Posted in category "Politics"
Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, 79, the head of the Catholic church in the Dominican Republic, is back in the news after ripping U.S. ambassador James “Wally” Brewster about comments he had made about corruption in the Dominican Republic.
In a meeting with reporters after Mass, Cardinal Lopez accused Brewster of promoting a gay rights agenda on Dominican soil. “That man needs to go back to his embassy,” he sneered. “Let him focus on housework, since he’s the wife to a man.”
Lopez’s comments came after Brewster accused police officers of threatening and assaulting several U.S. investors who were attending a conference organized by the local government.
“Imagine the horror I felt when I got a call from one of them, telling me they had been stopped by a uniformed police officer, that they had a weapon pointed at them and that they were forced to turn over their wallets,” Brewster said.
This isn’t the first time Cardinal Lopez has been nasty with Ambassador Brewster in public.
In June 2013, when Wally Brewster was named ambassador, Lopez called him a faggot in a news conference, and said, “I don’t agree in the least with that kind of preference (homosexuality).”
Santo Domingo auxiliary bishop Pablo Cedano also weighed in, adding the naming of the new U.S. ambassador “is far from our cultural reality” and “hopes” that Brewster doesn’t come to the country, because if he does, he “will suffer and have to leave.” Choosing a former gay activist as ambassador to the Dominican Republic “was a lack of sensitivity, of respect by the United States.”
One day in 2012, prominent television reporter, Ms. Nuria Piera, received a tip that many afternoons the papal nuncio drank beer at a waterfront restaurant and then went off with young boys. The restaurant was in an area of the national capital, Santo Domingo, known for male prostitutes.
Ms. Piera sent a video crew to keep watch. The crew shot some footage of Archbishop Wesolowski drinking alone and walking along the promenade. When he noticed their presence, he went over to their car and smacked his hand against it, asking why they were following him. After that incident, Ms. Piera said, he disappeared from the waterfront. “I suspected that there may have been a leak from our own office,” Ms. Piera said.
On June 24, 2013 Francisco Javier Occi Reyes, a Roman Catholic deacon and sometime sex partner for Archbishop Wesolowski, was arrested by police for solicitation of minors and taken to jail. He later told police at the time of his arrest he was “pimping” a youngster for Wesolowski, who was waiting in his car nearby.
The deacon said Wesolowski left the scene, and said nothing because he thought the church’s influence would get him out of jail.
But when no one came to bail him out–and the deacon understood he would stay in jail a long time before trial–he sent a letter to be hand delivered to Wesolowski’s office. The letter, dated July 2nd, may have expressed contrived or genuine remorse, but either way it ended Wesolowski’s diplomatic career.
“We have offended God” and the church, the letter said, by sexually abusing children and adolescents “for crumbs of money.” The deacon wrote that he had agreed to find child victims for the nuncio so that “your sexual appetite can be satiated,” but that he was now asking God for forgiveness.
The deacon sent copies of the same letter to Cardinal Lopez and also his bishop, Gregorio Nicanor Pena Rodriguez. The cardinal quietly carried the letter and other evidence to the Vatican, where he met directly with Pope Francis.
Neither the cardinal, nor other church officials, reported the allegations of abuse to the authorities.
On August 23, 2013 Archbishop Wesolowski was secretly recalled to Rome. Six days later, Cardinal Lopez called the papal nuncio “a great friend and promoter of peace.” Lopez told news media he didn’t know what prompted the call, and suggested it might have been the result of a personal conflict with Puerto Rico’s archbishop, Roberto Octavio Gonzalez Nieves.
Interesting side story…Archbishop Gonzalez has been accused by Vatican emissaries of allegedly protecting pedophile priests, abusing his power, promoting Puerto Rican independence from the U.S., and supporting a law that would grant same-sex couples living together the rights of inheritance, hospital visits and health coverage. Wesolowski was among those pressuring him to step down as Puerto Rico’s archbishop and take a position elsewhere. The ultra conservative Life Site News has an interesting story on Archbishop Gonzalez’ political battles.
The attorney general for the Dominican Republic, Mr. Francisco Dominguez Brito, and the district attorney for Santo Domingo, Ms. Yeni Berenice Reynoso Gomez, both said they learned of the sexual abuse allegations against Archbishop Wesolowski from Ms. Piera’s television reports, which were broadcast in September 2013. The program included a 13-year-old boy who said he had been abused.
Ms. Reynoso said her investigators had identified several children aged 12-17, mainly from very poor neighborhoods, with whom the papal nuncio had sexual contact, but indicated there were likely more.
The 17-year-old had epilepsy, and the nuncio gave him medicine in exchange for sex acts, starting when the boy was 13. “This is the most terrible case that I have ever seen,” said the district attorney. “He was abusing kids who were living in extreme poverty, in exchange for pills for a boy’s illness.”
“He definitely seduced me with money,” 17-year-old Francis Aquino Aneury told The New York Times. He was 14 when the man he met shining shoes began offering him increasing larger sums for sex acts. “I felt very bad. I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, but I needed the money. Aquino told the Times reporter that Wesolowski would watch him masturbate, would touch him, or touch himself. Another report mentioned Wesolowski would film oral sex acts on his cell phone.
Ms. Reynoso felt strongly that the case should have been prosecuted in the Dominican Republic, not the Vatican. “These children who were abused, and their families, and the Dominican society, have a legitimate right to see Jozef Wesolowski judged by a jury–not as a diplomat, but for what he really is,” she said. “A child abuser.”
Soon after the television report and other local media coverage on allegations of sexual misconduct by Archbishop Wesolowski and Wojciech Gill, a fellow Polish priest and friend, Cardinal Lopez confirmed he had gone to the Vatican to address the matter, but left it to the Vatican to investigate.
