29 Nov 2010

What the Pope should have said in his Easter sermon: "I did it. I was wrong. The buck stops here."

CHAIN THE DOGMA - April 7, 2010

What the Pope should have said in his Easter sermon: I did it. I was wrong. The buck stops here.

by Perry Bulwer

That's what the Pope should have said this past Easter, but didn't; that he did wrongfully neglect to fully protect children from predator priests, not only as Archbishop in Germany and as Cardinal and chief Inquisitor, head of doctrine and morals, in the Vatican, but also as Pope Benedict XVI. And what a perfect time to have accepted full, personal responsibility for the crimes committed by officials of the church that he now heads, regardless of when those crimes happened. After all, isn't that what Jesus did? At least that's what Christians believe, that Jesus took responsibility for all of humanity's sins by dying on the cross, even though he was supposedly perfect and without sin himself. Easter is supposed to be about redemption from sin, the very essence of Christianity, so one would expect the pope to lead by example, take up his cross, and seek redemption for himself and his church by confessing his own role in the secrecy and cover-ups of physical, sexual, psychological and spiritual abuse of countless children. Instead, in his Easter sermon the pope piously pointed to the sins of others, while expecting bishops and cardinals to take the heat off him and fall on their own swords.

Speaking of falling on swords, from time to time we read of Asian CEOs who commit suicide as their way of accepting full responsibility for scandals that occurred on their watch. Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting the pope kills himself. The metaphor of falling on your sword is used here to refer to accepting blame for someone else's actions. But why can a secular head of a corporation act more morally (not by suicide, but by accepting personal blame) than the religious head of a corporation church that “... positions itself in society as a moral institution [and] sets itself up to provide moral instruction not only for members of the Church, but for the rest of us as well”? What kind of morality makes excuses instead of confessions where crimes against children are concerned? And let me be clear about that, they are crimes, not sins. There is no such thing as sin, only crime.

It's not as if Benedict, or any of the preceding popes and church leaders, never knew until recently how to deal with those who commit crimes against children, which is what many priests and apologists are now claiming. For example, here's what the Rev. Thomas Reese of Georgetown University said recently about the child abuse crisis:

"Benedict grew in his understanding of the crisis. Like many other bishops at the beginning, he didn't understand it. . . . But he grew in his understanding because he listened to what the U.S. bishops had to say. He in fact got it quicker than other people in the Vatican."

Say what? Church leaders didn't understand the crisis? They didn't understand that child molestation, rape and torture was wrong? They didn't understand that simply moving priests who preyed on children to other parishes in secret would result in more victims? Bullshit! According to documents that have recently come to light in a U.S. lawsuit, one of the church's own experts on the problem of pedophile priests warned Vatican officials, in a 1963 submission commissioned at the request of Pope Paul VI, about the dangers of leaving those individuals in ministry. The letter was written by the Rev Gerald MC Fitzgerald, the head of an order that specialized in the treatment of priests accused of abusing children. He wrote:

"Personally, I am not sanguine of the return of priests to active duty who have been addicted to abnormal practices, especially sins with the young. Where there is indication of incorrigibility, because of the tremendous scandal given, I would most earnestly recommend total laicisation [defrocking]," he wrote. "I say 'total' … because when these men are taken before civil authority, the non-Catholic world definitely blames the discipline of celibacy for the perversion of these men."

But even with this revelation the Catholic hierarchy continues to make excuses for their secrecy and cover-ups of crimes against children. Here's what a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles had to say about the 1963 letter, after claiming that it was unlikely Pope Paul VI ever saw it, even though he requested it:

"The fact of the matter is, the prevailing ideas at the time about how to deal with abusive behaviour were not adequate. Clearly, society and the church have evolved new understandings of what causes sexually abusive behaviour and how to deal with it."

Other church leaders have made similar excuses and arguments, but they are odd excuses and arguments to make considering that the Catholic church holds itself up as the ultimate authority on morality, which they base on the Bible. But they can't have it both ways. They can't claim the moral high ground on one hand and on the other claim that they didn't know how to protect children from preying priests until very recently. After all, being the biblical scholars they are, they must be aware of what Jesus thought of those who offend children.

In chapter 18 of the book of Matthew, Jesus tells his followers exactly what should be done to those who offend children. There are various translations, but on a plain reading of the words, without resorting to theological semantics, they all say essentially the same thing, that anyone who commits an offence against a child ought to be drowned in the sea, or at least cut-off from the fellowship of believers. That's the remedy for child abusers prescribed by Jesus himself, 2000 years ago, yet it seems as if the Catholic hierarchy conveniently overlooks those biblical instructions, being more concerned about excommunicating priests and nuns for “attempting marriage” than in excommunicating and reporting to secular authorities those in their midst guilty of the most heinous crimes against children. So much for claiming the moral high ground.

One final thought on the Vatican wanting it both ways. In the case of the predator priest who abused 200 deaf boys, it was the bishops in Wisconsin that pushed for the Vatican to defrock him, but Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time, ignored the bishops and refused to allow the defrocking of the pedophile. Yet, another case has just emerged where a priest charged in the U.S. with sex assault of a young girl is still serving in India. In that case, the Vatican claims it recommended that the priest be defrocked, but that the local bishops refused. A lawyer for the Holy See, Jeffrey Lena, responding to that case said in a recent statement:

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith suggested in this matter that Father Jeyapaul agree to laicization, demonstrating that the Congregation believed that the accusations were serious enough to merit dismissal from the clerical state. However, as a matter of longstanding canon law, such decisions are made by the local bishop, who is deemed to be generally in the best position to adjudicate the case relating to the priest in question.”

If that's not having it both ways, I don't know what is. It's like the church is tossing a coin to determine which priests should be defrocked, saying to the victims of predator priests, “Heads we win, tails you lose.”

 This article was found at:


Chicago Tribune - April 5, 2010

A papal resignation and pedophile priests

by Katha Pollitt | Opinion

My favorite moment of the whole child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church was when Father Klaus Malangre suggested that Peter Hullermann, the redoubtable German pedophile priest, might be sent to work in a girls' school. No boys, no molestation. Or, in churchly language, no occasion of sin. Problem solved! Plus, the good father would spend his life warding off female cooties. Malangre must not have heard about priests — and they do exist — who abused male and female children. Nor had he learned the lesson of Watergate: The cover-up is worse than the crime.

The church has yet to learn that lesson. There is a positively Nixonian smarmy truculence in the response of church hierarchs to the ongoing scandal, which now involves Pope Benedict XVI. On Palm Sunday, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan urged worshippers at St. Patrick's Cathedral to show "love and solidarity for our earthly shepherd now suffering some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob and scourging at the pillar, as did Jesus." On his blog, Dolan explains that what gets Catholics angry is not just the molestations themselves but also that "the sexual abuse of minors is presented as a tragedy unique to the church alone." Oh, really? Does the name Mary Kay Letourneau mean nothing to him? This man needs to read the tabloids, which have for years featured an endless parade of molesting teachers, doctors, dentists, therapists and scout leaders. To go by the news, looking at child pornography on one's office computer is so common, it's a wonder anyone finds the time to abuse real kids. At this late date I doubt anyone is unaware that the sexual abuse of children is a widespread phenomenon.

The difference is, when other professionals who work with children are caught out, justice takes its course. People are fired. Licenses are lost. Reputations are ruined. Sometimes jail is involved. No human institution is perfect, and it would be foolish to suggest that incidents are always investigated and that abusers who don't happen to be priests are never protected by colleagues or superiors. Still, it's probably safe to say that if a principal was accused of overlooking a child molester in his classrooms or recycling him to other schools, nobody would compare his suffering to Christ's.

