Posts Tagged “roman catholic”

Pope Benedict XVI blessing members of the Order of the Knights of Malta at the Vatican on Saturday. Samantha Zucchi Insidefoto/European Pressphoto Agency, via the New York Times.The big religious news this morning is that Pope Benedict XVI plans to resign at the end of this month. The New York Times reports on this news which has taken a lot of people by surprise (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who took office in 2005 following the death of his predecessor, said on Monday that he will resign on Feb. 28, the first pope to do so in six centuries.

Regarded as a doctrinal conservative, the pope, 85, said that after examining his conscience “before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are longer suited to an adequate exercise” of his position as head of the world’s Roman Catholics.

The announcement is certain to plunge the Roman Catholic world into frenzied speculation about his likely successor and to evaluations of a papacy that was seen as both conservative and contentious.

In a statement in several languages, the pope said his “strength of mind and body” had “deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

Elected on April 19, 2005, Pope Benedict said his papacy would end on Feb. 28.

The reason this is a surprise, is that previously, spokesmen for the Church — and “experts” on the Vatican and Catholicism — had claimed it was impossible for popes to resign. That had been their response a few years ago when the Pope’s involvement in the case of a pedophilic priest in the 1980s had been revealed, as the Times explains:

Vatican officials and experts who follow the papacy closely dismissed the idea of stepping down at the time. “There is no objective motive to think in terms of resignation, absolutely no motive,” said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman. “It’s a completely unfounded idea.”

I said, back then, that this was not true; the Pope can, indeed, resign. There are precedents for it (Pope Celestine V had established the ability of popes to resign, then did so himself a few months later in 1294; and Gregory XII also resigned, in 1415, in order to end the decades-long Great Western Schism). Thanks to Celestine V, in fact, a provision for papal abdication is provided explicitly in canon law:

Should it happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns from his office, it is required for validity that the resignation be freely made and properly manifested, but it is not necessary that it be accepted by anyone. (Canon 332 §2)

So all those presumed “experts” who had insisted differently, are clearly wrong. I find it difficult to believe that most of them — if not all — didn’t know better.

Photo credit: Samantha Zucchi Insidefoto/European Pressphoto Agency, via the New York Times.

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Cathedral of Our Lady of the AngelsPity the poor archdiocese of Los Angeles. It’s beset by huge bills which have racked up during several years of legal gamesmanship over its complicity in the abuse of children by its own clergy. It’s in dire financial straits, as the Los Angeles Times reports, and needs big money to pay it all off (WebCite cached article):

In the midst of renewed public outrage over its handling of clergy sex abuse, the Los Angeles Archdiocese is considering a $200-million fundraising campaign that could erase debts brought on by the scandal.

The archdiocese has hired a New York company, Guidance In Giving Inc., to study the feasibility of a large-scale fundraiser that would shore up a bottom line hit hard by costly abuse litigation. It would be the archdiocese’s first capital campaign in 60 years.

The archdiocese’s $660-million settlement in 2007 with more than 500 victims was the largest in U.S. history. According to a December financial report, the archdiocese is still paying down loans it used to cover the settlement, and its liabilities now outstrip its assets by $80 million.

Attempting such a massive fundraising campaign may be especially difficult, just now:

If the new fundraiser occurs, it would place Archbishop Jose Gomez in the potentially difficult position of seeking large contributions from people whose anger at the abuse scandal has been stoked anew. Files released in a court case last month showed how Gomez’s predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony, and a high-ranking church official, Thomas J. Curry, plotted to hide molestation from police in the 1980s and 1990s.

How a fundraising push would resonate with parishioners remains an open question.

