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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 59 min ago

Knights of Columbus announce St John Vianney relic tour

Tue, 08/21/2018 - 18:22

Hartford, Conn., Aug 21, 2018 / 04:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus announced Tuesday that the fraternal organization will sponsor a US tour of the heart of St. John Vianney, in the wake of the Archbishop McCarrick scandal.

“Beginning in November, the Knights of Columbus will sponsor, in cooperation with the Shrine of St. Jean Vianney in Ars, France, a national tour of the relic of the heart of this great patron saint of priests,” Carl Anderson wrote Aug. 21 in a letter to the chaplains of the Knights of Columbus.

Anderson opened his letter saying that the problems which have come to light concerning sexual abuse by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report are cause for grave concern among Catholics and Brother Knights. Many feel deeply betrayed by those whom they long held in high regard.”

“These sins of commission and omission have sent the Church we love … into convulsions. Sadly, the disgrace not only is borne by the perpetrators, it hurts us all.”

While there are “many wonderful and faithful laborers in the vineyard of the Lord among our priests and bishops,” he said that “we have seen many other moral failings by clergy that represent a crisis of commitment to the Gospel.”

He said the Knights of Columbus “will have an important role to play in rebuilding the Church. We must commit the Knights of Columbus to work for repentance, reform and rebuilding of the Church.”

“Repentance should include a full accounting of the misdeeds by those who have committed them. Archbishop McCarrick and others at fault owe us a full account of their actions, motivations and cover-ups,” Anderson wrote.

He suggested a number of possibilities for reform, and said that such reforms “will be difficult for a Church largely unused to them, and we must support our bishops and our priests in embracing these reforms in order to rebuild.”

Anderson wrote that the Knights can help rebuild the Church by embracing “love of God and love of neighbor,” which he said is “exactly the opposite of the rejection of God and exploitation of neighbor that our Church has witnessed in these scandals.”

“In the days ahead, the Knights of Columbus will help renew our Church on a national level through a Novena of Masses in reparation for these sins that have so grievously wounded the Body of Christ. I take this opportunity to ask that you offer this Novena of Masses for our Church at your earliest opportunity.”

The Supreme Knight also mentioned programs and initiatives which the Knights have to help strengthen families and parishes.

“Now is the time for all brother Knights to stand steadfast in faith, as Catholics and as gentlemen. We will assist priests, bishops and our fellow Catholics in helping the Church chart a course for the future that puts Christ at the center.”

After religious liberty win, judge orders payment to Catholic Benefits Association

Tue, 08/21/2018 - 17:56

Denver, Colo., Aug 21, 2018 / 03:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal judge has ordered that $718,000 in compensation be paid to the Catholic Benefits Association after its successful religious freedom legal fight against mandated health care coverage that would have violated Catholic beliefs.

“We are proud of a result which will benefit so many in coming years,” Doug Wilson, CEO of the Denver-based Catholic Benefits Association, said Aug. 20.

“In addition to our current and future members, Americans of all faiths will benefit from the legal precedents we have achieved and from the court’s affirmation of (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act).”

The payment goes to the group’s legal fees and litigation costs.

Dating back to 2012 under President Barack Obama, the Department of Health and Human Services has tried to mandate health plan coverage of sterilization and contraceptives, including some drugs that can cause abortion. The Catholic Benefits Association objected to this, as well as to a counseling mandate, on the grounds it would require the association and its employer members to violate their religious beliefs.

The Catholic Benefits Association was among the plaintiffs who challenged the regulation under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which bars substantial burdens upon religious freedom.

The health coverage mandates “had attempted to force CBA members to violate Catholic moral teaching by covering contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization procedures in employee health plans,” the association said. “Failure to comply with these morally objectionable mandates carried crushing fines which, in the case of CBA’s membership, were estimated to be as much as $19 billion.”

The association has more than 1,000 Catholic employer members including hospitals, colleges, religious orders, privately-owned Catholic businesses, 60 local Churches, and about 4,000 parishes. These employers have over 88,000 employees combined.

It filed lawsuits in 2013 and 2014 on behalf of its membership. The association was the largest plaintiff in the challenge, with more religious employers than the 100 other similar lawsuits combined.

In March U.S. District Court Judge David Russell agreed with the association’s case and issued a permanent injunction to prevent the federal government from enforcing the mandate upon it. Russell also ruled that this mandate had violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by attempting to force employers to provide contraception and sterilization against their sincerely held religious beliefs.

The companies that make up the CBA had collectively accrued $6.9 billion in fines, which were eliminated by the March ruling.

Wilson, the benefits association CEO, suggested that more religious freedom cases could be on the horizon.

“While it is gratifying to reach a successful conclusion to this issue, there is so very much more to be addressed,” he said. Wilson cited the use of other federal regulations to attempt to coerce immoral actions by religious employers, such as transgender services. There are efforts to mandate insurance coverage for clinical trials involving embryonic stem cells, while state-level healthcare mandates lack sufficient religious freedom protections.

He said his organization would continue to defend religious freedom.

“Established as an association of Catholic employers, we can engage wherever we have a member,” Wilson said. “That now includes almost every state and a growing membership. We are here for as long as it takes.”

The association’s Aug. 20 statement said it is “committed to ensuring the right of Catholic employers to provide life-affirming health coverage consistent with Catholic teaching.”

The ruling in the benefit association’s favor follows the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. that closely-held corporations with religious employers opposed to the mandate cannot be forced to comply with it. Hobby Lobby is a craft store owned by Christians who were opposed to certain abortion-causing drugs included in the mandate.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic women religious who operate nursing homes for the elderly poor, also filed against the mandate. The Little Sisters of the Poor were granted an exemption from the mandate, but were back in court in November 2017 to argue their case again.

'Natural cycles' fertility app gets FDA approval to prevent pregnancy

Tue, 08/21/2018 - 15:14

Washington D.C., Aug 21, 2018 / 01:14 pm (CNA).- The FDA has approved a fertility-tracking app that boasts a lower unintended pregnancy rate than the pill, without the side effects of hormonal contraception.

The Natural Cycles app was developed by a Swedish nuclear physicist Elina Berglund and her husband Raoul Scherwizl. They created the app as a way to go “beyond contraception,” and to “get to know your body and unique cycles,” according to their website.

Berglund told Business Insider last year that the goal of the app is use scientific research to empower women with knowledge about their body, and to replace medication with technology.

In approving the app for use to prevent pregnancy, the FDA noted that its expected failure rate is 6.5 percent – lower than the 9 percent expected failure rate of the contraceptive pill, and 18 percent expected failure rate of condoms.

“Consumers are increasingly using digital health technologies to inform their everyday health decisions, and this new app can provide an effective method of contraception if it’s used carefully and correctly,” said Dr. Terri Cornelison, assistant director for the health of women in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, in a Aug. 10 statement.

Users of the Natural Cycles app record their temperature each morning with an extra-sensitive thermometer. This data is combined with information about the woman’s menstrual cycle into an algorithm that can help determine when a woman is ovulating. A woman’s body temperature rises slightly when she is fertile, allowing her track her fertility day-to-day.

The app had already been approved by German inspection and certification agency Tüv Süd.

As of last year, the app reported having more than 150,000 users in over 160 countries around the world.

While the Catholic Church teaches that the use of contraception is immoral, because it intentionally separates procreation from the sexual act, it does approve of fertility mapping methods like natural family planning, which helps married couples achieve pregnancy – or avoid it, if there is a just reason to do so – by tracking a woman’s natural fertility.  

While fertility-awareness methods are sometimes conflated with the decades-old rhythm method – which assumes a standard 28-day cycle and has high failure rates – modern methods track specific changes in an individual woman’s body that indicate fertility, including temperature, cervical mucus, and hormone levels.
 

 

Cardinal O’Malley apologizes for missed letter on McCarrick allegations

Tue, 08/21/2018 - 14:48

Boston, Mass., Aug 21, 2018 / 12:48 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston has issued an apology for not seeing a 2015 letter to his office, which detailed accusations of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s sexual misconduct and abuse of diocesan seminarians.

The apology came after media reports revealed that New York priest Father Boniface Ramsey had tried to warn church officials about McCarrick multiple times, including in the 2015 letter, which he sent to O’Malley because of his role as President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

O’Malley said his secretary Father Robert Kickham received the letter and responded to Ramsey himself, saying that the accusations fell outside of the jurisdiction of O’Malley’s office, as they did not involve minors. O’Malley said he only found out about Ramsey’s letter after the recent media reports.

“In retrospect it is now clear to Fr. Kickham and to me that I should have seen that letter precisely because it made assertions about the behavior of an Archbishop in the Church,” O’Malley said in his apology, posted on the Archdiocese of Boston’s website.

“I take responsibility for the procedures followed in my office and I also am prepared to modify those procedures in light of this experience.”

O’Malley’s lack of knowledge of the 2015 letter comes as a surprise from someone widely considered to be a “zero-tolerance” bishop on matters of sexual abuse.

As numerous McCarrick allegations continued to surface in late July, O’Malley issued a statement saying that the Church needed “more than apologies” to sexual misconduct cases.

He proposed that future allegations against bishops needed to be handled as a matter of highest priority; that a new system be put in place to handle complaints against bishops; and that these reforms be clearly announced, so there can be no doubt about how such cases should be handled in the future.

Ramsey told CBS News that accusations of sexual misconduct and abuse against McCarrick first came to his attention in 1986, and he was under the impression that “virtually everyone knew” about them, including many bishops.

"Archbishop McCarrick was inviting seminarians to his beach house...There were five beds...and there were six people. Archbishop McCarrick arranged it in such a way that somebody would join him in his bed," Ramsey told CBS.

He said that the 2015 letter contained not just rumors about McCarrick, but first-hand accounts of abuse from seminarians who had encountered McCarrick.

“I apologize to Fr. Ramsey for not having responded to him in an appropriate way and appreciate the effort that he undertook in seeking to bring his concerns about Archbishop McCarrick’s behavior to my attention,” O’Malley noted. “I also apologize to anyone whose concerns were reflected in Fr. Ramsey’s letter.”

O’Malley said that he recognized that his apology and lack of knowledge of the 2015 letter was probably still insufficient “given the way the Church has eroded the trust of our people.”

