Posts Tagged ‘Catholic Church’


Report: Pope Francis Refuses To Punish Pedophile Priests

Pope Francis

A new report reveals Pope Francis is quietly making the Catholic church a safe space for pedophile priests.

The Associated Press reports that Pope Francis is reducing sanctions against pedophile priests, and even refusing to defrock priests found guilty of sexually abusing children, all in the name of mercy.

In one particularly egregious case, Francis let off one notorious pedophile priest, Rev. Mauro Inzoli, with just a lifetime of prayer for abusing five young boys.

The Associated Press reports about the Pope’s leniency towards pedophile priests:

One case has come back to haunt him: An Italian priest who received the pope’s clemency was later convicted by an Italian criminal court for his sex crimes against children as young as 12. The Rev. Mauro Inzoli is now facing a second church trial after new evidence emerged against him, The Associated Press has learned.

The Inzoli case is one of several in which Francis overruled the advice of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and reduced a sentence that called for the priest to be defrocked, two canon lawyers and a church official told AP. Instead, the priests were sentenced to penalties including a lifetime of penance and prayer and removal from public ministry.

The report notes that by refusing to punish pedophile priests Francis is going against the recommendations of his advisers in an attempt to show “mercy.”

In an attempt to justify the Pope’s refusal to fully punish pedophile priests in the name of “mercy,” Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said:

The Holy Father understands that many victims and survivors can find any sign of mercy in this area difficult. But he knows that the Gospel message of mercy is ultimately a source of powerful healing and of grace.

In other words, no justice for victims, no justice for the children raped and abused by Catholic priests, but mercy for the pedophile priests who rape children.

Bottom line: Pope Francis, like the Catholic church he leads, is morally bankrupt.

Pope Francis

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Priest Peter Searson in a school staff photograph

CREDIT: via Candace Sutton from news.com.au

HE WAS a paedophile, a psychopath and a thief who despised women, had a fetish for children and a sneering hatred for the locals of the tiny community.

The creepy Father Peter Searson, who wore his yellow fingernails long and manicured, liked dressing up in an army uniform and carried a pistol he sometimes pointed at parishioners.

He stole $40,000 from the parish finances, killed or tortured animals in front of children and showed them a dead body in a coffin.

He got children to touch his penis, made them kneel between his legs, loitered around the children’s toilets and audio-taped primary schoolers in the confessional box when their admissions became “hot”.

Searson was the fifth child-molesting priest sent by the Catholic Church to the working class community of Doveton, 31km southeast of Melbourne.

With his four predecessors — Father Thomas O’Keeffe, Father Wilfred Baker, Father Victor Rubeo and another priest — Searson gave Doveton’s Catholic Holy Family congregation a 35 year period of sexual abuse.

But as letters from desperate locals show, it was Searson that tore Doveton apart.

Within just two years of his appoinment as parish priest, Doveton’s parishioners and parents were so desperate to rid their community of Searson’s vile presence, they mounted a petition to remove him.

Father Peter Searson (above) who wore his yellow fingernails long and manicured, carried a pistol and left a trail of broken lives in his wake.

Father Peter Searson (above) who wore his yellow fingernails long and manicured, carried a pistol and left a trail of broken lives in his wake.Source:Supplied

The Holy Family Church at Doveton where Searson abused children and tore the community apart with his divisive nature. Picture: Google

The Holy Family Church at Doveton where Searson abused children and tore the community apart with his divisive nature. Picture: GoogleSource:Supplied

This parent said she had taught her daughter to treat Father Searson as “Danger stranger” and asked what priest made children kneel between his legs and ask them about undressing. Picture: Royal Commission.

This parent said she had taught her daughter to treat Father Searson as “Danger stranger” and asked what priest made children kneel between his legs and ask them about undressing. Picture: Royal Commission.Source:Supplied

One parent wrote to the church complaining that Searson had criticised mothers who worked and demoralised anyone who did not put $5 or $10 in the church plate weekly. Picture: Royal Commission.

One parent wrote to the church complaining that Searson had criticised mothers who worked and demoralised anyone who did not put $5 or $10 in the church plate weekly. Picture: Royal Commission.Source:Supplied

Dozens of handwritten notes and letters of complaint written to church authorities reveal shocking details of his abuse and Doveton locals’ anguish at his continuing presence.

The letters, tendered in evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sex Abuse, lay bare a harrowing period in Doveton’s history.

But the letters and the petition were all in vain. Searson remained at Holy Family for 13 years until he was finally ousted for assaulting two boys.

By then, Searson’s sexual abuse and divisive nature had left a trail of broken lives.

Doveton was little more than two decades old when Searson arrived to lead the Holy Family church as its parish priest.

Established in the 1950s, the post World War II suburb was a disadvantaged, low socio-economic public housing estate settled by migrants.

It was on January 21, 1984, that Searson turned up at the church next door to Doveton’s Holy Family Primary School.

He already had a disgraceful record with children and a reputation for hating women.

Complaints about the then 61-year-old stretched back to when he had worked at the St Paul’s School for the Blind at Kew in Melbourne a decade before.

Peter Searson was the fifth paedophile sent to Doveton, following on from Victor Rubeo (right) pictured with one of his victims, Paul Hersbach.

Peter Searson was the fifth paedophile sent to Doveton, following on from Victor Rubeo (right) pictured with one of his victims, Paul Hersbach.Source:Supplied

Paul Hersbach (above) in 2014 after giving evidence at the Royal Commission about how Father Rubeo molested both himself and his father. Picture: Alex Coppel.

Paul Hersbach (above) in 2014 after giving evidence at the Royal Commission about how Father Rubeo molested both himself and his father. Picture: Alex Coppel.Source:News Corp Australia

Originally from Adelaide, and a latecomer to the priesthood, Searson received his first formal complaint of sexual abuse in 1974, 12 years after his ordination in Rome.

By 1978, he had been moved to Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the northwestern Melbourne suburb of Sunbury.

Apart from claims of sexual abuse, Searson caused “deep and bitter resentment … and hurt” among parishioners, according to a letter tendered at the royal commission.

