Daily Archives: October 20, 2011

Vatican weighs in on cult-like Legion of Christ

Pope Benedict XVI appointed Velasio De Paolis, the archbishop of Thelepte in Tunisia and president of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See, head of the Legionaries of Christ  in July 2010. Andreas Solaro, AFP / Getty Images

Associated Press | Oct 17, 2011


VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican has proposed giving hundreds of women who live like nuns within the troubled Legion of Christ order greater autonomy after a Holy See investigation found serious problems in their regimented communities.

The pope’s delegate running the Legion, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, said in a letter published Monday that the problems of the consecrated women of the Legion’s lay branch were “many and challenging.” Of particular concern is that they have no legal status in the church.

In a 2010 Associated Press expose, former consecrated women spoke of the cult-like conditions they lived in, with rules dictating nearly every minute of their day — from how they ate to what they watched on TV — all in the name of God’s will.

The women described emotional and spiritual abuse they suffered if they questioned their vocation, and of how they would be cast aside if their spiritual directors no longer had any need for them.

The Vatican ordered the investigation after word of the abuses emerged during a broader Vatican probe into the Legion, a conservative order founded in Mexico in 1941 by the late Rev. Marciel Maciel.

After decades of denying allegations Maciel was a pedophile, the Legion in 2009 began admitting to his double life: that he sexually abused seminarians and had fathered at least three children with two women.

The revelations have put the Legion in a tailspin and cast a shadow over the Vatican since Pope John Paul II had held Maciel up as a model for his orthodoxy and ability to attract new priests and donations.

Maciel had created the consecrated branch of the Legion’s lay movement Regnum Christi primarily as a fundraising tool and to provide unpaid teachers for Legion-owned schools. The consecrated women also run youth programs and work to recruit new members.

The members, who at their height numbered about 900 women and a few dozen men, make promises of poverty, chastity and obedience like nuns do, though they enjoy none of the legal protections nuns have that make it difficult for their orders to kick them out.

Legion officials have repeatedly declined to provide statistics on how many remain in the movement. Former members say many women have either left amidst the Maciel scandal or are taking time to discern whether they still have a vocation.

In his letter, De Paolis said those who remain are happy and providing a valuable service to the church.

“However, the issues regarding personal and community life that have emerged from this same visitation on an institutional level initially appear to be many and challenging,” he wrote.

He said the women should have greater autonomy from the Legion, in both their personal and community lives, and that they need a legal status that corresponds to canon law.

They would, however, maintain a “link of participation” with the Legion.

De Paolis said the women would have to rewrite their norms, but that for now the statutes guiding their life that were approved by the Vatican in 2004 remain intact.

One of the great scandals about the consecrated women is that they were told the Vatican in 2004 had approved a set of over 1,000 rules dictating how they were to behave when, in fact, the Vatican approved only about 150 general norms.

Genevieve Kineke, who runs an active blog read by many former Legion and consecrated members, said she hoped the autonomy envisaged by De Paolis will enable current and future members to truly discern whether they have a vocation. Up until recently, some 18-year-olds would make their lifelong commitments to being consecrated after a mere six-week candidacy program.

“As long as the delegate relies on the existing superiors to guide his actions concerning these individuals, then we have a closed circle of conformity to the same methodology,” Kineke said in an email.

While current consecrated members say they are happy and participating in the reform process, their choices haven’t always pleased their parents.

Kelly Tuttle said she grieves daily for the loss of her 27-year-old daughter, who gave up a partial medical scholarship to the University of Dayton, Ohio to become consecrated in 2003.

“The Katie that I knew, I grieve for that Katie,” Tuttle told the AP. “There’s only the shell of her left. Because they’ve taken the person that I knew as my daughter, who was young and vibrant, intellectually alive and athletic, and they’ve taken that out of her.”

“It’s like she’s dead and gone,” she said.

Katie Tuttle declined to be interviewed, according to a Legion spokesman.

300,000 babies stolen by Catholic Church in collusion with Spanish Government

Identity crisis: Randy Ryder as a baby being cradled in a Malaga hospital in 1971 by the woman who bought him

300,000 babies stolen from their parents – and sold for adoption: Haunting BBC documentary exposes 50-year scandal of baby trafficking by the Catholic church in Spain

Daily Mail | Oct 16, 2011

By Polly Dunbar

Up to 300,000 Spanish babies were stolen from their parents and sold for adoption over a period of five decades, a new investigation reveals.

