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A Rogue Power: Vatican May Shield Pope from Growing Prosecution Efforts February 20, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Religion.
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Roger’s note: Apparently it was Mussolini who made the Vatican into a sovereign state.  Somehow that seems appropriate.
02.19.13 – 12:30 PM, http://www.commondreams.org

by Abby Zimet

Amidst growing efforts by international law advocates to arrest and prosecute Pope Benedict for the Church’s cover-up of child sex crimes, Vatican officials have announced they will give the retiring Pontiff sanctuary, arguing that otherwise he would be “defenseless” – a feeling likely familiar to the Church’s many victims of sexual abuse. A week before his resignation, the Pope reportedly heard from an undisclosed European government that the International Tribunal into Crimes Against Church and State (ITCCS) had called on “all people of conscience” to “disestablish the Vatican,” and seek Benedict’s and others’ arrests for crimes against humanity. Their call comes as part of an upcoming Easter Reclamation Campaign that also seeks to seize the assets of the Church under international law. In addition, the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights has requested, on behalf of the Survivors’ Network, an international inquiry into the Church’s sheltering of pedophile priests. Pope Benedict is reportedly scheduled to meet next week with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to request immunity against  allegations of child rape. We don’t really wish him well; we simply wish him what he legally and morally deserves.

“We call upon all citizens and governments to assist our efforts to legally disestablish the Vatican, Inc. and arrest its chief officers and clergy who are complicit in crimes against humanity and the ongoing criminal conspiracy to aid and protect child torture and trafficking.”

THE POPE IS A BIGOT December 16, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in LGBT, Religion.
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Roger’s note: First of all, he is wrong.  Same sex relationships are found extensively throughout nature.  It is not, as the bigoted Pope says, “unnatural.”  Of course, that is beside the point, which is that genuine  loving human relationships, regardless of gender, are inherently moral by any standards.  But what would a former Nazi Youth Cardinal Ratzinger whose dogmatic, tyrannical, authoritarian, and quasi-fascist character is well documented, know about morality???  The Pope’s statement is of the same base and ridiculous nature of that of Republican Governor of Bigotry, Mike Huckabee, who blames the absence of God in the classroom for the slaughter of children in Newton, Connecticut.  And what does is say for the Catholic Church  that its supreme leader, supposedly God’s representative on earth, is an out and out bigot? 

Pope Says Gay Marriage Poses A Threat To ‘Justice And Peace’ In World Day Of Peace 2013 Address

Posted: 12/14/2012 5:18 pm EST | Updated: 12/14/2012 8:08 pm EST

Pope Benedict XVI said this week that gay marriage poses a threat to “justice and peace.” The 85-year-old religious leader went on to suggest that same-sex marriage is “unnatural.”

According to the Associated Press, the head of the Roman Catholic Church kicked off the Christmas season on Friday with the traditional lighting of the tree in Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Square. On the same day, the Holy See released the Pope’s message for World Day of Peace 2013.

As Gay Star News reports, the Pope, in his annual address, said that same-sex marriage is “unnatural” and “against human nature.”

“There is…a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union,” the Pope said, according to ANSA.

“Such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society. These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity,” he continued.

The Pope went on to suggest that support of gay marriage “constitutes an offense against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.”

According to AP, the Pope said abortion is also a threat to peace.

This is not the first time that Pope Benedict has vocally opposed same-sex marriage.

Earlier this year, the Associated Press reported that the religious leader had denounced gay marriage as being “insidious and dangerous.” Previously, he had called same-sex unions “a threat to humanity.”

Pope Benedict Blesses Top Lawmaker Pushing Uganda’s “Kill The Gays” Bill December 15, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT, Uganda.
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by David Badash on December 13, 2012

in News,Politics,Religion

 

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Pope Benedict XVI yesterday sent his first tweet from his new Twitter account, then turned around and blessed Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of the Uganda Parliament who promised to pass the “Kill The Gays” bill as a “Christmas gift” to Uganda’s Christians.

Kadaga was at the Vatican to meet the Pope and to attend the seventh Consultative Assembly of Parliamentarians for the International Criminal Court and the World Parliamentary Conference on Human Rights.

Pope Benedict XVI has given blessings to Uganda Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga during a mass attended by thousands of pilgrims at the Vatican,” Nsimbe Kasim at the Ugandan New Vision news reports:

During the service, the Pope launched his Twitter account and sent his first message in several languages to millions of online followers.

“Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart,” the Pope wrote.

The Ugandan delegation was in Rome to attend the 7th Consultative Assembly of Parliamentarians for the International Criminal Court and the World Parliamentary Conference on Human Rights.

Yes, that’s right, the Pope blessed the woman who is about to become guilty of crimes against humanity for passing the Kill The Gays bill.

“Kadaga who led a delegation of Ugandan legislators to the Vatican expressed delight at meeting the Pope and visiting St Peter’s Basilicca [sic],” New Vision adds:

“I think this is a moment that cannot be repeated. We have been reading about him, hearing stories about St.Peter’s Basilica but now we are here physically.

“I think it is something that I will remember all my life. It’s a very great moment and I thank God for this opportunity,” she said minutes after meeting the Pope.

The Speaker dedicated to all Ugandans readings from the book of St.Mark which the Pope quoted in several languages during the Vatican mass.

She handed over to the Pope a portrait of the Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo, a historical place where Christians were murdered because of their allegiance to their faith.

The deathly irony is inescapable.

[copy and paste] http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/pope-benedict-blesses-top-lawmaker-pushing-ugandas-kill-the-gays-bill/politics/2012/12/13/56277

=================================

[At the link below is the full text of the “Reichskonkordat,” the political treaty between the Vatican and Adolf Hitler. At the time this treaty was signed, the anti-Jewish racial laws were already in force in Nazi Germany:


Here is an example of what is in the treaty:
Article 3
In order to foster good relations between the Holy See and the German Reich, an apostolic nuncio will reside in the capital of the German Reich and an ambassador of the German Reich at the Holy See.

