Archive for December, 2009

“Saving Grace” – Mueller on One Catholic Family’s Late-Term Abortion

December 6, 2009

Amanda Mueller, at Truthout, has an interesting piece about a family coming to grips with a late-term abortion and their strong Catholic faith. Gail and Robert Andersons have deep ties to their families and to their Catholic community. They were both raised with strong faith and never questioned their beliefs. Yet, when they discover a severe birth defect 27 weeks into Gail’s first pregnancy, they question everything. After intense soul-searching and long discussions with their doctors, they decide on a late-term abortion.

“We are Catholic. We are supposed to be against abortion, but the church teaches mercy as well. The church examines quality of life. It isn’t a black and white issue as so many like to make it,” Robert says, looking away while fondling with his fingers the golden crucifix he wears around his neck.

The Andersons sought the help of Dr. George Tiller, the doctor who was shot and killed by “pro-life” activist Scott Roeder last May. Tiller operated one of only three clinics in the country willing to perform late-term abortions. As such, he was particularly vilified by the anti-abortion community. However, Gail Anderson didn’t find the root of evil she had once envisioned.

“Dr. Tiller was a very gentle man to my husband and me. He wasn’t the villain that people, me included, had often painted him. He was soft-spoken. He held our hands while we mourned our loss. He even prayed with us.”

[…]

“The staff was respectful and allowed me to have a little bit of dignity where I didn’t think I had any left. It made me sad that I didn’t get that from my friends or my religious community, but from strangers in a hospital setting. To this day, I am bitter about that,” Gail confessed.

The Andersons managed to mourn their lost child, Grace, and come through with their faith in tact. However, they worry that the church is becoming “dangerously involved in politics and losing sight that the world simply is not black and white.” [Em.mine]

They continue forward, despite for some calling for their removal from the church, because they know that they are not alone. They move forward because it is their hope that other Catholics faced with similar situations will realize that they are not alone.

It’s worth a read – along with the voices of these men and women who share the heart-wrenching tales of their own late term abortions.

Newly Released Documents Show Bishop Egan’s Chilling Disconnect

December 3, 2009

Source: Catholic_Kids.com

12,000 pages documenting the 2002 investigations into sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic diocese of Bridgeport CT were released last week, after the diocese lost a seven-year legal battle to keep them sealed. The documents include memos, administrative records, and testimony surrounding twenty-three lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by seven of the diocese’s priests. 448 of these pages transcribe the testimony of the diocese’s bishop at the time – Edward Egan.

Egan admitted to shielding accused priests, often relocating, and, at times, promoting them. The lawsuits were settled in 2002 and Egan was subsequently promoted to cardinal and then archbishop of New York.

In 2002, news of the lawsuits broke and, in the wake of the ensuing scandal, then New York Cardinal Egan released a  letter to his current parishioners expressing regret.

”Over the past 15 years, in both Bridgeport and New York, I consistently sought and acted upon the best independent advice available to me from medical experts and behavioral scientists. ‘It is clear today that we have a much better understanding of this problem […] If in hindsight we also discover that mistakes may have been made as regards prompt removal of priests and assistance to victims, I am deeply sorry.”

Victims, dubious of his sincerity, regarded the letter as an empty PR maneuver. Paul Mones, attorney for several victims, was especially unimpressed, (as quoted in the New York Times), ”It is getting off easy to say the behavior of the church was a mistake. It was not a negligent, unthinking action; it was a conscious plan to prevent scandal and to protect the interests of the church.” [Em. mine]

In another statement released in 2002  Egan vows, “I will do everything in my power to ensure the safety and security of each child.” Yet, there is no sign Egan has done anything at all to bring truth to light, punishment to criminals, and safety to potential future victims. Justice to past victims seems not even on his radar.

And then there is Egan’s testimony, which was never supposed to come to light, and in which he unflinchingly defends his decision to repeatedly shield and relocate accused priests, neglect to alert authorities, and his disbelieve accusations as a matter of course.

Sound bites include:

Incidentally, these things don’t happen, and we are talking about ifs.”

And when challenged on this,

“These things happen in such small numbers.”

