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Australian PM calls for removal of archbishop convicted of not reporting abuse

July 19, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Canberra, Australia, Jul 19, 2018 / 11:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull called Thursday for Pope Francis to dismiss Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, who was convicted in May of failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse disclosed to him in the 1970s.

“As far as Philip Wilson is concerned, he should have resigned, he should have resigned,” Turnbull said July 19, according to The Australian.

“And the time has come for the Pope to sack him. There are many leaders that have called on him to resign, it is clear that he should resign, and I think the time has come now for the ultimate authority in the church to take action and sack him.”

Turnbull was preparing to meet with a group of Australian bishops, and he said they would be “discussing a range of issues.” The Church in Australia is seeking clarity over federal funding for Catholic schools.

Archbishop Wilson, 67, was convicted May 22 of concealing abuse committed by a fellow parish priest in New South Wales in the 1970s. At the time, Wilson had been ordained a priest for only one year.

The victims of the scandal, Peter Creigh and another altar boy who is unnamed for legal reasons, said they both had told Wilson of their abusive experience with Fr. James Fletcher.

The archbishop was sentenced July 3 to a 12-month sentence, which will likely be served as house arrest, but he plans to appeal his conviction.

Archbishop Wilson said that “I am conscious of calls for me to resign and have taken them very seriously. However, at this time, I am entitled to exercise my legal rights and to follow the due process of law. Since that process is not yet complete, I do not intend to resign at this time.”

“However, if I am unsuccessful in my appeal, I will immediately offer my resignation to the Holy See,” he added.

Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Gregory O’Kelly of Port Pirie apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Adelaide.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, president of the Australian bishops’ conference, said July 5 that “a number of survivors, prominent Australians and other members of the community have publicly called on Archbishop Wilson to resign.”

“Although we have no authority to compel him to do so, a number of Australian bishops have also offered their advice privately,” he said, while adding that “only the Pope can compel a bishop to resign.”

Archbishop Coleridge said the conference has been “closely following” Archbishop Wilson’s case and they respect his decision to appeal, which is “the right of any citizen,” but said that “we also recognize the ongoing pain this has caused survivors, especially those who were abused by Jim Fletcher.”

[…]

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Missionaries of Charity express sorrow over scandal, openness to just inquiry

July 18, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Kolkata, India, Jul 18, 2018 / 11:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The superior general of the Missionaries of Charity said Tuesday the congregation is “deeply saddened and grieved” by the alleged sale of several children by an employee of one of its homes for unwed mothers.

“Even while we place our full trust in the judicial process that is underway, we wish to express regret and sorrow for what happened and desire to express in unequivocal terms our condemnation of individual actions which have nothing to do with the Congregation of the Missionaries of Charity,” Sister Mary Prema Pierick said in a July 17 statement.

“We are fully cooperating with the investigations and are open to any free, fair and just inquiry.”

Earlier this month two women affiliated with the Missionaries of Charity, one a religious sister and one an employee, were arrested over the alleged sale of a baby boy.

Anima Indwar, who had worked at the Nirmal Hriday home in Ranchi since 2012, and Sister Concelia (Konsalia), were arrested July 3 and 4. Sister Concelia had been sister-in-charge of the unwed mothers section at the home since June 2017.

Indwar was trusted with escorting the unwed mothers, their babies, and their guardians to hospital and to the Child Welfare Committee office when the religious sisters were engaged with other duties.

Several child protection officers seized admission and attendance registers from Nirmal Hriday June 29, “without providing the receipt for such seizure to the Home,” according to Sister M. Prema.

The officers were interested particularly in the case of Karishma Toppo and her baby, who was born at the shelter May 1. Toppo agreed to hand over her child to the Child Welfare Committee, and Indwar escorted her to surrender her child to the welfare committee.

“Neither Nirmal Hriday nor the Sisters had any way to ascertain whether the child was actually surrendered to CWC. This is so because CWC as a matter of practice did not give any acknowledgment to the Home after obtaining custody of a child from an unwed mother,” Sister M. Prema stated.

Indwar admitted July 3 that Toppo’s child had not been given to the CWC, and she was arrested.

The following day Sister Concelia and Sr. Marie Deanne, superior of Nirmal Hriday, were questioned by police, and Sr. Concelia was arrested. The home’s 11 unwed mothers, another mother with her child, and a guardian were all taken from Nirmal Hriday by the CWC.

