Monthly Archives: June 2012

UK: Why the Church must not win in this confrontation with the state

The Church of England has thrown down the gauntlet to the Government over the issue of gay marriage.

The message is clear: “do as we say or there will be dire consequences.”

Their response to the Government consultation on its intention to legalise civil marriages between same-sex couples is overwrought to the point of hysteria. It is manipulative to the point of blackmail.

It seems the Church of England has decided to adopt the tactics that are currently being used by the Catholic Church against the Obama administration in America. There, the Church is bringing a legal action to challenge to the President’s health insurance mandate on the grounds that it would involve them in the provision of contraceptives.

Although the US Government has said that the Catholic Church would not have to pay this element of the insurance for its employees working in hospitals and schools, the bishops are still undeterred. They have banded together to launch a court challenge to force the Government into retreat.

And it is at this point that it becomes clear that this is not, as they claim, about “religious freedom” at all. It is about establishing how far the power of the Church can reach into secular Government; how much ground it can gain in the lawmaking process.

The primary – but hidden – purpose is to humiliate the President and cause him to climb down from the main plank of his election promise – which was to introduce health insurance for all. Grandiose talk of protecting “religious freedom” conceals what is really going on. Now “religious freedom” seems to mean the right for religious bodies to do whatever they like without consequences.

If Obama capitulates, the Church will then move on to its next objective, which will probably be the banning of abortion. The politicians, anxious not to receive another bloody nose from their eminences will offer little resistance..

The same thing is happening in Britain. The Church of England says that eventually the European Court of Human Rights will force it to conduct same-sex marriages in churches. And besides which, according to the consultation response, there is no difference between civil marriage and religious marriage. They are both for the same purpose: for a man and a woman to produce children.

It says the Government doesn’t have the right to “redefine” marriage.

But the Government regularly redefines marriage, as does the church. Let us not forget that in the Old Testament it was usual for men to have several wives. Indeed, King Solomon is said to have had 700 wives.

At one time divorce was illegal, but the Government changed that (again, in the teeth of furious opposition from the churches). Marriage has changed constantly over the centuries and it will weather another change – it might even be strengthened.

But the real purpose of this challenge from the Church of England is as much about staking out its territory in the political arena as it is about gay marriage. Mr Cameron is in the same position as Barack Obama – if he backs down the Church will have won a major political victory on which it will build an even more reactionary empire.

And that is bad news for all those of us who value the progress our society has made in the past few decades.

Let us not forget that the Church of England tried to exempt itself from the Human Rights Act when it was going through parliament. It tried to exempt itself from the Equality Act, saying it had a special right to discriminate where others had none. It stands in the way of the legalisation of assisted dying, even though polls show that 80%of the population would support it.

It wants more money for its buildings, its schools and the many other projects connected with the Big Society that would help it extend its influence into a society that has mainly rejected it.

The increasingly reactionary and unpleasant church has a regressive agenda that it will, if it can win this battle, happily impose on us all.

National Secular Society | Terry Sanderson, President | 12th June 2012

Turkey: men march against the abortion ban

“Take responsibility, use contraceptives”

“Use Contraceptives! Stop Lecturing Women”

“Men Against the Abortion Ban” marched across Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul’s Beyo?lu district on Sunday to express the reasons why they oppose the controversial proposal by government officials to ban abortion.

The group “Men Against the Abortion Ban” held another march in Istanbul on Sunday, following their first demonstration on the evening of June 5. The demonstrators rallied behind a banner that read “Banning abortion is subjecting women to violence” and kicked off their hour-long march from Tünel Square at 14:00.

“Hands off women, male state,” “Banning abortion is inciting to murder,” “What is it to you Tayyip, what is it to you?” chanted the demonstrators, while women on the scene also lent their support to the protestors. “Men over here for solidarity” the demonstrators also shouted as they passed before the Galatasaray High School on ?stiklal Avenue.

