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Bishops And NUNS

The Nuns' Stories

Vatican Condemned for Abuse of Nuns by Priests
Shades of Maria Monk! A Vatican report claims that there is widespread sexual abuse of Roman Catholic nuns by priests around the globe, even in the US.

Part 1: Reports Detail Sexual Abuse of "Sisters" by "Fathers"

Several reports written by senior members of women's religious orders and by an American priest assert that sexual abuse of nuns by priests, including rape, is a serious problem, especially in Africa and other parts of the developing world.

The reports allege that some Catholic clergy exploit their financial and spiritual authority to gain sexual favors from religious women, many of whom, in developing countries, are culturally conditioned to be subservient to men. The reports obtained by NCR - some recent, some in circulation at least seven years - say priests at times demand sex in exchange for favors, such as permission or certification to work in a given diocese. The reports, five in all, indicate that in Africa particularly, a continent ravaged by HIV and AIDS, young nuns are sometimes seen as safe targets of sexual activity. In a few extreme instances, according to the documentation, priests have impregnated nuns and then encouraged them to have abortions.

In some cases, according to one of the reports, nuns, through naiveté or social conditioning to obey authority figures, may readily comply with sexual demands.

Although the problem has not been aired in public, the reports have been discussed in councils of religious women and men and in the Vatican.

In November 1998, a four-page paper titled The Problem of the Sexual Abuse of African Religious in Africa and Rome was presented by Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa Sr. Marie McDonald, the report's author, to the Council of Sixteen, a group that meets three times a year. The council is made up of delegates from three bodies: the Union of Superiors General, an association of men's religious communities based in Rome, the International Union of Superiors General, a comparable group for women, and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Vatican office that oversees religious life.

Last September, Benedictine Sr. Esther Fangman, a psychological counselor and president of the Federation of St. Scholastica, an organization of 22 monasteries in the United States and two in Mexico, raised the issue in an address at a congress in Rome of 250 Benedictine abbots.

Five years earlier, on Feb. 18, 1995, Card. Eduardo Martínez, prefect of the Vatican congregation for religious life, along with members of his staff, were briefed on the problem by Medical Missionary of Mary Sr. Maura O'Donohue, a physician.

O'Donohue is responsible for a 1994 report that constitutes one of the more comprehensive accounts. At the time of its writing, she had spent six years as AIDS coordinator for the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development based in London.

Though statistics related to sexual abuse of religious women are unavailable, most religious leaders interviewed by NCR say the frequency and consistency of the reports of sexual abuse point to a problem that needs to be addressed.

"I don't believe these are simply exceptional cases," Benedictine Fr. Nokter Wolf, abbot primate of the Benedictine order, told NCR. "I think the abuse described is happening. How much it happens, what the numbers are, I have no way of knowing. But it is a serious matter, and we need to discuss it."

Wolf has made several trips to Africa to visit Benedictine institutions and is in contact with members of the order there.

In her reports, O'Donohue links the sexual abuse to the prevalence of AIDS in Africa and concerns about contracting the disease.

"Sadly, the sisters also report that priests have sexually exploited them because they too had come to fear contamination with HIV by sexual contact with prostitutes and other 'at risk' women," she wrote in 1994.

In some cultures, O'Donohue wrote, men who traditionally would have sought out prostitutes instead are turning to "secondary school girls, who, because of their younger age, were considered 'safe' from HIV."

Similarly, religious sisters "constitute another group which has been identified as 'safe' targets for sexual activity," O'Donohue wrote.

"For example," O'Donohue wrote, "a superior of a community of sisters in one country was approached by priests requesting that sisters would be made available to them for sexual favors. When the superior refused, the priests explained that they would otherwise be obliged to go to the village to find women, and might thus get AIDS."

O'Donohue wrote that at first she reacted with "shock and disbelief" at the "magnitude" of the problem she was encountering through her contacts with "a great number of sisters during the course of my visits" in a number of countries.

"The AIDS pandemic has drawn attention to issues which may not previously have been considered significant," she wrote. "The enormous challenges which AIDS poses for members of religious orders and the clergy is only now becoming evident."

In a report on her 1995 meeting with Card. Martínez in the Vatican, O'Donohue noted that celibacy may have different meanings in different cultures. For instance, she wrote in her report, a vicar general in one African diocese had talked "quite openly" about the view of celibacy in Africa, saying that "celibacy in the African context means a priest does not get married but does not mean he does not have children."

Of the world's 1 billion Catholics, 116.6 million - about 12 percent - live in Africa. According to the 2001 Catholic Almanac, 561 are bishops and archbishops, 26,026 are priests and 51,304 are nuns.

In addition to such general overviews, Martínez's office has also received documentation on specific cases. In one such incident, dating from 1988 in Malawi and cited in O'Donohue's 1994 report, the leadership team of a diocesan women's congregation was dismissed by the local bishop after it complained that 29 sisters had been impregnated by diocesan priests. Western missionaries helped the leadership team compile a dossier that was eventually submitted to Rome.

One of those missionaries, a veteran of more than two decades in Africa, said the Malawi case was complex and the issue of sexual liaisons was not the only factor involved. She described the incident in a not-for-attribution interview with NCR.

The missionary said the leadership team had adopted rules preventing sisters from spending the night in a rectory, banning priests from staying overnight in convents and prohibiting sisters from being alone with priests. The rules were intended to reduce the possibility of sexual contact.

Several sources told NCR that religious communities as well as church officials have taken steps to correct the problem, though they were reluctant to cite specific examples.

Others say the climate of secrecy that still surrounds the issue indicates more needs to be done.

The secrecy is due in part to efforts by religious orders to work within the system to address the problems and in part to the cultural context in which they occur. In sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, where the problems are reportedly the most severe, sexual behavior and AIDS are rarely discussed openly. Among many people in that region of Central and Southern Africa, sexual topics are virtually taboo, according to many who have worked there.

Expressing frustration at unsuccessful efforts to get church officials to address the problem, O'Donohue wrote in 1994, "Groups of sisters from local congregations have made passionate appeals for help to members of international congregations and explain that, when they themselves try to make representations to church authorities about harassment by priests, they simply 'are not heard.'"

The Vatican press office did not respond to NCR requests for comment on this story.

O'Donohue wrote that, although she was aware of incidents in some 23 countries, including the United States, on five continents, the majority happened in Africa.

Ironically, given the reticence of many Africans to talk about sex, casual sex is common in parts of Africa, and sexual abstinence is rare. It's a culture in which AIDS thrives. Experts say the view derives from a deeply rooted cultural association between maleness and progeny - a view that makes the church's insistence on celibacy difficult not only in practice but also in concept for some African priests.

AIDS rampant in Africa

Some 25.3 million of the world's 36.1 million HIV-positive persons live in sub-Saharan Africa. Since the epidemic began in the late 1970s, 17 million Africans have died of AIDS, according to the World Health Organization. Of the 5.3 million new cases of HIV infection in 2000, 3.8 million occurred in Africa.

According to a graphic article on AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa in the Feb. 12 issue of Time magazine, "Casual sex of every kind is commonplace. Everywhere there's premarital sex, sex as recreation. Obligatory sex and its abusive counterpart, coercive sex. Transactional sex: sex as a gift, sugar-daddy sex. Extramarital sex, second families, multiple partners."

Further, Time reported, women, taught from birth to obey men, feel powerless to protect themselves from men's sexual desires.

Even accounting for promiscuity - which in fact, some experts have argued, is no less a problem in Western nations - the religious men and women raising the issue of sexual exploitation of religious women say the situations they report on are clearly intolerable and, in some cases, approach the unspeakable.

In one instance, according to O'Donohue, a priest took a nun for an abortion, and she died during the procedure. He later officiated at her requiem Mass.

Harassment common

In McDonald's report, she states that "sexual harassment and even rape of sisters by priests and bishops is allegedly common," and that "sometimes when a sister becomes pregnant, the priest insists that she have an abortion." She said her report referred mainly to Africa and to African sisters, priests and bishops - not because the problem is exclusively an African one, but because the group preparing the report drew "mainly on their own experience in Africa and the knowledge they have obtained from the members of their own congregations or from other congregations - especially diocesan congregations in Africa."

"We know that the problem exists elsewhere too," she wrote.

"It is precisely because of our love for the church and for Africa that we feel so distressed about the problem," McDonald wrote.

McDonald's was the report presented in 1998 to the Council of Sixteen. She declined to be interviewed byNCR.

When a sister becomes pregnant, McDonald wrote, she is usually punished by dismissal from the congregation, while the priest is "often only moved to another parish - or sent for studies."

In her report, McDonald wrote that priests sometimes exploit the financial dependency of young sisters or take advantage of spiritual direction and the sacrament of reconciliation to extort sexual favors.

McDonald cites eight factors she believes give rise to the problem:

* The fact that celibacy and/or chastity are not values in some countries. The inferior position of women in society and the church. In some circumstances "a sister ... has been educated to regard herself as an inferior, to be subservient and to obey."

"It is understandable then, that a sister finds it impossible to refuse a cleric who asks for sexual favors. These men are seen as 'authority figures' who must be obeyed."

"Moreover, they are usually more highly educated and they have received a much more advanced theological formation than the sisters. They may use false theological arguments to justify their requests and behavior. The sisters are easily impressed by these arguments. One of these goes as follows:

" 'We are both consecrated celibates. That means that we have promised not to marry. However, we can have sex together without breaking our vows.' "

* The AIDS pandemic, which means sisters are more likely to be seen as "safe." Financial dependence created by low stipends for sisters laboring in their home countries or inadequate support for sisters sent abroad for studies. The problem of sexual abuse in Africa is most common, according to many observers, among members of diocesan religious congregations with little money and no network of international support. A poor understanding of consecrated life, both by the sisters and also by bishops, priests, and lay people. Recruitment of candidates by congregations that lack adequate knowledge of the culture. Sisters sent abroad to Rome and other countries for studies are often "too young and/or immature," lack language skills, preparation and other kinds of support, and "frequently turn to seminarians and priests for help," creating the potential for exploitation.

"I do not wish to imply that only priests and bishops are to blame and that the sisters are simply their victims," McDonald wrote. "No, sisters can sometimes be only too willing and can also be naïve."

* Silence. "Perhaps another contributing factor is the 'conspiracy of silence' surrounding this issue," McDonald wrote. "Only if we can look at it honestly will we be able to find solutions."

The American priest who gave a similar account of sexual abuse of women religious is Fr. Robert J. Vitillo, then of Caritas and now executive director of the U.S. bishops' Campaign for Human Development. In March 1994, a month after O'Donohue wrote her report, Vitillo spoke about the problem to a theological study group at Boston College. Vitillo has extensive knowledge of Africa based on regular visits for his work. His talk, which focused on several moral and ethical issues related to AIDS, was titled, "Theological Challenges Posed by the Global Pandemic of HIV/AIDS."

'Necessary to mention'

He told the gathering at Boston College that nuns had been targeted by men, particularly clergy, who may have previously frequented prostitutes.

"The last ethical issue which I find especially delicate but necessary to mention," he said, "involves the need to denounce sexual abuse which has arisen as a specific result of HIV/AIDS. In many parts of the world, men have decreased their reliance on commercial sex workers because of their fear of contracting HIV. ... As a result of this widespread fear, many men (and some women) have turned to young (and therefore presumably uninfected) girls (and boys) for sexual favors. Religious women have also been targeted by such men, and especially by clergy who may have previously frequented prostitutes. I myself have heard the tragic stories of religious women who were forced to have sex with the local priest or with a spiritual counselor who insisted that this activity was 'good' for the both of them.

"Frequently, attempts to raise these issues with local and international church authorities have met with deaf ears," said Vitillo. "In North America and in some parts of Europe, our church is already reeling under the pedophilia scandals. How long will it take for this same institutional church to become sensitive to these new abuse issues which are resulting from the pandemic?"


The Details

The specific circumstances outlined in the O'Donohue report are as follows:

In some instances, candidates to religious life had to provide sexual favors to priests in order to acquire the necessary certificates and/or recommendations to work in a diocese.

In several countries, sisters are troubled by policies that require them to leave the congregation if they become pregnant, while the priest involved is able to continue his ministry. Beyond fairness is the question of social justice, since the sister is left to raise the child as a single parent, "often with a great deal of stigmatization and frequently in very poor socioeconomic circumstances.

I was given examples in several countries where such women were forced into becoming a second or third wife in a family because of lost status in the local culture. The alternative, as a matter of survival, is to go 'on the streets' as prostitutes" and thereby "expose themselves to the risk of HIV, if not already infected."

"Superior generals I have met were extremely concerned about the harassment sisters were experiencing from priests in some areas. One superior of a diocesan congregation, where several sisters became pregnant by priests, has been at a complete loss to find an appropriate solution. Another diocesan congregation has had to dismiss over 20 sisters because of pregnancy, again in many cases by priests.

