Catholic Bishops Endanger Church Tax Exempt Status


New York Archbishop and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) president Timothy Dolan recently wrote to Barak Obama asking the president to sign the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA): “We cannot be silent, however, when federal steps harmful to marriage, the laws defending it, and religious freedom continue apace.”

Can the marriages of some really “harm” those of others? Does Dolan not recognize how much support there is among active, practicing Roman Catholics for same-sex marriage? Does he really not know that scores of LGBT Catholics on the Communion lines at his own masses at St. Patrick’s Cathedral are married? That many work in Catholic ministry? That some are raising their children in the church? Dolan’s diocesan schools are filled with families in which there are only one or two children? Can he be naïve enough to imagine that this is accomplished through Natural Family Planning (NFP) alone? (NFP is the method of birth control the Vatican recommends and which its parishes often teach.)

Like much of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, Timothy Dolan is out of touch with who we American Catholics actually are.

He has every right not to remain silent, but the bishops’ presumption (fantasy?) that a majority of active U.S. Catholics will lend support to Vatican efforts to restrict the reproductive and marriage rights of non-Catholics is alarming — especially since so many active Catholics exercise those very freedoms. Furthermore, although the pope and his bishops may truly believe a zygote is a “preborn child,” the truth is that a great number of active Catholics do not, and they vote, in great numbers, accordingly.

There’s a reason the Vatican appointed the cigar-smoking, baseball-loving, borderline-charming Dolan to serve as shepherd of the Sodom and Gomorrah that is New York City. The passing of same-sex marriage rights legislation in his state and the reproductive health aspects of the new health care mandate present New York’s top priest with fresh opportunity to make his mark as the defender of the faith in the U.S. On Sept. 30, Timothy Dolan, in his capacity of USCCB president, announced the formation of a sub-committee whose task will be to respond to the “erosion of freedom of religion in America”: “…the new subcommittee would be one of several initiatives designed to strengthen the conference’s response and bring together a broad cross-section of churches and legal scholars to oppose attacks on the First Amendment.”

Dolan is fronting this crusade, and the degree of difficulty involved makes going out on a limb with a shaky “First Amendment” argument worth the gamble. He has appointed a Connecticut Bishop, William Lori, to head up the new committee. Unfortunately the first association many Catholics have with the “Diocese of Bridgeport” is its notorious status as a locus of sexual abuse. (In 2001, the Diocese of Bridgeport settled in 23 civil sex abuse cases, and there, according to Bishop, Timothy Dolan’s predecessor is alleged to have allowed priests facing multiple accusations to continue in ministry.)

The USCCB is now lobbying hard to make same-sex civil marriage illegal in the U.S. and to deny (Catholic and not) employees in agencies run by the church medical coverage for contraception and sterilization. And they want Catholics in the pews to help. The bishops can count on the holy-father-knows-best Roman Catholic fringe to serve as hoplites in what the hierarchy-friendly Catholic News Service calls the “culture wars”. They’d follow the Borgia pope into hell. However, the bishops will lack critical Roman Catholic mass in these “culture wars,” and their strongest support for DOMA may come from “bring-your-gun-to-church” and “God hates fags” so-called “Christian” churches. Progressive Roman Catholics, who tend support LGBT marriage and view family planning as a moral responsibility and not a sin, are likely to think the First Amendment angle disingenuous and inane. Moderate Catholics, who might not long ago have had the USCCB’s back in a such controversies as DOMA or the health care mandate, are alienated and sickened by the pedophilia crisis. They can no longer be counted on to fall in line behind the bishops.

Were so much not at stake, I’d find Dolan’s recent foray into First Amendment advocacy amusing. Has he read the First Amendment? For he appears to miss the point. The First Amendment does not guarantee one religion the right to obtain religious liberty by stripping others of theirs.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Many religions recognized and sanctified same-sex marriages long before same-sex marriage was legal in any state in the U.S. What (legal or moral) right has Timothy Dolan to tear lawful marriages asunder? Or to nullify covenants consecrated by Reform Jewish or Christian rites? Dolan’s campaign to (in effect) annul same-sex marriages reflects neither the spirit of ecumenism nor that of secular law as it pertains to marriage.

Same-sex couples in states in which equal-marriage legislation has passed are family now.

