Trial showed that Kansas City diocese hasn’t learned enough from its past

By Mary Sanchez

The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph showed itself as a forgiving, diligent shepherd in the civil trial just concluded.

But the sheltering love was for priests’ welfare first. Less attention was apparent for parishioners’ concerns, and certainly not for vulnerable children.

Given the testimony of denial by multiple priests, it’s questionable how far deeply ingrained attitudes have really shifted. In recent years, changes came about when the diocese was forced through repeated pleas by the faithful, multimillion-dollar settlements and court orders.

The trial’s conclusion was halted by a nearly $10 million settlement that lumped together multiple cases. But the jury trial was intended to weigh the sexual abuse accusations of a former altar boy, now a 44-year-old man.

Nearly two weeks of proceedings put on public display how the diocese for five decades — through four bishops — rationalized its decisions and struggles with pedophile priests.

The diocese put forth a shameful record in its own defense.Finn

Letters and verbal complaints of specific troubling incidents, dating back to the mid-1970s, were initially dismissed. Sexually inappropriate advances were seen as raucous and drunken behavior, something that a priest could be chided for and then ushered back to the rectory. There seemed to be a belief, a misplaced hope, that treating a priest for alcoholism could also cure pedophilia, as if the criminal behavior was only contingent upon the drinking. For some bishops, there appeared to be confusion about the difference between homosexuality and the sexual abuse of children.

The church can choose to see the first as sinful. But to attack an innocent child is a crime. Such lack of common sense, that inability to separate church doctrine from criminal acts, is baffling.

In the 1980s, the diocese put its faith into what one expert testified was once common, moving a priest known to be struggling with sexual issues to a job as a hospital chaplain. One of the lawsuits settled this week was filed by a man who said he awoke from surgery to find a priest masturbating him.

Some of the deceased bishops’ actions can be understood better in the context of the times. Society in general is thankfully more informed about sexual abuse, how children are groomed to be victims.

But it’s a shallow defense.

Federal laws mandating that certain people must report suspected child abuse have been around since the mid-1970s. They always included clergy.

The priest in this case was still a priest when he died in 2013. He had been barred from performing some religious rites, but he was never formally defrocked. Monsignor Thomas O’Brien was treated as just another retired priest, his well-being taken care of as if he had served God and the diocese well in his time on Earth.

Before the settlement, O’Brien alone had already cost the diocese more than $7 million. And he’s just one priest who has been accused.

The question has always been, to what extent did the diocese shield its clergy at the cost of its flock? And why?

After this trial, we know more. But the jury was never going to hear the full story. Crucial information, broader context, was not allowed due to legal agreements between the parties to limit the case. Yet those elements draw a better picture of how the diocese mismanaged these problems, with one poor decision often leading to another.

Jurors were not told that one altar boy took his own life. They were not to know that O’Brien was believed to molest boys in tandem with another priest, Thomas Reardon, who has left the priesthood and has also been the subject of many lawsuits.

And they could hear no mention of former priest Shawn Ratigan.

Ratigan, sentenced last year to 50 years in prison for child pornography, is the link that makes the diocese’s past history so disturbing. Because the diocese used some of the same rationalizations initially for Ratigan’s behavior as they used in the 1970s and 1980s.

A long letter from a parish school principal detailed disturbing behavior by Ratigan toward children. The letter was not taken seriously by diocese officials. When disturbing pictures were found on Ratigan’s computer, he was simply shifted to another location and he abused again. Those decisions led to the misdemeanor charge of failure to report suspected abuse against the sitting bishop, Robert Finn.

It is only because of the Ratigan criminal trial that this civil proceeding came to be. Publicity about Ratigan’s case was the kick-start that brought these new allegations forward. So the past of the diocese is intricately linked to its more recent woes.

Certainly the addition of two non-clerical ombudsmen to handle allegations of abuse is significant. The two female workers have made prompt and appropriate reports. Most important, they’ve kept the diocese in compliance with the law when accusations have been raised the past three years.

Finn would not allow any non-monetary agreements to be tacked to this settlement. The diocese is still reeling from its breach of similar agreements to keep it on track, doing the right thing for parishioners. That lapse cost the diocese $1.1 million earlier this year.

