In Catholic Circles

An International News Roundup

Winter 2005-06

In This Issue:

Condoms4Life and The World Youth Day 4 All Coalition
The Sex Abuse Crisis
The Church and State

Condoms4Life and the World Youth Day 4 All Coalition
by Emily Neubauer and Molly O’Gorman

A job well done, WYD4All strikes a group pose after the papal parade.Catholic World Youth Day is a jamboree that takes place every three years or so, attracting hundreds of thousands of young Catholics to its host city. August 16-21, 2005, the 20th Catholic World Youth Day was held in Cologne, Germany, where Pope Benedict XVI made his first major public appearance.

The World Youth Day 4 All Coalition (WYD4All), a group comprised of 45 young people from 16 countries, came together to support and promote an agenda of church reform, sexual and reproductive health and rights and youth activism. Member organizations included Catholics for a Free Choice, We Are Church-Youth, KLuST (Cologne Lesbian and Gay Pride) and YouAct (European Youth Network on Sexual and Reproductive Rights).

The WYD4All coalition campaigned for reform on the issue of the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS. As a result of our efforts, for several days the focus of the media coverage was on the issues we promoted, not those the hierarchy wanted to push. Several bishops, Vatican Radio and Matthias Kopp, the official spokesperson for the hierarchy during the event, were all forced to respond to our arguments and acknowledge the importance of this issue.

Pilgrims put our stickers everywhere, even on the official WYD backpack.WYD4All made a huge impact on the whole event. Using postcards and stickers, the team promoted the Condoms4Life campaign at subway stations where the Condoms4Life ads were displayed and throughout the city. There was an overwhelmingly positive response, from pilgrims and residents alike. By mid-week, television crews were following the group around, along with radio and print reporters, recording our every move. People took postcards and put WYD4All stickers on their bags and T-shirts. We saw our stickers everywhere— even on the TV news.

We also got a lot of support from the citizens of Cologne, a city with a strong GLBTQ presence. Residents were thrilled to see us raising important issues during this potentially conservative Catholic event. Every day, people thanked us for being there, including one man who worked at a local health clinic. He saw our shirts and said, “Yes! I am using condoms all the time! I know that good Catholics use condoms, you don’t have to tell me!” He took a stack of postcards and stickers for his clients.

stickerThe team joined the Gay Pride section during the papal parade, one of Benedict’s first official appearances n our red T-shirts we were the focus of attention and within 20 minutes everybody in the vicinity had put on at least one sticker. There were many rounds of “Wir sind alle homosexual” (We are all homosexual) sung to the tune of “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles. As he passed, Benedict XVI waving like the Queen, smiled and recognizing what the fuss was about, looked away, clearly embarrassed. Another hit for the WYD4All team!

The Condoms 4 Life adverts caused a stir after they were posted throughout the Cologne subway system.Members of the WYD4All Coalition also attended the International Youth Hearing to challenge the Catholic hierarchy on the use of condoms. During an open forum at the hearing, Adam Qvist of YouAct rose and questioned German Bishop Reinhard Marx and Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez from Honduras on how they could possibly forbid condoms while millions died from the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. The audience showed their support with a massive round of applause. Both the bishop and the cardinal responded with vague statements, and then, in front of a live TV audience, proceeded to acknowledge that condoms were a crucial part of the fight against HIV/AIDS. Later in the week we heard reports from Vatican Radio that Cardinal Lehman, head of the German Bishops Conference, had acknowledged that the church needed to approach sexual ethics in a new way. He said the Catholic church, “must very certainly approach these issues in a new way,” or it would be ignored.

WYD4All member Ozzi Warwick came from Trinidad and Tobago to promote our message.WYD4All enjoyed extensive media interest and press coverage. Print, radio and television stories about the coalition and the Condoms4Life ad campaign showed up all over the world. The truth we brought to light on the ban on condoms was clear. As Adam commented after his confrontation at the Youth Hearing, “Seeing and hearing the support given from the young Catholic community has made our coalition believe in a revolution of the Catholic church’s position on the use of condoms. It’ll never be a question of if, but only a question of when.”

WYD4All received hundreds of media hits, a small selection follows.

Wire, Radio and TV News
2DF TV (Germany) • ABC News • Agence France Press • Associated Press • Bavarian Public Radio (Germany) • BBC World Service • Canal+ TV (France) • CBS News • CNN • CTV TV (Canada) • Deutsche Presse Agentur (Germany) • Deutsche Welle wire (Germany) • EiTB 24 TV (Spain) • Focus TV (Germany) • National Public Radio • NBC News • Ren TV (Russia) • RTE Radio (Ireland) • Sky News TV (UK) • TF1 TV (France) • Vatican Radio • VRT TV (Belgium) • WDR TV and Radio (Germany)

