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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
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New York, New Jersey investigating Church response to abuse claims

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 18:42

New York City, N.Y., Sep 6, 2018 / 04:42 pm (CNA).- Authorities in New York and New Jersey have announced investigations into local Catholic dioceses and Church entities, to determine how allegations of sexual abuse of minors were handled.

On Thursday, the New York attorney general’s office issued subpoenas to all eight Catholic dioceses in the state, asking for documents related to sexual abuse allegations and the Church’s response to them, according to the New York Times.

Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced a civil investigation into Church entities and said the office’s criminal division is willing to partner with local district attorneys “to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute any individuals who have committed criminal offenses that fall within the applicable statutes of limitations.”

The Archdiocese of New York told local media in a statement that they were “ready and eager to work together” with the attorney general in the investigation.

“Since 2002, the archdiocese has shared with its 10 District Attorneys all information they have sought concerning allegations of sexual abuse of minors, and has established excellent working relationships with each of them,” the statement said.

“Not only do we provide any information they seek, they also notify us as well when they learn of an allegation of abuse, so that, even if they cannot bring criminal charges, we might investigate and remove from ministry any cleric who has a credible and substantiated allegation of abuse.”

The other dioceses in the state echoed this commitment, saying they are cooperating with the investigation.

Also on Thursday, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the creation of a task force to investigate allegations of sexual abuse and cover up within the state’s Catholic dioceses.

“No person is above the law and no institution is immune from accountability,” Grewal said. “We will devote whatever resources are necessary to uncover the truth and bring justice to victims.

He appointed former acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert D. Laurino to lead the task force, which will have subpoena power to compel testimony and the production of documents.

Two New Jersey dioceses – the Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark – have drawn media attention in recent weeks, after it was revealed that they reached settlements in the mid 2000s with two men who claimed to have been sexually assaulted by former cardinal Theodore McCarrick while they were seminarians and young priests.

Questions have arisen over which former and current Church officials in these dioceses may have known about these settlements and failed to take action or speak out against McCarrick’s continued ministry.

The attorneys general in Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, and New Mexico have also initiated investigations into local Catholic dioceses, as the fallout from last month’s Pennsylvania Grand Jury report continues.

That report, the result of an 18-month investigation into abuse allegations and responses from Church officials, found more than 1,000 allegations of abuse at the hands of some 300 clergy members in six dioceses in the state. It also found a pattern of cover up by senior Church officials. The report has prompted questions nationwide on the Church’s response to abuse claims.

Names of accused bishops scrubbed from Pennsylvania schools

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 18:32

Harrisburg, Pa., Sep 6, 2018 / 04:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The names of accused clerics are being removed from the buildings of several colleges and high schools in Pennsylvania in the wake of the grand jury report detailing sex abuse cases in six dioceses in the state.

The University of Scranton, a Jesuit school, announced last month that “with sympathy for and in solidarity with victims of sexual abuse,” the honorary degrees and names of campus buildings recognizing Bishops Jerome Hannan, J. Carroll McCormick, and James Timlin would be rescinded.

“As documented in the report, these Bishops covered up the crimes and misdeeds of men who were under their jurisdiction and placed children in harm’s way,” President Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., said in a statement announcing the changes.

King’s College, a Catholic college in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. also announced that the name of Bishop McCormick would be removed from one of its buildings and an honorary degree would be rescinded from Bishop Timlin.

North Catholic High School in Cranberry Township, Pa. removed “Cardinal Wuerl” from its name at the request of Cardinal Donald Wuerl himself, after signs at the school bearing his name were vandalized.

According to a diocesan statement, Wuerl wrote to Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh requesting the removal of his name “lest we in any way detract from the purpose of Catholic education.”  

His name is also being removed from the parish hall at St. Rosalia Church in Pittsburgh, according to the Tribune-Review.

Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington  and successor of former-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, came under increasing scrutiny in August because of his role in sex abuse cases listed in the Pennsylvania grand jury report and because he has been accused of negligent oversight of McCarrick.
 
Students and staff at the University of Scranton who spoke with NPR said they supported the removal of the names from the school.

"I don't think it's being disrespectful to the church," Adam Pratt, an assistant history professor at the University of Scranton, told NPR in August. "What these men have done is beyond the pale. And it's not the values that we teach here at the University of Scranton."

In his statement, Pilarz announced that McCormick Hall will be renamed MacKillop Hall in honor of Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop, an Australian nun “who publicly exposed the sexual abuse of children by a priest. In her life, she faced persecution and excommunication, during which she was assisted by the Jesuits until later being absolved.”

