Posts Tagged “catholic”

St. Peter's Square, 1992Readers of my blog shouldn’t be strangers to the odd semi-schismatic Catholic organization known as the Society of St Pius X (or SSPX). It was founded at the turn of the 1970s as a reaction against the reforms of II Vatican. Relations between the organization and the Vatican were never cordial, and SSPX was excommunicated in the late 80s after its founder and leader consecrated some bishops against papal orders.

Most of the time since, SSPX has continued its (ostensibly) renegade ways, railing against the modernization of the Church, even as the Vatican has tried to keep in touch with them and has worked to bring them back into the Catholic fold. The two lurched closer together in January 2009 when the Vatican lifted the excommunication on the remaining illicitly-elevated SSPX bishops.

Their reconciliation has continued over the last 3 years. Der Spiegel reports that a full reconciliation between the Vatican and SSPX is on its way (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict XVI may reach a decision by the end of May to allow the ultraconservative Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) to rejoin the Catholic church, SPIEGEL has learned.

At a meeting this coming Wednesday, the four cardinals of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which oversees Catholic Church doctrine, plan to agree a proposal for reuniting the society with the Catholic Church, and will submit it to the pope.

Despite the appearance of amiability and conciliation here, the SSPX is hardly uniform in wanting to go back into the Church proper, as Der Spiegel explains:

… [A] fierce row has broken out among the four bishops of the SSPX over the planned agreement. British bishop Richard Williamson, who caused outrage in 2009 by denying the scale of the Holocaust, has taken an uncompromising stance toward the Vatican and wants to prevent SSPX from returning to its fold.

But the majority of SSPX supports the policy of its head, or superior general, Bishop Bernard Fellay, who has just written a letter urging Williamson and all SSPX bishops to end their isolation, accept the pope’s offer, and abandon a stance that is dividing the Church.

I’ve blogged a few times about the malcontent Williamson, who has yet to obey the Pope’s instructions and alter his beliefs about the Holocaust — which, as I’ve blogged, he believes was a vicious lie cooked up in order to make every Jew on earth into an “ersatz savior.”

But Williamson and his Holocaust-denying is hardly the only weird belief running around in the SSPX camp. I blogged a while ago about the SSPX protesting the heliocentric model of the solar system, claiming that by confirming Copernicus’ model, Galileo had destroyed the Church’s supremacy over humanity.

The SSPX’s militant opposition to the Second Vatican reforms — and its other assorted crankish notions — leads me to wonder how the group and the Vatican could ever reach any kind of rational accord. I expect what will happen is they’ll both sign off on some kind of carefully-worded, loose compromise of some sort, which allows both parties to move along but not really concede anything of substance to the other.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Papal tiaraThe Roman Catholic Church is nothing if not predictable. The Los Angeles Times provides this story on a report that the Church released about the abuse of children in the care of Catholic clergy (WebCite cached article):

Sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests in the United States is a “historical problem” that has largely been resolved and that never had any significant correlation with either celibacy or homosexuality, according to an independent report commissioned by Catholic bishops — and subjected to fierce attack even before its release on Wednesday.

The report [cached] blamed the sexual revolution for a rise in sexual abuse by priests, saying that Catholic clerics were swept up by a tide of “deviant” behavior that became more socially acceptable in the 1960s and ’70s.

First, I find I must comment on the writing of this story. It is contradictory to say that a report “commissioned by” the bishops, is “an independent report.” If the bishops commissioned it, then it’s their report, not someone else’s. They may not have written it themselves, or even researched it, but they “own” it nevertheless, so it cannot logically be said to have been “independent.”

Second, I note that the report refuses to acknowledge that the Church’s actions, including protecting abusers, played anything other than an incidental role in the scandal:

“The abuse is a result of a complex interaction of factors,” said Karen Terry, a John Jay criminal justice professor who led the research team. One major factor, she said at a news conference in Washington, was social turmoil in the 1960s and ’70s that led some priests “who had some vulnerabilities” to commit child sexual abuse. She said Catholic seminaries had done a poor job of preparing priests “to live a life of chaste celibacy,” as their vows demanded.

In other words, it was all the fault of society … and the “sexual revolution” … and if the Church did anything wrong, it was in failing to deal with that as well as it might have.

