Monthly Archives: April 2012

Vatican ‘accepted one billion lire’ to bury crime boss in basilica next to former popes

The Vatican is facing a deepening controversy over the burial 22 years ago of a notorious crime boss, with reports emerging that the church accepted a one billion lire (£407,000) payment from the mobster’s widow to allow his interment in a basilica.

A source at the Holy See told the Ansa news agency that “despite initial reluctance” the then vicar-general of Rome, Cardinal Ugo Poletti, “in the face of such a conspicuous sum, gave his blessing” to the controversial interment of Enrico De Pedis, the former boss of Rome’s notorious Magliana gang. The money was reportedly used on missions and to restore the Basilica of St Apollinare, where the mobster was laid to rest next to popes and cardinals after his death in 1990.

The claims, which the Vatican has not commented on, may explain how such a reviled criminal was buried in such a hallowed site. Last week, to deflect growing criticism and to help resolve a 30-year-old murder mystery, it emerged that Vatican officials had decided to move the remains of De Pedis from his special crypt.

Pressure mounted earlier this month when a prosecuting magistrate, Giancarlo Capaldo, claimed senior officials at the Vatican knew much more than they were letting on about the Magliana gang’s links to the Holy See, and the gang’s suspected kidnap and murder of Emanuela Orlandi, the 15-year-old daughter of a Vatican official, in 1983. “There are people still alive, and still inside the Vatican, who know the truth,” he said. Some believe Emanuela’s father had evidence linking the Vatican Bank, Istituto per le Opere di Religione, to organised crime, and that she was snatched to keep him silent. The theory is that De Pedis, who was shot dead in 1990, organised the kidnapping.

For the past two decades, there has been speculation that Emanuela’s remains were put in the tomb alongside De Pedis. The girl’s brother, Pietro Orlandi, has joined those calling for the tomb to be opened.

The Vatican – under heavy scrutiny after a set of scandals – denies the claims and has hinted that investigators will be able to witness the re-opening of the crypt, in a bid to quash the rumours. “It seems that nothing has been concealed and there are no Vatican secrets to reveal,” said a spokesman for Vatican, Father Federico Lombardin.

It is likely that the body of De Pedis will be moved to a less high-profile place of rest. The location may be decided at an upcoming meeting. Even if the girl’s remains are not found in the crypt, the mystery surrounding her disappearance will remain.

Other theories surrounding her fate are not in short supply. One, more palatable for the Vatican, suggests that Magliana gang members snatched her at the behest of Turkish extremists, who wanted to use her as a bargaining tool to win the release of Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who tried to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981.

But others have implicated Paul Marcinkus, the disgraced and deceased former head of the Vatican bank, which was involved in the bankruptcy of Italy’s largest private bank, the Banco Ambrosiano, in 1982.

Soon after the news of the scandal became public, the president of Banco Ambrosiano, Roberto Calvi, was found hanging beneath Blackfriars Bridge in London.

The Independent | Michael Day | Monday 30th April 2012

Ireland’s most popular DJ won’t apologise for insulting furious Catholic hierarchy

Church leaders are furious that the country's most popular DJ, Ray D'Arcy, was allowed to air his controversial views on his Today FM show.

RADIO host Ray D’Arcy has refused to apologise to Catholic Church leaders for saying they had “f***ed up” the country. The presenter is now facing the prospect of being investigated by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) after refusing to apologise.

Speaking on his show today, Mr D’Arcy refused to retract the statement.

“When I was referring to the Catholic Church, and I thought people would take this to be the case, I was referring to the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, not to people like my mother who is a devout Catholic and a great Christian.”

He added: “I never meant to cause offence to them. And it is the hierarchy of the Catholic Church who have taken offence and are demanding an apology. That won’t be forthcoming. There won’t be a retraction. Because in my opinion the institution of the Catholic Church has caused well documented damage to the country and you don’t need me to go through the litany of the documented things they have perpetrated.”

Church leaders are furious that the country’s most popular DJ was allowed to air his controversial views on his Today FM show.