And nobody would be asking for his views about sex, reproduction, women, homosexuality or health care either. The moral authority granted the Catholic Church in the secular world is for me the most repellent aspect of the current crisis. The same institution that has dealt so indulgently with its ordained pedophiles had no problem excommunicating a Brazilian mother who sought an abortion for her 9-year-old daughter, raped and impregnated with twins by her stepfather, or pushing for laws in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Chile banning abortion even to save the woman's life. Most Catholics take a flexible view of the church's teachings on sexuality. They use birth control — how else could Italy, Spain and Poland have among the lowest birthrates in the world? They divorce and remarry, use condoms to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, undergo in vitro and other banned fertility treatments and even have abortions. Yet there were the bishops, holding the whole health care reform bill hostage to their opposition to abortion rights, advising on the crafting of language right in the halls of Congress.

There isn't much that non-Catholics can do to force the church to abandon its 2,000-year-old misogynistic ways. But certainly the rest of us can demand that the Obama administration, Congress and government generally stop catering to the Vatican.

In February, Bishop Margot Kaessmann, the first woman to head the German Protestant Church and a much-admired public figure, was caught running a red light while intoxicated. There was a lot of sympathy for her, even in the conservative media, which disagreed with her liberal and anti-war views, and she received the support of the church's governing body. Nonetheless, within four days Kaessmann resigned, saying her moral authority had been so compromised she could no longer do right by her high office. Maybe Pope Benedict and his bishops could learn something from her example.

Agence Global

Katha Pollitt is a columnist for The Nation magazine.

This article was found at:


Case of priest charged with sex assault of girl in U.S. but still serving in India undermines Vatican's defense of Benedict

New York Times - April 5, 2010

Priest Charged in U.S. Is Still Serving in India


A Catholic priest who has been criminally charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in Minnesota six years ago is still working in his home diocese in India despite warnings to the Vatican from an American bishop that the priest continued to pose a risk to children, according to church documents made public on Monday.

The documents show that the American bishop warned the Vatican that the priest was accused of molesting two teenage girls whose trust he gained by promising to discuss their interest in becoming nuns.

A county attorney in Minnesota is seeking to extradite the priest from India in a criminal case that involves one of the girls, who said the priest had forced her to perform oral sex and had threatened her and her family.

The case took place during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, who has recently come under fire for his role in cases of sexually abusive priests in Germany and Wisconsin.

The case was handled after the Vatican clarified and streamlined its procedures in 2001 to respond to accusations of sexual abuse by priests. In the midst of a growing scandal, the Vatican has sought to defend the pope by pointing out that he was both an architect and a promoter of these procedures.

But the Vatican also says it defers to local bishops to decide how to treat accused priests, leaving it exposed to criticism that the church is not doing enough to rein in sexually abusive priests.

In 2006, the Vatican recommended that the priest simply be monitored, a document shows. A lawyer for the Holy See said in a statement that the Vatican had recommended that the priest be defrocked, but that canon law specifies that the decision rests with the local bishop. The bishop in India sentenced the priest to a year of prayer in a monastery rather than seeking his removal from the priesthood, according to documents and interviews.

The priest, the Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, was working temporarily in the Diocese of Crookston, Minn., which like many United States dioceses is bringing in priests from India because there are not enough American priests to serve its parishes. Father Jeyapaul ministered to three parishes simultaneously in Crookston, where he was accused of misappropriating church funds as well as sexual abuse.

A lawyer for the Holy See, Jeffrey Lena, said in a statement on Monday that the Vatican had cooperated with law enforcement authorities seeking the priest’s extradition and had provided the location of the priest in India.

Lisa B. Hanson, the county attorney in Roseau, Minn., said, “Maybe all this attention has gotten them to change their tune, and if that’s the case we’ll take their cooperation.”

Mr. Lena also said that the Vatican office in charge of handling abuse cases, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had recommended laicization, which is removal from the priesthood.

Mr. Lena said in the statement: “The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith suggested in this matter that Father Jeyapaul agree to laicization, demonstrating that the Congregation believed that the accusations were serious enough to merit dismissal from the clerical state. However, as a matter of longstanding canon law, such decisions are made by the local bishop, who is deemed to be generally in the best position to adjudicate the case relating to the priest in question.” He declined to provide any documents on the case.

The bishop of Ootacamund, India, Arulappan Amalraj, told The Associated Press, which first reported the news on Monday, that Father Jeyapaul had no contact with children and would remain in the diocesan offices.

“We cannot simply throw out the priest, so he is just staying in the bishop’s house, and he is helping me with the appointment of teachers,” the bishop said. “He says he is innocent, and these are only allegations. I don’t know what else to do.”

Father Jeyapaul told The A.P., “It is a false accusation against me. I do not know the girl at all.”

The criminal complaint from Minnesota said that the 14-year-old girl, whose name is redacted, was praying after school at Blessed Sacrament Church in Greenbush, Minn., when Father Jeyapaul told her to come into the rectory. The girl claimed that when she refused to touch his genitals, he told her it was a sin and said he “could make her life miserable.” She said he then pushed her down onto a couch, touched her breasts and pulled down his pants.

The woman, now 20, has brought a lawsuit against the Diocese of Crookston. The documents were released in a news conference on Monday by her lawyers, Jeff Anderson and Mike Finnegan, the same lawyers who gave documents last month to The New York Times on another case involving a Wisconsin priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys.

The former bishop of Crookston, Victor H. Balke, wrote to Cardinal William J. Levada, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in 2005, requesting that the Congregation handle the case itself.

“I cannot in good conscience allow this matter to be passed over because the cleric has left my territory,” Bishop Balke wrote. “In my mind that would be a shameful act of betrayal towards the women and girls in India to whom Fr. Jeyapaul could at present pose a serious risk.”

He received a letter back in May 2006 from Archbishop Angelo Amato, in the Vatican, saying that the Congregation conveyed the facts to the bishop in India “with the request that Father Jayapaul’s priestly life be monitored so that he does not constitute a risk to minors and does not create scandal among the faithful.”

Bishop Balke subsequently sent two more letters to Cardinal Levada informing him that a second alleged victim had come forward with more serious allegations, that criminal charges had been filed and that the county attorney wanted to extradite Father Jeyapaul. He pleaded for quick action. Bishop Balke also wrote to the Vatican’s top diplomat to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who provided the address of Father Jeyapaul in India, to give to the county attorney.

Church offices were closed on Easter Monday, and officials in the Diocese of Crookston did not respond to messages left by phone and e-mail.

Daniel J. Wakin contributed reporting from Rome, Lydia Polgreen from New Delhi and Christina Capecchi from St. Paul.

This article was found at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/06/world/europe/06church.html


Review of sex abuse guidelines at US bishops conference will not close loopholes that continue to endanger children

Catholic clergy abuse review boards made ineffective by bishops who hide cases from them

Catholic reform groups hold conference in Detroit, Archbishop warns priests who attend could be defrocked

Catholic theologian says secrecy, misogyny and resistance to reform in wake of clergy sex scandals will doom the church

Scientologists say 2009 their best year ever, but media reports and lawsuits suggest otherwise

RELIGION IN THE NEWS Winter 2010, Vol. 12, No. 3

Scientology's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year

by Christine McCarthy McMorris

Two weeks after the January 12 earthquake that killed over 200,000 Haitians, actor John Travolta piloted his own Boeing 707 into Port-au Prince, where he was able to unload food and medical supplies when many others were not.

But instead of celebrating the heroics, journalists focused on the fact that the longtime member of the Church of Scientology (CoS) brought along a shipment of E-meters—the signature CoS device that purports to register the problems people have experienced in their past and present lives—and a host of yellow-clad Scientology volunteer ministers. Writing on the NPR Newsblog January 26, Korva Coleman called attention to “controversy” over the arrival of “Scientologists, who say they are working to heal injured and ill Haitians with ‘healing touch’.” The next day, a New York Newsday's headline agreed: “Some question church’s relief efforts in Haiti.”

Unfair, perhaps, since other religious organizations doing relief work tucked Bibles into their donated blankets, but the gimlet-eyed coverage was a fitting coda to a symphony of bad press—from the frivolous to the seriously damaging—that slammed the Church of Scientology in 2009.

The terrible, etc. year kicked off on January 5 with a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Court by Marc Headley, a former member of CoS’ elite Sea Organization, accusing the church of unfair labor practices, including “refusal to pay minimum wage and overtime” and “engaging in human trafficking.” The complaint accused the church of the “longstanding practice of evading laws and depriving workers of basic human rights.”

The Sea Org, as it is known, is as mysterious to many rank-and-file Scientologists as it is to the outside world. Launched in 1968 by Scientology’s founder, science fiction writer and former Navy junior lieutenant L. Ron Hubbard, it asks members to sign a billion-year contract to dedicate their lives to “bring about spiritual freedom of all beings through the application of LRH’s technology.”

Although the CoS website (www.scientology.org/) calls the Sea Org a fraternal religious organization whose members are free to leave at any time, critical websites identify it as a quasi-military unit that staffs the prestigious orgs (or churches) around the country, from Clearwater, Florida to Los Angeles. David Miscavige joined the Sea Org out of high school, later becoming L. Ron Hubbard’s personal assistant and assuming leadership of the church shortly after Hubbard’s death in 1986. (While Miscavige’s official title is Chairman of the Board of the Religious Technology Center, he is described on the CoS website as the Church’s Worldwide Ecclesiastical Leader.)

Headley’s lawsuit, which was later joined by his wife Claire, would percolate through the year, as more and more Sea Org members defected (or “blew,” in Scientology jargon).

On the pop culture front, on January 28 Huffington Post outed high-ranking Scientologist Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson) for making robo-calls in which “Bart” invited church members to a conference with the promise, “It will be a blast, man!” The next day, Simpsons’ executive Al Jean was obliged to assure viewers on Foxnews.com January 29 that the show “does not, and never has, endorsed any religion, philosophy or system of beliefs any more profound than Butterfinger bars.” The calls stopped.

On February 16, the BBC website reported that Scientology had been banned in the Karaganda region of Kazakhstan. According to the story, Judge Zhaksylyk Baymoldin ordered the “liquidation” for “illegal entrepreneurship and profit-making,” based in part on a price list of spiritual services found in a raid of the local Scientology office.

This added another country to those that do not recognize Scientology as a legitimate religion, including the U.K., Germany, Israel, Canada, Ireland, Greece, and Denmark.

In France, which recognizes Scientology as a cult, the trial of six top CoS officials for organized fraud got under way May 25. This was the culmination of a nine-year investigation by investigating magistrate Jean-Christophe Hullin, who, Time magazine’s Bruce Crumley reported May 28, described Scientology as “first and foremost a commercial business” interested in “ensnaring psychologically fragile people.” The story was big news around the world, getting prominent play from the Irish Times to the Brisbane Times.

On June 5, Kate Linthicum of the Los Angeles Times broke the story that Wikipedia had blocked access to multiple accounts traced to CoS-operated computers along with those of some of the church’s most vocal critics: The two sides were engaged in a fierce battle of editing hundreds of entries relating to Scientology. While CoS spokesperson Karin Pouw told the Times that she was “not aware of any editing,” Wikipedia’s Dan Rosenthal tartly responded, “If you don’t want to play by the rules, go home.”

The biggest PR blow came not from cyberspace, however, but from old fashioned investigative reporting—by Thomas C. Tobin and Joe Childs of the St. Petersburg Times. On June 21, “Scientology: The Truth Rundown”—the first article in what would turn into a five-part series—made an explosive case against church head David Miscavige.

The main accusers—Marty Rathbun (former Inspector General of the Religious Technology Center), Mike Rinder (former Chief Spokesman for the CoS), Tom De Vocht (former head of the Church’s Spiritual Headquarters in Clearwater), and Amy Scobee (a 28-year Sea Org member who worked at the Los Angeles’ Celebrity Center)—had worked by Miscavige’s side for decades. Their videotaped interviews, which can be seen in full here, laid out a litany of sensational charges, including:

• Miscavige hit Rinder at least 50 times

• Rinder, Rathbun and DeVocht were encouraged by Miscavige to beat other Sea Org members to prove their loyalty

• De Vocht estimated that from 2003 to 2005, he saw Miscavige strike staffers as many as 100 times

Sea Org members were humiliated, made to publically confess their “sins,” separated from their families, and forced to play bizarre games of musical chairs in which the losers were sent to remote Scientology outposts.

Church staff members covered up incriminating evidence after the death of Scientologist Lisa MacPherson, who died after 17 days after being held in isolation for “treatment.”

Though all four voiced regrets about leaving the church, they agreed in blaming Miscavige for the violent direction it had taken. “You cannot call yourself a religious leader as you beat people, as you confine people, as you rip apart families,” Scobee told the Times.

Although Miscavige did not agree to be interviewed by the Times, he sent the paper a letter before the article was published claiming that he had never received a response to his offer to meet and provide “information annihilating the credibility of your sources.”

New CoS spokesman Tommy Davis went further (and louder) in his denunciation of the defectors (listen to his audio interview), telling the Times that it was Rathbun who bore responsibility for all the violence and at one point shouting, “And that’s what pisses me off! Because this guy is a fucking lunatic! And I don’t have to explain how or why he became one.”

With that, the Scientology story took off. On June 22, the AP went with “Scientology Smackdown: Report Claims Abuse”, which was picked up in over 180 television and newspaper websites. The 500 comments on the Times website in the first 48 hours (3-1 anti-Miscavige) were followed by blog posts on Huffington Post, Gawker, and L.A. Weekly. The Big Question came from Village Voice blogger Tony Ortega: “How huge is this blow to Scientology?”

CoS responded in the July issue of Freedom Magazine, placing Miscavige on the cover and featuring a special section entitled, “The Story the S. P. Times Refused to Tell.” It was a story consisting largely of ad hominem attacks on the defectors: “con man…repeat adulteress…lunatic fringe…merchants of chaos.”

On August 1, the Times ran Part 2: “Strength in their numbers: More Church of Scientology defectors come forward with accounts of abuse.” Fear and accounts of more abuses poured in from various former members, emboldened, the article surmised, “by the raw revelations of four defectors from the church’s executive ranks who broke years of silence.”

In one interview, 15-year staffer Jeff Hawkins described being punched in the stomach by Miscavige, who then asked, “Do you know why I punched you?”

“I say, ‘No, sir.’”

“He says, ‘To show you who’s in charge.’”

The fall brought more trouble. On October 22 and 23, Martin Bashir—the reporter who got Michael Jackson to admit to sharing his bed with preteens—interviewed Scientology spokesman Davis on ABC’s Nightline. While game for defending Miscavige, David lost his cool when Bashir started asking about the more esoteric doctrines of the faith, which are supposed to be restricted to advanced members.

Before Bashir could finish his question, “Is it true that understanding the origins of the human race according to Xenu and the Intergalactic Emperor…,” Davis ripped off his microphone and stalked off the set.

A public relations repair job it wasn’t.

Four days later, the French court convicted CoS of fraud, fining the six church leaders 400,000 Euros but stopping short of sending them to prison or banning the organization. “We think that this is really a modern Inquisition and that this is really dangerous for the freedom of religion in our country,” French CoS spokesman Eric Roux told CNN.

On the home front, the Times exposé gained greater credibility in October when two former Sea Org members, Marc Headly and Nancy Many, published exposés of their own: Blown For Good: Behind The Iron Curtain Of Scientology and My Billion Year Contract.

