Catholic Church bankrolling opposition to biz-backed LGBTQ rights expansion

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

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The Michigan Catholic Conference has contributed nearly $240,000 to a campaign committee opposing a business-backed initiative to expand Michigan’s civil rights law to include protections for LGBTQ individuals.

Campaign finance reports filed on Monday show the Lansing-based Michigan Catholic Conference, which bills itself as “the official voice of the Catholic Church in Michigan on matters of public policy,” has made $238,874.80 in direct and in-kind contributions to Citizens for Equality, Fairness and Justice, an organization formed in April that has actively opposed the LGBTQ initiative. The MCC made up nearly all of the committee’s $204,175 in direct contributions this funding cycle.

The Fair and Equal Michigan campaign launched the ballot initiative to expand Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976 to enshrine protections in employment and public accommodations for LGBTQ individuals and ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers voted unanimously on Monday to reject Fair and Equal Michigan’s petition signatures, claiming the campaign didn’t have enough valid signatures to advance the proposal.

Fair and Equal Michigan officials have vowed to appeal the Board of Canvassers’ vote to the state Court of Appeals.

The Fair and Equal Michigan campaign has received widespread support from some of Michigan’s largest employers, including Consumers Energy, DTE Energy, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and General Motors, to name a few. Executives have said expanding the civil rights law is not only a human rights issue, but also a key component to attracting and retaining talent to the state.

Earlier this year, Citizens for Equality, Fairness and Justice filed a challenge against Fair and Equal Michigan before the Board of State Canvassers, as Michigan Advance previously reported. The newly formed committee had ties to attorneys who had previously fought LGBTQ measures, but it was unclear at the time who was funding the organization.

Campaign finance reports show the Michigan Catholic Conference directly contributed $200,000 to Citizens for Equality, Fairness and Justice on July 2, and gave another $38,874.80 in in-kind donations on July 7. The committee has also received $3,000 from issue advocacy group Michigan Future First, and $1,000 from the Lansing-based Michigan Family Forum. The committee reported $80,389.55 in expenditures, leaving nearly $124,000 in cash on hand.

Citizens for Equality, Fairness and Justice Treasurer Daniel Wholihan declined to comment for this story, referring questions to committee spokesperson and Republican political strategist Patrick Meyers.

Meyers said in an emailed statement to MiBiz: “The Board of State Canvassers got it right: the so-called “Fair and Equal” petition clearly submitted an inadequate number of signatures for their initiative. They got a fair and equal review by the Bureau of Elections, but fell well short, and we’re pleased that their poorly drafted, misleading proposal is now off the table for 2022.”

Officials with the Michigan Catholic Conference did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The organization issued a press release Monday about its effort to support challenges to Fair and Equal Michigan.

“The Fair and Equal Michigan proposal includes an unprecedented and likely unconstitutional provision to define religion only as a person’s individual beliefs and would restrict the ability for religious organizations to provide humanitarian aid and social services in the public square,” MCC Vice President for Communications David Maluchnik said in a statement. “The proposal would have a crushing impact on the poor of Michigan by harming many Catholic and Christian, Muslim, and Jewish organizations who daily and outwardly express their faith as a way of life out of love for their neighbor.”

Fair and Equal Michigan Spokesperson Josh Hovey told MiBiz: “When we have every major business group in the state … endorsing us, it’s not necessarily suprising but it’s transparent to see who’s out there funding the opposition. And unfortunately it’s the opposition.”

Complete Article HERE!

Be vulnerable and examine Catholic Church’s residential school past, Manitoba pastor urges

Parishioners, Flin Flon pastor say more work to be done for reconciliation after discovery of unmarked graves

Father Paul Bringleson is pastor at St. Ann’s Parish in Flin Flon, Man. He says parishoners should be able to put questions to leaders in the Roman Catholic Church about its role in running Canada’s residential schools.

By Renée Lilley

Some Manitoba Catholics are calling on church leadership to atone for their wrongs in light of the discovery of unmarked graves on the sites of some former Indian Residential Schools in Canada.

Father Paul Bringleson, the pastor of St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church in Flin Flon, thinks the Roman Catholic Church needs to take a back seat and truly listen to survivors.

“Take off your robes, your shoes, and your rings and your crosses. Sit yourself in a chair. And listen,” he said in a sermon on June 6, days after the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation reported the discovery of what are believed to be 215 unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

“It is not for us to tell Indigenous Peoples, ‘it’s time to move on.’ You don’t tell a victim when their suffering is over. You sit with that pain.”

Bringleson’s sermon drew national attention when it was published in full by Maclean’s magazine.

In the weeks following his sermon, other First Nations announced they too had found what are believed to unmarked graves, including 751 on Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan and another 182 near St. Eugene’s Mission School outside Cranbrook, B.C.

Bringleson says Catholics should be able to put questions to the church’s leadership and get decent answers. Instead, leaders are often bogged down in other issues like gay marriage, he says.

“If two men want to get married in Canada, every bishop in the country is writing a letter about it. But these graves being uncovered, and our role in it, which needs to be examined and looked at, it’s not a quick fix,” he said in an interview with CBC Manitoba’s Information Radio last Monday.

“Nobody wants to remain vulnerable. Especially in the church, the clergy has safety in holy orders. It makes it very difficult to want to be vulnerable with people. It’s not our first instinct, and yet that’s where we need to be.”

Pope Francis speaks from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at The Vatican on June 6, 2021. Pope Francis will meet with Indigenous leaders later this year but has not offered an official apology for the abuse suffered by students at Canada’s residential schools, many of which were run by the Roman Catholic Church.

There have been calls for the Catholic Church to formally apologize to Indigenous Canadians for the abuse committed through the residential school system, which was run by the federal government and contracted out to Christian denominations. More than 60 per cent of the schools were run by the Roman Catholic Church.

The United, Presbyterian and Anglican churches have apologized for their roles in the residential school system, as has the Canadian government, which has offered compensation.

There have been some localized apologies from individual Catholic orders. Pope Francis will meet with Indigenous leaders later this year and expressed his “pain” after the discovery of the graves in Kamloops.

However, neither the Pope nor the Vatican have offered an official apology.

‘This, I cannot condone’: parishoner

Linda Ducharme, a Métis Catholic, said after the discovery of the unmarked graves, she won’t go back to her Catholic church in St. Ambroise, Man., until the Pope apologizes.

“I refuse to support the Catholic church until the church apologizes for its part and asks for forgiveness,” she said.

“I’m a devout Christian. I turned to the Catholic church because it’s the only one here. But this, I cannot condone.”

Ducharme says she cried for days, not only for the children forced to attend residential school children, but also for their parents. Neither had a voice, she says.

“They took those little kids, put them in these enclosed spaces, like pig farming and chicken farming today. All crowded in there, not properly fed or cared for.

“A lot of them probably died from disease too, but the way they treated the bodies — they didn’t let the parents know, they just wrapped them in a blanket and buried them. That is so disrespectful and so wrong.”

The statue of Queen Victoria on the Manitoba Legislature grounds lies with its head removed after being topped on Canada Day.

That feeling was evident on Canada Day — a day marked by mourning for many, but also visible anger, including the toppling of statues at the Manitoba Legislature grounds in Winnipeg.

Some Catholic churches across the country have also been vandalized or burned.

Ducharme says that’s not the way to accomplish anything.

“I do not agree with the burning of the churches. That doesn’t help anybody. It doesn’t solve the problem. We know you’re mad, but going out and being destructive doesn’t solve anything.”

However, Ducharme says she has lost her sense of patriotism for the usually celebratory holiday.

“It sure doesn’t make you proud to be a Canadian. And I used to be so proud to be Canadian,” she said.

This year, “even if I wasn’t busy moving my daughter, we wouldn’t have celebrated. My heart was with them.”

Gordon Elijah Mackintosh, a practising Catholic in Winnipeg, also hopes the church will recognize its wrongs.

Gordon Elijah Mackintosh wants the Catholic church to take responsibility for the wrongs of residential schools in Canada.

“I was getting really upset over the news coming out. I’ve been going to church my whole life, and I just felt like I needed to say something,” said Mackintosh, 31.

He’s disappointed in the silence from many in the Catholic community.

“Considering one of the main sacraments is reconciliation and being forgiven, I think they really need to show the Indigenous community and really everyone that they mean what they say,” he said.

