Given the magnitude of the media coverage the next week, this is Pope Francis’ best opportunity to strengthen his geopolitical influence and power.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 25 (NEW YORK CITY)
8:30 a.m. Address to the United Nations General Assembly
Pope Francis will address the UNGA when “more than 150 heads-of-state and government of the world are gathering” for the Summit for the Adoption of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The agenda is centered on “eight globally agreed goals in the areas of poverty alleviation, education, gender equality and empowerment of women, child and maternal health, environmental sustainability, reducing HIV/AIDS and communicable diseases, and building a global partnership for development.”
One can only wonder what type of reception the pope will receive from the delegates who have worked for women’s and children’s human rights and adequate healthcare. Regardless, the pope will use this as another opportunity to talk about women’s equality and empowerment.
The Vatican (or the Holy See, its juridical name) is the only religion which holds Non-member State Permanent Observer status at the UN and most of its agencies. This gives them “real power” because they can “speak, reply and circulate documents in the General Assembly, as well as take part in international conferences with ‘all the privileges of a state,’ including the right to vote. [In this way] the Holy See has played serious hardball against women’s human rights for nearly 50 years.”
International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF): “The Holy See’s presence at the UN is dedicated ‘to furthering its own political and religious interests at the global level.’”
“It is entirely unacceptable that UN negotiations are influenced by exclusive and dogmatic ideologies and moralities permanently imposed on other members by a unique and privileged member,” stated Amparo Claro, director of the Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Health Network.
“They have their eyes on the prize, which is getting reproductive health off the global agenda,” said Alex Marshall, chief of UNFPA’s Services Branch, about his experience with the Holy See’s representatives. “They never stop, and they never give up … Pseudoscientific claims appear repeatedly in Holy See statements.” The Holy See refused to endorse the use of condoms to prevent HIV on the grounds that they are ineffective at blocking the virus. The falsehood that “as a matter of scientific fact, a new human life begins at conception” was entered in the minutes of a 2011 General Assembly session.
“Vatican emissaries routinely try to substitute women’s ‘dignity’ for women’s ‘human rights’ and to erase any reference to decision-making rights for adolescents,” Adrienne Germain, former president of the International Women’s Health Coalition, charged. Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Pope Francis’ ambassador to the UN, stated in March 2015, “Various modern techniques of human reproduction do not respect this full dignity of the woman.”
Auza: “Women’s essential contributions to the development of society through their dedication to their family and to raising the next generation is inadequately acknowledged … The feminine genius” is linked deeply to “solidarity in caring for the vulnerable and in creating a better world.”
Pope Francis “denounced the fact that developing countries often receive pressure from international organizations who make economic assistance ‘contingent on certain policies of reproductive health.’” In April, Auza “criticized the focus on population growth as an obstacle to development. He especially decried ‘subtle forms of coercion’ used to push plans to curb population growth in underdeveloped countries.”
The pope has failed to take any of the measures recommended by two UN committees to protect children.
On July 1, 2013, the United Nation’s Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) sent a request to the Holy See for “detailed information on all cases of child sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy, brothers or nun” for the past fifteen years and set November 1 as a deadline for a reply. Additionally, the questionnaire sought to establish whether “perpetrators of sexual crimes” were allowed to remain in contact with children and what legal action was taken against them. The CRC also asked whether reporting of suspected abuse to civil authorities was mandatory and for any incidents where complainants were silenced. The questions were sent as preparation for a public hearing scheduled for January 2014 in Geneva and a November 1 deadline was set. As one of the signatories to the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Vatican was fifteen years late in delivering a report describing whether it had acted to “protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence” as the convention requires.
The deadline came and went. Pope Francis responded to the CRC on December 4 by stating that it was not the practice of his government to “disclose information on specific cases unless requested to do so by another country as part of legal proceedings” and “that the Vatican can provide information only about known and alleged child sex crimes that have happened on Vatican property.”
BishopAccountability.org, a group dedicated to documenting the Catholic sex abuse crisis, noted five significant moments from the January 2014 hearing:
• For the first time, the Vatican had to admit publicly that it still does not require the reporting of child sex crimes to civil authorities.
• Nor does it take this step when priests are defrocked.
• The Holy See still refused to provide the data requested on July 1.
• The Vatican believes that it is the obligation of the individual perpetrator, not the Church, to compensate victims.
• Religious orders, which comprise one third to one half of the world’s Catholic clerics, still are not being compelled by the Holy See to create abuse policies.
In May 2015, the UN Committee Against Torture “found that the widespread sexual violence within the Catholic Church amounted to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” and scheduled another hearing in Geneva.