These cases are not just about money. Lives have been ruined.

Among the most stoic in the courtroom were Don and Rosemary Teeman, with whom the diocese settled a lawsuit last year. Their son Brian committed suicide after serving as an altar boy at the same time as the plaintiff in this case.

These forever-grieving parents listened to detailed accounts suggesting the diocese knew this priest was a danger before he met their son. They believe Brian took his life after being molested by O’Brien.

No testimony changes their reality. The Teemans have two grandsons by their daughter. One boy bears a remarkable likeness to Brian.

But they do not have their son.

“They should have done something; it could have been stopped,” Rosemary Teeman commented midway through the trial. “I’d have a bigger family.”

Upon that truth is where the diocese should begin post-trial reflection.

Complete Article HERE!

Roman Catholic Church refuses survey request

The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has turned down a request by members for the results of a sexual ethics survey to be made public.

 

The unprecedented worldwide poll was commissioned by Pope Francis.

Reformers said refusing to publish the results would suggest the Church was not sincere about sharing responsibility with lay people.

A Church spokesman said a senior Vatican official had expressly asked for summaries to remain confidential.

Sensitive subjects

FrancisThe survey was sent to Catholic bishops around the world last November, with instructions to consult as widely as possible.

It tackled sensitive subjects such as contraception, cohabitation and homosexuality.

BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said the 39-question survey – designed to inform a Vatican conference on family life in October – had been enthusiastically greeted by rank-and-file Catholics.

Many Catholics saw the inclusion of such questions as a sign that Church teaching in such difficult areas might be reformed, and that lay people might be allowed a greater say in how the Church was governed, he added.

Father Marcus Stock, general secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the questionnaire was a “much broader consultation than just a survey”.

He said orders had come from the Pope, via Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, that the information should not be made public until after October.

Pope Francis is calling bishops to Rome to discuss possible reform that considers modern social realities.

The consultation is part of the preparation for the extraordinary meeting of the Synod of Bishops, which will focus on the subject of family.

Fr Stock acknowledged there were “great expectations” of the process, but insisted bishops’ decisions should not be predetermined.

“The reflection of the bishops during the Synod must not be predetermined by individual groups or by the concerns of northern Europe alone,” he said.

“It’s a world-wide consultation.”

‘Dialogue and transparency’

A Call to Action, a group working for reform in the Church, said people who had completed this “challenging” questionnaire would be saddened and perplexed if the results were withheld.

Jean Riordan, chair of the group’s national leaders team, told the Today programme that “dialogue and transparency” would help the process – and not put pressure on bishops or predetermine their decisions.

“Groups within the Church are not necessarily pressure groups, we are not a pressure group, we are not a dissident group” she said.

“We are not actually disputing much of Church teaching. What we’re saying is Church teaching should be formed by consulting.”

Other Churches which have published summaries of the responses, including those in Germany and Austria, have described a wide gap between Church teaching and the behaviour of ordinary Catholics.

However, Fr Stock ruled out similar action in England and Wales.

The Pope has signalled greater openness, and has said the Catholic Church is too tied up in “small-minded rules”.

Complete Article HERE!

UN committee blasts Vatican on sex abuse, abortion

By Nicole Winfield

The Vatican “systematically” adopted policies that allowed priests to rape and molest tens of thousands of children over decades, a U.N. human rights committee said Wednesday, urging it to open its files on pedophiles and bishops who concealed their crimes.

st petersIn a devastating report hailed by victims, the U.N. committee severely criticized the Holy See for its attitudes toward homosexuality, contraception and abortion and said it should change its own canon law to ensure children’s rights and their access to health care are guaranteed. The Vatican promptly objected.

The report puts renewed pressure on Pope Francis to move decisively on the abuse front and make good on pledges to create a Vatican commission to study sex abuse and recommend best practices to fight it. The commission was announced at the spur of the moment in December, but few details have been released since then.

The committee issued its recommendations after subjecting the Holy See to a daylong interrogation last month on its implementation of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, the key U.N. treaty on child protection, which the Holy See ratified in 1990.

