Ireland braces for another Catholic clergy sex abuse report

irish-reportA damning report on sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in Dublin is due out later this week, only six months after another report on abuse in industrial and reformatory schools across the country accused priests and nuns of flogging, starving and, in some cases, raping children in their care.

“It will not be easy reading,” Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said of this new report back in May when the uproar over the first report prompted so many calls to counseling services for abuse victims that the advice centre had to close temporarily because it couldn’t handle all the inquiries. (Photo: Copy of the first report on clergy child abuse, 20 May 2009/Cathal McNaughton)

The Sunday Independent newspaper, which broke the news, said the report will accuse the four archbishops who preceded Martin of covering up the abuse “to preserve the power and aura of the Church and to avoid giving scandal to their congregations.”

Today, the daily Irish Independent said the diocese’s compensation bill for victims of child abuse is set to double to more than 20 million euros after publication of the report, now expected on Thursday. It is due to be presented to the Irish cabinet today.

“Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has prepared both clergy and public for what we are going to hear.  This is a major  break with the old tradition of secrecy, which played a major part in getting us into this mess,” wrote the Jesuit blogger Fergus O’Donoghue, editor of Studies: an Irish Quarterly Review“Our bishops, however, seem to have an air of  “business as usual”.  This makes them look exactly like our bankers!  They must realise that everything has changed and that diocesan and national synods in Ireland are decades overdue.  We must be assured that secrecy, particularly in the appointment of bishops, has been abandoned and that Irish Catholicism is moving into a new  era of openness and collaboration, even if it is about thirty years too late.”

Greek scandal as monastery linked to shady land deals

A Greek Orthodox monk at Mount Athos, 11 May 1999/Yiorgos KarahalisThe all-male Greek Orthodox monastic community of Mount Athos, a favourite stop for top Greek and foreign dignitaries such as Prince Charles but completely close to women, has long been a haven for those forsaking earthly pleasures to seek God.

You can imagine the shock, then, when Greeks learned that one of its main monasteries, the Vatopedi monastery dating back to the late 10th century, was conducting suspect land-swap deals with the Greek state.

According to Greek media, Vatopedi had nearly clinched a deal to exchange Vistonida Lake in northern Greece — which it claimed through 1,000-year-old documents — for  prime real estate elsewhere in Greece. The deal reportedly would have meant a substantial loss to the state.

Vatican’s Marcinkus can’t rest in peace

vaticancity.jpgUnless you’re a pope or a saint, it’s hard in Vatican City to make headlines years after your death. But not when you’re Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, the late former Vatican bank head whose name alone elicits controversy.

Marcinkus, whose tenure at the Vatican’s Institute for Religious Works was marred by financial scandal, was accused this week of ordering the killing of a 15-year-old girl in 1983.

Marcinkus died in 2006 and could not defend himself from the accusations, brought by a girlfriend of a slain mobster and given ample coverage in Italian newspapers — despite big questions about her credibility (See here and here).

Short-lived scoop on Vatican changing laws on sex abuse

The New York Times, 19 April 2008Ouch! Just imagine you write the top story on the front page of the New York Times — and it gets promptly denied. That’s what happened today. Time had the same story, too, but only on their Web site. In both cases, the journalists were trying to pin down what if anything comes now, after Pope Benedict has spoken so strongly about the shame of the sexual abuse scandal and his determination to bar pedophiles from the priesthood. The victims who met him felt very strongly that Benedict’s gesture was a promise of more steps to come. But what? We had a story examining this question yesterday but we were not among the few at a closed lunch with Cardinal William Levada organised by Time for a few U.S. journalists.

The story the NYT and Time took away from that session was that Levada, who succeeded the pope as the Vatican’s top doctrinal official, had hinted that the Catholic Church was considering changing its laws to pursue more abuse cases. More specifically, he was supposed to have said it was considering lengthening the statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases. Under current canon law, an abuse victim has to report within 10 years of his or her 18th birthday. Levada said some victims took longer to come to grips with the issue and should be able to report abuse and see it investigated even if it happened more than a decade ago.

Cardinal William Levada, 24 March 2006/Tony GentileWe saw the NYT report on Friday evening and it didn’t seem watertight. We’d also been told that Time was going to post the transcript of Levada’s remarks, but it wasn’t posted late Friday evening. So we left it over for Saturday.

Burnout on the God beat – second top religion writer calls it quits

Covering religion may be harmful to your faith. Two leading religion journalists — one in Britain, one in the United States — have quit the beat in recent months, saying they had acquired such a close look at such scandalous behaviour by Christians that they lost their faith and had to leave.

Bates article in New HumanistStephen Bates, who recently stepped down as religious affairs writer for the London Guardian, has just published an account of his seven years on the beat in an article entitled “Demob Happy” for the New Humanist magazine. Bates followed the crisis in the Anglican Communion for several years and even wrote a book on it, A Church At War: Anglicans and Homosexuality.

“Now I am moving on,” his article concludes. “It was time to go. What faith I had, I’ve lost, I am afraid – I’ve seen too much, too close. A young Methodist press officer once asked me earnestly whether I saw it as my job to spread the Good News of Jesus. No, I said, that’s the last thing I am here to do.”