Tag Archives: Roman Catholicism

More corruption in the Catholic church

If Pope Benedict XVI has been praying for a break from the endless criticisms against the Catholic church, it looks like he’s out of luck. Today’s news is about his statement condemning what he calls the deplorable actions of Belgian police who raided a cathedral in the country as part of their ongoing investigations on sexual abuse by Catholic priests. What’s especially shocking about this statement is his insistence that the Catholic church be allowed autonomy to investigate the sexual abuse allegations on their own.

So far, so bad but there’s nothing particularly new in all this. What’s more interesting is this extended expose published last week in Der Spiegel about a more conventional kind of corruption in the church’s organization in Germany. From the article:

The Catholic Church in Germany, already struggling to cope with the sex abuse scandal, has been hit by revelations of theft, opaque accounting and extravagance. While the grassroots faithful are being forced to make cutbacks, some bishops enjoy the trappings of the church’s considerable hidden wealth.

Shortly before Pentecost, Pastor S. received an unexpected early morning visit, not from the Holy Ghost, but from the police.

For the authorities, the words of the Gospel of Luke came true on that morning: He who seeks finds. More than €131,000 ($158,000) were hidden in various places in the rooms of the Catholic priest, tucked in between his laundry or attached to the bottom of drawers. The reverend was arrested on the spot. After several weeks in custody, Hans S., 76, is now back at the monastery, waiting for his trial.

And lo and behold, the proliferation of cash may have been even more miraculous than initially assumed. The public prosecutor’s office in the southern city of Würzburg now estimates that S. may have embezzled up to €1.5 million from collections and other church funds. The members of his flock in a wine-growing village in the northern Bavarian region of Franconia are stunned. They had blindly trusted their shepherd, who always seemed so humble and modest.

The Catholic Church is currently being shaken by a number of financial scandals, not only in Franconia but also in Augsburg, another Bavarian city, where Bishop Walter Mixa’s dip into funds from a foundation that runs children’s homes recently made headlines.

More than €40 million have gone missing in the Diocese of Magdeburg in eastern Germany, €5 million have disappeared in Limburg near Frankfurt, and it was recently discovered that a senior priest in the Diocese of Münster had 30 secret bank accounts. And while parishes throughout Germany are cutting jobs and funds for community work, many bishops are still living on the high horse. A brand-new residence? An ostentatious home for their retirement? Restoration of a Marian column to the tune of €120,000? None of these expenditures presents a problem to high-ranking church officials from Trier in the west to Passau in the southeastern corner of Bavaria, whose coffers are brimming with cash.

The behavior of the church is this regard is precisely the same as what one would expect to see from corrupt government officials: insistence that church accounts are secret and spending is totally at the discretion of church officials, refusal to open up the books to independent auditors, extravagant spending on residences for clerics while maintaining that all this is for the good of the church and even keeping large sums of money in cash instead of in a bank account. As the article notes, all this is made even more painful as the parishioners who actually use the church’s services face austerity cutbacks.

Extra chuckles at how the church continues to benefit from such frivolities as free firewood and altar wine due to centuries-old treaties between the church and the state that lawmakers in Germany never bothered to review and probably know nothing about.

Excommunication of Catholic nun

This is latest piece of news throwing the archaic morality of the Catholic church into the spotlight. To summarize, a pregnant woman was discovered to be gravely ill and the doctors decided that if she continued with the pregnancy, both her and her baby would almost certainly die. The patient therefore agreed to an abortion. The problem was that she was too sick to be moved and the hospital she was in was a Catholic one.

After some hesitation, an administrator at the hospital, Sister Margaret McBride, gave her approval for the abortion. The patient was duly saved at the cost of the fetus. But when the bishop heard about it, he declared that the nun was automatically excommunicated. According to the church, this was because it is not permissible to do evil even to bring about good as the end does not justify the means and abortion is unequivocally evil. The official church position is that the correct thing to do would be to allow both the mother and the fetus to die.

What’s even more infuriating about all this is that the patient was only 11 weeks pregnant, so the fetus had absolutely no chance of survival independently of the mother. Predictably, critics have compared this harsh and immediate judgment with the church’s tolerance of child sexual abuse by members of the clergy. It seems that according to the church, an abortion is a mortal sin that cannot be tolerated, regardless of the context and circumstances, while pedophile priests are to be sympathized with and forgiven.

British atheists call for arrest of Pope Benedict XVI

Well, this is a rather dramatic turn of events. The article’s title is a bit of an exaggeration as Richard Dawkins has since clarified that the idea came mainly from Christopher Hitchens and he never actually said that he would personally arrest the Pope, but the basic facts remain the same. Two lawyers, Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens, will try to bring the Pope to justice for his role in covering up child abuse cases involving clergy of the Roman Catholic Church. They will either convince the Crown Prosecution Service to initiate criminal proceedings against the Pope, launch a civil suit of their own or have the case referred to the International Criminal Case.

The case will of course be complicated by the embarrassment that this will bring to the British government and the fact that the Pope is the head of state of the Vatican City, but the current plan is for something to be ready by the time of the Pope’s planned visit to the UK in September later this year. This may end up as being no more than a publicity stunt and the British atheists seem to happy if all that they’ve managed to achieve is to force the Pope to cancel the trip.

Continue reading British atheists call for arrest of Pope Benedict XVI

Devil is in the Vatican

Or so claims no less a figure than the Chief Exorcist at the Vatican for 25 years. This article is surreal to read. It seems like something drawn from the script of a horror movie but it’s actual testimony from a senior cleric who has worked in the Vatican in an official capacity. How cool is it that the Vatican even has a post called “Chief Exorcist”?

But it is kind of troubling to see someone so high up in the Vatican have such a literal belief in the devil. As one commentator on QT3 asked, this guy apparently has assistants to hold supposedly possessed persons down to perform exorcism rituals on them. Wouldn’t it make more sense in our times to take that person to a doctor specializing in mental illnesses? Is there any third party oversight on what they do at all? It makes one think where the line is between respectable quirks of religion and all out looney tunes territory.

Scientists Protest Over Pope’s Planned Speech

Pope Benedict XVI recently got in the news again when he cancelled a speech he was due to give at the La Sapienza University in Rome due to protests by professors and students. The protesters objected to having a prominent religious leader giving a speech in a secular and public institution and referenced a previous speech made by the Pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in which he seemed to defend the Inquisition’s verdict against Galileo in 1303, probably the most well-known case of science being persecuted by religion in history.

As far as I can tell, the rector of the university was willing to offer both parties space to voice their respective views, but the Pope decided to cancel instead, which as physicist Marcello Cini, one of the leaders of the protest, noted, was a very smart public relations move on the Pope’s part. The mainstream news coverage of the event sympathizes heavily with the Pope and the popular angle is that the Pope was denied freedom of speech by anti-religious scientists. But from my point of view, it looks like the Pope was willing to speak only if he were the only one allowed to speak, so who’s he to play the freedom of speech card?