Posts Tagged “roman catholic”

Pope Benedict XVINot only has the scandal of abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests struck Pope Benedict XVI’s native Germany, as I blogged already, the most recent revelation from Germany has come even closer to the Pope … by surfacing in a cathedral choir which had been run by the Pope’s brother. Reuters reports, via the New York Times, on this development (WebCite cached article):

Germany’s Roman Catholic Church revealed charges of priests beating and sexually abusing boys in at least three schools in Pope Benedict’s native Bavaria on Friday, one linked to a renowned choir once led by his brother.

The charges at the cathedral choir in Regensburg, the Benedictine monastery school at Ettal and a Capucian school in Burghausen came to light after abuse cases revealed at Jesuit schools around the country shocked the country last month.

Rev Georg Ratzinger, 86, who led the choir from 1964 to 1994, told Bavarian Radio he knew nothing of any abuse at the “Regensburger Domspatzen” (Regensburg Cathedral Sparrows) choir, which regularly performs on tours in Germany and abroad.

At this point the Pope’s brother is not implicated in any of the abuse. The Regensburg diocese admitted to some abuse, decades ago, which had been prosecuted:

The diocese said in a statement that one priest had abused two boys sexually in 1958 and was sentenced to two years in jail. Another clergyman served 11 months in jail in 1971 for abuse. Both men have since died.

It said three men claimed to have suffered sexual abuse as well as beatings and humiliation in the early 1960s while at boarding schools connected to the choir. The diocese was investigating these cases and more could be revealed, it said.

My point is that the scandal of long-term abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests has become so epidemic that it has veered uncomfortably close to the Pope himself.

Photo credit: Sergey Gabdurakhmanov.

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John Paul II the GreatAccording to a newly-published biography by one of the men investigating the possibility of his canonization, the late Pope John Paul II engaged in the practice of self-flagellation. This biography adds a few other revelations about him, including that he had investigated the possibility of resigning as Pope if it proved necessary, and had even set up a possible mechanism by which he might have done so. Time magazine reports (WebCite cached article):

Book: John Paul II Whipped Himself, Weighed Retiring

A new book by the priest in charge of the Vatican’s official case for Pope John Paul II’s sainthood is packed with fascinating — and, apparently, meticulously verified — revelations. The one that grabbed most of the headlines was the claim that John Paul whipped himself with a belt, an act of corporal penitence designed to draw the flagellator closer to Christ’s suffering, and one that is usually associated with a very distant century, or a Dan Brown novel.

“As some members of his close entourage in Poland and in the Vatican were able to hear, John Paul flagellated himself,” writes Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the Polish prelate who collected testimony in his role as “postulator” for the Pope’s canonization. “In his armoire, amid all the vestments and hanging on a hanger, was a belt which he used as a whip.”

The Roman Catholic Church has always had a kind of push-me-pull-you relationship with the practice of self-flagellation (or ritually flogging oneself). It has what has periodically been viewed as a scriptural support, e.g. these passages:

For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)

Self-flagellation, then, is a kind of ritual “killing of the body” or mortification, which is supposed to — at least spiritually — “kill” the physical impulses that interfere with salvation. While self-flagellation goes back to the early history of Christianity (and may have been practiced in pre-Christian times as well), the Roman Catholic Church has not always smiled on the practice. In the 14th century a disparate collection of Catholics, known as the Flagellants, became well-known, and the practice came into vogue. Pope Clement VI, after a brief period of indulging them, officially suppressed the Flagellants.

Since then, the Catholic Church has taken a middle-of-the-road approach to self-flagellation: As long as it’s not too obvious, too public, too brutal, too obsessive, or physically injurious, it’s acceptable for Catholics to engage in the practice. Nevertheless, I find it odd that a Monsignor might view the late Pope’s self-flagellation as evidence of his piety and as supporting his sainthood; the Church’s repression of the Flagellants suggests that Catholicism does not view self-flagellation as being as “holy” a practice as has been suggested.

