Vatican Directs Priests Accused of Pedophilia to Stand Trial in Secret Church Courts
Scandalized by public outcry over widespread pedophilia and sexual abuse committed by Catholic clergy, Pope John Paul II issued a directive ordering the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith to set up guidelines for handling the problem. The Congregation determined that priests suspected of pedophilia must be tried in secret ecclesiastical courts presided over by their peers, other priests, rather than civilian courts. Tod Tamberg of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles defended the Congregation’s insistence on secret proceedings saying that they would “protect the rights of both the accusers and the accused…from the trauma of being put on public display.” It is unclear, however, if victims can achieve justice through these secret Church tribunals.
A.W. Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist and expert on sexual abuse by priests, notes that many clergy members have allowed pedophiles to remain in their posts as priests. In September 2001, a French court sent a Roman Catholic bishop to jail for failing to inform police that a priest in his diocese had admitted to sexually abusing children. In the U.S., Church dioceses have been ordered to pay millions in damages for concealing sexual abuse and pedophilia. Most shocking, however, is that the Congregation is silent on whether a bishop should inform secular authorities, such as the police, if a priest is found guilty in the ecclesiastical court.
In March 2001, the National Catholic Reporter exposed the sexual abuse of nuns by clergy throughout the world, citing cases of abuse and rape in 22 countries and the United States. In at least one case, the sexual abuse led to death, as one nun, at the urging of the priest who raped her, died after a botched abortion. An American coalition of over 140 religious, human rights, and women’s rights organizations, including the Feminist Majority Foundation, immediately called for an independent fact-finding mission and launched demonstrations in New York and Washington, DC. The Call to Accountability Campaign, led by Catholics for a Free Choice, also highlighted the connection between sexual abuse and the spread of AIDS among nuns. According to reports, sexual abuse is particularly prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, where priests believe sexual intercourse with nuns is safer because nuns are presumed to be free of the HIV/AIDS virus. In one diocese alone, nine nuns who had been raped by clergy died of AIDS.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .