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Archive for December, 2010

SNAP: New figures show “shockingly widespread” abuse in Delaware and Maryland

Friday, December 31, 2010

From www.snapnetwork.org

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SNAP Press Release

December 30, 2010

New figures show “shockingly widespread” abuse in DE & MD

For more information: David Clohessy 314 566 9790, Judy Miller 302 234 1519, (home), 302 397 1622 (cell)

Victims say more than 80% of Catholic parishes had accused priests

It’s the highest known percentage of any diocese in America, they report

Self help group wants families to ask each other “Did a cleric ever hurt you?”

SNAP urges “loved ones” to “reach out” especially to church members who’ve quit

A group that represents clergy sex abuse victims says that new figures show that more than 80 percent of the Wilmington Catholic diocese parishes had at least one accused predator priest worked in them.

The statistics come from several sources, including a Boston-based research organization called BishopAccountability.org, which documents the church’s abuse crisis through compiling news accounts and tracking litigation. The numbers are higher than any other diocese in the U.S., according to a Chicago-based support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

“Almost all of the information about predator priests surfaces when courageous survivors find the strength to finally break their silence and speak up through legal action,” said David Clohessy of SNAP. “Delaware citizens should be grateful that so many deeply wounded Delaware victims have come forward.”

In New Castle County, Del. — where the majority of the diocese’s parishes are located — the percentage is 90.9 percent (30 out of 33 churches). Seventy five percent of the Wilmington diocesan parishes in Maryland had at least one accused priest assigned (12 out of 16 churches).

“As shocking as these numbers are, we strongly suspect there are even more accused child molesting clerics that no one really knows about yet,” said Terrence McKiernan, co-director of BishopAccountability.org. “The silver lining here is that because the Delaware legislature reformed the statute of limitations, more predators have been exposed and more Delaware children are safer as a result.”

“Many Delaware Catholics will be stunned at these figures,” said Judy Miller, Delaware director of SNAP. “We hope they will be motivated to take action to further expose wrong-doing and safeguard kids.”

The organization wants Delaware families to talk among themselves over the holidays and ask each other whether they were molested as kids.

“We know it’s a terribly awkward subject to raise, anywhere, any time with anyone,” said Barbara Dorris of SNAP. “But these numbers clearly show that more families were exposed to proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics than anyone ever realized. And we know that most victims never reveal their suffering. So it’s crucial that we gently but clearly invite our loved ones to disclose their pain if there is to be real healing.”

Other sources for the new numbers include:

  • the Official Catholic Directory
  • the Wilmington diocese website (www.cdow.org)
  • a list of accused clerics released by Bishop Michael Saltarelli in 2006, and
  • lawsuits filed against priests during a recent, two year civil ‘window’ created by the Delaware Victims Act.

Several months ago, a Catholic lay group in Chicago called Voice of the Faithful determined that 60% of the parishes there had been assigned an accused predator priest.

For a copy of a spread sheet detailing the assignments of the predator priests, contact Terry (508 479 9304, mckiernan1@comcast.net, or Barbara (314 503 0003, snapdorris@gmail.com).

Victims want priest kicked off upcoming cruise

Friday, December 31, 2010

http://www.snapnetwork.org/snap_press_releases/2010_press_releases/

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SNAP Press Release

For immediate release: Thursday, Dec. 30

For more information: David Clohessy 314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com

Victims want priest kicked off upcoming cruise

He’s one of LA’s most notorious serial predators

Due to legal technicality, he walks free despite 41 allegations

Group wants LA’s Cardinal Mahony to better supervise pedophile priests

A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is urging a cruise line and a Catholic official to stop a priest who molested dozens of girls from taking a Caribbean and South American vacation in a few days.

Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, have learned that Fr. George Neville Rucker is booked for a 79 day Discovery Grand South American cruise on January 3, 2011 out of Barbados with a company called “Voyages of Discovery.” (For a copy of the documentation, please call Barbara 314 862 7688.)

Rucker was arrested aboard a Holland America cruise ship in Alaska in 2002 by Los Angeles detectives. He was charged with molesting 12 girls. A year later, criminal charges against him and several other accused pedophile priests were dropped due to a US Supreme Court ruling (called “Stogner”) relating to the statute of limitations.

Dozens of other women have since sued Rucker for sexually abusing them as children.

“This is an extraordinarily dangerous and manipulative criminal heading to poorer countries where kids are even more vulnerable than they are in the US,” said David Clohessy of SNAP. “Los Angeles archdiocesan officials claim they are supervising him but obviously are not.”

SNAP wants Los Angeles’ Cardinal Roger Mahony and cruise line officials to prevent Rucker from going on the trip.

On December 5th, a person who knew of Rucker’s intentions wrote to Roger Allard, the UK-based Chairman of Voyages of Discovery alerting him to Rucker’s plans. On December 20, Allard wrote back essentially claiming there’s nothing he can do.

“We would be unable to prevent any passenger from boarding unless their behavior at the time of boarding causes concern” Allard wrote.

“That’s absurd,” said Barbara Dorris of SNAP. “If this is true, convicted mass murderers can sign up for Discovery cruises and as long as they behave on board, can be assured they’ll have wonderful vacations.”

“Thank goodness that airlines care more about public safety than cruise lines do,” said David Clohessy of SNAP. “It’s crazy for Voyages of Discovery to pretend they have to ignore serious wrong-doing and let anyone who plunks down the cash go on one of their trips.”

