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World-wide politics

Vatican flag (8583012024)It seems Pope Francis’s own handlers within the Vatican are having difficulty keeping him in line. He recently had another interview with Eugenio Scalfari, founder of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, and today they published an article on it (WebCite cached article). (A Google translation of this article is available (cached).

This interview covered a lot of ground, but among the topics covered were pedophiles within the priesthood, and celibacy for clergy. First, on pedophilia within the Church (both quotes from the interview below are automated Google translations into English, so pardon the poor language):

Many of my co-workers who struggle with me reassure me with reliable data that assess pedophilia within the Church at the level of two percent. This finding should reassure me but I must tell you that I do not reassuring at all. I consider it very serious indeed. Two percent of pedophiles are priests and even bishops and cardinals. And others, more numerous, they know but they keep silent, punish, but without saying why. I find this situation intolerable and I intend to tackle it with the seriousness it requires.

About clerical celibacy, the Pope said:

“Maybe she does not know that celibacy was established in the tenth century, that is, 900 years after the death of our Lord. The Eastern Catholic Church has the power right now that its priests to marry. The problem certainly exists but is not of great magnitude. It takes time but there are solutions and find it.

Now, almost anyone would consider both of these remarkable. For the Pope to say that even a low-sounding 2% proportion of priests being pedophiles is “intolerable,” is certainly strong language. Also, for him to say that there may be “problems” with clerical celibacy and that he’s willing to “find solutions,” is also unprecedented. To date the Church has consistently dismissed priestly pedophilia, at best acknowledging it as an unusual and marginal phenomenon — when they’re even willing to admit it exists (they frequently deny it outright). Also, the Church has repeatedly declared there is absolutely nothing wrong with clerical celibacy and that the practice dates to the beginning of the Church. That it might cause “problems” with it, is something the Church has never once conceded.

But no sooner did the ink dry on the pages of this morning’s La Repubblica, than the Vatican machinery cranked out objections to it. The paper’s own English-language blog goes over their complaints (cached):

But a few hours after the account of Scalfari’s conversation with the Pope was published, Father Federico Lombardi, official Vatican spokesman, issued a strongly worded statement calling Scalfari’s account of the conversation into question.

“One cannot and one must not speak in any way of an interview in the usual sense of the word… The conversation was cordial and very interesting and touched principally on the themes of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and the Church’s attitude towards the mafia. However… it is important to note that the words that Mr Scalfari attributes to the Pope, reporting his words in quotation marks, are from the memory of an experienced journalist, but not a precise transcription or recording, nor have they been approved by the person to whom the remarks are attributed.”

Father Lombardi was particularly keen to undermine Scalfari’s recollection of the remarks on paedophilia and those on celibacy, even hinting that the pontiff may have been deliberately misquoted.

“The individual remarks… cannot be confidently attributed to the Pope. For example and in particular… the fact that there are paedophile cardinals, and that “I will find a solution” to the problem of celibacy.

“In the article published in La Repubblica these two affirmations are clearly attributed to the Pope, but — curiously — the quotation marks were opened at the beginning but were not closed at the end… An oversight or explicit recognition that it is an attempt to manipulate some ingenuous readers?”

An oversight by Repubblica’s sub-editors, or a sign that Pope Francis’s willingness to tackle certain controversial issues head on frightens the conservatives within the Vatican?

That’s the way to go about it, Fr Lombardi! Quibble over possible typos (e.g. the missing/misplaced quotation marks) in an effort to suggest La Repubblica published fabricated quotations of your Pope. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

If the interview, as published this morning, does accurately reflect the Pope’s own thinking — and right now, no one has any reason to think it doesn’t, Fr Lombardi’s accusations notwithstanding — then Pope Francis clearly is at odds with his own bureaucracy in the Vatican. How long is that going to last? Is he going to bend to suit them, or is he going to crack down on them and whip them into line? It will be interesting to find out, although given the Catholic Church’s vast machinery and its almost crippling institutional inertia, I suspect it’s the Pope who will have to give in, before Vatican functionaries do.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Pope Francis in IsraelThe current pope, Francis, has been in office for over a year. During that time he’s skirted the edges of a number of controversies, and even kicked up a few of his own (such as the astonishingly raw outrage engendered by his having washed the feet of — gasp! — women, of all people, during a Maundy Thursday rite). But so far he’s had little, if anything, to say about the worldwide “priestly pedophilia” scandal that’s swirled through and around his Church for many years now.

