CNA News

Subscribe to CNA News feed CNA News
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 33 min ago

Where is Jesus in the midst of the Church's sex abuse crisis?

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 05:16

Washington D.C., Aug 16, 2018 / 03:16 am (CNA).- Fr. Thomas Berg is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, a former Legionary of Christ, and professor of moral theology, vice rector, and director of admissions at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, NY.  He is author of Hurting in the Church: A Way Forward for Wounded Catholics. He spoke recently with CNA’s Courtney Grogan about the challenges Catholics face amid the Church’s sexual abuse and misconduct scandals. The interview is below, edited for clarity and length.

 

With everything that has been coming out in the news recently about sexual abuse in the Church, how do you think that your book, “Hurting in the Church: A Way Forward for Wounded Catholics,” could be helpful?

In the wake of the McCarrick scandal and ongoing revelations of priest sexual abuse, a very common reaction is one of betrayal.

That's what I have heard a lot of from persons who have reached out to me, especially persons who for years have collaborated with bishops, worked in chanceries, worked for bishops, collaborated in apostolates, have headed-up bishop’s capital campaigns, have been donors and so on. Part of the very common experience is this raw emotional wound of betrayal.

Much of my book speaks directly to that experience. That's where I really hope that persons who are going through that betrayal, profound discouragement, disappointment, the bewilderment of the moral failures of bishops, who either failed to report what they should have reported or did not act on what was reported to them.

That is scandalous and that opens up a wound of betrayal really in the whole mystical body.

I very much believe that the book can, hopefully, point to where is the good news in this -- Where is the hope in this? Where is Jesus in the midst of this crisis?

Where is Jesus in the midst of this crisis?

Jesus is the healer of wounds, and Jesus does not leave the members of his mystical body without healing when we seek it.

We are in the midst of a massive crisis, notwithstanding some resistance to that idea by some of our prelates.

And those wounds are opened up. This is where not only can Jesus bring healing, but he can also use that experience of woundedness, whether that is personally or institutionally or spiritually as the body of Christ. He uses those wounds to bring greater good, to bring grace and healing to His Church.

Part of what I do in the book is just to reflect, often with these individuals [victims of abuse] and sometimes in their own words, on this mystery that the Jesus who comes into this experience is Jesus who appeared with his glorious wounds. The wounds were still there. The wounds are mystically important and we can unite our wounds to Jesus and allow him to unite those in a mystical way, in a redemptive way to His redemptive work.

So, where is Jesus in all of this? Jesus is continuing in the midst of our brokenness, in the midst of the utter moral failures of our pastors, in the midst of our own sinfulness and brokenness. The risen Good Shepherd comes with his glorious wounds by which he intends to bring about healing in his Church and to bring about a much greater good and a much more glorious future precisely in and through the tragedies that we are experiencing.

We will also experience this in a much more glorious and beautiful day for the Church in the future, and certainly for the Church when all time has been consummated and we are all, by God's grace, caught up in the glory of the heavenly kingdom.

You discuss in the book how uprooting a betrayal of trust can be and how we really need to be grounded in Christ's love. What are some concrete ways that Catholics can really root themselves in Christ's love and find that grounding in a time when they might feel destabilized in the Church?

First, very practical immediate answer: Eucharistic adoration. No doubt about it.

That was essentially my homily when we were talking two weeks ago about the McCarrick thing from the pulpit. It means, as always in crisis, we need to be earnestly and deeply seeking the Lord by frequenting Eucharistic adoration and intensifying one's life of prayer.

In my own story, I had to go on retreat. I had to just go take some time to just be by myself to get that down to the solid foundation of what did I stand on. What was the foundation that everything that I believed stood on?

What one can come to in those experiences is that experience of Jesus -- the experience that our risen and glorious Lord still stands present in the midst of our lives. He is there.

When we are hurting, we need to do whatever it takes: adoration, retreat, increased prayer, asceticism, solid spiritual reading, all of the things that we can avail ourselves of God's grace to re-experience ourselves as rooted and grounded in His love.

God has a very big safety net for us and it is that reality of being truly rooted and grounded in Him and in His love that encompasses us.

It is just that when we are hurting, when we are scandalized, when we are angry, when we are experiencing all of this emotional turbulence, it is just -- it takes time and prayer and I think a lot of coming to silence and coming to quiet to get through that and to realize that our Lord is still there. Our Lord is still holding his hands out to us. Our Lord is still there to embrace us and pick us up and guide us and help us to move forward.

What would you say to the priest who just doesn't know how to address this from the pulpit, who is dealing with his own feelings of hurt and confusion, and maybe is on the fence about whether he should address it in a homily?

I think that the best thing that priest can do is to talk about that in his homily. It is emotionally exhausting for most of us. It is heartbreaking. When I preached a couple of weekends ago, I got emotional. I think it is very healing and good if priests allow themselves to feel and show that emotion. Feel and show how personally upsetting it is. If a priest is angry, tell your people, 'Yeah, I'm angry too, and you should be angry.' It should start there.

It is absolutely essential that this is addressed. No priest should be waiting for some directive from his bishop. I would hope that across the country most priests have already addressed this from the pulpit. If not, it absolutely has to happen.

People are very angry right now, and I do not think that they are identifying that anger as a hurt. Many people are channeling their anger into what needs to change in the Church. Some channel it at specific people in the Church.

You address healthy anger in the book, and I want to hear your thoughts on it in this context. What would you say to people who are very angry?

There is certainly such a thing as just anger. I would hope that most of the anger that what most committed Catholics are experiencing right now is precisely that -- “just anger.” I have experienced a good deal of bit of it in the past few weeks.

Hopefully that anger does get channelled into good positive, action steps that I think Catholics are taking. But people should also be very honest with themselves: This hurts.

I think that our brothers and sisters who are going through this right now, and they are many, need to own up to that.

That is a very healthy starting point to getting to a better place. In this context, it is an important part of rightly channeling our energies and our reactions prayerfully and in docility to the Holy Spirit. We have to allow the Holy Spirit to come fully into that experience of hurt in this ecclesial context.

The immediate victims of McCarrick, those who have suffered sexual exploitation, they are hurt in a very unique way, but in some sense this has inflicted a hurt on all of us. And those who failed, those who enabled him, those who pulled him up the ecclesiastical ladder, if they did so with knowledge of his sexual predation, that inflicts a real emotional hurt on all of us, and we should just admit that.

Many Catholics first faced these initial feelings of betrayal, shock, bewilderment in 2002. After positive steps forward like the Dallas Charter, these Catholics found some consolation in the fact that the Church had made positive changes. Now there are layers of hurt there, particularly the hurt of thinking that things were better and then discovering that they are not.

The Church might not change in our lifetimes. Reform in the Church takes so long. The Church is very good at reforming herself, but it can take centuries sometimes. I'm worried for people who are looking for a quick fix.

I think that you are hitting at the heart of the problem. One thing that we are being faced with in this crisis is the reality that effective change within the Church takes a very, very long time. Even within organizations, people talk about changing the internal culture of a business, even that in itself can take a long time.

First of all, there is no reason why we cannot continue to take genuine pride in the programs that have been set in place with the sacrifice and dedication by the way of hundreds of lay Catholic men and women who have jumped into this breach and who have instituted requirements for background checks, safe environment training, safe environment programs, who serve the Church as sexual abuse assistance coordinators in dioceses (these are people who deal one on one especially with victims of clergy sexual abuse.) So we have every reason frankly to be confident that we are in a much better place then we were 15 years ago to protect our children. There is no reason to doubt that.

What people are still reeling from, and this has been the real revelation, is that there has been, especially within the episcopacy, there has been an internal culture which allowed -- and I am not faulting all bishops here, but McCarrick is the child of an old boys school mentality, a culture where bishops too often understood themselves as members of this kind of privileged caste who used power and authority to manipulate and frankly to bring about all kind of harms and hurts in people's lives. Bishops have sadly often been the perpetrators of much of the hurt that has been experienced on many levels and in many forms in the Church. And that is a sickly culture and it has to change.

The Church desperately needs a healing in its episcopacy. This is very much a crisis of the episcopacy. The current ethos is in so many ways it is failing us. It is failing the Church. What we have is, in far too many cases, a kind of managerial approach. Bishops simply seek to manage, to contain, to bureaucratize our apostolates, and that is not a culture where the Church is going to thrive.

Is that going to change anytime soon? No, but I think that we have an opportunity. This crisis is putting a spotlight on that problematic culture within the episcopate. I think that we can be hopeful for some kind of change, maybe even sea change.

There are good and holy bishops out there who are as incensed about this as you or I or any of us are. It is my prayer and hope that they will begin to exercise some very kind of unprecedented leadership within the body of bishops and certainly within their own dioceses.

So what do Catholics do meanwhile? Well, we are challenged to exercise the supernatural virtue of hope. We are challenged to believe that that kind of change, if it is meant to be, will take time, but we have to support every bishop who shows signs that they are getting it.

We have to support every bishop who shows signs that they understand and that they are taking unprecedented steps towards transparency, toward addressing even the faults of their own brother bishops.

We need to be supportive and helpful, and I guess that is a long way of saying that we need to hang in there and trust in the Holy Spirit. Change does take a long time in the Church. We are called to continue to exercise hope and it is by sustaining hope and sustaining a healthy pressure on the bishops that can bring about some really positive change here, maybe faster than we think.

As outrageous as it is, I can imagine the temptation a leader might feel to keep something so scandalous secret, to think that they were protecting Catholics from scandal by a sort of false charity, if you will. How does a leader find the courage or strength to come forward with the truth after they have covered up?

In the context of the Church, bishops who get it have come to understand that the scandal has been the supposed effort to “avoid scandal.” The scandal has been covering this stuff up. The scandal has been keeping this stuff quiet.

This is what I always tell our seminarians. Transparency is your friend. Light and truth are our friends. Institutionally, I think that we are understanding that. In the context of seminary formation, I really believe earnestly that the vast majority of our men understand that.

And I think understanding that also makes it easier to come clean when there has been a failure of any sort. In a sense, it all boils down to the old adage, 'Honesty is the best policy.'

Obviously, when you are talking about something as complex as sexual abuse and exploitation, that is obviously much more complex because sometimes you are dealing with victims who desire to remain anonymous.

It takes an enormous amount of courage for victims of abuse to come forward and go public. That's been one sad part of this whole tragedy. It is so difficult. The courage there is just amazing sometimes. I think the message of what we are learning in the sexual abuse crisis is that transparency is the only way to go.

Honestly trying to protect the requirements of justice and people's reputations is a difficult balance and it definitely requires that transparency.

What do you recommend for those who are specifically dealing with disillusionment? How do Catholics keep their eyes open to the truth without totally succumbing to cynicism?

I think that the level of cynicism and disillusionment right now is off the charts.

You know people often use that image of having a bandage ripped off a wound. I don't think that we have yet healed from -- I know we haven't healed from 2002. This isn't having a bandage ripped off. This is having that wound ripped open and stamped on.

I'm fully expecting that the level of disillusionment and just shear kind of numb confusion is going to be a very common experience. I think that there will be different outcomes. I hope that Catholics can believe that there is a way forward here, especially committed Catholics.

It leads you to question your faith. I have been there. I have had that experience. The more you expose yourself to this, the more faith is going to be severely challenged.

I would just hope though that Catholics can understand that Jesus can lead them through that fire. He can lead us through this fire and make it a purifying fire, so that we can emerge from this really sad and really critical chapter of crisis in the Church, that we can emerge from this as stronger disciples and more committed Catholic Christians.

