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Secrecy in service of the institution

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I know colleague Maureen Fiedler has already picked up on the significance of the piece just posted about secrecy in the Vatican justice system, so excuse the repetition, but the issue gets to the heart of the "how" such a tale of deceit at the highest levels of the church could run its course for so long.

RNS writer Daniel Burke, who has reported and written in a compelling manner in the past about the helplessness that accused priests can experience when subjected to the impenetrable legal processes of the Vatican, has authored another piece here that gives the perspective from the accuser’s side.

Vatican Secrecy

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Religion News Service is reporting on the secrecy that shrouds the Vatican’s handling of sex abuse cases. Many of us know that secrecy is par for the course in what passes for “judicial proceedings” in the Vatican, but here are some findings by RNS reporter Daniel Burke that struck me:

“Participants in church sex abuse trials are bound by oath not to divulge details about the proceedings, or at what stage the case is; not even victims and accused priests are kept apprised…

Even when the trials and appeals are over, participants are not allowed to talk about them. "It's canon law," said the Rev. John Beal, a canon law expert at Catholic University in Washington. ‘But it's a stupid law.’”

It’s refreshing to hear a canon lawyer be so candid.

But there’s more:

“Even reading about the secret trials can be a canonical crime. In 2008, after the Rev. Gerald Vosen, an accused Wisconsin priest, wrote about his experience in a book, the local bishop told Catholics "to destroy the book or return it."

Journalistic ethics?

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The outing of an anti-gay Lutheran pastor in Minnesota by a gay magazine is raising questions of journalistic ethics about undercover reporting.

Why is this a Catholic story? Because the reporter from Lavender Magazine got his scoop by attending meetings of the Catholic group Courage under false pretenses. Courage is dedicated to helping those with same-sex attractions live chaste lives.

A few points:
* Rev. Tom Brock is pretty extreme in his condemnations of anything gay or lesbian. He even once claimed a tornado that hit the convention center where the ELCA was meeting was God's way of punishing the Lutherans for ordaining gays.
* Courage and other groups that claim to "cure" gays of their "disorder" are extremely controversial, to say the least. Many "survivors" of such programs say they cause dangerous self-hatred.

Feliz Fiesta

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A shout out to all our Boricua readers. Today is the Feast of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist, the patron saint of Puerto Rico. If you have never been to that enchanted island, put it on your list of must vacations. In addition to the natural beauty of the island, from the endless beaches and clear waters with every shade of blue imaginable to the magnificent rain forest El Yunque, the island is rich in Church History. The Church of San Jose, undergoing restorations but now open to the public again, is the second oldest church building in the Western hemisphere. The first bishop to arrive in the New World was Bishop Alonso Manzo, the first bishop of San Juan, in 1513. The cathedral in the center of the old city was built in the early nineteenth century after its predecessor was destroyed, but there are two old chapels in the rear of the church that date to the 1520s. An old convent across the street has been turned into a swanky hotel that is a great place to grab a cocktail and check out the old chapel and the great portraits. And, then, of course, there is the food. Fried whole snapper. Mofungo. Pio Nonos. No reason not to go.

Millionaires buying art, jets, giving less to charity

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As millionaires’ assets rebounded in 2009, they put more money in tangibles such as art, jets and gems, according to a report released this week by Capgemini SA and Merrill Lynch & Co.

“It was such a severe crisis, the investor psyche has really shifted,” said Ileana van der Linde, the Capgemini principal who managed the research, in a phone interview. “They don’t fully trust the financial markets and regulatory bodies. That’s why we are seeing a trend toward putting money into tangible assets like art and gold.”

Six “passion” investments listed in the “World Wealth Report”typically account for about a third of a millionaire’s total holdings, Van der Linde said: luxury collectibles such as yachts, jets and high-end cars; art; jewelry, gems and watches; other collectibles such as wine and coins; sports investments, including teams and race horses; and a “miscellaneous” category comprising club memberships, musical instruments and other items.

Giving Less

Police raid home, offices of Card. Danneels

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Belgian police have raided the offices and home of Cardinal Godfried Danneels in relation to the sex abuse scandal in the church, according to the Associated Press and other outlets. Read the full report here.

Police did not say whether Danneels himself was accused of abuse.

"The raids followed recent statements to police 'that are related to the sexual abuse of children within the church,' said Jean-Marc Meilleur, a spokesman for the Brussels prosecutor's office," according to the AP report.

The story continued: "Police also searched the office of a committee that is investigating sexual abuse claims with help from the church, but did not immediately give details. The committee has already opened 120 abuse cases but expects the number to soon double.

"Police took documents, but did not question Danneels at his home in the city of Mechlin, just north of Brussels, said Hans Geybels, the spokesman for the former archbishop."

Listening to victims a 'model for ministry,' bishop says

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Philadelphia

tListening to sexual abuse victims can be an “opportunity to recalibrate” the whole of a bishop’s ministry, Bishop Blase Cupich of Rapid City said today, because it’s a powerful reminder that “there are voices out there which the leadership doesn’t usually hear.”

t Cupich spoke as part of panel on lessons learned from the U.S. sexual abuse crisis sponsored by the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, which is holding its annual meeting June 23-25 in Philadelphia. Cupich serves as the chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People.

tThe other participants in the panel were Diane Knight, chair of the bishops’ National Review Board, and Teresa Kettelkamp, executive director of the bishops’ office of Child and Youth Protection.

tSpeaking via Skype, Cupich said that over the years he’s met with victims of clerical sexual abuse frequently, calling it a “painful and difficult” experience, but also one of “real grace.”

Is bishop statement end of discussion?

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One can almost hear, in the statement released by the U.S. bishops addressing the anguishing case out of Phoenix involving Mercy Sr. Margaret McBride, a punctuating sentiment: And that’s it! No more discussion! See story (and the bishops’ statement) here.

The bishops didn’t actually say that, but it is the essence of the conclusion by the doctrine committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. What occurred in Phoenix was a direct abortion, they determined, and “Nothing … can justify a direct abortion. No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church."

The statement seems to end all discussion of the matter, though one wonders if a declaration simply ends all questions, including those posed by church ethicists.

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July 18-31, 2014

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