Another revelation is that John Paul II laid the foundations of a mechanism by which he might have resigned, if needed. For the most part, over the last several centuries, Catholicism has presumed that the Pope is supposed to remain the Pope until death, that resignation is something that’s just not done. Of course, this assumption flies in the face of history, because some Popes have, in fact, resigned; e.g. Gregory XII, whose resignation effectively ended the Great Western Schism. At any rate, Pope John Paul II set up a mechanism that might have gotten around the supposition that Popes cannot resign, as Time explains:

According to the book, John Paul on Feb. 15, 1989 signed a document clearing the way for him to step down if necessary. Five years later, suffering from a growing number of ailments, including the lingering effects of a 1981 assassination attempt, the Pope updated details of the procedure “in the case of infirmity which is presumed incurable, long-lasting and which impedes me from sufficiently carrying out the functions of my apostolic ministry.” He also charged his then doctrinal chief, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now known as Pope Benedict XVI — to investigate the implications for the church of having a living “Pope Emeritus” while his successor tried to establish his reign. The vexed question of papal resignation has become increasingly important as a result of modern medicine’s ability to potentially extend a Pontiff’s life long past his ability to effectively run a 1 billion-strong global church.

As it turned out, in spite of his many medical issues, John Paul II ended up never taking advantage of this resignation option.

Ultimately, the late Pope is on track to be beatified later this year, and sometime in the next few years, canonized. I’m not sure how this book makes any kind of compelling case for that, in spite of its title.

Photo credit: Todd Ehlers.

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The AP, via the Washington Post On Faith blog, reports that Pope Benedict XVI — who’s not known as a fan of the Internet or most technology — wants Catholic priests to make themselves heard on the Internet (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict XVI has a new commandment for priests struggling to get their message across: Go forth and blog.

The pope, whose own presence on the Web has heavily grown in recent years, urged priests on Saturday to use all multimedia tools at their disposal to preach the Gospel and engage in dialogue with people of other religions and cultures.

And just using e-mail or surfing the Web is often not enough: Priests should use cutting-edge technologies to express themselves and lead their communities, Benedict said in a message released by the Vatican.

“The spread of multimedia communications and its rich ‘menu of options’ might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web,” but priests are “challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources,” he said.

It’s not coincidental that he came out with this directive just now:

The message, prepared for the World Day of Communications, suggests such possibilities as images, videos, animated features, blogs, and Web sites.

One might assume that, as an Agnostic who’s criticized the Roman Catholic Church heavily over the nearly-2 years this blog has been running, I would be opposed to this.

But I’m not. I’m always in favor of freedom. That means letting Catholic priests having a voice.

The only thing I ask is that priests be held accountable for their words, if they post something inappropriate or inaccurate to their blogs, vlogs, podcasts, whatever. But then, I expect that of anyone. Propriety, candidness, accuracy and veracity are ethically required of everyone who says something publicly … and posting something on the Internet is as public as someone can get.

Hat tip: Slashdot.

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The Roman Catholic Church’s priestly pedophilia and child-abuse scandals are not, as it turns out, limited only to the U.S. and Ireland. Canada has had its share of scandalous behavior by the Catholic Church within its borders. A settlement in a class-action suit against the Diocese of Antigonish, Nova Scotia has been approved, as reported by the CBC:

A $15-million class-action settlement involving Roman Catholic priests accused of abusing young boys in Nova Scotia will proceed.

John McKiggan, the lawyer handling the historic settlement, said both sides of the class action — the Diocese of Antigonish and lead plaintiff Ron Martin — agreed to go ahead with the deal now that the deadline for opting out has expired. …

The settlement was the result of a class-action lawsuit spearheaded by Martin, a Cape Breton man who said he was sexually abused by a priest as a boy. Martin said his brother, David Martin, killed himself in 2002 and left a note stating that he, too, had been abused by a priest in the diocese.

This is not, however, the only bad news endured by the Roman Catholic Church in that province. In October, Richard Lahey, bishop of Antigonish — who (ironically or not) had been key to negotiating this very settlement — was arrested by Ottawa police for possession of child pornography, as the Globe and Mail reported:

A Roman Catholic bishop who oversaw an historic settlement with victims of past sexual abuse by priests in Nova Scotia has been charged with possessing and importing child pornography.

Bishop Raymond Lahey of the archdiocese of Antigonish was searched at the Ottawa airport as he re-entered Canada on Sept. 15. Officers found images “of concern” on his laptop, and seized it along with other media devices. He was released pending further investigation. …

In a statement Saturday, Bishop Lahey said that “after much thought and careful consideration” he had submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict “for personal reasons.”

