The Vatican’s four problems


This video from PBS in the USA in 2011 is called Rift Grows Between Ireland, Vatican Over Priest Abuse Allegations.

From the New York Review of Books in the USA:

The Pope and the Pederasts

Garry Wills

Pope Francis has acted fast on his preferred issues—poverty and economic justice. Nothing in that to criticize. He has been slower—too slow, say some—to deal with the long-festering problem of sex abuse by priests. He has at last taken some of the steps people were calling for—see victims and apologize to them, authorize a panel to study the problem, promise reforms that will prevent a recurrence of these crimes. OK so far—but Pope Benedict had begun all that before him.

Why did Francis hesitate to continue what was already being done? Is it because all these things are beside the point? Very likely, they are. Without addressing structural issues in the Vatican, meaningful action to restore trust in the priesthood and church authority cannot get far. There are four such interlocking problems:

1. Celibacy. Yes, celibacy does not directly and of itself lead to sexual predation. There are many unmarried men and women who are not predators. But Catholic celibacy is not simply an unmarried state. It is a mandatory and exclusive requirement for holding all significant offices in the Church. This sets up a sexual caste system that limits vision, empathy, and honesty. It enables church rulers to be blithely at odds with the vast majority of their own people. According to a 2011 Guttmacher Institute study, 98 percent of American Catholic women of child-bearing age have had sex—and, of that 98 percent, 99 percent have used or will use some form of contraception. Yet celibate priests tell us they know what sex is really about (by their expertise in “natural law”), and in their view it absolutely precludes birth control. There is an induced infantilism in such cloistered minds, an ignorance that poses as innocence. This prevents honesty at so many levels that any trust on sexual matters begins in a crippled state, handicapping all treatment of sexual predation in the Church.

2. Homophobia. Pope Francis is often hailed for asking, “Who am I to judge” gay men. The New Yorker headlined its comment on this question (by the estimable Alexander Stille), “Francis Redefines the Papacy.” Hardly. He was speaking within a specific context, after being asked about gay priests in the Vatican (the so-called “gay lobby”). He said, “We must make the distinction between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of a lobby, because lobbies are not good. They are bad. If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?” But accepting the Lord in the modern priesthood means following the rule of recent popes that homosexuality is morally “disordered” and may not be acted on. He was saying that gay priests who do not have gay sex should not be judged.

This is no great advance on the old “hate the sin, love the sinner” line that homophobes regularly use. There are many gay priests, some who remain celibate, some who don’t. The fact that they have to hide their “disorder” does not mean they are not being judged. If they felt they were not being judged, they would not be hiding. Now, when Catholics are agreeing with their fellow Americans that being gay is not a disgrace, and marrying is a gay right, the Vatican cannot even get into the conversation, much less lead it in a useful way.

3. Patriarchy. The Vatican is not only the West’s oldest monarchy, but its most entrenched patriarchy. For long its official teaching was Thomas Aquinas’s assertion (taken from Aristotle) that “the female is a defective male.” Though the Vatican has tried in recent years to back off from that position, as late as 1976 Paul VI’s Curia said that there can be no women priests because women do not look like Jesus: they lack “this ‘natural resemblance’ which must exist between Christ and his minister.” Pope John Paul II said in 1994 that if Jesus had wanted to ordain women, he would have begun with the best of them, his mother. He ignores the fact that Jesus in the Gospels ordained no priests, male or female. The investigation of American nuns for daring to have opinions of their own shows how far Vatican officials are from understanding women. (How could they understand them?)

4. Clericalism. The previous three problems converge on the clerical mindset that afflicts all bureaucracies, but especially sacred ones. Advancement of one’s career involves deference to those above, adherence to corporate loyalties, and a determination not to hurt the institution (demonstrated by signal loyalty). Questioning “church teaching” is subversion. This leads to support of one’s own in all ways possible—as far as one can go, for instance, in denying sin among one’s colleagues. This is the area in which Pope Francis has made some initial moves, challenging the power of the Curia (Rome’s bureaucracy).

