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Pope Francis' visit to Ireland

by Frank Schnittger Fri Aug 17th, 2018 at 03:50:40 PM EST

Pope Francis is visiting Ireland on 25th. August for the World Meeting of families in what is the first Papal visit to Ireland since Pope John Paul II made a triumphal visit drawing massive crowds in 1979. The event will be a fitting barometer of how much Ireland has changed in the meantime.

Much smaller crowds are expected this time around, and his visit has become mired in controversy. First the World Meeting of Families removed all mention of "non traditional families" from all promotional material, and then there were doubts expressed whether he would have time to meet with survivors of clerical abuse in the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Even now it seems most unlikely he will meet with some of the more outspoken critics of the Catholic church such as Clerical abuse survivor Colm O'Gorman, or former President Mary McAleese - who was recent banned from speaking at a conference in the Vatican - which prompted the conference organizers to move the conference to just outside the Vatican.

The timing is also unfortunate, coming so soon after the successful referendum campaigns to legalize same sex marriage and to permit abortion in Ireland.

To cap it all, a grand Jury in Pennsylvania has just issued a report which accused hundreds of priests of abusing thousands of children in just 6 dioceses within Pennsylvania and Cardinal O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston and Chair of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Children,has just cancelled his attendance with the Pope in order to deal with a new crisis of seminarian abuse at one of his seminaries.

The Irish Times has just published a letter of mine highlighting the challenge facing the Pope:

Sir, - The findings of the inquiry in Pennsylvania that hundreds of priests abused thousands of children in six diocese ministering to just over half of Pennsylvania's Catholics rather puts a dent in the "a few bad apples" excuse commonly wheeled out when such abuses come to light (World News, August 15th).

The male celibate nature of the Catholic priesthood combined with an authoritarian culture that facilitated the grooming of children and the suppression of reports of abuse had to be contributory factors.

However, is their something much more fundamentally wrong with the theology of a church which focuses on the maleness of Christ and his disciples, the subjugation of women, and the accumulation of institutional and societal power over others?

The recent resounding victory of the Yes side in the abortion referendum here may have been as much about the rejection of such a culture and church as it was a vote in favour of abortion.

If Pope Francis does not address these issues it will be the final nail in the coffin of a church that has lost all social, political, and dare I say it, spiritual authority.

Pope Francis aspires to be a transformational leader, but he needs to match fine words with deeds. His first action should be to release the Vatican files of abusers to enable their prosecution here. The abused, and indeed the Irish people deserve no less. - Yours, etc,


Far from being a radical critique, I think my letter just expresses the mainstream consensus that the time for apologies is over and it is past time for action. Although a few priests have gone to jail for abuse of children, no priest or bishop has been imprisoned for failing to report crimes of rape or actively covering up the actions of pedophiles.

The Vatican even attempted to conclude a Concordat with Ireland which would indemnify it against any costs arising from legal actions by survivors and release it from any obligation to make its files on abusers available to Irish prosecutors. To date legal actions for compensation by abuse survivors have cost the Irish taxpayer some €1.3 Billion with Church institutions not even honouring their pledges to contribute €100 Million.

Media coverage of the event has been almost universally critical with one priest actually calling for the Pope's visit to be cancelled, as he would be appearing alongside three cardinals, "who had very serious questions to answer about what they knew about clerical sex abuse" in their areas of responsibility.

He made his call to the pope, he said, in the context of a group representing clerical child sex survivors worldwide who recently wrote an open letter to the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin seeking the removal of three cardinals from the World Meeting of Families.

The Ending Clergy Abuse group claimed that the three cardinals - Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect at the Vatican's Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life which has overall responsibility for the World Meeting of Families, Cardinal Óscar Maradiaga of Honduras and a member of Pope Francis's Council of Cardinals, and Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl - had covered up for clergy who abused minors.

The cardinals have denied these claims.

Fr McCafferty said he was also asking the pope to cancel his visit in the context of how former US cardinal Theodore McCarrick recently was removed from ministry following accusations that he had sexually abused minors as well as seminarians and young priests.

