Are Cardinal Sean Brady (and any/all other religious figures) exempt from the law of the land? Even Christ said Render unto Caesar…etc!

Matthew 22:21
Then saith he unto them,  Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
I am drawn (like ‘rubber-necking’ while driving by an accident on the highway) to the recent  and various tribulations faced by the Holy Catholic Church and other religious institutions each time there is a new incident involving misconduct by someone ‘of the cloth.’ Unfortunately such incidents invariably involve minor, innocent children. The allegations have been fast and furious over the past few years, doubtless resulting in numerous settlements being executed between the Church and it’s victims.
In some cases, the allegations need not be directly attributed to the individual perpetuating the abuse, but instead to those who were aware but did nothing about it. Or whom, by their inaction allowed the perpetrators to continue going about their indiscretions, causing untold suffering and harm (both psychological and physical ) to their victims. Always the most vulnerable and innocent.
Cardinal Sean Brady has been in the center of a maelstrom recently. Way back in 1975, while  a fledgeling priest and teacher in Ireland,  he was called upon to investigate and interview two children who had come forward with abuse allegations against a Father Brendan Smythe.
The church statement says that in March 1975, Father Sean Brady, was asked by his bishop, Francis McKiernan, to conduct a canonical (church) inquiry into an allegation of abuse which was made by a boy in Dundalk, County Louth concerning Father Smyth. Accordingly Father Brady and another priest conducted interviews with one of the victims (a boy) on March 29 1975, in Dundalk. Father Brady’s role at that meeting was to take notes. The Catholic Church in Ireland has released more details about why Cardinal Sean Brady asked child abuse victims to sign secrecy agreements over complaints against serial abuser Father Brendan Smyth.
On 4 April 1975, Father Brady interviewed a second boy, who was 15, in the Parochial House in Ballyjamesduff, County Cavan. On that occasion Father Brady conducted the interview by himself and took notes. The church said that at the end of both interviews, the boys were “asked to confirm by oath the truthfulness of their statements and that they would preserve the confidentiality of the interview process.”
While the church provides reasons for this requirement for the children to sign oaths of secrecy, they have remained silent on why the Police were not informed at the time? The Church statement confirms that a week later Father Brady passed his findings to Bishop McKiernan and in turn the bishop reported the findings to the local head of Father Smyth’s religious order (the Norbertines). Smyth’s right to practise as a priest were subsequently withdrawn and he was advised psychiatric intervention. The Norbertines (Smythe’s order) conspicuously failed to supervise Smyth who simply went on to to abuse more children.
The Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) suggests that Father Brady’s position has become untenable, quote: “Cardinal Brady is personally implicated in collusion with clerical child sexual abuse,” RCNI director Fiona Neary said. “In recent public statements regarding clerical child abuse he did not make public his role in pressuring and bullying victims to remain silent. He did not make public his own failures to disclosure a known abuser to civil authorities.” “Sexual abuse that could have been prevented was not, and Brendan Smyth continued to abuse children.” End of quote.**********************************
Now  my submission to you …close your eyes and try to visualize the setting. Perhaps a dimly lit, awe-imposing room in a Presbytery or Rectory. A child 14 /15 years or so, one priest asking questions…another taking notes. The interrogation culminating in the child being sworn to secrecy by the interrogators. In other words, the child being firmly admonished/told that he must never speak about what has just transpired in this room to anyone…ever!

Now imagine that was your child or perhaps the child of a close relative/family member or even a friend!
Would you be inclined to forgive either one of the priests involved in the above scenario for not informing the appropriate authorities – and by authorities I mean the Police and not some Superior up the chain of command of their own  clerical heirarchy?
There is a  hackney’d expression that comes to mind : ‘Ignorance of the law is no excuse…!’

The Vatican’s apology letter on the Church’s complicity with the child abuse furore in Ireland – no ‘mea culpa’ here!