And when questioned about Rev. Raymond Pcolka, who was accused by 12 former parishioners of abuses including forced oral and anal sex and beatings,

“I am not aware of those things. I am aware of the claims of those things, the allegations of those things. I am aware that there are a number of people who know one another, some are related to one another, have the same lawyers and so forth.” [Em. mine]

He seems to regard prevalence of sexual abuse by clergy as minimal at best. The Times article summarizes:

“Bishop Egan, the fact that 19 individuals have come forward and made claims,” [attorney for plantiff] asked about Father Pcolka’s case, “you don’t consider that to be a significant number of individuals?”

The bishop waited while his lawyer quibbled over the number 19, then answered that considering there were 360,911 registered Catholics in the diocese, “I do not consider that a significant segment or factor.”

“Would you agree with me, Bishop Egan,” the lawyer pressed, “that if one person, one individual, has been affected by the sexual abuse of a clergy member, when that person was a child, that that’s far too much to accept in any diocese?”

“It would not be a significant portion of the diocese,” he replied.

He goes further to self-congratulate the diocese for such low rates of abuse

“It’s marvelous, when you think of the hundreds and hundreds of priests and how very few have even been accused, and how very few have even come close to having anyone prove anything.” [Em mine]

How can you prove something that is never investigated? Such deeply twisted logic, denial, and chilling disconnect from reality appears to be shared by Egan’s Bridgeport predecessor, Bishop Curtis, who admitted to keeping, then destroying records on accused priests and who asserted his belief that pedophilia isn’t a a disease, but a “more incidental” condition.

So how does Egan reconcile his promise that “Should any priest sexually abuse a child, he will be removed from pastoral ministry,” with his continuing penchant for uniformly turning a cold ear to the pleas of victims and their families and allowing such soul-crushing abuses to continue?

Copious amounts of skewed logic and denial.

The Washington Post did a piece on the videotaped testimony from a 1997 lawsuit against the diocese when a former parishioner,  Frank Martinelli,  testified that Fr. Laurence Brett had sexually assaulted him three times as a teenager in 1962 and 1963, including biting him during oral sex. Brett was transferred.  In his testimony, Egan seeks to absolve himself (Bishop of the CT diocese at the time) by claiming – incredulously – that under the strict hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church

“…diocesan priests were “self-employed” and not the bishop’s responsibility”

In further testimony

Martinelli’s attorney asked Egan if he would suspend any priest who was discovered to have sexually assaulted a minor.

“I would have to know the complete circumstances,” Egan replied.

The lawyer then laid out a hypothetical case with a fact pattern identical to the Martinelli case. (By this time, Egan was aware of church files showing that Brett had admitted assaulting Martinelli.)

What if this priest was a teacher, the lawyer asked, and sexually assaulted a student and bit the student’s penis?

“That would be sufficient cause [for suspension], I’m sure, in many bishops’ minds,” Egan responded.

Would it be sufficient cause in your mind?

“I would have to know all of the details,” Egan replied.

Egan admits that he met with Brett in 1990, knowing that Brett had admitted to sexual abuses. In a memo immediately after that meeting he wrote that Brett “made a good impression on me, he spoke with grace,” and “I’ll be inclined to write [him] a letter encouraging him to go on with his work.”

Eventually the diocese was flooded with so many accusations involving Brett that Egan was forced to remove him from duty. It is not clear how many children were abused in the interim.

On an encouraging note, although pervasive and far-reaching, this inexcusable minimalization  and denial isn’t quite institution-wide. An op-Ed in the Times last week contrasts Egan’s response with that of Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, following the release of a recent report detailing years of abuse and cover-ups in Ireland:

“The sexual abuse of a child is and always was a crime in civil law; it is and always was a crime in canon law; it is and always was grievously sinful. One of the most heartbreaking aspects of the report is that while church leaders — bishops and religious superiors — failed, almost every parent who came to the diocese to report abuse clearly understood the awfulness of what was involved.”

Martin speaks to what Egan appears to avoid all thought of – the children, the victims, the now-adults who try to refit the pieces of lives that have been shattered.


