Recent Resources for Feminists
India: Patriarchal denial of property rights retains women farmers as invisible hands of agriculture Print E-mail

 Monday October 15, 2018

Helping the invisible hands of agriculture

Seema Bathla and Ravi Kiran

With the ‘feminisation of agriculture’ picking up pace, the challenges women farmers face can no longer be ignored

October 15 is observed, respectively, as International Day of Rural Women by the United Nations, and National Women’s Farmer’s Day (Rashtriya Mahila Kisan Diwas) in India. In 2016, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare decided to take the lead in celebrating the event, duly recognising the multidimensional role of women at every stage in agriculture ­ from sowing to planting, drainage, irrigation, fertilizer, plant protection, harvesting, weeding, and storage.

This year, the Ministry has proposed deliberations to discuss the challenges that women farmers face in crop cultivation, animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries. The aim is to work towards an action plan using better access to credit, skill development and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Data and reality
Yet, paying lip service to them is not going to alleviate their drudgery and hardships in the fields. According to Oxfam India, women are responsible for about 60-80% of food and 90% of dairy production, respectively. The work by women farmers, in crop cultivation, livestock management or at home, often goes unnoticed. Attempts by the government to impart them training in poultry, apiculture and rural handicrafts is trivial given their large numbers. In order to sustain women’s interest in farming and also their uplift, there must be a vision backed by an appropriate policy and doable action plans.

The Agriculture Census (2010-11) shows that out of an estimated 118.7 million cultivators, 30.3% were females. Similarly, out of an estimated 144.3 million agricultural labourers, 42.6% were females. In terms of ownership of operational holdings, the latest Agriculture Census (2015-16) is startling. Out of a total 146 million operational holdings, the percentage share of female operational holders is 13.87% (20.25 million), a nearly one percentage increase over five years. While the “feminisation of agriculture” is taking place at a fast pace, the government has yet to gear up to address the challenges that women farmers and labourers face.

Issue of land ownership

The biggest challenge is the powerlessness of women in terms of claiming ownership of the land they have been cultivating. In Census 2015, almost 86% of women farmers are devoid of this property right in land perhaps on account of the patriarchal set up in our society. Notably, a lack of ownership of land does not allow women farmers to approach banks for institutional loans as banks usually consider land as collateral.

Research worldwide shows that women with access to secure land, formal credit and access to market have greater propensity in making investments in improving harvest, increasing productivity, and improving household food security and nutrition. Provision of credit without collateral under the micro-finance initiative of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development should be encouraged. Better access to credit, technology, and provision of entrepreneurship abilities will further boost women’s confidence and help them gain recognition as farmers. As of now, women farmers have hardly any representation in society and are nowhere discernible in farmers’ organisations or in occasional protests. They are the invisible workers without which the agricultural economy is hard to grow.

Second, land holdings have doubled over the years with the result that the average size of farms has shrunk. Therefore, a majority of farmers fall under the small and marginal category, having less than 2 ha of land ­ a category that, undisputedly, includes women farmers. A declining size of land holdings may act as a deterrent due to lower net returns earned and technology adoption. The possibility of collective farming can be encouraged to make women self-reliant. Training and skills imparted to women as has been done by some self-help groups and cooperative-based dairy activities (Saras in Rajasthan and Amul in Gujarat). These can be explored further through farmer producer organisations. Moreover, government flagship schemes such as the National Food Security Mission, Sub-mission on Seed and Planting Material and the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana must include women-centric strategies and dedicated expenditure.

Gender-friendly machinery
Third, female cultivators and labourers generally perform labour-intensive tasks (hoeing, grass cutting, weeding, picking, cotton stick collection, looking after livestock). In addition to working on the farm, they have household and familial responsibilities. Despite more work (paid and unpaid) for longer hours when compared to male farmers, women farmers can neither make any claim on output nor ask for a higher wage rate. An increased work burden with lower compensation is a key factor responsible for their marginalisation. It is important to have gender-friendly tools and machinery for various farm operations. Most farm machinery is difficult for women to operate. Manufacturers should be incentivised to come up with better solutions. Farm machinery banks and custom hiring centres promoted by many State governments can be roped in to provide subsidised rental services to women farmers.

Last, when compared to men, women generally have less access to resources and modern inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides) to make farming more productive. The Food and Agriculture Organisation says that equalising access to productive resources for female and male farmers could increase agricultural output in developing countries by as much as 2.5% to 4%. Krishi Vigyan Kendras in every district can be assigned an additional task to educate and train women farmers about innovative technology along with extension services.

