Ten police officers went to the Vatopedi monastery on Mount Athos in Greece on Tuesday to arrest the, Father Ephraim as though he were “a gangster,” raged The Voice of Russian. But as Angeliki Koutantou and Harry Papachristou of Reuters explain:
The abbot of one of Greece’s richest and most powerful monasteries went to jail on Wednesday awaiting trial for hoodwinking the government in a high-profile land swap deal six years ago. Cypriot-born Efraim, 56, chief of the Vatopedi Monastery at the monastic community of Mount Athos, is accused of inciting officials to commit acts of fraud, perjury and money-laundering, a charge that can fetch him a jail term of several years.
The government is said to have lost tens of millions of euros in a series of land swaps with Vatopedi, a monastery with many prominent fans in Greece and abroad including Britain’s Prince Charles, who is a frequent visitor. Exposure of the scandal precipitated the fall of the country’s then conservative government in 2009.
It is obvious that the most visible religious institutions — from the Vatican, to Mount Athos, to the Southern Baptist Convention — are enormous bureaucracies virtually swimming in cash. Their relative immunity from taxation and the normal rules of fiscal oversight are troubling. But this case is especially jarring for the contrast it draws out between the grinding poverty of the Greek people under their new program of enforced austerity and the immeasurable wealth of the Orthodox Church. The same contrast will be drawn out in coming months in Rome, and I dare say in the U.S. as well.
The very public arrest of Catholic priests in Belgium or the U.S. for sexual crimes is one thing; the revelation of the Greek (or Roman) Church’s complicity in white-collar theft, pork-barrel politicking and a form of nepotism whose sole purpose has been to line the clerical elites’ own pockets is something else again.
Without question, the sex crimes are more heinous, but even outside criminal court there is a perhaps growing interest in financial accountability and other kinds. A few arrests, even at the level seen in Greece, aren’t enough action.
Obviously, it’s absurd to say the gay and lesbian community are the Ku Klux Klan, but if you organize a parade that looks like parades that we’ve had in our past because it stops us from worshipping God, well then that’s the comparison, but it’s not with people and people — it’s parade-parade.
He’s under fire, as Think Progress explains:
Change.org has released a petition calling for the resignation of Catholic Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, following comments the Cardinal made to FOX Chicago Sunday comparing the gay rights movement to the Klu Klux Klan’s anti-Catholicism. Equally Blessed, an umbrella group of pro-LGBT rights Catholic organizations, has reinforced the pushback by releasing a statement declaring in part that George, “has demeaned and demonized LGBT people in a manner unworthy of his office. In suggesting that the Catholic hierarchy has reason to fear LGBT people in the same way that blacks, Jews, Catholics and other minorities had reason to fear the murderous nightriders of the Ku Klux Klan, he has insulted the memory of the victims of the Klan’s violence and brutality.”
It was at best a historically uninformed comparison for him to make.
“No longer at my age can I accept a subordinate role; not for myself, not for my daughter, not for my sisters, my nieces or friends,” the 61-year-old current affairs presenter declared.
She added that other women had walked out of the church a long time ago.
“Maybe I just kept hoping,” she added.
She was provoked to a recent, detailed on-air explanation by an interview with American Catholic theologian and intellectual George Weigel. She was unimpressed, explaining:
“He [Mr Weigel] gave the same old non-reasons for the refusal of the church to ordain women, ‘we have different tasks, different gifts’ . . . ‘God made men and women different for a reason’.”
Ms O’Leary continued: “At this stage I don’t feel rage so much as weariness — that ‘difference’ is still latched onto as a reason to discriminate; weariness and, for me, relief, that it’s all over now. I’ve moved on out.”
She now attends the Church of Ireland (part of the Anglican Communion) where “I can stand tall because the Church of Ireland, whether I join it or not, accepts my full humanity. It ordains women.”
The pursuit by women of equality where it is denied them appears to be as sweepingly nondenominational as it is relentless.
The money quote. Cardinal George said:
“You don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism.” he said on FOX Chicago Sunday .
- 12/26/2011 Update: George backs water
Catholic coverup in another country. The Los Angeles Times reported:
Tens of thousands of Dutch children were sexually abused by priests and other Roman Catholic religious figures in the last 65 years, but church officials failed to take adequate action or report problems to police, an independent commission said Friday.
