Most Britons do not believe the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus, a study has found.
By Ben Leach
Last Updated: 10:20PM GMT 20 Dec 2008
Young people were particularly doubtful about the nativity, with 78 per cent of 16-24-year-olds saying they were not convinced of its historical reliability.
Overall, 70 per cent were sceptical of the baby’s birth in a manger to a virgin mother, according to the poll of 1,000 people by the British Marketing Research Bureau.
Almost a quarter of those questioned who described themselves as Christians admitted they did not believe certain aspects of the Bible’s teaching about Jesus.
The survey was commissioned by St Helen’s Church in Bishopsgate, London, which has produced a film of “sound evidence” supporting the Bible’s account. The Rev Charlie Skrine, curate of the church, said the survey showed that “most of the UK believes that the accounts of Jesus’s birth aren’t good history“.
He added: “Combined with a general lack of understanding about the real meaning of Christmas, this leaves people without the hope that Jesus offers.”
Simon Gathercole, a new testament scholar at Cambridge University, said people were sceptical because they were not aware the origins of Christianity were anchored in real history.
He added: “Jesus was born while Augustus was emperor of Rome just before Herod died. We’re talking about events that are anchored in real history not in ancient Greek myths.”
A separate study by Mothers’ Union, a Christian charity, showed that more parents encourage their children to believe in Father Christmas than in the nativity.
A spokeswoman for the charity said the survey “raised concerns that the church needs to do more to support families in the spiritual nurture of their children”.
She added: “The church needs to get across the fact that in times of both adversity and prosperity, it has a universal message which enables people to connect with something outside themselves.”
The study of 1,000 parents found that one in five do not encourage their children to associate Christmas with the nativity. Five per cent do not encourage their children to believe in Father Christmas.
It also found only four per cent plan to attend church services more with their children in 2009.
It comes as the Archbishop of Canterbury said on Saturday that he believed the basic premise of story of the three wise men was true.
Last year, Dr Rowan Williams appeared to cast doubt on it, but speaking on BBC Radio 4, he argued that the idea of astrologers following a bright star to Bethlehem made sense in the historical context.
Asked if he believed the men – who according to the gospel of Matthew, took gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus – existed, Dr Williams said: “Yes I do. I think I trust the beginning of Matthew’s gospel in broad outline, because the notion that there are astrologers, perhaps of partly Jewish background, just outside the boundaries of the Roman Empire who might be on the watch for this, getting involved in the politics of Herod’s last days in Jerusalem.”
[Source] August 29, 2008:
BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) – A lawyer whose client won a $5 million verdict against the Catholic Diocese of Belleville over allegations of sexual abuse says he has a second case to bring to trial.
Belleville attorney Mike Weilmuenster says he has filed suit on behalf of a second man who claims he was sexually abused by the Reverend Raymond Kownacki decades ago.
On Wednesday, a jury awarded $5 million to 47-year-old James Wisniewski (wihs-NOO’-skee). He had claimed the diocese knew Kownacki was a danger to children but did nothing.
The attorney says a second man identified in court papers as “John Doe” was an altar boy at St. Theresa’s Parish in Salem when Kownacki began molesting him in 1979.
Kownacki has not been charged criminally and has not commented on the allegations.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
The case of a former altar boy allegedly molested by a priest in the late 1970s was declared a mistrial Wednesday by Judge Matthew Katz after the jury signaled that it was unable to come up with a verdict following 16 hours of deliberation.
Katz dismissed the panel shortly after noon after the jury sent him a note saying “We cannot agree and we can no longer proceed.” The judge received the note an hour after he sent his own message to the panel, imploring the jurors to keep talking.
“You’ve given it your all, and that’s all we can ask of you,” Katz told the jury.
Joseph Rossner of Essex Junction, who served as the jury foreman, said in an interview later Wednesday that the panel tried several different ways to compromise on a verdict, without success.
“The jury did a very good job at listening to different opinions and concerns,” Rossner said. “There was some doubt by some about the facts but in the spirit of compromise we kept going.”