What transformation the Holy Spirit brings about, I hope we could no matter how hard this is, I hope we could kind of look forward to that with a sense of hope and expectation and maybe even the sense that as bad as it is, I want to be a part of what happens now. I want to be a part of the renewal that the Holy Spirit is going to necessarily going to bring about. I want to be a part of the action here. I want to be a part of what the Holy Spirit is going to do now in the Church.

I am absolutely convinced that the Holy Spirit is working in and through this crisis in a very real way. I have experienced it myself. I have seen it and I have heard it from others.

We have to allow the Holy Spirit to bring us beyond this very profound disillusionment.

 

Combat racism with a childlike spirit, Springfield priest says

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 02:45

Springfield, Ill., Aug 16, 2018 / 12:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Mass in the Diocese of Springfield, Ill commemorated the anniversary of racially-motivated riots that destroyed black-owned business and homes in the city, and left at least 13 people dead during a three-day period in 1908. A priest of the diocese encouraged Catholics to counteract hatred with the spirit of universal brotherhood and childlike love.

Monsignor David Hoefler, vicar general for the Diocese of Springfield, celebrated the Mass Aug. 14 at Saint Patrick Church. He emphasized the universal origin of the human race and the need to imitate the receptivity of children.

“We have one set of parents, Adam and Eve. That's why we have one savior because he came to save...the human race, all races,” Hoefler said in his homily.

Christ came “that we all might be recreated, reunited, brought together, reconciled with God. It's not just something that's supposed to be meant for heaven for later, but hopefully we are working on that now,” he added.

On Aug. 14-15, 1908, nearly 5,000 people rioted violently throughout the streets of Springfield after trying unsuccessfully to lynch two black men, suspected of rape and attempted rape, who were believed to be held at a local jail. When it was discovered that the men were not at that jail, the mob destroyed African-American business, homes, and killed at least eight people. Five rioters were also killed during the melee, and an infant died during the riot as well, after her family’s home was destroyed.

Human brokenness and violence between people are nothing new, explained Hoefler. He pointed to conflict between Adam and Eve in the scriptural story of creation, and to racial hardships faced by Jewish people during the time of Christ.

He said that Adam and Eve each acted in from self-interest at the time of their downfall, distancing themselves from one another.

“Instead of checking with each other, instead of having a communion or a communication with each other, they started going their own way,” he said, noting the couple did not ask for forgiveness, but instead blamed someone else or something else.

“[Adam] throws his wife under the bus - 'she did it.' Scapegoating they call it. So the Lord goes to Eve, 'what did you do?' 'It did it!' Blames the serpent, Satan.”

The results of sin were immediate, he said and led to the murder of Abel by Cain. The priest said the same thing occurred during Springfield’s riots; that people made scapegoats of racial minorities rather than taking responsibility for themselves.

“People acted out of hatred, bigotry, racism, and they let their emotions run wild - destroyed property, and, worse, killed their brothers and sisters, other human beings. It gets that way all too easy. That was played out over, and over, and over again by this street.”

He pointed to parallels among the Jews of Jesus Christ’s time on earth.

“When Jesus was born… he came into the one of the most abused races that existed at the time,” he said. “He came into the depths of our suffering and the worst of it all. He assumed the worst that had been known to that point in history and redeemed it from there.”

However, the only way to embrace redemption is through a child-like spirit, he said, reflecting on the words of Christ in the Gospel of Mark – “anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

"In other words,” Monsignor Hoefler said “a child is somebody that does listen, somebody that likes to learn, somebody that doesn't impose other things onto other people, somebody that receives in all innocence what another says, somebody who receives people for who they are."

“It's the way we should be: that kind of innocence, receptivity, open heartedness.”

He gave a few examples of people who have put to practice this receptivity, noting especially the people of Rwanda. Next April, he said, it will be 25 years since the Rwandan genocide – a brutal slaughter, in which an estimated 800,000 Rwandans, primarily Tutsis, were killed in the span of a few months, between April and June in 1994.

Monsignor Hoefler said now the country is one of the safest places in Africa because the two groups learned from their mistakes. The people, he said, knew racism would perpetuate unless love was chosen over hate, namely listening to others and embracing forgiveness.

“God never asks something of us that he isn't willing to do himself,” he said, noting that Christ provided an example of this receptivity.

“He spent thirty years listening to the human the race… listening to his community, his town, and his people. He spent thirty years before he began speaking, being quiet, noticing the injustices, realizing what needed reconciliation, and then he went to move for healing.”

 

Bishop Trautman responds to release of Pennsylvania grand jury report

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 18:59

Erie, Pa., Aug 15, 2018 / 04:59 pm (CNA).- Bishop Donald Trautman responded Tuesday to the Pennsylvania grand jury report on allegations of clerical sex abuse of minors, saying he did not condone or enable such abuse during his tenure leading the Diocese of Erie.

Abuse victims “should understand that neither this Statement nor my Response to the grand jury Report is intended to diminish the horrible abuse inflicted upon them and the immense suffering they have endured. I desire only to clarify that I neither condoned nor enabled clergy abuse. Rather, I did just the opposite,” Bishop Trautman said in his Aug. 14 statement.

A redacted version of the report had been released earlier that day, following an 18-month investigation into thousands of alleged instances of abuse spanning several decades. The report detailed allegations made in the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton.

Trautman was Bishop of Erie from 1990 until his 2012 retirement, at the age of 76.

The grand jury report's section on the Diocese of Erie recounted priests' sexual contact with minors, and said that “Diocesan administrators, including the Bishops, had knowledge of this conduct and yet priests were regularly placed in ministry after the Diocese was on notice that a complaint of child sexual abuse had been made. This conduct enabled offenders and endangered the welfare of children.”

The report also said the Erie diocese made settlements with victims which contained confidentiality agreements, and that diocesan administrators, including bishops, “often dissuaded victims from reporting abuse to police, pressured law enforcement to terminate or avoid an investigation, or conducted their own deficient, biased investigating without reporting crimes against children to the proper authorities.”

It identified 41 offenders from the diocese, and gave lengthy accounts of what it called three “examples of institutional failure”: the cases of Fathers Chester Gawronski, William Presley, and Thomas Smith.

Bishop Trautman's statement indicated his “prayerful support to all victims of clergy sexual abuse” and “a sincere apology to all who have been harmed by clergy abuse.”

“My time spent as Bishop of the Diocese addressing sexual abuse has been the most demoralizing, trying and pain-filled experience of my priestly life. I have seen first-hand how the terrible acts of clergy abusers devastate the lives of innocent victims,” he said.

He commended the grand jury's efforts to help abuse victims, saying its report “rightfully chastises clergy who committed horrible crimes against children. Unfortunately, the grand jury Report neglects to also emphasize the concrete steps some Church leaders took to correct and curtail abuse and to help victims.”

The bishop said that his record “includes disciplining, defrocking and ultimately laicizing pedophiles in the Diocese.”

He added that it “also includes efforts to provide care and support for victims,” which statement he supported with appended letters from victims expressing gratitude for his pastoral care.

“As a pastor of souls, I shepherd the good – the innocent victims of abuse – as well as the bad, the abusers who undeniably engaged in despicable acts and were rightfully removed from ministry,” Bishop Trautman wrote.

Noting the report's lengthy discussions of three priests whose situations it called “examples of institutional failures”, the bishop emphasized “that I removed each of them from ministry and had each laicized. All of their improper conduct with children pre-dated me becoming Bishop of Erie.”

He maintained his faithful fulfillment of the Charter for the Protection of Childen and Young People, adopted by the US bishops in 2002, and his faithful fulfillment of all Pennsylvania laws on sex abuse.

“From the day I took office as Bishop of the Diocese of Erie, I did my best to correct the sin of sex abuse,” Bishop Trautman said. “I personally met with and counseled abuse victims. I removed sixteen offenders from active ministry … As early as 1993, I established new guidelines concerning clergy abuse.”

He also recounted the several measures he took from 2002 onwards regarding clerical abuse.

“These are not the actions of a Bishop trying to hide or mask pedophile priests to the detriment of children or victims of abuse,” he wrote. “I did not move priests from parish to parish to cover up abuse allegations or fail to take action when an allegation was raised … There simply is no pattern or practice of putting the Church’s image or a priest’s reputation above the protection of children.”

Bishop Trautman said that the report “does not fully or accurately discuss my record as Bishop for twenty-two years in dealing with clergy abuse. While unfortunate, these omissions are consistent with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s findings that the grand jury process that produced the Report suffered from 'limitations upon its truth-finding capabilities' and lacked 'fundamental fairness.'”

The bishop concluded that “In the end, the focus should be on the victims and helping them heal. I send my prayers and deepest support to all victims of abuse, not just those abused by clergy, but victims of abuse across all segments of our society. Hopefully, the grand jury Report, despite its flaws, aids in the healing of all victims and furthers the just cause of stamping out abuse. Let God’s law prevail; let healing continue.”

Attached to Bishop Trautman's 923-word statement were his June 20 response to the report, with several appended exhibitory documents, and an Aug. 2 joint stipulation to dismiss appeal, from the bishop and from state attorney general Josh Shapiro, in which the attorney general agreed that several statements in the report are “not specifically directed at Bishop Trautman.”

The bishop's 15-page response to the report focused on his desire “to clarify, contrary to the tenor of the Report, that he neither condoned nor enabled clergy abuse.”

The response noted that “While the Grand Jury adopted and issued the Report, under typical grand jury practices, the language of the Report was drafted by the [Office of the Attorney General] not the Grand Jury.”

It mentions that the report made no mention of letters sent to Bishop Trautman by abuse victims expressing appreciation for his pastoral care (which letters were provided to the grand jury), and that written testimony submitted by Bishops Trautman and Persico, his successor, “is not substantively discussed in the Report, let alone included in it in full.”

“What these examples demonstrate is that the OAG, via the Grand Jury, with an agenda, has selectively chosen the words in the Report, what words to include in the Report, and how to portray those words in a manner – often a misleading one – that best suits their agenda.”

The response also noted that Bishop Trautman met personally, or attempted to do so, with each abuse victim. And, “when victims would permit him, he personally provided pastoral counselling for the victims’ well-being. He also helped ensure that victims had appropriate mental health treatment paid for by the Diocese.”

“Certainly, with hindsight, some isolated decisions made by Bishop Trautman concerning certain priests … might be subject to critique. But, what is clear from his overall conduct – and complete actual record – is that he cared deeply about the victims of abuse, did his best to help the victims both pastorally and financially, did not condone the horrific conduct of priests who abused minors, and consistently took action to remove abusers from active ministry.”

Since the report detailed the cases of  Fathers Chester Gawronski, William Presley, and Thomas Smith, Bishop Trautman's response addressed these at length.

The response explained that “New allegations against priests made while Bishop Trautman was in office resulted in the priest being taken out of active ministry.”

The exceptions to this rule were priests who “had been sent for a psychological evaluation” under Bishop Murphy, Trautman's predecessor.

Each of these – including Gawronski, Presley, and Smith –  were “already on a monitoring/aftercare program that had been recommended by psychiatric professionals. While in hindsight he might now act differently, given the recommendations and plans made before Bishop Trautman came to the Diocese from Buffalo and out of deference to Bishop Murphy, Bishop Trautman continued the monitoring/aftercare plans and assignments recommended by the professionals and put in place by his predecessor.”

And according to the response, “In several instances, even though mental health professionals advised that a priest could be returned to ministry, Bishop Trautman kept the priest out of public ministry.”

The response also noted that neither Gawronski, nor Presley, nor Smith “is known to have reoffended. During the time period each of these priests remained in active ministry after initial allegations were made, no allegation that they offended while in such ministry was or has been made.”

