Posts Tagged “roman catholic church”

Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Yerevan, Armenia, to Rome June 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)Time and again, as I’ve blogged so many times over the last few years, Pope Francis has done things and made comments that one would never have expected from any of his predecessors. Well, he did it again, this time aboard his plane returning from a trip to Armenia. As the Catholic News Agency reports, his remarks were wide-ranging, and — I expect — will touch off more than one controversy (WebCite cached article):

Catholics and other Christians not only must apologize to the gay community, they must ask forgiveness of God for ways they have discriminated against homosexual persons or fostered hostility toward them, Pope Francis said.

“I think the church not only must say it is sorry to the gay person it has offended, but also to the poor, to exploited women” and anyone whom the church did not defend when it could, he told reporters June 26.…

At the mention of the massacre in early June at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Pope Francis closed his eyes as if in pain and shook his head in dismay.

“The church must say it is sorry for not having behaved as it should many times, many times — when I say the ‘church,’ I mean we Christians because the church is holy; we are the sinners,” the pope said. “We Christians must say we are sorry.”

Changing what he had said in the past to the plural “we,” Pope Francis said that a gay person, “who has good will and is seeking God, who are we to judge him?”

Surely someone out there will say the Pope was “blaming” the Pulse nightclub massacre on Catholics or Christians; if one actually pays attention to what he said, though, that’s not it. He’s pointing out only that Christianity has contributed to an atmosphere of hatred for gays. That’s a long way — a very long way! — from saying that Christendom collectively conspired to massacre gays in Orlando FL. The two are, quite simply, not even close to the same thing.

I note, too, that the Pope explicitly said that all Christians, not just Catholics, should apologize to gays for marginalizing them. This is a departure from other similar comments in which a pope or other Catholic leader spoke only on behalf of his own Church and what it or its followers had done. On this occasion, Francis said, the apology must come from other sects than just Catholicism. I’m not sure many Christians from other sects — even those who otherwise profess respect for Pope Francis — will appreciate him having said this.

The Pope also veered away from potentially ordaining women as deacons:

As he did at the meeting with the superiors, Pope Francis told the reporters that his understanding was that women deacons in the early church assisted bishops with the baptism and anointing of women, but did not have a role like Catholic deacons do today.

In addition, while he’d been in Armenia, Francis had doubled down on his prior use of the word “genocide” to describe Turkey’s atrocities against ethnic Armenians during World War I. He explained this, too, during his return flight:

He used the word “genocide” to describe the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in 1915-18 because that was the word commonly used in his native Argentina and he had already used it publicly a year ago. Although he said he knew Turkey objects to use of the term, “it would have sounded strange” not to use it in Armenia.

The Turkish government reacted as childishly as one would expect. As Reuters reports via the Religion News Service, they shot back by accusing the Pope of being a crusader (cached):

A Turkish deputy prime minister said on Saturday (June 25) that it was “unfortunate” that Pope Francis had labeled the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a genocide, and that it reflected the papacy’s “Crusader mentality.”

References to “crusading” are among the worst pejoratives found in the Islamic world, even if it is juvenile name-calling. As I’ve blogged previously, it’s long past time for Turks and the Turkish government to fucking grow the hell up already and stop throwing tantrums every time someone calls the Armenian Genocide a “genocide.” That’s what it was … and the Turks should act like adults and just deal with it, fercryinoutloud.

Photo credit: Paul Haring/CNS.

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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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SRL Bell Tower (St Rose of Lima church Web site)Over the years I’ve taken lay Catholics to task for their general acquiescence to their Church’s hierarchs. Yes, there are exceptions — e.g. groups like Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) and Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) — but most lay Catholics have no problem with things like priest shuffling. At least, they can’t have any problem with it, because the vast majority have done nothing about it. In many of my posts I’ve implored and/or dared lay Catholics to get off their asses, take charge of their own Church, and clean up its act. Still, it just doesn’t happen.

At least, it hadn’t. Finally, a group of Catholics in Florida actually did something about a wayward priest. As the Miami Herald explains, they hired a private investigator to check into him and presented a report to their archbishop (WebCite cached article):

The pastor of St. Rose of Lima has been asked to step down after a group from the parish presented a 129-page report to the Archdiocese of Miami filled with allegations of sexual impropriety against Father Pedro Corces.