Bystanders mostly received the demonstrators’ march with applause and statements of support, although one man shouted “Allahüekber” (“God is great”) to the demonstrators. The protesters, in turn, replied back to him: “Abortion is a right, Uludere a massacre,” in reference to the botched air strike that killed 34 civilians last year in the southeastern province of ??rnak. “Every abortion is an Uludere,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an had later commented, sparking the entire debate on abortion.

About some fifty meters down the street, the demonstrators also had another brief encounter with a small group of “greywolves,” members of the youth branch of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP,) who were marching in the opposite direction. The protesters subsequently met the greywolves with another chant: “Hands off our bodies, fascist state.”

Beyond these two brief exchanges, most bystanders on the street regarded the demonstration favorably, while both men and women showed interest in the press release that was distributed from both sides of the marching crowd.

The “Men Against the Abortion Ban” invited their male counterparts to employ contraception, take responsibility and called on them to stop acting as “the men of the masculine state.”

A press release then followed at the end of the Istiklal Avenue leading up to Taksim Square.

“We ask: Why do men avoid facing their own responsibilities on this matter? Is it not men instead that [we] first need to speak about before abortion? Why would a woman be forced to resort to abortion?” the demonstrators said in the press release.

Men do not assume responsibility and avoid using contraceptives to enhance their pleasure because they see women’s bodies as their property, the press release further stated.

“Banning abortion amounts to giving credit to this callousness by men. The ban on abortion is tantamount to the perpetuation and reinforcement of this mind-set which [affirms the notion that] men can continue irresponsibly scattering their sperms left and right and that only women have to deal with the consequences of this. Is that not exactly what the government wants? Is it not to [get] women to perform a mandatory [term of] motherhood by making and nurturing more children as if performing a mandatory military service?” went the press release.

“None of us are free before women are free,” the protesters chanted at the conclusion. (HK)

Ataturk Society UK | Haluk KALAFAT | 11 June 2012

Vatican: deposed head of Bank fears for his life

Jurors, right, on the inquest of Italian banker Roberto Calvi, left, whose corpse was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge Photo: EPA/PA

The former head of the Vatican Bank has become the Papacy’s Enemy Number One, after police discovered a trove of documents exposing financial misdeeds in the Holy See. The banker now reportedly fears for his life.

­Earlier this week police conducted a dawn raid on the house and office of Ettore Gotti Tedeschi. Investigators say they were looking for evidence in a graft case against defense and aerospace firm Finmeccanica, which was formerly run by a close friend of Gotti Tedeschi.

Instead, as it turns out, police stumbled upon an entirely different find.

They discovered 47 binders containing private communication exposing the opaque inner workings of the secretive Holy See.  They included financial documents, details of money transfers and confidential internal reports – all prepared by Gotti Tedeschi to build a convincing expose of corruption in the Vatican.

A renowned economics professor and head of the Italian branch of the giant Bank of Santander Gotti Tedeschi took what turned out to be a poisoned chalice of a job in 2009, when he became the President of the Institute for Works of Religion, the formal name for the Bank of Vatican. His brief was formidable – to introduce transparency to a lucrative enterprise that had become a byword for money-laundering and corruption.

Pope Benedict XVI talks to the former head of the Vatican bank Ettore Gotti Tedeschi (AFP Photo/Osservatore Romano)

After a tumultuous three years marked by in-fighting and public scandals, Gotti Tedeschi was unanimously dismissed from his post by a board of Vatican officials in May.

“I have paid for my transparency” the indignant banker said to the media, as he stormed off even before his dismissal hearing was over.

The confidential minutes of the stormy meeting obtained by Reuters showed the banker accused of “progressively erratic personal behavior” and “exhibiting lack of prudence and accuracy in comments regarding the Institute”.

But there may have been other reasons.

Aware that his crusade against corruption was failing, Gotti Tedeschi probably began to leak important documents to the media.

The drip-drip of damaging revelations (alongside more personal ones presumably passed onto the media by the Pope’s own butler) has been dubbed ‘Vatileaks’, and has captivated Italy in recent months.

