Posts Tagged “roman catholic”

This 2011 file photo shows the Cathedral of St. Helena in Helena, Mont. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena filed for bankruptcy protection Jan. 31 in advance of proposed settlements for two lawsuits that claim clergy members sexually abused 362 people over decades and the church covered it up. (Photo: Ron Zellar, AP)For what I believe is the tenth time over the last decade, yet another Roman Catholic diocese has been forced to declare bankruptcy, in the face of allegations it allowed its clergy to abuse children. As USA Today reports, this would be the Helena, MT diocese (WebCite cached article):

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena planned to file for bankruptcy protection Friday as part of a proposed settlement of $15 million for hundreds of victims who say clergy members sexually abused them over decades while the church covered it up.

Diocese spokesman Dan Bartleson said the bankruptcy reorganization plan comes after confidential mediation sessions with the plaintiffs’ attorneys and insurers, resulting in the deals to resolve the abuse claims.

Those bastions of Christian charity managed to hand off most of the bill for this:

The church anticipates paying at least $2.5 million of the costs, with the rest paid by insurers, which were part of the settlement talks, he said. Bartleson said the diocese does not expect to have to liquidate any of its assets or close any programs because of the filing.

Gee, how convenient … no? In this case the Church managed, successfully, to prevent its personnel from being prosecuted, and avoided most of the payout to victims.

Photo credit: Ron Zellar/AP, via USA Today.

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

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Cardinal-Francis-George 110516 photoby Adam-BielawskiYet another archdiocese has been forced to release documentation that it was complicit in the abuse of children by its clergy. This time it’s the Windy City, as the Chicago Tribune reports (WebCite cached article):

Thousands of pages of secret church documents [cached] released Tuesday as part of a court settlement provide an unprecedented and gut-wrenching look at how the Archdiocese of Chicago for years failed to protect children from abusive priests.

The documents provide new details and insights into how the nation’s third-largest archdiocese quietly shuttled accused priests from parish to parish and failed to notify police of child abuse allegations. The paper trail, going back decades, also portrays painfully slow progress toward reform, accountability and openness.

Most of the 30 clergymen tied to the documents were not prosecuted. They were shielded by Roman Catholic Church officials who thought the men could be cured with counseling or bishops blinded by a belief in second chances and forgiveness.

Some of the abuse and cover-ups in this document cache involves the current archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, as the Tribune explains. The most outrageous quote in the article comes from the good Cardinal himself, referring to the abuse and cover-ups:

“That’s in the past, we’re hoping,” Cardinal Francis George said in an interview Sunday.

He’s “hoping” it’s “in the past”? He merely “hopes” his archdiocese’s custom of protecting abusive clergy is “in the past”? Seriously!?

The man is the fucking archbishop! What he says in his archdiocese, goes. The man needs to pull up his big boy pants and make this not just a “hope,” but a “reality.” As archbishop it’s entirely within his power to make it so. He’s in charge, and needs to fucking act like it. Yet, he doesn’t seem to want to.

If anyone wondered how decades of child abuse could have occurred at the hands of Catholic clergy and under the watch of the Catholic hierarchy, now you know why. Because not even a powerful Catholic hierarch is willing to take ownership of his own archdiocese and run it the way he sees fit. No. He just “hopes” it will be run better from now on.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Comments by Fernando Sebastian Aguilar, who was named one of 19 new cardinals by Pope Francis last week, provoked an immediate backlash in Spain. Photo: EFE/EPAWhat is it about metaphysical beliefs that gives people the idea that they’re experts on things they know nothing about? I’ve frequently complained, for instance, about Christians pronouncing Jesus’ existence as a historical fact merely because they believe he lived, even though this is by no means certain. In that way, they’re claiming credentials … i.e. as historians … which in fact they do not possess.

But this phenomenon is hardly limited to just that. It reaches into many disciplines — including medicine — and causes people to make laughable pronouncements which are counter-factual and anti-scientific.

Well, one of Pope Francis’s newly-appointed cardinals (WebCite cached article) just tried playing doctor himself, and ended up looking like a hateful prick. The (UK) Telegraph reports on a Spanish hierarch who compared homosexuality with blood pressure (cached):

Spain’s newly appointed cardinal to Rome has insisted homosexuality can be cured with treatment and likened it to other “bodily deficiencies” such as high blood pressure.

The comments by Fernando Sebastian Aguilar, who was named one of 19 new cardinals by Pope Francis last week, provoked an immediate backlash in Spain.

The 84-year-old Archbishop Emeritus of Pamplona said: “Homosexuality is a deficient way of manifesting sexuality because (sexuality) has a structure and a purpose, which is procreation.” “Homosexuality, which can’t achieve this purpose, is a failing,” he said in an interview with Malaga-based newspaper Diario Sur, published Sunday.

He went on to compare it to his own deficiency of high blood pressure. “Our bodies have many deficiencies. I have high blood pressure — a deficiency I have to correct as I can.”

Even as he said this, Aguilar must have realized the offensive implications of his words:

With this in mind he continued: “Saying homosexuals suffer a deficiency is not an insult. It’s a help because in many cases of homosexuality it is possible to recover and become normal with the right treatment.” His comments brought swift criticism from some quarters.

I believe this is Diario Sur‘s original story on this interview (cached).

Note the old and tired refrain that sexuality is only for procreation. The truth is, it’s not … and the soon-to-be Cardinal knows it. If it were true, then infertile people would not be able to have sex.

I get that the cardinal-to-be doesn’t approve of homosexuality and doesn’t like gays. There are lots of Christians — and people of other faiths — who agree with him on that. In a free world, that sort of thing is going to happen. What shouldn’t happen, is for people to lie about homosexuality and gays in order to rationalize and justify their disapproval.

Ultimately it shouldn’t matter to Aguilar (or anyone else) that someone somewhere might be gay. Really, honestly, it doesn’t affect him (or them). It just doesn’t. Hating homosexuality and gays serves no useful purpose for anyone, but it does cause immense harm. It’s time for the world’s gay-haters to just fucking grow the hell up and get over their pitiful, whiney hang-ups already.

Photo credit: EFE/EPA, via the (UK) Telegraph.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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