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The Church of England covered a case of child abuseA recent publication reveals the complicity of Welby’s predecessor in covering a pedophile bishop. The archbishop of Canterbury’s mea culpa: inexcusable behaviorIt’s like Pope Francis telling Benedict XVI he should no longer minister in public again. The Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion has asked his predecessor, Lord Carey, to step down as an honorary bishop after he was found to have mishandled accusations against a senior cleric who sexually abused boys and men. In what is an unprecedented move, Archbishop Welby has written to Lord Carey asking him to “carefully consider his position” as an honorary bishop in Oxford following an independent investigation found senior figures Church of England “colluded” over a 20-year period to conceal evidence of abuse committed by Bishop Peter Ball. In a statement, the Bishop of Oxford, Steven Croft, said Lord Carey, who led the global Anglican Communion from 1991-2002, has “voluntarily agreed to step back from public ministry” for the time being. This is an extraordinary turnaround of events for a man widely considered one of Britain’s most prominent Christian leaders. Lord Carey, 81, is often in the pages of newspapers thanks to his outspoken positions on a range of issues: he is against same-sex marriage, in favour of assisted suicide and even described President Donald Trump as a ‘Good Samaritan’. (Donald Trump, a "Good Samaritan"?! One wonders where Lord Carey got that rather shocking impression.) His prominent public role as a retired archbishop has been a thorn in the side of his successors who see his interventions as interference in their job. But all this is now very much under threat. In her 21 June report titled “An Abuse of Faith”, Dame Moira Gibb found that the former Archbishop of Canterbury was sent seven letters detailing concerns about Ball’s behaviour after he was first arrested in 1992. Only one of these letters was sent to the police by Carey. “The failure to pass six of the letters to police … must give rise to a perception of deliberate concealment,” the report said. Archbishop Welby, a no-nonsense former oil executive who wants to clean up the scandal of sexual abuse inside the Church of England, said the findings in the report revealed “inexcusable and shocking behaviour.” Bishop Ball, 85, was jailed two years ago for indecent assault and misconduct in public office after pleading guilty to abusing 18 young men during his time as a bishop in Lewes, Sussex. One of his accusers, Neil Todd, committed suicide. While Gibb says that the abuse committed by Ball was “shocking in itself” she stressed it was made far worse “by the failure of the church to respond appropriately to his misconduct” and that Carey was the one who “set the tone” for the response. The problem, however, was that no-one believed the accusations against Ball when they were first made. The former Bishop had a wide circle of friends in powerful places including the Prince of Wales. A number of them, including Lord Carey, came forward to support the accused bishop writing letters to both the police and prosecutors. As is so often the case with abusers, they have an ability to pull the wool over people’s eyes. But a failure to deal with abuse can come back to haunt you. And that’s something that Lord Carey is right now experiencing.
This past Monday, phone lines across Rome began to heat up with rumors that something had happened with Libero Milone, a veteran Italian businessman and expert in auditing and tax services who had been hired in June 2015 as the Vatican’s first-ever Auditor General, billed as the final piece of the puzzle in terms of building a culture of accountability and transparency.On Tuesday, the other shoe dropped: The Vatican released a terse, four-line statement saying that Milone had submitted his resignation, Pope Francis had accepted it, and, by “common agreement,” his relationship with the Vatican was over.The statement wished Milone well, and said that a search will soon be launched to find his successor.What the statement didn’t offer was any explanation of why Milone was walking away, two years into what was supposed to be a five-year term, and well before anything like an actual audit of Vatican finances had been brought to completion.Given that the only force on the planet that abhors a vacuum more than nature is the Italian press, speculation immediately ensued about the backstory.RAI, the Italian state broadcasting service, reported on the basis of “multiple sources” that a raid had been conducted on Milone’s office Monday by the Vatican’s Gendarmes, obviously creating the impression that he was suspected of misconduct and resigned to avoid prosecution. One anonymous Italian cardinal was quoted in Corriere della Sera as saying, “He must have gotten fat,” meaning enriching himself.Others, however, found hard to swallow the idea that a former executive of such corporate giants as Deloitte, Fiat and Wind, with a previous reputation for integrity, would engage in such behavior. According to this view, Milone likely fell victim to internal Vatican power struggles, perhaps for standing too close to Australian Cardinal George Pell - the man brought in by Francis in 2014 to head a powerful new Secretariat for the Economy, but who’s subsequently seen his wings clipped several times.Still others wondered if Milone simply despaired of trying to reform a system that