Probe Uncovers At Least 3,000 Paedophiles In French Catholic Church Since 1950

Chairman of the independent commission of inquiry into the sexual abuse of minors committed within the Catholic Church, Jean-Marc Sauve, poses during a photo session in Paris on September 28, 2021. JOEL SAGET / AFP

 

Some 3,000 paedophiles have operated inside the French Catholic Church since 1950, the head of an independent commission investigating the scandal told AFP days ahead of the release of its report.

The commission’s research uncovered between 2,900 and 3,200 paedophile priests or other members of the church, said Jean-Marc Sauve, adding that it was “a minimum estimate”.

The commission’s report is due to be released on Tuesday after two and a half years of research based on church, court and police archives, as well as interviews with witnesses.

Sauve, a senior French civil servant, said the report, which runs to 2,500 pages, had attempted to quantify both the number of offenders and the number of victims.

It also looked into “the mechanisms, notably institutional and cultural ones” within the Church which allowed paedophiles to remain and will offer 45 proposals.

The independent commission was set up in 2018 by the Bishops’ Conference of France (CEF) in response to a number of scandals that shook the Church in France and worldwide.

Its formation also came after Pope Francis passed a landmark measure obliging those who know about sex abuse in the Catholic Church to report it to their superiors.

Made up of 22 legal professionals, doctors, historians, sociologists and theologians, its brief was to investigate allegations of child sex abuse by clerics dating back to the 1950s.

When it began its work it called for witness statements and set up a telephone hotline, then reported receiving thousands of messages in the months that followed.

‘A bomb’

The report will be delivered to the CEF and released at a press conference Tuesday to which representatives of victims’ associations are invited.

“It will be an explosion,” one member of the commission told AFP on condition of anonymity.”

“It will have the effect of a bomb”, added Olivier Savignac, of the victim’s association Parler et Revivre.

Bishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, the president of the CEF, said he feared that the report would unveil “significant and frightening figures”, during a meeting with parishioners from his diocese.

A message from Church authorities to priests and parishes for weekend masses warned that the report’s publication would be “a harsh and serious moment”, which calls for “an attitude of truth and compassion”.

Sauve had said in November that the handling of suspected paedophile cases “in the past has often been faulty”.

He said it was “extremely serious that there could have been some institutions and some communities, in small number, where systemic abuses could have been committed”.

Top US Catholic Priest Quits Over Misconduct Claims

A friar holds a rosary in St.Peter’s Square on July 6, 2021 while Pope Francis is hospitalized at the Policlinico A. Gemelli Hospital in Rome after a scheduled surgery for a symptomatic diverticular stenosis of the colon The scheduled surgery was done on July 4. – Pope Francis, 84, on July 6, 2021, had breakfast and got up to walk, two days after undergoing surgery for an inflamed large colon, the Vatican announced. (Photo by Isabella BONOTTO / AFP)

 

 

A senior administrator in the US Catholic Church has resigned amid allegations that he frequented gay bars and used gay hookup app Grindr, according to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The organization released a statement on Tuesday acknowledging accusations of misconduct against its general secretary, Jeffrey Burrill, by Catholic outlet The Pillar.

“In order to avoid becoming a distraction to the operations and ongoing work of the conference, Monsignor Burrill has resigned, effective immediately,” the conference said.

Catholic priests take a vow of celibacy and the Church opposes sexual activity outside of straight marriage.

The conference said it “takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and will pursue all appropriate steps to address them.”

Shortly after Burrill’s resignation became public, The Pillar published an investigation analyzing cell phone data that located him at known gay venues.

Data from his phone also suggested regular use of Grindr between 2018 and 2020.

Burrill, who is from a diocese in the Midwestern state of Wisconsin, has overseen the response to several scandals in the Church, including sexual abuse allegations against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

A 450-page Vatican report published in 2020 concluded that numerous sexual assault complaints against McCarrick were not taken seriously by Church authorities, who did not open an investigation.

After several allegations became public, including incidents involving minors, the Vatican defrocked the cardinal in 2019.

The accusations against Burrill do not amount to violations of the law but Pillar editor-in-chief JD Flynn set out what the publication saw as the public interest in the investigation.

“Church leaders have acknowledged in recent years that inconsistency between the actual behavior of these clerical leaders and the expectation of clerical celibacy can contribute to an unhealthy and damaging culture of secrecy and cover-up in the Church,” Flynn said in a statement.

Vatican Says Catholic Church Can’t Bless Same-Sex Unions

Ahiara Bishop Resigns Over Ethnic Objections
PHOTO USED TO ILLUSTRATE THE STORY: This handout photo taken on February 18, 2018, and released by the Vatican press office Osservatore Romano shows Pope Francis at the Casa Divin Maestro in Ariccia, at the start of his week of spiritual retreat. OSSERVATORE ROMANO / AFP

 

The Vatican on Monday said the Catholic Church does not have the power to bless same-sex unions despite their “positive elements”, saying it was impossible for God to “bless sin”.

The powerful Vatican office responsible for defending church doctrine, The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), issued a response to the question, “Does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?”

“Negative,” read the CDF’s response, signed by Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the doctrinal office that was first set up in 1542 to hear heresy cases.

READ ALSO: Fans Barred From Tokyo Olympics Torch Relay Start

Blessings are not allowed, wrote the CDF, because what is to be blessed needs to be “objectively and positively ordered to receive and express the grace, according to the designs of God inscribed in creation, and fully revealed by Christ the Lord”.

“For this reason, it is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex,” it wrote.

The CDF wrote that such relationships might have positive elements to be valued, but that did not make them “legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing, since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the creator’s plan”.

The office wrote that while God “never ceases to bless each of His pilgrim children in this world… he does not and cannot bless sin”.

 

 – Denies discrimination –

The CDF denied that its declaration was “a form of unjust discrimination”. Instead, it said it was a “reminder of the truth of the liturgical rite and of the very nature of the sacramentals, as the Church understands them”.

The Church considers that marriage is exclusively the union of a man and woman.

Early in his papacy, Pope Francis took an unprecedented welcoming tone towards the LGBT community, making the now-famous “Who am I to judge?” remark about gay people trying to live a Christian life.

In a documentary released last October, Francis expressed support for same-sex civil unions, although the Vatican later qualified that the comments were highly edited and excluded one saying he was opposed to same-sex marriage.

AFP

Pope Francis Says Lebanon Faces ‘Extreme Danger’ After Blast

This photo taken and released on April 13, 2020, by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis delivering his message during a private Angelus prayer live broadcast from the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Easter Monday, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

Pope Francis used a first public audience in six months Wednesday to warn that Lebanon faces “extreme danger that threatens the very existence of the country” following last month’s massive explosion.

The leader of the Catholic Church focused on the disaster-hit country almost a month after the huge blast in the Beirut harbour ripped through the city, killing more than 180 people and wounding at least 6,500.

“Lebanon cannot be abandoned to its solitude,” the pope said at the limited audience with the public, meetings that had been suspended due to the coronavirus crisis.

“A month after the tragedy… my thoughts are still with dear Lebanon and its particularly hard-pressed population,” Francis said, holding a Lebanese flag brought to the audience by a young priest.

He called for a universal day of prayer and fasting on Friday, saying that he would send the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin to Lebanon on the day.

“Faced with the repeated tragedies that each of the inhabitants of this land knows, we realise the extreme danger that threatens the very existence of this country,” he said.

– ‘It’s beautiful!’ –

The pontiff held his first audience in a closed courtyard of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, with a maximum of 500 faithful.

Jorge Bergoglio — Francis’ birth name — last hosted an audience on February 26, as the grip of Covid-19 closed around Italy.

Back then the Argentinian pope, who is fond of direct contact, shook hands with dozens of faithful and hugged a few children massed in the front row of the audience of some 12,000 people.

