Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sex abuse settlement brokered by Nova Scotia Catholic diocese comes to a close

A Roman Catholic diocese in Nova Scotia will try to close a dark chapter in its history this week as it wraps up a sex abuse settlement with 125 people, but the lawyer representing them says they continue to heal their emotional wounds.
The final instalment of a $16-million compensation settlement for confirmed and alleged victims of sexual abuse is due Thursday from the Diocese of Antigonish, bringing a close to a long legal process spearheaded by Ronald Martin.
Martin launched a class-action lawsuit against the diocese after his brother wrote a suicide note in 2002 alleging Hugh Vincent MacDonald, a priest, sexually abused him. 

 MacDonald was charged with sex-related offences in 2003 but died a year later before the court process concluded.
Martin's concerns prompted dozens of people to come forward with similar allegations dating back more than 60 years against several priests who worked for the diocese.

"This has been a very long and difficult process and Ron Martin took this on his shoulders," said Halifax lawyer John McKiggan, who represented the plaintiffs.
"I know personally it's been a source of a great deal of stress for Ron because he felt not only the obligation to fulfil a promise to his brother, but also the obligation he undertook on behalf of all the class members."

Martin did not return messages seeking comment.
McKiggan said he believes the final payment will give plaintiffs a sense of relief after struggling with the uncertainty of whether the diocese, which was forced to put some of its assets up for sale, could come up with the full settlement.
"I know that the survivors that I've talked to recently are certainly looking forward to being able to close the book on this and move forward," said McKiggan.
He said the settlement was not about money — it was about holding the Roman Catholic Church accountable for past misdeeds.
"This was never about money to begin with. For Ron Martin, this was about fulfilling a promise ... and holding someone accountable for what happened to him and all the other survivors," said McKiggan.
"That has been achieved through the class-action, but trying to heal ... that's a process that's ongoing."
Rev. Donald MacGillivray, a spokesman for the diocese, said it is prepared to make the last payment. But the settlement has become a significant financial burden for the diocese, which has lost many members in recent years, he added.

"People have found this really difficult. The whole thing has been terribly distasteful," he said.
"The fact that the diocese had to do this in the first place, that these wrongdoings occurred in the first place, has really been difficult for people."
The diocese put about 150 properties up for sale. More than 100 parishes were drained of their savings, MacGillivray said.
Also included in the sale of assets was the Casket, a local weekly newspaper owned by the diocese. It was bought by the owner of the Halifax Chronicle Herald.
MacGillivray said at the St. Anthony Daniel Parish in Sydney, N.S., where he serves as a pastor, about $8,500 in cash was funnelled into the settlement — the church's entire savings.
"It's really difficult for parishioners who had nothing to do with this, have no responsibility, but yet, they're requiring to be involved in sacrificing so this payment can be made," he said.
But MacGillivray said the diocese can soon turn its attention to rebuilding its finances.
"The savings that parishes had to give up, we'll have to work at trying to collect the funds we need to do the work that we need to do," he said.
Raymond Lahey, the former bishop of the diocese, helped broker the settlement in August 2009. That came weeks before he was charged with importing child pornography into Canada. He was later convicted, sentenced to time served, and defrocked by the Holy See in Rome.

The settlement will provide $13 million to alleged and confirmed victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests who worked for the diocese between 1950 and September 2009. The rest of it will cover legal and administrative fees.
McKiggan said some of the plaintiffs have been awarded funding for counselling that will continue on an ongoing basis, and there is also a reconciliation process that they can participate in along with the diocese.

"The purpose is to try to mend fences and heal the wounds," he said.
MacGillivray said he is optimistic the diocese and the plaintiffs will be able to move on.
"Healing always takes time," said MacGillivray. "But I'm a person of hope, and that's what my faith calls me to be."

Polish singer faces two years in jail over Bible-tearing stunt

Behemoth's Adam DarskiPoland's supreme court has issued a landmark judgment against a heavy metal musician who tore up a Bible at a gig in 2007.

Although the judges conceded that Adam Darski, AKA Nergal, did not intend to offend his audience, they ruled that he could still have "offended religious feelings", violating Polish law. 

If found guilty, the singer could face up to two years in prison.

Darski had released eight albums with his band, Behemoth, by the time of their notorious performance in Gdynia on 13 September 2007. Appearing in full costume and makeup, Darski tore up a Bible and described the Catholic church as "the most murderous cult on the planet".

"We'd been doing that for two years on tour before it happened in Poland," Behemoth bassist Tomasz Wróblewski told Decibel magazine (via Blabbermouth). "We [were] not offending any particular person. We [were] just offending the religion that we've been raised in."

Despite this intention, Darski was pursued by Polish courts for having offended Catholic fans. After being cleared by judges in 2010 and 2011, the singer/guitarist is again on trial. Officials in Gdansk asked the supreme court how Darski could be "offending religious feelings" if most of Behemoth's fans expected theatrical sacrilege?

"The crime of offending religious sensibilities is committed not only by he who intends to carry it out, but also by he who is aware that his actions may lead to offence being taken," the court said. Prosecutors have been permitted to pursue with the criminal trial.

"One should respect the court's verdict," Darski told journalists. 

But the Catholic church is also "immature", he said, "trying to gag people … [and] freedom of speech". Speaking to Reuters, Darski's lawyer said they would continue to oppose the charges: "We are still arguing that we were dealing with art, which allows more critical and radical statements," Jacek Potulski explained.

Darski is currently a judge on the TV singing competition The Voice of Poland. Behemoth's most recent LP, Evangelion, was released in 2009. It reached No 2 in Poland.