Another plaza named after Timlin will be renamed after Bl. Oscar Romero, who was killed while celebrating Mass in San Salvador, and is to be canonized Oct. 14.

A hall named after Hannan will be renamed to honor two former Scranton students who have died - Brendan J. Giblin, who was killed while on spring break his senior year, and William H. Kelly Jr., who died Sept. 11, 2001 in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

“In choosing to honor St. MacKillop, Archbishop Romero, Brendan and Bill, we hold up the example of their lives as a reminder always to be a voice against abuse and violence no matter the cost, to champion the poor and oppressed, and to treasure the bonds of friendship and community that are at the heart of The University of Scranton,” Pilarz said.

DeSales University and Misericordia University, both in Pennsylvania, have said they are considering taking similar action in removing the names of accused bishops from campus facilities.

Cardinal Wuerl acknowledges calls for 'new leadership'

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 17:38

Washington D.C., Sep 6, 2018 / 03:38 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington on Thursday recognized calls for new leadership in the archdiocese, including from local priests, but did not say whether he was considering stepping down.

In a September 6 letter to the priests of the archdiocese, Wuerl referenced a 90-minute period of prayer and discernment he had held with the priests of diocese three days earlier, before the annual Labor Day cookout.

“Among the many observations was that the archdiocese would be well served by new leadership to help move beyond the current confusion, disappointment and disunity,” he said in the letter.

Wuerl, who has faced growing calls for resignation over allegations of mishandling abuse reports, did not elaborate on his future leadership intentions. Sources have told CNA that Wuerl had hoped to stay on as Archbishop of Washington until the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall general assembly in November.

In his letter, the cardinal said that in his discussion with priests, he “also heard voices calling for the beginning of healing. This I believe we need to do now.”

Wuerl proposed a six–week “Season of Healing” beginning Friday, September 14 as a time for prayer and recognition of the suffering of abuse victims.

“This six-week ‘Season’ would use each Friday as a time when, as a Church, we could be united in prayer,” he said. “This could take whatever form of prayer you consider appropriate…I will celebrate a Penitential Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle on September 14 to initiate this ‘Season’.”

Wuerl also promised to provide resources for the priests to respond to abuse survivors who may reach out to them. He said he is planning a one-day healing retreat for abuse victims, which will include both prayer and opportunities for professional counseling.

In recent weeks, Cardinal Wuerl has faced questions over his knowledge of the alleged sexually coercive behavior of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

McCarrick has faced mounting allegations that he serially sexually abused two adolescent boys, and spent decades committing acts of sexual assault and coercion toward seminarians and young priests. In 2005 and 2007, two New Jersey dioceses reached settlements with alleged victims of McCarrick.

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

The cardinal has in recent weeks called for lay participation in new oversight structures to ensure episcopal accountability.

The Aug. 14 release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on clerical sex abuse of minors only heightened public scrutiny of Cardinal Wuerl, particularly regarding the way he managed priests who had been accused of sexual assault during his tenure of Bishop of Pittsburgh, from 1988 to 2006.

The report said that in one case, Wuerl authorized the transfer and continued ministry of a priest who had been accused of committing acts of sexual abuse decades earlier.

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

In an Aug. 14 statement, Cardinal 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,” he wrote. “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.”

Soon after his appointment as Bishop of Pittsburgh, Wuerl established a diocesan committee in 1989 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.

Cardinal Wuerl has said that while in Pittsburgh, he implemented 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.

 

Baltimore's new Catholic school to be named after African American nun

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 15:11

Baltimore, Md., Sep 6, 2018 / 01:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The city of Baltimore will soon see a new Catholic school open for the first time in decades, named after an African American nun who founded the first U.S. school for black children.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore announced Tuesday that the new pre-K through 8th grade school will be named after Servant of God Mother Mary Lange, whose cause for canonization is currently being reviewed by the Vatican.

“Mother Lange’s name on our new school will be a beacon that shines brightly for the children of Baltimore and a reminder to all that every child of God deserves a good education and the hope and opportunity that comes with it,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore said.

Servant of God Mother Mary Lange was raised in a French-speaking community in Cuba, but moved to the United States in the early 1800s.

Lange eventually moved to Baltimore, where she became the founder and first superior of the Oblate Sisters of Providence. The community provided African American women a path to religious life in the Church. The sisters taught and cared for African American children.

In 1828, the order founded the first Catholic school in the United States for African American students, St. Frances Academy, which still exists today.

According to the archdiocese, the new school will open in downtown Baltimore in 2020, and “its students will include those currently attending Holy Angels Catholic School, on the campus of the former Seton Keough High School in Southwest Baltimore, and Ss. James and John Catholic School, in the Johnston Square neighborhood.” The archdiocese still needs to fundraise the final $2 million out of a total of $18.6 before construction can begin.

