Saturday, June 28, 2014

Everything you need to know about Ireland's disaffected Catholics

The Week (UK)
June 27m 2014

How Catholic was Ireland?

It used to be easily the most Catholic country in the world. The church's connection to the island nation dates to St. Patrick's conversion in the 5th century, and the modern Irish state is explicitly bound up with the church. The constitution opens with the words, "In the name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority..." and continues with reference to "obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial." In Ireland, the church, not the state, runs almost the entire education system. Until recently, social life, too, revolved around the local church. In 1984, nearly 90 percent of Irish Catholics went to Mass every week. But by 2011, only 18 percent did. It's a massive cultural shift.

What changed?

Mass attendance began dropping rapidly during the 1990s, as Ireland began its "Celtic Tiger" economic boom. The country was modernizing, urbanizing, and taking on a more global perspective, and the local church was no longer the only nexus of community life. For the first time, the country had a vigorous debate about abortion and began teaching sex education in schools. At the same time, several long-hidden scandals began to emerge. In 1992, the Irish learned that a powerful and beloved bishop, Eamon Casey, had a fathered a son, and that the Rev. Michael Cleary, the "Singing Priest" with best-selling records and his own radio show, had a secret family with his housekeeper. But the biggest seismic jolt came over the last decade, when the priestly sex-abuse scandal horrified the entire country.

How widespread was the abuse?

The scale was greater in Ireland than in any other country. Across the world, the Vatican routinely protected individual priests who were raping boys and, to a lesser extent, girls, responding to complaints of abuse by transferring offenders to other parishes. Ireland had hundreds of such cases, but because of the church's enormous power there, it was not just individual priests who were involved, but large institutions. Until the 1990s, the church ran orphanages and industrial schools that warehoused 30,000 children deemed delinquents — pickpockets, or the poor, or those with unmarried parents. The 2009 Ryan Report found that thousands of children were savagely raped or molested in these homes, while thousands more were beaten and starved and forced to work. Boys described nights of terror, lying in bed waiting for priests to come and molest them. "In some schools a high level of ritualized beating was routine," the report said. A new scandal has rocked the church, with the recent discovery that up to 4,000 infants and children — many malnourished and poorly treated — had been buried in unmarked graves at homes for unwed mothers run by Catholic nuns.

How have the Irish reacted?

The string of revelations has undermined the very legitimacy of the church. To a great extent, the church's authority was premised on control of sexuality. "They made this island into a concentration camp where they could control everything — and the control was really all about sex," says Father Mark Patrick Hederman, abbot of Glenstal Abbey. "Generations of people were crucified with guilt complexes. Now the game is up." Since priests were the enforcers of sexual purity, to have so many exposed not merely as sexually active, but as sexual predators of children, has deeply shaken Irish faith. The priesthood has lost its luster, and enrollment at seminaries has plummeted.

Will there be a priest shortage?

There already is. In Dublin, there are just two priests under the age of 40. Across the country, two thirds of priests are over 55. Some towns are already sharing priests, having Mass at the local church only every other week. In about a decade, church authorities say, the number of priests in Ireland may decline to 1,500 — down from 4,500 a few years ago — and the church will have to start importing priests from other countries. Well over 80 percent of the Irish still identify as Catholics, but now they practice their religion privately. Tourism at Station Island, where St. Patrick had his religious epiphany in the 5th century, is way up. Disaffected Catholics are using the site as a kind of private church, a way to worship unmediated by the hierarchy.

What will the church do?

The Association of Catholic Priests, an Irish group, has recommended that women be ordained and that priests be allowed to marry. Surveys have found that the Irish people would support both changes by huge margins: 77 percent for women's ordination and 87 percent for married priests. Even in the unlikely event that the Vatican approved such changes, it may be too late to reverse Ireland's secular tide. "No one doubts that a growing anti-Catholic element exists in Irish society," Father Gerard Moloney wrote in The Irish Times. "The church has provided its enemies with weapons of mass destruction. It has no one to blame but itself."

Northern Ireland, too

Northern Ireland, which is part of Great Britain, has seen nearly as steep a decline in weekly Catholic Church attendance, from 90 percent in the 1980s to some 40 percent today. That drop is not the result of the abuse scandal alone. In fact, in Northern Ireland, the official inquiry into priestly abuse didn't begin until last fall, and it has yet to release its findings. But Northern Ireland was the center of the Troubles, the violence between Protestants and Catholics, and there Catholicism was as much a political identity as a religious one. Once the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 ended the armed struggle, religious adherence began to fade as political polarization eased. Now, overt religiosity is widely seen as backward — as a form of resistance to peace. "There's no stigma in not going to church," said William Crawley, a Presbyterian minister in Belfast. "In fact, there's a stigma to going. Parents need to explain why they are sending their children to church."

Friday, June 27, 2014

Vatican defrocks Polish archbishop for sexual abuse

James Mackenzie
June 27, 2014

(Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Church ordered a Polish archbishop accused of sexual abuse in the Dominican Republic to be defrocked, pending further criminal proceedings, the Vatican said on Friday.

The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ordered Jozef Wesolowski, a former Vatican nuncio or ambassador to the Caribbean nation, to be stripped of the priesthood, an extremely rare step against such a senior Church official.

He will have two months to appeal the ruling, delivered after a canonical trial - under Church law - in the Vatican, which has been under pressure for more than a decade to clean up the scandal of sexual abuse of children by priests.

A statement from the Holy See said criminal proceedings by Vatican judicial authorities would begin once the sentence was confirmed. If found guilty in a criminal trial, Wesolowski could risk extradition to the Dominican Republic.

Last month, Pope Francis pledged "zero tolerance" for anyone in the Church who abused children and likened sexual abuse to a "satanic mass".

Wesolowski was recalled last August to the Vatican, which said a month later that it would cooperate with Dominican authorities investigating him on suspicion of paedophilia.

The Vatican said his movements had not been restricted while the case was being considered but that following the decision to expel him from the priesthood "all measures appropriate to the seriousness of the case will be adopted".

As an independent city state, the Vatican can detain or limit the movements of those subject to its jurisdiction.

Last month, the United Nations watchdog body against torture called on the Vatican to investigate the Wesolowski case and ascertain whether it warranted criminal prosecution or extradition to face charges in the Dominican Republic.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Media exaggerated horror tale at Irish orphanage

Shawn Pogatchnik
Associated Press
June 23, 2014

Revelations this month that nuns had buried nearly 800 infants and young children in unmarked graves at an Irish orphanage during the last century caused stark headlines and stirred strong emotions and calls for investigation. Since then, however, a more sober picture has emerged that exposes how many of those headlines were wrong.

The case of the Tuam "mother and baby home" offers a study in how exaggeration can multiply in the news media, embellishing occurrences that should have been gripping enough on their own.

The key fact is that a researcher, Catherine Corless, spent years seeking records of all the children who died in the orphanage in County Galway during its years of operation from 1925 to 1961. She found 797 death records - and only one record that one of the youngsters had been buried alongside relatives in a Catholic cemetery.

The rest, Corless surmised, were likely interred in unmarked graves on the orphanage grounds, including in a disused septic tank. She and other Tuam residents called for a state-funded investigation to identify remains and give the children a proper memorial.

The reports of unmarked graves shouldn't have come as a surprise to the Irish public, who for decades have known that some of the 10 defunct "mother and baby homes," which chiefly housed the children of unwed mothers, held grave sites filled with forgotten dead.

The religious orders' use of unmarked graves reflected the crippling poverty of the time, the infancy of most of the victims, and the lack of plots in cemeteries corresponding to the children's fractured families.

Until recent weeks, nobody had put a precise number on the fatalities at Tuam. Corless spent months - and more than 3,000 euros ($4,000) of her own money - buying copies of death certificates and organizing them.

Her list of the dead shows that nearly 80 percent were younger than 1; two died within 10 minutes of birth and never received first names. Ninety-one died in the 1920s, 247 in the 1930s, 388 in the 1940s, 70 in the 1950s, and one more child in 1960. The most common causes were flu, measles, pneumonia, tuberculosis and whooping cough. Contrary to the allegations of widespread starvation highlighted in some reports, only 18 children were recorded as suffering from severe malnutrition.

While publicly available records are incomplete, sporadic inspection reports indicate that the orphanage's population exceeded 250 throughout the worst years of child mortality, when overcrowding would have encouraged the spread of infection.

When Corless published her findings on a Facebook campaign page, and Irish media noticed, she speculated to reporters that the resting place of most, if not all, could be inside a disused septic tank on the site. By the time Irish and British tabloids went to print in early June, that speculation had become a certainty, the word "disused" had disappeared, and U.S. newspapers picked up the report, inserting more errors, including one that claimed the researcher had found all 796 remains in a septic tank.

The Associated Press was among the media organizations that covered Corless and her findings, repeating incorrect Irish news reports that suggested the babies who died had never been baptized and that Catholic Church teaching guided priests not to baptize the babies of unwed mothers or give to them Christian burials.

The reports of denial of baptism later were contradicted by the Tuam Archdiocese, which found a registry showing that the home had baptized more than 2,000 babies. The AP issued a corrective story on Friday after discovering its errors.

Brendan O'Neill, editor of the London-based online magazine Spiked, said journalists worldwide "got a whiff of Corless's findings and turned them into the stuff of nightmares." He noted that several top newspapers in the United States stated that 800 baby skeletons had been found in a septic tank, and that commentators fueled by a "Twitter mob" mentality compared the deaths to Nazi-era genocide.

The Irish Times in Dublin interviewed Corless about why she thought the former septic tank could have become a bone repository. She explained that her assertion was based on the study of old site maps and the 40-year-old recollections of two local men who, as boys, had found an underground chamber on the site containing skeletons. It had sounded to her like the tank could be the location.