At the hearing, the board that dismissed the banker also indirectly accused Gotti Tedeschi of being behind some of the leaks, pointing to his “Failure to provide any formal explanation for the dissemination of documents last known to be in the president’s possession.”

While the leaks were a weapon with which to attack his enemies, Gotti Tedeschi was also preparing a last resort option if the battle was lost – a ‘suicide belt’ that would blow the lid off Vatican.

Several months ago, he reportedly told his friends that he began collecting an exhaustive dossier “in case something happened to him.”

It is this dossier that the police have now apparently discovered.

The Vatican is barely concealing its panic – and wants the folders handed back unopened.

“We have faith that the prosecutors and Italian judicial system will respect our sovereignty—recognized internationally—with regard to these documents,” said an official statement.

But there is little chance the Papacy will get its way this time.

Italian prosecutors have frequently been at loggerheads with the Vatican and have accused it of using its sovereignty as a shield against proper regulation.

If the documents do spark a legal firestorm, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi is sure to be a key witness in any trial. A former employee against his employers, and a conservative Catholic pitched against the Vatican itself.

Allegedly, Gotti Tedeschi keeps a list of personal enemies in the Vatican – people who he had felt would stop at nothing to prevent him from reforming the Institute for Works of Religion. His friends have told the media he is shaken and scared.

Police are now considering putting the whistle-blowing banker under armed protection.

RT | 10th June 2012

Vatican: Prosecutors investigate mafia link

Anti Mafia prosecutors have asked the secretive Vatican Bank to disclose details of an account held by a priest in connection with a money laundering and fraud investigation, it emerged on Sunday.

Father Treppiedi, 36, was serving as a priest in Alcamo, near Trapani, said to be the richest parish on the Mafia's island stronghold of Sicily

The official request was made more than a month ago but so far the Vatican Bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works, has refused to disclose any records of the account held by father Ninni Treppiedi – who is currently suspended from serving as a priest.

Investigators want to know more about vast sums of money that are said to have passed through his account to establish if they were money laundering operations by on the run Mafia Godfather, Matteo Messina Denaro.

The reports emerged in the Italian media and came just two weeks after the head of the Vatican Bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was sacked amid claims of power struggles and corruption within the Holy See which have been linked to the leaking of sensitive documents belonging to Pope Benedict XVI.

More in line with a Dan Brown thriller, it is not the first time that the Vatican Bank has been embroiled in claims of Mafia money laundering. Thirty years ago this month financier Roberto Calvi was found hanging under London’s Blackfriars Bridge with cash and bricks stuffed into his pockets.

Initially City of London police recorded the death as suicide but Italian authorities believe it was murder after it emerged Calvi, known as God’s Banker because of his links to the Vatican Bank, had been trying to launder millions of pounds of mob money via its accounts and through his own Banco Ambrosiano which had collapsed spectacularly.

Father Treppiedi, 36, was serving as a priest in Alcamo, near Trapani, said to be the richest parish on the Mafia’s island stronghold of Sicily, and he was suspended after a series of questionable transactions of church funds and which has also led to his local bishop Francesco Micciche being sacked.

Trapani prosecutor Marcello Viola made the request six weeks ago for details of the account held by Father Treppiedi at the Institute of Religious Works to be disclosed but according to reports in Italian media, as yet the go ahead has still not been given by the Vatican.

In particular prosecutors are said to be looking at financial transactions made through Father Treppiedi’s account at the Vatican Bank between 2007 and 2009 and which came to almost one million euros but paperwork explaining the source of the money is said to be missing.

Attention is also focusing on several land and property deals made by the parish which is in Messina Denaro’s heartland in the area around Trapani and where he still commands fear and respect.

There is speculation that Gotti Tedeschi was aware of the possible Mafia link and was about to name names and police seized paperwork from his home which is said to detail his suspicions and which he had prepared for a handful of trusted sources as he feared his life was possible in danger.

