Posts Tagged “roman catholic church”

Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, and Jason Miller in The Exorcist (1973) / via IMDBThe Roman Catholic Church is facing a crisis. No, I’m not referring to the worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal that’s wracked the Church for over 15 years, nor the resulting problem of dioceses experiencing financial straits and even bankruptcies. The Church’s problem is a shortage … but not of priests — a problem it’s faced for the last few decades (WebCite cached article).

While those are genuine problems the Church faces, they’re not the dire crisis I’m blogging about just now. That happens to be a different kind of shortage: A shortage of exorcists. Satanism and the occult are spreading like rashes, as the (UK) Telegraph explains, but the Church has too few anti-demonic personnel to fend them off (cached):

Exorcists are in urgent demand as a result of a sharp rise in people dabbling in Satanism and the occult, experts from the Catholic Church in Italy and the US said.…

Valter Cascioli, a psychologist and scientific consultant to the International Association of Exorcists, which is endorsed by the Vatican, described as an “emergency” the lack of priests capable of fighting the forces of evil.

“The lack of exorcists is a real emergency. There is a pastoral emergency as a result of a significant increase in the number of diabolical possessions that exorcist priests are confronting,” he told La Stampa newspaper.

“The number of people who take part in occult and satanic practices, which lead to serious physical, psychological and spiritual damages, is constantly rising.”…

“It is dangerous to underestimate a phenomenon that is caused by the direct actions of the devil, but also by a decline in faith and values.”

Cascioli’s complaints about the spread of what his Church considers black magic practices and “a decline in faith and values,” reflects the bellyaching of the main character in my last blog post (a Connecticut police chief who thinks the growth of atheism is making the crime rate go up). This sort of thinking is common in Christianity, what with its persecutorial psychopathology that causes them to delude themselves into believing they’re under siege and about to be wiped out at any moment.

Really, Cascioli has nothing to be worried about. Demonic possession never happens. There are no demons or devils, no Satan leading them, and no such thing as black magic, either. Exorcisms occur only in horror movies. There’s no viable reason for the Roman Catholic Church to divert any resources to creating a demonology school (which Cascioli has demanded). It’s all metaphysical nonsense, which until just a few years ago, the Church had de-emphasized through most of the 20th century. They should resume that policy and ignore Cascioli’s absurd kvetching about Satanism and “black magic.”

Photo credit: Still from The Exorcist (1973), via IMDB.

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Missionaries of Charity Mother HouseThe canonization of Mother Teresa has been brewing since her death in the late 1990s. The Pope at the time, John Paul II, had been a serious fan of hers, and greased the skids so as to speed up her sainthood — something that usually takes decades, if not centuries. He arranged for her beatification (the first step in the process) in 2003, and many in the Vatican have worked hard since then to get her sainted. As the Religion News Service reports, she is now “Saint Teresa of Calcutta” (WebCite cached article):

Mother Teresa, the tiny nun who devoted her life to the poor, was declared a saint by Pope Francis at the Vatican as he celebrated her “daring and courage” and described her as a role model for all in his year of mercy.

At least 120,000 people crowded a sun-drenched St. Peter’s Square for the canonization of the acclaimed nun who may have worked in the slums of Kolkata but was a force to be reckoned with by political and religious leaders around the world.

Mother Teresa’s reputation for charity goes beyond just the Catholic Church, largely thanks to her having won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. But the reality of her work doesn’t support this reputation. She’s been accused of not having actually helped all the ailing in her “hospital,” due to her devotion to the idea that it’s actually good for people to suffer (good for them, and for humanity as a whole).

Among her critics was the late British journalist Christopher Hitchens, who hosted a documentary and wrote a book explaining that her charitable reputation was undeserved. You can watch that documentary, Hell’s Angel, right here:

But for many fans of Mother Teresa, particularly devout Catholics, wouldn’t accept anything Hitchens had to say about her; after all, he was one of those horrific “New Atheists” and isn’t to be listened to. But she had other critics, including Dr Aroup Chatterjee, who’d worked for her clinic for a time (cached), and a team of Canadian academics, whose review of her work concluded she was “anything but a saint” (cached). None of those folks has any anti-Catholic or anti-religious axe to grind. So their criticisms should get some attention … even if they weren’t enough to prevent her canonization.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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An April 1972 Pacific Daily News file photo of Santa Teresita Church in Mangilao. Leo Tudela told Guam lawmakers this week that a former Guam priest, Louis Brouillard, molested him at the church’s rectory one night in the 1950s. (Photo: PDN file)The worldwide Catholic clerical child abuse scandal recently reared its ugly head in yet another part of the world: The island of Guam. Legislative hearings there have addressed a history of abuse by priests, and one of them — now retired — told the Pacific Island News there’s a possibility he’d abused some boys during the ’50s (WebCite cached article):

A former Guam priest who was publicly accused during a Legislature hearing this week as having molested an altar boy in the 1950s said Thursday “it’s possible” he abused altar boys on island and he’s asking for forgiveness from those he may have hurt.