The allegations are … well, “fascinating” is an apt word:

The Christifidelis document, titled “Dossier on the Improprieties of Father Pedro M. Corces And an Appeal to His Excellency Archbishop Thomas Wenski For Urgent Action” and dated May 16, consists of information provided by an investigator hired by the parents. It accuses Corces of improper relationships with a maintenance worker he hired and three other individuals associated with the parish, including a deacon. The investigator is not named in the report but he followed the priest for weeks, photographing him, tracking the social media account of the maintenance worker and others, and going through the church rectory trash.

The report, along with dozens of pictures, copies of receipts, and 28 appendices, claims that Corces replaced the maintenance staff with workers who included “a felon and prostitute, Santeria practitioners, promiscuous gay practitioners and people who openly mock the Catholic faith.”

It claimed that Corces became romantically involved with a maintenance worker and that the two men shared “frequent, lavish trips and dinners.”

I’m not sure how these parishioners thought Archbishop Wenski would take this report. But he did exactly as I’d have expected, lashing out against it rather than examining it thoroughly:

“This unfortunate chain of events has fractured the spirit and unity at this long established parish and school,” wrote Archbishop Thomas Wenski in a May 26 letter (cached) emailed to parents Thursday afternoon. A printed copy of the letter was being sent home in students’ communication folder Friday.

But far from calming parents’ concerns, the letter angered the group, which calls itself Christifidelis. The Wenski letter blames the fracturing of the parish on a small group. “Slanderous gossip, calumny, detraction — all sinful behaviors — have fomented division in the parish and school communities,” he wrote.

Miami attorney Rosa Armesto, who has children at the parish school in Miami Shores, is representing Christifidelis. She met with Wenski on May 16.

“It’s such a shameful letter. The archbishop is not upset at what the priest has done but that it has been uncovered,” she said. “The church isn’t upset by the sins of their priests but by the fact that the faithful have had the audacity, the temerity, to bring this up.”

In short, Wenski isn’t concerned with the integrity of St Rose of Lima parish, nor its school, nor the nuns who’d been there, nor the parishioners, nor the children at the school. Oh no. None of that bothers him at all! What bothers him is that some insolent parishioners dared question their priest’s behavior. That — and not the possibility of wrongdoing by that priest — sent him into a tizzy.

I applaud this effort by lay Catholics to force their own Church to own up to its failings. But with that said, this seems to have gone about as far as it can go, given the nature of the R.C. hierarchy. Corces had to quit his parish and the school, it’s true, but he’ll be moved on somewhere else and will land on his feet. Wenski will remain in denial about what happened and ensconced in his palatial office. And that’s it.

Unfortunately, lay Catholics in Miami have a lot more to do. They’ll need to coerce Wenski and their archdiocese to change its tune and its policies. Many will say there’s nothing they can do, the Church is what it is and it’s immutable. But that’s bullshit. There’s plenty they can do! They have the power of the collection plate. If they withhold donations from their Church, its hierarchs will have no choice but to comply with whatever reforms they demand. They won’t have the leisure of not doing so, because their livelihoods depend on those donations. It might take awhile — some parishes and dioceses have considerable financial reserves — but eventually they will have to cave in and do as their donors instruct. It really is as simple as that.

Photo credit: St Rose of Lima church Web site.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

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St Peter's Square, Vatican City - April 2007Among the defenses the Roman Catholic hierarchs have relied on, regarding their mishandling of clerical child-abuse worldwide, is the assertion that it’s something which is “in the past.” Done. Over. Finished. No longer an issue. The US bishops, for instance, used a report they commissioned to declare it a “historical” problem — as in, “it’s history.” Unfortunately for the bishops, it turns out this isn’t actually the case. Reuters reports that an audit actually showed an uptick in child-abuse incidents (WebCite cached article):

An annual audit of reports of sexual abuse by members of the U.S. Roman Catholic clergy released on Friday showed sharp increases in the number of new claims and in the value of settlements to victims.

The audit showed that 838 people came forward from July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2015, to say they had been sexually abused by priests, deacons or members of religions orders while they were children, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said.

That is up 35 percent from 620 new reports of abuse a year earlier, an increase that the bishops said largely reflected a large number of claims in six dioceses that had either filed for bankruptcy or were located in states that opened windows allowing victims to sue over old cases of sexual assault.

It’s true that bankruptcies and changes to the law can bring out more reports of abuse that took place long ago, but this audit included more recent reports:

While the bulk of the reports related to cases of abuse date back to the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, there were 26 reports made by minors of more recent abuse.