"Some priests are recommending that sisters take a contraceptive, misleading them that 'the pill' will prevent transmission of HIV. Others have actually encouraged abortion for sisters with whom they have been involved. Some Catholic medical professionals employed in Catholic hospitals have reported pressure being exerted on them by priests to procure abortions in those hospitals for religious sisters.

"In a number of countries, members of parish councils and of small Christian communities are challenging their pastors because of their relationships with women and young girls generally. Some of these women are wives of the parishioners. In such circumstances, husbands are angry about what is happening, but are embarrassed to challenge their parish priest. Some priests are known to have relations with several women, and also to have children from more than one liaison. Laypeople spoke with me about the concerns in this context stating that they are waiting for the day when they will have dialogue homilies. This, they volunteered, will afford them an opportunity to challenge certain priests on the sincerity of their preaching and their apparent double standards.

In one country visited, I was informed that the presbytery in a particular parish was attacked by parishioners armed with guns because they were angry with the priests because of their abuse of power and the betrayal of trust which their actions and lifestyles reflected.

"In another country a recent convert from Islam (one of two daughters who became Christians) was accepted as a candidate to a local religious congregation. When she went to her parish priest for the required certificates, she was subjected to rape by the priest before being given the certificates. Having been disowned by her family because of becoming a Christian, she did not feel free to return home. She joined the congregation and soon afterwards found she was pregnant. To her mind, the only option for her was to leave the congregation, without giving the reason. She spent 10 days roaming the forest, agonizing over what to do. Then she decided to go and talk to the bishop, who called in the priest. The priest accepted the accusation as true and was told by the bishop to go on a two-week retreat.

"Since the 1980s in a number of countries sisters are refusing to travel alone with a priest in a car because of fear of harassment or even rape. Priests have also on occasion abused their position in their role as pastors and spiritual directors and utilized their spiritual authority to gain sexual favors from sisters. In one country, women superiors have had to request the bishop or men superiors to remove chaplains, spiritual directors or retreat directors after they abused sisters."

Those most directly affected are the women abused, wrote O'Donohue. The effects extend, however, to the wider community and include disillusionment and cynicism. The abused and others in the community "find the foundation of their faith is suddenly shattered."

Many whose faith has been shattered are from families that look unfavorably on religious vocations and who "question why celibacy should be so strongly proclaimed by the same people who are seemingly involved in sexually exploiting others. This is seen as hypocrisy or at least as promoting double standards," O'Donohue wrote.

Some observers say that in the wake of such reports, steps have been taken to address the problem.


New guidelines

Wolf, the Benedictine leader in Rome, said, "Several monasteries already have guidelines in case a monk is accused of sexual misconduct, taking care of the individuals concerned, the victim included. I pushed this question in our congregation. We need sincerity and justice."

A Vatican official told NCR that "there are initiatives at multiple levels" to raise awareness about the potential for sexual abuse in religious life. The official cited efforts within conferences of religious superiors, within bishops' conferences, and within particular communities and dioceses.

Most of these, the official said, were steps the Vatican is "aware of" and "supporting" rather than organizing or initiating.

This anonymous Vatican official noted two signs that the culture in the church is changing. In specific cases, the official said, the response from church leaders is more aggressive and swift; and in general, there is a climate within religious life that these things have to be discussed. "Talking about it is the first step towards a solution," the official said.

Church officials have not always, however, been open to such exchanges. McDonald wrote in her 1998 report that in March of that year she had spoken to the standing committee of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, the consortium of African bishops' conferences, on the problem of sexual abuse of sisters.

"Since most of what I gave was based on reports coming from diocesan congregations and Conferences of Major Superiors in Africa, I felt very convinced of the authenticity of what I was saying," McDonald wrote.

Yet, "the bishops present felt that it was disloyal of the sisters to have sent such reports outside their dioceses," McDonald wrote. "They said that the sisters in question should go to their diocesan bishop with these problems."

"Of course," she wrote, "this would be the ideal. However, the sisters claim that they have done so time and time again. Sometimes they are not well received. In some instances they are blamed for what has happened. Even when they are listened to sympathetically, nothing much seems to be done."

Worth talking about

Whatever positive steps have been taken, the problem remains a live concern for religious women. In an interview at her home in Kansas City, Mo., Fangman, the nun who raised the issue last September at a gathering of Benedictine abbots in Rome, told NCR that she had heard the stories about sisters being sexually abused by priests during informal discussions at meetings of abbesses and prioresses worldwide.

"The sisters who brought it up were deeply hurt by it and found it very painful - and very painful to talk about," she said. Because of the pain that she and others were hearing, "we decided that it was worth also beginning to talk about in a more open way, and we had the opportunity at our regular meeting with the Congress of Abbots," she said.

Fangman said her report to the Benedictine abbots was based on the conversations with sisters and on the material in O'Donohue's reports.

Fangman's talk was published in a recent issue of the Alliance for International Monasticism Bulletin, a mission magazine of the order.

O'Donohue's report was prepared in a similar spirit: in hope of promoting change. She wrote in her report that she had prepared it "after much profound reflection and with a deep sense of urgency since the subjects involved touch the very core of the church's mission and ministry."

The information on abuse of nuns by priests "comes from missionaries (men and women); from priests, doctors and other members of our loyal ecclesial family," she wrote. "I have been assured that case records exist for several of the incidents" described in the report, she said, "and that the information is not just based on hearsay."

The 23 countries listed in her report are: Botswana, Burundi, Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, India, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Tonga, Uganda, United States, Zambia, Zaire, Zimbabwe.

Her hope, she wrote, is that the report "will consequently motivate appropriate action especially on the part of those in positions of church leadership and those responsible for formation."

Documents related to the above story will be available on the NCR Website

By John Allen and Pamela Schaeffer, National Catholic Reporter, 3/16/2001



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Part 2: Vatican Denies Priests Abuse Nuns

The Vatican has denied a report in the National Catholic Reporter that says sexual abuse of nuns by priests is a serious problem.

The article is based on five reports by senior members of women's religious orders and a priest going back to 1994. The National Catholic Reporter said the reports have been discussed at top Vatican levels.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Vallis acknowledged there were isolated cases of priests sexually abusing nuns but said the problem is "restricted to a limited geographic area."

While the Vatican did not name the geographical area, the report said most incidents of sexual abuse against nuns occurred in Africa where the nuns were identified as "safe" following the onset of the HIV and AIDS viruses devastating the continent.

Navarro-Vallis said the Vatican is working with the leaders of religious orders and he stressed the heroic work of many priests and nuns.

Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, director of Fides, the news agency of the Vatican's missionary arm, said celibacy has always been a struggle for some priests but he was surprised at the accounts of sexual abuse.

He said: "I was a missionary for 25 years and I never encountered such a problem. Instead, I found priests and nuns who gave themselves wholly to people with leprosy, with AIDS ... priests and nuns who live their love for Christ." AnanovaReuters, 3/20/2001


Part 3: European Parliament Condemns Vatican Over Nun Abuse

STRASBOURG, France - The European Parliament made an unprecedented attack on the Vatican, approving a motion blaming it for the rapes suffered by nuns in Africa in the 1990s. Some observers saw the nonbinding measure as an attempt to impede John Paul II's visit to this institution.

The parliamentary motion, on the "Responsibility of the Vatican in Regard to the Violation of Human Rights by Catholic Priests," has no executive character but rather is intended as a "moral judgment."

It "condemns all the sexual violations against women, particularly against Catholic nuns. Likewise, it requests that the perpetrators of the crimes be arrested and handed over to justice."

The motion was passed 65-49, with 6 abstentions. Those voting in favor of the Vatican's condemnation were the European Socialist Party, the Green Group, the European Unitary Left, and the European Liberal Democratic Group (ELDR). The votes against came primarily from the European Popular Party and the Union for a Europe of Nations Group.

The voting proposal was presented by Elly Plooij-van Gorsel, Cecilia Malmstrom and Lousewies van der Laan, militants of the liberal ELDR.

"It is as if the European Parliament pronounced itself against the government of the United States because Pres. Bill Clinton took advantage of his position to have sexual relations with an intern," Italian Europarliamentarian Mario Mauro told ZENIT. Mauro's European Popular Party bloc voted against the motion.

The European Parliament requested the Vatican "to seriously examine every indication of sexual abuse committed in the heart of its organizations ... [and] to re-establish women in their posts in the religious hierarchy, who were removed from their responsibilities because they called the attention of their superiors to these abuses."

A Vatican press statement said that the superiors of the religious congregations and the bishops of the localities where the abuses took place have already taken precautions to make sure these situations don't occur again.

The motion was presented in the parliament as an "urgent debate," despite the fact that the matters referred to in the report occurred more than five years ago.

"The Vatican is accused of faults with which some missionaries were stained," Mario Mauro explained. "However, it is important to distinguish between the Vatican and the different individuals of the Catholic Church.

"The Vatican is not a state in which each Catholic is a citizen. The Vatican serves the universal Catholic community through its own authority, but it cannot be responsible of each and all the actions of Catholics worldwide, be they priests or lay people."

According to Mauro, the parliamentary motion had two hidden political objectives: to try to discredit the Vatican at international conferences, where it plays a decisive role, and to impede a possible visit of John Paul II to the parliament. Zenit, 4/6/2001



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Dear Sr.TJ,
At the outset I wish to state that I have read the book. I am born in a devout catholic family and have been associated with the religious since my birth. I totally agree with Sr. Jesme and the contents of her book. It is a well balanced book, which reveals the truth and is not too critical of the catholic church. The faithful in the Catholic Church ought to be grateful to Sr. Jesme for having penned her pleasant and bitter experience as a religious. Some facts that the heirarchy in the catholic church need to take cognicance are :

1. Sexual abuse of children by Priests covered up by the Bishops of USA has led to the destruction of the catholic church in the USA and loss of faith in clergy. Even the Pope publicly admits to this fact. The incidents in the USA conveniently covered up by the Bishops of the USA led to the universal church being scandalised. Did you Sr TJ desire that the parents of the children sexually abused by priest to cover up the offence just to protect the Clergy which is living in Sin? It appears so when I read your letter against Sr. Jesme. Ofcourse, you have a right to criticise Sr Jesme so do I have a right to support her.

2. Late Pope John Paul II released a document wherein he acknowledged that nuns and priests have failed to remain committed to their “Vow of Chastity” especially in Africa and few other countries. Vatican has admitted that sexual abuses including abortions are a way of life amongst religious in few countries. Are you Sr. TJ going to write against the Pope for publishing facts in his letter ?

3. The lesbian relationship amongst nuns witnessed by Sr. Jesme appears to be true as the cots of the nuns are seperated by curtains. They could be 6′ cubicals. Strange noises do provoke a peek into another’s cubicle to identify what is happening in the neighbourhood.

4. As admitted by you (Sr TJ) which I appreciate, Priests and Nuns are also men and women with a feet of clay. Then why criticise Sr Jesme. She did not brand the entire congregation or community in which she lived as lesbians. She mentioned the happenings amongst few nuns and how the authorities tolerated such nonsense.

5. Sr. Jesme’s agony is equal to the agony Jesus underwent in the garden of Gethsemane. Her Love for her Spouse ‘Jesus’, lack of support from the family, fear of revealing the truth to the world as the Catholic Church Hierarchy (especially in Kerala which is politically strong and dominated by Men) could result in danger to her life; the failure of the Church Heirarchy in supporting the canonical provisions to financially support a nun who desires to leave the nunery; the attempt of the Mother General and the Provincial of CMC to declare Sr. Jesme as a psychatric patient are all cases of violation of human rights, women’s rights and criminal in nature. Blessed Fr Chavara must be regreting (wherever he is) having started the CMI & CMC congregations. Some of the CMI & CMC congregations running educational institutions need to introspect on whether they are following the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Catechism. To make the scandal stick to Jesus Christ they name their institutions by the name “Christ”!!!

6. Sr. Jesme did fight within her congregation against collection of donations. Dear Sr.TJ, if today Jesus Christ and his followers are disliked in India it is because of the active priests and religious who run educational institutions and have commercialised it. Please note that if donations are banned by law by the government , collecting donations amounts to corruption. Also remember when an educational instution indulges in corruption by collecting donations, the child sees her/his parents desperatly taking loans with tears to give the child the best education. Dear Sr TJ, if the Church can claim to be a pioneer in promoting education in India, the present church is the pioneer in promoting and institutionalising corruption through donations in our poor country. Looking at the way the Church flourished in wealth through her educational institutions, other denominations/people of other faiths have now aggressively taken to this trade of starting educational institutions. Dear Sr TJ, doesn’t the catholic catechism teach us to be obedient to the law of the land. Then Why is the Catholic Church not following this? I find it difficult to answer my children when we see the injustice meted out to christians by the church heirarchy, clergy and the religious. Have you not converted the Fathers House into a Robbers Den??? Please do not conveniently quote scriptures to buttress your points. Scriptures should be quoted in the right context and not out of context as done by you in your letter. In fact we Christians call the Government of the land “Pagan”. But let me tell you and remember this Sr TJ till you reach your grave, that the Government of our land is truly Christian and our Christian educational institutions are “Pagan”. Government pays just wages and all benefits to the teachers without collecting any fees from the people whereas our educational institutions collect maximum fees under the guise of giving value based education and pay the teachers the least. Do you agree with me?

