Cologne Catholic Church funds paid for priest’s gambling debts

The revelation that a priest’s debts were repaid from a fund to compensate sex abuse victims has prompted outrage in Cologne’s Catholic community.

Cologne’s Archbishop Woelki has previously faced mounting criticism over his handling of reports of sexual abuse

Catholics in the archdiocese of Cologne on Saturday expressed shock that the church had paid more than €1 million to clear the private debts of a priest.

The news provoked particular outrage as it emerged that the money came from a compensation fund for the victims of sexual abuse, who have so far received only a small fraction of the amount used for the priest’s debt.

What are the revelations?

As far as has become known so far, the diocese initially paid almost €500,000 ($540,000) for the priest to clear his gambling debts.

Since the money was apparently not taxed correctly, a total of €650,000 in income tax, including interest, had to be paid in arrears. The money was said to have been paid from a social fund of the diocese, from which compensation for victims of sexual abuse is also paid.

What’s the reaction?

Johassen Norpoth, spokesman for the council to the German Bishops’ Conference that assists abuse victims, said the archdiocese had been considerably less generous to those who suffered abuse.

Norpoth told Saturday’s Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper that, after years of struggle, 60% of the victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by priests and other church employees, had received less than €20,000.

“Victims of sexual abuse, some of them without a secure income like that of a priest, have been fobbed off with an amount less than 2% of what the church is paying out for a priest who has got into financial difficulties,” Norpoth said.

Maria Mesrian, spokeswoman for the Catholic reform initiative Maria 2.0, said the way the money was paid back had been irresponsible.

She said victims of abuse had been offered “ridiculous sums, while millions were being wasted on an unnecessary religious college or the private gambling debts of a priest,” referring to a previous dispute over the funding of a Cologne religious college.

Cologne’s Archbishop Woelki

Church vows no repeat

The archdiocese said the events had taken place in the final years of former archbishop Joachim Meisner, and had been taken over by his successor Rainer Maria Woelki after he took office in 2014.

The archdiocese said such a case could no longer occur in the same way “because we have learned from the case and the contact between the human resources department and the clergy is more intensive and better.”

Woelki has faced mounting criticism over his handling of reports of sexual abuse in Cologne — Germany’s largest Catholic archdiocese. The cardinal offered to resign as archbishop, but Pope Francis has yet to make a decision.

Woelki also raised eyebrows earlier this month after describing the pope as an “old man.”

Complete Article HERE!

Portugal probe: 290 church sex abuse claims in 90 days work

A lay committee looking into historic child sex abuse in the Portuguese Catholic Church said Tuesday it received witness statements from 290 alleged victims in its first three months of work, with cases involving children as young as two years old.

More than half the reported cases suggest many more victims were involved, said Pedro Strecht, a psychiatrist who heads the Independent Committee for the Study of Child Abuse in the Church.

The six-person committee, which includes psychiatrists, a former Supreme Court judge and a social worker, began its work in January at the behest of the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference. It promises anonymity to anyone who comes forward.

Strecht said the committee had come across signs that church officials, including current bishops he did not name, had sought to cover up abuse.

“It was often a case of moving the abuser from place to place, as if at that time the place was viewed as the key factor, not the actual person,” Strecht said.

The committee said it has asked all of Portugal’s 21 bishops for interviews to discuss its work. Only 12 have agreed to a meeting and five haven’t replied.

The allegations recorded so far relate to abuse against minors aged between two and 17, Ana Nunes Almeida, a Lisbon University sociologist and member of the committee, told a news conference.

There was a wide variety of alleged abuse, she said, ranging from indecent exposure and abuse imagery to penetration.

The alleged incidents happened while minors were in the church’s care, including in associated groups such as the Boy Scouts and Catechism study groups. Most of the alleged victims are male

Retired judge Alvaro Laborinho Lucio said the committee has passed 16 cases to the public prosecutor’s office. He said the statute of limitations had expired on most of the alleged cases, which were reported by people up to 88 years of age.

The youngest person to allege abuse was born in 2009, the committee said.

“Over the years there have been clear situations of serious sexual abuse committed inside the Portuguese Catholic Church,” Laborinho Lucio said.

