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Catholic Church 'nowhere close' to confronting global 'epidemic' of child sex abuse by priests

Catholic Church 'nowhere close' to confronting global 'epidemic' of child sex abuse by priestsThe Catholic Church is "nowhere close" to enacting the reforms needed to stop the "epidemic" of sex abuse by predatory priests and bishops against children, campaigners warned on Tuesday. Pope Francis is "in retreat" from any meaningful effort to bring abusers to justice, said Bishop Accountability, a leading pressure group. The scathing criticism comes as the Vatican admits it has secret guidelines on how to deal with priests who break their celibacy vows and sire children.  Nearly 200 archbishops, bishops and other senior officials are to join the Pope at the Vatican for an unprecedented, four-day conference on combating the sexual abuse of minors by clergy. Like his predecessors, the Pope has fostered "a culture of plausible deniability" in which allegations against priests are lost, not scrutinised properly, or buried in bureaucracy, campaigners said.  The Catholic Church persists in regarding the sexual abuse of children as a sin, to be dealt with internally, rather than as a serious crime that requires the intervention of the police, said Phil Saviano, a high-profile survivor of sex abuse. Molested by a priest in Massachusetts when he was 12 years old, his ordeal was told in the Oscar-winning film Spotlight, based on a Boston Globe investigation into widespread sex abuse by clergy. Phil Saviano, a victim of clerical sex abuse, and Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of Bishop Accountability, speaking to the media in Rome Credit: Alessandra Tarantino/AP "The Church is still treating abuse as a sin, not as a crime,” Mr Saviano said in Rome. “I first went public with my story in 1992. Boy, the Church sure does make slow progress. “Back then, there was dismay and shock among Catholics. Now, there is a great deal of anger. People are leaving the Church and no longer making donations.” There is a huge gulf between the way in which the Catholic Church deals with abusive priests and the norms that campaign groups say need to be introduced to tackle the problem. Many of the largest Catholic countries, including Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines and Venezuela, do not even have guidelines for how to respond to predatory priests and bishops, let alone mandatory rules for reporting them to the police. Priests convicted of rape are routinely allowed to remain in the priesthood, with access to children, in countries around the world. Despite the gravity of the crisis, campaign groups hold out little hope for significant progress. “So much is at stake this week. The Catholics of the world are grieving and disillusioned,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, the head of Bishop Accountability. “Canon law has to be fundamentally changed so that it stops prioritising the priesthood over the lives of children. But the Church is nowhere close to enacting the necessary reforms to stop this epidemic. And the Pope seems to be in retreat from concrete reform efforts.” Nearly 200 bishops, archbishops and senior officials will gather for a sex abuse conference at the Vatican this week Credit: Max Rossi/Reuters With the Vatican resisting change, it will have to come from outside the Catholic world. “Unfortunately the way forward will be a bloody, hard-fought path of lawsuits, prosecutions and government investigations,” said Ms Barrett Doyle. “I would be amazed if the conference at the Vatican produces any meaningful reform.” In the latest mea culpa issued by the Church, two organisations representing Catholic religious orders around the world apologised for covering up or denying the sexual abuse of children by priests in their ranks. The Union of Superiors General, which represents male religious orders, and the International Union of Superiors General, which represents female orders, expressed shame and regret for “errors in judgment, slowness to act, denial and at times, cover-up." Orders such as the Christian Brothers, the Jesuits and the Salesians have been accused of perpetrating horrendous abuse on children in schools and institutions across the globe. "It is a story stretching back for decades, a narrative of immense pain for those who have suffered this abuse,” the organisations said. “We bow our heads in shame at the realisation that such abuse has taken place in our Congregations and Orders, and in our Church.” Meanwhile the Vatican acknowledged, for the first time, that it has confidential guidelines on how to deal with priests who break their vows of celibacy and father children. The guidelines, drawn up in 2017, would not be made public because they are “an internal document”, the Vatican spokesman, Alessandro Gisotti, said. While the number of children fathered illicitly by Catholic priests is not known, it has called into question the Church’s celibacy requirement, with critics saying the rule should be relaxed or abolished altogether so that priests are able to marry and have families.



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Victims of Church sex abuse go global with fight for justice

Victims of Church sex abuse go global with fight for justiceAfter years of struggling alone or finding support in national groups, survivors of sex abuse by priests have formed a new international alliance to pressure the Catholic Church to face up to its crimes. The group, called Ending Clerical Abuse (ECA), brings together activists from dozens of countries on several continents, and will be mobilised in Rome this week when Pope Francis hosts a hotly awaited summit on tackling the wave of child sex abuse scandals shaking the Catholic Church. “It’s a momentous and a historic movement… to bring a global and unified voice,” one of its co-founders, Peter Saunders, told AFP.



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Pope's credibility 'on the line' as Vatican convenes global meeting on combating child abuse by clergy

