Posts Tagged “holy see”

Pope Francis among the people at St. Peter's Square - 12 May 2013Since his ascension to the Vatican throne, there’s been an expectation, or perhaps just a hope, that Pope Francis would finally adopt a new tactic in the handling of the Catholic Church’s worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal. As something of a reform advocate, Church watchers assumed he’d do things differently. And he has, in fact, marched to his own drum in many regards, as I’ve blogged quite often, but where “priestly pedophilia” has been concerned, he’s mostly been a big disappointment.

Yeah, he’s said and done a few things that suggest he “gets it,” but in the end, nothing has really changed, on that score. The best example of this is his special review commission, which apparently imploded because at least one of its members (foolishly, it seems) expected some actual results from it. “Priestly pedophilia” has turned out to be an ongoing problem which Francis ultimately hasn’t done anything about.

But that may have changed. I emphasize the “may have” in that sentence. The Associated Press reports the Pope has changed canon law so that bishops who failed to protect children might be disciplined (locally-cached version):

Pope Francis has established legal procedures to remove bishops who botch handling sex abuse cases, saying they can be kicked out of office if the Vatican finds they were negligent in doing their jobs.

In a law published Saturday, Francis answered a long-running demand by victims of abuse and their advocates to hold bishops accountable for failing to protect their flocks from pedophiles. Victims have long accused bishops of covering up for abuse, moving rapists from parish to parish rather than reporting them to police.

In the law, Francis acknowledged that the church’s canonical code already allows for a bishop to be removed for “grave reasons.” But he said he wanted to precisely state that negligence, especially negligence in handling abuse cases, can cost a bishop his job.

Yes, it’s true there really hasn’t been anything to date preventing a Pope from demanding the resignation of a negligent bishop — for pretty much any reason at all. It could always have been done, had it been desired. The Pope has a great deal of authority, both within and outside of canon law. But having this provision explicitly within canon law is a noteworthy change.

Even so — as with the review commission that collapsed — that doesn’t mean anything will ever come of this. The Vatican will, in all likelihood, continue doing as it wishes. We’ll just have to see if this new canon law actually goes anywhere … and given the Catholic bureaucracy’s glacial pace, it might take years for it to be noticed.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Pope Francis at VargihnaAs I’ve blogged previously, Pope Francis seems to march to his own drummer. At various points — mostly in small ways — he’s pushed against Vatican orthodoxy. He recently did so once again when, as the Religion News Service reports, he said he’s examining the possibility of ordaining women as deacons (WebCite cached article):

In an opening with historic import, Pope Francis has said he wants to study the possibility of ordaining women as deacons, a step that could for the first time open the ranks of the Catholic Church’s all-male clergy to women.

The order of deacons was reinstituted in the Catholic Church after the reforms of the 1960s, and while deacons cannot celebrate the Eucharist like a priest, a deacon can preach at Mass, preside at weddings and funerals, and perform baptisms.

But in restoring the diaconate, the church also restricted ordination as a deacon to “mature married men” over 35.…

“I would like to constitute an official commission to study the question: I think it will be good for the Church to clarify this point, I agree, and I will speak so as to do something of this type,” Francis said, according to the Vatican transcript of the encounter [cached].

“So, with regard to the diaconate,” he added a bit later, “yes, I agree and it seems to me it would be useful to have a commission to clarify this well, especially with regard to the early times of the church.”

Conservative Catholics, as one would expect, are throwing conniptions over this. They say this will lead to ordaining women as priests. That this is “slippery slope” thinking, and therefore fallacious, doesn’t matter to them. They’re determined to equate this move with the ordination of women as priests, in spite of these facts: First, studying the ordination of women as deacons doesn’t mean it will ever happen; and even if women are allowed to be ordained as deacons, it doesn’t mean they’ll be ordained as priests, too. The offices of deacon and priest are very different. What’s more, that this need not lead to a “slippery slope” scenario is evident in the fact that married men have been ordained as deacons for decades, yet this hasn’t led to married men being ordained as priests.