Complete Article HERE!

Mixed reactions follow papal remorse

By Cory Bilyea

Pope Francis told a delegation of Indigenous, Métis, and Inuit people that he was sorry for some bad apples who ran the residential schools, but he fell short of apologizing on behalf of the church for the horrors that happened behind closed doors at these institutions.

“For the deplorable conduct of these members of the Catholic Church, I ask for God’s forgiveness and I want to say to you with all my heart, I am very sorry. And I join my brothers, Canadian bishops, in asking your pardon,” said Pope Francis.

The United Church, the Catholic Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the Anglican Church, and the Presbyterian Church all issued formal apologies between 1986 and 1994 for their participation in the residential school system.

On June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to former students of Indian Residential Schools on behalf of the Government of Canada.

Call to Action No. 58 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, released in June 2015, is still unfulfilled:

“We call upon the Pope to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools. We call for that apology to be similar to the 2010 apology issued to Irish victims of abuse and to occur within one year of the issuing of this report and to be delivered by the Pope in Canada.”

Pope Francis held several meetings with the delegates. He listened to the stories of residential school survivors, elders, youth, and leaders, all speaking to him about the genocide of their people and the healing path forward.

The Pope said, “Over the past days, I’ve listened attentively to your testimonies. I have brought them to my thoughts and prayers, reflecting on the stories you told and the situations you described. I thank you for having opened your hearts to me and for expressing, by means of this visit, your desire for us to journey together.

“Listening to your voices, I was able to enter into and be deeply grieved by the stories of the suffering, hardship, discrimination, and various forms of abuse that some of you have experienced, particularly in the residential schools.

“It’s chilling to think of determined efforts to instill a sense of inferiority, to rob people of their cultural identity, to sever their roots, and to consider all the pertinent personal and social efforts that this continues to entail — unresolved traumas that have become intergenerational traumas.

“All this has made me feel two things very strongly — indignation and shame.”

At the end of his speech, the Pope told the delegation that he looked forward to coming to Canada to “better express to you my closeness,” indicating that he may make the pilgrimage to Turtle Island during the “Feast of St. Anne” in July.

Many Indigenous, Métis, and Inuit people want the Pope to apologize to them in person on Turtle Island. Given his age and the momentous undertaking that trip will entail, a firm timeline is yet to be established, but the plans are being made.

During a news conference after the meeting, the head of the Indigenous delegation, Chief Gerald Antoine, said that the apology was long overdue but an important “first step.”

“The next step is for the Holy Father to apologize to our family at their home,” Antoine said.

Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a group representing more than 60,000 Inuit People on Turtle Island, agreed with Antoine, adding, “We have a heartfelt expression from the church that was delivered by Pope Francis in an empathetic and caring way. I was touched by the way in which he expressed his sorrow, and also the way in which he condemned the actions of the church.”

Obed said, “There is much more to do, and so an apology is a part of a larger picture.”

Reaction to the apology has been mixed, as anger, hurt, and sorrow still permeate survivors and relatives. Many say they do not accept this apology, nor do they believe the Pope’s sincerity.

This is an unfortunate reality of the residential school system. Not only did they take the language and the culture, but they also took away the ability to trust.

Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) member Ephraim Sandy said, “It saddens me, breaks my spirit. Empty words that mean nothing. Turn over the cultural items. The land. And all of the abusers to stand trial. No more words.”

There was no mention from the Pope about the many cultural artifacts kept in the Vatican or if these items will be returned to the People, nor did he address the land inquiries, the church’s financial obligations, or the request to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery.

“At the end of the day, we are left to heal our wounds and traumas and keep rebuilding our lives every time this issue is raised,” SON member Johnston Prin said in a social media response. “Land back and housing and compensation for all might help to ease some of the burdens we’ve carried over the generations. Our kids are in pain and use painkillers to ease the suffering. It’s heartbreaking.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also weighed in on the apology, saying, “This apology would not have happened without the long advocacy of survivors who journeyed to tell their truths directly to the institution responsible and recounted and re-lived their painful memories.”

