Posts Tagged “holy see”

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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General Audience with Pope FrancisA month ago, Pope Francis told his Church to be more welcoming toward divorced-&-remarried Catholics. The Church’s doctrines are an incentive to bar them; Catholics who remarry without having first getting an official annulment aren’t allowed to receive Communion, among other things. Annulments can be difficult to get, though, to the point where some divorced Catholics don’t even bother trying to get them.

Pope Francis is taking steps to change this. As the AP reports via ABC News, he’s making changes so that annulments are much easier to get (WebCite cached article):

Pope Francis radically reformed the Catholic Church’s process for annulling marriages Tuesday, allowing for fast-track decisions and removing automatic appeals in a bid to speed up and simplify the procedure.

Francis issued a new law regulating how bishops around the world determine when a fundamental flaw has made a marriage invalid. Catholics must get this church annulment if they want to remarry in the church.

But the process has long been criticized for being complicated, costly and out of reach for many Catholics, especially in poor countries where dioceses don’t have marriage tribunals.

In the document, Francis insisted that marriage remains an indissoluble union and that the new regulations aren’t meant to help to end them. Rather, he said, the reform is aimed at speeding up and simplifying the process so that the faithful can find justice.

The overall aim of the reform, he said, “is the salvation of souls.”

The upshot of the changes are that uncontested annulments can be “fast tracked” and handled entirely by the local diocese, without “automatic appeals” being invoked unnecessarily. It seems an obvious move for Francis to make, in order to keep divorced Catholics in the fold.

On this issue, I must admit being impressed. As I noted a month ago, the Church’s treatment of divorced-&-remarried Catholics has, historically, amounted to slamming the door in their faces. Its policies have effectively driven people right out of the Church. Telling the Church to be more welcoming of such folks — which the Pope did a month ago — is one thing, but actually greasing the ecclesiastical skids to make it easier to do, could make a material difference.

Of course, these changes can’t alter the attitudes of conservative Catholics, many of whom comprise the Church’s hierarchy. It’s possible they could still throw impediments in the path of divorced Catholics, and it certainly won’t immediately reduce their prejudices against them. Still, this is a tangible change that could have a positive effect.

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

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General Audience with Pope FrancisPope Francis continues to amaze, by repeatedly marching to his own drummer. The latest example of this came during his most recent audience. As Religion News Service reports, he instructed priests to welcome remarried Catholics (WebCite cached article):

Speaking out on one of the most contentious issues of his papacy, Pope Francis on Wednesday (Aug. 5) issued a powerful call for the church to embrace Catholics who have divorced and remarried, telling a gathering at the Vatican that such couples “are not excommunicated, and they absolutely must not be treated that way!”

“They always belong to the church,” he added, calling on pastors to welcome Catholics who have remarried without an annulment, even though such Catholics are currently barred in most cases from receiving the Eucharist, the central sacrament of the faith.

“The church is called to be always the open house of the Father. … No closed doors! No closed doors!” Francis told the crowd at his weekly public audience, which resumed after a monthlong summer break.

The pope’s words were greeted with what was described as thunderous applause [cached].

The article points out that Catholicism has, traditionally, taken a hard line against remarriage:

Current teaching says such Catholics cannot receive communion unless they abstain from sexual relations because their first marriage is still valid in the eyes of the church.

A debate over this has been brewing in the halls of the Vatican since Francis took office, and it appears his comments are of his effort to press the matter. He also pointed out the hypocrisy — not to mention dysfunctionality — of the Church’s current approach:

How can the church “tell these parents to do everything to raise their children as Christians, giving them an example of a firm and practiced faith, if we keep them at arm’s length from the community, as if they were excommunicated?”

I can attest that it’s not uncommon for people born into, and married within, the Catholic Church to be alienated from it, and therefore become ex-Catholics, because of this particular issue. It’s literally driving people right out their doors … making it a really stupid way to operate. And, from the “thunderous applause” of the people in his audience, it sounds as though a lot of lay Catholics agree.