Critically, the committee rejected the Vatican’s longstanding argument that it doesn’t control bishops or their abusive priests, saying the Holy See was responsible for implementing the treaty not just in the Vatican City State but around the world “as the supreme power of the Catholic Church through individuals and institutions placed under its authority.”

In its report, the committee blasted the “code of silence” that has long been used to keep victims quiet, saying the Holy See had “systematically placed preservation of the reputation of the church and the alleged offender over the protection of child victims.” It called on the Holy See to provide compensation to victims and hold accountable not just the abusers but also those who covered up their crimes.

“The committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by, and the impunity of, the perpetrators,” the report said.

It called for Francis’ nascent abuse commission to conduct an independent investigation of all cases of priestly abuse and the way the Catholic hierarchy has responded over time, and urged the Holy See to establish clear rules for the mandatory reporting of abuse to police and to support laws that allow victims to report crimes even after the statute of limitations has expired.

No Catholic bishop has ever been sanctioned by the Vatican for sheltering an abusive priest, and only in 2010 did the Holy See direct bishops to report abusers to police where law enforcement requires it. Vatican officials have acknowledged that bishop accountability remains a major problem and have suggested that under Francis, things might begin to change.

The committee’s recommendations are non-binding and there is no enforcement mechanism. Rather, the U.N. asked the Vatican to implement the recommendations and report back by 2017. The Vatican was 14 years late submitting its most recent report.

While most attention has focused on child sex abuse, the committee’s recommendations extended far beyond, into issues about discrimination against children and their rights to adequate health care, issues that touch on core church teaching about life and sexual morals.

The committee, for example, urged the Vatican to amend its canon law to identify circumstances where access to abortion can be permitted for children, such as to save the life of a young mother. It urged the Holy See to ensure that sex education, including access to information about contraception and preventing HIV, is mandatory in Catholic schools. It called for the Holy See to use its moral authority to condemn discrimination against homosexual children or children raised by same-sex couples.

The Vatican said it would study the report and in a statement reiterated its commitment to defending and protecting children’s rights that are enshrined in the treaty. But it took issue with the committee’s recommendations to change core church teaching on life.

“The Holy See does, however, regret to see in some points of the concluding observations an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom,” the Vatican said.

Church teaching holds that life begins at conception; the Vatican therefore opposes abortion and artificial contraception. The Vatican has a history of diplomatic confrontation with the United Nations over such issues.

Austen Ivereigh, coordinator of Catholic Voices, a church advocacy group, said the report was a “shocking display of ignorance and high-handedness.”

He said it failed to acknowledge the progress that has been made in recent years and that the Catholic Church in many places is now considered a leader in safeguarding children. And he noted that the committee seemed unable to grasp the distinction between the responsibilities and jurisdiction of the Holy See, and local churches on the ground.

“It takes no account of the particularities of the Holy See, treating it as if it were the HQ of a multinational corporation,” he said in an email.

But victims groups hailed the report as a wake-up call to secular law enforcement officials to investigate the abuse and cover-up and prosecute church officials who are still protecting predator priests.

“This report gives hope to the hundreds of thousands of deeply wounded and still suffering clergy sex abuse victims across the world,” said Barbara Blaine, president of the main U.S. victim’s group SNAP. “Now it’s up to secular officials to follow the U.N.’s lead and step in to safeguard the vulnerable because Catholic officials are either incapable or unwilling to do so.”

Complete Article HERE!

Theology Has Consequences: What Policies Will Pope Francis Champion?

By Mary E. Hunt

Now that the smoke has cleared from St. Peter’s Square, the future of the Roman Catholic Church is on the minds of many. Catholics are eternally hopeful, so the news of the papal election of an Argentine Jesuit, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a man of simple personal ways, engendered a certain enthusiasm.

My first official act in the new pontificate was to call a wise octogenarian friend in Buenos Aires, my favorite city in the world, to join in that country’s pride and get an initial assessment of the man. Her reaction was what I would have expected from a Catholic in Boston if Cardinal Bernard Law had been elected. Her one word that stood out was “scary.”

Francis smilingProgressive Catholics had low expectations of the conclave since only what went in would come out, only hand-picked conservative, toe-the-party-line types were electors. Moreover, the process was flawed on the face of it by the lack of women, young people, and lay people. It was flawed by a dearth of democracy. Not even the seagull that sat on the chimney awaiting the decision was enough to persuade that the Holy Spirit was really in charge.

Structural changes in the kyriarchal model of church are needed so that many voices can be heard and many people can participate in decision-making in base communities, parishes, regions, and indeed in global conversations among the more than one billion Catholics. Short of this, no amount of cleaning up the curia or leading by personal asceticism, which are both expected of Pope Francis, will suffice for more than cosmetic changes. Leaving aside the ermine-lined cloak that his predecessor favored is symbolically notable but not institution changing.

The papal selection process, long thought to be secret, is now quite transparent. Once the white smoke rose, but before the name was announced, the Italian Bishops’ Conference tipped off the world in their email of congratulations to Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan. Oops! He was not elected pope, even though he was widely considered the choice of the Pope Emeritus and those who want the curia reformed. Instead, the second highest vote getter at the previous conclave (2005) that picked Benedict XVI was chosen this time. Cardinal Bergoglio was apparently more acceptable to left, right, and center of a very conservative group of electors.

Geography is destiny. A cursory look at the Roman Catholic Church worldwide shows more than 400 million Catholics in Latin America, 125 million each in Asia and Africa, 265 million in Europe, 100 million in North America, and 8 million in Oceana. A Latin American pope is a good business decision, consistent with what an economist suggested as part of a wholesale makeover of the institution. The European Catholic Church has simply lost market share (from 65 percent a century ago to 24 percent now). The Global South is the church’s future. So a Latin American pope is a logical choice. But let the record show that this one comes from a country where Mass attendance numbers are more like France today than Italy of old. Argentina is an increasingly secular democracy where Cardinal Bergoglio grew used to being on the losing side of social change efforts, including divorce and same-sex marriage, which are now legal there. Argentina is Argentina.

After completing a doctoral dissertation in which I compared Latin American liberation theology and U.S. feminist theology, I spent 1980-81 as a visiting professor at ISEDET, the ecumenical Protestant seminary in Buenos Aires. I volunteered at Servicio Paz y Justicia led by Adolfo Perez Esquivel, where I got an education about social justice. The “Dirty War” was raging. Religious people were working feverishly to find thousands of people who had been “disappeared” and prevent others from suffering the same fate. Many Catholic priests perished; Jews suffered disproportionately to their numbers in the population.

Our faculty, some members of the Lutheran school, and those of Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano led brilliantly by Conservative Rabbi Marshall Myer (to whom Jacobo Timmerman dedicated his stirring book, Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number) met monthly for lunch and discussion of how we could be useful in a difficult situation. I do not recall any Jesuits in attendance. Plans to host a weekend meeting at our school focused on human rights and youth resulted in the firebombing of the ISEDET library in November 1980 with the loss of 2,000 books. I learned close up and personal that theology has consequences.

The controversy over then Cardinal Bergoglio’s role in the kidnapping of two Jesuits during this period is instructive. As a Jesuit leader, Padre Jorge, as he liked to be known informally, opposed liberation theology and the ecclesial model of base communities that was consistent with it. In my view, he opposed the most creative, politically-useful, scripturally-sound way of thinking about how people who were made poor by the avarice of others could change their context and bring about justice.

Instead of putting the public weight of the Jesuit order behind the efforts of some of his brothers in slums and shantytowns (and the women who were involved in both theological and pastoral work from this perspective), he ordered Jesuits to stick with parish assignments. The two priests in question chose to cast their lot with the poor instead of obey the dictates of the order.

Did the Jesuit superior-now-Pope Francis call the military dictators and agree to their kidnapping? No one is accusing him of this. Adolfo Perez Esquivel, a human rights champion and Nobel Peace Laureate (1980) knew the scene so I trust his word. He says that the now pope was not involved with the military. There were bishops who played tennis with the generals, but Bergoglio was not one of them. In fact, Padre Jorge is alleged to have intervened with military leaders for the release of the two Jesuits. But this is small comfort.

The larger conservative theological program—which was in public opposition to the best efforts of church people to bring about justice by living out liberation theology principles—helped to create the dangerous situation in the first place. To apologize thirty years later and say the institutional church did not do enough does not bring back the disappeared. Theology has consequences. Moral do-overs are few and far between.

