Showing posts with label Religion/Crime. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Religion/Crime. Show all posts

August 15, 2018

Predator Priests in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and May be Other Places Too

A counselor at a South Jersey Jewish Community Center camp is under investigation for alleged child sex abuse.
Officials with the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey sent a letter to parents Monday informing them of the allegations against a male assistant counselor at the JCC in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. 
Officials told parents a child at the camp was injured about two weeks ago after an interaction with the counselor. The counselor was transferred to the kitchen but officials with a state agency determined the incident was accidental.
A week later, a parent accused the same counselor of inappropriately touching a child at the camp. The counselor was suspended. On Friday, more child sexual assault allegations surfaced against him.
“We have been consulting with the Prosecutor’s Office,” officials wrote in their letter to parents. “Its investigation continues, and we are working with them to not do anything that might hinder the investigation. This afternoon, we were given the green light to send this letter to you.”
The Camden County Prosecutor’s Office told NBC10 they were aware of the allegations against the counselor but would not comment any further.
“I’ve been a member for years,” Lindsay Feuer of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, said. “My son went to camp here. I’ve always had a very positive experience here. I’m not here to demonize the JCC but I don’t feel like this was handled well.”
Feuer said the accused counselor watched her 3-year-old daughter.
“I don’t understand why I wasn’t called and told,” she said. “They’ve known about it for I don’t know how long.”
The suspended counselor’s identity has not been revealed. JCC officials say they remain vigilant and continue to work with investigators, “for the safety and security of our children which is always our priority.”

November 13, 2017

Moore to get a Pass from Evangelicals: "Evangelicalism and GOP have lost their credibility and their souls in the pursuit of power"

For many evangelicals, fiery Alabama politician and judge Roy Moore have been a longtime hero. Others have sometimes cringed at his heated rhetoric and bellicose style.

Now, as Moore’s Republican U.S. Senate campaign is imperiled by allegations of sexual overtures to a 14-year-old girl when he was in his 30s, there’s an outpouring of impassioned and soul-searching discussion in evangelical ranks.

“This is one of those excruciating decision moments for evangelicals,” Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in a telephone interview. “These allegations, if true, are devastating. If true, this is a very big deal.”

Mohler said Alabama voters face a potentially wrenching task of trying to determine if the allegations — Moore has emphatically denied them — are credible.

According to the Pew Research Center, 49 percent of Alabama adults are evangelical Protestants. For some of them, the Moore allegations echo the quandary they faced last year, wrestling over whether to support Donald Trump in the presidential race despite his crude sexual boasts.

The Rev. Robert Franklin, professor of moral leadership at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, said The Washington Post’s report about the Moore allegations represents a test of “moral consistency” for evangelicals.

“Evangelicals are steadily losing their moral authority in the larger public square by intensifying their uncritical loyalty to Donald Trump,” Franklin wrote in an email. “Since this is Roy Moore and not Donald Trump, I think there may be significant disaffection with him and increased demands for his removal from the ballot.” 

As for Moore himself, Franklin suggested there were “classic evangelical remedies” such as confession, prayer and remorse, and isolation.

“Election to higher office is not one of them,” Franklin wrote.

Although Trump won 80 percent of the white evangelical vote in his presidential victory, his candidacy exposed and hardened rifts among conservative Christians about partisan politics, the personal character of government leaders and the Gospel. Surveys by the Public Religion Research Institute found that the percentage of white evangelicals who said they still trusted the leadership of a politician who commits an immoral act rose from 30 percent in 2011 to 72 percent last year.

Still, a solid minority of conservative Christians adopted the NeverTrump hashtag on social media and joined that outside evangelicalism who said “values voters” had lost their values. Women and black evangelicals especially emerged as critics of Trump’s remarks about women, immigrants, African-Americans and Muslims. Many of these same critics of Trump’s behavior and rhetoric condemned Moore in recent days and bemoaned the fact that some evangelicals were standing by him.

“Okay, seriously, we elected a man president who bragged about using his power and authority to sexually assault women,” tweeted Kyle James Howard, an African-American student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Why are we surprised that members of his party would now be defending a party member’s sexual assault of a minor?”

One of the Southern Baptist Convention’s leading public policy experts, the Rev. Russell Moore, expressed dismay after the allegations against Judge Moore — no relation — surfaced on Thursday.

“Whether in the hills of Hollywood or the halls of power, it doesn’t matter,” the Rev. Moore tweeted. “This is true: sexual assault and child molestation are evil, unjust, satanic.”

Roy Moore embraced controversy as he built his evangelical following. He was twice removed from his post as Alabama’s chief justice, once for disobeying a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the lobby of the state judicial building, and later for urging probate judges to defy the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage.
More and more the cross seems to be showing the blood of opponents than the blood of Christ
Among those declining to break with Moore in the wake of the sex allegations was Jerry Falwell Jr., president of evangelical Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

“It comes down to a question of who is more credible in the eyes of the voters — the candidate or the accuser,” Falwell told Religion News Service. “And I believe the judge is telling the truth.”

Mohler, the seminary president, said many evangelical Alabama voters will find themselves facing a difficult choice when ballots are cast in the Dec. 12 special election.

“There’s so much at stake,” he said. “Those of us who are pro-life have got to be very concerned about losing even one seat in the U.S. Senate.”

The Democratic candidate in the special election, Doug Jones, has said that a decision on whether to have an abortion should generally be left to the woman in question.

Abortion policy also was evoked by Ed Cyzewski, a Kentucky-based seminary graduate, and author, in a series of Twitter posts Friday questioning why some of his fellow evangelicals would continue to stand by Moore.

“Right now there are evangelicals who feel trapped,” Cyzewski wrote. “They think Moore did something reprehensible, but believe abortion is evil.”

Katelyn Beaty, an editor at large with the evangelical magazine Christianity Today, suggested that among many of Moore’s evangelical supporters, there’s a “presumption of innocence” because of their mistrust of national media such as The Washington Post.