Written by his assistant priest at Sunbury, Phil O’Donnell, to the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne in 1982, it describes how Searson’s “utter humiliation of women has to be seen to be believed. He revels in reducing people to tears”.

Father O’Donnell said Searson had driven parishioners away with his open nastiness, had savaged normally “tough” parish nuns, making them cry, and launched bitter recriminations at members of the congregation he did not feel had put enough in the church plate.

A 1983 letter from the principal of St Anne’s Catholic School in Sunbury to the local bishop highlights a shortfall in a church loan.

Letter from parishioners to the Archbishop complaining that Searson had delivered a sermon on pornography

Letter from parishioners to the Archbishop complaining that Searson had delivered a sermon on pornographySource:Supplied

“Made from the school’s Provident Fund in 1978 for a library and resources area, the loan was for $90,000 and the cost shown is only $57,927. I wonder what the balance was used for,” the principal wrote.

The headmaster at the next school Searson was to be transferred to, Graeme Sleeman, would later tell the church hierarchy he had proof that Searson had stolen $40,000 from school funds.

But Mr Sleeman’s pleas fell on deaf ears in the church hierarchy.

Searson’s transfer from Sunbury to Doveton set off a flurry of complaints.

One handwritten letter, from a group of parishioners, expressed their “disgust at the way” Searson had conducted a Mass for children taking their first communion. with a sermon “based on pornography/censorship”.

The litany of grievances about Searson include his abuse of the school’s tuckshop ladies, padlocking the school gates to keep children out, and punishing children if their parents lodged complaints.

Searson allowed his dog, Rex, described by one assistant priest as Searson’s “only friend”, to urinate and defecate around the tuckshop,

Searson had also “pointed a handgun at a couple” of parishioners and was “turning people, especially teenagers and children … away from the church”.

Two years after his arrival in Doveton, parishioners and parents petitioned for his removal, but they were to suffer his abuse for 11 more years. Picture: RC.

Two years after his arrival in Doveton, parishioners and parents petitioned for his removal, but they were to suffer his abuse for 11 more years. Picture: RC.Source:Supplied

Searson had also berated parishioners for not leaving at least $5 to $10 in the church plate because they were “not below the poverty line”.

And “people employed at the school have been threatened by Father with their jobs if they disagree with him”.

Letters between church and school officials note that when Searson was asked about complaints he demanded to know the names of the parents who had reported on him.

TAPING CONFESSIONS

In November 1985, Catholic nun Sister Joan Powell wrote to a church superior to complain that Father Searson was audio taping children’s confessions.

She wrote that Searson had told the Grade Five teacher that, referring to the children’s confessions “when it starts to hot up I’ll start the tape”.

Concerns were raised about Father Searson’s behaviour. Picture: Royal Commission.

Concerns were raised about Father Searson’s behaviour. Picture: Royal Commission.Source:Supplied

In the letter to Father Doyle, Sister Powell wrote: “There is one girl in the Grade 5 class whose parents have already asked that their daughter not go to Fr. Season for confession because she was so upset after Father made her kneel between his knees.

“Two other girls in the class do everything possible to avoid F. Searson as he always cuddles them.”

The letters regarding Searson show the distress parents felt at his insulting snobbery — like the family he told them their house “wasn’t good enough” for a home mass because it didn’t have carpet — to their despair when the church did nothing about his sexual abuse.

Parent’s letter to the Vicar General of the Catholic Church complaining about Searson’s sexual abuse of young girls during reconciliation.

Parent’s letter to the Vicar General of the Catholic Church complaining about Searson’s sexual abuse of young girls during reconciliation.Source:Supplied

Written to the Archbishop, bishops, the Vicar General of the Church, they complain about Searson holding hands with children during confession, and asking young girls is “they looked at themselves when undressing”.

Many letters declare that both teachers and parents had advised children not to go alone to Father Searson’s office.

In July, 1987, schoolteacher Faye Chandley wrote a file note about a pupil who had “asked to leave classroom and speak with me” and had “sat in chair shaking and crying too ashamed to tell about what had happened to her”.

The girl, named Julie Stewart would later give evidence to the Royal Commission about what Searson had done to her as third-grader.

In Faye Chandley’s note, Julie tells her about Searson coercing her with dolls and wanting to “put his penis at the top of her thighs … talked of ejaculation — white stuff came out — wanted her to hold his penis”.

The abuse “went on for a couple of years” and caused problems for Julie at home.

Ms Stewart told the Royal Commission that Searson would force her to sit on his lap during confession and indecently assault her.

“He would say to me: ‘Do you love father?’ And I said ‘yes’. He would ask me to kiss him on the lips. I did,” she told the inquiry.

During her last confession she said Searson lifted her onto his lap and pushed her against his erect penis.

Note by teacher Faye Chandley about Julie Stewart confessing that Searson had sexually molested her during confession.

Note by teacher Faye Chandley about Julie Stewart confessing that Searson had sexually molested her during confession.Source:Supplied

Julie Stewart was molested as a nine-year-old by Father Searson told her ‘the Lord forgives you’. Picture: ABC TV.

Julie Stewart was molested as a nine-year-old by Father Searson told her ‘the Lord forgives you’. Picture: ABC TV.Source:ABC

List of grievances by teachers and parents against Father Peter Searson when he worked at Holy Family Catholic Church in Doveton. Picture: Royal Commission.

List of grievances by teachers and parents against Father Peter Searson when he worked at Holy Family Catholic Church in Doveton. Picture: Royal Commission.Source:Supplied

“He whispered in my ear: ‘You are a good girl. The Lord forgives you’.”

The nine-year-old snapped and ran screaming out of the confessional and was taken to the principal, Graeme Sleeman’s office.

Mr Sleeman, who also gave evidence at the inquiry, told how he resigned his post in 1986 at the school because of the abuse.

Parents launched a petition to get him back and to try and oust Searson, but nothing happened.

Searson would also belittle parents born abroad whose English was not up to his standard.

He also regularly made statements in his homilies saying that children whose mothers didn’t work should feel loved, while those who had working mothers must “feel unwanted”.

