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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 1 hour 34 min ago

Chicago priest arrested in Miami has ties to shuttered program

Tue, 09/04/2018 - 17:30

Chicago, Ill., Sep 4, 2018 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Two priests from the Archdiocese of Chicago were arrested Monday in Miami, after the men were reportedly found engaged in a sex act within a parked car. At least one of them was a participant in a program for Hispanic seminarians that was suspended by the Archdiocese of Chicago.

One of the priests, Fr. Diego L. Berrio, is the pastor of Mision San Juan Diego in Arlington Heights, Illinois. He was also appointed this summer the interim “coordinator of the Office for Extern and International Priests.”

The other priest, Fr. Edwin Cortes listed the parish as his address when he was arrested. A Sept. 4 statement from the Archdiocese of Chicago said that Cortes is "an extern priest from Soacha, Colombia who served at St. Aloysius Parish in Chicago for one month, August 1 to August 31, 2018."

The statement said that Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago "has removed Fr. Berrio from ministry and withdrawn his faculties to minister in the Archdiocese of Chicago, effective immediately. The archdiocese will appoint an administrator for the Misión San Juan Diego as soon as possible."

"Archdiocese representatives have been in contact with Fr. Cortes’ home diocese of Soacha, Colombia and informed them that Fr. Cortes will not be granted additional faculties to minister in the Archdiocese of Chicago," it said.

The priests were both charged with lewd conduct, and Cortes was also charged with indecent exposure.

Berrio was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago in 2008. The priest, a native of Colombia, came to Chicago through the Casa Jesus program, a “house of discernment” in which prospective seminarians from Latin America were invited to consider the priesthood during a year-long program sponsored by the archdiocese. The program was founded in 1987.

The Casa Jesus program was suspended in 2016. In that year, NBC 5 Chicago reported homosexual activity among Casa Jesus participants, and said that in 2015 three participants had been dismissed after visiting a gay bar.

In September 2016, Fr. Octavio Munoz was arrested on child pornography charges. Munoz was the rector of Casa Jesus from 2008 to 2015, when he was transferred to a parish in the archdiocese.

On July 7, 2015, Fr. Kevin Hays, who had been appointed to replace Munoz as rector, toured the priest’s apartment with a Church employee, according to an ABC 7 report.

The employee claimed that a laptop belonging to Munoz was streaming child pornography while he and Hays were in the apartment. The employee reportedly contacted archdiocesan officials about the pornography more than a week later, and was surprised to learn that Hays had not yet reported the matter.

The archdiocese contacted private investigators after the matter was reported, but did not contact police until July 28, the same day Munoz was removed from ministry, according to the Chicago Tribune.

ABC 7 reported that Hays told archdiocesan officials he had not seen pornographic videos playing while visiting the apartment. Hays is now the pastor of Notre Dame de Chicago Parish in Chicago.

In a statement issued shortly after Munoz was charged, the Archdiocese of Chicago said that: "On July 28, 2015, Archbishop Blase J. Cupich removed Father Muñoz from ministry and withdrew his faculties, his authority to minister, after the archdiocese learned that the inappropriate material might involve minors. Given the nature of that material, the archdiocese reported it promptly to the civil authorities and have cooperated fully with their investigation."

Another Chicago priest, Fr. Clovis Vilchez-Parra, was also arrested on child pornography charges in 2015. The priest had been serving as parochial vicar at Mision San Juan Diego, where Berrio is currently pastor. Vilchez-Parra was sentenced to four years in prison in 2017.

NBC 5 Chicago reported in 2016 that Vilchez-Parra had ties to Casa Jesus, but did not say whether he had been a participant in the program.

Also in 2015, the Archdiocese of Chicago removed Fr. Marco Mercado, who had been a Casa Jesus participant, from his position as pastor of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, Illinois. The archdiocese said that Mercado had had an "inappropriate relationship with an adult man."

The Archdiocese of Chicago could not be reached for comment.

 

Editor's note: This story was updated after a Sept. 4 statement from the Archdiocese of Chicago.

 

Why organized labor is (still) a Catholic cause

Mon, 09/03/2018 - 18:49

Washington D.C., Sep 3, 2018 / 04:49 pm (CNA).- At a time when labor unions are weak, Catholics still have a place in the labor movement, said a priest who emphasized the Church’s historic efforts to teach the rights of labor and train workers to organize.

“On the local and state level, Catholics are a major part of the labor movement. They took to heart our Catholic social teaching, and tried to implement it in their workplace,” Father Sinclair Oubre, the spiritual moderator of the Catholic Labor Network, told CNA.

However, he said, there is sometimes a disconnect between Catholics and support for organized labor.

“Like in so many areas of our faith, the heresy of radical individualism, a lack of knowledge about why unions were formed, and a general ignorance of what options workers have, have led to many Catholics to either not realize that the Church has favored workers’ associations, or that the Church even has a teaching that has to do with the workplace.”

Union membership peaked at 28 percent of the American workforce in 1954. According to 2017 figures, about 34 percent of public sector employees are unionized, but under 7 percent of private-sector employees are, CBS Moneywatch reports.

Unions continue to enjoy strong approval in the U.S., with 62 percent of respondents telling a recent Gallup survey they support organized labor.

But union support among some Catholics has waned, in part due to labor unions’ political support for legal abortion and pro-abortion rights political candidates, among other issues.

For Fr. Oubre, this shows the need for more faithful Catholics to join a union, not withdraw.

“The fact that many of the cultural war issues have been embraced by labor unions is a concern to me,” he said. “However, the Church and Labor have been here before.”

“From the 1930s to the 1950s, there was a real effort by communists to take over the U.S. unions, and in some cases, they were successful. Instead of saying, ‘Catholics can’t join unions because they are communists,’ which was not accurate because many were not, the Church instead set up labor schools by the hundreds in parish basements.”

“The Church taught workers their rights under the law and Robert’s Rules of Order. It encouraged Catholic workers to run for union office, and bring their Catholic social teachings to bear,” the priest said. “This was very successful, and led to the purging of many communists from the union ranks.”

Catholics have historically played a major role in the U.S. labor movement, as evidenced by several prominent Catholics who have headed the AFL-CIO, the largest union federation in the U.S.

Oubre said unions are a place for Christian evangelization and contribution.

“We cannot write off whole groups of people because part of their agenda is not in line with Catholic teaching,” he said. “Rather, we are called to engage these groups, be active in the organizations, and like in the past, direct these organizations in ways that respect God’s truth.”

The record of Catholic social teaching also backs labor and the right of workers to organize, Oubre said.

In the 19th century, Pope Leo XIII recognized that economic changes introduced new relationships between those who had wealth and those who did not.

“As cities grew, and manufacturing and industry developed, the relationship of responsibility that has existed in the past between the landowner and the peasant no longer existed,” Oubre explained.

“Pope Leo XIII recognized the natural right of people to associate with each other, whether these were religious associations or work guilds, he endorsed the importance of collective bargaining to promote the common good, and recognized the unequal contractual relationship between the worker and the employer.”

The labor market meant that workers were negotiating not only with an employer, but competing against all the other workers seeking the same job. Leo XIII said these pressures to accept employment at ever-lowering wages could lead workers “to agree to employment terms that did not supply the basic needs for a dignified family life.”

The labor-focused traditions of Catholic social teaching have continued especially through the work of Popes Pius XI, John XXIII, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis.

The Second Vatican Council’s apostolic constitution Gaudium et Spes names the right to found unions for working people as “among the basic rights of the human person.” These unions “should be able truly to represent them and to contribute to the organizing of economic life in the right way.” These rights include the freedom to take part in union activity “without risk of reprisal.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 1986 pastoral letter “Economic Justice for All” also addresses the place of labor in Catholic thought and action.

In 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME struck down a 1997 Illinois law that required non-union public employees to pay fees to public sector unions for collective bargaining.

A U.S. bishops’ conference spokesperson said the decision threatened to mandate a “Right-to-Work” environment in government employment in a way that undermines the ability of workers to organize.

Oubre said Catholic union backers object to such a legal principle “because it works against the principle of solidarity and the right of association.”

“‘Right to Work’ laws have their primary intention of weakening the organizing power of unions, and allow people to receive the benefit the union, without taking on the responsibility of being part of the union,” he said.

In Oubre’s view, a union-friendly legal environment is critical.

“One can pass laws that promote workers ability to organize together, or to discourage it,” he said.

He noted the proposals for a “card check” unionization effort, in which an employer must recognize a union if a majority of workers express a desire for a union using signed cards.

Obure said this effort now faces legal obstacles and simply “begins a long process where union avoidance experts are brought in, one-on-one meetings take place with workers, sometimes the leaders are fired, and every effort is made to dishearten the workers.”

“When the election comes around, the will of the workers has been crushed,” he said.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issues annual Labor Day statements which continue “the long tradition of support for workers’ right to organize and join unions,” Oubre said.

In 2018, the statement stressed the importance of just wages for workers, especially for those who have difficulty securing basic needs. It also discussed problems of income inequality between the wealthy and the poor, as well as between ethnic groups and between the sexes.

“This Labor Day, let us all commit ourselves to personal conversion of heart and mind and stand in solidarity with workers by advocating for just wages, and in so doing, ‘bring glad tidings to the poor’,” the bishops’ message concluded.

 

Bishop highlights need for just wages in Labor Day message

Mon, 09/03/2018 - 06:06

Venice, Fla., Sep 3, 2018 / 04:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The provision of just wages for all workers is a critical component of a moral economy, said the head of the U.S. bishops’ Domestic Justice and Human Development committee in his Labor Day message.

“Today, there are many families who, even if they have technically escaped poverty, nevertheless face significant difficulties in meeting basic needs,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice. “Wages for lower income workers are, by various accounts, insufficient to support a family and provide a secure future.”

In his 2018 Labor Day statement, the bishop emphasized that all Christians share the responsibility of building a human-centered economy.

“The economy must serve people, not the other way around,” he said. “Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of participating in God's creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected, including the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to organizing and joining unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.”

In recent years, Dewane noted, the economy has seen significant progress, with declines in poverty and unemployment, and record highs in production, stocks and profits.

However, he said, these statistics do not show the full story of the modern economy, specifically the daily struggles of many unemployed, underemployed, and low-wage workers.

“It is encouraging that poverty has gone down, but still almost one in three persons have a family income below 200 percent of the federal poverty line,” Dewane said.

He pointed to recent studies showing that an average two-bedroom apartment is out of reach for minimum wage earners in all 50 states, and that 40 percent of adults would be unable to cover a $400 emergency expense without borrowing or selling something.

Also concerning, the bishop said, are “the continuing disparities in median incomes between different racial and ethnic groups and between women and men.”

Faced with these challenges, Christians have an obligation to work for a more just society and to “stand in solidarity with our poor and vulnerable brothers and sisters,” Dewane said.

He called both business owners and workers to operate with integrity, recalling the words of Pope Francis in Gaudete et Exultate: “Do you work for a living? Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters…Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.”

Business owners must pursue human flourishing rather than seeking profit alone, Dewane said. “[P]art of this obligation is to pay a just wage, which provides a dignified livelihood for workers and their families to meet their basic needs.”

The Church has traditionally taught that a worker’s willingness to work for a certain wage is not sufficient to make that wage just, the bishop noted. Rather, justice in wages must be evaluated “in the context of the well-being and flourishing of the individual, the family and society.”

“Every worker has a right to a just wage according to the criterion of justice, which St. John XXIII described as wages that, ‘give the worker and his family a standard of living in keeping with the dignity of the human person’.”