Even more damaging, well-known Hollywood director Paul Haggis, who won Academy Awards for Best Director (Crash) and Best Screenplay (Million Dollar Baby), resigned from CoS in a letter addressed to Davis on Marty Rathbun’s blog and widely reprinted on October 25. In it, Haggis spoke of his disappointment at the San Diego org support of Proposition 8, which overturned same-sex marriage in California:

“The church’s refusal to denounce the actions of these bigots, hypocrites and homophobes is cowardly…Silence is consent, Tommy. I refuse to consent.”

Haggis also mentioned that the Times’ series had left him “dumbstruck and horrified.”

On November 14, the Times published “Caught between Scientology and her husband, Annie Tidman chose the church,” which focused on the CoS policy of putting pressure on people to “disconnect,” as they put it, from their families.

On December 31, the series wrapped up with “Three of Scientology’s elite parishioners keep faith, but leave the church.” The article described how Geir Isene, Mary Jo Leavitt, and Sherry Katz had blown after reaching the church’s most exalted level, that of “Operating Thetan VIII.” All three were quoted as saying that they were interested in new leadership and reform, and it was clear from many posts on www.freezone.org that many rank-and-file CoS members found themselves in the same position—alienated from the church but true to its teachings. Not that there weren’t a significant number—924 listed on www.whyweprotest.net as of February 16—who just wanted out.

Whether CoS could really survive as a membership organization was, in fact, a real question. The 2008 Trinity American Religious Identification Survey showed a drop in the number of Americans identifying as Scientologists from 45,000 in 2001 to 25,000.

For its part, CoS put on a brave face, issuing “Church of Scientology: 2009 the best year ever,” a December 29 press release predicting that 2010 would see “further unprecedented growth, with greater expansion and success in ministering to its parishioners and their communities than ever in its history.”

But after 2009, it has become impossible for insiders as well as outsiders to pay no attention to the dysfunction behind the curtain.

This article was found at:


Review of the positions 12 intervener groups are expected to take in upcoming Canadian constitutional case on polygamy

The Vancouver Sun - April 7, 2010

The oddball alliances in the polygamy battle

Polyamorists, civil libertarians, supporters of Holocaust deniers square off against B.C. teachers, a Catholic family coalition, REAL Women

By Daphne Bramham | Vancouver Sun

It's a rare day when feminists, conservative Christians, anti-abortionists, Muslim women and child advocates join forces.

The aphorism "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" is apt summation of how the two sides will line up at the B.C. Supreme Court hearing to determine the constitutionality of Canada's anti-polygamy law.

The above-mentioned support both the provincial and national government's position that the criminal offence of polygamy is lawful and is not a breach of constitutionally guaranteed rights.

And while it's less rare to see odd groupings of libertarians, among the odder collections are polyamorists (who believe in having more than one intimate relationship at a time with members of either sex as long as there is consent from everyone involved), the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, fundamentalist Mormons and a group that defends Holocaust deniers who will argue that polygamy ought to be legal.

Twelve groups have been accepted to intervene in this unusual case, which proceeds as a trial and not simply as a reference case to an appeal court.

The interveners will be allowed to present documents, make verbal and written arguments as well as call witnesses.

So many lawyers are expected that Chief Justice Robert Bauman is contemplating moving the hearing to the Federal Court's Vancouver courtroom, which is better set up for all the lawyers.

On the no side, Stop Polygamy in Canada is as unequivocal as its name suggests. The 150-member coalition includes the international group Women Living Under Muslim Law.

It states flatly, "There are no equality rights for women and children in polygamous relationships."

Groups including the B.C. Teachers Federation, Beyond Borders, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, Canadian Coalition for Rights of the Child and the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights will focus almost exclusively on the harm done to boys and girls including the denial of their rights of choice (including education) and free expression.

REAL Women's aim is to "promote, secure and defend legislation which upholds the Judeo-Christian view of traditional marriage and the family."

Yet it sounds surprisingly, stridently feminist in its application for intervener status when it says that polygamy "is likely to oppress women and their equality rights reducing them to become more chattels than equal partners."

But the polygamy issue is complicated enough that there is room for wide gaps between proponents on either side, ranging from the certitude of Stop Polygamy, REAL Women and the Christian Legal Fellowship on one side and the Canadian Polyamory Association and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on the other.

In between are the West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) and the Civil Liberties Association. Both believe the existing law is badly written and may well be unconstitutional.

Executive director Alison Brewin says LEAF opposes polygamy when it involves "minors, exploitation, coercion, abuse of authority, a gross imbalance of power or undue influence." LEAF will argue the law should be rewritten or enforced only where polygamy is "exploitive or abusive of the women and children involved."

Conversely, the Civil Liberties Association argues against rewriting the law, saying prohibition is "an inappropriate method of addressing the social problems related to its practice."

It suggests criminalizing polygamy drives it underground and makes it harder for the state to address "the real dangers faced by vulnerable members."

That's not the view of the FLDS (whose members comprise half the population of the polygamous community of Bountiful), the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association and Canadians for Free Expression, represented by Victoria lawyer Doug Christie.

The FLDS will argue its religious right of men to take multiple wives, while both Christie and the polyamorists will argue the state has no right to intervene in sexual relationships that are voluntary and consensual.

What the polyamorists have to say suggests how far some Canadians have strayed from traditional families.

They plan to provide evidence of how widespread the practice is, how different it is from "patriarchal polygyny" as well as the personal and social benefits it provides.

In their submission, polyamory is described as configurations of same gender or different genders and different sexual orientations where no gender or sexual orientation has special privileges or is "regarded as superior to any other."

Their submission makes no reference to children within those relationships.

However, all of the interveners -- except the FLDS -- specifically and unequivocally draw the line when polygamy involves minors, exploitation and abuse of authority.

But there are already laws that are supposed to protect women and children.

The question is: Are we willing to condone polygamy?

This article was found at:


Forced marriage survivors tour UK in effort to stop annual abduction of hundreds of kids who are forced to marry overseas

The Independent - UK April 7, 2010

Survivors of forced marriage go on UK tour

Victims will travel country urging children at risk to tell the authorities of their fears

By Jerome Taylor | Religious Affairs Correspondent

Their stories are ones not normally made public in intimate detail. But in the first scheme of its kind, survivors of forced marriages will travel the country next month to describe the ordeals they went through in an attempt to try to persuade communities to abandon the practice.

Men and women who were forced to marry against their wishes will journey to 12 cities to tell teachers and police officers to be extra vigilant about children going missing during the summer holidays.

Each summer hundreds of girls and boys, largely from South Asian communities, travel with their families to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, where they are forced into marriages.

Those working to stop the practice say the period just before the summer holiday is always their busiest time of the year. They hope that prompting survivors to tell their own stories will encourage children at risk to come forward and local authorities to take those fears seriously when they do.

"If we want to stop young boys and girls being kidnapped and forced to marry overseas we have to get out into these communities before the summer holidays," said Jasvinder Sanghera, the founder of Karma Nirvana, a charity based in Derby, which is organising the tour. "We have to persuade teachers, police officers, social services and anyone else on the front line to take a preventive approach and be alert to children going missing in their areas."

The tour will deliberately target towns with large South Asian populations, where calls from children at risk tend to be highest. Confirmed areas include Derby, Nottingham, Huddersfield, Leicester, Oldham, Hounslow in London, Middlesbrough and Newcastle. The organisers also hope to travel to Bradford and Leeds but have yet to hear back from the local authorities.

Survivors also hope to remind officials that new legislation exists to prevent someone from being taken abroad against their will. They fear that not enough people are aware that the Forced Marriage Act, which came into effect in November 2008, allows local authorities and members of the public to apply for an injunction if they think a child is at risk of being taken out of the country. Since November 2008, 117 injunctions have been used to save children from forced marriages; the youngest of these was eight years old.

Exact numbers are hard to come by, but in 2006 it was reported that 250 girls in Bradford alone were taken off the school roll and not returned to education the following autumn. According to Karma Nirvana, 33 of those girls have still not been accounted for. The Government's Forced Marriage Unit, which repatriates around 300 victims of forced marriages each year, says 42 per cent of those it saves are under 16.

Karma Nirvana's "Honour Network", the first national helpline for victims of forced marriages and so-called honour violence, regularly sees a spike in calls in the run-up to the summer holidays. In June last year, for instance, it received 769 calls, double that year's monthly average of around 350 calls.

"Just before the summer holidays the calls come flooding in," said Ms Sanghera. "Some are from girls - it's usually but not always girls - saying they fear they will be married off abroad. Others are from family members, friends or teachers, police officers and social workers. Each one of those calls is vital. But we need to persuade more people to speak out if we want to stop this abhorrent practice."

Case study: Mayah, aged 33

Mayah, a 33-year-old Sikh woman who lives in the Midlands, was forced into a marriage in India after she ran away with a Christian man she fell in love with. She will be one of the survivors speaking during the tour. She has changed her name to protect her safety

"When I was 20 years old, I fell in love with a Christian man and married him but my family reacted as though I had dishonoured them. I was flown to India and two years after being kept under very strict observation, I was forced to marry a man I had never met properly until the wedding day. I was forced into making this marriage work and to have children to restore the 'respect and honour' in my father's family. We returned to England and eventually I managed to leave the marriage, about five years ago. I now live in a refuge with my two sons and my mother.

"The message I hope to get across to the people I speak to this summer is that forced marriage is not a game. It happens to real people and it ruins lives. It has to be handled sensitively but at the end of the day what we're talking about is rape, forced imprisonment and kidnap. These are criminal acts, not cultural issues and we cannot brush them under the carpet. We need teachers and officials to be on the lookout for signs but we also need to tell schoolchildren of their rights and what they can do to protect themselves.

"I'm not nervous about the tour. What happened to me is something that is now part of my life and speaking about my story helps others come forward. I've just finished working on a case that involved two orphans who were about to be forced into marriages in Pakistan. Last month they were reunited in a refuge and they were so happy. Cases like that make the job worthwhile."

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After needless deaths of unvaccinated children Zimbabwe plans law to criminalize medical neglect

Voice of America - April 6, 2010

Zimbabwe Health Ministry Prepares Law Making Child Medical Care Obligatory

Health and Child Welfare Minister Henry Madzorera said the new law will be drafted along the lines of legislation in other Southern African countries

by Patience Rusere | Washington

Faced with the spread of deadly measles due in part to resistance to vaccination by religious sects, Zimbabwe health officials are drafting legislation that will make it illegal for parents to deny children medical care.

Health and Child Welfare Minister Henry Madzorera said the new law will be drafted along the lines of legislation in other Southern African countries.

While passing such legislation will take time, Dr. Madzorera said his ministry has rolled out a campaign to educate parents, particularly those belonging to the Johannes Marange religious sect and others which oppose immunization, about the risks of failing to immunize their children against diseases.

More than 180 children have died of measles in recent months, most of them from families belonging to such religious sects, health authorities say.

Dr. Douglas Gwatidzo, chairman of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that such a law is overdue given the public health risks of refusing vaccination on religious or other grounds.

This article was found at:



Unvaccinated children of Apostolic sect in Zimbabwe continue to needlessly die from measles

Measles outbreak in Zimbabwe reveals Apostolic sects endangering children by refusing to vaccinate them

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Zimbabwe police assist with door-to-door vaccination after sect children die from measles

Zimbabwe health officials insist they will not use law to compel sect members to vaccinate kids in midst of deadly measles outbreak

Conflict between parental and children's rights at center of Zimbabwean debate over forced vaccinations of sect children

Vaccination dramatically cuts childhood disease

Christians refuse mumps vaccine, fuel outbreak: Officials

Growing mumps outbreak linked to single case in religious group opposed to vaccination

Dutch Reformed conservatives at root of Canadian mumps outbreak

Mumps outbreak linked to lack of immunization among fundamentalist Christians

Mom: Immunizing Daughter Against My Religion and She Might Get Autism

Vaccines and Autism: the zombie meme that won't die

Australian government gives more millions to Exclusive Brethren cult for small schools that indoctrinate children

The Age - Australia April 7, 2010

Sect's small schools given $2m in federal grants

By Jewel Topsfield

A TINY school campus in Bendigo run by the controversial Exclusive Brethren religious sect is receiving $1.2 million in federal funding to upgrade its library, despite having just 11 primary students last year.

Documents also show that the Exclusive Brethren-run Glenvale School's Swan Hill campus - which has just 16 primary students - received $800,000 for a hall under the schools building program.

Critics claim this allocation of funds provides a stark example of the poor targeting of taxpayer money under the so-called Building the Education Revolution program, which has been dogged by allegations of rorting and mismanagement.

The Australian Education Union called on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to justify funding a school run by the Exclusive Brethren - which Mr Rudd while in opposition branded an ''extremist cult'' that broke up families.

Under the schools building program, which was launched in February last year to create jobs, schools of between one and 50 students are eligible for up to $250,000 in funding.

However, because the Exclusive Brethren designates new schools as campuses of existing ones, it was able to secure $2 million in funding for projects at just two of Glenvale School's 12 campuses.

A government document posted on the Australian Parliament website yesterday, in response to a question from the Greens, said Glenvale School's Bendigo campus was receiving $1.2 million for a library refurbishment, to be completed by April 30.

According to the 2009 census, the Bendigo campus had 11 primary and 42 secondary students.

But Exclusive Brethren spokesman John Anderson said it was not relevant how many students attended the Bendigo campus.

He also disputed that $1.2 million was being spent solely at Bendigo.

''The $1.2 million funding for library facilities will be spent at several Glenvale School campuses in Victoria, which are attended by about 600 students,'' Mr Anderson said in a statement.

A spokesman for Education Minister Julia Gillard said schools with multiple campuses were treated as a single school.

He said the department had been advised that the combined enrolment for Glenvale School was 206 primary students and therefore it was eligible for a $2 million grant.

The spokesman said the main library refurbishment was being done at the Bendigo campus, but Victorian Independent Schools advised that the project ''also continues to support library refurbishments across the Glenvale campuses''.

Australian Education Union president Angelo Gavrielatos said the case highlighted the union's concern about the allocation of federal funding when there were other schools with greater demonstrable need.

He also called on Mr Rudd to justify funding schools run by an organisation he had branded a cult in 2007.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said: ''These are two new schools that don't cater for more than 20 [primary school] students each and yet they are getting $2 million. This clearly shows holes in the system which are unfair, and organisations like Exclusive Brethren are taking advantage of that.''

Glenvale School has campuses in Bairnsdale, Ballarat, Bendigo, Berwick, Hamilton, Lilydale, Melbourne, Melton, Moe, Nathalia, Stawell and Swan Hill.

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No University for Exclusive Brethren kids

Schools run by secretive cult receive $18m in government funding

Atheist group files complaint with B.C. Ministry of Education over Christian school teaching creationism in science class

Kamloops Daily News - British Columbia March 23, 2010

Atheist group files complaint against Christian school


The Kamloops Christian School is well within its right to teach creationism alongside evolution in science class, the school’s principal said Monday.

“As long as we follow and meet the needs of the province, we’re fine,” said Terry Rogers.

Rogers’s statement came after The Daily News told him the Kamloops Centre for Rational Thought filed a complaint with the Ministry of Education about the publicly funded school teaching religion in a class dedicated to science.

The atheist group’s director, Bill Ligertwood, filed his complaint last week, asking the ministry to stop funding faith-based schools teaching evolution alongside creationism.

Ligertwood said creationism should be reserved for religious-themed classes because it is not a proven scientific fact.

“It’s like teaching alchemy in a chemistry class,” he said. “In a science class: teach science.”

But Section 76 of the School Act reveals a difference between public schools — which are prohibited from teaching religion — and independent schools, which allow for faith-based instruction.

A Ministry of Education spokesperson said it doesn’t matter what classes are taught at an independent school, as long as the curriculum is followed.

“It appears that Kamloops Christian School is living up to its commitment.”

Rogers doesn’t fault Ligertwood for his criticism.

“He has his right to have a voice.”

Ligertwood said he hopes the province will take his complaint seriously and ask the school to cease and desist.

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The Peak - Student Newspaper of Simon Fraser University - March 29, 2010

Keep creationism out of the science classroom

By Ian Bushfield | Opinion

In a story that sounds like it came straight from the Bible belt of the USA, a newly formed group, the Kamloops Centre for Rational Thought, has announced that the Kamloops Christian School is teaching Biblical creationism in their science class, on equal footing with evolution. On the matter of private school, I mostly believe that schools can teach whatever they want. While I disagree with indoctrinating children in one’s personal religious beliefs, people are generally free to raise their children responsibly. My support for this right, however, ends when public funding is extended to such indoctrination, as is the case with Kamloops Christian School.

Don’t get me wrong, pluralism is a commendable goal. Greater school choice sounds great on paper, and increased knowledge of the various religions and beliefs of the world can only help serve to ease many of the religious tensions across the world.

However, this narrow-minded propaganda serves to reinforce an us-versus-them mentality and closes minds. There is a reason Richard Dawkins considers indoctrinating children with religion to be a form of child abuse.

Even worse is the conflation between religion and science that occurs when students are taught pseudo- and anti-scientific beliefs as fact alongside the well-established laws of nature. Science class is the place to develop the tools to view the world methodically and skeptically. Science asserts that evidence is required before we can decide whether an idea has any merit to it.

Meanwhile, creationism starts with the premise that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and then argues that the facts of the world are wrong if they conflict with a narrow interpretation of scripture. Declaring that evolution and creationism are on equal scientific footing is akin to considering astrology to be as accurate as astronomy.

Even if we could accept the Bible is as credible a source of knowledge as the systematic accumulation of evidence to confirm hypotheses, then there are countless other beliefs we ought to be including in science classes across the province. These include the various aboriginal stories of creation, the Hindu story, those of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, and even the tale of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Each of these stories has its believers who see it as divinely inspired, and each story has as much evidence for its validity as the Christian Bible.

But mainly, I object to a secular, democratic government, which is supposed to represent all people, religions, creeds, and races, to not push any one religion, belief, or non-belief over any other. Were Christians in the minority and atheists in the majority, Christians would equally be crying foul were publicly funded teachers declaring in science class that science has disproven God, or at the very least, that students ought to take a “critical look” at the evidence of the Bible.

There are countless Christians and theists who have no difficulty with evolution. In fact, they are likely in the majority. A small minority, however, remains committed that the only way they can reconcile their belief in a vengeful Old Testament God is to deny the fundamental basis of all modern biology. Yet the fact that many of them hold influential positions of power, like Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear, or Treasury Board President Stockwell Day, is something that ought to scare all secularists, religious or otherwise.

Religious beliefs and discussions have their place. However, when the state sponsors one religious belief to the exclusion of others, we enter a case of discrimination and forced indoctrination. As the anti-religious adage goes, don’t pray in my school and I won’t think in your church.

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New Statesman - U.K. April 6, 2010

Should creationism be taught in British classrooms?

Why schools and universities should encourage debate on evolution -- and how this could benefit science.

by Michael Reiss

Michael Reiss is professor of science education at the Institute of Education, University of London. His PhD was on evolutionary biology, and he is a priest in the Church of England

To some people's incredulity and others' satisfaction, creationism's influence is growing across the globe. Definitions of creationism vary, but roughly 10-15 per cent of people in the UK believe that the earth came into existence exactly as described in the early parts of the Bible or the Quran, and that the most that evolution has done is to change species into other, closely related species.

The more recent theory of intelligent design agrees with creationism, but makes no reference to the scriptures. Instead, it argues that there are many features of the natural world - such as the mammalian eye - that are too intricate to have evolved from non-living matter, as the theory of evolution asserts. Such features are simply said to be "irreducibly complex".

At the same time, the overwhelming majority of biologists consider evolution to be central to the biological sciences, providing a conceptual framework that unifies every disparate aspect of the life sciences into a single, coherent discipline. Most scientists also believe that the universe is about 13-14 billion years old.

The well-known schism between a number of religious world-views - particularly Judaeo-Christian views based on Genesis and mainstream Islamic readings of the Quran - and scientific explanations derived from the theory of evolution is exacerbated by the way people are asked in surveys about their views on the origins of human life. There is a tendency to polarise religion and science: questions focus on the notion that either God created everything, or God had nothing to do with it. The choices erroneously imply that scientific evolution is necessarily atheistic, linking acceptance of evolution with the explicit exclusion of any religious premise.

In fact, people have personal beliefs about religion and science that cover a wide range of possibilities. This has important implications for how biology teachers should present evolution in schools. As John Hedley Brooke, the first holder of the Andreas Idreos Professorship of Science and Religion at Oxford University, has long pointed out, there is no such thing as a fixed relationship between science and religion. The interface between them has shifted over time, as has the meaning of each term.

Most of the literature on creationism (and intelligent design) and evolutionary theory puts them in stark opposition. Evolution is consistently presented in creationist books and articles as illogical, contradicted by scientific evidence such as the fossil record (which they claim does not provide evidence for transitional forms), and as the product of non-scientific reasoning. The early history of life, they say, would require life to arise from inorganic matter - a form of spontaneous generation largely rejected by science in the 19th century. Creationists also accuse evolutionary theory of being the product of those who ridicule the word of God, and a cause of a range of social evils (from eugenics, Marxism, Nazism and racism to juvenile delinquency).

Creationism has received similarly short shrift from evolutionists. In a study published in 1983, the philosopher of science Philip Kitcher concluded that the flat-earth theory, the chemistry of the four elements and medieval astrology were all as valid as creationism (not at all, that is).
Life lessons

Evolutionary biologists attack creationism - especially "scientific creationism" - on the grounds that it isn't a science at all, because its ultimate authority is scriptural and theological, rather than the evidence obtained from the natural world.

After many years of teaching evolution to school and university students, I have come to the view that creationism is best seen by science teachers not as a misconception, but as a world-view. A world-view is an entire way of understanding reality: each of us probably has only one.

However, we can have many conceptions and misconceptions. The implications of this for education is that the most a science teacher can normally hope to achieve is to ensure that students with creationist beliefs understand the basic scientific position. Over the course of a few school lessons or a run of university lectures, it is unlikely that a teacher will be able to replace a creationist world-view with a scientific one.

So how might one teach evolution in science lessons to 14- to 16-year-olds? The first thing to note is that there is scope for young people to discuss beliefs about human origins in other subjects, notably religious education. In England, the DCSF (Department for Children, Schools and Families) and the QCA (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority) have published a non-statutory national framework for religious education and a teaching unit that asks: "How can we answer questions about creation and origins?" The unit focuses on creation and the origins of the universe and human life, as well as the relationships between religion and science. As you might expect, the unit is open-ended and is all about getting young people to learn about different views and develop their own thinking. But what should we do in science?

In summer 2007, after months of behind-the-scenes meetings, the DCSF guidance on creationism and intelligent design received ministerial approval and was published. As one of those who helped put the guidance together, I was relieved when it was welcomed. Even the discussions on the RichardDawkins.net forum were positive, while the Freethinker, an atheist journal, described it as "a breath of fresh air" and "a model of clarity and reason".

