Monthly Archives: July 2011

The catholic church does NOTHING to help sex abuse survivors

Sue Cox, at the Protest the Pope March & Rally

I don’t know why I am still amazed by the audacity and duplicity of the catholic church. I refer, of course,  to the announcement that because of the pope’s visit to England last year, more sexual abuse “victims” of catholic clergy are coming forward to the NCPC !!!!

I am further astonished to hear   the myth repeated that “one of the first things the pope did when he arrived was see victims”!

It seems that because of the “avuncular” pontiff, victims are assured that they will be taken seriously! You bet they will, it is very serious for this narcissistic tyrannical regime to squash and quieten as many Survivors as they can!! This pope is guilty of covering up abuse cases which are crimes against humanity. Damn right it is serious.

Their sick PR stunts get worse, and more outlandish every time they creep from under their rock to  grab the headlines ,seing an eye to the main chance as Premier Kenny of Ireland at last showed what leadership is all about!

Let us get this all quite clear!!!
The catholic church does NOTHING to help survivors of their pedophile clergie’s crimes. (unless you count praying with them and washing their feet!)
They duck and dive, lie and deflect, blame everyone else,from the pornography that is available everywhere, to the gay community (they do a particularly nice line in “Victim blame”)
They refuse to comply with the laws of ANY country where they are being taken to task, seeing themselves as beyond the law. (they have their own they tell us)
When they are forced to answer to the law, they use every loophole, every delaying tactic possible which often ends up with the very damaged victim being further abused.
They appoint profoundly unskilled  and biased people  from their own ranks to head their” Child protection” service, (Like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank)
They use every occasion to spin their face saving bullshit, and smile as they do it.

IF there is an increase in  SURVIVORS of these people coming forward – since the pope’s visit, then it is because  there were 20,000 people standing up to be counted,, and marching in protest through the streets of London – Dedicating that march to the survivors of abuse by the catholic church. It was because ordinary decent British  people came out in their thousands to tell survivors LIKE ME that they are with us and they are repulsed!

I was priveleged to  be the first person to speak at that rally. I looked out at the sea of warm compassionate faces, and they made me proud, and they made me BRAVE! Brave enough to stand with other survivors from all over the World and scream at these criminals  — ENOUGH! Brave enough to be in Rome in October and scream  ENOUGH to the Vatican, Brave enough to stand with 65 deaf and speech impaired fellow survivors  in Verona, who were all systematically abused by catholic priests in their childhood in the institute where they were supposed to be being cared for (one man by 16 priests!) ENOUGH!!!
Brave enough to tell other survivors, come and stand with us and gain your power, do not allow these criminals to abuse you any longer.
It was the the Secularists the Humanists the Gay rights organisations, The Human rights fighters , the Women’s rights organisations, Geoffrey Robinson, Peter Tatchell,Richard Dawkins,   and the  honorable BRITISH people that gave me that courage, and if there is an increase in the survivors of these creeps coming forward, then PLEASE put the praise for that where it is due! Not at the perpetrators of these crimes.

We have seen this week Ende Kenny, tell it at last how it is in Ireland, there is a man with real balls ! It is time that other government leaders  followed his example, time for David Cameron and the Australian , Canadian, American, Polish, French, Spanish, German ,Dutch, Italian leaders to show their balls too.
Ratzinger and his heirarchy simply don’t have any.

Sue Cox

Survivor’s Voice Europe

Sunday 31st July 2011

Petition the United Nations to define the systemic sexual abuse of children as “Crimes Against Humanity”

Vatican row over sex abuse scandal reveals emergence of a new Ireland

Enda Kenny has been praised at home for his attitude in dealing with the sex abuse scandal. Photograph: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

When Ireland’s prime minister, Enda Kenny, dared to attack the Vatican’s role in the alleged cover-up of child abuse, he unleashed an unprecedented row between the Catholic church and the Irish state, with Rome recalling its ambassador to Dublin, and one priest even comparing Kenny to Adolf Hitler.

But Kenny’s speech last week has also won him thousands of letters of support, and revealed how – after centuries in which the Catholic church was a dominant force in Irish society – the influence of Rome has dwindled, leaving a country that is now more tolerant and secular than at any time in its history.