In a statement prosecutor Viola said:”We have made a request for information to the Vatican City State in the spirit of collaboration with regard to an investigation into sums of money in financial transactions undertaken by the Diocese of Trapani.”

Transactions by the Vatican Bank are already under the spotlight with leading Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera saying Gotti Tedeschi was aware of accounts held by “politicians, shady intermediaries, contractors and senior (Italian) officials, as well as people believed to be fronts for Mafia bosses.”

Of particular interest are said to be property investments and property sales that could potentially have been used to disguise money transfers and launder money – all this in the light of report earlier this year that the Vatican Bank was not completely transparent in its dealings despite efforts to be so.

The latest development comes as prosecutors in the Vatican continue to question the Pope’s butler Paolo Gabriele, 46, in connection with the leaking of documents which then ended up in a whistle blowing book published by an Italian journalist called His Holiness.

No-one from the Vatican was immediately available to comment.

The Telegraph | Nick Pisa | 10th June 2012

Turkish Islamist zeal worries Europe

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Image by: OSMAN ORSAL / REUTERS

European Union diplomats are expressing growing concern at what they see as the increasingly militant stance taken by Turkey’s ruling Islamists.

They accuse Ankara of using probes into alleged plots against the government as a tool to jail and silence opponents and compromise the country’s secular credentials by introducing Koran studies in public schools.

Other measures include lowering the age at which parents can send their children to Islamic religious schools, increasing pressure on those criticising Islam and restricting abortion.

Turkish authorities accuse the so-called Ergenekon network of being behind several plots to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Dozens of retired or serving senior military figures, intellectuals, lawyers and journalists been put behind bars.

On Thursday Stefan Fuele, European commissioner for enlargement, cited this and other obstacles in the way of Turkey’s membership bid while in Istanbul for talks.

“I have used this meeting to convey our concerns about the increasing detention of lawmakers, academics and students and the freedom of press and journalists,” he said.

Changes due to take effect when the new academic year starts this autumn also have also ruffled feathers. The Islamist-rooted ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is introducing Koran lessons.

And from the end of primary school, more parents will be able to opt out of the secular education system and send their children to Islamic religious schools. Previously these schools could not recruit children under the age of 15: now children as young as 11 will be allowed to attend.

There is concern too over plans by state broadcaster TRT to launch a religious channel and proposals for prayer rooms in newly built public buildings such as creches, theatres and even opera houses.

“A series of recent moves show that the conservative tendency has the upper hand and faces no opposition,” said Marc Pierini, a former head of the EU diplomatic team in Turkey.

“Civil society exists, but it is hardly audible,” said one Ankara-based diplomat.

“The media are for the most part directly or indirectly controlled by the AKP and the opposition is powerless,” the diplomat added.

Plans to restrict the abortion laws and other moves that critics say will would make Islam a more visible part of daily life are added areas of concern.

Comments last month by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which he compared abortion to a botched attack by the military that killed 34 civilians last December, brought a sharp response from a senior EU diplomat.

Erdogan had said of abortion: “You either kill a baby in the mother’s womb or you kill it after birth. There’s no difference.”

And in a emotive reference to the attack in Uludere, in which Turkish warplanes killed civilians they had mistaken for Kurdish separatists, he said “every abortion is an Uludere.”

“Some politicians made comparisons that are not appropriate,” Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, head of the EU delegation in Turkey, told journalists.

Turkey is preparing a bill to slash the time limit for abortions from 10 weeks to between four and six weeks.

Thousands of women have demonstrated against the proposed changes, defending the existing abortion law, which dates back to 1965.

Turkey’s acclaimed composer and pianist Fazil Say faces trial in October on charges of insulting religious values in a series of provocative tweets about Islam. If convicted, he could face up to 18 months in prison.

In April, Say told the Hurriyet daily that he felt completely ostracised by Turkish society since having declared that he was an atheist, an experience that for him highlighted a growing culture of intolerance.

