Sunday, July 14, 2024

Patrick Buckley, RIP (4)

Last weekend, myself, a colleague from CW and a qualified specialist undertook a trip to the middle of Ireland to meet with a family who have, for many years, been dealing with the actions of Patrick Buckley against a family member.

This meeting came about as a direct result of Patrick Buckleys death, and many calls, emails and text messages - all filed as evidence with our solicitor - with the agreement of the family and specifically, the member concerned.

We were all aware that this was not going to be an easy conversation, and little did any of us realise how much so - but it was a necessary one.

At this moment in time, we are not going to comment on the allegations, but I would like to offer this piece as more of a reflection than anything else.

 - - - - -

It is almost 2 months since the death of Patrick Buckley was publicised - or indeed not - and we here in CW published the notice the morning of his death.

Shock : this was the initial feeling on our side, and once we published the notice, emails poured in as did telephone calls and text messages - all from people in shock that he had indeed passed. The initial contact was to check if it was true that he haad died, and in the vast majority of cases, despite the initial shock, the joy of his passing was most palpabale.

Denial : over the course of that weekend, the nasty, slanderuous and lies-filled blogspot which Patrick Buckley had published for many years disappeared - as indeed did any and all mention of him on all other social media. It was, in effect, a denial of his existence, and a denial of his bad behaviour and nastiness. Regrettably for those who were / are trying to rehabilitate Patrick Buckley, there are so, so many out here who will ensure that will never be the case - not out of spite, but rather, out of truth.

Anger : and those people who have been most impacted by the words, actions and behaviour of Patrick Buckley down the years have felt cheated by his death and his not facing any consequences. This anger is rightly merited, and is only added to by the interviews given by his supporters who have made many false claims (wonder where they learned such behaviour?) and dared to continue to insult and slander anyone who dared to speak the truth about Patrick Buckley.

Bargaining : this may seem a bit odd in this regard, but in fact, it has become one of the more pertinent feelings in all of this - mainly down to the knowledge that Patrick Buckey IS dead, and all those libelled, slandered, infected etc can now go to bed and get a decent sleep, safe in the knowledge that there is no more to endure. The bargain now is that every day now is a new day, and life is no longer one of living under the dark clouds cast over them, but start to enjoy the sunshine breaking through.

Depression : and this is also a challenge as so, so many had to sit down and take stock of the damage caused by Patrick Buckley in the last few years: damage to friendships, family dynamics, relationships to name just a few of the consequences. All very natural, and heaped upon the depression caused down the years when the blogspot - and Patrick Buckley - were in full force. 

Acceptance & Hope : this is the toughest step for so many yet, and those who have reached this point have done so after much soul searching for themselves. We have no choice but to accept that he is dead, but dead he is indeed. We may feel as if he has escaped, but the hope we have should outweigh any lasting regret in that regard. 

Processing Grief : is different for each person, and in that regard, we should give time, space and support to each other in all of this.

We here in CW repeat our offer in that we will continue to provide legal and support services to those who wish to avail of such, and remain available to you all.

It is the least we can continue to do.

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Eagarthóir / Editor

CWI : The Oratory Society (5)

A few more questions for The Oratory Society (TOS), namely the person of Paul Creaner

1. Do you intend to update your website for the TOS, and in doing so, address the issues we raised here which resulted in you taking the site down on 1st July 2024?

2. Will you be still using the address of 6 Princes Gardens, Larne or another address of 131 Main Street, Larne for future communications?

3. Will TOS be vacating 6 Princes Gardens, Larne, and returning the keys to its lawful owners, namely the Diocese of Down and Connor by the end of August 2024 as per agreement reached in January 2012?

4. Does TOS have, as per norms and legal requirements, a designated Safeguarding Officer?

5. If so, who is this designated Safeguarding Officer, and what are their qualifications?

6. If not, why not?

7. If you are to continue to use 6 Princes Gardens, Larne, does TOS have public liability insurance?

8. Are you, as per head of TOS, or Eduardo, paying the rates, utilities and associated costs for 6, Princes Gardens, Larne?

And these questions are for Eduardo :

9. On the one hand you have claimed that you are the Executor of the estate of your allegedly celibate 'partner/husband', Patrick Buckley, and yet have also claimed elsewhere that there is no will or estate. Which one is the truth Eduardo?

10. Are you Eduardo, willing to meet any of the 55 men infected with HIV by your allegedly celibate 'partner/husband', Patrick Buckley?

Some simple questions Eduardo and Paul....maybe ye would like to address them in the public interest...honestly.

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Eagarthóir / Editor

Priest group condemns refusal of communion to Cork TD who supported repeal of Eighth Amendment

The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) has “unambiguously condemned” the refusal of communion “to a public representative in the diocese of Cloyne” and described as “a particularly aggravating factor” that it happened “in the context of a funeral Mass”.

The ACP statement followed a refusal by Fr Gabriel Burke, a priest in Bantry parish Co Cork, to give communion to Minister of State Colm Burke at the funeral Mass of a constituent because of his support for repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

Fr Burke said that “as a senator, Colm Burke voted for abortion after the 2018 referendum and he knows the teaching of the [Catholic] Church that any politician who voted [for] abortion cannot receive communion”.

Mr Burke explained how he had recently attended the funeral Mass “of a person who I knew for over 35 years and who was a long-standing member of Fine Gael and party supporter” and that Fr Burke “refused to give to me Holy Communion”.

The priest further advised him that “you have been excommunicated”, Mr Burke said. He is seeking clarification on the matter from Bishop of Cloyne William Crean.

In their statement the ACP noted how, previous to the Eighth Amendment being repealed, “Irish women were travelling abroad to avail of abortion services, while legislators and citizens looked the other way”.

It continued that “procurement of an abortion is complex, morally and medically. Legislators have to balance two sets of rights, the right of the unborn child to life and the free decision-making right of the mother. Public representatives are tasked with finding a balance between both.”

It said that “like every member of the Catholic Church, public representatives must act in accordance with their conscience. It is not the role of the priest to judge the conscience of another person. The priest does not own the Eucharist and would do well to ponder the statement of Pope Francis that he has never refused the Eucharist to anyone.”

In 2021, Pope Francis said that denying Communion to politicians who support abortion must be handled in a pastoral way, not by public condemnations that seek to “excommunicate” Catholics who are not in line with church teaching.