Another juror, Alice Mills of Colchester, said some panel members held such strong positions on the case that compromising on the amount of a monetary award would have “made it difficult to look in the mirror in the morning.”
Jerome O’Neill, an attorney for the former altar boy, told reporters he was disappointed the jury could not reach a decision on monetary damages because he believed the jury had agreed the diocese was liable for the abuse his client suffered.
“This jury was spilt,” O’Neill said. “We don’t know how it was split, but I anticipate a significant number of those people were prepared to enter a serious verdict for our client.”
O’Neill and law partner John Evers had asked the jury to award between $886,000 and $14.3 million in damages in the case.
Tom McCormick, a diocesan lawyer, said the hung jury was proof the $8.7 million verdict handed down by another jury in a similar clergy abuse case in May after five hours of deliberation had been an “aberration.”
In this case, the diocese had suggested the jury award between $5,000 and $15,000 to pay for therapy for the victim.
“To have a jury here not return the same verdict with the same speed is affirming to our position,” McCormick said. The diocese has appealed the earlier, $8.7 million verdict.
The former altar boy, now 40 and a resident of Waitsfield, claims the diocese was to blame for his abuse because it knew the Rev. Edward Paquette had molested boys in three states, including Vermont, prior to the abuse incidents at Christ the King Church in Burlington.
The man testified that Paquette molested him between 20 and 50 times between 1977 and 1978. The Free Press does not identify the alleged victims of sexual assaults without their consent.
The incidents occurred at the church and allegedly involved Paquette holding the altar boy, who was clothed, with one hand on his genitals and the other over his mouth, and swinging the boy in the air or rubbing the boy’s body against his groin.
The man said he did not tell his parents about the incidents for fear they would not believe him. He also said he grew to be ashamed of what Paquette did to him and has struggled with anxiety and sexual intimacy as an adult.
The diocese, which does not dispute the abuse claims, said its officials in the 1970s chose to employ Paquette based on the advice of church psychologists who said Paquette’s sexual deviancy had been cured.
The diocese also contends the man waited too long to file his lawsuit and did not seem to have been that harmed by the incidents.
O’Neill, speaking to reporters Wednesday, accused McCormick of skewing the jury’s perspective in favor of the diocese by telling the jury during his closing statement that “one lawsuit ought to be enough to teach a lesson.”
O’Neill quickly objected to the remark and said Wednesday the comment was meant to remind the jury about the earlier $8.7 million verdict, something Katz had told lawyers not to bring up during the present trial.
The May verdict stunned the diocese and prompted Bishop Salvatore Matano to say that paying such a sum would “seriously impact” church programs.
“What he was trying to do was get the jury to take a look at the determination in the last case and consider that one here so they wouldn’t do the same thing,” O’Neill said of McCormick.
“That prejudiced us significantly. We were, at this point, very happy to have a mistrial,” O’Neill said. “If you give us a clean jury with facts that are fairly presented, then our clients will be fairly and fully treated by this jury, any jury.”
McCormick disputed O’Neill’s allegation. He said in an interview that O’Neill interrupted him at the time with his objection. McCormick said that had he completed his thought, he would have said if a lesson needed to be taught, Matano had learned it sitting through just the trial in this case.
“There was no intent by me to ignore the court’s order,” McCormick said. “There was no thought of speaking in code to the jurors.”
Jurors Rossner and Mills said panel members picked up on McCormick’s remark as a reference to the earlier case.
“He should not have done that,” Mills said. She also said she did not personally know anything about the earlier verdict.
Rossner said he did not think McCormick’s comment affected the jury’s deliberations. He credited Katz for providing guidance to the jury about how to ignore information about any other clergy abuse cases.
Matano, who attended the trial, expressed “deep regret” afterward for the abuse suffered by the Waitsfield man.
“I sincerely apologize to him that one chosen to be God’s servant betrayed a sacred trust and so wounded him and other victims of abuse,” Matano said in a statement.