The hierarchical church’s behavior was to Argentina what the sex abuse cases and episcopal cover-up have been for U.S. Catholics, namely the straw that broke the camel’s back. I am haunted by a picture of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, mothers of the disappeared, who went to the church center where the bishops were on retreat to clamor for their help in finding their children. The picture shows a line of police between the mothers and the bishops, the mothers on one side of the fence and the bishops on the other. The institutional church in Argentina has never recovered its credibility. To the contrary, it is further eroded by similar instances of being on the wrong side of the history of justice.

The election of a doctrinally conservative pope, even one with the winning simplicity of his namesake, is especially dangerous in today’s media-saturated world where image too often trumps substance. It is easy to rejoice in the lack of gross glitter that has come to characterize the institutional church while being distracted from how theological positions deepen and entrench social injustice. A kinder, gentler pope who puts the weight of the Roman Catholic hierarchal church behind efforts to prevent divorce, abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage—as Mr. Bergoglio did in his country—is, as my Argentine colleague observed, scary. While he may clean up some of the bureaucratic mess in the curia, he shows no evidence from his Argentina actions that he will be any more responsive than his predecessor to changing policies and structures that oppress the world’s poor, the majority of whom are women and children.

There is something perverse about opposing condom use and then washing the feet of people with HIV/AIDS. There is something suspect about opposing reproductive health care for women who may not want to get pregnant and then generously insisting on the legal baptism of children whose parents are not married. There is something dubious about calling the hierarchical church to a simpler way of being and ignoring the many women whose ministerial service would enhance its output. The Spanish expression that comes to mind is “what you give with the wrist, you erase with the elbow.” This seems to be the Jesuitical pattern of the new pope.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans people kill themselves because Catholic hierarchs tell them that their sexuality is “intrinsically morally disordered.” Women die from unsafe, illegal abortions because the Catholic hierarchy spends millions of dollars opposing legislation that would make their choices safer. Survivors of sexual abuse by clergy live tortured lives because the cleric-centric structures of the church favor their abusers. While a few nuns famously ride the bus, the Vatican’s current crackdown on women religious makes most of them feel as if they have been thrown under the bus. Theology does indeed have consequences.

It is early to opine about the pontificate of Pope Francis. Catholics, including this one, are a hopeful lot. Five thousand journalists in Rome for the conclave should have asked more critical questions. My observation is that the recent papal election only serves to reinforce and reinscribe the Vatican’s power. In the absence of a religious counter-narrative, at a time when progressive Catholic voices are all but silenced, the papal theatrics—complete with an appealing hero triumphing in the end—keep the focus on the personal and spiritual, off the political and theological. It is time to reverse that pattern before any more people disappear.

Complete Article HERE!

It’ll be a miracle if a new pope ushers in real change in a decaying Church

By Colette Browne

THE resignation of Pope Benedict has prompted much debate about his legacy but another question also arises — why do so many people in this country continue to care about an anachronistic institution that doesn’t want them as members?
It’s ironic really. Senior Church figures whine about the increasing marginalisation of religion in society without ever conceding that it is their own intransigent dogma that is to blame for its increasing irrelevance. lightening strikes St Peter's

While the behaviour of the Catholic Church is hard to comprehend, so too is that of à la carte Catholics determined to remain part of an organisation with core teachings many find offensive or, frankly, ridiculous. Personally, I have some degree of sympathy for the view of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who last year implored lapsed Catholics to have the courage of their non-convictions and stop cloaking themselves in the comfort blanket of a faith they no longer possess.

There should be no confusion. It’s not as if the Church’s strident views on a host of controversial social issues — like homosexuality and contraception — are shrouded in any mystery. In his infamous letter on the pastoral care of homosexual people, written in 1986, the then Cardinal Ratzinger was unequivocal. “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.

“Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not,” he wrote.

Anyone who doesn’t believe that homosexuality is “a disordered sexual inclination” is engaging in “deceitful propaganda” which is “profoundly opposed to the teaching of the Church”.