Archbishop Wesolowski conveniently departed in late August before the news story broke in early September.
After the story broke in the Dominican Republic news media, and it was clear Archbishop Wesolowski would not be back, Cardinal Lopez began to voice support for the investigation of the former papal nuncio and other pedophile priests.
In a letter signed as archbishop of Santo Domingo and as president of the Dominican bishops conference, Cardinal Lopez called for a “purification of the Church and for the removal of those who unworthily exercise this ministry and do not deserve to be called priests.”
“In recent weeks,” the letter sent on, “the public has been shocked repeatedly by embarrassing behavior in different areas of the country by clergy members of the Catholic Church, who we expect and ought to behave differently,” stated Cardinal Lopez.
Without mentioning any specific names or cases, the cardinal prayed, “Jesus, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing and they are hurting the heart of the Church and faith of many people.”
The “root problem” of clergy abuse, Cardinal Lopez said, “is an undetermined number” of candidates preparing for priesthood who “do not have an authentic vocation” and who “during formation are able to feign something they are not, and if formation directors are not careful, they sneak into the clergy, and later the bishops pay the consequences for their excesses and turmoil.”
After his recall to the Vatican, Archbishop Wesolowski was given a few months to prepare for his defense. He was tried first by a canonical court, and on June 27, 2014 he was found guilty of sex abuse by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He was laicized shortly following the decision.
On September 23, 2014, Vatican criminal proceedings against Wesolowski started. He was allowed to remain under house arrest because of medical reasons.
Vatican prosecutors accused Wesolowski of sexually abusing children in the Dominican Republic where he worked from 2008 to 2013 at the Vatican’s ambassador. They said he picked up poor boys on the waterfront, paid them for sex acts, and took pornographic photos of them. He was also accused of offending “Christian morality” by repeatedly logging into pornographic sites involving minors in the Dominican Republic and the Vatican following his recall.
Wesolowski was indicted in June 2015 and a trial date set for July 11, 2015.
On July 10th, Wesolowski collapsed at his residence and was admitted to an intensive care unit in an Italian hospital for an “unexpected illness.” The trial was postponed, and no new date was set for its resumption. He was treated for “a serious drop in blood pressure, due to the heat and tension, as well as his age.”
Jozef Wesolowski died at his residence on August 28, 2015. He was 67.
A statement released by the Holy See Press Office shared the news, stating the initial investigations done by Vatican authorities “indicate that he died of natural causes” in the early hours of the morning.
His body was found at about 5 AM by a priest who lived in the same building, which houses the Franciscans who hear confessions in St. Peter’s Basilica, as well as offices of the Vatican police force. Wesolowski was in front of a TV which was on.
During Wesolowski’s funeral in a Vatican administrative palazzo’s chapel, eight minutes of silence replaced a homily. Celebrating the Mass was a Polish prelate, Monsignor Konrad Krajewski, who is Pope Francis’ chief alms-giver. He was returned to his native Poland for burial.
The results of the autopsy were released on December 14, 2015. The conclusion of the report, which was submitted to the Chancellor’s Office of the Vatican City State Court of the First Instance, confirmed what had already emerged from the post mortem examination: Msgr. Jozef Wesolowski died of heart failure.
Another convenient departure?
Since Msgr. Wesolowski was not brought to trial, there were no ugly details, names, dates, faces, encounters for the press to paw over. His story faded quietly with the end of the year.
While most of the world is thrilled by Pope Francis, a few are not. One of the most outspoken is Raymond Cardinal Burke, 66.
Cardinal Burke is a voice of conservatism in the Roman Catholic Church and American politics, and a prominent devotee of the Tridentine Mass. He is intent on the “reform of the reform” of Vatican II.
Many photos of Cardinal Burke feature him in full regalia, a billowing cappa magna, lace rochet, velvet gauntlets, a towering mitre–the image of royalty, privilege and authority is unmistakable. That style is the polar opposite of Pope Francis, who is urging clerics to be pastors who “smell like their sheep.”
Over the last year and a half Cardinal Burke has made a series of statements to the press challenging Pope Francis’ shift in pastoral style. In an interview with the Spanish Catholic weekly Vida Nueva, published on October 30, 2014, Burke insisted he was not speaking out against the pope personally but raising concern about his leadership.
“Many have expressed their concerns to me. At this very critical moment, there is a strong sense that the church is like a ship without a rudder,” Burke said. “Now, it is more important than ever to examine our faith, have a healthy spiritual leader and give powerful witness to the faith.”
The “rudderless ship” remark was probably the last straw in a string of provocative challenges from Cardinal Burke. On November 8, 2014 he was officially removed as head of the Vatican’s highest judicial authority, known as the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. Obviously, he didn’t get the hint after he was dropped from the Congregation of Bishops in December 2013. Cardinal Burke no longer holds any influential Vatican posts.
At the same time, his appointment as Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta was announced. The Knights of Malta were founded in 1048 and recognized as a lay religious order by Pope Paschal II in 1113. It has a very elaborate hierarchy, with religious at the top, nobles next, and larger groups of knights and dames of common birth below them in their own separate categories and classes. Each group has its own insignia, making the classes of persons easily recognizable.
Pope Francis has done Cardinal Burke a favor. He will have ample opportunity to wear the finery he enjoys and not raise an eyebrow. The people around him will be dressed in equally rich, dramatic and historically meaningful capes and crosses. He will also feel at home with people who are used to looking backward to the Middle Ages.
Veteran journalist Stephen Jimenez unearthed a sleazy story in his book, The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard.” An investigative journalist, he spent 11 years researching his story, and had access to formerly sealed court documents.
