Western Europe criticized in State Department's annual human rights report

The State Department's 2010 Human Rights Report examines abuse and discrimination the world over, featuring China, Iran, and... Western Europe?

Europe is not exactly at the forefront of one's mind when thinking of places with poor human rights records. But creeping into European society are widespread and insidious anti-Muslim sentiments, says the report. These prejudices are increasingly visible across the Continent, with numerous cases last year highlighting the issue. The document puts it rather bluntly: "Discrimination against Muslims in Europe has been an increasing concern."

The biggest headline grabber was the Swiss ban of minaret construction, passed by a significant majority (57.5 percent in favor) in a popular referendum. (Notably, the ban was opposed by majorities in parliament and the Federal Council, but still won handily.) Compared to its bigger neighbors, Switzerland has a relatively tiny Muslim community, and there are only four minarets in the entire country -- making the  ban mostly symbolic. But the message, another contribution to the growing trend of Swiss hostility towards Muslims, resonated. The report further stated,

Islamic organizations have complained that authorities in many cantons and municipalities discriminated against Muslims by refusing zoning approval to build mosques, minarets, or Islamic cemeteries.

Switzerland was hardly the only country the Report criticized. France's anti-headscarf laws were criticized, as was French President Nicolas Sarkozy's claim that burqas are "not welcome" in France. In the Netherlands, right-wing politician Geert Wilders is cited for frequently stoking anti-Muslimsentiments

Italy, Germany, Britain, and most other European countries are similarly castigated for anti-Muslim hostility. 


Abusive priest reassigned in Pope's former diocese

The spiraling child sex abuse in the European Catholic church keeps getting closer and closer to Pope Benedict XVI himself:

The man, identified only as H., was allowed to stay in a vicarage while undergoing therapy — a decision in which then-Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger was involved, the statement said. It said officials believe it was known the therapy was related to suspected "sexual relations with boys." However, it says a lower-ranking official — vicar general Gerhard Gruber — then allowed him to help in pastoral work in Munich.

The archdiocese says there were no accusations against the chaplain relating to his February 1980 to August 1982 spell in Munich. However, he was convicted of sexually abusing minors during a stint in nearby Grafing between September 1982 and 1985.

The church continues to maintain that Benedict was unaware of the decision to reassign the priest: 

Gruber told The Associated Press by telephone Friday that he was in sole charge of staffing decisions. "Personnel matters were delegated," Gruber said. "I decided that on my own."

Gruber also said Benedict would not have been aware of his decision because the case load was too big. "You have to know that we had some 1,000 priests in the diocese at the time," Gruber said. "The cardinal could not deal with everything, he had to rely on his vicar general."

Gruber's statement nominally protects Benedict but also implies that the reassigning of a priest suspected of sexually molesting children was such a non-issue that if fell under the general category of "personnel matters" to be handled by a lower-ranking official. It also implies that Benedict knew about the priest's case but didn't consider it worth following up. 

In any event, even if Benedict had no idea what was happening, he should still take responsibility for the decisions of subordinates under his command. If it's true for the CEO of Toyota, it should at least be true for the spiritual leader of millions of people.

Sex abuse scandals have rocked the catholic communities in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Ireland in recent months. Patsy Mcgarry of the Irish Times wrote recently for FP about how this has undermined Catholic institutions in Ireland.