FaithWorld

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.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has vowed to give more rights to same-sex couples, and Dilma Rousseff, a leading candidate in Brazil’s presidential race, has said she favours the legalization of abortion in a country that has the world’s largest Catholic population.

“People are still Catholic and they still believe in the fundamentals … but they no longer agree with what (the Church) says regarding morality,” said Ana Maria Bidegain, a religious studies professor at Florida International University.

Undaunted cardinal says John Paul backed his praise for hiding abuser

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Castrillon Hoyos letter congratulating Bishop Pierre Pican/Golias

A former Vatican cardinal who congratulated a French bishop for hiding a sexually abusive priest has said he acted with the approval of the late Pope John Paul, a Spanish newspaper reported on Saturday.

Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the Vatican official in charge of priests around the world when he praised the French bishop in 2001, dragged the Polish pope into the controversy during a conference in the Spanish city of Murcia. His comment came after a Vatican spokesman indirectly confirmed that a 2001 letter to the bishop posted on a French website on Thursday was authentic and was proof the Vatican was right to tighten up its procedures on sex abuse cases that year.

By invoking John Paul, Castrillon Hoyos appeared to up the ante in a subtle Vatican power struggle over who was to blame for past failures to deal effectively with the abuse cases whose revelations in recent months have shaken the Church. Vatican officials had no official reaction on Saturday.

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

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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

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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.

Vatican puts abuse rules online to quell critics

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The dome of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. April 4, 2005/Alessia Pierdomenico

The Vatican published an online guide on Monday to rules for handling sex abuse charges against priests and defended the pope’s handling of the media storm, saying he was a “great communicator in his own way”.

Just over a year after Pope Benedict acknowledged the Holy See had been slow to embrace the Internet, after mishandling the case of a Holocaust-denying bishop, the Vatican posted an “idiot’s guide” to its rules on how to deal with abuse charges.

Pope did not impede defrocking of abusive priest: Vatican

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The signature of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on a 1985 letter about Father Stephen Kiesle, shown after its release to Reuters April 9, 2010/Sam Mircovich

The Vatican has defended Pope Benedict from accusations that, in a previous post as a senior Church official, he tried to impede the defrocking of a California priest who had sexually abused children. In a statement, a California-based Vatican lawyer accused the media of a “rush to judgment” and said the case had never been referred to the Vatican as an abuse case but as one of a man who wanted to leave the priesthood.

In a 1985 letter from the Vatican, typed in Latin and translated for The Associated Press, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told the bishop of Oakland he needed more time “to consider the good of the Universal Church” as he reviewed a request by the man to leave the priesthood.

Pope’s shame, remorse over Irish child sex abuse, victims want more

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Pope Benedict's letter on Irish child sex abuse cases, at the Vatican press office, 20 March 2010/Alessandro Bianchi

Pope Benedict apologized on Saturday to victims of child sex abuse by clergy in Ireland and ordered an official inquiry there to try to stem a scandal gripping the Catholic Church which has swept across Europe. The pope’s pronouncement on abuse at Irish dioceses and seminaries was the most concrete step taken since a wave of cases hit Ireland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.

Victims in Ireland voiced deep disappointment it did not go further, and a U.S.-based Catholic group said it should have addressed abuses across the Church rather than just in Ireland.

Focus turns to pope as German, Dutch sex abuse scandals unfold

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Pope Benedict XVI in the Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, 2 Feb 2010/Max Rossi

The more the scandal of Catholic priests sexually abusing boys in Germany spreads, the more the focus turns to Rome to see how Pope Benedict reacts. The story is getting ever closer to the German-born pope, even though he has been quite outspoken denouncing these scandals and had just met all Irish bishops to discuss the scandals shaking their country. Nobody’s saying he had any role in the abuse cases now coming to light in Germany. But the fact that some took place in Regensburg while he was a prominent theologian there, that his brother Georg has admitted to smacking lazy members of his choir there and that Benedict was archbishop in Munich from 1977 to 1982 lead to the classic cover-up question: what did he know and when did he know it?

This is only the start of what can be a long, drawn out and possibly damaging story for Benedict’s PR-deficient papacy. His crises to date have been linked to his statements or decisions, such as the controversial Regensburg speech that offended Muslims or several run-ins with Jews over restoring old prayers they consider anti-Semitic or rehabilitating an ultra-traditionalist priest who is also a Holocaust denier. But now it’s about what he did or didn’t do in the past and how he moves to avoid further scandals in the future.

Sex abuse claims against famed rabbi grip Israel

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Ultra-orthodox Jewish men praying in the Old City of Jerusalem, 11 March 2008/Yiorgos Karahalis

Israeli police said on Friday they were looking into allegations of sexual abuse against one of the country’s most famous and politically influential rabbis, in a case that has triggered dramatic headlines this week.

Mordechai Elon – known as “Rabbi Motti” by viewers of his popular TV show and by many young men in the West Bank settler movement — has vehemently denied the accusations by a group of fellow rabbis who say their aim is to combat sexual harassment by authority figures.

Dublin theatre throws spotlight on Catholic priestly sins

monaghan Aaron Monaghan plays a tormented teenager in Christ Deliver Us! at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre/Abbey photo by Ros Kavanagh

The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland could well feel it has nowhere left to hide. As the press carried blanket coverage of this week’s meeting between the Pope and bishops summoned to Rome following the Irish church’s vast pedophilia scandal, Ireland’s national theater has joined those taking up the theme of ecclesiastical hypocrisy, to loud applause.

Irish playwright Thomas Kilroy’s new play “Christ Deliver Us!” at Dublin’s Abbey Theater is nominally set in the 1950s, but its topicality is startling. It does not directly accuse the church of paedophilia, but it is severely critical of sexual repression, corporal punishment and censure of minor teenage lapses. The theater itself underlines the parallels with the findings of two reports into child abuse by priests published in Ireland last year.

“We as a society are still reeling from the revelations of the Murphy and Ryan reports,” the theater said in a program note. “For this reason, it is an important play for the Abbey, as the national theater, to present now.”