Matthew Shepard is a gay icon and martyr, allegedly murdered by two men for his sexual orientation. The grisly murder happened in Laramie, Wyoming in October 1998. Shepard, 21, was a college student, and he was killed by two men he met in a bar. He was pistol-whipped with the barrel of a .357 magnum. Then the two men hung him, barely alive, on a fence, in a pose resembling a crucifixion.
Matthew Shepard died of exposure and his wounds six days later, a victim of homophobia. Or was he? Here’s an unsettling element: one of the murders, Aaron McKinney, a bisexual hustler, had sex with Shepard weeks before the murder.
Shepard certainly could have been beaten and killed by a man in a homophobic rage…but he may also have been killed in a sex-for-drugs exchange gone badly. His death might not be a hate crime after all, but a drug dealer casualty. In the book Jimenez claims Matthew Shepard was a crystal meth addict, and was killed by McKinney, another dealer and trick strung out on meth and in desperate need of money.
The “gay panic” defense of Aaron McKinney, the killer, was a made-up story in hopes of getting a more lenient sentence.
Jimenez was asked why he dug up the story: “As a gay man,” he said, “I felt it was the right thing to do.” “To understand who Matthew Shepard really was,” said Jimenz, “to alter our perception of him as a martyr and an icon, is not going to be damaging to gay rights.”
I agree, and commend Stephen Jimenez coming forward with his story. The real conversation about Matthew Shepard should be about young gay men (and women) who do drugs, and why drug and alcohol use is still so embedded in gay culture. That could save some lives.
Wednesday morning I was having my morning coffee and thumbing through the New York Post when I spotted this item on the bottom right of page 12: “Paris suicide vs. gay rights.” I took a bite of my English muffin and read on.
The blurb stated that Dominique Venner, 78, placed a pistol in his mouth and committed suicide beside the altar in Notre Dame cathedral in protest of the legalization of gay marriage in France.
Mr. Venner, a presenter on a Catholic-traditionalist radio station and controversial historian, posted an essay on his website earlier in the day calling for “new, spectacular and symbolic actions to shake us out of our sleep, to jolt anaesthetized minds and to reawaken memory of our origins.”
The cathedral, which is celebrating its 850th anniversary this year, was evacuated and immediately closed to the public for several hours. A cathedral security guard tried to revive Mr. Venner as he lay beside the altar.
“We did not know him, he was not a regular at the cathedral,” said the rector, Monsigneur Patrick Jacquin. He added that as far as he knew, this was the first suicide within the cathedral since it was founded. “We will pray for this man as we pray for so many others who are at their wits’ end,” he said.
The next day, a topless activist of the FEMEN movement was arrested inside Notre Dame for staging a fake suicide.
The bare-chested woman was photographed in front of the altar, pointing a fake gun in her mouth. The slogan “May Fascists rot in Hell” was written across her torso.
On its Facebook page, FEMEN France called the topless activist “FEMEN’s angel of Death.” The group called upon “all European Nazism, in the face of all their underhitlers and halfmussolini, to follow the example of the ultra-right man Dominique Venner and immediately commit a suicide of their believes excluding themselves from the political area in Europe.” The statement added, “Hurry up, there is not so much place left on the sacrificial altar of Notre-Dame de Paris.”
In case you are wondering, the Censor Librorum finds both of these events cringe-worthy.
Venner’s use of sacred space as a stage for suicide is the most spectacular form of selfishness I have ever seen. The follow up performance by an exhibitionist mocking his suicide was almost as bad.
And I thought we had nuts in New York!
I stumbled on the name of Tanchelm thumbing through my copy of Magnificat. He was featured prominently in a story about St. Evermod, a bishop who died in 1178. Evermod was inspired to devote his life to God after hearing a sermon given by Saint Norbert, the founder of the Premonstratensian order. Evermod became a priest of Norbert’s order and was chosen to accompany him on a jorney to Antwerp to counter the followers of Tanchelm, an itinerant preacher who had been murdered a decade before by a priest.
“The city was at the time in a state of ferment due to the heretical preaching of Tanchelm,” the Magnificat huffed, “a man of depraved morals who attacked the hierarchy and the church’s teaching on the sacraments, particularly the Holy Eucharist.”
Evermod remained in Antwerp to combat Tanchelm’s “propaganda.” His apostolic zeal earned him an eventual sainthood, as it did St. Norbert, who is often pictured with a foot on Tanchelm holding a monstrance. Tanchelm’s heresy were his attacks on the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Who was Tanchelm that he made two bishops saints in their attempts to overcome his preaching?
Tanchelm was born around 1070. He might have been Flemish, but was probably a native of the Netherlands. He traveled to France, Germany and Rome. Most of what we know about him came from those opposed to him, for Tanchelm did not leave behind any writing that has survived. Tanchelm began preaching during a time of agitation and pontifical reform, with furious arguments and political maneuvering over clerical marriages and sexual liaisons, simony, and canonical investiture by feudal authorities. He was active in a wave of church reform that started in the High Middle Ages and culminated in the Reformation 400 years later.
Tanchelm was supposed to have been a monk, perhaps a notary or officer from the circle of Count Robert II of Flanders (1092-1111), famous from his crusading days as “Robert of Jerusalem.” The exact relationship between the count and Tanchelm is not clear. Both Count Robert II and his overlord, Louis VI of France. were interested in weakening the ecclesiastical power of the Holy Roman Emperor in the low countries. The power of the emperor rested to a large extent on the support of the bishops, especially Cambrai, Cologne and Utrecht.
In 1111 Count Robert II dispatched Tanchelm and the priest, Everwacher, to Rome to persuade Pope Pascal II to incorporate Zeeland into a French diocese. Frederick I, archbishop of Cologne, caught wind of the plot and intervened. The pope rejected the petition, and Talchem and Everwacher returned home.