“When allegations of prior (usually decades old) abuse by each priest were raised while Bishop Trautman was in office, he acted to take each priest out of any ministry that would include contact with children and ultimately took each out of ministry all together,” the response stated.

Each of the three priests were dismissed from the clerical state in processes which were initiated by Bishop Trautman.

The bishop’s response included examples of potentially misleading writing in the grand jury report, authored by the Pennsylvania attorney general's office.

For instance, it noted the report's mention that Bishop Trautman allowed Fr. Gawronski to hear confessions for persons with disabilities in 1996.

The report stated: “By 1996, there was no possible doubt that Gawronski had spent most of his priesthood preying on the vulnerable. However, even as complaints continued, on November 6, 1996, Gawronski was notified that Trautman had approved his request to hear confessions for persons with disabilities.”

“What the Report does not include,” the response states, “is that this was a one-time event, with multiple priests and church personnel participating, that the event would take place at the St. Mark’s Center (the building where the Diocesan offices, including the Bishop’s office, are located), and that Gawronski’s participation was at the request of a religious sister who served as Coordinator for the Ministry to Persons with Disabilities. Why not disclose the full facts about the request? Does the request lose its sensational nature when put in actual context?”

The response also pointed to potentially misleading statements in the report regarding Fr. Presley.

The report mentioned an April 2003 press release from the Erie diocese regarding the removal of Fr. Presley's faculties, in which the diocese stated it had “no information to provide on other possible allegations against the priest.” The report called the press release “false and misleading.”

The response noted that the press release quoted in the report, while “inartful … is simply a statement of 'no comment.' Contrary to the allegation in the Report, this was not a false statement.”

The response also addressed the report's presentation of a 2005 diocesan investigation undertaken with a view to having Fr. Presley, who had retired in 2000, dismissed from the clerical state.

The investigation was led by Msgr. Mark Bartchak, who wrote to Bishop Trautman Aug. 25 of that year indicating he had gathered sufficient evidence for Presley's dismissal, and asking if he should continue to follow up on further potential leads. Bartchak indicated that Trautman said that would be unnecessary.

The report called this a “curb” of the diocese's investigation intented “to prevent finding additional victims.”

“When read in context,” the response says, “Bishop Trautman is simply answering an inquiry from Rev. Bartchak and, using the same words from the inquiry, telling him that, if the Diocese had enough evidence to succeed in the laicization process (which they did), he need not further investigate facts that likely would not lead to a violation of Cannon law [sic] because of the age of the victim. Again, this simply is not an effort to somehow hide Presley and his conduct.”

The report also read that with regard to Presley, “The truth was that Murphy, Trautman, and the Diocese of Erie intentionally waited out the statute of limitations and curbed their own investigation to prevent finding additional victims.”

The response called the allegation that Bishop Trautman had “intentionally waited out” the statute of limitations “baseless.”

“The allegations brought to Bishop Trautman’s attention in 2002 – on which he quickly acted – concerned conduct that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. The statute of limitations had, unfortunately, expired long ago,” the response said.

“Despite their artful (and sometimes misleading) construction, a close reading of the summaries found in the Report’s Appendix reveals the same course of action throughout Bishop Trautman’s 22 years in office,” the response concluded: “Bishop Trautman consistently acted to protect children and remove priests from ministry.”

 

Cardinal O’Malley will not attend World Meeting of Families

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 18:15

Boston, Mass., Aug 15, 2018 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap. of Boston will not be attending next week’s World Meeting of Families in Dublin due to the ongoing investigation into St. John’s Seminary, the Archdiocese of Boston announced on Wednesday.

Previously, O’Malley had been scheduled to moderate a panel and discussion in Ireland titled “Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults." O’Malley is President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

In a statement from the archdiocese, it was explained that “important matters pertaining to the pastoral care of St. John’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston and the seminarians enrolled in the formation program there require the Cardinal's personal attention and presence,” and he therefore would not be making the trip to Ireland.

After it became public that other dioceses had paid settlements to adult seminarians allegeing abuse against the former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a handful of other, younger, former seminarians took to social media to share their own stories about what they experienced while in seminary. Several of these stories came from men who had studied at St. John’s.

St. John’s Seminary educates seminarians from most dioceses in New England, as well as those from the Dioceses of Oakland, Ca., and Rochester, NY.

In response to allegations of “activities which are directly contrary to the moral standards and requirements of formation for the Catholic priesthood” at St. John’s, last week O’Malley announceda "full, independent inquiery" of the seminary. As part of the invesitgation, the cardinal placed Msgr. James P. Moroney, the seminary rector, on “sabbatical” for the fall semester and installed an interim rector.

The inquiry will examine the culture at St. John’s “regarding the personal standards expected and required of candidates for the priesthood,” as well as issues related to sexual harassment, sexually intimidating behavior, and discrimination.

“The allegations made are a source of serious concern to me as Archbishop of Boston,” said O’Malley in a statement last week, recognizing that being a priest necessitates earning the trust of both people in the Church as well as in the community.

“I am determined that all our seminaries meet that standard of trust and provide the formation necessary for priests to live a demanding vocation of service in our contemporary society.”

What did Wuerl know about alleged abuser- and how did he respond?

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Aug 15, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Donald Wuerl and the Diocese of Pittsburgh say that when the former Pittsburgh bishop approved the transfer of a priest accused of serial sexual abuse, he was unaware of the allegations made against the priest. The transfer is described in the Aug. 14 report issued by a Pennsylvania grand jury charged with investing clerical sexual abuse in six Catholic dioceses.

Fr. Ernest Paone was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1957. The grand jury reports that Paone served in five different parishes in the first nine years of his ministry, and that he was accused of sexually molesting boys during that time period.

In 1964, a criminal investigation into allegations against Paone was halted by a Pennsylvania district attorney, “in order to halt bad publicity,” according to records presented by the grand jury.

Paone was without assignment for about a year, and in 1966 he was granted an indefinite leave of absence from the diocese “for reasons bound up with your psychological and physical health as well as your spiritual well-being.”

The Diocese of Pittsburgh does not dispute that timeline, or the fact that allegations of sexual abuse were made against Paone.

After being granted a leave of absence, Paone relocated to southern California. In 1968, he requested that the diocese of Pittsburgh recommend him to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for priestly faculties; a letter from the Chancellor of the diocese came in response, asserting that Paone was on a “legitimate leave of absence” from Pittsburgh and there were “no objections” to his being given faculties by Los Angeles.

During this time, and for the rest of his life, Fr. Paone remained incardinated in the Diocese of Pittsburgh and, wherever he went, remained under the authority of Pittsburgh’s bishop.

In 1975, Paone requested another letter from the Pittsburgh diocese attesting to his suitability as a priest. The diocese issued a letter, addressed “To whom it may concern,” that Paone was a priest in “good standing” of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The grand jury notes that almost no paperwork relating to Paone exists from the time of Bishop Anthony Bevilacqua’s term as Bishop of Pittsburgh from 1983-1987, suggesting that the priest was effectively forgotten about, and allowed to continue in ministry “in good standing,” while living and working in California. The priest eventually moved to San Diego and became a public school teacher, while remaining a “priest in good standing” certified by the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and continuing to serve in parish ministry.

In its official response submitted to the grand jury, the Diocese of Pittsburgh did not contest that narrative, saying that “No one still involved with the Diocese of Pittsburgh is able to speak to the thinking or decision-making of the Diocesan leadership 50 years ago.”

In question is whether Wuerl, who served as Pittsburgh's bishop from 1988-2006, knew about Paone’s past when he endorsed the priest’s continued ministry.

In 1991 Paone wrote to the Diocese of Pittsburgh requesting permission to move to Nevada, which was then covered by the single Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas. The request was granted and Wuerl gave no report to Reno-Las Vegas of Paone’s past.

But sources close to Cardinal Wuerl told CNA that in 1991, the bishop had no idea of the allegations that had been made against Paone.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh’s statement said that “At that time, neither Bishop Wuerl nor anyone in the Clergy Office was aware of Paone's file and the allegations lodged against him in the 1960s.”

“Because he had been outside of the Diocese for nearly 30 years, Paone's files were not located in the usual clergy personnel file cabinet” and were not found at the time, the diocese said

In 1994, however, the Diocese of Pittsburgh exhibited full knowledge of Paone’s history of allegations. In that year, a new accusation that Paone committed sexual abuse in the 1960s was made in Pittsburgh, and the matter was brought to Bishop Wuerl’s attention.

According to the grand jury report, Wuerl was then briefed by Father David Zubik, then Director of the Office of Clergy, on past allegations against the priest, and told of “questions about Paone's emotional and physical health [which] were raised as early as the 1950's, while he was still in seminary.”

The report claims that “Zubik further advised [Wuerl] of Paone's various assignments and correspondence over the years, before also describing the multiple records documenting the diocese's knowledge of his sexual abuse of children as early as 1962.”

Both the grand jury and the Diocese of Pittsburgh agree that Wuerl wrote to the Dioceses of Los Angeles, Reno-Nevada, and San Diego – where Paone had lived and worked as a priest – informing them of the newly made allegations.

The grand jury report asserts that “Wuerl did not report the more detailed information contained within Diocesan records. The Diocese did not recall Paone; nor did it suspend his faculties as a priest.”

The diocese states that “Wuerl sent letters notifying the relevant Dioceses in California and Nevada of the 1994 complaint. Specifically, on August 26, 1994, Wuerl wrote to the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas saying that had he known in 1991 of the allegations, he would not have supported Paone's request for a priestly assignment.”

CNA obtained a copy of Wuerl’s letter to Bishop Daniel Walsh of Reno-Las Vegas. In the letter, Wuerl wrote that he had “only [just] become aware of this matter” and wished to inform the bishop.

However, Wuerl’s letter only disclosed the allegation made against Paone in 1994, and did not acknowledge the prior allegations and concerns contained in the priest’s file. Although the Diocese of Pittsburgh claimed that Wuerl’s letter acknowledged more than one allegation of misconduct, in the text reviewed by CNA, Wuerl wrote only that if he had  “been aware of this allegation in Fr. Paone’s past I would not have supported his request for a priestly assignment in your diocese.”

Wuerl’s letter also made clear that he knew Paone had, by this point, returned to California and, while he wrote that Paone had been “invited to meet and examine the situation” with Fr. Zubik, there is no indication that his faculties as a priest had been revoked.

Instead, Paone was sent for a period of “assessment” at the St. Luke’s Institute, a center for psychological screening, testing and therapy for clergy and religious.

By 1996 he was back in San Diego, and apparently continuing to serve in occasional priestly ministry.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh says that it informed the Diocese of San Diego that Paone’s faculties as a priest had been removed in a January 30, 1996 letter. However, the grand jury report says that the Diocese of San Diego was not informed that Paone’s priestly faculties had been removed until 2002, and does not make mention of a January 1996 letter.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh did not respond to CNA’s request for comment.

Whether Wuerl removed Paone’s faculties in 1996 or 2002, or both, it was not until 2003 – following a further allegation from the 1960s – that Wuerl accepted Paone’s “resignation from ministry.” According to the grand jury report, the Diocese of Pittsburgh received a final complaint in 2006, alleging that Paone had been assisting at confessions for adolescents and asking the young people “inappropriate questions.”

Paone died in 2012.

Colorado baker back in court for declining gender transition cake

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 15:04

Denver, Colo., Aug 15, 2018 / 01:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Less than three months after winning a Supreme Court case backing his religious freedom of expression, Colorado Christian cake artist Jack Phillips is finding himself at the center of yet another cake and faith-based battle.