Fr Burke told The Irish Times that Pope Francis was not in a position to comment on the matter of refusing communion to politicians who legislated for abortion as abortion only became legal in Argentina after he left Buenos Aires to become pope.

Fr Burke also stressed that he had not excommunicated Mr Burke but rather the politician had excommunicated himself when he voted in the Senate in 2018 to introduce legislation permitting abortion after the people had voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

“I haven’t excommunicated Colm Burke, the Pope hasn’t communicated Colm Burke, Colm Burke excommunicated himself when he voted for the legislation – it was a Latae Sententia excommunication which is a penalty that automatically occurs.

“Say, I slapped the Pope across the face, automatically I would be excommunicated by the very act of assaulting the Bishop of Rome and similarly by voting for legislation allowing the introduction of abortion, Colm Burke excommunicated himself,” he said.

TD 'taken aback' over refusal by priest to give him communion

A Fine Gael TD and Minister of State has said he was "taken aback" after a Catholic priest refused to give him communion at a funeral mass and told him it was because he had been "excommunicated".

Cork North Central TD Colm Burke voted in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment, a process which led to the legalisation of abortion in Ireland.

It has been reported by the Irish Times that that is the reason why Fr Gabriel Burke of the Blarney parish refused him communion on Friday.

Mr Burke, who is Minister of State at the Department of Health, has contacted the Cloyne diocese for clarification on the matter and said this morning he is in the process of writing a letter to the bishop on the matter.

The incident took place at Whitechurch in the Blarney parish on Friday, when Mr Burke was attending the funeral mass of a long-standing Fine Gael member and parishioner.

He said three priests were giving out communion and he went to Fr Gabriel Burke as he was the closest to the side of the church in which he had been sitting.

According to Mr Burke, there was a previous incident some time ago when he was not given communion by Fr Burke, but he thought that was something to do with mask-wearing during the pandemic.

"I went up and he refused to give me [Holy Communion]," Mr Burke said of Friday's mass. "He just gave me a blessing. He said, 'you're not getting it'. He said 'you've been excommunicated'."

According to Minister Burke, Fr Burke did not elaborate any further on his reasons. "He leaned forward and said, 'you've been excommunicated'."

Fr Burke has since been reported as saying that it was because of Mr Burke's "support for abortion".

The TD, who said he attends mass in his local church - which is not Whitechurch - most weekends, said this morning: "My argument is that we couldn't have repealed it unless there was a referendum and it was passed by referendum."

He also said: "My understanding is that Canon Law, in fact, doesn't give him the authority to refuse to give Holy Communion to anyone."

Asked for his reaction to what happened on Friday, he said: "I was just taken aback by it."

He added that he has "a plethora" of people in his extended family working in different roles within the Catholic church, including his late sister who was a Mercy Sister for years.

Cloyne diocesan secretary Fr Jim Moore confirmed that Mr Burke had been in touch with him on Friday about the matter, and said that Bishop William Crean who is currently indisposed will be contacting the TD "in the early days of next week".

Asked whether Fr Burke was right or wrong in what he did, Fr Moore said: "That's something that's between the bishop and his priest."

Statement from the Alliance after July 2024 General Synod

10th July 2024

We were saddened that, on 8th July, General Synod approved the latest LLF motion. Despite assurances that this is just one more step in an unfolding process, we believe this was in fact a decisive moment. Stand-alone services were approved and are at the very least indicative of a change in the doctrine of marriage. A pathway to clergy entering same-sex marriage was initiated, and clergy SSM is a definitive change in doctrine. Indeed, it is clear that some members of the House of Bishops are openly advocating such a change.

Voting was again very close, the motion being passed by just 56% of bishops, 52% of clergy and 51% of laity – a very weak mandate for change. Significantly, more bishops than ever before felt unable to support the motion: while 22 voted in favour, 17 either voted against (12) or abstained (5). As we wrote to the Archbishops in a letter on 26th June, we therefore “have no choice but rapidly to establish what would in effect be a new de facto ‘parallel Province’ within the Church of England and to seek pastoral oversight from bishops who remain faithful to orthodox teaching on marriage and sexuality”.

We are not without hope. The Archbishops and the Bishop of Leicester (Lead LLF Bishop) all stated in the debate that they want the Alliance to know we are a valued part of the Church of England; and we are thankful to them for their warm words. However, we do not believe it is possible for us to flourish within the Church of England’s current structures. We need a structurally secure space for the over 2000 clergy supporting the Alliance, and the churches they represent (some 37% of total C of E church attendance and 57% of attendance of those under the age of 18). We have asked the Archbishops and the Bishop of Leicester to demonstrate their desire for us to feel a valued part of the Church of England through actions and not just words, however warm.

Stand-alone services will not be authorised for use until provision has been more fully developed – at the earliest, this will come back to Synod in February 2025. In the coming months, at the invitation of the Bishop of Leicester, we will be engaging in direct negotiations with the House of Bishops. We have made clear that we are not leaving the Church of England or the Anglican Communion. We are hopeful for what will take place in the coming months, and we look to the God of hope to fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in him (Romans 15:13).

Church takes first steps to allowing gay priests to marry

The Church of England has taken its first steps towards allowing gay members of the clergy to marry.

The General Synod, the Church’s legislative body, voted to pass proposals that pave the way towards a report on the question of same-sex civil marriage ceremonies between members of the clergy or one member of the clergy and a lay person.

Church leaders will now reconvene in February to discuss the prospect, as well as steps to permit blessings for same-sex couples in so-called “standalone” services, which closely resemble marriage ceremonies.

These would build on proposals agreed in November, when the Synod voted in favour of permitting blessings for same-sex couples during regular church services on a trial basis.

The proposals passed comfortably by 22 votes to 12 in the House of Bishops and by 99 votes to 88 among the clergy respectively.

Among the laity, the vote was much closer, passing by just four votes, with 95 in favour and 91 against.

The proposals were met with widespread dismay among conservative-leaning groups within the Church.

Rev Canon John Dunnett, the national director of the Church of England Evangelical Council, said: “I was born in the Church of England. But if the prayers of love and faith bus continues in the same direction, I sometimes wonder whether I will die as a member of the Church of England or not.”

