Church asks court to determine abuse victim’s sexuality and if relationship with priest “pleased” him

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

08.09.2020 Miedzybrodzie Bialskie . Janusz Szymik – w mlodosci molestowany przez ksiedza .

By Daniel Tilles

A Catholic curia in Poland has asked for a court to determine the sexuality of the victim of a priest and whether he took “pleasure in the intimate relationship”. The victim says he was 12 years old when the abuse began.

Last year, Janusz Szymik – pictured above as a child – launched a civil case against Bielsko-Żywiec diocese. He is seeking 3 million zloty (€660,000) compensation from the curia, which he argues is responsible for abuse he suffered at the hands of a priest – who can be named only as Jan W. under Polish privacy law – in the 1980s.

A church court had previously found Jan W. guilty of sexual offences against Szymik when the latter was a child. In 2017, he was given a five-year ban on conducting priestly ministry and hearing confession, and was ordered to live in isolation.

News website Onet has now published parts of the curia’s response to Szymik’s civil lawsuit. Among its demands is for “evidence from an expert sexologist on the determination of the claimant’s sexual preferences, in particular determination of the claimant’s sexual orientation”.

Additionally, it calls for the victim to be questioned on his relationship with the priest, including him “showing pleasure in maintaining an intimate relationship with Jan W.” and even “deriving benefits [from it], including material benefits”.

The diocese “denies that the relationship was based on enslavement or incapacitation; on the contrary: it was voluntary and based on mutual benefits”, according to the document cited by Onet. It points to Jan W.’s testimony during the church trial, in which he admitted to sexual contact with Szymik beginning only in 1987, not in 1984 as the victim claims.

It also argues that, although Szymik was an altar boy, because meetings between him and the priest took place outside the church, and because Szymik “participated voluntarily”, they “were not related to Jan W.’s ministry” and “the sexual contacts did not take place during the performance of the duties entrusted to him”.

Finally, the curia opposes Szymik’s claim on technical grounds. It says that the statute of limitations for civil action has expired, and that the abuse took place before the Bielsko-Żywiec diocese was established, when Jan W. was under the authority of the Kraków diocese.

In response to the publication of the diocese’s legal submission, Tomasz Terlikowski, a prominent Catholic commentator, called its approach “scandalous” and “sad proof that the bishop does not even know the teachings of the church of which he is supposed to be a shepherd”.

The questions the curia proposes asking of Szymik are indicative of a “paedophile’s model of thinking” and will cause “the victim harm again”, tweeted Terlowski, who called on the bishop to withdraw the document, appoint a new lawyer, and apologise.

Last year, the former bishop of Bielsko-Żywiec, Tadeusz Rakoczy, was disciplined by the Vatican for neglect in responding to Szymik’s accusations of abuse against Jan W. in 1993 and 2007. Szymik is convinced that the priest abused other victims too.

In 2012, the then archbishop of Kraków, Stanisław Dziwisz, was also informed of alleged abuse by Jan W., reports Gazeta.pl. Dziwisz, a former private secretary to Pope John Paul II, has previously been accused of ignoring cases of abuse and accepting bribes from those accused of carrying it out.

Jan W. was only removed from his parish in 2014 by Rakoczy’s successor, Roman Pindel. He remains in a place of seclusion as a result of his conviction in the church court.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis removes archbishop tied to document barring same-sex blessings

Archbishop Giacomo Morandi, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was widely seen as being behind the March 2021 document that outraged the gay community, which Francis has made pains to welcome into the church fold.

Pope Francis delivers the Angelus noon prayer in St.Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022.

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Pope Francis took the first step Monday to reorganize the Vatican’s powerful doctrine office, removing the No. 2 official widely believed responsible for a controversial document barring blessings for same-sex couples because God “cannot bless sin.”

Archbishop Giacomo Morandi
“Bye Felicia”

Francis named Archbishop Giacomo Morandi, currently the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, bishop of the Italian diocese of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla. The move amounts to a demotion since Morandi currently has the title of archbishop, yet is heading to a small diocese, not an archdiocese.

The Vatican said Morandi would nevertheless retain the title of archbishop “ad personam.”

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or CDF, is one of the most important Vatican offices, interpreting doctrine for the universal Catholic Church, sanctioning dissenters and handling cases of clergy sexual abuse of minors. Morandi joined the CDF as an under-secretary in 2015 and was promoted to secretary, or the No. 2, in 2017.