The guidance points out that the use of the word "theory" in science (as in "the theory of evolution") can be misleading, as it is different from the everyday meaning - that is, of being little more than an idea. In science, the word indicates that there is substantial supporting evidence, underpinned by principles and explanations accepted by the international scientific community. The guidance makes clear that creationism and intelligent design do not constitute scientific theories.

It also illuminates that there is a real difference between teaching something and teaching about something. In other words, one can teach about creationism without advocating it, just as one can teach in a history lesson about totalitarianism without advocating it.

This is a key point. Many scientists, and some science teachers, fear that consideration of creationism or intelligent design in a science classroom legitimises them. That something lacks scientific support, however, doesn't seem to me a sufficient reason to omit it from a science lesson.

I remember being excited, when I was taught physics at school, that we could discuss almost anything, provided we were prepared to defend our thinking in a way that admitted objective evidence and logical argument. I recall one of our A-level chemistry teachers scoffing at a fellow student, who reported that she had sat (outside the lesson) with a spoon in front of her while Uri Geller maintained he could bend viewers' spoons. I was all for her approach. After all, I reasoned, surely the first thing was to establish if the spoon bent (it didn't for her), and if it did, to start working out how.
Free expression

When teaching evolution, there is much to be said for allowing students to raise any doubts they have in order to shape and provoke a genuine discussion. The word "genuine" doesn't mean that creationism and intelligent design deserve equal time with evolution. They don't. However, in certain classes, depending on the teacher's comfort with talking about such issues, his or her ability to deal with them, and the make-up of the student body, it can and should be appropriate to address them.

Having said that, I don't pretend to think that this kind of teaching is easy. Some students become very heated; others remain silent even if they disagree profoundly with what is said. But I believe in taking seriously the concerns of students who do not accept the theory of evolution while still introducing them to it. Although it is unlikely that this will help them resolve any conflict they experience between science and their beliefs, good teaching can help students to manage it - and to learn more science.

My hope is simply to enable students to understand the scientific perspective with respect to our origins, but not necessarily to accept it. We can help students to find their science lessons interesting and intellectually challenging without their being a threat. Effective teaching in this area can help students not only learn about the theory of evolution, but also better appreciate the way science is done, the procedures by which scientific knowledge accumulates, the limitations of science and the ways in which scientific knowledge differs from other forms of knowledge.

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From papal retreat Benedict pontificates on evil, but still no apology for protecting child molesters & rapists

CBC News - Associated Press April 5, 2010

Pope urges priests to conquer evil

Pope Benedict XVI on Monday urged priests to be messengers of Christ's "victory over evil," but again made no direct mention of the sex abuse scandal swirling around the Catholic Church.

In an address from the papal retreat in Castel Gandolfo outside Rome, Benedict said Christ supports the church "amid difficulty."

Benedict said all Christians should be like messengers of Christ's "victory over evil and death, the bearers of his divine love" — a message that he said applied especially to priests.

The Pope is coming under intense pressure to specifically acknowledge that the church's past practice of covering up abuse by clergy was wrong. Benedict himself has been caught up in the controversy, with reports saying he failed to adequately protect children from predators in the clergy when he was archbishop of Munich.

The Vatican has vociferously defended the Pope from such criticism, calling the accusations now dominating media coverage "petty gossip" and a smear campaign aimed at the Pope.

On Easter Sunday before thousands of worshippers in St. Peter's Square, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, heartily endorsed Benedict's conduct and hailed his "unfailing" leadership.

"Holy Father, on your side are the people of God, who do not let themselves be influenced by the petty gossip of the moment, by the trials that sometimes strike at the community of believers," Sodano said.

After a busy week of Easter ceremonies at the Vatican, the 82-year-old pontiff went to the Castel Gandolfo retreat for rest.

During his Easter Sunday address, Benedict denounced drug trafficking in Latin America and spoke of the suffering of earthquake victims in Haiti and Chile. But victims of past clergy abuse who'd hoped the pontiff would have a few words for them were disappointed.

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Some think Catholic crisis is a leadership problem, excommunicated priest thinks its a problem of doctrine

USA Today - April 5, 2010

Is Catholic Church crisis about sex abuse -- or leadership?

It's back.

The sexual abuse crisis that dominated U.S. headlines in 2002 is back, with an international focus this time. And with it comes the parallel attacks on media that brought news of the crisis to light. And, now, as then, the Vatican has defensive -- as if this were an attack on faith, not on human failings.

The faces at the top of the Catholic hierarchy are different than in 2002. The headlines, for the most part, come out of Ireland or Germany. But the fundamental call from the public and media is the same: Accountability.

USA TODAY's editorial today notes:

In case after case, the church has faced choices between protecting children or protecting itself. It has consistently chosen the latter, and in doing so has protected neither.

On CNN's Reliable Sources Sunday, media reporter Howard Kurtz interviewed Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times, whose coverage of a Wisconsin predator priest brought the crisis back to the front pages of U.S. papers last month. (The Orlando Sentinel has the full transcript.)

One exchange highlights why the religion reporter burrowed in to the case of the deaf community in Wisconsin pressing for the Vatican department, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict, to defrock a priest who abused 200 children decades earlier...

Goodstein: It came up in the course of looking at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That's the office in the Vatican that used to be headed by the man who is now Pope Benedict. We were looking at how they handled cases from bishops around the world that came to the Vatican. This was one of them. I found this one by, you know, calling many sources. And spoke to an attorney who has handled a lot of lawsuits against the church.

Kurtz: Short answer: old fashioned reporting.

Later in the interview, Goodstein wraps up by saying:

It's not just 50s, 60s, and 70s. By the 1980s you had a very big scandal. It began (with) a priest in Louisiana. From that point the American bishops and also the Vatican began reconsidering how to confront priest abusers. So they have had an awfully long time at which they said at several points, "Now we have it under control. No -- no need to worry."

And so its been an awfully long time for them to figure out how to manage it in a responsible way.

Bob Schieffer at CBS' Face the Nation blew off calls for the Church to fix up its public relations (with prominent Vatican voices making major gaffes during Holy Week). Schieffer says the failure is not theology but bureaucracy.

And in today's Washington Post, an essay by Timothy Shriver very elegantly places the scandal in the larger context of the eternal truths and daily good service to humanity Shriver sees offered by the best of his Catholic Church. It is a church rooted in Jesus, served by "heroic and dedicated" priests and nuns, and bringing "the gospel to life for billions," he writes.

We were raised to love the gospel, to seek the truth, to serve justice, to grow in the bosom of the sacraments. But we will not do it under (these bishops) leadership unless they change.

What's needed is a conversion of the bishops and the pope himself. That's right: It's time for the pope and the bishops to convert their culture to one that is centered on loving God from the depths of their souls and to leading a church that is as much mother as father, as much pastoral as theological, as much spiritual as doctrinal. It is time for them to listen to the deep and authentic witness of the people of faith, to trust the spirit that blows where it will, to abandon their defensiveness of their positions and trust only the gospel, and not their edifice of control. Conversion is a total experience -- letting go of the old and putting on the new.

And the editorial of the latest issue of the Jesuit weekly, America Magazine, spells out the steps they think the Church must take: "See out the victims... Come clean... Be accountable... Empower the laity" It concludes:

Humility should be a virtue for all to embrace just now, but especially for church leaders in seeking the guidance of the faithful.