[Copy and paste] http://www.concordatwatch.eu/showkb.php?org_id=858&kb_header_id=752&kb_id=1211

U.S. nuns locked in battle with conservative Vatican leadership August 19, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Religion, Women.
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Roger’s note: it may be because of my own long discarded religious background that I bother to post an article about the Roman Catholic Church, which is today a bastion of misogynist patriarchal tyranny.  I often wonder why good people remain involved in and institution that is so fundamentally corrupt, but I suppose that I have no right to be judgmental, especially where good works are being done.  The nuns who are the subject of this article would do better, in my opinion, to be working outside their dinosaur of a Church; but then again, they have invested their lives within that organization, and it may not be fair to expect them to abandon it without a fight.  As the article suggests, excommunication could very well be the outcome for these socially progressive and feminist nuns.  Today’s incarnation of the Inquisition, known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is at the center of power within the RC Church, the current Pope Ratzinger being its former head and today’s champion.  This startling statistic tells the story about the out of touch nature of the male patriarchical hierarchy of the Church: “… more than two-thirds of Catholic women have practised officially prohibited contraception, and according to Gallup, 82 per cent find birth control morally acceptable.”

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Published on Sunday August 19, 2012

 
 

Farrell Deacon

Seth Perlman/ASSOCIATED PRESS Pat Farrell, left, outgoing president of The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, left, stands with president-elect Sister Florence Deacon, at St. Louis vigil Aug. 9.

 

Peter Sartain

Erika Schultz/ASSOCIATED PRESS Seattle Roman Catholic Archbishop J. Peter Sartain praised the nuns’ good works and promised to deal with their differences “in an atmosphere of prayer and respectful dialogue.”

 
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By Olivia WardForeign Affairs Reporter, Toronto Star
 
ST. LOUIS, MO.—In the packed ballroom of the Millennium Hotel, a serene-looking 65-year-old woman strides toward the podium. Alongside her, like disciples in an archaic temple, other women waft strips of flame-coloured gauze through the humid air, while a heavenly chorus floats above the crowd.

It’s no New Age drama revival, but a crisis meeting of more than 900 Catholic sisters of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, who represent some 80 per cent of America’s 57,000 nuns, a group attacked by the Vatican for harbouring “radical feminist ideas:” putting too much energy into social justice and too little into fighting abortion, contraception, gay rights and other traditional Catholic anathemas.

They have also dared to discuss women’s ordination, priestly marriage and hot-button political issues such as U.S. President Barack Obama’s health-care plan, to which the church is fiercely opposed.

When Pat Farrell, the group’s outgoing president, reaches the microphone, her message is loud and clear. Church criticism should not be met by “violence,” she tells the rapt female audience. But neither should it be accepted “with the passivity of the victim. It entails resisting rather than colluding with abusive power.”

Heads nod and smiles flash across tight-lipped faces in the crowd. “I believe the philosophical underpinnings of the way we’ve organized reality no longer hold,” Farrell continues, gaining momentum. “The human family is not served by individualism, patriarchy or competition . . . Breaking through in their place are equality, communion, collaboration, expansiveness . . . intuitive knowing and love.”

The words are like a splash of cold water in the face of the conservative church fathers. But the Aug. 7-10 gathering itself, with its free-form ceremonies and freethinking speakers, is also part of the problem, in the view of the Vatican’s watchdog Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In April, it issued a damning report, ordering the nuns’ leadership to correct its “serious doctrinal problems,” and submit to an overhaul under the direction of Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain. He is known, most recently, for opposing Washington state’s Marriage Equality Bill, on the grounds that same-sex couples, being “different” from male-female couples, do not deserve equal treatment in law.

Earlier this week, Sartain met with the nuns’ national board after praising their good works in “social, pastoral and spiritual ministries,” and promising to deal with their differences “in an atmosphere of prayer and respectful dialogue.” The sisters pledged the same. But the simmering anger beneath the nuns’ outwardly tranquil demeanour and the outpouring of support for them from Catholics across the country point to a confrontation that could rock the church for decades to come.

It’s a struggle that the Vatican may find hard to win.

While some American Catholics uphold the traditional views of the church and its ecclesiastical mission on earth, millions of others find its teachings less relevant and are privately going their own way.

Most tellingly, studies show that more than two-thirds of Catholic women have practised officially prohibited contraception, and according to Gallup, 82 per cent find birth control morally acceptable.

A recent University of Michigan survey said that by 2000, only 6 per cent of Catholics believed that divorce was never permissible, and 19 per cent that homosexuality was never justifiable. The book Just Love, on modern Catholic sexual ethics, became a runaway U.S. bestseller when the church campaigned against it.

As the ordination of women grows in other religions, the Vatican looks increasingly like King Canute trying to hold back the tide. Sexual abuse scandals have thrown the celibacy requirement for priests under a harsh spotlight, and allegations of Byzantine power struggles and corruption swirled after recent leaks of papal documents and arrest of the pope’s butler on theft charges. Some within the church say that 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI is out of touch and “isolated.”

Though the winds of change have raised scarcely a breeze behind Vatican walls, they have struck American nuns with cyclone force.

When 17-year-old Mary Ann Nestel left her middle-class home in Kansas City and entered a convent back in the 1950s, she took her parents’ names, draped herself in a standard-issue habit and became Sister Robert Catherine.

But with the meeting of the Second Vatican Council in 1962, convened by Pope John XXIII to review and renew the church, and inherited by his successor Pope Paul VI, the focus shifted from doctrine and tradition to community outreach. Priests and nuns were urged to stop setting themselves apart from contemporary life, and to wear clothing “suited to the circumstances of time and place” in which they worked.

“It was in the 1960s that I stopped wearing a habit,” recalls the ginger-haired, 72-year-old Nestel, sporting a scoop-necked t-shirt and comfortable flared skirt in the breathless summer heat. “At first we dressed very conservatively in navy or black. But our (leader) said we should look like the people of the day.”

Moving with the times was an act of obedience then, she says. But in the more reactionary era where nuns find themselves today, modernity has become defiance. It is this tension between an evolutionary church, and one that believes its teachings are immutable and eternal, that is at the heart of the sisters’ struggle.

“I think that the fundamental faith of the Catholic Church is that there are objective truths and teachings. . . that really do come from revelation and are interpreted authentically through the teaching of the church. . . and are expected to be believed with the obedience of faith,” said Bishop Leonard Blair, who took part in the doctrinal assessment of the sisters. “Those are things that are non-negotiable,” he told National Public Radio.