The Rev Will Pearson-Gee, a Buckinghamshire rector, said: “I think it could be a watershed moment.

“They’ve woken up a sleeping giant. Up until now we’ve just been disinterested, but people have been radicalised.”

The Rev Ian Paul, a member of the General Synod and the Archbishops’ Council, said: “It has now become clear and open that there are bishops who do not believe the doctrine of the Church and are determined that it should change.

“They will drive this through no matter what the consequences. They seem to be out of touch with what many in the Church believe, and that this change is not something on which many of us can simply ‘agree to disagree’.”

It comes after more than 25 church leaders last month wrote to the archbishops of York and Canterbury warning that such a change could amount to “unlawfulness” and threatened to create a “parallel province”, a separate autonomous grouping within the Church.

A conservative-leaning group called The Alliance, which describes itself as an informal partnership of leaders from networks in the Church, claims to be supported by 2,000 clergy members.

Threatens existence

One of the signatories to the letter, Tom Middleton, the director of Forward in Faith, which represents about 1,000 Anglican clergy, described the split as “potentially the biggest since the Church of England was founded in the aftermath of the Reformation”.

“It threatens the Church of England’s very existence,” he said.

Before Monday’s vote, the Most Rev Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, pleaded for unity between pro-same sex blessing and anti-same sex blessing factions.

“The reality of the church as we live it is always messy,” he told Church leaders gathered in York.

“That the Church flourishes as one is indispensable to the Gospel in this land.

“That the Church flourishes as one is essential to the Anglican community, which like all global churches, is deeply divided and seeking the support of each other.”

The archbishop’s comments allegedly came after closed-door discussions with rebels who have threatened to break away from the Church over its stance.

In addition to same-sex blessings, the motion also put forward steps for establishing pastoral care for those unable to accept the ministry of bishops who provide so-called prayers of love and faith for same-sex couples.

Addressing the compromise involved in the vote, the Archbishop of York said: “What’s before us isn’t what everyone wants, it’s not really what anyone wants, but it is an Anglican way forward.”

Speaking after the debate, the Archbishop of Canterbury said: “The only way forward is a watertight and enduring protection of conscience.” 

“The protection must have teeth to protect against harassment and bullying,” he added.

Kylemore Benedictines' long road to a monastery

In past millennia, construction of a church could take centuries. 

Paris' Cathedral of Notre Dame — currently in the final stages of being rebuilt after the tragic fire that nearly destroyed it in 2019 — took nearly 200 years to complete.

Technology in the modern era may have vastly reduced construction time for churches and other religious structures, but other factors can cause really long delays in seeing the final brick being mortared in place.

Such is the case for the Benedictine Sisters at Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, Ireland — one of only two women's Benedictine communities in the country, and the first women's Benedictine monastery to be built in Ireland in over 400 years, according to their website.

As Kylemore's retired abbess Mother Máire Hickey reflected, a group of Benedictine nuns, known as the "Irish Dames of Ypres," left the Royal Abbey of the Immaculate Conception in Belgium in 1914 — during World War I — hoping someday to return.

"They were literally walking ahead of the bombs," said Catherine KilBride, an educator, historian and translator who, with Deirdre Raftery, a full professor of the history of education at the University College Dublin School of Education, and an elected fellow of the Royal Historical Society, authored The Benedictine Nuns & Kylemore Abbey: A History.

Archived records from that era recount how one of the sisters, returning through the battle lines for a last look before leaving the district, saw the damage already inflicted on the monastery, which would ultimately be reduced to rubble, recalled Hickey.

"That was when the sisters realized they'd never be able to go back," she said, adding that she feels very connected to those sisters, and the ones who followed in their footsteps.

The displaced religious wondered where the funds would come from to build a new monastery as they made their way to England, then to Ireland, Hickey continued.

From that point to 2024, the dream of a monastery remained alive for the Benedictine community.

The Benedictines took possession of Kylemore Castle along Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way in 1920, related Hickey, renaming it Kylemore Abbey. The former home of Mitchell Henry, a doctor and member of Parliament in the 19th century, the vast structure was completed only six years prior to the untimely death of his wife, Margaret. While Henry and his children continued to maintain the castle, which changed hands in the early 1900s before being abandoned by its last owner in 1914.

The castle and its surrounding 1,000 acres really didn't qualify as a monastery though, as Raftery stated, the local bishop rejected the community's claim of a lack of enclosure with the logic that the surrounding mountains supplied a natural enclosure.

While true — "There was no one around," KilBride noted of the isolated location, with Raftery adding, "nothing for miles" — the sisters persisted in their plans for an actual monastery while living in the massive stone residence overlooking Lough Pollacappul.

The community opened a boarding school for girls as their primary ministry. As student enrollment increased, an annex was built adjacent to the castle, where the sisters resided. This configuration of the space, however, did not allow the community to enjoy a proper cloister, for one — something essential to religious life.

In the early 2000s, plans for building a monastery were revitalized. The Benedictines moved out of the castle and annex to a farmhouse and other small structures around the sprawling property in 2007, Hickey said. They've lived in those quarters ever since.

The community closed their boarding school in 2010 and, while Kylemore had become a popular tourist destination as early as the 1990s, the castle's ground floor was gradually transformed into a museum, allowing visitors a glimpse of not only the lives of the Henry family, but the history of the Benedictines.

In the meantime, realization of the sisters' goal inched closer.

The lay staff of the Kylemore Trust — the charity created to both support the sisters and preserve the historic value of the castle, the neo-Gothic chapel and other buildings, and Victorian walled garden — shared in the enthusiasm of the project's development, as noted by Jessica Ridge, an alumna of the Benedictines' boarding school who serves as marketing manager.

"The staff knows the nuns," Ridge said. "And through this process they've grown to understand why the nuns are so deeply connected to Kylemore as part of the Benedictine vow of stability."

In 2018, permission was granted by the Galway County Council to begin construction.

Hickey laid the first brick for the new monastery on Feb. 13, 2020. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the process to a screeching halt. What had originally been planned as a five-year project faced the challenge of obtaining an extension.

Hickey retired in August 2022 as abbess after 14 years of leadership.

Srs. Karol O'Connell and Jeanne Bott currently serve as co-superiors for the international community of 14 — including sisters from Ireland, Germany, Italy, India, Australia, Martinique and Asia. The pair have overseen how the unique complex has risen from there.