The Vatican issued an “Initial Report” preparatory to the hearing. “Nowhere in the Initial Report under the Convention does it make any mention of the widespread and systemic rape and sexual violence committed by Catholic clergy against hundreds of thousands of children and vulnerable adults around the world. There is no mention of acts that have resulted in an astonishing and incalculable amount of harm around the world – profound and lasting physical and mental suffering – with little to no accountability and access to redress … [T]he Vatican has consistently minimized the harm caused by the actions of the clergy, through both the direct acts of sexual violence and Church officials’ actions which follow, such as cover-ups and victim-blaming. … The Holy See’s Initial Report to this Committee is itself evidence of the minimization of these offenses and the resulting harm.”
In Geneva, Vatican officials were asked to respond to tough questions like why the pope believes his responsibility for protecting children against torture only applies within the Vatican City State. The Committee Against Torture issued its report. The members ordered the Vatican:
• to hand over files containing details of clerical sexual abuse allegations to police forces around the world.
• to use its authority over the Roman Catholic Church worldwide to ensure all allegations of clerical abuse are passed on to the secular authorities.
• to impose ‘meaningful sanctions’ on any Church officials who fail to do so.
• officials – including the pope’s representatives around the world and their aides – to take responsibility to monitor the behavior of all under their “effective control.”
Pope Francis has refused to abide by any UN recommendations. Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, praised the work of both UN committees. “We do not share any enthusiasm for the Vatican’s defrocking of thousands of abusing clerics resulting in them being released into the labor market without being subjected to secular justice, and the resultant criminal record. This will almost certainly put other children at risk from former priests reoffending.”
In the week before the pope arrives, it was reported that “Even as Pope Francis has touted reform of the Vatican’s safeguards against child abuse, GlobalPost has found that the Catholic Church has allowed allegedly abusive priests to slip off to parts of the world where they would face less scrutiny from prosecutors and the media.” Also, the archbishop of Santiago refused to turn documents over to the court.
The UN Committee Against Torture also urged a “prompt and impartial” investigation in the case of Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the pope’s nuncio (ambassador) to the Dominican Republic.
A dossier accusing Wesolowski of sex abuse of minors was sent to Pope Francis “sometime in July” 2013 by Santo Domingo Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez. The pope found the information credible enough to dismiss Wesolowski on August 21 via confidential letter. But the pope never reported Wesolowski to civil authorities. The public became aware of the accusations against the archbishop during a TV expose on August 30, but Wesolowski had already disappeared.
The pope’s ambassador was accused of soliciting sex for money from Santo Domingo’s poorest boys. “We learned from the children that Wesolowski took pictures of them while they were masturbating. Oral sex was performed,” Nuria Piera, an investigative journalist in the Dominican Republic, said. “He abused that poverty and used that mechanism to approach children and take advantage of them for years,” according to Yeni Berenice Reynoso, National District prosecutor.
Wesolowski’s whereabouts remained unknown until Santo Domingo Auxiliary Bishop Víctor Masalles tweeted on June 24, 2014: “For me it was a surprise to see Wesolowski walking along Via della Scrofa in Rome.” Embarrassed, the Vatican announced on June 27 that Wesolowski had been laicized (defrocked) “in the past few days,” but he was not put under arrest inside the Vatican City State. The press reported this as “the most tangible demonstration of what Pope Francis called his ‘zero tolerance’ for child sex abuse.”
On Sept. 26, 2014, the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Serra reported that Wesolowski was arrested by order of the pope because “there was a serious risk that the nuncio would be arrested on Italian territory at the request of the Dominican authorities and then extradited.” Wesolowski had more than 100,000 computer files of pornography. “Some were downloaded from the internet and others the victims themselves were forced to take. The prelate stored part of this chamber of horrors on his own laptop. The material, which is classified by type, shows dozens of young girls engaged in sexual activities but the preference is for males. Images show youngsters aged between 13 and 17 being humiliated for the camera, filmed naked and forced to have sexual relations with each other or with adults. … Wesolowski is suspected of belonging to an international network that extends well beyond what has emerged so far.” Even under house arrest in the Vatican, Wesolowski was still able to access child porn on the internet.
Wesolowski, age 67, was scheduled for trial July 11 but it was halted due to the archbishop’s “illness.” His lawyer said, “he didn’t know what ails his client. ‘I saw him two or three days ago, and, given his age and his state of mind, he was fine,’ said Antonello Blasi.”