D’Arcy’s production team were locked in talks on the matter right up to the start of his programme this morning.

The Communications Office of the Irish Bishops has demanded a full apology saying the comments were “insulting”.

The former children’s TV presenter told his 245,000 listeners on Friday that the Catholic Church had, in many ways, “f***ed up this country”.

He was discussing the now infamous comments made by Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin who sparked outrage by claiming ‘fornication’ was the main cause of unwanted pregnancies.

A spokesperson for the Church revealed at the weekend that the matter would be referred to the BAI in the form of a formal complaint unless an apology is made.

Herald | Niall O’Connor | 23rd April 2012

UK: Public protest against Saudi sexism in London

A public demonstration against sport sexism at the Olympic Games will be held outside the Saudi Arabian embassy, 30 Charles Street, London W1J 5DZ on 25 April 2012 at 12 noon. (Nearest tube station: Green Park).

The Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford have organised public protest against Saudi sexism in London following official confirmation by Saudi Arabia that it will be sending an exclusively male team to the London Olympics.

Here is the announcement from the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford:

A public demonstration against sport sexism at the Olympic Games will be held outside the Saudi Arabian embassy, 30 Charles Street, London W1J 5DZ on 25 April 2012 at 12 noon. (Nearest tube station: Green Park).

Following belated official confirmation by Saudi Arabia that it will be sending an exclusively male team to the London Olympics, this depressing news has to be challenged by all thinking Muslims the world over.

It is imperative that progressive British Muslims protest this tyrannical regime’s gross distortion of Islam as well as its flagrant violation of the Olympic charter. This repressive desert kingdom will now be the only country in the world that will have no female contingent at the Olympic Games. All other Muslim nations are sending mixed gender teams to the Olympics (of course, appropriately dressed).

Not only does the indefensible Saudi decision contravene the egalitarian principles of authentic Islam, but it also flouts the stringent regulations of the International Olympic Committee, which states that ‘any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, sex or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement’.

For these compelling theological and human rights reasons, MECO (Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford) is initiating a nationwide campaign to protest the deliberate exclusion of women from the national squads of Saudi Arabia at the London Olympiad. But it is not enough just expose the chauvinistic Saudis and their bigoted Wahhabi clergy for their primitive sexism that is wrapped up in their notions of Islam. Indeed, MECO has openly called for Saudi Arabia to be banned from the London Olympics and is leading the campaign to this effect.

It is shameful that a despotic Muslim monarchy has not only denied fundamental human rights to half its citizens on the basis of a distorted theology but has also defied the noble aspirations of the Olympic movement by fielding exclusively male teams. In the past, when nations have violated Olympic guidelines, they were automatically suspended from international competition. South Africa was banned from the Olympics for its racist apartheid while Afghanistan’s Taliban zealots were excluded from the 2000 Sydney games because of their sexist ideology. So, why has a feudal Muslim kingdom not been required to adhere to Olympic rules and been allowed to send male-only teams to the London games? Is it because it is oil-rich and a pro-Western puppet regime? It is high time that the Olympic hierarchy as well as the international community take a principled stand by demanding that this vile Muslim autocracy either has mixed gender participation or be banished from the Olympic Games.

MECO urges the British public in supporting its bold campaign for Muslim female empowerment by targeting those who subvert pristine Islam and who defile the lofty ideals of the Olympic movement. Saudi Arabia (and also tiny Brunei) must be barred from the forthcoming London games because of their blatant sexism. Anything less will be an embarrassing toleration of female discrimination in our liberal democracy and gender equal society.

Come one, come all to expose Wahhabi pollution of Islam and hear prominent speakers defending Muslim women’s rights.

We call upon all right-minded people, Muslim as well as those of other faiths, to join us in demanding that chauvinistic Muslim countries be banned from the Olympic Games for their endorsement of sexual apartheid in sports. Please circulate this communication to those who might be interested to come to the demonstration. Many thanks.