“Many Christian communities have trouble appropriately responding to sex abuse allegations,” Beaty wrote in an email. “There is a default trust in powerful, charismatic male leaders, coupled with a discomfort with women who use their story or voice to challenge the status quo or power structures.” 

However, Beaty said more moderate evangelicals — notably those critical of Trump — were likely dismayed by the allegations against Moore.

“For them, the defense of Moore is another sign that both evangelicalism and the GOP have lost their credibility and their souls in the pursuit of power,” she wrote.

June 29, 2017

Australian Cardinal Sex Abuse Charges Rocks The Vatican

Never has a Cardinal been accused of a crime such as this or any criminal or civil crime for that matter. Not because they didn't happen but because at that height it was very hard for anything to reach them. Instead, it will reach the ones below holding the institution. This Cardinal is accused of trying to hide what others were doing and now we now it was because they were hiding him and he was hiding them. A trial is the worst thing the Vatican would want because at trials everything tends to come out. I don't see the Vatican allowing a trial to take place. {]

Australian Cardinal George Pell speaks to members of the media at the Vatican on 29 June 2017.Image copyright
Image captionAustralian Cardinal George Pell will return to Australia to defend himself in court

Australian Cardinal George Pell, one of Pope Francis' most senior advisers, is facing criminal charges for alleged sex offenses dating back several decades.
Cardinal Pell has emphatically denied the charges.
At the Vatican, it's being seen as a punishing body blow to the reputation and credibility of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church.
Cardinal Pell, 76, is a former Archbishop of Sydney who now resides inside the Vatican. He was summoned to Rome by Pope Francis in 2014 to try to sort out scandal at the Vatican Bank and to reform a particularly messy situation in Vatican finances. 
Three years ago, the cardinal pleaded health reasons for refusing to return home to face questioning at a public hearing by a Royal Commission set up to investigate allegations of child sex abuse inside Australian institutions such as churches, schools, and sporting groups. 
However, he agreed to answer questions by video link from Rome, vigorously denying any wrongdoing, although arousing some public criticism over a surprising analogy that he offered.
He likened the Catholic Church's responsibility for child abuse to that of a trucking company for the behavior of its employees.
"If a driver picks up some lady and then molests her," the Cardinal said, "I don't think it is appropriate because it is contrary to the policy [of the company] for the ownership, the leadership of that company, to be held responsible." 
The Australian Trucking Association, representing 170,000 local truckers, said it was "deeply insulted" by his remarks.
The cardinal has been granted a leave of absence by Pope Francis to return to Australia to defend himself in court in Melbourne on 18 July.
A Vatican statement said that Pope Francis "...has appreciated Cardinal Pell's honesty during his three years of work in the Roman Curia, is grateful for his collaboration, and in particular, for his energetic dedication to the reforms in the economic and administrative sector".
It went on: "The Holy See expresses its respect for the Australian justice system that will have to decide the merits of the questions raised. 
"At the same time, it is important to recall that Card Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors; has cooperated in the past with Australian authorities (for example, in his depositions before the Royal Commission); has supported the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors; and finally, as a diocesan bishop in Australia, has introduced systems and procedures both for the protection of minors and to provide assistance to victims of abuse."
At a news conference, Cardinal Pell told reporters: "There has been relentless character assassination for months ... I am looking forward finally to having my day in court, I am innocent of these charges, they are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me."  The decision by Australian prosecutors to take Cardinal Pell to court comes at a particularly significant moment in Pope Francis' four-year reign - his handing over this week of red hats to five new "princes of the church". 
Pope Francis is selecting new church leaders - and perhaps his own successor - from clerics of a very different mold to that of his predecessors. In fact, he emphatically told his new cardinal appointees not to consider themselves "princes" but "servants of God and the people".
Instead of promoting to top positions in the church former administrators of great metropolitan Catholic dioceses around the world, like Cardinal Pell (who has already submitted his resignation having reached the compulsory retirement age of 75), Francis is increasingly choosing new cardinals from among bishops in countries "on the periphery" as he puts it. 
Four of the five cardinals he appointed this week to come from countries - Laos, Mali, El Salvador, and, surprisingly, predominant Lutheran Sweden - that have never had a representative among the Sacred College of Cardinals, the elite churchmen who alone have the power to elect future popes. 
A church dominated for centuries by Italians in particular, and Europeans, in general is reconfiguring itself to reflect the real and diverse world of the 21st century.

May 1, 2017

Evangelist Hinn Who Supported AIDS Vs Gays Now Runs From IRS

A televangelist who claimed the gay community would suffer God’s punishment is suffering the wrath of the Internal Revenue Service: The Texas offices of Pastor Benny Hinn were raided by IRS investigators on Wednesday, though Hinn himself was not present. 
“We are primarily investigating Title 26, which is tax evasion and general fraud against the government,” an IRS agent told LGBTQ Nation
In 1995, Hinn declared God would destroy the gay community (spoiler: it didn’t happen) and he has claimed homosexuality is caused by fathers who didn’t hug their sons. He linked being gay to “perversion” and criticized pastors who say that homosexuality is not a sin. 
Hinn, who has been preaching since the 1970s, claims to have healing powers that can purportedly cure blindness, deafness, cancer, AIDS and other maladies. A 2004 CBC TV documentary examining Hinn’s miracle healings reported staffers routinely prevented audience members from taking the stage, preferring instead to use pre-screened candidates. “People who look like me are never allowed on stage,” wrote UK evangelist Justin Peters, who has cerebral palsy and walks with crutches. “It’s always somebody who has some disability or disease that cannot be readily seen.” 
A congressional investigation into the ministry was begun in 2007, with Pastor Hinn asked to divulge his financial records to the Senate Finance Committee. It concluded in 2011 with no findings of wrongdoing, though a final report raised concerns about personal gain from donations—including use of the ministry’s Gulfstream G4SP jet for personal vacations—and the lack of financial oversight of the ministry’s board, which is comprised of Hinn’s family members and friends. 
It’s believed Hinn is currently in France.


It’s good to be the king, apparently, and religious right watchdog Ole Anthony told WFAA this investigation is long overdue.
“There is more fraud in the name of God, not just in America, but in the world, than any other kind of fraud,” said Anthony, who operates the Trinity Foundation. He’s been watching the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s phony faith healers for decades.
Hinn announced way back in 1999 that he was building a $30 million healing center in Irving. He raised millions of dollars but the center was never built.
“What happened to the money? Same thing that always happens. It goes to meet the needs of Benny and his confidants,” Anthony said.
While it would not confirm that Hinn is under investigation for tax evasion and fraud, special agent Michael Moseley told reporters it was executing search warrants and why.
“We are primarily investigating Title 26, which is tax evasion and general fraud against the government,” said Moseley. 

August 2, 2016

Do the Muslim Religion Encourage Violence More Than Other Religions?


Donald Trump faces backlash within his own party after he criticized Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Muslim parents of a slain American soldier. Mr. Khan, who addressed the DNC Thursday, claimed Trump lacked the moral character and empathy to be president, among other criticisms, while Trump shot back on twitter, claiming Mr. Khan had "viciously attacked." Trump and his advisors repeatedly tried to steer the conversation to Islamic terrorism, but many in the Republican party have condemned Trump’s attack on the Khans.

July 2, 2016

A violent Preaching Against LGBT Leads to a Violent Outcome

                                                                          A view of damages in a church following a violent earthquake two days ago in the Abruzzo capital L'Aquila on April 8, 2009. Hopes faded Wednesday of finding more survivors from the worst earthquake in Italy in 30 years as the death toll climbed to 260 and the country prepared to bury the victims.

Eliel Cruz wrote yesterday on his page {} about the direct relationship between people talking real badly and sometimes violently about LGBT and people who hear this stuff either directly or indirectly through others and their acts of violence against the community.  

This is something I have always held as truth. Growing up in the church (Evangelical) and knowing how I felt due to those sermons and teachings against gay people at the time. I am able to determine how those feelings of seeing gays as less than 100% human and finding myself being one change from one extreme to the other. I had nothing against this people until I was told I should. I knew very little except what I was told. Had never seen a gay person until age of 12 or so in which the pastor took us in a ride around times square to see the big buildings and those men walking around with real tight pants and some walking the way women walk when trying to be cheap. That was my experience and it was not the same as new types of people I met like Chinese or Jews. Even studying in the seminary that was a subject that was only touched when we hit certain passages of the bible but in church it was a continuous harping particularly by the last pastor I had which at one point(years after I left the church)  left his wife for another man.
Adam Gonzalez


There is a direct correlation to the anti-LGBT theology shared by religious leaders to the violence LGBT people face. This theology -- which dehumanizes, ostracizes, and demonizes LGBT people -- does not happen in a vacuum.

Just over a week ago, forty-nine members of the LGBT community, overwhelmingly Latinx, were slaughtered at a gay nightclub. The shooter, as many speculated, had ties to ISIS and it was his radicalized religious ideology that led him to massacre dozens of LGBT people. This ISIS connection, which has been dismissed by the FBI, prompted others to condemn Islam as an inherently violent religion – especially to those in the LGBT community.

Indeed, ISIS promotes anti-LGBT ideologies and have targeted the queer community in beheadings and other obscene forms of murder. These acts are extreme representations of what it looks like to take the words in the Quran to the letter of the law. Even those who are not radicalized in their Islamic beliefs perpetuate beliefs against the LGBT community that are harmful. Still Islam is not the only religion that encourages violence against LGBT bodies. Christianity, in its most traditionalist understanding of sexuality, where sexuality is only holy between a man and a woman, can be just as violent.

Its sermons preached from our pulpits that allow parents to throw their LGBT kids on the streets and their counselors that encourage us to unsuccessfully pray our queerness away. Christians may not be throwing us off buildings but it’s their theology that leads us to the bridge. It’s their voices on our backs that encourage us it’s better to jump than to live life as a proud queer person.

In Belgium, a gay man has requested to be euthanized for his sexuality. After 17 years of therapy, and unable to change his sexual orientation, this Belgium gay man is unable to reconcile his sexuality and traditional catholic faith. The messaged he has received from his church has made him believe it is better he die than be a gay man.

It’s internalizing this anti-LGBT theology that has many LGBT people depressed and suicidal. The harm is not only self-inflicted but also by those around us. This traditional theology creates an environment fertile for violence. The dehumanization of LGBT persons from the pulpit create the very environment in which 17 Trans women, primarily women of color, have been murdered this year alone. LGBT people are most likely to face hate crimes than any other minority group and our chances for violence doubles if we’re people of color.

Not only is the evangelical right’s theology influencing harm on LGBT people in the United States but also abroad. The Christian right’s anti-LGBT theology has extended far past our boarders influencing legislation in multiple countries in Africa as well as Russia. These laws, which are motivated by the same evangelical theology here, require hard labor, anal exams, decades in prison, or are sometimes carried out in street justice.

Recognizing the long reaching effects of this anti-LGBT theology makes the Christian right’s response to the Orlando massacre incredibly hypocritical. The statements and tweets, which erased the LGBT community, claiming to grieve with the LGBT community are reprehensible when those same individuals work tirelessly to limit LGBT civil rights. Politician Pam Bondi claimed to be a supporter of the LGBT community only to have Anderson Cooper remind her of her anti-LGBT record. Dr. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention claimed to grieve for Orlando, without mentioning the LGBT community, and with a history of anti-LGBT statements.

The Evangelical right has political capital in the United States that is unparalleled. When those who heavily influence our policies and culture espouse the very rhetoric that causes LGBT people violence, they must be held accountable. They cannot encourage this traditional theology and wash their hands of the harmful, and even deadly, effects.

As a bisexual Christian living in the United States, I’m far more concerned with anti-LGBT animus from the evangelical right here at home. That is not to say that I do not mourn with my LGBT siblings abroad whose lives are being taken by ISIS in the most heinous ways. It is atrocious and ISIS must be stopped. But we must also call upon those here at home who do damage to LGBT persons to stop. 

The Christian right cannot point to ISIS as the murderous homophobes without reflecting on the way their own theology has cause LGBT deaths.

Eliel Cruz 

June 27, 2016

Pastors Praise the Shooting in Orlando, A Warning


After the massacre in Orlando, Fla., American religious leaders spoke in a largely unified voice, condemning the killer and mourning the dead. But at some extreme conservative Christian churches, there was another message: good riddance.

In the weeks since 49 people were slaughtered at a gay nightclub, remarks by pastors celebrating the deaths have brought attention to several outposts of anti-gay hostility across the country that until now had been operating mostly under the radar.

“The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die,” Roger Jimenez, a Sacramento preacher, exhorted his congregants on June 12, the day of the assault. “The tragedy is — I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job! Because these people are predators! They are abusers!”

Mr. Jimenez’s sermon received widespread attention after a video of it appeared online, and then a torrent of denunciation from gay rights advocates, fellow pastors and pretty much everyone who saw it. But his sentiments were also echoed in at least a few other churches.

Rebecca Barrett-Fox, a visiting assistant professor of sociology at Arkansas State University who has researched Christian extremists, said she had tracked about five churches — in California, Texas, Arizona and Tennessee — where preachers had endorsed the killings in Orlando.

They are not as well known as the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., which has become infamous for demonstrations at military funerals. But their views about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and what should happen to them, can be just as troubling.

Many of the preachers identify themselves as so-called independent Baptists, meaning that they are not a part of any of the denomination’s groupings, such as the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Barrett-Fox said the Baptist emphasis on church autonomy — recognizing no central authority — allowed pastors to interpret the Bible for themselves.

“One of the consequences of that is you can get whole congregations that spin further and further away from the norm of what is accepted theology,” she said.

The independent Baptist churches where anti-gay hatred has flourished tend to have small congregations, more likely to number in the dozens than the hundreds, experts said.

Sermons posted online since the attack have been interspersed with dehumanizing labels for L.G.B.T. people reminiscent of those used by the perpetrators of historical genocides. The Orlando victims were “sodomites,” “reprobates,” “perverts” and “scum of the earth,” preachers have said.

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In a sermon at a church in Fort Worth, Pastor Donnie Romero told his congregants that every gay person is a pedophile. He was praying that the injured Orlando victims would not survive, he said, “so that they don’t get any more opportunity to go out and hurt little children.”

“I’ll pray to God that God will finish the job that that man started,” he added, referring to the gunman, Omar Mateen.

While the pastors have stopped short of calling congregants to arms, they say little to discourage it, either.

“I don’t believe it’s right for us to just be a vigilante,” said Steven Anderson, the leader of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Ariz., in a video response to the massacre. But, he added, “These people all should have been killed, anyway, but they should have been killed through the proper channels, as in they should have been executed by a righteous government.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, said it was alarmed by the comments of extremist pastors after the mass shooting in Orlando. Heidi Beirich, the center’s director of intelligence, warned that they should not be dismissed as empty rhetoric.

“I think it is entirely possible that someone could be inspired by this and kill gay people,” Ms. Beirich said. “This kind of message is exactly akin to Hitlerian ideas of exterminating Jews. It’s that extreme. It’s basically genocidal toward a population.”

Messages left with the pastors in Sacramento, Fort Worth and Tempe were not returned.

Of course, an overwhelming majority of Christians, including Baptists, reject hateful messages about L.G.B.T. people. As a video of Mr. Jimenez’s remarks was shared widely online, a group of more than 700 Sacramento area pastors denounced them. A petition calling for Mr. Jimenez’s removal collected more than 8,000 signatures. About 100 protesters gathered outside the church.

After the Orlando killings, some gay rights advocates have noted how far many mainstream religious leaders have shifted toward acceptance of gay men and lesbians since an earlier tragedy in 1973. Back then, when an arson fire at a gay New Orleans bar killed 32 people, churches refused to bury the dead.

Jay Brown, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, said the L.G.B.T. advocacy group was appalled by the incendiary comments of Mr. Jimenez and other pastors. “But on the other hand, we’ve seen an enormous amount of inspirational comments from faith leaders,” he said.

Mr. Brown recalled how Utah’s lieutenant governor, a Mormon, gave a speech in which he apologized for his role in perpetuating homophobia. Around the same time, a Catholic bishop in Florida issued a public call for believers to stop demonizing gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people. On Sunday, Pope Francis said gays deserved an apology from the Roman Catholic Church.

However, while many conservative Christian leaders no longer want to be seen as anti-gay, the change in tone should not be interpreted as full acceptance, Dr. Barrett-Fox said. The “love the sinner, hate the sin” approach to homosexuality continues to be deeply woven into Christian thinking. 

Some of us gays believe that this pastor is abusing his freedom of speech by inciting to violence and therefore there most be a price to pay. Not a violent price but a price from his peers, landlord, and hopefully people that declare that they are Christians because language like this is what brought the instigation for the shooting in orlando in the first place. This so called pastor should keep in mind there have been pastors and their families that have died through shootings because of who they were. That is the best example to show to this man and others, that calling for violence is a risky proposition for all.


May 30, 2016

Strict Prominent SeminarianAccused of Having Sex with Students

                                                                         Monsignor Tony Anatrella during a conference in Lille (Nord, France).

(RNS) For years, seminaries and monasteries around France sent students and novices to Monsignor Tony Anatrella, a prominent French priest and therapist who has written disparagingly of gays, if their superiors decided the young men were struggling with homosexuality.

Now Anatrella, who argues that gay men cannot be ordained as priests, is facing mounting allegations that he himself had sex with male clients under his care, a scandal that could have repercussions all the way to the Vatican, where the priest is still regularly consulted on matters of sexuality.

The reports about Anatrella that have emerged in recent weeks also landed just as the Catholic Church in France has been embroiled in a crisis over charges that senior churchmen shielded priests even after they received reports that the clerics had molested children.

Anatrella stoked that furor earlier this year when it was revealed that he told new bishops at a Vatican-sponsored course that they are not obligated to report a suspected abuser to authorities even in countries where the law requires such reporting.

The Vatican quickly said that Anatrella’s remarks did not change church policy on reporting, and Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, head of Pope Francis’ new Commission for the Protection of Minors, issued a statement saying that beyond the requirements of civil law, all members of the church “have a moral and ethical responsibility to report suspected abuse to the civil authorities who are charged with protecting our society.”

Yet the allegations that Anatrella himself has engaged in sexual misconduct – accusations that were first broached a decade ago – pose a much greater threat to the priest.

So far, European media have relayed accusations from as many as four men – only one of whom agreed to be identified by his real name – who say that Anatrella engaged in various sex acts with them during counseling sessions in his Paris office, with the activity allegedly occurring up until a few years ago.

“You’re not gay, you just think that you are,” Anatrella reportedly told Daniel Lamarca, who was a 23-year-old seminarian when he first went to Anatrella in 1987.

According to Dutch Catholic journalist Hendro Munsterman, who first reported Lamarca’s story in Nederlands Dagblad, Anatrella told Lamarca he could rid him of his “pseudo-homosexuality” and sought to do so by performing sex acts on Lamarca.

“I know details about Anatrella’s body that could only be known to someone who has seen him naked,” Lamarca told Nederlands Dagblad.

Lamarca said that in 2001 he reported these episodes to the archbishop of Paris at the time, the late Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger. But Lamarca said nothing was done.

Then, in 2006, he told a liberal lay-run Catholic periodical, Golias, about Anatrella’s behavior; Lamarca’s was one of three accusations to surface that year, but because they involved adults and wound up being their word against Anatrella’s, civil authorities did not pursue the allegations.

The church also apparently took no action. Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois had succeeded Lustiger by that point, and he reportedly sent an email to all his priests expressing his support for Anatrella. Accusations from other ex-patients did not change the cardinal’s opinion and he spoke of a “gay lobby” working against Anatrella.

In recent weeks, another ex-seminarian, who goes by a pseudonym in the articles, told French outlets that he was counseled by Anatrella for 14 years, from 1997 to 2011, and that after the first few years Anatrella began “special sessions” that included episodes of mutual masturbation.

It is unclear how many of these accounts may also be the same ones that surfaced in 2006.

Anatrella has so far not responded to the latest allegations.

On May 13, the Archdiocese of Paris released a statement acknowledging that in 2014, the current archbishop, Vingt-Trois, received a written complaint, via a priest, from a patient of Anatrella’s who also made allegations of sexual exploitation. But the archdiocese said that because the complainant would not reveal his identity, the church could not pursue the matter.

In addition, the Paris archdiocese said that it received reports of other allegations regarding Anatrella late last month, also by way of a priest. “Because he could not act on the basis of anonymous third-party statements, the cardinal asked the priest to encourage the accusers to make personal contact (with the archdiocese) and lodge a formal complaint,” said the church statement.

The statement went on to say that “any person who has been a victim of sexual aggression (or their parents in the case of minors)” should personally contact the archdiocese to report it. “They will be received and listened to, counseled on what to do next, and urged to file a complaint with the judicial authorities,” it said.

Any person knowing “facts that justify a complaint or denunciation” should also report them to civil authorities, it added.

While Anatrella has been a familiar figure for decades in France, his controversial views gained wider attention in 2005 when he reportedly helped the Vatican, then headed by Pope Benedict XVI, a theological conservative, craft guidelines aimed at keeping gay men out of the priesthood.

Anatrella at the time also wrote a lengthy article in the Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano, stating that homosexuality was “like an incompleteness and a profound immaturity of human sexuality.”

According to a report from Catholic News Service, Anatrella wrote that gays are “narcissists” and said homosexuality is “a problem in the psychic organization” of a person’s sexuality. He said that for theological reasons the Catholic Church can only ordain “men mature in their masculine identity.”

On a practical level as well, he wrote, many of the sex scandals in the church happened because gay men, even if they vowed to remain sexually chaste, were ordained as priests and could not remain chaste.

Anatrella also provided a long list of warning signs that should alert seminary staff to the possibility that a seminarian is gay.

Among the signs he listed were students who had trouble relating to their fathers or who tended to isolate themselves, and those found viewing pornography on the Internet and who often saw themselves as victims.

Anatrella remains a consultant to the pontifical councils for the family and for health care ministry; in February, he was the main organizer of a major conference on priestly celibacy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

French church leaders who have been on the defensive over reports that many of them failed to report priests who abused minors are set to announce new policies to protect children early in June.

By Tom Heneghan is a Paris-based correspondent David Gibson who is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.

May 21, 2016

Putin and the Cross



In mid-August, a radical Orthodox gang called God’s Will attacked an exhibition of Soviet-era art in central Moscow. They brought down their clubs especially hard on art they deemed blasphemous; items depicting icons, for example, or Orthodox saints. Condemnation from Russia’s cultural elite was swift. Viktor Shenderovich, an independent journalist, wrote that if the state did not move to isolate the leader of God’s Will “either…the state itself is criminal and shares his political beliefs, or that there is no state any more.”

The group’s leader Dmitry Enteo — a pudgy, bearded man who goes around in jeans and a T-shirt — was taken in for questioning, but quickly released. He received similar treatment after being arrested while at a protest the previous year. Russian state authorities are clearly not in the business of imprisoning Orthodox activists.

In fact, Vladimir Putin is closely allied to Orthodox hardliners. The most famous indicator of this has been the state’s treatment of the punk group Pussy Riot, who were put on trial after they screamed and smashed their guitars in Moscow’s Christ the Savior cathedral in 2012, and whipped through the streets by Cossacks when they protested anti-LGBT discrimination in the run up to the Winter Olympics in 2014.

The discourse of Orthodox activists and the conservative Orthodox priesthood mostly echoes the official line of the Kremlin, a convergence starting at the top with Patriarch Kirill, who recently blessed the Kremlin’s bombing campaign in Syria as a necessary “holy war.”

The Church was an important component of Tsarist autocracy and never strayed far from the Kremlin line when it was severely suppressed during Soviet times, and since then its growing role in society predates Putin. But Putin’s political entwinement with the Church has become more knotted, and has become was a much more visible alliance than anything seen in the 90s or 2000s.

The Church is flexing its new-found muscle. A youth music festival was recently canceled by the government when the church objected, and a major staging of a Wagner opera in Novosibirsk called off because it offended Orthodox tastes.

For Putin, the alliance with the Church offers the chance to advance an idea of Russianness that is defined by what it is not: not European, not soft, not Muslim nor any other religious minority, not multicultural and not newly invented but ancient and traditional, and very much not gay. Orthodoxy gilds this stance with a kind of Old Muscovy aesthetic and veneer of doctrinal coherence.

Pascal Dumont
There are potential fractures within this alliance. Competing claims to ultimate social authority can eventually butt against each other. The Kremlin looks to the Church for legitimacy, but what happens if the state and the church find their interests diverging? Objection to homosexuality from within the Church can seem visceral, unyielding, even existential. While the Kremlin has made even publicly proclaiming oneself gay a crime, it mostly allows (discreet) gay life to go on unchallenged. What happens if the Church decides this is entirely too tolerant?

Russian foreign policy priorities too are not always perfectly aligned with the Orthodox interests. The Orthodox religion represents various national churches though the Russian church is its largest denomination. In a 2013 editorial on Syria in the New York Times, Putin inveighed against nations considering themselves “exceptional” solemnly declaring that God had created them all equal. The following year he invaded Ukraine, causing major tensions between the Ukrainian Orthodox church and its sister organization in Russia.

National exceptionalism, as we see here, was bad until it was good. The Orthodox Church may find itself the victim of the same sudden shifts of logic.

Ilan Greenberg

December 7, 2015

Religion ‘a Killer' for Nigeria


From the professor of medicine who lectures at the prestigious University of Ibadan, to the almajiri destitute who roams the streets of Kano, to the wealthy real estate manager in Port Harcourt, to the lowly nomad of arid Baga, there is one thing that connects these people - religion. Religion permeates every facet of the Nigerian society and influences the collective mindset of its people. Religion supposedly makes people good except that the evidence does not support this claim.

From the professor of medicine who lectures at the prestigious University of Ibadan, to the almajiri destitute who roams the streets of Kano, to the wealthy real estate manager in Port Harcourt, to the lowly nomad of arid Baga, there is one thing that connects these people - religion. Religion permeates every facet of the Nigerian society and influences the collective mindset of its people. Religion supposedly makes people good except that the evidence does not support this claim. What we know is that our society is plagued by all the inequality, injustice and atrocities that one rarely encounters in the godless Scandinavian societies, to use just one example. Our high degree of religiosity has not translated into good governance and prosperity for our citizens. The reasons are not far-fetched, and are discussed below.

One thing is undeniable – our society needs a change of attitude and values. So how can we do things differently? 

Mr. Biodun Aiyegboyin teams up with the secular humanist and commentator on Nigerian socio-political and religious matters, Dr. Ijabla Raymond, to explore these issues, and more.

Biodun Aiyegboyin: Can you tell the readers a bit about yourself please?

Ijabla Raymond: Yes. I was born into a Christian family in northern Nigeria. I trained as a medical doctor at the University of Ibadan but I currently practise in the United Kingdom.

Biodun Aiyegboyin: So, how did your journey into atheism or agnosticism start?

Ijabla Raymond: I would say it began in the fourth year of medical school. A friend that I sang with in Deeper Life Campus Fellowship became ill with cancer. To cut a long story short, she suffered and died despite prayers that were said round the clock.

This made me to start asking difficult questions, particularly around the subject of suffering. I discussed these with various pastors that I encountered during the course of my journey but was not satisfied with the answers I got.

One day, I had what you might call an eureka moment - it occurred to me that perhaps the reason there were no satisfactory answers to my questions was because the whole God thing was made up.
I do not like labels a lot because they often mean different things to different people. I find that it is easier to describe who I am or what I believe in. My position is that – I have not seen any evidence to support the claim that God exists. Having said so, I'm very confident that if God exists, He is not the entity described in the Abrahamic religions. This position is based on my knowledge of these religions.
Biodun Aiyegboyin: I understand that you don't like labels. But I see that your belief aligns with agnostic atheism.
Ijabla Raymond: Yes, I think that description fits. I am also a strong advocate of secular humanism – the worldview that humanity is capable of morality and self-fulfillment without the need for the belief in God.
Biodun Aiyegboyin: You are an outspoken critic of religion generally. What motivates you?
Ijabla Raymond: You have observed correctly. I criticise religion generally, not just Christianity.

Let's begin by giving credit where one is due. Religion has done some good e.g. charities. In Nigeria, the missionaries built schools and hospitals, and abolished the killing of twins in Calabar.
But religion has also done a lot of nasty stuff e.g. jihadist terrorism, homophobia, the suppression of women's rights, witch-hunting, the exploitation of gullible and vulnerable people, the unending feud between African Christians and Muslims etc.

In my view, religion has outlived its usefulness. It may have served a purpose in the era of superstitions and ignorance. But we now live in the age of reason and tremendous scientific advancement, and I find it absurd that people should desire to regress to medieval mindset.

Contrary to what some religions teach, man is capable of independent morality without the need for a belief in god(s). Morality predates religion - if you disagree, you'd have to explain to me how Christians and Muslims know that slavery is wrong seeing as this is endorsed in their holy books.