Despite the torrent of letters to Catholic leaders in Victoria, Searson endured at Doveton until March 14, 1997.

He was removed for an accusation of physical rather than sexual assault against boys.

Ms Stewart attempted suicide as a teenager, and received a $25,000 payment from the church which she said just “retraumatised” her.

The church paid a total of $291,000 to three of Searson’s victims via the Melbourne Response program.

Peter Searson died in 2009 before facing any child sex charges. One bishop and 15 priests paid their respects at his funeral in Melbourne.

The letters from parents and teachers about Searson are available on the Royal Commission’s web page.

If you or anyone you know need any help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

A parent’s letter complaining about Searson pointing his pistol at young boys in the church. Picture: RC.

A parent’s letter complaining about Searson pointing his pistol at young boys in the church. Picture: RC.Source:Supplied

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In recent years, religion and the state in Russia have tended to be closely intertwined, with the state using the church as an instrument of manipulation. This is evidenced by the recent conflict over the staging of Tannhӓuser at the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theater. IMR legal expert Ekaterina Mishina analyzes the relationship between the government and the church in today’s Russia and draws parallels with totalitarian and fascist regimes of the recent past.

 

Orthodox activists have been demanding resignations of Boris Mezdrich, director of the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theater, and Timofey Kulyabin, stage director of Tannhӓuser, for a long time. In late March, the activists held the so-called “standing in prayer for protection of religious feelings” in Novosibirsk. Photo: RFE/RL

In 2003, Free Inquiry magazine published an article by political analyst Lawrence Britt titled “Fascism Anyone?” that defined 14 characteristics of a fascist political regime. The article evoked all kinds of reactions, ranging from positive to extremely negative. Particularly harsh criticism was offered by an anonymous commenter who wrote under the pseudonym “Fascist Heart.” Brimming over with enthusiasm, Fascist Heart (here referred to as “he” for ease) tried to tear to pieces both the article itself and its author. His main point was that Britt was an unpleasant and suspicious person because he was not a doctor of political science, but a former manager at such companies as Allied Chemical, Mobil, and Xerox Corp. According to Fascist Heart, no one could be interested in a former manager’s opinion on fascism and its characteristics, because that opinion would by definition be wrong. Apparently, if Britt had worked for some time as a dictator in some small fascist state and gained some experience there, the harsh critic would have approved of his conclusions.

Meanwhile, there are many examples to prove that you can be an outstanding political scientist even without a formal political education: Dmitry Oreshkin, for one, graduated from the Department of Geography at Moscow State University, with a Ph.D. in geography, while Vladimir Pastukhov was trained as a lawyer. I see no reason to dismiss Britt’s views just because he studied business, not political science—especially because the characteristics of a fascist regime defined by Britt generally do not contradict the definition of fascism outlined in the constitutional law of many countries.

According to Britt, fascism has the following features:

  • Powerful and enduring nationalism
  • A disregard of universally recognized human rights
  • A tendency to look for enemies and use the idea of atoning sacrifice as a unifying framework
  • A dominant position in society of the armed forces
  • Strong gender-based discrimination, homophobia, and condemnation of abortion
  • The exertion of state control over the media
  • A maniacal obsession with national security
  • The merging of religion and state
  • Protection of corporations
  • Harassment of trade unions
  • A contempt for intellectuals and the arts that results in the freedom of artistic expression coming under attack
  • An obsession with the idea of crime and punishment, often leading to the police having almost-unlimited powers
  • Rampant nepotism and corruption
  • Rigged elections

That said, Britt does not mention the following characteristics of fascism:

  • A fundamentally different political meaning of the concept of head of state as a result of the dramatic expansion of that role’s actual authority
  • Abandonment of the concept of electivity of the head of state, even under a republican form of government
  • The existence of only one legal political party (in Nazi Germany, the German National Socialist Workers’ Party; in Italy, the National Fascist Party; and in Spain, the Falange of traditionalists and nationalist-syndicalist juntas), with the head of that party (Fuhrer, Duce, Caudillo) usually having full state power
  • An open merger between the dominant fascist party and the state apparatus, resulting in the party becoming the core of a dictatorship
  • A dramatic reduction in the role of the parliament, with the parliament either being abolished (as in Italy, once the fascist regime stabilized) or degenerating into a purely decorative institution, deprived of any features shared by parliaments of democratic states (as in Germany or Portugal until 1974)1

In the constitutional law of many countries, fascism is defined as the most blatant, cynical, and severe form of totalitarianism.2 Therefore, some of the attributes set forth by Britt are common to the majority of fascist as well as a number of totalitarian regimes. One such common feature is the merging of religion and state. As Britt explains this concept, “fascist states use religion as an instrument to control public opinion. State leaders resort to religious rhetoric and terminology even when the basic principles of the religion are completely opposite to the actions or policies of the government.”

Italian prime minister Benito Mussolini was a pioneer in building meaningful dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation between the fascist state and the church. In 1929, Mussolini and Cardinal Pietro Gaspari, who represented the Holy See, signed three documents (the Conciliation Treaty, the Financial Convention, and the Concordat) that went down in history as the Lateran Treaty. This treaty stated that Roman Catholicism was the only state religion of Italy, that the Supreme Pontiff was sacred and inviolable, and that “any attempt against his person or any incitement to commit such attempt” was “punishable by the same penalties as all similar attempts and incitements to commit the same against the person of the king. The Concordat defined a wide range of rights and privileges of the Roman Catholic Church, and Article 1 of the Financing Convention provided for generous payments to the Holy See in exchange for ratification of the Conciliation Treaty.

The recent conflict surrounding the production of Tannhäuser has revealed a new dimension of the relationship between religion and the state in today’s Russia. It clearly demonstrates that if, contrary to the expectations of the state, the church does not act with sufficient toughness, Orthodox activists can be used to manipulate public opinion.