What a wonderful, moral way to handle a scandal: Spend years, if not decades, allowing clergy to abuse children; whenever there’s a risk the abusers may be caught, shuffle them around to keep it quiet; when you’re found out, issue denials and hang up the cases in court for years; when that runs out, blame the abuse and the intentional thwarting of justice on everything and everyone else you can think of; and finally consent to pay off your victims, but turn around and demand the money from your parishioners, because you staunchly refuse to cough up any of your own. Yeah, that’s the way to handle it. No doubt!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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The day after KristallnachtIt’s common for irrationally sanctimonious people to hurl the old reductio ad Hiterum — or appeal to Hitler and/or the Nazis — at people they dislike. I’ve been blogging about this childish tendency for years now. It’s been used here in the U.S. by ideologues of all stripes. The Catholic Church has hurled ad Hitlerums lots of times, too, such as against President Obama and against the mass media for reporting on the worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal that’s rocked it for over a decade now. The Pope himself has even declared atheism and secularism to be forms of Nazism.

And it seems they can’t help but keep doing the same thing. Der Spiegel reports that no less a prince of the Church than its doctrinal enforcer has decided to hurl an implied — yet exceedingly clear — ad Hitlerum at the Church’s critics generally (WebCite cached article):

A German archbishop is under fire for appearing to liken recent criticism of the Catholic Church to a Nazi-era pogrom. The cleric, Gerhard Ludwig Müller, had said that “targeted discrimination campaigns” against the church sometimes reminded him of a “pogrom sentiment.”

The doctrinal watchdog of the Catholic church, German Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, has run into criticism from politicians for saying the church was being subjected to a “pogrom sentiment” because of its position on the ordination of women, same-sex partnerships and the celibacy of priests.

In an interview with the newspaper Die Welt published on Friday, the archbishop said: “Targeted discreditation campaigns against the Catholic Church in North America and also here in Europe have led to clerics in some areas being insulted in public. An artifcially created fury is growing here which sometimes reminds one of a pogrom sentiment.”

I was able to find the Die Welt article in question, but it’s in German (cached version). Note that Müller’s office — prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — is the same one that Cardinal Ratzinger held for over two decades prior to becoming Pope.

His use of the word “pogrom” is significant. While the word comes from Russian and was first used to speak of the harassment of Jews in that country in the wake of rumors that they’d been behind the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, “pogrom” has since become associated with any systemic harassment of Jews, up to and including the Holocaust wrought by the Third Reich. Archbishop Müller clearly thinks that criticizing the Catholic Church is the same as the “pogroms” which ultimately claimed the lives of millions of Jews. One cannot construe his accusation any other way.

Nevertheless, criticism is not wanton slaughter! It just isn’t. For Müller to say that is just fucking ridiculous.

It’s long past time for the wizened princes of the Church to grow the hell up for the first time in their sniveling little lives and stop bellyaching and whining that they’re being criticized. They no longer run the world, and that’s just how it’s going to be, from now on. They can either be mature and accept it, or act like little crybabies and keep complaining about it. Yes, I get that they can’t help themselves; as Christians, they wish to feel persecuted for Jesus, so even though no one is trying to wipe them out, they nevertheless delude themselves into thinking it’s happening. But they don’t have any rational excuse for clinging to their delusion … no matter how much they think they’re entitled to.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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

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Retired Cardinal Roger Mahony, former archbishop of Los Angeles / Los Angeles Times photoThere’s been some fallout over the release of documents a few days ago by the archdiocese of Los Angeles showing its complicity in the abuse of children, going back decades. The Los Angeles Times reports the current archbishop, José Horacio Gómez, has handed down punishment to his predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahony and one of his lackeys (WebCite cached article):

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez on Thursday announced dramatic actions in response to the priest abuse scandal, saying that Cardinal Roger Mahony would no longer perform public duties in the church and that Santa Barbara Bishop Thomas J. Curry has stepped down.

Gomez said in a statement that Mahony — who led the L.A. archdiocese from 1985 to 2011 — “will no longer have any administrative or public duties.” …

Gomez wrote in a letter to parishioners that the files would be disturbing to read.

“I find these files to be brutal and painful reading. The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil. There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed,” he wrote. “We need to acknowledge that terrible failure today.”

Mahony and Curry were in this scandal right up to their eyeballs, as the records make evident:

The records contain memos written in 1986 and 1987 by Mahony and Curry, then the archdiocese’s chief advisor on sex abuse cases. In the confidential letters, Curry proposed strategies to prevent police from investigating three priests who had admitted to church officials that they had abused young boys.