Sister Rita Michelle Proctor, superior general of the Oblate Sisters, said the order “considers it a great honor and tribute to have this new city Catholic School named in honor of Mother Mary Lange.”

The school was originally to be named after the late Cardinal William Keeler. However, the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report released last month said that Keeler had allowed a priest to remain in ministry despite multiple accusations of sexual offenses. Archbishop Lori subsequently announced that the cardinal’s name would be withdrawn from consideration.

The name of Mother Lange was suggested by Baltimore resident Ralph Moore, who began an online petition that received more than 350 signatures.

In a later statement discussing the new name choice, the archbishop highlighted the significance of Mother Lange’s role in Catholic education.
 
“One can’t tell the history of the Catholic school system in this country without mentioning Mother Mary Lange,” said Archbishop Lori. “She was a visionary woman of deep faith and recognized the life-changing role of education in the lives of children, most especially those living on society’s margins.”

Appeals court upholds Baptist church autonomy in picking pastor

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 12:30

Pittsburgh, Pa., Sep 6, 2018 / 10:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a 3-0 decision Wednesday, a federal appeals court ruled that a historic black Baptist church in Pittsburgh has the right to pick its pastor without government involvement.

The decision affirmed a lower district court’s ruling that Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church was free to dismiss pastor David Lee, who had been chosen as pastor in 2012. Lee and the church had signed a 20-year contract, which allowed for termination “for cause,” including if Lee failed to perform his job well.  

The small African-American congregation voted to dismiss Lee in 2015, following a nearly 40 percent decline in attendance and donations, and a 200 percent increase in church expenses under his leadership. Lee then sued the church for $2.6 million, saying that his failures were secular rather than spiritual in nature.

In its ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia said that evaluating Lee’s performance as pastor “requires a determination of what constitutes adequate spiritual leadership.” This is not an assessment for courts to carry out, the ruling said, because it “would impermissibly entangle the court in religious governance and doctrine prohibited by the Establishment Clause.”

Religious liberty advocates applauded the ruling.

“The government has no right to entangle itself in choosing a church’s ministers,” said Daniel Blomberg, senior counsel at Becket, which is representing the church in court. “As the Supreme Court unanimously ruled six years ago, houses of worship have the right to choose who leads the flock.”

In its 2012 Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the “ministerial exception” principle drawn from the religion clauses of the First Amendment. The principle allows churches to make employment decisions without government intervention.

 

Six new churches in five years: Portland's growing Catholic community

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 05:15

Portland, Ore., Sep 6, 2018 / 03:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, the growth in the Catholic Church has been so great that six new churches have been dedicated since 2013.

“On Saturday was our sixth new church dedication in the five-and-a-half years since the archbishop’s been here,” said Portland Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith.

“It’s just very interesting because most bishops in their lifetime probably only do one or two of them. Between us we’ve done six,” he told CNA.  

The six churches have either been heavily renovated or newly built. The most recent was Saint Anne’s Catholic Church in Grants Pass, which was dedicated September 1.

Since Archbishop Alexander Sample was installed to head the Archdiocese of Portland in April 2013, five other churches have also been expanded: Shepherd of the Valley Church in Central Point, Saint Edward in Kaiser, Saint Andrew Dung-Lac Mission in Hillsboro, Saint Joseph the Worker in Portland, and Saint Alexander in Cornelius.

Bishop Smith said the expansion in the archdiocese is largely due to an increase in Catholic immigrants, including the Latino, Vietnamese, and Filipino communities.

In the last five years, he said, large groups of Latin Americans have moved to Portland, taking advantage of rural employment opportunities. He said parishes and seminaries have seen an influx of Latin American immigrants, now making up an estimated 40 percent of the archdiocese.

Saint Alexander Catholic Church, which was dedicated last year, was a small parish and the only Catholic Church in the city of Cornelius. Bishop Smith said the parishioners were not wealthy, but they dedicated their time and resources to building up the parish, which now welcomes 2,000 parishioners every weekend.

Likewise, the newest parish, Saint Anne’s, received an abundance of support, even when experts were pessimistic about the fundraising. He said the community has a reputation of generosity, offering not only cash but skilled labor, like hand-crafted doors.

“The experts said, I think, they could raise about $2.3 million or $2.5 million max, which wasn’t even close to what they needed,” he said. “[However,] they raised more than double.”

“The community has a reputation of being a giving community and, my heavens, did they come through,” he said. “It’s just one of these things where the people came through and it’s a stunning tribute to the people of their parish.”

