Posts Tagged “vatican city”

Papa Francisco na JMJ - 24072013For well over a decade the Vatican has fiercely denied that any of its clergy abused children or that its hierarchs protected the abusers. This scandal has traveled around the world and reared its head on every continent (except Antarctica), but the Church’s commanders have repeatedly insisted they’re the true victims, not the abused children, and have blamed the scandal on anyone and everyone other than themselves. So I find it remarkable that, as the Religion News Service reports, Pope Francis asked for forgiveness over it (WebCite cached article):

“I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil that some priests — quite a few in number, though not compared to the total number — and to ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done by sexually abusing children,” Francis said [cached].

“The church is aware of this damage,” he said. “It is personal and moral damage, but carried out by men of the church. And we do not want to take one step backward in dealing with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, I believe that we have to be very firm. Because you cannot take chances with children!”

Catholic News Service provides video of the Pope, via Youtube:

Of course, the Pope’s request for forgiveness is a far cry from the sort of true accountability that people around the world have been looking for, for over a decade. But given the Vatican’s long history of excuse-making and refusal to date even to admit the possibility it might have done anything wrong, it does show a somewhat different attitude. Let’s hope Francis does take additional steps and actually holds his Church responsible for what it did.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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The Rev. Michael Fugee, seen here after his arrest in May, has been expelled from the priesthood after admitting he violated a ban on ministry to children. (John O'Boyle / The Star-Ledger)One of the mantras repeated endlessly by the Catholic Church, whenever it’s asked why it didn’t deal more sternly with abusive clergy within its ranks, is that the process of throwing clergy out (which most of us call “defrocking,” but the Church calls “laicization”) is a long, arduous, and costly one. It can’t be rushed, you see, so often the better tactic is to leave abusers with their titles but just move them somewhere else and hope they won’t torment more kids (which, all too often, they ended up doing). Another point they make is that once a priest is defrocked — er, laicized — the Church no longer has any hold on them and they might go do something really, really bad.

Well, it turns out the former contention may not really be true. As the (Newark) Star-Ledger reports, it took only a few months to arrange the defrocking — er, laicization — of a child-abusing priest (WebCite cached article):

Acting with uncustomary speed, the Vatican has expelled a New Jersey man from the priesthood for repeatedly defying a lifetime ban on ministry to children.

Michael Fugee, 53, who attended youth retreats and heard confessions from minors despite signing a court-sanctioned decree forbidding such activities, has been returned to the lay state, said Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark.

“Very recently all the procedures were completed,” Goodness said Monday night. “He is no longer a priest of the archdiocese.”

The Vatican typically takes a year or longer to expel priests, a process known as laicization. In some cases, the procedure drags on for several years.

An astute reader might ask how the quick defrocking — er, laicization — of Fugee squares with the Church’s portrayal of that process as lengthy and gut-wrenching; well, so too did the SL:

Asked about the swift pace of Fugee’s removal, Goodness said the former priest’s petition for laicization was “given a good amount of attention when it was submitted.”

That’s the answer, then. It’s merely a matter of “attention.” If a diocese “gives a good amount of attention” to a defrocking — er, laicization — that’s pending, then it can move along quickly. So all the hand-wringing over the protracted defrocking — er, laicization — process turns out to be not as bad as they’ve claimed, after all.

What’s more, the idea that a diocese can control the actions of an abusive priest if they hold onto him, also turns out not to be true. As I’ve blogged previously, the case of the late Fr Stephen Foley here in Connecticut is evidence of that. He’d been removed from the active ministry — including losing his status as a state police chaplain — in the mid-90s after some abuse complaints, and moved onto the grounds of St Thomas Seminary, yet the archdiocese of Hartford was unaware that, over ten years later, he’d been driving around in a police cruiser, decked out with sirens, lights, etc. which he wasn’t legally entitled to drive — even had he still been chaplain, which he wasn’t (page 2, cached; page 3, cached; page 4, cached). Foley had used this illegitimate police cruiser as a lure to ensnare more child victims … right under the noses of his archdiocesan superiors (who, it appears, didn’t give a flying fuck what he was driving or what he was doing).