However, he said his hope is “that we can repair the trust and faith of all Catholics and the wider community by virtue of our actions and accountability in how we respond to this crisis.”

He added that the U.S. bishops are all “anxious to understand” how McCarrick became a bishop, archbishop, and cardinal if there were known allegations against him, given the vetting process that bishops have to go through before they are appointed to such positions.

“That is why the Bishops Conference are requesting an investigation by the Holy See with the participation of lay people,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley closed his apology by quoting an Aug. 20 his own letter of apology to sex abuse victims from Pope Francis: “Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sins helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.”

Cardinal Tobin denies knowledge of 'gay subculture' in Newark

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 21:00

Newark, N.J., Aug 20, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- In an Aug. 17 letter to the priests of Newark, Cardinal Joseph Tobin has said he has not been told by priests about a “gay sub-culture” in the Archdiocese of Newark.

The letter was written in response to a CNA report published the same day, in which Newark priests described their experience in seminary and ministry in the archdiocese. Tobin’s letter specifically addressed allegations, included in CNA’s report, of sexual misconduct on the part of two priests.

CNA's article included testimony about homosexual activity in the Archdiocese of Newark, from six priests who spoke to CNA on the condition of anonymity. The priests’ experience spanned across several decades under the leadership of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and Archbishop John J. Myers.

CNA reported that, in 2014, Fr. Mark O’Malley was – according to multiple sources – removed from his position as rector of the archdiocesan college seminary, and placed on medical leave following an incident in which he was accused of hiding a camera in the bedroom of a young priest.

Cardinal Tobin’s letter, which surfaced on the internet over the weekend, addressed the matter directly.

“In April 2014, Father Mark O’Malley, who was serving at St. Andrew’s College, experienced a serious personal crisis for which he received a psychological evaluation and subsequent therapy. In April 2015, he was deemed fit for priestly ministry. He hopes to serve as a hospital chaplain.”

CNA also reported last week that Fr. James Weiner, currently pastor of the parish of St. Andrew’s in Westwood, NJ, was under renewed investigation by archdiocesan authorities. Weiner was identified as the previously unnamed man referred to in the allegations of sexual assault made by Fr. Desmond Rossi, now a priest of the Diocese of Albany, NY.

Rossi has alleged that, in 1988, he was sexually assaulted by two transitional deacons. In 2004, Rossi received an out-of-court settlement of approximately $35,000.

Recently, Rossi said that his allegation was found “credible” by an archdiocesan review board but that no action was taken.

Tobin’s letter confirmed that Weiner’s case had been examined by a review board in 2003 “even though it did not involve an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.” The cardinal also confirmed that he had ordered the matter reopened earlier this month because of “new information and out of an abundance of caution in these most difficult times.”

This weekend, the bulletin at Fr. Weiner’s parish carried a notice that Cardinal Tobin’s office had indefinitely delayed the ceremony formally installing Weiner as pastor of the parish because of a scheduling conflict. Tobin had been scheduled to install Weiner in the post on Sept. 15.

Addressing reports of harassment and active sexual behavior by some priests, both in the seminary and in the archdiocesan presbyterate, Cardinal Tobin said that “no one – including the anonymous ‘sources’ cited in the article – has ever spoken to me about a gay subculture in the Archdiocese of Newark.”

Tobin began his letter by acknowledging the ongoing scandal of sexual abuse in the Church, following the allegations against Archbishop McCarrick and the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report. The cardinal said that these events “have shaken and saddened the bishops and priests of the Archdiocese of Newark.”

Turning to the CNA report, Tobin said that while there was “much more to communicate about these open wounds,” he was writing the letter in response to “allegations of misconduct” against the two priests of the archdiocese, Weiner and O’Malley.

The cardinal closed his letter by expressing his hope that CNA’s sources were not actually priests of the archdiocese. However, CNA confirms that the sources for the story were priests of the Newark archdiocese, along with one priest member of a religious order.

The Archdiocese of Newark declined to offer comment or respond to questions from CNA regarding the letter.

Tobin’s letter concluded by encouraging priests to refer media inquiries to the archdiocesan director of communications.

Added Cardinal Tobin, “I repeat my willingness to meet with any brother who wishes to share his concerns regarding allegations in the press or personal experience in our local Church.”

Welcoming pope's letter on abuse, head of US bishops pledges action

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 18:57

Washington D.C., Aug 20, 2018 / 04:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, has welcomed Pope Francis’ letter to all the faithful addressing the recent sex abuse crises in the Church.

“I am grateful to the Holy Father for his Letter to the People of God, responding to the Pennsylvania grand jury investigation and other revelations that have surfaced,” DiNardo said in a statement released by the bishops’ conference.

“The very fact that he opens the letter with the words of Saint Paul: ‘If one part suffers, all parts suffer with it’ (1 Cor 12:25), shows that he is writing to all of us as a pastor, a pastor who knows how deeply sin destroys lives.”

In his letter, Pope Francis called the universal Church to “a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting.”

Responding to the call, Cardinal DiNardo said, “I find these words of the Holy Father particularly helpful: ‘penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils.’ These words must provoke action – especially by the bishops.  We bishops need to – and we must – practice with all humility such prayer and penance.”

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said that the Pope’s letter was not just about recent scandals in the Church in America.

“This is about Ireland, this is about the United States, and this is about Chile, but not only [those places],” he told reporters. “Pope Francis has written to the People of God, and that means everyone.”

Burke said that it was especially significant that the pope referred to abuse as “a crime, not only a sin” and that, while asking for forgiveness, he acknowledged that “no effort to repair the damage done will ever be sufficient for victims and survivors” and that the “wounds from abuse never disappear.”

Pope Francis wrote that “with shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”

Cardinal DiNardo acknowledged the need for a sincere and spiritually committed response to the abuse crisis.

“The Holy Father is also inviting, and I am asking this as well, that all the faithful join in prayer and fasting as a way to help foster conversion and genuine change of life wherever it is needed, even in the shepherds of the Church. Jesus remarked once, ‘This kind can only come out through prayer and fasting’; a humble reminder that such acts of faith can move mountains and can even bring about true healing and conversion,” DiNardo said.

The pope also wrote that “no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.”

This, Burke told journalists, meant “greater accountability is urgently needed - not only for those who committed these crimes, but also for those who covered them up, which in many cases means bishops.”  

Cardinal DiNardo said that the bishops of the United States accept the urgent need for accountability, and pledged an unflinching approach to addressing past crimes.

“On behalf of my brother bishops, I offer that only by confronting our own failure in the face of crimes against those we are charged to protect can the Church resurrect a culture of life where the culture of death has prevailed.”

 

Wuerl cancels World Meeting of Familes appearance

Sat, 08/18/2018 - 22:35

Washington D.C., Aug 18, 2018 / 08:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archbishop of Washington has cancelled his scheduled participation at the Church’s World Meeting of Families, which will be held next week in Dublin, Ireland.

The cancellation comes after a week in which Washington’s archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, has faced heavy criticism for the way he managed priests who had been accused of sexual assault during his tenure of Bishop of Pittsburgh, from 1988 to 2006.

On Aug. 14, a Pennsylvania grand jury released its report on an 18-month investigation into seven decades of clerical sexual abuse allegations in six Pennsylvania dioceses, including Pittsburgh. The report raised serious questions about Wuerl’s handling of abuse cases, including one in which Wuerl authorized the transfer and continued ministry of a priest who had been accused of committing acts of sexual abuse decades earlier.

Wuerl has denied having had knowledge of the allegations at the time he authorized the transfer, but questions remain remain unanswered regarding his management of that case and others.

The cardinal has also recently faced questions related to what he might have known about the alleged sexually coercive behavior of his predecessor as Archbishop of Washington, former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. In recent months, McCarrick has faced allegations that he serially sexually abused two adolescent boys, and spent decades committing acts of sexual assault and coercion toward seminarians and young priests. In 2005 and and 2007, two New Jersey dioceses reached settlements with alleged victims of McCarrick.

Wuerl, who succeeded McCarrick as Archbishop of Washington in 2006, reports having had no knowledge of those settlements, or of any complaints about sexually abusive behavior on the part of McCarrick, who continued to live and minister in the Archdiocese of Washington subsequent to his retirement.

Wuerl has faced multiple calls for his resignation this week. In fact, the cardinal actually submitted a letter of resignation to Pope Francis in November 2015, upon turning 75, the age at which bishops customarily submit letters of resignation to the pope. While many insiders had expected Wuerl to remain in his post until the age of 80, it now seems likely that his resignation will be accepted before that time.

There has been no indication from the Vatican of when Wuerl’s resignation might be accepted. However, sources close to the cardinal speculate that he might remain in his position long enough to participate in initial discussions among U.S. bishops as they begin to address the fallout from the monumental sexual abuse crisis the Church is now facing.

 Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston also cancelled his participation this week in the World Meeting of Families. O’Malley withdrew from the event after announcing an investigation into allegations of sexual improprieties at the Archdiocese of Boston’s seminary.

The World Meeting of Families is organized by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, which is headed by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, formerly the Bishop of Dallas, and before that an auxiliary bishop, under McCarrick, in the Archdiocese of Washington.

The World Meeting of Families will take place Aug. 21-26. Pope Francis will celebrate an open air Mass in Dublin’s Phoenix Park on Aug. 26.

Bishop Morlino: 'Homosexual subculture' is source of 'devastation' in the Church

Sat, 08/18/2018 - 16:21

Madison, Wis., Aug 18, 2018 / 02:21 pm (CNA).- In response to recent sexual abuse crises, the Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin, has said that the Catholic Church must renew its conviction to identify and reject sin, and admit that a homosexual culture among some clerics has caused great harm in the Church.

The bishop also called Catholics to join him in offering acts of reparation for the sins of sexual immorality among Catholic deacons, priests, and bishops.

“For too long we have diminished the reality of sin — we have refused to call a sin a sin — and we have excused sin in the name of a mistaken notion of mercy. In our efforts to be open to the world we have become all too willing to abandon the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In order to avoid causing offense we offer to ourselves and to others niceties and human consolation,” wrote Bishop Robert Morlino in a pastoral letter released Aug. 18.