After his return from Rome Tanchelm began his ministry. There is no direct knowledge of his motivations, but some authors have speculated that while he was in Rome he absorbed the principals of the Gregorian Reforms, initiated by Pope Gregory VII, circa 1050-1080, which dealt with the moral integrity and independence of the clergy.
Gregory VII attacked the practice of simony – the purchase of church offices. This precipitated the investiture controversy; kings were selling clerical and church offices at great personal gain. In 1074 Gregory VII published an encyclical absolving the people from obedience to bishops who allowed married priests. In 1075, he enjoined them to take action against married priests, and deprived these clerics of their revenues.
Dressed in his monk’s habit, Tanchelm began to preach. Many people came to hear him, and his following grew. People were drawn to him by his compelling personality and oratory. He began preaching in 1112 in the Low Countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, parts of northern France and western Germany).
It was in Antwerp that he made his deepest mark. The spark that set him off was the “concubinage” of a priest named Hilduin with his niece. He stepped into a vacuum of spiritual leadership: people were disgusted with with the morals of their spiritual guides and were drawn to Tanchelm’s criticism of the established church. It was also a time of the first stirrings of social discontent against the feudal privileges of nobles and clergy.
Tanchlem rejected obedience to bishops and priests. He preached against the payment of tithes. Some sources say Tanchelm told people to reject the sacraments, saying they were better named pollutions than sacraments. In another version, he said the virtue of the sacraments depended on the virtue of the minister, and that polluted priests could only administer polluted sacraments. The chapter of Utrecht also reported with horror that Tanchelm had said that “the churches of God are to be considered whorehouses.” It is more likely what Tanchelm really said is that the priests were so impure they turned churches into brothels.
The prime source of information on Tanchelm is a May 16, 1112 letter from the clergy of Utrecht to Archbishop Frederick of Cologne telling him to take Tanchelm into custody and not release him for any reason. He was briefly put under arrest in Cologne in 1113/1114, but released in spite of protests by the cathedral clergy of Utrecht.
The hierarchy of Utrecht circulated many tales about Tanchlem to support their denouncements:
-He dressed in golden clothes, with strands of gold curled in his hair
-Claimed to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and conducted a ceremony in which he “married” the Virgin Mary
-His followers venerated him, and drank his bath water as a blessing or sacrament
-His inner group was a guild of 12 men lead by his blacksmith friend, Manasses. Probably chosen as a bodyguard, they were known as “the Apostles.” Added to this number was a woman named “Blessed Virgin” with whom the Apostles had intercourse as kind of a confirmation ceremony. The Apostles carried his regalia and sword in procession.
-Tanchelm deflowered young girls in the presence of their mothers
-Men offered up their wives and children to Tanchelm’s lust.
To what degree the above accusations have some basis in truth-or are total fabrications–is unknown. It seems clear that Tanchelm was a very charismatic man, and encouraged his personality cult.
In 1115 he was bludgeoned or stabbed to death by a priest during a river trip. One scholar has implicated the Archbishop of Utrecht in his murder.
Tanchelm doesn’t have an exact contemporary in our age, even if the societal unrest, currents of church reform, the involvement of church hierarchy in politics, the attempts by secular rulers to use bishops in their schemes, all have an echo in our era.
St Norbert arrived at Antwerp eight years after Tanchelm’s death to evangelize the city away from his followers. Apparently, he did not censure, judge or condemn when he addressed people, which probably contributed to the success of his mission. “Brothers, do not be surprised and so not be afraid,” he preached. “Unwittingly, you have pursued falsehood thinking it to be the truth. If you had been taught the truth first you would have been found effortlessly tending toward salvation, just as you now effortless lean toward perdition.”
Norbert of Xanten is portrayed as a reformer of the clergy and siding with reformist popes over lay investiture. But his ministry started on a political track opposite Tanchelm’s.
His father, Heribert, Count of Gennep, was related to the imperial house of Germany. Norbert was a secular canon at St. Victor’s Collegiate Church in Xanten and was ordained subdeacon without making an effort to live the clerical life. Somewhere between 1108 and 1109 he became chaplain at the court of Archbishop Frederick of Cologne and already in 1110 he was a chaplain at the court of Emperor Henry V. He accompanied the emperor to Rome in 1111.
In the spring of 1115, while riding to the village of Freden, he was thrown from his horse during a sudden thunderstorm. This event gave Norbert the impetus to change his way of life. He gave up his chaplaincy at the court and dedicated himself to meditation and living a life of poverty. Feeling he was called to priesthood, he presented himself to the Bishop of Cologne, from whom he received Holy Orders.
Norbert would have to have heard 0f, and perhaps even met, Tanchelm in Rome or while he was being held in custody by his patron, Federick, Archbishop of Cologne.
It is interesting to speculate what the men might have said to each other.
This spring has seen a rash of coal mining accidents and disasters. Companies are in a hurry to get coal out the ground to feed the manufacturing demand for energy.
An accident at the Wangjialing Mine in northern China killed 38 men; an explosion in the Raspadskaya mine in western Siberia killed 66, with 100 injured and 44 still missing.
On April 5, 2010 29 miners were killed at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, West Virginia. The mine is owned and operated by Massey Energy Co., headquartered in Richmond, VA.
In the wake of an April 5th explosion, Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, issued a pastoral letter on May 1 on mine safety in West Virginia.
In his letter, On My Holy Mountain, the bishop noted mine disasters in West Virginia: the April 5, 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine explosion, the Monongah Mine disaster of 1907 that killed 362 people and the Sago Mine disaster of 2006 that killed 13 miners.
A common thread: lax or disregarded safety regulations in order to speed production.
“The disaster at the Upper Big Branch Mine,” the bishop stated, “raises concerns about the conditions within the coal mines across our state and the atmosphere existing in the coal industry’s corporate culture.”
