Vatican to clarify canon law on abuse and penalties

If bishops do not apply punishment they effectively give consent, warns cardinal.

 Posted on July 27, 2014, 4:42 Pm

Vatican City:Church law has procedures and penalties for effectively dealing with allegations of clerical sexual abuse, but the Vatican is working to revise a section of the Code of Canon Law to make those norms and procedures clearer and, therefore, more effective, said the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

“We want to make this delicate material more accessible, more understandable and easier for bishops to apply,” Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, council president, told the Vatican newspaper.

In the interview published July 24 in L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said his office has been working since 2008 to revise “Book VI: Sanctions in the Church,” a section of the Code of Canon Law.

The penalties and punishments offered by church law should be applied, he said.

“In the face of a negative action, which harms the good of a person and therefore the good of the church, penal law expects a reaction, that is the pastor inflicting a canonical penalty,” the cardinal said.

If a bishop does not react by imposing a punishment on a priest guilty of the crime of sexual abuse, he said, “in some way that would be, or would seem to be, consenting to the evil committed. A negative act necessarily must be condemned; it requires a reaction.”

At the same time, he said, the bishop must recognize that the infliction of a penalty is ultimately for the good of the abuser as well. Penalties in canon law are designed to “encourage the conversion of those who commit crimes.”

In a May 2013 interview with Catholic News Service, Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, council secretary, also spoke of the work of revising that section of canon law.

Bishop Arrieta had said the current Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983, was written with such an emphasis on the role of the individual bishop in his local diocese that each bishop bore the full weight of deciding when and how to intervene and what sort of sanction or punishment to impose on the guilty.

The law ended up being too vague, and church sanctions were being applied so haphazardly, that the church appeared to be divided, he said.

The two chief concerns in the revised section, as in all church law, Bishop Arrieta said, are “to safeguard the truth and protect the dignity of persons.”

At the same time, the rules are more stringent — “if someone does this, he must be punished,” the bishop said. While it withdraws the discretionary power of the bishop in certain cases, he said, “it is for the good of the bishop.”

Source: Catholic News Service

Church needs less teaching and more listening

Upcoming family synod has much to think about.

 Posted on July 24, 2014, 10:31 AM
By Fr Myron Pereria.  Mumbai: Last October, the Vatican disseminated a survey on family life in the Catholic Church, as a prelude to the forthcoming Synod on the Family, scheduled for October this year.

Every diocese was sent a copy of the questionnaire, with a request to circulate it as widely as possible, and to send in their results by December 2013.

Many bishops’ conferences did this, even though it was found that many questions posed were clumsy and sometimes unintelligible. Broadly speaking, the enquiries related to four main areas.

The first concerned relationships and modern pressures on the family, divorce and remarriage, premarital sex and sacramental life in families.

The second addressed birth control and contraception, and issues related to responsible parenthood.

Third were gender issues as well as sexuality between men and women and same-sex relationships.

Abuse and violence in the family also fell into this bracket. The last area was how the Church teaches and how it listens to the laity.

When the results came in, many in the hierarchy were astounded at the gulf that exists between Church theory and practice.

In many areas, especially in Europe and the United States, most Church teaching on premarital sex, contraception, divorce and remarriage, as well as same-sex relationships are simply ignored and flouted.

The crying need in the West is the admission of the divorced and remarried to the sacraments (which they are presently denied).

It’s not that the reactions to the survey were uniform everywhere. They varied dramatically with geography and culture, according to a poll by

For instance, 75 percent of Catholics in Europe disagreed with the current teaching on divorce, remarriage and Communion, and 19 percent agreed.

In Africa the statistics were exactly the opposite. Family life in India is not as fractured as it is in the West, or so we like to think.

So why the reluctance of bishops in India to publicize the Vatican survey on the family and its results? As far as this writer is aware, this has been done guardedly, almost secretively, and only by a few dioceses.

In fact, there has been no public discussion of this survey with the laity at all. Is the “Indian reality” so very different? Does the Vatican survey “make sense” in Indian society? Yes, these questions do make sense, even though they are not spoken of loudly.

