta variant of Covid-19 spread worldwide.

Now that high-ranking church officials–the German bishops, archbishops, and cardinals participating in the Synodal Path process–are attempting to bring some of these more open-minded, liberal social positions into the Catholic church, it is to be expected that Aquila will remain on the front line of the internecine dispute.

Asked about the Denver Archbishop’s role in drafting the text of the letter which has sent waves through the global church, Aquila’s office declined to comment.

As for the German bishops engaged in the synodal process, they do not seem to make much of Aquila’s broadside. “I can reassure you with an open heart: these fears with regard to the synodal path of the Catholic Church in Germany are not correct,” Bätzing wrote in a reply on Saturday, adding that the Synodal Path, “in no way undermines the authority of the Church.”

With the synodal process not scheduled to conclude until 2023, it’s likely that the ongoing saga will continue to pit traditionalist elements of the Catholic church against a more reform-minded generation of clergy who are seeking to rehabilitate the church and its work after decades of scandal. It is this conflict–between the old and the new, as much as between the old and the young–which has prompted concerns of schism.

If indeed the Catholic church did schism, or split, it would be the first such event since the Western Schism of 1378 gave rise to the Avignon Papacy 643 years ago. At the time of that schism, the Catholic church was the dominant political force in western Europe, and the seven decades of chaos caused by the split helped to decide the future of the continent.

Governments no longer rise and fall by the power of the Papacy, though, and the new cries of schism are more about deciding the future of the church than the future of Europe. Catholic church membership has declined precipitously in the past two decades, with a 2021 Gallup survey showing a nearly 20% slide since the year 2000 with little sign of stopping.

Last month, Bätzing criticized “certain elements” within the church for being “ill-suited for a multicultural world in a culturally diverse era.” The warning is one Aquila might do well to heed as he presides over an increasingly diverse congregation, with research showing that Hispanic churchgoers account for 55% of the Archdiocese’s membership–and 70% of its membership under the age of 30.

The German bishops engaged in the Synodal Path believe the church must adapt and present a vision for the future if it’s going to reclaim its relevance.

On the other side of the conflict to determine the future of the church, however, Aquila and his co-signatories have a vision for the future which looks strikingly like the past.

As for which faction will chart the course for the globe’s 1.2 billion Catholics, or preside over an historical schism , only time will tell.

Complete Article HERE!

25 years later, Legion of Christ victims seek reparations

It has been 25 years since a Connecticut newspaper exposed one of the Catholic Church’s biggest sexual abuse scandals

Jose Barba, one of many victims in the Legion of Christ sex scandal, poses for a portrait in Mexico City, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. Barba was one of the first persons to come forward, accusing the disgraced founder of the Legion Father Marcial Maciel of sexual abuse before the Vatican. It has been 25 years since a Connecticut newspaper exposed one of the Catholic Church’s biggest sexual abuse scandals. And still some of the whistleblowers are seeking reparations from the Legion of Christ after reporting that the revered founder of the Legion of Christ religious order had raped and molested them when they were boys.

By NICOLE WINFIELD

A Connecticut newspaper exposed one of the Catholic Church’s biggest sexual abuse scandals by reporting 25 years ago Wednesday that eight men had accused the revered founder of the Legion of Christ religious order of raping and molesting them when they were boys preparing for the priesthood.

It took a decade for the Vatican to sanction the founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, and another decade for the Legion to admit he was a serial pedophile who had violated at least 60 boys. In the meantime, the original whistleblowers suffered a defamation campaign by the Legion, which branded them liars bent on creating a conspiracy to hurt a man considered a living saint.

As they marked the quarter-century anniversary of revelations that tarnished the legacy of St. John Paul II, three of Maciel’s victims are still seeking reparations from the Legion to compensate for the abuse they suffered and the “moral” harm done to their reputations by the order.

They had refused earlier compensation offers that their fellow survivors accepted, and a mediation process begun in 2019 has stalled, according to emails and documents provided to The Associated Press.

The Vatican in 2010 took over the Mexico-based Legion and imposed a process of reform after an investigation showed that Maciel had sexually abused seminarians and fathered at least three children with two women. The Vatican found he had created a system of power built on silence, deceit and obedience that enabled him lead a double life.

The findings were by no means news to the Holy See: Documents from Vatican archives show how a succession of popes, cardinals and bishops starting in the 1950s simply turned a blind eye to credible reports that Maciel was a con artist, drug addict, pedophile and religious fraud. The Vatican and especially John Paul, however, appreciated his ability to bring in vocations and donations.

The reality of Maciel’s depravity burst into the public domain Feb. 23, 1997, when The Hartford Courant published a lengthy expose by investigative journalists Jason Berry and the late Gerald Renner about Maciel and the order, whose U.S. headquarters were based in Connecticut.

