Monthly Archives: February 2013

Ratzinger will hide in the Vatican in order to avoid arrest

Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 1979. In 1981, Ratzinger was appointed Vatican enforcer but turned a blind eye to sex offenders. Photograph: AP

(Reuters) – Pope Benedict’s decision to live in the Vatican after he resigns will provide him with security and privacy. It will also offer legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him in connection with sexual abuse cases around the world, Church sources and legal experts say.

“His continued presence in the Vatican is necessary, otherwise he might be defenseless. He wouldn’t have his immunity, his prerogatives, his security, if he is anywhere else,” said one Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“It is absolutely necessary” that he stays in the Vatican, said the source, adding that Benedict should have a “dignified existence” in his remaining years.

Vatican sources said officials had three main considerations in deciding that Benedict should live in a convent in the Vatican after he resigns on February 28.

Vatican police, who already know the pope and his habits, will be able to guarantee his privacy and security and not have to entrust it to a foreign police force, which would be necessary if he moved to another country.

“I see a big problem if he would go anywhere else. I’m thinking in terms of his personal security, his safety. We don’t have a secret service that can devote huge resources (like they do) to ex-presidents,” the official said.

Another consideration was that if the pope did move permanently to another country, living in seclusion in a monastery in his native Germany, for example, the location might become a place of pilgrimage.

POTENTIAL EXPOSURE

This could be complicated for the Church, particularly in the unlikely event that the next pope makes decisions that may displease conservatives, who could then go to Benedict’s place of residence to pay tribute to him.

“That would be very problematic,” another Vatican official said.

The final key consideration is the pope’s potential exposure to legal claims over the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandals.

In 2010, for example, Benedict was named as a defendant in a law suit alleging that he failed to take action as a cardinal in 1995 when he was allegedly told about a priest who had abused boys at a U.S. school for the deaf decades earlier. The lawyers withdrew the case last year and the Vatican said it was a major victory that proved the pope could not be held liable for the actions of abusive priests.

Benedict is currently not named specifically in any other case. The Vatican does not expect any more but is not ruling out the possibility.

“(If he lived anywhere else) then we might have those crazies who are filing lawsuits, or some magistrate might arrest him like other (former) heads of state have been for alleged acts while he was head of state,” one source said.

Another official said: “While this was not the main consideration, it certainly is a corollary, a natural result.”

After he resigns, Benedict will no longer be the sovereign monarch of the State of Vatican City, which is surrounded by Rome, but will retain Vatican citizenship and residency.

LATERAN PACTS

That would continue to provide him immunity under the provisions of the Lateran Pacts while he is in the Vatican and even if he makes jaunts into Italy as a Vatican citizen.

The 1929 Lateran Pacts between Italy and the Holy See, which established Vatican City as a sovereign state, said Vatican City would be “invariably and in every event considered as neutral and inviolable territory”.

There have been repeated calls for Benedict’s arrest over sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

When Benedict went to Britain in 2010, British author and atheist campaigner Richard Dawkins asked authorities to arrest the pope to face questions over the Church’s child abuse scandal.

Dawkins and the late British-American journalist Christopher Hitchens commissioned lawyers to explore ways of taking legal action against the pope. Their efforts came to nothing because the pope was a head of state and so enjoyed diplomatic immunity.

In 2011, victims of sexual abuse by the clergy asked the International Criminal Court to investigate the pope and three Vatican officials over sexual abuse.

The New York-based rights group Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and another group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), filed a complaint with the ICC alleging that Vatican officials committed crimes against humanity because they tolerated and enabled sex crimes.

The ICC has not taken up the case but has never said why. It generally does not comment on why it does not take up cases.

NOT LIKE A CEO

The Vatican has consistently said that a pope cannot be held accountable for cases of abuse committed by others because priests are employees of individual dioceses around the world and not direct employees of the Vatican. It says the head of the church cannot be compared to the CEO of a company.

Victims groups have said Benedict, particularly in his previous job at the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal department, turned a blind eye to the overall policies of local Churches, which moved abusers from parish to parish instead of defrocking them and handing them over to authorities.