He was widely seen as being behind the March 2021 document that outraged the gay community, which Francis has made pains to welcome into the church fold.

The document declared that the Catholic Church won’t bless same-sex unions because God “cannot bless sin.” The document said Francis had been informed of the document and “gave his assent” to its publication, but Francis was apparently taken by surprise by its impact.

Francis has since made several gestures of outreach to the gay Catholic community and their advocates, including a recent letter congratulating an American nun once sanctioned by the CDF, Sister Jeannine Gramick, on her 50 years of LGBTQ ministry.

The CDF is currently headed by the Jesuit Cardinal Luis Ladaria, but he is expected to retire relatively soon since he turns 78 in April, three years beyond the normal retirement age for bishops.

Aside from Morandi, there are two “additional secretaries” in the CDF, including the American Archbishop Joseph Di Noia, who also is due to retire soon since he turns 79 in July. The other is Archbishop Charles Scicluna, but he has a full-time job as archbishop of Malta.

The impending retirements and transfer of Morandi thus suggests some management changes at the office, though they probably won’t be announced until Francis releases the blueprint of his reform of the Vatican’s overall bureaucracy, expected sometime this year.

Complete Article HERE!

The Church is changing its approach to LGBTQ Catholics

A worshipper sings during an annual “Pre-Pride Festive Mass” June 26, 2021, at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City. The liturgy, hosted by the parish’s LGBT Ministry, is traditionally celebrated on the eve of the city’s Pride march for the LGBTQ+ community.

by Christopher Lamb

Is the Church beginning to decisively shift its approach on LGBTQ matters?

Pope Francis has not formally “changed” any official teaching but he’s opened the way to a more inclusive and pastoral approach to gay and lesbian people, and his letters encouraging those ministering to them are highly significant.  It is the opening of a more “synodal” approach to this issue, where the Church listens, learns and opens up new pastoral avenues. Personnel changes at the Vatican’s doctrine office, announced on 10 January, also suggest movements are afoot.

The latest letter to emerge from Francis was sent to Sister Jeanine Gramick, one of the founders of New Ways Ministry, a US-based support group for LGBTQ Catholics, in which he praises her work. It comes despite a 1999 ruling by the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) which ordered her and Fr Robert Nugent to be “permanently prohibited” from pastoral work with gay people.

By endorsing the 50-year ministry of Sr Jeanine, Francis has effectively overturned this earlier censure, while his support for same-sex civil unions also supersedes the CDF’s 2003 document which declared that the “state could not grant legal standing to such unions”. In short, the Francis pontificate has made decisive steps in removing the “anti-gay” perception of the Church.

Fr James Martin, a Jesuit priest and writer who ministers to gay Catholics, says that while the Pope has not changed teaching he has “certainly changed the tone, the approach and the conversation around the issue.” Fr Martin has received his own letter from the Pope, which was the first written papal endorsement of a priest’s ministry to LGBTQ Catholics.

“Remember that the Holy Father has just praised a Catholic sister who had been under Vatican censure.  This could be the beginning of what church historians call a ‘rehabilitation’.  You could also argue that a change in tone is a kind of change in teaching. And the new teaching could be said to be, LGBTQ Catholics are worth listening to and ministering to,” the Jesuit priest explained.  

It could be argued the Pope’s letters and comments have little weight unless they are backed up with official rulings, and point out that last year he gave his approval to a CDF document blocking the possibility of the Church blessing same-sex couples.

Yet the Pope is demonstrating that official rulings alone are not enough to settle a contested issue. Time, as Francis says, is greater than space, and reality is more important than ideas. The critical test for any doctrine is how it is received by the Church community, and the Pope’s response opens up a space for the conversation to continue.

The winds of change are now blowing through the Vatican’s doctrine department, for so long the office which produced harsh rulings on the gay issue.

The Vatican has announced the Pope had decided to move the CDF official widely believed to be responsible for the document banning same-sex blessings out of his position. Archbishop Giacomo Morandi will now become the leader of the Diocese of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla, in Northern Italy.

While Francis approved the ruling on blessing same-sex unions, he later distanced himself from the language in the document and it was reported he would return to the issue at a later date.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, who leads the Archdiocese of Malta alongside working as a high ranking CDF official, has recently issued a formal warning to a priest for making homophobic comments. It appears to be the first time someone from the doctrine office has formally condemned homophobia.

At a broader level, the synod is also starting to have an impact and by throwing open the process to a broad range of voices it has already allowed small, yet historic, shifts to take place.