More on this story here and here.

National Secular Society | 23rd April 2012

Denmark: Islamists attempt to convict journalist of blasphemy fail. But the law remains

Intrepid Danish journalist, historian and President of the Free Press Society Lars Hedegaard. Photo: Jens Dresling (arkiv)

Intrepid Danish journalist, historian and President of the Free Press Society Lars Hedegaard, has been acquitted unanimously by a panel of seven Supreme Court justices.  led by Chief Justice Børge Dahl. Hedegaard was accused of intentionally denigrating Muslims in breach of Article 266b of the Danish Penal Code, which states,

Whoever publicly or with the intent of public dissemination issues a pronouncement or other communication by which a group of persons are threatened, insulted or denigrated due to their race, skin color, national or ethnic origin, religion or sexual orientation is liable to a fine or incarceration for up to two years.

The Court stated in a press release that “there has been no basis for convicting him of intentionally disseminating his remarks to a wider audience.” As a result, the Court found no grounds for remitting the case for re-trial in Superior Court, which convicted Lars Hedegaard after he had been found not guilty in the lower court.

Although obviously pleased with this current decision, Hedegaard warned that the root of the problem — Article 266B — and its selective application designed to proscribe public debate on Islam — had not been addressed.

As Hedegaard observed,

I’m satisfied that the Supreme Court has delivered a verdict in accordance with the evidence given in lower and superior court. The prosecution had this evidence before it decided to press charges so I cannot understand why it went ahead. The prosecutor has burdened the courts and the taxpayers needlessly for more than two years.

This judgment is not necessarily a victory for free speech. Article 266b, under which I was charged, remains unchanged. It remains a disgrace to any civilized society and is an open invitation to frivolous trials. Thus, we still have no right to refer to truth if we are indicted under this article.

There have been several attempts to make 266b conform to normal standards of justice but successive governments and parliamentary majorities have steadfastly refused.

I am, however, happy that my acquittal means that at least the Supreme Court has set a limit to how deeply the State may penetrate one’s private life. The Supreme Court has clearly upheld the principle that for a statement to be criminal, it must have been made with the intent of public dissemination. We may still talk freely in our own homes.

Reflecting upon his own travails, Hedegaard concluded by pledging to continue the struggle to abrogate 266B:

My personal reaction to more than two years of fatiguing litigation is to demand written guarantees from people who want to talk to me. With their signatures they must confirm that nothing be passed on without my express approval and without me having had a chance to vet it. This goes whether people are journalists or not.

I would advise everybody to do the same for we all know that the prosecutor lies in wait.

The Free Press Society will strengthen its struggle against the penal code’s despicable article 266b.

American Thinker | Andrew G. Bostom | 21 April 2012

Ireland: The Church has the largest property portfolio but pays not a penny in tax

Palace: Archbishop Martin

It may have the country’s largest private property portfolio but despite owning thousands of houses, the Catholic Church does not have to pay a cent in household charges.

The Church, which at one point owned or occupied at least 10,700 houses, schools, halls, churches and shops around the country, has an exemption from all property taxes because it is a charity.

With 1,368 parishes in Ireland – many containing several parochial homes and other properties – the Church may be getting off the hook for up to €500,000 a year in Environment Minister Phil Hogan’s new tax, despite its massive wealth and land interests.

The charge may be just €100 a year at current rates but the Government is expected to introduce much higher fees, which could rise to €1,000 for certain properties.

Archbishops and other senior church figures sleeping in their luxurious palaces can rest easy however, as their homes will not be subject to the charge.

This could mean a shortfall in excess of €1m per year in the tax take the Government would have hoped for as the full charges are introduced over the next three years.

‘They are all exempt from tax’

The revelation is sure to put pressure on the Fine Gael/Labour coalition to end the exemption for Church buildings. A similar controversy in Italy – where the Catholic Church owns nearly a fifth of all Italian properties – ended with the Church having to pay up for its property.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Ireland said that all properties held by it in the Republic of Ireland were effectively exempt.