“It was a monumental moment. Here was a man who is a practising Catholic and yet he was prepared to say these things,” said Ciara McGrattan, the deputy editor of Gay Community News.

Even the country’s leading Catholic newspaper praised Kenny’s speech, in which he accused the church’s hierarchy of downplaying the rape and torture of children to uphold the power of the church. In an editorial, the Irish Catholic said Kenny had “captured the anger of a generation” and described the church hierarchy as “arrogant and authoritarian”.

Not everyone agreed: one Irish priest wrote that the last European leader to issue such a blistering attack on a pope “was the ruthless German dictator Adolf Hitler”. Father Thomas Daly was forced to apologise for the comment, made in a pamphlet entitled “Heil Herr Kenny”.

Vatican officials feel that the church has been unfairly attacked, possibly for political reasons. One high-ranking official who spoke on condition of anonymity noted Ireland was caught up in the euro crisis and speculated that Kenny might have been seeking to distract public opinion.

Others stressed that the Holy See’s response, which has been promised by the end of August, would seek to heal the breach. But the signs this week were that it would also include a vigorous defence of the Vatican’s position.

In Dublin gay and secular activists said Kenny’s comments reflected a new Ireland, where attitudes to the church and its influence on daily life have quietly undergone a dramatic shift over the past decade.

Until 1993 homosexuality was still illegal but, according to McGrattan, conditions for gay people have dramatically improved over the past 10 years.

“There has been a move across the board even in schools – of which more than 90% are controlled by the Catholic church – where talk about being gay is no longer banned or simply ignored. Gay youth groups are even going into schools to talk about homophobic bullying. This is real progress.”

That tolerance is measured in a series of current opinion polls that show the openly gay Irish senator David Norris as the people’s favourite to become Ireland’s next president when the country elects a new head of state in the autumn.

Striding through central Dublin with a rainbow-striped gay rights banner across his shoulder, Richy Guidon Smith said he admired Kenny’s stance – especially as the Irish premier’s Fine Gael party was once among the staunchest defenders of the Catholic Church’s temporal power.

“What he said about the Vatican was unusual language for any prime minister – but especially an Irish prime minister and one who is a Catholic himself. It may have been surprising but he was representing the country when he said it,” he said. “We stand very much behind him on that as we have a lot of anger towards the Vatican over the sort of horrible things they have said about gay people.”

Mick Nugent, satirist and secular campaigner, said atheists were among the fastest growing minorities in Ireland. In 1981, just 39,000 people ticked the “no religion” box on the national census; in the last survey, carried out in 2006, that figure had risen to 180,000, and Nugent estimated the figure could now be as high as a quarter of a million.

“In the early 1980s you needed to be married and have a doctor’s prescription to buy a condom,” he said. “In the early 1990s divorce was still illegal. Today we finally have a taoiseach standing up to the Vatican but [you still] have to swear a religious oath to become president or a judge. The Catholic church still controls around 90% of primary schools. And we still have a blasphemy law passed by the last government.

“The difference between 20 years ago and today is that most people now recognise that these things have to change.”

The Guardian | Henry McDonald in Dublin and John Hooper in Rome | 29th July 2011

Belgium: abuse victims to launch legal action against the Vatican

The suit will be filed by the lawyers representing some of the abuse victims, at a court in Ghent

A collective lawsuit will be presented next 16 September by a group of victims of paedophile priests, against the Vatican, before a court in Ghent.

This is according to a report by the newspaper “De Morgen”, quoting the victims’ lawyer, Christiane Mussche.

Of the eighty victims who were ready at first to face the civil lawsuit, many have pulled out, the lawyer admitted. Mussche explained that the comments made by the Christian-Democrat senator, Rik Torfs, an expert in Canon law, in which he claimed victims had few possibilities of succeeding in their lawsuit, put the victims off.

“It is scandalous, the lawyer commented, because this is another attempt to intimidate victims who have already suffered enough from the intimidation of the Church.”

La Stampa | Vatican Insider | 29th July 2011

Take action now!

