The Case of the Pope

— Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuses by Geoffrey Robertson

Looking the other way . . . Pope Benedict XVI.

Terry Eagleton welcomes a coolly devastating inquiry into the Vatican’s handling of child abuse

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The first child sex scandal in the Catholic church took place in AD153, long before there was a “gay culture” or Jewish journalists for bishops to blame it on. By the 1960s, the problem had become so dire that a cleric responsible for the care of “erring” priests wrote to the Vatican suggesting that it acquire a Caribbean island to put them on.

What has made a bad situation worse, as the eminent QC Geoffrey Robertson argues in this coolly devastating inquiry, is canon law – the church’s own arcane, highly secretive legal system, which deals with alleged child abusers in a dismayingly mild manner rather than handing them over to the police. Its “penalties” for raping children include such draconian measures as warnings, rebukes, extra prayers, counselling and a few months on retreat. It is even possible to interpret canon law as claiming that a valid defence for paedophile offences is paedophilia. Since child abusers are supposedly incapable of controlling their sexual urges, this can be used in their defence. It is rather like pleading not guilty to stealing from Tesco’s on the grounds that one is a shoplifter. One blindingly simple reason for the huge amount of child abuse in the Catholic church (on one estimate, up to 9% of clerics are implicated) is that the perpetrators know they will almost certainly get away with it.

For almost a quarter of a century, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the man who is now Pope, was in supreme command of this parallel system of justice – a system deliberately hidden from the public, police and parliaments and run, so Robertson maintains, in defiance of international law. Those who imagine that the Vatican has recently agreed to cooperate with the police, he points out, have simply fallen for one of its cynical public relations exercises. In the so-called “New Norms” published by Pope Benedict this year, there is still no instruction to report suspected offenders to the civil authorities, and attempting to ordain a woman is deemed to be as serious an offence as sodomising a child. There have, however, been some changes: victims of child abuse are now allowed to report the matter up to the age of 38 rather than 28. If you happen to be 39, that’s just tough luck. As Robertson wryly comments, Jesus declares that child molesters deserve to be drowned in the depths of the sea, not hidden in the depths of the Holy See.

How can Ratzinger get away with it? One mightily important reason, examined in detail in this book, is because he is supposedly a head of state. The Vatican describes itself on its website as an “absolute monarchy”, which means that the Pope is immune from being sued or prosecuted. It also means that as the only body in the world with “non-member state” status at the UN, the Catholic church has a global platform for pursuing its goals of diminishing women, demonising homosexuals, obstructing the use of condoms to prevent Aids and refusing to allow abortion even to save the life of the mother. For these purposes, it is sometimes to be found in unholy alliance with states such as Libya and Iran. Neither is it slow to use veiled threats of excommunication to bend Catholic politicians throughout the world to its will. If Pope Benedict were to air some of his troglodytic views with full public force, Robertson suggests, the Home Office would have been forced to refuse him entry into Britain.

In fact, he argues, the Vatican’s claim to statehood is bogus. It dates from a treaty established between Mussolini and the Holy See, which Robertson believes has no basis in international law. The Vatican has no permanent population, which is a legal requirement of being a state. In fact, since almost all its inhabitants are celibate, it cannot propagate citizens at all other than by unfortunate accident. It is not really a territory, has no jurisdiction over crimes committed in its precincts and depends for all its essential services on the neighbouring nation of Italy. Nor does it field a team in the World Cup, surely the most convincing sign of its phoniness.

“Petty gossip” is how the Pope has described irrefutable evidence of serious crimes. His time as the Vatican official in charge of overseeing priestly discipline was the period when, in Robertson’s furiously eloquent words, “tens of thousands of children were bewitched, buggered and bewildered by Catholic priests whilst [Ratzinger’s] attention was fixated on ‘evil’ homosexuals, sinful divorcees, deviate liberation theologians, planners of families and wearers of condoms”.

Can he be brought to book for this? As a widespread and systematic practice, clerical sexual abuse could be considered a crime against humanity, such crimes not being confined to times of war; and though Ratzinger may claim immunity as a head of state, he is also a German citizen. The book comes to no firm conclusion here, but the possibility of convicting the supreme pontiff of aiding and abetting the international crime of systemic child abuse seems not out of the question. The Vatican, in any case, is unlikely to escape such a fate by arguing, as it has done already, that the relations between the Pope and his bishops are of such unfathomable theological complexity that no mere human court could ever hope to grasp them.