One reason is probably hypocritical – Indians like to pretend that “these things don’t happen here”.

Another being that weddings are still a “religious showpiece” (no matter which religious community), and for the sake of family it must be ‘gone through,’ no matter what the man and woman involved actually think.

It’s also true that there is much more cohabitation between young people today than in an earlier generation.

Urban youth have access to sexual information through the media, and there’s the urge to “try everything at least once”.

But the real revolution is taking place not so much in metropolitan cities, as in ‘small town’ India, where ‘sexual wellness’ is big business and online marketing ensures both speed, privacy and wide access to appliances and medication meant to enhance sexual pleasure.

Only the na�ve would still hold that such technology has no impact on lifestyle and family values, whether on Christians or on those of other faiths.

In this respect, there is one problem that is particularly affecting Christians: interfaith marriages.

With access to better education and rising incomes, more and more Christian girls are seeking partners from other churches or of other faiths.

In North India, for instance, half of all Catholic marriages involve either a Protestant or someone from the Orthodox Church, or Christian rite; or of another faith. This is an area of discomfort and denial for many in the Church hierarchy.

The traditional attitude of the Church to interfaith marriage is still a quiet attempt at the conversion of the non-Catholic partner, and a refusal to respect the faith experience of the other.

This is part of an institutional mentality of “always being right”, and it will continue until the Church – clergy and laity – sees itself (in the words of Pope Francis) as a “field hospital”, whose primary mission is to heal those wounded by the vicissitudes of life.

The upcoming synod also highlights a need for change in the Church of today: the need to become ‘a listening Church’.

For centuries, the hierarchical Church has been a teacher, not a listener. Its teachings have not just been authoritative, but frequently authoritarian.

Today we realize that this just won’t work anymore, especially in an area where the laity has far more experience than the clergy – the family.

Today’s family is under pressure everywhere. It is the wisdom of our present pope to have realized this, and to have called for feedback from Catholic families across the globe.

It’s also time for the ‘listening Church’ to tell the ‘teaching Church’ many truths it probably doesn’t want to hear.

Jesuit Fr Myron Pereira is a media consultant based in Mumbai.


Catholic school decries illegal demolition

The incident has created a sense of “insecurity” among inmates of the Girls’ Hostel and nuns.

 Posted on July 25, 2014, 8:41 AM
Khandwa:A Catholic school in Madhya Pradesh’s Khandwa district says officials illegally demolished the school’s compound wall, under pressure from “communal forces” in order to help a nearby housing colony.

The Holy Spirit School was closed on July 23 as the area in and around it was flooded because of incessant rain. The principal was called to district’s deputy collector’s office and was told that nearby Vatsala Vihar Housing colony was flooded because of the school boundary wall and it should be broken.

“Though the Principal tried to explain the matter, he was adamant on his decision” and the wall was demolished in 10 feet length.” The people who had gathered in big numbers, were shouting the slogan “Jai Shree Ram” and celebrating,” said a statement from school manager Sister Archana.

It said the compound wall was built with needed permissions and housing colony was constructed much after the school was built. The colony had “miserably failed to provide proper drainage” and accused the school of blocking the natural flow of water.

The one-sided decision from the district authorities came when a case, initiated by the housing colony, is already pending before the court. The flooding posed no danger to the housing society, while their action flooded the school compound, with “water almost entering the school and hostel building,” the statement said.

The administration was aware of the water logging problem in the housing colony but they took the unilateral decision to demolish the school wall “taking the side of one party, which is not all acceptable,” the statement said.

“The shouting of the slogan “Jai Shree Ram” by the crowd clearly indicates that it was a well planned action to create communal tension,” it said adding that the colony’s complaint was used as an “excuse for breaking the compound wall and the Administration appears to have surrendered to the pressure of the communal forces.”

The incident has created a sense of “insecurity” among inmates of the Girls’ Hostel and nuns in the convent, the statement said asking the administration to rebuild the broken wall and ensure that “the communal forces will not indulge in further provocative and destructive actions.”

