Natalie Sherman of the Boston Herald reported:
Two Massachusetts survivors of clergy sex abuse led fellow victims in a march toward the heart of the Vatican yesterday but were blocked from reaching St. Peter’s Square by Italian paramilitary police
Two people of the throng of about 100 protesters— which included 55 Italians from a notorious Catholic institute for the deaf in Verona, where dozens of students say they were abused by priests — were later permitted to leave letters and a dozen stones near the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square to mark a symbolic path so other survivors might know they have company in their suffering.
“This is the first time that a group of survivors this large has come together, and people have listened in Italy. In Italy! That’s success to me,” organizer Gary Bergeron, a former Lowell resident, told The Associated Press after the march.
Read the rest here.
British legal expert Geoffrey Robertson QC with painstaking care argues in the Guardian that the Vatican is not a state, the pope is not immune to prosecution and crimes appear to have been committed:
The truly shocking finding of Judge Murphy’s commission in Ireland was not merely that sexual abuse was “endemic” in boys’ institutions but that the church hierarchy protected the perpetrators and, despite knowledge of their propensity to reoffend, allowed them to take up new positions teaching other children after their victims had been sworn to secrecy.
This conduct, of course, amounted to the criminal offence of aiding and abetting sex with minors. In legal actions against Catholic archdioceses in the US it has been alleged that the same conduct reflected Vatican policy as approved by Cardinal Ratzinger (as the pope then was) as late as November 2002. Sexual assaults were regarded as sins that were subject to church tribunals, and guilty priests were sent on a “pious pilgrimage” while oaths of confidentiality were extracted from their victims.
The claim to immunity is under challenge in the U.S, and Robertson argues:
This claim could be challenged successfully in the UK and in the European Court of Human Rights.
But in any event, head of state immunity provides no protection for the pope in the international criminal court (see its current indictment of President Bashir). The ICC Statute definition of a crime against humanity includes rape and sexual slavery and other similarly inhumane acts causing harm to mental or physical health, committed against civilians on a widespread or systematic scale, if condoned by a government or a de facto authority. It has been held to cover the recruitment of children as soldiers or sex slaves. If acts of sexual abuse by priests are not isolated or sporadic, but part of a wide practice both known to and unpunished by their de facto authority then they fall within the temporal jurisdiction of the ICC – if that practice continued after July 2002, when the court was established.
Certainly the Pope deserves and is granted respect as a spiritual leader. Because that does not automatically confer upon him the rights of an immune sovereign, the once imponderable likelihood of some overarching resolution in a court of earthly law now seems reasonable.
I think it will finish by becoming a dialogue of the deaf, because of two things. One: The two positions in themselves are irreconcilable. For example 2+2=4 and 2+2=5 it’s irreconcilable. Therefore of three things, one: either they say 2+2=4 , enounce reality and say 2+2=5 –that is to say the Fraternity would abandon the truth that God forbids us to do or that those who say that 2+2=5 convert and return to the truth or the two come half-way, that means everyone decides that 2+2=4 ½ . It’s wrong. Therefore, either the Fraternity betrays itself or Rome converts, or it is a dialogue of the deaf.
[Full translation of the interview here.]
The pope set off a firestorm of criticism by lifting the excommunication from four Society of St Pius X bishops last January, among them holocaust-denier Williamson. The pope eventually admitted his handling of the matter was a mistake. Yet controversy over the attempt to reconcile with the historically anti-Semitic SSPX continues to simmer.
In his most recent interview Williamson skates past his Holocaust denial, still without apologizing. Yet his interview is still rich in points of controversy. For example, he does say Christians have been “chased out” of the Holy Land and he defies mainstream Catholicism with the claim that Jews who don’t accept Jesus are no longer the “chosen people.”
Williamson’s comments probably do harm by giving resounding affirmation to negative views of the Vatican’s attempt to reconcile with SSPX. Yet he is not a spokesman for SSPX. Williamson is, in effect, speaking out of turn. His Holocaust denial caused such an uproar early last year that the head of the SSPX, Bishop Bernard Fellay, issued a gag order and Williamson was removed as head of the SSPX seminary in Argentina. Now at home in Britain, he lives in an SSPX home in the Wimbledon section of London in what he called “an unexpected but quite agreeable sabbatical year.”
Do you not wonder if Bishop Fellay will now further define for Williamson the restrictions of that sabbatical?
[H/T: Cathy Lynn Grossman ]
As Pope Benedict XVI prepares to visit the Tempio Maggiore synagogue in Rome on Jan. 17 as part of efforts to improve relations between Catholics and Jews, dealings between them are strained on at least two fronts.
First, the Vatican has had to defend moving Pope Pius XII toward sainthood in the face of Jewish criticism that he should have done more to resist the Holocaust.
Second and less publicized are incidents of priests, monks and nuns being spat at by Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem.
The latter was reported by the Jerusalem Post in November. A Franciscan monk told the publication that he’s been spat at about 15 times in the past six months.
An article in the National Catholic Reporter cites the Post story (without linking to it), mentioning a comment by Rabbi David Rosen. He says that the spitting incidents have become “a part of life” for priests, nuns and other Christian clergy in Jerusalem.
The NCR story says Orthodox Jewish leaders have denounced harassment of Christian clergy.
USA Today religion reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman mentions the NCR story (also without linking to it) in a column about the spitting incidents, which she calls an example of people of one faith saying to another, “My God’s better than yours.”
But why would anyone think their God would be pleased with a universal sign of contempt?
The letter was signed by Reps. Frank Wolf of Virginia, Chris Smith of New Jersey, Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, Trent Franks of Arizona and Anh “Joseph” Cao of Louisiana.
They call the gay genocide legislation antithetical to the Christian belief in the “inherent dignity and worth” of all human beings, and there are reports that he agrees and has assured U.S. officials that he will block the bill.
