FaithWorld

Germany says Catholic Church covered up sexual abuse

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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.

The revelations followed reports last month that Catholic priests had sexually abused over 100 children at Jesuit schools around Germany, which led to a public apology from Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, head of the German Bishops Conference.

“In many schools there was a wall of silence allowing for abuse and violence,” Ms Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, a secular liberal politician who has been the government’s leading critic of the Church, told Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio.  “Even the most severe cases of abuse are subject only to papal secrecy and should not be disclosed outside the Church,” she said, citing a 2001 Catholic congregation directive.

Irish abuse crisis aftershocks hit German, Dutch Catholic churches

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Bavarian flag at St. Peter's Basilica after Pope Benedict's election, 23 April 2005/Tom Heneghan

It’s like falling dominoes. The scandal of Roman Catholic priests sexually abusing children in Ireland, which came to light last year when two government inquiries cracked the wall of clerical silence there, seems to have inspired victims in other European countries to come forward with their repressed stories. It started in Germany last month with revelations about abuse cases in several elite Jesuit boarding schools. That sparked further reports from other parts of Germany, where reports of hundreds of cases are now coming out. In the neighbouring Netherlands, reports of abuse have also begun surfacing in recent days. On top of all that, an unrelated scandal about a gay prostitution ring has now hit the Vatican.

Since Pope Benedict summoned all Irish bishops to Rome and promised the Irish people a pastoral letter about the abuse cases, what will he do with all these cases now coming out in his homeland? Especially since, as explained below, he seems to have been quite close to some of them.

A “model” Islamic education from Turkey?

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Turkish girls at the Kazim Karabekir Girls' Imam-Hatip School, 10 Feb 2010/Murad Sezer

In the Beyoglu Anadolu religious school in Istanbul, gilded Korans line the shelves and on a table lies a Turkish translation of “Eclipse,” a vampire-based fantasy romance by U.S. novelist Stephanie Meyer. No-one inside the school would have you believe this combination of Islamic and western influences demonstrates potential to serve as a ‘moderate’ educational antidote to radical Islam.

But there is fresh outside interest in schools like this, which belong to the network known as imam-hatip.  Some people, particularly officials from Afghanistan and Pakistan, have suggested the Turkish system can light the way to a less extremist religious education for their young Muslims.

Catholic schools form rare oasis amid Bosnia’s ethnic strife

daria1I was caught by surprise recently when a Western diplomat told me that Serb students were in majority in the Catholic high school in Banja Luka,  a town that had become predominantly Serb after persecution of other ethnic groups during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. Banja Luka is the largest town of the Serb Republic, which along with the Muslim-Croat federation makes up postwar Bosnia . (Photo: A Catholic school in Sarajevo, 25 Nov 2009/Danilo Krstanovic)

Then I learned that Bosnian Muslims account for 80 percent of students in the Catholic school in the western town of Bihac, where Muslims are in majority. It turned out that the situation is similar in all seven Catholic centres opened across Bosnia during and after the war. These schools paradoxically became rare multi-ethnic oases in the country where public schools are largely dominated by a majority ethnic group.

This got me wondering why the Catholic Church wanted to open school in Banja Luka, for example, the town in which only seven percent of 44,000 Croat Catholics that had lived  before the war remained to live today.  The result is a feature that just ran on our newswire. That tells the story, but let me tell you a bit more about the background.

UPDATE: Uproar after court says no crucifixes in Italian schools

crucifix-italy (Photo: A crucifix in a Rome classroom, 3 Nov 2009/Tony Gentile)

Here’s an update from Phil Pullella in Rome:

The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that crucifixes should be removed from Italian classrooms, prompting Vatican anger and sparking uproar in Italy, where such icons are embedded in the national psyche.

“The ruling of the European court was received in the Vatican with shock and sadness,” said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, adding that it was “wrong and myopic” to try to exclude a symbol of charity from education.