Catholic officials have said that Rucker is supposed to be confined to a Catholic-run nursing home, Nazareth House, in Los Angeles.

In 2009, SNAP says, Rucker took another vacation aboard the prestigious Holland America World Cruise. SNAP only learned of that trip recently.

He is believed to be in his 80s, but that is little reassurance to SNAP leaders.

“There’s no magic age at which a child predator is magically cured,” said Dorris. “Many pedophiles actually get more dangerous with age, because they become more shrewd and cunning and effective as they gain more experience.”

And few parents, Dorris pointed out, “suspect a slow-moving, grey-haired, well-spoken avuncular man of being a dangerous criminal.”

Some cases against Rucker were settled in December 2006 as part of a $60 million settlement involving 22 accused Los Angeles priests. Other cases against him were resolved in a massive July 2007 settlement that totaled $660 million.

“Voyage of Discovery” has an office in Ft. Lauderdale (866 623 2689.)

Here’s information about the upcoming cruise: http://www.maritime-memories.co.uk/cruise-grand-south-american-discovery.php

A list of Rucker’s assignments (provided by BishopAccountability.org) is below:

1950-51 St. Alphonsus Catholic Church Los Angeles
1952-55 St. Basil Catholic Church Los Angeles
1956-59 Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church San Pedro
1960-61 St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church Camarillo
1962-62 Absent on Sick Leave
1963-67 St. Anthony Catholic Church El Segundo
1968-68 Holy Trinity Catholic Church Los Angeles 1969-70 Holy Cross Catholic Church Los Angeles
1971-79 St. Agatha Catholic Church Los Angeles
1980-2002 Corpus Christi Catholic Church Pacific Palisades


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
www.snapnetwork.org

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED…“Gaudium et Spes” Priest Reflects on State of the Church

Friday, December 31, 2010

Brought to my attention by Lawrence Quilici.

Thanks, Lawrence.

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Subject:  “Gaudium et Spes” Priest Reflects on State of the Church

THE SWAG

Reflections on an Ordination Golden Anniversary

December 2010

by Eric Hodgens, Melbourne

We are the Gaudium et Spes priests. We went into the seminary at the highest rate in living memory. We were ordained between 1955 and 1975 – in double the numbers our parishes required. Most of us were from the Silent Generation with a few years of Baby Boomers at the end. We took Vatican II to heart. We changed from being priests called and consecrated by God to being presbyters called and ordained by the Church – the People of God.

Ecumenism became a normal way of thinking for us. Prepared for the challenge by Cardijn’s apostolate of like to like, we were successful at educating a newly vital and active laity. We worked with the people rather than for them. We realised that clericalism was an evil, not a good, and discarded it with its style and culture. We ran highly successful and active parishes. Though ageing now, many of us are still on the job. Our presbyteral and pastoral lives have been a source of that unusual experience – joy.

But not without grief. We have experienced the awakening 60s, the exciting 70s, the suspicious 80s, the depressing 90s and the imploding 00s. During the 1980s we became aware that a lot was going wrong. Ordinations suddenly dropped after 1975. We started to lose parishioners – first from Mass then from affiliation. Both of these changes had mixed social causes.

Worse! Discordant decisions were coming down from the pope. Priestly celibacy, despite being highly contentious, was reasserted by Paul VI in 1967 without discussion. In 1968 Humanae Vitae was a shocking disappointment. Most of us never accepted it. Paul VI began appointing bishops opposed to the council’s ethos. This was most notable in Holland which had become a trailblazer in implementing the council. Paul killed that initiative and we are all the worse off for that. The whole trend was demoralizing.

Then came John Paul II. Charismatic in front of the TV camera; brilliant at languages; but – out of touch in scripture and limited in theology, a bad listener and rock solid is his self-assessment as God’s chosen man of destiny. His whole life had been spent in the persecuted church of Poland with its fortress church mentality frozen in time.

The open dialogue of the Church with the new ideas and values arising out of new knowledge in scriptural criticism, theology, psychology, sociology, anthropology stopped. New scientific discoveries in genetics were treated with suspicion and their application usually condemned. Sexual mores were promoted to the top shelf of his panorama of sin – a bit of an obsession with him.

Power corrupts. The history of the papacy shows this pre-eminently. Unchecked potentates believe their own propaganda. Taken to the extreme, they claim infallibility. Pius IX bullied Vatican I into institutionalizing such a claim. Since then creeping infallibility has resulted in the pope and his theologically limited curia stealing the term “magisterium” from its real owners – the college of professional theologians. How can you conscientiously give assent of mind and heart to policies formed without theological debate, consultation, transparency or accountability? In contemporary government and business this would be judged unethical.

John Paul’s lust for power showed very early and was taken to monumental proportions. Accountable to nobody, John Paul moved against any opinion other than his own and removed many exponents of alternative opinions from teaching and publishing. His most powerful enforcer was the Ratzinger-led Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). Other Roman dicasteries joined the campaign.

The CDF is the current euphemism for the Inquisition. True to its mediaeval roots, it assumes the pope to be entitled to enforce his views. It conducts its delations and proceedings in secret. In today’s secular world this is a violation of human rights.

Theological censorship justifies itself as the quest for the truth and poses as truth’s champion. In fact it is the enemy of the discovery of truth because discussion is forestalled. The contemporary secular world understands this and wisely enshrines freedom of speech and debate as a central value. The Church no less than any other enterprise is at least the poorer and at worst prone to error when it rejects this value.