Implementing just wages in practice will require a change of heart, Dewane said. He suggested that politicians should address structural causes of low wages and unjust disparities, and society should give “due consideration for what justly ensures security for employees to establish and maintain all significant aspects of family life, and care for family members into the future.”

He also highlighted the rights of unions to advocate for just wages, health benefits, adequate rest, and protection against wage theft.

“[W]e live in the hope that our society can become ever more just when there is conversion of heart and mind so that people recognize the inherent dignity of all and work together for the common good.”

 

How Catholic Charities is tackling California's housing crisis

Sun, 09/02/2018 - 18:02

Santa Clara, Calif., Sep 2, 2018 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic Charities of Santa Clara has partnered with the local county to launch a shared housing program, connecting renters with housing providers amid California’s high housing costs.

“We are incredibly excited to be partnering alongside the County of Santa Clara’s Office of Supportive Housing for this much needed housing resource for our community,” said Lindsey Caldwell, director of Emergency Programs and Housing Services for Catholic Charities of Santa Clara.

“I believe the House Sharing Program is going to be a great success and will truly assist those in need of housing here in the heart of Silicon Valley,” she said in an August 30 press release.

The board of supervisors for Santa Clara County approved a $1.5 million contract with Catholic Charities on April 3. The program officially opened on August 20, but candidates had been applying since the spring.

The contract money will be used to launch the program. Over the next two and a half years, Catholic Charities aims to match 100 households annually, connecting renters to house providers as well as renters with other renters.

According to rental website Rent Cafe, Santa Clara County’s average rental is over $2,700 a month. The average studio apartment costs almost $1,900 and a three-bedroom rental is more than $3,400.

“We’re proud that we can support this working partnership to find creative solutions to our housing crisis,” said Joe Simitian, president of the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors.

“If we can expand affordable housing options by matching people with extra space with those who are struggling to find a safe, affordable home, I’m all for it.”

The home sharing program is based on a national model. Catholic Charities will interview applicants to determine if they qualify for the service, inspecting income, references, and criminal background checks. Home providers will receive a one-time $200 incentive after a match successfully lasts for 90 days.

Priority will be given to applicants with a lower than median income. Catholic Charities suggested that the program could especially benefit senior citizens – who may own a house but are looking for additional revenue – and young adults.

The program is not only a way to help people struggling financially, but an opportunity to create a safe and inclusive society, promoting independence and self-sufficiency, Catholic Charities said.

Gregory Kepferle, CEO of Catholic Charities Santa Clara, said the organization is honored to “offer a creative way for people of different incomes to make ends meet by sharing the cost of housing, even as we work to create a just and compassionate community.”

Cardinal Tobin reportedly declined to investigate McCarrick misconduct rumors

Sat, 09/01/2018 - 22:41

Newark, N.J., Sep 1, 2018 / 08:41 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Joseph Tobin told a journalist Friday that he heard rumors shortly after his 2017 arrival in the Archdiocese of Newark about the sexual misconduct of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. He said he did not investigate those rumors because he found them unbelievable.

In a column published Aug. 31 in the North Jersey Record, journalist Mike Kelly reported that “Tobin told me that soon after arriving in Newark, he heard ‘rumors’ about McCarrick’s beach house. But he never bothered to check them out. He says he thought the story was too ‘incredulous’ to believe.”

“Shame on me that I didn’t ask sooner,” Tobin reportedly told Kelly. 

McCarrick served as Archbishop of Newark from 1986 to 2000.

The Archdiocese of Newark declined to comment on when Tobin was informed that McCarrick was under investigation in New York for an allegation that he had serially sexually abused a teenage boy in the 1970s. A source close to Cardinal Donald Wuerl, McCarrick’s successor as Archbishop of Washington, told CNA that Wuerl learned of the investigation in 2017.

On June 20, 2018, the Archdiocese of New York announced it had found the allegation against McCarrick to be credible. After that announcement, reports surfaced alleging that for decades McCarrick sexually coerced and assaulted seminarians and young priests. Several reports alleged that McCarrick regularly took seminarians to a New Jersey beach house, where he is reported to have sexually assaulted some of them.

The Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen also acknowledged June 20 that they had reached legal settlements with some alleged victims of McCarrick in 2005 and 2007.

Tobin told Kelly that he did not learn about those settlements until June 2018, shortly before they were publicly announced.

Tobin did not specify what he found “incredulous” about the McCarrick rumors he heard after arriving in the Archdiocese of Newark. But the cardinal has previously been involved in addressing situations connected to serious sexual misconduct in the Church.

Tobin served from 2010 to 2012 as secretary to the Vatican office overseeing religious life.

Months before Tobin began working in that office, the Vatican concluded an apostolic visitation- an investigation- into the Legion of Christ, a men’s religious order founded by Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, who, in 2005 was removed from public ministry after he was found to have fathered children, and maintained several properties at which he reportedly sexually abused minors and seminarians connected to the order.

Tobin told Vatican journalist John Allen in 2010 that his Vatican office would want to “stay informed” on the situation of the Legion of Christ.

Crux reported in 2016 that Tobin “was also responsible for the visit and reform of the male communities in Ireland during the sex abuse crisis in the country” while he was working in the Vatican.

In May 2016, the Vatican appointed Tobin to oversee the reform of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a “society of apostolic life,” consisting of laymen and priests. (CNA’s executive director, Alejandro Bermudez, is a member of the group). The Sodalitium was founded by Peruvian Luis Fernando Figari, who is reported to have physically, psychologically, and sexually abused young men, and who is forbidden by the Vatican from having contact with members of the Sodalitium.  

Tobin told Kelly he plans to initiate an archdiocesan investigation into the reasons he was not told about McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct.

Archbishop Vigano recounts papal meeting with Kim Davis

Sat, 09/01/2018 - 20:44

Washington D.C., Sep 1, 2018 / 06:44 pm (CNA).- The former nuncio to the US wrote Thursday his account of Pope Francis’ 2015 meeting with Kim Davis, a county clerk who had refused out of conscience to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Davis, a clerk for Rowan County, Kentucky, served five days in jail for her refusal, in the wake of Obergefell v. Hodges.

The pope met Davis at the apostolic nunciature in Washington, D.C., Sept. 24, 2015, during his visit to the US.

Davis’ lawyer told multiple media outlets of the encounter. According to the Liberty Counsel, Davis said that “Pope Francis was kind, genuinely caring, and very personable. He even asked me to pray for him. Pope Francis thanked me for my courage and told me to 'stay strong’.”

When first asked about the meeting, then-head of the Holy See press office, Fr Federico Lombardi, said: “I don't deny that the meeting may have taken place but I don't have comments to add.”

Several days later, Oct. 2, 2015, Fr. Lombardi said Pope Francis met with Davis alongside several dozen others who had been invited by the nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City.

Such brief greetings “occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability,” he said, adding that the only specific audience granted by the Pope at the nunciature “was with one of his former students and his family.”

Fr. Lombardi stated that during Pope Francis’ meeting with Davis, the Pope “did not enter into the details” of her situation, and specified that the meeting with her “should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.”

Fr. Thomas Rosica, an English-language assistant to Holy See Press Office, told journalists Oct. 2, 2015 that Pope Francis had not been fully briefed on Davis’ situation, or the impact such a meeting would have.

Archbishop Vigano, who was apostolic nuncio to the US at the time of Francis’ visit to the country, issued his Aug. 30 statement in response to an Aug. 28 article in the New York Times.

In that article, the clerical sex abuse victim Juan Carlos Cruz recounted that in April, Francis told him: “I did not know who the woman [Davis] was and he [Msgr. Viganò] snuck her in to say hello to me — and of course they made a whole publicity out of it. And I was horrified and I fired that Nuncio.”

In his statement, published by LifeSiteNews Aug. 31, Archbishop Vigano stated that “Faced with the Pope’s reported statement, I feel obliged to recount the events as they really unfolded.”

The former nuncio said that on Sept. 23, 2015, he spoke with Pope Francis “to bring to his attention, and possible approval, a delicate and easily achievable initiative; that is, to meet personally and in a completely confidential way, out of the media spotlight, with Kim Davis.”

He says he gave the pope a brief memo summarizing Davis’ case, and that Francis “appeared in favor of such an initiative” but wanted Archbishop Vigano to speak with Cardinal Pietro Parolin about the political implications of such a meeting.

Archbishop Vigano said he went that evening, with two of his counselors, to the hotel where the Secretary of State was staying, and he was met by two of his deputies, Archbishop Angelo Becciu and Archbishop Paul Gallagher. Cardinal Parolin had already retired for the night.

“I gave them the same memo that I had given to the Pope, setting forth its content and explaining the reason for my visit, Archbishop Vigano wrote. “After considering the case, Archbishop Becciu was immediately in favor of the Pope receiving Davis privately before he left Washington for New York.”

He said Archbishop Gallagher was more cautious, but was reassured by a canonist of the nunciature that “there were no procedural obstacles,” and he then “gave an unconditionally favorable opinion that the Pope should receive Davis.”

According to Archbishop Vigano, the following morning he told the pope of the positive opinion of the officials from the Secretariat of State. “The Pope then gave his consent, and I organized to have Davis come to the Nunciature without anyone noticing, by having her sit in a separate room,” he said.

The former nuncio wrote that he told the L’Osservatore Romano photographer not to release photos of the meeting without his superior’s permission, and that his photos are kept in the paper’s photographic archive.

That afternoon, Archbishop Vigano recounted, Pope Francis “entered as planned into the sitting room where Davis and her husband were waiting for him. He embraced her affectionately, thanked her for her courage, and invited her to persevere. Davis was very moved and started crying. She was then taken back to her hotel in a car driven by a pontifical gendarme, accompanied by an American Monsignor and staff member of the Nunciature.”

The former nuncio said he was called by Cardinal Parolin in October 2015, after the news of the meeting had broke, who told him, “You must come immediately to Rome because the Pope is furious with you.”

Archbishop Vigano wrote that he met with the pope Oct. 9, 2015 for about an hour, during which he “did not mention even once the audience with Davis”, and praised the visit to the US and his reception there.

“As soon as my audience with the Pope was over, I immediately phoned Cardinal Parolin,” Archbishop Vigano wrote, “and said to him, ‘The Pope was so good with me. Not a word of reproach, only praise for the success of his visit to the USA.’ At which point Cardinal Parolin replied, ‘It’s not possible, because with me he was furious about you.’”

Archbishop Vigano wrote that regarding Cruz’ interview with the New York Times, “either Cruz or the Pope” lied about Francis’ understanding of his visit with Davis.

“What is certain is that the Pope knew very well who Davis was, and he and his close collaborators had approved the private audience,” the former nuncio stated. “Journalists can always check, by asking the prelates Becciu, Gallagher and Parolin, as well as the Pope himself.”

“It is clear, however, that Pope Francis wanted to conceal the private audience with the first American citizen condemned and imprisoned for conscientious objection.”

What lay Catholics are doing in the face of the sex abuse scandal

Sat, 09/01/2018 - 08:04

Denver, Colo., Sep 1, 2018 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When sex abuse scandals first rocked the Catholic Church in the United States in 2002, Miriel Thomas Reneau was young, and felt “truly shocked to realize that men of God could inflict such terrible wounds on victims with impunity.”

This summer, as accusations of abuse against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick surfaced, a grand jury report from Pennsylvania detailed decades of clerical abuse, and the Pope has been accused of allegedly covering up abuse, Reneau, as well as many other lay Catholics, wanted to do to something.