Furthermore, many atheists hold marriage equality (for lack of a better word, I say) “sacred.” Under the First Amendment, atheist LGBT and straight Americans enjoy the right not to be subject to religious law. DOMA wold impose religious law on everyone. This is an affront to all who take seriously the principle of separation between church and state. Though same-sex marriages are legal in the state of New York, no law compels Timothy Dolan to recognize them, and the First Amendment protects his right to refuse to marry LGBT Catholics in his church.

The consternation of the conflicted “believer” working at the marriage license bureau who finds processing marriage licenses for LGBT couples distasteful is nothing new. Many a court clerk during the Civil Rights Era no doubt endured a similar kind of anguish when required to process marriage licenses for heterosexual interracial couples. People allow moral discernment to shape their decisions about employment all the time. Marriage Bureau employees who find gay marriage distasteful must either suck it up or seek employment that better accommodates their prejudice.

Dolan is quoted in the National Catholic Register as having said the following: “If the label of “bigot” sticks to us — especially in court — because of our teaching on marriage, we’ll have church-state conflicts for years to come as a result.”

The archbishop is right to worry. The “label of bigot” will stick. The best way to defend against being called a bigot is to not be one.

Dolan is not nearly so interested in the First Amendment protections as he is in holding the Vatican’s doctrinal/political ground. The Roman Catholic hierarchy is under attack from within and without. Dolan is taking his shot. He’s hoping that cloaking bigotry the finery of constitutional protections might make him and his hierarchy appear more freedom-forward and perhaps a tad less medieval. But blurring, perforating, crossing and erasing the line of demarcation between church and state won’t win the archbishop any points with most American Catholics. And outside the church, Dolan’s First Amendment-based power play is likely to come off as the Captain Queeg-like snit of a “religious leader” who knows his ship is going down.

Dolan is playing the “good cop” role now, but “bad cops” surround him. On the matter of the health care mandate, Daniel N. DiNardo, chairman of the U.S. bishop’s pro-life committee was quick to whip out the shiv. He said this on Sept. 26, about a month after the USCCB announced its dissatsifaction with the terms of the the federal health care mandate:

“Under the new rule our institutions would be free to act in accord with Catholic teaching on life and procreation only if they were to stop hiring and serving non-Catholics. … Although this new rule gives the agency the discretion to authorize a ‘religious’ exemption, it is so narrow as to exclude most Catholic social service agencies and healthcare providers.”
The ultra hierarchy-friendly Catholic News Agency’s choice of the word “warned” says a lot. It’s code for “Give us what we want or we’ll stop healing, clothing, feeding, sheltering and offering hospice to non-Catholics.”

Another bishop, Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburg, weighed in with a similar kind of warning in a Sept. 15 letter to Human Health Services (HHS) secretary Kathleen Sibelius;
…Catholic Charities in his diocese alone has served over 80,000 people last year 
”without regard to the religious belief” of those they ministered to.

But “under this [health care] mandate, Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh would either be forced to cease to exist or restrict its employees and its wide ranging social services to practicing Catholics alone.”
Essentially, Bishops Zubik and DiNardo are floating ultimata. They don’t come right out and say so, but the implication in Zubik’s case is that the bishops might have little choice but to add to the suffering and hardship of 80,000 people currently under the care of Catholic Charities. Not much Christ in that.

Thank God this vicious game of chicken won’t work. The public relations fallout would be disastrous if the bishops were to make good on such threats. Even the most conservative of Catholics would be ambivalent about such tactics because even daily-mass-attending, novena-praying rosary ladies who oppose abortion know that sacrificing sick, hungry, homeless “born” children to the supposed greater good of preserving the lives of zygotes and embryos would constitute a sin as grave as any.

That any bishop thinks it acceptable to use works of mercy as leverage is troubling and indicates just how estranged from Christian ideals many of the Catholic bishops are. From a public relations standpoint, the utter lack of diplomacy in such expressions as Zubik’s reveals how out of touch the Catholic hierarchy is with what the worlds sees when it beholds the church.

Much of the world now views the Roman Catholic Church as a corrupt organization led by a there-but-for-the grace-of-extradition-agreements-go-I pontiff. Were Ratzinger not head of a sovereign state, the world might well have witnessed his perp walk by now. The damning Cloyne Report turned the most pious Catholic nation in Europe against the hierarchy. The Vatican is on Amnesty International’s list of torturers for its human rights violations/crimes against children. The Center for Constitutional Rights and SNAP (Survivors Network of Persons Abused by Priests) are filing suit against the Vatican in the International Criminal Courts. Yet, even as it faces the possibility of a trial at the Hague, the Vatican continues to show poor faith in addressing the hundreds of thousands of brutal crimes against its own children.