Especially when compared with John Paul II's triumphal visit in 1979, Pope Francis' visit threatens to become a disaster unless he undertakes some very radical initiatives to draw a line under the past and ensure the maximum protections for children and seminarians in the Church in the future. At a very minimum he must, as I suggested in my letter, release the files on abusers held by the Vatican to enable their more effective prosecution.

It would probably be too much to hope that he will also change Vatican teaching on birth control, same sex marriage, the medical management of unsafe pregnancies, the ordination of women, and patriarchy in the Church more generally. It may very well be too late to save the Catholic Church in Ireland from decline into minority cult status, and conservatives can point to a growth in Church members in Africa and Asia.

The irony is that Ireland used to be a prime source for Catholic missionaries to Africa and Asia and now Irish seminaries are empty and many parishes are without a priest. Increasingly, it will be a case of African or Asian priests ministering to the rapidly declining and aging congregations that remain.

There is little actual hostility being expressed to the Pope personally, although his record on child protection worldwide has been described as a dismal failure by the former chief executive of the Irish Catholic Church's National Board for Safeguarding Children. All of which begs the question "why is he coming at all?" unless it is his intention to announce a radical departure in Church polices and practice.

Catholic Ireland's great mistake was to educate the laity.

The evangelical community of the US won't be making that mistake anytime soon. Pesky people asking questions about hypocrisies and abuse interferes with business. Livelihoods and profit are threatened.

Still S America and Africa will keep the coffers filled

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Aug 17th, 2018 at 04:59:36 PM EST
Our lords and masters in the US are rapidly dismantling all education for the masses, except for-profit education that leaves you in debt peonage.
by rifek on Mon Aug 20th, 2018 at 06:41:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A lot of people I'd expect to go aren't - my mother, a colleague of Sam's who's active in her local church. The only people I do know going are older and deep in the folk religion or our age and mad as hatters.

A lot of people who do will be going for the spectacle rather than from any devotion. I'm interested to see the final numbers.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Aug 17th, 2018 at 05:20:14 PM EST
Still no idea who's going. Conversations are about the chaos to be caused by the traffic/crowd management plan and the protests planned in city centre.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Aug 20th, 2018 at 08:23:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Pope Francis is far more liberal than his predecessors, but he has great difficulty dealing with the entrenched power of conservatives in the Vatican and among the Bishops. His Pontificate would have to last 20 more years for him to really liberalize the Church - if he could find enough suitable candidates for bishops and cardinals. The Catholic Church is probably doomed even in the USA. Similar declines in attendance are evident here, perhaps not quite so advanced.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Aug 17th, 2018 at 05:39:38 PM EST
Just a few months ago there was great anxiety in political circles that the referendum and all associated legislation should be completed in advance of the Pope's visit in case his visit should lead to a resurgence of conservative Catholicism as happened after Pope John Paul II's visit in 1979. The Referendum banning abortion in virtually all circumstances was carried soon after in 1983.

Now the boot is very much on the other foot. Far from being concerned that the result of the referendum might somehow be thwarted before it can become embedded in law, the Church must be fearing what's next on the liberal agenda: the expropriation of Catholic owned but state funded schools and hospitals? Whatever next?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Aug 17th, 2018 at 07:38:42 PM EST
Tip of the Iceberg ...

As a Catholic I am truly appalled by the stream of victims abused by "clergy" over decades and the cover-up. Decades of silence and looking the other way.

From personal history, as I lived through the 50s and 60s and have spend two years in a seminary, I have never encountered the slightest abuse or heard rumors about such abuse. My family of the generation of aunts and uncles were quite devout practicing Catholics and some devoted their life to a religious calling. I have been fortunate to have professional counselors and teachers on which I look back with much admiration.

It's only after the year 2000 that much of the abuse in society surfaced. I have been witness to many events in the family bond, between teacher and student, sports coach and pupil. As the distance between the church and myself has widened , I would not be able to know what has passed in the last two decades.

The conservative Polish bishop of Rome John Paul II set the clock back some decades instead of progressing on the path of renewal set forth with the Second Vatican Council initiated by John XXIII. The conservative United States was part of the problem to block the slightest renewal. And as was mentioned the bureaucracy of the power base in Rome functioned as a deep state.

I have much respect for Pope Francis and the steps forward he has made these years.

The Americas holds 50% of the world's Catholics estimated at 1,3 billion.