One European diplomat in Istanbul remarked: “It’s not just the fact that he is being put on trial, but also what the pro-government newspaper Sabah says, which has made a hero out of the guy who denounced him.”

The Islamist newspaper Yeni Akit has lavished praise on the person who alerted the authorities to Say’s comments on Twitter, with one headline describing him as “The man who gives no respite to the enemies of Islam”.

Erdogan has also just announced that a giant mosque is to be built on one of Istanbul’s most hills, which will become one of the city’s most visible landmarks.

This latest announcement on top of the other developments have been seized on by the critics of Erdogan and the AKP, who suspect the government has a covert agenda to promote Islam — and undermine Turkey’s secular traditions.

“He fuelled this debate himself recently with certains utterances, one example being that he and his party wanted to see ‘the emergence of a religious generation’,” noted Semih Idiz, a leader writer for Milliyet newspaper.

Times LIVE | Sapa-AFP | 10 June, 2012

Denmark: Gay couples win right to marry in church

Denmark has been a pioneer in gay rights since 1989, when it became the first country in the world to offer civil unions for gay couples Photo: ALAMY

The country’s parliament voted through the new law on same-sex marriage by a large majority, making it mandatory for all churches to conduct gay marriages.

Denmark’s church minister, Manu Sareen, called the vote “historic”.

“I think it’s very important to give all members of the church the possibility to get married. Today, it’s only heterosexual couples.”
Under the law, individual priests can refuse to carry out the ceremony, but the local bishop must arrange a replacement for their church.

The far-Right Danish People’s Party mounted a strong campaign against the new law, which nonetheless passed with the support of 85 of the country’s 111 MPs.

“Marriage is as old as man himself, and you can’t change something as fundamental,” the party’s church spokesperson Christian Langballe said during the debate. “Marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman.”

Karsten Nissen, the Bishop of Viborg, who is refusing to carry out the ceremonies, has warned that the new law risks “splitting the church”.

“The debate has been really tough,” said Mr Sareen, an agnostic who has pushed hard for the legislation since taking his post last autumn

“The minority among Danish people, politicians and priests who are against, they’ve really shouted out loud throughout the process.”

The first gay marriages will take place as soon as June 15. This contrasts with neighbouring Norway, where bishops are still debating the correct ‘ritual’ for the ceremonies, four years after a 2008 parliamentary vote in favour of gay marriage.

Stig Elling, a travel industry millionaire and former Right-wing politician, said he planned to marry his partner of 28 years next week.
“We have felt a little like we were living in the Middle Ages,” he told Denmark’s TV2 station. “I think it is positive that there is now a majority for it, and that there are so many priests and bishops who are in favour of it, and that the Danish population supports up about it. We have moved forward. It’s 2012.”

Denmark has been a pioneer in gay rights since 1989, when it became the first country in the world to offer civil unions for gay couples.

The Telegraph | Richard Orange | 7th June 2012

Netherlands: compromise on ritual slaughter

A new covenant aims to allow Jews and Muslims to continue to perform ritual slaughter of animals while answering the broadly supported call to prevent animal suffering. Photo: ANP.

After years of heated argument and increased polarization, the parties sat down in front of invited journalists to sign a carefully agreed covenant. The Jewish and Muslim representatives shook hands and, relieved, signed their names to the document.

In this case, Jews and Muslims were on the same side. The covenant they signed, along with Deputy Minister of Agriculture Henk Bleker, is a compromise that will allow Jews and Muslims in the Netherlands to continue the practice of ritual slaughter.

Strictly observant Muslims and Jews believe they can only eat meat from animals which have been slaughtered according to strict rules. For instance, the animals cannot be stunned prior to the slaughter, and they must be killed by having their neck cut with a knife. Defenders of animal rights believe animals slaughtered in this way suffer unduly.