Catholics in the pews are repulsed by this, and have grown weary of pro forma expressions of contrition for the anguish pedophile priests inflicted and which bishops facilitated. These apologies are never more tainted than when topped off with not-so-gentle reminders that justice (i.e. damages) for each and every victim would bankrupt the church.

The Vatican may be rich, but the church has money problems.

In the Brooklyn (N.Y.) diocese, where I worship, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has used his weekly column to urge Catholics in Brooklyn and Queens to vote against the Child Victim’s Act in the New York State Assembly. Payouts, we have been told, would bankrupt the diocese. DiMarzio has publicly threatened to close parishes whose members fail to vote his way. He recorded robocalls for a local politician. His politicking is, at least, risky behavior, and, at worst, possibly a violation of tax law. The aforementioned attempts at clerical blackmail, though unseemly, may be blessings in disguise, however, because they show the world who these “religious leaders” really are and where they stand on the church/state divide.

I take great pride in the work my church does on behalf of the aged, infirm, indigent and marginalized in the city where I live. My own experience working in social justice ministry has offered me opportunity to see closely how fervently devoted we (Catholics) are in it, yet I believe the world outside the church would indeed pick up the slack were the bishops to take their ball and go home.

Bishops play a dangerous game when they threaten to use the leverage they think they have to bring secular law in line with canon law. The church receives much financial support from the government in the form of tax exemptions. I don’t want to see my diocese or any other lose its tax exempt status, but the bishops are pushing their luck — which could soon run out, along with the money. The bishops would do well to bear in mind that they are called to be teachers and priests, not emperors. They play fast and loose with their tax-exempt status at their own peril and their recklessness in this puts needy people of all faiths — and no faith — at risk. Political power can be expensive. The religious freedom argument cuts both ways.

Full Article HERE!

Questions Continue about Who Owns Jesus: Phoenix and Madison Dioceses Take Communion Cup from Laity

Brilliant COMMENTARY from our friends at Bilgrimage. If you’re not reading him every day, you should be.

Back in January, I posted about New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed piece reflecting on (among other things) the struggle that has gone on recently in the Catholic diocese of Phoenix, in which Bishop Thomas Olmsted excommunicated a nun, Sister Margaret McBride, ministering at St. Joseph’s hospital and then yanked the title “Catholic” from the hospital. Because Sister Margaret and St. Joseph’s had come to a different decision of informed conscience than his own . . . .

My posting notes that Kristof sees this situation, and many others occurring in the Catholic church worldwide these days, as a situation of “tussling over Jesus” in which the fundamental question at stake is, Who owns Jesus? I wrote,

And so, Kristof proposes, Catholics today are tussling over Jesus–over where Jesus is to be found, over what fidelity to Jesus demands in contemporary culture. Over who controls the central symbols of Catholic faith, who defines the meanings of those symbols. Whose word and experience counts, as we read the gospels and apply them to our lives. Who owns Jesus.

And as a posting I made about a month before Kristof’s article appeared also notes, another fundamental (and related) question at the heart of the Olmsted story is, Who owns the sacraments? In that posting, I said,

[T]he recent move of some bishops to deny the Eucharist to Catholics whose political views they judge to be illicit–as if sacraments are candy the father-bishop hands out to good children–raises a profound theological question: who owns the sacraments?

It’s clear the bishops think they do. It’s also abundantly clear from longstanding and rich Catholic tradition that the sacraments “belong” to the entire church, to the people of God. In the name of defending tradition, bishops using the sacraments as a political tool are undermining Catholic tradition.

And now there’s this: as Zoe Ryan reports yesterday in National Catholic Reporter, the Phoenix diocese has just announced plans to begin withholding the eucharistic cup, the communion wine, from Catholics in that diocese, altering the arrangement of communion under both species that had obtained for years following the reforms of Vatican II. Taking back the communion cup, that is to say. There were strong theological reasons, flowing from the reforms of the council, to begin offering communion under both species to the laity, including the renewed understanding of the church as the people of God and the fact that many of the other Christian churches with whom the Catholic church is in ecumenical dialogue practice communion under both species.

It now appears, too, that the diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, is poised to follow the action of Phoenix in this regard.