Some earlier reports on abuse by clergy in the Catholic church released in 2002 ...

The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States, commonly known as the John Jay Report
Papal princes immune to censure | Irish Times Opinion - 2009 |

Clergy, Sex and the American Way (2004)

Indeed, how the crisis was identified by the American media, then addressed by the American civil and criminal courts, and characterized by American legislatures is the underlying focus of this Article. But the specific question that this Article addresses is whether the Charter for the Protection of Children & Young People and the Revised Norms adopted by the American bishops and approved by the Vatican for a probationary period will restore the mutually supportive relationship between church and state in America. To provide such a restoration, the Charter must address the legal issues raised by the scandal in a fashion that establishes accountability by the American bishops.

Heretofore, the church-state relationship was unique among the nations of the world, mutually supportive and a model for religiously pluralistic societies. This is the American way. The relationship was built upon trust and mutually recognizable goals of non-establishment, free exercise, ascendant achievement, full participation, and respect for the rule of law.

Separation of Church and State must certainly not mean impunity for crimes committed by clergy. No one is above the law of the nation, for these crimes should have an extended Statutes of Limitations. Bishops should be held responsible for covering up the crime.

by Oui on Fri Aug 17th, 2018 at 08:59:27 PM EST
Your personal evolution from devout seminarian to more distant sceptic would make for a very interesting diary!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Aug 17th, 2018 at 09:22:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cardinal says clock ticking for all in Catholic hierarchy over abuse issue
The chair of the Vatican's Commission for the Protection of Minors has warned that "the clock is ticking" for the Catholic hierarchy when it comes to dealing with clerical child sex abuse.

"Catholics have lost patience with us, and civil society has lost confidence in us," said Cardinal Seán O'Malley, who is Archbishop of Boston.

He said the church had yet to establish "clear and transparent systems of accountability and consequence for church leadership, whose failures have allowed these crimes to occur".

Cardinal O'Malley has cancelled a planned trip to Dublin next week to moderate a World Meeting of Families discussion on Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults. The decision followed allegations of abuse at St John's seminary in Boston which, he said, required his "personal attention and presence".

Separately, the Vatican expressed "shame and sorrow" after a Pennsylvania grand jury issued a 1,400-page report last Tuesday detailing cases of clergy sexual abuse in six of its dioceses over a period of 70 years. More than 300 priests were linked to the cases, with over 1,000 children identified as victims.

In a statement to be read out at all Masses in Boston this weekend, Cardinal O'Malley said "the crisis we face is the product of clerical sins and clerical failures".


Speaking to the BBC, [Catholic Primate of Ireland] Dr Martin said the pope "will try to express the grave sorrow of the church. But I think people want more than that."

Meanwhile DUP leader Arlene Foster has declined an invitation from the Government to attend a State reception for the pope in Dublin Castle next Saturday.

"Mrs Foster appreciates the invitation but regretfully will be away with her family at that time," a DUP spokesman said. "She particularly acknowledges the significance of this event for many Roman Catholics in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland."

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Aug 17th, 2018 at 09:09:13 PM EST
Pennsylvania's predatory priests: The Cardinal Wuerl connection
Cardinal Donald Wuerl is in Dublin this week to address the World Meeting of Families on Wednesday. Archbishop of Washington since 2006, he succeeded Cardinal Theodore McCarrick (88) who, last month, was removed from public ministry and resigned from the College of Cardinals following allegations that he had abused minors and seminarians.

In 2006 Cardinal McCarrick was in negotiations with two New Jersey dioceses about settlements involving his victims. Last month Cardinal Wuerl said he did not know "about these confidential settlements until this most recent credible and substantiated allegation against Cardinal McCarrick was made public".

Cardinal Wuerl, however, was bishop of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from 1988 to 2006. His handling of child sexual abuse allegations there was examined in the grand jury report published last Tuesday.

It is not flattering.

That is the understatement of the year. Many sordid details follow... which you can read in the linked article... How anyone could sit through an address by this man to the World meeting of families is beyond me... How anyone could schedule such a man to speak at the "World Meeting of Families" shows a crass contempt for the intelligence of even the most gullible devotees...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Aug 18th, 2018 at 09:22:53 AM EST
However, in the course of its Pittsburgh investigation, the grand jury found that there was indeed "a ring of predatory priests operating within the diocese who shared intelligence or information regarding victims as well as exchanging the victims amongst themselves". They "used whips, violence and sadism in raping their victims".

In his evidence to the grand jury one such victim, "George", told of being introduced to this "ring of predatory priests" by Zirwas. George recalled that these priests gave favoured boys special gifts, "specifically, gold cross necklaces". The grand jury concluded these gold crosses "were a signal to other predators that the children had been desensitised to sexual abuse and were optimal targets for further victimisation".

George wondered how none of this "created suspicion on the part of diocesan administrators". However, the report concluded that "the grand jury's review of records revealed that the diocese was aware of the conduct of these predatory priests and the records corroborated George's testimony".

Cardinal Wuerl will give the keynote address in the RDS at 2.30pm next Wednesday afternoon, on "The Welfare of the Family is Decisive for the Future of the World".

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Aug 18th, 2018 at 09:27:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Cardinal in Pennsylvania withdraws from World Meeting of Families in Dublin
A Cardinal who was heavily criticised for his handling of child sexual abuse allegations in the Pennsylvania grand jury report has withdrawn from a scheduled appearance at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin next week, it has been confirmed.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, was due to give the keynote address, entitled "The Welfare of the Family is Decisive for the Future of the World", in the RDS at 2.30pm next Wednesday.

No reason has been provided for the decision.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Aug 18th, 2018 at 03:12:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Looks like a powerful institution rapidly losing its grip because of complacency.

But, what will take its place? Where do people in a secular society get their psychological needs [of belonging and meaning] fulfilled? I assume there is no rush to protestant churches in Ireland to fill the 'spiritual' gap.

I have this theory that once the traditional religions are out, people turn towards all kinds of ersatz religions some of which are nasty nonsense. The horror vacui begets aberrations like anti-vaxxers, special diets, multi-level marketing cults, pseudo-spiritual consumerism for the bored (goop?), etc. Also, in a sharp twist, fundamentalist religions get space to carve out their niche in the 'rotten heathenish world'.

It seems ok and useful to me to have well dry-aged traditional religions (rendered harmless by time) where people can park their irrationalities and where they can get a sense of community.

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Sat Aug 18th, 2018 at 09:41:06 PM EST
The social need to "belong" is indeed strong, and we are not well wired to be entirely rational. Liberal secularism is everywhere challenged by organised religions, sects and fashionable crazes. Education and science can help, but doesn't generally overcome the need to belong and define meaning in entirely personal or egotistical and even narcissistic terms.

Treating life as a series of statistical chance happenstances doesn't cut it for most. But you still have to ask the hard question: Is it true? when confronted with the weird and wonderful, and merely wanting something to be true doesn't make it so.

The Catholic Church has been failing that test - a bunch of old men making rules for everyone else they don't adhere to themselves. It doesn't mean people don't want order and structure to their lives, and some basis for believing they are very special.

Consumerism doesn't fill the void but Ireland is fortunate that there are still very strong bonds binding communities together - sport, voluntary organisations, workplaces that are also human and personal.

So far most people who have abandoned organised religion don't seem to miss it too much, despite being indoctrinated in it for most of their formative years. But as you say, there is always the risk that some will try to replace it with something worse.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Aug 18th, 2018 at 10:27:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
More arrogance than compacency.

Catholicism has been so dominant for centuries, it has twisted governments and legal systems to its will (see Argentina just this last week) to the extent that it can take a long view that a few setbacks here and there don't matter.

Authoritarian right wing movements are in ascendance everywhere, which is always good news for authoritarian hierarchical religions like Catholicism. They have expertise in such alliances for mutual profit.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Aug 19th, 2018 at 05:11:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Marx said "Religion is the opiate of the people" So, if it goes, expect withdrawal symptoms. But what to replace it? Opium? Not a long term solution for most. Alcohol? No shortage of downsides there. Perhaps marijuana. Just a thought.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Aug 20th, 2018 at 01:57:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Too bad for the colourful folklore : the Catholic Church has lost its grip on Ireland. Francis is a visiting head of state, not the viceroy of God.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Aug 20th, 2018 at 03:30:09 PM EST

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