But to the greying generation who took “Vatican II” to heart, as well as younger progressive Catholics, it’s the church fathers who are on the wrong side of history.

A visit to the south St. Louis suburb of Carondelet is telling.

Here, Nestel is a local hero, sharing the struggles of the community and offering hands-on help.

She is executive director of the Community Betterment Foundation and Carondelet’s housing corporation. The former supplements the meager budgets of the working poor with a storehouse of food and children’s clothing, a free health clinic, seniors’ centre and literacy program. The latter has partnered with the city to change the character of the place, from a dilapidated, drug-ridden marginal community to one that is bringing back working- and middle-class people to affordable renovated homes, safe playgrounds and attractive and accessible shopping and recreational sites.

Over the desk of Nestel’s spotless, sparsely furnished office, a cross-shaped graphic rather than a traditional crucifix is on display. It reads: “We the People + The Body of Christ.” It was taken from Network, the group of Washington-based activist nuns who recently made a national bus tour to drum up opposition to legislation that would dramatically cut spending on social services.

Nestel takes the people-centred message seriously. When the food pantry was almost empty last week, she phoned the media and declared an emergency. Now she smiles broadly as she walks through the narrow basement shelves, replenished with tins, packages and boxes of food. People from every walk of life responded to the call, she says, and a local bar offered free beer to donors.

Nestel’s work goes beyond charitable services. A few blocks away, she congratulates a crew of renovators who drip with sweat as they put the finishing touches on a trim, brick three-bedroom house that was reclaimed from a drug gang and rebuilt by the housing corporation. It will be marketed for $160,000, (U.S.) sweetened by a 10-year tax holiday for the new owners.

On a nearby street, bright, artist-designed murals decorate walls that were once eyesores, another urban renewal project. Blooming gardens and a fenced playground might have sprung from the film Meet Me in St. Louis. People on the street may not recognize a visiting bishop, but they know Nestel on sight.

The corridors of the conference hotel are a poor woman’s tour of the world. They are lined with tables and posters advocating for social justice in Guatemala, in Africa, in South Sudan — and for causes closer to home. Many of the sisters present here have done service in the world’s roughest neighbourhoods, ministering to the hungry, homeless and oppressed.

Farrell, the leadership conference’s retiring president, worked with the non-violent resistance movement in Augusto Pinochet’s Chile, and on the front lines of El Salvador’s bloody civil war, where four female Catholic missionaries were tortured, raped and murdered. Others have worked in U.S. inner cities where the lines between war and peace are blurred.

But harsh conditions are nothing new to North American nuns, nor is the heavy hand of the male-dominated church.

“In the 19th century, Catholic nuns literally built the church in the American West,” wrote Utah State University historian Anne Butler in the New York Times. They braved “hardship and grueling circumstances to establish missions, set up classrooms and lead lives of calm in a chaotic world marked by corruption, criminality and illness. Their determination in the face of a male hierarchy that then, as now, frequently exploited and disdained them, was a demonstration of their resilient faith in a church struggling to adapt itself to change.”

Since the early 18th century, more than 200,000 Catholic sisters have pioneered the country. But now their numbers have shrunk to less than 60,000, and threaten to dwindle by thousands more in the next decade as the older ones die or retire from duty.

That makes the struggle between the nuns and the Vatican all the more urgent, as fewer young women are interested in enrolling in what they see as an institution that imposes archaic rules. Many serving today fear that if they cannot move with the times, the times will eventually pass them by and their orders become extinct.

“Today individuals have the right to decide how to live their lives and craft their own morality,” says Jamie Manson, a lay minister and graduate of Yale Divinity School. “They are not hard-wired to live in community.” But, she says, many young Catholic lay workers are still hungering for spiritual mentorship. Allowing them to live in religious communities that are devoted to public service, along with their partners, might rejuvenate dedicated religious life.

It’s one more challenge for the nuns as they continue their mano a mano confrontation with the bishops charged with bringing them into line.

At best, the church may drag out the talks to prevent a perilous split, although the Vatican’s current conservative leadership seems to make that less likely. But officials can also see warning signs of strains within the church: the powerful Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined the sisters in speaking out against government budget cuts that would slash food and nutrition programs for the poor. Meanwhile, highly vocal Catholic social conservatives back widening state crackdowns on abortion and defunding of contraception.

At worst, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and its members may find so little common ground with their critics that they opt to defy the church’s authority and form their own organization. Some have pondered the ultimate threat of excommunication.

Can those who have lived at the sharp end of the world’s harsh realities retreat to an obedient quiet?

“Many of the foundresses and founders of our congregations struggled long for canonical approval of our institutes,” Farrell tells the sisters. “Some were even silenced or excommunicated.” And she adds with a fleeting smile, “a few of them . . . were later canonized.”

Catholic Church Revives Abandoned Centuries-Old Tradition To Bash Gays August 7, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in LGBT, Religion.
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by David Badash on August 6, 2012

in International,Marriage,News,Politics,Religion

Post image for Catholic Church Revives Abandoned Centuries-Old Tradition To Bash Gays

 
The Catholic Church has revived a tradition originally begun in the 17th century and abandoned almost 100 years ago, to bash gay people. Following the Vatican’s’s edict to begin a gay marriage holy war, Pope Benedict XVI‘s followers have looked high and low for every opportunity to attack gay people and same-sex marriage. In France, the Catholic Church has actually issued a prayer to be used on August 15, the Prayer for the Assumption, which was begun by King Louis XIII (image, right,) under Cardinal Richelieu in 1638.

The special Prayer (Google translation) directs the faithful to pray for “those who were recently elected to legislate and govern.” France’s new President, Francois Hollande, has promised gay marriage will be the law of the land next year. The Catholic Church also is telling its believers to ask Jesus Christ to “grant us the courage to make hard choices and a better quality of life for all and vitality of our youth through strong families and loyal,” and specifically to ask Christ to ensure children “cease to be objects of desires and conflicts of adults to fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother,” a direct attack on same-sex couples adopting or raising children.

For children and young people that we help all people to discover their own path to progress towards happiness, they cease to be objects of desires and conflicts of adults to fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother.