Truth, acceptance necessary for change

In terms of reconciliation, the churches and government have a lot of work to do, says Sean Carleton, an assistant professor of history and Indigenous studies at the University of Manitoba.

Churches should be transparent with historical records that many churches held back, he says, and making all of them available immediately is a good first step.

“One thing that is very clear, coming out of the TRC [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] — if Canadians are really serious about reconciliation, we have to have truth first. Truth before reconciliation.”

In terms of Canada’s role in the residential school system, Carleton stresses the need for the entire country to face the effects of its history.

Sean Carleton, an assistant professor of history and Indigenous studies at the University of Manitoba, says the intergenerational trauma of residential schools is still affecting Indigenous people in Canada today.

“Canadians are having a hard time and are struggling with the fact that it’s not a historical problem. I don’t think people really understand the intergenerational effects this really has for Indigenous people today,” he said.

“There are pockets of multiculturalism and tolerance, but there is also ongoing oppression, genocide. And that’s something that is coming to the fore.”

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican moves to tamp down spat with Italy over LGBT rights

In this Oct. 4, 2020 file photo, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin talks to journalists during a press conference at the Vatican. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, attempted to tamp down controversy Thursday, May 24, 2021, over a Vatican diplomatic communication to Italy, saying that the Holy See’s intention was not to block passage of a law that would extend additional protections from discrimination to the LGBT community.

by COLLEEN BARRY

The Vatican’s Secretary of State attempted to tamp down controversy Thursday over a Vatican diplomatic communication to Italy, saying the Holy See was not trying to block passage of a law that would extend additional protections from discrimination to the LGBT community.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s No. 2, told Vatican News that he personally approved the diplomatic communication, which was intended to express concerns over the proposed Italian legislation. The Vatican is against any “attitude or gesture of intolerance or hatred toward people motivated by sexual orientations,” he added.

The chief concern, Parolin said, is that “vagaries” in the text of the proposed law could expose anyone expressing an opinion about “any possible distinction between man and woman” to prosecution.

The letter, which has been published by Italian media, claims specifically that the law would violate a landmark treaty establishing diplomatic ties between Italy and the Vatican by putting at risk the right of Roman Catholics to freely express themselves. It cited as an example a clause that would require Catholic schools, along with their public counterparts, to run activities on a designated day against homophobia and transphobia.

The law would add women, people who are homosexual, transsexual or with disabilities, to those protected by a law banning discrimination and punishing hate crimes. The lower house of parliament passed the legislation in November, but it has been stalled in the Senate by right-wing concerns that it would limit freedom of expression.

Right-wing leader Matteo Salvini, for example, has complained that anyone saying that a family is formed with a man and a woman would be exposed to possible prosecution.

Backers of the law have dismissed such concerns, saying that the threshold for prosecution is inciting hatred or violence against the protected classes.

Premier Mario Draghi on Wednesday rebuffed the Vatican’s attempt at influencing the legislative process, telling parliament: “Italy is a secular state.”

But the controversy has ignited outrage over Vatican meddling, with many calling for the cancellation of the so-called Lateran Treaty, originally established under fascism and revised in the 1980s, establishing diplomatic ties between the Vatican and predominantly Roman Catholic Italy.

LGBT activists have vowed to transform Gay Pride events in Rome and Milan on Saturday into protests against what they say is the Vatican’s unprecedented interference in the Italian legislative process.

In decades past, the Vatican objected to Italian laws legalizing abortion and divorce and backed unsuccessful referendums after the fact to try to repeal them.

Complete Article HERE!

Iowa Attorney General’s report reviews dozens of ‘overwhelming’ sex-abuse complaints against Catholic priests

By William Morris Melody Mercado

In Iowa as in the rest of the country, the incidence and duration of sexual abuse by clergy “were overwhelming” and the cover-up “extensive” in earlier decades, a report by the Iowa Attorney General’s Office that was released Wednesday concludes.

A yearslong investigation by the office reviewed nearly 50 complaints of sexual abuse against current and former Catholic priests and other officials, including 17 allegations that had never before been reported.

In a statement Wednesday, the bishops of Iowa’s four Catholic dioceses said the church “is committed to do all that is humanly possible to protect minors from the sin and crime of clergy sexual abuse, and to promote healing.” The bishops said the new report would be studied for ways to improve existing reporting and investigating procedures.