But the newspaper spotted discrepancies in Corless' maps, and found records showing that the actual septic tank remained in use until the late 1930s, which meant it could not have been used as a burial spot. Other analysts pointed out that the decommissioned septic tank would be too small to hold many bodies. And the two men who had reported seeing skeletons in 1975 said, on reflection, that they doubted more than 20 were inside the concreted hole.

Ireland last week announced it would open a judge-led investigation into the care of children in Tuam and nine other defunct facilities, and the handling of their remains. Whether the fact-finding effort will include excavations at any of the former homes or DNA analysis of remains has yet to be decided.

In an editorial, the Irish Times said Ireland was suffering "self-induced amnesia" given that historians already had documented "staggeringly high mortality rates in some mother and child homes." It noted that Tuam's mortality rate appeared lower than others, and predicted the upcoming inquiry into the entire system would be painful.

"Learning from the past can be a disturbing process," it said. "It involves an examination of failures and the acceptance of hurtful conclusions. It means making amends for past societal wrongs. It should establish why certain things happened, rather than heap blame on those who implemented policy. An examination of current discriminatory practices would also help. As a society, we have an uncomfortable road to travel."

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Pope Benedict treated me unfairly, says sacked bishop Bill Morris

Ross Peake
Canberra Times
June 22, 2014

A sacked Catholic bishop will tell a Canberra audience this week he was treated unfairly by Pope Benedict.

“I was deprived of natural justice as I was in no way able to appeal the judgments or decisions that were made,” Bill Morris says.

He was forced out of his position in Toowoomba after a group of conservative “temple police” parishioners complained directly to the Vatican about his preaching which included discussion about ordaining women and married men.

He has written a book about his experience – Benedict, Me and the Cardinals Three – but says he has no bitterness.

Instead he has learnt to “breathe underwater”.

“That’s the freedom to be able to move with life in such a way that you can absorb the various difficulties, the good things, the bad things and all the time with a great respect for everything around you,” he said.

The book says he told Pope Benedict XVI in a personal meeting of a sex abuse case at a Toowoomba school but the Pope dismissed the bishop’s request to remain at his post to deal with it.

The book notes that in 1998 Pope John Paul II effectively made it an offence for the faithful to discuss the possibility of the ordination of women.

Bishop Morris also faced complaints from a small band of parishioners over debate about general absolution.

Pat Power, the retired Auxiliary Bishop of Canberra, who will launch Bishop Morris’ book on Thursday, agrees his colleague was treated harshly.

He believes such treatment would not have occurred under Pope Francis.

“I think it was grossly unfair because the issues on which Bishop Morris was crucified were issues very much of legitimate theological debate and speculation,” Bishop Power said.

“Some things said about him were quite patently wrong … that was quite unfair.

“In the Toowoomba diocese there is a small group, a fairly vocal group, who are quite conservative both politically and in church terms. A lot of it was Pauline Hanson’s constituency.

“They made complaints about him and it was generally agreed a lot of those were taken too seriously by the authorities at the time.

“The vast majority of the priests did support him. I gave a retreat to the priests there in 2003 and they were really rejoicing in the fact; they said he was the best bishop in memory there.”

Bishop Power has also been promoting the ordination of married men.

“I have been in hot water over that and some people asked me how the axe fell on him but it didn’t fall on me,” he said.

“I’ve had my critics of course but I’ve never had any concerted campaign against me in the way that he had, led by that small group of people up there.”

Bishop Morris had raised issues including married clergy, female priests and the possibility of recognising Protestant orders, in an Advent pastoral letter in 2006 that discussed the declining number of priests in far-flung parishes like Toowoomba.

In the book, Bishop Morris details the pressure on him from the Pope to resign as Bishop of the diocese of Toowoomba.

“I was denied natural justice and my reputation as a bishop of the Catholic Church was called into question and yet I could do nothing,” he writes.

“While now there is a new and different papacy under Pope Francis, the processes that culminated in my being asked to resign are still the same.”

He reveals the tension of the face-to-face meeting he had with Pope Benedict in June 2009.

“He said: ‘It is God’s will that you resign’,” Bishop Morris says.

He writes that there was no understanding of the devastating effects of clerical sexual abuse.

He says he tried to explain how the abuse led to some people mistrusting the church but senior Vatican officials like Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Prefect emeritus of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, “would have none of this”.

“They had no idea how it would be almost impossible for a person who had been sexually abused in the confessional or in any other place to go back into a room, no matter how large, to have a one-to-one confession again,” he says.

Asked if he believed he would have been treated differently by Pope Francis, Bishop Morris said: “I think I would've had a dialogue rather than a monologue.

“One of the main things Pope Francis has spoken about ever since he came onto the scene is that if we are to grow together and to understand each other, then dialogue is the most important aspect of that relationship.”

Bishop Morris said a group of conservative Catholics went to Rome ahead of a meeting of bishops.

“The ones from the diocese write directly to Rome without you seeing it … so when we got to Rome we were basically ambushed,” he said.

“One of the difficulties is that dialogue is difficult with them because they have one particular view and [as far as they are concerned] their view is the correct view.

“Unfortunately they won't look at things other than the way they see them.”

Bishop Morris said he had no regrets about the path he has taken and is still active in the Toowoomba and Brisbane dioceses.

“I did not agree to resign, but negotiated with Pope Benedict to take early retirement which was announced in May 2011,” he said.

“I don’t run a diocese any more but I can do everything else a bishop does – teach, preach, sanctify, pastoral work.”

*The book launch is at 7.30pm on Thursday at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture at Barton.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Anne Biggs: Irish survivor tells her story

Anne Biggs
Fresno Bee
June 21, 2014

In Ireland, at 14, my birthmother was raped on her way home from school. Three months into her pregnancy, she was transported to Castlepollard, one of many of the mother-baby homes throughout Ireland, to anticipate my delivery. While she waited, her name was changed, and her belongings taken from her. She toiled in the fields, washed walls and cleaned floors, but it was never enough. The Catholic sisters demanded 90 pounds to cover her maternity costs. Her family couldn't pay, so she was sent to the Magdalene Laundries to pay off her debt to society.

We newborns were taken from our mothers because the Catholic Church deemed them sinners in the eyes of God, and unfit to care for us. We were labeled "bastards," and later "banished babies."

We were kept a secret to the outside world. Only when a chance for adoption came was care taken to meet standards required by the government to leave Ireland. When my time came, I didn't meet their requirements. Sisters immediately provided me with the temporary care necessary to be adopted. Why weren't we all treated as well, every day?

I spent the first four years of my life with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Ireland. They were responsible for my care. My health issues, plainly put, were abuse and neglect.

I survived that mother-baby home in Ireland and, in 1953, I was carried off a plane and handed into the arms of my shocked adoptive parents. The sisters wrote them, stating I was "fragile." Their definition of fragile must have been: unable to walk or talk, severe malnutrition, intestinal parasites, rickets, epilepsy and emotionally stunted.

When I started school, the sisters told me to be grateful, that my experiences had not been that bad. We had been the chosen few. Yes, I was grateful to be placed in a loving home, but I cannot say I was grateful to be taken from my birthmother because she was deemed a sinner and neglected because I was her bastard child.

A lucky one, I survived a home where last week news broke that 796 skeletons of infants and toddlers were found "resting" in a septic tank because members of the church were unable to provide a proper burial.

In this country, when a child is abandoned in an alley, or behind a building, it receives massive headlines. Reporters, parents, schools and government organizations become outraged and are quick to take a stand.

I have to ask, in 1975, when the church knew these bodies were there, why didn't they acknowledge it? How could no one be outraged? Babies left in a septic tank? Imagine your deceased child put in a septic tank "to rest," until a better place could be found for a proper burial. How would you feel?

The question now is, who is responsible for such atrocities? Well, of course, we first reach out to blame the church. The Catholic Church is responsible for everything that happened to these children, everything that happened to my birthmother and me.

Remember though, those infants and toddlers could not take care of themselves. Human beings, who had free will and knew the difference between right and wrong, but participated in this ongoing tragedy, cared for them.

One Irish priest implied that, because it happened in the past, it's a mistake the church should be sure never happens again. Those babies were mistakes because they happened in the past?

As a survivor of Castlepollard and St. Patrick's in 1950s Ireland, I will not forget where I came from and what was taken from me. I want my children and grandchildren to understand every time anyone is harmed, they have a responsibility to stand up and make a difference.

I don't blame God for what happened to those babies, to me, or my birthmother. I blame each person who knew and did nothing, each person who remained silent out of fear, ignorance or simple apathy. Edmund Burke, an Irish statesman, once said, "Evil flourishes when good men do nothing."

Simply said, it does not matter if it involves a particular nationality, children or a gender, when evil actions are ignored, we all pay a high price.

Anne Biggs of Clovis is a retired high school special education and English teacher.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Same sex marriage opponents claim papal blessings, see biblical battle

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
June 20, 2014

Advocates for marriage between one man and one woman presented their view as an oppressed minority Thursday, converging on the U.S. Capitol for a symbolic march that presented the opposing views on marriage as representing a battle of biblical proportions.

A key backer of the advocates' efforts, according to San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone: Pope Francis.

Speaking on the Capitol lawn in humid weather for a rally before the second annual March for Marriage on Thursday, Cordileone noted that Archbishop Carlo Viganò, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S., was in the audience.

Viganò's presence, Cordileone said, "signifies the presence and support of Pope Francis for what we are doing today." The San Francisco prelate went on to compare the advocates' efforts to those of early Christians in Rome who were "so often scapegoated" but continued their faith and in their works of service.

The march, hosted by the National Organization for Marriage, gathers advocates of traditional marriage outside the Capitol for speeches before a symbolic one-block march to the outside of the Supreme Court.

During his remarks, which came at the beginning of the event, the San Francisco archbishop said he and other advocates have to oppose same-sex marriage because of the effects it has on children.

"Every child has a natural human right ... to be known and to be loved by their own mother and father," Cordileone said.