All of us are abused by this process. The priest at the coal face is not consulted, yet is contemptuously expected to defend policies he and his people do not believe.

John Paul II also enforced much of his own devotional life on the church at large. Despite Vatican II he effectively stopped the third rite of Penance, reversed a burgeoning dynamic theology of Eucharist by reverting to and re-emphasising devotion to the static Real Presence, reinforced a distorted devotion to Mary based on fundamentalist theology and introduced peculiar devotions such as Sr. Faustina’s Divine Mercy Devotion which undercuts Easter – the climax of our liturgical year.

A more grievous abuse of power by John Paul II was his appointment of bishops. Appointees were to be clerical, compliant and in total agreement with his personal opinions. This has emasculated the leadership of the Church. The episcopal ranks are now low on creativity, leadership, education and even intelligence. Many are from the ranks of Opus Dei – reactionary, authoritarian and decidedly not creative. Many, often at the top of the hierarchical tree, are embarrassingly ignorant of any recent learning in scripture, theology and scientific disciplines. Many are classic company boys. Some of the more intelligent and better educated seem to have sold their souls for advancement. Can they really believe the line they channel? Ecclesiastical politics have trumped integrity. And when these men are appointed as the leaders of priests without any consultation they become a standing act of contempt.

Worse still, this happened over a period when the priesthood held its biggest proportion of intelligent, educated and competent leaders. It was those very qualities which blackballed them for appointment under the blinkered but powerful regime. Our best chance has been missed. Today the ranks of the priesthood are depleted due to low recruitment over the last forty years. The pool from which future bishops must be chosen is very shallow.

A newly critical laity questions policy but receives no answers. Why can’t women be leaders in the Church? Why do priests have to be celibate? What is wrong with contraception? Why alienate remarried divorcees? Why this salacious preoccupation with sexual mores? Why are scientific advances always suspected of being bad? Why can’t we recognise the reality of homosexual orientation – and the social consequences of that recognition? Have we learnt nothing from the Galileo case – or the treatment of Teilhard de Chardin? Can’t we escape the Syllabus of Errors mentality?

Benedict XVI has continued the reversal of Vatican II. He is imposing a new English translation of the Sacramentary on a resisting English speaking constituency. This may very well backfire because many priests are not going to implement it. Benedict has received back bishops from the schismatic Society of St Pius X. He has encouraged the Tridentine Mass in Latin. He has reintroduced kneeling for communion on the tongue at his public Masses – all deliberate key pointers to regression from the spirit of Vatican II. To the priests who embraced Vatican II they are iconic insults.

Then he has the nerve to decree a Year for Priests in 2009 with St John Vianney as patron. Like Fr. Donald Cozzens, many felt they were being played. The celebration of the importance of priests in the church is belied by the contempt with which they are treated. How can Rome call priests to repentance when it is so recalcitrant; so slow to admit any failing of its own? How can they be serious in stressing the importance of the priest as confessor when it is clear that confession has all but vanished from the life of the Church? How can they urge Holy Hours and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament when most priests have moved on from that static theology of Eucharist to a dynamic one – with Vatican II leading the way? How can they urge priests to more intense prayer when they show no evidence of a change of heart or attitude – the genuine indicator that prayer is working?

We took as normal the world and the church into which we were ordained. In reality, the religious affiliation of the period was abnormally high. Mass and sacramental participation and priestly vocations were at a high water mark. The reversal which began in the late 60s was always going to happen. But with Vatican II we had the tools to handle the new situation. A large group of the priests were ready to meet the challenge. They did not get the chance. The orders from above were to withdraw to the fortress and sing the old song. Instead of embracing the new they lost the opportunity and left us high and dry – and disappointed.

In the western world priests still always rate highly in job satisfaction surveys. They generally enjoy their job and do it well. That is because they are happy in their own patch. But they feel betrayed by the pope and the bishops. If you ask them what they think about the powers up top and where the official show is going you get a very different answer.

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Fr Eric Hodgens studied at Corpus Christi College from 1953 to 1960. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1960. He graduated M.A. from Melbourne University Criminology Department in 1973. Since then he has documented the statistics of seminaries and clergy in Australia. For seven years he was Director of Pastoral Formation of Clergy for the Archdiocese of Melbourne. He was a member of the initial committee which set up Melbourne’s Catholic Research Office for Pastoral Planning and the inaugural Chairman of the National Organization for the Continuing Education of the Roman Catholic Clergy. He has been chairman of the Priests’ Remuneration Fund and the Priests’ Retirement Foundation. The latter role has called for extensive demographic research to project future retirement requirements for priests. He has been a Parish Priest in the Melbourne Archdiocese since 1974. He was the founding Parish Priest of Holy Saviour Parish, Glen Waverley North. After 19 years there he moved to St Bede’s Parish, North Balwyn where he spent 14 years. He has recently retired from active parish duties and is now writing and lecturing. You can find an index of previous articles published by Fr Hodgens in OnLine Catholics at this LINK.

Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmstead is a man dedicated, rigidly, to the Church. But what about his compassion?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2010/12/27/20101227bishop-thomas-olmsted-dedicated.html

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Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted defined by dedication

But critics say rigidity can leave compassion behind

141 comments by Michael Clancy – Dec. 27, 2010 12:00 AM

The Arizona Republic

When Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted called a news conference last week to announce that he was stripping Phoenix’s oldest Catholic hospital of its Catholic status, it was a rare public appearance for a man who has long rebuffed media questions and avoided much of public life.