Originally written on Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Here is the link to the Vatican  apology letter to the children, the people and Catholic Clergy in Ireland:

This is an interesting read to say the least. However a daunting one in that it translates into roughly 9 x A4 size pages of small font text, with a lot of obfuscatory theological verbiage, and very  little  gut-level sincerity. The kind of sincerity we have grown used to hearing/seeing even from the jaded, hard-boiled, teflon coated CEOs and Politicians we have voted in, who somehow succeed in getting it right. The right look, sound-bite, haggard demeanour and forthrightness so critical to making a connection with the hoi polloi, whenever they seek forgiveness for some political misstep from the political and moral ‘high-ground.’ (think CEO Mike McCain’s handling of the Maple Leaf  foods Listeria crisis in Canada). There is no such catharsis forthcoming in this epistle. 
Now I have no axe to grind with the Catholic Church (being a baptized, albeit non – practicing Catholic myself), but the entire tone and tenor of the piece makes me cringe…choke! Anyone familiar with the Heimlich maneuver please?
I am somewhat disappointed that our revered religious Illuminati, that vast council of  wisdom, holiness and intellect who grace the solemn halls of the Vatican could not (or would not) articulate with greater eloquence, honesty and simplicity  a more remorseful and empathetic apology to the innocent children and good  people of Ireland. Something more appropriate than this hubris driven diatribe.Yes this apology truly appears to emanate from a hapless leader to an equally hapless following. Will somebody please jog my memory about that cliched fumble rule the English professor was apt to regurgitate whenever our efforts at writing were less than pithy… “eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation”. You will get an idea about the kind of prose style I am referencing, in the extracts and sentences copied below from the apology letter text (the examples  may seem disjointed but the intent here is to underscore the numerous references to the accusatory ‘you’ – the priests, pastors, church and clergy in Ireland, the obvious culprits – the collective ‘them’, as opposed to the blemish-free leadership council in the Vatican…or the infallible ‘us’). I don’t know why but there is something about this style of leadership thinking  that gets my hackles to horripilate – but then maybe it’s just me?
I have been deeply disturbed by the information which has come to light regarding the abuse of children and vulnerable young people by members of the Church in Ireland

I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them
I recently invited the Irish bishops to a meeting here in Rome to give an account of their handling of these matters in the past

as they offered an analysis of mistakes made and lessons learned

considering the gravity of these offences, and the often inadequate response to them on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities in your country(Ireland)

the Church in Ireland must first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children

On several occasions since my election to the See of Peter, I have met with victims of sexual abuse, as indeed I am ready to do in the future

Speaking to you as a pastor concerned for the good of all God’s children, I humbly ask you to consider what I have said. I pray that, by drawing nearer to Christ and by participating in the life of his Church – a Church purified by penance and renewed in pastoral charity – you will come to rediscover Christ’s infinite love for each one of you. I am confident that in this way you will be able to find reconciliation, deep inner healing and peace.

You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals. You have forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland and brought shame and dishonour upon your confreres

I urge you to examine your conscience, take responsibility for the sins you have committed, and humbly express your sorrow. Sincere repentance opens the door to God’s forgiveness and the grace of true amendment. By offering prayers and penances for those you have wronged, you should seek to atone personally for your actions

Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God’s mercy

As you carry out your vital responsibilities, be assured that I remain close to you and I offer you the support of my prayers

We are all scandalized by the sins and failures of some of the Church’s members, particularly those who were chosen especially to guide and serve young people. But it is in the Church that you will find Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and for ever (cf. Heb 13:8). He loves you and he has offered himself on the cross for you. Seek a personal relationship with him within the communion of his Church, for he will never betray your trust! He alone can satisfy your deepest longings and give your lives their fullest meaning by directing them to the service of others. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and his goodness, and shelter the flame of faith in your heart.

Together with your fellow Catholics in Ireland, I look to you to be faithful disciples of our Lord and to bring your much-needed enthusiasm and idealism to the rebuilding and renewal of our beloved Church.

All of us are suffering as a result of the sins of our confreres who betrayed a sacred trust or failed to deal justly and responsibly with allegations of abuse

It cannot be denied that some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse. Serious mistakes were made in responding to allegations

Nevertheless, it must be admitted that grave errors of judgement were made

All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness

I now wish to propose to you some concrete initiatives to address the situation

I ask parishes, seminaries, religious houses and monasteries to organize periods of Eucharistic adoration, so that all have an opportunity to take part. Through intense prayer before the real presence of the Lord, you can make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm

I wish to conclude this Letter with a special Prayer for the Church in Ireland, which I send to you with the care of a father for his children and with the affection of a fellow Christian, scandalized and hurt by what has occurred in our beloved Church

From the Vatican, 19 March 2010, on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph

Too many Churches and not enough truth (Randy Bachmann,song – ‘Undone’)

Originally written on Thursday, April 8, 2010

Driving home from my gig (early morning of Easter Sunday) and I caught part of this Guess Who ballad on the radio (Undone). The single line from the song  just  seems to sum up so aptly, the present anarchy that prevails across not only Christendom but most organized religion in general. But let’s focus on the Roman Catholic Church, and explore yet another fascinating  chapter in it’s storied past and the political intrigues that played themselves out within the confines of the Holy See, during the reign of Pope Julius II (1443 – 1513), aka  “The Terrible Pope” or “The Warrior Pope”.

Born Giuliano della Rovere, he was Pope from 1503 to 1513, and his tenure is usually remembered for his extremely aggressive foreign policy, ambitious building projects, and commitment and sponsorship of the arts. There is some speculation around his date of birth, usually pegged around  1453. Giuliano della Rovere was the son of Rafaello della Rovere (brother of Pope Sixtus IV)  and of Theodora Manerola. He was sent to France in 1480 as a Papal envoy, where he remained four years, and acquitted himself with distinction, resulting in his  increasing power and influence over the College of Cardinals. In 1483,  an illegitimate daughter was born, Felice della Rovere (by no means the only person to occupy a Papal seat who had fathered a child – illegitimate or otherwise)

While Julius II’s political and ‘military’ achievements are what he is most remembered for, he also had a large role to play in the arts and architecture of the time, with his involvement in beautifying the city of Rome. In 1506 he laid the foundation stone of the new St. Peter’s Basilica, (yes he counted Raphael and Michelangelo among his friends and it is believed that Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for Julius).
Julius was not the first pope to have fathered children before becoming the Pope, and had a daughter Felicia della Rovere born in 1483. Felice’s mother was Lucrezia Normanni, the daughter of a Roman family. Shortly after Felice was born, Julius II arranged for Lucrezia to marry Bernardino de Cupi (a relative of his cousin Cardinal Girolamo Basso della Rovere.
Despite his illegitimate daughter, rumors also surrounded Julius about his sexuality, often referred to as a sodomite by some of his critics (arguably such criticism mostly triggered because of his warrior-like character –  especially  the criticism from those Venetians  opposed to his militaristic policy like the diarist Giralomo Priuli and the historian Marino Sanudo)


Women and Rape in India…

Originally written on Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Trying to imagine the horrors that unfolded 
for Lalitha (Imagined name as the press have not yet published one)
…the woman who was dragged,
raped and left hanging from a tree in a Mango Orchard
In the town of Kahalgaon, Bhagalpur (Bihar, India)
on January 14, 2013…just 2 weeks after Jyoti Singh Pandey
succumbed to her own horrific beating, torture and rape
that occurred on a bus in New Delhi.

Lalitha was travelling from New Jalpaiguri to New Delhi
to join her husband, a labourer in that city.
She was with her 10 year old son
on that last, fateful train journey together.
Witnesses stated that she grew increasingly restless
as the journey transpired…
I do not know how it is today, however from memory
many years past, 2nd class or 3rd class travel
has always been a nightmare on the Indian Rail system.
(though I would hazard that she was more than likely
travelling in the un-reserved coach that day
…always a gigantic nightmare in and of itself)

A Typical rail coach accommodates 90 – 100 people.
However it is no surprise to find these coaches
overflowing with more than 125 to 140 people at times.
They simply bully their way in, sprawl their belongings
anywhere they please (floor, bathrooms included),
and drop off to sleep at will…regardless if they
are blocking passage, access to the doors
and/or the bathrooms, or in some cases,
to a seat or berth you may have temporarily vacated,
to ease yourself, or get some food or drink.
The passenger population is almost is almost always
male dominated and the few, scattered women passengers
are open season for gawking, openly horny, aggressively
lustful and often- time downright scary male patrons

Was Lalitha being harassed, sexually taunted,
groped or all of the above?
Was that the reason for her restlessness,
her desire to escape, to get away from that train?
So she figures perhaps she could get a reprieve
by getting off at the next station…Kahalgaon?
Even if only for a few minutes at least,
to escape the nightmare of the coach?