The Advocate notes:

French bishops typically avoid entering political debates, but Reuters reports that spokesman Monsignor Bernard Podvin said the [Catholic] Church wanted to “raise the consciousness of public opinion about grave social choices.”

The prayer effort follows the Catholic Church’s outspokenness against recent plans to legalize same-sex marriage in England and Scotland. Pope Benedict XVI denounced the momentum for marriage equality in the United States during a visit of American bishops to the Vatican in March.

A Reuters report confirms the purpose of the Prayer.

In May, the Pope told Catholics they should become more political and ignore what the Bible teaches about politics. Speaking in Tuscany, the Pope urged the melding of Church and State, and told listeners to be “the engine of society in promoting peace through justice.”

The Catholic Church in France did not explain why only heterosexual couples should be allowed to raise children, nor does the Prayer direct the faithful to pray for the victims of pedophile priests.

Related:

Catholic Church Castrated Homosexual Boys And Those Who Accused Priests Of Abuse

Vatican Declares Gay Marriage Holy War, Forms Worldwide Religions Coalition

Pope Proclaims Reasons For Pedophile Priests Still A ‘Mystery’

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Vatican hires Fox News reporter as communications adviser June 25, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Media, Religion, Right Wing.
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Roger’s note: Former Nazi youth Ratzinger’s Catholic Church, Fox News and the ultra-right Opus Dei, quite a trifecta of authoritarianism, elitism, racism, patriarchal sexism, and homophobia.  The Pope picked thee right (in all senses of the word) man for the job.

 

Published On Mon Jun 25 2012
 
Fox News journalist Greg Burke, poses in Rome on June 25. Burke, 52, will leave Fox to become a senior communications adviser in the Vatican's secretariat of state.Fox News journalist Greg Burke, poses in Rome on June 25. Burke, 52, will leave Fox to become a senior communications adviser in the Vatican’s secretariat of state.

ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Nicole Winfield and
Victor L. Simpson The Associated Press
 
VATICAN CITY—The Vatican has brought in the Fox News correspondent in Rome to help improve its communications strategy as it tries to cope with years of communications blunders and one of its most serious scandals in decades, officials said Saturday.

Greg Burke, 52, will leave Fox to become the senior communications adviser in the Vatican’s secretariat of state, the Vatican and Burke told The Associated Press.

“I’m a bit nervous but very excited. Let’s just say it’s a challenge,” Burke said in a phone interview.

He defined his job, which he said he had been offered twice before, as being along the lines of the White House senior communications adviser: “You’re shaping the message, you’re moulding the message, and you’re trying to make sure everyone remains on-message. And that’s tough.”

Burke, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, is a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement. Pope John Paul II’s longtime spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, was also a member of Opus Dei and was known for the papal access he enjoyed and his ability to craft the messages John Paul wanted to get out.

After Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005, Navarro-Valls was replaced by the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Jesuit who had long headed Vatican Radio and still does, along with running the Vatican press office and Vatican television service.

Lombardi told the AP that Burke will help integrate communications issues within the Vatican’s top administrative office, the secretariat of state, and will help handle its relations with the Holy See press office and other Vatican communications offices. Burke will report to the Vatican undersecretary of state and the official who oversees Vatican communications in the secretariat.

Lombardi confirmed the news after the AP broke the story, several days before the Holy See had planned to announce it officially.

The Vatican has been bedevilled by communications blunders ever since Benedict’s 2005 election, and is currently dealing with a scandal over Vatican documents that were leaked to Italian journalists. While the scandal is serious — Benedict himself convened a special meeting of cardinals Saturday to try to cope with it — the Vatican’s communications problems long predate it.

Benedict’s now-infamous speech about Muslims and violence, his 2009 decision to rehabilitate a schismatic bishop who denied the Holocaust, and the Vatican’s response to the 2010 explosion of the sex abuse scandal are just a few of the blunders that have tarnished Benedict’s papacy.

Even the Vatican’s response to the leaks from within the Vatican of sensitive papal documents hasn’t involved a terribly sophisticated public relations strategy. Just last week the Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, blamed the media and the devil for fuelling the scandal and accused journalists of “pretending to be Dan Brown.”

Brown wrote “The Da Vinci Code,” the bestselling fictional account that portrayed Opus Dei — of which Bertone’s new communications adviser is a member — as being at the root of an international Catholic conspiracy.

Burke acknowledged the difficult task ahead but said that after turning down the Vatican twice before, he went with his gut and accepted the third time around. “This is an opportunity and challenge that I’m not going to get again,” he said.

He said he didn’t know what, if any, role his membership in Opus Dei played. Opus is greatly in favour in the Vatican these days, particularly as other new religious movements such as the Legion of Christ have lost credibility with their own problems. Currently, for example, the cardinal who is heading the Vatican’s internal investigation into the leaks of documents is the Opus Dei prelate, Cardinal Julian Herranz.

“I’m an old-fashioned Midwestern Catholic whose mother went to Mass every day,” Burke said. “Am I being hired because I’m in Opus Dei?” he asked. “It might come into play.” But he noted he was also in Opus when he was hired by Fox and Time magazine.

Burke has been a Fox correspondent since he joined the U.S. network in 2001. He was the Time magazine correspondent in Rome for a decade before that.

At Fox, he led the network’s coverage of the death of John Paul and election of Benedict in 2005, and has covered the papacy since then, travelling with the pope around the globe. But he has also used Rome as a base for non-Vatican reporting, including several stints in the Middle East during the last intifada, labour law protests in France and the terrorist attacks in London and Madrid.

He is a graduate of Columbia University’s School of Journalism

Impunity at the top of the Church February 17, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Religion.
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By Rosie DiManno, www.thestar.com, February 17, 1012
The pope can’t be dislodged for reasons of poor health, psychological trauma or colossally bad judgment in ministering to the world’s nearly 2 billion faithful.   ALESSANDRO BIANCHI/REUTERS

Dictators, who tend not to die peacefully in their beds, are among the few on this planet who can claim a job for life.

And then there’s the pope.

No challenge to his authority, no Catholic Spring, no curia putsch allowed there; can’t be dislodged for reasons of poor health, psychological trauma or colossally bad judgment in ministering to the world’s nearly 2 billion faithful.

Pontiffs are sitting pretty once elected by conclave. The last pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415, a strategic maneuver to end the battle for the papacy (three vying) that was known as the Western schism. The Code of Canon Law contains no apparatus for yanking a Bishop of Rome who’s botched it.

While popes are not technically “infallible’’ — a misconception of nuance; they’re only “error-free’’ when performing in their official capacity to promulgate dogma on faith and morals — they can’t be given the sack for getting it spectacularly wrong because, in those matters that most directly affect us, they’re unimpeachably right. Got it?

Understanding arcane intricacies of canon law is as challenging as that whole Father-Son-Holy Ghost trinity thing, which is why most Catholics simply take it on faith. Faith, however, has never in modern memory been so fragile, so at risk, as under Benedict XVI, with alarming numbers abandoning the Church, at least in the West.

Benedict may be indubitably pious and unmatched as a scholar-pope but, on his watch, the Catholic Church has sunk into a morass of unprecedented scandal. The latest crisis — explosive documents obtained by an Italian investigative TV show in what’s been dubbed “Vatileaks’’ — arises from a three-way private correspondence, which included the pope, with an archbishop who blew the whistle on what he saw as a web of corruption, nepotism and cronyism at the Vatican, an alert that got the poor man transferred, from deputy governor of Vatican City to Vatican ambassador in Washington. The rippling accusations encompass everything from awarding of tenders for work to inside-connected contractors at ridiculously inflated prices to yet more questions being asked about the Vatican bank, 30 years after its predecessor (Banco Ambrosiano) collapsed amidst lurid allegations about money-laundering, freemasons, the Mafia and the mysterious death of its chairman — “God’s banker,” Roberto Calvi.

At its most suspect core, however, the Vatican has been unable to contain or adequately address the ever-expanding grotesquerie of predator priests and lay practitioners sexually abusing children.

To be fair, most of the tawdry abuse that has come to light in recent years occurred during the papacy of Pope John Paul II. For all his charisma and political courage, John Paul never confronted the pedophilia rot among his clergy, the Church more concerned with protecting its reputation than protecting children. But, in his quarter-century as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — disciplinarian-in-chief — Benedict, or Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as he then was — was directly responsible for dealing with priests who violated their oaths. Instead, known perpetrators were quietly moved around parishes and, on too many occasions, continued to commit sordid crimes.

The most notorious sexual abuse scandals erupted in the U.S. — Kansas City (lawsuits with 47 plaintiffs settled to the tune of $10 million), Philadelphia (a grand jury in 2005 found credible accusations of abuse by 63 priests whose activities had been covered up by the church), Boston (Cardinal Bernard Law forced to resign after a judge-ordered release of diocesan documents revealed a priest accused of molesting more than 130 boys over 30 years had been transferred among half a dozen parishes) – Ireland, Austria, the Netherlands and, most damaging to the current pontiff, his native Germany.

As Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Ratzinger approved the transfer of a priest, Rev. Peter Hullerman, who’d sexually abused boys. Hullerman received psychiatric treatment, returned quickly to pastoral work with children and continued ministering to youth even after being convicted of molesting boys in 1982. Not until 2010, after new accusations of sexual abuse emerged, was Hullerman suspended from his priestly duties.

Pope Benedict’s hands are dirty. And it doesn’t count for much that, belatedly, he issued an apology to all victims of abuse by priests, or that, in 2010, the Vatican posted guidelines on its website directing officials to follow civil laws compelling the reporting of crimes to authorities if required by local laws.

Grand juries, district attorneys and government commissions (as in Ireland) have done all the heavy lifting for the Church, with some national associations of bishops (the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, France, Australia and others) unilaterally adopting strong anti-abuse policies. Left to its own devices, the Vatican would probably have dithered for, oh, another couple of centuries.

The Vatican has formulated “guidelines’’ for the reporting of abuse by clerics, noting that the phenomenon is not only an offence punishable by church law but also “a crime prosecuted by civil law.” Procedures described as “clear and coordinated,” entailing coordination with law enforcement authorities, are to be released later this year.

Last week, the Jesuit Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome hosted a landmark international symposium on clerical sex abuse, with attendance by representatives of 110 bishops’ conferences and 30 religious orders. Canada’s Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who heads the Vatican’s office for bishops, presided over a vigil service of repentance in which he and several other bishops pleaded for forgiveness for what Ouellet called the “evil” in the church.

That “evil” has reportedly cost the church $2 billion in lawsuit settlements.

At the conference, “Toward Healing and Renewal,” the Vatican’s top sex abuse investigator — Monsignor Charles Scicluna, promoter of justice for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — said in his formal address: “The Catholic Church knows well that whenever one of its ministers, whether bishop, priest or deacon, or lay pastoral agent, sexually abuses a minor, a tragic wound is inflicted on the community; subordinated as it is by the indescribably repugnant damage done to a child.”

Stunningly, Scicluna warned against the culture of “omerta” — the Italian word for the Mafia’s code of silence — in handling sexual abuse claims of minors by clergy.

“Other enemies of the truth are the deliberate denial of known facts and the misplaced concern that the good name of the institution should somehow enjoy absolute priority to the detriment of disclosure.”

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Scicluna added: “It is a crime in canon law to show malicious or fraudulent negligence in the exercise of one’s duty.”

But canon law has not been changed to reflect the scourge of abuse by clergy, and there’s no indication it will be.

And only one actual victim was invited to speak at the symposium. Little wonder victims’ groups dismissed the symposium as window dressing. They’ve demanded genuine accountability, want the Vatican to release the names and open up the files on all known molesters. One group last September even filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court, urging it to investigate and prosecute Pope Benedict, as well as three top Vatican officials, for crimes against humanity — abetting and covering up the sexual assault of children by priests. There’s zero chance of the Court taking up that cause.

I’ll say it again: Benedict’s hands are dirty.

Can’t even slide him out of the picture gracefully as a pope emeritus, no matter how doddering he gets, no matter how complicit he might be proven to have been in the concealing of predator priests.

Benedict turns 85 in April. He’ll die a pope. But, for many of us, he will have been predeceased by his church.