German Catholics wary about major Luther festivities

It's rare to be invited to an event five years off and even rarer to bicker about its details, but Germany's Catholic Church finds itself in that delicate situation thanks to an overture from its Protestant neighbors.

German Protestants are planning jubilee celebrations in 2017 to mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's launching of the Reformation, a major event in the history of Christianity, of Europe and of the German nation, language and culture.

The Protestants have invited the Catholics to join in, a gesture in harmony with the good relations the two halves of German Christianity enjoy and the closeness many believers feel across the denominational divide.

But even after five centuries, being asked to commemorate a divorce that split western Christianity and led to many bloody religious wars is still hard for some Catholics to swallow.

"It's not impossible in principle, but it depends on the character of the events planned," Bishop Gerhard Feige, the top Catholic official dealing with Protestants, said in a statement for the Protestant Reformation Day holiday on Wednesday.

"Catholic Christians consider the division of the western Church as a tragedy and - at least until now - do not think they can celebrate this merrily," he wrote in the text outlining Catholic doubts about the event.


The Reformation began in 1517 when German monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to a church door to denounce corruption in the Catholic Church, especially the sale of indulgences to help build the lavish new Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Excommunicated by Rome, he won support from German princes who soon battled others who remained Catholic. The ensuing wars of religion killed about a third of Germany's population over the next century and spread to neighboring countries as well.

After Luther's break with Rome, dissent spread and thousands of new denominations eventually emerged, the largest being the Presbyterians, Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists and Lutherans.

Luther is also a major cultural figure in Germany thanks to his pioneering translation of the Bible, which shaped the German language as much as Shakespeare's plays influenced English.

Commemorative church services, concerts and conferences leading up to 2017 are already underway around Germany. There are also cultural events, such as a show of 800 plastic statues of Luther that filled the main square in Wittenberg in 2010.

This mix of religious, cultural and commercial activities led Feige to ask what the Catholics were being invited to join.

"Many initiatives and plans may well be justified, but it's not always easy to find out what 2017 will be all about," he wrote in what he called his "Ten Catholic Theses".

"It would be good if the Protestants would work out some points more clearly," he said.

Catholic-Protestant cooperation is a public issue in Germany, where the churches are equal in size and active in public life. Both run many schools and social services.

Intermarriage between Catholics and Protestants is common.

Prominent politicians from right and left recently issued a manifesto urging more progress towards overcoming their split.


While many Germans stress the similarities between the two, the churches remain quite distinct.

Catholicism is centralized under the Vatican in Rome and its teachings tend to be more conservative, while the Protestants are split into many local churches that range from conservative to liberal but value their freedom to govern themselves.

Feige said Catholics and Protestants had come closer to each other since the 16th century, especially since the reforms of the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council opened the Catholic Church to more contact with other faiths.

But there were still major differences between them on issues such as the office of the pope, the meaning of the eucharist and the role of the priest that could not be ignored.

Feige also found some Protestant depictions of the Reformation too positive, playing down the suffering and divisions it caused over the following centuries.

"It would be very helpful if both denominations could come to a common understanding of what happened," he said, suggesting they could find some way to "cleanse their memories".

Margot Kaessmann, a former Lutheran bishop who heads the preparations for the 2017 events, has said she wants Catholics to join in but turned down a Vatican suggestion both sides work out a common admission of guilt for the separation.

The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the main Protestant federation, plans to discuss the preparations for 2017 at its annual synod meeting next week.

Cathedral's first female dean is a people's person

IN the hallowed atmosphere of Limerick city's oldest building, St Mary's Cathedral, built in 1168, another piece of ecclesiastical history was made when the first female Dean of Limerick and Ardfert, Sandra Pragnell was installed. 

Describing the ceremony in the medieval cathedral as "a special occasion,"the newly ordained Dean who is from the UK said it was "special for both the Church of Ireland and the wider community of Limerick and Kerry. 

A native of Hampshire, the newly ordained Dean worked in the public sector in London before entering the ministry in Dublin, where she studied at Trinity College and All Hallows.
She said her ministry was about people.
"People count, people need to know that they belong, whether they come to church, are occasional attenders, whether they are lapsed, whatever - they still belong to the family of God."
She said she looked forward to building up a working relationship with the Catholic Church in Limerick under Diocesan Administrator Fr Tony Mullins.
"That has happened in every parish I have been in and I think it is so important the more we can do together, the more we are doing what Christ wants us to do."
The installation ceremony was conducted by the Bishop of Limerick, Rev Trevor Williams and the congregation included the Catholic administrator of the Diocese of Limerick, Fr Tony Mullins; the lay leader of the Methodist Church, Gillian Kingston; retired Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, Rev Alan Harper and the retired Archbishop of Dublin, Rev Walton Empey, who ordained Dean Pragnell to the priesthood in Dublin.
Mayor Gerry McLoughlin led a representation of leading civic figures at the installation.

Orange Order plans museums to promote understanding of its organisations

The EU's Peace III Programme will part fund the museum projectThe Orange Order has announced plans to build two museums in Northern Ireland at a cost of £3.6 million (€4.5m).

The aim of the project is to promote better understanding and increased tolerance of its organisation.

Funding for the museums is coming from the EU's Peace III Programme and it will be spent on the projects in Belfast and Armagh.

The initiative is also supported by the Government, which is providing €740,000 from the Department of the Environment under the Peace III Programme, and the Stormont Assembly.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan said the new project could create better levels of mutual understanding on both sides of the border.

The Orange Order has been criticised recently over the behaviour of a loyalist band outside a Catholic church in Belfast during a parade, when one bandsman was photographed urinating beside the church.

Director of Services with the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Dr David Hume said he understood that it was not a clear cut story and that the incident is being investigated.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Dr Hume said there continues to be hurt and distrust in Northern Ireland.

He said there may still be what he called "glitches" or instances of bad behaviour on either side in the short term, but that the Orange Order's efforts are to look at creating greater understanding in the longer term.

"We are a community that has just come out of 40 years of violence and terrorism. There is mistrust, there is hurt, there are difficulties in the relationships between communities," Dr Hume said.

"These things will, in the short term, continue to happen, and to be honest about it, that's the way its going to be".

Irish exorcists advise on 'very real' paranormal film

FILMING IS coming to an end on a new Irish horror film The Exorcism Diaries, at Ballintubbert House near Stradbally Co Laois. 

It was home to the late Anglo-Irish poet and British poet laureate Cecil Day-Lewis, father of actor Daniel Day-Lewis and documentary film-maker Tasmin Day-Lewis.

Film director Eric Courtney said yesterday the 90-minute feature was about demonic possession involving a young girl, but it was not of the “head spinning” variety. 

It was “very, very real in the Ken Loach style”, he said. It centres on two students who come across an exorcism scene. The story is told from their point of view. 

 The film script by Martin Robinson is based on two books, The Dark Sacrament by David Kiely and Hostage to the Devil by Malachi Martin, a deceased former Jesuit priest from Ballylongford in Kerry. The latter book is based on five exorcisms he witnessed.

As part of his research for the film Mr Courtney met two Catholic priests who are exorcists here in Ireland, Fr Pat Collins and Canon William Landrum, with whom he discussed their experience of exorcisms.

In an appearance on RTÉ One television’s Late Late Show in January 2006, both priests told Pat Kenny there had been an increase in paranormal activity in Ireland and that they were finding it difficult to meet the demand for exorcisms. 

They claimed there was a popular perception these days that there was no such thing as ghosts, spirits or demons, and as a result people experiencing such phenomena were not taken seriously. 

They also said they would like the church to take the matter more seriously and train new exorcists.

Filming on The Exorcism Diaries has been wrapping up for the past two weeks at Ballintubbert House. 

Editing should be completed by January, allowing the film to be ready for the US and European festival circuit by the middle of next year.

In 2008 Courtney directed Seer, the story of seven strangers who wake up in a remote house in Wexford with no memory and a tag on their wrists to tell them their names.

Bishops decline meeting

IRELAND’S CATHOLIC bishops have declined to meet the Association of Catholic Priests’ leadership team, saying any such engagement “would best take place at local level by using established structures such as the Council of Priests”.

The ACP team said yesterday it was “both disappointed and saddened by this response”.

It found it “hard to understand why, in this time of great difficulty for the Irish church, neither the bishops as a body, or any individual bishop, is willing to meet with an association that has a membership of over 1,000 priests”.

It noted the Catholic primate “Cardinal Seán Brady, in a letter to the ACP on May 1st of this year, wrote: ‘The ACP has already met representatives of the bishops and also attended a meeting of a Commission of the Episcopal Conference and we expect that there will be ongoing meetings of this nature’.” No such ‘ongoing’ meetings have taken place.”

Yesterday the ACP leadership team released details of its two meetings with bishops.

One, in March 2011, related to the new missal and no changes sought by the ACP were agreed. 

A second “private meeting, very pleasant and affable” with two bishops took place last spring. Following it the ACP felt “more meetings like this would not serve any useful purpose”.

Last June, the ACP wrote to the cardinal requesting a meeting with the episcopal conference. 

Among the things they wished to discuss was “what will we do now to save the Irish Catholic Church. . .from effective collapse?”

The ACP agm takes place at Dublin’s Regency Hotel on November 9th and 10th.

Pope: Faith is truly personal if my "I" is united with the "we" of the Church

The act of faith is certainly an individual act, which takes place in our innermost being, but "faith is truly personal only if it is communitary, if it moves within the 'we' of the Church," which allows us to become "like a window that receives the light of the living God and communicate it to the world," because "faith is strengthened by being gifted to others." 

Once again, Benedict XVI has dedicated his general audience catechesis to "questions about the faith" in this Year of Faith.

And if last week the question concerned faith as a gift from God, "for it is God who takes the initiative, so faith is a response with which we welcome Him as the truth and stable foundation of our life," the Pope today asked the 10 thousand people in St Peter's Square despite the rainy day - which, he joked, "could be worse" - "if faith is of a purely personal, individual character? Does it only affect me personally? Do I live my faith alone?".

The answer is found in Baptism, when the priest asks the person to be baptized if he believes in God the Father, Jesus His only Son and the Holy Spirit. The "I do" with which we answer "is not the result of my solitary reflection, it is not the product of my own thoughts, but it is the result of a relationship, a dialogue in which there is a listening, and receiving and response; it is communicating with Jesus that takes me out of the "I" that is enclosed in on myself to open up to the love of God the Father. It is like a rebirth in which I find myself united not only Jesus, but also all those who have walked and walk on the same path; and this new birth, which begins with Baptism, continues throughout the course of my existence. I can not build my personal faith in a private dialogue with Jesus, because faith is given to me by God through a community of believers, the Church, and I a become part of the multitude of believers in a community that is not only sociological, but rooted in the eternal love of God. "

So when we recite the Creed during the Mass "we express ourselves in the first person, but as a community we confess the one faith of the Church. That" I " individually pronounced is united to that of an immense choir in time and space, in which everyone contributes, so to speak, for a harmonious polyphony of faith. "

Besides, since Pentecost, "when the journey of the Church began," it has been a "community" that brings the announcement of the death and resurrection of Jesus "to the ends of the world" "It is the People of God based on new covenant thanks to the blood of Christ, whose members do not belong to a particular social or ethnic group, but are men and women from every nation and culture. It is a ' Catholic' people, that is, one which speaks new languages, universally open to welcome all, beyond all boundaries, breaking down all barriers".