  • Spread the word to colleagues, friends and family – make clear to them that whether religious or not (or just interested in freedom of religion), they should support this campaign.

There are many reasons for supporting this campaign.

There are many challenges to freedom of religion and belief across Europe. Maybe you know people who have concerns about supporting so called ‘aggressive Secularists’ – well actually we are not aggressive but we do support the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; including freedom to change religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

If you too agree with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights then please show your support and, if you can, join the march and rally.

In order to protect this right to freedom of religion and belief there has to be a secular understanding. The governments of Europe must take seriously their responsibility to all their citizens and not have their writ subverted. The exact form that this secular arrangement can take may differ from place to place but everywhere it must prevent privileged undemocratic access to power and influence. The UK is to some degree a secular society. You can see on the website areas in which things could be improved.

However a cloud of unreason is once again threatening to descend. Some religious organisations are gaining greater clandestine influence. Those who peacefully and reasonably demand equality and wish to have the intimacy of their personal autonomy respected are being branded aggressive and anti-Christian. These descriptions are being encouraged by brazen calumnies.

There is no moral equivalence between those demanding equality of treatment and those demanding permission to discriminate. If I were a government official nobody would allow me to refuse to deal with someone because they were members of the British Defence League or for that matter of Christian Voice or simply Catholic! Why should a public official (or provider of a service to the general public) be able to refuse to serve someone on the grounds of their sexual orientation?

People with extreme religious convictions that oppose certain legal entitlements, say to divorce, contraception, abortion and so on, do have the right to express their opinions both individually and collectively, to make representations and lobby for change. However if they are engaged in the provision of a service to the general public they must not be allowed to discriminate.

Unfortunately there are those who would like to construct a hierarchy of entitlement to the protection of human rights. That some believe that LGBT people do not have a full entitlement is maybe, in part, because they have been among the most recent to have had their rights recognised and this is still far from universal. We must challenge such discrimination.

If the humanity of some individuals is qualified it is only a matter of time before others will also find their humanity challenged.

We march in the name of others and always for ourselves.

Central London Humanist Group | Josh Kutchinsky | 27th July 2011

Italy: the politics of disgust

Italian PM Berlusconi with Pope Ratzinger

Unfortunately, we continue to suffer the bullying of a parliamentary majority away from the very perception of what it means respect for civil rights. It’s been barely a day after the severe lesson by the Constitutional Court, which declared illegal the prohibition of marriage for migrants without a residence permit, because it was against a fundamental human right.

Here we go again, the Chamber of Deputies immediately has denied this sign of civilization that, for a moment, had made us feel close to Countries that practice good law, the law that has its compass in the respect for others, in the acceptance of diversity as a basis of equality. The Parliament has blocked the ability to approve a rule against homophobia, even using, in a totally distorted way, the argument of its unconstitutionality. The world turned upside down. It is the triumph of the most vulgar people, of the ministers indicating the public contempt for the “faggots” and then finding allies in those [The Vatican] who continue to practice an ideological fanaticism in the name of morality and “nature”.

Once again, miserably, the politics of disgust has won on the policy of humanity, in the words of Martha Nussbaum, on whose words I had tried to bring everyone’s attention a few days ago, in vain.

We know the reasons which led to propose a rule against homophobia. We had to react to a homophobic climate, no longer creeping, but openly declared, thanks to which homophobic words were being followed by physical attacks. The cultural regression that surrounds us, whose language gives us daily evidence, was an excellent breeding ground for these attitudes. In these cases the rule of law, beyond the punitive aspects, has a high symbolic value. It is a sign of a society that does not allow specific behaviors and which rejects their institutional legitimacy.

None of the arguments made in support of the ruling of unconstitutionality is convincing. Some, indeed, are really a sign of an embarassing legal modesty, with the bad faith resulting in the worst quibbles. Exactly to avoid some of these objections, after the vote of 2009, it was decided not to introduce a real crime of homophobia, but merely to provide a simple aggravating factor. However even this compromise wasn’t enough. It has been said that the reference to ‘”sexual orientation” is too generic, so that the rule lacked the necessary clarity on the criteria, leaving too much space to the discretion of judges.