Olmsted had already drawn public outcry for declaring that a surgery performed at the hospital was contrary to church teaching. He was asked about the further criticism he was likely to face.

“I try to pray each day to find my identity in Jesus Christ,” he said. “Praise or ridicule do not matter. I am called to be faithful to the church.”

That faithfulness defines the man who has polarized the Diocese of Phoenix since he arrived seven years ago.

His supporters describe a humble servant who washes his own dishes and is dedicated to his beliefs. They say the man who has direct control over 92 parishes, 60 schools, 303 priests and thousands of other employees must show leadership in line with official doctrine.

Critics say that unswerving commitment to doctrine leaves him unable to lead with care or compassion. They say Olmsted focuses on rules without capacity to see the needs of the people involved, and that he focuses on issues of sexuality and reproduction while neglecting social issues that should be key to the church.

Controversy over Olmsted’s rigorous stances was brewing for years, though the debate with St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix brought it into sharper focus.

A woman with a history of pulmonary hypertension sought treatment at the hospital when she was 11 weeks pregnant. The condition, which affects the heart and lungs, is often fatal for pregnant woman. While at St. Joseph’s, the woman’s condition worsened to the point that doctors described her as “moribund.”

Health workers consulted with the hospital’s ethics board and agreed that terminating the pregnancy would be allowable under church health rules, because the intent was not to kill the fetus but to save the woman’s life.

When he learned of the case, the bishop disagreed. The hospital should have guarded both lives equally, he said, rather than saving one by ending another.

After a year of talks with hospital administration, Olmsted declared the hospital to be no longer Catholic, because officials failed to agree with him that the surgery was an abortion and also refused to accede to his other demands about complying with church health rules.

That decision drew cheers from some who said the church should not be swayed from its key principles. But it was also the latest case in which Olmsted drew fire for a decision that left church members and leaders feeling turned away.

Since 2004, he has blocked controversial speakers, kept a governor out of church facilities for her stance on abortion rights and ousted priests who disagreed with him on social issues.

One of those priests was the Rev. Vernon Meyer, who was excommunicated after joining the United Church of Christ. He said Olmsted is unwavering when it comes to moral principle.

“He believes that being a good Catholic means following the rules to the letter,” Meyer said. “He also believes that everyone else should do the same.”

A bishop in the making

Olmsted grew up far from the rough-and-tumble of public life in a large city.

He was born in 1947 on a farm in northern Kansas, attended school in a one-room schoolhouse, entered the seminary as a high-school student, and became a priest in Lincoln, Neb., a small diocese now led by one of the most conservative Catholic bishops in the United States.

He spent only seven years of his 37-year priesthood in parishes working closely with Catholics.

He spent much of the 1970s and ‘80s in Rome, serving as an assistant at the Secretariat of State of the Holy See for nine of those years. Later, he was head of a seminary in Columbus, Ohio, then a bishop in Wichita, Kan.

In Wichita, Olmsted was praised as a humble and spiritual man with a command of church doctrine. His chancellor in Wichita, the Rev. Robert Hemberger, said Olmsted may not possess “backslapping pizzazz, but he grows on you.”

Olmsted came to Arizona at the end of 2003, to face perhaps a greater challenge than he had faced before.

The year had been tumultuous for Valley Catholics. Olmsted’s predecessor, Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien, came under fire in the clergy sex-abuse scandal. Some argued that he was negligent in his oversight of priests. O’Brien stepped down after a hit-and-run accident that killed a pedestrian, and his trial began shortly after Olmsted took office.

Local Catholics and other religious leaders had high hopes that Olmsted would calm the troubles and heal public perceptions of the diocese.

Controversial positions

Progressives in the church at one time had found a kindred soul in O’Brien. Under Olmsted, they would find things had changed.

Within days of arriving, the bishop prayed outside a Planned Parenthood clinic for an end to abortion.

He disciplined priests over a letter of support for gay people put together by an interfaith group of clergy. He barred a controversial but famous Swiss theologian from speaking at a church.

He also ordered that no politicians who support abortion rights would be welcome on church property. The order included the governor at the time, Janet Napolitano, who was close friends with Monsignor Ed Ryle, one of the previous bishop’s confidants.

Olmsted appeared to deal effectively with the aftermath of a priest sex-abuse scandal. Today, the former leader of the local chapter of the activist group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, now leads the diocese’s child-protection office – a testament to Olmsted’s success in the area.

Those close to the bishop echo the praise that followed him from his earlier roles.

The Rev. Rob Clements served for six years as rector of Sts. Simon and Jude Cathedral, where Olmsted has resided since he came to Phoenix.

Asked to describe the bishop’s personality, Clements responds, “Integrity and kindness come to mind. There is nothing fake or phony about him.”

He describes a man who clears the table and does the dishes, and who picks weeds in the rectory garden. He said the bishop is humble but committed to church teaching and principle.

“He is a faithful and convinced Catholic, as am I,” said Clements, now pastor of the All Saints Catholic Newman Center at Arizona State University.

In other areas, some in the church are less satisfied. Rarely has Olmsted stood up for immigrants’ rights, and church leaders involved in Hispanic ministry fear they have lost support.