As more women are getting into farming, the foremost task for their sustenance is to assign property rights in land. Once women farmers are listed as primary earners and owners of land assets, acceptance will ensue and their activities will expand to acquiring loans, deciding the crops to be grown using appropriate technology and machines, and disposing of produce to village traders or in wholesale markets, thus elevating their place as real and visible farmers.

Seema Bathla and Ravi Kiran are Professor and research scholar, respectively, at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

India: Catholic Church, a citadel of patriarchy, challenged by nuns seeking women's dignity Print E-mail
  October 7 2018

Nun so powerful

By Mini Muringatheri

Sister act: Sr. Lucy Kalappura in Kozhikode; and (top) nuns in Thiruvananthapuram.(S.Ramesh Kurup & S.Gopakumar)

Can the Bishop Mulakkal case force the powerful and patriarchal Catholic church to change its ways?

Nestled between coconut, yam and tapioca groves on one side and a rubber estate on the other, the convent at Karakkamala, in the high ranges of Wayanad, looks straight out of a picture postcard. Emerging from the spartan building, Sr. Lucy Kalappura instantly puts you at ease with her genial mien and smile. But behind the affable exterior is a woman of iron will, which becomes evident the moment she begins to speak about the church and about society.

The seventh of 11 children of a well-to-do farmer family in Karikkottakkari, Sr. Lucy is bold, articulate and does not mince her words; qualities that have put her in direct conflict with the authorities of her church. She became a nun under the Franciscan Clarist Congregation in 1985 and has since waged a battle against congregation and church on various points of principle. “I do what I strongly believe is right,” she says.

Historic protest
Sr. Lucy hit the headlines when she stood in solidarity with the protest held by the Missionaries of Jesus nuns in Kochi, demanding the arrest of Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who was accused of raping a nun from his order. The historic protest has challenged not just the authority of the Catholic church, but also its deep-rooted patriarchal values. At no point in the history of the Syro-Malabar Catholic faith in the country, which claims the apostolic legacy of St. Thomas, have nuns taken to the streets seeking justice, never mind in as disturbing a case as that of an alleged rape committed by a bishop. The office-bearers of the church, the nuns and priests are brought up on the canon of ‘Infallibility of the Church’ -­ the Church is never wrong.

“I consider my presence in the agitation very important. No one from the 50,000-strong nun community came to support them. They knocked on every door of the church. The powerful patriarchy used every power to silence them. Even their congregation openly stood with Bishop Mulakkal,” says Sr. Lucy.

Sr. Lucy works as a high school teacher at Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School in Dwaraka, Wayanad. When she came home to her convent in Karakkamala, her Mother Superior said she could not be part of the religious services at St. Mary’s Church, to which the convent is attached. “She said there had been an oral direction from the vicar, Fr. Stephan Kottakkal, to bar me from religious service,” says Sr. Lucy. But the ban was lifted when the parishioners, most of them poor settler farmers for whom Sr. Lucy is like a family member, protested. But on social media, Sr. Lucy continues to be trolled. “Each attack only strengthens me,” she says.

Pray and serve
Both Catholic nuns and priests take three vows: poverty, chastity and obedience. In practice, however, these vows are enforced far more strictly on nuns than on priests. Gender discrimination in the Catholic church is extraordinary, and begins right from the training stage. Priests are trained to be administrators, orators and managers, and given full charge of parishes; while nuns are taught to be obedient and service-oriented: ‘pray and serve’ is their motto.

Priests become doctors, lawyers, bishops and professors, while 90% of nuns become either nurses or teachers or serve in organisations under the Church. In the Catholic system, nuns are the “unpaid labourers,” says George Pulikuthiyil, a former Catholic priest, lawyer and founder of the Thrissur-based Jananeethi, an organisation that provides free legal support to the poor.

Most nuns work in hospitals or schools run by the Church, with no formal appointment, salary, pension, retirement age or working hours. “Even the little they earn ­ roughly Rs. 2,000 a month ­ must be given to the superiors. They then have to ask for money even for minor needs,” says Pulikuthiyil.

In a smaller diocese like Missionaries of Jesus, which was founded by the accused Bishop Mulakkal, nuns get Rs. 500 a month. Only those who work in government schools or hospitals can hope to make more money, even though they too have to give their salaries to their superiors. “Nuns are entirely dependent on the church. It’s this that leads to harassment,” says Pulikuthiyil.

In contrast, priests not only get allowances, they are allowed to manage establishments that generate revenue. Priests wear robes during mass but can wear street clothes at other times; nuns must wear their habit at all times. Some convents restrict nuns from television and newspapers. None of this applies to priests.