6. I do not know Sr. TJ why you have conveniently disregarded some of the hard facts placed before the world by Sr. Jesme. Especially the discrimination of nuns on the basis of caste, and class. Are you aware of the fact that Dr. B.R.Ambedkar, (Hope you know who this great Son of India is!!!) during his visit to Kerala had a special mission. He wanted to give a call to all the Dalits to embrace christian faith. After visitng one of the Churches in Kerala he found that the seating arrangements were on the lines of class, caste etc., He was shocked to find this discrimination in a land which claims to be the first Christians in india but ….. It was then that he gave a call to the Dalits to embrace Buddhism.

7. Sexual attempts mentioned by Sr. Jesme – I believe they are facts, well presented, and does not scandalise any person. Sr. Jesme is very clear that she has not branded all the religious as sexually perverted persons. She has only highlighted her life story and you Sr. TJ have no authority to condemn the fundamental right of Sr. Jesme in informing the world of how her dreams of pious life were shattered within the four walls of the convent. In fact few years ago two nuns were found dead in Mumbai and their autopsy report spoke of sexual abuse. None of us are scandalised by this report. People know that there are good and bad people in every group. Amen.

8. Sr. Jesme has rightly pointed out the fact that the family of a nun should not desert her if she desires to quit. I sympathise with the widowed mother of Sr. Jesme – a pain this women endures like that of Virgin Mother Mary who is unable to support her daugher nun and at the same time herself needs the support of her other children for her survival. It is mandatory for the church (if the church authorities practices what she preaches and if the church has a conscience)to support Sr. Jesme with financial support. It is graceful for a nun or priest to quit if they cannot endure the harassment or suffering within the four walls of their vocation. There is no need to feel bad about their exit. In fact all of us Christians including myself are called to Holiness but at times attaining Sainthood and enduring the trials and tribulations undergone by saints is not possible by all.

9. The desperate attempt of the church authorities to brand Sr. Jesme autobiography as that of a Prostitute is an admission of guilt by the church that they have something to hide. The church authorities should remember the first teaching of Jesus Christ when He started his Ministry “Repent and Believe in the Gospel”. It is shameful and an act of a coward to brand Sr. Jesme as a Prostitute. The church should believe in the teachings of Christ and Practice his first call.

10. After reading the Bible, the second book that increase my love for Jesus Christ was “Amen – the autobiography of a Nun”. I firmly believe that Sr. Jesme loves her Spouse Jesus Christ and did derive her strength from Jesus. I do not think I could endure such a shock treatment by the authorities. The book spoke at length how a battered, shattered individual can find solace in a True Friend called Jesus Christ.

11. Sr. Jesme’s book calls for a Suo Motto Action by a Court of Law to investigate into her case and render justice to Sr. Jesme. The series of suicides, murders and exits from convents need to be probed by a Human Rights Team. Violation of Human Rights and Fundamental Rights of an honest and responsible citizen of India like Sr. Jesme, deserves to be probed by the highest forums rendering justice in India. The Mother General and the Provincial who ventured to declare Sr. Jesme a psychatric patient needs to be given a taste of the law of the land. The suicide of Sr. Anupama Mary also needs a thorough probe who happens to be Sr. Jesme’s companion.

12. It is also appropriate for the Divine Retreat Centre to clarify the statement of Fr Pannackal which as alleged by Sr. Jesme has been distorted by the Mother General and Provincial of her former congregation. This is to keep the Divine Retreat Centre out of controversy.

I only pray that our Lord Jesus destroys the corrupt and anti Jesus Church and resurrect a new Church committed to His Love, Peace and Universal Brotherhood. Well done Sr. Jesme.



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M G Radhakrishnan
Date: February 26, 2009

“A men” is the concluding word for prayers. There is also another meaning, “So be it”. The latter is probably what inspired Sister Jesme, a senior nun from the Kerala Church, to release her sensational autobiography titled Amen which has caused a shockwave of
Tsunami-like proportions.

The book contains lurid descriptions of sexual perversions performed on her by priests and fellow nuns. The scandal has been magnified because it involves the all-powerful Catholic Church in a state with a large Christian population which supplies about 60 per cent of the country’s priests and nuns.

Three weeks after Sister Jesme, 53, released her lurid autobiography, the state is still reeling from the revelations. Never has the dark underbelly of the church been so starkly exposed, with the nun’s sordid tales of sexual exploitation, lesbianism, petty rivalries and patriarchy.

The Malayalam book Amen: The Autobiography of a Nun was an instant bestseller and is
printing its third edition within a month.

Publishers are vying for translation rights and movie companies are queuing up outside her tiny rented flat in Kozhikode where she moved after her resignation from the Congregation of Mother of Carmel (CMC) where she served for 33 years. “I never knew there would be so much interest in the trivial life of a humble nun,” said Sister Jesme.

These revelations are more shocking since the nuns of Kerala form a significant section of the global Christian family. Her story is anything but trivial. The narrative is full of instances when she was forced into lesbian relations by senior nuns or sexual liaisons by priests.

“Lesbianism is rampant among nuns. There are also innumerable instances of nuns having sexual relations with priests or outsiders. This is in a community where we were brought up looking at all this as grave sins,” she says. Her revelations are even more shocking considering that the nuns of Kerala form a significant section in the global Christian family.

Last October, a Kerala nun- Saint Alphonsa-became the first Indian woman to be
canonised by the Pope at the Vatican. Lately, however, it is the dark side that has made headlines (see box). Incidence of suicides by nuns too has been on the rise.

Recently, the state Women’s Commission issued guidelines to end the exploitation and miseries of nuns, the “silent section in the church”, which were bitterly opposed by the church.

Sister Jesme’s book, however, is the most devastating blow to the church. More devastating is the fact that she is a highly educated woman. She has a PhD in English Literature and has authored three books of poems. She had been the principal of the reputed Vimala College in Thrissur, run by the powerful 35 lakh-member Syro-Malabar Church (SMC), the largest Indian Catholic church, before she quit to launch her tell-all autobiography.

Neither the SMC nor the CMC have made any official response to Jesme’s revelations.
However Fr Paul Thelakat, SMC’s official spokesperson, candidly told India Today that the issues Jesme raised should not to be ignored and must be addressed by the church and the congregation.

“The church and congregation work in a world with all its attendant weaknesses and problems. All the ills of the contemporary world are likely to creep into the church too.
Sexual perversions or financial irregularities among the priests or nuns are not new and there have been isolated incidents.” He added that: “Her war is not against God but the disconnect between the ideal and real as she sees it.” The book traces her life from the days when she pursued as a young girl her desire to be a nun to the day she quit the congregation in protest and grief.

The narrative is full of instances when she was forced into lesbian relations by senior nuns or sexual liaisons by priests. Jesme said the church never took action against their own favourites even when they were found guilty of moral or economic offences.

“There was a huge gap between what they preach and practice. Most of the nuns and priests I have known used to have illicit sexual liaisons or were involved in serious corruption.”

The most talked about episode in the book is Jesme’s own sexual encounter with a priest when she was in her 30s. He embraced her forcibly, squeezed her breasts and undressed before her. She also admits that “as a young woman I was curious to see a male body that I have never seen”.

She has also written about the church’s increasing affluence, anti-poor attitudes and also commercialising its once lauded services in the education and health sectors.

The proverbial last straw for Jesme was the alleged attempt from the leaders of her congregation to brand her as a mental patient and banish her from her job. “I was forcibly taken to psychiatrists. Then I knew my life was in danger and so had no option but to quit my job.”

Jesme’s open war against the church had endeared her to many including the Left parties, which have a running battle against the church and clergy over many issues.

“They have even offered me a seat in the coming elections. But I have decided to continue my fight against the wrong ways of the church alone. Moreover, I am still with the church. All I want is to reform it from inside.”

However Jesme’s daring to take on the mighty church has already inspired others. A group of nuns belonging to CMC has revolted over the management of a school.
The dissident nuns are planning to break away from CMC, unheard of in Kerala’s Catholic Church. The SMC seems to be prepared for the snowballing storm. “Jesme and others prove the serious shortcomings which have crept into the complaint redressal system.

If the complaints and dissatisfaction of members are not addressed, such eruptions could be natural,” says Thelakat. Not so natural is the perversion that Jesme was forced to undergo. Her shocking story is certain to cause bigger ripples if it escalates into a political issue. There is no way the church can say Amen to her story.

For sister Jesme’s interview, visit:

The unholy list:

*       Arrest of a nun and two priests by the CBI in the case related to Sister Abhaya’s murder.
*       Sister Anoopa Mary committed suicide due to her inability to bear torture by superiors. Excommunication of a nun from the church after an MMS of her indulging in sex with a male was circulated.
*        A survey conducted by the church showed widespread discontent and dissatisfaction among the nuns.
*       Plans of formation of a dissident congregation by some nuns after breaking away from the Congregation of the Mother of Carmels.
*       State Women’s Commission issues guidelines to end the widespread persecution and exploitation of nuns inside convents.
*       More than 63 priests in Kerala face criminal cases.



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Gay cleric blocked from becoming Church of England bishop

An openly homosexual cleric has been blocked from becoming a Church of England bishop, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.

Members of the Crown Nominations Commission, which includes Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, rejected calls for Dr Jeffrey John to be made the next Bishop of Southwark.

The Dean of St Albans, who is in a civil partnership with another priest, was on the shortlist for the post and was considered to be a front-runner for the job.

David Cameron had been made aware of his nomination and is believed to have been supportive of promoting the homosexual cleric.

However, a secret meeting of senior Church figures has decided to overlook Dr John amid fears that his consecration would have provoked a split in the Church.

Conservative Anglican leaders had warned that evangelical parishes would not recognise him as a bishop and instead would seek “alternative episcopal oversight”.

But the snub will infuriate liberal clergy who believed he was the outstanding candidate and that his appointment would signal a move towards greater inclusion for homosexuals in the Church.

It is understood that discussions at the two-day meeting, held at a secret location in Stepney, were heated with members of the Commission arguing over whether they should select Dr John.

Dr Williams is said to have been furious at the pressure placed on him and the other members by a leak to The Sunday Telegraph, which revealed the dean was on the shortlist. He asked the rest of the Commission to swear an oath of secrecy about the talks.

Church insiders considered that his name would not have been included unless there were plans to make him a bishop, as Dr John was forced to stand down from becoming the Bishop of Reading in 2003 after it emerged he was in a homosexual, but celibate, relationship.

His supporters fear the development represents further embarrassment for the controversial dean and is another sign that the Archbishop is unwilling to advance the liberal cause.

But the Rev Paul Dawson, spokesman for Reform, the conservative evangelical group, said: “It’s appropriate that he shouldn’t be a bishop until he publicly changes his mind about what he teaches.

“But this issue won’t go away, whether it’s Jeffrey John or someone else. We know that, and we will continue to encourage those electing bishops to choose those who are willing to uphold the teaching of the Bible and the doctrine of the Church of England.”

The name selected by the Commission for the next Bishop of Southwark will be forwarded to the Prime Minister before being rubber-stamped by the Queen. It is not expected to be announced until the autumn.

Gay cleric in line to become bishop in Church of EnglandAn openly-homosexual cleric has been nominated to become a senior bishop, in a move that threatens to provoke a damaging split in the Church of England.

Dr Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans
The nomination of Dr Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans, threatens to provoke a damaging split in the Church of England Photo: PA

A confidential meeting, chaired by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has approved Dr Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans, to be on the shortlist to be the next Bishop of Southwark.

He is understood to be the favoured candidate.

Dr John is a hugely divisive figure in the church after he was forced to stand down from becoming the Bishop of Reading in 2003 after it emerged he was in a homosexual, but celibate, relationship.

Promoting him to one of the most senior offices in the Church would trigger a civil war between liberals and conservatives and exacerbate existing divisions within the Anglican Communion.

Members of the Crown Nominations Commission, the body responsible for selecting bishops, will vote this week on whether Dr John's name should now be put forward to the Prime Minister for final approval.

David Cameron has been made aware that Dr John is on the shortlist for the post and is understood to be supportive of such an appointment.

Once the preferred candidate is rubber-stamped by Mr Cameron it is passed to the Queen for final approval.

In 2003, evangelical parishes warned they would withhold payments to central Church coffers if Dr John was consecrated as Bishop of Reading, before Dr Williams ultimately forced him to resign.

