No. 3 Story of the Year: Ex-Shoals youth ministers face child sex abuse charges

No. 3 Story of the Year: Ex-Shoals youth ministers face child sex abuse charges

Three former Shoals area youth ministers made headlines this year when they were accused of abusing children who were members of their churches.

The combined stories of their arrests was voted the third story of the year in a TimesDaily newsroom poll.

 

Charles Kyle Adcock, 31, who now lives in Frisco, Texas, and is a former Woodward Avenue Baptist Church youth minister, is charged with 22 counts of second-degree rape and nine counts of second-degree sodomy.

Adcock was a youth minister at Woodward Avenue Baptist Church from 2010-12. Investigators said Adcock faces sexual abuse charges that date back to his days as a youth minister.

Adcock is accused of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a girl who was 14 at the time. Adcock was the girl’s youth minister.

Texas authorities arrested him in August on a grand jury indictment. He waived extradition and was transferred to Colbert County from Texas on Sept. 10. He is out on bail while his case is pending. A trial date has not been set.

Muscle Shoals police investigator Lt. Sieg Mueller said the charges stem from incidents that took place at the church and at Adcock’s home at the time, as well as at a third location.

“Basically, she came forward and gave information on what happened,” he said.

Adcock left the area in 2013 to move to Texas, according to Mueller.

In March, the former children’s minister at Highland Park Baptist Church was sentenced to 30 years in prison for molesting a boy that was in the congregation.

Jeff Eddie pleaded guilty to sodomy, sexual abuse of a child and possession of child pornography.

Colbert County District Attorney Bryce Graham Jr. said Eddie pleaded guilty to the charges instead of waiting on a formal indictment.

Eddie, 42, 706 Courtland Ave., Muscle Shoals, was taken into custody Feb. 2 and charged Feb. 4, pleaded guilty to 16 counts of second-degree sodomy and three counts of sexual abuse of a child under 12, and received a 20-year sentence on each count with the sentences to run concurrently and a 10-year sentence of possession of child pornography that will run consecutively.

He will serve every day of the 20-year sentence, and it will be more than 23 years before he could possibly be considered for parole.

Authorities said the charges involve one boy who was 11 at the time he said the abuse began.

Authorities said they have talked with several children with similar allegations since the investigation began and more charges were pending but so far no more charges have been filed.

Eddie was children’s pastor at the church in from 1998 until his arrest.

He previously worked at other area churches and the Tennessee Valley Juvenile Detention Center.

A former music and youth minister at a Sheffield church was indicted in September on charges of sodomy and sexual abuse involving a teenage boy, officials said.

Court authorities said Oliver Brazelle, 80, 311 Meadow Hill Road, Sheffield, was indicted by a Lauderdale County grand jury on one count of second-degree sodomy and four counts of second-degree sexual abuse.

Brazelle was arrested Jan. 6 after an investigation by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation.

Authorities said Brazelle is accused of sexually abusing a teenage boy who was a member of his youth group at First United Methodist Church of Sheffield.

According to reports, the abuse occurred in the mid-1990s in Lauderdale County at Brazelle’s Shoals Creek residence on Lauderdale 322 near the Happy Hollow community.

In 2012, Sheffield police launched an investigation into allegations of child abuse after church members contacted police.

Department officials said the investigation was put on hold a month later because the reported victims were unwilling to come forward.

Authorities said ABI agents began an investigation in early December after the agency was contacted by a reported victim who now is an adult.

Brazelle was terminated as music minister at the church July 27, 2012.

Police said Brazelle had not held youth minister duties at the church for about 10 years before his arrest.

Former Catholic brother refused bail

Former Catholic brother refused bail

A former Catholic brother facing hundreds of child sexual abuse charges has been refused bail at a Sydney court.

Bernard McGrath, 66, was extradited from New Zealand to Australia earlier this month.

He did not apply for bail when he appeared at Parramatta Local Court via video link on Monday afternoon, and bail was formally refused.

He is facing a total 252 charges, including 102 counts of indecent assaults on males.

The allegations date back to the 1970s and 1980s.