In his book The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe, David Kertzer writes that Pope Pius XI worked closely with Mussolini for more than a decade, giving the fascist regime the institutional power and moral legitimacy of the Roman Catholic Church. According to Kertzer, this alliance was particularly remarkable because of the fact that Mussolini was a staunch supporter of secularism. However, the deal turned out to be beneficial for both sides.3

When, on April 1, 1939, the nationalist leader Francisco Franco came to power in Spain and the Second Republic fell, the winner turned out to be primarily the Catholic Church, which had suffered heavily during Republican rule in the 1930s. Article 3 of the Constitution of 1931 separated the church from the state and declared that there was no official religion in Spain, thus putting an end to the centuries-old power of the church in that nation. Article 26 of the Constitution introduced a series of harsh restrictions on religious communities. In particular, organizations considered to pose a threat to national security were abolished and their property nationalized. Once in power, Franco immediately banned all the reforms of the Second Republic that had had an extremely negative impact on the spiritual and social role of the church in Spain. The church regained its privileged status immediately after the end of the civil war: in June 1941, the rights of the church were formally recognized in an agreement between the Vatican and the government of Franco and then finally formalized in the Concordat signed in August 1953. The church fully adapted to the conditions of the Franco dictatorship, with Cardinal Goma, the Archbishop of Toledo, coining the famous phrase “divine totalitarianism.”

Soviet-style totalitarianism, by contrast, was not so kind to the clergy. The first conflict emerged in December 1917, when the decrees “On Civil Marriage, on Children and on Keeping Civil Registry Books” and “On Divorce” made marriage and family relations exempt from the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Soviet Criminal Code of 1922 clearly demonstrated the attitude of the Bolsheviks to the church. It criminalized the “use of religious prejudices of the masses to overthrow the workers’ and peasants’ government, or to incite resistance against its laws and regulations” (Art. 119); “commission of fraudulent acts to incite superstition among the masses of the population, as well as to benefit in such a way” (Art. 120)“; “teaching religious beliefs among minors in public or private educational institutions and schools” (Art. 121); and “practicing worship in public institutions and enterprises, as well as placement of any religious images in such buildings” (Art. 124).

It wasn’t until the post-Soviet period that the relations between the Russian authorities and the church started to warm up, and gradually this relationship morphed into something that is very reminiscent of the “merging of religion and state.” In this sense the Pussy Riot case is symbolic. Instead of being prosecuted under Article 5.26, part 2, of the Code of Administrative Offenses for “insulting religious feelings of citizens or desecration of articles, marks and emblems relating to the world outlook symbols thereof,” members of the punk group were convicted of criminal offenses under Article 213 of the Criminal Code (hooliganism). The conviction of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina is a classic example of the genre of selective enforcement. Apparently, in order to avoid accusations of religiously based prosecution, Russian lawmakers decided to create a respectable legal framework to prosecute those who offend the religious feelings of citizens. On June 29, 2013, Article 148 of the Criminal Code, which until then had modestly criminalized “illegal obstruction of the activity of religious organizations or of the performance of religious rites,” was expanded to include new provisions. The revised article criminalized “public actions expressing obvious disrespect for society and committed to insulting the religious feelings of believers,” as well as the commission of such acts “in places specially designated for worship and other religious rites and ceremonies.” It thus became much easier and more convenient for the state to protect the feelings of the faithful.

The recent conflict surrounding the production of Tannhäuser has revealed a new dimension of the relationship between religion and the state in today’s Russia. It clearly demonstrates that if, contrary to the expectations of the state, the church does not act with sufficient toughness, Orthodox activists can be used to manipulate public opinion. After all, except for Metropolitan Tikhon, who filed a complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office, none of the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church called for any action to be taken against the director of Tannhäuser or the director of the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theater. On the contrary, on March 5, the official website of the Russian Orthodox Church published an explanation by Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Information Department, in connection with the situation. His words were correct and encouraging: any believer or priest, he wrote, who notices something in the public sphere that he considers blasphemous or insulting to his feelings should not immediately rush to the Prosecutor’s Office. “A sinner is not only the one who blasphemes God, but also the one who falsely accuses someone of blasphemy,” claimed Legoyda. However, these words were ignored by Orthodox activists. A prayer event held in the center of Novosibirsk on March 29 looked quite menacing. Slogans like “Down with American quasi-occupation” did not make this rally look like something peaceful, and appeals to “protect the sacred and save Russia” sounded very much like the infamous “Kill the Jews and save Russia.”

In today’s Russia, the government actively uses religious communities to manipulate public opinion, even though religion and state are legally separated in accordance with Article 14 of the Constitution. Protection of religious feelings is increasingly being used as an argument to justify harassment and escalate criminal persecution. It could also come in handy for officials seeking to justify the reintroduction of censorship.

 

References:

  1. See. А.А. Мишин, Конституционное (государственное) право зарубежных стран. Москва, “Статут”, 2013, pp. 149–157.
  2. Ibid, p. 150.
  3. David I. Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe (New York: Random House, 2014).

 

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Catholic Leaguer gloats over killing anti-child abuse bill: It was an attempted ‘rape’ of the church
Via Brad Reed

Catholic League president Bill Donohue (Screenshot)

Fanatical Catholic League President Bill Donohue on Monday gloated after he successfully helped kill a bill in the New York legislature that would have made it easier for sex abuse victims to bring cases against their accusers.

As The New York Daily News reports, Donohue sent out an email to supporters after the defeat of the Child Victims Act, an act that he said was designed “to rape the Catholic Church.” The bill would have extended the timeframe that victims can bring forward cases by five years and would have opened up a six-month period for victims to revive older cases.

“The bill was sold as justice for the victims of sexual abuse, when, in fact, it was a sham,” Donohue wrote in an email obtained by The New York Daily News. “[It was] a vindictive bill pushed by lawyers and activists out to rape the Catholic Church.”

Donohue’s accusation that the bill would have “raped” the church certainly seems in poor taste given that the bill was meant to help people who had been raped by Catholic priests.

Then again, Donohue is used to being intentionally provocative, such as when he suggested both Islamist radicals and murdered cartoonists both bore equal blame for the Charlie Hebdo massacre, or when he ripped Pope Francis for the grave sin of accepting the science behind climate change.

