Catholic Church in the spotlight, for all the wrong reasons
Rows of chairs are put in place in St Peter’s Square ahead of Pope Benedict XVI’s last public audience, Feb. 25, 2013, in Vatican City, Vatican. / GETTY
VATICAN CITY The process of electing Pope Benedict XVI’s successor to is turning out to be the most complex, and in many ways disputatious, of any in modern history.
As soon as Benedict announced his resignation, the Italian press erupted with tales of scandal, infighting and sexual misconduct supposedly revealed by the Church’s own investigation into the so-called "Vatileaks" scandal.
A report by three cardinals appointed by the pope to look into the theft of documents by his personal butler, and their subsequent publishing by an Italian journalist, was widely reported to have contained information on purported sex scandals inside the Vatican. Lurid tales of a "gay lobby" of homosexual clerics were splashed across newspapers and on TV.
The Vatican press office went on the offensive, deriding what it termed, "a diffusion of news that is often unverified, unverifiable and actually false, with serious damage to people and institutions."
A Vatican source said the unprecedented reaction was intended "to call the bluff" of the Italian media, and in fact, there was no rebuttal from the news organizations after the Vatican’s counter-punch.
The report into Vatileaks is said to run to up to 600 pages. It will be kept secret, left for Benedict’s successor to deal with as he sees fit. However, the three cardinals who compiled it — all of whom are over the age of 80 and therefore will not take part in the conclave — may be allowed to answer specific questions about it from cardinals who will be participating.
The conclave itself is turning into far more than the traditional secret gathering of the so-called "Princes of the Church" in the ornate confines of the Sistine Chapel.
The sexual abuse scandal prompted calls from some U.S. Catholics for Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles to be excluded from participating in choosing the next pope. The cardinal has said he intends to cast his vote, in spite of the pressure. At least two other U.S. cardinals, as well as one from Ireland and a European cardinal were also cited as being men who should recuse themselves over their handling — or mishandling — of the priests’ abuse of minors.
Then came the news that three priests and a former cleric had accused Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Scotland of inappropriate behavior with them, three decades ago.
O’Brien denied the charges, but said in a statement released Monday that he would not participate in the conclave because he doesn’t "wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me, but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his Successor."
That brings the number of voting cardinals down to 115. Shortly after the official announcement that Cardinal O’Brien had taken the unprecedented step of removing himself for personal reasons, Benedict issued an edict releasing the College of Cardinals from the obligation to wait a minimum of 15 days from the end of his papacy before starting the conclave.
No date can be set until Friday, the day after the Pope officially leaves office.
At a news briefing Monday, Vatican Press Secretary Father Tom Rosica said the meeting to decide the date for the conclave to kick off won’t even begin until March 1.
"We have no other information until the cardinals decide and the general congregation, when the conclave will come," he said. And he added: "Will they announce that at the first meeting? They might not. We have to wait a few days before that happens."
If a week is a long time in politics, the last week here has shown that even a few days can be a long time in the Vatican.
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Statistics: Posted by yoda — Mon Feb 25, 2013 2:00 pm
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Jimmy Savile: Catholic Church seeks to strip star of Papal knighthood
Jimmy Savile could become the first person to be stripped of a Papal knighthood posthumously after the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales asked the Vatican to investigate removing the honour.
By Tom Rowley, and Sam Marsden10:07PM BST 26 Oct 2012
There is growing disquiet among senior members of the church, which has itself been rocked by child abuse scandals, that the disgraced late TV presenter’s name remains on the list of recipients of one of the highest awards the Pope can bestow.
The Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, has now written to Rome asking whether Savile’s Papal knighthood can be annulled in recognition of his victims’ “deep distress”.
Church sources said there was no established process to remove a Papal honour posthumously because the award dies with the recipient.
However, senior Roman Catholic clergy in Britain feel that the Vatican should look at whether it can do something to recognise its disgust at the “deeply shocking” series of allegations of child sexual abuse made against the former Jim’ll Fix It presenter.
There is no guarantee that the church will be able to remove the honour and no fixed timetable for Rome to reply to the Archbishop of Westminster.
A source said: “The honour itself goes when the person dies but nevertheless it would appear on Papal honours lists. I don’t know if you remove it entirely or whether there is an asterisk to say, ‘well, actually…’”
It is thought that a Papal knighthood has never previously been removed posthumously. “It would be very, very rare if not unprecedented,” a source said.
Savile, who described himself as a devout Catholic, was made a Knight Commander of St Gregory the Great by Pope John Paul II in 1990 for his charity work.