A new complaint was recently filed against Phillips with the Colorado Civil Rights Division after an attorney approached him and asked him to make a cake celebrating the anniversary of a gender transition. The attorney requested that the cake be pink on the inside and blue on the outside, representing a transition from male to female. Phillips declined to make the cake based on his religious beliefs.

This week, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys representing Phillips and his Masterpiece Cakeshop filed a federal lawsuit to fight the new complaint against him, which they said constituted a “doubling down (of) anti-religious hostility” on the part of Colorado officials.

“The state of Colorado is ignoring the message of the U.S. Supreme Court by continuing to single out Jack for punishment and to exhibit hostility toward his religious beliefs,” said Kristen Waggoner, ADF senior vice president of U.S. legal division.

“Even though Jack serves all customers and simply declines to create custom cakes that express messages or celebrate events in violation of his deeply held beliefs, the government is intent on destroying him - something the Supreme Court has already told it not to do. Neither Jack nor any other creative professionals should be targeted by the government for living consistently with their religious beliefs.”

On June 4 of this year, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, backing Phillips’ right to refuse to create cakes celebrating same-sex weddings due to his religious beliefs.

The Masterpiece Cakeshop case dates back to July 2012, when owner Jack Phillips was asked by two men to bake a cake for their same-sex wedding ceremony.

He explained to the couple that he could not cater to same-sex weddings – to do so would have been a violation of his Christian beliefs. He said he has also declined to make a number of other types of cakes, including cakes for Halloween, bachelor parties, divorce, cakes with alcohol in the ingredients, and cakes with atheist messages.

The couple then filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for discrimination.
The commission ordered Phillips to serve same-sex weddings and to undergo anti-discrimination training.

Alliance Defending Freedom took up Phillips’ case in court. The case was eventually appealed to the Supreme Court and was re-listed repeatedly throughout the winter and spring of 2017, before the Court decided to take the case.

Phillips had said that he started his Lakewood, Colorado business in 1993 as a way to integrate his two loves – baking and art – into his daily work. Philips named his shop “Masterpiece” because of the artistic focus of his work, but also because of his Christian beliefs. He drew from Christ's Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, specifically the commands “no man can serve two masters” and “you cannot serve both God and mammon.”

The new lawsuit filed on Phillips’ behalf by ADF states that the government’s anti-religious targeting of Phillips is in violation of the Constitution of the United States.

“For over six years now, Colorado has been on a crusade to crush Plaintiff Jack Phillips…because its officials despise what he believes and how he practices his faith. After Phillips defended himself all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won, he thought Colorado’s hostility toward his faith was over. He was wrong,” the lawsuit says.

“Colorado has renewed its war against him by embarking on another attempt to prosecute him, in direct conflict with the Supreme Court’s ruling in his favor. This lawsuit is necessary to stop Colorado’s continuing persecution of Phillips.”

ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell said in a statement that the complaint against Phillips showed evidence of continued hostility against the baker’s religious beliefs.

“The arbitrary basis on which the state is applying its law makes clear that its officials are targeting Jack because they despise his religious beliefs and practices,” he said.

“Jack shouldn’t have to fear government hostility when he opens his shop for business each day. We’re asking the court to put a stop to that.”

The new lawsuit, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Elenis, was filed by ADF lawyers in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

Benedict XVI Institute At San Quentin

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 03:08

San Francisco, Calif., Aug 15, 2018 / 01:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When the Benedict XVI Institute in San Francisco formed a choir to teach Gregorian chant and sacred music to interested parishes, they landed the most unlikely of first gigs – a concert at San Quentin State Prison.

“God works in his mysterious ways,” Maggie Gallagher, executive director of the institute, told CNA.

The traveling and teaching sacred music choir (schola) from the Benedict XVI Institute put on a concert and sacred music workshop for the inmates in the San Francisco-area prison Aug. 5.

The concert was a hit, Gallagher said, and many of the men flocked around the singers at the end of the concert to talk more about sacred music. Twenty-five inmates signed up to join the prison’s own schola, which will perform at a Traditional Latin Mass celebrated about once a month at the prison.

The Benedict XVI Institute was founded by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco in 2014, with the mission of providing practical resources to help parishes have more beautiful and reverent liturgies, and to promote a Catholic culture in the arts.

“The important thing about our primary mission is that its practical resources, so we’re not a think tank about the liturgy,” Gallagher noted.

While the institute has existed for four years, the traveling, teaching schola only began this March, with the goal of teaching parishes how to use Gregorian chant and sacred music for more beautiful Masses.

“The archbishop kept emphasizing that until we were getting into parishes we were not succeeding,” Gallagher said.

Archbishop Cordileone was also a driving force behind the schola’s gig at San Quentin, a place he goes “fairly regularly” to celebrate Mass with the inmates. While celebrating Mass at the prison over Mother’s Day, Cordileone was approached by the prison’s chaplain, Fr. George Williams, who said he was interested in having the teaching choir come to San Quentin.

On Aug. 5, music director Rebekah Wu and a number of singers performed for and trained the men in chant. The twenty-five men who now form the prison’s schola will officially perform for the first time on Aug. 25, when the Traditional Latin Mass will be celebrated at San Quentin for the first time in three generations.

“This is our brand-new teaching choir and you are our first gig!” Cordileone told the men on Aug. 5, a comment met with “thunderous applause,” Gallagher said.

“I love telling people our first teaching gig is the San Quentin Schola!” Cordileone added.

Gallagher said the concert and formation of the schola had an overwhelmingly positive response from the inmates, some of whom are practiced musicians in their own right.

“They have a number of talented musicians with good voices, and as the archbishop said, they like to sing and they worship well,” she said.

"One young man told me that he felt the Holy Spirit buzzing in his soul while he joined the choir in some chanting during the concert. I was especially delighted to see that so many men want to learn Gregorian chant and classical sacred choral music, and help bring the Latin Mass to San Quentin,” Wu said after the concert.

Gallagher said she heard another man tell the choir: “I really don’t want to be in (prison), but if I have to be in here, I want to be in here listening to music like that.”

After the concert, Cordileone told Gallagher that through the music, he saw the inmates “lifted up to God by sacred beauty and given new hope.”

“The Benedict XVI Institute teaching choir is clearly fulfilling an important need in ordinary parishes but also for those at the margins of society,” Cordileone added.

The large turnout and positive response to the concert showed Williams that “the men at San Quentin have a hunger for beauty and prayer. The concert by the Benedict XVI Institute was clearly enjoyed by those who attended. They also appreciated the support and presence of Archbishop Cordileone who has made it a point to visit the prison often.”

The schola has been positively received by a number of different parishes and groups throughout the diocese that have expressed interest in learning sacred music, Gallagher said.

There’s something about Gregorian chant and polyphony “which for many many people just blows them away, just blows them up towards heaven,” Gallagher added.

Gallagher said she has often found that even for the most trained musicians, chant and sacred music is a new and powerful spiritual experience.

She added that sacred music also has an effect that seems to transcend typical ideological boundaries when it comes to the liturgy, and that it especially resonates with younger to middle-aged audiences who are tired of the so-called “liturgy wars.”

“I think this has a reach that gets beyond the normal ideological categories and that a lot of people are hungry for,” Gallagher said.

“We like to say if you’re being brought closer to God by the Mass that you’re experiencing, bless you, we’re not trying to take that away from anyone that’s being well fed. But there is a hunger out there that is not being fed, and it’s exciting to watch the interest (in sacred music and chant) unfold.”

The history of the Assumption – and why it's a Holy Day of Obligation

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 02:01

Washington D.C., Aug 15, 2018 / 12:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Today, Catholics around the world mark the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, commemorating the end of her earthly life and assumption into Heaven. But while the feast day is a relatively new one, the history of the holiday – and the mystery behind it – has its roots in the earliest centuries of Christian belief.

“As her earthly life comes to an end, the Assumption helps us to understand more fully not just her life, but it helps us to always focus our gaze to Eternity,” said EWTN Senior Contributor Dr. Matthew Bunson.

“We see in Mary the logic of the Assumption as the culmination of Mary’s life,” he continued. “A Eucharistic requirement for that day is very fitting.”

The dogma of the Assumption of Mary – also called the “Dormition of Mary” in the Eastern Churches – has its roots in the early centuries of the Church. The Catholic Church teaches that when Mary ended her earthly life, God assumed her, body and soul into heaven.

This belief traces its roots back to the earliest years of the Church. While a site outside of Jerusalem was recognized as the tomb of Mary, the earliest Christians maintained that “no one was there,” Bunson said.

According to St. John of Damascus, in the 5th century, at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, Roman Emperor Marcian requested the body of Mary, Mother of God. St. Juvenal, who was Bishop of Jerusalem replied “that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven,” the saint recorded.

By the 8th century, around the time of Pope Adrian, the Church began to change its terminology, renaming the feast day of the Memorial of Mary to the Assumption of Mary, Bunson noted.  

The belief in the Assumption of Mary was a widely-held tradition, and a frequent meditation in the writings of saints throughout the centuries. However it was not defined officially until the past century. In 1950, Pope Pius XII made an infallible, ex-cathedra statement in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus officially defining the dogma of the Assumption.

“By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory,” the pope wrote.

Within the decree, which was passed beforehand to dioceses around the world, Pope Pius XII surveys centuries of Christian thought and the writings of a number of saints on the Assumption of Mary.  

“We have throughout the history of the Church an almost universal attestation of this,” Bunson said of the Christian tradition’s testimony to Mary’s Assumption.

“We have this thread that runs throughout the whole of the history of the Church in support of the dogma. That’s significant because it supports the tradition of the Church, but it also supports a coming to a deeper understanding of the teachings of the Church of how we rely upon the reflections of some of the greatest minds of our Church.”

What’s also notable about the dogma, he added, is that it “uses the passive tense,” emphasizing that Mary did not ascend into heaven on her own power, as Christ did, but was raised into heaven by God’s grace.

Today, the Feast of the Assumption is marked as a major feast day and a public holiday in many countries. In most countries, including the United States, it is a Holy Day of Obligation, and Catholics are required to attend Mass. Dr. Bunson explained that on major feast days, it’s important to mark the significance of the feast as especially vital by emphasizing the necessity of celebrating the Eucharist that day.

“What is more fitting than on the Assumption of the Blessed Mother to, once again, focus on her Son, on the Eucharist?” he reflected.

 

This article was originally published on CNA Aug. 15, 2017.

Pennsylvania bishops respond to sexual abuse grand jury report

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 17:12

Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug 14, 2018 / 03:12 pm (CNA).- Following the Aug. 14 release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on sexual abuse allegations in six Catholic dioceses, the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton released separate statements acknowledging failures to protect children, and pledging to make amends.
 
Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg said in a statement that he was “saddened” by the report, “for once again we read that innocent children were the victims of horrific acts committed against them.”
 
Gainer also apologized again to the survivors of child sex abuse and to the public, both for past abuses and for the Church officials who allowed the abuse to occur.
 
Harrisburg’s bishop also sought to reassure the faithful that policies had changed to ensure a safer environment, and that “there is nothing we take more seriously than the protection of those who walk through our doors. [...] The safety and well-being of our children is too important not to take immediate and definitive action.”

Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton released a seven-minute video in response to the grand jury report’s findings.

“While this is an uncomfortable and unsettling topic, we must speak openly and frankly about it,” said Bambera.

“I offer my deepest apologies for such behavior and for the consequences of this tragic reality in our Church.”

Bambera described the incidents in the report as a “dark chapter” in the 150-year history of the diocese.

“You have a right to be angry,” he said. “I am angry too,” noting that it was “particularly abhorrent” that abuse is alleged to have occurred in a Church environment. Bambera also outlined the steps his diocese has taken to protect children, including background checks and abuse training.