But challenge is not change, and so long as these structural issues persist, it will be impossible to restore trust in the Vatican’s authority. No pope can change all these things all by himself, even one as winning as Francis is proving. If it is to be done at all, it must be by a joint effort of the whole People of God. Perhaps that is what Francis is waiting for. I suspect he would welcome it.

July 11, 2014, 11:15 a.m.

Vatican recognizes exorcists officially


This video is ‘The Exorcist‘, trailer of the 1973 movie.

Well, that was Hollywood fiction.

Now, to 2014 reality.

From breakingNEWS.ie in Ireland:

Exorcist group wins Vatican backing

02/07/2014 – 17:42:20

Exorcists now have a legal weapon at their disposal after the Vatican formally recognised a group of 250 priests in 30 countries who liberate the faithful from demons.

The Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy has approved the statutes of the International Association of Exorcists and recognised the group under canon law, the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported.

More than his predecessors, Pope Francis speaks frequently about the devil, and last year was seen placing his hands on the head of a man purportedly possessed by four demons in what exorcists said was a prayer of liberation from Satan.

The head of the association, the Rev. Francesco Bamonte, said the Vatican approval was cause for joy.

“Exorcism is a form of charity that benefits those who suffer,” he told the paper.

If new Pope Francis I really wants to fight sexual abuse, bank fraud, and other Vatican scandals, then this not the right way. In an atmosphere where ‘magical’ superstition is promoted, fighting the abuses becomes more difficult.

Archbishop dismissed for sexual abuse


This video is called Vatican tribunal convicts former envoy of sex abuse.

From Associated Press:

Jozef Wesolowski, Vatican Ex-Ambassador, Convicted Of Sex Abuse

By Nicole Winfield

Posted: 06/27/2014 9:26 am EDT Updated: 2 hours ago

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican‘s former ambassador to the Dominican Republic has been convicted by a church tribunal of sex abuse and has been defrocked, the first such sentence handed down against a top papal representative.

The Vatican said Friday that Monsignor Jozef Wesolowski was found guilty by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in recent days, and sentenced to the harshest penalty possible against a cleric: laicization, meaning he can no longer perform priestly duties or present himself as a priest.

Wesolowski has two months to appeal. He also faces other charges by the criminal tribunal of Vatican City, since as a papal diplomat he is a citizen of the tiny city state.

The Holy See recalled the Polish-born Wesolowski on Aug. 21, 2013, and relieved him of his job after the archbishop of Santo Domingo, Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez, told Pope Francis about rumors that Wesolowski had sexually abused teenage boys in the Dominican Republic.

Dominican authorities subsequently opened an investigation, but haven’t charged him. Poland, too, opened an investigation into Wesolowski and a friend and fellow Polish priest.

Wesolowski is the highest-ranking Vatican official to be investigated for alleged sex abuse, and his case raised questions about whether the Vatican, by removing him from Dominican jurisdiction, was protecting him and placing its own investigations ahead of that of authorities in the Caribbean nation.

The Vatican has never said how Wesolowski responded to the charges and hasn’t provided any contact information for his lawyer.

The case is particularly problematic for the Vatican since Wesolowski was a representative of the pope, accused of grave crimes that the Holy See has previously sought to distance itself from by blaming the worldwide sex abuse scandal on wayward priests and their bishops who failed to discipline them, not Vatican officials.

The case has also been delicate because Wesolowski was both ordained a priest and bishop by his Polish countryman and former pope, St. John Paul II.

United Nations criticize Vatican about child abuse


This video says about itself:

The Vatican answers to the UN Committee Against TortureCCR and SNAP report back

6 May 2014

Greetings from Geneva where, this Monday and Tuesday, the United Nations Committee Against Torture will question the Vatican about its record on child sexual violence.