The administration should also find a permanent solution for the water-logging in the housing colony and the surrounding areas, the school said.
Press Release

Goa BJP makes minorities feel insecure: MLA

Sardesai also blamed the BJP for remaining silent when a central leader wrongly accused the Church of being against HIV infected children.

Posted on July 24, 2014, 11:30 AM

An independent member of Goa legislative member says state BJP government’s language has changed since the BJP came to power at the Centre and minorities in Goa are feeling insecure as more are applying for Portuguese passport.

Fatorda independent MLA Vijai Sardesai said on Tuesday that among things that worry minorities is the soft stance of the state towards Ram Sene chief Pramod Mutalik’s planned entry into Goa, The Times of India reported.

During a discussion in the legislative assembly, Sardesai said accused BJP of moving in directions that make minorities feel insecure.

A sign of more people feeling insecure in the state should be seen more applying for Portuguese passports. He said he has learnt that daily about 47 Goans are applying for Portuguese passports.

He also accused BJP of “double talk.” While the party proclaims it is against moral policing, the BJP mahila wing rails against pub culture in Goa.

“They say this is Portuguese culture, by which, they blame the minorities. This language has started only after the BJP came to power at the Centre. This double talk will ruin tourism. This double talk will result in a self-goal,” Sardesai said.

Sardesai also accused the BJP government of invoking the special marriage act just to facilitate the marriage of one girl but in the process, diluting the very definition of Goan-ness. Sardesai said that this had diluted the unique uniform civil code of Goa and wondered why the government was hankering after special status for the state.

He also wanted to know why BJP was silent when its central leader Subramaniam Swamy wrongly accused the Church of being against HIV infected children.

Chief minister Manohar Parrikar, however, interrupted Sardesai saying he could rake up all these issues when he spoke on the demands but that he could not do so when he was speaking on the budget.
Source: Times of India


Financial irregularities in Church Establishments: views from Calcutta;

 This is similar to what has been happening in the Archdiocese of Bombay. Transparency in Financial Dealings at Parishes as well as at Archdiocese level is a far cry.

Pope Francis has expressed his apprehensions in various ways and began to act. Reshuffle of Vatican Bank is one of his prominent act.

Will the Archbishop Cardinal Oswald Gracias take cue from the Pope and follow his foot steps to cleanse his home of  corrupt practices?




In his Editorial “From ‘Receiving’ to ‘Giving’ Church” (The Herald July 11-17, 2014) the Editor has presented a picture of Church Finance, rather the drying up of Church Coffers! He writes “Gone are the days when financial help was given by foreign donor agencies in order to educate and empower the developing India; but the donor agencies have seen that India is no more poor and its resources are adequate to educate all the children, feed every hungry stomach of the nation, and have withdrawn their support.”

The main reason for stoppage of donations from abroad is continued economic slowdown in Europe and the US which try to thrive on the Economics of War as Pope Francis has said so aptly. Without big wars, their arms & ammunition and warplane manufacture facilities have virtually closed down. No war, no reconstruction, no money, no donation to India!

Another reason is the Vatican Bank Scandal. The Bank reported on 8th July 2014 a huge drop of 97 per cent in its profit in 2013 after it took €28.5 million ($38.7 million) in write-downs on investments made during 2012 and early 2013. The losses stem, in part, from a €15 million loan to a company owned by a friend of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who served until last year as the Vatican’s Secretary of State. Because of this donors do not take churches on face value anymore. In case of India, they first want to see a Church which is uniformly transparent and accountable in finance and administration of its temporal goods. Unabashed loot of Church (Laity’s) money by some priests without any accountability (Fr K.K. Sebastian alias Sebastian Kuzhipala who with the full knowledge of his Provincial Thomas Ellicherail vanished from Auxilium Parish Kolkata in June 2014 without any formal handover of cash, bank and assets to the new incumbent) is a clear case in point. Foreign donors have come to know of this and therefore without a transparent system in place, donations from bona fide sources will be hard to come by. Also international banking norms and consequently Reserve Bank of India norms are changing. One of the new stipulations say that all charitable associations including Church bodies will from now on be allowed to operate only Current Accounts and no more Savings Bank Accounts.