Bishop Lawrence Persico of Erie, who was the only bishop singled out for praise by the Pennsylvania attorney general, offered in a statement in an apology to the victims of abuse, saying they suffered from “unimaginably cruel behavior” for which they bore no responsibility.

Perscio praised abuse survivors for having the courage to come forward with their stories, while he also acknowledged that there are others who have not yet shared their experiences.

“I humbly offer my sincere apology to each victim who has been violated by anyone affiliated with the Catholic Church. I hope that you can accept it,” said Perscio.

“I know that apologizing is only one step in a very long and complex process of healing.”

Perscio instructed churches within his diocese to be open for a 12-hour period on September 15, the feast of Our Mother of Sorrows. He pledged to stand with the victims of abuse, and said that he was willing to meet with any survivor who wished to do so.  

Bishop Alfred A. Schlert of Allentown issued an apology “for the past sins and crimes committed by some members of the clergy,” as well as “to the survivors of abuse and their loved ones,” and then to the entire diocese, for any doubts or anger the crisis has wrought.

“For the times when those in the Church did not live up to Christ’s call to holiness, and did not do what needed to be done, I apologize,” he said.

He reiterated that his “first priority” as a bishop was the protection of children.

“To those women and men and all those they have spoken for: We hear you. The Church hears you. I hear you,” said Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh in a statement after the report’s release.

Zubik also apologized to victims of clerical abuse, as well as to “any person or family whose trust, faith and well-being has been devastated by men who were ordained to be the image of Christ.” He also said he is willing to meet with any victim to apologize in-person.

Zubik emphasized that “Diocese of Pittsburgh today is not the Church that is described in the Grand Jury Report,” and that “It has not been for a long time.” Data provided by the diocese showed that over 90 percent of abuse incidents occurred prior to 1990, and Zubik explained the steps the diocese has taken to prevent abuse.

Bishop Edward Malesic of Greensburg released a video homily that will be shown at each Mass in the diocese this coming weekend. In it, Malesic apologized to the victims, who were “robbed of their childhoods” by the abuse, noting that some had been “robbed of their faith” as well.

The behavior in the report “cannot be accepted,” he said, and “it is a cause of shame for us.”

Malesic stated he was “truly proud of the victims who came forward to tell their story,” and encouraged others to come forward as well, and for the faithful to be vigilant in reporting suspected abuse.

“To the survivors of sexual abuse in the Church [...] I grieve for you, and I grieve with you.”

In a statement released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB president Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Timothy L. Doherty, chairman of the bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, expressed “shame” at the report’s conclusions.

“As a body of bishops, we are shamed by and sorry for the sins and omissions by Catholic priests and Catholic bishops… We pray that all survivors of sexual abuse find healing, comfort and strength in God’s loving presence as the Church pledges to continue to restore trust through accompaniment, communion, accountability and justice.”

The report claims to have identified more than 1,000 victims of 300 credibly accused priests and 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.

 

Cardinal Wuerl named in Pennsylvania grand jury report, responds to criticism

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 16:30

Washington D.C., Aug 14, 2018 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and the former Bishop of Pittsburgh, has been named more than 200 times in a Pennsylvania grand jury report, released Aug. 14, after an 18-month investigation into historic allegations of sexual abuse in six Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses.

The cardinal released a statement in response to the report, underscoring the gravity of the sexual abuse for the Church and the real need for repentance for past failures.

“As I have made clear throughout my more than 30 years as a bishop, the sexual abuse of children by some members of the Catholic Church is a terrible tragedy, and the Church can never express enough our deep sorrow and contrition for the abuse, and for the failure to respond promptly and completely,” the cardinal said. 

In total, 99 priest from Pittsburgh were named in the report, 32 priests were referenced by the grand jury report in relation to Cardinal Wuerl’s time as bishop. Of these, 19 involved new cases or allegations which arose during his 18 years in charge of the diocese, during the years 1988-2006.

Of the 19 cases which arose during Wuerl’s time as bishop, 18 were removed from ministry immediately. The other cases Wuerl addressed in Pittsburgh principally concerned actions and allegations that arose during the reign of his predecessor, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.

Several of these cases inherited from Cardinal Bevilacqua’s time were subject to the report’s most stringent criticisms.

In one case, an abuser-priest left the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1966, following allegations of abuse. He was allowed to seek ministry in dioceses in California and Nevada. The report says Wuerl authorized him to move from Los Angeles to the diocese of Reno-Las Vegas in 1991, but sources familiar with the Pittsburgh case said that Wuerl was unaware of the 1966 allegations at the time.

A further allegation, concerning past actions by the same priest, was made in 1994 at which time Wuerl immediately informed the dioceses where the priest had been living.

In another case highlighted by the report, Wuerl agreed to a settlement with an abuse victim in his first weeks as bishop of Pittsburgh in 1988. The victim received a total of $900,000 and signed a confidentiality agreement  - such agreements were once common in settlements and have been heavily criticized as a means of silencing victims.

While acknowledging that the report contained specific criticisms of his time in Pittsburgh, Wuerl defended his record of handling sexual abuse allegations.

“While I understand this report may be critical of some of my actions, I believe the report confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse. I sincerely hope that a just assessment of my actions, past and present, and my continuing commitment to the protection of children will dispel any notions otherwise made by this report.”

The report also specifically criticized Wuerl for maintaining financial support for priests who had been removed from ministry, although providing that support is a canonical obligation for bishops. Many dioceses, including those covered by the report, have found themselves obligated to continue providing minimum benefits and support for priests.

Sources close to the cardinal also point out that the grand jury report does not distinguish between proven incidents of abuse and other allegations, saying that the report presumes that any priest accused of abuse should have been permanently removed from ministry, whether the allegation is proven or not. That assumption, they say, is not consistent with canonical norms on the subject.

As the most senior sitting bishop to be named in the report, and having served for so long as the head of a diocese as prominent as Pittsburgh, it was widely expected that Wuerl would be singled out for special attention by the report, and by the state’s Attorney General, Josh Shapiro.

Perhaps the most eye-catching allegation against Wuerl contained in the more than 1,000 pages released is the use of the phrase “circle of secrecy.” These words, the report claims, “were his own words for the church’s child sex abuse cover up.” This allegation is vehemently denied by both the diocese of Pittsburgh and the cardinal.

In an official response released with the report, the Diocese of Pittsburgh said that the phrase “circle of secrecy” appears in paperwork related to the request of a particular priest to return to ministry, and that it was used to make clear that there could be no “circle of secrecy” about the priest’s past problems. The diocese also says that the handwriting in which the phrase is written cannot be definitively attributed to anyone, including  Wuerl.

Ed McFadden, spokesman for the cardinal, said that “the handwriting does not belong to then-Bishop Wuerl as the writers of the Report mistakenly assumed. Indeed, the cardinal confirmed the handwriting is not his, and confirmed he neither wrote nor used the phrase while serving as Bishop of Pittsburgh. When the Cardinal’s legal counsel informed the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office about this error – prior to the release of the report – the Attorney General and his Senior Deputy refused to acknowledge the mistake and refused to take any steps to correct the dramatic use and misattribution of the phrase in the report.”

McFadden called the report’s attribution of the phrase “another example that in factual ways, large and small, the Attorney General’s office was more concerned with getting this report out than getting it right. Such a focus detracts from the shared goals of protection and healing.”

In a letter sent to the priests of the Washington archdiocese on Aug. 13, Wuerl wrote that he was shocked at having to confront allegations of abuse almost from the beginning of his ministry in Pittsburgh.

“I cannot fully express the dismay and anger I felt, when as a newly installed Bishop of Pittsburgh in 1988, I learned about the abuse some survivors experienced in my diocese,” he said.

The cardinal said that the experience of meeting with victims of abuse “urged me to develop quickly a “zero tolerance” policy for clergy who committed such abuse,” and that he put in place procedures to ensure allegations were addressed “fairly and forthrightly.”

In his written testimony to the grand jury, Wuerl recounted that in his first months as Bishop of Pittsburgh he had to meet with two brothers who had been victims of abuse. Wuerl said he was profoundly affected by the experience and came away with “a permanent resolve that this should never happen again.”

In 1989, Wuerl established a diocesan committee to evaluate policies for responding to abuse allegations. This committee grew to become the Diocesan Review Board, nearly a decade before the Dallas Charter called for every diocese to have such a body.

In his letter to the priests of Washington, he said that he had tried to live up to his own zero-tolerance standards.

“The diocese [of Pittsburgh] investigated all allegations of child sexual abuse during my tenure there and admitted or substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse resulted in appropriate action including the removal of the priest from ministry,” Wuerl wrote to the Washington presbyterate.

What constitutes “appropriate action” is something that has changed in the years since the sexual abuse crisis at the turn of the millennium and the formation of the Dallas Charter by the United States bishops.

As Bishop of Pittsburgh, Wuerl says he implemented of a policy that formally encouraged Catholics making complaints to also report them directly to law enforcement agencies, and sometimes informed civil authorities himself, even against the express wishes of the person making the allegations.

Of the 19 priests whose original allegations were handled by Wuerl, 18 were immediately removed from pastoral assignments and a kept away from any further contact with children.

But, when allegations could not be satisfactorily established,  many of these were given administrative positions in the diocesan chancery, something which would be considered inappropriate under current standards. Unlike the worst examples of earlier abuse cases in dioceses like Boston and Los Angeles, Wuerl is adamant that he never moved an accused or suspected abuser from parish to parish, or left them in parish ministry.

Indeed, from his first year in Pittsburgh, Wuerl acted publicly on issues related to clerical sexual abuse, even in the face of Church opposition.

In 1988, the year he arrived in Pittsburgh, Wuerl removed Fr. Anthony Cipolla from ministry following accusations the priest had molested a teenage boy. Following appeals by Cipolla, the Vatican ordered that the priest be returned to ministry but Wuerl categorically refused, flying to Rome and presenting evidence and arguments in person to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. Rome eventually reversed its position and upheld Wuerl’s decision.

While cases of suspected abuse since 2002 have been handled according to the USCCB’s “Essential Norms,” the Cipolla case served as an important template in the 1990’s, making it easier for other bishops to remove priests accused of abuse from active ministry. 

Coming hard on the heels of the revelations about Archbishop McCarrick, who preceded Wuerl in Washington, D.C., the cardinal has found himself on the receiving end of very pointed and sustained criticism. Appearing on “CBS This Morning” ahead of the report’s release, he was pointedly asked if he had any intention of resigning. He is likely to face renewed scrutiny and even more difficult questions in the weeks ahead.

Pennsylvania grand jury report details decades of clerical abuse allegations

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 16:27

Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug 14, 2018 / 02:27 pm (CNA).- A redacted grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse in six of Pennsylvania’s Catholic dioceses was released Tuesday, following an 18-month investigation into thousands of alleged instances of abuse spanning several decades.  

The report, detailing allegations made in the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton, was released Aug.14. It reported on evidence of systematic abuse and cover-ups going back seven decades within these dioceses.

About half of Pennsylvania’s nearly 3 million Catholics live within these six dioceses.

The 884-page report was written by 23 grand jurors, who spent some 18 months investigating the six dioceses, examining half a million pages of documents in the process. The FBI assisted with the investigative process.

The report claims to have identified more than 1,000 victims of 300 credibly accused priests and 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.

The report also identified a series of practices present in different ways across the dioceses which together amounted to a “playbook for concealing the truth.”