Many of the victims spent part of their childhood in Catholic institutions such as schools and orphanages, where the risk of abuse was twice as high as in the general population, the commission said. But complaints were often ignored or covered up by authorities who were more intent on protecting the church’s reputation than providing care for abuse victims.
Efforts are being made to give the victims legal recourse, says The Irish Times:
THE POSSIBILITY of changing the law to allow prosecutions against Catholic clergy believed to have been involved in child abuse is being examined by the Dutch cabinet. This is despite the fact that the statute of limitations on their alleged crimes has run out, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said last night.
The 1,100-page report of the Deetman Commission revealed last Friday that more than 800 Catholic priests and monks – 105 of whom are still alive – had systematically abused as many as 20,000 children, many of them sexually, in church-run institutions, between 1945 and 1985.
Holy Cross religion professor Mathew N. Schmalz sees the scandal as a requiem for Dutch Catholicism
But for some Catholics of my generation, the press conference was a coda, a requiem of sorts. Back in the ’70s, Dutch Catholicism represented an open and engaged Catholicism. It embodied a vision of what Catholicism could become in the wake of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
More apologies, too late and without credibility.
Written by a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi, the book “to be published very soon” by Editorial Planeta is entitled (translated from Spanish “The Kingdom of Marcial Maciel, the Secret Life of the Legion and Regnum Christi.”
Life-After-RC used Google to translate the announcement:
What is the future of the Legion of Christ?
Can it survive the stigma of having been founded, designed and conducted by Marcial Maciel?
Nelly Ramírez Mota Velasco, former consecrated women of Regnum Christi, strictly and accurately describes life inside the Legionaries of Christ and many of the characteristics that define this organization as a cult phenomenon within the Catholic Church.
This provides documents and testimony of those who gave their time, their resources, their faith and devotion to a man who, in the name of God, built his own kingdom and disappointed those who met and endorsed the group. Here we illustrate the abuse, control measures, embezzlement and diversion of funds that have been made for decades under the manipulation of the Gospel. It’s time to be self-critical, courageous, and change the house. For all who were and are part of the Movement, it’s time to tell the truth.
In what is probably the Catholic Church’s third largest sex abuse settlement, the Northwest Jesuits “agreed Friday to pay $166.1 million” to some 500 Native Americans and Alaska Natives who were abused at the order’s schools in the Pacific Northwest in the 1940s to the 1990s.
There have been two larger settlements. The Los Angeles Diocese, agreed to pay $660 million to 508 victims in 2007, and the San Diego Diocese agreed a $198 million settlement to 144 victims, also in 2007.
As Janet I. Tu of the Seattle Times explains the Northwest Jesuits’ payments are part of a bankruptcy settlement:
The order has also agreed to no longer call the victims “alleged victims,” to write apologies to them and to enforce new practices designed to prevent abuse, according to plaintiffs’ attorneys.
“It’s a day of reckoning and justice,” said Clarita Vargas, 51, of Tacoma, who was abused while a student at St. Mary’s Mission and School, a former Jesuit-run Indian boarding school on the Colville Indian Reservation near Omak.
Of the 500 victims, about 470 suffered sexual abuse. About two dozen others were physically abused.
Insurance companies will pay $118 million of the settlement, with the Jesuits paying $48.1 million.
Including this week’s settlement, the Northwest Jesuits, formally called the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, and their insurers have agreed to pay about $250 million total to some 700 victims. Victims’ lawyers say they’ve identified about 57 Jesuit priests or brothers who have abused.
According to Evi Pulkkinen of the Seattle Seattle Post Intelligencer:
It was, attorney for the plaintiffs said, “spiritual incest” on a staggering scale.
. . .
“Instead of teaching these Native American children about the love of God, these pedeophile priests were molesting these children,” said Blaine Tamaki, a Yakima attorney whose firm represented about a third of the non-Alaskan plaintiffs in a suit filed in 2009.
“It was a culture of abuse of Native American children,” Tamaki continued. “Today is the day where they are acknowledging guilt.
“The $166.1 million is the largest settlement by a religious order in the history of the world,” lawyer Blaine Tamaki said. “Over 450 Native American children – infants, toddlers to teenagers – were sexually abused repeatedly, from rape to sodomy, for decades throughout the Northwest. Instead of teaching these children how to read and write, Jesuit priests were teaching them distrust and shame.
“No amount of money can bring back a lost childhood, a destroyed culture or a shattered faith,” said Tamaki, who represented about 90 of the victims.