Had the trial taken place, testimony would have confirmed that the pope allowed Wesolowski to remain a free man for 14 months regardless of how many times the pope said he was taking “action” against prelates on the issue of sex abuse; and that, during this time, Wesolowski acquired more than 100,000 computer files of pornography with disturbing photos of children who were likely victims of human trafficking – an issue on which Pope Francis wants to be seen as a world leader. At a July 21 conference for mayors from around the world held in the Vatican, the pope told the group he hoped they would address “how climate change affects the trafficking of people.”
Wesolowski’s body was discovered on August 28 in his Vatican quarters. The next day, the Vatican announced that an autopsy was performed by “a commission of three [unnamed] experts, coordinated by Giovanni Arcudi, Professor of Forensic Medicine … From the first conclusions reached by the macroscopic examination, it is confirmed the natural cause of death was a cardiac event.” No mention was made where the postmortem was conducted.
On May 4, 1998, the bodies of the captain-commander of the Swiss Guard, Alois Estermann, his wife and vice-corporal Cedric Tornay were found with gunshot wounds in Estermann’s Vatican apartment. Within three hours, Vatican spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls announced to the press that he had solved the crime: Tornay had killed the other two then turned the handgun on himself in a “fit of madness.”
“The two forensic pathologists working for the Holy See, Pietro Fucci and Giovanni Arcudi, carried out the autopsy a few hours after the crime, and in secret.” The results “were consistent with the hypothesis which the Vatican advanced immediately after the slayings were discovered: that Tornay was responsible for all three deaths.”
Tornay’s mother, Muguette Baudat, refused to believe her son was a murderer and had another autopsy done by Thomas Krompecher, professor at the University of Lausanne’s Institute of Forensic Pathology. Luc Brossollet, one of Baudat’s lawyers, explained the incisors were broken as if a gun had been forced into his mouth. The bullet’s exit hole did not correspond with the caliber of Tornay’s regulation pistol found at the scene.
The autopsy also revealed “a fracture to a cranium bone, the petrosal bone, which was not on the bullet’s path, as well as the presence of blood and mucus inside the lungs, a substance which the body secretes when respiration is difficult. Cedric Tornay had therefore been struck on the head before being killed by a shot fired from a weapon into his mouth. On the other hand, no trace could be found of the brain tumor which, according to the Vatican inquiry, was the cause of the Swiss Guard’s ‘behavioral disorders.’”
So the pope will speak against human trafficking at the UN. And the media will fail to note that a large component is the “use force, fraud, or coercion to control other people for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex. Pornography not only contributes to the demand for sex trafficking … but it also contributes to child exploitation, sexual violence, and lifelong porn addictions.”
“Pope Francis’ visit to the United Nations will certainly be a historic moment, with the possibility on the part of the Holy Father to speak of the priorities that he sees as urgent and necessary [e.g.] Christians are often victims of abuses and persecution,” said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See at the UN in Geneva.
On August 31, 2015, the pope urged members of the International Catholic Legislators Network “to be strong” against a throw-away culture marked by Christian persecution and the rejection of the unborn and migrants. Among these issues are the persecution and “genocide” of Christians. Another issue raised was Europe’s inability to address those who enter the continent seeking to recolonize it “in the name of Islam,” stated US Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), a member of the network.
Citing the deaths and suffering of Christians in the Middle East, in the past six months:
• The pope called for “concrete participation and tangible help in the defense and protection of our brothers and our sisters.”
• He urged the international community to “take action” in the face of “unacceptable” crimes against religious minorities, particularly Christians.
• He said the international community would be justified in stopping Islamist militants in Iraq.
London Cardinal Vincent Nichols told the BBC “removing the Islamic State (IS) by force ‘has to be achieved’ for peace in Iraq.”
Washington DC Cardinal Donald Wuerl, said he believes, “like Pope Francis, that it is morally allowable to stop an unjust aggressor.”
The prelate of Wall Street, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, was invited to address the conference, “The Islamic State’s Religious Cleansing and the Urgency of a Strategic Response” sponsored by the Hudson Institute. Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, is senior vice president. The institute is funded by “many of the foundations and corporations that have bankrolled the conservative movement,” and some of the trustees, staff and fellows are the men who took us to war in Iraq.
Dolan recently asked: “’Why don’t we Christians have our own Holocaust literature?’ By that he didn’t mean Christian reflections on the Jewish Shoah, which are already abundant. He was asking why there isn’t a similar body of writing, art, drama, music, and so on inspired by Christianity’s new martyrs.”
In February, the pope’s UN ambassador, Archbishop Auza, was invited to speak to a congressional hearing by the House subcommittee on global human rights chaired by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ). He warned them of the “flagrant and widespread persecution of Christians rages in the Middle East even as we meet.”