"It'll be a blessing not to be so cramped, on top of each other," O'Connell said, comparing the sisters' current quarters to the new building. For those not living in the farmhouse, "We'll get to see each other more."

The waiting has been a test of patience, nonetheless.

"Thankfully for all concerned, the monastery construction kicked off again in January 2023," said Padraig Headd, senior contract manager for Carey Building Contractors, Galway. "We are on target for completing the main building."

Meeting that deadline has not been without its challenges, as site manager David Connor attested. A monastery designed with extensive custom brickwork, vaulted ceilings and numerous windows for natural lighting called for the top craftsmen in multiple trades.

"It was painful for the plasterers doing the arches by hand," Connor said. Yet, when one portion of that specific job met with approval, the sense of satisfaction at work well done was tangible.

Connor mentioned another obstacle: the weather. An unusual pattern of frequent rain meant delays enclosing the structure so it was watertight. Yet, "It's not every day a monastery is built," he admitted. "You just have to look for the silver lining."

Part of that silver lining will be the sense of accomplishment when the final sections of scaffolding are taken down, Connor acknowledged. Creating the sisters' living spaces — a community room with a kitchenette and electric fireplace, a large refectory (dining room), an elevator, cloister garden surrounded by a tall, curved brick wall outside the chapter room where windows are set high above unique concrete pillars, comfortable individual bedrooms (with incredible views of the lake and castle on the upper level), and the courtyard garden (or garth) surrounded on all four sides by full-length windows so the sisters can look out on the beauty as they move from place to place — has never been dull.

"Every little corner is different," he said.

As for the public spaces, the timber-paneled reception area opens on a two-story tall multipurpose room lit from all four directions by large windows framed with layered brickwork. "The bricks had to be sent to England," Connor said. "They took 12 weeks to manufacture."

The chamber's open floor plan will allow for a variety of events, with meeting rooms for smaller groups along a side corridor, and guest accommodations for those seeking silence or attending retreats.

Connor confirmed, "There's so much they're going to do with the building."

In the meantime, the sisters have endured praying the Liturgy of the Hours with power saws buzzing beyond the walls of the boarding school's former gymnasium — artistically renovated as the chapel some years ago — or pipes clattering on the ground in the middle of the weekday eucharistic celebration. Still, many other factors fuel the community's excitement about their new space.

The Kylemore managers, supervisors and staff have had a chance to tour the inside of the new building, Ridge said. After growing accustomed to the castle as the monastery, "We've gotten to see what a real monastery looks like."

There are plans in place to shift the emphasis from Kylemore Abbey as a tourist destination to that of welcoming visitors to the Benedictines' home and sharing the prayer-work-study balance essential to Benedictine spirituality.

"We'll be more accessible to the pilgrims," O'Connell said, who prefers "pilgrims" to "tourists."

Already, the Kylemore employees have attended sessions where materials like an 8-page document detail what the nuns are about, Ridge said. "We want to share that with everyone."

"Women discerning their vocation will be able to witness how the Benedictine values are lived in community," said Bott, who also serves as vocation director for the community.

Having the facilities to offer retreat programming and educational opportunities — especially on the topics of ecology and the environment — will be possible with the new monastery, she said.

Also nice, O'Connell mentioned, will be not having to hike — or drive — the distance from the farmhouse to the chapel multiple times each day. A corridor will be all that separates the sisters from gathering for the Divine Office and liturgies. "We'll be in a position to invite more people to join in the prayers."

The Benedictines eagerly await moving day, when they will live together under the same roof. A blessing of the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception — named in honor of their predecessors' monastery in Ypres — is scheduled for mid-August, followed by a series of weekend gatherings when boarding school alumnae, the sisters' friends and family, other religious communities and many others will have opportunities to view the finished monastery.

Once the sisters are settled in, an election for the next abbess will take place in September.

Mother Máire Hickey is mindful that, over the course of 110 years, a long line of individuals contributed to reaching this point in time.

"I have deep, deep gratitude to all those whose generosity and commitment have made this possible," she said. "I feel inspired, privileged to be involved in passing on the message of Benedict and Scholastica to a new generation, and energized to give all I have." 

Catholics outnumber Protestants in Northern Ireland workforce for the first time – study

Equality Commission for Northern ...

Catholics are outnumbering Protestants in the Northern Ireland workforce for the first time, a new report has revealed.

Published by the North’s Equality Commission, the study shows that 50.1 per cent of the workforce was Catholic while 49.9 per cent was Protestant in 2022.

The 33rd fair employment monitoring report used data provided to the commission by private and public sector employers.

It is the first time since monitoring began that the trend has emerged and marks “an end to the long-established trend of members of the Protestant community accounting for a greater share of the total monitored workforce” while continuing the trend of an increasing share from members of the Catholic community “albeit at a slower rate than observed as a whole over the period 2001-2022”, according to the report.

In the same period, the female share of the workforce increased by 0.1 per cent from the previous year (52.5 per cent).

Fair employment legislation laid down in 1991 was cited for driving the change.

Geraldine McGahey, chief commissioner of the Equality Commission, said the development “shows the progress that has been made in relation to fair employment”.

“The latest monitoring report provides a valuable snapshot of the Northern Ireland workforce. We thank the employers who compile details of their workforce annually,” she said.

“The Equality Commission is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and we have seen notable change in Northern Ireland over this time. The fair employment protections have been instrumental in driving this change. Although fair participation has not been achieved in all workplaces, we continue to encourage and support employers across Northern Ireland to continue their efforts to make this a reality.”

The report analysed more than 3,800 valid monitoring returns received from 105 public authorities and 3,702 private sector concerns.

The total monitored workforce in 2022 was 578,403 – with an estimated under-reporting of 1,144 employees.

Ms McGahey noted that “many people from other countries have come to work and make a new life in Northern Ireland”.

“The extension of monitoring requirements to include nationality and ethnic origin would allow employers to refine their assessments of fair participation by community background in their organisations,” she added.

“It is a chance to strengthen and enhance the laws that have worked so well to make our workplaces less divided, more inclusive, and more accepting of difference.”

Holy See pledges to continue its financial support to UNRWA

Funding UNRWA is like 'providing ...