But sexual orientation was already described by the Maastricht Treaty, it is back in the Lisbon Treaty and the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights contains a reference to it in Article 21, among the cases of unlawful discrimination (all documents at the time voted by the Italian Parliament). This is a concept far from elusive, and whose boundaries have been clearly defined not only culturally, but through extensive law cases. No risk of uncertainty or arbitrary application, then.

As for the next argument that the law would have created a preferential treatment for homosexuals, which would have created an inequality of treatment in other cases or to other agents, we are facing another legal mistake.

We should know that equality is certainly to treat equally similar situations, but also to treat differently situations that differ substantially with one another, as the Constitutional Court has often said. And this is exactly the case that should apply to homophobic behavior.

This bad day in Parliament was at least marked by some divisions within the majority.
Eighteen members of the PDL abstained (including ministers Carfagna and Romani) and one, Versace, voted against the ruling of unconstitutionality. Something begins to move, and this leads us to insist that we can reach a civil law. But this shameful affair requires two policy considerations. What reasonable dialogue on reforms in justice and rights can be started with a majority that in the Senate seeks to impose another law “ad personam” (for the benefit of Berlusconi) and in the lower Chamber always bars the way to improvements of the legal system towards more civilized principles? What political alliance can there be between the forces of the center-left and the Catholic party UDC which buries the law against homophobia, supports a law against end-of-life choice and continues to protest against the outcome of the referenda on public water?

Paola Concia, who had pushed the anti-homophobia bill in the Parliament, has proposed to start the process for a law of popular initiative. We must do it now, also using the energy coming from the civil movements in society. Living people against the dead souls of the Parliament. On this issue we must return, because yesterday’s events confirmed the existence of a very serious problem of representation. Institutions can not cope when every day people are forced to witness the inability to grasp the social dynamics, the contempt for minorities, and the sacrifice of civil and social rights.

Repubblica | Stefano Rodota’ | 27 July 2011

Italy: dangerous drift as Parliament rejects anti-homophobia law

Today, the Italian Parliament approved a motion that states that the anti-homo/transphobia draft bill is against the Italian Constitution. Therefore, the Parliament rejected the law by blocking any further discussions on the matter. Arcigay considers this act as the latest outrage against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people across the country carried out by a centre-right majority composed of men and women of mediocre human, political and cultural profile.

Italy has been squeezed without mercy by these insane politicians who do not have any respect for people’s lives and rights.

We denounce before Europe and the entire civilized world that in Italy there is a real democratic emergency. We denounce that in this country a law that protects victims of homophobia is defined by the Parliament as unconstitutional – the same Parliament and political majority composed by parties whose leading members have defined as acceptable and sharable the ideas of Breivik, the murderer of Utoya.

This Parliament has betrayed justice and respect of civil rights and has decided to stand by the side of the homo- and transphobic aggressors.

We ask again that the European Union help us deal with the dangerous raising of homophobia, xenophobia and racism, that the Italian Parliament has legitimised once again by telling us that violence should be tolerated and that the discrimination is the measure of coexistence in our country.

As the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe Thomas Hammarberg has stated today, even though the law didn’t pass, Italy is still obliged to meet the standards set by the Council of Europe on the issue of homophobia.

Arcigay | Stefano Bucaioni | 26th July 2011

United Nations brings in new protections for freedom of speech

Freedom of Expression Can Be Limited Only in “Exceptional Circumstances”

GENEVA, Jul 26, 2011 (IPS) – The United Nations Human Rights Committee confirmed the central role of freedom of expression in human rights, making it clear that it can only be limited in the most exceptional circumstances, and calling for the first time for unrestricted public access to official information.

After two years of debate, the Committee has produced a General Comment that outlines the admissible restrictions on freedom of expression.

Article 19 - the International Centre Against Censorship told IPS in an email exchange with the group’s headquarters in London that it welcomed the Committee’s General Comment.