“I wanted to express my solidarity with the victim-survivors of these abuses and do everything within my power to urge the leaders of the Church to act as courageous fathers in enacting meaningful and visible reform,” she told CNA.

That’s why Reneau, along with a friend who wished to remain anonymous, started The Siena Project, which encourages laity to write letters to their bishops “to enact meaningful reforms in light of recent revelations of grievous abuses in the Catholic Church.”

On its website, the Siena Project includes printable letter templates that can be sent to the apostolic nuncio to the United States, to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and a template letter that can be sent to one’s local ordinary.

Reneau told CNA that she had already written letters to her bishop and to Cardinal DiNardo when she felt inspired to build a website that would help other Catholics do the same.

Using St. Catherine of Siena as the namesake for the project was a no-brainer for Reneau, who has a strong devotion to the Dominican tertiary, even naming a daughter after her. Furthermore, St. Catherine met and corresponded with Gregory XI so persistently that she eventually convinced him to move back to Rome after 67 years of papal exile in France.

Her example “shows us that courageous and persistent correspondence with Church leaders can be a channel of renewal during times of crisis in the Church,” Reneau said.

The project also lists in their mission statement six points which they affirm, including that clergy publicly admit the sins of the Church, that they submit to outside investigations, that seminaries and places of formation be reformed, and that the Church works to extend statute of limitations laws so as to give victims more time to find justice in court. Those who affirm the mission statement in whole are encouraged to sign it.

However, “we care much less about acquiring signatures than we do about encouraging people to write to their bishops in their own voices and from their own convictions,” Reneau said.

“I didn't really know what to expect when I launched the website, and the response has reassured me on the most important point: I am not alone in perceiving a need for profound and visible reforms within the Church that I love so much.”

A similar letter-writing initiative was organized by a group of Catholic women, who signed an open letter to Pope Francis demanding answers to the questions and accusations raised in a letter by former U.S. nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.

As of Friday afternoon, the letter had more than 20,000 signatures.

Kendra Tierney is another lay Catholic who felt called to do something as the news of scandals in the Church kept coming this summer.

A mom who blogs at Catholic All Year, Tierney said the response to the scandals was something that frequently came up in a Facebook group of female Catholic bloggers to which she belongs.

Together with Bonnie Engstrom, who blogs at A Knotted Life, Tierney launched a social campaign encouraging prayer and fasting, which is how #SackClothandAshes began.

The women designed shareable graphics which describe the mission of the campaign, explain the purpose of prayer and fasting, and provide prayers of reparation. The campaign is set to last 40 days - it began Aug. 22, the feast of the Queenship of Mary, and will last through the month of September.

“We are Catholic, faithful to the Magisterium and disgusted by the abuse and cover-ups that have plagued the Roman Catholic Church. We are heartsick over the 1,000+ victims of abuse in the state of Pennsylvania and all the other boys and girls, men and women who have been sexually abused by priests and further victimized by the bishops who covered up these crimes,” one graphic for the #SackClothandAshes campaign states.

Tierney said she didn’t expect as big a response to the campaign as it has received.

“The response has been really heartwarming, because it felt like here was something real and concrete and based in Catholic doctrine and tradition that we could do,” she said.

Fasting in particular is a practice that has “sort of fallen by the wayside in Catholicism recently,” Tierney said, “yet this is a tool that makes us better and makes our Church better.”

Tierney said one of the most encouraging responses to the campaign she has received is from a woman who was sexually abused by a priest as a child. While the abuse happened many years ago, and the woman has since married and left the Church, she told Tierney that “it was the first time that she felt like the Catholic Church was supporting her and all that she had gone through.”

“There’s so many intentions for this (campaign), but that has to be one of the main ones, is showing the people who have survived this kind of abuse that we are aware of them and that we want to do what we can to support them,” Tierney said.

She noted that September is an especially appropriate time for a campaign that calls for fasting and reparation, as it contains the feasts of Our Lady of Sorrows and the Exaltation of the Cross, as well as the autumn ember days – the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the third Sunday in September, which were, historically, days of fast and abstinence.

The sacrifices and prayers are “a daily reminder that I haven’t given up on this, I haven’t forgotten about it, it’s...40 days that I keep it in the forefront of my mind,” she added.

Author Leah Libresco is also inviting laity to use the Sept. 14 feast of Our Lady of Sorrows as an opportunity to call their bishops about their concerns.

In her Facebook event, Libresco said she will be asking her bishop “what (he) knew about McCarrick, what he did, and what he plans to do now. I'll also ask for him to work for the release of documents that would confirm or refute Archbishop Viganò's testimony.”

She encourages attendees of the event to use the letter templates from The Siena Project as a guide for what to say on the call, and also to pray the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary or the Chaplet of Seven Sorrows for the bishops and their staff ahead of time.

“Let them know when you call that you're praying for them!” she noted.

Kevin Heider is a Catholic singer-songwriter who has responded to the scandal through song.

The Body” is the result of thoughts that Heider started having as news of sexual accusations against McCarrick came out this summer, as well the thoughts he had surrounding his wife’s pregnancy and the birth of his son.

“As we snuggled and stared and held our son close for two days in the hospital, our minds were split between the joy of this new life and the shame and sorrow wrought by recent revelations of the extent of the suffering our church has brought to so many of the men, women, and children she was supposed to shelter — not abandon,” Heider wrote in a reflection which he shared on his Facebook page.

Heider told CNA that he had been reflecting on the Church.

His song opens with a meditation on the ugliness of sin among the members of the body of Christ, the Church.

As member of the body of Christ “we have to embrace the pain caused by our members and bear it and deal with the weight of it all,” he told CNA.

Music helps Heider process, and he said he hopes his song could help others who are struggling with the scandal in the Church to do the same. He said he hoped it might have a unifying effect, and could help his listeners move from anger to sadness.

“When people allow themselves to just be sad, they're truly united in that sadness. There's a beauty in that, I think, in the simple acknowledgment that we're in this together.”

In his Facebook reflection, he closed with an apology to anyone who has been hurt by members of the Church.

“To every beautiful body one of her members has ever perversely desecrated: I do not have the words to tell you how sorry I am.”

Chris Stefanick, a Catholic speaker and evangelist with Real Life Catholic, told CNA that the pain of the abuse crisis “hits very close to home,” as he has had family members endure the devastation of abuse, with effects that can last for decades.

“So any form of institutionalized cover ups infuriates me on a very personal level. I know I'm not alone in that. I think that watching this kicks up a lot of personal pain for a lot of people...even if it wasn't a member of the clergy who abused them,” he said.

He encouraged Catholics to do four things in the face of the abuse crisis: demand transparency, pray, hope, and remain faithful.

“Don’t ever let anyone inside or outside the Church tell you not to talk. Solid accusations must be dealt with until they're resolved. Be an annoying voice if you need to be,” he said on the need for transparency.

At the same time, Catholics should not let the crisis “rob you of your focus on Jesus.”

“I’ll never let Judas drive me away from Christ,” he said.

“In every crisis in the Church God sends saints as the solution. This is a time of profound crisis. God is calling us to be saints. To rebuild his Church.”

Bishop Cozzens: Nienstedt investigation was 'doomed to fail'

Fri, 08/31/2018 - 19:55

Minneapolis, Minn., Aug 31, 2018 / 05:55 pm (CNA).- Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis released Friday his account of a now-controversial 2014 investigation into allegations against Archbishop John Nienstedt.

“In retrospect, it was doomed to fail. We did not have enough objectivity or experience with such investigations. Nor did we have authority to act. Throughout our efforts, we did not know where we could turn for assistance, because there was no meaningful structure to address allegations against bishops,” he wrote of the investigation.

Cozzens was part of a team charged with reviewing Nienstedt’s handling of clerical sexual abuse allegations in the archdiocese, and investigating allegations of sexual misconduct toward seminarians on Nienstedt’s part.  

“In early 2014, Archbishop Nienstedt asked his subordinates to conduct a review of allegations against him. When affidavits containing serious allegations of misconduct by Archbishop Nienstedt with adults were brought forward, Bishop Piché and I tried our best to bring them to the attention of people who might have authority to act and guide the investigation. This included the then nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò,” Cozzens wrote.

“When Bishop Piché and I believed that we were being told by the nuncio to close the investigation, we strenuously objected. When the nuncio clarified that we should focus the investigation and complete it, we did so.”

Viganò, the former Vatican ambassador to the United States was accused this week of quashing the 2014 investigation into Nienstedt, based on a 2014 memo from a priest of the archdiocese, Fr. Dan Griffith.

Viganò said Wednesday that Cozzens and Bishop Lee Piché had misunderstood his direction.

The accusation against Viganò arose after he released an Aug. 25 letter calling for the resignation of Pope Francis and other senior Church leaders, who, he said, failed to act on reports of Archbishop McCarrick’s sexual immorality.
 
Cozzens’ statement is consistent with Viganò’s account of the Nienstedt investigation. Nevertheless, Cozzens said he understood the frustration expressed by Griffith, “whom I believe acted in good faith and with sincerity and integrity. We all did the best we could in a difficult situation.”

Archbishop Nienstedt and Bishop Lee A. Piché both resigned in June 2015, after the archdiocese was criminally charged with mishandling sex abuse allegations. Prosecutors later dropped criminal charges against the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Archbishop Vigano resigned in April 2016, at the customary age of 75.
 
Cozzens’ Aug. 31 statement said that his archdiocese has learned from past mistakes, and that lay-led reviews and investigations are key to holding bishops accountable when they are accused of abuse.
“When there is an allegation against a bishop or archbishop in our Archdiocese, it is reported to the Board of Directors, lay people. They play a vital role in making certain that all allegations are investigated and addressed,” he said. “I believe that a similar approach utilizing lay expertise is necessary on the national level.”

“As a practical matter, bishop-led investigations have mixed credibility in the public domain: some inevitably believe the accused bishop is being treated unfairly; others believe he is receiving preferential treatment,” he said. “A fair resolution becomes unachievable. The accuser deserves better. We all deserve better.”

Rather, when bishops themselves are accused of abuse, the Church “desperately needs an independent structure, led by experienced lay personnel, to investigate and review allegations made against bishops, archbishops and cardinals,” he said.

Cozzens said he and Bishop Lee Piché “tried our best” to bring allegations against Nienstedt to the proper authorities, which included then-nuncio Vigano.

“When Bishop Piché and I believed that we were being told by the nuncio to close the investigation, we strenuously objected. When the nuncio clarified that we should focus the investigation and complete it, we did so,” Cozzens said.

 An independent national review board would result in a more fair process for holding the hierarchy accountable. In this way, there will be more confidence in our Church leaders in the future.”

Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda, also of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, issued a similar statement on Friday, affirming the need for bishop accountability through lay review boards and investigations.

“I fully support engaging lay leadership. Church leaders must be judged by outsiders who have the independence, objectivity and expertise to be fair and credible. We need the assurance that any cleric - whether a newly ordained priest or a Pope - who abused minors or knowingly protected or enabled such abusers, will be held accountable,” he said. “The same is true for those who abuse their position to take advantage of vulnerable adults, persons receiving spiritual care or seminarians.” At the conclusion of his statement, he invited everyone in the archdiocese to join him for a Eucharistic holy hour of reparation and prayers for healing, which will be held at the Cathedral of Saint Paul on the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, Saturday, September 15 at 11 a.m.