But there were no hugs on Wednesday, with Francis simply exchanging a few words with those present, all wearing face masks.

There was a rush to meet the pope by attendees as he entered the courtyard.

Always without a facemask, the pope kept his distance before succumbing slightly by the end of the ceremony, when he blessed three married couples, shook hands with some cardinals and took a Lebanese priest by the arm.

So far, the coronavirus has killed more than 35,000 people in Italy since it was first detected, according to the latest official statistics.

“After all these months, we are resuming our face-to-face and not screen-to-screen meetings,” a smiling pope told the audience.

“It’s beautiful!” he laughed.

“The current epidemic has demonstrated our interdependence, we are all linked,” the pontiff continued, saying “this is why we must emerge better from the crisis.”

“We must do it together, not alone,” he said.

– ‘Message of freedom’ –

Turning to Lebanon — a country Francis called “a message of freedom and an example of pluralism in both the East and the West” — he called on religious and political leaders to work together in its reconstruction.

“We cannot allow this heritage to be lost,” Francis said.

The pope also pressed the international community to help “Lebanon emerge from a serious crisis without being involved in regional tensions.”

Visibly moved by the pope’s message, Maronite priest George Breidi, a student at a Catholic university in Rome thanked the pontiff for his support.

The Maronite clergyman, whose Eastern Catholic Church is based in Beirut, also thanked the pope for “saying that we cannot continue to live like this in Lebanon”.

AFP

French Catholic Church Counts Over 3,000 Child Victims Of Sex Abuse

General view of an empty St Lucia's Cathedral in Colombo on March 15, 2020, following the Sri Lanka's Catholic church announcement to call off their masses as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus. Ishara S. KODIKARA / AFP
General view of an empty St Lucia’s Cathedral in Colombo on March 15, 2020, following the Sri Lanka’s Catholic church announcement to call off their masses as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Ishara S. KODIKARA / AFP

 

 

At least 3,000 children have fallen victim to sex abuse in the French Catholic Church since 1950, a commission set up to examine claims estimated Wednesday, adding that the real number may be much higher.

The commission’s president Jean-Marc Sauve said preliminary figures suggested some 1,500 clergy and other Church officials carried out the abuse.

The commission was set up last June at the request of French bishops after a series of paedophilia cases that rocked the Church in France and abroad.

A hotline urging victims to come forward has received 5,300 calls over the past year, Sauve told journalists in a video conference.

The number of estimated victims represents more than 40 cases per year on average over the past seven decades.

“I am deeply convinced that there are many more victims,” Sauve said.

“What we do not know is how to consolidate these two sources” of potential cases — the hotline and the commission’s own inquiries, he said.

The call for witnesses has been extended to October 31 and reviews of Church archives have resumed after being suspended during France’s coronavirus lockdown.

Pope Francis has vowed to confront criminal offences in the Church’s ranks, including several cases in which top officials knew of sexual assault but failed to inform the authorities.

Last year, Francis passed a measure obliging those with knowledge of child sexual abuse to report it to their superiors, a move that was expected to bring numerous new cases to light.

The commission headed by Sauve, a high-ranking civil servant, includes legal experts, doctors, historians, sociologists, and theologians.

It is expected to produce a final report next year with recommendations on how to prevent abuse.

Payouts planned
Victims’ associations have applauded the French Church’s pledge of transparency, having long accused its senior officials of covering up paedophilia cases to protect priests from prosecution.

In the most recent high-profile case, a defrocked Catholic priest was given a five-year jail term in March for sexually abusing boy scouts in his care several decades ago.

Bernard Preynat, 75, had confessed at his trial in the southeastern city of Lyon to “caresses” he knew were forbidden after victims testified of the abuses they suffered at his hands.

He faulted the Church hierarchy, saying “They should have helped me… They let me become a priest.”

The scandal became the subject of an acclaimed film last year titled “Grace a Dieu” (By the Grace of God) by director Francois Ozon, who worked with some of the victims.