Bishop Smith highlighted the importance of beautiful Catholic churches, saying that a well-crafted house of worship directs parishioners to God.  

“For us as Catholics and also for the Orthodox, the Church is sacred space. When people walk into a church they need to feel this is different, this is sacred,” he said.

“When you walk into a place of worship, you want the person who walks into it to be drawn to something beyond just themselves…which is the Lord,” he added.

Churches are places for Christian fellowship, but are first and foremost houses of worship and prayer, he said. This has been a major focus of Archbishop Sample during his time leading the archdiocese.

“The archbishop, since he’s been here, his focus [has been that] churches need to look like [Catholic] churches, firstly, and…secondly, we need to have the tabernacle behind the altar – front and center.”
 

 

Pro-life pregnancy centers served nearly 2 million people last year

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 02:27

Washington D.C., Sep 6, 2018 / 12:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pro-life pregnancy centers drew nearly 2 million clients in 2017 and provided more than $161 million in free services, according to a new report released this week.

“Pregnancy centers exist to serve and support mothers in the courageous decision to give their children life, even under the most difficult circumstances,” said Chuck Donovan, president of the Charles Lozier Institute. “This report calculates the impact of their mission of love in concrete terms.”

The institute is the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List, which advocates for pro-life political candidates.

The report, compiled by Charles Lozier Institute staff, draws on national survey data from 2,600 pregnancy centers that are part of networks like Care Net, Heartbeat International, and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, as well as smaller provider networks. These pregnancy centers completed an online survey distributed by their national network, parent organization, state coalition or regional leader.

According to 2017 figures, pregnancy centers provided nearly 2 million people with free services, at an estimated annual savings to the community of $161 million. Free ultrasounds alone make up an estimated $100 million of those savings, not including the hours worked by registered nurse or medical sonographer hours, estimated at $14.1 million.

Over 70 percent of centers offer free ultrasounds, an increase from 24 percent in 2010. There are 100 mobile ultrasound units affiliated with the centers.

Last year, credentialed nurse sonographers and registered diagnostic medical sonographers volunteered over 400,000 hours of free services. In addition, over 67,000 volunteers, including 7,500 medical professionals, donated their time and skills to pregnancy centers.

The centers carried out close to 680,000 free pregnancy tests and provided close to 300,000 mothers and fathers with parenting classes.

Over 24,000 clients received support after an abortion, including counseling and referral to professional help when needed.

“Thousands of centers around the country provide a multitude of free services for millions of women, as well as tens of thousands of men, saving communities nearly $161 million annually,” Donovan continued. “Nine in 10 people involved at pregnancy centers are volunteers, including an estimated 7,500 medical professionals. Beyond numbers like these is the incalculable value of lives saved, families strengthened, and women and men finding healing from the trauma of abortion.”

The Charles Lozier Institute report is the third edition of reports published in 2009 and 2011 by the Family Research Council.

The latest edition includes an historical overview of pregnancy centers as well as stories about individual and families who have benefitted from them. Initial efforts to help pregnant women were largely led by Catholic individuals and groups, the report said.

One section of the report addresses ethical and medical standards. Affiliates of the three largest national pregnancy center networks, Care Net, Heartbeat International and National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, in addition to eight other networks, follow a code of ethics called “Our Commitment of Care and Competence.”

The code, last updated in 2009, addresses “truthfulness in all communications; client information confidentiality; and compliance with all legal requirements regarding employment, fundraising, financial management, taxation, public reporting, and financial disclosure.”

Under the code, all medical services must be under the supervision and direction of a licensed physician, following relevant medical standards. The ethics code covers scientific and medical accuracy, truthfulness in advertising, non-discrimination, kindness and compassion for clients, and a consistent life ethic, the report says.

Some pro-abortion rights groups have pushed for stronger regulation of pregnancy centers, claiming that they provide false information or misrepresent themselves as abortion providers.

In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a California law and ordered a lower court to reconsider its ruling in favor of the law, which required pro-life pregnancy centers to post information on programs to obtain free or low-cost abortions. The court said the pro-life centers were likely to succeed in their claims the law violates their First Amendment rights.

 

Catholic lay men ask Pope Francis for answers

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 21:00

Denver, Colo., Sep 5, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- One week after thousands of Catholic laywomen signed a letter asking Pope Francis to respond to their questions about the Church’s sexual abuse crisis, a group of Catholic laymen have penned their own letter to the pope and American bishops, calling for an investigation into the Church’s role in preventing sexual abuse.

The letter is hosted on the website “Catholic Men United for Christ,” but it is not sponsored by any group or organization. The signatories of the letter pledge to do some form of fasting on each Friday starting Sept. 7, and continuing through 2018.

