FaithWorld

Vatican excommunicates pro-govt Chinese Catholic bishop, criticizes Beijing

(Christmas mass at a Catholic church in Beijing December 24, 2009./David Gray)

A Chinese bishop ordained without papal approval has been excommunicated from the Catholic Church, the Vatican has said, bringing relations between the Vatican and Beijing to a new low. In a statement branding Thursday’s ordination illegitimate, the Vatican said Pope Benedict “deplores” the way communist authorities are treating Chinese Catholics who want to remain faithful to Rome instead of to the state-backed Church.

China’s state-sanctioned Catholic Church ordained Joseph Huang Bingzhang as bishop in Shantou city in southern Guangdong province on Thursday despite warnings he would not be recognized because the city has a Vatican-approved bishop.

“Consequently, the Holy See does not recognize him … and he lacks authority to govern the Catholic community of diocese,” the Vatican said on Saturday.

Chinese Catholics, believed to number between 8 million and 12 million, are divided between those who are members of the Church backed by the Communist Party and those loyal to the pope.

In its statement, the Vatican said Beijing authorities had coerced some bishops loyal to the Holy See to attend the ordination service against their will and praised them for trying to resist. A source in China said last week the bishops were accompanied to the event by police.

German Catholic Church opens sexual abuse files, some back to end of WWII

(Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier, March 30, 2010/Johannes Eisele)

Germany’s Roman Catholic Church will open its files to independent investigators into a sexual abuse crisis, allowing a search as far back as 1945, a bishop announced on Wednesday. Nine German dioceses will open records dating back to the end of World War Two while the 18 others will do so for the period 2000 to 2010, Bishop Stephan Ackermann said in Bonn.

“We want to track down the truth that may be lying undiscovered in the files of previous decades,” said Ackermann, the spokesman on abuse issues for the bishops’ conference. The two studies will provide “not only formal statistics, but also research into the causes (of abuse),” he told journalists, “so we can better understand how this monstrous sexual abuse by clerics and church employees came about.”

The German Church, one of the worst affected in a wave of abuse revelations that swept Europe last year, will use the studies to help hitherto undiscovered victims and improve prevention of future abuse, Ackermann said.

Irish Catholic Church concealed child abuse even after new prevention rules in 1990s

(Cloyne Cathedral, 7 May 2009/John Armagh)

A government-sponsored report said on Wednesday the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Ireland continued to conceal the sexual abuse of children by priests even after it introduced rules in the mid-1990s to protect minors.

Revelations of rape and beatings by members of religious orders and the priesthood in the past have shattered the dominant role of the Catholic Church in Ireland. But the latest report into the handling of sex abuse claims in the diocese of Cloyne, in County Cork, shows that senior-ranking clergy were still trying to cover up abuse allegations almost until the present day.

“This is not a catalogue of failure from a different era. This is not about an Ireland of 50 years ago. This is about Ireland now,” Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald told a news conference.

German court fines SSPX Bishop Williamson for denying Holocaust

(Photo: Bishop Williamson leaves for London after expulsion order from Argentina, 24 Feb 2009/Enrique Marcarian)

Ultra-traditionalist Catholic bishop Richard Williamson was fined 6,500 euros Monday by a German court for publicly denying the Holocaust in 2009, a court spokesman said. British-born Williamson, 71, who belongs to a controversial Catholic splinter group, the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), was appealing a 2010 fine of 10,000 euros for telling Swedish TV that no more than 300,000 Jews perished in the Holocaust.

He also denied in the interview the existence of gas chambers at Nazi concentration camps. Holocaust denial is a hate crime in Germany. Consensus among historians is that the Nazis killed six million Jews in the Holocaust.

UK Catholics urged to shun meat on Fridays

(Fish and chips in London, 31 July 2010/Javier Vte Rejas)

Britain’s Catholics have been urged to make more effort to follow religious custom and abstain from eating meat on Fridays, potentially boosting sales of fish.

Church law required Catholics over the centuries to comply with this abstinence as part of Friday penance, the day set aside for special prayer and fasting to mark the day Jesus died. Traditionally Catholics have opted to eat fish instead, though a combination of new church guidance and changing eating habits has eroded this habit.

Now the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales wants to re-establish the practice of Friday penance and its abstinence from eating meat as a symbol of a simple shared act of self-denial.