"The question is then: Does society need an institution that unites children to the mothers and fathers who bring them into the world, or doesn't it?" he continued. "If it does, that institution is marriage -- nothing else provides this basic good to children."

The archbishop, who before the event had received letters from several public officials asking him to consider not attending, also said other public policy issues deserving support from Catholic bishops depend on them first to "rebuild a marriage culture."

Mentioning his support for a living wage and comprehensive immigration reform, Cordileone said there can be "no justice, no peace, no end of poverty without a strong culture of marriage."

Before the beginning of the rally and march Thursday, the Washington archdiocese sponsored a Mass of support at nearby St. Joseph's, a parish on Capitol Hill.

In the homily during that Mass, Msgr. Edward Filardi compared the advocates' work to a trumpet sounding the call for battle.

Quoting from St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians, Filardi said: "If a trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who will prepare the battle?"

"It's not a battle against people. It's a battle to uphold something beautiful that God created," said Filardi, who is the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Bethesda, Md.

Filardi also said same-sex marriage is an affront to God.

"The image of God ... comes to its fullness in the union of man and woman together," he said. "When we attempt to reshape marriage ... we risk mocking God himself."

Continuing with an overview of male and female biology, Filardi said, "marriage is defined in our design."

"Only a man and a woman are equipped to enter into that one flesh," he said. "Anything else is an impostor."

Giving reason to why advocates should be opposed to civil laws defining marriage when they do not impact religious ceremonies, Filardi said such laws have wide impact.

"It's may be not our physical lives that are threatened, yet," he said. "What's written into law becomes 'Comply or die.' "

One attendee at the rally Thursday said he agreed with Filardi's view of opposition to same-sex marriage as a sort of battle.

It is "long overdue" to speak that way, said Mike Phillips, as there is a "great social crisis in America."

"It's my obligation and duty to teach my sons ... that the marital union is only something that happens between a man and a woman," said Phillips, who traveled to the event with others from St. Andrew Catholic parish in Newtown, Pa.

Other speakers at the event Thursday included former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, and a number of clergy leaders and local representatives.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

News of Tuam babies lands in Italy - more lessons from Catholic Ireland

John Spain
Irish Central
June 19, 2014

In Italy last week on a break, it took me a moment to realize what the hotel owner was talking about when we were chatting after I had checked in.

"The babies -- what a sad event," he said. "But in Italy too we had such things. The church ..." he sighed, shaking his head and shrugging at me in understanding and sympathy.

Two things struck me about this. It was an indication of how the appalling story of the remains of hundreds of babies found at the former unmarried mothers and babies home in Tuam in Co. Galway had traveled. We were staying in a small town in northern Italy, not somewhere you expect to be up to speed on news from Ireland.

But the graphic and shocking story had made the Italian newspapers, complete with references to skeletons of babies uncovered "in a septic tank."

On that basis, it's probably accurate to say that the story went around the globe. And it is extremely damaging to the image of Ireland, exposing the cruelty and hypocrisy of our recent past for the whole world to see.

The other thing that struck me was the way my host immediately pinned the blame on the Catholic Church, and as an elderly Italian that institution is one he would know a good deal about.

In Italy and Spain, like in Ireland, the church had enormous power and influence 50 years ago. Terrible things were done in the name of the church by both it and the repressive societies it dominated.

This new scandal makes it seem like there is no end to the damage which the Catholic Church has been implicated in in Ireland.

In the last two decades we have had the exposes of what went on in orphanages and in Magdalene laundries, both run by religious orders on behalf of the state. We have also learned about the rampant sexual abuse of children and the way the bishops shielded the priest perpetrators, the priority always being to protect the church rather than the victims.

The aftermath of these revelations is still with us and we are still working through that. Investigations into abuse in some areas have still to be undertaken.

But there was a general feeling recently that we had uncovered most of the awful things that had been done in our recent past involving the church. Now we know different.

The mothers and babies homes that operated around the country is a new sector we had forgotten and which we must now examine.

It seems extraordinary that after all the other investigations that have been going on, somehow we missed this. Now, belatedly, the government is setting up an inquiry into all the mother and baby homes, not just the one in Tuam.

In fact we would still not have known about this except for the work of a local historian in Tuam, Catherine Corless, who had heard about the deaths in the home and decided to investigate. And because of the memories of two local men who remembered playing as kids in a small field behind where the home once stood and seeing bones in a space beneath a concrete slab.

It was the work of Corless, not the authorities or the police, that has brought this matter to public attention, revealing that 796 babies and young children died at the mother and baby home in Tuam between 1925 and 1961.

There were 10 of these mother and baby homes spread around Ireland at the time and they all had an incredibly high mortality rate, varying from 30 to 50 percent and sometimes even higher. Tuam was not the worst.

Of course this was the era before effective vaccination programs and antibiotics and other drugs. But the death rate in these homes was around five times that among babies and young children in the general population. Yet no one in Ireland shouted stop.

Or almost no one. The chief medical officer in Ireland in the 1940s, Dr. James Deeny, closed down the mother and baby home in Bessborough in Cork when the death rate there was over 50 percent. Deeny personally inspected the place and discovered that the children had skin infections and severe diarrhea, all carefully covered up for his visit.

The deaths had been going on for years and the staff were "quite complacent about it," he wrote later in his memoir. He sacked the matron, a nun, got rid of the local medical officer and ordered that the buildings be disinfected.

When the home reopened the death rate in subsequent years was down to levels that were normal for the time. And the reaction of the authorities?

Bishop Lucey of Cork complained to the Papal Nuncio, and the Nuncio complained to the then Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Eamon de Valera, the founding father of the nation who had a habit of sinking to his knees to kiss the ring of every bishop he met.

The scale of this national scandal -- how many babies died -- is still not clear. We do know, however, that an estimated 35,000 unmarried mothers spent time in the 10 mother and baby homes around the country in the decades in question.

That is why the government has decided to establish a commission of inquiry into all of the mother and baby homes, not just the one in Tuam. Another former home in Castlepollard in Westmeath, for example, is estimated to hold the remains of over 3,000 babies.

This is all a highly emotive issue and the horror and shame has been heightened by the image of babies being "dumped in a septic tank,” as some news reports about the Tuam home suggested. (And it was that horrific image that propelled the story around the world.)

It's far more likely that the so-called septic tank was in fact a shaft burial vault, a common method of burial used by institutions years ago. The large concrete headstone slab placed on top of such burial shafts could be removed when needed to allow additional burials.

Many institutions like maternity hospitals and orphanages across Europe had such communal burial vaults for stillborn babies and infants who died soon after birth. These vaults sometimes were within the grounds of the institution and sometimes in a nearby field.

This seems appalling to us now, but we have to remember that the remains of stillborn babies or deceased infants or unbaptized babies were not usually given back to parents in those days.

The easy reaction to all of this, of course, is to heap blame on the Catholic Church and the religious orders once again, and that is not something we have shied from doing in this column. But the more we learn from these scandals, the clearer it is that the blame needs to be spread much wider.

Irish society as a whole at the time was deeply hypocritical, even sick, and turned a deliberate blind eye to what was happening in the institutions. The fact is that the pregnant unmarried young women and the babies who ended up in institutions were put their by their own families.

De Valera, sinking to his knees to kiss a bishop's ring, was symptomatic of how Irish society operated at the time and the absolute obeisance shown to the Catholic Church and its perverse views on sexuality.

The suffocating Ireland of the time was a land in which anything of a sexual nature outside marriage was treated with horror and anger and seen as deeply shameful.

As a result, the lives of so many people -- not just those in institutions -- were damaged by the twisted teachings of the church on sex, on masturbation, purity, "company-keeping," "impure thoughts," and all the other nonsense.

Behind the facade of Holy Catholic Ireland in the first four or five decades of our newly independent state was an ugly hidden reality. Behind all the daily Communions, the weekly Confessions, the Masses, the devotions, the First Fridays, the family rosaries, the Children of Mary, the Sodalities, and all the rest of the mumbo jumbo, young unmarried women who got pregnant were being removed from society because they had brought "shame" on their families and might "give scandal" to their neighbors.

The nuns who ran the mothers and babies homes where many of these young women ended up were doing both God's work, as they saw it, and the state's work, since some refuge had to be provided for these "unfortunates."

The funding the state provided was woefully inadequate, which is one reason why these overcrowded institutions, riddled with infections and short of proper nutrition, became death camps for so many babies.

This was to some degree deliberate. There was a strong punitive aspect to how both the church and the Irish state ran these institutions, with life on the inside deliberately made hard and the inmates made to feel a crippling sense of shame and encouraged to repent.

These days we are horrified by beatings, acid attacks and "honor killings" in Muslim countries designed to keep women in line with a particular code of morality. But Ireland in the very recent past had its own code and a similarly repressive mindset.

We may not have stoned women to death, but we incarcerated them in awful conditions and took away their babies, destroying lives and creating great suffering. We had our own Taliban of the Tabernacle.

And before anyone thinks we are way past all that now, we need to remember that the latest figures show that at least 10 Irish women EVERY DAY are leaving this country because they cannot get pregnancy terminations in Ireland.

We're far too holy for any of that abortion stuff they have in the U.K. and Europe, you see.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fintan O'Toole
Irish Times
June 17, 2014

Meet an egomaniac and you know you are also meeting a deeply insecure person. People who are uncertain about themselves sometimes deal with their anxiety by creating an exaggerated image of superiority.

And it is the same with countries – our own for example. There is a certain irony to Ireland’s badness – it arises in part from delusions of grandeur. This place became so vicious partly because of a hysterical insistence on its unique virtue – a habit of mind that has never gone away.

It’s easy to understand why Catholic Ireland became so hyper-virtuous. A long history of denigration, humiliation and subjection creates a profound distortion. It is not enough to be as good as anybody else – you have to be better, indeed the best: uniquely wonderful. But this fantasy is not harmless. At best, it feeds a deluded detachment from reality. At worst, you have to hide, exclude, deny, those who threaten to spoil the picture of perfection.