And there is "an unbroken chain of life of the Church, of the proclamation of the Word of God, of the celebration of the sacraments - he underscored - that comes to us and which we call Tradition. It guarantees that what we believe is the original message of Christ, preached by the apostles. "

"The widespread contemporary tendency to relegate faith to the private sphere - concluded the Pope - contradicts its very nature. We need the Church to confirm our faith and to experience together the gifts of God: His Word , the Sacraments, the sustenance of grace and witness of love. So our "I" into the "we" of the Church will be able to perceive that it is, at the same time, recipient and protagonist of an event that surpasses it: the experience of communion with God who establishes communion between people. In a world where individualism seems to regulate the relationships between people, rendering them increasingly fragile, faith calls us to be people of God, to be the Church, and bearers of the love and communion of God for all mankind. "

Parish in shock as priest found dead in home

The town of Ballina has been rocked by the sudden death of a local priest in what is believed to be the first case in recent years of a Catholic cleric in Ireland taking his own life.

Residents in the Co Mayo town yesterday expressed shock at news of the death of Fr Muredach Tuffy, a popular curate and director of the Newman Institute — an educational centre known as Ballina’s "Catholic university".

The body of the 39-year-old was discovered early yesterday in his apartment, attached to the institute at Cathedral Close.

Local sources said no foul play was involved.

Fellow priests in Ballina and the Diocese of Killala were too upset to comment when contacted yesterday.

Fr Gerard O’Hora, the parish priest of Ballina and spokesman for the Bishop of Killala, Dr John Fleming, was also unavailable.

A native of Castleconnor, Co Sligo, where he was ordained in 1999, Fr Tuffy had worked as director of the Newman Institute since 2003 and has been instrumental in its development and growth into a centre for adult religious education.

He was also the diocesan director of pastoral renewal and diocesan vocations director, as well as lecturing in applied theology at the Newman Institute. He also acted as Bishop Fleming’s spokesman.

Fr Tuffy officiated at the wedding of a friend in his home town of Castleconnor last Saturday.

Local Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary, who attended school with Fr Tuffy at St Muredach’s College in Ballina, said Ballina was "shocked beyond belief".

Enniskillen-based priest and well-known broadcaster Fr Brian D’Arcy spoke earlier this week about the pressures of being a priest in Ireland amid the fallout of various clerical sexual abuse scandals, as well as grappling with controversial Church teaching on issues such as clerical celibacy, contraception, and homosexuality.

Cardinal snubs plea by liberal priests for meeting

CARDINAL Sean Brady has refused to meet a group of reforming priests in the latest snub from the church hierarchy to its own members.

The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), which has more than 1,000 members, has published correspondence it sent to the cardinal seeking a meeting with bishops to discuss the future of the church.

In response, the Bishops' Conference executive secretary Fr G Dullea said the hierarchy had decided that engagement with the ACP should happen at local level.

The council is organised on diocesan level and involves priests meeting several times a year to discuss issues and then report to their local bishop. It does not allow for the ACP as a group to meet face-to-face with bishops.

It is the latest snub to the ACP after bishops in the west of Ireland refused to attend an assembly of priests and lay people in Galway last month and signals that relations between the hierarchy and the ACP are at a new low.

Fr Tony Flannery, a spokesman for the ACP, said they were disappointed and saddened with the response to their letter. He added that it was a "fairly definitive statement" on the hierarchy's feelings about the group.

Fr Flannery is a Redemptorist priest and was a long-time columnist with the order's 'Reality' magazine until earlier this year when he was silenced by the Vatican because of his liberal views.

He said: "Essentially what we have been told is for us to enter into discussion with ourselves. There is no episcopal involvement with them (the Council of Priests) at all. It's a total opting out of any discussion or dialogue with us which is very sad. There is nothing good about this and we don't take any pleasure in this." 

Fr Flannery said that there had only been minimal engagement by the bishops with the ACP.


A delegation met with an episcopal commission to discuss the introduction of the New Missal last year, while earlier this year there was a private meeting between three members of the ACP leadership and two representatives of the bishops' conference.

In June, the ACP wrote to Cardinal Brady to request a meeting with the Episcopal Conference.

"We stress that the Association of Catholic Priests is not 'against' the church. We are part of it, we care about it and we want it to survive," they wrote.

A spokesman for the Bishops' Conference said yesterday there were "ongoing meetings" between bishops and priests at local level.

Who, what, why: What's it like to be a prisoner of the Vatican?

Paolo Gabriele in courtPaolo Gabriele, Pope Benedict's former butler, has begun an 18-month prison sentence inside the Vatican walls, after being found guilty by a Vatican City court of stealing sensitive documents from the Pope's desk. 

What will life be like for the only prisoner inside the world's smallest sovereign state?

The Pope's former butler is being treated "leniently and justly" according to Vatican authorities, and may even benefit from a papal pardon before the end of his prison term, if he shows repentance and apologises to Pope Benedict and all the other people who work for the Holy See for the scandal he caused.