The Vatican has denied this. The pope has apologized for abuse in the Church, has met with abuse victims on many of his trips, and ordered a major investigation into abuse in Ireland.

But groups representing some of the victims say the Pope will leave office with a stain on his legacy because he was in positions of power in the Vatican for more than three decades, first as a cardinal and then as pope, and should have done more.

The scandals began years before the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope in 2005 but the issue has overshadowed his papacy from the beginning, as more and more cases came to light in dioceses across the world.

As recently as last month, the former archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger Mahony, was stripped by his successor of all public and administrative duties after a thousands of pages of files detailing abuse in the 1980s were made public.

Mahony, who was archbishop of Los Angeles from 1985 until 2011, has apologized for “mistakes” he made as archbishop, saying he had not been equipped to deal with the problem of sexual misconduct involving children. The pope was not named in that case.

In 2007, the Los Angeles archdiocese, which serves 4 million Catholics, reached a $660 million civil settlement with more than 500 victims of child molestation, the biggest agreement of its kind in the United States.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the pope “gave the fight against sexual abuse a new impulse, ensuring that new rules were put in place to prevent future abuse and to listen to victims. That was a great merit of his papacy and for that we will be grateful”.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Additional reporting by Robin Pomeroy; Edited by Simon Robinson and Giles Elgood)

Reuters | Philip Pullella | VATICAN CITY | Fri Feb 15, 2013

The pope can quit, but it doesn’t erase his complicity in his Church’s crimes

Geoffrey Robertson QC addressing the Protest the Pope Rally opposite Downing Street in London in September 2010. http://www.protest-the-pope.org.uk/

http://www.protest-the-pope.org.uk/   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gOVN2uEm8Q

Yesterday’s resignation by Pope Benedict was merely expedient – he has become too old to cope. It would have been both astonishing and courageous, a few years ago, had it been offered in atonement for the atrocity to which he had for 30 years turned a blind eye – the rape, buggery and molestation of tens of thousands of small boys in priestly care.
His “command responsibility” for this crime against humanity goes back to 1981, when he was appointed Prefect (i.e. Head) of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican body that disciplines errant priests. Although the CDF files are a closely guarded secret, letters from Cardinal Ratzinger have emerged in several US court cases, always protective of rapist priests. As father Hans Kung, the eminent Theologian, put it in his open letter to Catholic Bishops in 2010, “There is no denying the fact that the world-wide system of covering up cases of sexual crimes committed by clerics was engineered by the CDF under Cardinal Ratzinger”.

The worse case was that of Father Maciel, a bigamist, paedophile and drug-taker who raped his own children but had become a close friend of John Paul II. Ratzinger was in possession of all the evidence about Maciel but refused to act.  Even after he became Pope, Ratzinger refused to defrock this monster priest or provide his affidavit to police. Instead he merely ‘invited’ Maciel to retire and lead a quiet life in the US, away from media attention. Ratzinger undoubtedly loathes such men, but he was always the ostrich Pope, the academic who kept his head in the sand until the storm hit.

Pope Benedict’s Vatican has been an enemy of human rights. The fiction that this religious enclave is a “state” enables it to appear at UN conferences and to veto initiatives for family planning, contraception or any form of “gender equality”. Benedict himself has decried homosexuality as “evil”, and ruled that women have no right to choose, even to avoid pregnancies that result from rape or incest; IVF is wrong (because it begins with masturbation); condom use, even to avoid HIV Aids within marriage, must never be countenanced. There is no denying that his Vatican has been a force in international affairs, rallying the Catholic countries of Latin America to make common cause on moral issues with Islamist states like Libya and Iran.

As Head of a State – even such a make-believe state as the Vatican – Pope Benedict has absolute immunity from legal action. But this immunity is not the same after you retire. There are many victims of priests permitted by Cardinal Ratzinger to stay in holy orders after their propensity to molest was known, and they would like to sue the ex-pope for damages for negligence. If he steps outside the Vatican, a court may rule that they have a case.

Geoffrey Robertson QC is author of “The Case of The Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse.”