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Pro-choice movement in Poland is taking on church and state

Why are so many Polish women turning their backs on the Catholic Church?

People protest in Gdansk against Polish government plans to tighten anti-abortion laws. Photograph: Michal Fludra/Gallo Images Poland/Getty ImagesPeople protest in Gdansk against Polish government plans to tighten anti-abortion laws. Photograph: Michal Fludra/Gallo Images Poland/Getty Images

On April 3rd, the Middle Ages engaged in an unusual skirmish with the 21st century in cities across Poland. During Sunday Mass in this overwhelmingly Catholic country, priests read their congregations a letter from the Polish episcopate calling for an unconditional ban on abortion.

Scores of women then walked out in protest, their exodus filmed in famous churches such as St Mary’s Basilica in Gdansk and St Anne’s Church in Warsaw.

Outside, thousands of women gathered on city streets and squares, listening to pro-choice speakers and holding up signs that flashed their opinions: “Hands off my uterus,” “No to torturing women,” “I’ll have a child when I want to.” They brandished coat hangers, an implement of dangerous self- induced abortion first politicised by American feminists in the 1960s.

These actions mark an extraordinary nationwide moment for Polish women and Polish Catholicism. I have been studying Polish culture since the 1980s, when the Catholic Church strived to be the true ally of the working class in a communist state. The 1978 election of a Polish pope, John Paul II, bolstered the rise of Solidarity, an independent trade union that eventually engendered several political parties in post-1989 Poland. The church produced martyrs for the people’s cause.

Compromise

The church wielded even greater authority over Polish society after the fall of communism, though that authority remained deeply patriarchal, with liberty and justice for some, not all. John Paul II stood tough against a corrupt communist system and initiated an important rapprochement between Catholics and Jews, but a campaign for women’s reproductive rights lay beyond his religious belief. This Polish pope subscribed fully to the Catholic doctrine that human life begins at conception. Abortion had been legal in communist Poland. In post-communist Poland, the church helped push through a “compromise” in 1993 – a law that allowed women to have abortions only in the case of rape, incest, severe foetal impairment and risk to the mother’s life.

Poland’s abortion law is one of the most restrictive in the world, yet was not ameliorated even after the country’s admission into the European Union in 2004.

Why, then, have so many Polish women turned their backs on the church in recent weeks? For six months, huge numbers of Poles have taken to the streets, protesting against an ever more repressive government. The conservative Law and Justice party, which won a clear majority in parliament last October, wasted no time pushing its nationalist agenda. It has defied the authority of the extant Polish constitution and the constitutional tribunal, placed a “leftist” public media under government control, distanced itself from the socially liberal policies of the EU and tarnished as traitors those who disagree with its anti-pluralist stance on virtually every issue ranging from sexuality to national self-criticism.

Now members of the Committee in Defence of Democracy, which numbers in the hundreds of thousands, march en masse in Polish cities almost every week, carrying signs and giving speeches.

Anti-abortion protests

Their efforts have provoked opposition, with anti-abortion protests springing up as well. Backed by the church, those protesters have called for a tightening of the abortion laws to allow abortion only when the woman’s life is in danger.

Polish Catholic women did not decide to walk out of church on April 3rd until the episcopate ordered priests to endorse Law and Justice legislation during Mass. The line separating church and state was expediently erased. A supposedly independent lobbying committee, Stop Abortion, collected the 100,000 signatures required to present the abortion ban Bill to parliament; only the church could approve such a Bill; and the all-Catholic Law and Justice party could only obey the church. Lest there be any opposition, the church enlisted its local representatives to tell the faithful how to vote.

This church-party strategy backfired, provoking rather than pre-empting opposition. A non-partisan group, Women for Women, formed on Face- book, gathering 100,000-plus members and organising protests and church walkouts. The opposition has picked up steam and plenty of left-wing political support, generating a new committee, Let’s Save Women, which proposes more radical legislative and educational reform.

Let’s Save Women has three months to collect the 100,000 signatures needed to propose its Bill “in support of women’s rights and informed parenting” – specifically, legalised abortion for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, Poles’ guaranteed access to contraceptives without a prescription, and mandatory sex education in the schools. Supporters of Let’s Save Women insist they will not accept a church-run government – the result being a contentious battle between theocracy and secular democracy in 21st-century Poland.

Beth Holmgren is a professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at Duke University

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How the Vatican Manipulates the American Democratic Process

Editor’s note: The following has been adapted from Chapter 4 of our chairman Dr. Stephen D. Mumford’s book, American Democracy and the Vatican: Population Growth and National Security (1984). This book is available on Kindle here.

The Abortion Movement

In 1980, Federal Judge John Dooling, United States District Court, Eastern District of New York, declared that the Hyde Amendment, which prevented Medicaid payment for abortion, was unconstitutional. (Copies of Judge Dooling’s 328-page decision in McRae vs. HEW are rare. During a recent conversation with the Brooklyn United States District Court, I was told that their copy had disappeared and, for this reason, they were not in a position to reproduce it.) Judge Dooling had spent a year gathering evidence and studying the anti-abortion movement, and his findings showed that the anti-abortion movement was essentially a Roman Catholic movement with a little non-Catholic window dressing.[8] The amendment, says Dooling bluntly, was a ploy by anti-abortion congressmen frustrated in their attempt to pass a constitutional amendment that would override the Supreme Court’s 1973 pro-abortion decision; its purpose was quite simply to circumvent the Court’s ruling and prevent as many abortions as possible. Dooling, a practicing Catholic, makes short shrift of the anti-abortionists’ pretensions to be a spontaneous grass-roots movement that owes its political victories to sheer moral appeal. He confirms that the right-to-life’s main source of energy, organization, and direction has been the Catholic Church, and he describes in detail how the movement uses one-issue voting to put pressure on legislators, candidates, and the party organizations that nominate them—a tactic that gains influence far out of proportion to its numbers. Please see appendix one for excerpts from Judge Dooling’s decision in McRae vs. HEW.