“The church has an obligation to continue to remain vigilant in these areas to ensure that justice is served and human dignity protected. This is an essential part of proclaiming the Gospel of life.”
“Indeed, by virtue of human dignity, all persons have the right to a safe work environment and one in which unsafe conditions can e reported without fear of blacklisting or losing one’s job. Workers have the right to a living wage and to reasonable work hours. The church has long recognized and supported workers’ rights to organize. In the coalfields such organization has had measurable benefits in terms of safety, and we applaud all that the United Mine Workers of America have achieved.”
“We must discover why union mines have a lower fatality rate in West Virginia and appear to have a much better safety record.”
A long-time coal miner who spent the last 15 years at the Massey Energy Co. mine where 29 workers were killed in April said it was a “ticking time bomb” due to high levels of methane gas.
Stanley “Goose” Stewart, who was 300 feet into the mine when he felt a “hurricane strength” wind from the blast, was the first worker at the Upper Big Branch mine to testify publicly about conditions there.
Mr. Stewart, who has been a coal miner for more than 30 years, started keeping a notebook to document his working conditions when the ventilation system was changed last July. “With so much methane being liberated, and no air moving, it gave me the feeling of a ticking time bomb.” In July 2009 he wrote: “finding explosive levels of methane gas regularly.”
Gary Quarles, whose only son, Cary Wayne Quarles, was killed in the accident, said miners weren’t allowed to hang ventilation curtains or conduct any other safety operations if there would interfere with or delay the production of coal.”
Joe Main, the head of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration told a Senate committee investigating the explosion that Massey thwarted stiffer enforcement action, such as closing down mines with a history of safety violations, by filing a series of appeals. He called on Congress to free up funds to help clear up a backlog of challenges filed by companies.
Mr. Main said Massey escaped tougher enforcement by contesting 78% of the $13.5 million in fines by MSHA in 2009. There are more than 16,000 cases pending review involving 89,000 violations.
Massey Energy CEO, Don Blankenship, denied his company tried to “game the system.” “Rather,” he said, “we are exercising our rights to due process under the system Congress has put in place.”
The issue of mine safety hits close to home with Amber Helms-Chambers and her brother, Nick Helms. Their father, Terry Helms, died in the 2006 Sago Mine explosion.
Chambers is an employee of the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese. She helped design the graphics and layout for the pastoral letter, On My Holy Mountain.
“Our uncles that are in the coal mines and our friends are still in the coal mines and I have a cousin going in the coal mines so it is really important to us to work for something that I know my dad was so passionate about as well and working on it just makes me feel that I’m doing my part as a designer doing what I can to help get thoughts out there and help out,” said Chambers.
“Coal-mining laws are written in blood”…”I never understood that saying until after Sago,” Nick Helms said. “Dad would say nothing would ever change until after something bad would happen. It’s a never-ending struggle, but it needs to be a never-ending topic in our government.”
“People were saying, ‘It’s cheaper to pay the fines than to do the safety.’ I know you need to make money, but not at the expense of people’s lives.”
The bishops of Appalachia in their 1975 pastoral letter, This Land is Home to Me recognized that “the coal-based industry created many jobs and brought great progress to our country,” said Bishop Bransfield.
“They also frankly acknowledged that ‘oppression for the mountains’ and suffering for many resulted from tragedies like the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster. And they warned that the temptation toward ‘maximization of profit’ can lead to a disregard for human beings and their needs and lead to ‘a new kind of powerlessness.'”
On September 8, 2001 Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, prefect of the Congregation of the Clergy, wrote a letter to Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux-Lisieux, warmly applauding him for refusing to report a priest accused of sexual abuse to the civil authorities. The priest, Abbot Rene Bissey, was sentenced in 1998 to 18 years in jail for the repeated rape of a boy and sexual assaults on ten other boys. Bishop Pican received a three month suspended sentence for withholding information.
“I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil administration,” Cardinal Castrillon wrote. “You have acted well and I am pleased to have a colleague in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and of all the other bishops in the world, preferred prison to denouncing his son and priest.”
In it, the cardinal said relations between bishops and priests were not simply professional but had “very special links of spiritual paternity.” Bishops therefore had no obligation to testify against “a direct relative,” he stated. The letter cited Vatican documents and an epistle of Saint Paul to bolster its argument about special bishop-priest links.
“To encourage brothers in this episcopate in this delicate domain this Congregation will send copies of this letter to all bishops’ conferences,” Castrillon Hoyos wrote.
Spanish newspapers reported that Cardinal Castrillon told an audience at a Catholic university in Murcia, Spain on April 16, 2010 that he had consulted with Pope John Paul II and showed him the letter. He said the pope had authorized him to send the letter to bishops worldwide.
This letter languished in relative obscurity since 2001. It was posted on the web by Golias, a French Roman Catholic lay organization based in Lyon, France. It can be seen here.
The letter caught fire when SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) caught wind of it and a planned visit to the United States by Cardinal Castrillon. He was invited to preside at a traditional Latin Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC on April 24th, honoring the fifth anniversary of the inauguration of the Holy Father. It was to be the first time in almost 50 years that the Tridentine Mass would said from the Shrine’s high altar.
The Paulus Institute had been planning the Mass for three years to honor Pope Benedict XVI, who allowed the Traditional Latin Mass to be more widely celebrated early on in his papacy. The group said it had originally asked Cardinal Castrillon to celebrate the Mass because he was a prominent voice in the movement to restore the traditional liturgy.
Paul King, president of the Paulus Institute, told reporters that the decision to choose another celebrant for the Mass had a lot to do with potential picketers and the costs associated with heavier security. SNAP said they would picket the Mass if Cardinal Castrillon was the celebrant.
