Pennsylvanian bishop neglected Belgian child abuse alarm

This 9 August 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Victims of sex abuse by Pennsylvania priests share their stories

The first Pennsylvania statewide investigation into abuses by Catholic priests is expected to be released any day now. The grand jury report details allegations against more than 300 predator priests in six diocese covering more than 1.7 million parishioners. Nikki Battiste sits down with several victims who are speaking out together for the first time.

Translated from Belgian (Roman Catholic) daily De Standaard today:

American bishop did nothing with Leuven‘s warning about abuse

The American College in Leuven warned a bishop in 2002 about possible abuse by one of his priests. The bishop did nothing. Only two years later the priest was arrested for other facts.

In Pennsylvania, 300 priests abused more than a thousand children since 1940. An investigative jury published a devastating report on the extent of the abuse covered up by the Catholic Church.

In that report is also the name of Albert M. Liberatore, a priest who had studied at the American College in Leuven in the 1990s and who came to visit there afterwards. In that American College United States American seminarians were trained to become priests, until the school closed in 2011.

In December 2002, the bishop of Scranton, a city in Pennsylvania, received a letter from the American College in Leuven with a warning about Liberatore. While the priest was visiting in Leuven, he was said to have been caught while, obviously drunk, he took an American seminarian, “in his teens or early twenties”, to his room.

Liberatore had to justify himself to his bishop. During that conversation he admitted the facts, but he said that the boy was no longer at school. No action was taken because of the facts.

Altar boy

It was not his first transgression, however. Already in 1996 another priest reported to the same bishop about an inappropriate relationship of Liberatore with a young man “who was not yet old enough to drink“. In March 1997 a new warning note about the priest was written. The bishop never did anything, not even after the letter from the seminary in Leuven.

Two years later, in 2004, the diocese received a complaint about Liberatore from two young men who declared that they had been abused by the priest. One of the boys was 14 and an altar boy when the abuse began. The facts lasted until he was 17.

The disclosure led to a trial against Liberatore. He pleaded guilty. The diocese compensated the victims for 3 million dollars. In 2006, the priest was reduced to layman status.

Catholics on Twitter are calling for drastic reform after a damning Pennsylvania report detailed decades of child sexual abuse.

Pennsylvanian Jim Vansickle interviewed on clerical abuse: ‘The child in me was destroyed forty years ago’.

Whistleblower says bishop knew of sexual abuse allegations, but did nothing. For the first time on television, the former executive assistant to Buffalo [New York state, USA]’s Bishop Richard Malone explains why she decided to speak out against the bishop for not taking action against priests accused of sexual abuse: here.

German militarism reviving

This video, recorded in Belgium, says about itself:

The last survivor of the destruction of Louvain in WW1 | Channel 4 News

5 August 2014

It was in Belgium where the Germans inflicted collective punishment on civilians 100 years ago. Channel 4 News correspondent Lindsey Hilsum speaks to the last known survivor of the sacking of Louvain.

By Elizabeth Zimmermann in Germany:

German commission undermines parliametary approval requirement for military operations

9 August 2014

Largely unnoticed by the public, a commission of former defence politicians as well as military experts has been working to repeal the requirement that Bundeswehr (armed forces) operations abroad obtain parliamentary approval.

The commission is headed by former defence minister Volker Rühe (CDU, Christian Democratic Union), his deputies are Walter Kolbow (SPD, Social Democratic Party), former parliamentary undersecretary of defence and Wolfgang Schneiderhan, former Bundeswehr inspector general.

Their activity is closely related to the campaign to revive German militarism, and the stated aim of the government and the president that Germany must take on a greater role and responsibility in the world, including through the use of military means.

After the Second World War, in response to the war crimes of the Wehrmacht (Hitler’s armed forces), the role of the Bundeswehr was constitutionally enshrined as a purely defensive army. The constitution expressly prohibits the preparation of aggressive military interventions. After German reunification in 1991, the then CDU-led government urged, however, that the Bundeswehr also participate in armed foreign missions of the UN and NATO. In 1991 and 1992, without the consent of parliament, German soldiers were sent on UN armed “peacekeeping missions” to Somalia and Cambodia. In 1992, the German armed forces participated in NATO surveillance flights over Bosnia-Herzegovina. The same year, the SPD, which was still in opposition and had previously criticized such missions, undertook a foreign policy reversal and called for the legal situation to be clarified.

The Supreme Court finally ruled in July 1994 that the deployment of the German armed forces abroad was in principle constitutionally permissible, however each mission needed the approval of the Bundestag.

Subsequent governments, in particular the former SPD-Green government led by Gerhard Schröder and Joschka Fischer, have systematically expanded Bundeswehr missions abroad. The Bundestag has regularly given its blessing to such missions, from the war in Yugoslavia to the Afghanistan mission.