Signatories include popular Catholic author Scott Hahn, radio host Al Kresta, along with other notable Catholic leaders.

“Holy Father, we come to you for answers. You personally have been faced with allegations. These allegations have been leveled by a high-ranking church official, Archbishop Viganò. Further, many bishops in the United States have publicly stated that they believe these allegations should be investigated. We implore you to address them,” reads the letter.

“Moreover, regardless of the veracity of Archbishop Viganò’s allegations, our concerns about corruption remain.”

“Your Holiness, Your Eminences, and Your Excellencies: Amidst widespread global abuse, coverups, and hierarchical failure, what are you doing and what will you do to protect the people of God? We urge you to answer this simple question because the cost of the episcopal corruption is catastrophic.”

The letter requests that an investigation into Church hierarchy be carried out by “faithful lay men and women.”

The signatories “reiterate and support” last week’s letter from Catholic lay women, signatory Mark DeYoung told CNA, "but even more so, we're looking at the bigger picture at what has happened in various countries [...] in just saying that there is certainly established fact there is a problem with abuse."

Failure to combat this corruption and abuse could result in the reduction or elimination of ministries due to a lack of priests, DeYoung told CNA.

DeYoung, a theology graduate student, said that fathers have expressed concern about potentially sending their sons to seminary, and have even said that they "will not have their kids involved in the liturgy as altar servers” out of fear of sexual abuse.

This could result in "potentially the death of vocations and young people being active in the Church,” said DeYoung. He also said it was “heartbreaking” to read testimony from some of the Pennsylvania abuse victims who said that their abuse caused them to lose their religious faith entirely.

“We’re really fighting for these people, (and) we're also saying that as Catholic men that we're going to take responsibility for our own lives as well,” noting that not every Catholic man is faithful or properly follows Church teaching.

DeYoung told CNA that the letter came from the fact that many Catholic men are “angry, heartbroken, and really shocked at the state of the Church at the moment,” in terms of the abuse of minors as well as “the clergy members who are disobeying their vows and living and against the call to chastity and purity.”

In addition to the investigation into abuse and misconduct, DeYoung says that the signatories are also looking to the bishops for spiritual leadership during this chaotic time.

"We are men who love the Church, we love our bishops, we support our Holy Father, and we want to see the truth come out here," he said.

At press time, the letter had been signed by over 3,000 people.

Bishop Malone says he fell short in handling allegations, but won't resign

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 19:39

Buffalo, N.Y., Sep 5, 2018 / 05:39 pm (CNA).- Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo is resisting demands for his resignation after recently published  documents suggest that he mishandled allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct by priests in his diocese.

“My handling of recent claims from some of our parishioners concerning sexual misconduct with adults unquestionably has fallen short of the standard to which you hold us, and to which we hold ourselves,” Bishop Malone said in an Aug. 26 statement to members of the diocese.

In hindsight, he said, some allegations “which at the time may have seemed hazy or difficult to substantiate—warranted more firm or swift action.”

However, he rejected calls from local Catholics and public officials that he step down, saying, “The shepherd does not desert the flock at a difficult time.”

Several of the recently-reported allegations involve boundary violations or sexual misconduct against adults, meaning that the diocese was not required to take action against them in the same way that it would allegations of sexual abuse of minors, under the 2002 Charter for Protection of Children and Young People.

Malone said that while he sought to follow the Charter’s requirements, he “may have lost sight of the Charter's spirit, which applies to people of all ages.”

The bishop said that he is establishing a task force to review diocesan protocols for dealing with claims of inappropriate behavior involving adults.

“This task force will be comprised of laity, clergy religious, and I will invite an elected official or two,” he said.

He also announced the creation of an Office of Professional Responsibility to help enforce the Diocesan Code of Ethics and promised to cooperate with any potential investigations launched by state authorities. Erie County’s district attorney has suggested that a criminal investigation of the diocese is being planned.  

Malone’s statement came several days after a two-part 7 Eyewitness News investigation, published Aug. 22-23, revealed documents indicating that Malone allowed priests to stay in ministry despite multiple allegations against them.

The investigation focused on two priests whose names were reportedly considered for inclusion on a publicly-released list of credibly accused clergy, but then removed before publication. Both priests were in active ministry at the time of the list’s publication in March.

One case involves Fr. Art Smith, who had been suspended from his parish by the previous bishop in 2011, after complaints from parents and school officials that he had shown signs of grooming and stalking students and had inappropriate communications with one male student.