When asked if he thought Cardinal Castrillon was disappointed, King responded, “I think so. He’s an interesting person and a devout person.”
On April 22, 2010 radio interview Cardinal Castrillon continued to defend his letter: “The law in nations with a well-developed judiciary does not force anyone to testify against a child, a father against other people close to the suspect. Why would they ask that of the church? That’s the injustice.”
” John Paul II, that holy pope, was not wrong when he defended his priests so that they were not, due to economic reasons, treated like criminal pedophiles without due process.”
The 2001 letter congratulating a bishop for hiding a pedophile priest was not Cardinal Castrillon’s first impolitic decision.
From 2000 to 2009 he also a ran the Pontifical Commission, Ecclesia Dei, dealing with traditionalist rebels who broke from Rome in 1988 and were excommunicated.
He conducted the talks that led to the January 2009 decision to readmit the four banned bishops of the Society of Pius X to the Church, which caused an uproar when it emerged that one of them, Richard Williamson, had denied the Holocaust. The controversy was highly embarrassing to Pope Benedict, who said he did not know about Williamson’s views, even though they could easily be found on the internet.
A staunch conservative from Columbia, the steely-eyed Castrillon, 80, drew the wrath of victims of American-priest sex abuse for denying that the Catholic Church had any particular problem with pedophiles in its ranks. Castrillon headed the Congregation for the Clergy from 1996 to 2006.
The cardinal accused unnamed insiders and enemies elsewhere of feeding the sex abuse scandals hurting the Catholic Church.
“Unfortunately there are…useful idiots inside (the church) who lend themsevles to this type of persecution,” Castrillon said. “But I’m not afraid to say that in some cases it’s within the Masons, together with other enemies of the church.”
He would not give details, however, saying that “since I’m not stupid, I don’t tell everything I know. Only drunks, children and idiots tell, and I’m not a child, nor a drunk, nor stupid.”
The megalomanic bishop of Scranton, Pennsylvania, stepped down on August 31, 2009. Even the Pope had enough.
Ordinary Catholics had expressed their opinion on his leadership: the Diocese of Scranton’s annual fundraiser fell $274,000 short of its $5.3 million goal–the first time in the two decades since the establishment of the annual drive the diocese did not reach its goal.
Critics of the bishop’s management of the diocese – including his ongoing efforts to consolidate schools and churches – say at least part of the fundraiser’s shortfall was caused by parishioners who withheld donations out of protest.
Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop Joseph F. Martino, 63, from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Scranton for “health reasons.”
Watch a video of the press conference here.
At the press conference, Martino himself alluded to the divisions his style had brought to the diocese, and the toll it had taken on him mentally and physically: “For some time now there has not been a clear consensus among the clergy and people of the diocese of Scranton regarding my pastoral initiatives or my way of governance. This development has caused me great sorrow, resulting in bouts of insomnia and, at times, a crippling physical fatigue.”
“I seek forgiveness from anyone whm I may not have served adequately as bishop, due to my human limitations,” Martino said, adding later, “As the song says, you have to know when to hold them and when to fold them. And I think it’s time to move on.”
This controversial bishop, who gained national prominence for his strident pro-life advocacy and aggressive criticism of pro-choice Democratic politicians, was still more than a decade away from reaching the Church’s automatic retirement age of 75. Martino’s abrupt resignation, along with the fact he was not reassigned to another post within the Church–but ushered to a rural retreat center–has some church insiders suggesting that the highly unusual move was far from voluntary–and quite possibly the work of a Vatican that has been decidedly less openly critical of the Obama Administration. Church insiders also say Martino had worn out his welcome with his brother bishops in the U.S., as he began to totter dangerously over the line of separation of Church and State with his demagogue pronouncements on his Catholic teaching.
Martino’s departure came just weeks after the Archbishop of Santa Fe became the first Church leader to speak out publicly about the increasingly political behavior of a small minority of bishops within the conference. Archbishop Michael Sheehan told the National Catholic Reporter on August 12 that he spoke out during the bishops’ meeting in June, arguing that they risked “isolat(ing) ourselves from the rest of America by our strong views on abortion and the other things. We need to be building bridges, not burning them.”
From the start of his six-year tenure in Scranton, Martino alienated many with his abrasive style. He frequently clashed with the local Catholic universities–including the Jesuit-run University of Scranton–and was dismissive of their ruling bodies, arguing as bishop he would not heed their advice.
Martino seemed to take special pleasure in catigating institutions and individuals that he felt were failing to represent Catholic values.
Last February, Martino blasted another local college, Misericordia University, for inviting Keith Boykin, an openly-gay author, Clinton administration staffer and Harvard Law classmate of President Obama, to speak on campus. The university, run by the Sisters of Mercy, was “seriously failing in maintaining its Catholic identity,” Martino charged. He also sought to close down the institution’s program on diversity.
Also in February, Martino sent a letter to the leaders of three Irish-American organizations threatening to close St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations if groups “honor pro-abortion officials” by inviting them to speak or otherwise be honored during events in which the church might be involved. Ultimately, the Mass was held, but not before he again threatened to shut the cathedral if members of the local Catholic teachers’ union were invited to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Bishop Martino refused to recognize the union.
During the 2008 presidential campaign Bishop Martino focused particular attention on vice presidental nominee Joseph Biden, the Scranton’s native son and Catholic Democrat. The bishop declared that Biden would be denied Communion if he tried to receive it at any church in the diocese, which covers the northeast corner of the state. “I will be truly vigilant on this point,” said Martino. And he warned his parishioners there would be dire consequences for supporting Biden and the Democratic ticket. In October, just prior to the election, Martino directed that a letter be read at all Sunday Masses, charging that a vote for a pro-choice politician was the same as supporting “homicide.”
