FaithWorld

Former Belgian Catholic leader Danneels says not responsible for abuse

danneels (Photo: Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels at a parliamentary committee hearing on child sexual abuse in the Belgian Catholic Church, in Brussels December 21, 2010./Francois Lenoir)

Belgium’s former top Roman Catholic bishop told a parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday into the sexual abuse of children by clerics that he was not responsible for other Belgian bishops.

Belgium’s lower house set up the inquiry to examine an issue that has rocked the Catholic Church worldwide and resulted in hundreds of victims coming forward. Widespread sexual abuse of minors by Belgian clerics drove at least 13 victims to suicide, a Church commission said in September, recording 475 cases.

Tape recordings released in Belgium this summer made it clear that Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who until January was archbishop of Brussels and head of the Belgian bishops’ conference, was aware of abuse by Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe but had discouraged immediate public statements by the victim.

“I cannot give orders to other bishops. I have no legal authority over other bishoprics and I think that is at the base of a lot of the problems that have been mentioned here,” Danneels told the inquiry on Tuesday. He denied any effort to hush up cases of abuse.

Some MPs were disappointed with his four-hour testimony. “Cardinal Danneels missed an opportunity to improve his image,” said Green deputy Stefaan Van Hecke.

Condoms sometimes permissible to stop AIDS: Pope

pope seatedThe use of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS may be justified in certain cases, Pope Benedict says in a new book that could herald the start of sea
change in the Vatican’s attitude to condoms.

In excerpts published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on Saturday, the pope cites the example of the use of condoms by prostitutes as “a first step toward moralization” but says that condoms were “not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection.”

While some Roman Catholic leaders have spoken in the past about the limited use of condoms in specific cases to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS as a lesser of two evils, this is the first time the pope has mentioned the possibility.

Pope visit costs criticized in austerity-hit Spain

Cost to the taxpayer seems to be the latest target for protesters when Pope Benedict comes to town. After a lively debate about the price the public had to pay for his visit to Britain in September, Spanish protesters have picked up the torch with complaints about the estimated 3.7 million to 5 million euros the state will spend on logistics and security for the pope. And this at a time when Spain is burdened with 20 percent unemployment and is struggling to emerge from recession and austerity measures that have slashed public sector wages.

“I think it’s bad, I mean really bad, to spend so much money on a guy who comes, gives a speech, stays an hour and leaves,” said Pedro Barral Gonzalez, 18, in Santiago de Compostela, the city in northwestern Spain that the pope visited on Saturday.

Spending on papal visits is often controversial, and Spanish spending on the 32-hour visit is dwarfed by other recent trips, but it still drew criticism.

Belgian Church moves on abuse but victims still unhappy

leonardBelgium’s Catholic Church responded to an abuse scandal with plans to create a reconciliation centre and set new rules for priests, but victim groups called the moves insufficient. “The past months have been very difficult for the Church and for us. We are fully committed to tackling this problem in a new way,” Archbishop André-Joseph Leonard told a news conference. “It causes us pain. Coming out of such a crisis is not easy.” (Photo: Archbishop Leonard at news conference, 13 Sept 2010/Yves Herman)

The scandal erupted in April when the Bishop of Bruges resigned after admitting he had sexually abused his nephew. A commission monitoring abuse last week released a report saying clerical abuse was widespread in Belgium. Critics accuse the Church of not acting against errant priests and turning a blind eye to abuse. The commission said it found no evidence that the Church had systematically covered up crimes, although had found instances where nothing was done.

The centre for recognition, healing and reconciliation for victims will possibly be set up by the end of the year.

UK’s Archbishop Vincent Nichols welcomes “historic” papal visit

nichols 1Pope Benedict will make his first visit to Britain as head of the Roman Catholic Church on September 16-19. This will also be the first official papal visit to the country. Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, talks with Reuters about the trip in the context of the Church’s child-abuse scandal, tensions with the Anglican Church and planned protests. (Photo: Archbishop Vincent Nichols (L) and the prime minister’s special representative for the papal visit, Chris Patten, July 5, 2010 in London/Peter Macdiarmid)

Here’s our news story on the interview — Archbishop of Westminster says pope not fishing for Anglicans — and below are excerpts from the transcript.