But for the moment he has exchanged his modest "grace and favour" three-bedroom apartment just inside the walls of the Vatican for a sparsely furnished detention room inside the headquarters of the Pope's private police force, the Vatican Gendarmerie.

Not only has he been sacked, but he now risks losing his home as well, situated almost next door to his former workplace, the Papal apartments on the top floor of the Apostolic Palace.

The Answer

  • Gabriele will be kept in a large detention cell
  • He will be allowed regular visits by his family and will receive spiritual counselling from a priest
  • He will also be allowed to attend Sunday mass under police escort
  • The Vatican Gendarmes insist the conditions he'll be kept in will respect the Geneva convention
Vatican City has a railway station - with only one train a week bringing in bonded duty-free goods, a Post Office, a radio station, a pharmacy, a supermarket, a fire brigade, a five-star hotel, and one of the world's most visited museums, but it has no prison - and no dungeons.

Its only crime problem is normally to catch and prosecute the pesky thieves and pickpockets who frequently relieve pilgrims and tourists of their wallets and handbags during crowded church ceremonies inside Saint Peter's Basilica or while walking through the Vatican museums. 

They are normally handed over to Italian police for processing and trial if necessary. Law and order inside the tiny territory is in the hands of the 130-strong Vatican Gendarmerie staffed almost entirely by ex-members of the Italian Carabinieri and State police. 

In charge is Inspector-General Domenico Giani, who formerly worked for the Italian Secret Services.

While the 120 members of the Pope's Swiss Guard carry out ceremonial and guard duties inside the mini-state, the blue-uniformed police are responsible for traffic and border control, and criminal investigations.

The Vatican police came under criticism from Paolo Gabriele during his trial. He accused them of putting him in a cramped detention cell inside police headquarters where he was held for 15 days with the light switched on day and night and with scarcely room to raise his arms.

The Gendarmerie explained that this was done to prevent Gabriele from harming himself, and that he himself had asked for the light to be left on at night and was given a sleeping mask.

The first 'Prisoner of the Vatican'

After losing most of his territories in 1870 with the founding of the new strongly anti-clerical united kingdom of Italy, Pope Pius IX declared himself "Prisoner of the Vatican". 

It took almost another 60 years before Popes were again able to venture outside the walls of their stronghold, as a result of the creation under Mussolini of the Vatican City micro-state within the city of Rome.

The butler has now been given a larger detention cell. He will be allowed regular visits by his family - he has three children - and will receive spiritual counselling from a priest. He will also be allowed to attend Sunday mass under police escort.

The tortures inflicted on victims of the Holy Inquisition for heresy from the Middle Ages onwards are legendary. 

Visitors to Rome can still see some of the dungeons into which prisoners of the Church used to be thrown. 

The dungeons of the Castel Sant'Angelo, a papal fortress just near the Vatican, inspired the 18th Century Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi to create his famous series of imaginary etchings of Roman prisons - I Carceri.

But the Vatican Gendarmes insist that the conditions under which Gabriele will be held fully respect the Geneva Convention on torture and "conform to the detention standards applicable to other countries in analogous circumstances".

Gabriele, a Vatican citizen, has already spent five months since his arrest last May in detention or under house arrest, so in theory he has another 13 months to serve.

His case has caused huge embarrassment to the Vatican authorities and to Pope Benedict in person. 

They fear he might spill further secrets if he were to serve his term in an Italian prison, which under present treaty arrangements between the Holy See and Italy, he should do.

Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul ll in 1981 was tried and sentenced by an Italian court after his capture in Saint Peter's Square, over which jurisdiction is shared between the Italy and the Vatican. 

He spent 19 years in an Italian jail before being deported to Turkey.

Bishop fears war may prompt ‘Iraq-style’ exodus of Christians

The bishop of the devastated city of Aleppo has told MPs at Westminster that bishops in Syria are torn between urging Catholics to stay living in a warzone or flee, risking a Christian exodus similar to the one that happened in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

Speaking at a parliamentary briefing in London last week organised by the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Odo said a mass exodus of Syria's ancient Christian communities would signal a victory for the insurgents aiding the mainly Sunni rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad.

Many people in Aleppo had fled, he said, adding: "We fear Christianity will lose its influence like in Iraq, so I ask, what is the future of Christianity in the Middle East?"

Pell: bishops must be bolder

A senior cardinal has said that bishops in the English-speaking world have been too accommodating in their proclamation of Church teaching.

Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney and a member of the Congregation for Bishops, said: "Sometimes we have to give the Church's moral teaching in a political situation where we know it is almost impossible that it is going to be accepted ... Even in those situations we are still obliged prudently and sensibly to present the truth."

Speaking at a press briefing during the Synod on the New Evangelisation in Rome last week, he said: "I would be tempted to say that we have been a little bit too accommodating. And I am not sure that it has worked to our benefit."

Monks cede control of Ealing school

The archdiocese of Westminster will take over responsibility for ensuring the "Catholicity" of St Benedict's School in west London from the monks of Ealing Abbey, it has been revealed.

A report by the Apostolic Visitation into child safeguarding procedures at the abbey, seen by The Tablet this week, says the archdiocese will now become involved in maintaining "the Catholic nature of the school, since the [Benedictine monks] will no longer have the power to ensure this".

Following recommendations made by Lord Carlile last year in his report into 21 allegations of child sex abuse at the school, it was removed from the abbey's control.

It is understood that the archdiocese will work with the new board of trustees which took over governance of the school from the Benedictines last month.

Scicluna move ‘incomprehensible’

The Vatican's decision to remove Mgr Charles Scicluna from his role in dealing with the clerical abuse crisis was "beyond understanding", according to a leading spokeswoman for abuse survivors.

Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins told The Tablet this week that she found Mgr Scicluna, who had spent the past decade as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's Promoter of Justice, "to be the one hope for the future".

"How a man with his understanding of the past and determination to get child protection in the Catholic Church right in the future could be removed is beyond understanding," she said.

"There were those in the Vatican who opposed his hard line on the handling of abusive priests. It is so sad to see how their view seems to have prevailed."

No papal pardon soon for ex butler, Vatican indicates

The Vatican on Thursday moved Pope Benedict's former butler, who admitted leaking sensitive documents, from house arrest to a cell in the city-state's police station and indicated he would not be getting a papal pardon anytime soon.

In a detailed statement that attacked Paolo Gabriele for violating papal trust, the Vatican insisted he acted alone in what it called a personal "criminal plan" that resulted in the biggest breach of Vatican security in recent history.
Gabriele, who was sentenced to 18 months by a court on Oct. 6 for stealing and leaking the documents, was moved to the cell to serve the remainder of his term after the prosecution decided not to appeal, making the ruling definitive. The prosecution had asked for three years.

"(This) puts an end to a sad situation that has had many painful consequences," the Vatican statement said.

Gabriele was arrested in May for stealing documents from the pope's office and leaking them to the Italian media in what became known as the "Vatileaks" scandal.

Some of the documents alleged corruption in the Vatican's business dealings with Italian companies, laid bare rivalries and bickering at the highest levels of the Catholic Church, and disclosed internal conflict on the running of the Vatican bank.

The statement attacked Gabriele, who said during the trial he was influenced by a general malaise in the Vatican and had confided in some people within the Holy See's walls, saying he had "dealt a personal offence" to the pope. 

It accused him of violating the privacy of other people by leaking their private correspondence with the pope, sullying the Holy See's reputation, damaging the working environment in the Vatican, and "causing scandal among the community of the faithful" of the 1.2-billion-member Church.


The tough wording of the statement indicated that a papal pardon for Gabriele, which would free him from jail, may not come as soon as previously believed. 

It said Gabriele would still be able to appeal to the pope for a pardon but first he would have to recognise the gravity of his crime and "make a sincere request for forgiveness from the Supreme Pontiff and those who were unjustly offended".

During the trial Gabriele said he stole, copied and leaked the documents out of "a visceral love" for the Church and because he felt aides were keeping information from the pope.

He told investigators he saw himself as "an agent of the Holy Spirit".

The Vatican statement firmly contested this, saying his actions were "based on personal convictions that no one can share in any way".

Many observers are convinced that Gabriele, who served the pope his meals and helped him dress, could not have done it all by himself and may have been a pawn for others.

The Vatican used the statement to strongly restate its position that he acted alone, although it failed to mention that a second Vatican employee goes on trial next month on a lesser charge of aiding and abetting. 

"The trial verified the facts, confirming that Mr Paolo Gabriele put his criminal plan in motion without being instigated or incited by anyone," it said.

"Various conjectures about the existence of plots or the involvement of other people were shown to be unfounded."

Gabriele was moved from the apartment where he lived with his family to the same cell he was held for some of his pre-trial detention, although not the tiny "holding room" where he was held immediately after his arrest and which he denounced as not large enough to spread his arms.

Spanish Catechists Can Enroll In Online Program

In this “Year of Faith” called for by Pope Benedict XVI, the Archdiocese of Atlanta invites Hispanic catechetical leaders and other faithful Spanish speakers to enroll in an online pastoral theology certificate program through a new partnership with the University of Dallas School of Ministry.
The program aims to enrich formation of ministry leaders catechizing and evangelizing the Hispanic Catholic community in the United States to better serve their communities. 

Participants will complete online 12 theology and six pastoral courses in Spanish over three years, with two academic and one pastoral per semester, in areas of catechesis, prayer, leadership and methodology to achieve a certificado en teologia pastoral (CPT) and become master catechists for the archdiocese.

“It came about from the need of formation in Spanish. There are not many programs out there, but this parish program caught our attention. It’s coming from a very good institution,” said Monica Oppermann of the archdiocesan Office of Formation and Discipleship. “It’s a program that has been tested in other dioceses in the United States. … It is a program that has been designated here in the U.S. for Hispanic residents.”

The program’s courses range from Scripture, church fathers and church history to youth and young adult ministry, liturgy and sacraments, and prayer and spirituality. 

Priority enrollment is given to those in Hispanic ministry nominated by their pastor but is open to all until the 100 spaces are filled, Oppermann said. It may be beneficial for anyone from the busy professional with a college degree not related to religious studies wanting to bring formation to the parish to the immigrant leading a ministry who lacks the academic background or means to pursue degree studies. 

shieldTwo leaders from parish schools of evangelization are enrolling, she said, “as a way of continuing their formation and having the opportunity of receiving a certificate from one of the most prestigious Catholic institutions in the country.”

Oppermann also emphasized that the theology classes, which have no academic prerequisites, are not overly academic but are simple and practical in being taught by professors with both advanced degrees and parish leadership experience.

“People with experience in parishes, they’ve come up with it. It’s very necessary as catechists to know the history of the church and there’s a whole course on the catechism—there are so many Catholics who have never opened the catechism,” she said. “We’re forming a leader, equipping a leader or person who is already working in a parish or wants to know more about the faith and equipping them with deeper knowledge and pastoral methods.”

The courses require study and discipline but without the intensity of a degree program. 

Participants will view a weekly one-hour, 40-minute video at their convenience and complete periodic tests, quizzes and assignments. And some parishes will offer open study groups for those seeking community. 