As Israel continues to commit genocide in Palestine, the Holy See has pledged to continue its financial support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and has encouraged all UN Member States to do the same, or to resume their contributions supporting the Agency’s “crucial” humanitarian efforts.

Allegations over 12 UNRWA employees' involvement in October 7 attacks

UNRWA, which was established in 1949 to provide relief, health, and education services for Palestinians who lost both their homes and their means of livelihood during the Arab-Israeli wars and is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions, came under scrutiny earlier this year after Israel (falsely) claimed 12 of its 13,000 employees were involved in the 7 October Hamas terrorist attack.

The initial Israeli allegations led 16 donors, including the United States, to pause their funding to the agency, though many - including the European Union and Germany - have since resumed contributions, based partly on the urgent humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and partly on UNRWA’s reported assurances that it would take additional measures to mitigate future risks of possible involvement of its staff and assets in terrorist activities.

In March UNRWA Commissioner-General, Philippe Lazzarini, said “serious action” was taken including the termination of the 12 alleged culprits’ contracts.

UNRWA's crucial role in providing humanitarian aid to Palestinians

Addressing the UN General Assembly on the issue on Friday, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, reiterated the Holy See’s support for the UN subsidiary agency’s mandate.

The Vatican Permanent Observer highlighted the “crucial role” of UNRWA in addressing the basic needs of over 5 million Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, especially in the context of the ongoing catastrophic humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Need to preserve UNRWA's neutrality

At the same time, he said, the Holy See considers it of the “utmost importance to preserve and promote the neutrality of UNRWA so it can fulfill its mandate in accordance with the 1949 UN resolution.

In his statement, the Vatican diplomat again urged all parties involved in the hostilities in Gaza “to engage in constructive dialogue on peace proposals”,  including the one outlined in the UN Security Council Resolution approved in June calling for a comprehensive three-phase ceasefire deal.

Archbishop Caccia, reiterated the Holy See’s plea for a ceasefire on all fronts, for the immediate release of all Israeli hostages still held by Hamas, the respect for international humanitarian law by all parties involved, and “the unhindered” delivery of essential aid to the Palestinian people in Gaza. 

In this context, he said, “the Holy See calls for the reopening of all Gaza’s entry points to facilitate the delivery of the much-needed humanitarian assistance,” especially to children and the needy.

Holy See's insistent plea for peace and protection of civilians

Archbishop Caccia also strongly reaffirmed the Holy See’s plea for the protection of safe havens where civilians can find refuge, such as schools, hospitals and places of worship, and its call on all parties to ensure the safety of humanitarian personnel.  

The Vatican Permanent Observer concluded by citing one of Pope Francis’ most recent compelling appeals   for a lasting peace in the Holy Land “where the State of Palestine and the State of Israel can live side by side, breaking down the walls of enmity and hatred.”

Calls grow for abortion law reform in Ireland

Abortion review to recommend sweeping ...

Up to 3,000 people marched through the centre of Dublin last weekend calling for a reform of Ireland’s abortion laws.

According to the fifth annual report on the Health (Regulation of Termination in Pregnancy) Act 2018, more than 10,000 abortions took place in 2023, the highest number of abortions performed in a year since legalisation.

The majority of abortions took place in early pregnancy. Twenty-one were carried out due to a risk to the life or health of the mother and 129 were due to a fatal foetal anomaly.

In his homily for a Mass ahead of the “Rally for Life”, Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran said the march was “a significant political act which draws attention once again to the evil of abortion”.

“No matter how it is dressed up, abortion is an act of violence against women. It kills unborn babies,” Bishop Doran told the assembled protestors gathered in St Saviours’ Priory, Dominick Street in Dublin. He noted that 38,000 abortions had taken place in Ireland since legalisation.

“These are not just statistics; they are innocent human beings, each with his or her own unique identity,” said Bishop Doran, who is chairman of the Bishops’ Council for Life.

Organiser of the annual Rally for Life, Niamh Ní Bhriain, said those taking part in the rally were calling on the government to set up a task force to deal with the “spiralling abortion rates”.

In his homily, Bishop Doran warned that Irish society was “so focused on making abortion available that we have no formal process for even asking a woman why she feels she needs to make this choice”.

When the law no longer upholds the principle that one person may not freely take the life of another, then the very foundations of civilisation are shaken, he said, appealing for support and encouragement for doctors, nurses and pharmacists to “stand for the truth and to act with integrity”.

Australian bishop attends bail hearing over sex abuse charges

Bishop Christopher Saunders appeared in Australian court July 8 for a bail hearing, as the former bishop of the Diocese of Broome awaits trial on 28 criminal charges, including alleged sexual abuse.

Saunders, 74, attended court Monday in Broome, his former diocese, after prosecutors filed for a change to his bail conditions. 

In a hearing last month, prosecutors argued that the bishop’s bail conditions, which prohibit contact with alleged victims and witnesses, should be changed, to include additional possible witnesses to the case, and to bar the bishop from returning to Broome to prevent accidental encounters.

Magistrate Deen Potter ruled on that motion July 8, deciding that none of the extra names appearing on the potential witness list appeared “especially vulnerable,” and Saunders’ bail conditions would remain unchanged — with the judge even allowing for the possibility of accidental encounters between them and the bishop in the town.

Saunders was arrested in February following a January police raid on his former residence in the Diocese of Broome, carried out by Child Abuse Squad detectives.

The bishop led the Diocese of Broome in Western Australia until 2021, when he resigned citing “ill health” amid allegations of sexual misconduct and grooming against young Aboriginal men. 

The bishop’s resignation followed a decision to step back from governance of the diocese in 2020, after accusations surfaced that he had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of Church funds on gifts for vulnerable young men, including cash, phones, alcohol, and travel.

The police investigation which led to the raid and the bishop’s arrest came after Church authorities handed over a 200-page investigation conducted into Saunders alleged misconduct, ordered by the Vatican in 2022, after a separate police investigation had been closed the previous year due to lack of evidence.

In a statement at the time of Suanders’ arrest, Australian bishops’ conference president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth said that “It is right and proper, and indeed necessary, that all allegations be thoroughly investigated,” and promised that the Church would “cooperate fully with police and take every necessary step to avoid any actions which may compromise the integrity and autonomy of the police investigation.”