But that changed this past weekend. As the New York Times reports, he delivered a rare (for Popes, anyway) apology and asked forgiveness from the scandal’s victims (WebCite cached article):

Pope Francis on Monday used his first meeting with victims of clerical sex abuse to offer his strongest condemnation of a crisis that has shaken the Roman Catholic Church, comparing priests who abuse minors to “a sacrilegious cult,” while begging forgiveness from victims and pledging to crack down on bishops who fail to protect children.

By meeting with six victims from three countries, Francis was trying to show resolve — and personal empathy — to address an issue on which he has faced criticism in what has otherwise been a popular papacy. While some advocates for victims praised the meeting, others dismissed it as little more than a publicity stunt.

Francis first greeted the six victims — two people each from Ireland, Britain and Germany — on Sunday after they arrived at a Vatican guesthouse. On Monday morning, he led them in a private Mass at a Vatican chapel, where he offered a strongly worded homily condemning an abuse scandal that began to surface decades ago under John Paul II. Francis also met with each victim individually in sessions that, in total, lasted more than three hours.

For a pope … and considering he hadn’t yet addressed the scandal squarely … he was remarkably frank:

“Before God and his people, I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you,” Francis said during his homily, according to a text released by the Vatican. “And I humbly ask forgiveness. I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves.”

In his homily, Francis also vowed “not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not,” and declared that bishops would be held accountable for protecting minors. He said the abuse scandals had had “a toxic effect on faith and hope in God.”

Since this admission and request for forgiveness is virtually unprecedented, I can see why a lot of the Church’s critics are unimpressed. It’s one thing for the Pope to say all of this; it’s another entirely to put those words into action. Just a few days ago, for example, the Pope’s own minions in the Holy See told the Australian commission investigating clerical child abuse in that country to go fuck itself (cached). That position directly and materially contradicts the Pope’s claims that his hierarchs are to “be held accountable for protecting minors.”

Given that — and given the Church’s consistent and many-years-long pattern of denying the scandal and blaming it on anything and everything but itself — I’m not really sure Francis means what he said. I’m really not. Only time will tell … but I don’t expect time will reveal any meaningful change within the Church.

P.S. Oh, and you Catholic apologists who always stamp and fume that child abuse is reported only in relation to your precious Church … take a look at the bottom of this Times article. Under “More In Europe,” you’ll see a link entitled to another Times article about the UK investigating decades-old government-related abuse allegations that reportedly had been hushed up by that same government (cached). So put away your laughable fucking martyr complex and just admit what you damned well know your Church did. That other institutions, religious and otherwise, pulled the same shit doesn’t make any of it right; using the whiney crybaby claim that the mass media is out to destroy your Church has gotten ridiculous. Quite obviously the media are not ignoring other groups’ similar transgressions so they can make it seem only your Church is guilty of systemic child sexual abuse. Grow up and get the hell over it already.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Archbishop Józef Wesolowski, papal nuncio to the Dominican Republic / Catholic News Agency / url: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican-willing-to-hand-over-accused-nuncio-to-civil-authorities/This story has been brewing for almost a year. Last summer, the Vatican’s nuncio (aka ambassador) to the Dominican Republic, archbishop* Józef Wesołowski, resigned last summer while under investigation by DR authorities for child abuse and returned to the Vatican, where his conduct was also being investigated. At the time, I wasn’t sure the Church had actually been “investigating” him. But it turns out they had; as the Religion News Service reports, some sort of ecclesiastical trial just concluded, and as a result, Wesołowski was defrocked (WebCite cached article):

A former Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, has been defrocked and is likely to face criminal prosecution at the Vatican after a church inquiry convicted him of child sexual abuse.…

The 65-year-old envoy is the highest-ranking Vatican official to be investigated for sex abuse. He was found guilty after an inquiry conducted by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has jurisdiction over all sex abuse cases in the Roman Catholic Church.

In a brief statement released Friday (June 27), the Vatican said the verdict was issued “in the past few days” and the former diplomat was facing arrest due to the “gravity of the case.”

This rather quick — by Vatican standards — defrocking (aka “laicization”) is fairly remarkable, and on its surface, it might seem harsh. (I suppose, maybe, those within the Vatican actually view it as such.) But it’s not clear what all of this really means for the former archbishop; and it certainly doesn’t appear that Wesołowski is truly being “punished” at all:

A bishop from the Dominican Republic was recently reported to say that he was shocked to see Wesolowski walking freely on the streets of central Rome. Prosecutors in the Caribbean nation have said they have convincing evidence that the prelate molested young men.