Ban
Earlier this year, the lower house of the parliament passed by a wide majority a law introduced by the Animal Rights Party (PvdD) that would have banned ritual slaughter in the Netherlands outright. Passage of the law was seen as a milestone in the burgeoning animal rights movement. But this week, the Senate was set to reject the proposed law.

That a majority in the Senate are against the ban was met with great relief in the Muslim and Jewish communities. But it did not solve the issue. Since the law had passed the lower house by such a wide margin, the Senate’s imminent rejection is seen as obstructionist, an uncommon interference by a body of the government which is not directly elected. It would have thwarted the public will. The Deputy Minister of Agriculture promised to find a compromise which would satisfy the objections of the Senate (that the ban infringed on the right to religious freedom) while meeting the will of the lower house to limit the suffering of animals.

New measures
The covenant is seen as having bridged that gap. The measures stipulated by the covenant include the following: a veterinarian must be present during the slaughter (this is already the case for Jewish slaughterhouses); the animal must die within 40 seconds, otherwise the veterinarian must step in and kill the animal; animals must be inspected before slaughter and can be rejected on the basis of overall weight and size of neck. The new protocol will be overseen by a committee of scientists.

Not pleased
So the Dutch tradition of compromise appears to have won the day. Except that the very party which started the whole discussion about ritual slaughter is not satisfied. Animal Rights Party leader Marianne Thieme says the new agreement looks very much like a proposed amendment to her law. The amendment called for many of the same measures called for by the covenant. But back when the law to ban ritual slaughter passed the lower house by 116 votes to 30 votes, the compromise amendment failed by a similar margin.

Ms Thieme says nothing has changed since last year. A compromise unacceptable to the lower house of parliament, the ultimate representative of the popular will, should remain unacceptable today.

Polarized
In standing her ground, Ms Thieme is the perfect representation of the new political culture in the Netherlands. Compromise is out, ideology is in. Politics have become polarized, and the tradition of compromise is seen to have failed. Geert Wilders and his Freedom Party have become one of the largest parties in the country on the basis of this argument rejecting compromise. Indeed, Mr Wilders’ rejection of compromise on new budget cuts has led to early elections.

But in the case of ritual slaughter, in rejecting compromise Ms Thieme looks to find herself on the losing end. The debate on the ban pitted defenders of animal rights against defenders of religious freedom. This divide split many parties right down the middle, resulting in fierce internal debate within many parties. Animal rights has become broadly accepted in Dutch society, but religious freedom is still seen as one of the core values of this country. It is difficult to choose between the two.

Off the hook
Now that a compromise has been reached, alleviating parties from the need to make that fundamental choice, many parties will be reluctant to re-open the whole debate. The new covenant governing ritual slaughter is likely so supersede Ms Thieme’s proposed ban. Another victory for pragmatic compromise.

The struggle to protect their rights as religious minorities has also brought the Jewish and the Muslim community closer together. Both have been pleased with the cooperation. Assuming the ritual slaughter compromise holds, religious communities of all stripes would be encouraged to join together in protecting their rights as minorities in a broadly secular society.

Radio Netherlands Worldwide | John Tyler |6th June 2012

Vatican warning: Italian prosecutors should respect the Holy See’s ‘sovereign prerogatives’

Leaked letters reveal plot to oust Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, president of the Vatican bank (IOR).

ROME – Vatican bank board members plotted to oust their director, letters leaked to an Italian newspaper on Saturday showed, as prosecutors investigated possible money-laundering operations at the bank.

The board dismissed Ettore Gotti Tedeschi on May 24, a day before Vatican police arrested Pope Benedict XVI’s butler for allegedly leaking sensitive papal documents to the press in an apparently unrelated case.

Ahead of the board meeting, according to letters in the daily Il Fatto Quotidiano that could not be independently verified, the bank’s vice-president Ronaldo Schmitz threatened to resign if Gotti Tedeschi was not dismissed.

Gotti Tedeschi ‘does not have the necessary qualities to guide the Institute,’ Mr Schmitz wrote in the letter, referring to the bank’s official name, the Institute for Religious Works, or IOR under its Italian acronym.