I agree with Robert Green Ingersoll when he said: “Christianity has such a contemptible opinion of human nature that it does not believe a man can tell the truth unless frightened by a belief in God. No lower opinion of the human race has ever been expressed.”
Biodun Aiyegboyin: Some people will not agree with your opinion that religion served a purpose even back then. They might argue that religion has been, and continues to be a stumbling block to the overall progress of the human race. What is your view on this?
Ijabla Raymond: I can see their point. Like I said, you don't need religion to be a good person. I believe that's the case now, as it was 6000 yrs ago. And yes, religion has been, and still is, a stumbling block to human progress. In contemporary times, we have seen how America's evangelicals oppose stem cell research; how the Catholic Church condemns the use of condom thereby putting millions of Africans at risk of HIV/AIDS; how Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws have been deployed to kill muslim apostates, Christians and atheists. The examples are endless.
Biodun Aiyegboyin: You are a medical doctor and you practiced here in Nigeria before relocating to the UK. Medical doctors, as well as other professionals, are mostly religious around here. In fact, the motto of some big hospitals around here is "We care but God heals". What is your opinion on this? Do you think hospitals should promote faith over medicine?
Ijabla Raymond: Definitely not!!
I have not seen any evidence that prayers and fasting can heal illnesses. If that were the case, churches would have run hospitals out of work. Prayers make people (who are predisposed) to feel good about themselves. But that’s it – they never grow the limbs of amputees.

Most of my Nigerian friends (doctors) are Pentecostal Christians. They are well-educated people with several postgraduate degrees but, somehow, a lot of them still believe that evil spirits, witches and demons are responsible for diseases. They still believe that prayers and fasting can alter the outcome of illnesses. This makes me to draw the conclusion that religion has the power to make people to hold contradictory ideas at the same time, and that education in itself does not immunize against religious indoctrination. As you know, the leaders of many jihadist organisations are also well-educated people. The Nigerian underwear suicide bomber, Abdulmutallab, was a student in one of the UK's most prestigious universities. In 2007, Glasgow airport was nearly blown up by two medical doctors in a jihadist terrorist plot.

When I was in Nigeria, it was commonplace to see doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals preaching or praying loudly by patient's bedsides. You could walk to the ward and find nurses reading the bible whilst a patient was crying out in pain. I don't know how much these practices have changed. I have not seen these happen even once in the 10 years that I have lived in the UK. In this society, it is understood that prayers should not get in the way of medical treatment. It appears that rich Nigerians agree - they fly abroad to treat the most minor ailments!
Biodun Aiyegboyin: Indeed, not much has changed since your left. Perhaps the religiously indoctrinated mindset is one of the factors responsible for the poor state of our healthcare?
Ijabla Raymond: I think this is tenable even if it is difficult to prove. I know that poverty, poor health access and failure of governance can all lead to harmful health practices e.g. exorcisms and other forms of "spiritual" consultations which delay hospital presentations and often result in increased morbidity and mortality.
The poor state of healthcare in Nigeria is more easily explained by factors such as corruption, lack of visionary leadership, inconsistency of policies, brain drain, medical tourism etc. But the fatalistic nature of our religious beliefs means that we surrender problems that we can, and should, solve by ourselves to God.
Biodun Aiyegboyin: You live in a society that does not give special regard to religious beliefs, so I presume your non-belief is never an issue with friends and colleagues. How about your folks at home especially when you come visiting? How did they react to your non-belief?
Ijabla Raymond: My parents and siblings haven't stopped praying for me to revert to Christianity. They hope that God will "arrest" me someday like he did to apostle Paul. I am aware that some of my Nigerian Christian friends have been praying for me too. So I feel very special with all these prayers going on (smiles). My English family accepts me just the way I am.
I have met and befriended Christians here in the UK. From my experience, it usually takes a period of acquaintance before they talk about their Christian faith. So they are not in your face as is usually the case in Nigeria. I find this refreshing because actions speak louder than words. Back home, as you know, everyone goes to church or a mosque but our actions do not really reflect what we preach. I mean, look at the amount of corruption going on in Nigeria at both the individual and community levels!
Biodun Aiyegboyin: I notice that you focus mainly on Pentecostalism and Islam in your criticisms of religion. Let's take them one after the other. Pentecostalism is arguably the most popular brand of Christianity in Africa. What, in your opinion, is the problem with this ever-growing brand of Christianity?
Ijabla Raymond: Pentecostalism - now that's a big one! Permit to digress for minute.
Pentecostalism takes its name from the "Pentecost", the events of which are summarised in the book of Acts chapter 1. This was the day that the Holy Spirit supposedly appeared to the first Christians. The spirit enabled them to speak in tongues and carry out miracles.

Until Martin Luther's Reformation, everybody just did what the Pope told them. But from this moment, anyone could read the bible and interpret it as they saw fit. And then the divisions and denominations started. I think the last century has seen an explosion in the number of denominations like none before it. There are as many interpretations of the bible as there are people.

The Pentecostals emphasise communication with the Holy Spirit or "revelation". The problem with this is that anybody can claim that the voice in their head is from God. In fact, anyone can become a pastor. No qualifications are necessary- you just need to claim that God has “called” you. And there are many gullible people who would believe any claim or sentence that starts with "God".

The prosperity gospel is America's biggest export to Africa. It is a doctrine of greed, and I'm sorry to point out that this disease afflicts the Pentecostals most. In my view, the majority of Pentecostal pastors are in the business for money. Africa is so poor and corrupt that the surest way to make money is to do politics or church business. The European missionaries built free schools and hospitals from which many of these pastors benefited. Our Pentecostal African pastors have enriched themselves on the back of donations (tithes and offerings) from their congregations. But instead of giving back to their communities, they invest in diversified portfolios to create even more wealth for themselves and their families. They live large. Some of these pastors even own private jets – Bishop Oyedepo allegedly has four! Their schools and hospitals are well out of the reach of most of their followers who continue to donate to these churches in the hope of financial reward from God. Sadly, these pastors have successfully propagated the notion that Christian living or success in life is synonymous with abundance, luxury and ostentation.