The honour is awarded to Catholics, and on occasion non-Catholics, who have demonstrated “pre-eminent” service to their faith, community, or the work of the Vatican.
Other recipients have included Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire media tycoon, Sir Matt Busby, the former Manchester United Manager, and John Hume, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Northern Ireland politician.
A spokesman for the Archbishop of Westminster said: “The Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, wrote last week to the Holy See asking the competent office to investigate whether the Papal Honour awarded to Jimmy Savile for his charitable works could be posthumously removed and its effects nullified, recognising the deep distress of all those who have suffered abuse and the disquiet at Mr Savile’s name remaining on Papal Honours lists.
“While the outcome of the current police investigation is awaited, the allegations of abuse are deeply shocking and our thoughts go first to all those who have been abused. The Church invites all those who have suffered abuse to come forward to the appropriate authorities.”
There have also been calls for the UK Government to strip Savile of the British knighthood he was awarded in 1990.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, hinted earlier this month that the honour could be removed.
However, the Cabinet Office said that honours ceased to exist when a person died, although there is a campaign to change the law so that they can be revoked after death.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Fri Oct 26, 2012 11:18 pm
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By Tad DeHaven
Economist Antony Davies and Catholic theologian Kristina Antolin argue in the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ criticism of Paul Ryan’s budget policies is wrongheaded:
All people have the moral obligation to care for those who are less fortunate. But replacing morality with legality is the first step in replacing church, religion and conscience with government, politics and majority vote. Coercing people to feed the poor simply substitutes moral poverty for material poverty.
The bishops dance with the devil when they invite government to use its coercive power on their behalf, and there’s no clearer example than the Affordable Care Act. They happily joined their moral authority to the government’s legal authority by supporting mandatory health insurance. They should not have been surprised when the government used its reinforced power to require Catholic institutions to pay for insurance plans that cover abortions and birth control.
I made similar points back in April after the USCCB issued a series of letters criticizing cuts to domestic spending programs proposed by House Republicans:
The USCCB’s criticism comes at a time when it’s appropriately fighting the Obama administration’s mandate that Church-affiliated employers must provide health insurance that covers birth control. As a Catholic, it pains me that the bishops apparently do not recognize that a central government that is big and powerful enough to spend billions of other people’s dollars on housing, food, and health care programs, which the bishops support, is inevitably going to shove its tentacles into areas where they’re not wanted. In other words, if you play with fire, there’s a good chance you’re going to get burnt…
The Catholic Church could do a lot more for the poor if its parishioners were able to put more into the collection plate instead of rendering it unto Caesar. Thus, it’s pretty sad that the bishops see this as a “time when the need for assistance from HUD programs is growing” rather than a time for the Church to reassert its traditional role in taking care of those in need—a role that is hindered by the welfare state that the bishops embrace.
That Ryan wants to tinker with the federal welfare state in order to preserve it makes the bishops’ criticism even more absurd.
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Catholic official convicted of endangerment
June 22, 2012, 11:24 a.m.
PHILADELPHIA — A Roman Catholic church official was convicted Friday of child endangerment but acquitted of conspiracy in a groundbreaking clergy-abuse trial, becoming the first U.S. church official convicted of a crime for how he handled abuse claims.
Monsignor William Lynn helped the archdiocese keep predators in ministry, and the public in the dark, by telling parishes their priest was being removed for health reasons and then sending the men to unsuspecting churches, prosecutors said.
Lynn, 61, had faced about 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted of all three counts he faced – conspiracy and two counts of child endangerment. He was convicted only on one of the endangerment counts, leaving him with the possibility of 3 1/2 to seven years in prison.
He has been on leave from the church since his arrest last year. He served as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, mostly under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.
The late cardinal was a prominent figure in the trial and rarely an hour of testimony went by without his name being invoked.
Bevilacqua had the final say on what to do with priests accused of abuse, sent many of them to new churches and dressed down anyone who complained, according to testimony. He also ordered the shredding of a 1994 list that warned him that the archdiocese had three diagnosed pedophiles, a dozen confirmed predators and at least 20 more possible abusers in its midst. Prosecutors learned this year that a copy had been stashed in a safe.
Defense lawyers say Lynn alone tried to document the complaints, get priests into treatment and alert the cardinal to the growing crisis. Church documents show therapists had called one accused priest a ticking "time bomb" and "powder keg."
During the 10-week trial, more than a dozen adults testified about wrenching abuse they said they suffered at the hands of revered priests.
