Posts Tagged “roman catholic”

Cathédrale Catholic de Churchill au Manitoba (Cathédrale Saints-Martyrs-Canadiens-et-Reine-des-Martyrs), via Wikimedia CommonsNote: There’s been some news about this case; please see below.

Although I’ve condemned the Roman Catholic Church for the many decades it allowed its personnel to abuse children in its care, and protected those abusers by moving them around so they wouldn’t get caught, that’s not the entirety of the scandal. The Church couldn’t have pulled all this abuse off, without the willing assistance of other elements of the societies in which it operated, including secular officials who granted the Church a wide berth.

One example is that of Connecticut’s own Fr Stephen Foley, a Catholic priest and state police chaplain who, in the 1990s, had been accused of assaults; despite a criminal investigation that ended with Foley being fired as a chaplain by the state police and as a parish pastor by the Hartford archdiocese, he was never charged with anything (WebCite cached article). Foley went on to abuse more children afterward. The state police went so far as to allow him to drive a police cruiser, complete with lights, sirens and police-radio scanners, even though he was no longer a chaplain (cached) … and despite the fact that, had he remained a chaplain, he still wasn’t legally entitled to drive such a vehicle!

Another example of criminal-justice officials being complicit in a priest evading prosecution, came to light recently in Canada. The Canadian Press reports via the CBC about this cringe-worthy story that dates back to 1995 (cached):

A priest who this week is to face 76 sex charges involving Inuit children might have been tried years ago but for a quiet nod from Canada that allowed him to leave the country, says a church leader.

Georges Vervust is the top official with the Belgian Oblates, an order of Catholic priests that sent Eric Dejaeger to several communities in what is now Nunavut.

Vervust sheds light on questions that have troubled Dejaeger’s alleged victims for nearly a decade: How was a man facing child abuse charges allowed to leave the country days before his trial? And why did it take so long for him to be returned?

“What I have heard is that he got advice from people from the Justice Department, off the record, that he should leave,” Vervust said in a Belgian documentary. He confirmed his comments to The Canadian Press.

The CP goes on to tell the details of this story. It includes evasiveness and excuse-making by Justice officials at that time, including whines about being understaffed and the charges against Dejaeger not being a big deal. Ultimately, Dejaeger ended up on trial for his abuse many years after he fled the country, not because anyone in Canada bothered tracking him down, but quite accidentally:

In the end, it was an immigration violation, not an extradition order, that brought him back to face the charges he ran away from 18 years ago.

Dejaeger was eventually returned in January 2011 when a Belgian journalist realized that Dejaeger had lost his Belgian citizenship in 1977 when he became a naturalized Canadian. He had been living in Belgium since 1995 without a visa and was kicked out.

As I said, it’s not possible for the Church to have gotten away with child abuse, over the course of decades and in so many places around the world, if people around the Church weren’t willing to let them get away with it. At this point, societal collaboration with the Church appears much less of a problem than it once was, but it’s something we must always guard against.

Update: Canada’s National Post reports Dejaeger was convicted of 24 counts (cached).

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Peter at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments No Comments »

Vatican flag (8583012024)A U.N. commission has been investigating how the Holy See handled child-abuse allegations within its ranks. This might sound as though something might actually be done about the worldwide priestly pedophilia scandal, but it won’t, because the U.N. is perhaps the single most ineffective institution on the planet. There really isn’t a whole lot the U.N. can do to the Vatican, even if it wished to, and odds are, it won’t wish to do anything. Even so, an investigation of any kind always has the potential to reveal something.

A hearing held today did just that. It shone a rather harsh and unflattering light on the Vatican’s evasiveness — which has been an ongoing problem for this U.N. commission (WebCite cached article). CNN reports on the proceedings (cached):

A senior Vatican official acknowledged Thursday there is “no excuse” for child sex abuse, as he and others were grilled by a U.N. committee about the Catholic Church’s handling of pedophile priests.