A sense of the horror of the underlying events is captured by a 2009 feature written by Brendan Kiley for theStranger. In a passage about Father James Poole. Kiley writes:
In a 2005 deposition, Rachel testified that she had been molested by Father Poole in 1975, while in Nome for her second suicide attempt, an attempted overdose of alcohol and pills. He’d come sit by her bed, put his hand under the hospital blanket, and fondle her, she said.
She traveled between Stebbins and Nome several times in the late 1970s, spending time in hospitals and receiving homes. By 1977, Rachel testified, Poole had given her gonorrhea, and by 1978 she was pregnant with his child. In an interview with The Stranger, she said Poole encouraged her to get an abortion and tell the doctors she had been raped by her father. She followed his advice. “He brainwashed me,” she said. “He messed up my head, man.”
This settlement does not cover all grievances or conclude the legal actions, as the Catholic Sentinel points out:
The settlement does not dismiss 37 lawsuits filed last month against entities, including Jesuit High School and Gonzaga University, on behalf of abuse victims. Those lawsuits were seeking about $3.1 million that the province had paid out prior to declaring bankruptcy two years ago.
In addition, the settlement does not include five to seven claims the lawyers are pursuing against two other insurers for the Jesuits — Travelers Insurance and Atlantic Mutual.
Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado wrote:
Obama’s visit to the tomb [of Oscar Romero] is being described as “extraordinary” by the Central American press, describing Romero as a Salvadoran martyr who was killed by the military. Roberto D’Aubuisson, the military officer who is suspected to have ordered Romero’s assassination, was trained in the United States and was permitted to observe US Special forces in action. D’Aubuisson is also the founder of ARENAS, the conservative political party that governed the country until 2009.
. . .
I see Obama’s visit as symbolic of a shift in US attitudes toward Central America. Gone I hope is the era of intervention and manipulation. The Central America of today is different from the one that saw Romero’s blood shed while saying mass. Some would argue that the crisis of gangs and drugs that is engulfing this region is leading to a crisis that will eclipse the civil wars of the 1980s and 1990s. And yet in spite of the growing violence, figures like Romero give us hope.
The National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters responded to the first “filing criminal charges against a high-ranking Roman Catholic official for allegedly failing to protect children” by concluding:
When the scandal broke in 2002, I wrote these words: “The Church’s lack of credibility on questions of sexual ethics is especially disheartening because the Church has a lot to say to a culture in which sexuality is dehumanized, commodified, and generally seen as less than the beautiful thing the Catholic Church’s best theology insists it is. It is more than a little ironic that a culture awash in images of underage sexuality–the same culture that gave Oscars to American Beauty and where Britney Spears albums go multi-platinum–is now struck with horror at the revelation of priestly molestation. The irony, however, is grim. When the Church is most needed to remind our culture that sexuality can and should be humanizing, a giving of self in freedom and love, a participation in God’s ongoing creative work, the Church instead finds itself in court.” I would not change a word.
The lesson from Philadelphia is as clear as day: Every bishop in America must do what the grand jury did, investigate the facts and remove those who not only perpetrated the crimes of sexual abuse, which I suspect has been largely done, but also remove those who perpetrated the crime of endangering children by covering that abuse up. They must invite outside scrutiny of the record. If they themselves were a party to any cover-ups, they must resign. The time for prevarications and obfuscations is over. And, at their forthcoming ad limina visits in Rome, the bishops must have the courage to raise the crisis of belief over the Church’s sexual teachings with the Vatican. This crisis will not go away.
Senior Catholic Church officials in the UK and US gave the iPhone application “Confession: A Roman Catholic App” their seal of approval, but the Vatican had serious reservations. Agence France-Presse reported:
“It is essential to understand that the rites of penance require a personal dialogue between penitents and their confessor … It cannot be replaced by a computer application,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told journalists.
“I must stress to avoid all ambiguity, under no circumstance is it possible to ‘confess by iPhone’,” he said.
It was created by Little iApps and is on sale for $1.99 via iTunes. According to the Los Angeles Times, developer Patrick Leinen says he worked “with the Rev. Thomas Weinandy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Rev. Dan Scheidt, pastor of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mishawaka, Ind:”
He said he was inspired by a papal message in January in which the pope asked “that young people may learn to use modern means of social communication for their personal growth and to better prepare themselves to serve society.”
With all of that official assistance, why did no remember that on January 24, Pope Benedict XVI said:
It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives.