Sunday, September 22

In wake of genocide, Rwandans are flocking to Islam

Since the genocide, Rwandans have converted to Islam in huge numbers. Muslims now make up 14 percent of the 8.2 million people here in Africa's most Catholic nation, twice as many as before the killings began.Many converts say they chose Islam because of the role that some Catholic and Protestant leaders played in the genocide. Human rights groups have documented several incidents in which Christian clerics allowed Tutsis to seek refuge in churches, then surrendered them to Hutu death squads, as well as instances of Hutu priests and ministers encouraging their congregations to kill Tutsis. Today some churches serve as memorials to the many people slaughtered among their pews....That fact worries the Catholic church. Priests here said they have asked for advice from church leaders in Rome about how to react to the number of converts to Islam."The Catholic church has a problem after genocide," said the Rev. Jean Bosco Ntagugire, who works at Kigali churches. "The trust has been broken. We can't say, 'Christians come back.' We have to hope that happens when faith builds again."To help make that happen, the Catholic church has started to offer youth sports programs and camping trips, Ntagugire said. But Muslims are also reaching out, even forming women's groups that provide classes on child care and being a mother.



California governor Gray Davis signs legislation permitting embryonic stem cell research.
Another cardinal passes on:

Cardinal John Baptist Wu, who as head of Hong Kong's Roman Catholic Diocese led the church through the sensitive transition from British to Chinese rule, died Monday. He was 77....While Wu was cardinal, he led a thanksgiving service attended by more than 1,000 people to mark the Vatican's canonization of 120 missionaries killed in China. Mainland officials said the canonization was ``an open insult.'' Wu is to be succeeded by Bishop Joseph Zen, an outspoken cleric who has been barred from visiting the mainland since 1998, two years after he was made a bishop. His outspokenness has raised concerns whether the Catholic Church's relationship with the government might deteriorate after he takes over from Wu. In an interview with the South China Morning Post published Sunday, Zen blasted the Hong Kong leadership for its ``toadying'' political culture, referring to government officials acting to please Beijing. Vowing to safeguard religious freedom and human rights, Zen told the Post: ``We do not want to see Hong Kong becoming like any other city in the mainland...So we have to speak out at once if we see any freedom being jeopardized.

What is that...three in the course of about ten days?

Something to think about from Fr. Pavone of Priests for Life:

Just ask yourself for a moment where the pro-life message is being proclaimed to people who don’t want to hear it. If someone in your community does not go to Church and would never go to a public pro-life talk, how and where will they hear the message that abortion is violent and must be stopped?

Good news from the NY Archdiocese, via a reader:

Cardinal Egan has NOT closed the Respect Life Office. What has happened is that the Sisters of Life are taking over the administration and programs of the Office, effective October first. This (hopefully) will be a big improvement - the activities of the office have been zilch for the last several years.

First US production of Olivier Messiaen's Saint Francois d'Assise to be produced in San Francisco

Composed in eight tableaux, Saint Francois depicts key episodes in the life of the saint. Messiaen spent nearly a decade writing and orchestrating his only opera, which focuses, in the composer's words, "on the progress of grace in St. Francis' soul." Rosenberg notes that Messiaen, who was a devout Catholic, wanted to explore the fundamental issue of what it means to be human. "It's his offering on the really big questions of life and death," she says. "I don't share his faith, but I think the kind of spiritual connecting that happens if you open yourself up to this piece is something that can really help us deal with those questions." ...In addition to being a composer and a church organist, Messiaen was also an ornithologist who spent many hours tracking and recording bird songs, and the opera contains dozens of bird motifs based on his studies. The bird songs serve a dual purpose in the opera, according to Runnicles. "They are the voices of nature, but for Messiaen, they were also the voices of his God," he says. "This culminates in the sixth tableau, where Francois actually communicates with and understands the birds. It's an extraordinary moment. His re-creation of the bird songs is stylized, not literal, but he created some remarkable woodwind and percussion writing because of it."

New phase of protest begins at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross: No shouting, just placards. Worth noting: 65 protesters; 50 Mass-goers.
How nice! Steve Riddle has posted a lovely review of my Loyola Kids' Book of Saints. Thanks so much!
From Time: The legacy of Abraham for Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

From Fr. Thomas Doyle, canon lawyer and advocate for victims:

I have been a priest for 32 years. When I was ordained I never dreamed that I would see what I have seen in the official Catholic church and in the priesthood. Like thousands of priests the world over, I have been shocked, angered, scandalized, saddened and depressed by the never-ending saga of sexual abuse by deacons, priests and bishops. I first became involved nearly 18 years ago. I still vividly recall the sickening feeling of disbelief as I saw the cover-ups and deception happen before my very eyes. I recall my acutely painful reaction when I saw a photo of an admitted serial abuser in a jail cell...a photo printed in a major weekly news magazine. That day it really hit home just how serious this problem was.....and still is.

As the years have unfolded my involvement evolved. By the late eighties I was being asked to serve as an expert witness in civil court cases but also asked to provide canon law assistance to priests accused and often abandoned by their bishops. But the most important step in this saga was the fact that I not only met but got to know the victims and their families. Since then I have become closely allied with many of the victims and victims-turned-survivors. I believe that I know them as no other priest knows them. I have learned to have a deep respect and admiration for their courage, their tenacity and their commitment to help each other survive and find spiritual peace. The church community and the clergy have generally marginalized them, much as society often holds alcoholics at a distance. The victims and survivors are not different or peculiar in any way. They are our brothers and sisters, our nieces and nephews, our classmates and students and in some cases, they are our brother priests.