The state’s investigation was inspired by a sweeping and scathing report issued by the Pennsylvania Attorney General in 2018.

In Pennsylvania, prosecutors used grand jury subpoenas to uncover hidden church records. Iowa does not have statewide grand jury powers, and so Attorney General Tom Miller worked with the state’s dioceses, which voluntarily shared records of past cases and complaints. The state also set up an independent hotline for clergy abuse complaints, among other outreach to possible victims.

Those efforts produced a total of 50 complaints, 45 of which were against Catholic church leaders and five involving other denominations. Of the new complaints, many brought allegations against priests who had already been accused of abuse by other victims.  Several of the new complaints listed in the report do not name the priest, in some cases because their identity is not known.

Lynn Hicks, Miller’s chief of staff, said in an interview that many victims indicated they felt the church in past decades was not supportive or receptive to their complaints.

“A lot of them felt like … they were the ones on trial when they had come forward, and then others talked about why they didn’t come forward — the lack of trust or the fear of not being believed, that sort of thing,” he said. “We hope that that’s changed.”

All of the allegations against Catholic priests fall outside the state’s statute of limitations for criminal prosecution. Some, but not all, of those accused are named in lists each diocese maintains of credibly accused priests. Several were already known to be the subject of dozens of accusations.

Three of the clergy named in complaints remain active as priests. The Rev. John Stack, a priest in Clinton, was suspended in 2013 over allegations of abuse in the 1980s, but was reinstated by the Diocese of Davenport in 2016 after a church trial found the charges not proven. Another, Hicks said, is in the Diocese of Sioux City, although it is not clear from the report who that is.

One claim resulted in a new investigation into the Rev. Robert “Bud” Grant, an instructor at St. Ambrose University and the parish priest in Blue Grass, a town of 1,500 just west of Davenport. The Diocese of Des Moines said in November 2020 that Grant had committed misconduct — but had not sexually abused any minors — and allowed him to return to ministry with restrictions limiting his contact with persons under 24.

A spokesman for the university said in a statement Thursday that Grant’s suspension from teaching at the university, where he remains a member of the faculty, was lifted this spring and he continues to work under restrictions imposed by the Des Moines Diocese.

The report found that, in Iowa as in other parts of the country, “the image and reputation of the church were put ahead of the enormous harm to young people.”

Hicks said the investigation found “plenty of evidence of priests being moved and things not being disclosed,” although he said things appear to have significantly improved since 2002, when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a major set of reforms to respond to a series of church scandals. Only five priests have been accused of misconduct occurring since 2002.

The report notes that the church made a notable change by requiring “automatic reporting of any complaints concerning abuse to the criminal authorities.”

All four of Iowa’s bishops are relatively new in their positions, the report notes, and none was involved in handling or covering up past complaints.

The report finds that the dioceses of Sioux City, Dubuque and Davenport “made a good-faith effort” to maintain their public lists of credibly accused clergy. The report includes some criticism of the Diocese of Des Moines, saying it was late in publishing its list and has a policy to not investigate single complaints against deceased priests. The diocese also declined to share some investigative reports, claiming attorney-client privilege.

Fewer than a third of priests facing allegations in the Des Moines diocese have been named on the diocese’s public list, compared to more than half in the three other dioceses. However, the report acknowledges some complaints are in a “gray area” and says Des Moines does report all allegations to law enforcement.

The Des Moines Diocese said in a statement Thursday that, since 2003, it has implemented mandatory background checks, which include a search of the sex offender registry for anyone who would be spending time with children in the diocese’s parishes, schools and institutions.

“The report brought to light that policies and procedures are in place to protect people and ensure justice is served so the church achieves a high standard of integrity in the ministries it offers,” said Des Moines Bishop William Joensen. “We, as a diocese, are committed to rigorous standards of accountability. I want to ensure that the diocese is committed to the safety of children.”

The Des Moines Diocese also noted that victims of abuse now report such conduct to a third-party Victim Assistance Advocate, not through the church.

In a separate statement, Davenport Bishop Thomas Zinkula apologized for the past abuse committed by clergy and described the steps taken in the past 20 years to safeguard children.