These include use of phrases like “boundary issues” or ”inappropriate contact” instead of explicitly referring to rape and sexual abuse, assigning priests to investigate their peers, instead of using qualified and objective personnel, and a reliance on psychological assessments and diagnoses  

Due to laws regarding the statute of limitations, nearly every abuse allegation cannot be criminally prosecuted, although two indictments have been filed. So far, one priest, Fr. John Sweeney, has been convicted of sexually assaulting a student in the early 1990s.

The released report was partially redacted, which Attorney General Josh Shapiro was displeased about. The redactions were due to ongoing appellate litigation.

The grand jury report contains the names of 301 men. Some names were not released due to the aforementioned ongoing court cases. Details of their crimes were also redacted.

The number of victims was estimated to be in the thousands, but the true number was not quantifiable, the report said. The majority of the victims in cases examined by the grand jury were male. The ages of the victims ranged from pre-pubescent to young-adult seminarians.

The offending priests are accused of a variety of crimes, including rape, molestation, and groping. The report states that some of the priests were able to manipulate their victims with alcohol and pornography.

Approximately two-thirds of the accused priests have died. The youngest offender named in the report was born in the 1990s.

Overall, nearly one-third of the accused priests came from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the highest percentage. The second-highest by number was the Diocese of Scranton, with 55 priests within the diocese, as well as four members of the Society of St. John, identified in the report.

A total of 10 priests from Pittsburgh were identified only as “Pittsburgh Priests #1-10,” as they could not be directly identified. Two priests from Harrisburg were similarly only identified as “Harrisburg Priest #1” and “Harrisburg Priest #2.”  

The Dioceses of Harrisburg and Erie have already released the names of the priests who were credibly accused of sex crimes, and the remaining dioceses pledged to do so upon the release of the grand jury report.

On August 1, Harrisburg released a list of 71 accused priests, deacons, and seminarians, which the diocese admitted was “overinclusive.” The grand jury report contained 45 names from Harrisburg, including three former seminarians.

Erie’s list included 62 people, including laypersons, who were accused of sex crimes over the last 70 years. A total of 41 people from Erie were included in the report, including one former seminarian.

In the Diocese of Allentown, 31 priests were listed, plus two members of the Carmelites, and a lay person employed as a basketball coach at a school in the diocese.

The Diocese of Greensburg had the fewest number of accused priests, with a total of 20 priests identified.

The grand jury report covered all accusations of abuse during the last 70 years, from 1947 until 2017 within the dioceses subject to investigation.  

Data provided by the Dioceses of Greensburg and Pittsburgh showed that most of the alleged abuse occurred during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Greensburg did not list any abuse claims from the 2000s or 2010s.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh saw the number of reported abuse incidents spike during the 1980s, with slightly more than 80 allegations. In the 2000s, there were fewer than 10 reported.

The Dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Harrisburg, and Scranton did not provide hard numbers on the timeline of abuse incidents, but each explained how they have taken steps since the mid-80s to early 90s to implement policies within their dioceses to prevent abuse.

Over the past several decades, the Church in the United States implemented a series of proactive steps intended to create a safer environment for children. These included a tougher screening process for seminarians, trainings for parish workers on how to identify and prevent abuse, and new policies on how a diocese should respond to reported misconduct.

 

 

Denver archbishop reflects on McCarrick abuse crisis

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 15:01

Denver, Colo., Aug 14, 2018 / 01:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver issued a letter to the archdiocese on Monday, offering practical advice on and spiritual insights into the sexual abuse scandal centered on Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

During his annual silent retreat last week, the archbishop said he reflected on the scandal in his prayers. He encouraged the clergy and laity to work toward healing and greater prevention methods.

“Some have felt that the Lord has abandoned the Church,” he said in his Aug. 13 letter. “Personally, I am deeply sorry that both laity and clergy have had to experience this type of betrayal.”

The archbishop challenged the archdiocese to participate in opportunities of healing.

“I am asking every priest in the archdiocese to offer a Mass each month in reparation for the sins committed by cardinals, bishops, priests and deacons, and for all sins committed by clergy and lay people against the commandments of our Lord, as well as to pray for healing for the victims of sin.”

“Too many seminarians, priests and bishops knew of Archbishop McCarrick’s behavior and did not restrain him,” he said. “Due to this, I call on the U.S. bishops’ conference to ask for and allow an independent investigation that includes members of the lay faithful and those clergy who had nothing to do with the matter.”

In June, Pope Francis removed McCarrick from ministry after an allegation he sexually abused a minor almost 50 years ago was ruled credible. In late July he resigned from the College of Cardinals, and the pope ordered him to adopt a life of prayer and penance pending a canonical process. Other allegations of sexual abuse and coercion have since been raised, and have brought to the public eye past legal settlements involving alleged misconduct while head of two New Jersey dioceses.

Archbishop Aquila said the Church’s abuse scandals originate from complacency, and a culture influenced by the sexual revolution.

“We must recognize that complacency about evil and sin is present both in the Church and the world and has led us to where we are today. This culture of complacency among clergy and laity must come to an end!”

“Sadly, too many, both clergy and lay, have listened more to the world than to Christ and the Church when it comes to human sexuality.”

He said the sexual revolution pushed the culture from the proper understanding of the human dignity. The Church has taught on human sexuality for centuries, said the archbishop, noting Catholics have given testimony to “the healing, freedom and joy it brings” in its practice.

The Church, he said, must respond with a greater closeness to Christ and return to the path of grace that highlights the dangers of sin and the fulfilment of truth. He stressed the aspects of the faith which strengthen the Church’s members.

“Charity and truth must always go together. A disciple should never lead someone into sin or condone sin,” he said.

“The Father has given us his son Jesus, the Beatitudes, the Gospels, the truth, and his commandments out of love for us to keep us on the narrow way of love. He is merciful in all that he has given to us.”

Workshop teaches how to teach Gregorian chant to children, teens

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 18:42

San Francisco, Calif., Aug 13, 2018 / 04:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Parish music directors, teachers, priests, and religious sisters gathered near San Francisco last week for a workshop helping them learn how to teach children and teens how to sing Gregorian chant.

The Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship held a Teaching Children's Chant Camp Workshop in Menlo Park, about 30 miles south of San Francisco, Aug. 9-12.

Among those participating were three religious sisters of the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa.

“Our mission at the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa is to teach joyfully the truth, goodness and beauty of our faith; we work with a lot of children and teens in Catholic schools,” Mother Teresa Christe explained, “So we are very grateful for this Benedict XVI Institute workshop.”

The Marian Sisters were founded by Bishop Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa in 2012. The community has a focus on teaching and evangelizing in parishes and schools.

Two Missionaries of Charity also attended the workshop. One of them, Sister Maximiliana, said they were participating because of their after school program “which prepares the children we work with from poor families for consecration to Mary. We want to learn how to teach children so they can sing beautifully for the Mass.”

Before the workshop, 25 Missionaries of Charity from across the San Francisco bay area had attended another event organized by the Benedict XVI Institute to learn how to chant more beautifully.

The workshop was directed by Mary Ann Carr-Wilson, who has helped pioneer chant camps for children.

Carr-Wilson emphasized the importance of respecting children as you teach them: “Give them a high aim. Let them know what they are doing in helping sing the Mass: praying not performing, with all the angels and saints. They respond.”

Rather than focusing solely on performance techniques, the institute incorporates catechesis and works to help participants deepen their understanding of the Mass, including their ability to offer intentions for their participation in the liturgy.

The workshop aims to help both teachers with experience with music generally, or with chant in particular.

Aaron Fidler teaches music at Kolbe Academy and Trinity Prep, a Catholic classical school in Napa. A violinist with extensive teaching experience, he expressed appreciation for help with his new task of preparing the school's choir to chant at Mass.

And Mary Castaneda, a music director from Washington state, said she has long taught chant to adules, but is “now teaching chant to children and teens. It’s really useful to get a sense from Mary Ann what she does that young people respond to.”

The Benedict XVI Institute was founded by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco in 2014.

It aims to form the Catholic imagination through beauty, and to promote the vision of the Second Vatican Council, whose constitution on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, said that Gregorian chant is “specially suited to the Roman liturgy” and that “therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.”

With inmate's fate unclear, Florida bishops pray to end death penalty

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 18:41

Tallahassee, Fla., Aug 13, 2018 / 04:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic bishops of Florida have asked for continued prayers for an end to the death penalty following the stay of an inmate’s execution. They had previously asked Gov. Rick Scott to commute the inmate’s death sentence and cited Pope Francis’ new catechism revisions on the death penalty.

“Please continue to pray for victims of crime, those on death row, and for an end to the use of the death penalty,” the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops said Friday afternoon.

Jose Antonio Jimenez, now 54 years old, was convicted of the 1992 murder of Phyllis Minas, a 63-year-old woman. He had been scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Aug. 14.

On Aug. 10 the Florida Supreme Court unanimously granted a request to grant the stay, without stating a reason, the Florida News Service reports.

Jimenez’s lawyer Marty McClain had requested the stay, citing several issues. These included a pending Supreme Court decision that could affect Florida’s lethal injection protocol.

McClain also said he had discovered that the North Miami Police Department had not previously provided to Jimenez’s lawyers the 80 pages of records related to the investigation of the murder.

McClain told the Florida News Service that the records include handwritten notes by investigators who interviewed Jimenez after his arrest that contradict their testimony. He contended that they show the investigators were willing to give “false and/or misleading deposition testimony” in order to facilitate Jimenez’s conviction.

Catholic prayer vigils had been scheduled across the state to pray for the victim, the aggressor, their families and society, as well as to pray for the end of the death penalty.

After the stay was announced, many of these vigils were set to continue in the dioceses of St. Petersburg, Orlando, Pensacola-Tallahassee and Venice.

However, organizers canceled some Catholic prayer vigils that had been scheduled in the Archdiocese of Miami and the dioceses of St. Augustine, Pensacola-Tallahassee, and Palm Beach.

“We pray for Ms. Minas and for consolation for her loved ones. All of us are called to stand with victims in their hurt as they seek healing and justice,” Michael Sheedy, executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in an Aug. 9 letter. “We invite people across Florida to join in this prayer. Both victims of crime and offenders are children of God and members of the same human family.”

Sheedy, speaking on behalf of the state’s Catholic bishops, said Gov. Scott has a “difficult task as governor” but still asked him to commute Jimenez’s death sentence and all death sentences to life without possibility of parole.

The letter to the governor cited Pope Francis’ revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty.

The Florida bishops’ conference further commented in an Aug. 10 statement.

“Given the development of doctrine involving the death penalty, the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s treatment of the topic was revised earlier this month,” the bishops’ conference said.

The relevant section of the Catechism now reads “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” It calls for the Church “to work with determination for its abolition worldwide,” the bishops’ conference said.

Drawing from the Catechism, Sheedy told the governor that the change “reflects the growing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of great crimes and that more effective forms of detention have been developed to ensure the due protection of citizens without definitively depriving the guilty of the possibility of redemption.”

In addition to prayers for Minas, her family and her friends, Sheedy voiced prayers for Jimenez and “all those facing execution.”

 

Veritatis splendor to be theme of Courage conference

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 17:31

Hartford, Conn., Aug 13, 2018 / 03:31 pm (CNA).- An upcoming conference in Connecticut will offers Catholic leaders in medicine and ministry the practical and pastoral tools to reach out to people with same-sex attraction while upholding Church teaching.

The 2018 Truth and Love Conference will be held at St Thomas Seminary Conference Center October 22-24 in Bloomfield, Connecticut. At the center of the formation event will be the encyclical Veritatis splendor, written 25 years ago this August by Pope John Paul II.

