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Film spurs hundreds of abuse allegations in Poland as crisis spreads to Europe

Warsaw, Poland, Oct 15, 2018 / 03:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Polish film depicting unsavory characters as clerics has broken box office records and sparked a wave of sexual abuse allegations against clergy in the country where 96 percent of the population identifies as Catholic.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film ‘The Clergy’ (Kler in Polish) portrays clerics who are alcoholic, who sexually abuse minors, who carouse with women and coerce them into abortion, or who are engaged in various forms of corruption.

While the film itself is fictional, its producers have said events in the film were based on real incidents.

Debuting in the country on Sept. 28, ‘The Clergy’ broke local box-office records, with 935,000 people seeing the movie on opening weekend.

The film may have resonated so deeply in the country due to the timing of its release, which came in the midst of a global sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church and just weeks after the Church in Poland was rocked by its own high-profile case of clerical sexual abuse.

Last month, a judge in northern Poland ruled that a religious order was responsible for damages caused by one of its priests, who reportedly kidnapped and continuously raped a 13 year-old girl over a 10-month period. While the priest was arrested and spent four months in jail in 2008, he was only dismissed from the order in 2017.

The religious order will pay approximately 1 million zloty, or $233,000, in damages in the case.

‘The Clergy’ has reportedly spurred hundreds of Polish individuals to come forward with their own allegations of abuse, both recent and historic.

Some clergy in the country have dismissed the film as “vulgar clergyphobia.” A right-wing newspaper opposed to the film reproduced the movie’s poster, replacing its characters with the faces of national heroes such as St. Maximilian Kolbe, a priest who offered his life at a concentration camp for a married man who was sentenced to die. The poster calls clergy a “treasure in the fight against Nazism, communism, LGBT and Islamists,” according to The Guardian.

Poland is home to many clerical saints, including Pope St. John Paul II, who was Pope from 1978-2005 and was canonized by Pope Francis in 2013.

The movie also released two weeks after a German report, which detailed the sexual abuse of thousands of children in the country over a period of 70 years, was leaked to media mid-September.

The report, commissioned by Germany’s conference of Catholic bishops, accused 1,670 clerics of sexual misconduct after having evaluated more than 38,000 personnel and other files from 27 German dioceses, according to German magazine Der Spiegel. It also came at the height of a global sexual abuse scandal throughout the Church, in which there have been recent widespread cases and investigations of abuses and cover-ups in countries such as the United States, Chile, Australia, Guam, India and others.  

Pope Francis has called for all the presidents of the Catholic bishops’ conferences of the world to meet at the Vatican in February to discuss the issue of sexual abuse of minors.

 

Taiwan offers second invitation to pope following Vatican-China deal

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- Taiwan’s government has issued a second invitation for Pope Francis to visit the country, a move which follows new developments in the Holy See’s relations with its rival in mainland China.

The country’s vice president Chen Chien-jen made the invitation during an audience with the Pope ahead of the Sunday canonization of his predecessor, Pope Paul VI.

The Pope “indicated that he would pray for Taiwan” and asked Chen to convey his greetings to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, Chen told reporters. He said that the Pope smiled when he was invited to visit Taiwan. Chen, who is Catholic, visited the Vatican for the 2016 canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Responding to news of the invitation, President Tsai said in a Facebook page post “I want to thank the pope for his greetings and blessings.”

“We will use active and concrete actions to continue to support the pope and the Vatican to spread common values of freedom, justice, peace and caring to every corner in the world,” she said.

This is the second invitation from Taiwanese political leaders to the Pope.

In September 2017, President Tsai officially forwarded Pope Francis an invitation to visit the country by way of Cardinal Peter Turkson, who was in Taiwan for the International Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea.

There are about 300,000 Catholics in Taiwan, about two percent of the population.

The split between China and Taiwan dates back to 1949, when nationalist forces left the mainland following the success of the communist military on the mainland. Taiwan is officially known as the Republic of China, while the government on the mainland is the People’s Republic of China.

The Holy See has recognized the Taiwanese government, the Republic of China, since 1942, and does not currently have formal diplomatic relations with the government of the People’s Republic of China, which consolidated control of the mainland at the conclusion of a civil war in 1949.

In September, representatives of the Holy See and of China’s communist government signed a provisional agreement regarding the nomination of Catholic bishops that a Vatican communique said created conditions for “greater collaboration at the bilateral level.”

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the objective of the accord is “not political but pastoral” and will allow “the faithful to have bishops who are communion with Rome but at the same time recognized by Chinese authorities.”