Sr. Lucy tells the amusing tale of a nun who, persuaded by her family to watch a film, ran into a priest at the theatre. When they returned, the priest complained about the nun, who was punished with two days of rigorous prayer and penance. Nothing happened to the priest.

Sr. Mary Rosarita, a former principal of St. Joseph’s Anglo Indian Girls Higher Secondary School, Kozhikode, strongly refutes these charges. “In the 150-year-old history of our congregation, I have never heard complaints of exploitation,” she says. As for financial freedom, Sr. Rosarita says, “We have taken the vow of poverty. I have never felt the need to accumulate personal assets.”

Vows violated?
According to Pulikuthiyil, the three vows are redundant. “Compulsory celibacy has been violated rampantly,” he says. Sexual violence in the Church goes largely unreported “because the patriarchal hegemony is very strong and nuns fear ostracism. They have been trained to be silent and obedient,” he says.

The problem might lie in how nuns and priests are ordained. Earlier, taking orders was strictly voluntary; nobody could be asked to do it. But for some three decades now, the Church has faced a severe shortage of nuns and priests. So, at the awareness classes for Class X and XII students that the Church conducts during vacations, students are strongly motivated to join the church. Any student showing the slightest interest is then chased by practically every congregation. This means that boys and girls aged 16 to 20 enter the order.

“The government must make 21 years the minimum age for ordainment of nuns and priests, so that they can make an informed decision,” says Sr. Lucy. Equally, they must be allowed to give up their robes without any difficulty. Today, it is practically impossible for nuns to leave the order, although it is easier for priests to do so.

Maria, an advocate and women’s rights activist from Wayanad, says nuns are afraid to leave the order despite adversities. “Except for a few in government jobs, nuns don’t have financial security. They don’t have property rights at home. Social stigma against a woman who leaves a convent is high. It forces them to stay.”

A third change should be in the training, suggests Pulikuthiyil. “It needs a total revamp. Outdated concepts like “the world, the flesh and the devil” ­ traditionally described as enemies of the soul and sources of temptation ­ should be changed. The religious training should empower nuns and priests to survive in the contemporary world.”

The Bishop Mulakkal case has opened up a can of worms, but it could be the beginning of change. It has been a long haul to bring charges against a bishop in Kerala, where 18% of the population is Christian, where the Church holds considerable socio-political and economic power, and where the Catholic church is a citadel of patriarchy. But the nuns at the forefront of the agitation believe that this case could initiate reform in the role and dignity of women in the Church as well as in society.

  1. Priests are trained to be administrators, orators and managers; while nuns are taught to be obedient and service-oriented
  2. The government must make 21 years the minimum age for ordainment of nuns and priests, says Sr. Lucy


Egypt: Declining number undergoing circumcision, but FGM under medical supervision on the rise Print E-mail

 Issue 1411, (27 September - 3 October 2018)

Medicalising FGM

Despite a decline in the number of Egyptian females undergoing circumcision, those doing it under the supervision of a doctor or nurse is on the rise

By Nada Zaki

Medicalising FGM

“I remember every single detail as if it were yesterday. The phantom pain that shivered down my spine, the floor whose colour you could not see because of the blood stains, and my tied hands and opened legs. They said it is a must; every girl has to be circumcised. It’s the only way to save her virtue.” Sixty-year-old Hanaa Mansour was relating her Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) experience, which she underwent a little less than 50 years ago.

Mansour is like millions of other Egyptian women who were forced to undergo FGM at a young age. Nonetheless, statistics reveal that her fate will not be shared by thousands of other young girls. Recently released figures indicate that the number of girls below 17 who are still being circumcised is currently less than ever before in Egypt. But the majority of those who did it ­ unlike their ancestors ­ have undergone the surgery at the hands of a doctor or nurse.

According to the latest research conducted by the Population Council, circumcised girls aged 13-17 dropped to 72 per cent in 2018.

The research, released two weeks ago, revealed the number of FGM operations in Egypt had sharply decreased, as 92 per cent of married women aged 15-49 have been circumcised, while 85 per cent of women aged 20-25 have undergone FGM.

However, the research raises a red flag. There is a significant increase in the number of circumcision surgeries by doctors on young girls. It revealed that the percentage of girls being circumcised by healthcare providers has reached 65 per cent among the 13-17 age group, compared to 31 per cent among married women between 15-49 years old.

