The Gospel According to Pelosi

The Gospel According to Pelosi

Ann Kane

Did Pope Benedict XVI give up his post as head of the Catholic Church, and make Nancy Pelosi the new pope?  By all indications from a speech on immigration reform she gave on May 6 at a progressive Catholic forum sponsored by Trinity Washington University and National Catholic Reporter — two of many liberal adjuncts to the American Catholic Church — she has taken on her new role as supreme pontifette with gusto.
In her sanctimonious manner, she commanded:
The cardinals, the archbishops, the bishops that come to me and say, ‘We want you to pass immigration reform,’ and I said, ‘I want you to speak about it from the pulpit. I want you to instruct your’ — whatever the communication is,” said Pelosi, who is Catholic, speaking at the Nation’s Catholic Community conference sponsored by Trinity Washington University and the National Catholic Reporter. [snip]
“The people, some (who) oppose immigration reform, are sitting in those pews, and you have to tell them that this is a manifestation of our living the gospels,” she said. [snip]
Pelosi said the church “has an important role to play” in teaching about dignity and respect, and “as a practical matter” it’s not possible to tell 12 million illegal immigrants to “go back to wherever you came from or go to jail.” 
Pro-choice Pelosi should be the last person the bishops turn to for advice.  Instead, the church leaders should be consulting their Shepherd in Chief over in Rome if they have difficulties in their dioceses. Immigration reform has been a hot button issue for the bishops in America since a large percentage of illegal aliens have Catholic roots.  
The strangest aspect of Pelosi’s instruction, however, is her desire to coalesce church and state.  For the past fifty years, pastors and bishops have been on guard about preaching politics from the pulpit in fear of jeopardizing their tax exempt status.
As recently as the 2008 elections, many Catholics rejected any clergy who spoke during a homily about why parishioners should choose one candidate over another.  Progressives inside the church cried foul whenever the church tried to step into the political arena.
Pelosi’s a clever woman.  She has a two-fold game plan going on here.  She makes it look like the government is softening its stance on that pesky separation of church and state issue, while she speaks in a commanding voice to church officials, thereby subordinating the church to the state.  In Marxist movements, the state must either do away with religion or control it; either way the bishops lose.

Clergy abuse threatens to tarnish pope’s legacy

Clergy abuse threatens to tarnish pope’s legacy

By VICTOR L. SIMPSON
The Associated Press
Friday, March 26, 2010; 9:06 PM

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is facing one of its gravest crises of modern times as sex abuse scandals move ever closer to Pope Benedict XVI – threatening not only his own legacy but also that of his revered predecessor.

Benedict took a much harder stance on sex abuse than John Paul II when he assumed the papacy five years ago, disciplining a senior cleric championed by the Polish pontiff and defrocking others under a new policy of zero tolerance.

But the impression remains of a woefully slow-footed church and of a pope who bears responsibility for allowing pedophile priests to keep their parishes.

In an editorial on Friday, the National Catholic Reporter in the United States called on Benedict to answer questions about his role “in the mismanagement” of sex abuse cases, not only in the current crisis but during his tenure in the 1980s as archbishop of Munich and then as head of the Vatican’s doctrinal and disciplinary office.

It all comes down to the question of what the pope knew and when. The answer will almost certainly determine the fate of Benedict’s papacy.

As he approaches Holy Week, the most solemn period on the Christian calendar, victims groups and other critics are demanding Benedict accept personal responsibility. A few say he should resign.

Some fear the crisis will alienate Catholics from the church, with a survey in Benedict’s native Germany already showing disaffection among Catholics while there is deep anger in once very Catholic Ireland.

As the climate worsens, the Vatican is showing increasing impatience and even anger, denouncing what it says is a campaign to smear the pope.

L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said this week there was a “clear and despicable intention” to strike at Benedict “at any cost.”

But as attention focuses on Benedict, a perhaps thornier question looms over how much John Paul II, beloved worldwide for his inspirational charisma and courageous stand against communism, knew about sex abuse cases and whether he was too tolerant of pedophile priests.

John Paul presided over the church when the sex abuse scandal exploded in the United States in 2002 and the Vatican was swamped with complaints and lawsuits under his leadership. Yet during most of his 26-year papacy, individual dioceses and not the Vatican took sole responsibility for investigating misbehavior.

Professor Nick Cafardi, a canon and civil lawyer and former chairman of the U.S. bishops lay review board that monitored abuse, said Benedict was “very courageous” to reverse Vatican support for the Legionaries of Christ, a sex scandal-tainted organization staunchly defended by John Paul.

John Paul was already ailing from Parkinson’s disease when the U.S. scandal erupted, a factor supporters say may have kept him from initially realizing its scope.

While Cardinal Bernard Law became the most high-profile church figure to fall, resigning as archbishop of Boston over the scandal, John Paul gave him a soft landing, appointing him as head of a Rome basilica and keeping him on various Vatican committees.

The world-traveling John Paul has been put on a fast track for sainthood by Benedict in response to popular demand. Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, the emeritus head of the Vatican’s saint-making office, said this week that historians who studied the pope’s life didn’t find anything problematic in John Paul’s handling of abuse scandals.

“According to them there was nothing that was a true obstacle to his cause of beatification. They are very strict,” Saraiva Martins said.

For Benedict, a quiet intellectual who will be 83 next month, the scandal must be trying.

Until recently, Benedict had received high marks for his handling of sex abuse – seen as a bright spot amid turmoil over his remarks linking Islam to violence and his rehabilitation of an ultraconservative bishop who denies the Holocaust.

Shortly before his election as pope in 2005 he had denounced “filth” in the church – widely viewed as a reference to clerics who abused children. He proclaimed a policy of zero tolerance for offenders and met and prayed with victims while traveling in the United States and Australia.

Benedict won praise for moving against the Legionaries of Christ, the conservative order once hailed by John Paul that fell into scandal after it revealed that its founder had fathered a child and had molested seminarians.

The Vatican began investigating allegations against the Rev. Marcial Maciel of Mexico in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until 2006, a year into Benedict’s pontificate, that the Vatican instructed Maciel to lead a “reserved life of prayer and penance” in response to the abuse allegations – effectively removing him from power.

But reaction changed as the abuse scandal moved across Europe and into Benedict’s native Germany in recent months, touching the pontiff himself with a case dating to his tenure as archbishop of Munich.

The former vicar general of the Munich archdiocese has absolved the pope of responsibility in the case of the Rev. Peter Hullermann, accused of abusing boys.

While then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was involved in a 1980 decision to transfer Hullermann to Munich for therapy, Ratzinger’s then-deputy took responsibility for a subsequent decision to let the priest return to pastoral duties. Hullermann was convicted of sexual abuse in 1986.

However, the New York Times reported Friday that Ratzinger was copied in on a memo stating Hullermann would be returned to pastoral work within days of beginning psychiatric treatment. The archdiocese insisted Ratzinger was unaware of the decision and that any other version was “mere speculation.”

In another case, documents show the Vatican office responsible for disciplining priests, while headed by Ratzinger, halted a church trial of a Milwaukee priest accused of molesting some 200 deaf boys from 1950-1975.

Two Wisconsin bishops had urged the Vatican to approve the proceeding against the Rev. Lawrence Murphy, arguing that even though it was years after the alleged abuse, the deaf community in Milwaukee was demanding justice. The trial was approved in 1997, only to be halted after an appeal by the priest to Ratzinger. Murphy died in 1998.

Murphy’s eventual punishment was a restriction on celebrating Mass and on visiting the deaf community.

Such light disciplinary measures remain the norm in the majority of sex abuse cases.

Of the 3,000 cases the Vatican has received since 2001, only 20 percent have gone to a full canonical trial, the Vatican’s chief prosecutor Monsignor Charles Scicluna said. Disciplinary sanctions were imposed in 60 percent, such as priests being ordered to live a retired life of prayer and not celebrate Mass publicly; in only 10 percent were the accused priests defrocked.

The abuse crisis in the United States, which involved 4 percent of the American priesthood, showed a pattern of bishops covering for errant clerics, at times moving them from parish to parish. The latest documents point to Vatican complicity, although the Vatican denies there was any cover-up.

Defenders of Benedict, such as British Archbishop Vincent Nichols, say that as cardinal he made important changes in church law to crack down on offenders and was not an “idle observer.”

French bishops rallied around Benedict in a letter on Friday, saying while they deplored clerical sex abuse, the issue “is being used in a campaign to attack you personally.”

Still, it is in Germany where Benedict’s popularity has taken a real hit.

A poll in Stern magazine released this week shows only 39 percent of Germany’s Catholics trust the pope, down from 62 percent in late January. Some 34 percent trust the Catholic church as an institution, down from 56 percent in January. The margin of error was 2.5 percentage points.

Rainer Kampling, a professor of Catholic theology at Berlin Free University, says the idea that the pope might resign – slipping polls not withstanding – is hardly realistic. “The pope is not a politician,” he said.

Herbert Kohlmaier, chairman of an Austrian Catholic group that has criticized Benedict, also said a resignation shouldn’t be expected. “They certainly won’t let a symbolic figure like that go.”

While church law allows for the resignation of a pope, there are few precedents over the church’s two millennium history. The last was by 15th-century Pope Gregory XII, and that was not over scandal but rather a schism in the church.