didn’t seem interested in reforming, and decided to walk away. (That seems a bit unlikely, however, given that just a month ago in an interview with Corriere, Milone was asked if he regretted taking the job, and said, “No, on the contrary, I’m in this all the way to the end.”)One final theory is that Pope Francis realized that he’d appointed the wrong man for the job, and decided to pull the trigger on replacing him before further time is lost. Under that theory, the lack of explanation for the move was actually an act of mercy.No matter which scenario proves to be closest to the truth, the optics are not encouraging in terms of the current state of Francis’s reform. Coupled with other apparent gaps, such as the fact that while more than 40 cases of alleged impropriety have been flagged by the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority for investigation, not a single prosecution has been pushed through by the Vatican’s justice system, Milone’s downfall prompted many to begin writing obituaries for the whole idea of reform.We may never get a full explanation, but in the meantime, here are three thoughts about where things stand after Milone’s exit.First, one of the cornerstones of the reform effort launched shortly after Francis was elected to the papacy in March 2013 was supposed to be transparency. It would be clear how much money the Vatican has, where it comes from, how it’s being used, and who has access to it. There would be no more occult maneuvers, no more shady deals, and no hidden powers pulling strings behind the scenes, on the idea that sunlight is the best disinfectant.Much remains unclear about the Milone affair, but one can at least say this with confidence: When the supposed lynchpin of a reform walks away with no explanation offered, that’s not exactly a model of “best practices” vis-à-vis transparency, no matter how unpleasant the reality turns out to be.Second, however discouraging the latest developments, hope is not yet lost.Among other factors, the Vatican faces a deadline later this year for submitting a response to Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering agency, as a key element of its bid to be accepted as a virtuous player by global financial systems. In its 2015 evaluation, Moneyval praised new legal norms to combat money laundering and the possible financing of terrorism adopted under Pope Francis, but insisted on seeing those norms applied in practice.By late December, if there still hasn’t been a single successful prosecution for financial crimes and the position of Auditor General is either vacant or occupied by someone perceived as not up to the job, Moneyval’s interim judgment is unlikely to be positive. In theory, the Vatican could see transactions frozen by other states, or find itself paying extra transaction fees to cover the presumed risk of doing business with it - presumably, an outcome no one wants.Perhaps, in other words, if the Vatican can’t summon the internal will to reform, external forces will help push it along.Third, the perceived unfinished business in Francis’s reform, if left unresolved, may eventually raise the question of whether “reform” is even possible - that is, whether the Vatican, as we currently know it, is essentially irreformable.Pope John Paul II attempted an ambitious overhaul of the Roman Curia in 1998 with the document Pastor Bonus. But in the eyes of most observers, it left several underlying administrative problems largely intact.When Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005, many hoped that, as an old Vatican hand, he would know where the bodies are buried and bring a long-overdue ‘purification.’ Benedict took some important steps, including the creation of the Financial Information Authority, but in the end his efforts too stalled amid the first round of the “Vatileaks” affair.Francis came into office promising a root-and-branch reform. He created a whole series of new structures, often bringing in outsiders with reputations for both expertise and clean hands to staff and advise them. Yet four years later, the most common verdict one hears in Rome is that so far, it’s been una riforma gattopardesca - a reference to an Italian novel whose most famous line is, “Everything must change, so that everything can remain the same.”If that’s still the assessment at the end of Francis’s papacy, one wonders what a future pope might make of all these disappointments.One possibility would be to decide that attempts at reform of the Vatican are simply a waste of time and there are bigger fish to fry, so why bother? Another, however, is to conclude that a strategy of incremental reform gives too much time to entrenched interests to mobilize resistance - only burning the place down all at once, metaphorically speaking, and then rebuilding it from the ground up, will work.On this view of things, Vatican reform would remain a priority, on the theory that the Church’s moral credibility is at stake. The question isn’t whether, but how, and this approach would seem to call for the equivalent of “shock therapy.”After the conclave that elected Francis, Pell reported that one motto among the cardinals had been “no more Calvis,” a reference to a key figure in the Vatican bank scandals of the 1970s and 80s. Depending on how things unfold from here, the cry of “no more Milones” may be in the air next time - as a warning not just about corruption, but also the right way to fight it in an institution with a long history of simply waiting popes out.