It’s the first time the Vatican has been forced to answer allegations so publicly that it enabled the sexual abuse of children by protecting such priests.

The committee questioned a handful of Vatican officials — including Monsignor Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, and Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s former chief sex-crimes prosecutor — for several hours Thursday in Switzerland.

The really interesting bit came from Scicluna, who hurled the problem of Catholic clerical child abuse right back at the governments of countries in which it operates:

Scicluna said he was there to say that “the Holy See ‘gets it’ ” with regard to the issue and that no one should stand in the way of the prosecution of abusive priests.

“Let’s not say too late or not,” he said. “But there are certain things that need to be done differently. I would talk about cover-up, for example, because this is a very important concern.”

States “need to take action against citizens of the country who obstruct justice in such an egregious crime as sexual abuse of minors, whoever these people are,” Scicluna said.

Scicluna is saying the problem lies not in anything the Church did or didn’t do, including covering up abuse, but rather, insinuates that it’s “states” which were the ones engaged in cover-ups. I’d say one could call this the definition of chutzpah, especially since the Church previously has been shown to have ordered its hierarchs not to cooperate with secular investigations.

Wow. I mean, just “wow.”

Scicluna went on to deny that priest shuffling — a frequent Church practice documented as having occurred around the world — ever happened:

As for priests who have committed sexual abuse of minors, the Holy See has made clear in a letter to bishops that it is “a no-go simply to move people from one place to another, from one diocese to another” without being open about their backgrounds, Scicluna said.

I can’t really say any of this surprises me. Although the Vatican has said that it “gets” the scandal, its officials’ words just keep reflecting the perpetually evasive tactics the hierarchs have always used in the past. Very little has changed, except for the fact that guys like Scicluna and Tomasi have been directly confronted and dressed down in a manner that’s never happened before. That much, at least, is quite welcome.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments No Comments »

Between masses at Our Lady of Grace Church in Edina, Archbishop John Nienstedt spoke directly to the media for the first time in months. / Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star-Tribune.Note: There’s been an update to this story; see below.

I’ve blogged already about Archbishop John Nienstedt of St Paul & Minneapolis, who may have been behind the destruction of a computer that had belonged to a pedophile priest, before police could get their hands on it. At the moment, though, rather than protecting a cleric who’s been accused of impropriety, as the Religion News Service reports, he’s the target of such an accusation himself (WebCite cached article):

Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt, already under fire for failing to take action against priests suspected of abuse, announced Tuesday (Dec. 17) that he is stepping aside temporarily after a minor accused the outspoken archbishop of touching his buttocks during a group photo after a 2009 confirmation ceremony.

In what he called “a difficult letter for me to write,” Nienstedt says he learned of the allegation during the weekend. He said he does not know the young man and he presumes his accuser to be “sincere in believing what he claims.”

Nienstedt denies the allegation, and insists any contact during picture-taking was innocent … which may well be the case … but the fact that he stepped aside, at least temporarily, is significant.

The RNS article goes on to explain that, over the past weekend, Nienstedt had “apologized” for his weak handling of priestly pedophilia claims in his archdiocese. He claims he’d been assured things were well in hand, when he took office, so he blithely assumed they were — but in fact, they weren’t. I don’t buy that excuse, though, and neither should you: He became archbishop in 2008, some 5 years after the priestly-pedophilia scandal had blown up in the U.S., with new revelations still trickling out all over the place. Nienstedt cannot reasonably have been unaware that problems might have continued to lurk within his archdiocese. It just doesn’t make any sense for him to have assumed that, at that time.

Update: The Catholic News Service reports police have cleared Nienstedt and he’s returned to his job (cached).

