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Pope Says No Change on Sex Abuse, Women’s Health, Gay Rights. OKs Business as Usual for US Bishops

Pope Francis marked the first anniversary of his pontificate by stating he intended to continue unchanged the Church’s policies regarding ongoing child sex abuse, abortion, same-sex marriage, contraception and other issues. In yet another rebuttal of the wildly inaccurate reporting by the corporate media, Jorge Mario Bergoglio declared in an interview  published Wednesday in Italy and Argentina that his pontificate would be business as usual.

Child Sex Abuse

Bergoglio: I wish to say two things. The cases of abuse are terrible because they leave very profound wounds. Benedict XVI was very courageous and opened the way. And, following that way, the Church advanced a lot, perhaps more than anyone. The statistics on the phenomenon of violence against children are shocking, but they also show clearly that the great majority of the abuses come from the family environment and from people who are close. The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that moved with transparency and responsibility. No one else did as much. And yet, the Church is the only one being attacked. 

With almost unbelievable hubris, the pope ignored hundreds of thousands of victims, claimed the Church to be their staunchest protector and portrayed the Church as victim. He praised his predecessor whose minimal and ineffective response to the crisis was forced upon him by public pressure. Bergoglio tried to deflect guilt without acknowledging that only his Church claims to be the sole legitimate moral authority in the world and, therefore, is the subject of different standard. Besides, “Catholic clergy commit six times as much abuse as those in the rest of the churches combined, and that’s a conservative figure,” a child protection expert told an Australian government sex abuse inquiry.  

As the world already knows, the subject of the Feb. 5th U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child report is the Vatican’s “systematic” responsibility for worldwide child sex abuse. According to the Committee, the Vatican:

  • Still places children at high risk of sexual abuse, as dozens of child sexual offenders (who operate under the authority of the Vatican) are reported to still be in contact with children.
  • Has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed.
  • Has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children.
  • Has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators.
  • Has consistently placed the preservation of the reputation of the Church and the protection of the perpetrators above children’s best interests, as observed by several civil commissions of inquiry, including a Westchester Co., New York, grand jury report. 

The pope made no apology, expressed no regret, offered no assistance to the victims, made no commitment to protect children, has not held any bishop who aided and abetted child rapists accountable, has not ordered them to report these crimes to a law enforcement agency, has not yet formed the promised committee on child sex abuse, nor did he express any intention of doing any of the above. Rather, he has advanced the careers of numerous prelates who, like himself,  have protected those who torture children. 

The Vatican responded with an email to the Associated Press that the pope would indeed form a committee to child sex abuse, as if the 22,000 pages of documentation presented to the UN Committee wasn’t enough information.  (After a previous round of bad publicity following the January meeting between the Vatican and UN Committee in Geneva, only the AP was given a Vatican document stating Pope Ratzinger had already “defrocked 400 priests for molesting children,” which the AP reported without noting that putting that many pedophiles out on the street with no income might be dangerous. It was later revealed that the majority of priests had actually voluntarily asked to be dismissed from their vows.) 

In a taped interview for today’s Meet the Press, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said the pope would meet with some victims as did his predecessor. The result was favorable PR for Pope Ratzinger and no greater protection for children. 

Abortion

Bergoglio: “What I had to say on the topic of life I have put in writing in Evangelii Gaudium,” referring to his recent apostolic exhortation, titled “The Joy of the Gospel” in English. That is, the lives and health of girls and women are never justifiable reasons for abortion. 

Same-sex marriage

Bergoglio: Marriage is between one man and one woman. The secular States want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of coexistence, spurred by the need to regulate economic aspects between persons as, for instance, to ensure healthcare. Each case must be looked at and evaluated in its diversity. 

The Vatican issued a clarification that this “did not reflect an openness on the part of the Church to civil unions” for members of the LGBT community. The pope used the term “civil unions” which “in Italy refer to people who are married by the state” and “did not specifically refer to same-sex marriage as a civil union.”  

Those who perpetrate hate crimes and discriminate against gays have the Church’s continued justification that LGBT persons are undeserving of full human rights. Catholic bishops supported Uganda’s notorious “kill-the-gays” legislation  and oppose any other government which moves to protect the civil rights of LGBT persons. 

Contraception

Bergoglio: [Pope Paul VI, who issued the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae allowing only abstinence during a woman’s fertile period as a method of birth control] genius was prophetic, as he had the courage to go against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to apply a cultural brake, to oppose present and future neo-Malthusianism. The object is not to change the doctrine, but it is a matter of going into the issue in depth and to ensure that the pastoral ministry takes into account the situations of each person and what that person can do.  

If the “object is not to change the doctrine,” then the Church will continue to use its influence to deny protection against HIV and reproductive health care (condoms, safe and effective birth control) to the poor. 

Role of Women

Bergoglio: It’s true that women can and must be more present in decision-making posts of the Church. But I would call this a promotion of a functional type. And with that alone, one doesn’t advance much. Rather, we must think that the Church has the feminine article, “la”: it is feminine by origin. Theologian Urs von Balthasar worked a lot on this topic: the Marian principle guides the Church by the hand of the Petrine principle. The Virgin is more important than any Bishop and any of the Apostles. The theological reflection is already underway. Cardinal [Stanislaw] Rylko [president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity], together with the Council of the Laity, is working in this direction with many expert women. 

