Pope Benedict XVI announced he is establishing a pontifical council for new evangelization to find ways “to re-propose the perennial truth of the Gospel” in regions where secularism is smothering church practice.
. . .
“I have decided to create a new organism, in the form of a pontifical council, with the principal task of promoting a renewed evangelization in the countries where the first proclamation of faith has already resounded and where there are churches of ancient foundation present, but which are living through a progressive secularization of society and a kind of ‘eclipse of the sense of God,'” he said.
No church planting required, reversing secularization is only in part of matter of reversing or at least slowing the decline in church membership and attendance in countries like Austria, Belgium and Germany. Yet as Philip Jenkins recently pointed out in The Christian Century, it is a battle with many fronts, including replenishing the depleting ranks of the priesthood:
Particularly in Western Europe, Catholic countries have been becoming steadily more secular for at least a generation, quite independent of any claims of priestly deviance. In no sense is European religion dying — just witness the continuing popularity of pilgrimage and other popular devotions — but loyalty to the institutional church has weakened disastrously. Rates of mass attendance have declined steeply, as have the numbers of those admitting even notional adherence to the church. Today, fewer than half of French people claim a Catholic identity. The number of priestly vocations has been in free fall since the 1960s, leaving many seminaries perhaps a quarter as full as they were in the time of Pope John XXIII.
Failure of atavistic movements like the SBC’s GCR and the pope’s pontifical council for new evangelization is probably foreordained by the degree to which the secularization they attack is embedded in the cultures to which they speak. Again, as Jenkins observes regarding secularization and the Roman Catholic Church:
One gauge of transformed Catholic attitudes has been the sharp drop in fertility rates and family size. Since the 1970s women increasingly pursued careers and higher education, and the use of contraception spread rapidly, despite stern church disapproval. Fertility rates plummeted, such that Spain and Italy today have among the lowest fertility rates in the world, far below the level needed for population replacement. Catholic Germany stands about the same level. German sociologist Ulrich Beck notes wryly that in Western Europe today, the closer a woman lives to the pope, the fewer children she has. Ireland’s fertility rate today is less than half what it was in 1970.
There is no reason a couple with few or no children should not be fervently pious. But the trend away from large families reflects broader social changes. A society in which women have more economic autonomy is less likely to accept traditional church teachings on moral and sexual issues. The resulting conflicts have steadily pushed back the scope of church involvement in public life. Abortion became legal in Italy in 1978 and in Spain in 1985. The Irish church suffered a historic defeat in 1997 when a referendum narrowly allowed the possibility of divorce. Today, across Catholic Europe, same-sex marriage is the main moral battlefield—with Spain in the vanguard of radical secularism and sexual liberation. The Catholic Church struggles to present its views to a society suspicious of institutional and traditional authority of any kind and quite accustomed to ideas of gender equality, sexual freedom and sexual difference.
Brazilian Msgr. Luiz Marques Barbosa was detained Sunday after a congressional hearing provoked by television broadcast of a video which was secretly filmed in January, 2009, by a 21-year-old man who charges Barbosa had abused him since age 12.
In Chile, the Roman Catholic Church on Tuesday said 20 confirmed or alleged cases of child abuse by priests:
Monsignor Alejandro Goic, head of Chile’s bishops’ conference, said that in five of the cases sentences had been imposed, in another five trials were still under way, and in 10 others priests had been absolved or results were pending.
A Mexican citizen has filed suit against US cardinal Roger Mahony and Mexican cardinal Norberto Rivera for intentionally covering up a pattern of child sex abuse by former priest Nicolas Aguilar. AFP reports:
The case claims that Aguilar demonstrated a pattern of sexual abuse of minors that was known to Rivera, who nonetheless authorized his transfer to the Los Angeles Archdiocese in 1987. The suit alleges Rivera sent Mahony a letter detailing Aguilar’s “homosexual problems,” including information about alleged child sex abuse, but the Mexican priest was allowed to remain in his office.