This is a book that combines moral passion with steely forensic precision, enlivened with the odd flash of dry wit. With admirable judiciousness, it even finds it in its heart to praise the charitable work of the Catholic church, as well as reminding us that paedophiles (whom Robertson has defended in court) can be kindly men. It is one of the most formidable demolition jobs one could imagine on a man who has done more to discredit the cause of religion than Rasputin and Pat Robertson put together.

Complete Article HERE!

Kansas Catholic priest sex abuse report leads to no charges

FILE – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt answers questions from reporters during a news conference on Oct. 11, 2022, in Topeka, Kan. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says a lengthy investigation into sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the state has not led to any charges, according to the report released by Schmidt on Friday, Jan 6, 2023.

By Margaret Stafford and John Hanna

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation said Friday that it has distributed 30 charging affidavits to prosecutors as part of its investigation into sexual abuse by Catholic priests but, so far, no charges have been filed.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt released the KBI’s report concluding an investigation of the state’s four Roman Catholic dioceses in Wichita, Salina, Dodge City and Kansas City, Kansas.

The bureau said it would continue to investigate clergy associated with the Society of Saint Pius X, a breakaway Catholic group with a large branch in St. Marys.

A summary of the report said a six-member task force had interviewed 137 victims of abuse, initiated 125 criminal cases and distributed 30 affidavits to prosecutors for charging consideration.

Investigators identified 188 clergy members suspected of committing various criminal acts from records that stretched to the 1950s.

Michael McDonnell, a spokesperson for the international Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that while the numbers of alleged abuses before 1990 are not surprising, the numbers after that are “still questionable” because many victims likely have not come forward.

“The Catholic Church will consistently say this is a thing of the past. We always say it’s a thing very much of the present and very much a thing of the future,” McDonnell said.

As of Friday, no prosecutor had filed charges, primarily because of laws that limit how long authorities have to pursue certain cases, the KBI said.

McDonnell said it’s “the Catholic Church playbook” to run out the clock on potential criminal charges and then be cooperative.

“Well, what we want to know is who was complicit?” McDonnell said, adding that abusers were allowed “to continue their careers in transfer upon transfer upon transfer only to go on to abuse more children?”

The executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference said each of the four Kansas dioceses was reviewing the report. Schmidt directed the KBI to begin the investigation at the request of Kansas City Archdiocese Archbishop Joseph Naumann.

The investigators found several cases that lacked probable cause to present to prosecutors. In nearly all the cases where affidavits were filed, the statute of limitations had expired or the priest was dead, according to the report.

That prompted SNAP to call on Kansas legislators to both eliminate the statute of limitations for filing lawsuits over alleged abuse and to add clergy to the list of people required by law to report suspected child abuse to authorities. Lawmakers convene Monday for their annual session.

“This report is yet another signal flare that legislative change is needed in order to support survivors and protect children,” the group said in a statement.

In a letter accompanying the report, KBI Director Kirk Thompson praised the victims who came forward to report their abuse to investigators.

“It is our deepest and most sincere hope these victims find a way to continue to survive and heal,” Thompson wrote. “And for those victims who are still traumatized who did not report, it is our hope they find the strength to seek help.”

The report was released on the final full day in office for Schmidt, who unsuccessfully ran for Kansas governor last year. Thompson plans to retire from the KBI on Tuesday.

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic Church in Maryland concedes to some reforms about priest abuse

Critics say the proposal falls short, ‘means nothing’

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) Maryland members during a press conference last month.

By and

The lobbying arm of the Catholic church in Maryland is making a partial concession to legislative reforms that would help victims of priest sexual abuse sue the church decades later.

The Maryland Catholic Conference, which represents the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, Del., announced Monday it will support legislation to erase the statute of limitations for future victims to sue the church. Maryland law requires men and women who are abused as children to file lawsuits by age 38 or within three years of an abuser’s criminal conviction.

The church, however, isn’t budging in its longstanding opposition to a “lookback window.” That would permit lawsuits from victims now older than 38 who are currently unable to sue. The announcement comes as the church, state lawmakers and sexual abuse survivors prepare to debate reforms around priest sexual abuse in the upcoming session of the Maryland General Assembly.

State Sen. William C. Smith Jr., who chairs the Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee, has been talking with advocates on all sides in hopes of finding the right solution to help survivors. He said the announcement from the Maryland Catholic Conference came up short.

”Seeking justice for victims is something we’re all interested in. I’m not sure this statement fully comports with the goal,” said Smith, a Montgomery County Democrat. He added: “There’s still so much to discuss, but this shows there’s room for dialogue.”

The House of Delegates has previously passed lawsuit reform legislation, only to see it fail in the state Senate. Del. Luke Clippinger, who chairs the House Judicial Proceedings Committee, said the church’s statement doesn’t push the negotiations closer to passing a bill that will help the many survivors who are hurting from past abuse.

”I am interested and happy to hear the Catholic Church is engaging in this piece of the legislation, but I don’t believe that this proposal gives victims of abuse more than what they already have,” said Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat.

The legislative debate returns as a Baltimore judge considers whether to approve release of a 456-page state investigation into the history of child sexual abuse within the archdiocese. The Maryland Attorney General’s Office filed a motion last month asking the courts to approve the release of its nearly four-year investigation into priest sexual abuse.

State investigators identified 158 priests, most of them already known, within the archdiocese accused of the “sexual abuse” and “physical torture” of more than 600 victims over the past 80 years, according to the court records. Investigators told the court there are likely hundreds more victims. The investigation was conducted through a grand jury, and state law keeps grand jury materials confidential without a judge’s order.

With the judge’s decision pending, lawmakers, survivors and lobbyists are preparing to hash out new rules in Annapolis for how victims may pursue restitution for the harm they suffered.

Survivors and their advocates have pushed lawmakers for years to establish a lookback window. Many victims repress the memory of child sexual abuse well into adulthood. That’s why dozens of states have opened lookback windows or otherwise allowed survivors new opportunities to file lawsuits.

In explaining its opposition to a lookback window, the Maryland Catholic Conference cited analysis by the attorney general’s office that concluded it would be unconstitutional. But the issue is murky, and Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Rowe explored the complex legal question in three letters advising lawmakers when such changes were previously debated.

Some victims and advocates said the statement from the Maryland Catholic Conference doesn’t go far enough. .

“It’s a nothing burger,” said Baltimore attorney Joanne Suder, who has represented victims. “It does us no good to have some law on the books that starts in the future with no lookback window and that does not include corporate liability.”

Suder has advocated for a two-year lookback window. She said most priests have little money and the laws restrict attorneys from pursing the church for damages.

“Maryland, being the first archdiocese in the country, has the worst laws out there of almost anyone,” she said. “Quite frankly, I’d be OK with an 18-month lookback window and corporate responsibility, rather than some nothing burger that sounds good to the public but means nothing.”

Changes in the law would affect any victim who wants to hold an institution accountable for abuse — including churches, schools and youth organizations — but the Catholic church is the most prominent institution affected and one of the largest voices in the debate.

The church lobbying arm and other opponents have warned that expanding eligibility to file lawsuits could lead to crippling litigation. The nonprofit BishopAccountability.org found nearly 30 Catholic diocese and religious orders have filed for bankruptcy protection amid a barrage of lawsuits over priest sexual abuse. In the past five years, the Maryland Catholic Conference has spent more than $1 million on lobbying efforts in Annapolis, according to public records.

A decision whether to release the report rests with Baltimore Circuit Judge Anthony Vittoria. About two weeks ago, he ordered the proceedings sealed and barred attorneys from sharing their briefs.

Meanwhile, survivors of priest sexual abuse have sought to intervene in the case and bring out the report. The archdiocese is also paying for two lawyers, Gregg Bernstein and William Murphy, to represent some people named in the report, but not accused of sexual abuse.

An archdiocese spokesman has said these people want a chance to tell the courts what they believe to be omissions or errors in the report. He said the the church supports them in that effort.

Complete Article HERE!

Proud U.S. Catholics celebrate the Respect for Marriage Act, and they want more

By Lana Leonard

Roman Catholic organizations celebrate the Respect for Marriage Act signing into law by recognizing the values of family and equality shared between Catholicism and the LGBTQ community.

Organizations like New Ways Ministry, DignityUSA, and religious leaders like Father James Martin speak to that strength through shared values, while advocating for the LGBTQ community and wanting more from equality. All these people and organizations have worked with GLAAD to advance LGBTQ acceptance within the Roman Catholic Church.

Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of New Ways Ministry, a 45-year old national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBT people and the church, reminds the people that even Pope Francis has said that LGBTQ couples deserve protections.

“Catholics want same-gender couples to receive the same societal protections and benefits that opposite-sex couples enjoy. Family stability and equality are strong Catholic values,” said DeBarnardo in a press release.

DeBernardo also says that two Catholic politician powershouses heralded RFMA into law.

“We are particularly proud that this bill was shepherded through the House of Representatives by a Catholic, Honorable Nancy Pelosi. That it was signed into law by a Catholic, President Joe Biden, is an even greater reason to be proud.  They are leaders who have imbibed Catholic Social Teaching, and their beliefs in the human dignity and equality of all people are inscribed in this Act,”  the New Ways Ministry executive director said.

Catholic support in today’s LGBTQ current events sheperds a new layer of hope among advocates in a time of religious extremism against LGBTQ communities and couples.

The US Conference for Catholic Bishops believes the Act works to slice away at religious freedom. “Obergefell created countless religious liberty conflicts, but the Act offers only limited protections,” said Chieko Noguchi of the USCCB Public Affairs Office in a statement. “Those protections fail to resolve the main problem with the Act: in any context in which conflicts between religious beliefs and same-sex civil marriage arise, the Act will be used as evidence that religious believers must surrender to the state’s interest in recognizing same-sex civil marriage.”

However, to DeBernardo this is the perfect time for the Catholic hierarchy, for bishops, for USCCB, to open up to the long-requested, and long overdue dialogue about equality for LGBTQ people.

“The Catholic bishops’ opposition is based on the idea that the bill does not provide enough religious exemptions, yet other religious leaders, legal analysts, and politicians who value faith are confident that the bill protects religious institutions,” said DeBernardo.

Some conservative Christian denominations like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Seventh Day Adventists have come to support laws like RFMA. They aren’t the only ones.

Over the last six years from 2015 to 2021 diverse support among various religions have increased their acceptance for LGBTQ legal protections, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.

Of all Americans 79% are in favor of LGBTQ protections. As for Catholics of color the support for LGBTQ protections has increased by 16% since 2015 (87%), Latine Catholic support has grown 8% with 83% in favor of LGBTQ protections, with white Catholics showing 7% growth at 80% in favor of LGBTQ protections, according to PRRI research.

The growing support shows as DignityUSA, the nation’s foremost organization of Catholics working for justice, equality, and full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people in our church and society, believes the RFMA affirms that the majority of US Catholics of all political affiliations believe that same-sex marriage should be a legal right.

Yet, Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, believes that this isn’t a complete victory.

“Moreover, it fails to address the ongoing inequities, legal and cultural, that continue to push LGBTQIA+ people and people of color out of the center of many communities.

“Indeed, DignityUSA is deeply concerned that the final version of the Respect for Marriage Act will in some ways actually work to perpetuate the inequity that interracial and same-sex couples have long experienced in our country,” said Duddy-Burke in a press release.

Unfortunately the RFMA comes to Pres. Biden’s desk under the fear that interracial marriages and LGBTQ marriages are threatened by the current Supreme Court majority. Many are preparing for Obergefell v. Hodges to be overturned, in turn, resulting in LGBTQ and interracial marriages a state-by-state issue. RFMA allows for couples to travel to states where it’s legal to  marry with nationwide recognition regardless of the state law of a couples’ home states.

Ross Murray, Vice President of the GLAAD Media Institute, and a deacon in an Evangelical Lutheran Church, told the National Catholic Reporter that the fear of Obergefell overturning makes the Respect for Marriage Act’s passing as imperative as it is.

“Knowing that we have heard justices signal their intent to want to review and potentially roll back protections for LGBTQ Americans is what made this legislation so incredibly important,” said Murray.

However, Murray also notes that the implementation of religious freedom was important to the political process.

Sec. 6 No Impact on Religious Liberty or Conscience of RFMA protects religious groups who oppose LGBTQ marriage from having to provide “any services, facilities, or goods for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.” Additionally, the law prevents churches and religious nonprofits that decline recognition of LGBTQ marriages from having their tax-exemption status revised or revoked.

This amendment is what DignityUSA deems as a partial victory, and uplifts what USCCB thinks of as a compromise to religious freedom. That is, wherever religious freedom has power, it will be used to take away the freedom of LGBTQ people, and not only in marriage, but in day-to-day life.