What is most significant in this extract is Judge Dooling’s finding that the anti-abortion movement’s main source of energy, organization, and direction has been the Catholic Church. The bishops’ Pastoral Plan prompted the creation of the Moral Majority. Richard A. Viguerie, a Catholic, is the man most responsible for the development and success of the New Right, and he will be the first to claim that honor. He was also involved in the original discussions that led to the creation of the Moral Majority and, as its fundraiser, can be credited with its financial success. Paul Weyrich, a Catholic, claims credit for originating the idea for the group and the name itself. In their search for an attractive front man for the organization, they chose Jerry Falwell, who, according to intimates, has an insatiable lust for power—and, thus, Moral Majority, Inc., was born.[9]

It is inconceivable that these Catholic laymen were not responding to the bishops’ Pastoral Plan. Much went into avoiding public disclosure of the role of the Catholic Church in the creation of the Moral Majority. Maxine Negri, in “A Well-Planned Conspiracy,” exposed involvement of the Catholic hierarchy in the Moral Majority.[10] Then, the June 21, 1982, issue of U.S. News and World Report noted:

At the heart of Moral Majority is a direct-mail operation…. Membership claims … put the number of Moral Majority’s active supporters at roughly 4 million Roman Catholics, Protestant fundamentalists, and orthodox Jews. The organization says its “hardcore contributors,” numbered at more than 400,000, include a cadre of 80,000 priests, ministers, and rabbis organized into fifty autonomous chapters.

This claim of autonomy should not be taken seriously. What is described here is exactly the organization described in the Pastoral Plan of Action down to the details.

None of us who has ever worked extensively with fundamentalist churches or lived among fundamentalists ever took the claim that the Moral Majority was a fundamentalist organization seriously. One characteristic common among fundamentalists is a keen sense of individualism, and individualists are often fundamentalists because of this trait. There is self-selection. They strongly resist the “herding” that characterizes other major denominations such as the Catholic Church. It is very difficult to organize two or three local fundamentalist churches to carry out even a local short-term civic activity. Organizing much beyond this is inconceivable. In contrast, the Catholic Church, with its keen sense of organization acquired over a two-thousand-year history, found the “organization” of the fundamentalists a relatively simple task by providing with few exceptions the entire organization infrastructure, including the organization of the fifty autonomous state chapters and the organizations in the 435 congressional districts.

The far more experienced and autocratic Catholic Church found the fundamentalists easy prey. They created “leader” Jerry Falwell and they sought out for other visible positions others who also had an insatiable lust for power. These fundamentalists toe the line of the Catholic Church to maintain their newly acquired visibility and their sense of power. And, of course, the purse strings of the Moral Majority are controlled by those who collect the money—represented by Richard Viguerie. As the old adage goes, “he who controls the purse strings, controls the organization.”

The Family-Planning Movement

There is little doubt that virtually all opposition to the family-planning movement is Roman Catholic. The anti-family-planning movement’s main source of energy, organization, and direction clearly has been the Roman Catholic Church. Most people outside the family-planning field are not aware that this anti-family-planning movement continues to score major victories, such as preventing the U.S. sale of Depo-Provera, the birth-control injectable given every three months, a method which all available data indicate is safer than birth control pills. Depo-Provera is used by tens of millions of women around the world and is now approved by over one hundred countries, including most European countries, WHO, and other prestigious groups. Other victories include successfully laying roadblocks that prevent tens of thousands of women from receiving sterilization operations when they want them, roadblocks which result in thousands of unwanted births yearly. Far more important are the successes of the Church in minimizing U.S. assistance to family-planning efforts in developing countries.

Many of these victories for the Church come under the heading “Administrative Areas” in the bishops’ Pastoral Plan of Action. Two recent examples of Catholic Church activity are the mandatory notification of parents of teens who seek contraceptives at federally funded clinics and the banning of federal funds for family-planning clinics which provide abortion.

The ERA Movement

The Equal Rights Amendment died June 30, 1982. I am certain that its failure was the result of the success of the Catholic hierarchy’s bold efforts to defeat it. As with the anti-abortion movement, the main source of energy, organization, and direction of the anti-ERA movement is the Roman Catholic Church.

In June 1978, I received a Planned Parenthood Washington Memo which contained an article entitled “U.S. Bishops Block Pro-ERA Statement.” In part, it read:

The Roman Catholic hierarchy, in early May, refused to permit issuance of a subcommittee’s statement supporting the Equal Rights Amendment, indicating that the fight against legal abortion takes precedence as its preeminent concern.

The pro-ERA statement was supported by the bishops’ six-member Ad Hoc Committee on Women in the Church and Society, which took pains to separate support for ERA from any connotation of accepting abortion. Furthermore, they sought only to issue the statement in their own behalf and had reportedly consulted with the Family Life section of the bishops’ Department of Education, which apparently approved their conclusions “that the ERA will not threaten the stability of marriage in family life.”

According to a report of the National Catholic News Service, acceptance of the statement had been urged by ninety-four employees of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the U.S. Catholic Conference, but advance disclosures about the issue also generated heavy mail from the “right to life” groups opposing the ERA. The NCCB’s forty-eight-member administrative board, which sets policy for the 345 U.S. Roman Catholic bishops, rejected the pro-ERA document during an early May meeting in Chicago, contending that it could hurt anti-abortion efforts.

It is now apparent that this move by the bishops was a brilliant ploy. The Church not only evaded taking a positive stand on an important social justice issue which threatens its power but it has worked diligently to defeat the ERA by using the very same political action organization used to combat abortion!

In my home state of North Carolina, one of the last hopes of the ERA movement, we saw statewide polls in May 1982 show that two-thirds of our citizens favored the amendment, and, in June 1982, we saw two-thirds of our lawmakers vote to defeat it. Clearly, a vast superior organization killed the ERA in North Carolina, a finely honed and skillful operation, one two thousand years in the making—the same one continuing to fight legalized abortions in our fair state.

Actions Taken by the Church

What actions has the hierarchy taken to counter the abortion, family-planning, and ERA movements?