Canon lawyer and a civil lawyer Thomas J. Paprocki, who the Associated Press reports once blamed the devil for sexual abuse lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Church and proposed shielding the church from legal damages, was appointed the new bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois.
Pope Benedict XVI, speaking in Rome at his weekly audience, promised “action” on abuse by priests.
The case of Stephen Kiesle raises questions about whether and if so why then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger delayed for years the action requested to better protect young Catholics from a predator.
Michael Sean Winters, writing for the Jesuit magazine American, excoriates the secular press and defends Vatican handling of the case in which “the priest who tied up young boys and molested them sexually and whose request to be defrocked came before” Ratzinger.
Grant Gallicho at dotCommonweal strips Winters’ defense to the bone today. At the heart of the scandal, Gallicho finds damning questions:
So, why shouldn’t we raise questions about Rome’s role in the Kiesle case? Because the local bishop didn’t do enough, and besides Ratzinger didn’t receive a sufficiently detailed description of the priest’s crimes, and besides the process didn’t engage the proper canonical technicality? But we don’t have to choose to be troubled either by the local bishop or Ratzinger. We need not view the [Ratziner-headed Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith] CDF’s shortcomings in indirect proportion to the local bishop’s, so that the CDF is absolved to the extent that the local bishop failed. The same pattern of argument emerged in the Murphy case. “What about Weakland’s responsibility?” Benedict’s defenders asked, as though that swept away the questions that remained about the pope’s role in the case. Yes, why didn’t Weakland restrict Murphy sooner? Why did he wait three years after learning of Murphy’s egregious sins before sending the case to Rome? Why didn’t Kiesle’s bishop restrict him sooner? But they appealed to Rome, so: why did the CDF wait three years after receiving all the information it requested from Cummins to reply? Why was a Vatican official unable to grasp what the Kiesle’s superiors meant when they gently referred to his abuse of minors, even going so far as mentioning his criminal conviction? Why wasn’t the conviction determinative?
And then there are the larger questions: Why was Ratzinger on this case? Benedict’s defenders have claimed that he shouldn’t be blamed for Rome’s failure to address abuse claims promptly because he wasn’t officially responsible for such cases until 2001. Obviously that isn’t the whole story. Why not? Why was Ratzinger not really engaged in the Murphy case, which involved the abuse of as many as 200 deaf boys, but he was directly responsible for the decision not to release Kiesle from the full obligations of the clerical state? When Kiesle was finally fully laicized at age forty, whose decision was that? Ratzinger’s?
Certainly smoke enough to imply a gun as we struggle with questions Benedict could answer but does not.
Needless to say, I did NOT say “I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI” or anything so personally grandiloquent. You have to remember that The Sunday Times is a Murdoch newspaper, and that all newspapers follow the odd custom of entrusting headlines to a sub-editor, not the author of the article itself.
What I DID say to Marc Horne when he telephoned me out of the blue, and I repeat it here, is that I am whole-heartedly behind the initiative by Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens to mount a legal challenge to the Pope’s proposed visit to Britain. Beyond that, I declined to comment to Marc Horme, other than to refer him to my ‘Ratzinger is the Perfect Pope’ article.
[H/T: Andrew Sullivan]
Vatican guidelines of clerical sex abuse at last clearly require church-wide obedience to civil law, the New York Times reported today, while Connecticut bishops fight to limit the coverage of that civil law.
In Canada, there is no statute of limitations after which civil or criminal liability expires. As Child Abuse Effects explains:
When it comes to child abuse, there is no statute of limitations in Canada. Whether the child abuse occurred 5 minutes ago, 5 weeks ago, 5 or 50 years ago, an offender can still be charged. Nowhere is the latter more evident than with our Aboriginal people: more than 7,000 lawsuits have been filed against the Canadian Federal Government claiming sexual, physical and cultural abuse suffered at Residential Schools.