There are about 12 million Catholics in China, but for decades they have been split between an underground Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See, sometimes subject to government persecution, and the government-run Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, whose bishops are appointed by the Communist government and have sometimes been ordained without papal approval. Some of the CPCA’s bishops serve as members of the Chinese Communist Party’s National People’s Congress.

In May, Taiwan’s bishops held their first ad limina visit with the Pope in 10 years.

During the visit, the Taiwanese bishops invited Pope Francis to visit the country on the occasion of the National Eucharistic Congress, scheduled to take place in March 2019.

There have long been concerns among some Taiwanese leaders that the Holy See would drop diplomatic relations with Taiwan if it secures a diplomatic agreement with China. China regards Taiwan as a rebel province, not a sovereign nation.

In the past, China has demanded that other countries end diplomatic recognition of Taiwan as a price for increased economic or political cooperation, and the Holy See is among the most prominent sovereign entities to recognize the island nation. According to Agence France Presse, the Holy See is the country’s only official ally in Europe. Taiwan has lost five allies since 2016, with developing nations like El Salvador, Panama, and the Dominican Republic cutting ties under pressure from Beijing.

The nunciature in Taipei has not been led by a nuncio since Oct. 25, 1971, when the United Nations ceased to recognize the Taipei-based government as the government of China. At that time, the Holy See transferred its nuncio from Taipei and did not appoint a successor. Since then, the mission in Taipei has been headed only by a chargé d’affairs.

Archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan of Taipei, speaking to Reuters in March, said the Church in Taiwan did not anticipate that the Holy See and mainland China would establish diplomatic relations, because to do so requires sharing “common values with each other.”

“The values the Vatican holds are different from those of the Chinese Communist Party. Building ties with the Vatican requires values including freedom and democracy,” he said.

Pope laicizes two Chilean bishops for sexual abuse of minors

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis has officially expelled two Chilean bishops from the clerical state. Both men were accused of sexual abuse of minors. The decision was issued without the possibility to appeal, the Vatican announced on Saturday.

The Vatican announced that Francisco José Cox Huneeus, 84, archbishop emeritus of La Serena, Chile, and Marco Antonio Órdenes Fernández, 53, bishop emeritus of Iquique, Chile, were removed from the clerical state “as a consequence of manifest abuse of minors.”

Both former bishops have reportedly been living retired lives of prayer and penance for some years now.

By Vatican order, Cox has been living at the institute of the Schönstatt Fathers, of which order he is a member, in Santiago since 2002. Fernandez retired from office in 2012 at the age of 42, due to health problems. He is believed to have retired to Peru, and has not been seen publicly since 2013, according to the New York Times.

The expulsion of the two bishops comes several months after 34 sitting bishops of Chile offered their resignations to the Pope during a crisis meeting in May. That meeting followed a Vatican investigation that revealed systematic sexual abuse and cover-up among the clergy in the country.

Thus far, seven of those bishops have had their resignations accepted by the Pope.

Pope Francis launched an investigation into sexual abuse in Chile earlier this year, following multiple reports concerning Fernando Karadima, a Chilean priest convicted in 2011 of the sexual abuse of minors, and against Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, who was accused of protecting Karadima.

In recent years, Barros had repeatedly insisted that he knew nothing of Karadima’s abuse, and Pope Francis initially gave the bishop his personal backing, naming him head of the Diocese of Osorno in southern Chile in 2015 and insisting he had not seen evidence of his covering-up of abuse, angering accusers of Barros and Karadima.

Karadima, 88, was a highly influential Santiago-area priest who for decades led a lay movement from his parish in El Bosque. He is believed to have personally fostered around 40 vocations to the priesthood, some of whom went on to become bishops also accused of covering up abuse.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found Karadima guilty of the sexual abuse of minors in early 2011. A civil case against him had been dismissed due to Chile’s statute of limitations.

Following the 2011 conviction, and citing his advanced age and poor health, he was ordered by the Vatican to “retire to a life of prayer and penance, in reparation [for his crimes] as well for the victims of abuse.” At the time, he was also prohibited from any public exercise of ministry.

In January, Francis appointed Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta to lead the investigation. Scicluna is a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and is considered as an expert in the canonical process for handling allegations of clergy sexual abuse.

Scicluna’s investigation resulted in a 2,300-page report that, to date, has not been made public. After receiving the report, Francis apologized for his support of Barros and asked to meet the bishops and abuse survivors in person.