It is known that the Queen was "deeply concerned" by the rift.

Dr Williams and Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, who also sits on the commission, will face fierce criticism from the conservative wing of the Church if they allow Dr John to become a bishop.

Yet, at the commission's last meeting, where Dr John was put on the initial shortlist of candidates for the Southwark job, neither archbishop blocked his name.

Liberals make up a majority of the commission and he is considered by many to be the outstanding candidate after a successful period in charge of St Albans cathedral.

The appointment of Dr John, who entered a civil partnership with his long term partner the Rev Grant Holmes in 2006, would mark a major victory for the pro-gay lobby in the Church of England, which has been disappointed at the lack of progress under Dr Williams.

Conservatives, on the other hand, would be incensed at the promotion of a cleric who has strongly argued for a more liberal attitude towards sexuality and is in a long-standing, though celibate, homosexual relationship.

Senior bishops led the opposition to his appointment in 2003, while African archbishops claimed that it would tear apart the Anglican Communion if an openly gay cleric was made bishop in the Church of England, considered to be the mother church.

The Communion has already begun to unravel following the appointment of openly gay and openly lesbian bishops in the US Episcopal Church.

This could shatter Dr Williams' hopes of maintaining the fragile unity which currently exists in the Church.

While it would also upset evangelicals in the diocese of Southwark, the overwhelming majority of clergy in the diocese are believed to be very keen to have Dr John as their bishop.

He is well known in the diocese from his time serving as a canon at the cathedral before he moved to St Albans.

Regarded as an outstanding preacher and a champion of a more liberal reading of the Bible, he is considered to have enhanced his reputation at St Albans cathedral, which has seen its congregation grow under his leadership.

David Cameron is also expected to be favourable to the appointment as it would reflect the Conservative Party's drive to shake off its "nasty party" image.

In an interview last year with Attitude, a gay magazine, the prime minister criticised the Church of England over failing to be more accepting in its attitudes to homosexuality.

"But I think the Church has to do some of the things that the Conservative Party has been through – sorting this issue out and recognising that full equality is a bottom line full essential."

On Saturday it was revealed that the Coalition was considering allowing same-sex couples to include religious elements in civil partnership ceremonies, making them practically indistinguishable from traditional weddings

-- Edited by devapriyaji on Thursday 8th of July 2010 06:56:21 AM



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Meeting on appointment of gay bishop will determine future of the Church

It is exactly seven years since Dr Rowan Williams secretly called Jeffrey John to Lambeth Palace and forced the homosexual cleric to stand down from becoming Bishop of Reading.

Having ordered him to sign a letter withdrawing his nomination, a distressed archbishop then knelt before his old friend and asked for his blessing.

The historic meeting has come to be seen as one of the defining moments of Dr Williams's time in office, showing he was prepared to sacrifice the liberal views of his past to preserve the unity of the Anglican Communion.

This week, however, the archbishop has an opportunity to rewrite how he is remembered as he helps determine the future of Jeffrey John's career once more.

The presence of the Dean of St Albans's name on the shortlist to be the next Bishop of Southwark offers him the chance to make amends for abandoning a friend and ally and to repair relations with the liberals who felt betrayed by his action.

Evangelicals, on the other hand, will be hoping the archbishop's desire to prevent a schism will prevail and he will argue against the appointment of a cleric who is in a civil partnership and has spoken strongly against traditional Church teaching on sexuality.

He will be only one of 14 members of the Crown Nominations Commission choosing the next bishop, but his guidance could help to sway the outcome of a highly sensitive vote.

The appointment comes at a particularly delicate time, with the Anglican Communion still coming to terms with the consecration of its first lesbian bishop in May and the imminent visit of Pope Benedict XVI, who is uncompromising in his opposition to homosexuality.

Furthermore, the General Synod, the Church's parliament, starts later this week and will be attempting to take a further step towards appointing women bishops, a move likely to lead to a number of traditionalist clergy defecting to Rome.

Appointing the homosexual dean as the next Bishop of Southwark, one of the most senior posts in the Church, would make the row over women bishops appear almost trivial by comparison.

Last time he was put forward for the bishopric of Reading, it caused one of the biggest crises in the Church's history, dividing parishes across the country and even causing the Queen to privately express her dismay at the rift.

Liberal and conservative bishops became locked in a public feud, the wealthy evangelical wing threatened to withdraw loyalty and financial support from the Church, and archbishops in Africa and Asia said it would split the Communion.

Making Dr John bishop not only risks reigniting these fires that have only recently begun to die down, but would strain relations with the Catholic Church only weeks before the Pope meets the archbishop.

Yet, despite the undoubted furore that would erupt from his appointment, it is highly likely that Dr John will become the Church's first openly homosexual bishop.

For a start, he was not blocked by either Dr Williams or Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, who also sits on the Commission, from being included on the shortlist.

Crucially, it is understood that many of the Commission believe that he is the best candidate. Articulate, pastorally sensitive as well as being an intellectual heavyweight, he is considered to have done an excellent job as dean of St Albans.

He knows the diocese well from his time as canon at Southwark cathedral, and would be a popular choice with its overwhelmingly liberal parishes.

Across the river in Westminster, the new Coalition Government has already signalled that civil partnerships could soon include key religious elements, making them more like traditional marriages.

It is likely to welcome the appointment of a bishop who is in a gay "marriage" as a sign of the more progressive society it says it is striving to create.

Earlier this year, David Cameron urged the archbishop to follow the lead of the Conservative Party in adopting a more inclusive attitude to homosexuals that "recognises full equality".

For many, this week's meeting to select the next Bishop of Southwark presents the Church with the perfect opportunity to do exactly that.

However, there will be just as many hoping the Church can resist the march of secular society. The outcome rests in the hands of 14 people



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Minister Lynne Featherstone indicates gay marriage a step closer

Homosexual couples could be allowed to “marry” in traditional religious ceremonies for the first time, a government minister has said.

1 of 2 Images
Two men hold hands at their civil partnership
The proposals will delight equality campaigners who believe civil partnership is a 'second-class' status Photo: ALAMY

Lynne Featherstone, the equalities minister, said the Coalition was considering allowing same-sex couples to include key religious elements in civil partnership ceremonies.

In a parliamentary answer, she disclosed that homosexual couples could be permitted to use “religious readings, music and symbols”.

This would make civil partnerships practically indistinguishable from traditional weddings as Parliament recently removed the bar on same-sex unions in churches and other places of worship through an amendment to Labour’s Equality Act.

The proposals will delight equality campaigners who believe civil partnership is a “second-class” status, but they prompted fierce opposition from mainstream Christian leaders who believe marriage can only take place between a man and a woman.

Church of England sources warned that the Government could not make such dramatic changes merely by issuing regulations or guidance, as the current Civil Partnership Act prohibits the use of religious services during the registrations.

A spokesman made it clear that senior  figures in the established faith would resist any moves effectively to legalise homosexual marriage.

The Rt Rev Michael Langrish, the Bishop of Exeter, added in a personal statement: “As some of us warned at the time, the amendment to the Equality Bill has opened an area of unhelpful doubt and confusion. The Church of England will not be allowing use of any of its buildings for civil partnership registrations.”

Lord Tebbit, a former Tory party chairman who spoke out against same-sex unions in churches in the Lords, said: “I wouldn’t want anything done to add to the pretence that a civil partnership is a marriage. That’s the key thing, and anything which changes the law would have to come back to the Lords.”

In 2005, same-sex couples in Britain were allowed for the first time to take part in ceremonies that made them “civil partners”.

This gave them similar legal rights to married spouses, but the law required the events to take place in register offices or approved venues such as hotels and stately homes.

The ceremony has had to be secular, with no hymns or Bible readings, in order to preserve the definition of religious marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

When the Equality Bill was being debated earlier this year, an amendment was added by Lord Alli that permitted civil partnership ceremonies to take place in places of worship if the relevant religious group permitted it.

Quakers, Unitarians and the Liberal Judaism movement will ask to be allowed to host the ceremonies but the Church of England will resist it, despite the wishes of some liberal clerics, as will the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.

Registrars provided by local councils would still have to conduct civil partnership ceremonies.

No changes to the content of the ceremonies were proposed in the Lords, and in a parliamentary written answer last month, it was made clear that they must remain “entirely secular in nature” and cannot contain “any religious language”.

However, in a Parliamentary written answer provided on Wednesday to Chris Bryant, the ex-Labour minister and former Anglican priest who posed in his underpants on a dating website called Gaydar, it emerged that the Coalition is considering moving further towards legalising full homosexual marriage as it draws up the regulations on how civil partnerships can be held in places of worship.

Mrs Featherstone, a Liberal Democrat, wrote: “An amendment made in the House of Lords to the Equality Act 2010 removed the express prohibition on civil partnership registrations taking place on religious premises.

“In response to this amendment, the Government committed to talking to those with a key interest in the issue of civil partnerships on what the next stage should be for civil partnerships.

“This will include consideration of whether civil partnerships should be allowed to include religious readings, music and symbols.

“This commitment was made through the document, Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality, published on 16 June 2010.”

She added that this would create a disparity with heterosexual couples who marry in town halls, as “there are currently no plans to allow religious readings, music and symbols during the registration of civil marriages”.

Mr Bryant said he believes the Government will eventually have to allow full homosexual marriage rather than creating the unusual situation under which same-sex couples can have religious language in their civil partnerships, but heterosexuals cannot in civil marriage.

A Church of England spokesman said: “The Church of England is not proposing to open its churches for civil partnership registrations. Any comment we might wish to make on the principles of these apparent proposals would be made through the formal consultation process.”

During the election campaign, the Conservatives were the only main party to suggest that they would consider allowing full homosexual marriage, a move that although contentious would be easier to legislate for than altering existing laws on civil partnership and civil marriage.

Their Contract for Equalities stated: “We will consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage.”

Peter Tatchell, the veteran gay rights activist who will today join London’s Gay Pride parade with a banner declaring: “Dave and Sam Cameron can marry, gays can’t. End the ban on gay marriage”, said: “Instead of tinkering with the second-class system of civil partnerships, the Government should bring forward legislation to legalise same-sex marriage.”

He said the move to allow religious language in civil partnerships was a “small step forward” but added: “It still comes well short of marriage equality.”



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Homosexual 'weddings' should be celebrated in church, says Chris Bryant

Homosexual "weddings" should be celebrated in churches, a Government minister has said in defiance of religious teaching.

Chris Bryant, who once posed in his underpants on a gay dating website, said he wanted clergy to be "much more open" to the idea of treating civil partnership ceremonies like traditional marriages.

However, his suggestion goes directly against the rules of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, which state that only the union of a man and a woman can be celebrated by a priest in church.

It comes as the Government is pushing through an Equality Bill that religious groups fear will force them to give jobs to homosexual youth workers or secretaries, even if their faith maintains that same-sex relationships are sinful.

Mr Bryant, a former deputy leader of the Commons who is now a junior Foreign Office minister, trained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate before becoming the MP for the Rhondda.

He was questioned by the magazine Time Out this week on whether he believed civil partnerships, introduced to England and Wales in 2005, should be scrapped in favour of same-sex marriage.

The minister replied: "All my friends who have entered into a civil partnership refer to it as their 'marriage' or their 'wedding' so the most important issue is that nobody should be discriminated against because of their sexuality.

"I would like to see churches be much more open to the idea of gay relationships or partnerships being celebrated in church."

Nick Herbert, a Conservative MP who is in a civil partnership, and Stephen Williams, who was the first openly homosexual Liberal Democrat MP, both told the magazine that they would support the legal introduction of same-sex marriages.

Church of England rules state that civil partnerships are not equivalent to marriage and cannot be celebrated in church, and the battle between conservatives and liberals over homosexuality has driven the worldwide Anglican Communion to the brink of schism.

Last summer a rector was strongly criticised by the Church of England's two archbishops after he conducted a "wedding" service, including traditional liturgy and the exchange of rings for two homosexual priests, at his 12th century church in the City of London.

The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, said: "Of course all citizens must have equal rights without discrimination. But marriage is the basis of the family, and the stability of the family is grounded in the sameness in difference between men and women.

"Those who make public law have to realise that people of faith have consciences that need to be respected."

A spokesman for the Church of England said: "The Church of England's approach has always been clear: marriage is the lifelong union between a man and a woman, and that is what the liturgy of the C of E Marriage Service is exclusively intended for.

"On civil partnerships the Church continues to uphold that standard, to affirm the value of committed, sexually abstinent friendships between people of the same sex and, at the same time, to minister sensitively and pastorally to those Christians who conscientiously decide to order their lives differently.

"Some who register civil partnerships seek recognition of their new situation and pastoral support by asking members of the clergy to provide a blessing for them in the context of an act of worship. The Church expresses what it believes through the liturgy of its worship. As there is no theological consensus about same sex unions, no such liturgy is authorised."

Mike Judge, a spokesman for The Christian Institute, a campaign group, said: "Churches are open and welcoming to all people, but that is not the same thing as forcing churches to celebrate behaviour which conflicts with their religious ethos. It would be like forcing the Labour Party to celebrate a Conservative election victory. Surely the world is big enough to allow people to be free to disagree."



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Catholic church-funded marriage agency backs gay and unmarried parents

Homosexuals and unmarried couples could be just as good parents as husbands and wives, according to the head of a marriage support agency that is partly funded by the Roman Catholic Church.

Lesbian couple with baby: Partners of lesbian mothers to get paternity leave
Terry Prendergast said the Government cares more about families than the church, because it supports people who are unmarried and allows same-sex civil partnerships Photo: GETTY

Terry Prendergast, the chief executive of Marriage Care, claimed there is "no evidence" that children do better if they are brought up in a traditional two-parent family.

He claimed that those who live together out of wedlock are trying to lead good lives but find themselves "consigned to the dustbin" by the church.

His comments – to be made this weekend to Quest, a group of homosexual Catholics – go directly against the church's teaching, which holds that homosexuality is sinful and that families should be based on the marriage of a man and a woman.

Mr Prendergast said: "We see, for example, that statistically children do best in a family where the adult relationship is steady, stable and loving – you should note here perhaps that I stress adult, not married, since there is no evidence that suggests that children do best with heterosexual couples."

He claimed that God was present in the relationships of married, homosexual and cohabiting heterosexual relationships where there was "commitment, consent and covenant".

He went on: "They want to live good lives according to the precepts of the Gospels. They are an advert for the Church, an advert that the Church often ignores or consigns to the wastebin."

Mr Prendergast also said the Government cares more about families than the church, because it supports people who are unmarried and allows same-sex civil partnerships.

"The fact that there are all kinds of benefits available for different family forms, and legal imperatives to support families suggests that the State is even more concerned for families than Church."

Marriage Care, which provides relationship counselling, is partly funded by Catholic dioceses but a spokesman for the church in England and Wales rejected Mr Prendergast's arguments.

He told the Catholic Herald newspaper: "Defining 'family' is a notoriously difficult task. Yet the views expressed by Terry Prendergast about the definition of family and marriage are clearly not a reflection of the Church's teaching, nor those of the Bishops' Conference.

"Responding to the needs of children is also complex. The Church's vision is that the crucially important quality of stability in family life needs gender complementarity and role modelling too."



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Tony Blair's faith foundation fails to inspire Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor

Tony Blair made much of becoming a Roman Catholic six months after he left 10 Downing Street, but senior figures in the Church appear reluctant to sign up to his fan club. Mandrake learns that Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, who recently retired as Archbishop of Westminster, has turned down an invitation to become a member of the advisory board of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

"He does not envisage joining the board at this stage," confirms the Cardinal's spokesman. The organisation, which was established by the former prime minister last year, had announced on its website that the Cardinal would be joining.

His decision comes after Blair used an interview with Attitude, a magazine for homosexuals, to criticise the approach of the Pope towards gay rights. He argued that religious leaders must start "rethinking" the issue, but the new Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, said Catholic thinking was "rather different" from the kind promoted by Blair.

In a further indication of strains between Blair and the Vatican, he and his wife, Cherie, were not invited to the installation of the new Archbishop of Westminster last month.

"The number of individual invitations to the installation was necessarily restricted so that the vast majority could be made available to parish communities, religious orders and clergy," says a spokesman for the diocese.

The Cardinal's announcement comes after Mandrake reported that a leading figure in the Church had claimed that the charity threatened human rights and religious freedom. At a conference in the Vatican, Prof Michel Schooyans, an expert on bioethics and demography, said Blair wanted to remake the world's major religions and use them to expand "new rights".

Last month, Mandrake disclosed that William Chapman, the foundation's director of policy, had stepped down. Chapman denied that he did so because of a dispute over Blair's "lecturing'' of the Pope on homosexuality. He said he could not turn down a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to work for the Lord Mayor of London.

A spokesman for the foundation says: "While they support the broad aims of the foundation, we do not expect the advisory council members to agree with Tony Blair on every aspect of policy, past or present. Their role is to provide advice and guidance."



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கிறிஸ்தவ நாட்டில் இருந்து ஒரு திறந்த மடல்...

எனது வலைப்பூவில் கிறிஸ்தவ, யூத மதங்களை விமர்சிக்கும் கட்டுரைகளை அதிகம் எழுதுவதாக சில நண்பர்கள் என் மீது குற்றச்சாட்டை முன்வைக்கின்றனர். சில விஷமிகள் இதனை "கிறிஸ்தவ/யூத எதிர்ப்பாக" திரிபு படுத்த பார்க்கின்றனர். இது அவர்களது குறுகிய மனப்பான்மையை காட்டுகின்றது. இதே போன்ற குற்றச்சாட்டுகள் இஸ்லாமிய, இந்து, (தலாய்லாமா) பௌத்த ஆதரவாளர்கள் மத்தியில் இருந்தும் எழுந்துள்ளன. பல முனைகளில் பிரிந்திருக்கும் அனைத்து மதவாதிகளும் சந்திக்கும் புள்ளியும் அது தான். 

மதச்சார்பின்மையை பற்றிய அவர்களின் புரிதலை "எம்மமதமும் சம்மதம்" என்ற சொற்பதத்திற்குள் அடக்கி விடலாம். "எல்லா மதத்திற்கும் சமமான ஜனநாயகம்" என்று இதற்கு பொழிப்புரை எழுதலாம். "மதம் ஒருவரின் அந்தரங்க விடயம்." என்ற அரச நிர்ணய சட்டத்தை நடைமுறைப் படுத்த கிளம்பினால் தான் பிரச்சினை கிளம்புகின்றது. இந்தியாவிலோ, இலங்கையிலோ அரசும் மதமும் இன்னமும் தனித்தனியாக பிரிக்கப்படவில்லை. இதனால் இணையம் என்ற பொதுத்தளத்தில் மதச்சார்பின்மையை வலியுறுத்தும் பதிவர்கள் மீது சேறு பூசப்படுகின்றது. மதக் கொள்கைகளை கண்மூடித்தனமாக பின்பற்றுபவர்களுக்கு, விமர்சனங்களை ஏற்றுக் கொள்ளும் பக்குவம் இன்னும் இல்லை. 

இவர்கள் "கிறிஸ்தவ நாடுகள்" என புரிந்து கொள்ளும் மேற்குலகில் வாழும் மக்கள், தம்மை அப்படி அழைப்பதை விரும்புவதில்லை. இந்த நாடுகளில் வாழும் பெரும்பான்மையான மக்கள், தம்மை "எந்த மதத்தையும் சாராதவர்" (Agnostic) என்றே அழைத்துக் கொள்வார்கள். கிறிஸ்தவ பெற்றோருக்கு பிறந்தால் கிறிஸ்தவன் தானே, என்று கொடுக்கும் விளக்கம் எல்லாம் இங்கே செல்லுபடியாகாது. (அந்த விளக்கத்தின் படி பார்த்தால் இயேசு ஒரு கிறிஸ்தவன் அல்ல.) கிறிஸ்தவம் ஒரு உலகமயமாக்கப்பட்ட மதமாகி விட்டது. வறிய நாடுகளில் கிறிஸ்தவர்கள் எண்ணிக்கை அதிகரித்து வருகின்றது. அதே நேரம் செல்வந்த நாடுகளில் கிறிஸ்தவர்கள் எண்ணிக்கை குறைந்து வருகின்றது. மதத்திற்கும், வர்க்கத்திற்கும் இடையிலான தொடர்பை விளக்க இந்த ஒரு உதாரணம் போதும். 

மேற்குலக மதச்சார்பற்ற நாடுகளில், மதம் குறித்து எத்தகைய கருத்தையும் முன்வைக்கலாம். ஒருவர் எந்த மதத்தையும், கடவுளையும் பற்றி விரும்பிய படி கிண்டல் செய்யலாம், பரிகசிக்கலாம், கேலிச்சித்திரம் வரையலாம். அந்த உரிமையை அரசும், நீதிமன்றமும் உறுதிப்படுத்தி வருகின்றன. ஏதாவது ஒரு மதத்தை விமர்சித்ததற்காக "மத எதிர்ப்பாளன்" முத்திரை குத்த முடியாது. விமர்சகரை பாதுகாக்கும் சட்டம், முத்திரை குத்தியவரை ஆபத்தான பேர்வழியாக கருதுகின்றது. இவை "பரம்பரை கிறிஸ்தவ நாடுகள்" என்பதால், இங்கெல்லாம் கிறிஸ்தவ மதத்தை பற்றி அதிக விமர்சனங்கள் எழுவதில் வியப்பில்லை. அதனை இங்கே யாரும் கிறிஸ்தவ எதிர்ப்பு என்று பாமரத்தனமாக புரிந்து கொள்வதில்லை. "பாப்பரசர் ஒரு மாபியா கிரிமினல்" என்று கூறும் கத்தோலிக்கர்களை இங்கே காணலாம். உண்மையிலேயே வத்திக்கானுக்கும், மாபியாவுக்கும் இடையிலான தொடர்புகளை ஆய்வு செய்த நூல்கள் பல வெளியாகியுள்ளன.

ஒரு காலத்தில் ஐரோப்பா முழுவதும் கத்தோலிக்க மத்தம் மட்டுமே ஒரேயொரு மதமாக ஆதிக்கம் செலுத்தியது. கத்தோலிக்க கிறிஸ்தவ சபை மக்களை சுரண்டி வாழும் ஒட்டுண்ணி நிறுவனமாகவே அவர்களுக்கு தெரிந்தது. கிராமத்தில் இருக்கும் சிறிய தேவாலயத்தின் பாதிரி கூட வரி வசூல் செய்யும் "கலக்டர்" போல நடந்து கொண்டார். ஒரு தேவாலயத்தின் உறுப்பினர் கொடுக்கும் பங்குப் பணம், ஒரு சாதாரண பக்தன் கொடுக்கும் காணிக்கை அல்ல. அதற்கும் மேலே. பாதிரிகள் அந்தப் பணத்தை வசூல் செய்து, பிராந்திய பிஷப்புக்கு அனுப்புவதும், அவர் அதை வத்திக்கானுக்கு அனுப்புவதும் இன்று வரை நடந்து கொண்டு தான் இருக்கிறது. இன்றைக்கும் கத்தோலிக்க திருச்சபை ஒரு சர்வதேச நிழல் அரசாங்கத்தை நடத்திக் கொண்டிருக்கிறது. இன்று பெருகி வரும் புரட்டஸ்தாந்து, பெந்தேகொஸ்தே சபைகளின் வியாபாரப் போட்டி வேறு. 

ஐரோப்பாவில் இன்றைக்கும் கிறிஸ்தவர்களாக மத நம்பிக்கையுடன் வாழும் பலர் தேவாலயங்களுக்கு செல்வதில்லை. ஐரோப்பாவில் கிறிஸ்தவ மதம் மக்களின் மக்களின் மனங்களில் ஆறாத வடுக்களை ஏற்படுத்தியுள்ளது. ஒவ்வொரு கிராமங்களிலும், தேவாலயம் மக்களை கட்டுப்படுத்தும் அதிகார மையமாக இருந்துள்ளது. அந்த கிராமத்தில் இருக்கும் ஒவ்வொரு குடிமகனும் தேவாலயத்தில் உறுப்பினராக இருக்க வேண்டும். மாதாமாதம் வருமானத்தில் குறிப்பிட்ட தொகையை கொடுத்து விட வேண்டும். (குறைந்தது மொத்த வருமானத்தில் 10 %) அப்படி தனது பங்கை செலுத்தாதவர் கிறிஸ்தவனாக கருதப்பட மாட்டார். (தேவாலயம் அவரை கிறிஸ்தவன் அல்ல என்று பிரகடனம் செய்யும்). "ப்பூ... இதிலென்ன இருக்கிறது. நானும் தான் அடிக்கடி சர்ச்சுக்கு போவதில்லை. பணம் ஒன்றும் கொடுப்பதில்லை. என்னை யாரும் கிறிஸ்தவன் இல்லை என்று சொல்வதில்லையே..." என்று நீங்கள் வாதம் செய்யலாம். ஐயா, உங்களுடைய நிலைமை வேறு. அன்று ஐரோப்பிய மக்களின் நிலைமை வேறு. "கிறிஸ்தவன் இல்லை" என்று அறிவிப்பது, நமது காலத்தில் அரசாங்கம் ஒருவரது குடியுரிமையை பறிப்பதற்கு ஒப்பானது. அந்த நபரின் வாழ்வுரிமையே பறிக்கப்படுகின்றது. 