“There must be no room left, no refuge for sin — either within our own lives, or within the lives of our communities. To be a refuge for sinners (which we should be), the Church must be a place where sinners can turn to be reconciled. In this I speak of all sin,” he added.

Morlino said that he had been sickened by reading the stories of sexual abuse contained in a report on clerical sexual abuse released Aug. 14 by a Pennsylvania grand jury, and by allegations against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who has been accused of serially sexually abusing two teenage boys, and of sexually assaulting and coercing priests and seminarians for several decades.

“But my own sickness at the stories is quickly put into perspective when I recall the fact that many individuals have lived through them for years. For them, these are not stories, they are indeed realities. To them I turn and say, again, I am sorry for what you have suffered and what you continue to suffer in your mind and in your heart,” he wrote.

The bishop was particularly candid in his assessment of the cause of those problems: “In the specific situations at hand, we are talking about deviant sexual — almost exclusively homosexual — acts by clerics. We’re also talking about homosexual propositions and abuses against seminarians and young priests by powerful priests, bishops, and cardinals. We are talking about acts and actions which are not only in violation of the sacred promises made by some, in short, sacrilege, but also are in violation of the natural moral law for all. To call it anything else would be deceitful and would only ignore the problem further.”

"There has been a great deal of effort to keep separate acts which fall under the category of now-culturally-acceptable acts of homosexuality from the publically-deplorable acts of pedophilia. That is to say, until recently the problems of the Church have been painted purely as problems of pedophilia — this despite clear evidence to the contrary," he added.

"It is time to be honest that the problems are both and they are more. To fall into the trap of parsing problems according to what society might find acceptable or unacceptable is ignoring the fact that the Church has never held ANY of it to be acceptable — neither the abuse of children, nor any use of one’s sexuality outside of the marital relationship, nor the sin of sodomy, nor the entering of clerics into intimate sexual relationships at all, nor the abuse and coercion by those with authority," he wrote.

Morlino said that McCarrick was guilty of abusing power "for the sake of homosexual gratification." 

“It is time to admit that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is wreaking great devastation in the vineyard of the Lord. The Church’s teaching is clear that the homosexual inclination is not in itself sinful, but it is intrinsically disordered in a way that renders any man stably afflicted by it unfit to be a priest,” he added.

Morlino wrote to seminarians of his diocese that they should immediately notify him of any sexual abuse, coercion, or sexual immorality they might experience or witness in their seminaries.

“I will address it swiftly and vigorously. I will not stand for this in my diocese or anywhere I send men for formation,” he wrote, adding that he expects seminaries to address sexual immorality directly.

To the priests of Madison, the bishop explained his expectation that each one “live out your priesthood as a holy priest, a hard working priest, and a pure and happy priest — as Christ Himself is calling you to do. And by extension, live a chaste and celibate life so that you can completely give your life to Christ, the Church, and the people whom he has called you to serve. God will give you the graces to do so.”

He likewise called priests to notify him of abuse or sexual immorality they might become aware of.

Morlino also wrote to lay Catholics, asking them to bring forward any instance of clerical sexual abuse or immorality they might be aware of. The bishop promised to hold priests and seminarians accountable to chaste standards of behavior, and to call for reform in the Church.

The bishop asked lay Catholics to “assist in keeping us accountable to civil authorities, the faithful in the pews, and to God Almighty, not only to protect children and the youth from sexual predators in the Church, but our seminarians, university students, and all the faithful as well. I promise to put any victim and their sufferings before that of the personal and professional reputation of a priest, or any Church employee, guilty of abuse.”

The bishop concluded his letter with a call to holiness and prayer.

“More than anything else, we as a Church must cease our acceptance of sin and evil. We must cast out sin from our own lives and run toward holiness. We must refuse to be silent in the face of sin and evil in our families and communities and we must demand from our pastors — myself included — that they themselves are striving day in and day out for holiness. We must do this always with loving respect for individuals but with a clear understanding that true love can never exist without truth.”

“I ask you all to join me and the entire clergy of the Diocese of Madison in making public and private acts of reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for all the sins of sexual depravity committed by members of the clergy and episcopacy,” he wrote.

He added that he would be offering a public Mass of reparation in the diocese and explained that on Sept. 19, 21, and 22, the traditional “ember days” of the Church, he would be fasting “in reparation for the sins and outrages committed by members of the clergy and episcopacy and I invite all the faithful to do the same.”

“Some sins, like some demons, can only be driven out by prayer and fasting,” he wrote.

 

After roadblocks, film on abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell releases preview

Sat, 08/18/2018 - 08:04

Washington D.C., Aug 18, 2018 / 06:04 am (CNA).- The trial of a Philadelphia abortion doctor, whose shoddy clinics and gruesome practices led to his conviction of three counts of murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter, is the subject of a movie due to be released in October.

A trailer previews the movie “Gosnell: America’s Biggest Serial Killer”, a crowd-funded project produced by a team of filmmakers and journalists, some of whom were present for the trial which concluded in 2013.

The name takes its title from the grand jury report in the trial, which detailed the crimes and grisly malpractices of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell’s clinics, including the snipping of the necks of more than 100 babies who had survived abortion.

The film was given the green light to show in U.S. theaters after the producers settled with Judge Jeffrey Minehart, who was involved in the original Gosnell trial and sued to block the film’s release, arguing that he was portrayed in the film as “Philadelphia’s liberal corrupt government.”

The film’s producers told The Hollywood Reporter that it had been “a really hard road” but that they are anticipating the movie to show in as many as 750 theaters throughout the country.

“No matter what your stance is on abortion, you will have a more informed opinion after you see Gosnell,” director Nick Searcy said.

The filmmakers have said they are hoping to avoid an R-rating by alluding to, but not directly showing, some of the most gruesome details of Gosnell’s practices.

"The fanatic subject matter poses a risk," executive producer John Sullivan told The Hollywood Reporter. "We were very careful not to make it too graphic. Gosnell saving feet of infants in jars as trophies plays a role, and you’ll see him take scissors out, but that part plays out as theater of the mind."

After reportedly being kicked off of crowdfunding site Kickstarter because of the film’s anti-abortion content, the multi-million dollar project was crowdfunded on Indiegogo, and was one of the most successfully crowdfunded films of all time, according to Gosnell producers.

“Almost 30,000 people donated over $2.3m in 45 days. When it ended it was the most successful crowdfunding campaign on the Indiegogo website,” the producers note on their website. “We want to thank all of our funders who helped make this project such a success. We literally could not have done it without you. This is your movie.”

Phelim McAleer, one of the film’s producers and a journalist who covered the Gosnell trial, said in an introductory video to the film that part of the motivation for the movie was the lack of attention to the trial in the mainstream media.

“The media have basically ignored his crime and his trial,” he said.

“He ran an abortion clinic in Philadelphia where he delivered live, viable babies and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors.”

"I've been on hard films before, but this one was particularly difficult," Sullivan told The Hollywood Reporter. "Hollywood is afraid of this content. It's a true story the media tried to ignore from the very beginning, so I wasn’t surprised to see Hollywood ignore us."

During Gosnell's trial, one Philadelphia-area reporter took photos of the courtroom showing that the courtroom benches reserved from the press were empty.

National media covered the case only after pro-life advocates launched a social media campaign to raise awareness about the case.

Gosnell's clinic had not been subject to oversight by the state of Pennsylvania since 1993. A federal drug raid in 2010 uncovered blood-stained rooms and filthy equipment.

According to the grand jury report, the clinic stored aborted fetuses in a basement freezer in plastic food containers and bags next to staff lunches. Gosnell kept severed feet of unborn babies preserved in specimen jars, allegedly for future identification or DNA samples.

Staff allegedly sent women to give birth into toilets, a doctor allegedly spread sexually transmitted infections to women through poor sanitary standards, and a 15-year-old staffer administered anesthesia to patients. The clinic also allegedly gave preferential treatment to white patients.

In addition to the counts of first degree murder, the abortion doctor was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient who died of an overdose in 2009.

Prosecutors had sought a third-degree murder charge in her case, saying Gosnell let his untrained and unlicensed staff give the 41-year-old Bhutanese immigrant woman a fatal combination of drugs.

Several of Gosnell’s former employees have pleaded guilty to murder and other charges. Gosnell himself is now serving several life sentences.

“Gosnell” opens in theaters throughout the country on Oct. 12 through GVN Releasing. It stars Dean Cain as Detective James “Woody” Wood, the main detective on the case, and Earl Billings as Dr. Kermit Gosnell.

Dan Burke appointed president, COO of EWTN News 

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 17:20

Irondale, Ala., Aug 17, 2018 / 03:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- EWTN Global Catholic Network announced Friday that Daniel Burke has been named President and Chief Operating Officer of EWTN News, Inc. Burke has been serving as Executive Director of EWTN’s National Catholic Register.

The appointment is effective immediately. In his new role, Burke will oversee and direct EWTN’s global news operations, including EWTN News Nightly with Lauren AshburnThe World Over with Raymond ArroyoEWTN Pro-Life Weekly, Force for Good, the Washington, D.C. News Production group, The National Catholic Register, Catholic News Agency, the ACI Group, ChurchPop, and EWTN’s Vatican Bureau.

“EWTN Foundress Mother Angelica changed the face of Catholicism in America as she advanced the Gospel through her use of the media,” Burke said in a statement.  

Today, Mother’s legacy continues through EWTN, he said, and Catholic news contributes to the network’s mission of worldwide evangelization.  

“I am honored to play a small role in this great work of God and look forward to serving the vital mission of EWTN News as we engage and examine the events of the day through the lens of the teachings of the Church.”

Burke will report to Michael Warsaw, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of EWTN.

“Over the past several years, EWTN has focused a great deal of effort on creating a global Catholic news platform through television, radio, print and digital,” said Warsaw in a statement.

“Dan Burke is a perfect choice to lead these operations,” Warsaw said. “He is uniquely suited to help facilitate cooperation and editorial collaboration across our multiple outlets. I am confident this will result in a greatly strengthened position for all of our news operations.” 

Burke has been part of EWTN since the network acquired the National Catholic Register in 2011. 

He has previously worked in global strategy development, organizational development, and business and technology consulting. He has written or edited 11 books on Catholic spirituality, and he founded the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, which teaches graduate-level courses in spirituality to priests, religious and laity.

EWTN Global Catholic Network was launched in 1981 by Mother Angelica of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. The largest religious media network in the world, it reaches more than 275 million television households in more than 145 countries and territories.

In addition to 11 television channels in multiple languages, EWTN platforms include radio services through shortwave and satellite radio, SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 AM & FM affiliates. EWTN publishes the National Catholic Register, operates a religious goods catalogue, and in 2015 formed EWTN Publishing in a joint venture with Sophia Institute Press. Catholic News Agency is also part of the EWTN family.

US bishops express anguish over abuse reports, encourage change in Church

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 17:12

Washington D.C., Aug 17, 2018 / 03:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a grand jury found thousands of alleged instances of sexual abuse in six of Pennsylvania’s Catholic dioceses, numerous U.S. bishops have called for renewal and change in face of these heartbreaking events.

Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the Church in the U.S. is in “a sad and confusing time.”

In his homily for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Aug. 15, the archbishop asked the Blessed Mother to intercede for greater purity and renewed love inside the Church.

“Let us ask the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary, the Mother of the Church. May she help us to have the courage we need to purify the Church and renew our love for holiness and our devotion to Jesus Christ and his Gospel.”

An 884-page grand jury report was released Aug. 14. The report states more than 1,000 victims had been sexually abused by some 300 priests over a span of seven decades. The report also points to the efforts to conceal or ignore the abuse by Church authorities.

Archbishop Gomez said now is the time for prayers and repentance in the Church, encouraging actions of forgiveness and healing.

“This is a time now for prayer and repentance and a time for examining our conscience, especially for those of us who are bishops and priests. And all of us need to pray for every person who has been hurt by the Church, and we need to work to help them heal.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said the report should also ignite a just anger, not an unhealthy rage, and he compared it to Christ's actions toward the moneychangers in the temple.

His archdiocese experienced similar reports on abuse in 2005 and 2011, he said, noting the “The anger Philadelphians felt toward the Archdiocese was likewise well placed.” Similarly, he said, this recent event calls for an anger which needs to be controlled and fruitful.

“Anger is also a righteous and necessary response – but it needs to be an anger that bears good fruit; an anger guided by clear thinking, prudence, and a desire for real justice. That kind of anger all of us should feel this week and carry with us into the days ahead.”

For his archdiocese, he said, anger motivated change. Since the abuse had been made known, the archdiocese has taught an estimated 100,000 laypeople and clergy to recognize and report abuse.

An Aug. 15 statement from the bishops of New Jersey dioceses acknowledged “that media accounts of the details contained in Pennsylvania’s grand jury report show a heartbreaking departure from our fundamental belief in the dignity and value of every child. As a Church, our calling remains unchanged - to help children in our care encounter leaders who exemplify God’s commandment to love and protect the most vulnerable.”

“As Bishops, we hold that every parent and every child deserve a safe environment to learn and explore their faith. Every space where teaching, worship, and ministry take place must provide this safe environment. There must be no compromise on this principle. The children entrusted to our care are treasures.”

The New Jersey bishops said they will “remain vigilant to ensure that not one child will ever be abused on our watch,” adding that the state's dioceses have conducted background checks on all personnel who have regular contact with minors.

“We thank law enforcement agencies, child protection advocates and victims themselves who have helped us move beyond compliance to creating the safest environments for learning and worship. We are deeply thankful for those who have joined our efforts to extend both healing and hope to every victim and their family. We renew our commitment to foster healing and seek forgiveness.”

The bishops of New Jersey's dioceses urged “anyone who was abused by clergy to come forward to civil authorities.”

Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston said that while many sexual offenders have answered for their crimes, there are areas in need of improvement.

“While many perpetrators have been held accountable in one way or another for their crimes, we have yet to establish clear and transparent systems of accountability and consequence for Church leadership whose failures have allowed these crimes to occur.”

“The Church must embrace spiritual conversion and demand legal transparency and pastoral accountability for all who carry out its mission,” he added. “The way we prepare priests, the way we exercise pastoral leadership and the way we cooperate with civil authorities; all these have to be consistently better than has been the case.”

This will not be an easy task, admitted the cardinal. He said Catholics and others in society are frustrated with Church leadership. However, he promised there is still hope.

“I am not without hope and do not succumb to despondent acceptance that our failures cannot be corrected. As the Church we have the responsibility to help people not to lose hope, that was Jesus’ message to all those he ministered to, especially in times of great trial.”

“There is too much good in the Church and in our faith to lose hope. Often it is survivors who courageously teach us we cannot lose hope.”

Investigation launched into sexual harassment claims at Philadelphia seminary

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 14:01

Philadelphia, Pa., Aug 17, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Timothy Senior, auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, has announced that the archdiocese is investigating a claim of sexual harassment made by a former student at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

In a letter sent this week to the priests and deacons of the archdiocese, the bishop said that the allegations concerned actions by a former student against another during the 2010-11 academic year.
 
The investigation was confirmed in a statement made by the archdiocese Aug. 16.

John Monaco, a former student at St. Charles Borromeo, made the allegations public in an online account posted Aug. 9.
 
Monaco subsequently enrolled in St. John’s Seminary in Boston, and also detailed alleged “abuse and misconduct” there. Last week, Cardinal Séan O’Malley announced a “full independent inquiry” into allegations of misconduct in St. John’s.
 
The investigation at St. Charles Borromeo comes in the wake of the ongoing scandal surrounding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who is accused of sexually abusing minors and of sexually harassing seminarians during his time in ministry. On Aug. 17, new allegations emerged concerning a “homosexual subculture” among seminarians in his former archdiocese of Newark.
 
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s announcement also follows the release of a grand jury report into six other Pennsylvania dioceses. That report followed an 18 month investigation and contained the names of 300 priests accused of sexual abuse. Writing in response to that report’s release, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said that anger by the faithful was understandable and for Church leaders “the only acceptable responses are grief and support for the victims, and comprehensive efforts to ensure that such things never recur.”
 
Speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Monaco said that “it was painful to go back and re-experience the memories, but I am glad that I came forward …. A seminary should never be a place where a man does not feel that he can be protected and grow in holiness.”
 
The allegations made by Monaco concerning the seminaries in Philadelphia and Boston include accounts of excessive drinking by priests who would invite a “clique” of seminarians to their rooms for private parties.

In a statement made Aug. 16, Ken Gavin, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said that the archdiocese had “recently became aware of allegations of sexual harassment by one seminarian of another.”
 
“In keeping with the long-term policy of the seminary and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, this allegation was turned over the Archdiocesan Office of Investigations for appropriate handling in light of policy and applicable law. As it is an active investigation, we are not able to comment upon it further.”

After welcoming pro-lifers, Missouri Democrats quickly backtrack

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 13:11

Jefferson City, Mo., Aug 17, 2018 / 11:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Missouri Democratic leaders have voted to remove language acknowledging different views of abortion from their party platform, drawing criticism from pro-life Democrats who say they deserve to be recognized and the move could harm the party’s prospects this November.

Kristen Day, president of Democrats for Life of America, said the actions of state party chairman Stephen Webber “send the message that pro-life Missourians are unwelcome in the party.”

“If that is his intention, then he should state it clearly and explicitly in an official statement,” Day said Aug. 11. “Missouri pro-life Democrats are real Democrats who support labor and helped to defeat the right-to-work proposition this week. They support health care, a living wage, and a host of other issues on which all Democrats agree. We want to be in this party, and we will wait for a clear statement from Chairman Webber on where we stand.”

The previous party platform language was approved at a June meeting of the state party platform committee by a 31-25 vote, the St. Louis-based newspaper The Riverfront Times reports.

“We respect the conscience of each Missourian and recognize that members of our party have deeply held and sometimes differing positions on issues of personal conscience, such as abortion,” said the added language. “We recognize the diversity of views as a source of strength and we welcome into our ranks all Missourians who may hold different positions on this issue.”

The Missouri Democratic Party’s central committee voted to remove the platform language on Aug. 11. It then added language saying the party opposes “any efforts to limit access to reproductive health care” and backs “a woman’s right to choose and the right of every person to their own bodily autonomy and to be free from government intrusion in medical decisions, including a decision to carry a pregnancy to term.”

The central committee also added a preamble stating that the platform reflects the party’s values, though candidates must articulate their own policy positions.

“We made a mistake,” said St. Louis alderwoman Annie Rice, “Abortion is a legal healthcare procedure, and as a party we must support access.”

Rice tried and failed to block the change to the platform in June.

Webber, the party chairman, said the platform discussion wasn’t contentious, telling the Kansas City Star “We got it right, and the final product is something that can unify the whole party.”

Day, however, made the case for acknowledging Democratic voters who oppose abortion.

“Pro-life Democrats have stayed in the shadows and have been taken for granted long enough. We must be recognized and heard,” she said. “Right now, we are hearing that current leaders of the Democratic Party do not want us and we should look elsewhere.”

She said the unilateral removal of ratified platform language is “very unusual.”

“It makes you wonder about the kind of pressure supposedly ‘progressive’ groups exerted and why,” Day said. “They know that this removal will cause chaos.”

Day defended the platform language proposed in June by former Missouri State Rep. Joan Barry.

“Joan didn’t ask for much,” said Day. “She put forth a reasonable amendment that merely made a point of recognizing that while some Democrats do not agree with the party position on abortion, they should be treated with respect and included in the party.”

At the August central committee vote, Barry abstained. She said she was disappointed by the change but was committed to electing Democrats in the upcoming elections.

“Diversity has been a matter of strength in this party,” Barry told the Kansas City Star. “I just felt that we needed to be sure pro-life Democrats are recognized as members of the party. Some people in the electorate don’t believe that you can be pro-life and be a Democrat. But that’s not true. We are Democrats. And I’ll do everything I can to help the party this fall.”

Pro-abortion rights groups praised the platform change.

Alison Dreith, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, characterized the previous platform language as “anti-choice.”

“The Democratic Party’s overwhelming vote to re-prioritize reproductive freedom has put the party back on track just in time to pick up wins in November,” she said.

Rachel Sweet, who is regional director of public policy and organizing for Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, welcomed the change, saying, ”Democrats across the state have let their party leaders know that a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions is non-negotiable.”