Matano also said he hoped the mistrial would encourage parties in the 20 clergy abuse cases pending at the court to search for “reasonable, just and charitable resolutions.”
It was unknown late Wednesday when the Waitsfield man’s case will be retried.
Police suspect dozens of boys may have been abused during hypnotic “prayer” sessions at a top NSW boarding school.
St Stanislaus’ College at Bathurst, in central west NSW, is reeling after 13 former students alleged sexual abuse by staff during from the 1970s and into the early 1980s.
A 65-year-old former priest is facing 33 charges, after allegations a pedophile ring of priests and staff operated at the school, which has both boarders and day students.
He was charged on May 23 with offences relating to sexual assault and gross acts of indecency of boys aged between 10 and 18 years old, police said.
The shocking revelations on Wednesday prompted one former student to tell his story of abuse at the school in 1971, for which he eventually received an out-of-court settlement.
The man, who asked only to be known as “John”, said he was sexually abused three times in April 1971 by a priest who left St Stanislaus’ a few years later.
“I still remember it,” John told AAP.
“I carry that stench on my back ever since the day it happened.
“I was a day boy and I was not the only victim back then.”
In the mid-1990s, he contacted the Vincentian order of priests, which run the school and operate separately from the Bathurst Catholic diocese.
He eventually settled out of court for just over $40,000.
He said criminal proceedings against the priest never went past the committal hearing due to lack of evidence.
Currently, 615 boys attend St Stanislaus’, of which 188 are borders.
St Stanislaus’ principal John Edwards said he first became aware of the allegations “several years ago” and referred the claims to police.
“The college received some internet material which contained allegations that I think are linked to the ones that are currently taking place,” he told Fairfax Radio Network.
“Those matters were referred to the police some years ago.”
He said the material included claims of late night prayer and chanting sessions in which boys were sexually abused.
Mr Edwards said the school was served with a search warrant on July 3 which stated the names of three former staff members.
“I’m not able to comment any further,” Mr Edwards said.
Police have released scant information but want other victims of alleged abuse to contact them.
However, they would not confirm reports the abused students were hypnotised and drugged.
“All I can say is that the NSW Police Force will be providing every form of support we possibly can to make the process for them as trouble-free as possible,” Detective Superintendent Michael Goodwin told reporters in Sydney.
Supt Goodwin would not reveal how many suspects were being investigated, but said none still worked at the school.
“I can confirm that there’s no one at the school at the moment that is subject to that inquiry,” he said.
“At this stage, we’re looking at 13 victims and we’re following up those lines of inquiry at the moment.”
A spokeswoman for the Bathurst diocese would not comment, saying the Vincentian priests operates separately from the diocese.
A spokesman for the Sydney archdiocese said Cardinal George Pell would not comment because Bathurst lies outside his jurisdiction.
Father Ian McGinnity, chairman of the National Council of Priests of Australia, said great care was taken at boarding schools, but sex abuse remained in all parts of society.
“It still doesn’t take away the unfortunate reality of human nature,” Fr McGinnity told AAP.
“There are people who sometimes have sicknesses in psycho-sexual arenas and that happens whether they’re priests or lay people.”
The office of Vincentian priests at Bathurst and their provincial office in Sydney did not comment when contacted.
[Source] Burlington, Vermont – August 25, 2008:
Closing arguments are being heard today in another priest sex abuse lawsuit.
The plaintiff is a former altar boy who claims that 30 years ago, former Vermont Bishop John Marshall knowingly failed to protect him from a known pedophile priest, Edward Paquette.
The plaintiff is seeking $6 to $12 million in damages.
“They were making a choice that we are going to expose your kids to the risk of being in the presence on a regular basis with that predator. No parent, no parent if they had known the full history would have ever opted for that choice. But they were never given that choice. The choice was made for them by the bishop,” said John Evers, the plaintiff’s lawyer.