This is the second time this year the Vatican has been called by an international body to account for its handling of the crisis of sexual violence throughout the Catholic Church. CCR will be there again with our clients, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), to attend the proceedings and report back to survivors, advocates, and supporters via live stream. Tune in to our report-back on Tuesday, May 6, at 8:30 pm CET (2:30 pm EST).

You can follow the global conversation about this historic hearing on Twitter using the hashtag #VaticanAccountability and ask questions before or during the report-back by tweeting to the hashtag or emailing your questions to askCCR@ccrjustice.org. We will answer as many as possible during the live stream.

Throughout the world, children and vulnerable adults have been and continue to be subjected to widespread and systemic rape and sexual violence by priests and others associated with the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican’s policies and practices enable this violence. The Committee Against Torture has been clear that rape and sexual violence constitute forms of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. In April, SNAP and CCR submitted reports to the Committee, detailing how the Vatican has violated the core principles of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, which it ratified in 2002.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

UN Committee Against Torture criticises Vatican handling of sex abuse

Experts reject argument that Vatican only exercises control over city state and is not accountable for priests’ actions worldwide

Lizzy Davies in Rome

Friday 23 May 2014 15.43 BST

The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) has criticised the Vatican‘s handling of the clerical sex abuse scandal, urging the Catholic church to do more to punish perpetrators, help victims and place “meaningful sanctions” on clerics who fail to deal properly with credible allegations.

In observations published on Friday following a two-day hearing this month, the panel’s 10 experts rejected the Holy See’s argument that it only exercises control over the tiny Vatican City State and cannot be held accountable for the actions of Catholic priests and bishops throughout the world.

They called on the Holy See to “take effective measures” to monitor individuals under its “effective control” and to “stop and sanction” conduct that would constitute “credible allegations of violations of the [UN] Convention [against Torture]“.

Before the report had even been released, the Vatican issued a statement declaring that it had not been found to be “in violation” of the convention.

But advocates of abuse victims rejected this outright, labelling the report “a historic document” that they said recognised clerical sexual abuse as a form of torture and other cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment.

“They’re clearly wrong,” said Pam Spees of the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights, regarding the Vatican’s assertion. “This is an important recognition of the gravity of these offences that have been minimised by the church, places responsibility where it belongs – with the hierarchy in the church, not the victims – and could help open new avenues for redress.”

Felice D Gaer, the CAT’s American vice-chair, told the Guardian: “Legal scholars will tell you that when we write about a concern and make a recommendation we are identifying something that is not in conformity with the requirements of the convention. We don’t use the word ‘violation'; others do. But it’s quite clear it’s not in conformity with the requirements of the convention.”

The report was the first issued by the CAT into the Holy See, and comes after another UN panel – the Committee on the Rights of the Child – issued a scathing rebuke to the Vatican in February, calling it out not only on its handling of child sex abuse cases but also on its stances on abortion and homosexuality.

Those findings prompted an angry response from the Vatican, which accused the panel of ideologically motivated interference in church teachings.

The CAT report, while critical of the church’s sex abuse record, praises it for the steps taken, and, crucially, leaves out any mention of reproductive rights, which some campaigners had urged the panel to consider.

John L Allen, long-term Vatican observer and correspondent for the Boston Globe, said the difference between the two reports indicated the CAT had not wanted its criticisms to be vulnerable to similar attacks.

“It’s pretty clear that, the last time around, the Vatican and its allies used the fact that there was a lot of language in that report that wasn’t about sex abuse – it was about abortion, homosexuality and so on, culture wars – to suggest that it was ideologically driven. They also complained that it had not acknowledged any positive steps the church had taken,” he said.

“They styled the whole thing as a sort of political exercise – you know, axe-grinding and so on. It would seem clear to me that the Committee Against Torture did not want its findings to be dismissed in the same way.”