“In the midst of this darkness, it is the Lord’s promise that he will be with us always (Mt 28:20), that he will never abandon his Church, that gives me hope,” he said.

“As the darkness of the past is brought to light, I am trusting in St. Paul’s insight that what is illuminated will itself be light (Eph. 5:13).”

Australian bishops defend seal of confession in response to sex abuse report

Fri, 08/31/2018 - 19:00

Washington D.C., Aug 31, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Australian bishops have accepted the vast majority of recommendations made after a five-year investigation into sexual abuse in the country.

In an Aug. 31 response to the Australian Royal Commission’s report on sex abuse, the Australian bishops’ conference considered hundreds of specific recommendations made by the report.

While welcoming the substance of the report, which was published in December 2017, the Australian bishops’ defended the sacramental seal, which the report said should be violated if a priest came to know of an allegation of abuse through confession.

“We are committed to the safeguarding of children and vulnerable people while maintaining the seal. We do not see safeguarding and the seal as mutually exclusive,” wrote Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane and Sister Monica Cavanagh, president of Catholic Religious Australia, in a co-authored preamble to the 57-page response.

“Bishops and religious leaders have accepted or accepted in principle or supported 98 percent of the Royal Commission’s recommendations. The one recommendation we cannot accept … refers to the seal of the Sacrament of Penance. This is because it is contrary to our faith and inimical to religious liberty,” Coleridge and Cavanagh explained.

Three Australian states have already adopted laws making it an offence for priests to fail to report the confessions of child sex abuse. However, priests in these states -- the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, and Tasmania -- have said that they are “willing to go to jail” rather than break the seal of confessional.

Other recommendations by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse included requests that the Holy See change canon law in some areas, such as abolishing the statute of limitations in cases of sexual abuse. The Australian bishops noted that they had passed along these requests to the Holy See.

The Royal Commission also recommended that the Australian bishops request the Holy See consider voluntary celibacy for diocesan clergy and “implement measures to address the risks of harm to children and the potential psychological and sexual dysfunction associated with a celibate rule of religious life,” including a consideration of “shorter terms of celibate commitment, and/or voluntary celibacy.”

The Australian bishops responded that they are “seeking expert theological and canonical advice and .. is in consultation with the Holy See.” The Catholic Religious Association will also commission research on potential dysfunctions associated with celibate life.

“Inadequate initial and continuing formation of priests and religious for celibate living may have contributed to a heightened risk of child sexual abuse, but not celibacy as a state of life in and of itself,” the bishops responded.

Australian Associated Press said that Archbishop Coleridge told reporters on Friday, "There is a dark side to celibacy. I am the first to admit it, especially when it is accompanied by poor formation." But the bishops emphasised that the Royal Commission did not find “a causal connection between celibacy and child sexual abuse.”

The Anglican church in Australia, which allows for married clergy, had nearly 1,100 child sexual abuse claims over the 35 years, according to the final report of the commission, which was released in Dec. 2017.

The five-year inquiry examined sex abuse in Australian schools, churches, and sports clubs, and has set up a government program to financially compensate victims.

The Catholic church was the first non-government institution in Australia to commit to this financial compensation program, which started on July 1, 2018, and will offer compensation totally $2.9 billion to approximately 60,000 Australians.

The compensation per victim is capped at $110,000 and the average payments are expected to be around  $49,000.

Earlier this year, Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide was convicted of failing to report sex abuse by a priest in the 1970s. Pope Francis accepted Wilson’s resignation in July.

In April, Cardinal George Pell pleaded not guilty to several charges of sexual abuse from the 1970s and 1990s. Pell is currently on a leave of absence from his role as the Vatican’s Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.

 

Ave Maria president amends statement denouncing 'defiance' of pope

Fri, 08/31/2018 - 18:52

Venice, Fla., Aug 31, 2018 / 04:52 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- One day after issuing a statement denouncing what he called the 'defiance' of Pope Francis by “so-called conservative Catholics”, the president of Ave Maria University revised that statement and issued a letter explaining his intent.

“I want to make very clear what my August 29th statement intends to do,” Jim Towey wrote in an Aug. 30 letter to friends of Ave Maria University.

He said his desire “is to defend Peter, not simply Francis.”

Towey noted that “the Chair of St. Peter isn’t a political office.”

Christ “gave the keys of the Church to Peter and his successors,” he wrote. “This divine institution transcends temporal affairs. The Church’s foundation depends on unity between the pope and bishops. While perfect unity is not possible to effect in a world of sinners, all of us in the Church must desire it.”

The university president said he is aware of the history of curial corruption and knows “the difference between fallible persons and the underlying offices that they occupy.”

“People are entitled to their views on Pope Francis and his pontificate. My concern is with how we express our views and act upon them during this dark controversy.”

Towey said his concern “is with the prudence of the public, coordinated release” of Archbishop Viganò's testimony.

“Can one archbishop be prosecutor, judge and jury and call for a resignation of the pope?”

Towey also defended the legitimacy of questioning “the appropriateness of airing grievances of this nature in a public manner.” He cited the 1990 instruction Donum veritatis of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which advised theologians against turning to the media when they have tensions with the Magisterium.

“What was said in the context of commentary on magisterial documents seems to apply as well as to the public criticisms of the Holy Father and his actions,” Towey wrote. “The Archbishop here publicly accused the Pope of 'grave, disconcerting and sinful conduct' and called for him to resign. In my view, this conduct crossed the line, and a defense of the Holy Father was merited.”

He added that “my gratuitous comment about what might have motivated Cardinal Burke’s conduct … was not merited.”

In his Aug. 29 statement, Towey had written of “the challenge to the Pope’s authority by Raymond Cardinal Burke, an American prelate who has consistently opposed the direction Pope Francis has led the Church on certain matters (and may still be smarting from the Holy Father’s decision to remove him from his prominent position as head of the Holy See’s highest ecclesiastical court).”

In his emendation of the Aug. 29 statement, the parenthetical reference to Cardinal Burke's removal from the Apostolic Signatura was omitted.

“Such speculation was unfair and His Eminence deserved better,” Towey wrote in his Aug. 30 letter. “He has been a friend of Ave Maria University since its founding and is renowned for his sincere love of the Church. I will amend my statement on the web site, and I apologize.”

Towey said that Church unity “is vital today more than ever before,” and, referring to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that “the Pope has primacy, and that the unity of the pope and the bishops is the very foundation of the Church.”

“You and I must work toward that unity and avoid any potential schism that might mortally wound the body of Christ,” he wrote.

Towey affirmed that the case of Archbishop McCarrick “raises troubling questions that demand answers. For the record, I support the initiative within the Church to vigorously examine the evidence. What His Eminence Cardinal DiNardo proposed seems appropriate.”

He said he grew up believing “that we should love whoever our pope is and give the benefit of the doubt to him whenever it is reasonably possible to do so. I see no reason why Pope Francis doesn’t deserve this benefit now.”

“I remain confident he will comment at the appropriate time on what has been published, and also lead the effort the Church needs to protect children and vulnerable adults from clergy sexual abuse, and hold those who perpetrate such acts or cover them up within the hierarchy, accountable. Let us all pray for him.”

Pope Francis responded Aug. 26 to a journalist's question about Archbishop Viganò's testimony, saying: “I read the statement this morning, and I must tell you sincerely that, I must say this, to you and all those who are interested: Read the statement carefully and make your own judgement. I will not say a single word on this. I believe the statement speaks for itself. And you have the journalistic capacity to draw your own conclusions. It’s an act of faith. When some time passes and you have drawn your conclusions, I may speak. But, I would like your professional maturity to do the work for you. It will be good for you.”

The original version of Towey's Aug. 29 statement has been removed from Ave Maria University's website, and has been replaced with an emended version. The original is, however, available on cached sites.

In addition to removing his parenthetical speculation about Cardinal Burke's motivations, the updated version of Towey's statement removed from the opening line the word “conservative” as predicated of some members of the Church hierarchy: “There is nothing new about the rift between Pope Francis and some conservative members of the Church hierarchy” in the original now reads “There is nothing new about the rift between Pope Francis and some members of the Church hierarchy.”

The emended version of the statement continues to refer twice to “conservative Catholics”, once to “so-called conservative Catholics,” and it affirms the conservatism of Ave Maria University.

Towey's letter also refers to his Aug. 24 statement regarding the crisis of clerical sexual abuse and its cover-up by Church authorities.

He wrote in his letter that the scandal “touches very close to home,” as a family member, while in high school, was abused by a seminary deacon.

Towey said the deacon was ordained a priest and “only when three women went public many years later was he removed from active ministry.”

“Five other victims came forward shortly after he was removed from parish life,” Towey wrote. “He has never acknowledged his wrongdoing to any of the victims, remains a priest to this day, and receives a monthly pension check for the 22 years he preyed on the vulnerable while wearing a Roman collar.”

“I intend to continue to press for justice in his case, and as a lay man, to participate in the reform of the Church so that priests like him are held accountable,” Towey stated.

Spiritual direction: What is it, who needs it, and why?

Fri, 08/31/2018 - 17:59

Denver, Colo., Aug 31, 2018 / 03:59 pm (CNA).- Chatting with Lee McDowell is a peaceful experience.

Seated in a comfy leather chair in a rust-colored office near downtown Denver, McDowell serenely and thoughtfully explains the “art and science” of her particular trade - and it’s not surprising to learn that she has a background in clinical psychology.

Today, McDowell serves not as a psychologist, but as one of many spiritual directors available to Catholics and other Christians through the Lanteri Center for Ignatian Spirituality in Denver, Colorado. The center is a house founded by the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, with the mission of bringing spiritual direction to the “popular level” of parishes and lay people.

Once thought to be reserved for the “interior castles” of highly mystical souls like St. Teresa of Avila, spiritual direction is today increasingly popular among Catholics of all vocations in the post-Vatican II age of emphasizing the universal call to holiness.

"As she has never failed to do, again today the Church continues to recommend the practice of spiritual direction,” Pope Benedict XVI said in 2011, “not only to all those who wish to follow the Lord up close, but to every Christian who wishes to live responsibly his baptism, that is, the new life in Christ."

But good spiritual directors can be hard to find, and it can be difficult to know when one needs spiritual direction, versus a good confession or pastoral counseling or other kinds of help.

CNA posed some questions about the ministry to some seasoned spiritual directors and experts on spiritual direction: McDowell, a Catholic convert and former clinical psychologist who found spiritual direction through her grief after losing her husband; Fr. Greg Cleveland, an oblate of the Virgin Mary and executive director of the Lanteri Center; John Johnson, the associate director of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation; and Dr. Anthony Lilles, Academic Dean of both St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California, and the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, who has written extensively on the spiritual life.

What is spiritual direction - and what is it not?

While the answers from spiritual directors and experts vary slightly on this question, one thing is clear - spiritual direction must be aimed at forming and cultivating a relationship with the Lord.

“One of my favorite definitions for spiritual directions is that it is a three-part encounter,” McDowell said. “An encounter between the Lord, the directee, and the spiritual director, for the purpose that the directee may grow in their relationship with our Lord.”

Remove any one of those encounters, and what is taking place is no longer spiritual direction, McDowell said.

Spiritual direction is also distinct from other forms of pastoral help or counseling, Cleveland told CNA.

“Spiritual direction is not pastoral counseling, a lot of people mistake it for that,” Cleveland said. “Pastoral counseling is more about solving problems in a person’s life, and that’s certainly important and very much needed.”

It’s also not confession, Johnson noted.