Connecticut bishops don’t want their state to emulate Canada, out of concern for the church as a financial entity. As NBC Connecticut reported, “Church officials say it could have devastating financial effects and could result in claims that are more than 50-years old which would be impossible to defend in court. Currently, victims have until their 48th birthday to file lawsuits.”
Impossible to defend? No. The burden of proof cuts both ways. So as Mark Silk observed, we’re left with the money bishops still don’t want to spend healing victims.
Arthur Budzinski, one of the victims of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, describes the pain of having been abused as a youth at a school for the deaf in Wisconsin:
What troubles me even more is that in doing this, church authorities repeatedly dragged other people into collusion and thus into what — in more convenient circumstances — they themselves would call sin. Young victims, particularly of sexual crimes, badly need to know that they are absolutely accepted as innocents betrayed: the crime is not their burden and does not define them. One of the ways in which societies achieve this is by openly punishing the perpetrator. Too often, that didn’t happen. In some of the most infamous Irish cases the children who suffered were sworn to secrecy, with all the dusty, incense-smelling, habit-rustling impressiveness of canonical process. They were made to collaborate in the shame, by men round whose necks hung the cross they had been taught to revere.
Read the entire piece here.
[H/T: Ruth Gledhill]
The Rev. Stephen Kiesle remained a priest for years while then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger “bucked pleas from the Oakland, Calif., diocese to defrock him.” The Associated press has obtained a copy of 1985 letter signed by Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), delaying a decision for “the good of the Universal Church.”
The Contra Costa Times reports:
The letter came five years after Kiesle himself requested removal from the priesthood, and the diocese recommended it to the Vatican, following Kiesle’s no-contest plea in 1978 on a misdemeanor charge for tying up and molesting two preteen boys in the rectory of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Union City.
Kiesle, now 63 and recently released from prison, lives in the Rossmoor senior community in Walnut Creek and wears a Global Positioning System anklet. He is on parole for a different sex crime against a child. A self-described “Pied Piper of the neighborhood,” he is perhaps the most notorious among dozens of East Bay clergy accused of sex abuse over decades.
Numerous accusers have claimed he abused them as children at Our Lady of the Rosary, Santa Paula (now Our Lady of Guadalupe) in Fremont and Saint Joseph in Pinole, where he served in the mid-1970s, then returned in 1985 to volunteer as a youth minister.
What comprehensible “good” was there in delay of a decision on this this?
[H/T: Eric Bugyis]
Mary Kate Cary, former White House speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush, writes in U.S. News & World Report:
For the hierarchy of the church to imply that the controversy is a “challenge” coming from outside the community of believers is just wrong. The people who are most worked up about the charges of sexual abuse are not the so-called enemies of the church, but the young Catholic victims and their families, the lay parishioners and parents of children being raised in the church, and the good priests whose reputations are being tarred by this. At another Easter Mass in my neighborhood, at a parish so full of young families they have overflow seating in the gym every Sunday, the monsignor got a standing ovation after saying he thought the children would have been better protected if women had been in the leadership of the church in the first place, and that the bishops involved should resign. I’ve never seen a standing ovation in church in my life. It’s the community of believers who are as mad as hell. Really, it’s heartbreaking.
Accused of molesting two girls in the United States, Father Joseph Jeyapaul , has for the last five years worked for Catholic schools in India:
Bishop Victor Balke of Minnesota first reported the allegations to the Vatican and the priest’s Indian bishop in 2005, according to a letter released by a lawyer representing the victim in a civil lawsuit.
Attorney Jeffrey Anderson “presented documents from the Crookston, Minnesota, diocese and from local police that accuse Father Joseph Jeyapaul of molesting two teenage girls starting six years ago:”
A girl who was considering becoming a nun was threatened by Jeyapaul if she did not accept his advances, according to the documents. They say he arranged to be with his victims alone — usually at his rectory.
Anderson says the bishop and the Vatican kept the problem a secret, permitting the priest to flee to India, to protect the reputation of the church.
Remind you of anything?