Unlike the extreme versions of such dark utopias in Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union, independent Ireland did not actually exterminate the spoilers of its unique purity. But it did get rid of them – mostly through emigration but also, notoriously, in its vast system of “coercive confinement”: industrial schools, Magdalene laundries, mother and baby homes and mental hospitals.

‘Impure’ women

Thus, the appalling treatment of “impure” women in these institutions was a direct consequence of the insistence that Irish femininity was uniquely pure. This was a key point of national difference: England seethed with sex and sin, Ireland was a paradise of continence and virginity.

This unique virtue in turn compensated for the real economic failures of the new State – what did it matter that we were poor, backward and exporting half our population? Our values were not material but spiritual. And, as Eamon de Valera openly claimed, this unmatched holiness would do nothing less than save the world: “Ireland today has no dearer hope than this: that, true to her own holiest traditions, she may humbly serve the truth and help by truth to save the world.”

This fantasy may have been risible, but for those who had to be locked away to keep it alive it was no laughing matter.

Naive past

But let’s not continue the delusion by patronisingly sneering at the naive past. The insecure nation’s need to construct an exaggerated notion of its own specialness is just as evident in the last two decades as it was in the 1930s or 1940s. It’s there, of course, in the continuing insistence that we’re the holiest country in the world because we don’t allow abortion for women who have been raped. But it was also a large part of the psychosis of the Celtic Tiger years.

It wasn’t enough for us that we might end decades of economic and social underperformance and achieve a modest and sustainable prosperity. We had to be the world champions of loadsamoney swaggering. We were “the richest non-oil country in the world” (Irish Independent, January 2007) – a ludicrous claim based on a confusion of multinational profits with domestic earnings and of national income with national wealth, but one that was widely believed and acted on. We were the geniuses who had cracked the code of 21st century development and, for an immodest fee, we could lecture the world on “the Irish model”. We swapped unique sanctity and purity for unique capacity to make money, but the mentality was exactly the same.

And it goes on. When everything fell apart, we had to be uniquely self-sacrificing in our efforts to save the euro – the best little Europeans on the planet. And now – in case you haven’t noticed – we’re just two years away from a triple crown of world- beating achievements. Here, God help us, is the Taoiseach in March 2012, repeated in July 2013: “By 2016 we will prove to be the best small country in the world to do business, the best country in which to raise a family, and the best country in which to grow old with dignity and respect . . . This will be the Republic of 2016.”

Before we laugh at Dev, we might read that again and remember that a third of children are now living in deprivation and that “dignity and respect” for the elderly means getting a chair to sit on for 24 hours in an A&E department and having carers’ allowances, respite grants and home adaptation grants decimated. But no matter – in 18 months we’ll be a unique paradise for the young and the old. (This year’s budget is going to be spectacular.)


If we’re to grow up, we need to cure our delusions of grandeur that produce lies and exclusion. Instead of being absolutely wonderful and special and a beacon of civilisation for the poor benighted world, could we not aim to be normal? Could we not imagine a decent, caring society with a sustainably prosperous economy and a modest sense of wellbeing? Could we stop being simply the best and try to be simply good enough to make the place habitable?

Otherwise, the only thing we’ll remain best at is hypocrisy.

The fall of the vice-pope

Ingrid D. Rowland
New York Review
June 16, 2014

A photograph taken in Argentina in 2007 shows two cardinals, Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Tarcisio Bertone, sitting side by side, although their chairs are on two different levels. At the time, Bertone was the Vatican’s Secretary of State, having traveled to a village in northern Patagonia “in the name of His Holiness Benedict XVI” to preside over the beatification of a turn-of-the-century religious student.

Bertone’s wooden armchair sits on a dais that puts him a good six inches higher than Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, who perches uncomfortably on his metal-and-plastic seat, and the man known to many as the “vice-pope” occupies his virtual throne with kingly complacency, clad in yards of fine Italian filetto lace beneath his golden chasuble, with a sporty pair of aviator sunglasses to complement his gold-embroidered miter (and is that a Rolex on his wrist?). Next to him, in Jesuit black under plain white robes, Cardinal Bergoglio, with his iron cross and his horn-rimmed spectacles, looks open-mouthed upon the radiant spectacle, his famously mobile face providing the perfect caption to the picture. Six years later, Bergoglio became Pope Francis, and things have not been the same since.

On May 19, the glossy, gossipy German newspaper Bild Zeitung printed a report that made immediate headlines in Italy: Vatican prosecutors had begun to investigate allegations that Cardinal Bertone, as the Holy See’s Number Two from 2006 to 2013, had embezzled 15 million euros ($20 million) from Vatican accounts, apparently to benefit an Italian television producer, a former director of the state broadcaster RAI named Ettore Bernabei, with deep connections to Italy’s conservative establishment and a longtime membership in the powerful Catholic organization Opus Dei. The transfer of these funds allegedly occurred in December 2012. The Vatican press corps swiftly denied that a “criminal investigation” was underway, and Bertone himself insisted that the deal had followed “all the rules.”

But the timing of the presumptive transaction is, to say the least, interesting. It came at the very end of the remarkable year in which confidential documents from Pope Benedict’s private office began leaking to the press, revealing power struggles within the Curia and suggestions of widespread corruption within the Church. In these “Vatileaks” documents, Cardinal Bertone figured prominently: he had personally reproved the general secretary of the Vatican governorate, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, for reporting detailed evidence of nepotism, cronyism, and crooked property deals within the Vatican, and soon Pope Benedict had transferred the whistle-blowing prelate from the Vatican to Washington.

In May 2012, tensions escalated still further: the papers from the Viganò affair and other confidential documents were published and analyzed in a book by journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, Sua Santità (His Holiness); Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, head of the Vatican bank, was deposed from office after a vote of no confidence by the institution’s governing board (whose five members were themselves fired this month); and the Pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested as the probable source of the Vatileaks papers and confined to a room on the Vatican grounds. In October 2012, a Vatican court convicted Gabriele of grand theft and sentenced him to jail. By December, however, when the transfer of monies is said to have occurred, Bertone could have felt more confident about his position within the Church; even the pardon Pope Benedict extended to his former butler was only a partial pardon, for Paolo Gabriele remains exiled forever from Vatican territory.

Complaints about Cardinal Bertone’s performance as secretary of state began almost the moment he was appointed to that office in 2006, displacing veteran secretary of state Cardinal Angelo Sodano. Bertone, a member of the teaching order known as the Salesians, had no experience in the Vatican’s diplomatic corps, a fact that angered veterans like Sodano and his staff, a staff that Bertone swiftly began to replace with his own people. A big, bullet-headed man with a degree in canon law, Bertone became archbishop of Vercelli in 1991, but his career began to rise more dramatically after his appointment in 1995 as secretary to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the descendant of the old Holy Office of the Inquisition.

In this position, Bertone worked with the Congregation’s prefect, Cardinal Ratziger, to negotiate the return of several rebellious priests to the Catholic fold, including the four ultra-traditionalist followers of excommunicated archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the colorful Zambian archbishop Emanuel Milingo, an exorcist and healer who married a Korean acupuncturist in a mass wedding presided over by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon in 2001. When the couple arrived in Italy, Catholic authorities swept the wayward seventy-one-year-old archbishop off to seclusion in a monastery outside Rome as his bride staged a hunger strike in St. Peter’s Square.

Bertone continued his rise in the Vatican hierarchy, becoming archbishop of Genoa, and in 2003, a cardinal, almost certainly on Cardinal Ratzinger’s recommendation. In 2005, Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI, and a year later chose Bertone as his new secretary of state, charged with supervising the political and diplomatic functions of the Holy See. Because Vatican City is a tiny enclave within the city of Rome, its political dealings with Italy have always been of paramount importance, and Bertone took the political aspect of his new position seriously. In 2007, in a letter to Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the newly appointed head of the the Italian Episcopal Conference, the official assembly of all 220 Italian bishops, he declared that his own Secretariat, not the Conference, would now be taking exclusive responsibility for dealing with the Italian state; Bagnasco and the bishops should concentrate on taking care of their parishioners.

The left-wing government of Romano Prodi had scant sympathy for the conservative Catholicism of Pope Benedict, and Bertone was eager to press the Pope’s agendas in his own way. By 2008, the Prodi government had fallen to a right-wing coalition headed, once again, by media magnate Silvio Berlusconi. Professing shared traditional values, the Church and the Berlusconi government collaborated closely in media coverage of issues like euthanasia, abortion, and relations with other religions, as well as in more concrete projects—like transactions involving the Vatican bank.

In 2007, Benedict appointed Bertone papal chamberlain, chief administrator of the property and revenues of the Holy See, and a crucial figure in the sede vacante period between popes. Bertone’s eagerness to push his own interests and his evident delight in authority did little to smooth out tensions within the Vatican; Bertone’s list of enemies by now included Cardinal Camillo Ruini, former prefect of Rome, Cardinal Sodano, and Cardinal Bagnasco. Nor did his performance in office improve the Church’s image for the international public. One of the bishops he had helped to readmit to Catholicism turned out to be a rabid anti-Semite; stories of pedophile priests and brutal orphanages continued to leak into the news; and Prime Minister Berlusconi, elated by his reelection, became increasingly erratic in his behavior, amid charges of financial corruption, conflict of interest, and wild orgies that the Prime Minister himself termed “elegant dinners.”

Pope Benedict’s response to complaints about Bertone had always been a resigned “We are an old pope.” By December 2012, with Berlusconi replaced by the sober government of Mario Monti, the agitations of Vatileaks seemed to have settled down to the usual state of uneasy tension between the Italian cardinals who professed friendship without providing much evidence of it: Bertone and Sodano may have detested each other, but they both were allied in their hostility to Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, whose stature as a theologian appealed to Pope Benedict. As for Scola’s predecessor in Milan, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, a jolly, popular figure with more liberal leanings than Benedict’s, both his views and his popularity made him difficult to control. In all these maneuverings, Bertone was the figure who most evidently had the pope’s ear.

Then the unthinkable happened. At the end of February 2013, Pope Benedict announced that he would be retiring before Easter, effectively forcing a quick conclave, and just as effectively putting a lid on Bertone’s career.

Following his retirement, Pope Benedict withdrew to Castelgandolfo, before taking up retirement quarters at the Vatican. The second hammer blow came in a brief sentence at the end of the conclave: “Cardinalem Bergoglium, Qui sibi nomen imposti Franciscum.” The new Pope had taken the unprecedented name of Francis, after the eccentric little saint from Assisi who dedicated his life to a quest for compassion, simplicity, and poverty.

Within a few months, Pope Francis had named his own secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, whose residence in the Vatican guesthouse, the Casa Santa Marta, is as modest as the present pontiff’s, and Bertone retired from the Vatican’s foreign service; in fact he retired slightly ahead of schedule, miffed by the new Pope’s failure to defend him against the charges of corruption that had begun to emerge with Vatileaks. In December, when Bertone turns eighty, he will be compelled by law to leave the several Vatican congregations to which he still belongs as an active member.

When Benedict took the extraordinary step of retiring, he quietly withdrew to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence outside of Rome, until modest quarters could be arranged for him in a convent at the Vatican, and he has carefully stayed out of public view. But for elderly cardinals, retirement need not mean giving up power, as has been clear in the cases of Camillo Ruini, former prefect of Rome, and Angelo Sodano, the former secretary of state; an address within the Vatican can keep such people in the thick of things long after their official mandates have run out. (Francis has made explicit that he wants future retirees to return to their hometowns rather than continue to populate the Vatican.)

True to form, Cardinal Bertone chose retirement quarters in the building next door to the Casa Santa Marta, merging two apartments and a terrace to yield a square footage ten times that of the two-room apartment where Pope Francis resides. Questioned about this sumptuous abode, Bertone has insisted that his relationship with the new pontiff is cordial and that his apartment does not measure 7,000 square feet (but it does if the terrace counts as part of the total). As for the latest allegations, according to Rome’s Il Messaggero (May 21), the cardinal insists: “There is a great deal of creativity on the part of the press. I’m on the same wavelength as the Pope; I feel calm.”

On May 27, the Italian weekly Chi published an aerial view of the penthouse, which overlooks St. Peter’s on one side and Bertone’s old haunt, the Holy Office, on the other, calling it “the penthouse of the scandal.” Because Chi belongs to Silvio Berlusconi’s Mondadori publishing house, the article confirms that their onetime alliance is off. The ramifications of that alliance will surely be emerging in the next few years.

Massimo Franco, a journalist for Corriere della Sera, has suggested that Benedict resigned in full awareness that Jorge Mario Bergoglio might succeed him, since the Argentine cardinal was runner-up at the last conclave. The fact that the future pope failed to appear on most of the lists of papabili circulating before the conclave of 2013 shows how many journalists were covering the Vatican from personal positions sympathetic to Bertone and his cohorts (and Bertone, who as chamberlain oversaw the logistics of the conclave, certainly entertained high hopes of becoming pontiff himself).

Both these prelates and these reporters failed to recognize how negatively the economic crisis, the profound corruption of the Italian state, and the power struggles within the Vatican struck the great outside world as well as many people within the Catholic Church itself. Indeed, Benedict does not seem discomfited at all by the changes Francis has put into effect. The old pope may have been an old fox.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Public protest in Cork seeks justice for mothers and babies

Olivia Kelleher
Irish Times
June 15, 2014

In the region of one hundred people attended a public protest at Cork City Hall this afternoon organised by groups who are looking for justice for mothers and babies abused at the hands of the Church and State.

Among the speakers was Dave Dineen, who first encountered sexual abuse at the age of seven. Through a stormy childhood he found himself placed in the care of a religious institution in Cork.

Mr Dineen, who is the chief executive and founder of the Lamh Healing Foundation, says his healing journey has been about learning to live with a difficult past.

‘All to do with an Ireland past, of course. We’re much more tolerant now. Enda pulled out all the stops in the Dáil. In fairness, he’s damn good at this. He oozes compassion and understanding.’‘This is about the kind of country Ireland was where women were the focus of shame’

“I stand as someone who has gone through the institutions. I also stand as someone who has been abused in a home as well. I am very conscious over the last few weeks of the traumatic episodes that have been happening in Ireland where families have been ripped apart by secrets that are deep deep inside. One of the priorities for me today is to say to people to take care of yourselves. These are very deep soulful stories. There is danger that we keep re traumatising ourselves with no support.”

All of the major political parties were invited to yesterday’s protest, but just two politicians turned up, Sinn Fein TD Sandra McLellan and local Sinn Fein councillor Mick Nugent.

Deputy McLellan said she had heard some horrendous stories from constituents in recent days.

“I had women come in to my constituency office in the past and in the last week. Women that had been trying to find their children. Children that had been trying to find their parents. I was told of instances of abuse. I was told that children were taken away from parents and adopted illegally. I was also told from one lady last week that she was subjected to vaccine trials. She wanted to know what she was injected with.” Meanwhile, mothers and babies who were separated from each other in Bessborough’s Mother and Baby Home have sought assistance from an international adoption website in a bid to find each other.

In the last two weeks a number of posts have been placed on seeking information about infants who were put up for adoption.

One mother, who is aiming to trace her daughter born in the Cork home in early 1968 wrote on June 9th that she thinks of her baby every day.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

2,000 Americans wait to discover truth of their Irish adoptions

Niall O'Dowd
Irish Central
June 14, 2014

There are up to 2,000 Americans who were secretly adopted from Mother and Baby homes in Ireland according to the leading adoption rights campaigner Mari Steed.

Many of whom have never known who their now elderly or deceased Irish birth parents are says Steed.

Thousands of those secret and illegally adopted children ended up in America after essentially being sold to wealthy families.

Mari Steed of the Adoption Rights Alliance was one of them, born at the notorious Bessborough Home in Cork in 1960 and sent to America as a toddler where she now lives near Philadelphia.

She says the latest news of the Irish government inquiry must be the moment that Ireland finally is forced to open its adoption and medical records.

“The government can no longer afford to look away,” Steed says, believing that Tuam has opened a floodgate that cannot be shut.

If the information sluices out, Steed says thousands of Irish adoptees living in America will soon have access to the information so many have desperately sought but which has been closely guarded to preserve legal indemnity. “It would be so powerful for them to even just have access to the birth certificates,” she says

, “to see who their mothers were.”

But time is of the essence and the government must hurry. Susan Lohan, co-founder of Adoption Rights Alliance said: “Given the age profile of the women who suffered at these homes, further delays in providing access to family records and advice on reunions could not be sustained.”

She said it had been the cynical intention of successive governments to “deny ‘til we die” in an effort to avoid ever investigating so-called “mother and baby” homes.

Their birth parents were unmarried women held in female gulags masquerading as convents and places of prayer in various locations around Ireland.

Forced to give birth without painkillers, to cut grass with scissors, to go without stitches if ripped open in childbirth, they were reviled for their fallen women status.

After birth they were then allowed to bond with their children in the certain knowledge that the child would be snatched from them for adoption within a year or two. Imagine their pain.

This is the last chance to have the truth uncovered. The focus on secret adoptions from Ireland was given a huge boost by Philomena Lee, whose story became the Oscar-nominated movie “Philomena.”

Lee is still leading the charge. Her eloquent testimony to the heartbreak of losing her son echoes over sixty years later

“We all knew what it meant when a big car arrived,” she said, describing the process of forced adoption to the US which saw her son taken away from Sean Ross Abbey, the unmarried mother’s home run by the Sacred Heart Sisters in Clonmel, County Tipperary.

‘In my dreams that moment still comes back to me,’ she told the “Daily Mail.”

“I see his little face looking through the rear windscreen – I’ve relived it so many times.”

That scene was repeated at least 438 times as the number of babies were secretly sent to the U.S. from Sean Ross alone, according to investigative journalist Mick Millotte in his book “Banished Babies.”

The arrival of strangers was to be feared for tens of thousands of trembling, unmarried mothers who between the 1920s and 1960s in Ireland were forced to give up their babies.

It was the hardest of times to be pregnant and single. Shame was everywhere. The residual impact of the Famine brought Ireland to its knees and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and the fledgling state wanted to make sure the females especially stayed there.

“Life was brutal for them,” Boston College associate professor James Smith wrote in his 2007 history of the unmarried mothers and the notorious Magdalene Laundries many worked in.

“Ireland was a new state and very concerned with forging a national identity of moral purity. So they hid away anyone who might be seen as shameful or lacking in respectability.”

The single pregnant woman, many of them raped, had little choice but to enter one of the homes and later give up their child, so great was the shame. Even if they changed their mind and escaped they were often brought back by police.

Years later in 2013 Taoiseach Enda Kenny publicly apologized for the way the women were treated.

Speaking of the time he said, “Yes, by any standard it was a cruel, pitiless Ireland, distinctly lacking in a quality of mercy.”

But Ireland will seem as pitiless today if it does not find a way to release all the records relating to the unmarried mothers and their babies.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Archbishop Carlson responds to sex abuse deposition controversy

Valerie Schremp Hahn
St. Louis Post Dispatch
June 13, 2014

ST. LOUIS • St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson issued a statement and video Friday about comments he made in a deposition last month about whether sexual abuse of children by priests was a crime.

“In the deposition last month, I misunderstood a series of questions that were presented to me,” he said. “I wish to clarify that situation now. I fully understand, and have understood for my entire adult life, as I stated in other sections of this same deposition, sexual abuse is a grave evil and a criminal offense.”

The reports of his comments during the deposition sparked outrage among some in the community and prompted a small protest outside the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis on Wednesday.

“I understand this situation has caused concern and frustration for many people, and for that I apologize,” Carlson said. He encouraged anyone who had suffered abuse to contact police and the archdiocese.

Friday marked the third time in a week the archdiocese has offered responses to the statements offered by Carlson in the deposition.


Carlson responded that he “did not remember” 193 times to questions posed to him during the deposition.

The controversy stemmed from the archbishop’s response to a line of questioning about his grasp of child sex abuse laws.


“Archbishop, you knew it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid?” Anderson asks.

“I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not. I understand today it’s a crime,” Carlson replies.

read entire article at St. Louis Post Dispatch

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Editorial: Archbishop Carlson has some troubling memory lapses

Editorial Board
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

June 10, 2014

“And Pilate asked him, ‘Art thou the King of the Jews?’ And he answering said unto him, ‘I can’t remember.’ ” Of course that’s not what the second verse of the 15th chapter of Mark’s gospel actually says. Jesus, on trial for his life before Pontius Pilate, replies, “Thou sayest it.”

He didn’t deny it, he didn’t admit it, he certainly didn’t go all Watergate on him and say, “At this point in time, I have no present recollection of what may or may not have happened.”

Now contrast that with how St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson responded in a deposition on May 23. He was answering — more precisely, not answering — questions posed by attorney Jeff Anderson of St. Paul, Minn., who represents a victim in a priest-abuse case that took place in 1984. Archbishop Carlson then was an auxiliary bishop in the St. Paul archdiocese. He held the title of chancellor to then-Archbishop John R. Roach.

Mr. Anderson asked the archbishop if at the time, he knew it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a child.

“I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not,” Archbishop Carlson replied. “I understand today it is a crime.”

In 1984, then-Bishop Carlson was 39 years old. It defies belief that a sophisticated, well-educated man in the United States could get to be 39 years old without knowing that it’s against the law for adults to have sex with children.

As reported by Lilly Fowler at on Monday and in Tuesday’s Post-Dispatch, on 193 occasions during the course of the May 23 deposition, Archbishop Carlson claimed not to remember the answers to Mr. Anderson’s questions.

Minnesota Public Radio reported that during last month’s deposition, the archbishop told Mr. Anderson, “You’re asking me to tell you under oath what I did 32 or 30 years ago, and it would be impossible for me to do that with any accuracy, especially when you have documents that would spell that out.”

Mr. Anderson released several of those documents, indicating that in the mid-1980s, then-Bishop Carlson was keenly familiar with the laws involving sexual abuse of minors, including fine points like the statute of limitations. In a July 1984 memo to Archbishop Roach, then-Bishop Carlson reported having questioned a suspect priest; the priest “agreed” that he was probably facing a charge of a “first-degree criminal sexual contact.”

In a 1986 document released by Mr. Anderson, then-Bishop Loras J. Watters of Winona, Minn., recalls then-Bishop Carlson giving him a tip for answering questions during depositions: “He said the best thing you can say is, ‘I don’t remember.’ ”

Archbishop Carlson told Mr. Anderson he had no memory of using that phrase. Most likely his advice to Bishop Watters would have been to consult his lawyer, he said.

Slippery language like this normally is employed by lawyered-up mobsters, politicians or Wall Street fraudsters. It is not the sort of thing that you associate with a shepherd of the flock of Christ.

There are several possibilities here. One, Archbishop Carlson really can’t remember, in which case he should resign and seek treatment for Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia.

Two, Archbishop Carlson has been coached-up to his eyeballs on the laws governing perjury. You perjure yourself in a sworn deposition if you knowingly lie. But if you say you can’t remember, and there’s no paper trail or evidence to the contrary, proving perjury is tough.

Three, because there’s money at stake, he’s deliberately misleading the court, to say nothing of his flock, unworried about the ruinous moral example that he’s setting. Not remembering a few things from 1984 is understandable. But 193?

As a policy, this editorial page does not comment on matters of religious teaching or practice, except when it touches on the public sphere. We have applauded the archbishop’s moral leadership on the subject of Medicaid expansion in Missouri and the state’s obligation to the poor. We have been less enthusiastic about his arguments against the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

Either way, he has utterly squandered his credibility.

In John’s account of Jesus’ trial, Jesus tells Pilate, “Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”

And Pilate says, “What is truth?”

It’s a good question, your excellency.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Yet another archbishop can't remember much

Brian Lambert
Minn Post
June 9, 2014

Do they also take a vow of forgetfulness? At MPR, Madeleine Baran writes, “St. Louis archbishop Robert Carlson — who served in the Twin Cities for 24 years — testified last month that he wasn't sure whether he knew it was illegal for priests to have sex with children when he served as chancellor of the Twin Cities archdiocese in the 1980s, according to a transcript released Monday. The former chancellor also said he couldn't recall reporting abuse to police while here from 1970 to 1994.”

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Thousands of children in Irish care homes at centre of 'baby graves' scandal were used in secret vaccine trials in 1930s

Harriet Arkel and Neil Michael
Daily Mail (Ireland)
June 6, 2014

Children's homes in Ireland were often the only place where a woman pregnant out of wedlock could go. Children were looked after by nuns and often adopted abroad - now it seems they were used in drugs trials, too

Scientists secretly vaccinated more than 2,000 children in religious-run homes in suspected illegal drug trials, it emerged today. Old medical records show that 2,051 children and babies in Irish care homes were given a one-shot diphtheria vaccine for international drugs giant Burroughs Wellcome between 1930 and 1936.

There is no evidence that consent was ever sought, nor any records of how many may have died or suffered debilitating side-effects as a result.

The scandal was revealed as Irish premier, Enda Kenny, ordered ministers to see whether there are more mass baby graves after the discovery that 800 infants may be buried in a septic tank outside a former mother and baby home in Tuam, Co. Galway.

The Irish premier has ordered his officials to examine the possibility that there may be other mass graves, too

The Taioseach intervened from the United States yesterday to say that he had ordered his officials to 'see what the scale is, what's involved here, and whether this is isolated or if there are others around the country that need to be looked at.'

Michael Dwyer, of Cork University’s School of History, found the child vaccination data by trawling through tens of thousands of medical journal articles and archive files.

He discovered that the trials were carried out before the vaccine was made available for commercial use in the UK.

Homes where children were secretly tested included Bessborough, in Co. Cork and Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, both of which are at the centre of the mass baby graves scandal.

Other institutions where children may also have been vaccinated include Cork orphanages St Joseph’s Industrial School for Boys, run by the Presentation Brothers, and St Finbarr’s Industrial School for Girls, run by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

In Dublin, it is believed that children for the trials came from St Vincent’s Industrial School, Goldenbridge, St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys, Cabra, and St Saviours’s Dominican Orphanage.

But Mr Dwyer said: 'What I have found is just the tip of a very large and submerged iceberg.

'The fact that no record of these trials can be found in the files relating to the Department of Local Government and Public Health, the Municipal Health Reports relating to Cork and Dublin, or the Wellcome Archives in London, suggests that vaccine trials would not have been acceptable to government, municipal authorities, or the general public.

'However, the fact that reports of these trials were published in the most prestigious medical journals suggests that this type of human experimentation was largely accepted by medical practitioners and facilitated by authorities in charge of children’s residential institutions.'

A spokesman for GSK – formerly Wellcome – said: 'The activities that have been described to us date back over 70 years and, if true, are clearly very distressing.

'We would need further details to investigate what actually took place, but the practices outlined certainly don’t reflect how modern clinical trials are carried out. We conduct our trials to the same high scientific and ethical standards, no matter where in the world they are run.'

A spokeswoman for the Sisters of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, the order that ran Bessborough and Sean Ross Abbey, said that like GSK, they would also welcome an independent inquiry.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin called on the Irish government to add vaccine trials into the investigative remit of any inquiry into the mother and baby homes.

He said: 'We need to start with an independent investigation into the mother and baby homes which would be followed by a wider separate investigation into the vaccine testing.'

Historian Catherine Corless, whose discovery of the suspected mass baby grave at Tuam was revealed by the Mail earlier this week, said her study of death records for the St Mary's home run by Catholic Bon Secours nuns from 1925-1961 pointed to the existence of the mass grave.

The Irish PM interrupted a trade visit to San Francisco to order an inquiry in the Tuam home and others, saying that Dublin must decide what is the 'best thing to do in the interest of dealing with yet another element of our country's past.'

St Mary's was one of several such 'mother and baby' homes for 'fallen women' who had become pregnant outside marriage in early 20th century Ireland.

Another such institution was the Sean Ross Abbey in Tipperary, was where Philomena Lee gave up her son for adoption in the 1950s. Her story was made into the Oscar-nominated film 'Philomena' last year.

The 'mother and baby' homes accommodated women who were ostracised from their own families and had nowhere else to turn.

Under conservative Catholic teaching of the time, children born outside of marriage were not baptised and were therefore denied a Catholic burial on consecrated ground.

Mass grave at Galway home not the only one, says Irish leader Kenny

Shelia Langan
Irish Central
June 6, 2014

children at mother and infant home in Galway 1930

The mass grave of 796 children at a former home for unwed mothers and children in Tuam, Co. Galway is likely not the only one of its kind in Ireland, Prime Minister Enda Kenny has said.

A government investigation launched in wake of the shocking discovery will focus on all of the former so-called ‘mother and baby homes’ in Ireland, it was announced yesterday.

Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan is organizing a group of senior officials who will advise the government on the scope of investigation required and the best course of action at the end of the month.

Speaking from the US, where he is currently on a trade mission, Kenny said that Flanagan and his committee would determine “whether this is an isolated [incident] or whether there are others around the country that need to be looked at” and to “decide what is the best thing to do in the interests of dealing with another element of our country's past.”

He also acknowledged that the government had not been entirely ignorant of the dire conditions at the Tuam home, where children suffered from malnutrition and other serious ailments.

“I understand that this has been known about since 1972 and clearly the Dáil [parliament] records themselves show references to inspections under the system that operated at health level way back in the 1930s – so it is an issue that we need to deal with,” he said.

In Dublin, Flanagan announced that the group will “properly review all issues (and) will not confine this review to Tuam,” adding that it was not unique in Ireland as a mother and baby home.

“The history of mother and baby homes in Ireland in the early and middle decades of the 20th century reflects a brutally unforgiving response by society, religious and State institutions and, in many cases, families, to young women and children when they were in most need and most vulnerable,” he said in a statement. “It is fully recognized by me and my government colleagues that we need to establish the truth.”

Many other homes for unwed mothers, their “illegitimate” children and other orphans operated in Ireland throughout the 1900s. There was Bessborough in Co. Cork, Sean Ross in Tipperary (where Philomena Lee had her son), and Castlepollard in Westmeath – all run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. The mortality rates at these homes were far higher than the national average, the Irish Examiner recently reported, ranging from 30% - 50% between 1930 and 1945.

There were Protestant mother and baby homes too, such as the Bethany Home in Dublin, where a similar scandal took place. Between 1922 and 1949, close to 220 children died and were buried in an unmarked grave at Dublin’s Mount Jerome Cemetery. They were memorialized in 2010.

Yesterday, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, echoed the demands for a thorough inquiry. He also called for cooperation, urging “those responsible for running any of the mother and baby homes in Ireland, or any other person having information about mass graves, to give that information to the authorities.”

The Order of the Bon Secours Nuns, which ran the Tuam home from 1925 – 1961, said that they no longer hold any of the records from the home.

“In 1961 the Home was closed. All records were returned to the local authority, and would now be within the Health Service Executive, Co Galway,” read a statement issued on Thursday.

The statement noted that the sisters are shocked and deeply saddened by the findings, and that they are committed to engaging with Catherine Corless, the local historian who brought the story to light, and the Graveyard Committee seeking to establish a proper memorial “as constructively as they can on the graves initiative connected with the site.”

In Tuam, the local Gardaí (police) are in the process of determining whether the case warrants a criminal investigation.

Geoff Knuper, a forensic scientist interviewed on RTE’s "Morning Ireland" program, said that if the remains are exhumed, it may be possible to determine the causes and dates of death.

“Obviously it all depends on the state of preservation,” he explained. “After all this time of course, soft tissue will no longer be available but the harder tissue, skeletal structures, should have survived. In addition to providing opportunities for DNA identification, the skeletal structures could show evidence of physical violence, of disease, even malnutrition.”

The local committee seeking to establish a proper memorial for the grave site has started a crowd-funding campaign to create a Tuam Mother and Baby memorial that will list the names, ages, and dates of death of each of the 796 children.

The Archbishop of Tuam, Michael Neary, told RTE that he planned to work with the committee, the local community and the Bon Secours Sisters to create a “suitable commemorative prayer based memorial service and plaque, and to ensure that the deceased and their families will never be forgotten.

“It will be a priority for me, in co-operation with the families of the deceased, to seek to obtain a dignified re-interment of the remains of the children in consecrated ground in Tuam."

Friday, June 6, 2014

Death devoid of dignity at Bon Secours home

Sharon Foley
Irish Times
June 6, 2014

It is hard not to be horrified, sickened and shocked at the heartbreaking revelations that 796 babies died and may have been buried in a mass grave in the grounds of a home run by the Sisters of the Bon Secours in Tuam, Co Galway, between 1925 and 1961.

As a mother, I am mourning to my core the loss of these precious lives. It is nearly beyond my capacity to understand how helpless, tiny human beings could have been apparently discarded and treated in this way.

The full facts surrounding the deaths will probably never be established. But the question on all our minds is what happened these babies? Did they die when the mother was in childbirth? Did they die from malnutrition and neglect? Did they die from an illness that is now easily treatable? Did they die alone?

These infants died in a mother and baby home at a disgraceful period in Ireland when unmarried mothers were banished and hidden away and cruelly forced to give up their infants for adoption on birth.

As founding chief executive of the government-funded Crisis Pregnancy Agency, I understand the trauma of a crisis pregnancy and our shameful history in failing to support Irish girls and women who were pregnant and unmarried.

‘Darker past’

As the chief executive of the Irish Hospice Foundation, and more importantly as a citizen of this State, I am deeply shamed that babies appear to have been treated inhumanely and given a burial devoid of dignity.

Commentators have referred in the last few days to this as part of our “darker past”. But what makes this most disturbing is that these events are still in living memory of almost half the population. Everyone – no matter what their age, background or religion – deserves to die with dignity.

The Irish Hospice Foundation is working to ensure that all of us have the chance of a good death and are treated with respect not just at the end of life but after life also.

It is devastating for parents and families when a baby dies. Of all deaths, those of children and babies are the most poignant and we must ensure that each fatality is treated with the utmost of respect and reverence.

Thankfully, attitudes towards infants and infantile death in Ireland have changed greatly. And the despicable practices of Tuam no longer exist today.

My daughter, Aisling, died in a Dublin hospital at just 10 weeks old. I will never forget the compassion and kindness shown to me and my husband by staff and how after death Aisling was treated by them with the utmost dignity. There are ways to honour a life and provide some small comfort to those in unbearable pain.

The death of a loved one – whether a partner, child or parent – is one of the most challenging life events that any of us will have to deal with. The benchmark of any society is the way in which it takes care of its most vulnerable. The State failed the Tuam babies and thousands more too over the generations.

Bereavement grant cutback

In the last budget, the Government cut the bereavement grant. This raises serious ethical questions about the type of society it is creating and specifically how it treats its citizens at one of the most vulnerable period of their lives.

The Government needs to do all it can now to make amends in the Tuam babies case. We cannot ignore the past, but we can reclaim it.

The Tuam babies – and all other babies and children buried in unmarked graves – deserve a response at a political and human level. It is not too late.

A proper historical inquiry must be held into the deaths of these 800 babies.

Every effort must be made to redress the pain imposed by making proper burial arrangements for the children who died.

And every effort also needs to be made to identify these children and, where possible, to inform relatives. There are brothers, sisters and possibly mothers and fathers who are still alive. It is not too late to grieve and honour the memory of these babies.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

No child sex abuse crisis in Twin Cities archdiocese (St. Paul - Minneapolis), former archbishop says

Emily Gurnon
Pioneer Press
June 4, 2014

The former Twin Cities archbishop said in a six-hour deposition that he could not recall any circumstances involving sexual abuse of children by priests that "should have been handled better."

Retired Archbishop Harry Flynn was asked whether there were any such situations during his 13 years as archbishop. "No. I can't think of any," Flynn said.

Nor did he believe there was ever a "crisis" pertaining to child sexual abuse by clergy in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

He said he never reported information about suspected abusers to police and didn't know whether anyone on his staff did.

St. Paul attorney Jeffrey Anderson took Flynn's deposition May 14 as a part of a lawsuit filed in May 2013 against the archdiocese and former priest Thomas Adamson. Anderson's office released a transcript and video copy of the deposition Wednesday.

The archdiocese also posted the transcript on its website. It did not comment on the deposition's content, saying it was court-ordered testimony "that speaks for itself."

Flynn was out of town Wednesday, according to his attorney, Thomas M. Kelly.

"The archbishop made every effort to cooperate and recall things that occurred 10, 12 years ago," Kelly said.

In response to dozens of questions posed by Anderson, Flynn responded that he did not remember events surrounding the sexual abuse of children by priests, blaming his age for his lack of recall.

Flynn, 81, could not remember whether the public had ever been informed of the allegation against the Rev. Michael Keating, a professor at the University of St. Thomas before it was exposed via a lawsuit in October. Keating was accused in 2006 of sexually abusing a teenage girl. He kept working until the girl sued in 2013. Anderson represents her.

Flynn could not recall whether he had ever tried to get a priest defrocked, or whether any lists were compiled of priests in the archdiocese who had sexually abused children.

When Anderson asked him about certain accused priests on a list publicized by the archdiocese and reported extensively in media accounts, he said he was hearing those names for the first time. They include Tim McCarthy, Tom Gillespie, Eugene Corica, Harold Whittet, Rudolph Henrich, Joseph Heitzer and Harry Walsh.

Anderson's co-counsel, Michael Finnegan, said the purported lack of memory is "something that we've seen unfortunately too many times from a lot of the top (church) officials who have made the choice to, instead of answering questions truthfully ... to claim a lack of memory."

Too many of the events he was asked about "were extremely important things," Finnegan said. "They aren't the type of things that one would ever forget."

Flynn said he has had no diagnosis of memory impairment. He added that he is "on an enormous amount of medication" but that age "has more to do with (his memory)" than any other factor.

Ordained in 1960, Flynn became co-adjutor, or successor, to Archbishop John Roach in 1994 and was installed as archbishop in 1995. He served until May 2008, when he retired and was succeeded by current Archbishop John Nienstedt.

In 2002, Flynn chaired the U.S. Bishops Committee on Sexual Abuse. When the conference of bishops met in Dallas, Flynn helped craft what became known as the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The charter sets out procedures to respond to allegations of sexual abuse by priests, among them requiring officials to report such allegations to civil authorities.

At one point in his deposition, Flynn said that his job kept him out of town for long periods of time.

It was his responsibility to protect the children of the archdiocese, he said, and he participated in a few meetings with parishes that had had abusive priests.

But he was "out of the diocese a great deal doing talks on the charter and trying to get dioceses on board," Flynn said. "And it's unfortunate that we did not pay more attention to this as a result."

He said former Vicar General Kevin McDonough was his primary adviser on issues of sexual abuse.