Lawyers for the diocese argue that the plaintiff did not file the lawsuit until 30 years after the incident– when he learned about the recent payouts by the diocese to settle the lawsuits.
The diocese has lost two cases decided by a jury. Earlier this year, a former victim of the Reverend Paquette was awarded a record $8.7 million in damages.
A jury will begin deliberations in this priest abuse case this afternoon.
Brian Joyce will have the latest tonight on the Channel 3 News at 6 p.m.
The plaintiff in a priest-abuse trial wrapping up at Chittenden Superior Court asked the jury today to consider as much as $14 million in damages.
Attorney John Evers said in a closing argument this morning that such damages were appropriate because the state’s Roman Catholic diocese’s cover-up of abusive behavior by a parish priest was worse than its decision to bring him to Burlington in the first place.
The trial, entering its sixth day, concerns allegations that Rev. Edward Paquette molested an altar boy in the 1970s at Christ the King Church. The plaintiff, now 40 and living in Waitsfield, was 9 years old when the alleged abuse began.
The Free Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual crimes without their consent.
Evers asked the jury to consider between $886,000 and $2.3 million in compensatory damages, and between $6 and $12 million in punitive damages.
The diocese was to make its closing argument later this morning, and after rebuttal and jury instructions, the case would be placed in the hands of the six-man, six-woman panel.
[Sorce] 23 Aug 2008:
Thriving churches are being closed down by the Catholic Church under plans to reduce costs and raise income from the land, worshippers claim.
Up to half of parishes in some areas will be left without any services as a result of a radical nationwide reorganisation by dioceses.
Some of the churches already earmarked for closure have congregations of as many as 200 people, and worshippers have accused the Church of “putting cash before Christianity”.
The most vociferous protests so far have been triggered by plans drawn up by the Rt Rev Arthur Roche, Bishop of Leeds, to shut down seven churches in his diocese this month as part of a large scale closure programme.
Worshippers have appealed to MPs and heritage bodies to step into the row, written to the Charity Commissioners to argue that the diocese has neglected its duties as trustees of the churches, and last week served the bishop with legal papers claiming his behaviour breaches canon law.
Some of the protesters – including women in their 80s – have even chained themselves to the church railings in protest at the closures, which they claim will devastate the communities.
Their bid to keep the buildings open follows a campaign by The Sunday Telegraph to secure more government money to preserve historic churches and keep them as a focal point for community use.
More than 7,000 people have signed the Save Our Churches campaign which has been backed by politicians, celebrities and church leaders, including Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
Parishioners in the Leeds diocese have been backed by Lord Lofthouse, the Labour peer, who attacked Bishop Roche for “putting finance before Christian teaching”.
The closure of churches in the Wakefield and Pontefract deanery will mean that 12 have been lost in the past year, which amounts to a tenth of the whole diocese.
Worshippers have accused the bishop of “acting like a dictator” in failing to respond to any of their letters, which proposed solutions to the problem and expressed concern over the damage that the action would have on communities.
Dozens of them travelled to the Bishop’s residence last week with letters asking them to listen to their case and sent a petition delivering a vote of no confidence in him.
Many of the protesters have attended Mass at the churches for decades and have been baptised or married there.
Maureen Walsh, who has worshipped at Holy Family church Chequerfield for 44 years, said: “We have been shattered by this. People were crying last Sunday realising that we will no longer be able to come here.”
A Polish priest has offered to take over from the current incumbent, who is due to retire this year, to enable the church to continue, but the proposal has been rejected by the bishop.
The church has a congregation of around 200 people and has been a focal point for the community, staging concerts and holding a lunch club for pensioners, according to the campaigners.
Anne Dyer, chair of governors at Holy Family and St Michael’s Primary school, said that the closure of the church will affect everyone in the area from the children to their grandparents.
Pupils sent Bishop Roche letters asking him to change his mind.
“I have a very special memory that happened at this church,” one boy wrote. “It would be such a shame if you do close the church.”
Mrs Dyer said that the bishop has acted “as if he is ruling in the dark ages” in the way that he has ignored their pleas.