The results are from two studies: the Population Council in cooperation with Egypt’s Ministry of Health; and the National Population Council. The first study focused on how to eliminate FGM while the other researched implementing more effective social marketing campaigns to end FGM in Egypt.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), FGM is defined as “any operation involving partial or total removal of female genitalia”.

At 12, Mansour was one of the oldest girls in her small rural village who had not undergone FGM. “They usually start circumcising from six to eight years old,” she said.

She explained that it was well known in her village that the older a girl gets the higher the surgery risks, so most families decide to have their daughters undergo FGM at that age.

Like all of the girls in her village, Mansour was circumcised by the town’s only barber.

“They told me to lie down so that the weird smelling man could take a look at my vagina, so I did. A few minutes later, both my hands and legs were tied. I felt nothing but the pain,” Mansour said, shedding tears.

From where Mansour comes, a girl has to be circumcised in order to get married, “otherwise, she gets the reputation of being ill-mannered.” If left uncircumcised, “she will probably not be able to control her desires and will have sex with any man.” It’s not certain whether this is what Mansour sincerely believes or whether this is what she was told to believe.

Dr Amr Hassan, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Cairo University, explained that in underprivileged areas, people undergo FGM under the banner of religion, which he added, is interpreted wrongly most of the time.

“It is a wrong mainstream thought that Islam orders circumcising women. Despite Al-Azhar’s decision that it has nothing to do with Islam, less educated preachers in underprivileged areas call for it as a means to protect the society from adultery,” Dr Hassan said.

Dr Hassan, founder of Enty Al-Aham (You Are More Important), one of the leading campaigns in fighting FGM, and one of the doctors who debated criminalising the law on FGM in parliament in 2016, believes the decreasing numbers indicate the progress both the government and NGOs are playing in raising people’s awareness regarding the severe harms of FGM.

“The percentage of young girls below 15 that undergoes FGM is the real indicator of the campaign’s efficiency. From what we see, these numbers are continually dropping which clearly states we are on the right track.”

The results of the Health Demographic Survey indicate that the proportion of married women aged 15-49 who have been exposed to FGM dropped from 80 per cent in 2005, to 72 per cent in 2008, to 35 per cent in 2014.

Dr Hassan added that because Egypt started combating FGM as far back as 20 years ago, a noticeable decrease in numbers is being realised every year.

From his experience, direct communication with families has shown to be the most effective method in raising awareness, which Nahla Abdel-Tawab, the Population Council’s country director in Egypt, agrees with.

Abdel-Tawab stated in a press release that research had also shown that “the use of more personal contact has proven to be more effective in changing behaviour to overcome the fear of societal consequences that can result from abandoning circumcision.”

Having a daughter was Mansour’s ultimate nightmare, which eventually came true.

“I knew I did not want her to go through what I did but at the same time I knew I couldn’t protect her from the surrounding mentalities,” she said.

Mansour was forced by her mother-in-law, the child’s grandmother, to circumcise her daughter. Despite her attempts to postpone the surgery for years, she ended up forcibly taking her daughter to a nurse to do the job.

“I thought having a doctor or anyone experienced in medicine would be safer and maybe reduce some of the pain. There was a veteran nurse in our neighbourhood who accepted to do the surgery. But none of the pain, emotional breakdown or psychological effect was erased,” she added.

Heading to a healthcare provider instead of the usual barber is another solution people started turning to, believing it would reduce the harm caused by FGM. The research described it as “medicalising FGM”.

The research showed that medicalising FGM is currently the most widely spread action and, as such, is in need of standing up against, as a way of fighting circumcision.

Asserting that it is one of the most difficult challenges facing them, Abdel-Tawab explained that the information doctors and nurses have about sexual health “is very limited. They are not sufficiently aware of the psychological and health damages caused by circumcision.”

“Although most doctors are aware of the illegality of circumcision, some of them carry out the surgery under other names or suggest other doctors,” she added.

Hassan explained that many underprivileged people head to healthcare units based on the recommendation of local preachers. “They have blind trust in those representing religion, so if somebody says a doctor is experienced enough to circumcise their daughter without causing them any harm, they don’t think twice.”

“It costs between LE100 to LE200 to circumcise a girl in our hometown, depending on her age, health and the size of the to-be-cut part,” Mansour said.

Egyptian law did not criminalise FGM until 2008 after a young girl, Bodour Shaker, died while being circumcised in surgery. Her video went viral on social media. However, the law orders an accused doctor to pay only a maximum LE5,000 fine in order not to be imprisoned or else the doctor faces a minimum six months to two years in jail.