Should Berlin let Muslim pupils pray at school?

A ruling by a Berlin court allowing a 16-year-old Muslim pupil to pray towards Mecca in a separate room at school has raised questions about the extent of religious freedom in Germany.  Some media, including the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, describe the ruling as a landmark case, saying it is the first time a German court has considered whether the right to practise religious beliefs should extend to schools.

Muslim man praying in BerlinThe case arose in 2007 when the head of a school in Berlin, which has a strong secular tradition, forbid a boy and his friends from kneeling on their jackets to pray where they could be seen by other pupils.

The school argued it was religiously “neutral” but the boy, whose mother is Turkish and father is a German who converted to Islam, decided to go to court.

from Global News Journal:

Sex education again in Malaysia, thanks to the courts

By Niluksi Koswanage

Gay Austrian fashionista Bruno will not be making an appearance on Malaysia's screens this summer for fear of corrupting this mostly-Muslim nation's youth.

But Malaysia's parents will still not have it easy as the country's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim  is again on trial for sodomy in a re-run of a 14-month case that in 1998 generated endless sexually explicit headlines and questions from curious children.

Photo: Anwar enters Kuala Lumpur courtoom with wife Wan Aziza Wasn Ismail for his sodomy trial on July 15/ Reuters (Zainal Abd Halim)

“The information was there” – Abp. Martin on Irish abuse report

martin1Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has shown a refreshing frankness in talking about the widespread abuse of children in Catholic-run schools and orphanages documented in the Ryan report last week. In an op-ed page piece for the Irish Times today, he described himself as shocked but not totally surprised and recalled hearing about the abuse from victims up to 40 years ago. He refers to reporting by “a few courageous and isolated journalists like Michael Viney,” whose series on abuse appeared in the Irish Times in 1966. (Photo: Archbishop Diarmuid Martin/Dublin Archdiocese)

“The stories they told then were not radically different from what the Ryan report presents, albeit in a systemic and objective way which reveals the horror in its integrity,” he wrote. “Anyone who had contact with ex-residents of Irish industrial schools at that time knew that what those schools were offering was, to put it mildly, poor-quality childcare by the standards of the time. The information was there.”

The official Church reaction in Ireland has been shame and apologies all around, starting with Cardinal Sean Brady. It included apologies from the Christian Brothers, a teaching order with a reputation for stern discipline and abuse charges that won a lawsuit to bar the report from naming abusers. These were certainly appropriate. What was missing, though, was the admission that the problem was well known, even if all the details were not. There was even a film made about one of these schools, The Magdelene Sisters, that won the Golden Lion at the 2002 Biennale Venice Film Festival.

Irish counselors swamped after Catholic Church abuse report

irelandDUBLIN – Victims of sexual abuse and neglect in Catholic-run schools and orphanages in Ireland swamped counseling services on Thursday after the publication of the harrowing findings of a nine-year investigation.

“We’ve had 30 times as many calls as usual and our phone lines are always quite busy,” said Bernadette Fahy of the Aislinn Center, an organization set up by an abuse victim. “We have had to close the center because we haven’t been able to cope with the amount of people coming in.

“It’s extraordinary the number of people who are contacting services for the first time.”

Berlin campaign for religion lessons unites faiths

Berliners on Sunday voted against introducing compulsory religion lessons in schools. Social Democrat Mayor Klaus Wowereit has welcomed the result as a victory for “togetherness” and common values for Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim or aetheist children.

Campaign posterFor details on the result, look at the Reuters story.

However, as Pro Reli leader Christoph Lehmann said, the campaign to boost the status of faith-based lessons in the German capital — a city with a long secular tradition — has put the subject firmly on the agenda and made it a talking point.

Celebrities and politicians, even conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel,have joined the call for religion lessons. Perhaps she was trying to make amends with members of her predominantly Catholic Christian Democrats (CDU) who were angry with her for criticising the Pope in the row over a Holocaust-denying bishop.