“It’s very important that spiritual direction is distinguished from confession. Confession is for your sins, and that doesn’t need to be very illustrative. Confession is number and occasion (of sin),” he said. “If you confess all your sins, you express remorse, you have contrition, and you vow to do satisfaction...you have a good confession, you get absolution. It doesn’t need to be a laundry list.”

Spiritual direction instead focuses on a relationship with God, Cleveland said, which is “not a problem to be solved, but something to be discovered and deepened and celebrated. A lot of times people are looking for something else...so sometimes we have to really reorient someone’s thinking - are you looking to deepen your relationship with God through prayer and discernment?”

Johnson told CNA that spiritual direction is a helping relationship that allows Christians to achieve sanctity and the heights of contemplation - which are for every Christian, and not just an elite few.

The practice has biblical roots, Johnson noted, such as in Acts 8:27-39 in which an Ethiopian eunuch is travelling and reading Scripture, but does not fully understand the passage he is reading.

“Seated in his chariot, (the eunuch) was reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go and join up with that chariot.’ Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone instructs me?’ So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him.” (Acts 28-31).

In the rest of the passage, Philip reads the Scripture passage with the eunuch and “proclaimed Jesus” to him by teaching him about the passage, and then baptizing him.

Lilles emphasized that spiritual direction is not just another self-improvement program.

“It’s not psychological counseling for example, nor is it self-exploration or self-improvement or self-therapy,” he said.

“There might be a therapeutic dimension to it, and of course self-knowledge allows you to have a deeper knowledge of God, but is about a living encounter with the Lord. What obstacles do I need to remove so that that encounter can unfold in my life? What do I need to do to dispose myself for that encounter so that I’m ready to say yes to what God places in my heart?”

Who needs spiritual direction? Is it for everyone?

“The first thing that we could say about a spiritual director is that everybody needs one,” Johnson said.

It’s a point on which not everyone in the world of spiritual direction and formation completely agrees. But for Johnson, the biblical roots of spiritual direction confirm its necessity in the spiritual life.

“In this culture of self-starters, of bootstrappers, we hear a lot this notion of ‘well I taught myself.’ How’d you learn that language? I taught myself. How’d you learn ballet? I taught myself. Well that’s not true, because if you could teach yourself anything, you wouldn’t need to,” Johnson said.

“So we need a guide, and beginning in the Biblical tradition even in the earliest days, the apostles introduce one another to Christ. This is the normative way that sanctity is achieved.”

For Father Cleveland, the desire for spiritual direction is key. The average person who identifies as Catholic but may not pray regularly or seek out the sacraments is probably not going to be interested in a spiritual director, he said.

McDowell said that while every Christian who is serious about their faith could benefit from spiritual direction, she didn’t believe formal spiritual direction with a trained religious or lay director was always necessary - or practical - in the spiritual life.

People early on in their faith journey might benefit more from bible studies or other small groups at first, rather than diving right into spiritual direction, she noted.

But there are times in a person’s life when spiritual direction might be more beneficial, she said, such as times of transition - whether that’s vocational discernment, transitioning from college to the real world, a midlife crisis, retirement and empty nesting, or other life changes.

Another time when spiritual direction is especially helpful could be when a person experiences something unexpected, usually something painful like the loss of a job, a dream or a loved one, McDowell said.

“Unexpected sufferings, are marvelous times and often needed times for the ministry of spiritual direction,” she said.

Lilles said there are three key times when he thinks spiritual direction is most needed in a person’s life: when someone has become “spiritually lazy” and needs to reignite their spiritual life, when someone experiences a traumatic event due to their own sin, the sin of others or an outside event, and when someone experiences some internal spiritual trial that may or may not be related to external events.

“When some kind of crisis of faith has come it would be good to seek someone out,” he said.

Where can good spiritual directors be found?

A good spiritual director can be hard to find. Isolated geographic locations, a shortage of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the already-busy schedules of available spiritual directors are some of the reasons someone might have difficulties finding a qualified person.

Johnson said he recommends that people find the holiest person they know, and ask them who their director is.

“It’s easy to say my parish is terrible and my priest is too busy...but you have to keep looking. Because the best spiritual directors are going to be very hidden,” he said. “If you see a billboard that says call me, 1-800 Spiritual Director, run the other way.”

Johnson and Lilles both recommended spending some times at local monasteries or convents with religious who are faithfully living out their vows, and asking them for spiritual direction.

“Where the discipline of the Christian life is being lived, God always raises up people who have wisdom for the spiritual life,” Lilles said. He added that most parish priests should also be able to recommend spiritual directors to their parishioners.

As with everything in the spiritual life, prayer is a key component of finding a good spiritual direction.

“The most important thing to find a spiritual director is to beg God to send you one, and God will send you the spiritual director you need at the right time in your life, he hears those kinds of prayers,” Lilles said.

Are all priests spiritual directors? Can lay people be spiritual directors?

While most priests have some sort of training in giving spiritual counsel, they often need further formation to become a well-trained spiritual director, Cleveland said.

“The traditional thinking was that priests were automatically qualified by virtue of their training to be spiritual directors, but it all depends on how good their training is,” he said.

“Priests may have that gift but that gift needs to be developed, like any talent we have,” he added. “Somebody could be a born athlete but they would still have to practice and become good at the sport that they play, and its like that with the priesthood as well.”

There are several formation programs that help develop priests and religious as spiritual directors, and these are increasingly open to interested and qualified lay people as well. Both the Avila Institute and the Lanteri Center providing spiritual direction formation for priests and laity.

Lay people, when given the proper formation and training, “make excellent spiritual directors,” Cleveland said.

“Sometimes the life experience of one lay person receiving spiritual direction will be more consonant and similar to the lay person who’s giving spiritual direction... (they) may find that another lay person understands and is able to relate to (their) experience of being a layperson in the world,” he said.

McDowell, herself a lay spiritual director, said that she finds that people seek lay spiritual directors for a variety of reasons - their priest is busy, they want to talk to someone who might share their vocation of marriage, or they are a woman who would rather share intimate spiritual details of their life with another woman, rather than a priest.

The key qualifications for any good spiritual director are spiritual maturity, psychological maturity, and self awareness, McDowell added. These people can then enter into formation as spiritual directors, where they delve more deeply into the spiritual life, the discernment of spirits, and the ability to listen deeply to another person and notice where God might be moving in their life.

What happens at spiritual direction? What do the directee and the director bring to the table?

At the Lanteri Center, spiritual directors are taught to listen to their directees and to help facilitate their relationship with God, rather than present themselves as gurus who have all the answers, McDowell said.

“My facilitation is mostly asking questions, sometimes repeating back to them a word or phrase that they have said and asking them to say more about that,” McDowell said.

“I don’t suggest: ‘I believe God wants you to do this.’ We are not directive in that way. There’ll be times when I may have a sense that God is working in a particular way in a directees life, but one of our cardinal maxims so to speak is never get out in front of God,” she said.

“So even though I may have a sense that he is working in a particular way or has a desire for the directee in a particular area of holiness and growth, my suggestion will be - how about praying with this scripture. Or if they’ve been praying with it, to journal about it. That’s what I will do, that’s what I mean by facilitating.”  

As for what the seeker of spiritual direction brings to the table, a desire for and commitment to a prayer life is key, McDowell said.

“Without their own personal prayer, there’s really no reason to get together,” McDowell said. “Now, some people come and they want to be taught how to pray. That’s beautiful and we can do that.”

Once people begin with spiritual direction, Cleveland said he usually recommends they spend at least half an hour a day in prayer, whether that’s meditating on scripture, praying the examen prayer, spending time in front of the Eucharist or other forms of prayer.

Johnson said his recommendation to people just beginning spiritual direction is “to bring themselves.”

“At first you especially want to try to get to the heart of the matter, and that can be the most prevalent place of pain in your life, that can be your heaviest cross, that can be your darkest memory,” he said, “because in many ways these crosses, these trials impress themselves upon us in a way that’s very formative or de-formative and that might be the place to start, the most difficult place.”

“Each of us is deeply broken, and if we weren’t deeply broken we wouldn’t need any direction,” he added. “It’s like when you go to the doctor, what are you going to do? It’s not like you’re going to tell them about things that aren’t bothering you. You’re going to tell them about what’s hurting so he can fix it. That’s what a director does, that’s the quality of a good physician.”

What happens if a spiritual director is not a good fit?

McDowell said both the spiritual director and directee should always be discerning whether the relationship is a good fit.

At the Lanteri Center, people seeking spiritual direction are encouraged to have an initial interview meeting with one of the available spiritual directors, and to read their biographies online to see if they feel called to meet with any particular person.

McDowell said she never assumes at a first meeting that she will be that person’s spiritual director, she rather uses the time to gauge where the person it at and what they need.

“Our first meeting with a potential or prospective directee is what we call an initial interview...where I’ll tell them what spiritual direction is and is not, I’ll ask what their desires are and what has brought them,” she said.

It is then up to both the director and directee to discern whether they are a good fit, or whether another person or another ministry altogether might be needed. McDowell said she has referred people to priests for pastoral matters, and directors at the Lanteri Center are also able to recommend Christian psychological counselors if they discover that that is what a person might need.

Sometimes a spiritual direction relationship reaches a natural end - a person may enter a new phase of life or prayer that necessitates a different spiritual director. Prayerful discernment and honesty are key, McDowell said.

For example, as a convert to Catholicism, McDowell said if she had directees who desire to delve more deeply into the lives of the saints, she will usually refer them to a different director, since she is not as familiar with this particular tradition.

“So that’s another time where it’s really good to discern,” McDowell said. “Maybe we’ve been together, and it’s been really good, but now there’s someone else to take them on the rest of the journey.”  

What can Catholics do if they still can’t find a good spiritual director?

There are many resources on spiritual direction available to those who desire spiritual direction but who cannot find a formal director.

Cleveland recommended the many books by Father Timothy Gallagher, another Oblate priest, who is most well-known for his book “Discernment of Spirits”, as well as his other spiritual works such as “The Examen Prayer,” and “Discerning the Will of God.”

In his video for Ascension Press entitled “No spiritual director? No problem!” Father Mike Schmitz makes several book recommendations. Besides “Discernment of Spirits,” he also recommends “Time for God” by Father Jacques Philippe, “Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer” by Father Thomas Dubay, and the “Introduction to the Devout Life” by St. Francis de Sales.

Whether people are in spiritual direction or not, Lilles said he recommends that people who want to grow in their spiritual lives read more about the doctors of the Church.

“Since 1972 the church has raised up doctors of the Church - St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Hildegard of Bingen, St. John of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and more recently St. Gregory of Narek..these doctors of the Church have all written about the spiritual life, they all have spiritual wisdom,” he said.

“They are masters of the spiritual life...this is an important time for rediscovering that spiritual teaching,” he added.

“Don’t be afraid to put out into the deep, as St. John Paul II often exhorted us” Cleveland added.

“Don’t be afraid to try to deepen that relationship with God, to seek the Lord through prayer and through living the spiritual life vibrantly. It’s a commitment, but the rewards are tremendous - to have that relationship with God, to know God’s presence not only in prayer but in the midst of my daily life, and to be able to seek and find God in all things.”  

 

The Viganò report, and what Wuerl didn’t know

Fri, 08/31/2018 - 14:07

Washington D.C., Aug 31, 2018 / 12:07 pm (CNA).- On Aug. 25, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò released a 11-page “testimony” which made specific allegations against a number of high-ranking Church authorities – including Pope Francis - who, he said, had been aware of accusations of misconduct against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick for many years.
 
