FaithWorld

SPECIAL REPORT – In Irish schools, Catholic Church remains master

irish church school (Photo: A Virgin Mary statue in an Irish school, 3 June 2010/Cathal McNaughton)

Roisin Hyde was five when she was hastily baptised a few days before she started primary school. Hyde’s parents were agnostic but because non-Catholics in Ireland had few other places to learn how to read and write, the family latched onto the only option they knew.

Thirty-five years on and Hyde, an architect in Dublin, is struggling over where to educate her own two-year-old son.  It’s a dilemma faced by parents the world over. But in Ireland, where the Catholic Church runs more than nine in ten primary schools and half of all high schools, it’s a question that too often has just one answer.

“I would say that a lot of my friends, the only time they have been inside a church is to get their kids christened so they could go to the local school,” Hyde, 40, says. “I just feel so hypocritical doing it, going along for one day and then not attending.”

The reverence with which the Irish hold the Catholic Church had begun to fade even before the abuse scandals of recent years. As the economy boomed in the 1990s and 2000s, churches emptied. The abuse revelations have further undermined the Church’s authority and fractured trust, alienating committed believers as senior clergy have remained in their posts. Parents, politicians, and even church leaders have begun to call for a rollback of clerical power. Why should our children have to follow a creed just to get an education, many ask.

Despite these changing attitudes, the Catholic Church retains far more power in Ireland than in almost any other country in Europe. And nowhere is the Irish Church so deeply woven into the fabric of daily life than in education. The number of nuns and priests teaching may be down compared to a few decades ago, but the Church controls so many schools and writes so many of the rules its influence remains pervasive. In Ireland, “if it’s a state school, it’s Catholic. If it’s private, it’s usually Catholic,” Hyde says.

Malaysia court hears landmark dispute on religious conversion

kl skyline

Kuala Lumpur, August 25, 2009/Bazuki Muhammad

Malaysia’s highest court has begun proceedings on a landmark inter-religious child custody dispute whose outcome could further raise political tension in this mainly Muslim country.  The Federal Court heard objections by lawyers for an ethnic Indian couple fighting each other for custody of their two children and adjourned for two weeks before hearing the case.

A Hindu woman, Shamala Sathiyaseelan, won temporary custody of her two children in 2004 following her husband’s conversion to Islam. She is seeking full custody and a declaration that it is illegal under Malaysia’s constitution for a parent to convert a minor to Islam without the other’s consent.

Malaysia’s dual-track legal system where Muslims fall under Islamic family laws while non-Muslims come under civil laws has led to overlaps and unresolved religious disputes that have fuelled minority unhappiness and raised political tensions.

Chile RC bishops sorry for abuse, Brazilian priests scandal

christ statue

The statue of "Christ the Redeemer" is enshrouded in clouds atop Corcovado mountain in Rio de Janeiro, 8 Oct 1999/Gregg Newton.

The Roman Catholic Church in Chile on Tuesday said there had been 20 confirmed or alleged cases of child abuse by priests, and asked for forgiveness from the victims.

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.

INTERVIEW – Church abuse scandal can hurt other faiths – Mufti

ceric-pope

Pope Benedict XVI greets Muslim delegation head Mustafa Ceric (R), the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, at the Vatican on November 6, 2008/Osservatore Romano

A scandal over the sexual abuse of children by priests could harm the credibility of other religions as well as Roman Catholicism, a senior European Muslim leader says.

Mustafa Ceric, the spiritual leader of Bosnia’s Muslim majority and a key figure in Christian-Muslim dialogue, told Reuters he hoped Pope Benedict would act decisively to tackle the paedophilia problem and prevent further harm.

Senegal’s Koranic “scholars” face beatings: report

senegal 2

Fali Ba, 10, a Talibe or Islamic student, holds a copy of the Koran at a Dara, or Koranic school, in Pikine on the outskirts of Senegal's capital Dakar, May 7, 2008/Finbarr O'Reilly

Barefoot children in tattered clothes scramble through the dusty, trash-strewn streets of Dakar, tapping on car windows and shadowing market-goers in the hopes of a few coins or a cup of rice.