தேவாலயம் எந்த அளவு பெரிய பணக்கார நிறுவனமாக இருந்திருக்கும் என்பதை நான் சொல்லத் தேவை இல்லை. (எனக்கு தெரிந்த சிறிய தேவாலயம் ஒன்றின் கணக்கு வழக்குகளை பார்க்கும் நண்பர் ஒருவர், மாதம் 20000 யூரோ வருமானம் கிடைப்பதாக தெரிவித்தார்.) நிலப்பிரபுத்துவ காலத்தில், தேவாலயத்திற்கு என்று ஏக்கர் கணக்கில் நிலங்கள் சொந்தமாக இருக்கும். அவற்றில் விவசாயிகள் குடிமை வேலை செய்ய வேண்டும். (ஆண்டவன் பெயரில் அடிமை உழைப்பு). இதைத் தவிர தேவாலய கட்டிட தொழிலாளர்கள், சாமிப்படம் பொறித்த கண்ணாடிகள் செய்து கொடுப்பவர்கள், சிற்பக் கலைஞர்கள் கூலி கேட்டால், ஆண்டவனுக்கு செய்யும் கடமையாக கருதிக் கொள்ளுமாறு கூறி விடுவார்கள். கிறிஸ்தவ நிறுவனம் மெழுகுதிரி உற்பத்தி போன்ற பல தொழிற்துறைகளில் ஏகபோகம் கொண்டாடியது. சுருக்கமாக சொன்னால், மத்திய காலத்தில் கத்தோலிக்க திருச்சபை ஒரு தேசங்கடந்த பன்னாட்டு வர்த்தக கழகமாக இயங்கி வந்தது. 

மதகுருக்களும், நிலப்பிரபுக்களும் சேர்ந்தே ஆட்சி நடத்தினார்கள். நிலப்பிரபுக்கள் செய்த அக்கிரமங்களை மதகுருக்கள் கண்டுகொள்ளவில்லை. அதே போல மதகுருக்கள் செய்த துஷ்பிரயோகங்களை நிலப்பிரபுக்கள் கண்டுகொள்ளவில்லை. அப்படித் தான் கத்தோலிக்க தேவாலயங்களை சேர்ந்த பாதிரிகளின் காம இச்சைக்கு அப்பாவி சிறுவர்கள் பாதிக்கப்பட்டனர். இப்போது கத்தோலிக்க நண்பர்கள் நியாயம் கற்பிப்பது போல போல "ஒரு சில கெட்ட பாதிரிகளின் செயல்" அல்ல. (பிடிபட்ட பின் தானே கள்வன்?) ஒரு இரகசிய நிறுவனம் இதையெல்லாம் தானே வெளிவிட்டிருக்கும் என்று எதிர்பார்க்கிறீர்களா? 20 ம் நூற்றாண்டிலும் வத்திகான் இரகசியங்களை வெளியே சொன்னவர்கள் மர்மமான முறையில் மரணமடைந்தார்கள். அது குறித்து இதுவரை எந்த விசாரணையும் இல்லை. 

தேவாலய நிர்வாகத்தின் சர்வாதிகாரத்தை எதிர்த்து கேள்வி கேட்டவர்கள் கிறிஸ்தவ மதத்தில் இருந்து வெளியேற்றப் பட்டார்கள். "மதத்தில் இருந்து வெளியேற்றுவது" என்றால் எத்தகைய தீய விளைவுகள் ஏற்படும் என்று எல்லோருக்கும் தெரியும். தமிழ் சினிமாவில் எங்கோ ஒரு குக்கிராமத்தில், பஞ்சாயத்து கூடி ஊருக்கு உள்ளே வரக்கூடாது என்று தண்டனை கொடுப்பார்களே, அது போன்றது. தேவாலய உறுப்புரிமை நீக்கப்பட்டவர்களுடன் ஊர் மக்கள், உறவினர்கள் தொடர்பு வைக்க மாட்டார்கள். பட்டினி கிடந்தாலும் யாரும் உணவு கொடுக்க மாட்டார்கள். அவர்கள் ஊருக்கு வெளியே இரந்துண்ணும் பிச்சைக்காரர்களாக வாழ வேண்டும். இத்தகைய நடைமுறை 19 ம் நூற்றாண்டில் கூட சில இடங்களில் தொடர்ந்தது.

torture_blog.jpgகத்தோலிக்க மதம் அதிகாரம் செலுத்திய நாடுகளில் எல்லாம் கைதிகளை சித்திரவதை செய்வது, சர்வசாதாரணமாக நடந்து கொண்டிருந்தது. உங்களது கற்பனைக்கு எட்டாத வழிகளில் எல்லாம் சித்திரவதை செய்திருக்கிறார்கள். உதாரணத்திற்கு ஒன்று. கசாப்புக் கடையில் செய்வது போல தோலை உரித்து எடுப்பார்கள். அப்போதெல்லாம் ஆன்மிகம் போதிக்கும் மதத் தலைவர்கள் சித்திரவதையை பார்த்து ரசிப்பார்கள். (அவர்கள் தானே விசாரணை அதிகாரிகள் ) அந்தக் காலத்தில் சித்திரவதை செய்ய பயன்பட்ட உபகரணங்களை இன்றைக்கும் ஐரோப்பிய அருங்காட்சியகங்களில் காணலாம்.

எப்படியானவர்களை சித்திரவதை செய்தார்கள்? கொலைகாரர்களையும், கொள்ளைக்காரர்களையுமா? இல்லை சாதாரண அப்பாவி மக்களை. மத நிறுவனத்திற்குள் நடந்த முறைகேடுகளை எடுத்துச் சொன்னவர்கள். தேவாலயத்தில் போதிக்கப்படும் கருத்துகளை விமர்சித்தவர்கள். மாற்றுக் கருத்து கொண்டவர்கள். கத்தோலிக்க மதத்தில் இருந்து பிரிந்து செல்ல விரும்பியவர்கள். மதத் தலைவர்களின் வானளாவிய அதிகாரத்தை கேள்விக்கு உட்படுத்தியவர்கள். மதகுருக்களின் (பாலியல்) துஷ்பிரயோகங்களை எதிர்த்தவர்கள். அவர்கள் மட்டுமல்ல, மூலிகைகளைப் பயன்படுத்தும் இயற்கை வைத்தியம் தெரிந்த மருத்துவர்கள் கூட கொல்லப்பட்டார்கள். (ஏனென்றால் அவர்கள் சூனியம் செய்பவர்களாம்.) கொடுமைக்குள்ளான அப்பாவிகளின் பட்டியல் நீண்டு செல்கின்றது.

மக்களும் எத்தனை காலத்துக்கு தான் கிறிஸ்தவ மதம் செய்த கொடுமைகளை பொறுத்துக் கொள்வார்கள்? மக்கள் விரோத மத நிறுவனத்தின் அநீதிக்கு எதிராக பொங்கி எழ மாட்டார்களா? பிரெஞ்சுப்புரட்சி வெடித்த பொழுது அரச குடும்பம் மட்டும் தாக்கப் படவில்லை. எத்தனையோ தேவாலயங்கள் இடித்து தரை மட்டமாக்கப்பட்டன. பாதிரிகள், கன்னியாஸ்திரிகள் பெருந்திரள் மக்கள் கூட்டத்தின் முன் சிரச்சேதம் செய்யப்பட்டார்கள். அன்று அந்த மக்களுக்கு, கிறிஸ்தவ மத நிறுவனம் மீது எவ்வளவு வெறுப்பு இருந்திருக்க வேண்டும் என்று உணர முடிகின்றதா? இங்கே இந்த உண்மைகளை எழுதும் என்னை "கிறிஸ்தவ மத எதிர்ப்பாளன்" என்று தூற்றுவீர்கள் என்றால், நீங்கள் கொடுமைக்காரர்களின் பாவகாரியங்களுக்கு துணை போகின்றீர்கள் என்று அர்த்தம்.

எமது நாடுகளில் கற்பிக்கப்படும் அறிவியல் பாடங்கள் எல்லாம் ஆங்கிலேயர் அறிமுகப் படுத்தியவை. அதனால் கிறிஸ்தவ ஐரோப்பிய நாடுகள் என்றென்றும் அறிவியலில் சிறந்து விளங்கியதாக கருதுவது தவறு. கிறிஸ்தவ மதம் ஒரு நாளும் அறிவியலை வளர்க்கவில்லை. தீராத தலைவலி என்று வைத்தியரிடம் போனால், அவர் தலையில் ஓட்டை போட்டு அசுத்த ஆவியை வெளியேற்றுவார். இது உயர்தர வகுப்பு மாணவர்களின் பாடப் புத்தகத்தில் இருந்து எடுத்துக் காட்டிய உதாரணம். பூமி உருண்டை என்று சொன்னதற்காக கலீலியோவுக்கு தண்டனை கொடுத்த கதை எல்லோருக்கும் தெரியும். உண்மையில் இன்று நீங்கள் கற்கும் அறிவியல் பாடங்கள் எல்லாம் கிரேக்க, அரேபிய மூல நூல்களில் இருந்து மொழிபெயர்க்கப்பட்டவை. 

நூலகங்களில் கிறிஸ்தவ மதத்தை ஆய்வு செய்யும் ஆயிரக்கணக்கான நூல்கள் கிடைக்கின்றன. பல நூல்களில் பைபிளுக்கு அப்பால் கிறிஸ்தவ மத வரலாறு குறித்து ஆராய்ந்துள்ளன. ("பைபிளில் இவ்வாறு எழுதியுள்ளது ....." என்றெல்லாம் சொல்லி விட்டால் அது விஞ்ஞான விளக்கம் ஆகி விடாது.) எனது கட்டுரைகளின் உசாத்துணையாக அவற்றை பல இடங்களில் குறிப்பிட்டுளேன். அவையெல்லாம் ஆயிரம் ஆண்டு கால கிறிஸ்தவ பாரம்பரியம் கொண்ட அறிஞர்களால் எழுதப்பட்டவை. (அதே போல யூதர்கள் சம்பந்தமான தகவல்களை யூத ஆய்வாளர்களே எழுதியுள்ளனர்.) இவற்றை எனது கட்டுரைகளில் தெளிவாக குறிப்பிட்டுள்ளேன். அதை எல்லாம் கண்டுகொள்ளாமல் என்னில் மட்டும் குற்றம் காண விளையும் நண்பர்களின் உள் நோக்கம் என்ன? அவர்கள் யாரும் எனது கட்டுரைகளில் எழுதியுள்ளவை தவறானது என்று நிரூபிக்கவில்லை. மதவாதிகளின் வழக்கமான பாணியிலேயே விமர்சனங்களை எதிர்கொள்ளுகின்றனர். விமர்சிப்பவர் மீது முத்திரை குத்துவது, மிரட்டுவது அல்லது தூற்றுவது. மதம் ஆட்சி செய்த காலங்களில் அது தானே நடந்தது.

பிரான்ஸில் கத்தோலிக்க மதத்தை சீர்திருத்தி, அடக்குமுறை செய்யும் அதிகார வர்க்கத்தை ஒழித்து, சமத்துவத்தையும், சகோதரத்தையும் வலியுறுத்தியவர்கள் அழிக்கப்பட்டார்கள். ஓடுகாலிகள், துரோகிகள் என்ற அர்த்தம் வரும் வண்ணம் "ஹெரதிக்" என்ற பட்டம் சூட்டி, அவர்கள் மீது போர் தொடுத்தார்கள். "அன்னை மரியாள் எனக்கு காட்சி தந்தாள்" என்று சொன்னதற்காக 16 வயது இளம் பெண்ணை கத்தோலிக்க மதகுருக்கள் சித்திரவதை செய்து கொன்றார்கள். ஏனென்றால் தங்கள் கண்ணுக்கு புலப்படாத கடவுள் எப்படி சாதாரண பட்டிக்கட்டுப் பெண்ணுக்கு தெரியவரும், என்ற வெறும் "ஈகோ" பிரச்சினை. (ஆமாம், இல்லாத கடவுளைக் கண்டேன் என்று சொன்னால் நம்புவார்களா?) அதுவும் எப்படிக் கொன்றார்கள்? உயிரோடு நெருப்பு மூட்டிக் கொன்றார்கள். ஐரோப்பாவில் கத்தோலிக்க மதம் கொன்று குவித்த மக்களின் தொகையை கணக்கிட்டால் கோடிக்கணக்கை தாண்டும். அதனை இனப்படுகொலை என்று சொல்லாமல் வேறு எப்படி அழைப்பது? கத்தோலிக்க மதம் செய்த கொலைகளுக்காக 2000 ம் ஆண்டு பாப்பரசர் மன்னிப்புக் கேட்டார். கத்தோலிக்க மதவெறிக் கொலைஞர்களால் கொல்லப்பட்ட அப்பாவிகளின் ஆன்மா ஆயிரம் வருடங்களுக்கு பின்னர் தான் பரிசுத்தமானது. ஆனால் கொடூரமான கொலைகாரர்கள் எவராவது தண்டிக்கப்பட்டதாக வரலாற்றில் எங்கேயும் எழுதப்படவில்லை.