Viganò’s testimony, and the attention it has brought to what Pope Francis did or did not know about McCarrick, has shifted media focus dramatically away from the Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

Until Viganò released his testimony, Wuerl was the sitting bishop under the most serious personal scrutiny in connection with McCarrick and other reports of clerical sexual abuse. He has faced calls for his resignation in major newspapers and in DC parishes, and there have been demonstrations by local Catholics outside his home and St. Matthew’s Cathedral.
 
While his record as Bishop of Pittsburgh was called into question following the Pennsylvania grand jury report, Wuerl really owes his place at the center of this summer of scandal to his role as McCarrick’s successor in Washington, D.C., where McCarrick was – and is believed still to be – living in retirement.
 
What Wuerl knew, or may have heard, about McCarrick’s behavior before and after retirement is now seen as a crucial test of his credibility on sexual abuse and episcopal transparency. Thus far, Wuerl’s public statements have said little about what he did know, and focused on what he didn’t know about the complex set of rumors, allegations, and reports swirling around his predecessor.

As the questions being put to Cardinal Wuerl have become more specific, answers about what he did or did not know have become more precise, and more tightly circumscribed.

When the allegations that McCarrick sexually abused a minor first became public at the end of June, Cardinal Wuerl declared himself “shocked and saddened” in a letter released by the Archdiocese of Washington on June 21. In the letter, Wuerl affirmed, after a review of archdiocesan records, that “no claim – credible or otherwise – has been made against Cardinal McCarrick during his time here in Washington.”
 
When it was confirmed that two of McCarrick’s previous dioceses, Metuchen and Newark, had reached out-of-court settlements with adults who accused McCarrick of sexual assault while they were seminarians or young priests, the Archdiocese of Washington circulated a letter to priests on July 25, saying that Wuerl had no prior knowledge of these settlements until the accusations against McCarrick were made public in June.
 
On July 29, Wuerl told WTOP that he had never been approached with allegations of abuse against McCarrick and was even unaware of the widespread rumors of sexual immorality which had apparently been long associated with his predecessor.
 
In the “testimony” released on Aug. 25, Archbishop Viganò claimed that, in 2009 or 2010, Pope Benedict XVI imposed definite restrictions on McCarrick, following a series of complaints of abuse against him. These included, according to Viganò, an injunction to leave the seminary where he was then living and refrain from public speaking and ministry.
 
Viganò also said that Wuerl was not ignorant that restrictions had been placed upon McCarrick, or of the reasons for them. Viganò wrote that “Obviously, the first to have been informed of the measures taken by Pope Benedict was McCarrick’s successor in the Washington See, Cardinal Donald Wuerl.”
 
The former apostolic nuncio to the United States called it “unthinkable” that Wuerl would not have been told of the restrictions allegedly imposed upon McCarrick by Benedict at the time, and says that he himself had later raised the issue with Wuerl and found that he “didn’t need to go into detail because it was immediately clear that [Wuerl] was fully aware of it.”
 
Wuerl’s denial of Viganò’s allegation was immediate, coming the same day as the release of the “testimony.” But it was also a narrow denial, especially compared to his previously broad denial of having never even heard “rumors” about McCarrick.
 
“Cardinal Wuerl did not receive documentation or information from the Holy See specific to Cardinal McCarrick’s behavior or any of the prohibitions on his life and ministry suggested by Archbishop Viganò,” the cardinal’s spokesman, Ed McFadden, told CNA on Aug 25.
 
“Cardinal Wuerl categorically denies that he was ever provided any information regarding the reasons for Cardinal McCarrick’s exit for the Redemptoris Mater Seminary [where McCarrick lived until 2009],” McFadden said.
 
Regarding a vocational meeting featuring McCarrick which Wuerl cancelled at Viganò’s prompting, CNA was told that “Archbishop Viganò presumed that Wuerl had specific information that Wuerl did not have.”  
 
Wuerl did not deny that restrictions had been imposed on McCarrick by Benedict, or that they were the reason the vocational event was cancelled – saying only that he wasn’t told by the Holy See about these restrictions, and that he had no specific information about why it had to be cancelled.

This is a far more precise and delineated statement than, for example, the cardinal telling WTOP in July that he had not even heard rumors of misconduct by McCarrick, or his writing to the faithful of Washington in June that he was “shocked” by the accusations.

CNA reported this week that Wuerl was informed in the summer of 2017 that McCarrick was being investigated in New York after being accused of sexually abusing a teenager in the 1970s. Through the investigation, McCarrick retained his two seminarian staffers, who served as drivers and personal assistants.

While aware of the investigation into McCarrick’s sexual abuse, Wuerl did not inform IVE formators, or suggest they withdraw the seminarians assigned to him - this was only done in June 2018, when the accusation was made public.

When asked why Cardinal Wuerl did not act immediately to have the seminarians withdrawn once he learned about the investigation into McCarrick in 2017, the Archdiocese of Washington told CNA that Cardinal Wuerl was unaware of the extent to which the seminarians were supporting McCarrick and facilitating his travel, and that the allegation against McCarrick had not yet been deemed “credible.”

While Wuerl’s categorical denial that he was informed of sanctions against McCarrick remains intact, his previous claim to have received no accusations “credible or otherwise” against McCarrick, or even to have heard rumors to that effect, has come under closer scrutiny.

But none of that means that Wuerl’s exit from Washington is imminent. In fact, at least some speculate that an immediate removal is less likely now than it was last week.
 
Only a week ago, many in Rome were talking about the possibility that Wuerl’s resignation would be soon accepted, or that he be given a special administrator to help govern the archdiocese after Pope Francis returned from Ireland.
 
Now, Francis and Wuerl face a common denouncer in Archbishop Viganò. Some in Rome speculate that any move by Francis to replace or sideline Wuerl might have to be shelved, lest it look like a tacit concession to Viganò’s accusations.
 
For the most part, Wuerl has been clear he does not intend to stand down, and that he wants to play an active part in the upcoming general session of the U.S. bishops’ conference in November, which is expected to deal almost exclusively with the fallout of the recent sexual abuse scandals.

While he is reportedly in Rome this weekend, Cardinal Wuerl has written to the priests of Washington saying he is reflecting on how best he can now serve the Church, and plans to meet with them on Monday, Sept. 3.

Whether he remains the Archbishop of Washington, the past few months have seen a man once known for staying above the fray become the face of division in the Church in America.

Wuerl’s reputation as a consummate diplomat and a “safe pair of hands” was built around a long career spent doing things by the book. But he seems now unable to justify his actions by arguing that he has kept the law. Wuerl has come to be defined not by things he has done, but by the things he says he didn’t know.

Hundreds gather for Marian pilgrimage to Pennsylvania town on fire

Fri, 08/31/2018 - 02:36

Philadelphia, Pa., Aug 31, 2018 / 12:36 am (CNA).- Centralia, Pennsylvania, is on fire … literally: a coal fire has been raging underneath the town for more than 50 years, but a century-old church still stands, drawing hundreds of Catholics for an annual Marian pilgrimage.

“The town is essentially gone, for all intents and purposes dead, but the Church is what gives life,” said Father John Fields, communications director and vice-chancellor for the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.

“Jesus Christ gives life to the whole location,” he told CNA.

On August 26, four bishops and more than 500 pilgrims gathered to celebrate the Feast of Assumption of Mary, known in the Eastern rites as the Dormition of the Theotokos.

Pilgrims came from nearby and as far away as Texas and Florida for the third annual pilgrimage at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Centralia, a nearly deserted town where a fire still burns up to 300 feet underground.  

Believed to be from an attempt to burn trash in a former strip mine, the fire began under Centralia in 1962. The fire stretches 8 miles and could last up to 250 more years, according to the Smithsonian Institute.

Most of Centralia has evacuated, Fr. Fields told CNA, but added that the church still stands on the solid rock upon which it was built by Ukranian miners in 1912. He said that tests have shown the church to be safe from the fires.

The Marian pilgrimage was coordinated by Father Michael Hustko, the pastor of the Ukrainian church, built on a hill overlooking the now smoldering town and which still has about 50 families who are parishioners.

Also in attendance were Bishop Kurt Burnette of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic, Bishop Ronald Gainer of Harrisburg, Bishop John Bura of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, and Bishop Andriy Rabiy, apostolic administrator of the same archeparchy.

The event began with the celebration of Divine Liturgy, followed by the Akafist hymn, a poem of 24 stanzas composed by St. Roman the Melodist, which reflects on the earthly life of Jesus and the Mother of God, and the theological reality of the redemption of humanity.

Later in the day, a procession of candles was held as attendees prayed the Moleben, an eastern liturgical service of thanksgiving. A healing service was also held.

Participants were also welcome to pray a living rosary, which used a large set of beads held by numerous people. The rosary was prayed in front of an 18th century copy of the Icon of Our Lady of Pochaiv.

Divine Liturgy was led by Bishop Rabiy, who compared the pilgrimage to the mountain parish to the Transfiguration of Christ in the New Testament.

“Our Lord went up the mountain with Peter, James and John and was transfigured before their eyes. They experienced something special,” he said during the homily.

“Today, during this pilgrimage, gathered on this holy mountain, may each of you encounter the Divine. You come here to seek God’s grace. Say to Him, 'I am here to listen. Lord, what do you have to tell me?'”

Bishop Burnette led the Moleben, reflecting on the theme of forgiveness and especially Mary’s willingness to forgive those who killed her Son.

“If Mary could forgive those people [who crucified her Son], you and I could forgive anyone,” he said, and prayed that this time be one of “fresh beginnings” for the pilgrims.

“Ask God’s help for the forgiveness of sins and of each other. Ask God’s help, pray for others and ask the Mother of God for her help.”

Cheyenne diocese finds credible third allegation of child abuse by retired bishop

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 21:09

Cheyenne, Wyo., Aug 30, 2018 / 07:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Cheyenne announced Wednesday that it has found credible a third allegation of child sexual abuse committed by Emeritus Bishop Joseph Hart.

After the diocese announced in July that a canonical investigation had concluded there was “credible and substantiated” evidence that Bishop Hart had abused two Wyoming boys, “a third individual reported that he, too, was sexually abused by Bishop Hart in 1980,” the diocese said Aug. 29.

“The diocese reported the allegation to the Cheyenne Police Department and is cooperating with their investigation.”

The Cheyenne diocese said Bishop Hart declined to be interviewed as part of the investigation, and that the investigation's findings were handed over to the Diocesan Review Board.

The review board found the allegation credible and substantiated, and the investigation has been forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“I commend the victim for having the courage to contact us. If anyone has been abused, no matter how long ago, I encourage you to come forward,” Bishop Steven Biegler of Cheyenne said.

“I want to listen to you and accompany you on a journey of healing. Recently, Pope Francis said of the sex abuse scandal, ‘We abandoned the little ones.’ As we move forward, we must heed the call of the Lord Jesus to be guardians of the least.”

Bishop Hart has denied accusations of abusing minors.
 
His first accusers came forward in 1989, when he was alleged to have abused boys while serving as a priest in Kansas City. Ten individuals named Hart in lawsuits related to child sexual abuse claims dating from the 1970s. These accusations were part of settlements the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph reached in 2008 and 2014, though Bishop Hart denied the accusations, the Missouri diocese said July 2.

Bishop Hart was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph in 1956, where he served until he was named an auxiliary bishop in Cheyenne in 1976, and appointed to lead the diocese two years later. He served as Bishop of Cheyenne until his resignation in 2001 at the age of 70.