Another point to be brought up is that Vatican study commissions often lead nowhere. For example, Francis’s own child-abuse review commission has basically imploded. So just because the Pope wants to study the matter, doesn’t mean anything will ever come from that. Conservative Catholics would do well to calm the fuck down and stop getting their panties in knots every time Francis opens his mouth.,

Lastly, Catholics need to be aware of something they should know, yet many don’t, or don’t wish to accept: For the last few decades, the Church has dealt with a shortage of priests. The post-Vatican II restoration of the diaconate was, at least partly, a way of dealing with that: It allowed some tasks to be handed off to non-priests. The “vocation crisis” remains a severe problem for the Church. Allowing the ordination of deaconesses would, essentially, double the potential pool of applicants to the diaconate. I can’t see why this can’t be a partial solution to a problem the Church faces.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Donald TrumpSince entering the presidential primary, Donald “it’s my own orange hair” Trump has railed against a lot of people. These range from John McCain to Mexico (and Mexicans and generally) to Megyn Kelly to NBC Universal to Fox News to Jorge Ramos to Jeb Bush to Megyn Kelly (again) to Ted Cruz to Fox News (again) … and on and on and on and on. Hardly a night goes by when Trumpie isn’t on Twitter ranting furiously about something or someone. At any given moment he’s engaged in some kind of tiff with at least 4 people.

Well, today he found a new enemy to trade harsh words with … a person one wouldn’t have expected to mix with anyone, let alone the angry, perpetually-lying real estate magnate. It was, as CNN reports, none other than the Jesuit Pope Francis (Webcite cached article)

The Pope, who was traveling back to Rome from Mexico, where he urged the United States to address the “humanitarian crisis” on its southern border, did not tell American Catholics not to vote for Trump.

But Francis left little doubt where he stood on the polarizing issue of immigration reform.

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel,” the Pope told journalists who asked his opinion on Trump’s proposals to halt illegal immigration.

The infantile little boy Trumpie, of course, would have none of it:

Trump immediately fired back, calling Francis’ comments “disgraceful.”

“No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith,” he said in statement.…

“If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president,” Trump said.

Wow, gotta love Trumpie’s “appeal to ISIS/ISIL/IS” as some sort of “proof” of his own righteousness and veracity. That’s just laughable. Note, too, an additional little plaintive whine:

Trump added that the government in Mexico, where Francis spent the past five days, has “made many disparaging remarks about me to the Pope.”

Oh, the poor little thing! Why, people actually complained about him to each other! What a fucking little crybaby. I mean, come on, little Trumpie. Act your age, fercryinoutloud!

Now, the Pope’s declaration that Trumpie is un-Christian wasn’t unprovoked, as CNN explains:

The tussle between Trump and Francis — two outsized personalities who seldom shy from speaking their minds — seems to have been building for some time. Before the Pope traveled to Mexico, Trump cast the pontiff as a political naif who “doesn’t understand the dangers” at the U.S.-Mexican border.

By calling the childish little Trumpie un-Christian, then, the Pope was giving as good as he’d gotten. It’s also interesting to see him playing a role in the US presidential election. It’s not as though he could make it worse than it already is, and at least he seems to have thought out what he said, unlike others — in the race — who just spout off angrily all the time like juvenile little twits, spewing a steady stream of outrageous lies in the process (cached).

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.

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SACRED HEART CATHEDRAL, OOTY, via Diocese of Ootacamund Web siteFor a while now, I’ve blogged about the Roman Catholic Church’s assertion that priestly pedophilia is a “historical phenomenon” (i.e. a relic of the past). Five years ago the American bishops commissioned a report which reached this conclusion, and used those very words. But that’s not the case. Even at that time — and now — it remains a continuing problem.

As if to underscore this, as well as to demonstrate, once again, that it doesn’t take this problem seriously, a diocese in India — at the Vatican’s urging — has reinstated a priest there who’d molested children while he was posted to a Minnesota church. CBS News reports on their reprehensible maneuver (WebCite cached article):

The Roman Catholic church in southern India has lifted the suspension of a priest convicted last year of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in the United States more than a decade ago, a spokesman said Saturday.

The suspension of the Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul [cached] was lifted last month after the bishop of the Ootacamund Diocese in India’s Tamil Nadu state consulted with church authorities at the Vatican, said the Rev. Sebastian Selvanathan, a spokesman for the diocese.

Bishop Arulappan Amalraj of Ootacamund had referred Jeyapaul’s case to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the suspension was lifted on the church body’s advice, Selvanathan said.