நான் கடந்த இருபது வருடங்களாக 100 % கிறிஸ்தவ நாட்டில் வாழ்ந்து வருகிறேன். கிறிஸ்தவ மதம் இந்த நாட்டின் வரலாற்றில் ஒரு பகுதி. இந்த நாட்டவர்களின் மொழி, பண்பாடு, வாழ்க்கை நெறி போன்றவற்றில் கிறிஸ்தவ மதம் ஏற்படுத்திய தாக்கம் அதிகம். கிறிஸ்தவ மதம் குறித்த அறிவு சிறிதளவேனும் இல்லாமல் பல சொற்களின், சொற்பதங்களின் அர்த்தங்களை கூட உங்களால் புரிந்து கொள்ள முடியாது. உள்நாட்டு மக்களின் கலாச்சாரத்தை புரிந்து கொள்ள முடியாது. மக்களின் மனோபாவம் கூட கிறிஸ்தவ சிந்தனையின் படி மாறியுள்ளது. இதிலிருந்து அவர்கள் மெல்ல மெல்லத் தான் மீள முடியும். (இன்றைய சராசரி ஐரோப்பியன் தன்னை மதச்சாற்பற்றவனாக காட்டிக் கொள்ள விரும்புகிறான்.)

இந்தியாவிலும், இலங்கையிலும் வரலாற்றுப் பாடங்களுக்கு அதிக முக்கியத்துவம் கொடுப்பதில்லை. இதனால் குறுகிய வட்டத்திற்குள் வாழும் சிலர் என்னோடு விதண்டாவாதம் செய்ய விளைகின்றனர். கடந்த காலம் பற்றி அறிந்திராதவர்களுக்கு நிகழ்காலத்தை புரிந்து கொள்ள முடியாது. அனைத்து ஐரோப்பிய நாடுகளிலும் வரலாறு ஒரு முக்கிய பாடம். வரலாற்றுப் பாடத்தில் சித்தியடையாத ஒரு மாணவன் பல்கலைக்கழகம் செல்ல முடியாது. பள்ளிகளில் கற்பிக்கப்படும் வரலாற்றுப் பாடத்தில் குறைந்தது இரண்டு அத்தியாயங்கள் ஆவது கிறிஸ்தவ மதம் குறித்து இருக்காதா? இரண்டாயிரம் ஆண்டுகள் ஐரோப்பாவில் ஆதிக்கம் செலுத்திய கிறிஸ்தவ மதத்தை ஒதுக்கி விட்டு வரலாற்றுப் பாடம் நடத்த முடியுமா? நண்பர்களே ஒரு கணம் சிந்திப்பீர்.

Photo-0127.jpgயூத மதமும் ஐரோப்பிய வரலாற்றில் தவிர்க்கவியலாத பகுதி தான். ஐரோப்பாக் கண்டத்தில் இரண்டாவதாக யூத மதமே இருந்தது. நீண்ட காலமாக கிறிஸ்தவ மதத்தால் அடக்கப்பட்டு வந்தது. ஐரோப்பிய நாடுகள் எங்கும் யூதர்கள் மதச் சிறுபான்மையினராக வாழ்ந்து வருகின்றனர். ஐரோப்பிய பொருளாதார வளர்ச்சியில் யூதர்களின் பங்களிப்பை குறைத்து மதிப்பிட முடியாது. 20 நூற்றாண்டில் இஸ்ரேலை ஸ்தாபித்தவர்கள் ஐரோப்பாவில் இருந்து சென்ற யூதர்கள் தான். அதனால் ஐரோப்பாவில் யூத மதம் குறித்த தகவல்கள் அதிகமாக கிடைப்பதில் வியப்பில்லை. ஆம்ஸ்டர்டாம் நகரில் ஐரோப்பிய யூதர்களின் வரலாற்றை ஆவணப் படுத்தி வைத்திருக்கும் மியூசியம் ஒன்றுள்ளது. அப்படி இருக்கையில் யூதர்களைப் பற்றி எனக்கு எதுவுமே தெரியாது எனக் கூற முடியுமா? அதே நேரம் தமிழர்கள் மத்தியில் ஏற்கனவே யூதர்கள் குறித்து பரப்பப்பட்டுள்ள தவறான கருத்துகளை நானும் மறுபதிப்பு செய்ய முடியாது.

நண்பர்களே! ஒரு கிறிஸ்தவ நாட்டில் இருபதாண்டு கால வாழ்பனுபவம், எத்தனை பாடங்களை எனக்கு கற்பித்திருக்கும்? குறிப்பிட்ட கால உயர்தர பாடசாலைக் கல்வியை இங்கே தான் பெற்றேன். அதிலே தவிர்க்கவியலாத கிறிஸ்தவ வரலாற்றை படிக்காமல் கல்வியை பூர்த்தி செய்திருக்க முடியாது. அதைவிட நாள் தோறும் ஊடகங்கள் கிறிஸ்தவ மதம் குறித்து புதிது புதிதாக எதையாவது அறிவித்துக் கொண்டிருக்கின்றன.Photo-0093.jpg இன்றைய ஐரோப்பியர்கள் மதச்சார்பற்ற சமுதாயமாக மாறி விட்டதால், கிறிஸ்தவ மதத்தின் குறைகளை எடுத்துக் கூறும் செய்திகளும் அதிகம் வருகின்றன. ஒரு சில மத அடிப்படைவாதிகளைத் தவிர வேறு யாரும் அதற்கு எதிர்ப்புத் தெரிவிப்பதில்லை.

இந்த நாடுகளில் பொது இடங்களில் மதச்சார்பற்ற கொள்கை கடைப்பிடிக்கப் படா விட்டால், அது குறித்து முறைப்பாடுகள் வந்து குவியும். ஆம்ஸ்டர்டாம் நகரில் பேரூந்து வண்டியோட்டும் (எகிப்தை சேர்ந்த) கிறிஸ்தவ சாரதி சிலுவை மாலை அணிந்து வேலைக்கு வருவதை நிர்வாகம் கண்டித்தது. அவர் அதற்கெதிராக நீதிமன்றத்தில் முறையிட்டார். ஆனால் தீர்ப்பு சொன்ன நீதிபதியோ, "பொதுப் போக்குவரத்து துறையை சேர்ந்த ஊழியர் மதச் சின்னம் அணிவது கூடாது" என்று தடை விதித்தார். இத்தாலி பாடசாலைகளில் சிலுவைகளும், இயேசு படங்களும் வைத்திருப்பதற்கு எதிராக சில பெற்றோர் முறைப்பாடு செய்தனர். நீதிமன்றம் அவர்களுக்கு சார்பாக தீர்ப்பு வழங்கினார். இது இப்படியிருக்க மதச்சார்பற்ற நாடென்று கூறிக் கொள்ளும் இந்தியாவில் பேரூந்து வண்டிகளில், அலுவலகங்களில், கல்வி நிலையங்களில் சாமிப்படங்கள் வைத்திருக்கிறார்கள்.

ஐரோப்பாவில் இன்று தேவாலயங்களுக்கு செல்பவர்களின் எண்ணிக்கை வெகுவாக குறைந்து விட்டது. இதனால் பல தேவாலயங்கள் பராமரிக்கப்படாமல் மூடப் பட்டு கிடக்கின்றன. நான் வாழும் ஆம்ஸ்டர்டாம் நகர மத்தியில் உள்ள தேவாலயங்கள் அருங்காகாட்சியகமாக மாற்றப்பட்டு விட்டன. எனது வீட்டின் அருகில் உள்ள தேவாலயம் ஒன்று வழக்கறிஞர்களின் அலுவலகமாக செயற்படுகின்றது. லண்டன் மாநகரில் சில தேவாலயங்களை இஸ்லாமியரும், இந்துக்களும் வாங்கி தமது வழிபாட்டுத்தலமாக மாற்றியுள்ளனர். வெள்ளையின ஐரோப்பியரை விட, வெளிநாடுகளில் இருந்து வந்து குடியேறிய ஆசிய, ஆப்பிரிக்க கிறிஸ்தவர்களே இன்று தேவாலயங்களுக்கு அதிகம் செல்கின்றனர். இதனால் கிறிஸ்தவ சபைகளும் அவர்களை குறி வைத்தே பிரச்சாரம் செய்கின்றன. வீடு தேடி வந்து "எங்களுடைய சபைக்கு வாருங்கள், பைபிள் படியுங்கள்." என்று கூப்பிடுவார்கள். நான் அவதானித்த வரையில் அவர்கள் வெள்ளையர்களை அதிகம் நாடுவதில்லை. காரணம் அங்கே போனால் என்ன மரியாதை கிடைக்கும் என்று அவர்களுக்கே தெரியும்.

இருபதாண்டு காலம் கிறிஸ்தவ/யூத சமூக அமைப்பினுள் வாழும் நான், அந்த மதங்களைப் பற்றி அதிகம் எழுதுவது தானே முறை? எனக்கு அதிகம் தெரிந்த ஒன்றைப் பற்றி தானே நான் எழுத முடியும்? நான் வாழும் சுற்றாடலில் நடப்பதை அறிவிப்பது தானே ஒரு பதிவரின் கடமை? இதைத் தவிர வேறு என்ன எதிர்பார்க்கிறீர்கள்? கார்ல் மார்க்ஸ், பகுனின், போன்ற தத்துவவியலாளர்கள் கிறிஸ்தவ மதத்தை கற்ற பின்னர் தான் அந்த மதத்தை கேள்விக்குட்படுத்தினர்.Malta+church.jpgபைபிளை மட்டும் படித்து விட்டு, கிறிஸ்தவ மதத்தை புரிந்து கொள்ள முடியாது. அடுத்த தடவை கிறிஸ்தவ இறையியல் குறித்து நான் படித்த ஐம்பதுக்கும் குறையாத நூல்களின் பட்டியலை தருகிறேன். நான் ஏட்டுப் படிப்புடன் மட்டும் நின்று விடவில்லை. நான் விஜயம் செய்த கிறிஸ்தவ மதம் சம்பந்தமான அருங்காட்சியங்களின் விபரங்களை தருகிறேன். பைபிளில் குறிப்பிடப்பட்ட இடங்களுக்கு சுற்றுலாப்பயணியாக சென்றிருக்கிறேன். 

நண்பர்களே! நீங்கள் கிறிஸ்தவர்கள் என்று அழைத்துக் கொள்பவராக இருந்தால், முதலில் அந்த மதத்தை பற்றி மேலும் அறிந்து கொள்ள முயற்சியுங்கள்.மதங்களின் வரலாறு முழுவதையும் சீர் தூக்கிப் பார்த்தால், அவை மக்களுக்கு செய்த தீமைகளே அதிகமாக இருக்கும். எப்போதும் தமது மதத்தை பற்றி நல்ல அம்சங்களை மட்டுமே மதவாதிகளும் பிரச்சாரம் செய்வது, அவர்களை கடவுளிடம் இருந்து அந்நியப்படுத்துகின்றது. ஆன்மீகவாதிகளிடம் கடவுள் யார் என்று தத்துவ விளக்கம் கேட்டால், அது தான் உண்மை என்பார்கள். இங்கேயுள்ள மதவாதிகள் உண்மையைப் பார்த்து கண்களையும், காதுகளையும் மூடிக் கொள்கிறார்கள்



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கிறிஸ்துமஸ் தாத்தாவின் நிறவாதம்

டிசம்பர் 5 ம் திகதி நெதர்லாந்து மொழி பேசும் நாடுகளில் (நெதர்லாந்து, பெல்ஜியம்) "சின்டர் கிளாஸ்" (st. Klaas) என்ற தேசிய தினம் கொண்டாடப்படுகின்றது. ஆங்கிலம் பேசும் நாடுகளில் "சாந்தா கிளவுஸ்" என்று அறியப்பட்ட கிறிஸ்துமஸ் தாத்தா தான் இந்த சின்டர் கிளாஸ். இவரைப் பற்றிய சுவையான கர்ண பரம்பரைக் கதை ஒன்று உண்டு. புனித க்ளாஸ்(st.Klaas)துருக்கியை சேர்ந்த கிறிஸ்தவ மதகுரு.( சில நூற்றாண்டுகளுக்கு முன்னர் துருக்கி கிறிஸ்தவ நாடாக இருந்தது). துருக்கியில் இருந்து ஸ்பெயின் வரை கப்பலில் வந்த இந்த தாத்தா, பின்னர் வெண்புரவி ஒன்றில் ஏறி நெதர்லாந்து வந்தாராம். அவர் கூடவே ஆப்பிரிக்காவில் இருந்து சில கறுப்பின அடிமைகளையும் கூட்டி வந்தாராம். நெதர்லாந்து நாட்டில் சிறு பிள்ளைகள் இருக்கும் வீடுகளில் பரிசுப் பொருட்களை, தனது கறுப்பின அடிமைகளிடம் கொடுத்து விடுவாராம். வீடுகளின் சமையலறை புகை போக்கி ஊடாக குதிக்கும் அடிமைகள், இந்த பரிசுப் பொருட்களை சிறு பிள்ளைகளின் காலுறைகளினுள் வைத்து விட்டு மறைந்து விடுவார்களாம். எல்லா வீடுகளிலும் பெற்றோர் இந்த பரிசுப் பொருட்களை தமது பிள்ளைகளுக்கு கொடுத்து வந்தாலும், சிறு பிள்ளைகள் இப்போதும் சின்டர் கிளாஸ் என்று ஒருவர் வாழ்வதாக நம்புகின்றனர்.