But in January, an appeals court overturned the conviction of Preynat’s superior, Lyon’s former archbishop Philippe Barbarin, for not reporting the abuse despite knowing about it for years.

The court said that while Barbarin should have informed the authorities, he was not criminally liable for his lack of action.

French bishops agreed last November to provide financial compensation to victims of sex abuse by priests.

The potential sums were set to be discussed in April, with priority for victims from several years ago whose cases are beyond the statute of limitations for prosecution.

But the coronavirus lockdown halted such meetings until further notice.

-AFP

Catholic Bishops Donate Over 400 Hospitals To Be Used As Isolation Centres In Nigeria

 

The Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has offered over 400 health facilities across the nation to now be used as COVID-19 isolation centres.

Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha disclosed this at the presidential task force briefing on Monday.

He disclosed that the facilities can now be used by the government to tackle the issue of no bed spaces currently been experienced in various isolation centres across the country.

Mr Mustapha who doubles as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, had told newsmen in Abuja on Friday that the isolation and treatment centres in the country are running out of bed spaces.

READ ALSO: Over 600 Evacuees In Lagos And Abuja, We Are Reaching Saturation Point – Onyeama

The SGF, however, noted that efforts are being intensified to increase the number of treatment centres in the country.

“We have received reports from the states, which suggests that the treatment centres are running out of bed spaces. As we assess the situation, the PTF shall also begin to examine our peculiar circumstances, modify the strategies for care management, and consider viable alternatives, where necessary. At the appropriate time, the guidelines and protocols shall be unfolded,” he said.

The PTF Chairman also on Monday noted that during the first week of the lockdown relaxation, the nation had experienced a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases due to increased testing.

He called on states to set up isolation centres to accommodate level one and two of isolation, noting that the PTF will introduce an inclusive policy in the coming weeks.

Mr Mustapha who stressed that President Muhammadu Buhari took a painful decision to ease the lockdown, urged individuals not to misuse the opportunity by returning to their  Pre-COVID-19 ways of life.

The Secretary to the Federation also hinted that he has received instructions from President Buhari to bring in some of the Madagascar cure from Guinea Bissau.

He, however, noted that there are strict instructions to have the Madagascar cure subjected to the validation processes in Nigeria.

Catholic Church Forgives Sins Of Those Stricken By Coronavirus

General view of an empty St Lucia's Cathedral in Colombo on March 15, 2020, following the Sri Lanka's Catholic church announcement to call off their masses as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus. Ishara S. KODIKARA / AFP
General view of an empty St Lucia’s Cathedral in Colombo on March 15, 2020, following the Sri Lanka’s Catholic church announcement to call off their masses as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus. Ishara S. KODIKARA / AFP

 

The Catholic Church on Friday granted forgiveness — under certain conditions — for the sins of the faithful struck by the novel coronavirus.

A decree published by the Vatican also covers healthcare workers and those who pray for their wellbeing. Relatives who care for their sick family members may also be forgiven.

The conditions include the sick saying a certain number of prayers or following important celebrations from a distance.

Those who pray for the caregivers’ wellbeing must also read the Bible “for at least half an hour”.

The decree was issued one day after Italy overtook China for the most number of deaths from the new illness.

The pandemic has killed more than 3,400 people in the Mediterranean country.

Vatican City itself has confirmed one infection.

Pope Francis was reported to have been tested for the virus as a precaution after coming down with a cold last month.

The Vatican has never confirmed or denied the report but has stressed repeatedly that the 83-year-old pontiff does not have COVID-19.

AFP

Pope Francis’ Decision To Rule Out Married Priests Divides Opinion

Hungarian President Janos Ader (L) gestures as he meets with Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican, on February 14, 2020. Vincenzo PINTO / POOL / AFP
Hungarian President Janos Ader (L) gestures as he meets with Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican, on February 14, 2020. Vincenzo PINTO / POOL / AFP

 

In quashing the idea of married priests in the Amazon, Pope Francis has appeased traditionalists while disappointing progressives who had hoped for a historic turning point in the Catholic church.