If in fact the “priestly pedophilia” scandal truly was the “historical” phenomenon bishops have claimed, this number would have been zero, not 26. Once again, the truth rears its head and reveals the hierarchs as the inveterate liars they actually are. It’s long past time they owned up to what they’ve done — i.e. to protect abusive clergy — rather than making excuses for it or dismissing it (e.g. insisting it’s not an ongoing issue).

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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facepalm-picardThe Roman Catholic Church is very good at conjuring excuses, especially for things it’s done. I’ve cataloged a large number of its — and its defenders’ — excuses for the worldwide “priestly pedophilia” scandal.

But that’s hardly the limit of the hierarchs’ excuse-making. Case in point: As Spain’s edition of The Local reports, the archbishop of Toledo blamed women for domestic violence (WebCite cached article):

The Archbishop of Toledo, Braulio Rodríguez, has caused controversy with a series of comments on domestic violence he made during a sermon.

The majority of cases of domestic violence happen because the woman’s partner “does not accept them” or “rejects them for not accepting their demands” he told the congregation.

He went on to lay the blame for many cases of domestic violence on the woman in the relationship.

“Often the macho reaction comes about because she asked for a separation,” the archbishop said, according to local newspaper, Periódico CLM.

This is another of those times when a Catholic official has carried on about a topic that he — by definition as a celibate — knows absolutely nothing about. One wonders why they repeatedly do so.

Photo credit: darkuncle, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Rational Wiki.

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Cardinal Philippe Barbarin / Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters, via the Daily BeastThe worldwide Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal rolls on. I’ve blogged about it for a very long time. It’s been going on for around 15 years. Had such a scandal manifested within any other organization, people would have been prosecuted, changes would have been made, victims compensated, and it would have long ago stopped being an issue.

But that’s not how things work with the Catholic Church. No, the Holy Church doesn’t work the way any other institution does. It keeps on keeping on, as the saying goes. It doesn’t admit fault, it doesn’t change, it doesn’t relent, it makes no concessions, it just does what it’s always done … because the Church. Case in point: As the Daily Beast reports, the priestly-pedophilia scandal erupted again, this time in France, involving a Cardinal there (WebCite cached article):

Meet the Archbishop of Lyon, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who has denied he did anything wrong by hiding the well-known fact [cached] that Father Bernard Preynat was sexually abusing as many as 40 Catholic Scouts in France in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Preynat was relieved of his duties in the parish of Roanne in 2015 after admitting to the sex abuse. He was indicted on Jan. 27 on charges of “sexual abuse and rape of minors” and has admitted his crimes to the police.…

Meanwhile, Cardinal Barbarin is facing criminal charges by a French secular court for “failing to report a crime” and “endangering the life of others,” which could carry a three-year prison sentence and fines up to €45,000.

Barbarin denies having done anything wrong, and his reasoning is quite unbelievable:

[Barbarin] maintains that he shouldn’t be accused at all because he eventually removed Preynat from parish work.

Never mind that the removal came nearly 15 years after his crimes were made known. After victims and their families came forward in 1991, Preynat was removed him from parish duties for six months by the then-archbishop, who is now deceased. Yet despite having confessed to the crimes, Preynat was allowed to return to his active duties after he repented, meaning he had access to children despite admitting to being a pedophilic sex offender.

When Barbarin was appointed as archbishop, he even promoted the errant priest to an administrative position in 2007 where he was in charge of six dioceses filled with children, according to court documents quoted [cached] in the French press.

Barbarin, who is well liked in France despite his harsh stance against gay marriage (which he once predicted would pave the way to legalized incest), removed Preynat from the priesthood last August when secular authorities got involved—25 years after his crimes had first emerged.

Yes, apparently Barbarin believes that, because he finally summoned the courage to stop Preynat decades after he knew Preynat was abusing kids, this means he shouldn’t have been prosecuted for not having stopped Preynat.

Yes, folks, this is exactly the sort of reasoning that floats through the pompous and self-righteous brains of Catholic hierachs. It’s at least as absurd and laughable as any of the vast litany of other excuses the hierarchs and their apologists have offered, over the past few years.

But let’s be brutally honest here: Preynat’s superiors — which included Barbarin for a very long time, but also others within the Church — knew damned well he was abusing kids but purposely chose to allow him to continue abusing kids, for decades. Yes, that’s decades. This is factual — by Preynat’s own admission. There’s no question about it. I invite any and all Catholic apologists out there to explain to me clearly how and why this was acceptable. I fucking dare you! Go ahead and tell me why this was just fine.

Photo credit: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters, via the Daily Beast.

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