In November 2012, Bishop Malone returned Smith to ministry, as chaplain of a nursing home. There, two young men at the nursing home – ages 19 and 25 – complained of inappropriate touching by Smith. The regional superior of the religious order running the nursing home wrote to Bishop Malone to report the complaints and say that the order was discontinuing Smith’s work there.

Documents show that Malone asked Smith to return to a treatment center in Philadelphia, but Smith initially pushed back, refusing to go. Other documents show Malone asking Smith to honor their “gentleman’s agreement” requesting that he “refrain from public celebrations of the liturgy or other sacraments and from wearing clerical attire.”

In 2015, Malone wrote in a letter to Vatican officials that Smith had groomed a young boy, refused to stay in a treatment center, faced repeated boundary issues, and been accused of inappropriate touching of at least four young men. However, in the same letter, Malone said that “On the basis of his cooperation in regard to regular counseling, I have granted Father Smith faculties to function as a priest in the Diocese of Buffalo.”

That same year, the bishop wrote a letter of approval for Smith to serve as a priest on a cruise ship, explicitly clearing him for work with minor children.

In 2017, Malone assigned Smith as a “priest in residence” at a parish. The priest was suspended in 2018, after the diocese said it had received a new substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.

A second case reported by 7 Eyewitness News involves Fr. Robert Yetter, who until last week was pastor at St Mary's of Swormville.

At least three young men in 2017-2018 reported sexual advances by Yetter. Internal memos indicate that Yetter acknowledged at least one instance of inappropriate touching.

Auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz met with Yetter after being informed of the accusations. He discussed sexual harassment with Yetter and referred him for counseling, then wrote that he considered the cases closed.

On Aug. 27, four days after the 7 Eyewitness News report, the diocese announced that it had received a new complaint against Yetter. It said that Bishop Malone had asked for and received his resignation as pastor of St. Mary’s and had placed him on administrative leave while an investigation is carried out.  

The 7 Eyewitness News reports include photographs of more than a dozen relevant documents, including chancery memos, emails from diocesan officials, and letters to and from Bishop Malone.

The Buffalo News reported Sept. 3 that the Diocese of Buffalo is still trying to determine who had leaked the confidential documents. The diocesan headquarters is increasing security measures, with new locks, security guards, identification badge requirements, video monitoring and a computer security analysis.

Kavanaugh hearing touches on abortion, religious liberty

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 19:27

Washington D.C., Sep 5, 2018 / 05:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh faced a range of questions on Wednesday, the second day of his confirmation hearings, including on abortion and religious freedom.

Kavanaugh affirmed Sept. 5 that Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey are “an important precedent of the Supreme Court,” and said that “being able to participate in the public square” with “religious speech” is “a part of the American tradition.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked Kavanaugh in the morning about women's reproductive rights.

“As a general proposition, I understand the importance of the precedent set forth in Roe v. Wade,” Kavanaugh replied. “Roe v. Wade held, of course, and it was reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that a woman has a constitutional right to obtain an abortion before viability, subject to reasonable regulation by the state, up to the point where that regulation constitutes an undue burden on the woman's right to obtain an abortion.”

He said that the Roe decision “is settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court … one of the important things to keep in mind about Roe v. Wade is that it has been reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years, as you know, and most prominently, most importantly, reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.”

Feinstein indicated that “how you make a judgement on these issues is really important to our vote as to whether to support you or not,” saying, “I truly believe that women should be able to control their own reproductive systems, within, obviously, some concern for a viable fetus.”

Kavanaugh replied: “I understand your point of view on that, Senator. And I understand how passionate and how deeply people feel about this issue. I understand the importance of the issue. I understand the importance that people attach to the Roe v. Wade decision, to the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision.”

“This is the point I want to make that I think is important. Planned Parenthood v. Casey reaffirmed Roe and did so by considering the stare decisis factors. So Casey now becomes a precedent on precedent. It's not as if it's just a run-of-the-mill case that was decided and never been reconsidered. It applied the stare decisis factors and decided to reaffirm it.”

“That makes Casey a precedent on precedent,” he said, which he compared to Miranda rights.

Feinstein asked, “What do you say your position today is on a woman's right to choose?”

Kavanaugh answered: “As a judge, it is an important precedent of the Supreme Court. By it, I mean Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. [It's] been reaffirmed many times. Casey is precedent on precedent, which itself is an important factor to remember. And I understand the significance of the issue, the jurisprudential issue, and I understand the significance as best I can; I always try, and I do hear, of the real-world effects of that decision, as I tried to do all of the decisions of my court, and of the Supreme Court.”

In the afternoon, Kavanaugh  was questioned by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) about religious liberty issues.