Troy Davis’s Execution Will Be a Judicial Lynching September 18, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Racism.
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Despite evidence that he’s innocent, Troy Davis faces
execution on September 21. With a culture that cheers Rick Perry’s execution
record, what chance does he have?
September 16, 2011  |  Amy Goodman

Death brings cheers these days in America.

In the most
recent Republican presidential debate in Tampa, Florida
, when CNN’s Wolf
Blitzer asked, hypothetically, if a man who chose to carry no medical insurance,
then was stricken with a grave illness, should be left to die, cheers of “Yeah!”
filled the hall. When, in
the prior debate, Governor Rick Perry was asked
about his enthusiastic use
of the death penalty in Texas, the crowd erupted into sustained applause and
cheers. The reaction from the audience prompted debate moderator Brian Williams
of NBC News to follow up with the question, “What do you make of that dynamic
that just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew
applause?”

That “dynamic” is why challenging the death sentence to be carried out
against Troy Davis by the state of Georgia on
21 September is so important. Davis has been on Georgia’s death row for close to
20 years, after being convicted of killing off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail
in Savannah. Since his conviction, seven of the nine non-police witnesses have
recanted their testimony, alleging police coercion and intimidation in obtaining
the testimony. There is no physical evidence linking Davis to the murder.

Last March, the US
supreme court ruled
that Davis should receive an evidentiary hearing, to
make his case for innocence. Several witnesses have identified one of the
remaining witnesses who has not recanted, Sylvester “Redd” Coles, as the
shooter. US District Judge William T Moore Jr refused, on a technicality, to
allow the testimony of witnesses who claimed that, after Davis had been
convicted, Coles admitted to shooting MacPhail. In his August
court order, Moore summarised
, “Mr Davis is not innocent.”

One of the jurors, Brenda Forrest, disagrees. She told CNN
in 2009, recalling the trial of Davis
, “All of the witnesses – they were
able to ID him as the person who actually did it.” Since the seven witnesses
recanted, she says: “If I knew then what I know now, Troy Davis would not be on
death row. The verdict would be not guilty.”

Troy Davis has three major strikes against him. First, he is an African
American man. Second, he was charged with killing a white police officer. And
third, he is in Georgia.

More than a century ago, the legendary muckraking journalist Ida
B Wells
risked her life when she began reporting on the epidemic of
lynchings in the Deep South. She published Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All
its Phases in 1892 and followed up with The Red Record in 1895, detailing
hundreds of lynchings. She wrote:

“In Brooks County, Georgia, 23 December, while this Christian country was
preparing for Christmas celebration, seven Negroes were lynched in 24 hours
because they refused, or were unable to tell the whereabouts of a colored man
named Pike, who killed a white man … Georgia heads the list of lynching
states.”

The planned execution of Davis will not be at the hands of an unruly mob, but
in the sterile, fluorescently lit confines of Georgia diagnostic and
classification prison in Butts County, near the town of Jackson. The state
doesn’t intend to hang Troy Davis from a tree with a rope or a chain – to hang,
as Billie Holiday sang, like a strange fruit:

“Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the
root
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from
the poplar trees.”

The state of Georgia, unless its board of pardons and paroles intervenes,
will administer a lethal dose of pentobarbital. Georgia
is using this new execution drug
because the federal Drug Enforcement
Administration seized its supply of sodium thiopental last March, accusing the
state of illegally importing the poison.

“This is our justice system at its very worst,” said Ben Jealous, president
of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Amnesty International has called on the state board of pardons and paroles to
commute Davis’ sentence. “The board stayed Davis’ execution in 2007, stating
that capital punishment
was not an option when doubts about guilt remained,” said Larry Cox, executive
director of Amnesty International USA. “Since then, two more execution dates
have come and gone, and there is still little clarity, much less proof, that
Davis committed any crime. Amnesty International respectfully asks the board to
commute Davis’ sentence to life and prevent Georgia from making a catastrophic
mistake.”

It’s not just the human rights groups the
parole board should listen to. Pope Benedict XVI and Nobel peace prize laureates
President Jimmy Carter and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, among others,
also have called for clemency. Or the board can listen to mobs who cheer for
death.

• Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column

Pedophiles and Popes: Doing the Vatican Shuffle May 10, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Religion.
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Published on Monday, May 10, 2010 by CommonDreams.orgby Michael Parenti

When Pope John Paul II was still living in Poland as Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, he claimed that the security police would accuse priests of sexual abuse just to hassle and discredit them. (New York Times, 3/28/10). For Wojtyła, the Polish pedophilia problem was nothing more than a Communist plot to smear the church.

By the early 1980s, Wojtyła, now ensconced in Rome as Pope John Paul II, treated all stories about pedophile clergy with dismissive aplomb, as little more than slander directed against the church. That remained his stance for the next twenty years.

Today in post-communist Poland, clerical abuse cases have been slowly surfacing, very slowly. Writing in the leading daily Gazeta Wyborcza,  a middle-aged man reported having been sexually abused as a child by a priest. He acknowledged however that Poland was not prepared to deal with such transgressions. “It’s still too early. . . .  Can you imagine what life would look like if an inhabitant of a small town or village decided to talk?  I can already see the committees of defense for the accused priests.”

While church pedophiles may still enjoy a safe haven in Poland and other countries where the clergy are above challenge, things are breaking wide open elsewhere. Today we are awash in a sludge of revelations spanning whole countries and continents, going back decades—or as some historians say—going back centuries. Only in the last few weeks has the church shown signs of cooperating with civil authorities. Here is the story.

Protecting the Perpetrators. As everyone now knows, for decades church superiors repeatedly chose to ignore complaints about pedophile priests. In many instances, accused clerics were quietly bundled off to distant congregations where they could prey anew upon the children of unsuspecting parishioners. This practice of denial and concealment has been so consistently pursued in diocese after diocese, nation after nation, as to leave the impression of being a deliberate policy set by church authorities.

And indeed it has been. Instructions coming directly from Rome have required every bishop and cardinal to keep matters secret. These instructions were themselves kept secret; the cover-up was itself covered up. Then in 2002, John Paul put it in writing, specifically mandating that all charges against priests were to be reported secretly to the Vatican and hearings were to be held in camera, a procedure that directly defies state criminal codes.   Rather than being defrocked, many outed pedophile priests have been allowed to advance into well-positioned posts as administrators, vicars, and parochial school officials—repeatedly accused by their victims while repeatedly promoted by their superiors.