The Independent | Geoffrey Robertson QC | 12th February 2013

Vatican: reactionary Pope Ratzinger resigns

And so we are to see an end to the rule of Joseph Ratzinger at the Vatican. At such times it is usual to break out into a chorus of “Ding, Dong the Witch is Dead” from the Wizard of Oz, but we fear that Ratzinger’s successor will be as bad, if not worse, than the man himself.

Ratzinger has ruled for decades at the Vatican, even before he became Pope. He was chief inquisitor under the rule of John Paul II, and as the old Pope’s health failed, Ratzinger ramped up the reactionary agenda. (Not that John Paul II was any slouch at authoritarianism and bigotry).

Under Ratzinger the Vatican has become despised and resented throughout the world. He has played a major role in reducing the Catholic Church’s popularity and its authority.

Catholics have deserted the Church at an increasing rate, repelled by the inhumanity of Ratzinger’s unbending adherence to what are perceived as cruel doctrines.

When he came to Britain in 2010, we were told that the visit had been a huge triumph. In fact, it was an abject failure as the official statistics showed and the Catholic Church’s own research confirmed. The visit did succeed, though, in generating the largest protest march ever seen against a papal visit. (video)

Of course, the endless child abuse scandals that have been exposed have been a major factor in Ratzinger’s failure as pope. As one revelation followed another, it was clear that for centuries the Church has been covering up the crimes of its clergy. It has put the safety of children well behind the interests of those of the Church.

Every single accusation of child abuse landed on Ratzinger’s desk when he was in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In most cases they were kept secret. Only when the civil authorities became involved did the Vatican come clean about its activities – and even then it had to be forced.

For all its claims that it has now cleaned up its act, new cover-ups seem to be discovered almost every week. And we should not forget the horrible attempts to avoid paying compensation to people whose lives they have ruined and who the Church sometimes dismissed as liars and money-grubbers.

Under Ratzinger, too, the Catholic Church has become crazily politicised. He has instructed his bishops to go out into the world and aggressively push legislators to obey Vatican edicts. In this, too, he has failed dismally.

When you recall the apocalyptic language that the Catholic Church has been using to oppose gay marriage, and its predictions of the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it, (including several increasingly hyperbolic interventions by Ratzinger himself) you would have thought that Catholic politicians would have felt it beholden upon them to vote against.
But not so. An interesting by-product of the controversial Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was the number of supposedly Catholic MPs who voted in favour of it.

There are 82 known Catholic MPs. Of them, 57% voted for the Bill with 34% against and 9% registering no vote.

But this illustrates that Catholic politicians in this country do not, in general, take their whip from the Vatican. (Some do of course, and are quite open about it). Even so, politicians still labour under the impression that there is a “Catholic vote” that can be corralled. There is no such constituency.

But this is the latest of many recent indications that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has become increasingly isolated under Ratzinger’s arrogant rule. Its many political confrontations with governments around the world who are trying to modernise their societies usually result in defeat for the Church.

Let’s have a look at a few:

During the American presidential election, the Church decided that it was totally opposed to President Obama’s plan to introduce a health insurance mandate. The reason? It would include funding for contraception.
In an effort to placate the bishops, Obama has since offered two radical modifications that would relieve the Church of having to provide contraception to its employees. But, as is its way, the Church will accept nothing less than total surrender.

There is a strong suspicion that this confrontation was manufactured as a means of defeating Obama at the election. It was presented as “an attack on religious freedom”, but it was perceived as a peevish assault on the rights of women.

As we know, the Church’s attempt to derail Obama’s campaign failed. Indeed, it could be argued that the Church’s hysterical behaviour and childish demands for complete obedience went a long way to ensuring that Obama got his second term.

The Catholics in the pews suddenly started thinking for themselves and the bishops were unable to order them into voting the way the Church told them to. Instead of rushing to the polling booths to defeat Obama, Catholics voted for him in record numbers.

In Spain – once regarded as the most Catholic country in the world – the previous secularist Government legalised same-sex marriage. The Church set its face against such a reform and agitated violently against it. The reform passed. The new Government, which is supposedly sympathetic to the Vatican promised to repeal the law. It has failed to do so, thwarted by the constitutional court. Abortion reforms were enacted, Church privileges were reduced, and changes made to the stranglehold the Church had on education.

InPortugal, similarly, same-sex marriage is now legal. This despite the Catholic Church’s best efforts to defeat it.

In thePhilippines, the Church declared that a Bill in parliament to make contraceptives legal and freely available must not pass. It passed.

In Ireland, once unquestioningly under the thumb of the Catholic Church, the child abuse revelations have been so extreme that it caused the Prime Minister to denounce the Church in parliament and has since closed the Irish Embassy at the Vatican. The Church is also trying to defeat a small change to the stringent abortion law that would allow women who have been raped to have an abortion. It is unlikely that the Church will prevail.

In South American countries, which the Pope could once guarantee to rule with a rod of iron there have also been rebellions. InBrazil gay marriage was approved (although the Church succeeded in defeating attempts to reform the harsh abortion laws). In Mexico City same-sex unions are now legal.

This political agitating, and these attempts to interfere in democratic parliaments is increasingly resented. Poll after poll shows that the Catholic population do not agree with or accept the Vatican’s doctrines on abortion, contraception, homosexuality or assisted suicide.

This is reflected in the dwindling number of Catholics who continue attend Mass – or have anything else to do with the Church.

Joseph Ratzinger will now disappear from the scene. Many will sigh with relief at his departure. But we shouldn’t celebrate too soon. He has put in place a college of Cardinals that are as reactionary as he is – or even more so.

Whoever they elect as the next Pope, there is unlikely to be much improvement.

National Secular Society | Terry Sanderson, President | 11th February 2013

Ireland: The Magdalene Laundries report confirms the need to keep church and state matters separate

Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny

It takes an age to squeeze much remorse out of the Irish government, doesn’t it? In 1999, after decades of child abuse in Catholic-run organisations, it finally issued “a sincere and long-overdue apology” to the victims and set up a Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, which took nine years to present its findings.
Now the government has been told – by a report prompted two years ago by the UN Committee Against Torture – that the Irish state colluded in sending 30,000 women to the infamous Magdalene Laundries between 1922 and 1996.

The prime minister, Enda Kenny, didn’t apologise to the families of the women who’d been incarcerated in these hellish institutions despite committing no crime. He said: “The stigma [of] the branding together of all the residents… in the Magdalene Laundries needs to be removed.” No, it doesn’t. The stigma of the Laundries will survive as a reminder of how inhumanly innocent people can be treated by supposedly charitable institutions.

These were places where “loose girls” or “fallen women” could be packed off to, girls impregnated by their fathers or uncles or the local priest, girls who were considered too flightly or flirtatious or headstrong to be biddable members of society. They could be put to work all day, washing sheets for the military, fed on bread and dripping, forbidden to speak and offered no way out, or any explanation about why they were imprisoned. Half of them were teenagers, doomed to spend their best years in a workhouse, being humiliated by nuns, told they’d offended God and that their parents didn’t want them.

The Laundries’ existence isn’t news. People have been familiar with their cosy-sounding name for years. Joni Mitchell wrote a song about them on her 1994 album Turbulent Indigo. Candida Crewe wrote a novel about them in 1996. Miramax produced the 2002 film The Magdalene Sisters, left, directed by Peter Mullan. The only people seemingly oblivious to their existence are Irish politicians.

Why they stayed oblivious is pretty clear. Ireland has had a chronic problem of keeping church and state matters apart. Government and church traditionally, if tacitly, support each other – which meant, in the past, the authorities turning a blind eye to abusive priests. The girls sent to the Magdalene Laundries had committed no crime – they were accused of committing sin – but they could be taken by Gardai and locked away in prisons funded by the state.

No wonder the government didn’t want the ghastly business coming into the light. It’s vital Mr Kenny tries to frame some response to the victims’ families beyond feeling sorry for what the victims endured. And the Magdalene report confirms the importance of keeping church and state matters separate – even if, as we’ve seen in this week’s historic Commons vote, the institutions are heading for a fight.