In 1980, Jean-Guy Vaillancourt, a Canadian Roman Catholic professor of sociology at the University of Montreal, published a book entitled Papal Power: A Study of Vatican Control Over Lay Catholic Elites.[11] This is a study of the techniques intensively used by the Vatican in many countries to control Catholic laypersons in Italy over the past one hundred years. In 1875, the Vatican created a system of local parish committees of at least five members each, called Catholic Actions. These committees were created to organize laypersons to assist the Vatican in seizing control of local, state, and national political machinery. Over the years, the Church gained considerable experience in organizing these committees and in ensuring obedience and a very high degree of responsiveness to the chain of command by the committees. These committees and their more recent counterpart, civic committees, are highly effective in mobilizing Vatican efforts. Vaillancourt places the role of the committees in proper perspective by discussing

a famous open letter presented to the Pope in 1968 by dissatisfied Catholics from France and elsewhere. The letter severely criticized the Vatican’s excessive attachment to wealth and power, stressing the idea that Church authorities are too repressive and manipulative:

“The whole Church apparatus is organized for control: the Roman Curia controls the bishops, the bishops the clergy, the clergy controls the laity … and the lay Christians control (what an illusion!) mankind. Hence a multiplication of secretaries, commissions, structures, etc., with their programs and rules…. Underhand influences have suffocated the openness which had manifested itself at the lay conference in Rome, a congress which had very little communication with the bishops who were then meeting in a synod.”

After this attack on the abuses of social and legal power by church authorities, the letter goes on to describe three of the favorite techniques of control used by the Vatican: secrecy (there are secret files even against bishops), spying and informing, and repression (used even against some of the most respected theologians).

Secrecy can be classified as either a legal or a social method of control, depending on whether it is used as an administrative-legal procedure or as a simple social defense mechanism. Spying and informing would clearly be instances of social power, since they entail the use of social processes. Finally, repression, as discussed in the open letter, refers to a mixture of legal, coercive, and even remunerative power. Concretely, it includes the habitual recourse by Church officials to excommunications, censures, condemnations, demotions, and the removal or firing of offenders from their ecclesiastical jobs.

In researching Papal Power, Vaillancourt studied Vatican control over lay Catholic elites for years, spending a large part of his time at the Vatican. To effect this control, Vaillancourt has found that the Vatican exercises eight kinds of power—all of which have been used and have proved effective in opposing social issues in the United States.

ECOLOGICAL POWER, based on the physical control of material environmental conditions. An example of this is the use of territory, buildings, or real estate to control people through the domination of their environment.

REMUNERATIVE POWER, based on material or nonmaterial rewards or compensations. An example of this is the way the Pius XII Foundation uses its funds to support some lay activities and not others.

COERCIVE POWER, based on physical or psychic violence. Examples of this are burning at the stake, torture, imprisonment, banishment, blackmail, removal from office, denouncement.

SOCIAL POWER, based on the use of structural-organizational or psycho-sociological mechanisms such as Catholic Action congresses, peer-group pressures, rumors, co-optation, social ostracism, socialization, use of mass media, nepotism, and selective recruitment. An example of social power is “conditioning.” …

LEGAL POWER, juridically founded, or simply based on bureaucratic and administrative norms, procedures, and maneuvers. An example of this is the rule of secrecy which affects, under the pain of “grievous sin,” the affairs of the Secretariate of the Pope and the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church in their relations with Vatican diplomats and other high-ranking prelates. Another example is censorship, through the nihil obstat and imprimatur.

TRADITIONAL POWER, based on the use of traditional symbols, rituals, ideas, and sentiments. The cementing of loyalty through a mass of torch-lit procession during a congress would be an example of this kind of power. Appeals to practices (for example, speaking Latin) and documents popular or prevalent in previous times are also instances of the use of traditional power.

EXPERT POWER, based on professional, technical, or scientific or purely rational arguments. An example of this is the recourse to commissions of experts in theology or the social sciences to bolster one’s position. Pius XII’s speeches to numerous groups on a multitude of topics was also an effort to control through expert power.

CHARISMATIC POWER, based on exemplary or ethical prophecy. Examples of this are calls for social justice and equality (used extensively in recent years) or the giving away of some of the Church’s possessions for certain causes (for example, a ring in a Brazilian slum). In a less prophetic vein, the replacement of personal charisma of office and the routinization of charisma are other examples of the use of this kind of power.

The Vatican with one hundred years of experience in controlling nations through these lay Catholic organizations, has chosen to export this highly developed mechanism for control of lay Catholics and democratic processes to the United States. In 1975, the Church launched its Pastoral Plan of Action. The “committees” discussed in this plan are the same “committees” discussed by Vaillancourt that are used to control lay Catholics and to serve as political machinery. These “committees” which make up anti-abortion organizations are openly being used by the Vatican to manipulate the American democratic process. This includes the Moral Majority organization, as unsuspecting Protestants lend their support. For those who have figured out that they are being used, the lust for power or attention given them is enough to keep them in the fold.

The Pastoral Plan of Action was supposedly initiated by the Vatican because “the will of God and the law of reason” demanded an unrelenting fight against abortion. However, by 1978, it became apparent that the Vatican had simply seized upon a golden opportunity to mobilize Catholic America into a political party using its “right-to-life committees”—including the Moral Majority. Some observers began to recognize that these very same “committees” were being used to fight the other “enemies” of the Catholic Church: the ERA, family planning, the environmental movement, illegal immigration control, and support for the Global 2000 Report. I am now convinced that abortion was simply an excuse to politically mobilize the American Catholic Church and create, de facto, an American Catholic Political Party. The same techniques and tactics developed and used by the Church one hundred years ago to manipulate local, state, and national governments on other continents are exactly the same techniques and tactics seen in America today!

In 1977, victory for the ERA movement seemed almost certain. Few Americans realize the fantastic amount of organization and mobilization of human resources, funds, and commitment it took on the part of the Vatican to turn apparent victory for the ERA into defeat. Phyllis Schlafly, a Catholic, and the “organization” she headed, got more help from the Vatican and the American bishops than most Americans can possibly imagine. Judge Dooling found the anti-abortionists’ claim that they were a grass-roots movement to be spurious; the belief that the anti-ERA forces are also a grass-roots movement is ridiculous.