It’s absolutely stunning how the bishops continually rationalize their own criminal behavior. When they chose to shield abusers from prosecution, and when they chose to move them around in order to avoid letting anyone know their dirty little secrets, that was NOT because society or the sexual revolution put a gun to their heads and forced them to do it. No. It was a cold, calculated choice based on the information they had at the time they had it, and it was made in order to protect their Church’s reputation and wealth. Neither society nor the sexual revolution had anything to do with that. Not the slightest damn thing. Oddly enough, the report itself describes at least one instance of inaction by the Church hierarchy:

On October 18, 1984, a Louisiana grand jury indicted Gilbert Gauthe, a former priest of the Diocese of Lafayette, for a long list of sexual crimes against children. The Diocese of Lafayette had received multiple reports of Gauthe’s abusive acts for seven years before he was indicted but had not managed to control his behavior. Gauthe had been repeatedly cautioned about his behavior but was not removed from ministry until 1983, when, following another report of abuse by a parent who demanded action, he was sent to the House of Affirmation in Massachusetts for treatment. The specifics of the Gauthe case were shocking: Gauthe had not only raped and sodomized dozens of boys, he had used the “cloak” of his status as a priest to justify his actions to the victims and to intimidate them into silence. Harm to Gauthe’s victims was profound, requiring hospitalization for some and psychotherapy for many. The criminal case and related civil litigation filed by the families of the victims drew national and international press attention. Despite the sensational press coverage and extensive discussion of the case, the failures of the leaders of the Diocese of Lafayette were many. Diocesan leaders hesitated to remove Gauthe from ministry even after he admitted to the abuse, and they failed to redress the harm to the child victims and their families. They were preoccupied with controlling negative publicity and so were not forthcoming with information to the affected parishes. Such failures on the part of the Diocese of Lafayette were to be repeated by leaders of some other dioceses in the coming years. (p. 77)

Nevertheless, elsewhere the report downplays the bishops’ furious efforts to cover up for the abusers, passing them off as something all institutions tend to do:

This response framework, as well as the lack of transparency, is not an atypical response to deviant behavior by members of an institution. (p. 4)

Of course, most institutions do not claim to be the sole remaining arbiters of morality in the world. The R.C. Church cannot legitimately use “But other organizations do the same thing!” as an excuse. That’s “two wrongs make a right” thinking, and is fallacious.

Leave it to Bill Donohue, head of the Catholic League, to rationalize why the “scandal” was not really a “scandal” and why neither the abusive clergy nor the bishops had done anything wrong:

William Donohue, the outspoken president of the conservative Catholic League, noted on the group’s website that the report found that 81% of abuse victims were male and 78% were beyond puberty. “Since 100% of the abusers were male, that’s called homosexuality, not pedophilia or heterosexuality,” he said.

Aha. So it’s “just” homosexuality. Oh well, I guess that makes the abuse of children OK, then, eh Bill?

What a fucking reprehensible bunch of creatures we’re dealing with, in the Catholic Church and its defenders … ! If you’re a Catholic and you’re not sickened by these people, then there’s something wrong with you.

Photo credit: kevingessner.

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Bundesarchiv Bild 102-06851, Mailand, Parade italienischer FrontkämpferBill Donohue, the Christofascist who heads the Catholic League, reached a new high in low, during an appearance on Fox News, wherein he made his position on Christmas — and on what everyone should believe, generally — crystal clear. News Hounds reports that what he said, is that non-Christians need to convert to Catholicism and worship Christmas along with him (WebCite cached article). He began with some remarks about reports that Christmas trees make some non-Christians uncomfortable:

Bill’s verbal pugilism escalated with “tell them to get over it.” He then did a litany of those who are “excluded,” including “mothers who feel excluded from father’s day” (WTF!) and said “too bad.”

What the fuck, indeed! I had no idea that any mothers felt “excluded” from Father’s Day. Where did the Billster pull that from?

Bill claimed that his Jewish friends (imaginary?) say this is ridiculous and that “everybody celebrates Christmas.”

Aha. The old “some of my best friends are Jewish” thing. Sorry Bill, but that you happen to know a few Jews who celebrate Christmas, tells us absofuckinglutely nothing about Jews as a group, or even about non-Christians generally. My guess, Bill, is that any Jewish friends you may have, are telling you what you want to hear because they know what a ferocious Christofascist you are. (That’s assuming you really have any Jewish “friends,” Bill … I find that claim to be non-credible.)

He then brayed that if people are made uncomfortable by Christmas displays — are ya ready for it — they should “convert to Catholicism.”