Detectives had started extradition proceedings against McGrath, who is a New Zealand citizen, in November 2011.

He is set to face Central Local Court via video link on February 12.

https://au.news.yahoo.com/nsw/a/25870993/former-catholic-brother-refused-bail/

Furlong sexual abuse suit questioned as documents reveal conflicting claim

Furlong sexual abuse suit questioned as documents reveal conflicting claim

Documents filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia have raised questions about a man’s claim he was sexually abused by former Vancouver Olympics CEO John Furlong.

Last year, Mr. Furlong was accused of abuse by the man, who has asked that his identity be withheld by the media, and by two women, Beverly Abraham and Grace West, who did not seek anonymity.

The three accusers filed suits against Mr. Furlong, the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corp. of Prince Rupert and Catholic Independent Schools Diocese of Prince George, saying they were abused when Mr. Furlong was their teacher at Immaculata Elementary School in Burns Lake in 1969-70.

But in a 2005 document filed with the Indian residential schools dispute resolution process, the man claims he was at a different school in 1969-70, in a different community, where he was sexually abused by a Catholic brother.

“In 1969 when I was nine years old and attending Lejac Residential, there was a brother [who] … would call me to his office,” states the compensation claim, which graphically describes acts of sexual assault. “This abuse happened ten times over three years.”

Lejac, which closed in 1976, was in Fraser Lake, 70 kilometres east of Burns Lake, where Mr. Furlong worked. Mr. Furlong moved from Immaculata to Prince George College, 160 kilometres east of Fraser Lake, in 1971.

In the residential school compensation claim, the man states he was a student at Lejac from 1966 to about 1975, before moving to Prince George College in 1978.

“The abuse did not end at Lejac,” he states in the form, claiming that he was also sexually abused at Prince George College by a Catholic father.

In his residential school compensation claim, he names the Catholic father and brother – but does not mention Mr. Furlong or Immaculata.

He claims to have suffered physical injuries and says he complained to police in Prince George but: “I was not believed. They told me that a priest would not do such a thing.”

The residential school compensation claim was obtained by Mr. Furlong’s legal team during the disclosure process and was filed in an application that sought a court order to get the accuser’s medical and police records.

“I believe that if I had not been sexually abused at Lejac, my life would be different now,” the man states in the residential school claim. “I am angry inside and I want to hurt others. I believe my anger comes from my abuse.”

Also included in court files are partial transcripts from provincial court hearings last September related to the man’s conviction for forging cheques. Those records show court was told he got a residential schools compensation payment of $129,000.

The man’s claim against Mr. Furlong – and the one brought by Ms. West – remain before B.C. Supreme Court, with a joint trial date set for March 30.

In a response filed last year, the Catholic diocese stated there is no record of Ms. West attending Immaculata in 1969-70.

Mr. Furlong’s legal team is expected to apply on Jan. 29 for Ms. West’s claim to be dismissed.

Ms. West and the man could not be located for comment. The court record shows Mr. Furlong’s lawyer has complained several times about not being able to contact them.

The other accuser, Ms. Abraham, withdrew her claim in a hearing on Dec. 19. In an interview, she said stress in her personal life made it too difficult to proceed.

On Dec. 19, Jason Gratl, the lawyer who has been representing the three accusers, was granted an application to withdraw from the case. He has declined to comment, as has Claire Hunter, Mr. Furlong’s lawyer.

The sexual abuse allegations against Mr. Furlong surfaced last year after he launched a libel suit over a 2012 Georgia Straight article by freelance journalist Laura Robinson, and she counter-sued him for defamation.

In the disputed report, he is accused of physically abusing students in the 1960s and 1970s.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/furlong-sexual-abuse-suit-questioned-as-documents-reveal-conflicting-claim/article22235496/

Pope’s 15 Ailments or My Sixth Grade Assembly

Pope’s 15 Ailments or My Sixth Grade Assembly

Recently the news has been going crazy with glee over the Pope dressing down the Vatican Curia. At least that’s what the headlines called it. It is actually the Roman Curia which is the governing body of the Holy See, which is the sovereign state in which the Vatican resides. But why let facts get in the way.