The editor has written “in the absence of any external help, the Church in India is going through a crucial phase of trying to make both ends meet.” Does this mean churches have closed their FCRA Bank Accounts which require them to maintain separate account book listing all overseas donations received, get it audited by a Chartered Accountant and submit it to Home Ministry every year? How is it that all on a sudden the Indian Church is finding it quite hard to “make both ends meet?” This means when the foreign donation was in full flow, it was making merry without any accountability or perspective plan. During the Laity Sunday Seminar at Seva Kendra Kolkata on 29th June 2014, one well-known Priest speaker said on the theme “Laity’s involvement in the decision making” that the Laity should be always alert and question the clergy. He narrated an anecdote where a powerful priest was handling a very big project and siphoned out good sums of money to buy a four-wheeler for his brother and also to fund house-building for a newly married relative. He came to know of this case from his priest students whom he had taught! Quoting from the Exhortations of Pope Francis he said that the Laity should be “Bold and Creative” to keep the clergy on its toes.

Regarding being a ‘giving’ Church, the one which would take care of the needs of pastors and pastoral initiatives, first each parish priest has to come clean on all receipts and payments. Receipts would include overseas and local donations and not only “meagre Pastoral Support collection” which the Editor has written. Let the parishioners see for themselves and through Parish Finance Committee decide how to deal with shortfall / surplus (in case of rich parishes). The Parish Priest has to be very Transparent armed with Audited Accounts before he appeals to parishioners for donations. The more transparent he is, the more fervent and fruitful his appeal will be.

The editor has stated that those who have benefited from the Church and are now well-off should support the initiatives of their respective parishes. For this also transparency in parish finance is a must. Creation of a computerized family database in each parish will generate data on parishioners’ financial health and will give a clear picture of how equipped a parish is to meet its pastoral needs. Rich parishes may set up a Corpus Fund to help poor parishes particularly in Education and Health.

Talking of transparency in church, the President of the oldest Laity Association of Bengal is yet to settle huge cash account for last financial year, though he represents the Laity on various Commissions of Calcutta Archdiocese including the newly formed Archdiocesan Pastoral Council! With the Archbishop as Ex-Officio Chairman of the Association being fully aware of this and keeping mum, one can imagine what will happen to transparency and accountability in Indian Church with such complementary collusion!

The Editor is playing with words by stating that “All the parishes have been urged to form Parish Finance Committees.” No such Circular from the Archbishop has been received by the parishes under Calcutta Archdiocese nor has it been published in the Herald, the official mouthpiece of Calcutta Archdiocese.

The Editor’s remark “Building the Church is a Corporate Venture” is interesting. Corporate Venture will give the Church access to funds earmarked for Corporate Social Responsibility which has come into effect from 1st April 2014 as per the Indian Companies Act, 2013 (the “New Act”). Under this act, every company with a net worth of at least Rs 500 crore, or a minimum turnover of Rs 1,000 crore, or a minimum net profit of Rs 5 crore, is obligated to spend two per cent of its net profits for undertaking and promoting socially beneficial activities and projects in India such as promoting education, gender equality, women’s empowerment, improving maternal health, or ensuring environmental sustainability. As reported in the Economic Times dated 11 July 2014, India’s second largest IT firm Infosys said it will contribute Rs 240 crore this fiscal to its philanthropic arm, Infosys Foundation, for funding corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. The Bangalore-based firm has already contributed USD 8 million (Rs 48 crore) in the first quarter ended June 30, 2014, to Infosys Foundation.

So without looking out for foreign funds, the Indian Church can tap huge funds within India only provided it puts in place proper system with appropriate checks and balances. Is the clergy ready to go make a clean breast and go the extra mile to convert begging into an art?

PS: A shortened version of the above article was given to the Herald. But it has not been published as the Editor relishes choking the voice of the Laity, with the support of the Archbishop.

Isaac Harold Gomes

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