Child abuse claims sweep Catholic Church in Europe

Child abuse claims sweep Catholic Church in Europe

By SHAWN POGATCHNIK, Associated Press Writer Shawn Pogatchnik, Associated Press Writer Sat Mar 13, 11:40 am ET

DUBLIN – It often starts as a voice in the wilderness, but can swell into an entire nation’s demand for truth. From Ireland to Germany, Europe’s many victims of child abuse in the Roman Catholic church are finally breaking social taboos and confronting the clergy to face its demons.

Ireland was the first in Europe to confront the church’s worldwide custom of shielding pedophile priests from the law and public scandal. Now that legacy of suppressed childhood horror is being confronted in other parts of the Continent — nowhere more poignantly than in Germany, the homeland of Pope Benedict XVI.

The recent spread of claims into the Netherlands, Austria and Italy has analysts and churchmen wondering how deep the scandal runs, which nation will be touched next, and whether a tide of lawsuits will force European dioceses to declare bankruptcy like their American cousins.

“You have to presume that the cover-up of abuse exists everywhere, to one extent or another. A new case could appear in a new country tomorrow,” said David Quinn, director of a Christian think tank, the Iona Institute, that seeks to promote family values in an Ireland increasingly cool to Catholicism.

Quinn noted that stories of systemic physical, sexual and emotional abuse circulated privately in Irish society for decades, but only moved aboveground in the mid-1990s when former altar boy Andrew Madden and orphanage survivor Christine Buckley went public with lawsuits and exposes of how priests and nuns tormented them with impunity.

Floodgates opened for Irish complaints that have topped 15,000 in this country of 4 million. Three government-ordered investigations have shocked and disgusted the nation, which has footed most of the bill to settle legal claims topping euro1 billion (nearly $1.5 billion).

“A lot comes down to: When does that first victim gather the courage to come forward into the spotlight?” Quinn said. “It seems to take that trigger event, the lone voice who says what so many kept silent so long. That’s basically happening now in Germany. It could happen next in Spain, Poland, anywhere.”

In January, an elite Jesuit school in Berlin declared it was aware of seven child-abuse cases in its past and appointed an outside investigator, Ursula Raue, to seek testimony. Within weeks, she had gathered stories of long-suppressed woe from more than 100 ex-students abused by their Jesuit masters, and from 60 molested by parish priests.

“I always thought that at some point the wave would reach us,” said Petra Dorsch-Jungsberger, a commentator on Catholic affairs and retired University of Munich communications professor.

She credited heavy German media coverage of the latest Irish abuse scandal — a November report into decades of cover-up in the Dublin Archdiocese involving approximately 170 priests — with inspiring similar soul-searching in Germany.

“Once the door had been opened, then many others felt they were able to step up and say: That happened to us too,” she said.

In recent weeks, new German abuse claims have surfaced on a near-daily basis and spread to Pope Benedict’s Bavarian heartland and the Regensberg boys’ choir long directed by the pope’s brother. Benedict was Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger of Munich from 1977 to 1982, and questions now focus on what role, if any, the pontiff, played in handing pedophile priests to new parishes rather than to the law.

A Swiss abbot said in an interview published Saturday that 60 people have reported being victims of abuse by Catholic priests in Switzerland.

Abbot Martin Werlen of the Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln told Swiss daily Aargauer Zeitung that the allegations were reported to the Swiss Bishops Conference, which is investigating them.

The Vatican on Saturday denounced what it called aggressive attempts to drag Pope Benedict XVI into the spreading scandals of pedophile priests in his German homeland, and contended he has long confronted abuse cases with courage.

In separate interviews, both the Holy See’s spokesman and its prosecutor for sex abuse of minors by clergy sought to defend the pope.

“It’s rather clear that in the last days, there have been those who have tried, with a certain aggressive persistence, in Regensburg and Munich, to look for elements to personally involve the Holy Father in the matter of abuses,” Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio.

It’s inevitable that all bishops of the day, including Ratzinger, handled abuse complaints against priests in-house, said the Rev. Fergus O’Donoghue, editor of the Irish Jesuit journal Studies.

“The pope was no different to any other bishop at time. The church policy was to keep it all quiet — to help people, but to avoid scandal. Avoiding scandal was a huge issue for the church,” he said. “Of course there was cover-up,” he added. But worse was “the systematic lack of concern for the victims.”

In the Netherlands, a former Catholic boarding-school abuse victim is leading a campaign for accountability. Bert Smeets, 58, has formed Mea Culpa, a victims group that has collected testimony from hundreds of abuse victims and is mulling a class-action lawsuit against the Dutch church.

The church has apologized to the victims and set up an inquiry headed by a former government minister, a Protestant. Smeets dismisses that effort as “a typical Vatican cover-up.” He said the pressure on the church came from aggressive investigations into abuse in Ireland and the U.S.

In other predominantly Catholic areas of Europe, child-abuse scandals have tarnished individual priests and even a Polish archbishop, but have not mushroomed into a mass movement. In Spain, more than a dozen priests have been convicted of child abuse in recent decades and two potentially larger-scale cases are attracting attention.