The theme of the event will be “Proclaiming the splendor of truth with love.” The gathering will look to answer questions about sexual identity and instruct pastoral leaders and medical professionals to care for people with same-sex attraction.

The fourth event of its kind, the conference is an initiative of Courage International, a Catholic apostolate that offers support for people with same-sex attraction who have chosen to pursue a chaste lifestyle. As part of the same organization, EnCourage supports family members and friends of people with same-sex attraction, aiding them in encountering their loved ones with compassion.

Speakers for the event will include experts on natural law, psychology, and Christian anthropology. Participants will be given practical resources to compassionately communicate the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

Presenters at the conference will include Father Philip Bochanski, executive director of Courage International; Dr. John Grabowski, theological advisor to U.S. bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family, and Youth; and Dr. Michael Horne, director of clinical services for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington.

Testimonies of people with same-sex attraction will also be shared, witnessing to the importance of the Church and friendships that have led them to grow in chastity and sanctity. Testimonies will be heard from Daniel Mattson, Catholic author of the book “Why I Don't Call Myself Gay,” and Courage members Paul Darrow and Rilene Simpson, featured in the documentary Desire of the Everlasting Hills.

The first Courage meeting was held in 1980, and the initial group developed the five foundational goals of Courage – chastity, prayer and dedication, fellowship, support, and good role models.
 

 

Cardinal Wuerl lays out plan for lay involvement in bishops' accountability

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 16:30

Washington D.C., Aug 13, 2018 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Donald Wuerl has laid out his vision for lay participation in new oversight structures as part of the ongoing response to recent scandals in the Church in the United States. He is one of several bishops pressing for collaboration between laity and bishops to ensure accountability in the Church hierarchy.

Writing on the website of the Catholic Standard, the magazine of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., Wuerl said that there was a well-established theological framework for greater lay participation as the Church faced the “current challenging situation and seek some structural and authentically Catholic response.”

Referring to the widespread sexual abuse crisis at the beginning of the millennium, during which there was an outcry at the failure of dioceses to respond properly to allegations of abuse, the cardinal said bishops had acted to make meaningful changes.

“In 2002, when we faced the terrible crisis of clergy child abuse, the bishops produced the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Later that same year, the ‘Essential Norms,’ created to implement the Charter, were also approved, by both the bishops and the Holy See.”

In recent weeks the credibility of the Dallas Charter has been questioned by many commentators, who have pointed out the prominent role Theodore McCarrick played in drawing up its provisions and speaking out against abuse.

Others have noted that the failure to apply the Charter and Essential Norms to bishops as well as priests and deacons was deliberate. While this was done following legitimate questions about the authority of the U.S. bishops’ conference to pass binding rules for dealing with bishops, in hindsight it appears to have further tainted the work of 2002.

But Cardinal Wuerl said that much practical good was achieved in Dallas and in the years that followed, noting that even the most recent crises concern past and not contemporary allegations.

“It seems fair to say that the Charter worked and continues to work. Almost all of the cases of clergy abuse that we hear today are from a period of time prior to the Charter.”

Wuerl said that many of the Dallas reforms could be adapted or expanded to include the consideration of allegations made against bishops.

“A key component in the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is both the National Review Board that oversees diocesan compliance with the Charter, and the local diocesan review boards that review allegations with a view to determining their credibility. What would be helpful today is that the same type mechanism be now made available when dealing with allegations of abuse or misconduct by a bishop.”

The cardinal made the specific suggestion that one or more such boards be created, with membership including laity, men and women, as well as bishops. These could be established “either at the national level or at the regional or provincial level” and be charged with assessing the credibility of accusations made against bishops.

“It seems that at the service of both accountability and transparency, such boards that reflect the makeup of the Church, laity and clergy, would help to highlight this new level of accountability,” Wuerl wrote.

“The results or findings of these review boards would be presented to the Holy See’s representative, the Apostolic Nuncio. Thus there would be clearly the recognition that the final judgment rests with the divinely established head of the College of Bishops, the Bishop of Rome.”

Other bishops, like Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of the Diocese of Albany, have made their own calls for increased lay participation in assessing allegations of bishops. In Bishop Scharfenberger’s case, he suggested a lay-led panel be formed, independent from the hierarchy, saying that “to have credibility, a panel would have to be separated from any source of power whose trustworthiness might potentially be compromised.”

In setting out his own proposal Cardinal Wuerl emphasized that the bishops and faithful were part of the one Body of Christ, and that bringing accountability would be a mutual endeavor.

Both proposals come ahead of the next general session of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in November, to be held in Baltimore.

Wuerl has previously said that it would be unacceptable for bishops to wait until then to propose responses to the crisis, telling the National Catholic Reporter that “We need to be doing things in anticipation of November so that when we get to November ... we would go into this meeting with a lot of work already done and a lot of testing of the ideas already in place.”

So far, the discussions have focused on how to involve laity in an eventual new structure or process, but others have questioned whether any process involving American bishops can be credible.

One canon lawyer who has worked on sexual abuse cases which involved American bishops in the process told CNA they were unconvinced.

“If there is going to be a proper tribunal [panel of judges] for a case against an American bishop, the last people I would want involved are other American bishops,” the canonist said.

“However good their intentions, I would always have concerns about their objectivity when dealing with these issues - because of personal connections and because the issue of sexual abuse is so charged in the American Church.”

Bishop Conley gives update on diocesan allegations, review policies

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 13:50

Lincoln, Neb., Aug 13, 2018 / 11:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a listening session at a local church in Lincoln, Nebraska, Bishop James Conley updated members of his diocese on a review of policies for handling allegations of abuse and misconduct by priests.

“This transparency and objectivity I promise you will include a thorough review of our safe environment policies and procedures by an outside investigator,” he said Aug. 10 to those gathered at St. Wenceslaus Church in Wahoo.

The bishop responded to several allegations against priests in the Diocese of Lincoln that have recently been published online.

“These allegations have already resulted in the start of a thorough review of our policies and procedures regarding how we respond to allegations made against diocesan priests.”

Conley said that he has presented several cases to the Diocesan Review Board, and is continuing to meet with the board for further counsel. He has assembled a group of senior advisors – including staff members, a mental health expert, and officials from the Archdiocese of Omaha – to help evaluate allegations of abuse.

He has also held several listening sessions at parishes affected by recent allegations against priests.

Conley held a listening session at St. Peter’s parish last Monday to discuss the behavior of pastor Fr. Charles Townsend. He said the message from the 500 attendees was clear: “they desire transparency and objectivity, and that is my promise to you and all the faithful in the diocese as I move forward.”

The bishop had previously addressed the allegations against Townsend in an Aug. 4 letter, saying that last year he “received a report that Fr. Townsend had developed an emotionally inappropriate, non-sexual relationship with a 19-year-old male which involved alcohol.”

Upon receiving the report, he said that he immediately withdrew Townsend from ministry and sent him to a treatment center in Houston before allowing him to return to ministry.

Conley said that he attempted to act with integrity, telling the parishioners that the priest had gone away for health reasons. But while he did not cover up the situation or oblige anyone to keep silent about it, he said he regrets failing to act with more transparency.

“Even though we were not legally obligated to report the incident, it would have been the prudent thing to do. Because the young man had reached the age of majority, we did not tell his parents about the incident.”

In his Aug. 4 letter, Bishop Conley said that he had removed Fr. Townsend from ministry in order to consult with the diocesan review board, reported the incident to civil authorities, and met with the young man and his parents to ask for forgiveness.

At the Aug. 10 listening session, Conley said that Fr. Townsend has now resigned his pastorate.

“The matter has been reported to authorities and is being investigated,” he said. The investigations will look into Townsend’s behavior, as well as the response of Bishop Conley and his staff.

Conley said that he cannot comment further while the civil and Church investigations are underway, but will offer an update when they have concluded.

The bishop also discussed three other diocesan priests. He said that he is concerned by the behavior of Fr. Patrick Barvick, whom he had previously instructed not to be alone with women. He has asked the priest to step aside from the parish temporarily while he evaluates the situation.

Fr. Steve Thomlison has submitted his resignation as pastor of St. Stephen in Exeter and St. Wenceslaus in Milligan, Conley continued. The resignation came during a meeting “to discuss a past incident in the military that was a concern.”

Conley clarified that the incident did not involve an offense against a minor or a parishioner, and that Thomlison received an honorable discharge from the military.

“I am committed to getting Father the care he needs. Please join me in praying for Father Thomlison,” the bishop said.

He also addressed the case of now-retired priest Fr. James Benton, who was accused in 2002 of touching a minor inappropriately during a camping trip that had taken place during the early 1980s.

“That matter was fully investigated by the Lincoln Diocese. The allegations could not be substantiated,” Conley said.

In the fall of last year, Fr. Benton resigned his pastorate after being accused of sexually abusing two family members more than 25 years prior, he said.

Conley said the allegations were handled by the Diocesan Review Board and referred to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which returned the matter to the bishop to take action.

He said he prohibited Benton from exercising public ministry in the diocese and restricted him from being alone with minors. The priest is now retired.

Bishop Conley reiterated his commitment to transparency and encouraged anyone who has experienced abuse by a member of the diocese to file a report with law enforcement authorities.

“I want to repeat to you that I am sorry for the manner in which I have responded to allegations of improper behavior brought against Lincoln priests,” he said. “I hope you forgive me.”

 

J.D. Flynn, editor-in-chief of Catholic News Agency, previously served as special assistant to Bishop Conley and director of communications for the Lincoln diocese. Flynn has recused himself from coverage of this story to avoid a conflict-of-interest. He was not involved in the assigning, reporting, editing or oversight of this story.

Pittsburgh bishop says not all grand jury accusations are 'substantiated'

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 11:30

Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug 13, 2018 / 09:30 am (CNA).- Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh has confirmed that some of the priests named in the Pennsylvania grand jury report into sexual abuse remain in active ministry. The report is expected to be released at 2 p.m. on August 14.

Bishop Zubik made the announcement while speaking to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on August 10. At the same time, the bishop stressed that there is “no priest or deacon in an assignment today against whom there was a substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse.” He also pledged to meet with parishioners in the days following the report’s release to underscore how and why an allegation was found to be unsubstantiated.

Canon law provides that, whenever an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is received by diocesan authorities, the bishop is obligated to hold a preliminary investigation to determine if there is a “semblance of truth” to the claim. This standard, canon lawyers say, is minimal and only determines if the accusation is not “manifestly false or frivolous.”

If the accusation is not demonstrably false, the case is sent to Rome for further consideration at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who determine how the canonical process should proceed.

While Bishop Zubik said he would not comment on specific individuals or allegations until the report was released, he underscored that all those priests still in active ministry named in the report had had their cases re-examined by the diocese’s independent review board – in each case finding the accusations remained unsubstantiated.

Seeking to illustrate that some claims could simply be false, Zubik made reference to his own experience. In 2011, he said, a man accused him and several others of past sexual abuse after being denied a parish volunteering position because of his criminal record. Local law enforcement, the diocesan review board, and Vatican authorities were all informed.

Fortunately for the bishop, the accuser had previously sent him an email threatening retaliation. The local district attorney investigated and dismissed the allegations, calling them “offensive.” 

In that case, it was fortunate that there was clear evidence of malicious intent by the accuser, Zubik said, but that is not always the case.

“I often say to myself, ‘What if that email wasn’t there?’” he told the Post-Gazette. Without such clear proof, it would have been a matter of I-say-he-says and Zubik said he “could swear on a stack of Bibles I didn’t do what I was charged with” but it might not have been enough to stop a presumption of guilt.

“Maybe that’s where my sensitivity comes to people who have been accused, to say just because somebody’s been accused doesn’t necessarily mean they're guilty.”