Yes, folks, that’s the Billster’s solution to the problem of religious inclusiveness … everyone should just convert en masse to his own religion, Roman Catholicism, and — voilà! — problem gone.

That, Gentle Reader, is the very definition of a religious militant, and now you see why I’ve been saying that the Billster is a Christofascist.

The really sad part about this is that a lot of religious folks are going to read what the Billster said, and agree with him, that everyone converting to the same religion would solve the problem of religious division. What all of Bill’s believer/defenders fail to understand is the truly hideous nature of this idea. Its horror would become clearer, if put in the mouths of others. They wouldn’t be too keen, for example, on al-Qaeda terrorists saying to them, “If you want us to stop trying to blow you up by the dozen, all you have to do is convert to our Wahhabi Islamism.” Its criminality becomes even more obvious if one puts it in the mouth of a robber: “All you need do is give me all your money, and I won’t be forced to attack you.”

At any rate, I have to wonder, though, how many of the Billster’s allies among the rest of the Religious Right — which is overwhelmingly evangelical Protestant and therefore opposed to Catholicism — are going to take his demand that everyone convert to Catholicism. My guess is that they secretly cringed when they heard that … but in the interest of militant-Christian solidarity against non-Christians, they likely would never openly admit it.

I hope any doubts as to the religiofascist goals of people like Bill Donohue have been dispelled. Now you understand why they make such an issue out of Christmas every year … for them, it’s a wedge issue they can use to push their demand that everyone in the world believe what they do.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Rev. Marcial Maciel Degallado (2004)In addition to all the bad news that’s broken about the Roman Catholic Church … during the last couple months, as well as the last few years … a single, multinational Catholic scandal has been brewing since the late 90s. It involves a Catholic clerical order known as the Legionaries of Christ; specifically the reprehensible lifestyle of the order’s founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado. Maciel had once been a favorite of Pope John Paul II — in spite of scandals and rumors that swirled about him for decades — but after that pope’s death, the scandals became impossible for the Vatican to ignore. After several years of investigations and various forms of hyperbureaucratic procrastinations, the Vatican has finally had enough of the late Rev Maciel’s order, and is taking it over. The Hartford Courant reports on this latest development (WebCite cached article):

The Vatican’s decision to assume leadership of the scandal-plagued Legionaries of Christ won acceptance Sunday from the order itself and praise from those who abandoned the conservative movement now discredited by revelations that its founder sexually abused seminarians and fathered at least one child. …

The reaction came a day after the Vatican issued an extraordinarily blunt statement about Maciel and the religious order once championed by Pope John Paul II for its orthodoxy and ability to attract new vocations at a time when the number of priests was falling drastically.

The Vatican on Saturday announced that Pope Benedict XVI would name a papal delegate to govern the order and that a special commission would study its founding constitutions to reform it. The decisions were made after five Vatican investigators reported to the pope about their eight-month global inquiry into the order after its late founder was so thoroughly discredited by revelations of his double life.

In announcing the papal takeover, the Vatican excoriated Maciel for creating a “system of power” built on silence, deceit and obedience that enabled him to lead a double life “devoid of any scruples and authentic sense of religion” and allowed him to abuse young boys unchecked.

Maciel, his order, and its lay arm the Regnum Christi had gotten away with a great deal for a very long time, especially under John Paul II, who admired Maciel’s apparent militant dogmatism. But no amount of Vatican favoritism could protect the Legion forever.

The Courant has been beating the drum of Maciel’s wrongdoing for many years now, having run a number of stories on him. Most of that time the paper had been accused of being “anti-Catholic” and harassing an old man … but most of the accusations leveled at him turn out to have been accepted as true — by the very same Vatican which once had been reluctant even to consider them! Here are some of these stories the Courant has run (cached list):

Of course, the Courant‘s Vatican-admitted veracity on the matter of Rev. Marcial Maciel Degallado will not dissuade those who continue to whine about it being an “anti-Catholic” paper when it comes to its coverage of other matters, such as that of Dr. George Reardon, the late pedophile doctor whom even now — in death — the archdiocese of Hartford (which runs the hospital he’d worked for) continues to spend lots of money and political capital actively defending (cached article). To those folks, no amount of criticism can ever be leveled at their Church … not even truthful information. To them, nothing negative about the Catholic Church, no matter how much veracity it might have, can be reported about it. It’s impermissible to these people. Their Church is sacred, holy, and perfect … and the only reason anyone might have to say even the slightest bad things about it, are avowed “anti-Catholics.”