On July 6, another Missionaries of Charity home in Ranchi, Shishu Bhawan, was raided by the police. Records there were seized without receipt, and 22 children living at the home were taken.

“It is distressing that CWC has meted out such treatment to a Home which its officials themselves had described as having an ‘excellent environment for the care of children’ only about two weeks before,” Sr. M. Prema said in regard to Shishu Bhawan.

Police say that a couple complained to the CWC in Ranchi that a baby boy they received after payment had been taken back. They say the couple reportedly paid Indwar 120,000 Indian rupees ($1,760). They complained that Indwar took their money in exchange for a child, and that she later took the child back from them for some “formalities”, without returning the money.

Indwar has admitted that she sold children.

Sister Concelia described her experience in a video.

“I came to know that a baby, delivered in May, was missing when the Child Welfare Committee came to check,” she said in a video. “We found out that the baby had been sold off by a staffer.”

Sister Concelia has recounted her conversation with Indwar. “When I initially asked the staffer about the baby, she did not want to tell me anything. It was only when I kept pressing for details that they told me the baby had been sold,” she said.

A small portion of the money had been given to the guard, while nine times that amount was given to “a sister.”

Sister Concelia said that Indwar told her she did not take any money.

The nun said she informed authorities about the matter and said the baby should be brought back.

A police source said that Indwar provided to police a handwritten note from Sister Concelia asking Indwar to take the blame on herself, Matters India reports.

Sister Concelia’s defenders, including the bishops of India, are asking whether she was an accomplice, or the victim of a coerced confession.

“Nobody was allowed to meet Sister Konsalia in custody,” Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Auxiliary Bishop of Ranchi, said. “Her advocate could meet her on Wednesday, eight days after her arrest, only after we approached the court,” he said July 12, according to the Hindustan Times. “During the 10 minutes interaction that the advocate could have with her, she said she was forced by the police to give her statement.”

Bishop Mascarenhas had objected that the nun was being treated as a criminal. He said she is diabetic with varicose veins, and wasn’t aware of her statement.

He also condemned the sale. “It shouldn’t have happened. But, accusing the entire congregation of Mother Teresa is wrong.”

India’s Ministry of Women and Child Development has instructed states to inspect all childcare homes run by the Missionaries of Charity.

A spokesperson for the Missionaries of Charity has said the order stopped dealing with child adoption in India in 2015, and did not take money for adoptions when it did assist in them. The order is conducting their own investigation about the case.  

Members of opposition parties have accused India’s ruling party, the Hindu-nationalist group the Bharatiya Janata Party, of harassing and persecuting the missionaries on the basis of unbelievable allegations.

The Jharkhand police have also called for a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into foreign funds received by Missionaries of Charity institutions. R.K. Mallick, the senior police officer, told NDTV that the recommendation was motivated by irregularities investigators detected.

The Albanian-born Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata in 1950. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and canonized in 2016. There are now 5,167 Missionaries of Charity sisters, both active and contemplative, around the world. The order has 244 houses in India.

In addition to the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, members of the Missionaries of Charity take a fourth vow pledging “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.”

Sr. M. Prema said the order “vows to continue their whole-hearted and free service to the poorest of the poor, by serving the needy and vulnerable even in the middle of the unprecedented and unfounded criticism that it faces today. We have full faith in the courts of law and the investigating authorities and are confident that justice shall prevail.”

“We pray for all those who have been hurt by the recent developments and we ask God to bless all those who are standing by us in these painful and difficult moments, and we lift up to God in prayer all people of goodwill,” she added.

“May our Mother, St. Teresa of Calcutta intercede for us before our Almighty Father.”

[…]

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India to investigate Missionaries of Charity childcare homes after scandal

July 17, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

New Delhi, India, Jul 17, 2018 / 03:28 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- India’s Ministry of Women and Child Development announced Monday that it has instructed states to inspect all childcare homes run by the Missionaries of Charity.

The move comes after several children were allegedly sold by an employee of Nirmal Hriday, a Missionaries of Charity home for unwed mothers in Jharkhand state.

Maneka Ghandi, women and child development minister, added July 16 that all childcare and adoption institutions must register with the Central Adoption Resource Authority within the month.

Earlier this month two women affiliated with the Missionaries of Charity, one a religious sister and one an employee, were arrested after a couple complained that they were sold a baby boy, who was then taken back by the shelter.