Father James Martin used this moment in history to uplift Catholic values in support of LGBTQ people.

“Never forget that both John the Baptist and Jesus sided with the poor, the marginalized and the disenfranchised,” Father Martin wrote on Twitter yesterday.

While the LGBTQ community continues to fight for equality, the community advocacy will carry on into a new chapter of policy: the Equality Act.

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic bishops face a choice: Pastors or politicians?

In this Friday, May 1, 2020 file photo, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez gives a blessing after leading a brief liturgy at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. The nation’s Catholic bishops begin their fall annual meeting Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, where they plan to elect new leaders — a vote that may signal whether they want to be more closely aligned with Pope Francis’ agenda or maintain a more formal distance.

by John Kenneth White

The last two years have been tumultuous ones for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. On Inauguration Day 2021, its president, Archbishop Jose Gomez, sent a churlish message to Joe Biden, condemning him for pledging “to pursue certain politics that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage and gender.”

From there, the conference engaged in a prolonged discussion as to whether Biden and other prominent Catholic politicians, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), should be denied communion — a ban that was imposed by Pelosi’s San Francisco archbishop, Salvatore J. Cordileone. After months of debate, the bishops punted on the issue and are currently spending $14 million to promote a National Eucharistic Revival.

With Gomez’s departure this month, the bishops were faced with selecting a new conference president. Over the past year, the Vatican has made it abundantly clear it is displeased with the American bishops and wants them more in alignment with Rome. In October, President Biden visited Pope Francis, and the pontiff went out of his way to call Biden “a good Catholic.”

A few months earlier, Speaker Pelosi and her husband, Paul, had an emotional meeting with the pope where she received a papal blessing and took communion at a Vatican mass. Prior to the bishops casting their votes for a new leader, the papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, pointedly reminded them that they were “cum Petro and sub Petro,” translating, “with Peter and under Peter.” He listed what Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Ky., described as the pope’s “greatest hits,” with an emphasis on the environment, immigration and promoting a greater sense of brotherhood and sisterhood — priorities that Stowe laments the bishops have ignored.

Thirty minutes after Pierre’s remarks, Timothy Broglio was elected as conference president. Broglio is no stranger to the culture wars. As archbishop of the Military Services, he supported a U.S. Air Force chaplain whose homily blamed “effeminate” gay priests for clergy sexual abuse. Broglio has repeatedly claimed that the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandals are “directly related to homosexuality” — a position rejected by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice report, which found that “no single psychological, developmental, or behavioral characteristic differentiated priests who abused minors from those who did not.”

For two years, the worldwide Catholic Church has been engaged in a “synodal process,” a common term used for listening sessions. Repeatedly, the laity have expressed their desire that the church welcome migrants, ethnic minorities, the poor and divorced and remarried couples into its increasingly empty pews.

In its report to the Vatican, the bishops wrote, “Concerns about how to respond to the needs of these diverse groups surfaced in every synthesis.” But it was questions concerning LGBTQ Catholics that were especially troubling to the laity, with “practically all” consultations stating that the lack of welcome contributed to the hemorrhaging of young people from the faith. For his part, Pope Francis has gone to extraordinary lengths to convey his sense of fraternity with gay Catholics. This month, Francis welcomed Fr. James Martin, well-known in the U.S. for his outreach ministry to gay Catholics, to an extraordinary private meeting to discuss his ministry and offer support, previously telling Fr. Martin to “continue this way.”

Addressing the conference, Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, it’s newly elected vice president, said, “We cannot credibly speak in a polarized society as long as our own house is divided.” But like so many other institutions, the Catholic Church has fallen victim to today’s cultural chasms. For some Catholics, the solution lies in a smaller, more homogenous, and culturally conservative church, set apart from a secular world that it so easily condemns, and producing leaders who are willing to wage war with the cultural politics of the moment.

For others, the choice is to be pastoral, listening without condemning and meeting people “where they are.” Pope Francis clearly prefers the latter approach, writing that when “victory consists in eliminating one’s opponents, how is it possible to raise our sights to recognize our neighbors or to help those who have fallen along the way?”

Bishop Stowe laments that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is becoming “more and more irrelevant” to the average Catholic, while other organizations are filling the void — including Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities, Caritas and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Over the past two decades, one thing is clear: The bishops make for lousy politicians. But they could be pretty good pastors. It’s their choice.

Complete Article HERE!