Church spokesmen employ a vocabulary of compassion and healing—not for the victims but for the victimizers. They treat the child rapist as a sinner who confesses his transgression and vows to mend his ways. Instead of incarceration, there is repentance and absolution.

While this forgiving approach might bring comfort to some malefactors, it proves to be of little therapeutic efficacy when dealing with the darker appetites of pedophiles. A far more effective deterrent is the danger of getting caught and sent to prison. Absent any threat of punishment, the perpetrator is restrained only by the limits of his own appetite and the availability of opportunities.

Forgiving No One Else

The tender tolerance displayed by the church hierarchy toward child rapists does not extend to other controversial clergy. Think of those radical priests who have challenged the hierarchy in the politico-economic struggle for liberation theology, or who advocate lifting the prohibitions against birth control and abortion, or who propose that clergy be allowed to marry, or who preside over same-sex weddings, or who themselves are openly gay, or who believe women should be ordained, or who bravely call for investigations of the pedophilia problem itself.

Such clergy often have their careers shut down. Some are subjected to hostile investigations by church superiors.

A Law Unto Itself

Church leaders seem to forget that pedophilia is a felony crime and that, as citizens of a secular state, priests are subject to its laws just like the rest of us. Clerical authorities repeatedly have made themselves accessories to the crime, playing an active role in obstructing justice,  arguing in court that criminal investigations of “church affairs” violated the free practice of religion guaranteed by the US Constitution–as if raping little children were a holy sacrament.

Church officials tell parishioners not to talk to state authorities. They offer no pastoral assistance to young victims and their shaken families. They do not investigate to see if other children have been victimized by the same priests. Some young plaintiffs have been threatened with excommunication or suspension from Catholic school. Church leaders impugn their credibility, even going after them with countersuits.

Responding to charges that one of his priests sexually assaulted a six-year-old boy, Cardinal Bernard Law asserted that “the boy and his parents contributed to the abuse by being negligent.” Law himself never went to prison for the hundreds of cover-ups he conducted.  In 2004, with things getting too hot for him in his Boston archdiocese, Law was rescued by Pope John Paul II to head one of Rome’s major basilicas, where he now lives with diplomatic immunity in palatial luxury on a generous stipend, supervised by no one but a permissive pontiff.

A judge of the Holy Roman Rota, the church’s highest court, wrote in a Vatican-approved article that bishops should not report sexual violations to civil authorities. And sure enough, for years bishops and cardinals have refrained from cooperating with law enforcement authorities, refusing to release abusers’ records, claiming that the confidentiality of their files came under the same legal protection as privileged communications in the confessional—a notion that has no basis in canon or secular law.

Bishop James Quinn of Cleveland even urged church officials to send incriminating files to the Vatican Embassy in Washington, DC, where diplomatic immunity would prevent the documents from being subpoenaed.

Just a Few Bad Apples

Years ago the Catholic hierarchy would insist that clerical pedophilia involved only a few bad apples and was being blown completely out of proportion. For the longest time John Paul scornfully denounced the media for “sensationalizing” the issue. He and his cardinals (Ratzinger included) directed more fire at news outlets for publicizing the crimes than at their own clergy for committing them.

Reports released by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (one of the more honest organizations in the Catholic Church) documented the abuse committed in the United States by 4,392 priests against thousands of children between 1950 and 2002. One of every ten priests ordained in 1970 was charged as a pedophile by 2002. Another survey commissioned by the US bishops found that among 5,450 complaints of sexual abuse there were charges against at least sixteen bishops. So much for a few bad apples.

Still, even as reports were flooding in from Ireland and other countries, John Paul dismissed the pedophilic epidemic as “an American problem,” as if American priests were not members of his clergy, or as if this made it a matter of no great moment. John Paul went to his grave in 2005 still refusing to meet with victims and never voicing any apologies or regrets regarding sex crimes and cover-ups.

With Ratzinger’s accession to the papal throne as Benedict XVI, the cover-ups continued. As recently as April 2010, at Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square, dean of the college of cardinals Angelo Sodano, assured Benedict that the faithful were unimpressed “by the gossip of the moment.” One would not know that “the gossip of the moment” included thousands of investigations, prosecutions, and accumulated charges extending back over decades.

During that same Easter weekend, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop of Mexico City, declared that the public uproar was an “overreaction” incited by the doings of “a few dishonest and criminal priests.” A  few? An overreaction? Of course, the picture now becomes clear: a few bad apples were inciting overreaction by engaging in the gossip of the moment.

The church seems determined to learn nothing from its transgressions, preoccupied as it is with avoiding lawsuits and bad publicity. Really Not All that Serious There are two ways we can think of child rape as being not a serious problem, and the Catholic hierarchy seems to have embraced both these positions. First, pedophilia is not that serious if it involves only a few isolated and passing incidents. Second, an even more creepy way of downplaying the problem: child molestation is not all that damaging or that important. At worst, it is regrettable and unfortunate; it might greatly upset the child, but it certainly is not significant enough to cause unnecessary scandal and ruin the career of an otherwise splendid padre. 

It is remarkable how thoroughly indifferent the church bigwigs have been toward the abused children. When one of the most persistent perpetrators, Rev. John Geoghan, was forced into retirement (not jail) after seventeen years and nearly 200 victims, Cardinal Law could still write him, “On behalf of those you have served well, in my own name, I would like to thank you. I understand yours is a painful situation.” It is evident that Law was more concerned about the “pain” endured by Geoghan than the misery he had inflicted upon minors.

In 2001, a French bishop was convicted in France for refusing to hand over to the police a priest who had raped children. It recently came to light that a former top Vatican cardinal,  Dario Castrillón, had written to the bishop, “I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil authorities. You have acted well, and I am pleased to have a colleague in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and of all the bishops in the world, preferred prison to denouncing his ‘son’ and priest.” (The bishop actually got off with a suspended sentence.) Castrillón claimed that Pope John Paul II had authorized the letter years ago and had told him to send it to bishops around the world. (New York Times, 4/22/2010.)

There are many more like Cardinal Law and Cardinal Castrillón in the hierarchy, aging men who have no life experience with children and show not the slightest regard or empathy for them. They claim it their duty to protect the “unborn child” but offer no protection to the children in their schools and parishes.