He said: ‘The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 provides for exemptions from payment of the ­household charge to “certain ­charities”.

‘To date, charities who have obtained a CHY number (ie charity number) are exempt from payment of taxes. Church property in the majority of Irish dioceses is held in a diocesan trust, has a CHY number and is regarded as a charity.’

The spokesman added: ‘Where it is held under another structure the title holders clearly hold the property in trust for the diocese and the property has the same status.’

‘All Church property – which includes churches, schools and priests’ houses – are the ­property of parishes and ­dioceses. As such, they are exempt from tax.’

The Church has sought clarification on whether it would ever be subject to household taxes but has not yet received an answer, according to the spokesman. He said: ‘The Irish Bishops’ Conference established a Diocesan Advisory Committee some years ago to help prepare for the introduction of the Charities Act 2009.

‘In the context of the household charge, the bishops’ committee has sought clarification on this matter. There has been no official reply to date.’

Mystery surrounds the extent of the Church’s land portfolio but one survey estimated that at one stage the Catholic Church held 1% of all properties in the State.

‘Nobody knows how much Church owns’

In the 1970s, the Church owned or occupied more than 10,700 properties around the country and controlled almost 6,700 religious and educational sites.

Its vast property bank included schools, houses, halls, churches, convents, parks, sports fields, hospitals, farms, warehouses, shops and empty sites.

Included among those figures were several thousand private homes, retained for use by clergy and religious, such as the Drumcondra palace where Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin lives.

A spokesman said: ‘You are looking at more than 1,300 parishes around the country, some very small and some covering a much larger area. While there might only be a single residence in one parish, in others, there could be 10 or 12. The truth is nobody knows.’

Religious orders have sold land worth €667m over the past 10 years but are still regarded as the country’s second largest landlord, with only the State itself owning more property around the country.

Ten years ago, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern signed a controversial deal with the Catholic Church that indemnified it from compensation claims from clerical abuse ­victims.

In exchange the Church agreed to hand over land and property to the State worth an estimated €80m before the property crash.
Mail Online | Ken Foxe | 22 April 2012

UK: Bishop says church opposition to gay marriage is a disaster

Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, forcefully oppose the Government’s move to change the legal definition of marriage Photo: PA

The Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam, the Bishop of Salisbury, compared bishops opposing marriage reforms to 18th century Christians who believed slavery was “God-given”.

His intervention will be seen as an attack on traditionalists, including the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who forcefully oppose the Government’s move to change the legal definition of marriage.

It comes as the Church prepares its formal response to David Cameron’s proposals to permit marriage between same-sex couples, before the close of the Government’s consultation in June.

Speaking on Saturday at a conference in London on homophobia in the Church, Bishop Holtam said: “Experience might lead us to be cautious about the certainty with which moral positions are built with Biblical support.

“Before Wilberforce, Christians in this country saw slavery as having Biblical support for what was the God-given in the ordering of creation.

“In South Africa, Apartheid was seen in the same way by the Dutch Reformed Church.

“Within the churches, Christians conscientiously disagree about the interpretation and significance of the six Biblical passages referring to homosexuality.”

In comments that will provoke traditionalist Anglican leaders meeting in London on Monday to address a growing “crisis” over openly homosexual bishops, Bishop Holtam said a “very big gap” had opened up between the Church and society as a result of an “ill-tempered debate” over sexuality.

“Most people now see the Church’s avoidance of equality legislation as immoral and it undermines us,” he told the conference, organised by the Cutting Edge Consortium, a coalition of national bodies campaigning for sexual equality in religious organisations.

The bishop added: “It is a disaster that we have allowed the Church to be seen as the opposition to equal marriage.”

He argued that by opposing the measure the Church had prompted the Government to create a “very disturbing” distinction between “religious” and “civil” marriage.

“Some Christians might like to say there are more important issues than gay marriage but we are not connecting with our society and for the churches this should be a mission priority,” he said.