After the June vote, Sweet had said “Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes will hold accountable any party or candidate who doesn’t believe in every person’s right to make their own personal medical decisions without government interference,” the Kansas City Star reported.

Day compared the previous language to the 1996 national Democratic Party platform language included by U.S. Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio). She characterized the language as non-combative. While it suggested the party has an official position on abortion, it also suggested “that the party does not want to lose the votes of Democrats who may disagree on that one position.”

The platform change could have political consequences for Democrats, Day argued. She cited the competitive race facing incumbent U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), who backs legal abortion but has said she welcomes votes opposed to abortion. According to Day, the McCaskill race could have a pivotal role in determining the outcome of U.S. Supreme Court nominations and even impeachment of President Donald Trump.

“Missouri Party Chairman Stephen Webber thinks that the best way to support Senator McCaskill and other Democrats in Missouri is to create an unnecessary battle over abortion,” charged Day.

Day said that efforts to silence pro-life Democrats have produced poor results for the party in Missouri. Democratic legislators have been in the minority in both houses of the state legislature since 2002, they hold only two of Missouri’s eight Congressional seats, and Democrats “have a difficult time winning seats outside the urban cores,” she argued.

“If I were the party chairman, I would try to decipher what was going wrong and try to unite the party, not highlight the divisive issue of abortion by reversing a moderate amendment that says we are a big-tent party,” Day said.

 

 

Appeals court protects Texas bishops' communications in abortion case

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 12:30

Austin, Texas, Aug 17, 2018 / 10:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The privacy and religious freedom of Texas bishops and other religious groups was upheld by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, after the bishops’ internal communications were subpoenaed by an abortion group.

In the 2016 case Whole Woman’s Health v. Smith, an abortion group sued the state of Texas, challenging a law that would require abortion facilities to bury or cremate aborted fetal remains.

As of now, remains can be disposed of through incineration or disinfection and then discharged into a landfill, disposed of into sewer systems, or any other “approved alternate treatment process, provided that the process renders the item as unrecognizable, followed by deposition in a sanitary landfill.”  

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB) voiced their support for the state of Texas and offered free burials for the remains of aborted babies. Whole Woman’s Health responded by subpoenaing the bishops - although they had not been named in the lawsuit - and demanded access to all internal communications regarding abortion, including any theological and doctrinal debates on the issue.

The bishops released more than 4,000 pages of abortion-related communications with outside individuals, but did not turn over private, internal communications between bishops on the matter, and appealed for emergency protection of these communications.  

In June, a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court protected the bishops’ emails and communications, after which Woman’s Health appealed for a full court hearing.

The bishops’ right to protect their internal communications from government interference or opposition groups was again upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans yesterday.  

“It turns out that suing the Good Samaritan was a bad idea,” Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said in a statement. Becket has represented the bishops in court.

“The Church should not have been dragged into this lawsuit solely because it offered free burials for babies. We’re glad the full Fifth Circuit recognized that.”

A final decision on the original lawsuit will come from Federal District Judge David Ezra at a yet unspecified date.

New allegations surface regarding Archbishop McCarrick and Newark priests

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 07:00

Newark, N.J., Aug 17, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA).- Recent allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick include reports that he made sexual advances toward seminarians during his tenure as Bishop of Metuchen and Archbishop of Newark.

CNA recently spoke to six priests of the Archdiocese of Newark, and one priest member of a religious order who was a seminarian in New York in the early 1970s, while McCarrick was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

Citing archdiocesan policy and concerns about ecclesiastical repercussions for their candor, the priests agreed to speak to CNA only under the condition of anonymity. The priests spoke individually to CNA, and their accounts were compared for confirmation.  

The religious priest who spoke to CNA said when he studied in a seminary in New York, McCarrick, who was then an aide to Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York, would sometimes visit the seminary. The priest said that McCarrick’s reputation was already well established by this time.  

“The dean of our theology school was a classmate at CUA with McCarrick, and he knew about the rumors,” the priest told CNA, “he spoke about them with the other faculty and theologians very openly.”  

So well-known was McCarrick’s reputation, the priest said, that when McCarrick would accompany Cooke to visit the seminary there was a standing joke that they had to "hide the handsome ones" before he arrived.  

The same reputation reportedly followed the archbishop years later, when he served from 1986-2000 as Archbishop of Newark. One priest of the Archdiocese of Newark told CNA it was an uncomfortable experience when McCarrick came to visit the seminary.  

The priest said that McCarrick would often place his hand on seminarians while talking with them, or on their thighs while seated near them.  

“It was really unnerving. On the one hand you knew – knew – what was going on but you couldn’t believe it.”  

Several other priests from Newark spoke to CNA about similar experiences.

One priest worked in close proximity to the archbishop in the archdiocesan chancery for a number of years. “There were the ‘nephews,’ for sure,” he said. “He had a type: tall, slim, intelligent  - but no smokers.”  

The priest told CNA that, in addition to trips to a house on the shore, McCarrick would invite young men to stay the night in the cathedral rectory in central Newark.  

“Priests would tell me ‘he’s sleeping with them’ all the time, but I couldn’t believe it – they seemed like perfectly normal guys,” the priest said.  

Another priest, a former priest secretary to McCarrick, told CNA that McCarrick frequently ordained classes of priests among the largest in the country, and that the archbishop prided himself on recruiting young men from the diocese to enter the seminary.

But many in the archdiocese say that the high numbers of ordinations came at a cost. One priest said that some graduating classes from the middle 1990s have seen nearly half of their members leave ministry, and concerns have been raised about the behavior of some of those who remain in ministry.  

Fr. Desmond Rossi was a seminarian in Newark in the late 1980s. He has publicly alleged that, in 1988, two transitional deacons sexually abused him.

According to Rossi, he told archdiocesan authorities about the assault and went before a review board. He said that his story was “found credible, but nothing happened.” Instead, he claims the archdiocese turned against him for bringing the allegation forward.

“They tried to turn it on me," Rossi said.  

Rossi eventually left the archdiocese and now serves as a priest in the Diocese of Albany. In 2004, the Archdiocese of Newark agreed to an out-of-court settlement of approximately $35,000 with Rossi in response to his accusations. At least one of the alleged abusers is still in active ministry in the Archdiocese of Newark, Rossi said.  

Rossi’s allegations have resurfaced in the wake of the current scandals and on August 2, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, current Archbishop of Newark, announced that he would reexamine the matter, and that he had referred it to his Office for Canonical Affairs.  

While the Archdiocese of Newark declined to confirm the name of the accused priest remaining in active ministry, several priests in the archdiocese identified him as Fr. James Weiner, and told CNA that he has a reputation among the clergy, dating back to his time in the seminary, for active homosexuality.  

In recent years, several priests said, Weiner is known for hosting cocktail parties in his rectory, which other homosexual priests of the archdiocese are known to attend.

Three Newark priests independently gave CNA nearly identical accounts of being invited to these parties when they were newly ordained.  

One recalled that he attended a cocktail party, thinking he had been invited to a simple priests’ dinner. “I was led into the room to a chorus of wolf-whistles,” he said. “It was clear right away I was ‘on display.’”

Another priest told CNA that he was also invited to a party hosted by the priest. “They were all carrying big mixed drinks, pink ones, it was like something out of Sex in City.”

He recalled that after asking for a beer, he was told by his host, “you need to try something more girly tonight.”  

All recounted overtly sexual conversation at the cocktail parties.   “I was fresh meat and they were trying me out,” one priest said.

All three said they left quickly upon realizing what was going on. “Everyone was getting loaded and getting closer on the couches, I wanted out of there,” a priest told CNA.  

“Everyone kept calling me a ‘looker’ and saying they had to ‘keep me around’ from now on,” a third Newark priest told CNA.

The archdiocese declined to answer questions related to those parties.

All three priests told CNA that while the experience was deeply unpleasant, they had seen similar behavior in Newark’s seminary.

Seminarians and priests from ordination classes spanning 30 years, during the terms of McCarrick and Myers, reported to CNA that they had observed an active homosexual subculture of priest and seminarians within Newark’s Immaculate Conception Seminary.  

One priest ordained in the early years of McCarrick’s term in Newark said that “a lot of people lost their innocence in the seminary.”

He told CNA that there were two distinct groups of students. “You had the men who were there because they had a deep love of the Lord and a vocation to serve his Church,” he said, adding that those men were the majority of seminarians.

“But there was a subculture, with its own group of men, that was openly homosexual and petty and vindictive with everyone else,” he explained.  

The same priest said that before he entered the seminary he was warned he would “see things that weren’t right.” He said he was counseled by an older priest to “just remember who you are and why you are there.”  

Several Newark priests told CNA that the same atmosphere existed under Archbishop John Myers, who led the archdiocese from 2001-2016.

One priest who studied during that period recalled being told, as a newly arrived seminarian, to lock his bedroom door at night to avoid “visitors.”

“I thought they were kidding – they really weren’t,” he said.  

Another priest told CNA that, as a senior seminarian and transitional deacon, young seminarians would come to him in tears.

“They were just so scandalized by what they saw, these upperclassmen flagrantly carrying on with each other in gay relationships.”  

A third priest says that these seminarians were frequently visited by other priests of the diocese, some of whom he later saw at the rectory cocktail parties.

“There was definitely a group of, well I guess we’re calling them ‘uncles’ now. They would come by to visit with the effeminate crowd, bring them stuff and take them out,” he said.  

One priest told CNA that, in his judgment, many of Newark’s priests felt resigned to that culture, even after McCarrick left.

“It is so horrible, so repulsive, no one wants to look straight at it,” one priest said. “You don’t want to see it and at the same time you can’t miss it.”

Another told CNA that among diocesan authorities “there is a huge culture of toleration.”

“It is generational at this point. In seminary you’re told to mind your own business, keep your head down and not start trouble - they are over there doing whatever and you leave them to it. And then you’re ordained and it is the same story - you don’t win prizes for picking fights.”

Nevertheless, some cases still have the power to shock.

One Newark priest told CNA that he had direct knowledge that Fr. Mark O’Malley was in 2014 removed as rector of St. Andrew’s Hall, the archdiocesan college seminary, after an allegation that he hid a camera in the bedroom of a young priest at the seminary. Two additional Newark priests independently reported to CNA they had been informed in 2014 that O’Malley had been removed for that reason.