Pope's credibility 'on the line' as Vatican convenes global meeting on combating child abuse by clergyVictims of clerical sex abuse have warned Pope Francis that his credibility is on the line as he confronts the biggest challenge of his papacy with a landmark conference on protecting children from rape and molestation. Nearly 200 bishops, archbishops, patriarchs and other senior Catholic figures from around the world will convene in Rome on Thursday for an unprecedented four-day conference that is supposed to tackle the scourge of child abuse by clergy. It is the biggest effort so far to address scandals that have eroded faith in the Catholic Church in the US, Ireland, Australia and elsewhere. “There’s going to be every effort to close whatever loopholes there are,” said Charles Scicluna, an archbishop from Malta who is one of the organisers of the summit. “This is a new day in terms of transparency. Bishops are going to be held accountable. My hope is that people see this as a turning point.” Members of the survivors' group Ending Clergy Abuse in front of St Peter's Square at the Vatican Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP But victims’ groups are furious that it has taken this long for the Church to organise such a high-profile meeting, pointing out that is has been 17 years since the Boston sex abuse scandal, which lifted the lid on the problem in the Church. They accuse Pope Francis of failing to clearly decree that priests, and the bishops who protect them, should be reported to the police, prosecuted and sent to jail if found guilty of abuse. They say the Vatican has had years to set out clear guidelines to every diocese in the world, instructing them to hand over to the civil authorities any priest accused of abusing children. It has not done so. “Pope Francis has been talking about zero tolerance ever since he was elected. It’s time to deliver on that promise,” said Peter Isely, from Ending Clergy Abuse, a victims’ support group. “There needs to be a universal law for the Church around the world – if you are a priest who rapes or sexually assaults a child, then you are going to be removed from the priesthood. And you are going to be turned over to the authorities and prosecuted and imprisoned.” Peter Isely, founding member of Ending Clergy Abuse, in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Credit: Gregorio Borgia/AP Survivors of sex abuse are tired of the years of empty rhetoric and lack of action coming from the Vatican. “We’ve been waiting a long time. We’ve waited too long. This is a historic moment. This has never happened before in the history of the Catholic Church. The Pope has acknowledged that this is a global problem in the Church and that’s important. He now has to deliver,” said Mr Isely, speaking in front of St Peter’s Basilica. “They can do something in the next few days that could save a child somewhere in the world from undergoing what we went through as children – these horrible, horrific, terrible crimes.” Peter Saunders, a British victim of sex abuse by priests, said: “This pope is the best public relations pope of our lifetime. He is very media savvy. But his credibility on this issue has been blown away.” The Vatican made Mr Saunders a member of a special commission for the protection of children, but he resigned in protest at how little progress the body made, saying it was “starved of funding”. Around a dozen survivors have been invited to meet the Pope during the conference.  “What we need is action. We need to have a real conversation about this – why is there not zero tolerance for priests who have assaulted children? What’s the hold-up? What’s the problem?” said Mr Isely. The Vatican insists that this time, it means business. Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, is one of the organisers of the summit Credit: AP/Gregorio Borgia “It’s going to be a rallying moment,” said Cardinal Blasé Cupich from Chicago, another organiser of the conference. “We want to make sure that bishops claim ownership of the problem.” Archbishop Scicluna vowed that the days of omerta – the code of silence which normally refers to the mafia – were over. “Whether you call it omerta or a state of denial, it’s a no-go. We need to face the facts. This is not the end game but we are going to do everything possible to make people accountable.” On Saturday, Pope Francis defrocked an American cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, for historical sexual abuse allegations. The 88-year-old, a former archbishop of Washington, is the most senior Catholic figure to be dismissed from the priesthood in modern times.



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Global stocks surge on hopeful signs from US-China trade talks

Global stocks surge on hopeful signs from US-China trade talksNew York (AFP) – European and US stock markets leapt on Friday as positive signs emerged from US-China trade talks aimed at averting an escalation of a tariff war between the world's top two economies.



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IEA Says Venezuela Crisis Risks Disrupting Global Crude Market

IEA Says Venezuela Crisis Risks Disrupting Global Crude MarketThe U.S., Venezuela’s biggest customer, is banning oil imports from the country as it condemns President Nicolas Maduro for fraudulently clinging to power after disputed elections. Venezuela’s output is already at the lowest in decades as a spiraling economic crisis takes its toll on oil infrastructure. While global markets remain comfortably supplied, disruption in Venezuela poses a threat because production of the heavier, higher-sulfur crude it pumps is being reduced elsewhere, the IEA said in a monthly report.



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Global oil supply to swamp demand in 2019 despite output cuts: IEA

Global oil supply to swamp demand in 2019 despite output cuts: IEAThe IEA left its demand growth forecast for 2019 unchanged from its last report in January at 1.4 million barrels per day. “It is supported by lower prices and the start-up of petrochemical projects in China and the U.S. Slowing economic growth will, however, limit any upside,” the agency said. The IEA raised its estimate of growth in crude supply from outside the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to 1.8 million bpd in 2019, from 1.6 million bpd previously.



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Catalan separatist trial gives Spanish far right global platform

Catalan separatist trial gives Spanish far right global platformFar-right Spanish party Vox is on track to get a global soapbox as it takes part in the much-hyped trial of Catalan pro-independence leaders as a “popular prosecutor” — a Spain-specific legal mechanism that has left Madrid embarrassed. Vox burst on to the political scene by winning 12 seats in southern Andalusia’s regional parliament in December. Its involvement in the upcoming trial of Catalan separatist leaders will be as so-called “popular prosecution”, a set-up which allows any citizen or organisation to be an accuser in court alongside public prosecutors.



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AP FACT CHECK: Global warming hasn't gone away despite cold

AP FACT CHECK: Global warming hasn't gone away despite coldWASHINGTON (AP) — In the midst of a Midwest cold spell, President Donald Trump is pleading for global warming to come back, but it never went away.



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Here are the facts: Despite winter storms, global warming is real

Here are the facts: Despite winter storms, global warming is realAttacks of extreme cold, big snowstorms and even unwelcome invasions from the polar vortex will continue to occur even as the planet warms.



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Trump confuses weather with climate change again: 'Wouldn’t be bad to have a little good old fashioned Global Warming right now!'

Trump confuses weather with climate change again: 'Wouldn’t be bad to have a little good old fashioned Global Warming right now!'Donald Trump has again confused weather with climate change, suggesting the US would benefit from “a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming right now” amid forecasts of snow and cold conditions. Large parts of the Country are suffering from tremendous amounts of snow and near record setting cold. In November, Mr Trump conflated seasonal weather with climate change, suggesting chilly conditions meant global warming wasn’t real.



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