In its report, the CAT panel noted progress made by the church on the clerical sex abuse scandal, for example welcoming Pope Francis’s establishment of a commission for the protection of minors, and his statement in April that the church needed to be “even stronger” in its tackling of the problem.

The UN experts also welcomed the Vatican’s publication for the first time this month of comprehensive statistics on how many Catholic priests had been disciplined following abuse allegations. But they added that the Holy See had not provided data regarding how many abuse allegations had been reported to the civil law enforcement authorities in the relevant countries.

The CAT said it was “concerned” by reports that some church officials “resist the principle of mandatory reporting of [abuse] allegations to civil authorities”, urging the church to prevent “credibly accused” abusers being simply transferred to other parishes and dioceses “for the purposes of avoiding proper investigation and punishment of their crimes.”

Any church official who failed to handle credible allegations “with due diligence” should be punished, it added.

Citing the case of Polish archbishop Josef Wesolowski, a former papal envoy to the Dominican Republic accused of sex abuse, it said the Holy See should “if warranted … ensure such persons are criminally prosecuted or extradited for prosecution by the civil authorities” of the relevant country.

It also said it was “deeply concerned” by reports of victims being unable to obtain adequate redress or compensation for their suffering and asked the Vatican to set up an independent complaints mechanism.

In its statement, the Vatican said: “The Holy See condemns sex abuse as a serious crime and a grave violation of human dignity.” It noted the criticisms within the report and said it would “give serious consideration” to its recommendations.

UN Committee Addresses Clergy Rape and Sexual Violence as Torture. Despite Objections and Early Pressure from Vatican Officials, Committee Takes on Church Policies and Practices That Enable Widespread Sexual Violence by Clergy: here.

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King of Bahrain meets Pope Francis I


Maitham Al Bahrani Mosque in Mahooz, Bahrain, bulldozed by regime forces

This photo shows the ancient Maitham Al Bahrani Mosque in Mahooz, Bahrain, bulldozed by regime forces.

From the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy:

Bahrain NGO’s send letter to the Vatican regarding an imminent visit by Bahrain king

The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights have sent a letter to His Holiness Pope Francis I urging him not to meet with the King of Bahrain on his planned visit in the wake of severe human rights abuses. The letter also asks His Holiness to condemn the violations against religious freedom in Bahrain and advocate for an end to the oppression.

The letter, sent on 12 May 2014, highlights the violations committed by the government of Bahrain against religious freedom including the destruction of religious and cultural property, the attacks against places of worship and religious events and the targeting of religious personnel. The attacks have recently escalated including the deportation of the prominent Shia religious scholar Sheikh Hussein Al-Najati and the dissolution of the Shia Islamic Scholars Council. The UN Special Rapporteur on Religion described the deportation as “an act of religiously motivated discrimination.”

See full text of the letter:

His Holiness, Pope Francis, Apostolic Palace, Vatican City

Your Holiness,

We are writing to you regarding a proposed request by the King of Bahrain, Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, to meet with your holiness in the wake of severe human rights abuses. It is also our intention to inform you about these abuses in Bahrain that have targeted ordinary civilians, men, women and children of faith and their holy places of worship.

In 14 February 2011, ordinary civilians in Bahrain took to the streets demanding a constitution that is agreed upon by the people, the recognition of their human rights, civil liberties, an end to corruption and greater representation in the political sphere.

These peaceful protests were responded to with a brutal crackdown taking the lives of at least 95 individuals to date.

The government of Bahrain began a widespread crackdown against civilians: thousands were sacked from their jobs, expelled [from] schools and universities, systematically tortured, imprisoned.

Since the beginning of the crackdown, the government of Bahrain used sectarian targeting as one of the main tools to divide society. Bahrain has a documented history of systematic marginalization and discrimination against the Shia majority. The government of Bahrain destroyed over 28 places of worship as reprisals against protesters after inviting foreign troops into the country to crush peaceful demonstrations. During the destruction, security forces even prevented locals from removing holy books and religious artifacts from the places of worship.