One of these came with the decision of the Synod of Bishops’ office in Rome to include both New Ways Ministry and Discerning Deacons, an English-language forum for discussion about the restoration of the female diaconate, on its resources page.

But this almost didn’t happen. A New Ways Ministry video, “From the Margins to the Center: a Webinar on LGBTQ Catholics and Synodality”, was removed from the synod office’s website after it had been made aware that New Ways Ministry had been censured by the US bishops’ conference a decade ago for its support of civil marriage for same-sex couples. The synod office then reversed its decision and apologised “for the pain caused” in what is the first time a Vatican official had apologised to LGBT Catholics.

The apology came after details of other letters that the Pope had sent to New Ways praising the group’s work and described their co-founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick, as a “valiant woman”. Francis also thanked Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of New Ways, for telling him the “full story” of the group as “sometimes we receive partial information about people and organisations.”

The rehabilitation of New Ways Ministry may seem like a small thing. Yet the apology and the Pope’s letters show a Church willing to listen and to learn from marginalised voices.

Sr Jeanine’s response to Francis’ letter and the 11-year investigation she faced also offers a model for what a synodal Church with different viewpoints looks like. She told America that when she received the correspondence from the Pope, she thought of the scripture from John’s Gospel: “I do not call you servants, I call you friends.”

Sr Jeanine added: “That’s how I felt, like I was getting a letter from a friend…I think that’s how Pope Francis wants us to live. And it’s what I hope we would be as a people of God: a community of friends.”

Even though she disagreed with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who oversaw the investigation into New Ways as prefect of the Vatican doctrine office, Sr Jeanine said she respected him as a “holy man” who believed he was doing the right thing.

“Cardinal Ratzinger is way out there on one branch, and I am way out there on a branch probably 180 degrees around that tree,” she said. “We couldn’t have been farther apart in our theological thinking. But we are rooted in that one tree. We have a common faith in Christ, and that’s what draws us together. We’re all around that tree somewhere.”

When it comes to LGBT Catholics, the tree is slowly being pruned and starting to bear new fruit.

Complete Article HERE!

It is blatant hypocrisy for Pope Francis to lecture anyone about violence against women

From opposition to abortion to a reductive view of women’s roles, the Catholic Church should consider its own role in perpetuating a culture of misogyny.

By Michael Coren

The Pope, it seems, is having a bad few days. This week he made a quite extraordinarily insensitive and crass comment, claiming that couples choosing to have pets instead of children are selfish, and their decision leads to a loss of “humanity” and is a detriment to civilization. Aside from the sweeping generalization and failure, ironically, to grasp the humanity involved, he is a celibate man named after the patron saint on animals!

The statement garnered international coverage, but something he said on New Year’s Day was much more significant. Pope Francis delivered a sermon in which he condemned violence against women as “an insult to God.” Addressing the issue with evident passion he argued: “Since mothers bestow life, and women keep the world together, let us all make greater efforts to promote mothers and to protect women.”

It’s not the first time the 85-year-old leader of more than 1.3 billion Roman Catholics has spoken out about the subject, and many across the world took this as another example of the pontiff as an enlightened progressive. Which to an extent he is: on several themes, such as the importance of tackling climate change, he has shown himself to be forward-thinking, sometimes more so than ostensibly liberal secular leaders. But as is often the case, there’s more to the story.

While Francis has seemed to be supportive of LGBTQ rights, for example, it’s actually more difficult for a gay man to enter a Catholic seminary now than it was under previous Popes, including John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The church’s catechism still regards “homosexual acts” as being of “grave depravity” and “contrary to natural law”, insisting that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered”.

Regarding gender-based violence, while it may be that on a visceral, personal level the Pope is appalled, even his language during his sermon reveals an inherent difficulty in the Catholic church’s attitude to women. “Since mothers bestow life… let us all make greater efforts to promote mothers and to protect women,” he said. Opposing violence against women on the basis that womanhood is intrinsically linked to motherhood is an abhorrent argument, but this model is at the epicentre of Catholic teaching: women as mothers, as spiritual heirs of the Virgin Mary, to be protected not because of humanity and equality but due to their fertility and piety.

That reductive view of women as virtual icons is part of the problem, rather than the solution. And it leads directly to the struggle for women’s reproductive rights.