In his “apostolic exhortation” on the Amazon basin published Wednesday, Francis slammed the door on a progressive proposal offered by the region’s bishops during a synod on the region in October.

The synod had suggested that the way to solve a shortage of priests in the remote and inaccessible area was to allow married indigenous men to become priests.

Without even mentioning that proposal, Francis instead argued for more missionary priests in the Amazon and for women and lay people to take on larger roles, falling short of another synod idea to ordain women as deacons in the region.

The Argentine pontiff’s thoughts, coming after months of speculation and hand-wringing within the Vatican, were welcomed by some, including a vocal opponent of Francis, German Cardinal Gerhard Mueller.

For five years Mueller was in charge of church dogma, holding the key Vatican post of Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith until 2017 — when he was not reappointed by Francis.

Mueller saluted the document’s potential for “reducing internal Church factions.”

Conservatives within the Church were outraged by the regional synod’s proposal, even were it to be an exception limited to the Amazon, seeing it as potentially paving the way to the abolition of priest celibacy globally.

US Cardinal Raymond Burke, a staunch traditionalist, suggested last year that Francis would be heading into a “schism” were he to give his stamp of approval to the synod’s proposals.

Failing to reform?

But to others, the text lacked the audacity that has marked the papacy of the first Jesuit pope.

Francis’ document marked a “failure in the reforming impulse of the pontificate,” according to longtime Vatican analyst Marco Politi.

The pope, “abruptly slowed down” by a strong and multifaceted opposition, also disappointed those local Amazon bishops whom he had called on to offer up new ideas to help guide the Church, Politi said.

“Francis finds himself more alone today, having caused disillusionment among a notable mass of his supporters,” Politi said.

Key among them are Catholic feminist organisations, some of whom have been fighting for women’s access to the priesthood.

In his text, Francis cited the contributions of women and argued that their roles be increased, but dismissed the idea of their ordination.

Women’s Ordination Worldwide (WOW) said Francis had “dropped the ball” for women within the Church.

“Francis has opted to perpetuate the shameful elitist men’s club that, as he so brazenly points out in the document, is held up by the second class status of women who do most of the work with none of the recognition,” the group said in a statement.

Still, the issues of women’s ordination, and married priests, are not dead, some say.

The German Church, which contains a strong progressive branch, has just launched a two-year debate on top controversial issues, including the end of priestly celibacy and a greater place for women.

Meanwhile, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, a proponent of priestly marriage, sees the question as still open, telling the publication Estadao: “It will be taken up again.”

 

AFP

Ex-Pope Benedict Seeks Removal Of Name From ‘Controversial’ Celibacy Book

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he leads the Sunday Angelus prayer in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican.

 

Former pope Benedict XVI has asked that his name be removed from a controversial new book in which he comes down firmly against married priests, his secretary told Italian newswire ANSA. 

The book, excerpts of which were published on Sunday by French newspaper Le Figaro, set off a firestorm with some Vatican experts wondering whether ultra-conservatives within the Vatican were taking advantage of the 92-year old pope emeritus, who has mostly remained out of the limelight since his retirement in 2013.

Benedict’s private secretary, Georg Gaenswein, told ANSA that on behalf of the former pope he asked the book’s co-author, Cardinal Robert Sarah, “to contact the publishers of the book begging them to remove the name of Benedict XVI as co-author of the book itself and also to remove his signature from the introduction and conclusions.”

In the book, Benedict is quoted as writing “I cannot keep silent!” about the issue of loosening the rules over clerical celibacy.

Pope Francis is currently considering whether to allow “viri probati” — married “men of proven virtue” — to join the priesthood in certain circumstances, such as in remote locations like the Amazon where communities seldom have Mass due to a lack of priests. He is expected to publish his decision in the coming weeks.