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

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Pope Francis talks about egoism and money during a meeting with the youths, in Turin, Italy, Sunday. (Luca Bruno/AP via CSM)My readers will already have heard about Laudato Si’, the encyclical Pope Francis released this week addressing climate change and economics (WebCite cached version). Media coverage of it, including that it was leaked a few days early (cached), and that Rightists have gone berserk over the Pope having dared support both environmentalism and (they think, erroneously) communism, has been addressed thoroughly enough that I saw no point in mentioning it here.

But the Pope continued to push buttons even after that incendiary encyclical. The Christian Science Monitor reports on his assessment of how the Holocaust was handled while it was underway over 70 years ago (cached):

Pope Francis on Sunday denounced what he calls the “great powers” of the world for failing to act when there was intelligence indicating Jews, Christians, homosexuals, and others were being transported to death camps in Europe during World War II.

He also decried the deaths of Christians in gulags in Russia under the Stalin dictatorship, which followed the war.…

“The great powers had photographs of the railway routes that the trains took to Auschwitz to kill Jews, Christians, homosexuals, everybody,” Francis said, citing the death camp in Poland, and asked: “Why didn’t they bomb” those railroad routes?…

Lamenting the cynicism of world players in the 1930s and 1940s, Francis said: “the great powers divided up Europe like a cake.”

He also cited what he called the “great tragedy of Armenia.”

“In the last century, so many, millions, [of Armenians] died. But where were the great powers then? They were looking the other way,” the pope said.

The CSM goes on to explain, as I noted at the time, that the Pope had referred to the Armenian Genocide using that word, “genocide,” thus pissing off Turkey (which rather childishly and petulantly refuses to acknowledge what happened).

I may not be Pope Francis’s biggest fan, but I definitely appreciate his candor in this regard. For too long we’ve done a dance of making excuses for why the world’s regimes made little to no effort to intervene in Germany during the Holocaust, in spite of an awareness of what was going on. The Pope is correct when he points out that the Allies could very well have bombed certain railroads, and taken other measures, to interfere with the diabolical infrastructure by which the Holocaust was carried out. It’s convenient to counter with the excuse that there was a war on and Germany was heavily militarized, and it wouldn’t have been possible to completely destroy the Holocaust machinery — but they might have done something, and doing something would have been far better than doing nothing.

Of course, something that would be even better than the Pope being honest about how the Holocaust was handled, would be for him to release the Vatican’s records from that era. There’s been chatter that he might do so, given that as a Cardinal he’d supported doing so. Hopefully this might actually come to pass in my lifetime.

Photo credit: Luca Bruno/AP, via CSM.

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“Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’” (Matthew 7:23, New American Bible)I’ve blogged before about Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, who some 2½ years ago had been convicted of failing to report the abuse of a minor (WebCite cached article). In the real world most of us live in, being convicted of criminal wrongdoing while on the job usually results in an automatic firing from that job.

But in the strange, surreal, alternate universe of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, that doesn’t hold true. The bishops don’t generally like to have to pay too much attention to insignificant little things like criminal courts. They’re above all that, you see. So Finn was able to keep his post.

Until today. As Religion News Service reports, at long last — 2½ years after his conviction — the Vatican deigned to allow Finn, finally, to resign (cached):

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of an American bishop who was found guilty of failing to tell police about a suspected pedophile priest.

The Vatican on Tuesday (April 21) said the pope accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn, who led the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri.

The resignation was offered under the code of canon law that allows a bishop “who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause” to resign.

What’s remarkable about this is not that it took so long for the Vatican to act, or for Finn to quit. The Church had long resisted admitting Finn had done anything wrong in the first place — even after his conviction. But what’s remarkable is that he was let go after 2½ years. That amount of time strongly suggests there had originally been no intention of having him leave. Something changed — maybe 1½ to 2 years later — that made this happen … but what was it? I have no idea.

The other thing I’ve noticed, in reporting on this, is that media outlets (including the RNS article I cited, plus many others) make little or no mention of the 2½ year delay between Finn’s conviction and his resignation. I can’t imagine why that’s the case. This delay is certainly noteworthy, and anyone reporting on it ought to have mentioned it … even if only to concede there’s no known reason for it. Religion reporters appear to have taken a pass on that part of the story. It’s hard to imagine why, but they have. For this reason, I’m marking this as an example of a “journalism FAIL.” The delay should have been reported, if not thoroughly investigated — but it wasn’t.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on Mt 7:23, NAB.

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