Class is held weekly for 15 weeks in the spring and fall semesters. Archdiocesan staff will act as administrators and be available to provide class-related support as needed. 

“We are all going to be on the same page every week—one class every week and everybody has to complete assignments that week.”

Pastors in the 66 churches in the archdiocese with a Spanish Mass are being asked to nominate one person; those from the nine parishes with three or more Spanish Masses can nominate two. 

Those nominated by their pastor will receive a partial tuition stipend from the archdiocese, and for others the cost is $670 per year.

The enrollment period runs through Nov. 17, and the program begins Jan. 13 following a commencement Mass and orientation at the Chancery offices in Smyrna. The archdiocese will work with persons needing alternative payment options.

Marist Father S. Patrick Scully, pastor of St. Peter Church in LaGrange, said that he had already nominated a person from his parish. For that person, he said, “It will be beneficial, both for personal enrichment and service in the parish.”

He said, “In my experience, the Hispanic community is super-thirsty for faith they can understand and explain, especially in rural, Baptist-Methodist Georgia, where Catholics are minorities to begin with.”

He added, “This program will taste like ‘Gatorade’ to Hispanic leaders who have been laboring long and hard in Georgia fields, farms, stores, kitchens and industries.”

Additionally, the program is a straightforward way to become a master catechist, who can teach catechist certification classes and guide catechists in formation, as normally the catechetical certification process involves taking a mixture of formation classes under the director or parish mentor as they are offered around the archdiocese.

There are various online certificate programs in English but archdiocesan leaders believe that this program meets a need in addressing the realities of Hispanic immigrants in the United States. 

Pia Septien, director of continuing education programs for U.D.’s school of ministry, said that CPT was launched three years ago and helps Hispanic immigrants to better understand the communities they serve and the realities of the American Catholic church. 

She said, “Hispanics immigrants in the United States, for whom everything is different and new, the consistency that the Catholic Church gives to their lives is very important. The program will help them develop the skills and the knowledge needed to help their communities.”

Oppermann agrees that in the United States Hispanic immigrants look more to their church as a community center of social and spiritual life and also tend to volunteer much more than she experienced growing up in Mexico. But at the same time the many undocumented churchgoers don’t like to register.

“People see church here more like family,” she said. “I was really impressed when I got to Holy Spirit Parish and saw all those ministries going on here in the U.S. through the work of volunteers.”

In addition to its Hispanic perspective, Oppermann also likes the CPT’s flexible format that encourages students to consider how they can share materials with their parishes along the way. “It’s not pulling leaders out of a parish. It kind of molds to the needs of the pastor and the leadership,” she said. “It is for the leaders, so they can continue serving their communities at the parish level.”

Father Scully said, “This program tells our Hispanic leaders that the archdiocese takes them seriously and wants to cultivate its leaders so they can pass the faith on to the next generation, who can easily go to the Protestant church next door (which may have a Starbuck’s) if they can’t quench their thirst at their home parish.”

US cardinal-designate has worked close to popes for 30 years

Cardinal-designate James M. Harvey has spent 30 years working at the Vatican in positions requiring great discretion and bringing him into daily contact with the pope, the world's most powerful government leaders and millions of Catholic faithful.

Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would induct Harvey, a native of Milwaukee, into the College of Cardinals Nov. 24 and that he would appoint him archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the major basilica built over the presumed tomb of St. Paul.

As prefect of the papal household since 1998, Harvey has arranged the daily meetings, first, of Pope John Paul II and, now, of Pope Benedict. 

He coordinates with the pope's personal secretary and other members of the "pontifical family" -- those who work in the papal apartment and have been shaken by the actions and conviction of Paolo Gabriele, the former papal butler, on charges of aggravated theft.

When heads of state make official visits to the pope, it is Harvey who greets them first and escorts them to the pope.

And when the pope meets small groups or holds his large weekly general audiences, Harvey is at his side. At a July 2011 prayer service in Cardinal-designate Harvey's home archdiocese, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee introduced him as "the second most photographed person in the world."

Harvey, 63, was one of the three Vatican officials closest to Blessed John Paul, coordinating his audiences and public appearances as the pope aged and became increasingly debilitated by Parkinson's disease.

Pope John Paul personally ordained him a bishop in 1998, along with now-Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the pope's longtime personal secretary, and Archbishop Piero Marini, his longtime master of liturgical ceremonies and current head of the commission overseeing the International Eucharistic Congress.

At the ordination Mass, the pope said he was particularly close to the three because of their "unique service to the Holy See and to me personally.

The pope described Harvey as "my faithful collaborator in the Secretariat of State," who was about to take on responsibility for his "daily round of audiences and meetings."

Harvey, a member of the Vatican diplomatic corps, was assigned to the secretariat of state in 1982 after a two-year posting in the Dominican Republic. In 1997, he was named assessor of the secretariat, a rank similar to that of an undersecretary at a Vatican congregation.

Although he has been at the Vatican for 30 years, he has kept his ties with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Preaching at a prayer service last year on the eve of the ordination of Milwaukee Auxiliary Bishop Donald J. Hying, Harvey spoke about the challenges of public ministry and about the mystery of God calling human beings, with all their flaws, to bring the Gospel to the world.

The Milwaukee Catholic Herald, archdiocesan newspaper, quoted him as telling the congregation, "In every age, especially in recent years, priests, bishops, human beings have been placed under huge reflectors, powerful spotlights on stage," particularly during the clerical sex abuse scandal. 