So, as I read about what’s happening in Phoenix and Madison, the question still remains for me: who owns the sacraments? Who owns Jesus? Do bishops and clergy own the sacraments and Jesus? Or do Jesus and the sacraments belong to the people of God?

And is there so much of Jesus to go around, that a bishop can argue with a straight face that yanking a bit of Jesus away from the faithful is a savvy and compassionate pastoral move? And when they find they can yank the communion cup away from the faithful, as they’ve yanked all communion from Sister Margaret and the title “Catholic” away from St. Joseph’s, what will they take away from the people of God next?

Because there’s an inexorable and wearily predictable logic always at work in the behavior of autocratic systems like that of the Catholic hierarchy (or the Franco regime, or Soviet communism, or the Taliban in Afghanistan): what they find they can take away, they will take away. Since the logic of autocracy absolutely depends on the claim that the autocrat has a right to total control over the central symbols of the social system, over its goods, and yes, over its people.

Remember: though Phoenix diocesan officials are spouting a lot of hot air about the compelling theological reasons for taking the communion cup from the faithful, and though their centrist and right-wing supporters on Catholic blogs are eager to help them spout that hot air, no one at all is asking for these liturgical changes. No one, that is, except a fringe group of the Catholic far-right, to whom Rome and the bishops prefer to listen.

Just asking some questions I’ve long been asking. Ones I intend to keep on asking.

Full Article HERE!

Msgr. Lynn got standing ovation at Chaput dinner, say those at event

Msgr. William J. Lynn, the former church official awaiting trial for allegedly protecting sexually abusive priests, drew words of encouragement from Philadelphia’s new archbishop and a standing ovation from scores of priests at a private gathering last month, according to people familiar with the event.

During the invitation-only dinner for Archbishop Charles J. Chaput at a parish hall in Montgomery County, Chaput singled out Lynn in the crowd and noted how difficult the ordeal has been for him, according to one priest who attended and two people briefed by others at the gala.

Much of the audience, which included hundreds of priests, then stood and applauded, said the sources, who asked not to be identified.

The exchange, in a banquet room at St. Helena’s in Blue Bell, spanned just seconds in a talk by Chaput on changes and his vision for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. But it reflected one of the strongest signals of support for Lynn since his arrest and suspension from ministry in February.

It came as Chaput, who last month took the helm of the 1.5 million-member archdiocese, strives to bond with his new flock and the hundreds of priests who are the face of the church in the region’s towns and parishes.

Told how sources described the event, Donna Farrell, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, declined this week to discuss what she said was a private gathering for Chaput and the priests. She said Chaput was away at a retreat and would not elaborate on his remarks.

Chaput, who previously headed the Archdiocese of Denver, has spoken only sparingly of the sex-abuse allegations involving the Philadelphia priests, saying he needed time to absorb the facts and issues.

But in an interview with the Associated Press the day before his Sept. 8 installation, Chaput said of the case against Lynn: “It’s really important to me, and I think to all of us, that he be treated fairly and that he not be a scapegoat.”

Jeffrey Lindy, one of Lynn’s defense attorneys, said he was gratified to hear about the ovation for the monsignor. “He’s a real good person,” Lindy said.

Citing a gag order in the case, a spokeswoman for Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said Tuesday that the office had no comment.

Lynn, 60, faces a March trial in Philadelphia, along with two priests, a defrocked priest, and a former Catholic school teacher.

Two of the clerics and the teacher are charged with raping a 10-year-old altar boy at St. Jerome’s, a Northeast Philadelphia parish in the late 1990s. The other priest allegedly molested a 14-year-old boy at his apartment in 1996.

Lynn is not accused of assaulting children, but rather of conspiracy and endangerment for taking steps that enabled the other priests to allegedly molest the boys.

As the secretary for clergy from 1992 until 2004, he recommended where archdiocesan priests are assigned. That included assignments for those who had previously been accused of molesting children. He is believed to be the first church official in the nation charged with covering up clergy sex abuse.

When he announced the charges in February, Williams, the prosecutor, said Lynn “went out of his way to put known abusers into contact with adolescents.”

Lindy and Thomas Bergstrom, Lynn’s attorneys, have called the allegations untrue, unfair, and the product of overzealous prosecutors.

The archdiocese is paying their fees.

After Lynn’s arrest, some parishioners at St. Joseph’s in Downingtown, where he has been pastor since 2002, praised his work there. And several priests have attended his pretrial hearings, flanking him outside the courtroom.

The criminal charges accompanied a grand jury report that accused the archdiocese of failing in its efforts to root out abusive priests and help victims.

Responding to that report, Chaput’s predecessor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, placed two dozen other priests on administrative leave while the archdiocese reexamines old allegations that they sexually abused or acted inappropriately around children. Those reviews are pending.

Like Lynn, the suspended priests are barred from publicly celebrating Mass, ministering as a priest, or returning to their parishes. But Lynn and many of the others on leave were invited to the dinner for Chaput in the week after his Sept. 8 installation. Some but not all the suspended priests attended, the sources said.

The arrests and suspensions rocked the archdiocese and strained the relationship between the administration and some parish priests.

In July, scores of area priests formed an independent group, the Association of Philadelphia Priests, to unite their interests and serve as an advocate for priests’ rights and church reform. The leaders of the group met privately with Chaput last month and found him to be “open, supportive, and encouraging,” according to a note posted on their website.

In his remarks to the Associated Press about Lynn, Chaput also said it was important that “those that are conducting the trial treat him fairly, and that they don’t pore into his life responsibility for things he didn’t do.”

Last month, Lynn’s attorneys asked Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina to dismiss the charges, move the trial out of the region, or at least lift her gag order, which bars the defendants and attorneys from publicly commenting on the case.

In their motions, Bergstrom and Lindy complained that court filings by prosecutors had “created a one-sided, and, in certain cases, a distorted view” of Lynn and grand jury testimony he gave seven years ago about his handling of abuse accusations.

Sarmina could rule on those motions Friday, when all sides are due in her courtroom for a status hearing.

Also pending is a request by prosecutors to question Rigali’s predecessor, Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, in open court. His attorney has argued that the 88-year-old cardinal, suffering from dementia and cancer, is unfit to testify.

Sarmina postponed a hearing on the matter last month.

Full Article HERE!

MN diocese declares majority of Catholics “not in good standing” because they support teh gay

Catholic? Supporter of marriage equality? The Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC — humorously, the same acronym used for the Metropolitan Community Church) and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have some bad news for you. You are not “in good standing with the Church.”

In response to the formation of Catholics for Marriage Equality (CME), a group of Catholics opposed to the marriage equality ban set for the ballot in 2012, the MCC and the Archdiocese have issued a joint statement for-shaming these Catholics for not hating gays as much as the Church. From the statement:

A group calling itself “Catholics for Marriage Equality MN” seeks to confuse Catholics and the public about authentic Church teaching related to matters of marriage and sexuality. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Minnesota Catholic Conference wish to make it known that this group does not speak for the Catholic Church, is not an agent or entity of the Archdiocese, MCC, or the universal Church, and has no authority to determine what does and does not constitute Christian doctrine and morality. The Archdiocese asks that Catholics avoid associating themselves with this group, and not be deceived by its messages, which are in conflict with the fundamental teachings of the Church.
“Catholics for Marriage Equality MN” attempts to convince Catholics that they can be in good standing with the Church and oppose Church teaching about human sexuality and marriage, which centers on the complementarity of the sexes and the mutual self-gift of loving spouses in marital union. The group also misleads people by proposing a false ecclesiology that undermines the legitimate authority of the bishops and the Magisterium as the authentic guardian, interpreter, and teacher of the faith handed to the apostles by Jesus Christ.

Full Article HERE!

125 priests, lay clergy involved in sex abuse cases

In July 2011, Pope Benedict XVI had publicly expressed his shame over the evils of clerical child abuse during a visit to Australia, saying he was deeply sorry for the abuse of children by predatory priests, and now in September 2011, just two months after the Pontiff s eyebrow-raising statement, a former Aussie priest has been charged with 60 fresh offences relating to sex assaults on boys while he was working at a Sydney boarding school during the 1970s and 80s.

Interestingly, as an in-depth research conducted by The News International on this subject shows, this particular incident has surfaced hardly four months after the Vatican had issued guidelines for bishops worldwide on May 16, 2011, whereby they were directed to develop clear and coordinated procedures for dealing with the sexual abuse allegations by May 2012 and cooperate with the police in investigating allegations of sexual abuse by the clergy, though they were asked not make such reporting mandatory. (Reference: The New York Times edition of May 16, 2011).