Critics ask Calif. governor to veto 'shortsighted' college abortion drug bill

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 19:12

Sacramento, Calif., Aug 30, 2018 / 05:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- California Gov. Jerry Brown should veto a bill that mandates abortion drugs at state university campus health centers, said pro-life advocates, citing both financial and ethical objections.  

“California politicians put the interests of the abortion industry ahead of the needs of both students and the colleges and universities with this shortsighted vote today,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said Aug. 29.

“Schools should be focused on educating the next generation, not ensuring that it’s easy to end the lives of future generations,” Hawkins said. “We call on Governor Jerry Brown to put the safety of women and the preborn ahead of this abortion industry push to get on college campuses and to veto S.B. 320.”

The bill passed the State Senate on Aug 30 by a 26-13 vote and heads to the governor’s desk. It mandates that all on-campus student health centers at University of California and California State University campuses provide the abortion drugs mifepristone and misoprostol, which work together to cause an abortion.

In its action alert on the bill, the California Catholic Conference said the state “should have no role in encouraging or funding abortions, which take the life of a human being, in our public post-secondary educational institutions – or anywhere, for that matter.” It said the bill “inappropriately requires the state treasurer to accept donations and administer an abortion promotion fund.”

The bill as written claims to avoid taxpayer funding. It would fund startup costs such as equipment and training through the Women’s Foundation of California, Tara Health Foundation and other private donors who have said they will grant up to $200,000 to each campus health center. Donors plan separate $200,000 grants to the two university systems for 24-hour medical advice lines, telemedicine services and billing services.

The health centers must comply by the year 2022.

Critics said the drug abortion process is traumatic and dangerous. College women would have to have an induced miscarriage in their dorm room or shared bathroom facilities.

Citing FDA reports, Students for Life said drug-induced abortions have caused heavy bleeding, infection and incomplete abortions that require surgical intervention. Some women have died. Furthermore, the FDA says that healthcare providers who prescribe the abortion drug “must have the ability to date pregnancies accurately and to diagnose ectopic pregnancies.” This would require ultrasound equipment, which is expensive, and not present on all campus health centers.

Critics are also skeptical that the bill will in fact avoid taxpayer spending and worry it will be funded through student fees or insurance coverage.

“We are also already hearing from students who do not want to see their school fees support abortion on campus, and we will work with them as they fight to prevent that misuse of their resources,” said Hawkins, whose group has over 90 affiliates in California alone.

Backers of the drugs say they have a strong safety record, especially when compared to complications from surgical abortion.

Daniel Grossman, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California San Francisco and director of the university-based research group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, said it is “a simple procedure that can be offered by primary care doctors or nurse practitioners on campus.” Pushing the state universities to offer it “would be recognizing that this should be a part of basic health care,” he said, according to the Fresno Bee newspaper.

The abortion drugs are different from the morning-after pill, commonly referred to as “Plan B.” That drug, which works by barring a fertilized egg from implanting in the mother’s womb, is already provided at many health centers. One University of California campus distributes it through a vending machine.

In its 2017 backgrounder on the bill, the California Catholic Conference stated its opposition to abortion and said the bill will “hurt young women.”

“We support policies and services that assist pregnant women to make life-affirming choices. We advocate for programs which offer medical, economic and emotional support for pregnant women and children, so that there is never any incentive to abort a child.”

Supreme Court denies relief to Philadelphia Catholic foster care agency

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 19:06

Philadelphia, Pa., Aug 30, 2018 / 05:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Supreme Court declined Wednesday to compel the city of Philadelphia to resume working with Catholic Social Services (CSS) for the placement of foster children.

In March, Philadelphia officials announced the city would no longer work with CSS for foster care placement, citing the group’s unwillingness to place foster children with same-sex couples due to its religious beliefs. CSS asked the Supreme Court in July for an injunction that would require the city to continue its foster-care placement with the agency during litigation over the matter.

The court’s order did not explain why it had not granted a requested injunction, but it did note that Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch supported the request. Five justices are needed to grant an injunction. The Supreme Court has presently eight justices following the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

In 2017 the Catholic agency placed 266 children and aided more than 2,200 children in the Philadelphia area.

No same-sex couple had applied to be a foster parent with Catholic Social Services, and there are other agencies in the city that would accept and work with same-sex couples. Typically, CSS serves about 120 foster children in about 100 homes at any one time.

CSS had argued that without an injunction from the Supreme Court, the agency would likely be forced to close its foster care program.

Philadelphia’s refusal to work with Catholic Social Services comes amid a foster care crisis in the city. After announcing it would no longer work with the Catholic group, the city put out a call for an additional 300 homes to house some of the city’s 6,000 foster children.

As of May, about a dozen foster homes affiliated with CSS were empty, and there were concerns that all children residing in foster homes affiliated with the agency could be removed after the contract with the city expired in June. This does not appear to have happened.

Philadelphia is not the only city to refuse to work with a Catholic organization on the issue of foster care and adoption placement. In Buffalo, Catholic Charities recently ceased adoption and foster care work due to rules that would have forced the organization to violate their religious beliefs. Catholic Charities had done work with adoption in Buffalo for nearly a century before the rule change.

 

South Carolina rules Planned Parenthood to stay a state 'family planning provider'

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 17:00

Columbia, S.C., Aug 30, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- A judge has ruled that Planned Parenthood’s designation as a “family planning provider” for South Carolina’s Medicaid program does not mean that state funding is being used to pay for abortions.

U.S. District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis made the ruling in an 18-page decision granting Planned Parenthood a temporary injunction against a July order issued by Republican Gov. Henry McMaster.

In July, McMaster issued the order in an explicit attempt to deprive the controversial abortion provider of state funds.

All three of South Carolina’s abortion facilities--two of which are operated by Planned Parenthood-- were covered by his order, which stated that these locations were “unqualified” to provide family planning services.

Planned Parenthood is currently receiving approximately $82,000 in funding from South Carolina for “family planning services.”

Through a spokesman, McMaster said that he was upset with the ruling and “will continue to do all that he can to make sure no taxpayer dollars either directly or indirectly subsidize abortions in South Carolina.”

Federal law already prohibits the use of taxpayer money for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest.

Despite drops in the number of contraceptive services offered and in total number of patients seen, government funding for Planned Parenthood has increased over the last decade.

According to its 2016-2017 annual report, it received more than $500 million in government funding; making government  - 37 percent - the largest source of its income.

Planned Parenthood claims that state money is not used for abortions, and is only used for family planning services. This is disputed by former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson, who said in a 2011 column that “money received by Planned Parenthood affiliate clinics all went into one pot at the end of the day — it isn’t divvied up and directed to specific services.”

Johnson left Planned Parenthood and now operates the group “And Then There Were None,” which assists abortion workers with leaving the industry.

Why robot brothels are not the solution to America's STD crisis

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 14:08

Washington D.C., Aug 30, 2018 / 12:08 pm (CNA).- With several sexually transmitted diseases reaching an all-time high in the U.S., could sex robots be the answer? Catholics leaders say no, because the alleged benefits of “sexbots” will never outweigh the harms inflicted upon the person and authentic human sexuality.

“There are all sorts of bad solutions to a legitimate problem. Even if it were the case that sex robots would cut down on STDs, it wouldn’t make sex robots a good idea,” said Matt Fradd, author of The Porn Myth.

“[It] denigrates the sexual act and pretends it’s an accidental feature of marriage rather than a substantial feature of marriage. The sexual desire is not an itch to be scratched.”

Sex is “not a negative thing that has to be discarded,” he clarified, but “a positive drive that ought to be tempered and regulated by virtue.” Without the virtue of chastity, he stressed, there is no love.

Earlier this week, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced that nearly 2.3 million syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia cases had been diagnosed in 2017 – a record high. This number represents a 200,000-case increase from the previous year, and marks the fourth straight year of increase.

Experts have called the rise in STDs a “public health crisis” and are looking for ways to stop the spread of the diseases.

Meanwhile, a “sex doll brothel” hoping to open in Toronto next month claims to offer a “safe sex” experience for customers, who can order from a menu of life-like sex robots.

The owners of Aura Dolls claim it is the first “sex doll brothel” in North America. Similar brothels exist in Japan and some parts of Europe.  

The brothel has faced criticism and the recent drop of its lease. The city of Toronto ruled that it fits the definition of an “adult entertainment parlour,” and is therefore restricted to certain areas of the city. Owners say they are hoping to find a new location to open in the coming weeks.

“We operate similar to a brothel where guests come in, they have their own room,” Aura Dolls’ marketing director, Claire Lee, told CityNews.

“We try to focus on the fact that since we have this service, for men who have these dark, violent fantasies, instead of putting out the urge to act aggressively, they can do something like this which is safe for everyone,” she added.

But not everyone agrees that the use of sex dolls is safe. For one thing, they do not eliminate the risk of diseases. Though the dolls are sterilized, the brothel encourages condom use to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases from one customer to the next.

Forensic criminologist Xanthe Mallett warned in a June 2018 article in The Conversation that “sexbots could be tools to empower some who sexually offend against women and children.”

“[C]reating life-like robots that cannot say ‘no’ and that can be violated and abused without impunity will play into some men’s fantasies. For a small proportion, this may encourage them to enact that abuse on living people as part of an escalation,” Mallett said.

Hannah Gutierrez, mission team manager at the Culture Project, a youth-run organization that promotes virtue, human dignity and sexual integrity, raised additional concerns. Regardless of the level of violence, she said, any misuse of human sexuality promotes ideas of using other people.

“It will perpetuate this idea, and it already does perpetuate this idea, that when it comes to sex… we only see them as good as long as we get what we want,” she told CNA.

“Love should not be this exchange of you do this and I do this,” she further added. “They might get the physical pleasure they may be desired in that, but what they desired more than the physical pleasure is someone to connect with – a human being, a human person.”

She said people should look at sexuality in a healthy and beautiful way – not as a feeling to suppress or of which to be ashamed, but something that must be governed by chastity, to elevate it beyond a mutual exchange of pleasure.  

Chastity, she explained, “gives us…freedom because we are not tied to think that sex is just this exchange of human body parts and pleasure. We are able to love freely because we are not controlled by our sexuality, instead we can channel it to love fully and love freely.”

 

US bishops continue to respond to Viganò testimony

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 13:50

Washington D.C., Aug 30, 2018 / 11:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Since Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler first responded Saturday to the former US nuncio's testimony which alleged sex abuse cover-up by the pope and several other prelates, several other US prelates have joined him with statements and planned Masses of reparation.

In the testimony, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, 77, who served as apostolic nuncio in Washington D.C. from 2011 to 2016, wrote that Benedict XVI had “imposed on Cardinal McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed on him by Pope Francis” and that Viganò personally told Pope Francis about those sanctions in 2013.

Viganò claimed that this was ignored by Francis, who pulled McCarrick back into public ministry and allowed him to become a “kingmaker for appointments in the Curia and the United States.”

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco said Aug. 29 that the former nuncio “served his mission with selfless dedication” and that he knew him to fulfill his Petrine mission “at great personal sacrifice and with absolutely no consideration given to furthering his 'career' – all of which speaks to his integrity and sincere love of the Church.”

“Moreover, while having no privileged information about the Archbishop McCarrick situation, from information I do have about a very few of the other statements Archbishop Viganò makes, I can confirm that they are true. His statements, therefore, must be taken seriously. To dismiss them lightly would continue a culture of denial and obfuscation.”