Ireland was until relatively recently the most enthusiastically Catholic country in Europe. Its half-dozen seminaries exported priests worldwide. All but one of those seminaries is closed now, illustrating the rapid falloff in Mass attendance as the economy has advanced and secularism has spread.

Quinn, the Dublin think-tank director, noted that a few Irish dioceses are openly warning that they’re struggling to pay bills stemming from abuse claims. In the southeast diocese of Kells, the archbishop’s house has had to be remortgaged.

“The church is asset-rich but cash-poor,” Quinn said, noting that it’s the biggest property owner in Ireland but has comparatively little cash in the bank. He said the Vatican, too, has less money on tap than resides in the endowment fund of a typical top-tier U.S. university.

___

Associated Press Writers Melissa Eddy in Berlin, Ciaran Giles in Madrid, Nicole Winfield in Rome, Monika Scislowska in Warsaw and Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, contributed to this report.

Catholicism and Islam: Seeking Common Ground — Very Disturbing

Catholicism and Islam: Seeking Common Ground

Created 2008-09-21 09:14

The Catholic Church, its leadership if not its flock, seeks common ground with Islam. It has been said that the Church sees in Islam a ray of hope for the re-spiritualization of Europe. Priests see empty churches while mosques are bulging with true believers. They see the secular society addicted to pornography, abortion, and sexual promiscuity, while the Islamic society is tightly controlled. They see the French State divided by “laïcité”, while Muslim nations do not recognize separation of Church and State. And they admire Islam to the point where they overlook the dark side and delude themselves into believing that the two religions can not only co-exist, but become strengthened through mutual contacts and understanding.

Here are excerpts from the comments of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, published in the Vatican newpaper L’Osservatore Romano, on the reactions of the Muslims who heard the Pope’s speech at the Collège des Bernardins on September 12:

The Pope spoke of the Holy Scriptures, of the Christian book which certainly is not the Muslim book. I believe however that the representatives of the Muslim community followed it with much interest.
 
I noticed, for example, that they shared openly the urgings of the Pope to seek God. In that respect, their way of thinking does not differ from our own, and can even constitute a point of contact.
 
And I can say that, when the Pope finished his meeting, and conversed with them, exchanging a few words with each one as he greeted them, I could tell from their faces that they were in agreement.
 
They were very happy and congratulated the Pope. So I think they were satisfied.

Cardinal Bertone is one of the highest-ranking officials in the Catholic Church.

 

Another message from the Vatican goes even further than the preceding comments of Cardinal Bertone, in its conciliatory approach to Islam. Here are excerpts from of a message sent to Muslims by the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The message was sent on the occasion of the end of Ramadan.

Christians and Muslims: Together for the dignity of the family
 
Dear Muslim friends, […] Christians and Muslims can and must work together to safeguard the dignity of the family, today and in the future. Given the high esteem in which both Muslims and Christians hold the family, we have already had many occasions, from the local to the international level, to work together in this field. The family, that place where love and life, respect for the other and hospitality are encountered and transmitted, is truly the ‘fundamental cell of society.’
 
Muslims and Christians must never hesitate, not only to come to the aid of families in difficulty, but also to collaborate with all those who support the stability of the family as an institution and the exercise of parental responsibility, in particular in the field of education. I need only remind you that the family is the first school in which one learns respect for others, mindful of the identity and the difference of each one. Interreligious dialogue and the exercise of citizenship cannot but benefit from this.
 
Dear friends, now that your fast comes to an end, I hope that you, with your families and those close to you, purified and renewed by those practices dear to your religion, may know serenity and prosperity in your life! May Almighty God fill you with His Mercy and Peace!

I didn’t realize that polygamy, forced marriages, honor killings, using children as human shields, etc… were family values espoused by the Church.
 
In February 2006, I posted a long article by Anne-Marie Delcambre on Europe’s infatuation with Islam. Here is one excerpt from that essay:

First of all, these “ecclesiastics, alarmed by the loss of interest in faith and church attendance in Christian countries, particularly Europe, admire Muslim devotion. […] They feel it is better to believe in something than in nothing at all […]” They see the near-empty churches and in contrast, they note that the mosques are full, even if these mosques are cellars or run-down buildings. The churches three quarters empty, the triumphant secularism, the contempt for the religious life all have become unbearable to Catholic priests […] they feel sympathy for the community of Islam where everyone is close, where “the believers are brothers”! But they forget rather quickly, or they don’t realize that “the Muslim is the brother of the Muslim”, not the brother of the non-Muslim.

Meanwhile, in France, the number of converts to Islam is roughly 18X that of the converts to Christianity. Between 150 and 200 Muslims convert to Catholicism each year in France, compared to some 3,600 people who convert to Islam every year. However, Muslim converts to Christianity face a lot of difficulties.