THE CATHOLIC HERALD MAY 25, 2007
BBC Panorama film sparks row in Italy
State television to air Church’s response to a programme that accuses Pope Benedict XVI of complicity in clerical abuse
Leading Catholic academic dies at 86
ABBCDOCUMENTARY that infuriated the English and Welsh bishops by accusing Pope Benedict XVI of covering up clerical sexual abuse has been given the go-ahead for airing on Italian state television on the condition that it be accompanied by balancing opinion from the Church. On Tuesday Claudio Cappon, director-general of RAI, Italy’s public broadcasting corporation, approved the purchase of the controversial Panorama documentary, which was shown in Britain in October. But he insisted that prominent Church members be permitted a chance to challenge the claims of “Sex Crimes and the Vatican” when it is aired on a popular Italian current affairs and discussion programme. However, Mario Landolfi, the conservative politician who heads the parliamentary committee that oversees RAI, called the decision “a Pontius Pilate solution” that “will permit a media trial against the Catholic Church”. After it emerged that RAI had asked to purchase the rights to screen the film, Mr Landolfi sparked a heated row in Italy over whether the
broadcast should go ahead when he called on Mr Cappon to block the transmission in order “to avoid public service television becoming a media execution squad ready to open fire on the Church and the Pope”. Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in Italy unleashed a scathing attack on the BBC programme. Avvenire , the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, denounced the film as “fit only for the dustbin” and said the producers “should bow their heads and ask for forgiveness”. “Sex Crimes and the Vatican”, a Panorama special, claimed to reveal for the first time how Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had issued an updated version of a “secret Vatican edict” instructing the world’s bishops to put the interests of the Church before the safety of children. The decision to screen it in Britain led the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales to write to the BBC’s director-general in protest. “Your programme sets out to inflict grave damage on Pope Benedict,” wrote Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.
Italian journalist Michele Santoro, right, plans to broadcast the Panorama special attacking the Pope PA/Empics
“The main focus of the programme is to seek to connect Pope Benedict with cover-up of child abuse... this is malicious and untrue and based on a false presentation of
Church documents.” Among these misrepresentations, the Church claimed, was that of an order originally issued in 1962 that was focused on preventing the
spread of information apprehended in the confessional, rather than directly concerned with child abuse. The Vatican three times refused to cooperate in the
making of the film, and it received little attention in Italy until this month, when bloggers translated it and posted a subtitled version on a website. Avvenire said the bloggers were
guilty of “wicked slander”. The BBC documentary was then picked up by Google Video Italia, where it currently ranks as the site’s most popular item. Now Michele Santoro, a Left-leaning Italian journalist, has said he will screen the documentary on his discussion programme, Year Zero. It would not be the first time the television host has caused controversy: two months ago he screened provocative images from Rome’s Gay Pride Parade, prompting Clemente Mastella, Italy’s justice minister who this week re-stated his opposition to same-sex civil unions, to walk out. Calls to prevent the screening of the film in Italy attracted criticism from Leftist politicians such as Giuseppe Giulietti, former leader of a journalists’ union at RAI, who said: “Neither oversight committee or individual politicians have the right to ask for a preventative censorship of any journalists or topic.” Giovanni Russo Spena and Gennaro Migliore, Leftist Italian parliamentarians, argued that the film should be screened because “paedophilia in the Catholic Church is wellknown, there is no mystery about it”.
PROFESSOR Dame Mary Douglas, the leading British anthropologist who won admiration from biblical scholars for her work on the literary structure of Scripture, has died aged 86. A Catholic, she was renowned for her extended fieldwork in the Kasai region of what was then the Belgian Congo which led to the publication of The Lele of the Kasai in 1963. Three years later she published Purity and Danger , in which she unpacked the “abominations” of Leviticus, basing the rules concerning which foods are unclean and abominable on the Hebrew perception of holiness. In 1970 she argued against the abolition of the Friday abstinence from meat in the Catholic Church, writing that the ritual was one that fostered the social cohesion of the group. Prof Douglas was born in San Remo, Italy. She boarded at the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Roehampton, south west London, then went to Oxford University. She became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2006.
