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      Gonna Stick My Sword in the Golden Sand: A Vietnam Soldier's Story has just been released. The title comes from a stanza of the gospel traditional, Down by the Riverside, with its refrain--"Ain't gonna study war no more." Golden Sand is a bold, dark, and intense retelling of the Vietnam experience through the eyes of an army scout that is […]
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      In reviewing Idries Shah's The Sufis, recently republished in both the West and the Middle East, Jason Webster offers a helpful definition of Sufism. Before sharing this definition I'd first like to share a little about my interest in the mystic path known as the Sufi Way. Let me start by acknowledging that for many people Sufism is viewed as the […]
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Accused of Crimes Against Humanity, Pope Still Treated by Media as “Spiritual” Leader

Every Christmas and Easter, my heart aches for the millions of people around the world who were brutalized and tortured by Catholic priests, brothers and nuns, their families and friends, and the loved ones of those who took their own lives because the pain from their abuse was more than they could bear. Twice a year, they have to endure the media bringing us messages of “peace and love” from the iniquitous Pope as if he was a religious leader and not someone accused at the International Criminal Court at The Hague with crimes against humanity.

In September 2011, victims and human rights advocates filed 22,000 pages of documents with the court “urging the ICC to investigate and prosecute Vatican officials for their complicity in crimes against humanity.” Within months, nearly 500 additional victims, witnesses, whistleblowers and supporters from 65 different countries were able to provide new and extensive documentation which shows ongoing child rape by Catholic clergy and religious and continuing cover-ups by bishops and the Vatican.

Even more documentation will be forthcoming from a Melbourne researcher, advocate and lawyer, Judy Courtin, who is preparing a report about the Church’s sexual abuse of children in Australia, concentrating on the suicides.

Pope Benedict XVI has every intention of continuing to protect the perpetrators and the prelates who cover-up. Just days before Christmas, he named Rev. Robert Oliver as Promoter of Justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Oliver’s duties include being the chief prosecutor of predatory priests.

“Rev. Oliver is a champion of accused priests, which obviously does not bode well for the job he will do as the Promoter of Justice,” said a leading child protection advocate, Anne Barrett Doyle, Co-Director of Bishop Accountability.

The cover up of the priests who sexually abused children involved the protection of the priests from criminal prosecution by civil legal authorities and moving the priests to other parishes where more children could be victimized. Rev. Oliver was brought into Boston in 2002 when Cardinal Law was removed from his post in Boston and moved to Rome….Ms. Doyle and Bishop Accountability leveled specific criticisms of Rev. Oliver’s work in Boston… For example, Rev. Oliver cleared 45% of accused priests in Boston when statistics across the country show that about 10% of accused priests in other dioceses are cleared. Rev. Oliver also made it easier for accused priests to stay in ministry and harder for abuse survivors to obtain church records….

After 10 years in Boston, Rev. Oliver has made no efforts to call Cardinal Law to justice for covering up abuse of children. He has focused only on reviewing whether there is proof against individual priests….

Pope Benedict’s failure to address the corruption in the hierarchy of the Church that has protected priests who are criminal child abusers and rapists sends a message to bishops around the world that protection of priests might be a higher priority than the protection of children. The appointment of Rev. Oliver in whom Bishop Accountability has no confidence to the top Vatican post does nothing to signal a change in the Church’s failed approach to the worldwide child abuse scandal.

Oliver replaces Rev. Charles Scicluna who dared to publicly tell Vatican officials, “The teaching…that truth is at the basis of justice explains why a deadly culture of silence, or ‘omerta,’ is in itself wrong and unjust….Other enemies of the truth are the deliberate denial of known facts and the misplaced concern that the good name of the institution should somehow enjoy absolute priority to the detriment of disclosure.” Scicluna was, in fact, echoing the most commonly-made accusations against the hierarchy since the scandal gained international attention ten years ago.

Scicluna was “removed and promoted” – made a bishop in his native Malta – the Vatican method of getting rid officials who don’t toe the party line. _

Also before Christmas, we were informed that the Pope was pardoning his former valet, Paolo Gabriele, an act treated in the press as if it was an inspiring act of Christian forgiveness. It was not mentioned that when Gabriele was arrested last May he was held in solitary confinement in a tiny cell for months before being moved to another facility. Nor were we told how the Pope ruined the man’s reputation by allowing reports that Gabriele “suffered from a serious psychological malaise, characterised by worry, tension, rage and frustration” or that a Vatican psychologist told the press Gabriele suffered from a persecution complex. (Since Gabriele helped the Pope dress in the morning, prepare for bed at night, served him his meals, and acted as a trusted companion since 2006, it was never explained how these aberrations went unnoticed until after his arrest.)

Gabriele was arrested for leaking documents to the press. He said he did it because he wanted to help rid the Vatican of the rampant “evil and corruption” he had witnessed by exposing criminal and immoral activities. Some of the documents released to Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi showed the Vatican’s only concern about sex abuse was how much money it was costing the Church.

So please, if the bribes and corruption aren’t enough, if the Pope’s and churchmen’s attacks against our LGBT brothers and sisters don’t move them, can some news editors this Easter spare us the usual papal pomp and duplicity for the sake of those whose lives have been utterly destroyed?

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