The children were trafficked by a secret network of doctors, nurses, priests and nuns in a widespread practice that began during General Franco’s dictatorship and continued until the early Nineties.

Hundreds of families who had babies taken from Spanish hospitals are now battling for an official government investigation into the scandal.

Several mothers say they were told their first-born children had died during or soon after they gave birth.

But the women, often young and unmarried, were told they could not see the body of the infant or attend their burial.

In reality, the babies were sold to childless couples whose devout beliefs and financial security meant that they were seen as more appropriate parents.

Official documents were forged so the adoptive parents’ names were on the infants’ birth certificates.

In many cases it is believed they were unaware that the child they received had been stolen, as they were usually told the birth mother had given them up.

Journalist Katya Adler, who has investigated the scandal, says: ‘The situation is incredibly sad for thousands of people.

‘There are men and women across Spain whose lives have been turned upside-down by discovering the people they thought were their parents actually bought them for cash. There are also many mothers who have maintained for years that their babies did not die – and were labelled “hysterical” – but are now discovering that their child has probably been alive and brought up by somebody else all this time.’

Experts believe the cases may account for up to 15 per cent of the total adoptions that took place in Spain between 1960 and 1989.

It began as a system for taking children away from families deemed politically dangerous to the regime of General Franco, which began in 1939. The system continued after the dictator’s death in 1975 as the Catholic church continued to retain a powerful influence on public life, particularly in social services.

It was not until 1987 that the Spanish government, instead of hospitals, began to regulate adoptions.

The scandal came to light after two men, Antonio Barroso and Juan Luis Moreno, discovered they had been stolen as babies.

Mr Moreno’s ‘father’ confessed on his deathbed to having bought him as a baby from a priest in Zaragoza in northern Spain. He told his son he had been accompanied on the trip by Mr Barroso’s parents, who bought Antonio at the same time for 200,000 pesetas – a huge sum at the time.

‘That was the price of an apartment back then,’ Mr Barroso said. ‘My parents paid it in instalments over the course of ten years because they did not have enough money.’

DNA tests have proved that the couple who brought up Mr Barroso were not his biological parents and the nun who sold him has admitted to doing so.

When the pair made their case public, it prompted mothers all over the country to come forward with their own experiences of being told their babies had died, but never believing it. One such woman was Manoli Pagador, who has begun searching for her son.

A BBC documentary, This World: Spain’s Stolen Babies, follows her efforts to discover if he is Randy Ryder, a stolen baby who was brought up in Texas and is now aged 40.

In some cases, babies’ graves have been exhumed, revealing bones that belong to adults or animals. Some of the graves contained nothing at all.

The BBC documentary features an interview with an 89-year-old woman named Ines Perez, who admitted that a priest encouraged her to fake a pregnancy so she could be given a baby girl due to be born at Madrid’s San Ramon clinic in 1969. ‘The priest gave me padding to wear on my stomach,’ she says.

It is claimed that the San Ramon clinic was one of the major centres for the practice.

Many mothers who gave birth there claim that when they asked to see their child after being told it had died, they were shown a baby’s corpse that appeared to be freezing cold.

The BBC programme shows photographs taken in the Eighties of a dead baby kept in a freezer, allegedly to show grieving mothers.

Despite hundreds of families of babies who disappeared in Spanish hospitals calling on the government to open an investigation into the scandal, no nationally co-ordinated probe has taken place.

As a result of amnesty laws passed after Franco’s death, crimes that took place during his regime are usually not examined. Instead, regional prosecutors across the country are investigating each story on a case-by-case basis, with 900 currently under review.

But Ms Adler says: ‘There is very little political will to get to the bottom of the situation.’

There are believed to be thousands more cases that will never come to light because the stolen children fear their adoptive parents will be seen as criminals.

Many of the families of stolen babies have taken DNA tests in the hope of eventually being matched with their children. Some matches have already been made but, without a nationally co-ordinated database, reuniting lost relatives will be a very difficult process.