Saunders now faces more than 20 criminal charges related to alleged sexual abuse, including two counts of rape and 14 counts of unlawful and indecent assault; he faces several other charges related to the unlicensed possession of a firearm.

The sexual abuse charges relate to alleged victimization of young Aboriginal men in towns throughout the diocese between 2008 and 2016.

In April, Suander’s former secretary told The Pillar that she had been ordered by the bishop to make “hush money” payments to the bishop’s alleged victims during her time working for him.

“There was a list of names on the wall in the secretary's office with victims, potential victims, and their bank account details,” Cherrille Quilty told The Pillar. “It was so urgent that I pay them. It wasn't for odd jobs, I can tell you that now. It was hush money. One of the first victims that came forward was the one that I paid most frequently and it was to shut him up.”

“You didn't dare ask why [Saunders] was paying them. Didn't dare,” Quilty said. “He wasn't the sort of person you would ever cross or ask him anything.”

Leaked portions of the report produced by the Church’s investigation, which triggered the renewed police action against the bishop last year, identified a pattern of behavior by Saunders consistent with grooming dozens of young men over a period of decades. 

According to media reports on the leaked text, one man told Vatican-commissioned investigators that Saunders had employed him to do gardening work at his residence and offered him the use of his shower afterwards. According to the alleged victim, the bishop then climbed into the shower with him.

“I was scared. He was a big fella and I was just a teenager at the time,” he told investigators, and that the bishop subsequently started showering him with gifts of cash, phones, cigarettes and alcohol.

Another man testified that Saunders threw so-called “bunga bunga parties,” to which only male guests were invited and at which he saw the bishop ask attendees to strip, and kiss and grope young guests. 

“The bishop has been variously described by witnesses as … a sexual predator that seeks to prey upon vulnerable Aboriginal men and boys,” the report said.

“That independent report has been provided to the Holy See, with the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith continuing the investigation,” the bishops’ conference said in September 2023, while promising continued cooperation with police.

However, the Australian bishops’ conference has faced questions about its public statement’s related to Saunders, and the extent to which Vatican restrictions on the bishop have been observed.

The Australian bishops’ conference previously said in public statements that the Church investigation concerned “alleged canonical crimes, as defined by Vos estis lux mundi, and alleged breaches of the Church’s Integrity in Ministry protocols,” and was overseen by Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane but carried out by independent investigators.

But statements issued by conference in September 2023, and carried by the official Vatican media portal, also stated that the accusations against Bishop Saunders did not concern minors and that the investigation did not identify any alleged or potential victims under the age of 18, even while Saunders has now been criminally charged with multiple sexual offenses against a person under 18 — the canonical age under which a person is considered a minor in sexual abuse cases.

It is unclear whether the Australian criminal investigation, which according to police was triggered by the Vos estis file, discovered new allegations unknown to Church authorities, or if they drew different conclusions from the same evidence.

Following his resignation and the opening of the Vos estis investigation, Saunders was ordered by the Vatican to reside outside the diocese, a directive he ignored, continuing to live in a Church owned house in Broome and to exercise considerable influence over diocesan affairs.

As of December 2023, Saunders was still listed as the “responsible person” for nine Catholic charities in his former diocese, several of which are affiliated with local parishes.

Saunders has insisted he is innocent of any misconduct. The next court hearing is set for September.

Dungarvan says farewell to Le Bon Sauveur nuns

120 years of history came to an end at Carriglea outside Dungarvan on July 2, when the last nuns at the Le Bon Sauveur said their goodbyes to Dungarvan, the area that they had lived and worked in for 120 years.

It was reported that the sister chapel was packed to capacity for a farewell Mass where the chief celebrant was the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Alphonsus Cullinan, who was joined at the altar by Msgr Willie Ryan PP (Dungarvan), Msgr Paddy Osbourne, Canon Brendan Crowley PE, Fr Conor Kelly, Fr Matt Cooney OSA , Fr John McEneaney and Deacon Hugh Nugent.

Bishop Cullinan in his homily told the packed congregation that “we have come here to offer this Mass of thanksgiving, to express our sincere gratitude to the sisters for all they have done, for all that you have done and to recount all that the Lord has done through them and through you, all those years of service to countless people in need of care, specialist care”.

Continuing, Bishop Cullinan said “but our celebration is marked with a drop of sadness because we are saying farewell to the sisters, who are so close to this community over the years. We are recounting the story of women with a vision who put their lives on the line in their determination to make hope a concrete thing and to make a vision a reality.

In many ways, Bishop Cullinan said this encompassed the values and ethos of the sisters whose work was not lost in busy schedules and workloads, but in the daily care of each person before them.

In 2022 with the number of vocations to the religious life having severely dropped, the community with a heavy heart made the decision to leave Carriglea after 120 years and move to more suitable living facilities as the convent in Carriglea was deemed too big for them to run, but remained to have a presence in and around the town of Dungarvan until now with a small number of retired sisters.

Synod Document Offers Only ‘Crumb of Comfort’ for LGBTQI+ People

The instrumentum laboris, that is the working preparatory document which will inform the October 2024 meeting of the Synod of Bishops, is worthy, wordy and ultimately disappointing in its grating piousness and its tedious repetition. 

Deep buried in its 20000 words are the barely recognisable remnants of the distilled discernment of those, who  in good faith, participated in the global synodal process over these past three years. 

The participants believe, as Pope Francis had promised, that there would be freedom of speech, an open agenda and there would be “nothing about us without us”.

The participants’ views have now been synthesized, edited and thinned out of any subject vaguely touching on controversy. Anyone hoping for clarity on the greater inclusion of women and LGBTIQ+  people which were priority demands right across the globe, will likely be disappointed.  

The latter do not even merit a mention but presumably (hopefully)  are among those described in the instrumentum laboris as feeling “excluded or on the margins of the ecclesial community or who struggle to find full recognition of their dignity and gifts within it. 

This lack of welcome leaves them feeling rejected, hinders their journey of faith and encounter with the Lord, and deprives the Church of their contribution to mission”. That message seems to have at least been received even if one has to dig to find in it some crumb of comfort for LGBTIQ+ Catholics.

Will the synodal process over time prove to be the leaven in Church thinking which opens space for updating of the magisterial teachings, practices and processes which deliberately deprive the Church of the talents of  many who do not just “feel” excluded but actually are excluded by Church teaching and practice. 