He has almost never spoken out on the death penalty, poverty or other social issues, leaving those things to the Arizona Catholic Conference, the lobbying arm of the three Catholic dioceses in Arizona, or other leaders.

And his actions have publicly spurned some in the church.

A former, nationally respected head of the child-protection office was fired when she married outside the church.

When he learned of the surgery at St. Joseph’s, he announced that Sister Margaret McBride, a nun who was on the ethics team that approved the procedure, had excommunicated herself.

A reclusive figure

For the public, and even for many Catholics, Olmsted is a reclusive figure.

He almost never does one-on-one interviews with the media, and only rarely presides over a gathering like the news conference that took place last Tuesday. He declined to be interviewed for this article.

He does not post his public schedule, and tends to communicate through his articles on the diocese website and in the diocesan paper.

Olmsted’s articles, including the most recent, titled “The wondrous mystery of the Lord Jesus; Part II: The Church: How Christ remains with us,” often are strictly religious in nature and densely packed with references to Scripture, papal writings and other church documents.

He takes on issues of the day infrequently and has not written extensively on immigration, the economy or war. When he does take on current events, the position is almost inevitably conservative, restating the church position on marriage, homosexuality and ordination of women.

Olmsted is most outspoken when it comes to abortion, which the church in virtually all circumstances holds to be a murderous taking of innocent life.

In the St. Joseph’s case, numerous medical and religious ethics experts disagreed with the bishop. But as soon as he found out about the case, he determined the surgery was forbidden under church doctrine.

As bishop, Olmsted was well within his rights to strip St. Joseph’s of its Catholic status. His position gives him authority, as far as religious practice is concerned, over a broad range of institutions that want to be considered Catholic.

John Garcia, spokesman for the Knights of Columbus in Phoenix and board president of Arizona Right to Life, says the bishop has “a zeal” for the pro-life cause, and that his decisions are “always” in line with the teachings of the church. The Knights are a Catholic service organization.

Malcolm Martindale, a Catholic who lives in Phoenix and says he attended a recent session with the bishop on the election, came away with a different impression.

“For four hours, each topic of discussion was sex-related: abortion, homosexuality, or contraception. Not a word on social justice, immigration, poverty or other issues,” he said.

Meyer, the priest who was excommunicated after leaving the church, said the bishop’s handling of the hospital conflict showed just that. He was horrified that not once did the bishop refer to the patient in the case in a way that sounded supportive.

“People never heard any compassion or concern for the people involved,” Meyer said.

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2010/12/27/20101227bishop-thomas-olmsted-dedicated.html#ixzz19N2EljFB

Pope Benedict continues to lose touch with the real world

Monday, December 27, 2010

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/popersquos-child-porn-normal-claim-sparks-outrage-among-victims-15035449.html#ixzz19GymXGWn

This article demonstrates that the pope has been smoking more of that funny tobacco that is fashionable among Catholic theologians. It’s painful to watch an international leader lose his grip on reality and to do it in public in front of the press for all to see and read about.

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Pope’s child porn ‘normal’ claim sparks outrage among victims

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

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Victims of clerical sex abuse have reacted furiously to Pope Benedict’s claim yesterday that paedophilia wasn’t considered an “absolute evil” as recently as the 1970s.

In his traditional Christmas address yesterday to cardinals and officials working in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI also claimed that child pornography was increasingly considered “normal” by society.

“In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorised as something fully in conformity with man and even with children,” the Pope said.

“It was maintained — even within the realm of Catholic theology — that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a ‘better than’ and a ‘worse than’. Nothing is good or bad in itself.”

The Pope said abuse revelations in 2010 reached “an unimaginable dimension” which brought “humiliation” on the Church.

Asking how abuse exploded within the Church, the Pontiff called on senior clerics “to repair as much as possible the injustices that occurred” and to help victims heal through a better presentation of the Christian message.

“We cannot remain silent about the context of these times in which these events have come to light,” he said, citing the growth of child pornography “that seems in some way to be considered more and more normal by society” he said.

But outraged Dublin victim Andrew Madden last night insisted that child abuse was not considered normal in the company he kept.

Mr Madden accused the Pope of not knowing that child pornography was the viewing of images of children being sexually abused, and should be named as such.

He said: “That is not normal. I don’t know what company the Pope has been keeping for the past 50 years.”

Pope Benedict also said sex tourism in the Third World was “threatening an entire generation”.

Angry abuse victims in America last night said that while some Church officials have blamed the liberalism of the 1960s for the Church’s sex abuse scandals and cover-up catastrophes, Pope Benedict had come up with a new theory of blaming the 1970s.

“Catholics should be embarrassed to hear their Pope talk again and again about abuse while doing little or nothing to stop it and to mischaracterise this heinous crisis,” said Barbara Blaine, the head of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests,

“It is fundamentally disturbing to watch a brilliant man so conveniently misdiagnose a horrific scandal,” she added.

“The Pope insists on talking about a vague ‘broader context’ he can’t control, while ignoring the clear ‘broader context’ he can influence — the long-standing and unhealthy culture of a rigid, secretive, all-male Church hierarchy fixated on self-preservation at all costs. This is the ‘context’ that matters.”

The latest controversy comes as the German magazine Der Spiegel continues to investigate the Pope’s role in allowing a known paedophile priest to work with children in the early 1980s.

Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/popersquos-child-porn-normal-claim-sparks-outrage-among-victims-15035449.html#ixzz19GymXGWn

By Tom Doyle: What victims hear in pope’s talk on sex abuse

Friday, December 24, 2010

What victims hear in pope’s talk on sex abuse

By Thomas P. Doyle

Created Dec 21, 2010

by Thomas P. Doyle [1] on Dec. 21, 2010 Examining the crisis [2]

Every time Pope Benedict XVI says something about the never-ending sex abuse nightmare, he inches closer and closer to the dark reality that has been like a black cloud over the church for more than two decades. And although he is slowly moving forward, he always stops short of the most important and no doubt for him, the most painful issue: the complicity of the world’s cardinals and bishops.

With his talk to the assembled Vatican curia on Monday [3] he showed courage in the presence of many who are still in denial, by admitting the extent of the violation of minors “to a degree we could not have imagined.” I suspect that this admission was fueled in no small part by the explosive revelations in Europe especially the mishandling of a serious case during his very own watch as archbishop of Munich.

After that blunt admission Pope Benedict unfortunately retreated to the same set of excuses we have been hearing for years.

First, the focus is on the offending priests but never a word about the bishops whose culpability for the cover-up cannot be diminished because of a sexual disorder.

Second, he wondered what it was in the living out of the Christian life that allowed the plague to happen. It’s not clear to me if he was referring to the clerical life or to the entire church. In either case his question is off base. He should have urged his audience and the hierarchy in general to ask what caused their understanding of the church to become so distanced from fundamental Christian values that bishops were willing to sacrifice the innocence of the most vulnerable for the protection of the institution. He could also have urged or better yet insisted that they all look long and hard into the style of episcopal governance that enabled hierarchs and priests to live under the delusion that because of their holy orders, they are above the law.

Third, he could have clarified that this is not a problem the responsibility for which rests on the entire church. It is not the laity’s fault that priests abused and bishops enabled.

Fourth, the Holy Father should back off from persistently trying to attach some of the blame to secular society and what he sees as a perversion of morality. His statement that in the 1970s pedophilia “was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children” is mind boggling. Whoever gave him that piece of nonsense should be fired. There have always been very small groups of people whose brains are so convoluted that they think sex with children is good for the children and good for society. Some of these people are still on the loose, such as the members of NAMBLA and not a few are long-term residents of correctional institutions. On this point a personal recollection: In 1971, I did several months training in a maximum security state prison. I vividly recall that the inmates most despised and most persecuted by other inmates were the child abusers. The “context of these times,” child pornography, the sexual revolution and the other major targets of the era are not to blame for the existence of compulsive sexual disorders and they surely are not the reasons why the bishops intentionally stiff-armed victims. It is not a misguided secular culture that compels them to continue to protect abusive clerics in so many different ways, spending millions of dollars to defeat any proposed civil laws that would benefit all victims, and steadfastly refusing to disclose the documentary records of confirmed abusers.

John Allen, in his response yesterday, “On the Crisis, does the pope have it right? [4]” sums up the pope’s theological argument: proportionalism. There surely was a lot of proportionalist thinking in the revolutionary ‘60s and ‘70s but it never surfaced as a reason why a priest or bishop systematically groomed and then seduced a victim. Why not try giving the proportionalist excuse another twist. If the morality of an action is never cut and dry but depends on the “good versus evil” of the circumstances, what can be said of those so-called church leaders who relativized the good or evil of disclosing a child rape by a priest against the good or evil of protecting the institutional church from a serious blight on its image?

Pope Benedict made another qualified breakthrough by actually thanking those who “stand alongside those who suffer and have been damaged.” He singled out “the many good priests” but limited his gratitude to those who assist by helping victims restore their trust in the church and their “capacity to believe her message.” I have tried to be a support for hundreds of victims over more than two decades … victims from several countries. Trying to reconcile men and women who have been raped or molested by priests, with the institutional church is nothing short of a particularly cruel form of re-victimization. The pope may have learned a lot about victims over the past few years but it’s clear that he still needs to understand the profound nature of the spiritual damage done to them.

Benedict’s praise for priests who have helped victims is an insult to the many priests, brothers, religious women and even bishops who have stood publicly with and for the victims and openly named the causes rather than sticking up for the institution. Every one of them has been either marginalized by the clerical culture, penalized by the system or as in the case of two bishops, forced from their positions by the Vatican.

Cheerleaders for the hierarchy lavish praise on the pope any time he speaks out about the sex abuse debacle. At the same time many of the same cheerleaders criticize victims and survivors who react with pessimism asking “will they ever be satisfied.” These people need to know that the most important recipients of any papal message are the victims.

The pope’s words must be seen from the perspective of the victims for to evaluate them from any other source of reference is to miss the point of why he is even addressing this topic in the first place. The credibility of any statement made by a pope or bishop stands or falls on the perception of those who have been devastated by abuse and those who have survived. In the beginning, and in the end, this is really only about them.

[Tom Doyle is a priest, canon lawyer, addictions therapist and long-time supporter of justice and compassion for clergy sex abuse victims.]

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Benedict XVI and Tom Doyle on the crisis

Friday, December 24, 2010

http://ncronline.org/print/22000

Brought to my attention by Rick Springer.

Thanks, Rick.

* * *

Benedict XVI and Tom Doyle on the crisis

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By any objective standard, the sexual abuse crisis would have to rank as the top Vatican story of 2010. Though the crisis has been around for a long time, this was the year in which critical attention came to rest squarely on Rome, including the personal track record of Pope Benedict XVI.