His intervention follows an open letter yesterday from Church figures including Dr Jeffrey John, the openly gay Dean of St Albans, calling for the Church to “rejoice” at the prospect of same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, Roman Catholic priests in England and Wales will today distribute a leaflet drawn up by bishops urging worshippers to campaign against the proposals.

It states: “The Church is opposing the Government’s policy because it cares for the common good of society. Society should support the best means of raising the next generation. It’s about what marriage means for all – it’s not just about what happens in churches.”

The Telegraph | Edward Malnick | 21 Apr 2012

Malta: defrocked priest cleared of rape because of an error in the charge sheet

Defrocked priest Godwin Scerri

A mistake that led to a defrocked priest being cleared of rape could have been corrected during proceedings, a judge ruled yesterday as he threw out an appeal by the Attorney General.

The mistake emerged when, in the beginning of last August, Magistrate Saviour Demicoli acquitted Godwin Scerri, 75, of raping a boy because the victim testified that it happened in Sta Venera in 1992 when the charge sheet said it had taken place in Marfa.

Mr Scerri was convicted of abusing boys about 20 years ago and was sentenced for five years in jail.

Another priest who was also defrocked, Carmel Pulis, 64, was sentenced to six years in jail also for abusing boys.

They both appealed the sentence and the case is expected to be heard next month.

Brother Joseph Bonnett, who had been facing identical child abuse charges, passed away in January, 2010, aged 63, during the proceedings.

During the appeal, lawyers Phillip Galea Farrugia and Elaine Rizzo, from the Attorney General’s Office, argued that the place where the crime was committed was not essential for guilt to be established.

Defence lawyer Giannella de Marco insisted that the prosecution had a time limit within which to make any changes to the charge sheet and once that did not happen and the time was up, the acquittal should stand.

Mr Justice David Scicluna hinged his argument on this point and said that the prosecution did in fact have time to correct the mistake, which it did not.

The Attorney General failed to correct the mistake while the case was being heard and the magistrate acquitted Mr Scerri because of that mistake, the judge said, dismissing the appeal.

In a statement a few days after the rape acquittal, the Attorney General had referred to claims that the charge sheet could have been corrected by his office when the case was still being heard and noted that the Attorney General did not lead the prosecution before the court.

The Attorney General had also argued that a correction in a late stage of the proceedings caused consequences and risks for the prosecution. The accused could demand to be notified once more of all the charges and also demand that evidence be heard all over again.

This, the Attorney General had noted, raised the risk of the case being declared time barred and all the case, and not just the incorrect charge, would collapse. Rehearing all the testimony also incurred the risk of delays, mistakes and discrepancies between witnesses and, thus, correcting the charge was not an easy solution and a late correction could well destroy the whole case, the Attorney General had said.

His office had appealed from the decision a few days later.

Times of Malta | Waylon Johnston | 19th April 2012

Scotland: secularists oppose RE in schools

Secular campaigners are about to launch a new campaign against religious education in Scottish schools.

The Humanist Society Scotland is set to start pushing for parents to withdraw their children from religious education and religious observance.

The society, which campaigns against religion in education, claims schools’ legal obligation to offer a meaningful alternative to RE for those opting out is also not being delivered.

Michael McGrath, the director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, this week dismissed these claims as disingenuous.

Religious education

“Religious observance is a statutory part of the curriculum because successive governments believe it is an important part of a young person’s experience to develop spirituality,” Mr McGrath said. “The right for parents to opt out is included in every school handbook in the country.

“In practice, what we often find is that non-Catholic pupils talk very positively about being included in the faith life of the school and participating is positive for all concerned.”

A Church of Scotland spokesman also dismissed the secularists’ claims.


Since 2005, Scottish schools have been required to make parents aware they can remove their children from religious education and observance.

The Humanist Society is planning to advance their agenda at an exclusive conference next month, that charges £270 for a single attendee.

The Affording Parity of Esteem conference, which takes place next month in Edinburgh will look at ways to encourage parents to remove their children from religious education and will feature such noted opponents of Catholic education as Green MSP Patrick Harvie.

The Scottish Humanist Society openly admits on its website its opposition to Catholic schools, the single biggest provider of religious education in Scotland, and its aim to scrap them.

“Humanists wish to see all children educated together under the one roof,” it says. “God should be introduced as an idea and not a fact, especially to young and therefore impressionable children. The teaching of various religious stories should not contradict what they learn in science; there should be a clear distinction between the supernatural and the natural.”

Scottish Catholic Observer | Ian Dunn | 20th April 2012

Child sex abuse in the Church: alliance demands full inquiry

Sue Cox, co-founder of Survivors Voice Europe, at the March & Rally of the Secular Europe Campaign, September 2011.

 Anglican and Catholic churches have lost the right to police themselves, say victims.

Survivors of childhood abuse by members of the Anglican and Catholic churches have called on the government to conduct a full independent inquiry which would force religious institutions to disclose any files they have on clergy who have been accused of sexual exploitation.

It is the first time abuse victims have joined forces with lawyers, charities and child safeguarding specialists to launch a dedicated national campaign demanding such an inquiry.

Members of the newly formed Stop Church Child Abuse campaign argue that both the Anglican and Catholic churches have “lost the right to police themselves” following a long history of covering up abuse claims.

They also say safeguards which were put in place following a string of sex abuse scandals in the late 1990s are not strong enough to reinstate trust in the institutions.

Both churches have countered that their current safeguards are some of the strongest in the world and have been used as a blueprint by other religious organisations following abuse scandals.

Yesterday a coalition of survivor groups – including the Minister and Sexual Abuse Survivors (Macsas), the Lantern Project, Survivors Voice Europe and the National Association of People Abused in Childhood – collectively argued that only an independent inquiry can assess the full extent of abuse within organisations run by the Anglican and Catholic churches.

They point to the fact that governments in Ireland, Australia, the Netherlands and Canada have all ordered some form of independent review which helped shed further light on abuse and cover-ups that were not uncovered by the church’s own investigations.

Both the Anglican and Catholic churches insist that the vast majority of abuse allegations are historical and have now been effectively tackled.

But a string of recent convictions and renewed scandals have reinvigorated demands to hand over investigation of abuse claims to an entirely independent body.

There is also widespread anger that both churches have vigorously resisted attempts by victims to seek compensation in the courts.

Richard Scorer, a Manchester based lawyer who has fought on behalf of abuse victims for the past 15 years, said yesterday: “The one thing I’ve learned on these is that the churches only act on the issue of child abuse when they face external pressure. There is no internal momentum within the churches to deal with this issue.”

Within the Anglican community a string of historical abuse scandals centred around the Diocese of Chichester has continued to blight efforts by senior leaders to assure the public that they have learned from the abuses of the past. A report which was commissioned following the conviction of a serial sex offending priest has never seen the light of day whilst a second report by Baroness Butler-Sloss found that senior clergy, including bishops, showed “a lack of understanding about the seriousness of historic child abuse”.

The Catholic Church has also seen new abuse scandals spring up. In the past five years Downside, Ealing and Buckfast Abbey have all seen monks or employees jailed after admitting sexual molestation charges in the past five years.

Earlier this year Father Richard White, a monk from Downside, was jailed for sexually assaulting school boys in allegations that stemmed back to the 1980s. Although he was removed from teaching he still had access to children. His most recent victim was abused in 2007.

Lucy Duckworth, from NAPAC, explained why she believed child safety in schools is still not taken seriously enough. All schools, including ones run by churches, are advised to report any abuse allegations to the local authorities. Yet they are under no statutory obligations to do so. “Technically it is not against the law to not report a rape,” she said. “If a headmaster is aware that a priest has raped a child within their school they legally do not have to do anything else about it. The public don’t really know this.”

To highlight discrepancies in child protection policies, she has polled a random sample of 39 faith schools around the country and found that only one said it would automatically report all abuse allegations.

“We’re told time and time again by the church that they are taking all possible measures to prevent historical abuse ever repeating itself again,” she said. “What we have found is that this is simply not true.”

Both the Catholic and Anglican churches defended their safeguarding record.

Danny Sullivan, chair of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission, said that the church “deeply regrets [the] hurt and damage” caused by abuse and “remains committed to working as effectively as it can with victims and survivors and to ensuring their needs remain its priority.” He added that regular audits “monitors the quality of safeguarding processes and systems within Dioceses.”

Elizabeth Hall the Church of England’s national safeguarding officer added:

“We continue to both promote the safest possible arrangements now and try to respond well to people who come forward from the past. This involves working closely with the statutory authorities involved and with organisations that support the victims, which is why we made contact with NAPAC when we heard about the Stop Church Child Abuse campaign.”

She added that the church would “of course co-operate with any public inquiry and work closely with those setting it up” if it was given the go-ahead.

Case Study: ‘I believe the abuse was known about’

Phil Johnson, from Eastbourne, suffered abuse at the hands of two Anglican priests over a period of around nine years.

Colin Pritchard was convicted in 2008 and Roy Cotton died before coming to trial.

“It was my belief that the abuse was widely known within a circle of friends associated with the church,” Mr Johnson said. “I went to the police and reported my abuse and my suspicions about the others.

Both vicars were arrested in December 1997. They both denied everything. In March 1999, I was informed that the Crown Prosecution Service had decided not to proceed as there was insufficient evidence.

Another victim had come forward who had been abused by the same two vicars as me and my brother.

After another police investigation there was a trial in 2008. I was informed by the church that Cotton had a previous conviction and they had known about this for many years. People like me have been through five years of police investigations, four years of inquiries, all driven by the victims and survivors.

“The church cannot be trusted to investigate itself. We need honesty, transparency and clear external oversight. And we will get that only with a fully independent public inquiry.”

The Independent | Jerome Taylor | 19th April 2012


Survivors Voice Europe are organising the


30th June 2012, Verona, Italy

More information will be posted on the Survivors Voice Europe website.


Hitler, Stalin, Obama and a belligerent Catholic Church

The Catholic Church seems to be turning itself from being a religious body into being a rather unpleasant political party – one that is so reactionary it makes the Tea Party look like the Teddy Bears Picnic.

For instance, the Conference of Catholic Bishops in the USA has declared a fortnight-long “Fight for Freedom” campaign starting on June 21. 18,000 parishes are to be called to “energise Catholics” against what the bishops see as a Government attack on religious freedom. It is particularly concerned with the Obama administration’s mandate that religion-controlled hospitals and universities supply insurance cover for procedures that the Vatican finds morally unacceptable.

This is a risky move by the church which faces humiliation if it fails to bring the Government into line. There is also the slight problem of opinion polls showing that American Catholics in general are completely out of sympathy with the Church’s teachings on contraception. One recently showed that 89% of married Catholic women used artificial birth control. A Pew research poll also showed that a significant majority of Americans think religious bodies should stay out of politics.

Despite the Government offering exemptions from the Department of Health and Human Services mandate (HHS mandate) so that the Catholic Church will not have to pay for contraception or anything else that it finds unacceptable, the bishops will not relent. Their ultimate aim is to scupper the provision of contraception for everybody under this new health scheme.

This is not a campaign based on rational argument; it is framed in hysterically emotional terms. Some of the bishops seem severely in need of Prozac to calm them down (although they probably have moral objections to that, too).

The campaign that the Church has stirred is extremely powerful. If you enter “HHS mandate” in to Google, you will find page after page of petitions, propaganda, ranting and railing against the mandate.

And it’s soon going to get a whole lot worse. To give an idea of the kind of overwrought rhetoric we can expect over the next few months, let’s start with Bishop Daniel R Jenkey of Illinois who spoke at an event called “A Call to Catholic Men of Faith”.