"The harsh lights were focused, the heat on the stage is so intense that the makeup cake is running off these actors' faces, leaving exposed every blemish, every scar, every wart and pockmark for the world to see," he said.

Yet, "human beings are creatures of this world that God designed to be his instruments for bringing us closer to him," he said. The mission of drawing people to holiness is "a noble task, a beautiful task, a daunting task."

Born Oct. 20, 1949, in Milwaukee, the soon-to-be cardinal did his high school and college studies at the Milwaukee archdiocesan seminary. 

Sent to Rome's Pontifical North American College, he earned a license in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University and was ordained to the priesthood in 1975 by Pope Paul VI.

In 1976, he began studies at the Vatican's diplomatic academy. 

After earning a doctorate in canon law, he entered the Vatican's diplomatic service in 1980.

Minnesota nonprofit for farmers loses grant for ties to groups opposing marriage bill

A Minnesota nonprofit that assists beginner and rural farmers lost its grant funding from the U.S. Catholic bishops' conference when the conference learned it was a member of two Minnesota groups that oppose Minnesota's marriage amendment, an amendment the church supports.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the bishops' domestic anti-poverty program, did not cut funding because of something the Land Stewardship Project did, but "because they don't like whom we associate with," said Mark Schultz, the project's associate director/policy and organizing director.

The organization, which helps sustain rural farms and has an office within the Winona, Minn., diocese, is an organizational member of two large nonprofits: Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and TakeAction Minnesota. Those two organizations, while their missions do not involve same-sex marriage, have taken stances against the marriage amendment.

On Nov. 6, Minnesotans will vote on a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman.

"We have no position on that," Schultz said. "We don't do any work on that."

Although Land Stewardship Project does not have a position on the marriage amendment and belongs to the two organizations for other reasons, it is because of these relationships CCHD revoked the project's $48,000 grant this summer.

But Schultz, who is Catholic, thinks CCHD is wrong.

"We're not in violation of the contract because it's not the purpose or agenda of these groups to do something about marriage," he said.

The Land Stewardship Project and CCHD have a long history together, Schultz said. He estimated the bishops' agency has given them 15 or so grants in the past, and he appreciates the work the bishops' agency does.

"This is really difficult for us," he said.

Under CCHD grant guidelines, a group is ineligible if it "promotes or participates in activities that support principles contrary to Catholic Teaching or work against the USCCB's priorities to defend the life and dignity of all human persons, to strengthen family life and the institution of marriage, and to nurture diversity."

The Land Stewardship Project, which has offices in southern Minnesota, was founded in 1982 "to foster an ethic of stewardship for farmland, to promote sustainable agriculture and to develop sustainable communities."

Schultz said the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, which has 2,000 members, helps organizations be better nonprofits, and TakeAction Minnesota -- which has 14,000 individual and 29 organizational dues-paying members -- works on health care reform, which relates to the farm organization's work because many of its members are "underinsured, uninsured, and paying huge amounts of money to insurance corporations."

The Land Stewardship Project, when listing its affiliations on the application, evaluated if its memberships would be a violation of the CCHD contract, Schulz said, but decided they would not because none of the Land Stewardship Project's work with the two organizations involved the marriage amendment and because the separation was so distant it would not be a problem. However, CCHD disagreed.

CCHD director Ralph McCloud told NCR the agency has given grants to the Land Stewardship Project multiple times since about 1989, and he noted the project's "tremendous work over the years." However, its affiliation with the two organizations made it ineligible for a grant this year, he said.

When the Winona diocese contacted the bishops' conference this summer, CCHD looked into what constitutes a membership in the two organizations: "Is it dues paying, do you support the activities of the group, what activities do you work together on, do you enhance the group by your presence there -- those kinds of things," McCloud said.

McCloud said that as CCHD understood it, the Land Stewardship Project was a dues-paying member. The group gave the Land Stewardship Project time to cut ties with the two groups in order to keep the grant. The Land Stewardship Project deliberated but decided to keep its memberships.

Joel Hennessy, director of mission advancement for the Winona diocese, said the Land Stewardship Project does "wonderful work," and the diocese "is sad that people have to suffer." He said he is hopeful the relationship can one day continue.

Since at least 2007, the Land Stewardship Project has received $30,000 or more in grant money from CCHD, according to the group's grant reports.

In recent years, CCHD has come under attack from groups that say the bishops' agency funds programs that are inconsistent with Catholic teaching. 

A coalition group called Reform CCHD Now compiled information on possible violations with the Land Stewardship Project using CCHD's guidelines and sent the findings to the Winona diocese, said Michael Hichborn of the American Life League, one of the organizations in the coalition.

Founded in 2009, Reform CCHD Now works "to shine the light on the problem of Catholic funds going to organizations that promote abortion, birth control, homosexuality and even Marxism," according to its latest report on its website.

After renewing its grant guidelines in 2010, CCHD has been more vigilant, resulting in cut grants for some groups.

For the 2012-2013 funding year, 214 organizations received more than $9.1 million from grants, according to Catholic News Service. The CCHD church collection is typically the weekend before Thanksgiving, Nov. 17-18 this year.

McCloud said there have been discussions on whether CCHD needs stricter guidelines to eliminate confusion on eligibility. Part of the problem, he said, is the sudden appearance of marriage amendments on organizations' agendas.

CCHD encourages collaboration to end poverty, McCloud said.

"That's a virtue when you're able to work across different types of lines and come together to work on an agenda that deals with persons who are in poverty. That's important to us. But to work with organizations who are working against some of the things that we're teaching, the tradition that we have -- we just have no tolerance for that."