“It took a tremendous amount of bravery and determination,” Trudeau added, “Today’s apology is a step forward in acknowledging the truth of our past in order to right historical wrongs, but there’s still work to be done.”

Indigenous journalist Brandi Morin travelled to Rome to cover the week-long event.

“I’m stunned by (The Pope’s) apology. I know many delegates who came here and other survivors who long prayed for an apology are feeling a sense of justice from this action,” Morin said in a social media post.

For more than 150 years, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation children were taken from their families and communities to attend schools often located far from their homes. More than 150,000 children attended Indian Residential Schools. Many never returned.

The first church-run Indian Residential School was opened in 1831. By the 1880s, the federal government had adopted an official policy of funding residential schools across Canada. The explicit intent was to separate these children from their families and cultures. In 1920, the Indian Act made attendance at Indian Residential Schools compulsory for Treaty-status children between the ages of seven and 15.

The last federally run Indian residential school closed in 1996.

There is still a lot of work to be done on the path towards healing and reconciliation, with truth being at the forefront of this vast and painful undertaking.

Complete Article HERE!

Inuit leader met in Rome with head of Catholic order to discuss charge against priest

Natan Obed

By Canadian Press

The leader of the national organization representing Inuit people says he had a meeting with the head of a Catholic order in Rome to discuss the case of a priest accused of crimes against children in Nunavut.

“I would hope that the Catholic Church’s faith dictates that they would work with us in a case where there are severe allegations of sexual abuse, especially sexual abuse of minors,” said Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

Obed said he had a one-hour meeting Thursday with Louis Lougen, superior general of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, to discuss the church’s responsibility in ensuring Johannes Rivoire is put on trial in Canada.

The meeting came after Obed asked Pope Francis during a meeting at the Vatican on Monday to personally intervene in Rivoire’s case.

“I imagine this is an extraordinary request of the Pope, but that was the entire point of the request,” said Obed.

“The Pope is someone who has extraordinary powers above and beyond the power that we have tried to work with overtime on this case.”

A Canada-wide arrest warrant was issued in February for Rivoire, who is in his 90s and lives in Lyon, France. Nunavut RCMP said officers received a complaint last year regarding sexual assaults that allegedly occurred about 47 years ago.

Rivoire was in Canada from the early 1960s to 1993, when he returned to France.

A warrant was also issued for his arrest in 1998. He faced at least three charges of sexual abuse in the Nunavut communities of Arviat, Rankin Inlet and Naujaat. More than two decades later, the charges were stayed.

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada said at the time it was partly due to France’s reluctance to extradite.

Obed said he was told that Lougen had personally contacted the priest and that Rivoire has refused to abide by a direction to return to Canada.

Lougen pledged to work with Inuit to seek justice in the case, although no details were provided, Obed added.

On Friday, Obed was among Indigenous delegates who attended a final meeting with the Pope at the Vatican. In a historic apology, Francis said he was “very sorry” for the church’s role in residential schools in Canada. He also asked for God’s forgiveness for the deplorable conduct of church members.

“I believe we are at a time where the eyes of Canada and the eyes of the world are on this particular encounter, a papal apology, and also understanding more about what has happened and the fact that justice has not been possible for the victims,” Obed said.

“I think it compels the Catholic Church to act.”

Earlier in the week, Obed asked the Pope to speak with Rivoire directly and ask him to go to Canada to face the charge. Obed also asked the Pope to request that France step in if Rivoire is not receptive.

Canadian Oblate leader Rev. Ken Thorson has also written to Canadian Justice Minister David Lametti, offering the religious order’s co-operation in any investigation.

Inuit leaders and politicians, from senators to Nunavut premiers, have continued to urge that the priest face trial. Those calls have grown with the discovery of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools run by the Catholic Church.

Piita Irniq, an Inuit elder who has been fighting for more than a decade to have Rivoire returned to Canada, has said there are at least six Inuit still living who allege Rivoire abused them.

“There’s been a lot of press and a lot of talk, so I think the people I’ve talked to are very hopeful,” Irniq said earlier this week.

“It feels more like justice.”

Complete Article HERE!

What led to the historic papal apology?