Father Louis Brouillard, now 95, was removed from his position in 1985 while serving in a Minnesota diocese.

Brouillard spoke to Pacific Daily News on Thursday via telephone from his residence in Pine City, Minnesota, about 70 miles north of Minneapolis. Brouillard said he’s sorry about the possible abuses.…

Brouillard, who said he retired as a priest more than 30 years ago, also said Thursday he’s still receiving checks from the Archdiocese of Agana in Guam.

Brouillard was transferred to Minnesota in 1981 and removed from the ministry a few years later after another abuse allegation there. Guam’s Archbishop Anthony Apuron also stands accused, and has been set aside temporarily as a result.

Brouillard’s mealy-mouthed half-confession — i.e. that “‘it’s possible’ he abused altar boys” — is both laughably pathetic and outrageously chilling. He clearly engaged in a pattern of abusive behavior which spanned decades and locales … yet he can only bring himself to concede merely that “it’s possible”!? Fuck that. He knows what he did, but like a lot of career sociopaths, he’s just too much of a sniveling, crybaby coward to admit it.

In the wake of his phone interview with PDN, the Associated Press followed up with him, too, and revealed another cringe-worthy bit (cached):

A 95-year-old Catholic priest admitted to sexually abusing boys decades ago on Guam, and said he confessed his sins to other priests on the island at the time but none told him to specifically stop.

Instead, the Rev. Louis Brouillard says in a telephone interview with The Associated Press they told him to do regular penance, such as saying Hail Mary prayers.

Brouillard said he hasn’t been defrocked, and lives in Pine City, Minnesota, on a small pension from the church in Guam.

Brouillard’s absurd quasi-confession forced the Guam archdiocese’s hand, and as PDN reports, its current acting prince has had to apologize (cached):

Guam’s Catholic Church on Friday apologized to victims of a former island priest who told Pacific Daily News on Thursday “it’s possible” he abused altar boys in Guam in the 1950s.…

Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai issued the statement of apology after Father Louis Brouillard, 95, told the media he regrets the abuses and is seeking forgiveness from his victims.

“With the news that Father Louis Brouillard, a priest who served on Guam confessed to having abused altar boys on Guam in the 1950s, I convey my deepest apologies and that of the entire Church to Mr. Leo Tudela and all other persons who were also victimized,” Hon said.

Yes, folks, the case of the abuser Fr Brouillard is yet another example of how the Roman Catholic Church handles priests it knows abused children: It tells them to say their penance, shuffles them around, and when that continues long enough, they put the abuser out to pasture and pay him off for life. Oh, and when they’ve finally been caught at this little game, they issue a non-apology apology.

Well done, Catholics. Well done! What a remarkable standard of morality your Church exhibits! Why, surely Jesus himself would be proud … no?

Photo credit: Pacific Daily News.

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Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, Philadelphia, PATraditionalists in the Roman Catholic Church have had a difficult time with a lot of what Pope Francis has said and done since he assumed office. They’ve complained about him, dismissed him, ignored him, and otherwise tried to act as though none of his innovations was ever offered.

An example of this, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, comes from Archbishop Charles Chaput (WebCite cached article):

Divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, as well as cohabitating unmarried couples, must “refrain from sexual intimacy” to receive Holy Communion in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has asserted in a new set of pastoral guidelines.

Released Friday, the guidelines instruct clergy and other archdiocesan leaders on implementing Amoris Laetitia, a major document on family that Pope Francis issued in April.

His six-page instruction, which appears on the archdiocesan website, may be the first of its kind issued by the bishop of any American diocese in response to Amoris Laetitia, Latin for “the joy of love.”

Acknowledging that it is a “hard teaching,” Chaput goes on to say that Catholics in same-sex partnerships, those remarried without a church annulment, and cohabitating persons may not serve on parish councils, instruct the faithful, serve as lectors, or dispense Communion.

Allowing persons in such “irregular” relationships, “no matter how sincere,” to hold positions of responsibility would “offer a serious counter-witness to Catholic belief, which can only produce moral confusion in the community,” according to Chaput.

I get that, as a bishop, Chaput is entitled to issue these sorts of directives, and that as a prince of the Church he can govern its affairs and enforce its doctrines as he sees fit; if gay, cohabiting, or remarried Catholics don’t like it, they can leave their Church. That’s absolutely the case. What’s harder to understand is why Chaput, or any leader within the Church, could be so determined to slam the door of the Church in the faces of some of its lay members. The R.C. Church in the US has been on the wane for years. Traditionalists like Chaput are working to push even more folks out. It’s a dysfunctional way to operate.

But hey, what could this cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about such important sacred considerations?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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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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