Bishop Martino also called on priests and Eucharistic Ministers to act on their own to deny Communion–the central element of Catholic belief and worship–to any public officials “who persist in support for abortion and other intrinsic evils.”
One of major incidents contributing to Martino’s downfall came when he showed up unannounced as a voter-education forum at a Honesdale parish. Martino took the microphone and proceeded to criticize the organizers for discussing a comprehensive election guide, “Faithful Citizenship,” endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, instead of the letter he had drafted for the diocese on abortion.
When a nun at the forum reminded Martino that Faithful Citizenship had been prepared and endorsed by the entire bishops’ conference Martino responded, “No USCCB document is relevant in this diocese. The USCCB doesn’t speak for me,” he declared. “The only relevant document…is my letter. There is one teacher in this diocese, and these points are not debatable.”
Such comments didn’t endear him to the parishioners who organized the forum, or to his immediate superior, Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali. As the head of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Rigali is just as opposed to abortion as Martino. But he is a much more politic figure.
Many think Martino finally overstepped this spring when he started training his sights on Bob Casey, Jr., the Democratic senator from Pennsylvania and a staunchly pro-life Catholic. Casey’s late father, the former governor of Pennsylvania, is still revered by Catholics for speaking out against the Democratic Party’s support for abortion rights. Bu that didn’t stop Martino from sending Casey letters–also issued as press releases from the Diocesan office–warning the sentor that his oppostion to abortion was insufficient. In one such letter, Martino wrote that Casey “persist(s) formally in cooperating with the evil brought about by this hideous and unncessary (abortion) policy” and suggested that the senator could be denied Communion in the Scranton diocese.
The situation came to a head this spring, when King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA invited Senator Casey to speak at its commencement ceremony. Objecting to Casey’s vote to confirm former Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius (a Catholic who supports abortion rights) as Secretary for Health and Human Services, Martino said it was “sad and disappointing” that the college chose to honor a Democrat who could not “muster the courage” to oppose “the pro-abortion agenda.”
Two days before Casey’s address at King’s College, Cardinal Rigali issued a statement “applauding” the senator for introducing legislation to promote policies that encourage women facing unplanned pregnancies to carry their babies to term. In the highly ritualized world of Church communication, the Cardinal’s announcement was akin to a public smackdown of Martino. One month later, Martino was summoned to Rome, and submitted his resignation. It was formally accepted in July, and he was out by the end of August.
During his farewell press conference, Martino was unapologetic. “I did what my mother told me to do,” Martino said. “She would also say, ‘Well, you do the right thing.’ And my conscience is clear.” He said he wasn’t trying to become a rallying point for the most vociferous foes of abortion, but he defended them saying they are often too readily dismissed by the media and even within the church because of their “passion.”
He praised vocal pro-lifers as “very dear to the Lord” because of their outspokenness, and said “bishops should encourage” them as they try to “overturn a profound cancer in our society, this sin, frankly, of murdering 50 million people (referring to the number of abortions since Roe v. Wade in 1973). I think we have become quite blase about that, and that scares me very much.”
“By the world’s standards perhaps I have not been successful here,” Martino concluded. “But I did what I thought was right.”
Clearly, not everyone agreed with that self-assessment.
The bishop’s high-profile controversy, and reports of low morale among the diocese’s parishioners and priests, did not go unnoticed around the country and in Rome, church observers say.
“It’s not the people who left the church that bothers Rome,” said Joseph K. Grieboski, a Scranton native and founder and president of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute on Religion and Public Policy. “It’s the people who stayed and are disaffected.
“People who are going to leave are going to leave no matter what, and the bishop became an excuse. It’s the people who stayed and said, ‘I stayed despite him,’ that’s what bothered Rome and that’s what bothered his fellow bishops.”
A few days ago, Pope Benedict XVI asked the Italian Bishops’ Conference for an “assessment” after the editor of its newspaper, Avvenire, was accused by another publication of homosexual behavior and harassment.
“His Holiness has asked for information and an assessment of the current situation,” said a statement posted last week on the website of the bishops’ group, which publishes the daily Avvenire.
Yesterday, Dino Boffo, director of the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire, resigned–ostensibly in the wake of a tumultuous feud with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
The row erupted after Boffo ran a series of stories in Avvenire that criticized the immigration policies and personal life of the prime minister.
Letters from readers complained that a Roman Catholic newspaper had a moral duty to denounce divorce, consorting with teenage girls, naked poolside parties and the prime minister being caught on tape telling a prostitute to wait for him in “Putin’s bed” while he showered.
Boffo, the editor, began to weigh in. “People have understood the unease, the mortification, the suffering this arrogant neglect of sobriety has caused the Catholic Church,” Boffo wrote last month.
Under cover of a paper owned by his brother, Paolo Berusconi, the prime minister retaliated.
Under a front page banner headline, Il Giornale, ran an article accusing Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian Bishops Conference, of running a “moralistic campaign” against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, 72. The article went on to scrutinize Dino Boffo, 57, Avvenire‘s top editor, claiming he had a homosexual affair and had accepted a plea bargain in 2004 for harassing the wife of his lover.
The Il Giornale article openly admitted that the article was in response to Boffo’s criticisms of Berlusconi’s private life, and called Boffo a hypocrite.
In a statement, Mr. Boffo described the report as an “absurd” attempt to smear his reputation. Mr. Boffo described himself as “the first victim” in the 2001 harassment case. He didn’t elaborate on the matter.
After the story appeared, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State and deputy to Pope Benedict XVI, telephoned Mr. Boffo to offer his “solidarity.”
He was joined by Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, the Archbishop of Milan, who said he had offered Mr. Boffo his “esteem and gratitude.”
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the bishops conference, described the attack on Mr. Boffo as “disgusting.”
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, former secretary to the late Pope John Paul II and now Archbishop of Krakow in Poland, said it was “the first time a Catholic paper has been attacked with such violence.” He added that he was “very worried by the moral decadence into which Italy is sliding because of the behavior of certain important political leaders.”
Il Giornale ‘s attack escalated when another editorial aimed at the Catholic Church itself, mocking not just the “hypocrisy” of sexually active priests with “weak flesh,” but even the “Mitteleuropean” accent of Pope Benedict XVI, a German.
Earlier in the week Il Giornale reported how Dino Boffo had been successfully sued by a woman who claimed that he had tried to steal her husband from her in 2001. The matter, which involved a couple from Terni, near Perugia, was settled out of court in 2004 with Boffo agreeing to pay a small fine. The article claimed Boffo had been listed by police in document as a gay man “noted for this kind of activity.” (It’s not clear–harassment or chasing married men??)
The story dragged in the Italian goverment with Robert Maroni, the Interior Minister, was forced to telephone Mr. Boffo to assure him no such police document existed.
Officials said the alleged police document appeared in reality to be an “anonymous letter” sent to Italian bishops earlier this year.
Prime Minister Berlusconi and his allies had hoped to patch up his relationship with the Catholic Church after months of articles linking Berlusconi with teenage models and “spicy” parties. He denied he paid for sex after an Italian prostitute went public with claims that she slept with Mr. Berlusconi at his residence in Rome.
“Gossip isn’t enough to crucify someone,” Vittorio Feltri, the editor of Il Giornale wrote.
In April, the premier’s wife announced plans for a divorce, accusing him of “consorting with minors.”
“I’ve never had ‘relations’ with minors and have never organized ‘spicy parties,’ retorted Berlusconi. “I’ve simply taken part in engaging dinners which were absolutely in line with morality and elegance. And I’ve never knowingly invited anyone to my house who was not a serious person,” the premier told Il Giornale.
After photos of scantily clad guests and a naked man partying at his Sardinian home were published, Berlusconi then found himself embroiled in an escort scandal when Patizia D’Addario claimed she and other women were paid by Bari businessman Gianpaolo Tarantini to attend parties at the premier’s residences.
Berlusconi admitted that he was “no saint” after the left-leaning daily La Repubblica and sister weekly Espresso posted audio takes and transcripts that it alleges are of conversations between the premier and a call girl on their websites.
Friends of the prime minister warned him he is wadding into dangerous waters with the church that could harm him politically. Many Italians care about what candidates have its normally implicit support. The church generally supports candidates on the right, like Mr. Berlusconi, making the current confrontation that much more unusual and significant.
But Berlusconi’s popularity has started to drop in the polls, and he appears deeply worried about further damage, especially from moderate Catholic voters. This week he announced he was bringing defamation lawsuits against several publications that have been critical of him, part of what his critics and allies alike worry is a dangerous trend toward treating any criticism as disloyal and possibily illegal. (Hmmmm…does this sound familiar in some Church circles??!!)
As part of an effort to mend relations with the Vatican, Mr. Berlusconi had planned to attend a high profile religious service and dine with the Vatican’s No. 2 official when the Holy See issued a statement withdrawing the dinner invitation. The statement also said that Mr. Berlusconi wouldn’t attend the service, known as the “Perdonanza,” or the annual day of pardon for sins.
Mr. Berlusconi’s plans to attend the Perdonanza was seen by the Italian public as a gesture in the direction of atonement.
The service was established in the 13th century by Pope Celestine V, who decreed that anyone who entered the basilica on August 28 and 29 could receive a plenary indulgence–if they have already confessed to their sins in private and taken Communion.
In its statement, the Vatican said Mr. Berlusconi’s dinner plans with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who officiated Friday’s service, was called off partly out of concern that the meeting woul be “exploited.” The Vatican official said the Holy See didn’t want to be viewed as giving a “benediction” to Mr. Berlusconi’s political positions and his personal life.
The situation become more complicated and shaded when Gian Maria Vian, editor of the Vatican’s semi-official daily, L’Osservatore Romano, didn’t speak out on behalf of Boffo in an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Courier della Sera.
Vian restated the decision of the Holy See’s newspaper not to write about Berlusconi’s private life because the paper is international and is not designed to cover controversies in Italian politics.
Vian further expressed his opinion that some recent editorials in Avenire were exaggerated when, for example, one article compared the government’s position on immigration to that of the Italian administratin prior to the Holocaust.
The comments of Vian were interpreted as constituting a point of contention between the Vatican newspaper and the Italian Bishops’ Conference. Benedict XVI sought to dispel any ideas of a rift by personally calling Cardinal Bagnasco, president of the conference, and affirming his esteem for the episcopal body.
Both in articles published in Avvenire,as well as in the letter to Cardinal Bagnasco tendering his resignation, Boffo, who is married, insists on his innocence and states that Il Giornale‘s accusations are not true.
He thanked the Church for its support, but aded that it “has better things to do than strenuously defend one person, even if unfairly targeted.”
Boffo said he believes the attacks against him are due to the fact that Avvenire is a voice that is independent of “secular power.” He asks, “What future of liberty and responsibility will there be for our information?”
Cardinal Bagnasco expressed in a communique gratitude to Boffo “for the commitment shown over many years with competence, rigor and passion, in fulfilling such a precious assignment for the life of the Church and of Italian society.”
The cardinal also expressed his “closeness and support” to the former director.
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco was in the news a few years ago when he claimed that permitting gay marriages was merely the beginning of slippery slope. “Why then say ‘no’ to incest? Why say ‘no’ to the pedophile party in Holland?” he asked.
Draw your own conclusions.