However, with the foreign policy change since the last federal election, and the tense political situation in Ukraine and the Middle East, the existing procedures are regarded as too time consuming by leading politicians and military brass. They want a free hand for quick-armed interventions. Emphasizing NATO treaty obligations, they argue that a mandatory requisite to seek a parliament decision for Bundeswehr missions poses an obstacle to Germany’s reliability as an ally and for its leadership responsibilities in NATO.

On July 29, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on the last meeting of the commission on July 8 in Aachen. The paper cites political scientist James Davis, a professor at the University of St. Gallen and a member of the commission, saying that Germany was among the group of countries, “in which the parliamentary right of consultation [was] particularly pronounced.” This would make deployments as part of multinational alliances more difficult.

It was along these lines that Volker Rühe, who was defence minister from 1992 to 1998 in the governments led by Helmut Kohl, also spoke. “We already no longer have national armed forces, but armies operating at European level increasingly in a division of labour. …This will be further consolidated. But this also means that it must be sure that their contribution is available.”

Calls for a softening and undermining of the need for parliamentary approval have long been made. For example, according to Walter Kolbow (SPD), the deputy chairman of the Commission: “We will not get far in an international context with a military constitution from 1955. It is about creating reliability for the allies.”

Before their meeting in Aachen, members of the commission visited the European aviation transport command in Eindhoven, Holland, the headquarters for the “Allied Joint Force Command NATO” in Brunssum and the base for AWACS reconnaissance aircraft in Geilenkirchen.

A total of 440 of 1,300 Bundeswehr soldiers used for the AWACS system are based in Geilenkirchen. Germany finances a third of the annual AWACS budget, to the tune of about 250 million euros. When the German government abstained in the vote in the UN Security Council on the bombing of Libya by NATO in March 2011, German crew-members on the AWACS aircraft that were circling over Libya had to be withdrawn.

Proponents of stronger military engagement by Germany repeatedly cite this abstention, which is now regarded by German politicians, in particular representatives of the Greens, as a serious foreign policy error that must never again be repeated.

Rühe said that this was an essential part of the job of the commission headed by him: “We need to find a way that protects confidence, so that European countries also engage in such a division of labour of military structures.”

Of the 800 soldiers at the NATO command post in Brunssum, 90 are from Germany. They are currently lead by the German General Hans-Lothar Domröse. Some military figures stressed during the commission visit that this command post would be almost paralysed if in an emergency the German forces were withdrawn from the operations staff.

This question arose three years ago, in the operations against Libya. However, German officers were ultimately not withdrawn from the NATO command post, despite the fact that Germany had abstained from voting in the UN Security Council for the mission. This fact too was concealed from the general public.

According to Rühe, a commission proposal to bypass parliamentary approval might look like this: Once a year, the government allows parliament to grant it so-called general “transnational powers,” in other words to issue a blank check for international military operations. The Bundestag should “affirmatively note” that other nations can rely on the Germans in these areas. In the case of a concrete deployment, the Bundestag would still have to agree, but the political threshold for rejection would be significantly higher.

However, the demands and wishes of the military leadership and also many politicians go much further. For example, some demand the replacement of the vote by the Bundestag before a Bundeswehr mission through a so-called call-back right. The Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: “The government decides on a deployment, the Bundestag can (theoretically) end it again. This is already possible for operations that cannot be delayed, but beyond that it will be impossible to enforce.”

The commission is to submit its proposals to the Bundestag by April next year. Its next meeting is scheduled for September 11. Despite being invited, the Greens and the Left Party have not sent any members to the commission, supposedly because they fear a weakening of the rights of parliament.

The Green defence spokeswomen, Agnieszka Brugger said: “We would really like to have cooperated, if the government parties were responsive to our suggestions.” In their opinion, the Parliamentary Participation Act in its current form already offers “rapid response” mechanisms. Parliament had “so far always shown great responsibility,” she said, alluding to the approval of the Greens to foreign Bundeswehr missions since 1998.

The drive to abolish parliamentary approval for foreign military missions makes clear that the revival of an aggressive German militarism goes hand in hand with the dismantling of democratic checks and balances.

Leuven in Belgium, botanical garden again

Friday, 8 March 2013.

My last full day in Leuven, Belgium.

After yesterday, again to the botanical garden, like on the first day.

This video about medieval Low Countries music was recorded in the Leuven botanical garden.

It says about itself:

You are listening to: “De plus souvent” (Anonymous), “Vos, quid admiramini virginem/Gratissima virginis/Gaude gloriosa” by Philippus de Vitry and “Par maintes foys” by Jean Vaillant; 3 pieces of 14th century music recorded on Capilla Flamenca‘ s latest cd EN UN GARDIN. The four seasons of ars nova. …

Thanks to their many qualities, the works on this cd show that at the end of the 14th century, the music of the Low Countries, which historically extended from the north of Holland across the province of Liège to what is now northern France, contains the germ of all the elements that were to form the basis of the 15th century’s remarkable musical flowering.