To add to this non-punishment of their former nuncio, they’re actively protecting him from secular prosecution; they spirited him out of the DR, and are protecting him from extradition to his native Poland as well:

Wesołowski has also been accused of abuse in his native Poland. The Vatican rejected an extradition request from the Warsaw prosecutor’s office on the grounds he was “a citizen of the Vatican” and holds diplomatic immunity.

In Wesołowski’s case, specifically, the Vatican has been able to use his position as nuncio (with its attendant “diplomatic immunity”) as well as his putative Vatican City citizenship to prevent him from being prosecuted by secular authorities. But note that this is more or less the same approach they’ve taken in a other cases that don’t involve Church diplomats. The hierarchs really and truly believe their clergy should not be subject to secular courts and that only their own Curia has jurisdiction over them.

Photo credit: Catholic News Agency.

* Wesołowski never actually headed an archdiocese. His was a fake office, that of “Archbishop of Sléibhte.” Yes, there once had been a diocese of Sléibhte (in Ireland) … but it disappeared by the middle of the 9th century (if memory serves). The office of Archbishop of Sléibhte was resurrected as a titular (aka “in name only”) position by Pope Paul VI … probably because he’d wanted to stick a feather in the cap of some Vatican functionary whom he didn’t want to put in charge of a real diocese. (Yes, folks, that’s how popes operate. They quite literally just make shit up as they go along.)

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Where Are the Children? / Schools: British Columbia / Lejac Indian Residential School (Fraser Lake, BC)Among the Catholic Church’s many faults is its presumption that it’s above the law and accountable to no one on the planet. If one looks back, for example, at how it handled the worldwide child-abuse scandal that’s plagued it for over a decade, one sees a familiar pattern of resistance by the Church and its hierarchs.

Theirs is a pattern of behavior that plays out with each incident that comes to light. First there are flat denials; then efforts to avoid subpoenas and depositions; then complaints of “persecution” once those have failed; then there are admissions that something untoward might possibly have happened somewhere in a diocese or order; then there are grudging apologies (or more like, non-apology apologies); then complaints that child abuse happens in other institutions, so why is the Church always a target; and on and on it goes.

A lot of the time the evidence is overwhelming and a diocese or order must consent to a legal remedy; but even then, it continues to resist. For example, back in 2007 the archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to release documents regarding abusive clergy, but then they turned around and resisted actually releasing them for a whopping 6 years.

The latest example of this comes from Canada and is part of the ongoing residential schools scandal. For those who may not be aware of it, this program began in the late 19th century and involved a large number of aboriginal children being sent to residential schools operated by Canada’s churches and paid for by the Canadian government. Children in this program, which lasted into the late 20th century, were often subjected to horrible abuse as well as neglect (mortality was quite high).

For most of the 2000s, the Canadian government has been working to investigate the abuse, and has been working with the churches that had operated residential schools (mainly, the Anglican and Catholic Churches) to compensate victims. The CBC, however, recently discovered that the Roman Catholic Church — which ostensibly had cooperated with this effort — has been holding back money that it had agreed to pay out (WebCite cached article):

Court documents obtained by CBC News allege that the Catholic Church is withholding millions from former students of Indian residential schools.

The church was part of the Indian residential school settlement reached in 2006. While the government paid the lion’s share of the billion-dollar settlement, the churches were also required to make reparations.

The Anglican, Presbyterian and United churches have met their obligations, but according to the federal government, the Catholic Church is shirking its responsibility.

The article provides details of this; the bottom line is that the R.C. Church has been keeping some of the settlement money it was supposed to have paid to victims’ foundations under the guise of “administrative expenses.” Seems to me, if they’d just paid out what they’d agree to pay, there wouldn’t be any ongoing expenses … but hey, what can this cold-hearted, cynical, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about such things?

Near the end of the CBC article is the whiney, paranoid Catholic response:

Pierre Baribeau, a lawyer in Montreal and director of the Catholic Entities corporation, says the Catholic Church will fight these allegations in court.

“The federal government has always adopted an aggressive attitude towards the Catholic Entities and we have offered reconciliation process to them and they firmly answered negatively, they don’t want to apply the agreement as negotiated in 2006, so we are going to present our arguments to the courts.”