The organisation is named after Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression, as does the same article in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Although the General Comment does not discuss specific cases, the interpretations adopted Jul. 21 would apply to incidents involving freedom of expression, such as the violent protests triggered by the 2005 publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad by a newspaper in Denmark, or more recently, the wiretapping scandal involving Australian media magnate Rupert Murdoch

“What this General Comment does is, in a very forthright and detailed way, re-emphasise the central role that freedom of expression plays for all human rights,” Michael O’Flaherty, a member of the U.N. Human Rights Committee and rapporteur for the draft General Comment, told IPS in an email response.

In the document, the Committee – whose task is to oversee the compliance of U.N. member states with the ICCPR – “makes clear that freedom of expression can only be limited in the most exceptional circumstances,” the Irish academic human rights lawyer said.

The Committee, which is made up of 18 independent experts, also identified and offered “some detail about the right of access to information,” O’Flaherty added. “And it’s the first time this element of the right has been addressed by the Human Rights Committee, and in fact it’s been very rarely addressed in international human rights law before now.”

Article 19 Senior Legal Officer Sejal Parmar told IPS that the organisation welcomed “the positive recognition of the right of access to information as a human right and important dimension of freedom of expression” and “the affirmation that any restrictions on websites, internet-based media and information systems such as internet service providers should be compatible with freedom of expression.”

The advanced version of the General Comment is to be released in English on Jul. 19, at the end of the Committee’s second annual session. Final approval of the text is to come at the October meeting, when the official translations into the other two working languages, Spanish and French, have been completed.

O’Flaherty said “the strength of the General Comment is evidenced for example in the language that was adopted by the Committee around issues such as blasphemy and insult to religion, where the Committee made clear that limits on freedom of expression for these reasons can only be in the very exceptional situations laid out elsewhere in the (ICCPR) that deal with incitement to hatred and discrimination on religious or racial grounds and so forth.”

Fabián Salvioli, another member of the Committee, said it did not linger on specific questions, like the Mohammad cartoons.

That was not necessary, he said, “because the paragraph on blasphemy is very clear. Statements and other forms of expression, even offensive ones, should not be penalised, unless they incite hatred, which is something different.”

Article 20 of the ICCPR says: “Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”

Article 19, which works worldwide to combat censorship by promoting freedom of expression and access to official information, also applauded the Committee’s decision “to strengthen its position against blasphemy laws.”

Parmar noted that Paragraph 50 of the General Comment states that “prohibitions of displays (of) a lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the ICCPR except in specific circumstances envisaged in Article 20(2) of the Covenant.”

The senior legal officer added that “it would be impermissible for such laws to discriminate against one or certain religions or belief systems or their adherents over another, or religious believers over non-believers” or “for such laws to prevent or punish criticism of religious leaders or commentary on religious doctrine and tenets of faith.”

Salvioli disagreed with the suggestion that the scandal over phone hacking by Rupert Murdoch’s news¬papers in the United Kingdom may demonstrate the need for limits on freedom of expression.

“Freedom of expression is not absolute, it already has limits,” he said. “It’s a right that is subject to limitations that are clearly outlined in article 19.3 of the ICCPR.”

The Argentine expert stressed that the Committee has jurisprudence on this question, and that any limitation that is not rational or proportionate and that fails to meet the requisites set out in article 19.3 is inconsistent with the ICCPR.

Article 19.3 of the ICCPR establishes that freedom of expression may “be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order or of public health or morals.”

“The Committee’s General Comment doesn’t say this, it’s my personal opinion: any restriction should be strictly evaluated,” Salvioli said. “That is, we cannot give a broad interpretation to restrictions of freedom of expression.

“The General Comment also provides indications on the obligation of states to guarantee media pluralism. That is another very important aspect,” he added.

Freedom of expression implies the right of people to receive information from diverse sources, which means the concentration of power, in either state or private monopolies, should be curbed, in the search for fairness, balance and media plurality, he said.

But the Committee does not tell the state how to do this, Salvioli clarified; it merely says it is the state’s responsibility to take measures, “although it should know that it has the obligation to guarantee the broadest possible access to information,” he said.

Another paragraph in the General Comment is dedicated to what are referred to as “memory laws” – which is not a legal term, but “just a quick way to describe the laws,” O’Flaherty said.