Photo credit: Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments No Comments »

Italian archbishop Rino Fisichella holds the ashes of Saint Peter before a ceremony at the Vatican, on November 24, 2013 (AFP Photo / Vincenzo Pinto, via Yahoo News)Today the Roman Catholic Church marched out relics which, the Vatican claims, belong to St Peter, the man whom legend claims established Christianity in the Roman Empire’s capital. The AFP via Yahoo News reports on this momentous occasion (WebCite cached article):

Bones believed to belong to Saint Peter, one of the founding fathers of the Catholic Church, went on display for the first time Sunday, as Pope Francis held a ceremony to end the “Year of Faith”.

Tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered to catch a glimpse of the remains, eight fragments of bone between two and three centimetres (around one inch) long displayed on an ivory bed within a bronze chest on a pedestal in St. Peter’s Square.

The chest, given to pope Paul VI in 1971 and usually kept in the tiny chapel of the papal apartments, was decorated with a carving of Peter, who was a fisherman before becoming the Church’s first pope, casting his nets into the sea.

Given that Christianity in the city of Rome does date back to the first century CE, and has had a more-or-less continuous presence there since, one would think these bones might have been collected and saved all that time. But that turns out not to be the case. These relics were a 20th century discovery, and it’s not at all clear these are truly the bones of St Peter. But the Vatican is undeterred by archaeological questions:

The bones have long been the object of controversy between historians and archaeologists: they were first discovered in a 1940 dig next to an ancient monument honouring Saint Peter, but ended up gathering dust in a storage box.

It was not until archaeologist Margherita Guarducci discovered graffiti near the excavated tomb reading “Petros eni”, which could mean “Peter is here”, that she requested tests on the fragments.

She found they belonged to a robust man who died aged between 60 and 70 and had been buried in a purple, gold-threaded cloth — enough to convince Paul VI to say in 1968 that Peter’s bones had been identified “in a convincing manner.”…

“Faith, the people of God, have always believed these to be the relics of the apostle Peter, and we continue to venerate them in this way,” Rino Fisichella, head of the pontifical council for evangelisation, said in the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

The veneration of saints’ relics is a feature of Catholic and Orthodox Christianity which most other Christian sects have done away with. It seems a fairly unsavory practice to cling desperately to the physical remains of long-dead people. But the macabre nature of relic-worship doesn’t faze Catholics. They continue to believe such things carry metaphysical power that somehow connects them more closely to their God … a God whom they believe is omnipotent and therefore, presumably, doesn’t require such things to maintain his connection with his followers.

Let’s face it: People are irrational creatures, and it’s events like these that help demonstrate it.

Photo credit: AFP Photo / Vincenzo Pinto, via Yahoo News.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments No Comments »

Springfield Bishop Thomas Paprocki (Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune / August 6, 2008)Illinois will soon permit gay marriage (WebCite cached article). And Thomas Paprocki, bishop of that state’s capital, is not happy about it. He’s so angry, in fact, that — as CNN’s Belief blog reports — he plans to exorcise gay marriage from his state (cached):

According to a Catholic bishop in Springfield, Illinois, Satan was behind his state’s recent legalization of same-sex marriage.

So, next Wednesday, at about the same time Gov. Pat Quinn signs the gay marriage bill into law, Bishop Thomas Paprocki will hold an exorcism ceremony “in reparation for the sin of same-sex marriage.”…

In September, the Pope said the church has no right to “interfere spiritually” in the lives of gays and lesbians and chided Catholics who “obsess” about fighting culture war issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

But Paprocki calls same-sex marriage “contrary to the plan of God” and says all Catholics who support it — from legislators to county clerks who issue marriage licenses — are “culpable of serious sin.”…

Paprocki says the ceremony will follow the Catholic Church’s Rite of Exorcism, which explains that Satan not only possesses people, he can also invade places and things, including the church itself.…

“We must pray for deliverance from this evil which has penetrated our state and our church,” Paprocki said.

For most of the last century or so, the Roman Catholic Church has downplayed exorcism. Sure, there’s an exorcism liturgy; some priests have been trained as exorcists; and they are occasionally performed. But it’s not something the Church was usually willing to discuss very much, and it’s tightly controlled (an exorcism can only be performed with a bishop’s express approval).