The leader of a Brazilian traditionalist movement that was praised in the past two pontificates has resigned, and a video has subsequently emerged of the leader relaying bizarre claims by one of his priests regarding Pope Francis. Mgr João Scognamiglio Clá Dias, the founder and now ex-leader of the Heralds of the Gospel, can be seen in the video saying that the devil had told the Heralds priest that Francis was “my man”. Satan said Francis is “stupid” and does “everything I want”, Clá Dias says.But speaking to The Tablet, Fr Angel Veiga, a Rome-based leader of the order, said the video has been “taken out of context”, and what was said in it does not equate to the position of the Heralds. They were simply relaying Satan’s message.“It’s the Devil, no? The Devil is the father of lies,” Fr Veiga explained, adding that the video showed “a private, intimate conversation between our founder [Clá Dias] and various priests.”The video, first reported by respected Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli, shows around 60 priests listening to Mgr Clá Dias relaying what the priest said to him. The things had been said - the priest believed by the devil - when the priest was carrying out an exorcism.The Heralds of the Gospel were founded in 1998 and received pontifical approval in 2001 under John Paul II, making them the first private association of faithful to receive Vatican approval in the third millennium — an achievement which the group is keen to underline.They are made up of 200 priests, 2,820 consecrated members and are present in 78 countries. Under Benedict XVI, two other societies grew out of the Heralds. Although not widely known outside Brazil and some circles in Rome, the Heralds’ religious dress — a Medieval-looking dark brown tunic with a long, Gothic looking cross in the middle — has given them visibility in the Church.However, on 2 June, their leader Mgr. Clá Dias unexpectedly resigned and reports emerged of a Vatican investigation into the group. A Heralds spokesman in Brazil confirmed the probe saying that it was a routine apostolic investigation which “can occur at any moment for any religious institution.”It was in the days following Mgr Clá Dias’ resignation that the video emerged. In it, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, the spiritual inspiration for the Heralds, is described as being in heaven “incentivising the death of the Pope” and saying that “the next Pope will be good.” The devil is said to be seeking to “kill the man that God is calling” who, according to what is said in the video, is Cardinal Franc Rodé, the 82-year-old former leader of the congregation for religious. Cardinal Rodé has been a public critic of Francis. Corrêa, whose secretary for 40 years was Clá Dias, was known in Brazil for his staunch and trenchant criticism of liberation theology, setting up Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), in 1960, to act as a bulwark against the influence of progressive politics and thought. Earlier this year Francis told a meeting of Religious superiors he is worried by “restorationist” orders that “offer security but instead give only rigidity”.Under Benedict XVI, however, the Heralds were more in favour with Rome. In a book-length interview with Peter Seewald Benedict XVI praised the Heralds — the only religious movement he mentioned by name in the book — lauding them for being “full of enthusiasm for having recognised Christ the Son of God” and being key “in assisting with a great Catholic rebirth” in Brazil.In Brazil, the Heralds are known for going into the country’s favelas after the Protestant evangelicals in an effort to reconvert those who chose to abandon Catholicism.Fr Angel Veiga described the group as a “realisation of an ideal, the ideal to give oneself completely to the service and defence of the Holy Church.”Mgr Clá Dias, he explained, envisaged a movement that would “give itself completely to the Holy Catholic Church,” that would act as a “truly Catholic institution, a truly religious institution, whose members would live as really consecrated to God.”One of the main activities of the Heralds is to provide assistance to parish priests in areas where the number of faithful is witnessing a reduction. A division of the groups, called the “Knights of Mary,” can be called on to help strengthen the local Church’s presence in a way reminiscent of the practice of other movements, such as the Neocatechumenal Way.They also run a programme that helps finance on-the-ground projects called the “Mercy Fund”. This fund is a part of a wider effort on behalf of the Heralds to have some kind of social presence within the Church by helping the poor, the homeless and youths — one of the group’s strongest demographics.At the heart of the Herald’s spirituality, Fr Veiga stressed, is a calling “to perfection,” the perfection of “Christ [which is achieved] by following his evangelical advice of chastity, poverty, obedience.”In his letter of resignation, Mgr Clá Dias stated that, despite having to step down as superior general of the group, he remains “the model and living guardian of this [perfect] charism transmitted by the Holy Spirit.”When asked if they supported Francis’ papacy, Fr Veiga said that the Pope has “inherited a very difficult situation for the Church…he has inherited a lot of problems that don’t have an easy solution.”He declined to comment on controversies surrounding Francis’ family life document, Amoris Laetitia, although another Herald priest, who was present during the interview, Fr Javier Benjumea, said they preferred to work directly with the “people of God.”
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