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Pope Benedict XVI, Vatican City, 2010-03-29 (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)A lawsuit filed in Kentucky in 2004 has forced the Roman Catholic Church to offer up legal theories that, it claims, show that it’s immune to a lawsuit over clerical abuse. The AP reports via Google News (locally cached version):

Dragged deeper than ever into the clerical sex abuse scandal, the Vatican is launching a legal defense that the church hopes will shield the pope from a lawsuit in Kentucky seeking to have him deposed.

Court documents obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press show that Vatican lawyers plan to argue that the pope has immunity as head of state, that American bishops who oversaw abusive priests weren’t employees of the Vatican, and that a 1962 document is not the “smoking gun” that provides proof of a cover-up. …

The Vatican is seeking to dismiss the suit before Benedict XVI can be questioned or secret documents subpoenaed.

This isn’t apparently the first U.S. court case to take up this matter:

The United States considers the Vatican a sovereign state — the two have had diplomatic relations since 1984. In 2007, U.S. District Court Judge John Heyburn rejected an initial request by the plaintiffs to depose Benedict.

“They will not be able to depose the pope,” said Joseph Dellapenna, a professor at Villanova University Law School an [sic] author of “Suing Foreign Governments and their Corporations.”

“But lower level officials could very well be deposed and there could be subpoenas for documents as part of discovery,” he said.

Note: The verb “depose” in this story refers — I assume — not to an attempt to remove the Pope from office (i.e. definition #1 from Merriam-Webster’s), but to force him to give a deposition (i.e. definition #3 from the same).

At any rate, the plaintiffs think they have documentary evidence to back up the claim of a cover-up:

Crucial to the Kentucky lawsuit is the 1962 document “Crimen Sollicitationis” — Latin for “crimes of solicitation.” It describes how church authorities should deal procedurally with cases of abuse of children by priests, cases where sex is solicited in the confessional — a particularly heinous crime under canon law — and cases of homosexuality and bestiality.

[Plaintiffs’ attorney William] McMurry argues that the document imposed the highest level of secrecy on such matters and reflected a Vatican policy barring bishops from reporting abuse to police. …

The existence of Crimen did not become publicly known until 2003, when a lawyer noticed a reference to the document while reading a 2001 letter written by Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. McMurry is seeking to subpoena Ratzinger’s letter, which instructed all bishops to send cases of clerical sex abuse to him and to keep the proceedings secret.

Strictly speaking, Crimen sollicitationis deals only with priests’ misconduct in the confessional or during the sacrament of reconciliation (also known as confession and/or penance). Many of the abuse cases that have been reported through the years do not involve the confessional or this sacrament; nevertheless, many Church officials have interpreted this 1962 letter as covering all accusations of abuse by a priest.

This case has already been bumped up to the federal appellate level, but the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed it to proceed in Kentucky courts again. I expect numerous appeals in this case, up and down through both the commonwealth and federal courts, for years to come. This isn’t over yet … not if the Vatican has anything to say about it.

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John Paul II the GreatAccording to a newly-published biography by one of the men investigating the possibility of his canonization, the late Pope John Paul II engaged in the practice of self-flagellation. This biography adds a few other revelations about him, including that he had investigated the possibility of resigning as Pope if it proved necessary, and had even set up a possible mechanism by which he might have done so. Time magazine reports (WebCite cached article):

Book: John Paul II Whipped Himself, Weighed Retiring

A new book by the priest in charge of the Vatican’s official case for Pope John Paul II’s sainthood is packed with fascinating — and, apparently, meticulously verified — revelations. The one that grabbed most of the headlines was the claim that John Paul whipped himself with a belt, an act of corporal penitence designed to draw the flagellator closer to Christ’s suffering, and one that is usually associated with a very distant century, or a Dan Brown novel.

“As some members of his close entourage in Poland and in the Vatican were able to hear, John Paul flagellated himself,” writes Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the Polish prelate who collected testimony in his role as “postulator” for the Pope’s canonization. “In his armoire, amid all the vestments and hanging on a hanger, was a belt which he used as a whip.”