Oh pity the poor, put-upon Canadian Catholic Church! The government there is just picking on them … or something. I guess. How dare the Canadian government and the First Nations foundations actually expect the Church to pay out money it had agreed, years ago, to pay out! Why, it’s intolerable!

</sarcasm>

At any rate, one can see, here, yet another manifestation of the Church’s perpetually-resistant attitude toward such allegations. They always have to be dragged kicking and screaming into settling up … and even after that, they must be dragged a whole lot more. I’m not surprised they’re pulling this kind of crap, and you shouldn’t be, either.

Photo credit: Where Are the Children?

Hat tip: Peter at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

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St. Peter's Basilica, VaticanI’ve blogged many times already about how the Roman Catholic Church blames the worldwide Catholic clerical abuse scandal on anyone and everyone other than itself or its own personnel. The blame-game is old and tired, but it seems the Church just won’t give up playing it. The latest example of this comes in the wake of a UN committee’s report on how the Vatican obstructed justice and aided abusive clergy around the world for decades. As the AP reports via CBC News, the Vatican denounced this report, blaming its content on “pro-gay ideologues” (WebCite cached article):

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

In a devastating report hailed by abuse victims, the UN 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 and its UN ambassador accused the committee of having betrayed the international body’s own objectives by allowing itself to be swayed by pro-gay ideologues. He said it appeared the committee simply hadn’t listened when the Holy See outlined all the measures it has taken to protect children.

The Vatican’s reasoning here is absurd: They’re saying they shouldn’t be held accountable for child abuse and obstruction of justice in the past, because they’re better about them, now. Applied elsewhere, this sort of thinking would promptly be dismissed as ridiculous. For example, take a guy arrested for a murder a couple years after it happened; should he be able to insist that he shouldn’t be prosecuted for it, because he hadn’t killed anyone since then?

As usual, the R.C. Church once again complains it’s being attacked; in this case by these “pro-gay ideologues” who, they think, are trying to destroy them. This latest whine is just one more example of the Church’s denials: They continue to insist their clergy never abused any kids and their hierarchs never protected them. It’s all fabricated. The Church, its spokesmen, and defenders have cited plenty of other bogeymen in the past, ranging from “masonic secularists” to the Jews to the Devil, and even to the abuse victims themselves.

Clearly the Church hierarchy is committed to its ongoing plan to repeatedly deny and blame, deny and blame, then deny and blame some more. They cannot and will not admit fault, nor will they willingly allow themselves to be held accountable for what they did. Nevertheless, they claim to be the world’s sole remaining arbiter of morality. That’s the sort of hypocrisy that their own Jesus explicitly condemned … but like most Christians, they happily engage in it anyway.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Peter at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

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Vatican flag (8583012024)A U.N. commission has been investigating how the Holy See handled child-abuse allegations within its ranks. This might sound as though something might actually be done about the worldwide priestly pedophilia scandal, but it won’t, because the U.N. is perhaps the single most ineffective institution on the planet. There really isn’t a whole lot the U.N. can do to the Vatican, even if it wished to, and odds are, it won’t wish to do anything. Even so, an investigation of any kind always has the potential to reveal something.

A hearing held today did just that. It shone a rather harsh and unflattering light on the Vatican’s evasiveness — which has been an ongoing problem for this U.N. commission (WebCite cached article). CNN reports on the proceedings (cached):

A senior Vatican official acknowledged Thursday there is “no excuse” for child sex abuse, as he and others were grilled by a U.N. committee about the Catholic Church’s handling of pedophile priests.

It’s the first time the Vatican has been forced to answer allegations so publicly that it enabled the sexual abuse of children by protecting such priests.

The committee questioned a handful of Vatican officials — including Monsignor Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, and Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s former chief sex-crimes prosecutor — for several hours Thursday in Switzerland.

The really interesting bit came from Scicluna, who hurled the problem of Catholic clerical child abuse right back at the governments of countries in which it operates:

Scicluna said he was there to say that “the Holy See ‘gets it’ ” with regard to the issue and that no one should stand in the way of the prosecution of abusive priests.

“Let’s not say too late or not,” he said. “But there are certain things that need to be done differently. I would talk about cover-up, for example, because this is a very important concern.”

States “need to take action against citizens of the country who obstruct justice in such an egregious crime as sexual abuse of minors, whoever these people are,” Scicluna said.

Scicluna is saying the problem lies not in anything the Church did or didn’t do, including covering up abuse, but rather, insinuates that it’s “states” which were the ones engaged in cover-ups. I’d say one could call this the definition of chutzpah, especially since the Church previously has been shown to have ordered its hierarchs not to cooperate with secular investigations.