Flynn stepped down as chairman of the University of St. Thomas' Board of Trustees last October. His retirement followed reports on how the archdiocese handled the investigation of sexual misconduct accusations against Keating. McDonough resigned as vice chairman of the St. Thomas board earlier that month.

Flynn spoke at relative length about two priests he believed were falsely accused.

One was Keating.

The former archbishop said he met with the accuser and her parents at the time of her initial accusation. He doesn't recall what the alleged sexual contact was, he said, but "I remember realizing or thinking at the time that it was not sexual abuse, but rather, boundary issues, which took place in the presence of the parents."

Keating has denied any abuse.

Flynn said he remembers "chiding" the girl's father. "I was suspicious of the mother and father ... I don't know why, but I was ... they kept interrupting the daughter and filling in and suggesting what might have happened, whether she was able to say so or not and I wondered what part they played in all of this."

He did not recall the girl saying Keating had rubbed her breasts or rubbed his genitals against her, Flynn said.

Flynn defended Bishop Paul V. Dudley, who was accused of fondling an 11- or 12-year-old altar boy in the 1950s when he was a priest at Annunciation Church in Minneapolis. Dudley denied the charges and an internal church investigation cleared him of wrongdoing. Anderson's office said that Dudley was accused in more than one instance and that the accusations were credible.

"I can tell you ... in my judgment, it was the most ludicrous accusation that could have been made about anyone," Flynn said. "He was accused of dancing on a floor in his cassock ... and coming close to a young lady and some years ago."

Anderson asked why he would describe an accusation against Dudley as "ludicrous."

"Because I knew Bishop Dudley so well and it was just incompatible, that kind of behavior... was incompatible with his character," Flynn said.

Surely he knew of other esteemed priests who were found to have committed sexual offenses, Anderson said.

Flynn said where there was smoke, there was fire.

In his judgment, "many great, great men like Bishop Dudley could have been accused ... and found to be exonerated, free of all those accusations by people who were just not right in the head."

Dudley died in 2006. Flynn said he did not remember if Dudley was the subject of more than one accusation.

On the recent disclosures of payments the archdiocese made to priests accused of abuse, Flynn defended the practice.

Anderson asked in particular about former priest Gil Gustafson receiving payments after he was "placed on a disability for pedophilia."

"He would not be receiving payments for pedophilia," Flynn said. "He'd be receiving payments because he victimized and is not able to work at an adequate position anymore. That's why he would receive payments."

What message does that send to the victims of abuse, Anderson asked.

"I don't know, but what message would it send to the world if we threw these priests out in the street without any difficulty -- without any assistance?" Flynn responded.

It would also send a powerful message if the files on abusive priests were given to police, wouldn't it, Anderson asked.

"Powerful message, yes," Flynn said.

Anderson asked why that had not been done.

Flynn said he didn't know. At this point, he said, "That will be up to the present archbishop."

The deposition was taken as a part of discovery in Doe 1 vs. the archdiocese, the Diocese of Winona and Thomas Adamson.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit accuses Adamson of molesting him in the 1970s when Adamson served at St. Thomas Aquinas in St. Paul Park.

Doe 1 also accuses church officials of creating a "public nuisance" by moving him from parish to parish despite allegations of child sexual abuse.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Cardinal Kasper is the 'pope's theologian'

David Gibson
Religion News Service
June 3, 2014

To hear Cardinal Walter Kasper tell it, he became the pope's point man for reform in the Catholic church thanks to a bit of serendipity, or, if you will, Providence, before anyone knew that Francis was going to be the next Roman pontiff.

The genesis of their partnership, Kasper recalled during a recent trip to New York, was a fateful encounter that took place a few days before last year's conclave, when all the electors in the College of Cardinals from around the world were staying in the Vatican guesthouse.

Kasper's room happened to be right across the hallway from that of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina. A renowned German theologian who had just turned 80, Kasper had recently received a Spanish translation of his latest book, Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life. He brought a couple copies with him and gave one to Bergoglio.

"Ah, mercy!" the Argentine cardinal exclaimed when he saw the title. "This is the name of our God!"

The two men knew each other a bit -- Kasper had been to Buenos Aires several times on church business -- but it turns out Bergoglio's reaction wasn't just one of those pro forma compliments you might give to an acquaintance at a book party. Mercy had long been a guiding principle for Bergoglio's ministry, and he devoured Kasper's original, wide-ranging study in the days leading up to the voting.

Then, on the evening of March 13, it was Bergoglio who emerged on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica as Pope Francis. Four days after that, the new pope addressed a huge crowd in the square -- and as a surprised Kasper watched on television, he heard Francis praising him as a "very sharp theologian" and effectively blurbing his work: "That book has done me so much good," Francis said.

"But don't think I do publicity for the books of my cardinals!" the new pontiff quickly added.

Too late. The subsequent editions of Kasper's book led with Francis' praise above the title, and ever since Kasper has been enjoying the kind of influence that a short time ago would have been as unimaginable as, well, the kinds of reforms that Francis has been promoting.

'A radical pope'

For years, Kasper had been an odd man out in the Roman power structure. When he was a bishop in Germany in the 1990s, Kasper led efforts to try to persuade Pope John Paul II to find a way to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion. But that was thwarted by conservatives in Rome, led by another German theologian, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, John Paul's longtime doctrinal czar.

Kasper continued to push for reforms, however, often sparring with Ratzinger in the pages of Catholic journals. Still, John Paul made Kasper a cardinal in 2001 and later named him head of the Vatican department for relations with other churches.

The post turned out to be something of a way station for Kasper, and when John Paul died in 2005 there were some who pitched Kasper as the last great hope for a progressive turn in the church: "Kasper the Friendly Pope," as some quipped.

Instead, it was Ratzinger, Kasper's longtime rival, who emerged from the Sistine Chapel as Pope Benedict XVI, apparently cementing the church's turn toward conservatism. Kasper retired and settled down to writing books on topics such as mercy.

After Benedict announced he was resigning, Kasper once again entered the conclave by another stroke of fortune: Cardinals over 80 are barred from voting for a new pope, and Kasper's 80th birthday was March 5 -- one day after the cardinals began deliberating. He made it by just 24 hours.

Ten days later, Francis was elected.

To be sure, Francis shares a passion for mercy with Kasper. But he also relies on Kasper not only to provide the theological underpinnings for his views but also as a kind of front man to sell Francis' push to renew Catholicism.

"This pope is not a liberal pope. He is a radical pope!" Kasper said as he sat in an office at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle on Manhattan's Upper West Side during a weeklong U.S. sojourn. "This pope goes back to the Gospel."

Contentious topics

After Francis publicly praised Kasper's work, an older cardinal in Rome came to the pope and insisted: "Holy Father, you should not recommend this book! There are many heresies in it!" The pope smiled as he told Kasper the story, and reassured him: "It goes in one ear and out the other."

Further proof of Francis' trust in Kasper came in February when the pope tapped him to deliver a lengthy talk for a meeting of all the world's cardinals who had gathered to discuss updating the church's policies on a range of hot-button issues.

The meeting, or consistory, was the first in a series of discussions that Francis has planned to jump-start long-stalled talks on contentious topics — one of them whether divorced and remarried Catholics can receive Communion. It's not the sexiest topic but it is a huge pastoral crisis, given that so many Catholics have remarried without an annulment and are barred from the altar rail. Even a murderer can confess and receive Communion, as Kasper likes to note.

"I told the pope, 'Holy Father, there will be a controversy afterward,' " Kasper said. The pope laughed and told him: "That's good, we should have that!"

Sure enough, fierce criticisms tumbled in.

"Such a shift wouldn't just provoke conservative grumbling; it would threaten outright schism," warned New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. Phil Lawler, editor of Catholic World News, agreed that such a change was beyond the pale: "The Kasper proposal, in anything approaching its current form, is unworkable," he wrote.

To be sure, Kasper himself did not exactly tamp down the flames in his recent appearances at Catholic campuses and in interviews with U.S. media.

Speaking to the liberal Catholic magazine Commonweal, for example, Kasper said the pope himself "believes that 50 percent of marriages are not valid" — an assertion that left many conservatives aghast. "I am stunned at the pastoral recklessness of such an assertion. Simply stunned," wrote canon lawyer and popular blogger Edward Peters.

At a public talk at Fordham University in New York, Kasper also irked the right, and pleased the left, when he tweaked the Vatican's doctrinal chief, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, who had just delivered a blistering critique of leaders of most American nuns. Kasper expressed his "esteem" for Müller and said his office tended to take a "narrow" view and must be more open to dialogue and change. That, too, sparked a fresh round of complaints.

Risking change

Despite the pushback, colleagues describe Kasper as rejuvenated by the reform Francis has launched.

"I do not know if my proposals will be acceptable," the cardinal said with a shrug. "I made them in agreement with the pope; I did not do them just myself. I spoke beforehand with the pope, and he agreed."

Kasper's ideas are controversial not so much for their content but because at heart they are about whether and how the church can change.

"Change is always a risk," Kasper said. "But it's also a risk not to change. Even a greater risk, I think."

Kasper said he was confident that the process of debate that Francis had launched on the topic of family life and sexuality would in the end produce some significant reforms, in part "because there are very high expectations."

He noted that the church has often changed, or "developed," over the centuries, and quite recently in the 1960s when, for example, the Second Vatican Council reversed long-standing teachings against religious freedom and dialogue with other believers.

Kasper reiterates that he's not advocating a change in the church's dogma on the sanctity of marriage, but a change in the "pastoral practice" about who can receive Communion. "To say we will not admit divorced and remarried people to holy Communion? That's not a dogma. That's an application of a dogma in a concrete pastoral practice. This can be changed."

Kasper said it is the voice of the faithful that has made the difference. "The strongest support comes from the people, and you cannot overlook that," he said.

"If what people are doing and what the church is teaching, if there is an abyss, that doesn't help the credibility of the church," he said. "One has to change."