Additional sources close to the archdiocese confirmed that they had heard this allegation, with one characterizing it as a kind of open secret among Newark’s priests.

The Archdiocese of Newark announced in 2014 that O’Malley was seeking a ”medical leave of absence.” He has since returned to ministry, albeit not in a parish setting.

The archdiocese declined to comment on that allegation.

All three priests who relayed the story said incidents like that embittered them.

“It isn’t that a guy did a bad thing - that happens. It’s that it’s just not acknowledged. Everybody talks about it, everybody knows, but nobody looks right at it,” one of the priests said.

All six Newark priests CNA spoke to expressed hope that the sexual abuse scandals now embroiling the Church will lead to change. Several stressed that reforms of the seminary had already begun by the end of Myers’ term in office, and that a recent succession of diocesan vocations directors had imposed newly rigorous standards on prospective seminary candidates.  

“When I was sent for graduate studies I heard the jokes from guys from other dioceses - ‘what the world disdains, Newark ordains’ they’d say. Those days are over and that’s a real comfort to me,” one priest said.

As for the problems with priests already in ministry, the priests agreed it was demoralizing, for priests and lay Catholics alike.

One said that priests living unfaithful lives are a scandal playing out “with the mute button on.”

“Our people aren’t stupid. They know who their pastors are, for good and bad. They know who drinks too much, they know if their priest is celibate or not. But they see nothing is done about it and they understand that the Church doesn’t mean what it says, or even care.”

Another told CNA, “nobody is fooled by the medical leave thing anymore. I’m terrified I might actually get sick, my parishioners would probably think I’d done something terrible.”

One priest said that expectations of change were raised during the brief tenure of Archbishop Bernard Hebda, appointed in 2013 to be Myers’ coadjutor archbishop, his successor-in-waiting.

Hebda chose to live in a dormitory at Seton Hall University and was a frequent sight around the archdiocesan seminaries. He was also reported to make unannounced visits to parishes, suddenly knocking at the back doors of rectories or sliding in to a back pew at Sunday Mass.

In 2015, before Hebda could become Newark’s archbishop, he was asked to serve as apostolic administrator of Minneapolis- St. Paul, in the wake of Archbishop John Nienstedt’s resignation. Hebda was appointed Nienstedt’s permanent replacement in 2016.

“He wasn’t kidding around. You could tell he wanted to know everything, who was who and what was what - and who was into what,” one pastor who received a surprise visit from Hebda told CNA.

Newark priests told CNA that they are still waiting to see what changes Cardinal Joseph Tobin, who became Archbishop of Newark in 2017, will bring to the archdiocese. Sources in the Newark chancery describe the cardinal as reserved, eager to listen to suggestions and proposals, but unwilling to be drawn into making decisions quickly.

Meanwhile, in parishes the priests of Newark wait to see, wondering if the current crises might bring about change.

“You hope that at some point the cardinal will act, that there will be nothing left to lose by acting, but we will see.”

 

Does the Pa. grand jury report mean changes for statutes of limitations?

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 05:23

Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug 17, 2018 / 03:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Following a major grand jury report on past sexual abuse in six Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania, discussions continue over whether and how to change the state’s legal limits on prosecution and civil lawsuits for sex abuse.

“We are devastated and outraged by the revelations of terrible sexual abuse crimes committed in the Catholic Church,” Amy B. Hill, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, told CNA Aug. 16.

“The time to discuss legislation will come later,” she said. “Our focus now is on improving ways that survivors and their families can recover as they continue through a difficult healing process.”

The report, released Aug. 14, claims to have identified more than 1,000 victims of 300 credibly accused priests from 1947 to 2017 across six Pennsylvania dioceses. It presents a devastating portrait of efforts by Church authorities to ignore, obscure, or cover up allegations--either to protect accused priests or to spare the Church scandal.

Approximately two-thirds of the accused priests have died. The youngest offender named in the report was born in the 1990s. Due to laws regarding the statute of limitations, nearly every abuse allegation cannot be criminally prosecuted, although two indictments have been filed. One priest named in the report has been convicted of sexually assaulting a student in the early 1990s.

The grand jury report recommended creating a retroactive two-year legal window allowing victims of child sex abuse to sue even if the statute of limitations has expired.

The Pennsylvania legislature’s S.B. 261 would eliminate the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of child sex crimes. It would raise the age limit of underage victims seeking to file civil lawsuits from age 30 to age 50. The bill passed by a 48-0 vote in February 2017 and the House of Representatives could consider it during its next session, which begins in September.

State Reps. Aaron Bernstine and Chris Sainato are among the backers of the bill.

Bernstine said the incidents reported by the grand jury are “beyond troubling.”

“The greatest concern that I have is that our most vulnerable citizens of Pennsylvania and across the country remain safe,” he said, according to the Lawrence County news site New Castle News. “There is no place in our society for those who harm children.”

The legislation would provide additional tools to law enforcement “to hold criminals responsible for their actions,” he said.

Bernstine said he had been working closely with the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the state’s Catholic bishops “to implement policies that ensure this never happens again.”

“I am thankful for the steps that they have taken, and encourage them to take additional action to ensure that the aggressors within their organization are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.

Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh, in Aug. 14 remarks responding to the release of the grand jury report, backed changes to the statutes of limitations laws.

“Absolutely we would support the elimination of the criminal statute of limitations,” he said, according to New Castle News. “That is an important piece that should move forward with legislators. We support any sort of penalties for people who fail to report child abuse to public authorities.”

In states considering such bills, the local Catholic conference and other groups often voice concerns about whether abuse victims would have the equal ability to sue public institutions, which are often protected under a legal concept known as sovereign immunity, and whether a legal window for retroactive lawsuits will be allowed.

Others have argued that statutes of limitations are important, because claims from long ago cannot be investigated in-depth, or seriously defended against, meaning they are more likely to result in settlements, even when facts are limited.

In an April 7, 2017 message about a potential amendments to S.B. 261, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference said some amendments to the bill help “further equalize the opportunities for survivors of sexual abuse in public institutions to access recovery of damages through the civil courts.”

It voiced concern about any amendment to allow retroactive changes to the statute of limitations.

“This proposal would, in effect, force the people who make up an organization like the Catholic Church today defend themselves against a crime that was committed in their parish, school, or charitable program years ago,” the Catholic Conference said in 2017. “Last year, the Senate held hearings and determined that changing the law retroactively would be unconstitutional in Pennsylvania.”

“Regardless, it is definitely unfair to individual Catholics today whose parishes and schools would be the targets of decades-old lawsuits.”

Pennsylvania State Rep. Mark Rozzi, 47, is backing an amendment that would also allow a two-year window for past alleged victims of sex abuse to file civil lawsuits.

The legislator says he was raped by a priest at age 13. The priest, Rev. Edward Graff, is alleged to have raped “scores of children,” the grand jury report says. The priest died in 2002 in a Texas jail while awaiting trial on charges he sexually abused a boy.

Rozzi told CNN that allowing the retroactive window “is the only avenue for these victims who are in the grand jury report” to get justice.

In 2002, the Pennsylvania legislature voted to raise the age limit for reporting criminal sex abuse charges from 23 to 30, then raised it to age 50 in 2007.

Fourteen states are considering bills about statutes of limitations on sex abuse. About 41 states have eliminated statutes of limitations for criminal prosecution of sex abuse, Reuters reports.

Since July 2013, costs related to sex abuse cases have cost the Catholic Church in the U.S. nearly $600 million, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ May report said. A U.S. bishops’ conference report in 2012 said that reporting dioceses and eparchies had paid $2.1 billion in abuse-related costs since 2004.

Hill said the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference encourages anyone who has been abused to “report the abuse and seek help immediately by calling the toll-free Pennsylvania ChildLine number at 800-932-0313 or their local law enforcement.”

 

Beloved Texas priest asks for prayers after ALS diagnosis

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 02:05

Fort Worth, Texas, Aug 17, 2018 / 12:05 am (CNA).- Fr. Stephen Jasso said he knew something was wrong this past February, about two months after retiring as the pastor of All Saints Parish in Fort Worth, Texas.

On June 29, the 85-year-old Franciscan priest learned what exactly was wrong with him: he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Jasso is now asking for prayers as he nears the end of his life.

“This has become a new challenge,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I am asking people to pray with me all the way until the end.”

ALS is a disease that progressively weakens the muscles throughout the body. Most people diagnosed with ALS die within three to five years of their diagnosis. Jasso said he had no idea what ALS even was before he was diagnosed.

Since February, Jasso has lost the use of his left arm and left side, and uses a wheelchair.

While Jasso does not currently celebrate Mass as he is unable to stand, he still hears confessions each day and meets with parishioners to provide spiritual counseling. He also assists with writing references to help recent immigrants with gaining permanent status for themselves or for family members. He said he hopes he will one day be able to celebrate Mass from his wheelchair.

Despite these physical challenges, Jasso has remained steadfast in his faith and in his dedication for the Fort Worth community, telling a reporter that his “love for God and for people is stronger than ever.”

“I’m carrying the cross because I feel — this illness — for some reason, God has permitted it,” he told the Star-Telegram. He has embraced the suffering that comes with his disease, saying that he will “carry it as the Lord carried his cross for me.”

Beloved in his community, parishioners described Jasso to the North Texas Catholic at the time of his retirement as “always present” and “always on call.”

“He’s been an outstanding priest and pastor. He’s helped a lot of people,” one usher for All Saints said. “He’s been a good friend to my family and many others.”

There has been an outpouring of support from the community since the news of his diagnosis. Mayor Betsy Price proclaimed August 7 as “Father Jasso Day” by the City of Fort Worth. Faith leaders from varying religions and denominations were present at a ceremony. In a Facebook post, Price said that the city was “truly blessed to have a servant leader” like Jasso.

Jasso made a name for himself shortly after his arrival in Fort Worth in 1985. At the time, the city was a hotbed of teenage gang violence. Jasso was quick to integrate himself with young people in his parish, and worked alongside the mayor, police chief, and school superintendent to promote peace and education.

Throughout his priesthood, Jasso would continue to place a key emphasis on education.

“Leadership is not just something that happens. It's something you get ready for,” he told NBC’s local Dallas-Fort Worth affiliate last year.

In 2013, Jasso received the University of Notre Dame Sorin Award for Service to Catholic Schools.