On Sept. 10, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), co-chair of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, helped introduce a resolution in Congress “to label the atrocities committed by the Islamic State against Christians and other religious minorities ‘genocide’ … His resolution cited Pope Francis’ July 10 plea for ‘our brothers and sisters’ in the Middle East who face ‘a form of genocide.’”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has called for sending 10,000 U.S. troops each to Iraq and Syria. With the decades-long alliance between the Catholic Church and the GOP in mind, it is not improbable that if a Republican gains the White House in 2016, the “persecution of Christians” will be one of the casus belli for another US troop buildup in the Middle East.
However, before ISIS began targeting Christians in mid-2014 and the victims were all Muslims, Pope Francis held a day of prayer for peace in Syria on Sept. 7, 2013. Addressing tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square, Francis urged the international community to make every effort to bring about peace based on “dialogue and negotiations.” “Violence never leads to peace, war leads to war, violence leads to violence,” he said. He proclaimed “War, never again.”
The pope was expected to have a meeting with Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin at the UN. It would be their third.
Putin has positioned himself as an ally of Pope Francis in contrast to Pres. Obama as regards Syria. Although the massacre of civilians had been ongoing since the day he was elected, Bergoglio didn’t hold a peace rally until the US president proposed a limited air strike to deter the further use of chemical weapons.
Noting the success of the US religious right in electing war mongers, Putin formed an alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church.
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill sent Obama a letter asking him “to listen to the cries of religious leaders who unanimously opposed proposals for military intervention” against Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad.
In a move sure to curry favor with the pope for whom protection of Christians in the Middle East is a top priority, Putin was considering granting Russian citizenship to about 50,000 Syrian Christians. “Syrian Christians, abandoned by Obama, turning to Russia for protection,” was the headline of an Oct. 17, 2013, article citing Christian leaders who praised Russia as the guarantor of “peace and stability.”
The Kremlin sided with the Vatican by opposing abortion and homosexuality as international human rights at the UN on Nov. 1, 2013. The same day, at the World Council of Churches meeting, Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church denounced “the destruction of traditional family values and the rise of same-sex relationships,” common themes of both the US religious right and the Vatican.
The pope met with Puting later the same month.
“Francis publicly voiced his frustration over ‘a war between Christians,’” but to strengthen his alliance with Putin, the pope did not condemn Putin’s actions in the Ukraine. “Svyatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, called on the pontiff to speak out against Russia … insisting his flock ‘expected more from their spiritual father.’”
Putin and the pope met again in June 2015. The same week, Obama said that the G7 nations would toughen sanctions against Russia if the conflict in Ukraine escalated. Putin’s meeting with Pope Francis was “far less confrontational.” “Francis spoke to Putin about the ‘grave humanitarian crisis’ in the region and the need for victims of the conflict to be given access to aid.”
In July 2015, an official from the pope’s Secretariat of State noted the pontiff met with Putin “when Russia was at its most isolated in the international sphere … Russia is clearly an important international player and I think we all need to walk together … The Russian Federation can play a role in bringing stability to the Mediterranean, as it did in the recent nuclear deal reached with Iran … With the ‘Syria day’ held in 2013, the Holy See effectively prevented a military escalation in Syria.”
11:30 a.m. Multi-religious service at 9/11 Memorial and Museum, World Trade Center
Pope Frances refused the Dalai Lama’s request for a meeting on December 11, 2014, because “the Holy See’s relationship with the Chinese government is currently going through a very delicate – a crucial in fact – phase. In recent weeks China appeared to be reaching out to the Vatican, signaling a willingness for dialogue.”
“I am deeply saddened and distressed that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, should give in to these pressures and decline to meet the Dalai Lama,’” South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu said in a statement.
China has been waging a “calculated and systematic strategy aimed at the destruction of Tibet‘s national and cultural identities,” often personified by their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. The pope’s choice was a victory for China. “[T]he attention of public opinion in the West to the Dalai Lama is going down by the day,” a Chinese official said on December 19, 2014.
Jews should also be displeased with Pope Francis.
“Pope Francis’ decision that … the faithful can receive absolution from priests of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) is the most recent attempt at reconciliation with the priestly society [and] can be seen in the context of a hope for full reconciliation.”
When the fascist leader of the SSPX, Archbishop Lefebvre, consecrated four bishops without the permission of Pope John Paul II in 1988, the illicit consecration resulted in the excommunication of the five bishops. The excommunications were lifted in 2009 by Benedict XVI amid a media outcry because one of the bishops was a Holocaust-denier. Talks between the SSPX and the Vatican resumed in 2014 at the direction of Pope Francis.