But wait. All is not entirely lost. Renouncing homosexual acts and living a chaste existence will allow gay people to “dedicate their lives to understanding the nature of God’s personal call to them”.

In short, you can spend your life as a self-hating homosexual, tormented with the knowledge that God instilled in you such disgusting urges as a sort of bizarre penance, or you can simply ignore all of that guff and get on with your life.

The stark choice between abstinence and damnation is something of a recurring theme when it comes to much Church teaching. In his 1968 encyclical, Humane Vitae, Pope Paul VI laid out the unambiguous Catholic position on contraception — it’s against God’s divine plan.

“It is not licit, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil so that good may follow … even when the intention is to safeguard or promote individual, family or social wellbeing.”

Couples wishing to plan their families were told to roll the dice and rely on the rhythm method. Bizarre as it seems now, this view persisted in Ireland up until the early 1980s, even after a young mother was forced to go to the Supreme Court, in 1973, to fight for the right to import contraceptives after her doctor told her another pregnancy could kill her.

While there may still be some devout Catholics who adhere to this teaching, the suspicion must be that most happily ignore it yet the Church’s position hasn’t changed a jot in the intervening 40 years.

“One cannot accept the hypothesis that a slight moral disorder, on the lines of venial sin, is at stake … for the Magisterium contraception is such a morally disordered form of behaviour that it constitutes gravely sinful matter,” explained professor of moral theology, Fr Lino Ciccone.

The only softening was an admission by Pope Benedict, two years ago, that the use of contraceptives was acceptable “in certain cases”, for example by gay prostitutes to reduce the risk of HIV.

However, the Vatican later stressed that the Pope was not redefining Catholic teaching and the pope had merely “considered an exceptional situation in which the exercise of sexuality represents a real risk to the lives of others”.

So, if you’re married and using contraceptives you are still engaging in “gravely sinful” behaviour. Meanwhile, it goes without saying that those unmarried people living in sin — with contraceptives or without — are hopeless cases whose eternal reward will likely be a fiery affair.

While the Church is happy to see women barefoot and pregnant, it definitely doesn’t want to see them ordained and anywhere near an altar. To understand why a penis is the most important qualification when becoming a priest, the faithful are asked to delve back into the mists of time and remember that Jesus chose 12 male apostles.

Writing in 1994, Pope John Paul II repeated this mantra, saying the Church therefore had no authority to ordain women, while Pope Benedict urged Catholics, seeking a more nuanced explanation, to submit to the “radicalism of obedience”. Basically, just accept it. In case there was any lingering confusion, the Vatican, in 2010, said that anyone involved in the ordination of women was engaged in a grave crime against the church, on a par with child abuse, and would be instantly excommunicated. Strangely, the fact that there were no female apostles is reason enough to debar women from ever being ordained, but the fact that the same apostles were married is not seen as convincing evidence that priests should also be allowed to marry. None of this makes any sense, but that doesn’t stop otherwise erudite members of the hierarchy trotting this out as a supposedly credible excuse when asked about the lack of women in positions of authority in the Church.

MEANWHILE, a recent discovery by a Harvard professor, who has found a scrap of 4th-century papyrus that indicates early Christians believed that Jesus was married and his wife was an apostle, could prove most inconvenient for the Church.

While the scrap of papyrus is still undergoing tests to prove its authenticity, a number of preliminary examinations by experts have found no evidence of any forgery — a minor detail that has not stopped the Vatican from claiming that it is a dud in order to avoid any awkward questions.

Instead of encouraging dialogue and debate about contested teachings, the hierarchy advises conflicted Catholics to either shut up or sling their hook — and then professes bafflement when church attendance is down and their archaic views don’t gain any traction in public debates.

Religious faith is a matter for each individual’s conscience, but the line of demarcation between faith and habit seems to have grown increasingly blurred for many still maintaining a tangential relationship with an organisation that displays so little comprehension of the reality of their lives.

The election of a new pope is certainly a historic occasion, but there has been no indication that a modernising or revitalising force is waiting in the wings to breath life into a decaying institution.

Once the pomp and spectacle is over, it is likely that nothing substantive will have changed and the inexorable decline of the church in the West will continue unabated.

Complete Article HERE!