They themselves are called “Father” but they father no one. They do not reside in households or families. They live in an old-boys network, jockeying for power and position, dedicated to the Holy Mother Church that feeds, houses, and adorns them throughout their lives. From their heady heights, popes and bishops cannot hear the cries of children. In any case, the church belongs not to little children but to the bedecked oligarchs.

The damage done to sexual victims continues to go unnoticed: the ensuing years of depression, drug addiction, alcoholism, panic attacks, sexual dysfunction, and even mental breakdown and suicide-all these terrible aftereffects of child rape seem to leave popes and bishops more or less unruffled.

Circling the Wagons

The Catholic hierarchy managed to convince itself that the prime victim in this dismal saga is the church itself. In 2010 it came to light that, while operating as John Paul’s über-hit man, Pope Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) had provided cover and protection to several of the worst predator priests. The scandal was now at the pope’s door—exactly where it should have been many years earlier during John Paul’s reign.

The Vatican’s response was predictable. The hierarchy circled the wagons to defend pope and church from outside “enemies.” The cardinals and bishops railed furiously at critics who “assault” the church and, in the words of the archbishop of Paris, subject it to “a smear campaign.” Benedict himself blamed secularism and misguided applications of Vatican 2’s aggiornamento as contributing to the “context” of sexual abuse. Reform-minded liberalism made us do it, he seemed to be saying.

But this bristling Easter counterattack by the hierarchy did not play well. Church authorities came off looking like insular, arrogant elites who were unwilling to own up to a horrid situation largely of their own making. 

Meanwhile the revelations continued. A bishop in Ireland resigned admitting he had covered up child abuse cases. Bishops in Germany and Belgium stepped down after confessing to charges that they themselves had abused minors. And new allegations were arising in Chile, Norway, Brazil, Italy, France, and Mexico.

Then, a fortnight after Easter, the Vatican appeared to change course and for the first time issued a directive urging bishops to report abuse cases to civil authorities “if required by local law.” At the same time, Pope Benedict held brief meetings with survivor groups and issued sympathetic statements about their plight.

For many of the victims, the pontiff’s overtures and apologies were too little, too late. Their feeling was that if the Vatican really wanted to make amends, it should cooperate fully with law enforcement authorities and stop obstructing justice; it should ferret out abusive clergy and not wait until cases are publicized by others; and it should make public the church’s many thousands of still secret reports on priests and bishops.

In the midst of all this, some courageous clergy do speak out. At a Sunday mass in a Catholic church outside Springfield, Massachusetts, the Rev. James Scahill delivered a telling sermon to his congregation (New York Times, 4/12/10): “We must personally and collectively declare that we very much doubt the veracity of the pope and those of church authority who are defending him. It is beginning to become evident that for decades, if not centuries, church leadership covered up the abuse of children and minors to protect its institutional image and the image of priesthood”

The abusive priests, Scahill went on, were “felons.” He had “severe doubt” about the Vatican’s claims of innocent ignorance. “If by any slimmest of chance the pope and all his bishops didn’t know–they all should resign on the basis of sheer and complete ignorance, incompetence, and irresponsibility.”

How did Father Scahill’s suburban Catholic parishioners receive his scorching remarks? One or two walked out. The rest gave him a standing ovation.

Michael Parenti’s recent books include: Contrary Notions: The Michael Parenti Reader (City Lights); Democracy for the Few, 8th ed. (Wadsworth); The Assassination of Julius Caesar (New Press), Superpatriotism (City Lights), The Culture Struggle (Seven Stories Press), and God and His Demons (forthcoming).  For further information, visit his website: www.michaelparenti.org.

The Catholic Church and genocide April 7, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Genocide, Religion.
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April 7, 2010, http://humanprovince.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/the-catholic-church-and-genocide/

Alter in Nyamata church surrounded by victims’ clothes

Just in case you are inclined to sympathize with the Church’s recent offensive pity party, it’s probably a good thing to remember that the Church’s malfeasance goes much further than sexually abusing deaf children and then covering it up. The Church also has a shameful past in Africa, an in particular the Rwandan genocide:

If you are an Irish Catholic, and have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a priest, you were recently read a letter from Pope Benedict that tells you: “You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated.”

For any practising Catholic in Rwanda, this letter must be unbearable. For it tells you how little you mean to the Vatican. Fifteen years ago, tens of thousands of Catholics were hacked to death inside churches. Sometimes priests and nuns led the slaughter. Sometimes they did nothing while it progressed. The incidents were not isolated. Nyamata, Ntarama, Nyarubuye, Cyahinda, Nyange, and Saint Famille were just a few of the churches that were sites of massacres.

To you, Catholic survivor of genocide in Rwanda, the Vatican says that those priests, those bishops, those nuns, those archbishops who planned and killed were not acting under the instruction of the church. But moral responsibility changes dramatically if you are a European or US Catholic. To the priests of the Irish church who abused children, the pope has this to say: “You must answer for it before almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals. You have forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland and brought shame and dishonour upon your confreres.”

The losses of Rwanda had received no such consideration. Some of the nuns and priests who have been convicted by Belgian courts and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, respectively, enjoyed refuge in Catholic churches in Europe while on the run from prosecutors. One such is Father Athanase Seromba, who led the Nyange parish massacre and was sentenced to 15 years in jail by the tribunal. In April 1994, Seromba helped lure over 2,000 desperate men, women and children to his church, where they expected safety. But their shepherd turned out to be their hunter.

One evening Seromba entered the church and carried away the chalices of communion and other clerical vestments. When a refugee begged that they be left the Eucharist to enable them to at least hold a (final) mass, the priest refused and told them that the building was no longer a church. A witness at the ICTR trial remembered an exchange in which the priest’s mindset was revealed.

One of the refugees asked: “Father, can’t you pray for us?” Seromba replied: “Is the God of the Tutsis still alive?” Later, he would order a bulldozer to push down the church walls on those inside and then urge militias to invade the building and finish off the survivors.

At his trial, Seromba said: “A priest I am and a priest I will remain.” This, apparently, is the truth, since the Vatican has never taken back its statements defending him before his conviction.

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