The numerous foundations in the principal churches and the formation of choir schools enabled composers and performers to make the Low Countries along the North Sea coast into a fertile source of musicians for the whole of Europe.

The path to European polyphony was thrown open, leading ultimately to its supreme manifestation in the works of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Video recorded June 2009.

On 8 March in the botanical garden, I did not hear medieval music, but a dunnock singing.

At one of the two sources, a male blackbird drinking.

In a hothouse Cyathea australis, a tree fern from Australia.

Outside, a Gingko biloba in bonsai size. Less than 50 centimeter, while gingkos can get scores of meters high.

A blue tit sings.

Leuven in Belgium, old buildings and art

Bridge across the Dijle, Groot Begijnhof, Leuven, 7 March 2013

Thursday, 7 March 2013. After yesterday, today to the Groot Begijnhof in Leuven, Belgium.

Street, Groot Begijnhof, Leuven, 7 March 2013

The Groot Begijnhof (Grand Béguinage in French) is a well-preserved and completely restored historical quarter of a dozen streets in the city center of Leuven.

Dijle river view from bridge, Leuven, 7 March 2013

Two branches of the Dijle river cross it, bridged by three bridges.

Lawn, Leuven, 7 March 2013

Near a lawn, great tit and blackbird.

Ignatius of Loyola statue, Leuven, 7 March 2013

The Jesuit order played a role in Leuven history. So, in the Groot Begijnhof, there is this small statue of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of that order.

Pigeon, Dijle bridge, Leuven, 7 March 2013

Back at a Dijle bridge, domestic pigeons. Also, Egyptian geese flying overhead.

Groot Begijnhof, Leuven, 7 March 2013

Then, after the Groot Begijnhof, on to the M-Museum Leuven.

This video says about itself:

A small fragment of a musical performance in the M-Museum, in Leuven, Belgium.

This museum has a big art collection, from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century. But they don’t exhibit all of that permanently; like many other museums.

When you enter, you see religious sculptures. One from the twelfth century, one from the fourteenth century. Most are from the sixteenth century, a “golden age” for the Low Countries, especially the southern provinces. However, the museum does not show much from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Then, the Habsburg rulers had managed to oppress the sixteenth century revolt against King Philip II of Spain: not in the north, which went on to have its Golden Age in the seventeenth century and would become the Netherlands; in the south, which later became Belgium. Though early in the seventeenth century, Rubens and others still made Antwerp a center of art, Leuven and many other southern Low Countries areas became backwaters economically and artistically under the Spanish and Austrian Habsburg monarchs.

The museum does have a lot of nineteenth century objects. Many of them are by Constantin Meunier (12 April 1831 – 4 April 1905). Though born in a Brussels working class neighbourhood, Meunier worked in Leuven at his painting and sculpture for quite some time.

A major theme in Meunier’s work is the Belgian working class, their exploitation and their bad situation at work. His style is called “social realism”.

Constantin Meunier, Het grauwvuur

Constantin Meunier made this sculpture after a fire in a coal mine in 1887. It killed 120 miners. The sculpture depicts a mother, recognizing the dead body of her son among the victims of the disaster.

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Leuven in Belgium, botany, birds and bees

This 2016 video is called An Introduction to Leuven.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013.

To Leuven, an ancient Belgian university city.

It has many attractions, from the Middle Ages and later.

These include the oldest botanical garden in Belgium, founded in 1738: the Hortus Botanicus Lovaniensis.

This 2017 video is called THE BOTANICAL GARDEN IN LEUVEN (Part 1).

When we went there, it was sunny weather, with higher temperatures than later in March.

Sounds of nuthatch, great tit, blue tit and chaffinch.

And a canary, but it is in a cage.

Bee hives. A “hotel” for solitary bees and other insects.

And chickens. They are of the “Brakelhoen” (Braekel) race, the only surviving Flemish Belgian race.

This is a Braekel video.

Crocus flowers. They attract honeybees, probably the bees’ first day on flowers this year.

Leuven university is about 150 years older than the one in Leiden. However, the botanical garden is some 150 years later than the garden in Leiden; and smaller. Then, again, in Leiden, there is only one source of a brook flowing to the big pond. Here, there are two sources and two brooks.

In the pond, mallard ducks and carp, like often in Leiden.

In Leuven, there is also the Sint-Donatuspark or city park. It includes remains of the 12th century city wall. A nuthatch was looking for food between the stones of that old wall. Also in the park: blackbird, chaffinch.

Martelarenplein, Leuven, 6 March 2013

In the evening, this photo of the Martelarenplein (Martyrs’ Square) near Leuven railway station.

What would tomorrow in Leuven bring for us?