The story, which formed the basis of a 2004 book “Vows of Silence,” quoted several victims by name who independently reported that Maciel would bring them into his bedroom at night, and under the pretense of abdominal pain, induce them to masterbate him.

“When The Courant ran the long investigative piece Renner and I did on Maciel, we thought Pope John Paul II would see the light and punish Maciel,” Berry told the AP in an email. He noted that other mainstream media only began reporting on clergy sexual abuse after the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” revelations in 2002. “By then, John Paul’s blind faith in Maciel was a cover-up by any other term, and lasted till his death.”

A year after the original Courant story, in 1998, the victims filed a formal canonical complaint against Maciel with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where the case languished until after John Paul died. Maciel was sentenced in 2006 to a lifetime of “penance and prayer,” and he died in 2008, still considered a saint by the Legion.

Following the Vatican-mandated reform process, the Legion apologized and tried to make amends, even as it has been forced to confront revelations of a new generation of abusers within its ranks — some of them Maciel’s original victims — and the superiors who covered up for the crimes, some of whom remain in power.

In 2020, the Legion publicly retracted the “negative institutional and personal judgments about the character and motivations of the people who made legitimate and necessary accusations” in the original Courant expose. Naming the original victims, it said “Today we recognize as prophetic their accusations in favor of truth and justice.”

But Jose Barba, one of the most vocal of the original eight survivors, wants the Legion to formally retract what he calls the “lies” the order provided to the Courant to discredit him and the other victims. They include what he says were a falsified letter from a Chilean bishop who had investigated Maciel in the 1950s, and false statements from four Mexicans who claimed the victims had tried to enlist them in a conspiracy against Maciel.

Barba, who says he represents fellow survivors Arturo Jurado and Jose Antonio Perez Olvera, drafted a proposed letter to the Courant and the Vatican newspaper that he wanted the Legion to submit to retract the claims. But then Legion superior, the Rev. Eduardo Robles-Gil, refused during a December 2019 mediation meeting in Mexico City, Barba said.

In a Jan. 4, 2020 summary of that meeting, Barba said the Legion’s initial calculus of a low five-figure settlement offer for each of the three remaining victims was a “humiliation,” and he proposed a team of five arbitration experts to determine a more “just” reparation.

Robles-Gil signed the summary but wrote: “I receive this without accepting the process that is asked for and it remains at our consideration to accept it or not.”

The Legion’s new superior, the Rev. John Connor, tried unsuccessfully to engage with Barba after his February 2020 election, sending two letters that went unanswered until Barba emailed him on Jan. 5, 2021, seeking to restart negotiations.

Connor assured him he wanted to “find ways to contribute to heal and close the painful events of the history of our congregation.” But in an email, Connor said Barba’s proposal for five arbitration experts wouldn’t help “in finding a shared resolution.”

Barba never replied. “I don’t trust them because it’s not in good faith,” he told the AP.

In a statement to the AP, Legion spokesman the Rev. Aaron Smith noted that the order had reached settlements with most of the historic victims and hoped for a resolution with the remaining ones.

“We are sad that meeting still has not happened, especially considering the positive experience of the encounters with other victims of Fr. Maciel,” Smith said in a statement. “We continue to remain hopeful it will take place in the near future permitting open dialogue with him.”

Barba, meanwhile, says he is getting old and his two confreres are ailing. While they are hailed by ex-Legionaries as “los 8 Magnificos” (the Magnificent Eight) for having stood up to Maciel and the order, Barba recalls a Nov. 8, 1997 letter he and the others wrote to John Paul, translated into Polish, asking for the pope to hear their pain and do something.

“It appears inconceivable to us, Holy Father, that our grave revelations and complaints mattered absolutely nothing to you,” they wrote, according to a copy of the letter provided to the AP. “We want the church and society to understand that all we want is justice: not only for legitimate personal vindication, but for the good of the church and society.”

Complete Article HERE!

Church asks court to determine abuse victim’s sexuality and if relationship with priest “pleased” him

FILE UNDER: Insulated, monolithic, callous, tone deaf church power structure

08.09.2020 Miedzybrodzie Bialskie . Janusz Szymik – w mlodosci molestowany przez ksiedza .

By Daniel Tilles

A Catholic curia in Poland has asked for a court to determine the sexuality of the victim of a priest and whether he took “pleasure in the intimate relationship”. The victim says he was 12 years old when the abuse began.

Last year, Janusz Szymik – pictured above as a child – launched a civil case against Bielsko-Żywiec diocese. He is seeking 3 million zloty (€660,000) compensation from the curia, which he argues is responsible for abuse he suffered at the hands of a priest – who can be named only as Jan W. under Polish privacy law – in the 1980s.

A church court had previously found Jan W. guilty of sexual offences against Szymik when the latter was a child. In 2017, he was given a five-year ban on conducting priestly ministry and hearing confession, and was ordered to live in isolation.

News website Onet has now published parts of the curia’s response to Szymik’s civil lawsuit. Among its demands is for “evidence from an expert sexologist on the determination of the claimant’s sexual preferences, in particular determination of the claimant’s sexual orientation”.

Additionally, it calls for the victim to be questioned on his relationship with the priest, including him “showing pleasure in maintaining an intimate relationship with Jan W.” and even “deriving benefits [from it], including material benefits”.

The diocese “denies that the relationship was based on enslavement or incapacitation; on the contrary: it was voluntary and based on mutual benefits”, according to the document cited by Onet. It points to Jan W.’s testimony during the church trial, in which he admitted to sexual contact with Szymik beginning only in 1987, not in 1984 as the victim claims.

It also argues that, although Szymik was an altar boy, because meetings between him and the priest took place outside the church, and because Szymik “participated voluntarily”, they “were not related to Jan W.’s ministry” and “the sexual contacts did not take place during the performance of the duties entrusted to him”.

Finally, the curia opposes Szymik’s claim on technical grounds. It says that the statute of limitations for civil action has expired, and that the abuse took place before the Bielsko-Żywiec diocese was established, when Jan W. was under the authority of the Kraków diocese.

In response to the publication of the diocese’s legal submission, Tomasz Terlikowski, a prominent Catholic commentator, called its approach “scandalous” and “sad proof that the bishop does not even know the teachings of the church of which he is supposed to be a shepherd”.

The questions the curia proposes asking of Szymik are indicative of a “paedophile’s model of thinking” and will cause “the victim harm again”, tweeted Terlowski, who called on the bishop to withdraw the document, appoint a new lawyer, and apologise.

Last year, the former bishop of Bielsko-Żywiec, Tadeusz Rakoczy, was disciplined by the Vatican for neglect in responding to Szymik’s accusations of abuse against Jan W. in 1993 and 2007. Szymik is convinced that the priest abused other victims too.

In 2012, the then archbishop of Kraków, Stanisław Dziwisz, was also informed of alleged abuse by Jan W., reports Gazeta.pl. Dziwisz, a former private secretary to Pope John Paul II, has previously been accused of ignoring cases of abuse and accepting bribes from those accused of carrying it out.

Jan W. was only removed from his parish in 2014 by Rakoczy’s successor, Roman Pindel. He remains in a place of seclusion as a result of his conviction in the church court.

Complete Article HERE!

It is blatant hypocrisy for Pope Francis to lecture anyone about violence against women

From opposition to abortion to a reductive view of women’s roles, the Catholic Church should consider its own role in perpetuating a culture of misogyny.

By Michael Coren

The Pope, it seems, is having a bad few days. This week he made a quite extraordinarily insensitive and crass comment, claiming that couples choosing to have pets instead of children are selfish, and their decision leads to a loss of “humanity” and is a detriment to civilization. Aside from the sweeping generalization and failure, ironically, to grasp the humanity involved, he is a celibate man named after the patron saint on animals!

The statement garnered international coverage, but something he said on New Year’s Day was much more significant. Pope Francis delivered a sermon in which he condemned violence against women as “an insult to God.” Addressing the issue with evident passion he argued: “Since mothers bestow life, and women keep the world together, let us all make greater efforts to promote mothers and to protect women.”

It’s not the first time the 85-year-old leader of more than 1.3 billion Roman Catholics has spoken out about the subject, and many across the world took this as another example of the pontiff as an enlightened progressive. Which to an extent he is: on several themes, such as the importance of tackling climate change, he has shown himself to be forward-thinking, sometimes more so than ostensibly liberal secular leaders. But as is often the case, there’s more to the story.

While Francis has seemed to be supportive of LGBTQ rights, for example, it’s actually more difficult for a gay man to enter a Catholic seminary now than it was under previous Popes, including John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The church’s catechism still regards “homosexual acts” as being of “grave depravity” and “contrary to natural law”, insisting that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered”.

Regarding gender-based violence, while it may be that on a visceral, personal level the Pope is appalled, even his language during his sermon reveals an inherent difficulty in the Catholic church’s attitude to women. “Since mothers bestow life… let us all make greater efforts to promote mothers and to protect women,” he said. Opposing violence against women on the basis that womanhood is intrinsically linked to motherhood is an abhorrent argument, but this model is at the epicentre of Catholic teaching: women as mothers, as spiritual heirs of the Virgin Mary, to be protected not because of humanity and equality but due to their fertility and piety.