The number of lies the Catholic Church continues to tell about how it dealt with abusers in its midst continues to pile up, as do the excuses it propounds for why it refused to punish or eject them, or for why it has found itself engulfed in this worldwide scandal. Don’t be fooled by anything the hierarchs tell you about it; ultimately, they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong. In their minds this scandal is entirely fictional, woven from whole cloth by any number of malefactors, ranging from the children themselves to the Devil to “masonic secularists” to Jews to … well, you name it.

Photo credit: John O’Boyle / The Star-Ledger.

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St. Peter's Basilica, VaticanI’ve blogged many times already about how the Roman Catholic Church blames the worldwide Catholic clerical abuse scandal on anyone and everyone other than itself or its own personnel. The blame-game is old and tired, but it seems the Church just won’t give up playing it. The latest example of this comes in the wake of a UN committee’s report on how the Vatican obstructed justice and aided abusive clergy around the world for decades. As the AP reports via CBC News, the Vatican denounced this report, blaming its content on “pro-gay ideologues” (WebCite cached article):

The Vatican “systematically” adopted policies that allowed priests to rape and molest tens of thousands of children over decades, a UN human rights committee said Wednesday, urging the Holy See to open its files on pedophiles and bishops who concealed their crimes.

In a devastating report hailed by abuse victims, the UN committee severely criticized the Holy See for its attitudes toward homosexuality, contraception and abortion and said it should change its own canon law to ensure children’s rights and their access to health care are guaranteed.

The Vatican promptly objected and its UN ambassador accused the committee of having betrayed the international body’s own objectives by allowing itself to be swayed by pro-gay ideologues. He said it appeared the committee simply hadn’t listened when the Holy See outlined all the measures it has taken to protect children.

The Vatican’s reasoning here is absurd: They’re saying they shouldn’t be held accountable for child abuse and obstruction of justice in the past, because they’re better about them, now. Applied elsewhere, this sort of thinking would promptly be dismissed as ridiculous. For example, take a guy arrested for a murder a couple years after it happened; should he be able to insist that he shouldn’t be prosecuted for it, because he hadn’t killed anyone since then?

As usual, the R.C. Church once again complains it’s being attacked; in this case by these “pro-gay ideologues” who, they think, are trying to destroy them. This latest whine is just one more example of the Church’s denials: They continue to insist their clergy never abused any kids and their hierarchs never protected them. It’s all fabricated. The Church, its spokesmen, and defenders have cited plenty of other bogeymen in the past, ranging from “masonic secularists” to the Jews to the Devil, and even to the abuse victims themselves.

Clearly the Church hierarchy is committed to its ongoing plan to repeatedly deny and blame, deny and blame, then deny and blame some more. They cannot and will not admit fault, nor will they willingly allow themselves to be held accountable for what they did. Nevertheless, they claim to be the world’s sole remaining arbiter of morality. That’s the sort of hypocrisy that their own Jesus explicitly condemned … but like most Christians, they happily engage in it anyway.

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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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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Monsignor Battista Ricca with Pope Francis. Credit: Catholic Press Photo, via L'espressoNote: There’s a recent cringe-worthy update to this story appended to this post.

I blogged a short time ago about the most recent Vatican Bank scandal. Things are heating up, what with some arrests, a number of firings/resignations, and the Pope’s appointment of a supposed review panel to examine that institution. But now, it’s taken an extremely odd turn. The Italian magazine L’espresso reports that this Vatican Bank scandal has now intersected the rumored, elusive “Vatican gay lobby” (WebCite cached article):

“In the curia there is talk of a ‘gay lobby.’ And it is true, it’s there. Let’s see what we can do,” Francis said on June 6 to Latin American religious received in audience.

And again: “It is not easy. Here there are many of the pope’s ‘bosses’ with great seniority of service,” he confided a few days ago to his Argentine friend and former student Jorge Milia.

In effect, some of these ‘bosses’ have hatched against Jorge Mario Bergoglio the cruelest and most subtle deception since he was elected pope.

They kept in the dark important information that, if he had known it before, would have kept him from appointing Monsignor Battista Ricca “prelate” of the Institute for Works of Religion.