So this dressing down has more to do with the business end of the Vatican and not all of that other stuff they do. Which is why Francis was elected in the first place. The Vatican Bank was in scandal and crisis, laundering money for pre-repentant sinners and stuff like that. Monsignor Nunzio Scarano was arrested and Peter Sutherland from Goldman Sachs flew to the Vatican with words of wisdom.

As an aside, no one flew to the Holy See with any kind of warning while they were called in front of two UN Committees to investigate global crimes against humanity or the clergy sexual abuse screwing around with kids scandal. But screw around with the money of the one percent and, Holy See look out!

And man did Pope Francis listen. Not to the UN but to the bankers. After all the bank manages between 7 and 8 billion dollars in assets and investments and that needs protecting. So he took the job seriously.

Pope Francis appointed Jean-Baptiste de Franssu of Invesco Ltd. as bank president. And Cardinal Pell as Secretariat of the Economy. They did such a good job that Pell announced that they found millions tucked away. I can’t even tuck away 20 bucks, how they heck do you tuck away millions?

As an aside on Pell, when he was a Cardinal in Australia he lived with one of the worst pedophiles Gerald Ridsdale for a year and accompanied him to court. He later admitted he was unaware this would be insulting to victims. Let alone discourage more from coming forward because they would see the powerful institution they would be up against. Okay, I made up the last sentence.

Clearly he knows how to relate to criminals so the Holy See was the next obvious stop.

But this blog was about the dressing down of the Roman Curia. Not only a message to them but also to the bankers Pope Francis was elected to appease. They need to see he is in control. So how harsh was he with the 15 ailments? Let’s look.

1) “The sickness of considering oneself ‘immortal’, ‘immune’ or ‘indispensable” or don’t feel superior to others.

Oh, well okay.  I suppose people need to be reminded of that.

2) “‘Martha-ism’, or excessive industriousness” Or don’t immerse yourself in work. When it is done spend some time with family is important. …I’m not kidding. Here is the quote, “Rest, once one who has brought his or her mission to a close, is a necessary duty and must be taken seriously: in spending a little time with relatives and respecting the holidays as a time for spiritual and physical replenishment…” Okay, okay I suppose we all need to find balance.

3) “The sickness of mental and spiritual hardening“: that of those who, along the way, lose their inner serenity, vivacity and boldness and conceal themselves behind paper, becoming working machines rather than men of God. …

Wait a minute isn’t that sort of the same as 2?

Am I supposed to believe this is harsh? Because this reminds me more of a sixth grade assembly about working together or something like that.

4) “The ailment of excessive planning and functionalism” this is when the apostle plans everything in detail and believes that, by perfect planning things effectively progress, thus becoming a sort of accountant. …

I’m thinking if you had a good accountant you would have known where those millions were tucked away.

5) “Sickness of poor coordination” or work well together.

Seriously?

6) “Spiritual Alzheimer’s disease” or rather forgetfulness of the history of Salvation, of the personal history with the Lord.

Okay, this one totally makes sense. At least it has something to do with their relationship with God. This is expected. Although I’m not sure why it comes in at 6.

7) “The ailment of rivalry and vainglory“

Don’t be jealous or vain. Okay now he’s just tweaking the seven deadly sins. Maybe this is closer to a 4th grade assembly.

It goes on, no cliques, don’t gossip, don’t be greedy. This is a dressing down to adults who run an 8 billion dollar country, institution?

Here is a link to the actual list.

But if this was a signal to the financial world then if I were on Wall Street I’d be concerned. Until I read number 15.

15) The “disease of worldly profit and exhibitionism: when the apostle transforms his service into power, and his power into goods to obtain worldly profits or more power. This is the disease of those who seek insatiably to multiply their power and are therefore capable of slandering, defaming and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally in order to brag and to show they are more capable than others.”

Ah, yes. No more leaks to the press about our wealth and our methods or else there will be further consequences. Like the three men Vatican just announced that will be brought to trial in the Vatican courts for embezzlement.

With everyone in line, it will soon be back to business as usual.

https://skipshea.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/popes-15-ailments-or-my-sixth-grade-assembly/

Priest who ‘abused’ boys absconding

Priest who ‘abused’ boys absconding

KOCHI: A church priest who took boys for pleasure trips and dining in high-end hotels, as a means to lure them into sexual acts with him, has been absconding since complaints were raised  against him recently.
 
Since December 22, the main priest of a significant church at Kaloore has not turned up for conducting mass in the church. Currently, the assistant priest is carrying out his duties. “The tainted priest mostly hobnobbed with senior students. He used to conduct trips for them in posh cars. He also took them to have lunch and dinner in big hotels. This was how he attracted the boys towards him,” according to reports.
 
The boys who went to Saturday’s ‘Thirubalasakhyam’ and Sunday classes often fell prey to the priest’s homosexuality. In the third week of December, a boy disclosed to his parents the priest’s misdemeanour. Following this, three parents and a few party men jointly manhandled the priest.   
 
Though Elamakkara police visited the church in this, they didn’t receive any written complaint, according to the SI.
The three parents and Catholics Association have apprised higher church officials of the matter.

Pope Francis’ Image Positive in Much of World

Pope Francis’ Image Positive in Much of World

Pope Francis, leader of the world’s nearly 1.1 billion Catholics, enjoys broad support across much of the world, according to a new survey report by the Pew Research Center. A median of 60% across 43 nations have a favorable view of the pontiff. Only 11% see the pope unfavorably, and 28% give no rating.

Francis’ strongest support comes from Europe, where a median of 84% offer a favorable rating. Latin America – the pope’s home region – also gives him high marks, with 72% saying they have a positive opinion.1However, Francis is less well-known in other parts of the world. In Africa, 44% say they like the pope, but 40% offer no rating. Asians are similarly unfamiliar with Francis, with 41% supporting him and 45% expressing no opinion. The Middle East is the most negative toward Francis, with a quarter viewing him unfavorably. However, an equal number (25%) give a positive rating and a plurality (41%) do not rate him.

Americans are particularly fond of Pope Francis, with more than three-quarters (78%) giving him positive marks.

These are among the key findings from two surveys by the Pew Research Center, one conducted from October 30, 2013 to March 4, 2014, among 14,564 respondents in nine Latin American countries, and another from March 17 to June 5, 2014, among 36,430 respondents in 34 countries.

Catholics Big Fans of Pope Francis

Non-Catholics Less Favorable toward PopeIn the 21 countries surveyed with sizable Catholic populations, Catholics overwhelmingly say they view Pope Francis favorably. And, in all of these countries, Catholics express more support for the pope than non-Catholics.

It is worth noting that these gaps in favorability do not necessarily mean that non-Catholics view Francis unfavorably. In fact, in most countries with sizable differences, non-Catholics are more likely to have no set opinion of the pope than a negative one.

The biggest differences among favorable views of Francis appear in Latin American countries. While the pope receives extremely positive marks from Catholics throughout the region, wide gaps exist between Catholics and non-Catholics in Mexico (-63 percentage points), Nicaragua (-58), El Salvador (-56), Venezuela (-52), Peru (-47), Colombia (-46) and Brazil (-45). However, non-Catholics in these countries generally give no rating for Pope Francis, rather than say they do not like him.

In the U.S. and Europe, the favorability gap is less substantial. Spain (-25), the U.S. (-19), Poland (-17), Germany (-17) and France (-12) show smaller differences in support for the pope across the denominational divide. Both Catholics and non-Catholics in all of these countries overwhelmingly voice favorable attitudes towards Francis.

A Popular Pope

Majorities or pluralities of the general public in 28 of the 43 countries surveyed say they have a positive view of Pope Francis. Europe and Latin America give the pope particularly high ratings – majorities in almost every country in these two regions view the pope favorably.

In his home country of Argentina, 91% have a favorable opinion of Francis, including 65% with a very favorable view. Majorities in every other Latin American country also see the pope in a positive light, including seven-in-ten or more in Colombia (83%), Mexico (74%), Brazil (74%) and Peru (72%).

Eight-in-ten or more also express support for the pope in Poland (92%), Italy (91%), France (88%), Spain (84%) and Germany (82%). A smaller portion, yet still a majority, in the United Kingdom (65%) view Francis favorably. Roughly half the Greeks (49%) agree, though nearly a quarter (24%) have an unfavorable view and about three-in-ten (28%) do not rate him.

Positive Ratings for Pope FrancisHis favorability is lower in other regions, though many say they cannot rate him, have never heard of him or do not have an opinion. In Asia, broad majorities in the Philippines (88%) and South Korea (86%) express positive views of Francis. At least four-in-ten give favorable views in Thailand (49%), Bangladesh (47%), Vietnam (41%) and Japan (40%). But majorities in Indonesia (57%), India (61%), Malaysia (76%) and Pakistan (85%) do not have an opinion of the pope at all.

A similar pattern arises in Africa. Majorities in Uganda (70%), Tanzania (70%) and Kenya (56%) – countries with the highest percentages of Catholics in the African nations surveyed – give the pope a favorable rating. However, four-in-ten or more in Ghana (40%), Nigeria (46%), South Africa (52%) and Senegal (55%), where more people tend to be Protestant or Muslim, offer no opinion.

Many in the Middle East do not offer a rating of the pope. But of those who have an opinion, there are interesting differences between countries. Francis is most popular in Lebanon (62% favorable), where more than a quarter of the population is Catholic. And half in Israel give the pope favorable marks. (Pope Francis visited Israel and the Palestinian territories about two weeks after the survey was conducted.) However, the pope receives his most negative ratings in Egypt (35% unfavorable), Jordan (34%) and Turkey (32%). Like many other countries with small Catholic populations, the pope is relatively unknown in Tunisia (71% no rating) and the Palestinian territories (63%).

http://www.pewglobal.org/2014/12/11/pope-francis-image-positive-in-much-of-world/

Child abuse: Media coverage of high-profile cases has given more children courage to seek help

Child abuse: Media coverage of high-profile cases has given more children courage to seek help

Over the last few years the news agenda has been flooded with reports of large-scale sexual abuse including the horrendous actions of Jimmy Savile and accounts from victims giving evidence to the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry here.

While the figure of 718 ongoing sex abuse investigations by the PSNI is a stark statistic which highlights, to a degree, the scale of this heinous crime, the figures need to be seen in context.

There is reason to believe that media coverage of high-profile cases may be encouraging victims to come forward in the confidence that they will be believed.

Changes to the child protection reporting systems in Northern Ireland have also made it easier for victims to disclose abuse.

We also know that sexual offences involving children and young people reported to the PSNI over the last decade have shown an increase from 875 in 2002/03 to 1,182 in 2012/13.

This should not necessarily be taken to mean that there has been an increase in child abuse.

More and more children and young people are demonstrating the courage and confidence to come forward and report the abuse they have suffered.

It is important also to look into the nature of these reported cases and their relationship with the offender.

The majority of offenders will be known to the victims, many of them will be peers, with the abuse by strangers making up 30% of reports to the police.

We have also recently seen coverage of child sexual exploitation – this is an emerging issue for our young people, as are the risks in the online world.

All of these factors suggest that we must redouble our efforts to help educate children and young people to keep them safe, empower them to seek help and ensure that all cases are investigated thoroughly and those who prey on and abuse vulnerable children and young people must be prosecuted.

An increase in reporting abuse should be welcomed.

We also need to ensure that young people and their parents can access sources of help when they need it. Statistics tell only one part of the story.

But they also remind us of what we still have to do in this important journey to protect our children and young people from harm.

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/child-abuse-media-coverage-of-highprofile-cases-has-given-more-children-courage-to-seek-help-30869078.html

Maryland’s first female Episcopal bishop allegedly is driver behind fatal hit-and-run

Maryland’s first female Episcopal bishop allegedly is driver behind fatal hit-and-run

The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland said a newly ordained bishop, Heather Elizabeth Cook, was the driver allegedly responsible for a hit-and-run that killed a bicyclist Sunday afternoon in Baltimore.

The Right Reverend Eugene Taylor Sutton identified Cook, who was ordained in September, in an email, the Baltimore Brew reports.

“I am distressed to announce that Bishop Heather E. Cook was involved in a traffic accident Saturday afternoon that resulted in the death of bicyclist Thomas Palermo, 41,” Sutton wrote.

Palermo was still alive when police arrived at the scene. He was taken to Sinai Hospital where he died of his injuries, according to cops.

Cook allegedly fled the scene but came back after 20 minutes. She is being questioned by detectives.WBALTVCook allegedly fled the scene but came back after 20 minutes. She is being questioned by detectives.

He was a bicycle builder and a father.

Cook, 58, fled the scene initially. She returned 20 minutes later after she was chased by other cyclists, according to news reports.

“Several news agencies have reported this as a ‘hit-and-run.’ Bishop Cook did leave the scene initially, but returned after 20 minutes to take responsibility for her actions,” Sutton wrote.

Bicyclist Thomas Palermo, 41, died after he was transfered to Sinai Hospital.WBALTVBicyclist Thomas Palermo, 41, died after he was transfered to Sinai Hospital.

Palermo’s bicycle was destroyed and Cook’s Subaru’s front window shield was heavily damaged.

Cook has been placed on administrative leave. The accident could result in criminal charges.

Cook was charged with a DUI and with possession of marijuana in 2010, according to the Caroline County Sheriff’s Department, reports the Baltimore Sun

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/maryland-episcopal-bishop-guilty-fatal-hit-and-run-article-1.2059460

Italian writer stirs a hornet’s nest with doubts about Pope Francis

Italian writer stirs a hornet’s nest with doubts about Pope Francis

ROME — For those in and around the Vatican, the most talked-about piece of rhetoric during the holiday season has been Pope Francis’ Dec. 22 blast at the Roman Curia. A close second, however, has been Vittorio Messori’s own Dec. 24 fusillade at the pope, published in the Italian paper of record, Corriere della Sera.

Under the headline, “Doubts about the turning point of Pope Francis,” Messori wrote that “my evaluation of this papacy oscillates continually between adhesion and perplexity,” and also asserted that Francis’ unpredictability has caused even “some of the cardinals who were among his electors to have second thoughts.”

Messori did not name any repentant cardinals, but his claim has been taken seriously because he is Italy’s most famous living Catholic writer, the man whose 1984 interview book with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, The Ratzinger Report, made the future pope a star.

 

In other words, he’s the kind of person in a position to know what at least some segment of the College of Cardinals is thinking.

What has truly rankled pro-Francis commentators, however, isn’t the idea that some cardinals have their noses out of joint, which for them is part of the pope’s appeal. Instead, it’s Messori’s claim that the “average Catholic” — which he defined as believers “not in the habit of thinking much on their own about faith and morals, exhorted to simply ‘follow the pope’ — finds his “tranquility disturbed” by the pontiff’s mixed signals.

According to Messori, those average Catholics today are confused about which Pope Francis to follow. He offers three instances of what he sees as contradictions:

  • The Francis of the morning homilies at the Santa Marta, full of classical pastoral wisdom and even repeated warnings about not falling into the devil’s snares, versus the Francis who called up Marco Pannella to wish him well in his work. (Pannella is the legendary leader of Italy’s Radical Party, a passionate advocate of legalized abortion and divorce, euthanasia, gay rights, and almost every other liberal cause.)
  • The Francis of his Curia speech, who defined the Catholic Church as the mystical body of Christ, versus the Francis of an interview with Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari, in which the pope supposedly said “God is not Catholic” — thereby, according to Messori, suggesting that the Church is no more than an “optional accessory” to the Holy Trinity. (The qualifier “supposedly” is obligatory because Scalfari later conceded he didn’t tape the exchange or take notes, so he was working from memory.)
  • The Francis who knows from direct experience the massive losses Catholicism has sustained in Latin America to Pentecostals and Evangelicals, versus the Francis who took a day trip to wish good luck to a friend who, according to Messori, “is a pastor of precisely one of the communities which is emptying out the Catholic Church with the very proselytism [Francis] has so harshly condemned among his own flock.” (In July, Francis traveled to Caserta in Italy to visit a Pentecostal community led by Giovanni Traettino, a friend from his time in Buenos Aires.)

http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2014/12/30/italian-writer-stirs-hornets-nest-with-doubts-about-pope-francis/

Belgian bishop advocates church recognition of gay relationships

Belgian bishop advocates church recognition of gay relationships

LEUVEN, BELGIUM — Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp, Belgium, has called for ecclesiastical recognition of gay relationships, according to an interview published in De Morgen, a Belgian newspaper, on Dec. 27.

The official teaching that the Catholic church can recognize only male-female committed relationships has to change, Bonny said.

 “There should be recognition of a diversity of forms,” he said. “We have to look inside the church for a formal recognition of the kind of interpersonal relationship that is also present in many gay couples. Just as there are a variety of legal frameworks for partners in civil society, one must arrive at a diversity of forms in the church. … The intrinsic values are more important to me than the institutional question. The Christian ethic is based on lasting relationships where exclusivity, loyalty, and care are central to each other.”

Bonny made headlines in September when he issued a letter to the Vatican in preparation for the Synod on the family in October. At that time, Bonny stressed that the church urgently needs to connect with contemporary society, showing more respect for homosexuality, divorced people and modern kinds of relationships.

“In his or her life,” he said, “everyone has to deal with relationships, friendship, family, and children’s education. We should not deny that dealing with these issues within the church has brought injuries and traumas. Too many people were excluded for a long time.”

Bonny said the open-minded spirit and pastoral focus of Pope Francis have given him the courage to speak out about issues that are important and pressing for today’s believers.

Will the church at some point give its blessing for gay and lesbian couples?

“Personally, I find that in the church more space must be given to acknowledge the actual quality of gay and lesbian couples; and such a form of shared-life should meet the same criteria as found in an ecclesiastical marriage,” Bonny said. “… And we have to acknowledge that such criteria can be found in a diversity of relationships and one needs to search for various models to give form to those relationships.”

Bonny stressed that the man-woman relationship has a special place in the Christian tradition.

“This relationship will continue to retain its own particular sacramental character and liturgical form,” Bonny said. “But this particularity does not have to be exclusive nor does it have to close the door on a diversity of relationships whose inner qualities the church can acknowledge.”

“Indeed, we need to seek a formal recognition of the kind of relationship that exists between many gay and lesbian couples,” he said. “Does that recognition have to be a sacramental marriage? Perhaps the church could much better reflect on a diversity of forms of relationships. One has the same kind of discussion about civil marriages. In Belgium the same model (for civil marriages) exists for man-woman relations as well as for same-sex relations.”

Later in his interview, Bonny stressed openness, the need for further reflection and the danger of getting wrapped up in a complex ideological discussion. He stressed as well that he is a strong advocate for recognizing a diversity of relationships that arise from serious reflection on practical pastoral realities.

Professor Rik Torfs, canon law expert and rector of the Catholic University of Leuven, warned that one should not minimize Bonny’s approach.

“Do not underestimate the significance of this,” he said. “Bonny advocates a change from principles long held as unshakable, something no bishop could have done under the dogmatic pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.”

Bonny has a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. In 1997, Cardinal Godfried Danneels and the Belgian bishops appointed him rector of the Belgian College in Rome; and in 2008 he was appointed the Bishop of Antwerp. Most observers see him becoming the next archbishop (and cardinal) of the Malines-Brussels archdiocese, when the incumbent, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, offers the pope his letter of retirement, at age 75, in May.

[John A. Dick is a historical theologian. He is retired from the Catholic University of Leuven and currently is a visiting professor of religion and values in American society at the University of Ghent.]

http://ncronline.org/news/faith-parish/belgian-bishop-advocates-church-recognition-gay-relationships