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The Guardian - U.K. April 5, 2010

This is a crisis of clericalism

The Catholic church survived the French and Russian revolutions. It will survive this crisis too, but humbler, poorer, and more honest

by Austen Ivereigh | Commentary

The clerical sex abuse crisis is not the worst for the church since the Reformation. Remember the French Revolution, which executed clergy and nationalised church property? It was imitated, on the whole less violently, by the states of Europe and Latin America in the nineteenth century which stripped the church of its land, privileges, funds and autonomy. The relentless media stories fuelled by angry abuse victims stepping forward to remember abuse of 20 or 30 years ago may be excoriating, but they do not compare to what the Mexican, Russian and German states did to the church and Catholics in the early twentieth century, in the era of totalitarianism.

But their effect is in many ways just as dramatic. Unlike those assaults on the church, the sex abuse crisis is an internal one, a crisis of leadership and governance in which the perpetrators are the priests and the bishops who failed to act against them, and the victims are – or were – powerless adolescents. What makes the crisis especially purgative is that both the abuse and the cover-up are historic, yet their consequences are felt now. They took place at a time of clericalism, a culture which fostered power, privilege and secrecy, when the priesthood of the 1950s-60s saw itself as a caste set apart. The voice of the victims, which did not begin to be heard properly in the media until the 1980s, was suffocated by the need to preserve the image of the institution. That has now changed: not just in the guidelines and procedures put in place in the church from the 1990s which ensure reporting to civil authorities of any allegation, however old, but in the Vatican's revision and enforcement of its own canon law, whose strictures against abusive priests used to be simply ignored.

Although these changes make it impossible for the abuse crisis to recur in the present – in fact, abuse allegations dropped off sharply from the mid-1980s as the cases were investigated and acted on – the crisis will continue for some time yet. It is in the nature of sex abuse that its victims take a long time to step forward, mostly when they are in their thirties or forties and are turning to therapy after suffering depression and shattered relationships. As allegations are made and reported by the media, others are encouraged to step forward, and like a snowball the coverage grows; this is what happened in the US, the UK and in Ireland, and has begun to happen in central Europe.

Spain and Italy are likely to be next; then Poland. Each time, the toxic combination of clericalism and blindness to the suffering of victims will be revealed, and the outrageous stories of cover-up and denial will splatter the front pages. As they investigate the allegations, journalists will be sniffing for the "smoking gun", the story that reveals that a Vatican cardinal once took a decision to reassign a priest when he was a bishop. They may, eventually, find one that is more convincing than the ones so far; but even if they did, what would it reveal? The Pope, too, has undergone a conversion typical of the church leaders of his generation, and since at least 2001 has been a key architect of the church's reform of its procedures.

Like all powerful institutions, the church has little capacity to reform itself, but it can embrace purgation as an opportunity for change. As the crisis spreads from country to country, one after another the hierarchies will be bewildered by the onslaught and anger. Some will blame the media for its often crude and misleading reports, others will retreat more tightly into their bunkers, others will point out (correctly) that clerical abuse has nothing to do with celibacy or an all-male priesthood. Some will have the courage to recognise that it is, however, a consequence of a culture of clericalism which still prevails, an attitude that places concern for a priest's reputation above the welfare of a child, and a mindset that leads to dissident theologians being prosecuted more swiftly than abusers of children. This recognition, gradually, will lead to a new mindset – a humbler, poorer, more penitent church, which hears the voice of the victims not after the rest of society, but long before it, as Christians should.

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New America Media - March 31, 2010

The Catholic Church's Dirty Little Secret

by Blase Bonpane | Commentary

More than 40 years ago I, was automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church for "attempting marriage." Our “attempted marriage” was conducted at my parents’ home with four priests presiding together with my bride, the former Sister Maura Killene of Maryknoll who had served in Southern Chile. We have now celebrated four decades together and now have two children and five grandchildren. There is nothing “attempted” about it. It is a wonderful marriage followed by a life of full-time work for justice and peace.

The excommunication has never upset me, mostly because of the guidance of my mother who had admonished me to “take it with a grain of salt.” This was her comment on many ecclesiastical directives, including celibacy. She was very disturbed that I went off to the seminary to become a priest in the first place.

 Blase Bonpane

”Why don’t they marry? It’s not normal,” she insisted. Both of her parents were born in Italy and they had a wonderful understanding of the irrationality of Canon Law. That’s right. They loved their church and were very comfortable criticizing it and even making fun of it. But as is becoming increasingly clear amid almost daily revelations of sexual abuse among the clergy, much of church behavior is really not funny.

While tens of thousands of us priests have married (or "attempted marriage," followed by automatic excommunication), we can’t help but look at what happens to pedophiles in the clergy. They are not excommunicated, but are simply sent to another parish! Church leaders are accessories to crime; the bishops are told to send all of the evidence to the Vatican immediately, with a mandate of absolute secrecy.

Many issues have come to the fore in this scandal. One of them is clerical class privilege, or clerical impunity. That includes impunity for those who remain subservient to ecclesiastical authority. It does not include any impunity for dissidents. Obfuscated clerical thinking might say, "Well this sinful priest has gone to confession and therefore must have a firm purpose of amendment." Sorry folks, that does not cure a pedophile. Silence is not an option. Silence is complicity.

Celibacy is not the problem; both Jesus and St. Paul spoke of it as a personal choice. However, the Law of Celibacy – which came with the Second Lateran Council of 1139 AD -- is part of the problem.

Another part of the problem is a cult issue. A clerical class is expected to have both impunity and immunity. This is the delusion of all cult leaders. We can look back to Pius IX who declared himself infallible and declared his Infallibility to be both retroactive and future active. And here is where much of the problem resides. It is called doctrine. Since the Council of Nicaea in the fourth century, the focus of the church has been on doctrine. In effect, the church is saying, “We will tell you the truth about God. Other religions don’t have that truth.” This is called imperial religion and was the product of Constantine the Great. The unbeliever was to be granted death because error has no rights.

In the 20th century there was a strong movement against this imperial religion. In 1962, a revolutionary old man known as Pope John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council in order to bring some fresh air into a very stuffy church.

The Council had a profound effect on those of us who were in the field at that time. I was in Guatemala in the midst of a civil war. We heard directives from the Vatican that turned us loose: Enter into the hopes, desires and anxieties of your people …hasta las ultimas consequencias..(wherever it takes you). This led us to practice what was later called liberation theology. The objective was to focus on the virtues of pre-Constantine Christianity--that's right, on the teachings of Jesus. Fundamentalist doctrinal rigidity is not the defining factor of liberation theology. On the contrary, the defining factor is a life that radiates the fruits of the spirit: justice, peace, joy, courage, love, compassion and endurance.

The goal is not to say how much we know about God, but rather how little we know about God and how we must respect the sacred stories of others religions in order to be reverent.

But there was a Grand Inquisitor within the church who frequently attacked liberation theologians. This was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict XVI.

If he had paid attention to the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, Cardinal Ratzinger would not have spent so much time trying to claim that he knew so much about God and that he, as the Grand Inquisitors of old, was going to be a hammer of heretics. If he were concerned about morality more than his ideas of doctrine, he would not have wasted his time trying to protect the “image” of a church that was suffering from abhorrent legalistic formalism. Rather than attack and silence some of the finest intellectuals in the church, he would have openly denounced the behavior of sexual predators in or out of the clergy.

Now sexual abuse, which was allowed to continue for decades, has burst into the open, precipitating a crisis of credibility for the Vatican.

So what is to be done?

First, the church should immediately end the nonsensical law of celibacy in the Roman Rite, and invite the clergy to marry rather than be excommunicated for "attempting marriage." Priests who have married should be invited to resume their ministry. Women should be allowed to be ordained as priests. Finally, the Vatican should end the cult of silence that is also the law of the mafia, the CIA, the FBI, the military, and corporate headquarters.

None of this will end the evil of pedophilia, but it will no longer be anyone’s “dirty little secret.”

Blase Bonpane, Ph.D., is director of the Office of the Americas and author of “Guerrillas of Peace: Liberation Theology and the Central American Revolution,” (Excel Press).

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