“…emotional unpredictability, danger and humiliation…” – Patrick Stewart Speaks Out on Domestic Violence

December 2, 2009

Patrick Stewart recently spoke to Amnesty International on his own childhood of domestic violence. This follows a letter he wrote to The Guardian in response to an article about three women completing sentences for killing their partners. He empathized with them, explaining similar feelings toward his abusive father,

“I witnessed his repeated violence against my mother, and the terror and misery he caused was such that, if I felt I could have succeeded, I would have killed him. If my mother had attempted it, I would have held him down.”

Stewart briefly told his story in a spot filmed for Amnesty in 2006, and provided voice-over for a clever PSA. He also lends his name to a scholarship for post-graduate studies on children and domestic violence at the University of Huddersfield, and is a parton of Refuge, a UK-based advocacy group for battered women and children.

I won’t go into more detail. This speaks best for itself:

Hope, Concern – World AIDS Day 2009

December 1, 2009

December 1st 2009 is the 21st annual World AIDS Day, nearly 28 years following the first diagnosis of the disease in June 1981. Great strides have been made against the disease over the decades. Rates of infection have continued to decline, due in part to medical advances that have reduced the likelihood of transmission through pregnancy, the cumulative effect of global education and prevention programs, and a slow reduction in the stigma of AIDS that encourages earlier and more frequent testing.

Despite this, there is still much to be done. The World Health Organization reports that nearly half of the 9.5 million people who need anti-retroviral treatments (ART) don’t receive it – that’s roughly 5.5 million untreated people. And while rates of infection have slowed, there are still 7400 new infections every day, 1200 of which are children.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé calls for an end to the stigma, discrimination, and criminallization that prevents education, testing, and treatment in many parts of the world. In his 2009 World AIDS Day address:

On this World AIDS Day we are filled with both hope and concern.

Hope because significant progress has been made towards universal access. New HIV infections have dropped. Fewer children are born with HIV. And more than 4 million people are on treatment.

Concern because 28 years into the epidemic the virus continues to make inroads into new populations; stigma and discrimination continue to undermine efforts to turn back the epidemic. The violation of human rights of people living with HIV, women and girls, men who have sex with men, injecting drug users and sex workers must end.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on “all countries to live up to their commitments to enact or enforce legislation outlawing discrimination against people living with HIV and members of vulnerable groups”. On this World AIDS Day, let us work urgently to remove punitive laws and practices and put an end to discrimination against and criminalization of people affected by HIV.

(It’s hard not to think of the proposed Ugandan legislation criminalizing repeated homosexuality with life imprisonment or death by hanging.)

On the home front, when establishing the Office of National AIDS Policy last June, President Obama noted the heavy impact AIDS continues to have even in the US:

“‘When one of our fellow citizen becomes effected every nine and a half minutes, the epidemic effects all Americans.”

It’s heartening that as a country we’ve made such progress as repealing the global gag rule, dropping the HIV travel ban, and Washington D.C.’s hosting the 2012 International AIDS conference for the first time in a decade. Yet, the Obama administration has come under fire from AIDS avocacy groups who criticize the lack of funds allocated to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Health GAP, Africa Action, Treatment Action Group and the Global AIDS Alliance released a report on PREFAR’s 2010 funding:

“Despite repeated public commitments to expand funding for successful global AIDS programs, the first budget request to Congress prepared by President Obama, for FY2010, would for the first time essentially flat-fund U.S. global AIDS investments—it will not even keep pace with global medical inflation, estimated at 4-10% this year.

U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Eric P. Goosby, MD, stated that PREFAR is working to transition from emergency response to long-term sustainability.

“PEPFAR’s five-year strategy will focus on sustainability, and sustainable responses, programs that are country owned and country driven.”

Further Info:

HIV:Reality The UK’s world AIDS Days site. Focuses on stories, videos, photos of people living with HIV/AIDS.

World AIDS Campaign – Lots of up to the minute news.

AIDS Portal – Hub  of 1232 AIDS organizations.

UNAIDS – Founder of World AIDS Day.

Global Commission on Women and AIDS

AIDS 2009 Epidemic Update – Comprehensive Report from UNAIDS (pdf)