A former seminarian said he was raped by a priest throughout high school at the priest’s mountain house.
A nun testified that she and two female relatives were sexually abused by a priest described by a church official as "one of the sickest people I ever knew."
And a troubled young man described being sexually assaulted in the church sacristy in 1999 by the Rev. Edward Avery after the 10-year-old altar boy served Mass. Avery admitted the assault days before Lynn’s trial and is serving a 2 1/2- to five-year prison term.
"I can’t explain the pain, because I’m still trying to figure it out today, but I have an emptiness where my soul should be," another accuser testified. His mother had sent him to a priest for counseling as an eighth-grader because he’d been raped by a family friend. The priest then followed suit, he said.
Seven men and five women sat on the jury, along with eight alternates. Many have ties to Catholic schools or parishes, but said they could judge the case fairly. There are about 1.5 million Catholics in the five-county archdiocese, and Philadelphia neighborhoods were long identified by their local parishes.
The jury could not agree on a verdict for Lynn’s co-defendant, the Rev. James Brennan, who was accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy in 1996.
Lynn’s lawyer, Thomas Bergstrom, pledged in opening statements in late March that the monsignor would not run from the sins of the church. However, he said in closing arguments that Lynn should not be held responsible for them.
He suggested his client was a middle manager-turned-scapegoat for the clergy-abuse scandal. Lynn, he said, documented the abuse complaints and did his best to get reluctant superiors to address it.
"And now, now of all things, the commonwealth wants you to convict him for documenting the abuse that occurred in the archdiocese, …. the evil that other men did. They want to hold him responsible for their sins."
Philadelphia prosecutors have been investigating the archdiocese for 10 years, since the national crisis erupted in the Boston archdiocese. Lynn testified several times before a grand jury that sat from about 2002 to 2005.
That panel produced a blistering report that identified 63 suspected child molesters in the archdiocese, but said no one could be charged because of legal time limits.
Afterward, then-District Attorney Lynne Abraham helped fight for state reforms that gave reluctant victims more time to come forward in Pennsylvania – and enabled her successor, Seth Williams, to charge Monsignor Lynn and four others last year based on more recent complaints.
In a hotly contested ruling in Lynn’s case, Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina let prosecutors tell jurors about 20 of the accused priests named in the first grand jury report, even though they were never charged, because Lynn worked on their files to some extent.
Prosecutors said they showed a pattern at the archdiocese of lying about why priests were removed, sending them to "company doctors" at church-run therapy centers and failing to warn new parishes where they were later transferred.
"They put so many innocent children in danger," Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington said in his closing remarks, noting that it can take years or decades for victims to come forward. "That’s what’s so scary about this. We have no idea how many victims are out there."
By Bergstrom’s count, the commonwealth spent about 36 of 40 trial days on the tangential cases.
An appeal based on the inclusion of that evidence is considered likely.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Fri Jun 22, 2012 1:26 pm
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Catholic Church Hypocrisy: Obamacare
In good conscience I cannot remain silent in the face of this outrage.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
I write to you concerning an alarming and serious matter that negatively impacts the Church in the United States directly, and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith. The federal government, which claims to be “of, by, and for the people,” has just been dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people — the Catholic population — and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful.
Exactly when did this happen? Was it when Obama announced forced "charity" in the form of mandatory health "insurance"? Was it when the government passed EMTALA in the 1980s, and forced everyone in the country to pay the hospital bills for those who refused — or were unable — to pay on their own? Was it when Congress and the government effectively added insult to this injury when it started whacking Medicare and Medicaid payments, forcing everyone else to pay? Or was it when all of this, plus the "free money lottery" game in the medical field, was imposed on every man, woman and child in America?
Why no. The Catholic Church had no problem with that whatsoever. Organized theft at literal government gunpoint was just fine, so long as what was stolen, and why, met with Church approval.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees’ health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those “services” in the health policies they write. And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.
Ah, but here’s the problem you see. Nobody has to use said coverage. And that which is not used is not paid for.
In so ruling, the Obama Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled to either violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so). The Obama Administration’s sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.
How is that you’re forced to buy and use these services?
Oh, you claim you’re forced to pay for them. Really?
This is utterly false — at least beyond the extent you’ve been forced to pay for them for the last several decades, all of which The Church has actively and publicly supported!