Vatican boosts pressure on bishops to widen use of traditional Latin mass

(Pope Benedict XVI (R) leads the Easter Vigil mass in Saint Peter Basilica in Vatican April 23, 2011/Alessandro Bianchi)

The Vatican told Catholic bishops around the world on Friday they had to obey a papal order allowing priests to say the old-style Latin mass for traditionalist Catholics, whether they liked it or not. The Vatican issued an “instruction” to bishops as a follow-up to a 2007 papal decree authorizing the wider adoption of the Latin Mass, which was in universal use before the 1962-1965 Vatican Council introduced masses in local languages.

The re-instatement of the Latin mass was one of the demands of ultra-traditionalists whose leaders were excommunicated in 1988, prompting the first schism in modern times. The pope, in a nod the traditionalists, satisfied many of them in 2007 when he allowed a wider use of the Latin mass, in which the priest faced east with his back to the faithful for most of the service.

Vatican condemns Canadian ex-bishop over child porn

(Bishop Raymond Lahey arrives at a police station in Ottawa October 1, 2009 to face child pornography charges/Chris Wattie )

The Vatican has condemned former Canadian Bishop Raymond Lahey after he pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and said it planned to take disciplinary action against him.  Lahey, former Bishop of Antigonish in the eastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia, was charged with possession and importation of child pornography in 2009. He pleaded guilty on Wednesday and his sentence is due to be handed down later.

“The Catholic Church condemns sexual exploitation in all its forms, especially when perpetrated against minors,” the Vatican press office said in a statement on Wednesday. “Although the civil process has run its course, the Holy See will continue to follow the canonical procedures in effect for such cases, which will result in the imposition of the appropriate disciplinary or penal measures,” it added.

Belgium looks to Pope Benedict to help end its clerical sexual abuse crisis

brussels

(Grand Place, Brussels, 14 April 2009/Kiban)

Belgium’s politicians and prelates are looking to Pope Benedict to help end a clerical sexual abuse crisis that is crippling the local Catholic Church and frustrating judicial authorities unable to resolve it.

Calls to punish former Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, who shocked Belgium last week by publicly excusing abuse cases that caused his downfall last year, have come from the Belgian prime minister, justice and foreign ministers and several senior politicians. Belgian bishops have denounced Vangheluwe, 74, who quit as bishop of Bruges after admitting to molesting his nephew, and several bishops have made clear they want swift punitive action from the Vatican, which took control of his case this month.

But there is no consensus on what Benedict, who has the final say on Vangheluwe’s fate, should do. He has shied away from stiff punishments for bishops caught in the abuse crisis plaguing the Church in Europe and the United States.

Vatican warns China bishops over illegal ordination

(Christmas Mass at a Catholic church in Beijing December 24, 2009/David Gray )

(Christmas Mass at a Catholic church in Beijing December 24, 2009/David Gray )

Bishops in China who are ordained without papal authorisation inflict a “grave wound” on the entire Catholic Church and should not let themselves be manipulated by the government, the Vatican has said. The Vatican issued the warning on Thursday after a meeting of a special commission that studies the situation of Catholics in China, who are not allowed to recognise the pope’s authority but forced to be members of a state-backed Church.

Last November, the Vatican condemned the ordination without papal permission of Reverend Joseph Guo Jincai, a member of the state-backed Church in Chengde. For a period before that, China and the Vatican had reached an agreement that the Vatican would give tacit but not explicit approval to some of the appointments of bishops by the government-backed Church after discreet consultations.

It said at the time various bishops loyal to the pope had come under pressure to attend Guo’s ordination ceremony.

Belgium urges Vatican to impose harsh punishment on sex abuse bishop

(Belgium's Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck addresses the Justice Committee hearing on child sexual abuse in the Belgian Catholic Church, at the Belgian Parliament in Brussels September 17, 2010. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir )

(Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck addresses the Justice Committee hearing on child sexual abuse in the Belgian Catholic Church, September 17, 2010/Francois Lenoir )

Belgium’s justice minister urged the Vatican on Friday to impose stiff punishment on a disgraced Catholic bishop who denies being a paedophile despite admitting to sexually abusing two of his own nephews. Stefaan de Clerck spoke out amid a media uproar after former Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe defended himself on television by saying the abuse he committed was only “superficial.”

Vangheluwe, who quit his post and went into hiding a year ago after admitting to molesting a nephew, confessed in the interview on Thursday evening that he had molested a second one. He left Belgium last week under Vatican orders to seek “spiritual and psychological treatment” abroad and Belgian media say he is now in a French monastery. The Vatican has said the final decision on disciplining him lies with Pope Benedict.