The sight of young people begging is not uncommon in a country struggling with deep-rooted poverty, but in the West African state of Senegal there is a twist.

Homosexuality, not celibacy, linked to pedophilia, says Vatican #2

bertone

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone during a news conference in Santiago April 12, 2010/Ivan Alvarado

It is homosexuality, not celibacy, that is linked to pedophilia, the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said on Monday, seeking to defuse the sex scandal that has battered the Roman Catholic Church.

On a visit to Chile, Bertone, dubbed the Deputy Pope, also said Pope Benedict would soon take more surprising initiatives regarding the sex abuse scandal but did not elaborate.

Pupils “sadistically tormented” at German Catholic monastery

ettal

Ettal monastery, March 3, 2010/Johannes Eisele

Children were “sadistically tormented and also sexually abused” at a Catholic monastery in Pope Benedict’s native Bavaria, according to a new report commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church.

A lawyer investigating accusations of abuse in a Benedictine monastery school in Ettal presented a final report to the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising on Monday, including 173 pages of victims’ accounts of abuse.

“My investigations quite clearly show that for decades up until around 1990, children and adolescents were brutally abused in the Ettal monastery,” Thomas Pfister said in a statement.  “The number of victims’ accounts has increased significantly since the intermediary report of March 5,” added Pfister, who said last month that hundreds of pupils had been beaten and some sexually abused at the school.

Italian sexual abuse victims want Pope Benedict to speak out

verona 1

Abuse victim Gianni Bisoli in Verona April 8, 2010/Paolo Bona

Abuse victim Dario Laiti is deaf and has great difficulty speaking. But he has a clear message for Pope Benedict: expose predator priests, past and present, living and dead, for the good of the Church.

“I think the pope has to carry out justice. He has to get rid of all the priests who abused children. He has to tell the world who these people were and which of them are still living,” Laiti told Reuters in the northern Italian city of Verona.

So far, the pope has not spoken out directly on the new wave of sexual abuse allegations that is hounding the Church in a number of countries, including the United States, Italy and his native Germany.

Pope-victims gap is tip of iceberg of incomprehension in Catholic Church

benedict blesses

Pope Benedict in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, 17 March 2010/Alessandro Bianchi

The wide gap between Pope Benedict’s letter to the Irish and the reaction it received from victims — the subject of my analysis today on the Reuters wire — is the tip of an iceberg of incomprehension. The frank letter went further than any previous papal condemnation of clerical sex abuse of children, an aspect that Benedict’s defenders promptly highlighted, and went so far as to say some bishops had committed “grave errors of judgment” and undermined their own credibility. This is strong stuff indeed, especially from a man like Joseph Ratzinger who has a far loftier image of the Church and its servants (more on that later).

But what was bold for Benedict was still cowardly for his critics, who saw these “grave errors of judgment” as only the starting point and wanted to hear what the pope would do about them. “The smallest steps that are obvious for any reasonable person are made painfully slowly, which ruins the Church’s reputation radically,” the German group Initiative Kirche von Unten (Church from Below Initiative). This and other victims’ groups, backed up in several countries by the media, some politicians and apparently quite a few Catholics in the pews, appreciate the apologies but want to go beyond them.  They want to go up the chain of command and hold those bishops responsible who hushed up abuse cases, moved predator priests around and extracted secrecy deals from frightened victims.

Germany says Catholic Church covered up sexual abuse

leut

Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger at the chancellery in Berlin March 3, 2010/Thomas Peter

Germany’s justice minister has accused the Vatican today of covering up severe sexual abuse in the Church after fresh reports surfaced at three Catholic schools in Bavaria.

Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger called the developments “frightening” after the cathedral choir in Regensburg, the Benedictine monastery school at Ettal and a Capucian school in Burghausen revealed new cases of sexual and physical abuse.