Print Media
Baltimore Sun • Chicago Tribune • Correio Braziliense (Brazil) • Die Welt (Germany)• Guardian (UK) • Kansas City Star, Mo. • Le Soir (Belgium) • Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky. • Los Angeles Times • National Catholic Reporter • New York Newsday • Noticias (Brazil) • Philadelphia Inquirer • Reforma (Mexico) • San Jose Mercury News, Calif. • Seattle Post Intelligencer • Stuttgarter Zeitung (Germany) • Tallahassee Democrat, Fla. • Times (UK) • Times Picayune, La. • Toronto Star

The WYD4All blog gives a full account of the team’s successes in Cologne, including dozens of messages of support from around the world

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The Sex Abuse Crisis

The Vatican “Scapegoats” Gays for Abuse Crisis
Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, who is overseeing a Vatican-imposed evaluation of every seminary in the United States, has confirmed that the Vatican is seeking to impose a ban on homosexual men becoming priests. In an interview with a conservative Catholic newspaper, he said, “anyone who has engaged in homosexual activity, or has strong homosexual inclinations, would be best not to apply to a seminary and not to be accepted into a seminary.” Speaking with the Associated Press, he went further, stating that the church must restrict the enrollment of gay men into the priesthood.

The Apostolic Visitation involves 117 bishops and Catholic officials visiting each of the 229 Roman Catholic seminaries in the US in teams of three or four. The teams will interview each seminarian, staff member and a selection of former seminarians. The interviewers will seek to examine how well each seminary prepares the seminarians for living the life of a priest, with special attention paid to moral theology and celibacy. They will also seek to ascertain if there is any “evidence of homosexuality” on campus.

The executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Matt Foreman, said, “This is part of the church hierarchy’s calculated— and frankly, evil— campaign to scapegoat gay people for the decades of appalling sex abuse of children and young people that it alone created, nurtured and covered up.”

Grand Jury Condemns Archdiocese’s Inaction
A three-year grand jury investigation into how the Archdiocese of Philadelphia covered up and facilitated sexual abuse has resulted in a scathing critique of the archdiocese’s leaders. The jurors found that Cardinals John Krol and Anthony Bevilacqua “excused and enabled the abuse,” placing the legal and financial interests of the archdiocese over the protection of children. The statutes of limitations have expired so no prosecutions will be brought against those named.

The report singles out one official for special criticism. Msgr. William Lynn, now pastor of St. Joseph Church in Downingtown, who was head of the office that responded to abuse complaints under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, is mentioned 652 times in the report, compared with Bevilacqua’s 523.

The following is a selection of statements from the report (as detailed in the Philadelphia Inquirer):

  • “The behavior of Archdiocese officials was perhaps not so lurid as that of the individual priest sex abusers. But in its callous, calculating manner, the Archdiocese’s ‘handling’ of the abuse scandal was at least as immoral as the abuse itself.”
  • “Secretary for Clergy Lynn, often taking direction from the Archdiocese’s attorneys, treated victims as potential plaintiffs. Not only did they not receive apologies acknowledging their abuse, but many were bullied, intimidated, lied to, even investigated themselves.”
  • “Msgr. Lynn’s ‘investigations’ of abuse allegations were designed more to discredit the victims and conceal evidence of their abuse than to ascertain whether their alleged abuser was in fact a sexual abuser of children.”


News Update

A survey of current scientific knowledge on the possibility that fetuses feel pain has shown that a human fetus probably does not have the functional capacity to experience pain until at least the third trimester of pregnancy. The authors noted that efforts to regulate abortion by requiring that women be offered anesthesia for the fetus will likely increase the risk of complications during the abortion. The article shows that the brain pathways associated with pain perception are not present until after around 29 weeks’ gestation, well into the third trimester. (Eighty-eight percent of abortions in the US are performed before 13 weeks and around 99% are performed before 21 weeks.) It further noted that there are no known safe and effective methods of providing pain control directly to a fetus. The article, “Fetal pain: A systematic multidisciplinary review of the evidence,” by S.J. Lee et al, appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 294(8), 947-954.

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The Church and State

“The Vatican Is Not a State”
In a dispute with a UN official, the Vatican has claimed that it is not a state and has “no international obligations” to help the UN hunt down war criminals. The claim was made in a meeting between Carla del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of the United Nations international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Secretary for Relations with States.

Ms. del Ponte is in charge of the search for one of the most wanted war criminals from the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, General Ante Gotovina. She believes that Gotovina is being sheltered in a Franciscan monastery in his native Croatia. She said: “I have information he is hiding in a Franciscan monastery and so the Catholic Church is protecting him. I have taken this up with the Vatican and the Vatican refuses totally to cooperate with us.”

“The Vatican Is a State” 
The Vatican Embassy in Washington has asked the US government to file a legal brief claiming that, as the Vatican claims statehood, Pope Benedict XVI should be granted immunity in a sexual abuse case. Three boys have brought a case alleging that Juan Carlos Patino-Arango, a Colombian-born seminarian on assignment at St. Francis de Sales church in Houston, molested them during counseling sessions during the mid-1990s. Patino-Arango has been indicted and is on the run.