The document fails to admit that these “feelings” of exclusion are grounded in a reality for which the Magisterium must take responsibility and which the Pope has full primatial power to redress any day ot the week.

The issue of the exclusion of women fares a little better for at least they merit a particular mention. 

However discussion of their greater participation in ecclesial decision making is advanced mainly as a subject for further study and in the broader context of  developing greater lay involvement in Church non-ordained ministries and administrative roles. Will  a road-map to that promised land emerge in October 2024?

There are three references to “the circularity of the synodal process” and the  “circularity of dialogue”. There can be little doubt that these references get close to the truth albeit accidentally. 

The synodal process has led the Church round in circles to what purpose remains to be seen. 

Women and LGBTIQ+ are not only no better off at this juncture in the process but have endured emphatic dismissal of their cases from Pope Francis himself. He has ruled out ordination of women to the deaconate and priesthood. He has made it clear that Church blessings for same sex married Catholic couples are  not possible; only brief informal, non-liturgical blessings of individuals as individuals are permitted.  

His interventions  have robbed the Synod of freedom of speech and an open agenda on two live issues which were manifestly of wide concern among the faithful.

The instrumentum laboris is not likely to excite or inspire the many who were baptised  into the Catholic Church but who have exercised their inalienable human right to freely leave the Church  ( a right not recognised in canon law) whether to embrace another faith, give up on faith altogether, whether in righteous anger over clericalism, misogyny, homophobia, physical and sexual abuse of children by clergy, episcopal protection of criminal clergy and neglect of their victims …. the reasons are many, all valid and unlikely to be reversed by the synodal process so far.

It is a dull document but perhaps all the cans that have been kicked down the Synodal road  will yet create a din that cannot be ignored. 

The People of God made this Synodal process their own  until their voice was dubbed over in Vatican-speak but in the vague plans the instrumentum laboris discloses for ongoing, regular formal synodal dialogue at every level of the Church there remains the hope that that voice  of the faithful will not be snuffed out but will grow stronger, more synodally sure of itself.

Meanwhile let us hope the circusful of elephants left out of the synodal room are noisy enough to be heard inside despite the heavy duty sound-proofing.

Dr. Mary McAleese, July 12, 2024

Candace Owens tells former CNN anchor Don Lemon his homosexual ‘marriage’ is a ‘sin’

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Conservative commentator and Catholic convert Candace Owens told former CNN anchor Don Lemon in a recent interview that his homosexual so-called “marriage” is not real and is a “sin.”

When prompted by Lemon to follow up on her thoughts, Owens said, “You are in a sinful relationship. I actually don’t believe marriage can be between two men,” as shown in an excerpt from the interview posted by Lemon to X on Thursday.

“Well, that’s certainly an opinion,” captioned Lemon, who was fired from CNN following reports that he threatened a co-worker and disrespected other colleagues.

“The Bible is not an opinion,” Owens responded in a repost of the clip on X. 

Many X users affirmed their support of Owens’ biblical view on homosexual “marriage,” including actor Kevin Sorbo, who responded to Lemon’s post, “She’s right.”

Another highly “liked” comment affirmed the same, stating,From a biblical worldview perspective homosexual relationships are a sin.”

In the New Testament, St. Paul makes clear the sinfulness of homosexuality:

“For professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. And they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man… Wherefore God gave them up to the desires of their heart, unto uncleanness, to dishonor their own bodies among themselves. Who changed the truth of God into a lie; and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

For this cause God delivered them up to shameful affections. For their women have changed the natural use into that use which is against nature. And, in like manner, the men also, leaving the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts one towards another, men with men working that which is filthy, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was due to their error.” (Romans 1:22-27)

The Catholic Church, which Owens recently joined in the footsteps of her husband, George Farmer, affirms that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to the natural law” and that the homosexual inclination is “objectively disordered.” 

During her Thursday Candace show, Owens showed segments from other parts of her interview with Lemon, suggesting that he attempted to goad her into calling him a “faggot.” When she complained that “we’ve allowed the English language to be maneuvered by perverts,” using the word “faggot” as an example, Lemon asked her if she thinks “it’s ok to call people a faggot to their face.”

“I’m a 35 year old woman, I don’t just go around calling people a faggot. I’m not 18 years old. I’m not going around calling people names period. I wouldn’t go up to a fat person and call them names. That’s just an absurd thing to be going around calling people names because I don’t like them. So the answer is no, I would not,” replied Owens.

Lemon, who “married” another man in April 2024, has taken radically leftist and even authoritarian stances throughout his career. He called for medical apartheid during the COVID outbreak when he stated that the people who did not receive COVID shots should be denied essential services, including the ability to go to the supermarket. He also suggested at the time that hospitals should only treat the jabbed.

The former CNN anchor was fired from the establishment media outlet after a series of complaints from colleagues. 

One concerned colleague told management about an anonymous text she received which warned, “Now you’ve crossed the line, and you’re going to pay for it.” 

CNN traced the text back to Lemon, according to sources, Variety reported.

For the first time: Vatican hires women in St. Peter's maintenance office

For the first time in its history, the Vatican is employing women to secure and restore St Peter's Basilica

As the Vatican's own media report, two female artisans from Padua and Reggio Calabria have recently joined the previously all-male team of "Sanpietrini". 

They are responsible for the maintenance and repair of the world's largest church in the Vatican Cathedral.

Father Enzo Fortunato, spokesman for St Peter's Basilica, explained that women had previously been given preference in the Vatican's mosaic workshop, which is also part of the cathedral building workshop. 

The newly recruited employees both first studied art history and then completed the course for decorators, plasterers and bricklayers at the School of Decorative Arts of the Cathedral Workshop.

During the 120-year construction phase of St Peter's Basilica (1506 - 1626), women were also already employed at the Bauhütte. 

In most cases, they were widows or orphans of men who had died during the construction of St Peter's Basilica.

Mass stipends and church funds: Criticism on lack of transparency

The topic of the church and finances keeps cropping up in public discourse, including in Croatia

Most recently, a public debate about Mass stipends caused a stir and heated discussions. 

At their most recent plenary meeting, the Croatian bishops increased the recommended donation for a Mass celebration for special intentions of the faithful from seven to ten euros. 