The article briefly describes the particulars of this case … but even this is enough to make one’s skin crawl:

Jeyapaul was sent to Minnesota in 2004 and served at the Blessed Sacrament Church in Greenbush, near the Canadian border.

He was suspended in 2010 after being charged with sexually assaulting two girls who were both 14 at the time of the alleged abuse.

Jeyapaul fled the United States, but was arrested in India by Interpol in 2012 [cached] and extradited to the U.S. Jeyapaul pleaded guilty to molesting one of the teenagers who hasn’t been identified publicly. The charges involving sexual abuse of the second teenager, Megan Peterson, were dropped as part of a plea deal.

Peterson accused Jeyapaul of raping her in his office in a statement posted under her name on the website of The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which has advocated for victims’ rights.

It’s clear the Vatican and the global hierarchy of the Church simply don’t take this seriously. As I’ve documented many times over the years, they consistently and repeatedly have blamed the worldwide priestly-pedophilia scandal on anything and everything other than themselves or the abusive priests. In some cases, they don’t even view the abuse as unacceptable or criminal in the first place. In others they view accusations of abuse by their clergy as fabrications woven by any number of bogeymen (ranging from “masonic secularists” to gays or homosexuality generally to Pope-haters to the Forces of Darkness to the Jews) intended to “bring down” God’s holy Church. In still others, they believe the victims somehow coerced clergy into abusing them.

The hierarchy staunchly and petulantly refuses to accept it’s done anything wrong by protecting and supporting abusive priests. No excuse is too ridiculous to offer, in their effort to justify this refusal.

Photo credit: Diocese of Ootacamund Web site.

Hat tip: Secular Web News Wire.

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General Audience with Pope FrancisAfter being tossed from the Vatican’s priestly-pedophilia review panel, abuse victim Peter Saunders has a bit to say about that project. And what he said, in his interview with AFP, isn’t good at all (WebCite cached article):

“Of course Pope Francis has established he is part of the problem,” Peter Saunders said in an interview with AFPTV, during which he insisted he had not resigned and that only the pontiff himself could force him to quit the Vatican commission.

“That breaks my heart because when I met him 18 months ago I thought there was a sincerity and a willingness to make things happen, and I am afraid that has been dashed now.”…

But Saunders now says he realises the commission was always going to be about “smoke and mirrors” and that he is convinced the Church will never act alone to cure the “cancer” in its midst.

Saunders confirmed my suspicion that his removal from the panel was caused by something more recent than his criticism of Cardinal George Pell some eight months ago:

Saunders said the move was triggered by tensions that arose after a fellow commission member told him about being approached by two priests from an Italian diocese who had discovered a colleague was a serial abuser of children.

He also tackled something I’ve been talking about for years:

Saunders said the notion that clerical sex abuse was a problem of past decades — an argument Vatican officials have assiduously promoted — had to be challenged.

“This is not in any sense a historical issue or problem,” he said. “It has to be tackled now. The Pope could do so much more and he is doing next to nothing.

“This is a societal problem — but if the Church, the so-called moral leadership of the world, does not take a lead in this area it would quite rightly be considered morally bankrupt in every other area.”

Saunders is 100% correct. The Church has, in fact, repeatedly insisted that priestly pedophilia is a “historical problem” (and using that very phrase), yet as we all know, it’s not “historical,” it’s “ongoing.” As long as the Church refuses to admit that, it will remain possible for abusive clergy to go on abusing kids.

So much for the notion that Pope Francis might deal with this scandal better than his predecessors. All he managed to do, by creating this commission, was to come up with yet another way of deflecting it. How disappointing. The little bit of respect I’d had for Pope Francis is now gone.

Photo credit: Catholic Church England & Wales, via Flickr.

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Crepuscular Rays at Noon in Saint Peters Basilica, Vatican City (5939069865)When Pope Francis ascended to the papacy, he was hailed as a reformer, and many expected he’d handle the worldwide Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal much better than either Benedict or John Paul had. As I’ve blogged many times, Francis has in fact gone his own way, many times and over many issues.