The book in question, “From the Depth of our Hearts,” was expected to hit bookshelves in France on Wednesday with images of the former pope and Cardinal Sarah on the cover.

Gaenswein said Benedict was aware that a book was in the works and had sent his own text authorising Sarah to “make use of it as he wanted”.

“But he hadn’t approved any plans for a double signature book nor had he seen and authorised the cover,” Gaenswein said.

It is unclear which passages in the book came from Benedict and which were written by Sarah.

Church Is Losing Influence, Pope Warns

 

 

Pope Francis on Saturday called on church leaders for a “change in mentality”, saying the Christian faith is less heeded — even ignored — in the modern world. 

New methods were needed to help “reposition our ways of thinking and our attitudes”, the pope warned in his traditional Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia, the Vatican’s top administrative body.

“We are no longer the only ones today to produce culture, neither the first nor the most listened to,” the Argentinian pontiff said.

“We are no longer in a regime of Christianity because faith — especially in Europe, but also in a large part of the West — is no longer an obvious presupposition of living together; worse, it is often denied, mocked, marginalised and ridiculed.”

The change requires “a change in pastoral mentality,” said the Jesuit pope, the first from Latin America in the history of the Catholic Church.

Since becoming pope in 2013, Francis has sought to shake up the powerful and conservative Curia. But he has continued to be met by resistance from many members of the body who reject greater control over their freedom and finances.

In previous Christmas greetings, Francis has taken a harsher tone against the cardinals and bishops within the Curia, calling out “cliques” and “traitors” within the bureaucracy.

Francis has created new “dicasteries,” or ministries, such as in communication, to better respond to a more digitised culture and try to break down the silos between different departments.

In his speech on Saturday, Francis also warned against “the temptation to fall back on the past” instead of “engaging in significant changes”.

Such “rigidity,” he said, “arises from the fear of change that ends up spreading stakes and obstacles in the land of common good, transforming it into a landmine of incommunicability and hate”

AFP

Pope Lifts Papal Secrecy For Sex Abuse Cases

(File) Pope Francis speaks as as Prefect of the papal household Georg Gaenswein (L) looks on during an audience with participants in the Course on the Internal Forum, on March 29, 2019 at Paul-VI hall in the Vatican. Andreas SOLARO / AFP

 

Pope Francis has waived the ability to cite papal secrecy in dealing with sexual abuse cases, the Vatican said on Tuesday in a statement.

So-called “pontifical secrecy” is a rule of confidentiality designed to protect sensitive information related to the governance of the Roman Catholic Church.

More to follow…

Pope To Create 13 New Cardinals In October

Pope Francis with some Cardinals at the Vatican in Rome, Italy. Source: AFP

 

Pope Francis said Sunday he will create 13 new Catholic cardinals next month, 10 of whom are under 80 years old and therefore eligible to vote for his successor.

Francis made the surprise announcement during his weekly Angelus address, and said they would be appointed on October 5.

The appointments come as the Argentine pontiff gradually shapes a less European college of cardinals.

The newcomers hail from North America, Central America, Africa, Europe and Asia, and Francis says “their origin expresses the missionary vocation of the Church”.

READ ALSO: Pope Says Got Stuck In Vatican Lift, Freed By Fireman

The new “princes” of the Church, who will be appointed at a special ceremony known as a consistory, come from countries including Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia and Morocco.

Those under age 80 will be able to take part in the next secret conclave to elect the head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, who is chosen from among the cardinals.

As well as having that key role, cardinals often also hold the highest administrative offices in the church.

Among those named was Archbishop Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, who the Vatican’s consultant to the Communications secretariat James Martin said was “a great supporter of LGBT Catholics”.

The Tablet’s Vatican expert Christopher Lamb said the pope’s nominations “reflect his priority to build bridges with other religions… and to support migrants”.

Those set to receive a cardinal’s red hat include Michael Czerny SJ, head of the Migrants and Refugees section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, an English expert on Christian-Muslim relations.

AFP