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Vatican abuse summit: 'We don't want to repeat U.S., Irish mistakes'

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ROME -- Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila in the Philippines spoke today at the “Towards Healing and Renewal” symposium, a four-day summit at the sexual abuse crisis held at Rome’s Jesuit-run Gregorian University and cosponsored by a variety of Vatican departments. Tagle traced some features of Asian culture that make both the understanding of sexual abuse, and the church’s response to it, different from Western trajectories.

Roman notebook: Yet another Vatican financial scandal

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ROME -- Yet another financial scandal threatened to engulf the Vatican today, in the form of charges that four Italian priests, none of them Vatican officials, are under investigation by Italian prosecutors on charges of money laundering related to accounts they allegedly held at the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), better known as the “Vatican Bank”.

tAn article outlining the charges against the four priests ran today in the left-wing Italian newspaper l’Unità, and a report focusing, among other things, on the same charges aired tonight on the widely watched Italian TV program, “The Untouchables.”

tThe newspaper article ran under the headline, “Money-laundering, Four Priests Investigated: The Silence of the Vatican on Controls.” The suggestion was that the Vatican has refused to cooperate with investigation of the charges.

t“The Untouchables” is the same program which, in late January, revealed confidential letters from Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, today the pope’s nuncio, or ambassador, to the United States, complaining of “corruption and dishonesty” in Vatican finances.

Bishops need to worry about more than sex and gender

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I honestly don't need fresh reasons to feel disappointed with U.S. bishops, but the latest issue of Newsweek popped up on my iPad with something new anyway.

[img_assist|nid=28831|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=143|height=193]The magazine's cover trumpets a compelling story inside regarding "The War on Christians." Newsweek details the rise of what it terms "Christophobia" in the Arab world, which targets ancestors of the most ancient Christian communities. Terror attacks on Christians in Africa, Asia and the Middle East jumped 309 percent from 2002 to 2010, the report contends.

This is the real "war on religion," with real victims, real fear, real suppression and oppression. But this same language is blithely deployed by conservative Catholics here in the United States, including many bishops.

Vatican abuse summit: $2.2 billion and 100,000 victims in U.S. alone

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Experts reject homosexuality as risk factor

ROME -- Two American experts told a Vatican summit today that the full costs of the sexual abuse crisis – including financial payouts, emotional distress, alienation among both clergy and laity, and damage to the church’s moral authority – is essentially incalculable, but massive beyond any doubt.

tFocusing on the United States, the two speakers provided estimates suggesting that the American church has spent at least $2.2 billion settling litigation related to the crisis, and that there may have been as many as 100,000 total victims of clerical sexual abuse.

tBefore surveying the damage, Michael Bemi and Pat Neal rejected what they described as four “myths” about the crisis, which were:


  • The crisis is an American problem.

  • The crisis has been exaggerated by a Godless media that is antagonistic to people or institutions of faith.

  • The crisis has been instigated by avaricious attorneys whose only objective is to enrich themselves financially.

Vatican abuse summit: 'Bishops must be held accountable'

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ROME -- To all those critics who have clamored for greater accountability for Catholic bishops who drop the ball on sex abuse cases, the Vatican’s top prosecutor this morning had a simple message: You’re absolutely right.

“We need to be vigilant in choosing candidates for the important role of bishop, and we also need to use the tools that canonical law and tradition give us for the accountability of bishops,” said Maltese Monsignor Charles Scicluna.

Vatican abuse summit: Prosecutor decries ëdeadly culture of silence'

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ROME -- The Vatican’s top prosecutor on sex abuse cases today bluntly decried “a deadly culture of silence” on clerical abuse, calling such denial “in itself wrong and unjust.”

tMaltese Monsignor Charles Scicluna told participants in a Vatican summit on sex abuse that while the church now has clear laws to punish abusers, just having such laws on the books isn’t enough.

t“Our people need to know that the law is being applied,” he said. “No strategy for the prevention of child abuse will ever work without commitment and accountability.”

tScicluna likewise reaffirmed the obligation of church leaders to cooperate with civil authorities, including reporting abuse allegations to police and prosecutors.

“Sexual abuse of minors is not just a canonical [violation] or a breach of a code of conduct internal to an institution, whether it be religious or other,” he said. “It is also a crime prosecuted by civil law.”

As a result, Scicluna said, Catholic officials have “the duty to cooperate with state authorities in our response to child abuse.”

Vatican abuse summit: Reassessing the media's role

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ROME -- Throughout the arc of the sexual abuse crisis, Vatican officials have often complained about media sensationalism and bias. In 2002, Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos famously took a series of questions in English during a press conference, and then snarled that fact alone “already says something about the problem and gives it an outline.” As recently as 2010, Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the former Secretary of State, appeared to compare media criticism to “petty gossip.”

tThe tone out of this week’s abuse summit has been strikingly different. If not quite fulsome gratitude, speakers have at least offered an acknowledgment that whatever progress the church has made, has often come as a result of media pressure.

tTo be sure, those concessions have usually been coupled with insistence that church leaders should now get ahead of the curve, rather than waiting for yet another media firestorm. Moreover, trace elements of resentment over perceived media hostility haven’t been entirely absent.

Catholics and contraception coverage

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I must say I am a little surprised at some of the more moderate/progressive Catholics in the media (Mark Shields, Cokie Roberts, E.J. Dionne) who have questioned the Obama administration's ruling that some Catholic employers must provide coverage for contraception for their employees.

I also note that none of them of works for a Catholic organization.

Of course, even if they did, the $50 a month for birth control probably wouldn't be a financial hardship for them. But for the Catholic schoolteacher or Catholic Charities social worker, it might be.

Those schoolteachers and social workers probably are among the majority of Catholics who said they believe employers--including religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals--should be required to provide health care plans that cover birth control at no cost, according to a new survey released Tuesday by the Public Religion Research Institute.

Vatican abuse summit: Penance and a spirit of 'Never Again!'

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ROME -- In a first of its kind for Rome, the Vatican’s top official for bishops tonight led a liturgy of penance to ask forgiveness for the sexual abuse of children by priests, and for church leaders who covered up that abuse.

The service included an Irish victim of clerical abuse, who, in an apparent reference both to abusers and their protectors, asked God to “forgive them.”

tHeld tonight at Rome’s Church of St. Igantius, the liturgy was presided over by Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who serves as Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops. His participation was seen as significant, because it implicitly acknowledged that the church’s shortcomings are not limited to priests who committed abuse, but also include bishops who failed to act.

tThe service was part of a four-day Vatican summit on the sexual abuse crisis titled “Towards Healing and Renewal.” The event brings together roughly 100 bishops and religious superiors from around the world, ahead of a May deadline for bishops’ conferences to submit their policies on fighting abuse for Vatican review.

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July 14-27, 2017

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