“This area is crying out to be supported, but we feel that he has treated us like peasants rather than listening to what we have to say,” she added.
A few miles away, at St John the Evangelist Church, in Allerton Bywater, large banners hung on the outside walls make clear the congregation’s displeasure.
“Bishop Roche doesn’t care about our sick and old,” says one. Another reads: “It’s cash before Christianity.”
Malcolm Brumwell accused the bishop of breaking church law in his treatment of the parish and had denied worshippers access to a traditional Mass and removing the priest without offering him a new parish.
“He has been grossly negligent in regard to running this parish,” said Mr Brumwell.
He said that a legal challenge has been issued to Bishop Roche, which he must send to Rome for a decision. It would set a precedent for bishops’ freedom to close churches if it is found that he has acted inappropriately.
A letter has been sent to the Charity Commission by Our Lady of Lourdes church in Ackworth, which has nearly 200 worshippers.
It says that the diocese “has failed to act in the interests of the charity and its beneficiaries (the parishioners and clergy)”.
Bishop Roche has argued that congregations of less than 200 people are no longer viable and that the churches are being closed because there are not enough priests to serve the parishes. The number of priests in England and Wales has slumped by nearly a quarter in 20 years, from 4, 545 in 1985 to 3,643 in 2005.
Catholic churches in north-west England are under particular pressure, with a severe shortage of priests and a sharp fall in attendances at Mass. In the diocese of Liverpool, the number of priests has almost halved in the past decade, from 240 in 1998 to 166. The diocese of Lancaster is forecast to lose half of its 108 parishes in the next 10 years, a move which would see dozens of churches closed.
Campaigners in Leeds diocese hope that their efforts will bring them a last minute reprieve, but a spokesman for the bishop said that the fate of the churches could not be changed.
“Closing these churches is the last thing that the bishop wants to do, but he had no choice,” said John Brady, the bishop’s press secretary.
“We have had a consultation, the case was put to them, and that’s it. Congregations of 200 aren’t viable any more.”
Mr Brady said that the closures were part of a “rolling programme” that had already seen another seven churches shut down in the last 18 months.
A contract is sealed between forty seven men and women and the Kansas City St. Joseph Catholic diocese. Bishop Robert Finn admits plaintiffs suffered sexual abuse when they were young boys or girls and over a period that spanned five decades.
Outside Crown Center District law offices where arbitrations are deciding how $10 million in church funds will be divided among the forty seven, lawyers say the atmosphere inside is so charged nearly everyone has been weeping.
The independent arbitrator is hearing descriptions of abuse and gauging duration and severity. But the outside subject is the non money settlement, point after point detailed by attorney Rebecca Randles who says, “these are the most far reaching non monetary commitments that have ever been negotiated between a diocese and the victims of childhood sexual abuse anywhere in the united states and as far as we know, anywhere in the world.”
Still, there is dissatisfaction not all the offending clergy will be stripped of their clerical powers. Plaintiffs say the bishop refused to go that far. Others wanted guarantees the bishop would visit every parish where molestations occured, but there is no contractual agreement.
“I feel like I’m being raped again.”
Frustrated victims of pedophile priest Charles Sylvestre say the London diocese is prolonging their pain by dragging its feet over compensation and forcing them to repeatedly relive the horrors of their youth.
“I feel like I’m being raped again,” said Lou Ann Soontiens, who was assaulted from about age 11 to 17, when she had a forced abortion.
“Bishop (Ronald) Fabbro made comments of a speedy resolution and compassion. Where’s the compassion? We want to move on with our lives and we’ve got this hanging over us.”
Sylvestre pleaded guilty Aug. 4, 2006, to sexually assaulting 47 girls over nearly 40 years in Chatham, Pain Court, Sarnia, London and Windsor. Police have said many more victims have since come forward. It was also discovered that church officials knew of the abuse and did nothing.