As fate would have it, two different assessments washed across the radar screen this week, both from people whom any court would sanction as “expert witnesses.” The contrast suggests that while everyone can agree the crisis has been devastating, the questions of what caused it, and what to do about it, remain far from settled.

One of those assessments came from the pope himself, in the form of his annual year-end address to the Roman Curia. The other is from a priest today seen as perhaps the church’s most determined in-house critic on the crisis: Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle, who has decades of experience in documenting priestly abuse, working with victims, and consulting with plaintiffs’ attorneys.

In some ways, lumping them together risks a classic apples-and-oranges comparison. For one thing, the genre is different: Benedict XVI was offering a pastoral and spiritual reflection, while Doyle’s analysis, which he originally penned as a memo just for me, is pitched at the level of policy and media coverage. Naturally, there’s also a vast difference in ecclesiastical standing between the pope and Doyle – even if Benedict would be the first, I suspect, to concede that the dogma of papal infallibility does not mean his assessment of the causes and context of the crisis is beyond question.

However dissimilar they may be, these reflections both come from people with unique standing on the issue. (I suspect a “Top Ten” list of people on the planet who have read the most case files of Catholic priests accused of abuse would include both Benedict XVI and Doyle.)

Anyone who wants to think beyond pre-conceived notions, whether hostile to the institutional church or supportive of it, would do well to listen to both men. I’ll recap their perspectives here, as a final contribution to taking stock of 2010 – and, no doubt, previewing a debate that will continue well into 2011 and beyond.

* * *

The Christmas address to the Curia is typically the moment in which popes take a look back at the year. The fact that Benedict spoke first about the crisis reflects just how long a shadow it cast over 2010.

Sound-bites from the pope’s speech have been widely reported, but to understand what Benedict was saying it’s important to bring the full context into view.

Reading the pope’s words, there can be little doubt about his personal anguish. He quotes at length from a 12th century vision of St. Hildegard of Bingen, which vividly describes how the “garment” of the church is “torn by the sins of priests.” The pope said the vision is directly applicable to current events.

“The way she saw and expressed it,” the pope said, “is the way we have experienced it this year.”

June 29, 2010, marked the close of a “Year of Priests” called for by Benedict XVI, and he situated his reflections on the crisis in the context of appreciation for the “great gift” of the priesthood.

“We realized afresh how beautiful it is that human beings are fully authorized to pronounce in God’s name the word of forgiveness, and are thus able to change the world, to change life,” the pope said.

“We realized how beautiful it is that human beings may utter the words of consecration, through which the Lord draws a part of the world into himself, and so transforms it at one point in its very substance; we realized how beautiful it is to be able, with the Lord’s strength, to be close to people in their joys and sufferings, in the important moments of their lives and in their dark times; how beautiful it is to have as one’s life task not this or that, but simply human life itself – helping people to open themselves to God and to live from God.”

Especially in that context, the pope said, we were “all the more dismayed” by revelations about priests who “twist the sacrament into its antithesis, and under the mantle of the sacred profoundly wound human persons in their childhood, damaging them for a whole lifetime.”

Facing that ugly reality, Benedict called for an examination of conscience about what went wrong, and offered a resolution to make things right.

“We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that has occurred. We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen,” he said.

Benedict vowed “to make every possible effort in priestly formation to prevent anything of the kind from happening again,” and also expressed his thanks both to those who work to help victims, and to “the many good priests” who exhibit humility and fidelity.

At the level of diagnosis, Benedict returned to a familiar theme, asserting that mistaken theories in Catholic moral theology in the 1970s helped make the sexual abuse crisis possible. By downplaying absolute good and evil and treating morality as a matter of weighing consequences, the pope said, those theories opened the door to justifying gravely immoral behaviour, including the sexual exploitation of minors.

As a result, Benedict called for renewed emphasis in moral formation on Pope John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor, which explicitly rejected theories such as “consequentialism” and “proportionalism,” asserting that some acts are always “intrinsically evil” and can never be justified.

I filed a story this week about the doubts some experts harbour as to whether proportionalism forms part of the backdrop to the crisis, which can be found here: Condoms not a ‘lesser evil,’ Vatican insists

The full text of Benedict’s address to the curia can be found here: Address to the Curia The speech could profitably be read in tandem with the extended comments from Benedict XVI in his recent book-length interview with German journalist Peter Seewald, Light of the World, which devotes two full chapters and portions of several others to the sexual abuse crisis.

* * *

Doyle’s take came in response to my Nov. 19 “All Things Catholic” column, in which I wrote about a session for reporters led by George Weigel and myself in Miami, under the aegis of the “Faith Angel Forum” of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, on media coverage of the sexual abuse crisis. (The full transcript of that session should be available on the Ethics and Public Policy Center Web site shortly after the New Year’s holiday.)

Albeit in different ways, both Weigel and I suggested that coverage of the response to the crisis by the Vatican and Benedict XVI in 2010 was a mixed bag, sometimes missing important bits of context which would offer a more balanced perspective. Both of us also said the media isn’t entirely to blame – the Vatican’s underdeveloped communications capacity is part of the picture.

In response, Doyle sent along a 21-point memo. He intended it as feedback for me, but he was gracious enough to give me permission to use it in this column.

The memo is too long to reproduce in its entirety, but what appears below is a line or two from most of Doyle’s points. In some spots it’s strong medicine, but it articulates convictions that are deeply held in some sectors of opinion, and which must be part of a serious conversation about where things stand.