It wasn’t until 2016 when the law considered FGM a felony and increased prison sentences to 15 years.

When Mansour’s daughter married, she already had her mind set on not forcing her daughter into FGM, even if that meant leaving their hometown and moving to Cairo where the chances of her daughter to be socially accepted and get married while uncircumcised is higher.

Said Mansour: “She swore that she will never make her daughter, my grandchild, go through such an experience no matter what she has to do.”

Afghanistan: New Report shows USAID's program "Promote" widely failing the country's women Print E-mail
 Pakistan ~ Wednesday September 19 2018

Also at:  Friday, September 21, 2018

Failing Afghan women – again

By Rafia Zakaria
THE war in Afghanistan, the world was smugly told, was to save Afghan women. Laura Bush announced it during a radio address, and Hillary Clinton repeated it ad nauseam. Even as late as 2012, when the war was in its second decade, these mantras were ubiquitous, repeated by nodding interpreters at the Nato summit in Chicago as awards and medals were handed out to those believed to be engaged in making the saving of Afghan women possible.

Every now and then, a few Afghan women were also invited to speak a few words, with inordinate care being taken to ensure that they were the right sort of Afghan women ­ the ones who would eagerly second the proposition that they were indeed being saved, their words ‘proof’ of the fact that war was not such a terrible thing after all.

In more recent times, the myth of Afghan women’s progress has been roundly debunked. Sharp increases have been reported in incidents of domestic violence and the indicators that show progress in any realm of gender parity signify no visible betterment in their conditions since before the war.

While the State Department and USAID budgets have been cut drastically, a picture showing Afghan women walking on the streets of Kabul in miniskirts in the 1960s has managed to keep the money flowing by convincing President Donald Trump that such a prospect, the return of the Afghan women to a liberated miniskirt-wearing past, is indeed possible ­ even likely.

The targets described in the task orders and grant reports are not always the real goals.

A new report issued by the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction threatens to throw a wrench into the scam. Released last week, the report is an audit of sorts of the Promote programme launched by USAID three years ago. The aims of Promote were to improve the status of 75,000 Afghan women at all levels of society. The programme is believed to be USAID’s biggest gender-related programme in the world. However, three years after its initiation, USAID has failed to show any demonstrable progress in the status of the women targeted.

To make themselves look better (rather than improve the programme or zero in on its flaws) USAID set about changing the metrics and resetting the performance indicators. For instance, one component of the programme that was supposed to provide employment for 2,100 women was (even after the change in target indicators) found to have provided better employment for just 58 women.

The failures could be traced to the usual sorts of things. In one instance, the failure to finalise a memorandum of understanding between the Afghanistan Ministry of Women’s Affairs and USAID delayed the implementation of one programme.

In another case, USAID’s failure to approve personnel without inordinate delays led to a high attrition rate amongst programme staff which in turn contributed to the inability of the programme to meet its goals.

In yet another case, the date of a conference was moved up by four weeks which required a redirection of staffers and hence neglect of the programme and its needs. In sum, there were lots of problems within the bureaucracy that ran these programmes and the people who were charged with implementing their goals.

There is, of course, another reason. As many other audits and analyses of aid programmes have shown, the goals and aims stated in the task orders and grant reports are not always the real goal. In this particular case, actually helping Afghan women in a way that would produce long-term improvements in their condition was only tangential to the larger project of promoting an image of the United States as a benevolent hegemon. Whether Afghan women’s lives were ever actually improved, whether they were able to obtain and utilise job training and leadership skills, likely concerned very few people.

In monetary terms, expenditures were likely directed towards favoured contractors who then took their cut and sent the work to their favoured sub-contractors and on and on. The purpose of it all, to oil the wheels of the aid economy such that a whole range of people, from USAID bureaucrats to the many expatriate workers involved in the aid industry to local Afghan participants in the aid economy, all got a bit of the proceeds. If any Afghan woman happened to be married to an interpreter or to a security guard, she would likely have a better chance of getting some of the money than via one of the programmes under Promote.

While the failings of USAID are duly addressed in the report, there are others that deserve attention too. Uplifting the condition of women, particularly via job training, requires the transformation of cultural and social norms such that women, with their newly acquired skills, can actually put them to use by participating in the workforce.

In this sense, the failure of Promote cannot simply be attributed to the gross failings of USAID. Also to blame is the intransigence of Afghan society that has fallen prey to the idea that women’s empowerment has to be rejected because it was the slogan of choice for a war that has ravaged the country and left much of the population maimed and destitute. In allotting so much money to Afghan women’s empowerment, Nato and the United States have only succeeded in popularising the premise that the war really was for something good, the empowerment and improvement of the conditions of Afghan women.