There is nothing preventing the Church from organizing groups and soliciting health insurance quotes for those groups. Being comprised of "faithful" people, that policy might include the provision that one could obtain these services but with the membership being comprised of faithful individuals who do not believe in such things there would be no use and thus the rating would not include that which is not used! Contrary to popular belief all health insurance ratings are in fact simply a composite of the risk factors of each participant. (I know this to be factually true as I negotiated and purchased same for my company when I ran it.)
The problem here is not that the Church doesn’t want to buy said services — it is entirely within the right of those who do not want to purchase such things due to personal ethics, faith or reasons of conscience to not do so. And should there be a group of Catholics that happen to believe this way in a given area, they can band together, form a group, and buy health insurance. That group (assuming all are in fact faithful and believe in the Church dogma, which I’m sure our dear Bishop will assure is true among his flock) will purchase no contraceptives, abortions, sterilizations or morning-after pills.
This would be a decidedly positive change in that it would tend to decouple this "insurance" from employment, a most-welcome thing. It would rely on the people being individuals of conscience, and the group (Church) could in fact even excommunicate those who "sinned" by buying such a thing, although sinning (and the cost of that sin in dollars) would certainly be possible under the law.
To those who say that this does not resolve the problem, I argue that their assertion is violating the 9th Commandment. The Catholic Church already supports laws that force you, I, and everyone else to cover the cost of abortions, of "morning after" pills for******victims, of birth control generally and other procedures that the Church finds objectionable.
EMTALA and other forms of cost-shifting, including Medicare and Medicaid, already force The Church and her members to pay for these "forbidden" procedures and drugs through both the tax system (indirectly) and directly by grossly inflating the price of medical services charged to everyone else!
Again, The Church has no quarrel with mandated cost shifting of this sort! It did not, as just one example, speak against Obamacare — in fact, Catholic Charities and The St. Vincent de Paul Society along with the Catholic Health Association all supported Obamacare in the first instance!
Again, Medicaid has always provided these services and due to the subsidized and cost-shifted nature of Medicare you, as a Catholic, have long been compelled to pay for these procedures.
We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law.
The Church already supported this unjust law for decades. By supporting mandated cost-shifting of medical care and the tax system that funds it, most-particularly (but not limited to) Medicaid, the Catholic Church has long supported these procedures with their direct employment tax dollars as well as espousing the belief that the Church laity is morally (say much less legally) bound to pay said taxes despite the fact that some part of those taxes, no matter how small, is used to fund these procedures, drugs and devices.
People of faith cannot be made second class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights. In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties. I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.
You, Mr. Sample, along with the rest of the Bishops emitting this speech and all the prelates who gave this sermon (or any derivative of it) are hypocrites. Forced cost-shifting of "procedures that violate conscience" was just fine so long as it could be foisted off on the congregation and in fact was fine so long as it was "hidden" among the weeds!
The Church has been paying its employment taxes without complaint just like everyone else, even though Medicaid provides for birth control pills and other related services including, in some cases, abortion!
There has been no organized objection, no refusal to pay those taxes and no call for the laity to refuse to pay those taxes.
Now, Catholic Bishops and prelates, you see the price of your own hypocritical behavior and "forced charity." Rather than stand on liberty, personal choice and conscience you have deigned to seize only on this specific instance in Obamacare while leaving the provision of Medicaid, which everyone has to pay for that has earned income or pays employees, including the Church, alone!
Where were you in the 1980s? In the 1990s? In the 2000s? When Obamacare was being debated — and Catholic Charities supported it? Oh, it was all ok then, because you felt Catholics had an obligation to cede our particular moral values for the "poor" and "less advantaged" irrespective of how that need for care happened and irrespective of personal liberty, freedom and morality.
This was true even if those Medicaid recipients then turned around and obtained birth control pills or obtained an abortion with our Catholic money!
And therefore, I would ask of you two things. First, as a community of faith we must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that wisdom and justice may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored. Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible. Second, I would also recommend visiting www.usccb.org/conscience,to learn more about this severe assault on religious liberty, and how to contact Congress in support of legislation that would reverse the Obama Administration’s decision.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Alexander K. Sample
Most Reverend Alexander K. Sample
Bishop of Marquette
Well then this evening I will pray that you see the hypocrisy of your position and attend the Sacrament of Reconciliation, admitting your sin, making penance for your sin (including a retraction of this outrage) and pledging to sin no more.
Of course, as a mere lay Catholic who has heard this pronouncement slack-jawed after sitting through years of the Church supporting and in fact demanding everything related to outrageous medical cost-shifting and the provision of these very same services with your congregation’s funds, including mine personally, I suspect you will do none of the above.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Mon Jan 30, 2012 8:29 pm
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