Even so, in the last couple of years, the Church has been a little more open about it, and the numbers of priests trained to handle exorcism has been increasing. As it turns out, Paprocki is one of the hierarchs behind this renewed push into exorcism. Hmm. Coincidence? I think not.

In any event, I’m not sure how Satan is involved in gay marriage; how a couple of gays marrying someplace harms Paprocki, or any other Catholic for that matter; how useful a political tool exorcism may be; and still less do I understand what Paprocki’s exorcism rite is supposed to do about it. But then, what could I — cynical, godless agnostic heathen that I am — possibly know about such dreadfully important things?

Photo credit: Chicago Tribune.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments No Comments »

In 2011, Rev. Gerald Robinson tried to get his conviction overturned. He failed. He is eligible for parole in 2016. / Madalyn Ruggiero/AP, via (NY) Daily NewsPope Francis has named Leonard Paul Blair, the incumbent bishop of Toledo, OH, to replace the retiring Henry Mansell as the archbishop of Hartford. As appointments go, this one might seem unremarkable. Making a midwestern bishop into a northeastern archbishop is a normal promotion process within the Catholic hierarchy in the US, and an expected feather-in-the-cap of a man who declared ecclesiastical war on America’s Catholic nuns.

But it turns out there’s a lot more to this story than might appear at first glance. The Hartford Courant‘s Belief blog reports that Blair might have helped interfere with an investigation into a murder (locally-cached article):

The morning after Toledo Bishop Leonard P. Blair was named to take over the Hartford Archdiocese, a Connecticut representative of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests was on the front steps of the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford to air the organization’s concerns about the appointment.

The SNAP member, Gail Howard of Redding, said she was there with her husband Wednesday in part to draw attention to Blair’s behavior regarding the nationally publicized case of the Rev. Gerald Robinson, a Toledo diocesan priest, who ultimately was convicted in 2006 of killing a nun 26 years earlier.

SNAP has asked why Blair, bishop at the time of the trial, wasn’t more forthcoming with documents that the group says might have helped prosecute the case. The organization has also argued that Blair should have worked harder to get the priest, the Rev. Gerald Robinson, defrocked. The organization has called on Blair to explain his actions.

I looked into the the 1980 murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, 71 years old at the time. You can, too; articles on it are available from sources such as the (NY) Daily News and in a series of articles in TruTV’s Crime Library.

Sr Pahl’s murder went unsolved for over 2 decades, until prompted by another woman’s allegation in 2003, detectives re-examined the cold case. The following year, Fr Robinson was finally charged with murder. As the Daily News explained:

What changed? In a book about the case, the Blade’s David Yonke wrote that the Catholic Church had Toledo “wrapped around its little finger” in 1980. Officer Dave Davison told Yonke that all five detectives who investigated the homicide were Catholics.

“They sat on it as a courtesy to the church,” Davison said.

Fr Robinson had killed her, it turns out, because she’d repeatedly complained about his conduct as a priest.

As for where Blair comes into this … SNAP reports on their own Web site with references included (cached), Blair worked diligently to prevent the release of documents police had needed when they were prosecuting Fr Robinson. This resistant behavior is entirely consistent with how Roman Catholic hierarchs have dealt with other allegations against clergy, so it’s not surprising nor out-of-character for a bishop.

You see, the R.C. Church still believes it’s entitled to the medieval notion of privilege of clergy — that is, the idea that clergy are immune to secular criminal authorities — and never willingly allows its priests to be prosecuted; cooperation always has to be dragged out of them.

Of course, they have no objection to priests being prosecuted when the Church itself is the victim. But, like most Christians, the R.C. hierarchy has elevated hypocrisy into an artform, in spite of Jesus’ clear and unambiguous injunction against it. It would be nice if they’d obey their own Jesus for once, but that’s asking too much of the poor little things, I guess. (Yes, I know: How horrible of me to expect that avowed Christians actually live according to Christ’s teachings!)