The U.N. Committee document “makes clear that no State can tell people what to think,” he said, adding that “therefore any laws that prohibit the publication of versions about the past, or different interpretations of history have to be constructed with great care, so that they don’t violate the freedom of a person to hold an opinion and they don’t go beyond what’s allowed to be restricted under the freedom of expression.”

Salvioli noted that some countries have passed memory laws. But the Committee clearly states in the General Comment that no law can keep people from expressing themselves freely on historical events – although these opinions must not be an apology for national, racial or religious hatred, as the ICCPR establishes, the expert stressed.

IPS asked O’Flaherty: If freedom of expression means access to information, then does it also cover the right to communicate?

“Oh, most certainly,” he responded. “I mentioned access to information just because that’s something new in the General Comment, but the vast bulk of this document is about exactly what you just described. It’s about your central and important human right to communicate with others, necessary not only in itself but because so many other human rights depend on it.”

The General Comment also grapples with the way new technologies are changing expression, he said.

“What we found though, is that even the information platforms are changing, that the fundamental principles that were already clearly addressed with regard to, let’s say, the traditional media, transfer over in a very logical and foreseeable way to the new media as well,” O’Flaherty said.

“Perhaps the one change would be a recognition by us and in the General Comment that the function of journalism is also changing,” he added.

Parmar’s statement says paragraph 50 “is a success for a number of organisations led by Article 19 who had argued that the Human Rights Committee should highlight the inconsistency between Article 19 of the Covenant and blasphemy laws.

“It also follows the decision of the (U.N.) Human Rights Council to reject the concept of ‘defamation of religions’ in a resolution on discrimination against persons based on religion or belief in April 2011,” he added.

IPS | Gustavo Capdevila | 26th July 2011

Reason must prevail in Norway’s agony

The double tragedy will inevitably heighten the debates on immigration and fundamentalism

Norway is accustomed to seeing itself lauded as the healthiest, wealthiest and most peaceful country in the world. On Friday, that changed. The horrific events of that day have left the country in mourning. Its enviable position at the top of so many league tables for wellbeing is now clouded by a tragedy of a kind that no parent, no relative, no friend should ever endure. We send our condolences to all those who have lost loved ones. The bombing in Oslo that left the city looking like a war zone was followed by the slaughter of dozens of young people, members of the Norwegian Labour youth league, on the island of Utoya, 15 miles west of the capital. They had been unable to find a hiding place from the man armed with a gun whom they believed was a helpful policeman.

At the time of writing, it is unclear whether Anders Behring Breivik, the 32-year-old suspected of both attacks, had accomplices. He is Norwegian born and well educated; he ran his own company cultivating vegetables and reportedly lived with his mother in an affluent area of Oslo. Until Friday, he must have appeared an average model Norwegian citizen, possibly even abiding by what is known in Scandinavia as Jante Law, the Nordic version of tall poppy syndrome. It was invented by Aksel Sandemose, a Danish-Norwegian author in the 1930s. It satirically describes how, since the collective and equality are so important in Scandinavian societies, there are rules to inhibit self-glorification. Rules that, it seems, Anders Behring Breivik has now broken in the most terrible manner.

Police chief Sveinung Sponheim, speaking on Friday, said that Breivik held strong political views, his internet postings suggesting that “he has some political traits directed towards the right and anti-Muslim views”.

Whatever the motivation for the carnage, prime minister Jens Stoltenberg understood the threat that such an attack poses to the fabric of Norwegian society, aimed at the values Norwegians cherish most – their openness, freedom of expression and their feeling of safety. “You will not destroy us,” Stoltenberg said. “You will not destroy our democracy, or our commitment to a better world… no one shall scare us out of being Norway.”

The circumstances surrounding the double tragedy is bound to trigger a debate as to the possible causes and what might have been done to prevent the bombing and deaths.

By a terrible irony, the young people who have lost their lives did so precisely because, in attending a summer camp, they wanted to be active and engaged citizens. It would be a huge disservice to them if the anti-immigrant rhetoric of which Anders Behring Breivik was apparently fond stokes greater antipathy to Norway’s immigrants. In times of chaos, it is all too easy to turn on “the other” in our midst.