This included the Amir Mohammed Barbagi Mosque which was more than 400 years old and an important religious and cultural site. The destruction was described as collective punishment by an independent commission of inquiry.

The rest of the letter is here.

Unfortunately, the king of dictatorial Bahrain did visit Pope Francis I. The Vatican Radio report on this says that the two men had ‘cordial discussions’.

After the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy scandals of child abuse, the Vatican bank, etc. many people hoped that Pope Francis I would manage to clean up the church. This blog pointed out that Francis I would need the strength and intelligence of Greek mythological demigod Heracles for that. Apparently, as far as relationships between the Vatican and dictatorships are concerned, the clean-up still has to start.

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United Nations criticize Vatican about clerical child abuse


This video says about itself:

UN watchdog slams Vatican’s child abuse record

5 February 2014

The UN denounced the Vatican on Wednesday for failing to stamp out systematic child abuse and called on the Church to remove all clergy suspected of raping or molesting children.

From Associated Press:

UN panel compares Vatican’s global abuse scandal to torture

May 5, 2014

By JOHN HEILPRIN

GENEVA — A U.N. committee compared the Vatican’s handling of the global priest sex abuse scandal with torture Monday, raising the possibility that its failure to investigate clergy and their superiors could have broader legal implications.

But the Vatican’s top envoy in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, claimed that the Holy See was getting its house in order after a decade-long effort to deal with a global priest sex abuse scandal.

“There has been, in several documentable areas, stabilization and even a decline of cases in pedophilia,” he told a committee of experts in charge of the U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which the Vatican ratified in 2002.

At the Holy See’s first appearance before the committee, experts mainly peppered the Vatican with tough questions to be answered Tuesday. For instance, they asked why the report on its implementation of the treaty was almost a decade late, and why the Vatican believes its responsibility for protecting against torture only applies within tiny Vatican City, a nation of less than 1,000 inhabitants.

“I wonder if you could tell us how you insure that the criminal prohibition against torture in Vatican City covers all individuals for whom the Holy See has jurisdiction,” asked committee member Felice Gaer.

Experts said a finding by the committee that the systematic abuse amounted to torture could have drastic legal implications for the church as it continues to battle civil litigation around the world resulting from the decades-long scandal that saw tens of thousands of children raped and molested by priests.

Katherine Gallagher, a human rights attorney for the New York-based nonprofit legal group, the Center for Constitutional Rights, said such a finding could open the floodgates to abuse lawsuits dating back decades because there are no statutes of limitations on torture cases. Gallagher, whose group represents Vatican sex scandal victims, said rape can legally constitute a form of torture because of the elements of intimidation, coercion, and exploitation of power.

“The torture committee’s questions really were about sexual violence and rape, and they made it clear that these acts fall within the definition of torture and the Vatican’s obligations under the torture convention,” she said after the hearing.

“A recognition by the torture committee that this is one of the most significant crimes could really open up a new level of prosecutions and accountability,” she added.

Pope Francis has said he takes personal responsibility for the “evil” of clergy sex abuse, and has sought forgiveness from victims. He has insisted that the church must be even bolder in its efforts to protect children.

On Saturday, members of the Pope’s sexual abuse advisory board said they will develop “clear and effective” protocols to hold bishops and other church authorities accountable if they fail to report suspected abuse or protect children from pedophile priests.

Francis announced the creation of the commission last December and named its members in March after coming under initial criticism for having ignored the sex abuse issue.

The U.N. committee, which is composed of independent experts, will issue its final observations and recommendations May 23.

In January, a U.N. committee that monitors a key treaty on children’s rights accused the Holy See of systematically placing its own interests over those of victims. That committee rejected the Vatican’s argument that it had limited geographical responsibility.

___

Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.

See also here.

As U.N. Torture Committee Probes Vatican, Sex-Abuse Survivors Urge Church to End Cover-up: here.

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