That reductive view of women as virtual icons is part of the problem, rather than the solution. And it leads directly to the struggle for women’s reproductive rights.

Abortion is criminalised in many Catholic countries, causing widespread suffering, particularly for poor women. In El Salvador, three women who spent between six and 13 years in prison under draconian anti-abortion laws after suffering miscarriages have just this week been released. Even in the US, where church and state are allegedly separated, in Oklahoma last year a 21-year-old Native American woman was convicted of manslaughter after having a miscarriage. These are shocking but not unusual examples. With conservative Catholic justices so dominant on the US Supreme Court, abortion rights are under constant attack and the crucial Roe V Wade ruling may well be overturned this year.

The Catholic church teaches that abortion “is gravely contrary to the moral law” and the taking of innocent life, and many Catholic anti-abortion activists routinely make comparisons between women’s choice and the Holocaust. Francis may not be so irresponsible in his language, but he does describe abortion as “murder”. While seeming to be relatively understanding of Catholic politicians such as President Joe Biden who vote for women’s reproductive rights, the Pope has still said that “Those who carry out abortions kill.”

There are, of course, no women in position of power within the Catholic church. Christianity historically downplayed the central role of women in the ministry of Jesus and the life of the early church. The story of Mary Magdalene is indicative. She is referred to by name a dozen times in the four gospels, more than most of the male apostles, and she’s also present at Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. In 591, however, Pope Gregory I described her as a prostitute, likely confusing her with the maligned Mary of Bethany, and the ugly cliché of the saved “fallen women” has persisted in modern times. Rather than being a central figure in the story of Christ, Mary Magdalene became a passive example of restored brokenness, a sexual caricature.

1,500 years later women may be extremely active in the Catholic church, and in many cases keep it alive, but only men can be ordained and become leaders. The church’s catechism states: “The Lord Jesus chose men to form the college of the twelve apostles. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.” In Roman Catholic terms, a priest celebrates the Mass “in persona Christi” – in the person of Christ – and Jesus was a man. (He was also Jewish and circumcised but this doesn’t appear to be an impediment.)

The Catholic church has a right to hold to this position, and other Christian denominations are similarly, if less rigidly, male-dominated. But the point holds that in spite of Catholic protestations of equality, it is only “Father” who represents Jesus, has the power and authority to turn bread and wine into body and blood, and to hear confessions. That matters. Contrary to what some people might assume, Francis has said, “the door is closed” on the issue. “On the ordination of women in the Catholic Church” he stressed, “the final word is clear, it was said by St. John Paul II and this remains.”

None of this should be compared directly the filth of gender-based violence, which is a plague that goes far beyond religion. But there’s context, culture, and cause involved in what Francis said, along with perceptions of power, the place and freedom of women in society, and real and absolute equality are central. The daily experience of women in the church varies, but there are numerous stories, many of them contemporary, of women being told by priests to return to abusive husbands due to the “sanctity of marriage”. The commonality of that theme, and its roots, are deeply troubling – as are the cases of mothers reporting of their children being abused by priests yet being dismissed by the church, always men, as dishonest or hysterical.

Pope Francis has often been startlingly impressive when speaking out on climate change, the dignity of refugees, and economic justice, but closer to home and Rome he can be inconsistent, and even in denial. Women face oppression and violence in all sorts of places, caused by all sorts of reasons, and it’s time that organized religion admitted its own part – its own sins – and put its house in order.

Complete Article HERE!

Archbishop Apologises For Fr David Muscat’s Absurd Anti-Gay Comments And Pledges To Take Action

By

Archbishop Charles Scicluna has pledged to take action against a priest who drew widespread condemnation after comparing being possessed by demons or having schizophrenia to being gay.

“To all those who felt offended by those words, to the mothers, fathers and siblings of gay people who felt hurt and betrayed by the Church they love so much, I hereby ask for your forgiveness,” Scicluna said when delivering mass this morning.

“I’ll take action to ensure these things don’t repeat themselves.”

@lovinmaltaofficial Archbishop Scicluna addresses Fr David Muscat’s shocking Facebook comments on 20-year-old Abner Aquilina. #fyp #fypmalta #lovinmalta #malta #tvm ♬ original sound – Lovin Malta

Scicluna didn’t specify what kind of action he will be taking.

Father David Muscat, a priest known for his often anger-filled rhetoric aimed at minorities like the LGBT+ community, said yesterday on Facebook that being gay was worse than being possessed.

His comment was widely criticised, with Inclusion Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli personally reporting Muscat to police commissioner Angelo Gafa’ for hate speech and Equality Minister Owen Bonnici warning the priest “had crossed a line”.

The Malta Gay Rights Movement also called on the Archbishop to wake up and pay attention to what members of his own church are preaching.

Complete Article HERE!