Posts Tagged “roman catholic church”

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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Jesus with a gun, via Counterlight's Peculiars / Jesus Kicks Ass!I’ve blogged occasionally over the last few years about a ridiculous movement — primarily among evangelicals — that angles to get more guns into churches. For some reason, guns are sacred to Jesus. I guess. I mean, it’s not as though I’ve ever understood this notion. After all, wasn’t Jesus — who supposedly founded their religion — the one who told Christians to “turn the other cheek” and “hand over one’s shirt with one’s cloak”, and “whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword” and all of that? I guess the sacred nature of guns must escape me, cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen that I am. I’m just not special enough to be gifted with such holy insights. Or something.

Anyway, this “bring guns to church for Jesus” trope has wandered into Catholicism, in a very public way. After his state enacted an “open-carry” law, the bishop of Dallas declared that guns aren’t allowed in any Catholic facilities in his diocese, and penned a missive on his blog announcing his opposition to “open carry.” Well, as you can imagine, this being Texas and all, that didn’t go over well. The Dallas Morning News reports on the backlash, which will include Catholics marching into churches armed to the teeth (WebCite cached article):

Plenty of Texas gun rights advocates celebrated 2016 as the year open carry finally arrived. But for some conservative Catholics, it’s another reason to clash with Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell.

The Dallas Diocese forbids parishioners from bringing guns – openly carried or concealed – to their churches. A recent online column by Farrell [cached] – described by some as “strident” – has made the Bishop’s critics even more vocal.…

The column said the ban was a reflection of the church as a place of sanctuary.

The column also praised President Barack Obama’s new executive order attempting to crack down on gun sales that hadn’t previously required background checks.…

“It is absurd that terrorists, criminals, and mentally unbalanced people can freely and openly buy weapons not intended for sport, but designed to kill people,” Farrell wrote.

It goes without saying a lot of Texans are incensed over what Farrell said. Much of that has more to do with the bishop’s expression of support for President Obama’s recent actions, than it does with his forbidding guns in Dallas-diocese churches.

At least one sanctimoniously-enraged Catholic quoted in the story plans to disobey Farrell:

[Catholic gun-toter Charles] Cleaver said he’ll continue carrying a gun to Mass, no matter what Farrell decides.

Remembering a friend’s warning, Cleaver said: “What good would that [gun] do for you if you’re not carrying?”

That last sentence points to the flaw in the gun-lovers’ arguments about how great it would be if everyone ran around with guns. They love guns; they think they’re useful; because they’re useful, that means they’re always needed; so if you don’t have one with you at all times, you may as well not even own one in the first place; but you do, so you have to take it everywhere. Yes, that’s the kind of “logic” we’re dealing with, in this sort of person.

P.S. Yes, in spite of the new law, private entities in Texas still have the right to forbid guns on their property. So Farrell’s ban of guns on diocesan property will stand.

P.P.S. I really love how Farrell’s critics called his ban on guns on diocesan properties and statement of support for Obama “strident,” as though stomping around armed to the teeth somehow isn’t also “strident.” Hmm.

Photo credit: Counterlight’s Peculiars.

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St Patrick's CathedralIt’s not just abuse of children that Roman Catholic hierarchs have been known to cover up. They tend to protect a lot of clerical misbehaviors. Anything that might make their Church look bad, can be something they don’t want to be widely known. An example of this was revealed in a parishioners’ lawsuit against a priest accused of embezzlement, his “boy toy,” and the archdiocese and archbishop whom they accuse of covering it all up. The (NY) Daily News reports on this ambling, sordid tale involving two parishes (WebCite cached article):

Father, forgive him.

A scandalous lawsuit accuses a Bronx priest of looting more than $1 million from a pair of city parishes — then spending the cash on a long-running S&M romance with a muscle-bound boyfriend.

The Rev. Peter Miqueli reportedly paid $1,000 per rough sex session with his hunky lover, who demanded the priest address him as “Master” — and drink his urine, the lawsuit said.

The sex-slave priest and his boy toy have shared a house in Brick, N.J., after Miqueli paid $264,000 cash six years ago, according to the suit.

Miqueli, 53, was also accused of stealing money donated to fix a church pipe organ, siphoning funds from a parish thrift shop and getting high on drugs provided by a Bronx parishioner.…

The suit was filed by parishioners from St. Frances de Chantal Church in Throgs Neck, where Miqueli remains the pastor, and from his old church, St. Francis Cabrini, on Roosevelt Island.

“These charges of theft and misconduct have been made for at least 10 years,” said lawyer Michael Dowd, who represents the two parishes.

“It is unbelievable that the diocese can’t come to a conclusion about the misconduct of Miqueli when there is money missing that may be a million dollars.”