BBC: 300,000 babies stolen by Nuns & Priests, sold for adoption

Police ‘convinced’ Tasered boy, 11, was dangerous

West Vancouver Police Chief Peter Lepine speaks during a press conference on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011.

Officers gained physical control of the boy and found he had a pen, not a knife, in his hand.

Canadian Press | Oct 18, 2011

WEST VANCOUVER, B.C. — Police were convinced an armed, deaf, 11-year-old was violent and a danger to himself and others when they used a Taser on him following a confrontation last April, a police report has said.

Chief Pete Lepine of the West Vancouver Police Department said in a news release Monday the RCMP officers involved that day faced a dire situation that had little chance of a publicly acceptable outcome.

He noted officers could have declined to use a Taser and risk the situation escalating to the point where the boy harmed himself or others, possibly forcing officers to use lethal force.

Or officers could take the path they ultimately chose: Use the Taser on the boy and deal with the public relations disaster later.

“I can assure all of you that everyone involved in the original incident, as well as the investigation, was fully aware and sensitive to the fact that the police were dealing with a child,” Lepine wrote.

“However, ultimately, the boy’s age was secondary to the fact that his apprehension was deemed necessary in order to prevent him from causing further grievous bodily harm or death.

“…If the officers had decided not to take overt action to apprehend the child quickly, they would likely have been subjected to harsh criticism for standing idly by while the child harmed himself or someone else.”

Lepine was heavily criticized last month for releasing his investigators’ independent findings into RCMP actions that day by simply saying the officers were justified in using the device on a child.

He provided no explanation as to why.

On Monday, he said he was releasing a detailed account after consulting with other agencies conducting a review of the incident and also the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which has been highly critical of RCMP Taser use in the past.

Lepine said police were called to the Prince George residential group home at about 5:30 p.m. April 7 after a report that an adult had been stabbed by an 11-year-old boy.

Officers were told the boy was hearing impaired but that his hearing aids had been damaged in a previous incident.

Before police arrived at the scene, the boy had holed himself up in the large, main residence with a bottle of wine and a knife. He also had access to other weapons, Lepine’s report said.

Police were told he was “prone to extremely violent outbursts, during which he exhibited extraordinary strength for his age and size and presented a viable threat to his own safety as well as the safety of adults attempting to manage his outburst,” the report said.

Investigators were also told he would not back down from a physical confrontation and could attack officers.

The police who arrived on the scene positioned themselves to watch the boy and quickly determined that a forced entry of the residence wasn’t reasonable.

Instead, officers attempted to negotiate with him.

Lepine’s report said when the boy appeared at a small second-story window, one of the officers tried to talk to him. The boy opened the window and used a knife to cut out the screen and hung his upper body outside, prompting concern he might fall.

Discussions stopped.

Lepine’s report said officers also saw the boy slashing at his sweatshirt and running a knife blade over the palm of his hand and up his arms.

Eventually, the boy asked for some belongings, the report said.

Police left them on the front porch and the boy came to retrieve them — armed with a knife at all times. He made the sign of a cross, which police had been told was “an indication that things were going to get bad.”

The boy came out of the house again to post a note, which officers couldn’t read.

At this point, Lepine’s report said, investigators concluded that their efforts to de-escalate the situation weren’t working and that the boy was increasingly a danger to himself.

“His willingness to engage in violence and use weapons against adults indicated that physical confrontation with the boy would present an extremely high risk to all involved,” the report said.

The officers decided to use a Taser if the boy came out again.

The boy was asked to come out and clarify the contents of the note. When he did, he was holding a knife and a Taser was deployed once.

Officers gained physical control of the boy and found he had a pen, not a knife, in his hand.

During the independent investigation of the RCMP’s actions, Lepine said West Vancouver investigators sought the opinion of a “recognized subject matter expert” in policing that concluded the officers’ decisions were “sound, appropriate to the situation and in keeping with their training and existing policy.”

“It was clear to me that the officers involved responded to a dynamic and potentially deadly incident in a measured, appropriate and professional manner,” Lepine concluded.

After the boy received the jolt, the boy was taken to hospital for observation and released the next day.

The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP and B.C.’s children’s watchdog have launched their own investigations. The RCMP is also conducting an internal review.

Two RCMP officers were placed on administrative leave after the incident, but they returned to their full duties in late June.