In filing the brief, Assistant US Attorney General Peter Keisler said that, as pope, Benedict enjoys immunity as the head of a state. The US Supreme Court has held that US courts are bound by such “suggestion of immunity” motions submitted by the government, Keisler’s filing says, so immunity should be expected. Daniel Shea, attorney for one of the three boys, has said that if the pope is granted immunity, he would challenge the constitutionality of the US diplomatic recognition of the Holy See on the grounds that it goes against the First Amendment’s establishment clause barring laws respecting the establishment of religion.

The lawsuit alleges that Benedict conspired (when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and in his former post of Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) to both hide Patino-Arango’s crimes and to help him escape prosecution. The lawsuit cites a 2001 letter from Ratzinger to all bishops, explaining that his office would handle “grave” crimes such as the sexual abuse of minors and that any tribunal proceedings related to abuse cases were subject to the highest order of church confidentiality, the “pontifical secret.”

New Irish Campaign to Legalize Abortion
The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) has launched an official challenge to the ban on abortion in Ireland. Currently, more than 6,200 Irish women travel to Britain each year to have an abortion and hundreds more go to the Netherlands, France and Spain.

The first action of the “Safe and Legal in Ireland” campaign is to support a group of three women who are challenging the Irish government’s ban on abortion in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Campaign spokeswoman Ivana Bacik, who is Reid Professor of Criminal Law at Trinity College, Dublin, said that the three women, who have all recently had an abortion in Britain, lodged a complaint with the ECHR stating that their rights had been violated. They claim that their rights to privacy in all family, home and personal interests, their right to protection from ‘inhuman or degrading treatment,’ the right to life of an individual and rights against discrimination have all be violated.

Come Again?

“Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” 
In a 1994 legal brief explaining why the Archdiocese of Oregon shouldn’t have to pay the costs of raising a child fathered by a church worker at a parish, then-Archbishop of Portland William Levada argued that the child’s mother had engaged “in unprotected intercourse…when (she) should have known that could result in pregnancy.” Levada is now prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the former post of Pope Benedict XVI.

The archdiocese’s defense suggests that the woman should have used contraception, something that church teachings oppose. Frances Kissling, president of CFFC, said Levada’s defense was an example of how, “if something will cost the bishops money, they will use any argument whatsoever—like any other corporate entity—that will get them off the hook. It’s a disgrace.”

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Postscript“Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense—an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection—is not.” 
— Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, who was the lead editor of the official 1992 Catechism of the Catholic church. [1]

“But generally speaking, in my experience, the pressures are strong in an all-male atmosphere. And if there have been past failings, the church really must stay on the safe side…. The same-sex attractions have gotten us into some legal problems…. Anyone who has engaged in homosexual activity, or has strong homosexual inclinations, would be best not to apply to a seminary and not to be accepted into a seminary.” 
— Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, confirming that the Vatican will ban homosexuals from the priesthood.[2]

“Things could have been handled better…. I treated each victim with dignity and compassion.” 
— Msgr. William Lynn, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Downingtown, Penn., who was accused by a grand jury of not doing enough to assist abuse victims.[3]

“Msgr. Lynn’s ‘investigations’ of abuse allegations were designed more to discredit the victims and conceal evidence of their abuse than to ascertain whether their alleged abuser was in fact a sexual abuser of children…. [I]n its callous, calculating manner, the Archdiocese’s ‘ handling’ of the abuse scandal was at least as immoral as the abuse itself.” 
— An extract from the grand jury report into the sexual abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.[4]

“The senators from Massachusetts did nothing. They spoke nothing. They sat by and let this happen.” 
— Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), a very conservative Catholic, lays the blame for the Boston sexual abuse scandal at the feet of fellow senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry.[5]

“The doggy dance may be very popular, but I don’t think it is meant for human beings. Let’s leave the ‘doggy dance’ to the dogs. Human beings have never had the pretension to be dogs. Therefore, let’s establish a clear and categorical difference between one thing and the other.” 
— Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, condemning a dance to reggae music that includes very sensual and immodest contact between dance partners.[6]

endnotes:1. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, “Finding Design in Nature,” New York Times, July 11, 2005.
2. Rachel Zoll, “U.S. Prelate: Gays Shouldn’t Be Ordained,” Associated Press.
3. Carrie Budoff et al, “Church official: ‘I would never put a child in harm’s way’,” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 25, 2005.
4. Carrie Budoff et al, “Church official: ‘I would never put a child in harm’s way’,” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 25, 2005.
5. Catholic News Agency, “Pennsylvania Senator accuses Kennedy, Kerry of ‘doing’ nothing about priestly sexual abuse scandal,” August 2, 2005.
6. Catholic News Agency, “Dominican cardinal criticizes spread of immodest dancing,” June 7, 2005.

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