As serious observers study the opposition to the family-planning movement, the environmental movement, illegal immigration control, and the Global 2000 Report, they recognize just how sophisticated the opposition is—the amount of energy, organization, and direction each has—and that the opposition is all the same people, the same committees.

Conclusion

This is not an abstract theory. Such organization has been effective in Italy and other countries and was described by Vaillancourt before it got underway in earnest in the United States. Until those of us who are concerned about these social justice issues are willing to confront the Catholic hierarchy, there will be no significant advances in these areas of social justice. So long as the Church can act “undercover,” it will continue to be effective in thwarting significant advances. Our willingness to permit the Church to act in secrecy in America vastly enhances its power. It is absolutely essential that our silence be shattered. If not, then no matter which of these causes is “our cause” it’s a lost cause. Just as important, the strength of a threatening Vatican-controlled political party in America will continue to grow. American Catholics who are seriously concerned about social justice must take the pope and the Vatican at their word when they say that they do not intend to change their course. Catholics must be aware that the pope and the Vatican are choosing their social justice issues very selectively. In the 1970s, Cardinal Leo Suenens proposed that the position of pope and the Vatican, as we know it, be eliminated and that four “mini-pope” positions be created; this is consistent with Catholic teachings. He insisted that this is feasible. Perhaps it is time for socially responsible American Catholics to break the American Church away from the control of the Vatican. Otherwise, they as individuals stand to be accused of the same hypocrisy practiced by their Church hierarchy.


[8] D. J. Dooling, decision in McRae vs. HEW, New York: U.S. District Court. See, Appendix 1 for a more complete extract from Judge Dooling’s decision.

[9] P. D. Young, “Richard A. Viguerie: The New Right’s Secret Power Broker,” Penthouse (December 1982), p. 146.

[10] Maxine Negri, “A Well-Planned Conspiracy,” The Humanist (May/June 1982), 42:3:40.

[11] Jean-Guy Vaillancourt, Papal Power: A Study of Vatican Control Over Lay Catholic Elites (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980).

Dr. Stephen Mumford is the founder and President of the North Carolina-based Center for Research on Population and Security. He has his doctorate in Public Health. His principal research interest has been the relationship between world population growth and national and global security. He has been called to provide expert testimony before the U.S. Congress on the implications of world population growth.

Dr. Mumford has decades of international experience in fertility research where he is widely published, and has addressed conferences worldwide on new contraceptive technologies and the stresses to the security of families, societies and nations that are created by continued uncontrolled population growth. Using church policy documents and writings of the Vatican elite, he has introduced research showing the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church as the principal power behind efforts to block the availability of contraceptive services worldwide.

In addition to his books on biomedical and social aspects of family planning, as well as scientific articles in more than a score of journals, Dr. Mumford’s major works include: The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Center for Research on Population and Security, 1996); The Pope and the New Apocalypse: The Holy War Against Family Planning (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Center for Research on Population and Security, 1986); and American Democracy and the Vatican: Population Growth and National Security (Amherst, New York: Humanist Press, 1984).

Professor Milton Siegel, who for 24 years was the Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization, speaks to Dr. Mumford in 1992 to reveal that although there was a consensus that overpopulation was a grave public health threat and would be a major cause of preventable death not too far in the future, the Vatican successfully fought off the incorporation of family planning and birth control into official WHO policy. This video is available for public viewing for the first time. Read the full transcript of the interview here.

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Conspiracism

It is very effective to mobilize mass support against a scapegoated enemy by claiming that the enemy is part of a vast insidious conspiracy against the common good. The conspiracist worldview sees secret plots by tiny cabals of evildoers as the major motor powering important historical events; makes irrational leaps of logic in analyzing factual evidence in order to “prove” connections, blames social conflicts on demonized scapegoats, and constructs a closed metaphysical worldview that is highly resistant to criticism.~1

When conspiracist scapegoating occurs, the results can devastate a society, disrupting rational political discourse and creating targets who are harassed and even murdered. Dismissing the conspiracism often found in right-wing populism as irrational extremism, lunatic hysteria, or marginalized radicalism does little to challenge these movements, fails to deal with concrete conflicts and underlying institutional issues, invites government repression, and sacrifices the early targets of the scapegoaters on the altar of denial. An effective response requires a more complex analysis.

The Dynamics of Conspiracism

The dynamic of conspiracist scapegoating is remarkably predictable. Persons who claim special knowledge of a plot warn their fellow citizens about a treacherous subversive conspiracy to attack the common good. What’s more, the conspiracists announce, the plans are nearing completion, so that swift and decisive action is needed to foil the sinister plot. In different historical periods, the names of the scapegoated villains change, but the essentials of this conspiracist worldview remain the same.~2

George Johnson explained that “conspiratorial fantasies are not simply an expression of inchoate fear. There is a shape, an architecture, to the paranoia.” Johnson came up with five rules common to the conspiracist worldview in the United States:~3

“The conspirators are internationalist in their sympathies.

“[N]othing is ever discarded. Right-wing mail order bookstores still sell the Protocols of the Elders of Zion…[and] Proofs of a Conspiracy [from the late 1700’s].

“Seeming enemies are actually secret friends. Through the lens of the conspiracy theorists, capitalists and Communists work hand in hand.

“The takeover by the international godless government will be ignited by the collapse of the economic system.

“It’s all spelled out in the Bible. For those with a fundamentalist bent, the New World Order or One World Government is none other than the international kingdom of the Antichrist, described in the Book of Revelation.

Conspiracism can occur as a characteristic of mass movements, between sectors in an intra-elite power struggle, or as a justification for state agencies to engage in repressive actions. Conspiracist scapegoating is woven deeply into US culture and the process appears not just on the political right but in center and left constituencies as well.~4 There is an entrenched network of conspiracy-mongering information outlets spreading dubious stories about public and private figures and institutions. They use media such as printed matter, the internet, fax trees, radio programs, videotapes and audiotapes.~5


 

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