Curry suggested to Mahony that they prevent the priests from seeing therapists who might alert authorities and that they give the priests out-of-state assignments to avoid criminal investigators. Mahony, who retired in 2011, has apologized repeatedly for errors in handling abuse allegations.

I’m sure Mahony and Curry have both forgotten this, but Jesus had a bit to say about children, according to the gospels:

Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mt 19:13-14)

And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mk 10:13-14)

And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Lk 18:15-16)

While this kind of ecclesiastical discipline of a Cardinal is rare and remarkable, it’s not much of a punishment. Mahony’s life won’t change appreciably, as the L.A.T. explains in an update to the original story:

An archdiocese spokesman, Tod Tamberg, said that beyond cancelling his confirmation schedule, Mahony’s day-to-day life as a retired priest would be largely unchanged. He resides at a North Hollywood parish, and Tamberg said he would remain a “priest in good standing” and continue to celebrate Mass there.

So in the end, Gómez’s “slap down” of his predecessor, is really more of a light tap that carries no significant weight. It seems Gómez merely wished to appear to throw Mahony under the bus, without actually doing so. I have to congratulate the Archbishop for contriving the appearance of punishing Mahony without actually punishing him at all. Well done!

What’s more, keep this in mind: Gómez has been archbishop of L.A. since early 2011. He’s had nearly 2 years to read the documents in question and become outraged over Mahony and Curry’s behavior. But he didn’t choose to do so, until now — when the documents went public. Pardon me for being completely and thoroughly unimpressed by this useless show of inadequate piety.

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times.

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FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2007 file photo, Cardinal Roger Mahony speaks during an annual multi-ethnic migration Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. Cardinal Mahony and other top Roman Catholic officials from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles maneuvered behind the scenes to shield molester priests, provide damage control for the church and keep parishioners in the dark, according to church personnel files. Mahony, who is retired, issued a statement Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, apologizing for his mistakes and saying he had been "naive" about the lasting impacts of abuse. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)Over the last 10 years or so, a lot of civil cases against Catholic dioceses have been launched and played out in courts around the country. A side-effect of these has been the sporadic release of administrative documents showing the Church’s complicity (usually after-the-fact) in child abuse committed by its clergy. This happened in San Diego a couple of years ago. A little to the north, as the Associated Press reports, the archdiocese of Los Angeles recently loosed its own trove of documents that reveal its own guilt (WebCite cached article):

Prosecutors who have been stymied for years in their attempts to build a criminal conspiracy case against retired Los Angeles Archdiocese Cardinal Roger Mahony and other church leaders said Tuesday they will review newly released internal priest files for additional evidence. …

Thousands of pages from the internal disciplinary files of 14 priests made public Monday show Mahony and other top aides maneuvered behind the scenes to shield molester priests, provide damage control for the church and keep parishioners in the dark.

Some of the documents provide the strongest evidence to date that Mahony and a top aide worked to protect a priest who acknowledged in therapy to raping an 11-year-old boy and abusing up to 17 children, many of them the children of illegal immigrants.

These documents finally came to light — and they will be followed by more — due to a settlement over 5 years ago, whose terms the archdiocese only just now decided to obey:

The files of dozens more accused priests are expected to be released in the coming weeks as part of a 2007 settlement agreement with more than 500 alleged victims. A judge recently ruled that the church must turn the files over to attorneys for those people with the names and titles of members of the church hierarchy blacked out after The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times intervened.

The documents released Monday and the additional 30,000 pages expected soon raise the possibility of renewed criminal scrutiny for Mahony and other members of the archdiocese hierarchy. Mahony retired in 2011.

Despite the fact that these documents might reveal criminality, and even in spite of their own stated interest in them, prosecutors are still hedging, and aren’t promising much:

In a 2010 memo, a lead prosecutor in that eight-year investigation [launched in 2002] said the documents he had showed “the possibility of criminal culpability” by members of the archdiocese leadership, but a criminal conspiracy case was “more and more remote” because of the passage of time.