‘He has aggravated the situation with his inertia and his lack of loyalty towards staff and lack of transparency to the board,’ Mr Schmitz said, addressing himself to the Vatican’s powerful Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone.

‘I am confident that Your Eminence will immediately end president Gotti’s mandate. I do not want to continue to serve with Gotti Tedeschi. I will present my resignation by the end of May 2012 if he is not dismissed,’ Mr Schmitz wrote.

His comments were backed up by Mr Carl Anderson, another board member, who said: ‘I have reached the conclusion, after much prayer and reflection, that Gotti Tedeschi is no longer able to guide the Institute in difficult times.

‘His occasional communications with me are focussed not on the life of the Institute but on internal political manoeuvring and on denigrating others,’ he wrote, adding that Gotti Tedeschi had shown ‘increasingly eccentric behaviour.’

A letter from a psychiatrist, Dr Pietro Lasalvia, also appeared to show he had been invited to a Christmas dinner in 2011 attended by Gotti Tedeschi and asked to assess the IOR director surreptitiously.

‘There were traits of egocentrism, narcissism and a partial disconnect from reality that could be a psychopathological dysfunction,’ Mr Lasalvia wrote.

Meanwhile the Corriere della Sera daily said Italian prosecutors were probing a series of documents seized during raids on Gotti Tedeschi’s home and office this week as part of an investigation into money-laundering at the bank.

The report said investigators were focussing on accounts at the Vatican bank held by ‘politicians, shady intermediaries, contractors and senior (Italian) officials’ as well as ‘people believed to be fronts for mafia bosses.’

Investigators have reportedly found ‘property investments and Church property sales that could disguise money transfers to fronts and the need to ‘launder’ through firms and banks not subject to direct controls like the IOR.’

The Vatican on Friday defended itself against the growing scandal around the IOR, saying Gotti Tedeschi’s ouster was due to ‘objective reasons’ and stating its commitment to ‘transparency’ at the bank.

In its statement, the Vatican also emphasised that Italian prosecutors should respect the Holy See’s ‘sovereign prerogatives’ under international law.

Gotti Tedeschi and his former deputy, Paolo Cipriani, are already under investigation in Italy for allegedly laundering 23 million euros (S$36 illion).

Vatican watchers say Gotti Tedeschi was ousted due to a long-running dispute with Secretary of State Bertone and a reaction against his efforts to bring the Vatican bank in line with international regulations against money-laundering.

AsiaOne News | AFP | Sunday, Jun 10, 2012

Vatican allegations in full

Documents and letters stolen from the Vatican and handed to Italian journalists make damning allegations of intrigue within the Holy See.

Pope Benedict XVI is apparently unable to prevent poisonous feuds and vendettas between rival groups of cardinals, according to “His Holiness – The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI”.
Several of the documents cast in a particularly bad light Tarcisio Bertone, who as secretary of state is the Pope’s right-hand man and effectively the prime minister of the world’s smallest state.

1 The most sensational allegation is Cardinal Bertone conspired with the editor of the Vatican’s daily newspaper in a dirty tricks campaign against a rival.
Gian Maria Vian, the editor of L’Osservatore Romano, allegedly leaked false documents which purported to show that Dino Boffo, the editor of another Catholic newspaper, L’Avvenire, had had a homosexual affair, forcing Mr Boffo to resign from the editorship.
The Vatican has jumped to Mr Vian’s defence and that of Cardinal Bertone, saying they had nothing to do with the saga.

2 Letters and memos used in the book appear to show that Cardinal Bertone tried to thwart efforts to target corruption, nepotism and cronyism within the city state.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, a senior member of the Vatican administration, discovered that it was wasting millions of euros in overpaying for goods and services.
He found, for instance, that the Vatican had paid an exorbitant 550,000 euros in 2009 for the traditional Nativity figures that are set up in St Peter’s Square at Christmas, when they should have cost around half that.
Despite his efforts to reform the Vatican administration, Cardinal Bertone had him removed from his post.

3 Cardinal Bertone was also accused of impeding efforts to improve transparency within the Vatican’s bank, formally known as the Institute for Works of Religion.
He was reportedly instrumental in having the head of the bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, removed from his post in May.
Mr Gotti Tedeschi’s mission was to get the Vatican onto a “white list” of financially transparent states, but tensions grew after Cardinal Bertone reportedly resisted the reforms and pushed for a new transparency law to be watered down.
The Telegraph | Nick Squires | 6th June 2012


					

Turkey: women join pro-choice rally as fears grow of abortion ban

Thousands of women joined a pro-choice rally in Istanbul on Sunday amid growing fears that Turkey’s Islamist government intends, in effect, to ban abortion.

Terminations are legal in Turkey until the 10th week of gestation but the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) is reportedly working on a bill to ban them after four weeks, except in emergencies.

The bill has not been published, but fears that it could substantially curtail a woman’s right to choose have been stoked by comments from senior government officials. Speaking last month at a conference on population and development, the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said: “There is no difference between killing a baby in its mother’s stomach and killing a baby after birth.” He said abortion and elective caesareans were “secret plots” to slow Turkey’s growth.

The health minister, Recep Akdag, said that the government would present its abortion bill by the end of June, adding that women pregnant as a result of rape should let the government take care of the baby.

The mayor of Greater Ankara, Melih Gökçek, said on TV that a mother who considered abortion should “kill her herself instead and not let the child bear the brunt of her mistake”.

The remarks have pushed abortion to the top of the political agenda – and spread a chill among activists. Tugba Özay Baki, of the Istanbul Feminist Collective, said: “If abortion is banned in Turkey, women will still have them, but under unhealthy and dangerous conditions. Shady characters will start to make money off their desperation.”

At the demonstration on Sunday, marchers carried banners reading “We are women, not reproduction machines”, “AKP – take your hands off my body” and “We don’t discuss our right to abortion.”

“We are here to protest against the government’s attempts to use women’s bodies for their political goals”, Behal Yazgan of the Turkish Women’s Party Initiative told the Guardian. “The prime minister tries to force his views and his morals on the whole population but we will not let him.”

The demonstration was met with spontaneous applause by some bystanders. One man said: “Abortions were never a subject of political discussions in Turkey until [the AKP] came, and it should under no circumstances be illegal.”

Dr Mustafa Ziya Günenc, a gynaecologist in the German hospital in Istanbul, said the government’s proposal to cut the legal limit for abortions to four weeks would in practice be a ban: “Abortions simply cannot be performed at that stage, both for technical and health reasons.”

“Before abortion became legal in 1983, 250 out of 10,000 pregnancies ended with the mother’s deaths, and 225 of these deaths occurred because the women they tried to abort using wire, chemical substances or bird feathers,” said Günenc. “Abortion was legalised for that exact reason.”

Activists fear that these concerns might not deter Erdogan, a devout Muslim who has campaigned for population growth, urging Turkish couples to have at least three children. More than 25% of Turkey’s 75 million population is under 14 and many activists argue that the country urgently needs to improve sex education.

“Sex education simply doesn’t exist in schools, universities or even in the media here,” Günenc said. “What children learn about sexuality and sexual health mostly depends on what they are told in their families, by doctors or, on what they see on the internet.” He added that unwanted pregnancies and STDs were one consequence. “And to my knowledge, there are no government efforts to improve this situation.”

Specialists say they have not been consulted about the abortion bill. The Turkish Gynaecologist and Obstetrics Association, the country’s largest umbrella organisation, has not been invited to participate in a commission preparing a report on the planned legislation, according to Professor Ismail Mete Itil, the association’s president.

“No woman wants to have an abortion,” said Günenc. “But every woman needs to have that choice, no matter what the circumstances are.”

The Guardian | Constanze Letsch | Istanbul, 3rd June 2012

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