Anima Indwar, who had worked at the shelter as a sweeper since 2002, and Sister Konsalia, were arrested July 4 and 5 in Jharkhand. Another shelter employee is also under investigation.

Indwar admitted that she sold the children. In one deal, a couple from Uttar Pradesh adopted the child and the deal was finalized through the guard. She denied that Sister Konsalia was present during the transaction. She said the baby’s birth mother was involved in the exchange.

Police appear to have been alerted July 3 when a couple from Uttar Pradhesh complained to the Child Welfare Committee in Ranchi, capital of Jharkhand, that a baby boy they received after payment had been taken back.

Police say that a couple reportedly paid 120,000 Indian rupees ($1,760) to Indwar. The couple complained that Indwar took their money in exchange for a child, and that she later took the child back from them without returning the money.

The baby in question was born May 1 to a shelter resident, and was apparently given to the couple two weeks later. On July 1, Indwar reportedly asked the couple to return to the shelter with the baby for some “formalities.” She then took the child from his adoptive parents and did not give him back. The baby is now in state custody.

Sister Konsalia described her experience in a video.

“I came to know that a baby, delivered in May, was missing when the Child Welfare Committee came to check,” she said in a video. “We found out that the baby had been sold off by a staffer.”

Sister Konsalia has recounted her conversation with Indwar.

“When I initially asked the staffer about the baby, she did not want to tell me anything. It was only when I kept pressing for details that they told me the baby had been sold,” she said.

A small portion of the money had been given to the guard, while nine times that amount was given to “a sister.”

Sister Konsalia said that Indwar told her she did not take any money.

The nun said she informed authorities about the matter and said the baby should be brought back.
A police source said that Indwar provided to police a handwritten note from Sister Konsalia asking her to take the blame on herself, Matters India reports.

Sister Konsalia’s defenders, including the bishops of India, are asking whether she was an accomplice, or the victim of a coerced confession.

Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Auxiliary Bishop of Ranchi, speaking to NDTV, charged that police are “treating the whole of Mother Teresa’s organization as a criminal gang.”

Bishop Mascarenhas, speaking in his role as the Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, condemned the shelter staffer accused of selling the babies, but said the rule of law was not being followed in Sister Konsalia’s case.

“Nobody was allowed to meet sister Konsalia in custody,” he said. “Her advocate could meet her on Wednesday, eight days after her arrest, only after we approached the court,” he said July 12, according to the Hindustan Times. “During the 10 minutes interaction that the advocate could have with her, she said she was forced by the police to give her statement.”

Mascarenhas had objected that the nun was being treated as a criminal. He said she is diabetic with varicose veins, and wasn’t aware of her statement.

Mascarenhas condemned the sale.

“It shouldn’t have happened. But, accusing the entire congregation of Mother Teresa is wrong,” he said July 12.

Babulal Marandi, former chief minister of Jharkhand, visited the shelter July 14 and interacted with the sisters, the news site Matters India reports. He alleged that the case had become a “media trial.” He said the Missionaries of Charity have served society for many years.

“The government should conduct a direct probe instead of issuing statements to the media,” he said.

However, police have said the accusations were filed on the basis of evidence, including confessions by the accused.

All four babies have been recovered by authorities. At the time of the arrests, there were a dozen pregnant women living at the shelter. They have now been transferred to a government-run home.

A spokesperson for the Kolkata-based Missionaries of Charity said that the order stopped dealing with child adoption in India in 2015, and did not take money for adoptions when it did assist in them. The order is conducting their own investigation about the case.

Members of opposition parties have accused India’s ruling party, the Hindu-nationalist group the Bharatiya Janata Party, of harassing and persecuting the missionaries on the basis of unbelievable allegations.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has backed the Missionaries of Charity. She accused the BJP government of making “malicious attempts to malign” the charity and the name of Mother Theresa.

Rameshwar Oraon, the leader of Jharkhand Congress and a former police officer, said some police appeared to be taking part in the political controversy over the police action against the Missionaries of Charity.

The Jharkhand police have also called for a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into foreign funds received by Missionaries of Charity institutions. R.K. Mallick, the senior police officer, told NDTV that the recommendation was motivated by irregularities investigators detected.

The Albanian-born Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata in 1950. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and canonized in 2016. There are now about 3,000 Missionaries of Charity sisters around the world.