Q: The pope is due to arrive in Scotland shortly. What keeps you awake at night about the visit?

Catholic Church and UK colluded in Northern Ireland bomb cover-up: report

northern ireland (Photo: Nationalist youths set a car alight in Belfast on July 13, 2010/Cathal McNaughton)

The British government and the Roman Catholic Church colluded to protect a priest suspected of involvement in a 1972 bombing in Northern Ireland that killed 9 people, an official report said on Tuesday.

The Police Ombudsman’s report revealed that an Irish cardinal was involved in transferring Father James Chesney out of British-ruled Northern Ireland, highlighting again the role of the Church hierarchy in protecting priests against allegations of criminal activity.

The inquiry showed that Secretary of State for Northern Ireland William Whitelaw had a private “tete-a-tete” with Cardinal William Conway, the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, in 1972 in which they discussed the possibility of moving Chesney out of Northern Ireland.

Poland’s cross wars revive debate on role of Catholic Church

cross 2 (Photo: Protesters urging removal of the cross at the presidential palace. The road sign reads “Attention! Cross defenders.” August 9, 2010/Kacper Pempel)

A simple wooden cross honouring victims of a plane crash that killed Poland’s president in April has spurred demands that the influence of the powerful Roman Catholic Church be pared back to forge a more secular Poland.

A scout group set a crucifix outside the presidential palace in Warsaw, which turned into a shrine for the victims. Four months later, the three-meter-high cross is still there, festooned with candles and flowers despite attempts by the state and some clergy to move it to a nearby church. The “cross defenders” stood their ground, squabbling with police.

The cross debate reflects political divisions. It has become a rallying point for radical rightists backed by the main opposition, the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party led by Kaczynski’s twin brother, Jaroslaw.

Gay marriage law in Argentina signals waning Catholic power in Latin America

gay buenosThe Catholic Church’s failure to derail a gay marriage law in Argentina shows once powerful clergymen losing their influence in Latin America, where pressure is growing for more liberal social legislation. (Photo: Gay couple in Buenos Aires,  November 25, 2009/Marcos Brindicci)

The law, which lets gay couples marry and adopt children, was approved last week to the cheers of hundreds of gay couples gathered outside Congress despite opposition from churchmen, who called gay families “perverse.”

“We shouldn’t be naive: this isn’t just a political struggle, it’s a strategy to destroy God’s plan,” Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the head of the Church in Argentina, said in a letter before the vote, urging lawmakers to reject the bill.  Mexico City and Uruguay upset the conservative Catholic hierarchy by passing similar legislation last year, and more liberal laws on social issues are likely in the region.

Vatican toughens child sex abuse rules, says ordaining women is serious crime

The Vatican made sweeping revisions on Thursday it its laws on sexual abuse, doubling a statute of limitations for disciplinary action against priests and extending the use of fast-track procedures to defrock them.

In an unexpected move, the Vatican also codified the “attempted ordination of a woman” to the priesthood as one of the most serious crimes against Church law.

The changes, the first in nine years, affect Church procedures for defrocking abusive priests. They make some legal procedures which were so far allowed under an ad hoc basis, the global norms to confront the crisis.

Austrian priests critical of Rome, want marriage allowed

The Catholic Church is stuck in the past and has handled the recent sexual abuse scandal poorly, according to a rare survey of 500 priests in Austria, which also showed a majority in favour of allowing them to marry and for women to become priests.

Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn was rebuked by the Vatican on Monday for accusing a top official of covering up sexual abuse, but it appears he is not the only Austrian to question how Rome has handled the issue.

Only 21 percent of Austrian priests think that the Vatican has done a good job in terms of dealing with the problem, the survey by researcher GFK Austria showed. Around half said they were at odds with many aspects of the Catholic leadership, and 48 percent agreed with a statement that the church leadership was “helpless” and “lacking vision.”