Cruz first asked in that regard about the Ninth Amendment, which says, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

In his discussion of this amendment and its protection of unenumerated rights, Kavanaugh said that “an example of that is the old Pierce case where Oregon passed a law that said everyone in the state – this is in the 1920s – everyone in the state of Oregon had to attend, every student had to attend, a public school. A challenge was brought by parents who wanted to send their children to a parochial school, a religious school. The Supreme Court upheld the rights of the parents to send their children to a religious parochial school and struck down that Oregon law. That's one of the foundations of the unenumerated rights.”

Since Kavanaugh had mentioned religious liberty, Cruz then asked about his views on the importance of religious liberty and how the Constitution protects it.

“To begin with,” Kavanaugh answered, “it's important in the original Constitution; even before the Bill of Rights, the framers made clear in article six, 'no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States'. So that was very important, in the original Constitution, that the framers thought it very important that there not be a test to become a legislator, to become an executive brand official, to become a judge … the framers understood the importance of protecting conscience, it's akin to the free speech protection in many ways … If you have religious beliefs, religious people, religious speech, you have just as much right to be in the public square, and to participate in the public programs, as others do.”

“In other countries around the world,” he said, “you're not free to take your religion into the public square.” He cited crosses being knocked off of churches in mainland China, and that “you can only practice in your own home, you can't practice, you can't bring your religious belief into the public square. And being able to participate in the public square is a part of the American tradition. I think as a religious person, religious speech, religious ideas, religious thoughts, that's important.”

Kavanaugh noted that the Supreme Court precedent has recognized that “some religious traditions in governmental practices are rooted sufficiently in history and tradition to be upheld … so the religious tradition reflected in the First Amendment is a foundational part of American liberty. And it's important for us as judges to recognize that and not – and recognize too that, as with speech, unpopular religions are protected.”

Cruz asked, of the free exercise and establishment clauses, “are they at cross purposes and intention are or they complimentary of each other?”

Kavanaugh answered that “I think in general it's good to think of them as both supporting the concept of freedom of religion … to begin with you're equally American no matter what religion you are, if you're no religion at all. That it's also important, the Supreme Court has said, that religious people be allowed to speak and participate in the public square without having to sacrifice their religion in speaking in the public square, for example, or practicing their religion in the public square. At the same time, I think both clauses protect the idea, or protect against, coercing people into practicing a religion when they might be of a different religion or might be of no religion at all. So the coercion idea, I think, comes out of both clauses as well … I think it's good to think of the two clauses working together for the concept of freedom of religion in the United States, which I think is foundational of the Constitution.”

Metuchen diocese suspends priest with close connection to Bootkoski

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 19:20

Metuchen, N.J., Sep 5, 2018 / 05:20 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Metuchen has temporarily removed a priest from parish ministry while it reexamines the handling of misconduct allegations made against him.

The priest, Fr. Alfonso R. Condorson, was ordained in 1995 in the Archdiocese of Newark by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. Condorson, previously known as Alfonso de Condorpusa, held parish assignments in the archdiocese before transferring to the Diocese of Metuchen in 2004. He was permanently incardinated in the Metuchen diocese in 2008. Condorson is now listed as pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Bound Brook, NJ.

The priest was born in Lima, Peru in 1967. According to a 2015 report in Metuchen’s diocesan newspaper, he “settled in Maryland” in 1967, and became a U.S. citizen around 1998.

Condorson has a long-standing relationship with Metuchen’s Bishop Emeritus Paul Bootkoski, who sold in 2015 a New Jersey property to the priest for $1. Bootkoski, who authorized settlements to alleged victims of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, became Bishop of Metuchen in 2002. He was also chief aide to McCarrick during the latter’s tenure as Archbishop of Newark.

The diocese is now reviewing how two allegations made against the priest were handled.

In 1997, Condorson was accused of making unwanted sexual advances on a 24-year-old male parishioner. CNA has spoken with a New Jersey man who says he was the victim of unwanted sexual advances from Condorson in that year, while the priest was assigned to Holy Trinity Parish in Hackensack, NJ.

The man, who requested anonymity because of the nature of the allegations and citing fears of repercussions to his business, spoke with CNA about the incident, which he says occurred while he was vacationing in Cancun with Condorson, in late September or early October of 1997.

He explained that Condorson was a family friend. “He had never been physical with me” in an overtly sexual way before the incident in Cancun, the man said, though he recalled at least one episode of “rough house” play that was, he said, uncomfortable.

“Then, one night” in Mexico, “in a taxi — after drinking, it was 1 or 2 in the morning — he rested his head on my shoulder. I thought he was tired, or couldn’t hold his liquor. Then, he put his hand on my knee. I hit him in the head with my camera, which snapped a picture.” CNA has obtained a digital copy of the image, but has not seen the original or independently verified the identities of the two men depicted in it.