The Roman Catholic Church has always had a kind of push-me-pull-you relationship with the practice of self-flagellation (or ritually flogging oneself). It has what has periodically been viewed as a scriptural support, e.g. these passages:

For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)

Self-flagellation, then, is a kind of ritual “killing of the body” or mortification, which is supposed to — at least spiritually — “kill” the physical impulses that interfere with salvation. While self-flagellation goes back to the early history of Christianity (and may have been practiced in pre-Christian times as well), the Roman Catholic Church has not always smiled on the practice. In the 14th century a disparate collection of Catholics, known as the Flagellants, became well-known, and the practice came into vogue. Pope Clement VI, after a brief period of indulging them, officially suppressed the Flagellants.

Since then, the Catholic Church has taken a middle-of-the-road approach to self-flagellation: As long as it’s not too obvious, too public, too brutal, too obsessive, or physically injurious, it’s acceptable for Catholics to engage in the practice. Nevertheless, I find it odd that a Monsignor might view the late Pope’s self-flagellation as evidence of his piety and as supporting his sainthood; the Church’s repression of the Flagellants suggests that Catholicism does not view self-flagellation as being as “holy” a practice as has been suggested.

Another revelation is that John Paul II laid the foundations of a mechanism by which he might have resigned, if needed. For the most part, over the last several centuries, Catholicism has presumed that the Pope is supposed to remain the Pope until death, that resignation is something that’s just not done. Of course, this assumption flies in the face of history, because some Popes have, in fact, resigned; e.g. Gregory XII, whose resignation effectively ended the Great Western Schism. At any rate, Pope John Paul II set up a mechanism that might have gotten around the supposition that Popes cannot resign, as Time explains:

According to the book, John Paul on Feb. 15, 1989 signed a document clearing the way for him to step down if necessary. Five years later, suffering from a growing number of ailments, including the lingering effects of a 1981 assassination attempt, the Pope updated details of the procedure “in the case of infirmity which is presumed incurable, long-lasting and which impedes me from sufficiently carrying out the functions of my apostolic ministry.” He also charged his then doctrinal chief, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now known as Pope Benedict XVI — to investigate the implications for the church of having a living “Pope Emeritus” while his successor tried to establish his reign. The vexed question of papal resignation has become increasingly important as a result of modern medicine’s ability to potentially extend a Pontiff’s life long past his ability to effectively run a 1 billion-strong global church.

As it turned out, in spite of his many medical issues, John Paul II ended up never taking advantage of this resignation option.

Ultimately, the late Pope is on track to be beatified later this year, and sometime in the next few years, canonized. I’m not sure how this book makes any kind of compelling case for that, in spite of its title.

Photo credit: Todd Ehlers.

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In a decision so bizarre that I have to wonder about the sanity of those behind it, the Vatican has announced that it’s asserting copyright control over use of the image, name, title, etc. of the Pope (as the Catholic News Agency reports):

Holy See declares unique copyright on Papal figure

The Vatican made a declaration on the protection of the figure of the Pope on Saturday morning. The statement seeks to establish and safeguard the name, image and any symbols of the Pope as being expressly for official use of the Holy See unless otherwise authorized. …

The declaration alludes to attempts to use ecclesiastical or pontifical symbols and logos to “attribute credibility and authority to initiatives” as another reason to establish their “copyright” on the Holy Father’s name, picture and coat of arms.

“Consequently, the use of anything referring directly to the person or office of the Supreme Pontiff… and/or the use of the title ‘Pontifical,’ must receive previous and express authorization from the Holy See,” concluded the message released to the press.

I’m not sure what this means for me as someone who occasionally comments on the actions of the Pope© and the Holy See©. Must I always use copyright or trademark symbols when talking about the office of the Pope©, the current officeholder Benedict XVI©, or the Vatican© itself?

I’m no lawyer, but it would seem to me that someone as public as Pope Benedict XVI© is … and since the office of Pope© has existed for many centuries already … I’m not sure how the Holy See© could even begin to enforce its copyright. But since the Roman Catholic Church is the wealthiest non-government entity on the planet, it’s safe to assume they can hire whole armies of attorneys to try to do so, and perhaps use lawsuits to coerce cooperation, even if they are not legally entitled to it by the letter of international copyright law.

Finally, I’m not sure what the point of all this is. Surely the Vatican© has much more compelling concerns, especially given the most recent revelations on the Irish clerical child-abuse saga, which to date has led to the resignations of two Irish bishops, and may yet end more careers (including police and government officials in Ireland who had acceded to the Church’s will and did not stop the abuse).

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

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