Mark Silk covers the Ugandan anti-homosexuality act.
Richard Land’s passion for foreign policy should not be confined to his current call for trade sanctions against Iran. Nothing should stop Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, from joining fellow Southern Baptist evangelical Rick Warren and a long list of other Christian leaders in opposing Uganda’s gay genocide legislation.
Buried in an interview with the London Telegraph is Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ first public declaration of opposition to the Ugandan gay genocide legislation. His wording implied that all members of the Anglican Communion, obviously including those in Uganda, should oppose the legislation. He stopped just short of calling out Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi.
The Telegraph’s George Pitcher wrote [emphasis ours]:
“Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades,” says Dr Williams. “Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers.” He adds that the Anglican Church in Uganda opposes the death penalty but, tellingly, he notes that its archbishop, Henry Orombi, who boycotted the Lambeth Conference last year, “has not taken a position on this bill”.
Williams’ hand was apparently forced by the dramatically announced opposition of similarly reluctant Saddleback Community Church pastor Rick Warren (Williams interview is dated Dec. 11, shortly after Warren’s statement), and a parade of other religious leader opposition, including the implicit opposition of the Vatican. Ekklesia reported that several British Christian organizations had also expressed opposition, “including Accepting Evangelicals, Changing Attitude, Courage, Ekklesia, Fulcrum and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.”
Williams became a focus of criticism when he remained silent on Uganda yet issued a sharp, immediate rebuke to the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles for on Dec. 5 choosing as bishop the Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool, a lesbian who has been in a partnered relationship for two decades.
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori took a stand against “the pending Ugandan legislation that would introduce the death penalty for people who violate portions of that country’s anti-homosexuality laws,” in effective contrast with Williams’ silence.
The effect of growing international pressure on the legislation is still unclear. It is part of an Africa-wide slide toward repression of homosexuals, the Guardian reported today (12/13) [emphasis ours]:
There is wide support for [Ndorwa West, Uganda, MP David] Bahati’s [anti-homosexuality] law which, while being an extreme piece of anti-gay legislation, is not unique. As far as gay rights are concerned, it would appear that much of Africa is going backwards. Nigeria has a similar bill waiting to reach its statute books and already allows the death penalty for homosexuality in northern states, as does Sudan. Burundi criminalised homosexuality in April this year, joining 37 other African nations where gay sex is already illegal. Egypt and Mali are creeping towards criminalization, using morality laws against same-sex couples.
. . .
He [Bahati] denied reports that international pressure might result in parts of the bill being toned down. “We are not going to yield to any international pressure – we cannot allow people to play with the future of our children and put aid into the game. We are not in the trade of values. We need mutual respect.”
Somewhat factually challenged Rick Warren tweeted and reiterated the allegation that last year 146,000 Christians were put to death because of their faith. No one, except Christians, said anything.”
Unless you count Amnesty International (not a Christian organization) and Human Rights Watch — and others.
The number 146,000 is almost as startling as Warren’s willingness to encourage, without just cause, self-isolating Christian self-pity. In the lengthy process of attempting to find a valid source for Warren’s claim, we learned that 146,000 is a number which turns up frequently. Almost as if it were a magic number:
- The number of Nigerians killed in road accidents in 2007.
- An apparently commonplace wrong answer to the question: How many people die per day, worldwide?.
- A number of deaths in Burma (Myanmar) associated with cyclone Nargis in May of 2008 when the Suu Kyi regime refused to allow the delivery of aid.
- The number of women who were expected to die of causes related to smoking in 1991, according to the Washington Post.
- A controversial top-end number of deaths in Darfur cited in an April of 2005 speech by then Assistant Secretary of State, Robert Zoellick.
- Not a number unearthed by a search of Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven online magazine produced no results. Not even when narrowed to just the number 146,000.
Dismissive assertions using dramatic, undocumented numbers — like Warren’s 146,000 tweet — tend to progressively discredit the source. It’s inevitable. Unless the source comes back with persuasive proof of his/her claims, they are demonstrations of untrustworthiness.
Thursday without actually mentioning Uganda. the Vatican voiced to a United Nations panel on sexual orientation and gender identity its opposition to “all grave violations of human rights against homosexual persons, such as the use of the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”
LBGT bloggers (1, 2) saw the statement as tacit opposition to Uganda’s gay genocide legislation, although the statement was explicitly a reiteration of a Vatican position taken last year. It also echoed the Vatican’s March position condemning violence against homosexuals without supporting the proposed U.N. Declaration on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, recognizing “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as new categories that need human rights protections.
Scott Long of Human Rights Watch reported that the statement Thursday “stunned” many in attendance and was in part the result of a lobbying effort:
Among the many people who contributed to this truly historic result, in which the Catholic Church affirmed a tradition of peace and charity, I particularly thank Boris Dittrich, who lobbied the Holy See for almost a year to declare this position.
Long also said in an email:
One of the panelists proposed that Rev. Rick Warren, instead of issuing statements from California that rights abuses are bad, needs to go to Uganda-he’s preached there before-and tell Ugandans that he opposes jailing LGBT people.
The Reverend Philip J. Bené, J.C.D., legal attaché to the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, said [emphasis mine]
Thank you for convening this panel discussion and for providing the opportunity to hear some very serious concerns raised this afternoon. My comments are more in the form of a statement rather than a question.
As stated during the debate of the General Assembly last year, the Holy See continues to oppose all grave violations of human rights against homosexual persons, such as the use of the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The Holy See also opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person.
As raised by some of the panelists today, the murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State. While the Holy See’s position on the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity remains well known, we continue to call on all States and individuals to respect the rights of all persons and to work to promote their inherent dignity and worth.
Thank you, Mr. Moderator.