Meeting over Catholic hospital code of ethics ends in impasse
ACRUNCH meeting over the adoption of a proposed new code of ethics at a Catholic hospital has ended in deadlock. Cardinal Cormac MurphyO’Connor resisted pressure to reject the code forbidding doctors working from the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth, north London, from providing contraceptives and abortion referrals. But hospital board members also rejected demands by Church leaders to accept the code, which makes it explicitly clear that anyone working from the hospital facilities or premises will not be able to offer any service which conflicts with Catholic teaching on either the value of human life or on sexual ethics. A spokeswoman for the hospital said it was “decided that further professional research and assessment would be undertaken for the consideration of the board at
its next meeting”. Speaking after the meeting, Lord Bridgeman, chairman of the board, said: “We are, therefore, seeking expert professional advice and will weigh up the legality and viability of the options before us conscientiously before we take any final decisions. “Meanwhile, all who use and work in the hospital should be confident that we will continue to put the needs of our patients first and foremost and provide the high quality care for which we are rightly famous.” The code would also stop doctors referring elsewhere any women who inquire at the hospital about contraception, the morning-after pill or abortion. It also bans amniocentesis to detect Down’s syndrome in unborn children and in vitro fertilisation for couples struggling to conceive naturally. Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor ordered the code to be revised after it was revealed
The Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth in north London
Photo: S Caldwell
that GPs had been prescribing the morning-after pill and referring women for abortions. The Cardinal, as patron of the hospital, had ordered an inquiry in 2005 after the Linacre Centre for Health
care Ethics, a Catholic bioethical institute which shared the site at the time, raised concerns that some doctors – most of whom were not Catholic –were flouting the existing code. One surgeon even admit
ted to carrying out “phalloplasties”, a sex change operation in which prosthetic penises are attached to women who want to be men. Dr Helen Watt, director of the Linacre Centre, said last week that she was disap
pointed by the failure of the board to adopt the new code. “The board must accept the code of ethics in its entirety,” she said. “It is alarming and significant that it failed to do so at its most recent meeting.” Dr Watt added: “A truly Catholic hospital would be attractive to many nonCatholics, and indeed nonChristians. Creative ways must be found for the hospital to offer only genuine and life-affirming health care.” It had been suggested that doctors, who had rejected the new code, would call on the Cardinal to quit as patron at the board meeting and for a “secular” code of ethics to be implemented. But Nicolas Bellord, the secretary of the Restituta Group, which is campaigning for the hospital, founded by the Church in 1865, to keep its catholicity, said that Church leaders were made aware of their legal obligations in the days before the meeting.
He said: “We were able, with the assistance of John Finnis, Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy at Oxford, to provide a statement of the legal position to all members of the board prior to their meeting. “We are glad to hear that this statement of the legal position has caused the board to step back from the brink of the abyss of secularising the hospital. “Now, however, we sincerely hope that they [the board] will follow the request of Cardinal Cormac MurphyO’Connor, the arbiter on ethics at the hospital, to accept the revised code of ethics and make the extensive reforms necessary at the hospital so that it once again becomes a truly Roman Catholic hospital following the teachings of the Church as required by their legal constitution.” He added: “We further note that, in the meantime, they will follow the old code of ethics which has frequently
been ignored in the past and that the needs of patients will be put first and foremost. “We trust this will extend to all patients from the moment of conception to natural death.” Although a Catholic charity, the private hospital accepts patients of all religious faiths and none and its surplus profits are pumped into its hospice, the place where Cardinal Basil Hume died in 1999. Its maternity unit is popular with celebrities living in the fashionable areas of north London. The hospital is described in magazines as the “poshest place to push”. Actresses Cate Blanchett and Emma Thompson and models Kate Moss and Heather Mills are among A-list clientele to have given birth there. The row over ethics erupted after the Medical Advisory Committee of the hospital said the majority of doctors were opposed to the new code.
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Cafod welcomes resignation of World Bank chief
ACATHOLIC aid agency has welcomed the resignation of World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz amid allegations that he promoted his girlfriend. George Gelber, head of policy at Cafod, the overseas aid and development agency of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said the departure of Mr Wolfowitz presented an opportunity to change the way that top appointments are made to the bank, which he described as a “creditors’ cartel”. “Paul Wolfowitz’s tenure at the World Bank and the recent scandal raises questions as to whether he was the right man for the job of fighting poverty in developing countries,” said Mr Gelber. “It is remarkable that in the 21st century these key appointments are made on the basis of nods and winks from the United States and Europe respectively,” he said. “The resignation of Mr Wolfowitz as President of the World Bank is an opportunity for this 50-year-old gentlemen’s agreement to be replaced by a democratic and transparent leadership selection process based on merit,” Mr Gelber added. He said that Cafod had long advocated that the heads of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund should be appointed on the basis of merit and as a result of a transparent appointment process.
Mr Gelber said that Cafod would in fact like reforms to go even further, explaining, for instance, that votes on the bank’s board of directors lie disproportionately in the hands of the rich nations. This, he said, must change to give developing countries a greater voice on issues that directly affect them. Mr Wolfowitz, the former American Defence Secretary, came under pressure to quit his position after he secured a promotion and a substantial pay raise for Shaha Riza, 52, his British girlfriend. Mr Wolfowitz, 62, told investigators that he transferred Miss Riza to avoid a conflict of interest, but her pay was boosted by over £30,000, so that she made more than United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He said he would officially quit as head of the World Bank on June 30. His decision came after a panel of the World Bank found that Mr Wolfowitz was guilty of provoking a “conflict of interest” and had broken its code of conduct. The World Bank has more than 180 member countries and helps to fund development projects in poor nations. It has taken a strong stance against corruption. Cafod and other critics of Mr Wolfowitz argued that he had damaged the reputation of the bank at a time when it was trying to secure billions of dollars to fund its projects over the next few years.
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