Scandinavia in particular has developed a strain of political discourse that has given rise to parties that many would categorise as on the extreme right; some have won seats in parliament. The hard-right Swedish Democrats, for instance, entered parliament for the first time last September with 20 seats. Actions such as those that ripped into Norwegian society on Friday cannot be allowed to boost the support of those advocating division, discrimination and violence.

So why would Anders Behring Breivik choose to target young members of Norway’s Labour party? Could this be his warped protest against a government he saw as too lax on immigration?

Norway is a small country with a population of only 4.9million – around 10% of whom are immigrants, mainly from Poland, Sweden, Pakistan and Somalia. It is a rich welfare state with relatively low income inequality and the highest employment rate amongst immigrants in the OECD.

However, poverty and unemployment affect non-Norwegian residents most acutely. The right is small, but a poll this month suggests a growing scepticism towards immigration. According to the poll, half of all Norwegians want to shut their country’s borders to new immigrants and almost as many again do not believe integration efforts have gone well.

Immigration from the developing world began relatively late in Norway, in the 1990s, and some have found the transition from a largely homogenous to a more multi-cultural society difficult, Anders Behring Breivik amongst them. He describes himself on Facebook as a nationalist, a Christian and a conservative, strongly opposed to multiculturalism. His apparent dislike of “the other”, and the impact of immigration, may have provoked actions described by justice minister Knut Storberget as “shocking, bloody and cowardly”, but they are bound to be part of a conversation that Norway conducts with itself as it comes to terms with what has happened.

In that context, it is vital that the understandable sense of anger and loss doesn’t allow more extremist voices to dominate. In the same poll, for instance, 80% of Norwegians agreed that it was “positive” for children to go to school with other children from “various cultures” and around half of those questioned believe Norwegian businesses should employ more immigrants.

In Britain yesterday, furious polemical arguments were already taking place around the description of Anders Behring Breivik as a “Christian fundamentalist” – some justifiably wishing to dissociate fundamentalism from Christianity. It perhaps says something about prevalent attitudes in the west that there is very little similar imperative in debates to consider on occasion the merits of uncoupling Islam from fundamentalism.

Six hundred young people, aged 15 to 25 years old, had gathered on Utoya on Friday. By the evening, many on land and in the water were wounded or dead; powerless parents connected by phone were only able to hear their children’s screams – an unimaginable situation. Prime minister Stoltenberg told the country: “It’s important that we don’t allow ourselves to be scared. Because the purpose of that kind of violence is to create fear.” Shortly before, youth camp leader Eskil Pedersen said he was in “shock and sorrow”. He had been evacuated from the island after the police arrived. However, in spite of what he had just witnessed, he went on to use words that chimed with those of his prime minister. “We meet terror and violence with more democracy,” Pedersen said. “And we will continue to fight against intolerance.”

Even in grief and anger, the voice of reason must be heard.

The Observer | Sunday 24th July 2011


Ireland squares up to the Vatican

Last autumn, as Pope Benedict XVI celebrated an outdoor mass in Hyde Park, I joined a march through London to protest against his visit to the UK. It was boisterous and good-natured, but I was struck by the presence of a number of elderly women who seemed to be marching on their own.

When we started up conversations, I discovered why they had come; speaking quietly, and often with Irish accents, they revealed that as children or young adults they had been victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

The exposure of clerical abuse in the worldwide Catholic church has been going on for decades. Last week, another official report was published, exposing the church’s failure to tell the authorities about allegations of sexual abuse in the Irish diocese of Cloyne, but the result was unexpected. Suddenly and without precedent, the Irish prime minister attacked the Vatican in terms that raised the prospect of his country one day becoming a secular republic. Speaking in the Irish parliament, Enda Kenny talked about “the rape and torture of children” and said the report exposed in Ireland “an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic”.

This is jaw-dropping stuff: Ireland is one of the most Catholic countries in the world. The Irish church has long behaved as though it’s immune from the criminal law, and that has exposed thousands of vulnerable people – not only children but the young women who were used as slave labour in church-run Magdalene laundries – to horrific abuse. The Cloyne report describes the Vatican as “entirely unhelpful” and says it effectively gave Irish bishops the freedom to ignore the church’s own guidelines on reporting abuse. Abusers continued to officiate as priests and were held in high regard by victims’ families; in one case, the abuser officiated at a victim’s wedding.