They also, and perhaps inadvertently, succeeded in tainting the very concept of empowerment, making it the derided emblem of Western military intervention. In the follow-up to this report, while USAID may make amendments to Promote, it is unlikely that it will succeed in making empowerment for Afghan women a reality.
The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

Vatican: Pope Francis joins his Church's criminals in failing victims of priestly sexual abuse Print E-mail

 Sunday August 26, 2018, page 37

No Pope Francis we don't all share the blame: Pennsylvania report reopens painful wounds for Australians


Last week in the US we heard the Pennsylvanian Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, refer to the Catholic priesthood's "secret archive", one of the revelations that caused a grand jury [Scroll down for link to Grand Jury Report]  to find that the church had covered up the abuse of more than 1000 children by about 300 priests over 70 years.

: Victims of clergy sexual abuse and their family members react as Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks during a news conference (AP)

Shapiro stated that beside each bishop's desk in each diocese was a locked filing cabinet full of complaints received on the rapes and sexual assaults of children and that these files sat there while the bishop worked. He said "secret archive" was not his term, but their term.

What Shapiro didn't say is that each bishop is bound to keep and manage a secret archive by Canon Law:
Canon 489: 1. There is also to be a secret archive in the diocesan curia or at least a safe or file in the ordinary archive, completely closed and locked which cannot be removed from the place, and in which documents to be kept secret are to be protected most securely.

2. Every year documents of criminal cases are to be destroyed in matters of morals in which the criminal has died or in which ten years have passed since the condemnatory sentence; but a brief summary of the case with the text of the definitive sentence is to be retained.

: Now we have the pope using words to muddy the waters as to who is responsible for this massive worldwide criminal outrage. (AP)

In the wake of the aftershock of the Pennsylvanian report, Pope Francis sent out a letter. Most of it is sickening and angering to those of us who have been fighting for the truth and justice from the church priesthood for decades.

The Pope said, "Every one of the baptised should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need … I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord's command."

It is truly sad that the priesthood, that is, priests, monsignors, bishops, archbishops, cardinals and the Pope could not live up to the words that they preach. And the attempt, over the last two pages of the Pope's letter, to share the blame of the decades of rampant child sexual assault on the lay people, that is the parishioners, is an attempt to quell their anger at the bad management of the priesthood. How could holy priests let this happen? And let it happen they did, around the world, in every Catholic diocese.

This bid to share the blame with every parishioner is unfair and wrong. Every parishioner should ignore this blame game and maintain their rage against a corrupt priesthood and its controlling hierarchy.

Every bishop knew about the child sexual assaults in their diocese which were reported to them through the secret archive they manage.

Did our local bishop or archbishop come to Oakleigh and say to the parent parishioners about its paedophile priest, "Listen, your priest has been sexually assaulting children since the 1940s, nearly 50 years now, because we have complaints about him every several years, so we know he is not going to stop attacking kids but do you mind if we leave him here in your parish with your children until he retires soon? Then we will honour him with the title of pastor emeritus." This is what happened in Oakleigh for 17 years where he sexually assaulted the children, including two of my children, with dire and deadly results.

No. No bishop came and told us that, to warn us. Why didn't they come and tell us this? Because even back then, in the 1980s and 1990s, we would have said, "What the hell are you doing? Get rid of the old pervert, ring the police. We don't want him anywhere near our children." But they said nothing because they knew it was not only sinful but criminal. And that we would be very angry with them.

So they said nothing and allowed their many paedophile priests to rape and molest children.

Now we have the pope using words to muddy the waters as to who is responsible for this massive worldwide criminal outrage. The modus operandi, their method of operation, is all the same: Australia's Royal Commission is a blueprint of the Pennsylvania report, as is the Irish report. How could the world of Catholic bishops all be so morally bankrupt as to take the same wicked actions against innocent children being sexually assaulted and raped and then treating them so badly when they come forward to speak of their horror years later? The common denominator is the Catholic priesthood and the canon laws which they abide by.

The Pope himself was a bishop before he was pope, he was probably a bishop for at least 10 years and then an archbishop for at least another 10 years before he continued to climb the corporate ladder, so for at least 20 years he himself was the keeper of his diocesan's secret archive – sitting beside his desk for decades dependent upon him to manage and deal with.

And now the Pope tries to quell good Catholic people's anger at bishops for what they allow to happen through the immunity they granted to paedophile priests through a protective hierarchy and now unfairly implying that ordinary parishioners too share the blame for such blatant criminal acts.

Chrissie Foster is author of Hell on The Way to Heaven with Paul Kennedy.
  August 15, 2018, page A1

Catholic Priests Abused 1,000 Children in Pennsylvania, Report Says

: Victims of clerical sex abuse and their relatives reacted as Attorney General Josh Shapiro discussed the grand jury report at a news conference in Harrisburg. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

By Laurie Goodstein and Sharon Otterman

Bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse and law enforcement not to investigate it, according to a searing report issued by a grand jury on Tuesday.

The report, which covered six of the state's eight Catholic dioceses and found more than 1,000 identifiable victims, is the broadest examination yet by a government agency in the United States of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The report said there are likely thousands more victims whose records were lost or who were too afraid to come forward.

It catalogs horrific instances of abuse: a priest who raped a young girl in the hospital after she had her tonsils out; a victim tied up and whipped with leather straps by a priest; and another priest who was allowed to stay in ministry after impregnating a young girl and arranging for her to have an abortion.

The sexual abuse scandal has shaken the Catholic Church for more than 15 years, ever since explosive allegations emerged out of Boston in 2002. But even after paying billions of dollars in settlements and adding new prevention programs, the church has been dogged by a scandal that is now reaching its highest ranks. The Pennsylvania report comes soon after the resignation of Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, who is accused of sexually abusing young priests and seminarians, as well as minors.

"Despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability," the grand jury wrote. "Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades."

The grand jury said that while some accused priests were removed from ministry, the church officials who protected them remained in office or even got promotions. One bishop named in the report as vouching for an abusive priest was Cardinal Donald Wuerl, now the archbishop of Washington. "Until that changes, we think it is too early to close the book on the Catholic Church sex scandal," the jury wrote.

The report is unlikely to lead to new criminal charges or civil lawsuits under the current law because the statute of limitations has expired. Only two of the cases in the report so far have led to criminal charges.

In statements released on Tuesday, Pennsylvania's Catholic bishops called for prayers for victims and for the church, promised greater openness and said that measures instituted in recent years were already making the church safer.

But several bishops, including Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh, rejected the idea the church had concealed abuse.

"There was no cover-up going on," Bishop Zubik said in a news conference on Tuesday. "I think that it's important to be able to state that. We have over the course of the last 30 years, for sure, been transparent about everything that has in fact been transpiring."

Church officials followed a "playbook for concealing the truth," the grand jury said, minimizing the abuse by using words like "inappropriate contact" instead of "rape"; assigning priests untrained in sexual abuse cases to investigate their colleagues; and not informing the community of the real reasons behind removing an accused priest.

"Tell his parishioners that he is on ‘sick leave,' or suffering from ‘nervous exhaustion.' Or say nothing at all," the report said.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose office initiated the investigation, said in a news conference, "They protected their institution at all costs. As the grand jury found, the church showed a complete disdain for victims."

He said that the cover-up by senior church officials "stretched in some cases all the way up to the Vatican."

No other state has seen more grand jury investigations of abuses in the church than Pennsylvania, where about one of every four residents is Catholic and the local attorneys general have been particularly responsive to victims. Previous grand juries examined the dioceses of Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown; the new report covers the rest of the state.

Mr. Shapiro was surrounded on Tuesday by about 20 abuse victims and their family members, who gasped and wept when he revealed that one priest had abused five sisters in the same family, including one girl beginning when she was 18 months old.

Some victims said in interviews that they were relieved to finally be heard and to have their perpetrators publicly named.

"I had gone to two bishops with allegations over five years, and they ignored and downplayed my allegations," said the Rev. James Faluszczak, an Erie priest on extended leave who was abused as a child and who testified before the grand jury. "It's that very management of secrets that has given cover to predators."

For others, it was too little, too late. Frances Samber, whose brother Michael was abused by a priest in Pittsburgh and committed suicide in 2010, said, "It's good that the public sees this, but where is the justice? What do you do about it? Why aren't these people in prison?"

There has been no comprehensive measurement of the full scope of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the United States, though some have tried. American abuse survivors have pushed for years for the government to undertake a nationwide inquiry similar to the one conducted in Australia, where a royal commission spent four years examining the sexual abuse of children by a variety of religious and civic institutions, including the Catholic Church.

There have been 10 previous reports by grand juries and attorneys general in the United States, according to the research and advocacy group, but those examined single dioceses or counties.

The Pennsylvania grand jury report lands as the sex abuse scandal in the church has reached a new stage, with calls to discipline bishops who sexually abused younger priests and seminarians, or who have covered up for abusive colleagues.

Catholics are calling for independent investigations into why Cardinal McCarrick was advanced up the hierarchy despite warnings to his superiors in Rome and fellow bishops that he had molested seminarians and young priests. Cardinal McCarrick resigned in July over allegations of sexually abusing minors, but since then priests in the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, and seminarians in Boston and elsewhere have publicly accused their superiors of turning a blind eye to sexual misconduct.

The Pennsylvania grand jury met for two years, reviewed 500,000 documents from dioceses' secret archives, and heard testimony from dozens of victims and the bishop of Erie. The report covers the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. Two of the dioceses ­ Greensburg and Harrisburg ­ tried to quash the grand jury investigation last year, but later backed off that stance.

The report lists each of the accused priests and documents how they were sent from parish to parish, and even sometimes out of state. The grand jury said that while the list is long, "we don't think we got them all." The report added, "We feel certain that many victims never came forward, and that the dioceses did not create written records every single time they heard something about abuse."

In the Greensburg diocese, the Rev. John Sweeney was charged by the attorney general's office with sexually abusing a boy in the early 1990s. Father Sweeney pleaded guilty this month and awaits sentencing. In the Erie diocese, the Rev. David Poulson was arrested in May and charged with sexually assaulting a boy for eight years, starting at age 8. Father Poulson has yet to enter a plea.

The Pennsylvania State Legislature has so far resisted calls to lift the statute of limitations, which has prevented childhood victims from filing civil lawsuits against the church after they turn 30. For many victims, it has taken decades to gain the courage to speak about the abuse, long past when the law would allow them to sue.

The grand jury and the attorney general strongly recommended that the statute of limitations be extended in civil and criminal cases. They recommended opening a temporary "window" that would permit older victims to file civil lawsuits against perpetrators, and the church.

The church has lobbied against any change to the statute or to open such a window, its efforts led by Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg, president of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. But abuse survivors and advocates say that in September they plan to begin a fresh campaign to press lawmakers and Bishop Gainer to drop their opposition.

"If this doesn't start a serious debate on the elimination of the statute of limitation, there's something seriously wrong with my fellow Pennsylvanians," said Shaun Dougherty, now 48, who testified before the Altoona-Johnstown grand jury about being abused by a priest for three years starting at age 10.

About two dozen people named in the report petitioned the court to have their names redacted from it.

In the news conference, Mr. Shapiro, the attorney general, described the "intense legal battle" that played out over the last several months as some people named in the report appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to block its release.

"They wanted to cover up the cover-up," he said.

Mr. Shapiro said his office would continue to fight for a full version of the report to be released with no redactions.

One example of a cover-up detailed in the report concerns the Rev. Ernest Paone, a priest who was caught molesting boys and using guns with young children in Pittsburgh. A fellow pastor intervened in 1962 to stop the police from arresting him. The district attorney at the time, Robert Masters, wrote to the diocese in 1964 to say that he had halted his investigation of the case "in order to prevent unfavorable publicity" for the diocese.

In testimony before the grand jury, Mr. Masters said that he had wanted the church's support for his political career.

Father Paone was relocated successively to Los Angeles, San Diego and Reno in the following years, with Pittsburgh's bishops attesting to his fitness as a priest. Among those bishops was Cardinal Wuerl, now the archbishop of Washington. He accepted Father Paone's resignation from ministry in good standing in 2003, allowing him to collect his pension.

Cardinal Wuerl released a letter to his priests on Monday, saying that while the grand jury report would be "critical of some of my actions, I believe the report also confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the survivors and to prevent future acts of abuse."

As of Tuesday, all six of the dioceses covered by the report had released the names of priests with allegations against them.

Bishop Gainer in Harrisburg recently ordered that the names of accused priests and of bishops who mishandled abuse cases be taken down from all church buildings in the diocese.

The report says that one of the victims who had testified before the grand jury tried to commit suicide while they were deliberating.

"From her hospital bed, she asked for one thing," the grand jury wrote in the report, "that we finish our work and tell the world what really happened."

Correction: August 14, 2018
An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of a priest in the Erie diocese who was arrested in May. He is the Rev. David Poulson, not Poulsson.
A version of this article appears in print on Aug. 15, 2018, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Church Hid Abuse of 1,000 Children, Grand Jury Finds.

Grand Jury Report on Catholic Church Sex Abuse in Pennsylvania

The grand jury report is the government's broadest look yet in the United States at child sexual abuse in the church HERE

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