The Independent | John Walsh | 6th February 2013

EU: Pussy Riot case goes to Strasbourg

Lawyers for three members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot are contesting their convictions in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Maria Alekhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Natalia Tolokonnikova were sentenced to two years in prison for their irreverent “punk prayer” in Moscow’s main cathedral last February against Vladimir Putin’s return to Russian presidency.

Ms Samutsevich was later released on appeal.

The complaint filed on Wednesday alleges that the group’s conviction violates four articles of the European Convention on Human Rights guaranteeing freedom of speech, the right to liberty and security, the prohibition of torture and the right to a fair trial.

The conviction on charges of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” has sparked global outrage, drawing attention to Russia’s intolerance of dissent under Mr Putin.

Breaking News IE | 7th February 2013

UK’s historic day for equality

Same-sex marriage has been approved in England and Wales by a big majority in a key vote in Parliament. The Commons voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, by 400 to 175, a majority of 225. But this is just the first of several votes needed for the bill to pass.

Member of Parliament Mike Freer, who is in a civil partnership, spoke passionately for equality in the debate. His fundamental argument was based on the fact that if equality exists, it must exist on all levels.

He told me outside the parliament that although he was privileged to be elected MP, his proudest day was when he started his civil partnership. Watch the interview here.

Reverend David Braid came all the way from Liverpool to call gay people paedophiles and accuse gay teachers of teaching their students to “become” gay. He said his wife had to cancel an operation because she was told she may get blood transfusion from homosexuals. He said he wanted to help gay people because they carried dangerous diseases. He was very confused about everything.

But the argument put forward by equality campaigners revolved around humans being treated as humans.

“Those who are oppose same sex marriage are basically saying that they support discrimination, and that gay couples are unworthy. That’s profoundly insulting. In a democratic society everyone should be equal before the law,” high-profile gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told me.

Watch campaigners who spoke to euronews here.

Stonewall is a major organisation that defends gay and lesbian rights. Their spokesman Andy Wasley told me Home Office figures show more than 4,000 hate crimes a year against gay people in the UK. This is appalling considering this country is one of the most tolerant in the world.

He also criticised the language used by some of the parliamentarians during the debate. Watch the interview here.

The bill is passed and it is truly a historic day for equality. But some important questions remain: Why is there a debate on this subject in the first place? Why sexuality of people should be ground for discrimination against them? This is the 21st century and we are at the heart of the so-called “civilised” world, but still we categorise people as heterosexual, homosexual, transsexual and so on and so forth. To me, this division is as absurd as categorising people with their skin colour – a totally false argument. We are only people, nothing else and nothing more.

Caroline Lucas Green Party MP concluded:

“There’s still a long way to go. Changing people’s values and culture takes a long time. Sometimes you have to change the laws first if you can, and that’s what we are doing now. And I think, you know, in a few years time people will look back to today and think what was all the fuss about.”

Follow euronews London correspondent Ali May’s updates on Twitter: https://twitter.com/may_euronews

EuroNews | 6th February 2013

French MPs approve key part of gay marriage bill

France has taken an big step towards allowing same-sex marriage and giving gay couples the right to adopt children.

The Assembly in Paris approved a clause that is central in the controversial draft law by 249 votes to 97.

If the bill is passed as whole, this vote means two people will no longer have to be of different gender to have the right to marry each other.

The planned reform has already led to vigorous debate and robust opposition. There were gatherings to protest against the parliament’s vote in towns and cities all over France.

Demonstrating in Paris against a change in the law, Christine Rosset said: “Marriage has a very specific connotation. It’s a mother and a father who aim to have children. So it’s not two people of the same sex. That’s outside the nature of the word marriage.”

The French Assembly began debating the bill as a whole earlier in the week.
Such are the sentiments that it has aroused that more than 5,000 amendments to the draft have been presented.

Even with MPs working through the weekends, the debate is expected to last two weeks.

EuroNews | 3rd Febraury 2013

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