1.      “The overall impression of the article is an apology for the Vatican’s response and for its communications with secular media. … The real subject is the widespread sexual violation of minors and the systematic, inadequate response of the institutional church.”

2.      “Defenders of the papacy, as well as most if not all [members of] the curia and hierarchy, lack an essential credential for credibility: an understanding of the victims and their families, especially parents.”

3.      “By my estimation [Benedict XVI] has met with approximately 20 victims in the U.S., Great Britain, Malta and Australia, with an average of one minute or less with each victim. These encounters were carefully planned and the victims carefully chosen. This hardly qualifies for gaining any level of understanding.”

4.      “None of the criticism of media stories about cases involving the Vatican provided any evidence that the facts upon which the stories were based, were erroneous … These were but a small sampling of many other priests guilty of sexually abusing minors whose cases were delayed or buried in the Vatican.”

5.      “I seriously question George Weigel’s credibility as an expert on clergy sex abuse. Weigel’s current remarks about the crisis of 2002 are at variance with the numerous statements he made at the time, statements that defended Cardinal [Bernard] Law and tried to shift the focus from what it was, sexual violation of children and cover-up, to cultural and theological issues.”

6.      “Weigel’s claim that Pope John Paul II received deficient information through Vatican channels doesn’t hold water. … I prepared an extensive report in 1985 that was personally given [to John Paul II] by Cardinal [John] Krol. I also recall giving a detailed briefing to [a top Vatican official] in May 1985. … I am quite certain that since that time much more information has found its way to the Vatican.”

7.      “Defenders of the Vatican, including you, regularly fall back on the standard defenses: the Vatican does business in a way Americans don’t understand; the Vatican wants to let the U.S. solve its own problems; the Vatican uses a unique form of communication which Americans don’t ‘get.’ … If it wants to be understood, the Vatican should abandon its convoluted language and have someone help them learn how to speak directly and to the point.”

8.      “Appealing to the fact that the incidence of abuse among Catholics is no higher than other groups makes as much sense as one of the Wall Street financial giants trying to save face by claiming, ‘Why pick on us when we cheated no more than the other banks down the block?’”

9.      “It’s misleading to say, ‘The Catholic Church is arguably the safest environment for young people and adolescents in the country.’ First off, there are no data to support this. More importantly, all of the procedures and programs have been put in place after the Boston revelations of 2002. [They] were put in place because the bishops were forced to do so.”

10.      “The question of reliable sources is most important. This crisis began in 1984 and continued to simmer, with occasional events of major magnitude such as the James Porter case of 1993 and the Kos trial in 1997. … Very few people are still on the playing field who were involved at the beginning and have continued involvement. … I have never been contacted by defenders of the institutional church, no doubt because I am written off as totally biased. This tag is unjustified because I have struggled from the early days to understand and accept the institution’s response. “

11.      On plaintiff’s lawyer Jeffrey Anderson: “The accusation that Jeff is in it only for the money is based on subjective opinion and certainly not facts. The number of victims Jeff has helped ‘pro bono’ is unknown because there have been so many. Jeff has given away huge sums of money to organizations that help children and to individuals in need. He is sometimes flamboyant and passionate, but he is committed to bringing justice to victims and a safe environment for children in the future.”

12.      “Over the past 22 years I have worked with over two hundred attorneys in the U.S., Canada, Ireland, the U.K. and Australia, all of whom represented victims in civil suits. I vividly recall one attorney telling me that he had served in just about every capacity in the legal system, from public defender to State Supreme court judge, and had been both a defense attorney and a prosecutor. He remarked that he had never encountered an organization as duplicitous and manipulative as the Catholic Church.”

13.      “Benedict is not a great reformer. I believe he is personally shocked and possibly even devastated by what he has seen, [but] his responses have been very limited. They have concentrated on the canonical prosecution of accused priests, but they have remained mute about the core issue, namely the lack of accountability of complicit bishops and the lack of penal measures against bishops who have themselves sexually abused minors.”

14.      “The response to the crisis by the late John Paul II is indeed a serious stain on his legacy. … John Paul’s personal theology of priesthood is that of a highly mystical state consisting of an ontological change at the time of ordination, which he often referred to as a joining with Christ. What this amounts to is the belief that it is acceptable to sacrifice the spiritual and emotional welfare of innocent children for a theory that would return priests to their theological pedestal.”

15.      “I have had firsthand experience with hundreds of victims, if not thousands, and second-hand experience with countless others. I have not once learned that a bishop’s first response on receiving a report of alleged sexual abuse was directed at the welfare of the victim.”

16.      “The secular media are not anti-Catholic, nor are they biased against the hierarchy. They do not set out to make the institutional Church look bad. The institutional Church needs no help at that…it has done a thorough job on its own.”

[Editor’s Note: Readers may be interested in Fr. Tom Dolye’s analysis of Benedict’s curia address: What victims hear in pope’s talk on sex abuse.]

* * *

My bringing these perspectives together is, of course, a media exercise. As a holiday wish, here’s hoping that 2011 will bring an honest-to-God conversation among thoughtful voices on all sides of the issues raised here, one not conducted primarily through the press or the blogosphere, and in the context of shared concern both for victims and for the church.

That would mark an important step indeed towards the examination of “what went wrong … in our whole way of living the Christian life” which the pope has invited.

John L Allen