“These efforts have helped. The Diocese of Davenport has not received a founded report of child sexual abuse that occurred in the past 33 years,” he wrote. “Nevertheless, our Church and society need to continue to be vigilant in providing safe environments for children to thrive and grow.”

Of the five complaints received against church leaders in other denominations, the Attorney General’s Office is not identifying any of the accused but notes that at least one remains active as a pastor in the Cedar Falls area. Two of the complaints involve conduct that falls within the statute of limitations for possible criminal prosecution.

Complete Article HERE!

Even after Kamloops, the Catholic Church opts for obfuscation

A group of youths lead a group drumming and singing at sunset outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, to honour the 215 children found in Kamloops on June 4, 2021.

By

The word “shocking” has come up a lot in news stories about the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops; though, to anyone familiar with the history of such schools, there was nothing remotely surprising about it.

That most of the country was “shocked” by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation revelation of unmarked graves speaks to our collective ignorance about our country’s past and the sins of commission and omission made by those in positions of authority who sought to bury the truth.

The abuse of Indigenous children by both church and state that occurred for more than a century at residential schools across Canada occurred on multiple levels, in both life and death. Children removed from their families by the state and entrusted to clergy were subjected to such physical, sexual and emotional abuse that some Indigenous youth took their own lives to escape the horror. Many others ran away, only to die from exposure. Others died of disease.

“The general [Department of] Indian Affairs policy was to hold the schools responsible for burial expenses when a student died at school. The school generally determined the location and nature of that burial. Parental requests to have children’s bodies returned home for burial were generally refused as being too costly,” reads the 2015 final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which estimated that as many as 6,000 children died at residential schools.

“In short, throughout the system’s history, children who died at school were buried in school or mission cemeteries, often in poorly marked graves. The closing of the schools has led, in many cases, to the abandonment of these cemeteries.”

No institution, not even the government, knows more about what happened at Canada’s residential schools than the Catholic Church. But the Catholic orders that ran most residential schools and the bishops who oversee the church in Canada today have employed a plethora of dilatory measures to avoid revealing the truth.

That an institution known for maintaining meticulous records continues to offer excuses about the difficulties encountered in locating, translating or digitizing church documents about residential schools makes its inertia even more disgraceful.

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, which ran the Kamloops school, offered after the discovery to “commit to do more” to make its records available. Yet the Oblates and other church authorities have consistently frustrated the efforts of Indigenous families, investigators and researchers to uncover the truth.

Given the church’s track record of obfuscation and obstruction, it is no surprise that Indigenous people are still waiting for an apology from the Pope.

In 2015, the final report of the TRC called on Pope Francis to issue an apology to survivors, families and Indigenous communities for the church’s role in the “spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools” within one year of the report’s publication. It asked also that the apology “be delivered by the Pope in Canada.”

Despite the good-faith efforts of some clergy to push for one, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops appears to consider a formal apology too risky. To be clear, this has little to do with theology. The CCCB seems to have far more worldly concerns about the potential legal consequences of any apology that acknowledges the abuses committed in the church’s name by clergy at residential schools.

So, instead, Indigenous people are left to suffer yet another indignity.

“I don’t know whether seeking always some big and dramatic thing is the way forward,” Cardinal Thomas Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto, told the CBC’s Rosemary Barton on Sunday. “I think the much more important thing is the day-to-day work, quietly, gently.”

His statement provides yet more evidence that the Catholic hierarchy has learned nothing despite the abuse scandals of recent decades. A hush-hush culture remains endemic throughout the church. Secrecy is its modus operandi.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated the TRC demand for an apology during a 2017 private audience with the Pope at the Vatican. But, in 2018, then-CCCB president Bishop Lionel Gendron wrote in a letter to Indigenous people that “after carefully considering the request and extensive dialogue with the bishops of Canada, [Pope Francis] felt he could not personally respond.”

Read into that statement what you may. To many, it reeked of the church’s own internal politics and basic unwillingness to take responsibility for its actions.

On Sunday, Francis addressed the “shocking news” from Kamloops from the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square: “May the political and religious authorities continue to collaborate with determination to shed light on this sad affair and commit humbly to a path of reconciliation.”

One can only pray.

Complete Article HERE!