Sylvestre died Jan. 22, 2007, at Kingston Penitentiary, after serving less than four months of his three-year sentence.
More than two years after the guilty pleas, dozens of victims represented by different law firms are still waiting for the swift and compassionate conclusion they say was promised. A group of them is planning a news conference to express their anger.
“Bishop Fabbro in his homily apologized and said we were going to be dealt with expediently and gently,” said Karen Schram, whose abuse began in 1971 at age 10. “That has not happened. I believe the majority of the Catholic congregation believes we’ve reached a resolution. We haven’t. Every time we turn around somebody is preventing us from reaching a resolution.”
Soontiens said the diocese is requiring her and others to undergo more psychological evaluations, something the women involved in the criminal proceedings have been through many times before.
“The courtroom girls have already went through that with the police, the Crown attorney, and now I’m going through it three or four different times over again,” said Soontiens, whose lawsuit began four years ago. “Each time I go, they say that’s the same we’ve heard from the beginning. Why makes us all go through it, live that over and over again?“
Mark Adkinson, director of communications for the London diocese, said he couldn’t comment on that.
“I’m not intimately involved in the process,” he said. “I know that the diocesan co-ordinator for this is aware this is something that is painful for people to have to go through again. I know he is working really hard on addressing those concerns. To be honest, I haven’t heard of that complaint in a long time.”
Adding to the long delay, the victims say, is that the lawyer heading up the diocese’s defence has taken a job as a judge.
“Now they’re putting a new person on that doesn’t know what’s going on, and has to take time to read all our files,” said Soontiens. “This is going to drag on and on and on.”
Adkinson said the diocese was also disappointed by its lawyer’s departure.
“We’re just as disappointed as anybody else because we were hoping to move forward and meet the needs of any victims,” he said.
Senior partner Paul Ledroit of Ledroit Beckett law firm in London, representing 34 victims, said he had four mediations scheduled for August. They all got cancelled.
“It’s frustrating to these women because they had been promised by the diocese that things would be dealt with expeditiously, and you’re now looking at years since this process started,” he said.
The survivors said they’re dealing with the added stress from public perception that the cases have been settled, the victims got millions and churches are closing to pay for it.
“They make it sound like Bishop Fabbro has to sell his house because he needs the money for sexual abuse victims,” said Soontiens. “It’s not true.”
The diocese put Fabbro’s house on the market in December 2007, asking $850,000. At the time, the diocese said it was to pay for the lawsuits.
Adkinson said he doesn’t remember that being given as a reason for putting the house up.
“There were a number of factors, I hadn’t heard of that one before,” he said, adding the house was old and needed extensive repairs.
Despite that, he said proceeds from the house — which sold last month for $625,000 — have been earmarked to pay for the lawsuits.
But he also said the diocese has insurance.
“The diocese has had various insurance companies over the years that will pay for all, most or part of it,” said Adkinson.
Published: Friday, August 22, 2008
KANSAS CITY, MO. — A settlement is now official for 47 victims who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of their own priests.
The abuse spanned decades in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese of the Catholic Church.
All parties agreed on the global settlement earlier this week. But, late Thursday, it became final when Bishop Robert Finn signed it.
It’s been six years since the victims started filing lawsuits naming 11 Catholic priests and one brother.
The settlement worth $10 million is the first of its kind in the state of Missouri.
One of the attorneys for the victims released a statement after the bishop signed off.
“Not one client entered this process believing that monetary compensation for their decades of pain was possible; each wanted only to protect future generations of Kansas City’s children from the anguish they carry.”
Kenny Landes was abused for five years starting at age 15.
“I don’t know if there will ever really be closure but for six years now I haven’t been really able to do a lot of work in terms of you know moving on and living my life. I feel a sense of relief that this battle is now over…and the church is going to be paying for me to have some therapy or some type of treatment to start dealing with what happened to me and how it’s affected me,” said Landes.
Bishop Finn apologized to the victims which was a term of the settlement. He said he hoped the settlement will allow the healing to begin.