It isn’t only in Ireland that such accusations have been levelled at the church. A Catholic priest was arrested this month in Germany, where he’s accused of sexually abusing three boys as recently as 2007, while the church in Australia is paying millions of pounds in compensation after failing to stop paedophile priests for decades. The Vatican has repeatedly failed to protect children, involving itself in a series of shameful cover-ups which have allowed paedophile priests to escape the law.

Last year’s huge PR exercise during the Pope’s visit to the UK was a reminder that two irreconcilable views of the pontiff exist side by side: the pious, white-haired, avuncular theologian versus the leader of an institution that continues to shield child-abusers and rapists. No wonder the events of the last few days have the appearance of a seismic shift, with Kenny echoing the Vatican’s sternest secular critics as he talked about “the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism – the narcissism – that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day”.

Ireland’s political class has been left reeling after Kenny issued a direct challenge to the pontiff, warning him that “the standards of conduct which the church deems appropriate to itself cannot, and will not, be applied to the workings of democracy and civil society in this republic”. Even in Catholic Ireland, it seems, the Vatican’s behaviour has reached a tipping point. Let’s hope that the result is a long-overdue debate about separation between Church and State.

The Independent | Joan Smith | Sunday 24th July 2011


Is this the first step to Ireland becoming a secular Republic?

While Britain was distracted by the drama of the phone hacking revelations, in the Irish parliament something even more sensational was happening.

On Wednesday, as the parliament opened its debate on the Cloyne report into cover-up of child abuse by the Vatican, the Prime Minister Enda Kelly stood up and delivered a speech that could change Irish life forever.

The speech has pitted the state against the church in a way that would have been unimaginable only ten years ago.

Mr Kenny told the Dáil (the lower house of parliament): “Because for the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago. And in doing so, the Cloyne report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism, the narcissism, that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day… The rape and torture of children were downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold instead the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and ‘reputation’.”

Mr Kenny sent an unequivocal message to the Vatican that its immunity from the law of the land was over. He said: “This is not Rome. This is the Republic of Ireland 2011.” He emphasised the word ‘republic’.

In the debate that followed there were even harsher words for the Vatican, and one deputy, Mick Wallace, said: “The Government must reassess the church-State relationship. The church has played too big a part in the fabric of the State. The sooner they are divided the better for both parties.”

It seems we now have a generation of politicians in Ireland who are prepared to do what is necessary to break the stranglehold of the Church: a rewriting of the constitution to make clear that Ireland is an independent, democratic state that does not look to a theocratic outside institution for its policies.

The press, too, is reflecting some of the fury felt by a population that feels completely betrayed by an institution to which it has been devoted for centuries, with headlines such as:

Canon lawyer in call to jail clerics who hide abuse” (Irish Times)

The crozier is no longer more powerful than the Dail” (Irish Independent)

We must destroy the nest of devils at the Vatican” (Irish Independent)

Time to stop bending the knee to the Vatican” (Irish Herald)

All roads, in the child abuse scandal, lead to Rome” (Irish Times)

The Vatican’s response to all this consisted of the usual arrogance and excuse-making. It’s incredible that these clerics can imagine that people will simply accept that “the Holy See’s response and considerations will be forthcoming in the most appropriate time and manner.” The “Holy See” has had adequate opportunities to respond and in each case it has failed in its duty to put things right. And who but the most deluded imagines that canon law can ever again trump the law of the land?

This arrogance is underlined by the treatment of the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, who has spoken out loudly and consistently about the Church’s failure to properly address the crisis inIrelandand to take effective steps to protect children.

For his stance, Cardinal Martin appears to have been completely isolated by his fellow clerics, but seems to be the only one among them that has a grain of genuine compassion.

National Secular Society | Terry Sanderson | 22nd July 2011

Terry Sanderson, National Secular Society

See also:

Will Home Rule bring an end to Rome rule?

Irish political classes lose their fear of the Catholic Church

35 lies by the Catholic Church in the Cloyne report

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