Without getting into a lot of doctrinal malarkey about the “feminine” Church, the use of the word “virgin” as “more important” references the pope’s often expressed view of a chaste Mary and all women having a role of “service” and never that of leadership. That women should be subject to a “theological reflection” distinct from males confirms their status as a sub-specie of the human race and as second-class human beings. 

“Expert women” means, like all of Bergoglio’s appointments, that he will choose people who already agree with him. His only two female appointments so far have been to committees studying the Vatican Bank and other economic issues: Mary Ann Glendon, appointed by Bush 43 as ambassador to the Holy See, who sits the board of Bill Donohue’s Catholic League and several neocon think tanks; and Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, a public relations expert at Ernst & Young and a member of Opus Dei

 When their respective committees met with the pope and other Vatican leaders to finalize Bergoglio’s plans to revamp financial management, the women were missing.  

On Feb. 8, Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt delivered an address to the UN on the theme of equality. “….[I]t would be naïve to conflate equality with sameness. The approach to women in the Sustainable Development Goals must acknowledge and enable women to overcome barriers to equality without forcing them to abandon what is essential to them….Their relationships, especially their role within the family – as mothers, wives, caregivers – have profound effects on the choices women make and their own prioritization of the rights which they exercise across their lifespans.”

Poverty

Bergoglio: The Gospel condemns the worship of wealth. Pauperism is one of the critical interpretations. In the Medieval Age there were many pauperist currents. St. Francis [of Assisi] had the genius of placing the subject of poverty in the evangelical journey. Jesus says that one cannot serve two masters, God and money. And when we are judged at the end of time (Matthew, 25), we will be asked about our closeness to poverty. Poverty removes us from idolatry and opens the doors to Providence. Zacchaeus gives half of his wealth to the poor. And those whose barns are full of their own egoism, the Lord, at the end, will call to account. I think I expressed well my thought on poverty in “Evangelii Gaudium.” 

While the pope is to be praised for encouraging charity to the poor, especially migrants, protecting and prospering the Vatican’s incalculable wealth received the lion’s share of his attention in the first year of his reign. There has been no increase in charity by the Vatican or the world’s bishops. 

Globalization

Bergoglio: It’s true, globalization saved many people from misery, but it condemned many others to die of hunger, because with this economic system it becomes selective….And the human person is no longer at its center but only money. 

The pope has appointed prelates to the most powerful Vatican positions who, like himself,  oppose civil governments which put people instead of money at “its center” and who support those which place the increasing the wealth of the elite as their first priority.   

In his first papal action, Bergoglio named Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga to head his “kitchen cabinet” group of eight cardinals. Rodríguez Maradiaga “participated actively” in the 2009 coup against the progressive and constitutional president, Manuel Zelaya installing a rightwing government. Rodríguez Maradiago “did not denounce the violation to the constitution that the coup was, instead blessed it.”  

The only American in this group, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, had no criticism for Romneycare which provided government funding of abortion yet actively opposed Obamacare which does not. Like the entire US episcopate, O’Malley previously raised no objection to the 28 state health insurance plans with mandates for birth control coverage, but worked tirelessly to prevent the Affordable Care Act from passing. Now, they continue to support every legislative and judicial barrier to improving health care for the poor.

Again, acting decisively on protecting his money, Bergoglio just named Australian Cardinal George Pell as head of all Vatican finances. Pell has had a close relationship with the rightwing PM, Tony Abbott, and his party for decades. Days before his appointment to Bergoglio’s “G8” group of cardinals, Pell attended a “Gala Dinner” celebrating the Melbourne-based Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) an “ultraconservative think tank.” Rupert Murdoch was guest of honor and Tony Abbott the keynote speaker. 

An Australian victim of the Church’s child sexual abuse suggested that Pell’s appointment as head of the Vatican’s Secretariat of the Economy and his relocation to Rome provides Pell with “an opportunity to leave this country in five weeks and there will be nothing compelling him to return to Australia to answer questions about anything raised at the royal commission in future.’’ Previous government inquiries showed Pell to be adept at stone-walling prosecutors and covering up for pedophile priests.   

There are no American prelates or lay persons with positions in or ties to the Vatican who are not staunch Republicans. Private papal audiences are granted to Supreme Knight Carl Anderson (who also sits on the board of supervisors of the Vatican Bank) who guides the incredible wealth his Knights of Columbus into funding anti-abortion and anti-gay rights legislation and George Weigel, one of the founding fathers of the creation of the Religious Right and still an effective culture warrior in electing Republicans. 

To study the changes needed to protect his money, the pope created four commissions and hired 6 internationally-renowned consulting firms – all manned by proponents of the “cult of money” and the “tyranny” of free market economics which he denounced. 

Message to US Bishops 

What this means for Americans and our children is that U.S. prelates have been given the green light to protect child torturers with continued immunity from the pope. Their powerful and seemingly unlimited-funded political lobbyists will continue to oppose any changes in statutes of limitations which favor all victims of sex abuse, and the most expensive law firms they can hire will seek legal precedents and decisions favoring sexual predators and their employers. 

The same conferences and law firms will be used to oppose women’s healthcare, equal rights for gays, health care for the poor – whatever it takes – to advance pro-Republican campaigns and causes. 

The pope has let the US bishops know via scores of appointments that their thousands of agencies, under the protection of their 501(c)(3) tax codes, should continue to use “dark money” in service to the global plutocracy.

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