Deputy District Attorney William Hodgman said investigators had insufficient evidence to fill in a timeline stretching over 20 years and were, even then, hampered by the statute of limitations. He did not return a call or email seeking comment Tuesday.

It looks as though California prosecutors’ longstanding habit of giving the Church a “pass” is continuing; they have their rationale for not going after the archdiocese, and I expect they’ll stick with it. As usual.

One final note: Cardinal Mahony claims he’d been ignorant of the fact that child abuse is bad:

Mahony was out of town but issued a statement Monday apologizing for his mistakes and saying he had been “naive” about the lasting impacts of abuse.

Of course, his claim of ignorance is no excuse. Child abuse has been illegal — in California and lots of places — for a very long time. Mahony and his archdiocese was subject to a mandatory-reporting law beginning in 1997. Child abuse was wrong in the 1980s. It was wrong in the 1990s. And it’s wrong now. So he can’t credibly and rationally say he had no idea that child abuse wasn’t something he ought to try to prevent. Of course he knew it.

Note this is not the first time we’ve heard this sort of claim from a Catholic hierarch, in spite of how inexcusable it is. Former Milwaukee archbishop Rembert Weakland made a similar admission, a few years ago. Other hierarchs have expressed a flippant, dismissive attitude toward abuse allegations. Really, this is an old story. The hierarchs’ lack of anything remotely resembling morality has been on the record for many years. Yet, millions of Americans still cling to the Roman Catholic Church and continue to do the hierarchs’ bidding. Sad, really.

Photo credit: Reed Saxon / AP photo.

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Hessen/ Bischoefe stehen am Dienstag (25.09.12) in Fulda waehrend des feierlichen Eroeffnungsgottesdienstes der traditionellen Herbst-Vollversammlung der Deutschen Bischoefe im Dom. Die 67 Mitglieder der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz kommen von Montag bis Donnerstag (27.09.12) zusammen. Themen sind unter anderem die Vermittlung des Glaubens und der Stand des Gespraechsprozesses im Missbrauchsskandal in der katholischen Kirche. (zu dapd-Text) Foto: Thomas Lohnes/dapdOne of the things I dislike about entities that commission independent investigations into their own affairs, is that all such probes can never be truly “independent.” No one ever can be sure the results of any such investigation won’t be subverted by the people who paid for it.

For example, here in Connecticut, this past summer we were treated to precisely this sort of debacle when state House Speaker Chris Donovan, then running in the Democratic primary for Congress in the 5th District, hired lawyer Stanley Twardy to “investigate” allegations that his campaign staff took campaign donations (otherwise known as “bribes”) in exchange for Donovan manipulating the legislative process on behalf of those donors. Not surprisingly, Twardy quite happily declared Donovan innocent of all wrongdoing. Quite laughably, he and Donovan expected the people of the Nutmeg State would swallow their steaming load of bullshit — but they didn’t, he lost the primary, and is now out of office.

Last year, the Roman Catholic Church in Germany commissioned just such a report into their own affairs. They pledged to allow their records to be culled to see how deep the clerical child-abuse scandal ran, in that country. But as Der Spiegel reports, they abruptly pulled the plug on this investigation (locally-cached version):

It was a major promise after a major disaster: In summer 2011, the Catholic Church in Germany pledged full transparency. One year earlier, an abuse scandal had shaken the country’s faithful, as an increasing number of cases surfaced in which priests had sexually abused children and then hidden behind a wall of silence.

The Lower Saxony Criminological Research Institute (KFN) was given the job of investigating the cases in 2011. The personnel files from churches in all 27 dioceses were to be examined for cases of abuse in an attempt to win back some of the Church’s depleted credibility.

But now the Church has called off the study, citing a breakdown in trust. “The relationship of mutual trust between the bishops and the head of the institute has been destroyed,” said the Bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann, on Wednesday morning.

The director of the KFN, Christian Pfeiffer, told SPIEGEL ONLINE that the Church had refused to cooperate. At the end of last year, he contacted the dioceses twice in writing. He reminded them of their promised transparency and cooperation. He also asked them whether there was any indication that in some dioceses files had been actively destroyed.