Abortion is criminalised in many Catholic countries, causing widespread suffering, particularly for poor women. In El Salvador, three women who spent between six and 13 years in prison under draconian anti-abortion laws after suffering miscarriages have just this week been released. Even in the US, where church and state are allegedly separated, in Oklahoma last year a 21-year-old Native American woman was convicted of manslaughter after having a miscarriage. These are shocking but not unusual examples. With conservative Catholic justices so dominant on the US Supreme Court, abortion rights are under constant attack and the crucial Roe V Wade ruling may well be overturned this year.

The Catholic church teaches that abortion “is gravely contrary to the moral law” and the taking of innocent life, and many Catholic anti-abortion activists routinely make comparisons between women’s choice and the Holocaust. Francis may not be so irresponsible in his language, but he does describe abortion as “murder”. While seeming to be relatively understanding of Catholic politicians such as President Joe Biden who vote for women’s reproductive rights, the Pope has still said that “Those who carry out abortions kill.”

There are, of course, no women in position of power within the Catholic church. Christianity historically downplayed the central role of women in the ministry of Jesus and the life of the early church. The story of Mary Magdalene is indicative. She is referred to by name a dozen times in the four gospels, more than most of the male apostles, and she’s also present at Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. In 591, however, Pope Gregory I described her as a prostitute, likely confusing her with the maligned Mary of Bethany, and the ugly cliché of the saved “fallen women” has persisted in modern times. Rather than being a central figure in the story of Christ, Mary Magdalene became a passive example of restored brokenness, a sexual caricature.

1,500 years later women may be extremely active in the Catholic church, and in many cases keep it alive, but only men can be ordained and become leaders. The church’s catechism states: “The Lord Jesus chose men to form the college of the twelve apostles. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.” In Roman Catholic terms, a priest celebrates the Mass “in persona Christi” – in the person of Christ – and Jesus was a man. (He was also Jewish and circumcised but this doesn’t appear to be an impediment.)

The Catholic church has a right to hold to this position, and other Christian denominations are similarly, if less rigidly, male-dominated. But the point holds that in spite of Catholic protestations of equality, it is only “Father” who represents Jesus, has the power and authority to turn bread and wine into body and blood, and to hear confessions. That matters. Contrary to what some people might assume, Francis has said, “the door is closed” on the issue. “On the ordination of women in the Catholic Church” he stressed, “the final word is clear, it was said by St. John Paul II and this remains.”

None of this should be compared directly the filth of gender-based violence, which is a plague that goes far beyond religion. But there’s context, culture, and cause involved in what Francis said, along with perceptions of power, the place and freedom of women in society, and real and absolute equality are central. The daily experience of women in the church varies, but there are numerous stories, many of them contemporary, of women being told by priests to return to abusive husbands due to the “sanctity of marriage”. The commonality of that theme, and its roots, are deeply troubling – as are the cases of mothers reporting of their children being abused by priests yet being dismissed by the church, always men, as dishonest or hysterical.

Pope Francis has often been startlingly impressive when speaking out on climate change, the dignity of refugees, and economic justice, but closer to home and Rome he can be inconsistent, and even in denial. Women face oppression and violence in all sorts of places, caused by all sorts of reasons, and it’s time that organized religion admitted its own part – its own sins – and put its house in order.

Complete Article HERE!

Archbishop Apologises For Fr David Muscat’s Absurd Anti-Gay Comments And Pledges To Take Action

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Archbishop Charles Scicluna has pledged to take action against a priest who drew widespread condemnation after comparing being possessed by demons or having schizophrenia to being gay.

“To all those who felt offended by those words, to the mothers, fathers and siblings of gay people who felt hurt and betrayed by the Church they love so much, I hereby ask for your forgiveness,” Scicluna said when delivering mass this morning.

“I’ll take action to ensure these things don’t repeat themselves.”

@lovinmaltaofficial Archbishop Scicluna addresses Fr David Muscat’s shocking Facebook comments on 20-year-old Abner Aquilina. #fyp #fypmalta #lovinmalta #malta #tvm ♬ original sound – Lovin Malta

Scicluna didn’t specify what kind of action he will be taking.

Father David Muscat, a priest known for his often anger-filled rhetoric aimed at minorities like the LGBT+ community, said yesterday on Facebook that being gay was worse than being possessed.

His comment was widely criticised, with Inclusion Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli personally reporting Muscat to police commissioner Angelo Gafa’ for hate speech and Equality Minister Owen Bonnici warning the priest “had crossed a line”.

The Malta Gay Rights Movement also called on the Archbishop to wake up and pay attention to what members of his own church are preaching.

Complete Article HERE!