In addition to the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, members of the Missionaries of Charity take a fourth vow pledging “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.”

[…]

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Three children rescued amid baby-selling investigation involving MC sister

July 13, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Ranchi, India, Jul 13, 2018 / 10:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Three children who were allegedly sold by an employee of the Missionaries of Charity have been rescued, and a politician has accused a political party of unfairly targeting the religious order.

Last week two women affiliated with the Missionaries of Charity, one a religious sister and one an employee, were arrested after a couple complained that they were sold a baby boy, who was then taken back by the shelter.

Since then, three other children have been recovered by authorities, who are still on the lookout for a fourth baby. The children all came from the same Missionaries of Charity-operated home for pregnant women, Nirmal Hriday, in Ranchi, the capital of the state of Jharkhand. The women residing at the home were moved to a government-run shelter.

Initially, it was reported by Indian media that 280 children were missing from the Missionaries of Charity home in Ranchi. This number was eventually revised to four, and of the four, three have been located safely.

The Senior Superintendent of Police for Ranchi, Anis Gupta, said that they learned about the other children after questioning the initial two women arrested. The third child was rescued on Thursday from the city of Simdega, which is also in Jharkhand.

Gupta told Indian media that “a few people have been detained for questioning” after this latest rescue, but further details were not available.

Missionaries of Charity spokeswoman Sunita Kumar said last week in a statement that the order was “shocked” by the allegations, “which totally goes against the value and ethics espoused by the Missionaries of Charity, the nuns, and its founder.”

Kumar said that the order will be investigating the accused employees in Jharkhand “with all seriousness,” and that the Missionaries of Charity had stopped handling adoptions in India three years ago.

Church officials in India, along with a politician, have raised concerns that the Missionaries of Charity have been unfairly targeted by India’s ruling party, the Hindu-nationalist group the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, a member of the All India Trinamool Congress, tweeted Friday that “Mother Teresa herself set up Missionaries of Charity. And now they are not being spared.”

Banerjee called the accusations against the order “malicious attempts to malign their name,” and said the “The Sisters are being targeted” by the BJP, who “want to spare no one.”

“Let MOC continue to do their work for the poorest of the poor,” she tweeted.

Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, Auxiliary Bishop of Ranchi and secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, defended the Missionaries of Charity on Twitter.

“This is a deliberate attempt to malign one of the world’s and India’s most loved institutions, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity,” said Bishop Mascarenhas on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India’s Twitter account.

“The truth will come out,” he tweeted.

In another tweet, the bishop accused the state of corruption, saying the Missionaries of Charity are “simple innocent sisters” who are unable to “match the manipulations of the crooked.”

Bishop Mascarenhas also posted a report from an official government visit to the shelter in Ranchi about a week before the baby-sale allegations. The conditions were described as an “excellent environment.”

The Missionaries of Charity were founded in 1950 in Kolkata, by Albanian Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, who became known as Mother Teresa. In 2017, she was canonized as St.Teresa of Calcutta. There are about 3,000 Missionaries of Charity sisters worldwide.

In addition to the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, members of the Missionaries of Charity take a fourth vow pledging “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.”

[…]

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In India, nun accuses bishop of rape

July 12, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

New Delhi, India, Jul 12, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- Authorities are investigating Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar after a Kerala nun accused him of raping her in 2014 and sexually abusing her on multiple occasions over two years—but the bishop … […]

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Australian state hesitates to require priests to break seal of confession

July 12, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Melbourne, Australia, Jul 12, 2018 / 10:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Australian state of Victoria has said a recommendation by the royal commission that it pass a law requiring priests to break the confessional seal to report cases of child sex abuse requires further consideration.

Victoria attorney general Martin Pakula said July 11 that the government needs to further consider 24 of the 317 recommendations made to the state by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Pakula said the state government accepted 128 recommendations, and another 165 in principle, according to The Guardian.

He told ABC radio that the proposal to require the breaking of the seal of confession “needs a degree of national agreement.”

The Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, and Tasmania have already adopted laws making it illegal for priests to fail to report the confession of a child sex abuse crime.

In South Australia, priests who fail to report child sex abuse which they learned of while hearing a confession will face a AUD 10,000 fine ($7,400) beginning Oct. 1.

Like Victoria, New South Wales is subjecting that recommendation to further consideration, though it accepted 336 of the royal commission’s recommendations.