Zubik also pointed out that it was not always easy to come to a firm assessment of an allegation.

“What if the activity that was reported was not child sexual abuse? Or what if it was by third-hand source, and with every effort to try to reach out to the victim, the victim never came forward? Well, how could you see that as substantiated?”

The bishop’s remarks echo concerns raised by some of those named in the report, who have challenged their inclusion in the final publication, saying that they have been denied due process of law and risk permanent damage to their reputations. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed, delaying publication and ordering the names of those appealing to be redacted while they hear further legal arguments.

It is not known if any of the Pittsburgh priests referred to by Zubik have participated in the legal appeals which have delayed the release of the report.

Teens are requesting plastic surgery to look like Snapchat filters

Sun, 08/12/2018 - 18:56

Boston, Mass., Aug 12, 2018 / 04:56 pm (CNA).- Social media is increasingly making teens dissatisfied with their appearance and obsessed with achieving a filtered version of “perfection,” even going so far as to pursue plastic surgery, say medical professionals.

Dr. Neelam Vashi, director of Ethnic Skin Center at Boston University’s School of Medicine, published an article analyzing the new trend in Jama Facial Plastic Surgery last week.

“A new phenomenon, dubbed ‘Snapchat dysmorphia,’ has patients seeking out cosmetic surgery to look like filtered versions of themselves…with fuller lips, bigger eyes, or a thinner nose,” she said.

Among Snapchat’s more popular features are its facial filters, which change users’ appearance in a phone camera. New filters are offered regularly. Some change a person’s face to look like animals, superheroes, or inanimate objects. Others create a more subtle, modified version of the users themselves – smoothing their skin, whitening their teeth, narrowing their face, enhancing their lips and eyes.

Before photo-editing was readily available for the public to use, Vashi wrote, people idolized the often-unrealistic beauty of celebrities, who were the only people with easy access to photo-editing technology.

But now that the general public has access to this technology, she said, it has altered their expectations of beauty. Instead of bringing photos of celebrities to plastic surgery consultations, patients are bringing in pictures of themselves, with specific angles or lighting.

“I just see a lot of images that are just really unrealistic, and it sets up unrealistic expectations for patients because they’re trying to look like a fantasized version of themselves,” she told Inverse.

According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, more than half of clinicians in 2017 saw patients asking to “look better in their selfies.”  

Dr. Laura Cusamano, a postdoctoral fellow at Potomac Behavioral Solutions in Arlington, Va., works with patients struggling with body image and has seen the same trend. She said the idealization of celebrities has morphed into users of social media idealizing altered images of themselves.

“In recent decades, American media has propagated a distorted view of beauty, privileging certain body types, skin tones, hair colors, and facial features. Beauty ideals have come in the form of celebrities, whose ‘perfect’ images are often Photoshopped,” she told CNA.

“With the advent of social media, the ability to alter one's appearance is literally at one's fingertips. Applications like Snapchat provide the opportunity for users to discover the ‘perfect’ image of themselves to share with their peers and the world.”

Cusamano voiced concern that Snapchat Dysmorphia may lead young people to compare their bodies not only with digitally altered images of themselves, but also with similar images of family and friends. This could lead to eating disorders, self-esteem problems, and other issues, she said.

She also worries that the new trend may push ill individuals further into Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a condition related to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in which individuals suffer from “excessive preoccupation with perceived defects or flaws in their physical appearance.”

“They become obsessed with what they consider to be imperfections, and they often spend a great deal of time trying to examine, improve, or mask their supposed flaws,” she said. The disorder is associated with anxiety and depression, as well as shame and low self-esteem.

Cusamano said nearly 75 percent of people with the disorder seek surgery, cosmetic treatment, and dermatological work. She said these individuals may also encounter suicidal ideation.

When asked about how to correct this trend of Snapchat Dysmorphia, she said people should pay attention to how social media is affecting their life, noticing whether they find themselves becoming jealous of other users.  

People may need to take a temporary break from social media or follow accounts designed to spread positive messages about the human body, she said.

Cusamano also stressed the importance of recognizing the dignity of the human person.

“Remembering that you are created in the image and likeness of God and asking God to help you see yourself as He sees you is a wonderful way to work on transforming your self-image,” she said.
 

 

Abuse accusations bring scrutiny for McCarrick's charity fund

Fri, 08/10/2018 - 18:41

Washington D.C., Aug 10, 2018 / 04:41 pm (CNA).- Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s roles included service on the boards of at least two foundations that gave over $500,000 combined to his personally overseen fund at the Archdiocese of Washington over a decade’s time.

While the archdiocese says no irregularities have been found, CNA’s examination of tax records provides more insight into the archbishop’s areas of influence.

“Archbishop McCarrick established the ‘Archbishop’s Fund’ in January 2001 for his works of charity and other miscellaneous expenses and it continued in his retirement,” the Archdiocese of Washington told CNA.

“The account was audited annually along with other archdiocesan accounts. Nothing irregular was ever noticed,” the archdiocese continued. “When the allegation of sexual abuse of a minor was first disclosed in June, Archbishop McCarrick consigned the fund to the Archdiocese of Washington and the money will be used for archdiocesan charitable purposes.”

The archdiocese did not respond to questions about how much money had passed through the fund, nor specifically identify what charities or expenses it had supported.

In June, Pope Francis removed the 88-year-old churchman from ministry after an allegation he sexually abused a minor almost 50 years ago was ruled credible. In late July he resigned from the College of Cardinals, and the pope ordered him to adopt a life of prayer and penance pending a canonical process. Other allegations of sexual abuse and coercion have since been raised, and have brought to the public eye past legal settlements involving alleged misconduct while head of two New Jersey dioceses.

After he was removed from ministry, the archbishop said he has no memory of the abuse, believes in his innocence, and is sorry for the pain of his accuser and for any scandal the charges cause to others. McCarrick served as Archbishop of Washington from 2001 to 2006, but the archdiocese said it has received no allegation of misconduct against him.

Two Catholic-focused foundations have now cut ties with McCarrick: the Virginia-based Loyola Foundation, which generally makes grants for overseas Catholic mission activity; and the Minnesota-based GHR Foundation, whose focuses of global development, health and education include inter-religious action, strengthening Catholic women’s religious communities, and urban Catholic schools.

Archbishop McCarrick sat on the Loyola Foundation’s board for more than two decades. It gave $20,000 to $40,000 per year to the archbishop’s fund for at least 10 years, starting in the foundation’s fiscal year 2006 to 2007. The grants totaled at least $310,000, according to a CNA review of tax documents.

“Grants specifically designated by Archbishop McCarrick were made to the Archdiocese of Washington, a recognized 501(c)(3),” the foundation’s executive director Greg McCarthy told CNA. “The Loyola Foundation has no evidence of any unethical behavior, or any undisclosed conflict of interest in his role as board member.”

Trustees may make “limited discretionary grants” to qualified 501(c)(3) charities, and foundation policy requires all grants to comply with IRS requirements, he explained.

“The Loyola Foundation would have no reason to question grants made to the Archdiocese of Washington, a major diocese in our country,” McCarthy added. “Our expectation is that the archdiocese accepted such grants and exercised appropriate oversight so that spending was within archdiocesan moral, legal and ethical bounds.”

The foundation’s publicly available tax documents include grant application guidelines which say its average grant is about $10,000.

The Minnesota-based GHR Foundation made nine grants of $25,000 each, totaling $225,000, earmarked for the “former archbishop’s fund” or the “former archbishop’s special fund,” from 2006 to 2014, tax records say.

Archbishop McCarrick sat on the foundation board of directors from 2006 until 2016. Since then he has served as director emeritus, which a spokesman characterized as “only an honorary role.”

The GHR Foundation spokesperson said McCarrick was not active in his final years as a board member nor as a director emeritus.

“We are reviewing any type of actions while he was a board member,” he said. “We are taking this very seriously and are conducting a review.” The foundation said it would share information “if we find anything that we feel is not what was intended for GHR funds.”

The foundation has given several other five-figure grants to the Washington archdiocese, plus a 2008 grant of $400,000 to the Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary of Washington as a one-time grant “honoring Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.”

Beginning in 2007, the GHR Foundation gave $1 million a year for seven years to the Papal Foundation, which McCarrick had co-founded in 1988. The Papal Foundation supports projects and proposals recommended by the Holy See.

The GHR spokesman could not address questions about foundation grants to the former archbishop’s special fund but said the foundation is looking into the matter.

“We just want to make sure that the funds were used in a way that intended to support our values,” he said.

The spokesman said that to his understanding McCarrick’s role as a leader in interreligious dialogue fit well with the foundation’s inter-religious activities, adding “he is a leader in Christian-Muslim relations.”

CNA contacted McCarrick’s civil lawyer Barry Coburn, who said he had “no comment at this time.”

Both the Loyola and GHR foundations said they have removed the former cardinal from any role.

After the Holy See asked McCarrick to cease all public ministry, the Loyola Foundation released McCarrick from his board duties in a July letter, said McCarthy, the foundation’s executive director.

“He is no longer a board member and serves in no other capacity. No one has replaced him,” McCarthy said. “Our foundation encourages a full, complete and transparent review of all the allegations made against Archbishop McCarrick, with legal follow up within both civil and canon law, if appropriate.”

The GHR Foundation spokesman told CNA that when the first allegations came out “we immediately suspended him.”

“Obviously we were shocked and saddened. This was news to us,” the spokesman added. “Then as additional allegations came out we acted promptly and removed him from his honorary role. We have severed all ties to former Cardinal McCarrick.”

Like many church and civic leaders who had worked with McCarrick, McCarthy too said the Loyola Foundation did not know of abuse incidents.

“As a Catholic entity focused on the needy, our energies are spent on trying to help our brothers and sisters in Christ,” McCarthy said. “No one on our staff or on the board was even remotely aware of the incidents reported. May God help any who may have been wronged.”

The GHR Foundation was launched in 1965 by Gerald and Henrietta Rauenhorst, founders of the architecture design and construction companies that would become known as the Opus Group. In 2016, the foundation website says, it gave over $20.7 million in grants to 100 organizations around the world.

It has been a major donor to Catholic Relief Services, on whose board McCarrick once served. It has given large grants to religious sisters and groups like the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious.

The foundation supports urban Catholic schools in Minneapolis-St. Paul; other efforts in the Minneapolis-St. Paul archdiocese; and Catholic universities like Marquette University, St. Catherine University and the University of St. Thomas, where the foundation’s founders earned their degrees.

The GHR Foundation’s CEO and chair, Amy Rauenhorst Goldman, has served as a consultant on trade negotiations and investment strategies. She is a trustee and vice-chair of the board of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul and a member of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service Board of Visitors.

The foundation board is composed of members of the Rauenhorst family and others such as Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association.

The Loyola Foundation was established in 1957 by Albert G. McCarthy, Jr. and his wife Kathleen to assist mission work in developing countries. Its 2015-2016 biennial report said it gave out over $1.6 million in grants in 2016.

Foundation leadership includes members of the McCarthy family as well as other leading Catholics. One long-serving board member is Father William J. Byron, S.J., past president of both University of Scranton and Catholic University of America. He also served as rector of the Georgetown Jesuit Community, pastor of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. and an interim president of Loyola University New Orleans.

McCarrick’s own career included time as a university leader and service on diplomatic missions and advisory roles for both the U.S. State Department and the Holy See. He has served on pontifical councils for Promoting Christian Unity, Justice and Peace, Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples and for Latin America. Similarly, he served in the office of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See.

He chaired U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committees on Domestic Policy, International Policy, Migration, and Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe.

Pages