மதச் சார்பின்மை கொள்கையை பின்பற்றுவதாக சொல்லிக் கொள்ளும் நெதர்லாந்து நாட்டில், "சின்டர் கிளாஸ் தினம்" கிறிஸ்தவ நாளாக அல்லாமல், தேசிய தினம் போல கொண்டாடப்படுகின்றது. டிசம்பர் 5 ம் திகதி, இந்நாட்டில் விடுமுறை தினமாக இல்லாத போதிலும், சிறுவர்க்கான விசேட தினமாக, பாடசாலைகளில் கொண்டாடப்படுகின்றது. வயதான சின்டர் கிளாஸ் போலவும், கருப்பு அடிமைகள் போலவும் மாறுவேடம் பூண்ட வயதுவந்தோர் சிறுவர்களுக்கு பரிசுப் பொருட்களை வழங்கி விட்டு செல்கின்றனர். சின்டர் கிளாஸ் தினத்தில் தொக்கி நிற்கும் மத வாத, நிறவாத அம்சங்களை ஏற்றுகொள்ளாத நெதர்லாந்து வெள்ளையின பெற்றோர் கூட, இந்த தினம் வர்த்தகமயப்படுத்தப் பட்டுள்ளதை ஏற்றுக்கொள்கின்றனர். அண்மையில் கைத்தொலைபேசி நிறுவனங்கள் இலவச தொலைபேசிகளை வழங்கி கடும் கண்டனங்களை வாங்கிக் கட்டிக் கொண்டனர்.

முதலாவதாக நெதர்லாந்து/பெல்ஜிய அரசாங்கங்கள் சொல்வது போல சின்டர் கிளாஸ் தினம் மதச் சார்பற்றதா? அப்படியானால் பாப்பரசர் போல சின்டர் கிளாஸ் அணியும் தொப்பியில் சிலுவை அடையாளம் காணப்படுவதேன்? ஆங்கிலேயர்கள் எதற்காக தமிழில் "கிறிஸ்துமஸ் தாத்தா" என்று மொழிபெயர்த்தார்கள்? சின்டர் கிளாஸ் ஒரு கிறிஸ்தவ பாதிரியார் என்று கர்ணபரம்பரைக்கதை சொல்கின்றதே? இரண்டாவதாக வருடந்தோறும் மாறுவேடம் பூணும் வெள்ளையின மக்கள், சின்டர் கிளாசும், அவரது சேவகர்களும் எவ்வாறு நடந்து கொள்வார்கள் என்று நடித்துக் காட்டுகின்றனர். இங்கே தான் நிறவாதம் ஒளிந்திருக்கிறது. வெண்தாடியுடன் வரும் சின்டர் கிளாஸ், புத்திசாதுர்யம் மிக்க வயதான நபராக காட்சி தருகிறார். அதற்கு மாறாக அவரது சேவகர்களாக நடிக்கும் கறுப்பின அடிமைகள், முட்டாள்களாக குரங்குச் சேட்டைகள் செய்து குழந்தைகளை குஷிப் படுத்துபவர்களாக காட்சி தருகின்றனர்.

சின்டர் கிளாஸ் தினத்தின் வசீகரத்தால் கவரப்படும் வெள்ளையின குழந்தைகள் மனதில், கறுப்பின மக்களைப் பற்றிய தப்பபிப்பிராயம் பதிந்து விடுகின்றது. வெள்ளையினத்தவர்களை புத்திசாலிகளாகவும், கறுப்பினத்தவர்கள் விவேகமற்ற முட்டாள்களாகவும், மனிதக் குரங்குகளைப் போலவும் கற்பனை செய்கின்றனர். அந்தக் குழந்தைகள் தெருவில் கறுப்பின மக்களைப் பார்க்கும் போது, "கறுப்பு சேவகன்" அல்லது "மனிதக்குரங்கு" என்று அழைப்பதாக, பல வெள்ளையின நெதர்லாந்து பெற்றோர்கள் கூறுகின்றனர். இத்தகைய மறைமுகமான நிறவாத பிரச்சாரம் காரணமாக, சின்டர் கிளாஸ் தினத்தை தடை செய்ய வேண்டும் என்று நெதர்லாந்து, பெல்ஜியத்தில் வாழும் கறுப்பின மக்களும், இடதுசாரிகளும் கோரிக்கை விடுத்தனர். ஆனால் பெரும்பான்மை வெள்ளையினத்தவர்கள் இதனை ஒரு "மக்கள் தினமாக" கருதுவதாலும், வர்த்தக நிறுவனங்களின் நன்மை கருதியும், இந்த தினத்தை இன்று வரை கொண்டாடி வருகின்றனர்.

சாந்தா கிளவுஸ் அல்லது கிறிஸ்துமஸ் தாத்தா என்று அழைக்கும் ஆங்கிலேயர்கள், இயேசு பிறந்த மத்திய கிழக்கு நாடொன்றுக்கு அந்நியமான வட துருவ மனிதனை அறிமுகப் படுத்துகின்றனர். பனி உறைந்த பாதையில், துருவ மான்கள் இழுத்து வரும் வண்டியில் வரும் கிறிஸ்துமஸ் தாத்தா, ஸ்கண்டிநேவிய நாடுகளின் வாழ்க்கைமுறையை கொண்டிருக்கிறார். இவருக்கும், அரைப் பாலைவன பாலஸ்தீனத்தில் வாழ்ந்த இயேசு கிறிஸ்துவுக்கும், எந்த சம்பந்தமும் இல்லை. மேலும் கிறிஸ்துமஸ் தினத்தில் வீடுகளை அலங்கரிக்கும் "கிறிஸ்துமஸ் மரம்" கூட டென்மார்க் போன்ற ஸ்கண்டிநேவிய நாடுகளில் மட்டும் தான் காணப்படுகின்றது.
இவையெல்லாம் கிறிஸ்துமஸ் தாத்தா வட ஐரோப்பிய மக்களின் கலாச்சாரம் என்பதையும், இதற்கும் கிறிஸ்தவ மதத்திற்கும் எந்த வித சம்பந்தமும் இல்லை என்பதையும் நிரூபிக்கின்றன. மேலும் டிசம்பர் 25 ம் திகதி தான் இயேசு கிறிஸ்துவின் பிறந்த தினம் என்று பலர் இன்றும் நம்புகின்றனர். இது தவறு. பைபிளில் எங்கேயும் இது குறிப்பிடப்படவில்லை. இத்தாலியில் கிறிஸ்தவ மதம் பரவுவதற்கு முன்னர், ரோமர்கள் தமது "மித்திரா" கடவுளுக்கு, டிசம்பர் 25 ம் திகதி விழா எடுத்தனர். இது அனேகமாக சூரியக் கடவுளின் வணக்கமாக இருக்கலாம், ஏனெனில் ஒவ்வொரு வருடமும் அந்த தினத்தில் குறைந்தளவு சூரிய ஒளி கிடைக்கின்றது. பிற்காலத்தில் கிறிஸ்தவர்கள் அந்த தினத்தை இயேசு கிறிஸ்துவின் பிறந்த தினமாக மாற்றி விட்டனர்.



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Catholic priests 'filmed at gay clubs and having casual sex'

The Catholic Church in Italy was embroiled in a fresh scandal on Friday when photographs apparently showing homosexual priests attending gay nightclubs and engaging in casual sex were published in a magazine.

a story in Panorama magazine about gay priests
Panorama magazine published photographs apparently showing homosexual priests attending gay nightclubs and engaging in casual sex Photo: AFP/GETTY

A journalist from Panorama, a conservative weekly news magazine owned by the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, used a hidden camera to film interviews with three gay priests.

The priests introduced the journalist to the gay clubs they apparently frequent and allowed the journalist to film their sexual encounters with strangers, including one in a church building.

One of the priests, a Frenchman identified only as Paul, celebrated Mass in the morning before driving the two escorts he had hired to attend a party the night before to the airport, Panorama said.

The Catholic Church in Italy, still reeling from the paedophile priest scandal, responded on Friday by ordering homosexual priests who are leading a double life to come out of the closet and leave the priesthood.

In a statement on Friday, the Rome diocese insisted that the vast majority of Rome's 1,300 priests were truthful to their vocations and were "models of morality for all."

The Vaticandid not comment on the Panorama investigation, but a senior source said: "This is the usual silly season rubbish to attract readers during the quiet summer months.

"There is no proof that the people involved are from the clergy."

A preview of the article sent out by Panorama said: "By day they are regular priests, complete with dog collar, but at night, it's off with the cassock as they take their place as perfectly integrated members of the Italian capital's gay scene."

Panorama described its investigation as "deeply disturbing" as it detailed how the priests - two Italians and a Frenchman - happily took part in gay events and had casual sex.

The Catholic Church insists on celibacy for priests and sees homosexuality as a sin. In 2008 the Vatican issued guidelines which said that any would-be trainees should not join if they had "deep-seated homosexual tendencies."

Panorama editor Giorgio Mule said: "This was a two week investigation and was not aimed at creating a scandal but showing that a certain section of the clergy behaves very differently."



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Homosexual 'weddings' should be celebrated in church, says Chris Bryant

Homosexual "weddings" should be celebrated in churches, a Government minister has said in defiance of religious teaching.

Chris Bryant, who once posed in his underpants on a gay dating website, said he wanted clergy to be "much more open" to the idea of treating civil partnership ceremonies like traditional marriages.

However, his suggestion goes directly against the rules of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, which state that only the union of a man and a woman can be celebrated by a priest in church.

It comes as the Government is pushing through an Equality Bill that religious groups fear will force them to give jobs to homosexual youth workers or secretaries, even if their faith maintains that same-sex relationships are sinful.

Mr Bryant, a former deputy leader of the Commons who is now a junior Foreign Office minister, trained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate before becoming the MP for the Rhondda.

He was questioned by the magazine Time Out this week on whether he believed civil partnerships, introduced to England and Wales in 2005, should be scrapped in favour of same-sex marriage.

The minister replied: "All my friends who have entered into a civil partnership refer to it as their 'marriage' or their 'wedding' so the most important issue is that nobody should be discriminated against because of their sexuality.

"I would like to see churches be much more open to the idea of gay relationships or partnerships being celebrated in church."

Nick Herbert, a Conservative MP who is in a civil partnership, and Stephen Williams, who was the first openly homosexual Liberal Democrat MP, both told the magazine that they would support the legal introduction of same-sex marriages.

Church of England rules state that civil partnerships are not equivalent to marriage and cannot be celebrated in church, and the battle between conservatives and liberals over homosexuality has driven the worldwide Anglican Communion to the brink of schism.

Last summer a rector was strongly criticised by the Church of England's two archbishops after he conducted a "wedding" service, including traditional liturgy and the exchange of rings for two homosexual priests, at his 12th century church in the City of London.

The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, said: "Of course all citizens must have equal rights without discrimination. But marriage is the basis of the family, and the stability of the family is grounded in the sameness in difference between men and women.

"Those who make public law have to realise that people of faith have consciences that need to be respected."

A spokesman for the Church of England said: "The Church of England's approach has always been clear: marriage is the lifelong union between a man and a woman, and that is what the liturgy of the C of E Marriage Service is exclusively intended for.

"On civil partnerships the Church continues to uphold that standard, to affirm the value of committed, sexually abstinent friendships between people of the same sex and, at the same time, to minister sensitively and pastorally to those Christians who conscientiously decide to order their lives differently.

"Some who register civil partnerships seek recognition of their new situation and pastoral support by asking members of the clergy to provide a blessing for them in the context of an act of worship. The Church expresses what it believes through the liturgy of its worship. As there is no theological consensus about same sex unions, no such liturgy is authorised."

Mike Judge, a spokesman for The Christian Institute, a campaign group, said: "Churches are open and welcoming to all people, but that is not the same thing as forcing churches to celebrate behaviour which conflicts with their religious ethos. It would be like forcing the Labour Party to celebrate a Conservative election victory. Surely the world is big enough to allow people to be free to disagree."

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