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City said Aug. 28 that Archbishop Viganò's testimony “merits, indeed it demands deeper examination and verification of each of its claims.”

He said that while he lacks “personal knowledge or experience” of its details, “I have the deepest respect for Archbishop Viganó and his personal integrity. His claims, yet to be investigated or substantiated, confirm the urgency of a thorough investigation of Archbishop McCarrick’s advancement through the ecclesiastical ranks given his history of alleged abuse, involving seminarians and young people.”

The Oklahoma City archbishop said this moment “calls for a renewed commitment to vigilance, transparency and accountability from our shepherds and indeed for the whole Church. Only prayer, penance and deeper conversion will guide us through this dark period.”

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois stated Archbishop Viganò “has revealed a set of facts and circumstances that are deeply troubling as they relate to the awareness, actions, and inactions at the very highest levels of the Church.”

He noted that Pope Francis responded to the former nuncio's testimony by saying, “Read the statement carefully and make your own judgment. I will not say a single word on this.”

“Frankly, but with all due respect, that response is not adequate,” Bishop Paprocki wrote.

“Given the gravity of the content and implications of the former Nuncio’s statement, it is important for all the facts of this situation to be fully reviewed, vetted, and carefully considered.”

“Toward that end,” the Bishop of Springfield stated, “Pope Francis, Vatican officials and the current Apostolic Nuncio should make public the pertinent files indicating who knew what and when about Archbishop (formerly Cardinal) McCarrick and provide the accountability that the Holy Father has promised.”

He also noted his concurrence with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston's call for “a prompt and thorough examination into how the grave moral failings of a brother bishop could have been tolerated for so long and proven no impediment to his advancement.”

Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford also referred to the statement of the president of the US bishops' conference, saying, “we all share” a “profound concern” over Archbishop McCarrick's advancement and that “the truth has to be told. Once again I ask God to bring the truth to light and to bring healing and help to all victims of sexual abuse.”

He said history demonstrates “the tremendous storms, both from within and from without, that have threatened to overwhelm the Church.”

“In modern times perhaps we have been lulled into complacency about the power of evil.”

Archbishop Blair quoted St. Paul's epistle to the Ephesians: “our struggle is not against enemies of flesh and flood, but against the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

The Connecticut archbishop said St. Augustine preached about “the scandal of bad shepherds,” warning against both “leaving the Church because of the scandal provoked by wicked shepherds … and putting one's trust in good shepherds instead of Christ.”

“Please pray for strong faith in Christ and his promise,” Archbishop Blair stated. “And please pray for your bishops and priests … I join you in this prayer and I pledge to do my part as a Bishop to unmask whatever has led to our present anguish.”

Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison stated Aug. 27 that he too was in solidarity with Cardinal DiNardo's statement.

He went on to “confess my disappointment that in his remarks on the return flight from Dublin to Rome, the Holy Father chose a course of 'no comment'.”

Bishop Morlino stated that he is “deeply convinced of [Archbishop Viganò's] honesty, loyalty to and love for the Church, and impeccable integrity.” He added that the former nuncio had “more than fulfilled” the criteria for credible allegations, “and an investigation, according to proper canonical procedures, is certainly in order.”

Statements from several other bishops, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, Bishop David Konderla of Tulsa, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Cardinal DiNardo, and Bishop Strickland, have been previously covered by CNA.

A number of bishops in the US have also announced Masses of reparation or healing in the wake of the sex abuse crisis.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans said a Mass “for the healing of those who have been the victims of sexual abuse by clergy and also by bishops who have attempted to cover up the abuse.”

In his homily, Archbishop Aymond said that “it is time for us to repent. And I promise, as a bishop and your local bishop, your shepherd, I promise not only to pray but to fast. Some things can be driven out only by prayer and fasting.”

The Archdiocese of St. Louis has announced that Archbishop Robert Carlson will say a Mass of Reparation Sept. 7 at his cathedral.

Bishop Robert Deeley of Portland will observe a day of prayer and repentance Sept. 14, during which he will say Mass. He said anger over mishandled cases of sexual abuse of minors is justified, and that “I can think of nothing worse than this incomprehensible abuse and any attempt to cover it up. As your bishop, I am doing penance for the failure of some bishops to act appropriately to protect young people and who have failed in reflecting the holiness and integrity demanded by the Gospel.”

And in Connecticut, Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport will lead a Holy Hour with a rosary, followed by a Mass of Reparation and Purification, Sept. 15. He has asked all the priests in his diocese to attend the Mass.

“During this time of trial, we must come together as a family of faith and beg the Lord for forgiveness and to offer reparation for the sins committed by priests, bishops and any member of the Church, especially the depraved sins against children and the vulnerable,” Bishop Caggiano wrote to his priests.

“It is also a time to ask God to heal those who have been wounded by sin, to turn our hearts away from anything that is evil and to renew our commitment to holiness.”

He invited all the faithful “to join me and accompany one another during this time of sadness and anger, and to strengthen one another in our Catholic faith,” and expressed hope that this will be a “first tangible step towards renewing confidence and trust in the Church for many of our faithful.”

Bishop Caggiano also instructed his priests to say the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel at the end of each Mass, before the recessional hymn, beginning Sept. 15.

“Christ has conquered sin and death, but we are still in the midst of a spiritual battle. For that reason, I would like the Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel recited,” Bishop Caggiano wrote to his priests.

“I believe that the Church is facing a moment of crisis that demands honesty and repentance from the bishops and decisive action to ensure that these failures will never happen again.”

Seminarians were McCarrick aides amid abuse investigation

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 12:49

Washington D.C., Aug 30, 2018 / 10:49 am (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Washington has confirmed that seminarians were permitted to serve as assistants to Archbishop Theodore McCarrick while the archbishop was being investigated for the alleged sexual abuse of a teenager.

In 2011, McCarrick moved from a parish rectory to a house adjacent to the seminary of the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE), a religious order, in Chillum, Md., within the Washington archdiocese.

According to two former IVE seminarians on campus at the time, McCarrick lived in a separate house on the grounds, which he paid for himself, or at least arranged to have purchased for him.

The IVE initially assigned McCarrick a priest to serve as secretary for him once he was living on the property. Sources confirm that the priest was assigned to live in the house with McCarrick.

Archdiocesan records confirm that priests were given this assignment, and a spokesman told CNA it is likely the archdiocese provided some financial support for the role.
 
Former IVE seminarians told CNA that McCarrick made significant demands of staff and formators. CNA was told, for example, that despite the austere lifestyle encouraged by the order, McCarrick had his own VIP menu served to him in the refectory, regardless of what the priests and seminarians were eating.
 
Local formators and superiors of the IVE were, according to CNA’s sources within the order, unhappy with the arrangement, but recognized that the liberal-minded McCarrick functioned as a sort of informal patron for the order, despite its more traditional leanings. McCarrick frequently ordained the order’s priests, in Washington and abroad, and helped them to navigate criticisms from South American bishops, including Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, who became Pope Francis.

The Institute of the Incarnate Word was founded in 1984 in Argentina by Fr. Carlos Miguel Buela. Buela retired in 2010 amid suspicion of sexual misconduct. In 2016, the Vatican affirmed the veracity of allegations that Buela engaged in sexual improprieties with adult seminarians of his community; the priest was forbidden by the Vatican from contact with members of the IVE, and from appearing in public.

McCarrick’s assistance has been reported to have been especially important to the order as allegations against Buela came to light. But sources say that help came with a price. One source characterized McCarrick’s attitude toward the group as “If you’re grateful, you’ll shut up.”
 
Eventually, the order withdrew the priest secretary assigned to McCarrick, citing the need for ordained priests to serve in active ministry. In his place, McCarrick arranged to have two IVE seminarians, known as “bedels” in the order, assigned to him.

These seminarians lived with McCarrick in his on-campus house and were responsible for driving him around Washington, accompanying him on trips, and essentially functioning as his personal staff.
 
It was not, according to seminarians who spoke with CNA, a prized assignment, and the bedels assigned to McCarrick were rotated each year.

One former IVE seminarian told CNA that complaints were raised about McCarrick’s demands – although none of them were sexual in nature – and said the rector warned seminarians to try to remain detached from McCarrick’s “worldly” tastes.
 
Some of the seminarians were, according to sources, obliged by McCarrick to take him on trips to see friends, including to a beach house, though it is not clear if this was the now much-reported house in New Jersey.

On at least one occasion, McCarrick obliged his bedels to accompany him to a casino, an incident which triggered strong complaints from the seminarians themselves and from their formators, who raised the matter with the order’s leadership in Rome.  

The Archdiocese of Washington told CNA that the archdiocese did not regularly monitor McCarrick’s travel arrangements, and said it was unaware of the extent of the IVE seminarians’ involvement with McCarrick.
 
McCarrick eventually moved from the IVE property to a retirement home run by an order of religious sisters.
 
Archdiocesan spokesman Ed McFadden told CNA that McCarrick moved from the IVE campus for health reasons sometime in early 2017. However, a former senior IVE official told CNA that in the summer of 2016, Wuerl told the order he wanted McCarrick to leave his house on the seminary campus.

The source said this was communicated by the Archdiocese of Washington to the seminary rector and the provincial superior of the order.
 
The source, who had first-hand knowledge of the event, said that Wuerl had previously been very “hands off” about McCarrick’s stay with the IVE, until the summer of 2016, when the IVE was told that Wuerl wanted McCarrick to be “less active and more retired” and to keep a “lower profile.”
 
The Archdiocese of Washington would not confirm the intervention but said that any discussion in the summer of 2016 between the IVE and the Archdiocese of Washington would have concerned McCarrick’s failing health.

A source familiar with the case told CNA on Aug. 25 that Wuerl was informed in the summer of 2017 that McCarrick was being investigated in New York for an allegation of sexual abuse. The source said that Wuerl communicated directly with McCarrick at that time, encouraging him to withdraw from public ministry. Based on McCarrick’s subsequent travel records and engagements, this request was ignored.

Two IVE seminarians remained assigned to McCarrick after this notification, with the knowledge of the Archdiocese of Washington, until late June 2018, when the Archdiocese of New York publicly announced a credible allegation that McCarrick sexually abused a teenager in the 1970s. Reports subsequently emerged that McCarrick had allegedly engaged for decades in sexually coercive and abusive misconduct with seminarians and priests.

While IVE seminarians did not continue to live with McCarrick following his move, they were still responsible for meeting his daily staffing requirements and traveling with him.

The Archdiocese of Washington told CNA that the IVE was informed of the allegation against McCarrick as soon as it was deemed credible, in June 2018.

McCarrick’s arrangement with the IVE, including the assignment of two seminarians to live with him and act as his personal staff, appears highly irregular in the light of the restrictions Archbishop Carlo Vigano claims were imposed on him by Pope Benedict XVI.
 
CNA previously reported a meeting in which McCarrick was ordered by papal nuncio Archbishop Pietro Sambi to leave a different seminary where he had been living. McCarrick moved subsequently into a parish, and from there he moved to the IVE property.

Despite evidence that the archdiocese approved renovations to the parish rectory for McCarrick, and the IVE’s reports that Wuerl intervened to move McCarrick from that property, CNA has been repeatedly told by the Archdiocese of Washington that “Archbishop McCarrick typically made his own housing arrangements and did not directly involve the Archdiocese of Washington.”

Wuerl has also denied being informed of the restrictions reportedly placed on McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI, and in July denied being aware of rumors about McCarrick’s sexual behavior before the New York investigation began.

 

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