The cardinal Pope Francis named as his successor in Buenos Aires “recognized a branch of the SSPX as an ‘association of diocesan right,’ marking the first time [the group] has been officially recognized by a Catholic diocese.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center named SSPX as influential within the French far-right, anti-Semitic party.
The Southern Poverty Law Center kept SSPX on their “Hatewatch” list because of the virulent anti-Semitism of its leaders.
Holocaust survivors and their heirs are petitioning this pope to audit accounts at the Vatican Bank believed to have held funds looted during the Second World War by Nazi allied governments. Pope Francis has refused to address or even acknowledge the issue.
Financial columnist, Brett Arends: “The president, the media and other public figures ought to stand shoulder to shoulder with Jewish groups and insist that if Pope Francis wants to be hailed for his openness and candor … he can start by at last throwing open the Vatican’s secret records about its shady dealings with Hitler, Mussolini and their allies before, during and after World War II. What did the Vatican know about the Holocaust and other atrocities taking place? How much did it cover up? And, most of all, how much did it profit from them?”
4:00 p.m. Visit to Our Lady Queen of Angels School, East Harlem
The pope will greet “about 150 immigrants and refugees from Central and South America, Africa and Asia” who benefit from Catholic Charities, including some who fled Honduras.
One month after his election, this pope appointed Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga as head of his Council of Cardinals. Rodriguez Maradiaga actively supported the coup which overthrew the progressive Pres. Manuel Zelaya in 2009.
The statements made by Cardinal Rodriguez are so remote from reality so as to be dangerous to the Honduran people, since he is in some ways the real voice of the oligarchy and the main moral legitimacy of the coup perpetrated by the oligarchs, politicians and military, in collusion with sectors of the Republican wing of the United States of America and a sector of the Church known as Opus Dei.
The coup represented a disastrous step backward for Honduran society as well as its politics … Drug trafficking is now embedded in the state itself … Such crime and corruption have rendered millions of Hondurans destitute and desperate. Two-thirds of its people now live below the national poverty level and Honduras’s soaring homicide rate leads the world at nearly one per thousand people each year. These conditions, in turn, fueled a horrifying surge in child migration to the United States.
At a press conference at the East Harlem school, Msgr. Sullivan said: “We are very pleased that the message that Pope Francis has articulated with such clarity – that the Church is of the poor and for the poor – is resonating. We’re so proud of that message.”
In 2013 (the last year available), the New York archdiocese showed $514.6 million in assets – including $234.8 million cash and investments – against $318.7 in liabilities. Of $213 million in annual revenue, $49.5 was from government grants and contracts. As was true for Washington D.C. and all Catholic entities, private or hidden accounts and assets are impossible to find.
According to the latest (2013) financial report of the archdiocese’s Catholic Charities, half of its revenue comes from government sources. The prelate of Wall Street, Cardinal Dolan, can count on donations from this country’s wealthiest men and women, so he need contribute nothing.
Dolan “is believed to be Manhattan’s largest landowner, if one includes the parishes and organizations that come under his jurisdiction.” Separate from archdiocesan and Catholic Charities funds, “local and federal government bankroll the Medicare and Medicaid of patients in Catholic hospitals, the cost of educating pupils in Catholic schools and loans to students attending Catholic universities.”
Dolan just closed 55 parishes. According to the archdiocese, there are 2.62 million Catholics within its borders but only 12 percent attend Mass. “This is not, at its core, about finances. It simply has too many churches to meet the needs of its people” (i.e. not enough people for so many churches), an archdiocesan spokesman said.
“The Archdiocese of New York has closed 50 Catholic schools in the last five years alone, and has said another two dozen could be on the chopping block due to rising personnel costs.” The US bishops have fought for decades for more tax-payer support of their schools. “In New York, Catholic leaders teamed up with Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to push for a tax credit scholarship program earlier this year … One proposal would allow donors to deduct $1 million from their tax bill in exchange for a $1.3 million dollar donation to a private scholarship organization … ‘This tax credit is just another scheme to reward billionaires,’ Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said in a June  statement. ‘It gives them the power to send money to their favorite private schools and takes a big chunk out of their tax bill. At the same time, it drains money from public schools.’”
Depending if the pope’s handlers think his war against women is getting too much media attention, Dolan may announce the canonization of Dorothy Day during the pope’s visit. Day, besides being female, founded the Catholic Worker Movement with Peter Maurin in 1933 to serve the poor, unemployed and homeless of New York City. It would be a win-win-win for the pontiff because it would also add to his “liberal” credentials and, since Day had an abortion, illustrates his “forgiveness” for women who have confessed their “sin.”
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