Also an outspoken advocates for immigrants, he met with then-President George W. Bush in 2002 as part of a Hispanic Leadership Summit.

Jasso, one of 15 children, has been a priest for 53 years. Prior to Fort Worth, he was a priest in Peru and Mexico City. He survived the deadly Mexico earthquakes of both 1985 and 2017, telling the North Texas Catholic that despite the existence of natural disasters, “God has not created the world to destroy it, but to bring it to a state of perfection.”

Cardinal Burke: We face a grave crisis, touching the heart of the Church

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 20:31

Washington D.C., Aug 16, 2018 / 06:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Raymond Burke said Thursday that the Catholic Church is facing “a very grave crisis” due to the “grievous failure” on the part of certain bishops and that “a serious loss of confidence in our shepherds” needs to be restored after sexual abuse scandals in the United States.

“We are in the face of a very grave crisis, which is touching at the very heart of the Church because Our Lord acts on behalf of the flock through those shepherds who are ordained to act in His person, teaching, celebrating the sacraments, and governing the Church,” said Burke in an interview on Raymond Arroyo’s “World Over” Aug. 16.

Cardinal Burke, 70, is prefect emeritus of the Apostolic Signatura. He recently returned to Rome from an almost month-long visit to the United States, said that he had “never heard so much anger, so much disappointment, so much frustration from good, Catholic faithful” than during this visit to the U.S.

“We are dealing here with the gravest of sins … We have to focus our attention on that, and do what is just with regard to all parties involved.”

“For the bishop who has failed grievously in this area, the Church’s penal remedies are expiatory remedies for his good also. They address principally the good of the flock because a bishop is a bishop for the care of the flock.”

“For the bishop to prey upon the flock, committing mortal sins, this is simply unacceptable and it has to stop,” said Burke.

The only way this trust will be restored “is to get to the bottom of this whole matter and make sure for the future that this does not happen,” and this falls under the responsibility of the Holy Father, said Burke.

It is the pope’s responsibility to receive accusations against a bishop and investigate them, he stressed. “This is not a part of the responsibility of the conference of bishops,” he said, referring to the U.S. bishops’ Aug. 16 statement on investigation and reporting procedures for bishops’ misconduct.

“As far as developing new procedures, the procedures have been in the law of the Church for centuries. They simply, especially in recent times, have not been known and have not been followed,” he continued.

“The Catholic Church in the United States is undergoing possibly one of the worst crises that it has ever experienced,” said Burke. “It has to be recognized and it has to be dealt with in a thorough manner that is faithful to the Church’s moral law, to the Church herself, and to the office of the bishops.”

Burke said that the Pennsylvania grand jury investigation needs to be studied very carefully. “It is simply a matter that needs to be approached with reason and with truth. Where we discover that the appropriate action has not been taken, then that bishop has to be corrected. If the bishop had failed very grievously, then he would simply have to be removed.”


“What we are seeing right now in the Church, to the grave harm of so many souls and really also to the scandal of the world in general, is that the Church, which should be a beacon of light, is involved in such a crisis.”

“I think we have to recognize … an apostasy from the faith. I believe that there has been a practical apostasy from the faith with regards to all of the questions involving human sexuality; principally, it starts with the idea that there can be legitimate sexual activity outside of marriage, which of course is false, completely false.”

“I do believe in this present time, not only with regard to this crisis which we are speaking, but with regard to a number of other situations in the Church that the devil is very active,” said Cardinal Burke.

He emphasized that “we have to conduct all of the reasonable activity to get to the truth of the matters and try to restore justice in the Church, but at the same time all of us need to pray ever more fervently for the Church and to fast and undertake other sacrifices for the good of the Church. We really need to have some serious acts of reparation for the suffering that has been inflicted upon members of the faithful, upon the flock of our Lord, and that is our responsibility.”

“I can only urge everyone to draw closer to Our Lord who leads us and guides us. He will never abandon us.”

‘What do you want to know?’ The Catholic reaction to bishops and sexual abuse

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 14:08

Washington D.C., Aug 16, 2018 / 12:08 pm (CNA).- Among the sexual abusers mentioned in the Aug. 14 Pennsylvania grand jury report, one priest merits particular attention.

Rev. David Szatkowski, SCJ, is mentioned in the section of the report concerning the Diocese of Allentown. In 2011, he was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a child.

In August of that year, Szatkowski, a seminary professor, attended an academic conference in Wisconsin. The priest, drunk late one night of the conference, approached a group of teenage girls outside his hotel, talked with them for a while, telling them that he was a lawyer and acting, in the words of one witness, “touchy.” Eventually, witness accounts and police reports say, Szatkowski forcibly embraced a 15-year-old girl and groped her breasts.

Several months later, prosecutors announced in a statement that they had dropped the charges, in “consultation with the victim about her wishes regarding the outcome of the case.”

Szatkowski, charged with sexually assaulting a child but not convicted, serves now on the “formation team” of his religious community, working with young aspirants to priesthood.

The priest does not stand out in the grand jury report because of the gravity of his case. Indeed, allegations against Szatkowski are not mentioned in the report at all. Instead, Szatkowski is mentioned because, three years after facing criminal charges for sexually assaulting a child, he was permitted by the Bishop of Allentown to serve as the canon lawyer- the procurator and advocate, in technical terms- for Fr. Michael Lawrence, a priest accused of sexually assaulting two adolescent boys.

In fact, Bishop John Barres, then Bishop of Allentown, relied heavily on Szatkowski’s canonical advocacy in a 2014 letter written to oppose a Vatican plan to laicize Lawrence.

This extraordinary turn of events bears repeating. In 2014, a bishop allowed a priest who had been charged with criminal sexual abuse of a child to serve as the canon lawyer for another priest charged with criminal sexual abuse of a child. Apparently no one in Szatkowski’s religious community, the Diocese of Allentown, or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith questioned the wisdom of that plan.

Anyone who finds it difficult to understand the anger and resentment of Catholics toward their bishops in recent weeks need look no further than that story.

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It is not breaking news that priests have committed unspeakable acts of sexual abuse. Nor is it new news that bishops have acted negligently, failing to use their authority responsibly. Since at least 2002, sexual abuse committed by priests in the United States has been catalogued and made publicly available in media reports, depositions, lawsuits, and police reports. And in that same time period, the negligence of bishops has been well-documented.

But the grand jury report released Aug. 14 is unique- unparalleled, really- in scope, magnitude, and in the level of detail it provides. And the report was released as the Catholic Church in the United States was already in the midst of the serious crisis that began when credible sex abuse allegations against then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick were announced June 20.

Unlike the 2002 reports of clerical sexual abuse, the Pennsylvania report was also released in the wake of the #MeToo movement, and after revelations emerged of sexually abusive and coercive behaviors among figures in positions of power in other professional, political, and cultural contexts. The #MeToo movement has led to a more outspoken cultural opposition to coercive sexual behaviors and the abuse of power. That movement is the lens through which many Catholics are now viewing sexual abuse and cover-ups in the Church.

As a consequence of those things, the report has led to expressions of outrage, confusion, hurt, and mistrust from priests and deacons, religious sisters and brothers, Catholic and secular media outlets, ordinary lay Catholics, and from other Christians.

Commentators have condemned the alleged and suspected acts of abuse themselves, and the documented responses of bishops to that abuse. But they have mostly focused their anger on the apologies, statements of regret and contrition, and explanations that bishops have offered in recent weeks.

The response seems to exceed even the anger during the “Long Lent of 2002,” which could also be attributed, at least partially, to the fact that Catholics have already gone through this experience, and many expected that the crisis had been abated, and that bishops were not tolerating coercive sexual immorality in the Church. The McCarrick revelations dashed those expectations. The grand jury report has been like acid poured into the newly opened wound.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, formerly Bishop of Pittsburgh, has received some of the most serious criticism. Wuerl, already facing questions about his knowledge, negligence, or complicity in allegations against McCarrick, now faces the charge that he negligently permitted at least one sexual abuser to remain in priestly ministry after allegations were known to his diocese.

It should be noted that Wuerl has disputed many assertions contained in the grand jury report, as has Donald Trautman, the former Bishop of Erie. It should also be noted that the report contains allegations that have not been subject to a trial, and that serious objections have been raised about whether the due process rights of those named in the report have been respected. Eventually, sources tell CNA, questions will also be asked about Pennsylvania's attorney general, whose office drafted the text of the grand jury report, and about his political motivations.

It should also be mentioned that the grand jury reported predominantly on crimes that took place decades ago. The report recognized that “much has changed over the last fifteen years,” affirmed much about contemporary child protection policies, and noted the efforts of Pennsylvania’s current bishops to be transparent and forthcoming.

But at the moment, most Catholics are uninterested in explanations, or in discussions of the report’s finer points. The statements issued by Pennsylvania’s bishops, by Wuerl, and by the leadership of the USCCB have seemed only to fuel anger.

In fact, Wuerl and his staff have faced especially sharp criticism for launching a website, “thewuerlrecord.com,” that purported to “provide additional content not included in the [grand jury] report on Cardinal Wuerl’s work as longtime advocate and voice on this issue.” The site lasted fewer than two days before being taken down, amid calls from several prominent commentators for Wuerl’s immediate resignation.

It is worth asking what, exactly, Catholics now want from their leaders, what has prevented some bishops from satisfactorily addressing sexual abuse and the fallout from recent revelations, and how the Church can now respond to an obviously significant point of crisis.

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The grand jury report’s introduction says that in the face of sexual abuse allegations, bishops seemed preoccupied with managing “scandal,” rather than addressing problems. The report lists a series of actions it calls a “playbook for concealing truth,” among them the use of euphemisms like “boundary violation” in place of words like “rape,” the unwillingness to conduct investigations professionally, and the unwillingness to inform parishioners when a priest has been accused of sexual abuse.

In short, the report depicted a culture in which appearances are more important than reality. That culture seems at the root of the anger Catholics have expressed in recent weeks, over the McCarrick scandal, and over the grand jury’s investigation.

In commentaries, comments to CNA, and on social media, many Catholics have characterized episcopal responses to recent revelations and allegations as bureaucratic, robotic, and self-serving.