This is what the Agence France-Presse (AFP) had reported on the latest Sydney incident: Police would not confirm the identity of the man, saying only that they had arrested a 65-year-old on Tuesday (September 13) in southwestern Sydney and that he has since been released on bail.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) said the suspect was a former Catholic priest who taught at the prestigious St Stanislaus College in Bathurst, west of Sydney, in the 1970s and 80s.

The college, according to the Paris-based AFP, had made headlines last month after former students came forward alleging they were molested during late-night prayer sessions.

The AFP had further stated in its afore-cited report: The former priest has already appeared in Bathurst Local Court in August on 33 other charges relating to sexual assault and gross acts of indecency on juveniles aged between 10 and 18. Reports said his court appearance prompted eight more alleged victims to make further allegations against the former cleric.

A latest September 15, 2011 report carried by the website of Swissinfo, a nine-language news and information platform produced by Switzerland s Public Broadcasting Corporation, the Catholic Church in this touristy Alpine nation has released new details of sexual abuse committed by priests and pastoral workers over the past 60 years.

Swissinfo states: Overall, 146 victims came forward to report abuse to Swiss dioceses in 2010 the first year in which detailed statistics have been presented by the church. The abuse was carried out by 125 priests and lay clergy, an expert commission of the Swiss Bishops Conference said on Thursday (September 15). The statistics broke down in more detail who the victims and perpetrators were and when the incidents had taken place since 1950. Abuse ranged from sexual harassment to rape. Most of the victims were teenage boys (25 per cent) and adult men (23 per cent). Another 20 per cent were children aged below 12 years. Half of the incidents were carried out by parish priests and 26 per cent by ordained men.

The official Swiss website had maintained, Most of the abuse happened between 1950 and 1980. Ten per cent of cases took place during the past decade. Confirmation of the abuse first came to light more than 16 months ago when the church announced cases reported from January-May 2010.

Although the Catholic sex abuse cases in nations like Canada, Ireland, the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Belgium, France, and Germany etc have received significant media attention since the 1980s, after Father Donald Roemer of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles had pleaded guilty to felonious sexual abuse of a minor, most television channels and newspapers on the planet are now using the harshest possible language against the church and the clergy while reporting these incidents.

Had all been well at the Vatican and had the followers of Christianity been happy with their religious leaders, the CNN would not have aired these words in its September 16, 2010 report when the Pope was about to start his visit to Britain: There has already been widespread outcry over the estimated 12 million pounds ($18.7 million) British taxpayers are having to pay for the visit, though Christopher Patten, the Prime Minister s representative for the papal visit, has pointed out that one day of last year s G-20 summit in London cost 20 million pounds. Criticism has also focused on the armed police squads needed to protect a religious figurehead previously targeted by attackers. Along with anger about the Vatican s response to child and sexual abuse, there is criticism over the pope being granted a state visit, given the Catholic Church s attitudes towards gender equality and homosexuality.

The CNN had further reported on September 16, 2010: British people feel overwhelmingly that the Pope has not done enough to punish priests who abuse children. Three out of four British people and two out of three Catholics in the country say he should do more to punish the abusive clergy.

Till date dozens (if not hundreds) of the accused priests have been forced to resign in every nook and cranny of the globe. Many of these priests, whose crimes fell within statutes of limitation, are languishing in jail. Some have been defrocked. (Reference: The New York Times of August 31, 2006).

For example, Bernard Francis Law (born 1931), Cardinal and Archbishop of Boston had resigned after Church documents were revealed which suggested he had covered up sexual abuse committed by priests in his archdiocese. On December 13, 2002, Pope John Paul II had accepted Law s resignation as Archbishop and had posted him to the American Catholic church in Rome. (Reference: The New York Times of May 28, 2004).

Similarly, James Porter (1935-2005) was a Roman Catholic priest who was convicted of molesting 28 children. He had admitted sexually abusing at least 100 children of both sexes over a period of 30 years, starting in the 1960s. (References: The Boston Globe of April 13, 2004 and NBC News Channel report of February 11, 2005).

In 1995 Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer had to resign from his post as Archbishop of Vienna, Austria, over allegations of sexual abuse, although he remained a Cardinal. (Reference: The BBC report of April 14, 1998)

On April 7, 2010, it was revealed that a former bishop of the Norwegian Catholic Church, Georg Muller, had confessed to the police in early January 2010 that he had sexually abused an under-age boy 20 years earlier. Muller was made to step down as a bishop in July 2009. (Reference: Reuters report of April 7, 2010).