I have learned that the victims and survivors do not trust the institutional church or anyone associated with it, especially bishops and priests. Why? Because they once trusted totally and even blindly and this trust was not only betrayed but repaid by sexual abuse which leaves a shattering wound so deep that it never heals, and continues to bring pain for the rest of their lives.

I have learned that they are angry, and rightly so. They are angry at the clerics who abused them because of the humiliation, the pain, the isolation and the depressing robbery of self esteem that are integral to sexual abuse. But that anger is eclipsed by a much deeper anger towards the bishops and other institutional leaders. To these the victims looked for belief, for compassion, for support, for assurance that they were not abandoned for speaking out. To their amazement and shock were met with intimidation, disbelief, threats, rejection and even brutalization through the nightmarish legal process. None turned to the civil courts to get even or get money. They turned to the civil courts as a last resort to find justice because they could not find it in their church. Would that this were true only of the past but it is not. In spite of the public expressions of sympathy and concern, the rejection, mistrust and brutalization still goes on.

I have watched as the victims are re-victimized and made to suffer even more for having had the courage to come forward, denounce their abusers and demand justice from their bishops. They are re-victimized by demeaning and demoralizing court processes replete with every road block, stumbling block and body block that the church lawyers can dream up. They have been re-victimized by their fellow "good and faithful" Catholics who have rejected them, ridiculed them, accused them, shunned them. Why? Because they had the audacity to cause a crack to happen in the righteous' vision of the "ideal" church. This too is not just past history. It continues!

They are being re-victimized by Catholic writers and so-called scholars who trivialize them by trying to avoid the harsh reality of their abuse through blame shifting and denial. This group tries to attribute the scandal to everything from the imaginary spirit of dissent that sprung forth from Vatican II, to the free love movement of the seventies, to the alleged homosexual influence in the church, to present day "dissenters"who simply don't think as they do. The more outrageous pundits lay the blame at the feet of the secular press as if the messengers of corruption made the corruption. The secular press has, in fact, done the Catholic church an invaluable service by forcing the terrible cancer of clergy sex abuse and cover-up to the surface. The press continues to probe and expose because the problem and its causes continue.

By far the most disgusting form of re-victimization is the implication, direct or subtle, that the victims brought it all on themselves or actively seduced these otherwise "innocent and naive" abuser-clerics. Those who make such incredible assertions either have no understanding at all of the dynamics of sexual abuse or, they bring a new depth to the meaning of "callous."

The victims are re-victimized by those who refuse to believe just how devastating clergy sexual abuse is to the mind, body and soul. When people complain that many of the suits are about events that happened years ago, they totally fail to comprehend two things: that the destruction and pain is still present and has negatively impacted the victims' lives and, that many victims simply could not disclose their abuse until recently. Why? Because they were convinced (and rightly so) that no one would believe them, that they would suffer grievous spiritual punishment for accusing a priest and that the institutional church would support the accused rather than the accuser. The Catholic culture itself created a high level of emotional duress for victims. Many have suffered for decades, believing that nothing could or would be done to help them. They continue to wait in vain for recognition, belief and a sincere apology. Even today when victims come forward they are often treated as suspects by the clergy rather than victims.

They are upset by the various expressions of support for the "faithful" priests. Yet when victims and survivors see websites and newspaper ads boldly supporting this majority they are angry. These priests have not had their innocence violently robbed. They have not had their spirituality ripped apart nor have they been shunned because they had the courage to step forward and disclose the incredible harm done to them. Many rightly ask where were all these priests over the past years as the evidence of widespread abuse came out. Where were the letters of complain to the Vatican? Where was the organized support of lay people? Where were the Knights of Columbus and other Catholic organizations? Rarely if ever did anyone come forward to cry out for compassionate pastoral care or true justice for the real casualties of this whole despicable scandal.

Cardinals and bishops have publicly admitted the discomfort and worry they have experienced in the past years and months. The pope has commiserated with his brother bishops over their pain. None have come close to experiencing the devastation and loss that the victims have lived through. True, all have made the obligatory gestures of shock, outrage and apology to the victims but these are hollow because the re-victimization continues on a widespread scale and until it completely stops the victims and survivors will remain angry, devoid of trust and increasingly alienated from the institutional church. The bishops cannot claim to be caring and compassionate for the "east of my brethren" while at the same time the church lawyers continue to brutalize victims. They cannot claim to extend all possible help while behind the scenes they scramble to find ways to shelter and hide diocesan assets to avoid payment of damages.

The priests cannot moan about their collective embarrassment while they continue to shun those few of their brothers who have had the courage to speak up and call for justice for the victims. They have expressed concern that the accused do not receive due process. Yet they do not demand the same due process for the abuse victims who have been systematically denied it for decades. They...we...cannot expect our vocation to be looked on with universal respect for it is the clergy and not the laity or the victims who caused this bottomless wound in the souls of thousands of victims and in the church itself. The surest way to restore some semblance of respect is to have the courage as individuals and as a group to cease being defensive and commence being truly compassionate to the victims. Equally important, to cease being timid and fearful and demand that institutional leaders set aside their worries about preserving the financial resources, safe-guarding orthodoxy, restoring their own vanished respect and authority and reach out and try to heal the most important people in today's church, those whom it has victimized.


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