The Bishops’ Conference, the country’s official body of the Church, was apparently unable to agree on any form of cooperation with the KFN.

Yes, you read that right: The bishops refused to comply with terms they dictated for how the investigation was to be conducted. They refused to communicate with, and cooperate with, a team they themselves hired for this task.

One can’t help but assume Prof Pfeiffer wasn’t turning out to be the obedient puppet they’d expected him to be, so after wasting his and everyone else’s time for a while — long enough time for them to destroy a lot of relevant documents, I’m sure — the bishops finally shut the “investigation” down entirely. Their pledge of transparency ultimately proved non-existent.

What person with half a brain is really surprised? I wasn’t, I hope you weren’t either.

Photo credit: dapd, via Der Spiegel.

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

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Vatican CityIt seems Agnosticism has hit the big time. How do I know that? The Pope launched an attack on it, that’s how I know! As Reuters reports, he declared war on agnosticism, of all things, during his Epiphany address (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict said on Sunday that Roman Catholic leaders must have the courage to stand up to attacks by “intolerant agnosticism” prevalent in many countries.

The pope and the Church have come under increased attack because of their opposition to homosexual marriage and women priests. The pope has repeatedly denounced what he says are attempts to push religion out of public debate.

As usual, he misinterprets what’s really going on. He confuses an effort to make sure religion is not forced on anyone, with an effort to destroy religion entirely. The two are not the same thing, no matter how fervently he thinks otherwise.

“Today’s regnant agnosticism has its own dogmas and is extremely intolerant regarding anything that would question it and the criteria it employs,” the pope said.

“Therefore the courage to contradict the prevailing mindset is particularly urgent for a bishop today. He must be courageous,” he said.

Benedict calls agnosticism “regnant,” meaning “ruling,” “governing,” “controlling,” or “dominating.” In fact, it doesn’t govern anything. The majority of people in the world are assuredly religious. In most countries, agnostics and other non-believers are vastly outnumbered, and have virtually no say. This is true even in the 21st century US, where politicians are almost uniformly religious, and there are no non-believers in national office or in any position with national influence. There are absolutely no rational grounds for the Pope to assert that agnosticism is “regnant.” Because — unfortunately — it’s not.

But even if it were, I must ask the obvious question: So the hell what? Once upon a time, religion ruled humanity with an iron fist. Benedict’s own Catholic Church once towered over Europe, politically and socially. What did that get us? Not a lot, unless you think things like the Inquisitions, the Crusades, wars fought against pagans, heretics, and other kinds of ecclesiastical controversies were good for humanity. If agnosticism dominated, could things be any worse?

The age in which a Pope could summon an army and send it off to smite the Forces of Darkness are long gone … thankfully … but it appears Benedict wants that same power back. The fact that occidental society won’t let him have it, appears to gnaw at him. So he ends up making ridiculous accusations, such as that agnosticism is “regnant” and that efforts to keep religion and state separate are the same as efforts to destroy religion entirely. His claim that agnostics are “intolerant” is stupid and childish. Failing to believe what someone else tells one to believe is not “intolerance.” Not wanting to be forced to live according to someone else’s metaphysics, is also not “intolerance.” Both of those are “choices,”, and they’re choices that people in free countries are entitled to make — whether the Pope likes it or not.

Lastly, I’ve said it before and will say it again: Pope Benedict has no viable grounds for propounding morals at anyone. The Church he governs is guilty of having orchestrated institutional abuse of children in its care; of having conspired to cover up that abuse; of having bullied states and societies into letting it get away with it; and of thwarting justice once those states and societies decided they weren’t going to knuckle under to the Church’s bullying any more. Benedict could regain the “moral high ground” he thinks he stands on, by accepting responsibility for all of this, ordering all abusive and obstructionist clergy to immediately turn themselves in for prosecution and accept whatever punishment they merit, and fundamentally altering the Church’s structure and operations so that it can never again do any such thing.

But we all know, he won’t do any of that. No way. Until he does … he can just go fuck himself.

Does my saying that make me “intolerant”? I guess so. I don’t “tolerate” evil, and neither should you.

Photo credit: John G. Walter, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

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