The Pope accepted the resignation of Barros in June, and Karadima was laicized by Francis last month.

The dismissals of the two Chilean bishops also comes in the midst of an ongoing canonical process concerning another archbishop, former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. McCarrick is accused of sexually abusing minors and seminarians over a period decades.

Trump set to pick Catholic lawyer as next White House counsel

Washington D.C., Oct 15, 2018 / 11:30 am (CNA).- President Donald Trump has reportedly chosen a Catholic lawyer, Pat Cipollone, to replace White House counsel Donald McGhan. In addition to his professional work, Cipollone serves on the board of directors for the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C., and co-founded the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in 2004.

According to a Washington Post report published Oct. 13, Cipollone has been informally advising President Trump’s personal lawyers on Robert Müller’s special counsel probe into alleged Russian interference in the last election since June.

While Cipollone’s name has been connected with the position since August, Axios first reported the president’s pick Oct. 13, citing four unnamed government sources familiar with the decision. A White House spokesperson would not confirm the appointment.

When asked to confirm the selection on Saturday, President Trump told reporters that “Pat’s a great guy. I don’t want to say [who has been selected], but he’s a great guy. He’s very talented and he’s a very good man, but I don’t want to say.”

Cipollone is currently a litigation partner at Stein Mitchell Cipollone Beato & Missner LLP, a Washington-based law firm. He specializes in commercial litigation, antitrust and trade regulation, and healthcare fraud.

During the presidency of George H.W. Bush, Cipollone served in the Department of Justice as a counsel to then Attorney-General William P. Barr. Prior to joining his current firm, he worked at the well-known D.C. law firm Kirkland and Ellis.

Following a security clearance review, Cipollone could begin his new job within a week, according to the Washington Post. As White House counsel, Cipollone would advise the president, the Executive Office of the President, and the White House staff on legal issues involving the executive branch.

Donald McGhan announced in August that he would leave the White House’s top legal post after the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Cipollone attended Fordham University before earning his J.D. at the University of Chicago School of Law in 1991. Cipollone previously served on the Board of Visitors for the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America, serving as a counselor to the Dean of the law school. 

Fox News television host Laura Ingraham wrote in a 2007 book that conversations with Cipollone had led her to consider a conversion to the Catholic faith. She also wrote that Cipollone eventually became her godfather.

If his appointment is confirmed, Cipollone will join the list of Catholics in prominent U.S. legal positions. Following the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court earlier this month, six of the nine current Supreme Court Justices are Catholic.

Vatican confirms synod’s final report to be voted on ‘part by part’

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2018 / 10:05 am (CNA).- The head of Vatican communications said Monday the youth synod’s final document will be voted on “part by part,” requiring a 2/3 majority to pass each section, before being forwarded to Pope Francis.

Speaking at a press briefing Oct. 15, Paolo Ruffini, who serves as Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications, said the voting on the concluding report produced by the synod on young people, faith, and vocational discernment will take place Saturday, Oct. 27 – the second to last day of the assembly.

Each numbered section will be considered by the synod fathers and require a 2/3 majority to pass.

“Regarding the rules [of the voting], when there are additional rules I can share with you, I will,” Ruffini told journalists.

He said he did not know what languages the final document will be available in at the time of voting, or how translation will work for those bishops who do not speak or read Italian, but added that he believed the synod fathers will have the opportunity to understand what is being stated in each part of the report before voting.

What exactly the format of the final document will be is also still being determined. Discussions are ongoing on whether the document will be accompanied by a separate message to young people, or include a message within it, as was discussed last week in some of the small working groups, Ruffini said.

He noted that efforts were being made to draft a “new document” based on the synod discussions – both in the general congregations and small groups – rather than just retooling the working document, called an Instrumentum laboris, for use as the final report. This followed requests to this effect from several of the working groups last week.

Ruffini indicated that the final draft could take a less comprehensive approach – as it has done following previous synodal sessions  – with the pope being presented with individual paragraphs of numbered propositions passed by a vote of the bishops. Rather than producing a document to be read for its own sake, these propositions would be intended to help inform the writing of the pope’s traditional post-synodal apostolic exhortation.

If this is indeed the format the final document takes following the Synod of Bishops meeting on youth, questions remain as to whether any propositions which do not pass with the needed 2/3 majority will be made public.

Ruffini said that the 12 members of the writing commission, elected last week, have begun work on the final report, focusing on parts one and two of the Instrumentum laboris, and are working to integrate what has come out of the small group discussions thus far.