The hierarchy’s response to the grand jury report, and to the McCarrick scandal which preceded it, has also been criticized as “corporate,” more concerned with spin, damage control, and personal reputations than with the victims of sexual abuse, or with the Catholics who feel betrayed by bishops who promised, in 2002, “never again.”

Where, many Catholics have asked, is a bishop willing to take responsibility for what has happened, and willing to make amends?

Where, many Catholics have asked, is a bishop willing to change the culture of the Church? Where, they have asked, is honesty?

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Concretely, Catholics seem to be calling for three things.

The first is genuine expression of authentic contrition, sorrow, and regret. This is what many Catholics say has most been lacking in recent months.

We live in the age of the image- of the cultural and visual meme- and bishops seem to be expected to understand this. This means that expressions of contrition are expected to be more than words offered between explanations and calls for new policy. Catholics- especially young Catholics- say they are looking for simple, direct, and straightforward apologies, followed by signs of repentance.

Sackcloth and ashes may not prove necessary, but humility and authenticity will. Some have suggested Masses celebrated solemnly and penitentially with victims. Others have suggested public and personal pilgrimages and acts of repentance. The form matters. But what seems to matter most to many Catholics is hearing, and seeing, that bishops are genuinely horrified by things that have happened among their own brothers, and on their watch, and that they perceive, and admit, a sense of personal responsibility.

The second thing Catholics seem to be calling for is open disclosure of the Church’s problems, and consistent lay involvement in the adjudication of clerical personnel issues. This call is for a broad culture change. A call for transparency, openness, and direct lay involvement in handling priest personnel issues is, in short, a call for a rejection of the clericalism that, by many accounts, is endemic among bishops, without ideological or generational discrimination.

In short, many Catholics have told CNA in recent weeks they hope that their bishops will invest in a renewed sense of collaborative and missionary leadership, and that they believe that will require eschewing a common perception that bishops must be primarily overseers of diocesan business and administrative affairs.

But meaningful lay involvement in personnel matters is a difficult thing for the Church to mandate, beyond the existing requirement for diocesan review boards, because of the Church’s theological understanding of the governance ministry of bishops, and because lay professional Church administrators can become as institutionalized as clerical collaborators, and can be, for reasons of job security, reticent to blow the whistle when bishops act negligently.

Without clear guidelines and some protections for employees, “lay involvement” can easily become a kind of Potemkin consultation, where lay people are around, but decisions are mostly made after they leave the room.

To encourage broader and more meaningful lay involvement in episcopal decision-making, the Church would likely need to develop a means of listening to existing lay ecclesial administrators, considering their concerns, and training bishops for meaningful engagement with lay collaborators.

But more than any particular model, combatting clericalism seems to require bishops who are allergic to clerical insularity, and intolerant of it among their priests.

There are bishops in the United States who, by many accounts, embody and exhibit that approach to episcopal leadership. It remains to be seen whether they will emerge as leaders in the months to come.

Finally, Catholics seem to be calling for a plan to address sexual immorality among the episcopate, in seminaries, and among priests. Across ideological perspectives, there seems in recent weeks to be a recognition that predatory sexual behavior of any kinds is enabled by environments in which priests are not formed for chastity, and in which clerical obligations of continence and chastity are not taken seriously. Proposals for new episcopal oversight committees, for new review boards or charters have largely been panned.

What bishops will have to determine is how they can express a profound and serious commitment to sexual morality among clerics without seeming to abdicate their responsibilities, focus unduly on response rather than prevention, or pay only lip service to the development of healthy and chaste sexuality.

The challenge is going to prove incredibly difficult.  

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There are several things that could derail the bishop’s efforts to restore trust in the Church, and to move forward from the crisis point the Church has reached.

The first is the threat of litigation. The effect of the fear of litigation on some parts of the Church can not be overstated, and there are actually some good reasons for this.

Bishops who genuinely want to do right by victims, and are genuinely incensed over clerical sexual abuse, still have reasons- good and bad- to fear the prospect of litigation.

Bishops are responsible to be the stewards of the resources their dioceses have accumulated for the work of the Church- for sacred worship, for education and formation, and for works of charity and mercy. They are eager to see that Catholic apostolates not be shuttered or sold, even when they are genuinely sympathetic to the suffering of victims, and especially because they recognize that a significant portion of money extracted from the Church will go not to victims, but to attorneys. And, even in Pennsylvania, bishops who face litigation today usually are asked to be responsible for bad decisions made by their predecessors.

Bishops have also pointed out that the Church sometimes faces inequitable laws with regard to litigation, that laws which protect public institutions but not the Church have made it a particularly attractive target for plaintiff’s attorney. There is legitimacy to that claim.

The Pennsylvania grand jury has called for a tort claims window that would allow alleged victims whose claims are impeded by the statute of limitations a period of time in which to file lawsuits. The Pennsylvania legislature is likely to take up that cause, and other state legislatures will likely follow suit. Bishops have argued in the past that statutes of limitations exist for good reason; that claims exceeding those statutes can not be seriously investigated or defended against. This, some have argued, means that cases exceeding statutes of limitation invariably lead to settlements, even when facts are scant. In many states, those arguments have kept tort claim window legislation at bay.

In Pennsylvania at least, the momentum from the grand jury report may make it difficult for the Church to oppose, or to even to be seen to oppose, such legislation.

How that will impact the bishops’ response to this crisis remains to be seen. Concern for litigation has, in the past, tempered expressions of episcopal contrition, sometimes even beyond recognition. That fear colored and characterized a great deal of the Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis of 2002, and, as several dioceses have since gone into bankruptcy, closing ministry centers, parishes, and charitable works, the fear has likely been heightened for some bishops since then.

The second factor that could impact the bishops’ response to the current crisis is overreaction to criticism that they are not acting quickly or rigorously enough. In the months to come, bishops will face serious pressure within their own dioceses to give evidence of their zero-tolerance with regard to abuse of any kind. Several priests have told CNA that they are concerned that fear could lead bishops to “scapegoat” priests- to single out priests accused even of non-criminal moral failures, to publicly disclose the private lives of priests, or to otherwise violate the canonical rights of priests, including their rights to due process, in order to be appear to be tough on abuse. Some priests have noted the experience of this kind of practice in their own dioceses in 2002 and 2003, and suggested it was an impediment, rather than an aid, to real reform.

A third thing that could derail serious ecclesial reform has to do with the call for episcopal resignations. Wuerl, in particular, has been the subject of ongoing calls for resignation, along with other bishops. While the Holy See might judge those moves to be justified, they could have the unintended effect of stalling more systematic and cultural change, if they are not managed carefully. If individuals bishops resign, and are then cast as the cause of the problems, the pressure for broader reforms could deflate. The Vatican must ensure that if it accepts the resignation of some bishops, the remaining members of the episcopate remain under pressure to enact the reform efforts the USCCB has said it would like to facilitate.

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The grand jury report’s language is unambiguous, its analysis is direct: the report is emphatic in asserting that systematic patterns of negligence have allowed sexual abuse to take root in the Church.

“Failure to prevent abuse was a systemic failure,” the report said, “an institutional failure.” There seems to be broad Catholic agreement with that claim.

This October, Cardinal Wuerl is scheduled to publish a book entitled: “What do you want to know? A pastor’s response to the most challenging questions about the Catholic faith.”

In recent weeks, Wuerl has gotten an answer to his question: Catholics want to know what he and other bishops knew, what they’re really sorry for, and what they’re going to do about it.

It remains to be seen whether answers to those questions will be forthcoming.
  

 

 

US bishops invite Vatican investigation into McCarrick scandal

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 12:26

Washington D.C., Aug 16, 2018 / 10:26 am (CNA).-  The U.S. bishops’ conference called for a Vatican-led investigation into allegations of sexual abuse and cover-ups surrounding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, as well for new abuse reporting processes, and greater involvement of laity in addressing abuse concerns.
 
“We are faced with a spiritual crisis that requires not only spiritual conversion, but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past that are so evident in the recent report,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, in an Aug. 16 statement.

“Stronger protections against predators in the Church and anyone who would conceal them,” are needed, said DiNardo, “protections that will hold bishops to the highest standards of transparency and accountability.”

The bishops will invite the Vatican to conduct an official Apostolic Visitation to the United States to address questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick, in consultation with the lay members of the National Review Board, DiNardo said.

Previously the U.S. bishops did not “make clear what avenue victims themselves should follow in reporting abuse or other sexual misconduct by bishops,” acknowledged DiNardo, who called for the development of “reliable third-party reporting mechanisms.”

Among the bishops’ goals is to make canonical procedures for complaints against bishops “more prompt, fair, and transparent” and “to specify what constraints may be imposed on bishops at each stage of that process.”

DiNardo outlined three criteria for how the bishops will approach past and future abuses: independence from bias or undue influence by a bishop, substantial involvement of the laity, and respect for proper authority in the Church.

“Because only the pope has authority to discipline or remove bishops, we will assure that our measures will both respect that authority and protect the vulnerable from the abuse of ecclesial power,” the statement added.

Lay involvement will include people with expertise in law enforcement, psychology, investigation, and other relevant disciplines, according to the statement.
 
In a meeting earlier this week, the U.S. bishops’ executive committee outlined “these necessary changes” and said that they will present their goals to the Vatican and to all U.S. bishops during the USCCB’s fall meeting in November.

DiNardo ended the bishops’ statement with an apology:
“I apologize and humbly ask your forgiveness for what my brother bishops and I have done and failed to do. Whatever the details may turn out to be regarding Archbishop McCarrick or the many abuses in Pennsylvania (or anywhere else), we already know that one root cause is the failure of episcopal leadership. The result was that scores of beloved children of God were abandoned to face an abuse of power alone. This is a moral catastrophe. It is also part of this catastrophe that so many faithful priests who are pursuing holiness and serving with integrity are tainted by this failure.”

“We firmly resolve, with the help of God’s grace, never to repeat it. I have no illusions about the degree to which trust in the bishops has been damaged by these past sins and failures.  It will take work to rebuild that trust. What I have outlined here is only the beginning; other steps will follow …”

“Let me ask you to hold us to all of these resolutions. Let me also ask you to pray for us, that we will take this time to reflect, repent, and recommit ourselves to holiness of life and to conform our lives even more to Christ, the Good Shepherd.”

 

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