With this appointment, made public on June 15, Francis intended to place a trusted person in a key role within the IOR. With the power to access all of the proceedings and documents and to attend all of the meetings both of the cardinalate commission of oversight and of the supervisory board of the disastrous Vatican “bank.” In short, with the task of cleaning house.…

Before the appointment, Francis had been shown, as is customary, the personal file on Ricca, in which he had not found anything unseemly. He had also heard from various personalities of the curia, and none of them had raised objections.

Just one week after appointing the “prelate,” however, during the same days in which he was meeting with the apostolic nuncios who had come to Rome from all over the world, the pope became aware, from multiple sources, of some episodes from Ricca’s past previously unknown to him and such as to bring serious harm to the pope himself and to his intention of reform.

L’espresso goes on to chronicle a number of incidents in Ricca’s checkered history working in the Vatican’s diplomatic corps — see page 2 and page 3 of the report (cached and cached) for all the details. There are enough of them that it’s inconceivable nothing untoward could have shown up in his file at the time Pope Francis reviewed it.

It may be a bit of a leap to suggest (as L’espresso does) this set-up of the new Pope (which is certainly what it appears to be) was done the “gay lobby” that’s rumored to be embedded deep within the machinery of the Vatican. Even so, this attempt to drive a wedge between the Pope and other Vatican officials who’d no doubt known about Ricca’s past, must have been the work of people with authority in Vatican offices and extremely close to the Pope; having the ability to doctor a prelate’s personal file, and to prevent the Pope from speaking with those who might have warned him against appointing Ricca.

I can’t help but view this as additional evidence — as though anyone needed more! — that the R.C. Church is pervasively and inherently dysfunctional. It may seem I’m sympathetic to the Pope here, but I’m not. He’s been part of the Church’s global machinery more than long enough to have been aware of the nature and extent of its dysfunction. Maybe he’s working to change it … or maybe he’s not … but when he took the job of Pope, he made himself its caretaker, and thus accepted responsibility for the dysfunction. Having been the target of a set-up, he now has a choice: To face this matter head-on and undertake to rid his Church of the dysfunction; or to allow it to continue simmering and festering, even at the risk of undermining his own reign. If he’s anything like previous Popes, his choice will be the latter. Which is precisely why things have reached this point in the first place.

Update: The (UK) Independent reports Ricca was found stuck in an elevator a couple days ago (cached), with a “rent boy” known to police. Talk about your “facepalm” moments!

Photo credit: Catholic Press, via L’espresso.

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John Paul II Monument in Borkowo Ko?cielneThe Vatican has been eager to get the late Pope John Paul II canonized as soon as possible. That process is amazingly protracted and cumbersome. It can take decades or even centuries for people to be sainted. For instance, the Catholic Church took almost 300 years just to beatify the Martyrs of Otranto, and over 500 years to make them saints. Yet, this same wizened and supposedly-deliberate group, as the CNN Belief Blog reports, is on the cusp of granting the same honor to their late associate: (WebCite cached article):

The Catholic Church is on the verge of declaring late Pope John Paul II a saint, a Vatican source familiar with the process told CNN on Tuesday.

The committee that considers candidates for sainthood voted Tuesday to credit the late pope with a second miracle, the source said, asking not to be named discussing internal Vatican deliberations.…

The Polish-born pope was fast-tracked to beatification when he died in 2005 [cached], and became “the blessed” John Paul II barely six years after his death — the fastest beatification in centuries.

“For an institution that typically thinks in centuries, this is remarkably quick,” said CNN Vatican analyst John Allen.

In fact, the phrase “record-breaking speed” leaps to mind, and not without reason, as CNN explains:

The record for the fastest canonization is [sic] modern times is St. Jose-Maria Escriva, the Spanish-born founder of Opus Dei, a Catholic order of laypeople and saints dedicated to finding God in daily life. Escriva was made a saint 27 years after his death.

John Paul could shatter that record.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point out that Pope John Paul II had built up something of a “cult of personality” during is reign, and many of the hierarchs now in charge of the R.C. Church had been appointed by him, or had put them into position to move up into the hierarchy. They appear now to be clamoring to repay his favors posthumously.

It would be nice if they could instead find a way to devote more of their attention and energy to something other than a dead man. Figuring out how to deal constructively and candidly with the worldwide clerical child-abuse scandal that’s wracked their institution for more than a decade, would be one of those things.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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