Another evil of Pentecostalism is faith healing. This has become the most popular and assured method to fleece desperate and vulnerable people. You will notice that these pastors never grow the limbs of amputees but they are always making the blind to see, the lame to walk, the deaf to hear and so on. People even get paid by them to participate in carefully orchestrated miraculous healings during church services.

I am of the view that the government has a responsibility to protect vulnerable people from these types of exploitations. These charlatans should not be allowed to get away with making false representations particularly when these result in harm. As you know, many people delay their presentation to hospitals and some even stop taking their medications because of the assurance of miraculous healing they have been sold (or more correctly, that they have bought). Some have tragically died as a result.

Then there's the problem of witch hunting - if you fail an exam or a job interview, then a witch is behind it; if you have a miscarriage, a witch is responsible and so on. Not too long ago, Bishop Oyedepo slapped a young lady in front of the camera for no offence other than her claim of being a "witch for Jesus". And need I remind you that, instead of condemnation, his despicable action was greeted with a rapturous applause from his church members? This practice assumes an even more grievous dimension in many places in Southern Nigeria where children are commonly accused of witchcraft and subjected to severe corporal punishments, which occasionally result in their deaths. In one case, a three-inch nail was driven into the skull of a little girl! Regrettably, these witch hunting of children is promoted by Pentecostal pastors such as Helen Ukpabio.
Biodun Aiyegboyin: Do you agree that the success of Pentecostalism in Africa can be attributed largely to the inefficiency of government and the superstitious nature of our people?
Ijabla Raymond: Oh yes, without a doubt.

In general, religion thrives in poor or deprived societies. For instance, people will sooner consult pastors and traditional healers for health matters if hospitals are expensive, poorly resourced or inaccessible to them. Poor governance creates a vacuum which religion tries to fill. The result is what you see all over Africa.
But it appears to me that many politicians understand that religion is an effective tool for controlling the masses, and they play the religion card whenever it suits them.
Biodun Aiyegboyin: Faith healing, which you mentioned in your earlier response, is a cause for concern. A lot of people have died needlessly because they were instructed by their pastors to stop taking medication for their ailments. What do you think could be done to stop this irrationality?
Ijabla Raymond: Faith healing is a scam. Prayers and fasting do not heal diseases. If you believe that the bible is the literal word of God; if you believe in talking snakes and donkeys, then you will believe anything. In situations where their powers can be objectively tested, prayers and fasting crumble like a pack of cards. They never grow the limb of amputees. A lot of these so-called miracles are stage-managed. In the other cases, we never get to hear the true outcome of the testimonies that people give. Some people feel pressured to testify about faith healing even when they know there's has been none. Sadly, our journalists do not appear interested in investigating these issues.

The solution to this problem lies in education. That's what people like us are doing daily on social media - challenging dogmas. But I think the government has a big duty to protect vulnerable people from exploitation by those who make false representations. It is simple - prosecute anyone who makes false claims that result in harm to others!
Biodun Aiyegboyin: Now, let's talk about Islam. What is wrong with Islam?
Ijabla Raymond:  Well, what is right with Islam?  Look around you - from Australia, China, Malaysia, Russia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, the Middle East, North and West Africa, the UK, to the U.S. - everywhere you look, jihadist terrorism stares you right in the face. The Quran admonishes Muslim men to beat their disobedient wives. The prophet of Islam married a prepubescent girl, and because he is regarded as the best example of conduct, teenage marriages continue to be practiced in Islamic communities. The Sharia compliant states of Northern Nigeria have refused to adopt the Child's Rights Act which prohibits child marriage. As a result, there is a high incidence of vesico-vaginal fistulas in these communities. So, here again is another clear demonstration of how religious beliefs and practices can adversely affect health and wellbeing.

You'll recall how Senator Sani Yerima and his friends in the Senate blocked a change to existing laws in the Nigerian constitution that would have made teenage marriage illegal. He and his friends cited their Islamic faith as the reason for this action. The senator who allegedly paid $100,000 to marry a 13 year old Egyptian girl has made it clear on so many occasions that Sharia law takes precedence over the Nigerian constitution.

In Islam, women do not have the same rights as men. Then there is the issue of polygamy. In principle, I have no problem with polygamy as long as it is consensual. In reality, women are forced into polygamy by financial, cultural and religious considerations, and I oppose this.

I accept that many Muslims do not live as I have described, choosing instead to live by more liberal and humanist principles. Religious people are very notorious for cherry picking passages of their scriptures and this is good; because without it, religious literalists would have annihilated us by now. The Quran, like the Old Testament, is filled with hateful and bigoted verses.

The difference between Islam and Christianity is to be found in the New Testament, which contains the pacifist teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught his followers to turn the other cheek whereas Mohammed called on his followers to instil terror in the hearts of their enemies by beheadings and limb mutilations.

Today, if someone tells us that they are hearing voices in their head and that God has been speaking to them, we would question their mental health. However, billions of people around the world do not only refuse to undertake such scrutiny but they actually take offence that some folks have the common sense to question similar claims contained within the pages of medieval writings. I find this fascinating!
Biodun Aiyegboyin: Do you think if religions are reformed for example by removing the verses that promote segregation, violence, slavery etc, perhaps they could be of some benefit to humanity?
Ijabla Raymond: Morality predates religion. My view is that you don't need religion to be a good person. But I do think that the world would be a far better place if the violent and bigoted verses in religious holy books were expunged. For instance, we won't have jihadist terrorism and groups like Boko Haram, Al-qaeda and Alshabab; gay people will not be discriminated against; the internecine wars between religious groups (such as Muslims vs. Christians) or within religious groups (e.g. Shia vs. Sunni) would end.
Biodun Aiyegboyin: Finally, what do you think should be done to spread secularism and humanism in Africa?
Ijabla Raymond: This is already happening. I think the Internet is a very powerful tool for disseminating ideas and changing attitudes/values. My feeling is that secular humanism will be the dominant philosophy of the 21st century. It is my hope that Africa would be a lot different in 100 yrs from what we know now - less superstitious and more progressive.


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