Photo credit: Madalyn Ruggiero/AP, via (NY) Daily News.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments No Comments »

05354 Palm Sunday in SanokThe litany of bogeymen whom the Roman Catholic hierarchy blames for the priestly-pedophilia scandal continues to grow. Earlier this month, a Polish hierarch identified a sequence of villains whom he thinks forced a bunch of otherwise-totally-innocent priests to abuse children. It all started, as Polskie Radio reports, when the archbishop of Przemysl wandered stupidly into “victim-blaming” territory (WebCite cached article):

The archbishop of Przemysl made the controversial remarks after being asked about the problem of paedophilia in the Roman Catholic Church. “Many of these instances of abuse could have been avoided if the relations between parents had been healthy,” the archbishop said. “We often hear that this wrong behaviour, or abuse, occurs when the child is searching for love,” he added. The archbishop suggested that children from broken homes can “cling on” to priests, hence creating the problems.

The idea that victims are to blame for abusive clerics’ action is not new at all, as I’ve blogged before. It’s actually a rather old notion that trickles far beneath everything the R.C. Church has said and done about the scandal. So I don’t consider this unusual, nor do I buy that there aren’t more hierarchs (possibly many more!) who think this way.

Michalik ostensibly apologized for these comments, as the article states. However, he wasn’t sincere about his “apology.” As Polskie Radio again reports, Michalik later doubled down with his blame-game (cached):

Head of the Polish Episcopate Archbishop Jozef Michalik has claimed that abuse of children is caused by pornography, feminism and a “selfish love” undermining the family.

“The shameful abuse by adults towards children results from the acceptance of pornography […] and the promotion of a false, selfish love between people,” Archbishop Michalik has told a Mass in Wroclaw Cathedral, south west Poland.…

During the Mass in Wroclaw on Wednesday, however, Archbishop Michalik said that though the family has always enjoyed respect as an institution in Poland, larger family units “have become stigmatised”.

“You have heard of adults abusing children and this kind of evil is not to be tolerated, but no one asks about the causes of this,” he said, blaming TV networks broadcasting “pornography and a selfish love”

“Nobody stands up for children suffering from a lack of love from divorcing parents, which leaves painful and permanent injuries”.

The archbishop also mentioned the “new ideology of gender” with universities offering gender study courses and “the most aggressive Polish feminists who scoff at the Church and years of traditional ethics, who promote abortion and struggle against the traditional model of the family and marital fidelity”.

“The ideology of gender raises legitimate concerns, because it goes against the laws of nature, promotes marriage between persons of the same sex and fights for the right to legalize adoption of children by these couples,” the archbishop said.

Michalik’s complaint about a “new ideology of gender” forcing priests to abuse children mirrors the Church’s assertion a couple of years ago that “society” caused priestly pedophilia.

Oh, and don’t assume Michalik is just some fringe lunatic lurking at the edge of the Catholic hierarchy who has no influence elsewhere. He’s not merely the archbishop of Przemyśl; he’s the head of the Polish Episcopal Conference, the collective of hierarchs in Poland (that country’s cognate of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops). An equivalent situation would be if Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the USCCB, had made such comments. Michalik is that authoritative. His remarks — which he very clearly stands by, in spite of his supposed “apology” — are neither trivial nor meaningless.

If it’s not clear to anyone by now, let me lay bare the fact here: There’s a nasty psychopathology festering deep within the R.C. hierarchy. It’s not going to go away on its own, because that same hierarchy grooms its own membership and shapes those who are initiated into it. The sooner lay Catholics admit their Church is criminally dysfunctional, and not going to reform itself, the sooner they can get off their sorry, cowardly, sniveling little asses and repair it, fercryinoutloud.

But of course, we know they never will, so why do I even bother saying it any more … ?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments 2 Comments »