What’s really stunning about this is that Lahey had been caught with child porn, after having issued the following statement about the (then-pending) settlement (as the G&M went on to say):

At the time [the potential settlement was announced], Bishop Lahey, who was bishop of Antigonish for six years and was not implicated in the allegations, apologized to the victims and noted they were entitled to protection from priests.

“Sexual abuse, indeed any abuse, is wrong. It is a crime and it is a serious sin in the eyes of God. I want to assure you that for some time our diocese, like others throughout Canada, have been taking steps to protect children and youth,” Bishop Lahey told a news conference.

Wow. I mean, just wow. The hypocrisy here is so obvious, and so brazen and stark, there doesn’t appear to be anything left to say about it.

At any rate, anyone who thought that Roman Catholic Church clerical scandals were only here in the U.S. or — as revealed this year — in Ireland, is sadly mistaken. Clerical misdeeds within the Catholic Church are much more widespread than most people suspect. What’s worse is, these are not cases of lone, abhorrent priests doing things they shouldn’t and then getting caught. Quite the opposite: Each of these scandals has featured active involvement by the hierarchy above these priests, to hide their misconduct, cover it up after-the-fact, shield them from secular prosecution, with no discernible effort made to prevent it from happening.

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Now that gay marriage is permissible in Connecticut, a number of state laws have to have their language changed in order to accommodate it. For instance, gender-specific words in various statutes need to be altered (e.g. “husband” and “wife” to just “spouse”). This being the first legislative session after the state court decision (Kerrigan v. Commr. of Public Health), this work is being done now. And the juvenile whiners in Connecticut who cannot deal with gay marriage, are using these “technical corrections” to weep and wail and screech and holler out their frustration over the inevitable advance of the 21st century. This isn’t the first time they’ve pitched a fit over it, and it won’t be the last, I’m sure. Television station WTNH in New Haven reports:

A legislative committee voted in favor of a bill that would update state law to conform with a court ruling allowing same-sex marriages.

The bill would remove gender references in state marriage laws and transform existing same-sex civil unions into legally recognized marriages as of October 2010.

The issue — these crybabies say — is “religious freedom.” However, no such issue actually exists. According to the Connecticut Supreme Court decision that permitted gay marriage, no clergyperson or religious congregation can be forced to marry a gay couple if they don’t want to. Previously, the state’s Roman Catholic bishops had demanded that florists (for instance) have the right not to sell flowers for gay weddings. That’s right … Catholic bishops believe that laypersons, who have no say in whether or not any given couple should be married, should be able to discriminate against people.

But now, as WTNH goes on to explain, other groups are demanding additional rights to discriminate:

Ever since same-sex marriages began in November after the ruling was finalized in New Haven, lawmakers have been working on changing the old law. But some see the language as forcing religious groups that rent what are called ‘public accommodations,’ like banquet halls, to rent their halls for same-sex ceremonies.

“This happened up in Canada; the Knights of Columbus were sued for not wanting to rent their hall to a lesbian couple for their wedding ceremony,” said Peter Wolfgang, Family Institute of Connecticut . “Our concern is that religious institutions and individuals not be coerced, not be told either you follow this agenda or it will cost you your livelyhood.”

Little Petey Wolfgang, perhaps the worst of Connecticut’s whiney Religious Right crybabies, knows that it’s not just state laws at work here … there are federal civil rights laws that prevent “public accommodations” (such as the Knights of Columbus halls he mentions) from discriminating against particular people. (Don’t believe me? Go ask the Denny’s restaurant chain.) He is blaming state legislators for something which is, more or less, out of their hands. Connecticut cannot change its laws without taking federal civil rights standards into account.

And he knows it.

What he and the rest of his sniveling rabble need to do, is to grow the hell up, admit that gay people exist, that they have the same rights as everyone else, and stop trying to force all of Connecticut to knuckle under to his ferociously hyperreligious dogma. Neither Connecticut nor any other state in the US is a theocracy, nor should any ever become theocracies, no matter how much Petey wishes it were.

Oh, and one last thing: Note Wolfgang’s use of the word “agenda” in his remarks … this reflects the Religious Right code-phrase “gay agenda” or “homosexual agenda,” which — rather than referring to an actual, identifiable “agenda” being actively coordinated — really means “we demand those depraved and godless homosexuals would just shut up or go away; they should neither be seen nor heard.” Such a demand that reality alter itself to suit one’s wishes is, of course, about as juvenile as one can get.

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