The decision has caused controversy in recent weeks and polarised the public. 

Numerous media outlets such as the newspaper "Vecernji list" accused the Croatian Bishops' Conference (HBK) of greed and commentators suggested a system modelled on the German system. 

On the other hand, those in favour said that the church was having a charitable effect in an area that was not being "played" much by the state. Others argued that no one would be denied a Mass stipend for lack of money.

In the Catholic Church, a priest can celebrate Mass for special intentions of the faithful in return for a Mass stipend, while Masses without donations are also recommended for the needy. The newspaper "24sata" also wanted to know what churchgoers had to say about this. Everyone should act according to their conscience, said a Catholic from the harbour city of Rijeka. 

"You also have to consider inflation, which affects all areas of life. Spending ten euros once or twice a year on something that brings you peace and quiet is not difficult," she added. 

For those who have no money, a conscientious and moral clergyman should still pray, says another believer. And: "The money does not benefit him personally anyway, but serves the needs and purposes of the church and the poorer communities. 

A man agrees with him and points out that the church buildings need to be maintained and that renovations and heating also need to be paid for. Other worshippers, especially older people, were unpleasantly surprised by the price increase. One persionate found the price increase unfair to pensioners: "I wouldn't mind price increases if our pensions were higher. The church should have financed itself from other sources," said the Catholic from the town of Slavonski Brod in eastern Croatia.

Money from the state

One of the "other sources" mentioned with regard to finances are state contributions that benefit the church. There is no church contribution system like in Germany; instead, according to critics, the current financing system is inconsistent, non-transparent and inadequate. 

Although the church primarily relies on donations, collections and mass stipends, there are also state contributions, which have recently caused heated public debate. 

In April, an internal church document was leaked to the political weekly magazine "Nacional", revealing how much money the state paid to the Catholic Church in 2024 alone. Clerics who also have the document confirmed this when asked by Although the public is aware that the church receives money from the state every year, the amount was not previously known.

The weekly newspaper received the confidential document from a priest who is deeply dissatisfied with the way in which the church disposes of the money paid by the state. 

According to the document, which is a proposal for the 2024 budget of the HBK Secretariat, more than 51 million euros will be provided by the state, most of which is earmarked for priests' salaries. 

According to media reports, however, this large sum appears to be distributed differently. This was confirmed to by a priest who is not allowed to reveal his identity. The pressure within the church and the fear of sanctions are too great. The money flows from the state into a so-called priest's salary fund of the Bishops' Conference. From there, it is distributed to the individual dioceses. 

Once the money has arrived in the dioceses, the bishop alone disposes of it and decides single-handedly how and when it is distributed. There are no supervisory bodies, administrative committees or similar bodies, according to the clergyman, who speaks of a "grey area" due to a lack of control and transparency. 

Nobody can understand how much money the diocese actually receives, how much the bishop ultimately distributes to the parishes, what is left over and what happens to the rest.

Due to the sole decision-making power of the bishop and sometimes different regulations in the dioceses, quite a few priests receive lower salaries. 

Priests' salaries should be the same in all parts of Croatia. The basic salary is 640 euros, plus certain allowances that depend on several factors. These include the number of parishioners and the length of service, the Mass stipends mentioned at the beginning and the money the priest receives for various other pastoral activities - for example, blessing homes and families, administering the sacraments or funerals. 

According to the priest, this is also a "grey area", as no one can control how much money is collected. He cited the so-called house blessings as an example. Part of the money has to be paid by the priest to the diocese, but nobody can track how much money the priest has actually collected from the blessings.

Inconsistent system

When asked what happens if a parish cannot raise enough money for the priest's salary, there is one solution, according to the priest: the diocese then has to step in, but this is not always and everywhere the case. 

In the aforementioned Politmagazin article, a disgruntled priest is quoted as saying: "Few people realise that priests bear some of the costs themselves from their salary, which many would expect the diocese to cover. For example, 50 per cent of the heating costs are borne by the priests and 50 per cent by the diocese. 

Unfortunately, we are on our own and our future is very uncertain, especially because the issue of pensions, which is entirely in the hands of the dioceses, is not regulated clearly enough and the state should also take care of this problem," the priest is quoted as saying by the political magazine.

Former member of parliament and Catholic theologian Marko Vučetić, on the other hand, commented on the bishops' behaviour to "The Catholic Church in Croatia is slowly but inexorably losing its religious and spiritual identity. Since state independence and especially since the conclusion of the state-church treaties, the bishops have behaved like political governors with financial privileges." 

Neither the state, which provides the budget, nor the priests and faithful have the right to ask how and on what the money is spent, says Vučetić. However, there is one exception: in 2015, the current Archbishop of Rijeka, Mate Uzinić, set a precedent in the Church of Croatia by being the first Croatian bishop - then still Bishop of Dubrovnik - to publish the financial report of his diocese.

Internal documents from discussions within the church, which are available to, show that frustration has been building up among the clergy for some time regarding the question of money. 

One priest criticised the fact that none of the state funds were reaching a region in eastern Croatia. Another sharply criticises the bishops: the money would be used by the head pastors to open Catholic schools and museums, set up their ordinariates and assemble a "loyal and obedient clergy". 

There would be little left over for salaries and pensions. Another emphasises that many clergy are aware of the problems but remain silent so as not to jeopardise their own position. The pressure of sanctions is too great. Nevertheless, they try to draw attention to the problems anonymously. An enquiry by to the Bishops' Conference about the state funds and further financing has so far remained unanswered.

In addition to the large sum that the bishops in their dioceses can dispose of without control, 2.5 million euros are spent from the budget on the secretariat of the Bishops' Conference, which has raised the question in public discourse as to why an office with no more than ten full-time employees needs so much money. 

Media funding is also included in the budget. 

The Catholic Broadcasting Corporation (HKR), the news agency (IKA) and the Catholic Network (HKM), an internet portal with news from the life of the Church, receive around one million euros. The public and critics have long been calling for more transparency in the financial sector and a revision of the contracts between church and state.

It therefore remains to be seen whether and when the Bishops' Conference will follow suit with more concrete ideas for a transparent system. 

However, our interviewee does not believe that the system will be reformed - despite the increasingly loud calls for a reform of the state-church contract. This is because, depending on their position, many clergy benefit from such a system in which there is no control or transparency.