How the Catholic Church has changed its tone

By Brittany Hobson

First Nations, Inuit and Metis residential school survivors, knowledge keepers, elders, and youth have wrapped up meetings with Pope Francis at the Vatican with an historic apology.

The delegation was there to renew calls for the Pope to apologize for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in residential schools.

On Friday, the Pope said: “I am very sorry.” He also said he will come to Canada, but a date has not been set.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its 94 calls to action in 2015. Among them was a request for an apology from the Pope and for the apology to take place in Canada within one year of the release of the report.

A number of individual Catholic organizations, parishes and bishops have apologized to Indigenous children and their families for the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual abuse the church inflicted on youngsters forced to attend the schools. One of the most recent apologies was issued last September by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

A previous pope expressed “sorrow”

A common argument for why it took so long for an apology is that the issue was already addressed, say some experts.

In 2009, a small delegation led by Phil Fontaine, former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, met with former pope Benedict to discuss the abuse and trauma at residential schools with the hope of securing an apology. Benedict expressed “sorrow” for what happened but did not apologize.

Christopher Hrynkow, a professor in the department of religion and culture at St. Thomas Moore College in Saskatoon, says some in the Catholic community saw this as enough of an apology. But he says the TRC asked for something different.

“Everybody understands the importance of the Pope in Catholic culture and what he represents,” Hrynkow says.

He adds some believe that because religious organizations had entered into a partnership with Canada, an apology rested with those specific groups and not with the corporate Catholic Church.

Click to play video: 'Maskwacis residential school survivor pleads for Pope Francis to apologize'
2:02 Maskwacis residential school survivor pleads for Pope Francis to apologize

Jeremy Bergen calls previous statements from the church “wishy-washy,” because they didn’t fully acknowledge the church’s role in the schools.

“They’re sorry bad things happen but they don’t say what everyone’s kind of thinking: the church did it,” says Bergen, an associate professor of religious studies and theological studies at Conrad Grebel University College in Ontario.

In 2019, Pope Francis convened a summit on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. At the time, church higher-ups from around the world apologized to survivors of clergy abuse.

Massimo Faggioli, professor of historical theology at Villanova University in Philadelphia, says he believes some in the Vatican perceived this “sealed the deal” for an apology.

The Church’s language

Apologies from the church are relatively new, says Faggioli. The decision to issue apologies started roughly 40 years ago when former pope John Paul II began his reign.

Bergen says apologetic language is not something churches are comfortable with.

In past years, church statements have used terms such as “repent, confess, or ask pardon or forgiveness,” says Bergen.

He says the Catholic Church needs to learn to speak a new language in order to better communicate with those who have been harmed by its actions. This includes words that make it clear what the wrong was, who did the wrong, and who’s responsible for it.

Support from bishops

Canadian bishops have been divided over the need for an apology from the Pope, says Joe Gunn, executive director for Centre Oblat – A Voice for Justice in Ottawa.

Pope Francis has led with the idea of a more consultative church. And Hrynkow says a commitment to visit Canada would have previously been met with hesitation from the Pope without a direct invitation from bishops.

The request from Canadian bishops had to be there and it wasn’t, says Gunn, who used to work with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

That changed last year with the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential school sites across the country.

Click to play video: 'PM announces more funding for residential school investigations & healing'
PM announces more funding for residential school investigations & healing

“Now all of the bishops of Canada are saying, ‘You know what? It’s a really good idea for him to come here. He should visit. This is what needs to be done,’” says Gunn.

Coming to Canada

Had the Pope waited to apologize in Canada, it would have been a first of its kind, says Faggioli.

Never before has a papal visit been built around the issue of abuse, he says. Previous apologies have been made during papal trips but those were done behind closed doors or last minute.

Delegates at the Vatican say they still expect a more fulsome apology will come from the Pope when he’s on Canadian soil.

“The Canadian case is a big test because it’s new,” says Faggioli. “It’s no longer the sexual abuse against minors itself. But it’s a history of abuse that is sexual, cultural, civilizational, national (and) it’s educational.

“It is much bigger.”

Click to play video: 'Why Pope Francis will have to come to Canada to make amends'
Why Pope Francis will have to come to Canada to make amends

Complete Article HERE!