Who knows what happened next?
Did the louts who may have been harassing her on the train
…exit with her?
Or was it the usual suspects at almost any railway station in India?
The local gangsters who often double up as the Coolie bosses
…the thugs who run the unionized coolie (luggage porter) teams?
Or was it the inevitable local ‘Dada’ (gangster) with his cronies?
Did they spot this hapless woman, alone
and obviously disoriented, on their railway platform…their turf?
Did they break up their little private ‘hooch’ party
and threaten/terrify her into leaving the station with them?
(eyewitness reports say she was dragged away)

Try to imagine the terror Lalitha must have experienced
at that very moment, alone in a foreign, desolate place,
with an un-numbered gang of drunken, violent men
who had made their intentions abundantly clear
through their violent behaviour, abusive tone and angry voices
…they were going to have their way with her
…she was never going to get back on that train
…she was never going to see her son..or her husband again
…she was going to be raped, ravaged, beaten, and
…the stark realization that they were probably going to kill her

I cannot imagine what level of ignorance, cruelty
would cause a group of grown, reasoning men
who have already brutally beaten, tortured and gang raped
a lone, helpless woman
and then heap insult upon injury,
by stripping her of her Sari, so she is exposed
and utterly helpless…fashioning a noose from it,
and hanging her from a tree…naked, bound and helpless
to die alone…

I have tried to track progress on the case.
There is none it would seem?
I found nothing that suggests any specific ‘persons of interest’
have been identified?
Nor if or if any suspects are being questioned at all?

As a footnote…It is interesting to note that Kahalgaon
was once a key education hub in the Indian Middle Ages.
Vikramshila University was one of the two most important centers of Buddhist learning in India, along with Nalanda University, during the Pala dynasty

Vikramshila was established by King Dharmapala
to compensate for a supposed decline
in the quality of academic pursuits at Nalanda.

I scratch my head and wonder at the irony…
…from such a profound, spiritually steeped legacy and origin
…from such a proud font of learning for religion and philosophy…that such ignorant, heartless and savage men could emerge.


King Leopold’s Ghost and other crimes against humanity…

I have always been fascinated with our natural tendency to parcel out justice as we see fit – and mostly to those of our own ilk. If you were to catalogue the occasions when wrong has been perpetuated against people of (mostly) non-caucasian backgrounds, and then attempt to understand what (if any) formal undertakings were initiated to ensure proper restoration and/or reparation to their original circumstances (the only way proper restoration can be said to have occurred), you will find that sadly we have seldom done enough!
King Leopold of Belgium is a good case in point. He did not much care for his native land or his subjects, only considering them in terms of “small country, small people.” So he immersed himself in the pursuit of establishing a colony for Belgium, (anxious that the other European powers vying for overseas dominions in Africa and Asia would leave nothing for himself or his people). He finally set sights on what would become the Belgian Congo, later known as Zaire (or simply as Congo). Leopold immediately established a rule of terror that would culminate in the deaths of 4 to 8 million indigenous people. The survivors were forced to work in mining ore or harvesting rubber, all of which ensured Leo’s coffers were kept full to the brim at all times (Billions of dollars of this ‘loot’ was tucked away in hidden bank accounts throughout the world).
Surely this was one of the greatest, most horrifying (and often most overlooked) crimes of the century, lasting from 1885 until 1909 (24 years). Mercenaries were deployed to force slaves into mines and rubber plantations, raze villages to the ground and commit the most horrific of crimes including, rape, executions, dismemberments (particluarly the chopping off of hands to prove that the specific number of people had been dealt with as ordered).
The subsequent international Congo reform movement that was launched was supported by icons of the time such as Mark Twain, Booker T. Washington and Arthur Conan Doyle. In his bestselling book ‘Heart of Darkness’, Joseph Conrad evoked his own disgust and disenchantment with Leopold’s rape of the Congo in the poor guise of a civilizing mission to tame the savage.
I am not aware to this date, of any recompense that was awarded to the peoples of the Congo – either in whole or in part. I do know however, based on the book by Adam Hochschild (King Leopold’s Ghost – the source of this article) that leopold was able to actually ‘sell’ the Congo back to his own country Belgium, at a great personal profit, barely one year before he died. The Belgium government retained their colony in the Congo for the next 50 years or so till 1960.
Now if you were to extrapolate the same kind of scrutiny towards the taking over of the Native Indian lands in the Americas, the slave trade initiated by the European nations, the British colonization of Saudi Arabia and India, the Dutch colonization of the Transvaal (South Africa) etc., you are more than likely to discover an equally stupefying history of crimes against humanity, most of which remain yet to be properly addressed , or where proper compensation and/or restoration is yet to occur.
Interestingly enough, I do not believe I have ever read the word ‘Holocaust’ utilized in the same context as leopold’s exploits in the Congo, nor in the context of the White settlers and their taking over of the Native Indian lands in the America’s.