According to Jenkey the Health and HHS mandate can never be accepted: “No Catholic institution, under any circumstances, can ever co-operate with the intrinsic evil of killing human life in the womb. No Catholic Ministry – and yes, Mr President, our schools and hospitals are ministries – can remain faithful to the Lordship of the Risen Christ and his Glorious Gospel of Life if they are forced to pay for abortions.” He called on American Catholics to vote “with their conscience” in the presidential election – that is to say, against Obama. “This fall,” he said, “every practicing Catholic must vote, and must vote their Catholic consciences, or by the following fall our Catholic schools, our Catholic hospitals, our Catholic Newman Centers, all our public ministries —. Because no Catholic institution, under any circumstance, can ever cooperate with the intrinsic evil of killing innocent human life in the womb.”

The bishops said that the Church had survived thousands of years of persecution and will survive Obama – but it will take “heroic Catholicism, not casual Catholicism”.

Warming to his topic, the hysteria rises: “The church survived barbarian invasions. The Church survived wave after wave of jihads. The Church survived the age of revolution. The church survived Nazism and communism. And in the power of resurrection, the Church will survive the hatred ofHollywood, the malice of the media and the mendacious wickedness of the abortion industry.”

Bishop Jenkey then said: “May God have mercy on the soul of those politicians who pretend to be Catholics in church, but in their public lives, rather like Judas Iscariot, betray Jesus Christ by how they vote and how they willingly cooperate with intrinsic evil.”

Jenkey recalled in detail other leaders that have “tried to force Christians to huddle and hide,” including Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.

“Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services and health care,” he said. “In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama — with his radical, pro abortion and extreme secularist agenda — now seems intent on following a similar path.”

The American bishops suggested that Catholics should not be expected to abide by laws that go against the “religious conscience”, and this was supported by the Vatican. In a speech at the Catholic University in Milan, a senior Vatican official, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, said that there should be stronger protection for both the Catholic Church and individual Catholics when they are faced with laws that conflict with the “moral norms”.

Lajolo said that it was “essential” that “the freedom of the church and of its institutions to live and act in conformity with its own religious conviction is always guaranteed.” He called for “conscientious objection” to be enshrined in civil law.”

A New York Times poll in March showed about 51 per cent said that employers who object on moral or religious grounds should be able to opt out of providing birth control for their employers. Forty per cent said no.

Catholics for Choice, the liberal voice of Catholics, was quickly on the scene. John O’Brien, its president, said in a statement: “The bishops have failed to convince Catholics in the pew to follow their prohibitions on contraception. Now they want the Government to grant them the legal right to require each of us, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to set aside our own guaranteed freedom from government-sanctioned religious interference in our lives.”

The editors of Commonweal, a liberal Catholic magazine, said the bishops “vastly exaggerate” threats to religious liberty. In addition “the tenor of the bishops’ statement runs the risk of making this into a partisan issue during a presidential election in which the leaders of one party have made outlandish claims about a ‘war on religion’ or ‘a war against the Catholic Church’.”

And in Britain the Catholic Church has also adopted an increasingly belligerent tone. In Scotland and England, where the Governments are consulting on the introduction of marriage for same-sex couples the bishops and cardinals have delivered overtly political messages in their campaigns.

The church’s representatives are pretty ruthless in their pursuit of their goals and use the language of extremism. Their rhetoric, when they aren’t getting their own way, is sometimes brutal, and yet any attempt to reply will be condemned as “anti-Catholicism”. It seems they have learned a trick or two about silencing critics from the proponents of “Islamophobia”.

But what the Catholic Church hasn’t yet learned is that the more they rant and rave like this, the more extreme their demands and the more political they become, the fewer followers they have.

The Pope, from whom all this authoritarianism ultimately emanates, doesn’t care. He has said he would prefer a smaller church with a more obedient flock than one made up of “cafeteria Catholics” who pick and choose which teachings they like.

I’d be happy with that, too, because then we could once and for all ditch the myth that the Catholic Church is in any way a source of compassion or humanity.

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society | 19th April 2012

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