The New South Wales government said last month that “whether or how the offence will apply to members of the clergy where the information about an offence was gathered through religious confessions is a complex issue that has been referred to the Council of Attorney’s-General for national consideration.”

The Catholic Church in Australia has vehemently opposed the imposition of laws mandating reporting from the confessional. Many priests have said they would go to jail before violating the seal.

The Code of Canon Law states that “The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.” A priest who intentionally violates the seal incurs an automatic excommunication.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “every priest who hears confessions is bound under severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him,” due to the “delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect due to persons.”

Archbishop Christopher Prowse of Canberra-Goulburn has said that “Priests are bound by a sacred vow to maintain the seal of confession. Without that vow, who would be willing to unburden themselves of their sins?”

“The government threatens religious freedom by appointing itself an expert on religious practices and by attempting to change the sacrament of confession while delivering no improvement in the safety of children,” he said. “Sadly, breaking the seal of confession won’t prevent abuse and it won’t help our ongoing efforts to improve the safety of children in Catholic institutions.”

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney has said that “priests will, we know, suffer punishment, even martyrdom, rather than break the seal of Confession,” which he called “a privileged encounter between penitent and God.”

Clerics are not the only critics of the new legislation. Andrew Wall, a member of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly, said forcing priests to break the seal of confession oversteps an individual’s “freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of religious rights.”

[…]

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Pakistani prime minister candidate endorses blasphemy laws

July 10, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Islamabad, Pakistan, Jul 10, 2018 / 05:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A candidate for prime minister in Pakistan’s upcoming general election has defended the country’s controversial blasphemy laws, which have been used to harass, jail, and kill members of religious minorities disproportionately.

Imran Khan, chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, a centrist party, said he fully supports the blasphemy law of the Pakistan Penal Code. The statement was made July 7 after giving an address at the Ulema and Mashaikh Conference at Golra Sharif in the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad.

“We are standing with Article 295c and will defend it,” said Khan, according to the Guardian.

A former member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, Khan will be considered for prime minister along with Shehbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim Leage (N) and Bilawal Zardari of the Pakistan Peoples Party.

The general election will take place July 25. PML-N is forecast to win the election, though there have been allegations of vote rigging in favor of PTI.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws impose strict punishment on those who desecrate the Quran or who defame or insult Muhammad. Pakistan’s state religion is Islam, and around 97 percent of the population is Muslim.

Although the government has never executed a person under the blasphemy law, accusations alone have inspired mob and vigilante violence.

Blasphemy laws are reportedly used to settle scores or to persecute religious minorities; while non-Muslims constitute only 3 percent of the Pakistani population, 14 percent of blasphemy cases have been levied against them.

Many of those accused of blasphemy are murdered, and advocates of changing the law are also targeted by violence.

In 2011 the Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, a Muslim critic of the blasphemy laws, was assassinated. Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic and the only Christian in Pakistan’s cabinet, was also assassinated the same year by militant supporters of the blasphemy laws. Bhatti’s cause for beatification was opened by the Diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi in 2016.

The blasphemy laws were introduced between 1980 and 1986. The National Commission for Justice and Peace said over 1,300 people were accused under this law from 1987 until 2014. The Centre for Research and Security Studies reported that at least 65 people have been killed by vigilantes since 1990.

Pakistan’s authorities have consistently failed to implement safeguards on behalf of religious minorities, despite numerous policies in favor of economic and physical protections for members of non-Muslim religions.

In 2013, PML-N, the governing party, promised a quota for jobs in the educational institutes and the public sector for members of religious minorities. That same year, the PPP discussed an Equality Commission to monitor job quotas in Sindh.

After Muslim extremists attacked All Saints Church in Peshawar, killing over 70 people in 2014, Chief Justice Tassaduq Jillani issued an eight-point decree to improve access to jobs, education, and protective forces.

However, none of these safeguards have moved beyond verbal affirmation into action.

Last year, Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta was attacked by two suicide bombers. The attack killed 9 people and injured 35 others, according to the New York Times.  

A member of the Implementation of Minority Rights Forum said government support was not made available after the attack.

“The government was not ready to even disburse compensation cheques among families, and none of the minority parliamentarians were interested in making noise about it,” said Imtiaz, according to Dawn, Pakistan’s largest English-language newspaper.

[…]