Whether he’s been able to make a real difference, though, is another matter. And the clerical child-abuse scandal appears to be one in which he’s gotten nowhere. It’s not as though he’s done nothing at all … back in late 2013 he announced the creation of an advisory panel on the matter, which included abuse survivors (WebCite cached article). Unfortunately, that commission hasn’t done much. Its meetings have been infrequent, and its impact has been minimal.

And now, as CNN reports, it seems someone in the Vatican has decided to kick one of the abuse survivors off the panel (cached):

One of two sex abuse survivors on Pope Francis’ commission on the abuse of minors by the clergy has taken a leave of absence, the Vatican announced Saturday.

But Peter Saunders, an outspoken critic of the papal commission, responded: “I have not left and I’m not leaving.”

Founder of the London-based National Association for People Abused in Childhood, Saunders told reporters, “I was appointed by His Holiness Pope Francis and I will only talk to him about my position.”

A Vatican statement said the “direction and purpose” of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was discussed at a Saturday meeting.

“It was decided that Mr. Peter Saunders would take a leave of absence from his membership to consider how he might best support the commission’s work,” the statement said.…

At a news conference after the Vatican’s announcement, Saunders said he was blindsided by the decision.

“I was asked to consider my role or what my role should be with the commission,” he said.

“I did not make a decision to take or accept any decision on a leave of absence. I said I would reflect on what I would do.”

Saunders said he learned about his supposed leave after the statement’s release.

The CNN article implies Saunders was thrown off the panel because of his harsh criticism of Australian Cardinal George Pell, but that happened eight months ago (cached). In most cases, that passage of time would suggest the two events aren’t linked. Then again, this is the Vatican we’re talking about, and it’s a proverbially slow-moving institution. Still, I’m not sure there’s a lockstep association here. It’s possible that Saunders has been causing internal problems for them during the intervening months, leading to this decision. That’s not to say any problems Saunders may have created for them are undeserved, or that he’s been unreasonable: The robed denizens of the Vatican probably just don’t like an abuse survivor calling them out on what they — and the rest of the hierarchy — did, and possibly are still doing.

That the Vatican didn’t even have the decency to tell Saunders he’d been dismissed before announcing his forced departure, is just another example of their moral deficiency and their sense of entitlement.

Was Pope Francis behind this low maneuver? Maybe … but maybe not. It’s hard to say how the Vatican operates these days. It’s true the Popes are nearly absolute monarchs, and technically in charge of everything that happens there. But there are times — both historically and now — when the machinery of the Vatican moves on its own, responding to its internal bureaucratic momentum. We’ll have to see what Francis does about this … but we’ll also have to keep in mind that, whatever we do hear, will have been filtered through that same machinery, since the Vatican is the Pope’s public-relations engine.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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A Charlie Brown Christmas TreeIn a remarkable contrast to all the Religious Right’s bellicose whining about how Christmas is somehow being outlawed, alongside their ongoing effort to force every American to worship it with them, Pope Francis made some comments recently about that holiday which are very different. As Agence France-Presse reports via Yahoo News, he said that Christmas celebrations will seem hollow this year (WebCite cached article):

Christmas festivities will seem empty in a world which has chosen “war and hate”, Pope Francis said Thursday.

“Christmas is approaching: there will be lights, parties, Christmas trees and nativity scenes … it’s all a charade. The world continues to go to war. The world has not chosen a peaceful path,” he said in a sermon.

“There are wars today everywhere, and hate,” he said after the worst terror attack in French history, the bombing of a Russian airliner, a double suicide bombing in Lebanon, and a series of other deadly strikes.

“We should ask for the grace to weep for this world, which does not recognise the path to peace. To weep for those who live for war and have the cynicism to deny it,” the Argentine pontiff said, adding: “God weeps, Jesus weeps”.

The sermon threw a shadow over the start of the festive season at the Vatican, where a giant Christmas tree was unveiled.

As seems to be usual for him, Pope Francis once again bucks a lot of Catholic, if not overall Christian, trends … using the observance of a Christmas tree’s unveiling to make somber comments of this sort.

I hope all the “Christmas warriors” out there … led as they are by the (yes, Catholic!) Bill O’Reilly … will take note of what Pope Francis said. Maybe their caterwauling and whining about Starbuck’s coffee cups won’t seem so sanctimoniously important.

Photo credit: Mark K, via Flickr.

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