Wow. I mean, just “wow.”

Scicluna went on to deny that priest shuffling — a frequent Church practice documented as having occurred around the world — ever happened:

As for priests who have committed sexual abuse of minors, the Holy See has made clear in a letter to bishops that it is “a no-go simply to move people from one place to another, from one diocese to another” without being open about their backgrounds, Scicluna said.

I can’t really say any of this surprises me. Although the Vatican has said that it “gets” the scandal, its officials’ words just keep reflecting the perpetually evasive tactics the hierarchs have always used in the past. Very little has changed, except for the fact that guys like Scicluna and Tomasi have been directly confronted and dressed down in a manner that’s never happened before. That much, at least, is quite welcome.

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05354 Palm Sunday in SanokThe litany of bogeymen whom the Roman Catholic hierarchy blames for the priestly-pedophilia scandal continues to grow. Earlier this month, a Polish hierarch identified a sequence of villains whom he thinks forced a bunch of otherwise-totally-innocent priests to abuse children. It all started, as Polskie Radio reports, when the archbishop of Przemysl wandered stupidly into “victim-blaming” territory (WebCite cached article):

The archbishop of Przemysl made the controversial remarks after being asked about the problem of paedophilia in the Roman Catholic Church. “Many of these instances of abuse could have been avoided if the relations between parents had been healthy,” the archbishop said. “We often hear that this wrong behaviour, or abuse, occurs when the child is searching for love,” he added. The archbishop suggested that children from broken homes can “cling on” to priests, hence creating the problems.

The idea that victims are to blame for abusive clerics’ action is not new at all, as I’ve blogged before. It’s actually a rather old notion that trickles far beneath everything the R.C. Church has said and done about the scandal. So I don’t consider this unusual, nor do I buy that there aren’t more hierarchs that don’t think this way.

Michalik ostensibly apologized for these comments, as the article states. However, he wasn’t sincere about his “apology.” As Polskie Radio again reports, Michalik later doubled down with his blame-game (cached):

Head of the Polish Episcopate Archbishop Jozef Michalik has claimed that abuse of children is caused by pornography, feminism and a “selfish love” undermining the family.

“The shameful abuse by adults towards children results from the acceptance of pornography […] and the promotion of a false, selfish love between people,” Archbishop Michalik has told a Mass in Wroclaw Cathedral, south west Poland.…

During the Mass in Wroclaw on Wednesday, however, Archbishop Michalik said that though the family has always enjoyed respect as an institution in Poland, larger family units “have become stigmatised”.

“You have heard of adults abusing children and this kind of evil is not to be tolerated, but no one asks about the causes of this,” he said, blaming TV networks broadcasting “pornography and a selfish love”

“Nobody stands up for children suffering from a lack of love from divorcing parents, which leaves painful and permanent injuries”.

The archbishop also mentioned the “new ideology of gender” with universities offering gender study courses and “the most aggressive Polish feminists who scoff at the Church and years of traditional ethics, who promote abortion and struggle against the traditional model of the family and marital fidelity”.

“The ideology of gender raises legitimate concerns, because it goes against the laws of nature, promotes marriage between persons of the same sex and fights for the right to legalize adoption of children by these couples,” the archbishop said.

Michalik’s complaint about a “new ideology of gender” forcing priests to abuse children mirrors the Church’s assertion a couple of years ago that “society” caused priestly pedophilia.

Oh, and don’t assume Michalik is just some fringe lunatic lurking at the edge of the Catholic hierarchy who has no influence elsewhere. He’s not merely the archbishop of Przemyśl; he’s the head of the Polish Episcopal Conference, the collective of hierarchs in Poland (that country’s cognate of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops). An equivalent situation would be if Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the USCCB, had made such comments. Michalik is that authoritative. His remarks — which he very clearly stands by, in spite of his supposed “apology” — are neither trivial nor meaningless.

If it’s not clear to anyone by now, let me lay bare the fact here: There’s a nasty psychopathology festering deep within the R.C. hierarchy. It’s not going to go away on its own, because that same hierarchy grooms its own membership and shapes those who are initiated into it. The sooner lay Catholics admit their Church is criminally dysfunctional, and not going to reform itself, the sooner they can get off their sorry, cowardly, sniveling little asses and repair it, fercryinoutloud.

But of course, we know they never will, so why do I even bother saying it any more … ?

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