Various lawsuits against the custodians of the church have been filed in the United States and Ireland etc till date, whereby plaintiffs have alleged that some priests had sexually abused minors and that their superiors had conspired to conceal and otherwise abet their criminal misconduct.

Some had even accused the incumbent Pope for covering up complaints against his subordinate colleagues.

On 22 April 2010, a lawsuit was filed in the Milwaukee Federal Court by an anonymous plaintiff against the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI for having covered up abuse cases to avoid scandal to the detriment of the concerned children.

In February 2011, two German lawyers initiated charges against Pope Benedict XVI at the International Criminal Court.

In 2004, the John Jay Report, commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, had tabulated a total of 4,392 American priests against whom allegations of sexual abuse had been made. (References: The National Catholic Weekly edition of March 22, 2004 and the 2004 Catholic News Service Report titled John Jay Study Reveals Extent of Abuse Problem )

The Catholic News Service (CNS) is an American news agency covering the Roman Catholic Church since 1920 and is a leading source of news for Catholic print and broadcast media throughout the world.

A glance through the above-quoted references, particularly the 2004 Catholic News Service Report, shows that the 2004 John Jay Report was based on surveys completed by the Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States. It was based on a study of 10,667 allegations against 4,392 priests accused of engaging in sexual abuse of a minor between 1950 and 2002.

The John Jay report, whose printed version had caught the light of the day in June 2004, had stated that there were approximately 10,667 reported victims (younger than 18 years) of clergy sexual abuse during this period: Around 81 percent of these victims were male. While 22.6 per cent were age 10 or younger, 51 per cent were between the ages of 11 and 14, and 27 per cent were between the ages to 15 to 17 years.

Of these 4,392, approximately 56 per cent had one reported allegation against them; 27 per cent had two or three allegations against them; nearly 14 per cent had four to nine allegations against them; three percent (149 priests) had 10 or more allegations against them. These 149 priests were responsible for almost 3,000 victims, or 27 percent of the allegations. Almost 70 per cent of these priests were ordained before 1970.

In 2009, the former Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Edward Egan, had ignited heated discussions amongst his followers and Catholic Scholars when he said the church should consider ending celibacy rules and allow priests to marry.

The 76-year-old cardinal, who had presided over 2.5 million New York Catholics for at least eight years, had made these comments at the end of his stipulated tenure on March 10, 2009, but it was enough to get tongues wagging about the centuries-old church requirement.

According to the New York Times, the Vatican had signalled in the past that it was a closed issue, despite some indications of a discussion in the 1960s.

However, the last three popes, including Pope Benedict, have killed any discussion of lifting the celibacy rules, the newspaper had reported.

NBC television reported on March 23, 2009: Cardinal Egan s remarks come at the end of his tenure as New York Archbishop, raising questions about the motivation behind them. Was the conservative Cardinal giving a matter of fact response to a question of church law or was he really a reformer at heart? Regardless of his intent, the timing of these remarks has raised eyebrows. In 2003, 163 priests in the Milwaukee Archdiocese had petitioned the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to consider the idea of lifting the celibacy rules because of the shortage of priests. Their petition was adamantly denied.

A thorough study of books like The struggle for Celibacy: the culture of Catholic seminary Life by Paul Stanosz and The Power of Abstinence by Kristine Napier would reveal that Celibacy (state of being unmarried) is viewed differently by the Catholic Church and the various Protestant communities

In the Latin Catholic Church, clerical celibacy is mandated for bishops and, as a general rule, for priests and for deacons who intend to become priests.

In Eastern Christianity, which comprises the Christian traditions and churches that developed in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, Northeastern Africa, India and parts of the Far East, celibacy is mandatory for all bishops and for any priest who has been ordained while unmarried or who has lost his wife.

On the other hand, most Protestant churches are known to reject clerical celibacy.

It is common knowledge that in recent past, both Protestants and Catholics have agreed on numerous issues, yet clerical celibacy remains a dividing point between the followers of the two faiths in Christianity.

The Vatican, over the years, has allowed married priests to function by accepting them into the ranks of the Roman Catholic priesthood.

A sharp decline in the number of Catholic priests, the exodus of thousands of pastors who marry and leave the priesthood, coupled with sexual scandals of clerics and the lawsuits being filed against many of them for sexually abusing children in their care, has sparked international debates to eliminate the celibacy requirement for the priesthood and institute the ordination of married priests.

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