The Daily News offers more details of the accusations, plus the plaintiffs’ assertion that Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the archdiocese helped Fr Miqueli cover up what he’d done. Dolan, you may recall, has something of a history along these lines; back when he’d been archbishop of Milwaukee, he paid off a few abusive priests so they’d quit, rather than turn them over to authorities. He may have viewed Fr Miqueli’s embezzled funds as a kind of “price” the parishes should pay in order to keep this scandal quiet, too.

To be clear, this is a lawsuit, and by itself, the filing proves nothing. Even so, there’s the possibility of corroboration … such as the emails sent to and from the archdiocese by the girlfriend of Fr Miqueli’s lover. We’ll see how this turns out.

Photo credit: Andy Cross, via Flickr.

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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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Apostolic Nunciature Washington DCWhen the media initially reported that Pope Francis had met the gay-hating Religious Right aspiring martyr Kim Davis, clerk of Rowan Cty, KY, while he was in Washington last week (WebCite cached article), I admit having been skeptical. At first, only she and her people (i.e. the Christofascist outfit called Liberty Counsel, led by her attorney Mat Staver) had made this claim. The Vatican and its nunciature (aka embassy) initially wouldn’t confirm or deny it. This was just the sort of thing Staver and his cadre might try to cook up in an effort to make their client appear saintly. So I was suspicious.

My skepticism was proven wrong when they confirmed a meeting took place, but said nothing about its nature (cached). That seemed pretty odd, since Ms Davis and Staver had painted a rather rosy picture of how the Pope had told her to soldier on for Jesus in her crusade against marriage in her county, because gays. After continued questions, the Pope’s people finally had to say more about it. And what they did say, as the New York Times reports, didn’t exactly match Ms Davis’ contention (cached):

Pope Francis’ encounter with Kim Davis last week in Washington, which was interpreted by many as a subtle intervention in the United States’ same-sex marriage debate, was part of a series of meetings with dozens of guests and did not amount to an endorsement of her views, the Vatican said on Friday.

The church distanced itself on Friday from the case of Ms. Davis, the Rowan County, Ky., clerk who defied a judge’s order and refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It said “the only real audience” Francis gave in Washington was to a former student of his.

The Times hosts a copy of the Vatican’s statement (cached), which says, among other things:

The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.

What’s odd about this is that the one personal audience the Pope’s office admits occurred in Washington wasn’t just with any old former student of his. This person, the Times explains, was gay, and he’d brought his long-time partner along:

Contacted by phone, a former student of Francis, Yayo Grassi, said he had been granted a meeting with the pope. Mr. Grassi is an openly gay man living in Washington, and he said he had been accompanied by his partner of 19 years, Iwan Bagus, as well as four friends.

CNN has also reported on this part of the story (cached). I find it incredibly odd that Pope Francis would have arranged his own meeting with a former student who was gay, on the one hand, yet also met with — and supposedly encouraged — an anti-gay crusader for Jesus on the other. It all seems improbable on its face.

A possible explanation for this incongruity may lie in a report by a LGBT advocacy group, the New Civil Rights Movement, with new details on how Ms Davis’s meeting was arranged (cached):

The New Civil Rights Movement has learned through a source within the Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican embassy, that Kim Davis’ meeting with the Pope was arranged – contrary to theories espoused in the media – by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The USCCB is led by President Joseph E. Kurtz, the Archbishop of Louisville, in Davis’ home state of Kentucky, and by the Archdiocese of Washington led by Cardinal Donald Wuerl. Both institutions have actively opposed same-sex marriage. In 2009, Cardinal Wuerl signed the Manhattan Declaration, an ecumenical statement calling on Evangelical, Orthodox, and Catholic Christians to defy laws permitting same-sex marriage and other issues they claim challenge their religious freedom.

The USCCB has ties to organizations designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, including the Family Research Council and the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM).

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the papal nuncio (aka ambassador) to the US is, according to some reports, a conservative within the hierarchy who’d participated in an anti-gay-marriage rally in Washington earlier this year (cached). As nuncio, Viganò very well could have arranged to insert Ms Davis and her goofy hick husband into a receiving line for the Pope, and possibly have done it with only a few people aware of who she really was. In other words, Viganò may well have blindsided his own boss, in the name of pushing an anti-gay crusade and promoting Ms Davis’s desired martyrdom, at the behest of the very-conservative American bishops.

I haven’t seen any other reports definitely linking this strange meeting with the USCCB. But other outlets, such as The Atlantic, have mentioned oddly cagey comments by Archbishop Kurtz (cached):

Joseph Kurtz, the archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky, and the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wouldn’t comment on the meeting itself and how it came about, noting that he stayed about a mile away from the nunciature where Pope Francis stayed during his visit to D.C. But “I can comment on the fact that in Kentucky, I had said that I’m not a lawyer or a politician, but I had certainly hoped that room could be made for people of conscience,” he said on Wednesday. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was the primary coordinator of the pope’s schedule during his visit to the United States.

The more I read about this, the more I smell a rat. And that rat stinks like episcopal incense.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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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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