“When we got back to the hotel, he said, "that’s when it all started.”

The man alleged that once they were back in the hotel room, “[Condorson] started mumbling something about ‘please don’t judge me’.” He went on to say, “how much he loved me, how he wanted to kiss me — had always wanted to kiss me — always been in love with me.”

The man says he responded to Condorson with “complete silence.” He told CNA that Condorson asked him not to say anything about the incident, and that it took several weeks for him to confide in his parents what had happened while he had been on vacation. The parents had noticed his agitation and aloofness, especially around Condorson, who continued to call on the family at home.

The man says his family reported the incident to Bishop Charles McDonnell, an auxiliary bishop of Newark and the pastor of Holy Trinity Parish, where Condorson was stationed. The alleged victim's father, who also spoke to CNA on condition of anonymity, said that the archdiocese “fought us all they way to the end.”

Condorson left Holy Trinity eventually — in June of 1998, sources close to the episode recall — but only after the family of the man making the allegations threatened to sue. The family says they ultimately decided not to file a lawsuit. “I never wanted money,” the man making the allegations told CNA.

Bootkoski was vicar general of the Newark archdiocese when that allegation was reported.

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Newark told CNA: “The Archdiocese investigated fully the allegation at Holy Trinity according to the protocols in place in the Archdiocese at that time for allegations of misconduct involving adults. The allegation could not be substantiated. The individual who made the accusation did state that nothing sexual had occurred. During that time, Fr. De Condorpusa underwent evaluation by competent professionals who were aware of the accusation. Those professionals concluded that there was no reason to limit or halt his ministry.”

The Newark archdiocese added that “since Bishop Bootkoski of Metuchen was Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Newark at the time of the allegation, the Diocese was aware of both the allegation and the results of the investigation.”

The Diocese of Metuchen provided CNA with a statement saying that the alleged incident happened while Condorson was a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, and was investigated by that diocese.

“The Archdiocese had an investigation which included interviews with both Fr. Condorson and the claimant, both adults. As Vicar General, Bishop Bootkoski said he was informed of the investigation by the pastor of the parish and a former pastor, also a Vicar General for the archdiocese, who both had knowledge of the situation. Based on the testimony of the two men, at that time, Bishop Bootkoski says he was informed they had conflicting accounts of what had occurred, both lacking any hard facts. The claimant, who was an adult, and his family did not pursue the matter,” the diocese said.

In 2008, a New Jersey man wrote to Archbishop John Myers of Newark and to Bootkoski, alleging that in the summer of 1997 Condoron asked him for help with computer repairs in the Holy Trinity rectory. He said that after the work was completed, the priest “requested that I stay and have a glass of wine with him.”

“Father De Condorpusa sat next to me on the love seat and took off his collar and shoes. We briefly discussed the repair of his computer when suddenly he placed his arm around me and tried to kiss me. I was shocked, got up, and asked him what he was doing.”

“He said to me, ‘I thought you wanted it, I like older men,’” the man alleged.

The Archdiocese of Newark told CNA that “the only correspondence in the Archdiocese of Newark’s files during the year 2008 relates to Fr. De Condorpusa’s request for incardination into the Metuchen Diocese.”

The Diocese of Metuchen told CNA that it did receive the 2008 allegation, and reported the matter to the county prosecutor soon after being informed. It also said its “Diocesan Response Officer” contacted “the accuser to offer to meet to discuss the letter and provided the phone number of the proper county prosecutor for reporting Fr. Condorson.”

“Having met with the accuser and no additional information being provided, and no action being taken by the prosecutor, in light of Father’s denial there was no basis for continuing the inquiry.”

The Diocese of Metuchen told CNA this week that Condorson would be withdrawn from parish ministry at the directive of its current bishop, Rev. James Checchio.

“Bishop Checchio, given the challenges involved in reviewing the allegations that are two decades old, directed Father Condorson to step aside from his parish responsibilities pending the diocese’s review of the entire matter,” a diocesan spokesperson told CNA.

Priests of Metuchen have praised the leadership of Checchio, who took over the diocese in 2016. Speaking off-record, several area priests have said told CNA they find his leadership trustworthy, and a change from Bootkoski’s administration.

A clerical source inside the diocese told CNA Condorson's close relationship with Bootkoski made the priest difficult to trust.

In response to questions about their relationship, the Diocese of Metuchen told CNA that Bootkoski “categorically denies” any accusations of impropriety in the relationship.

“According to Bishop Bootkoski, the two men are longtime friends. Any reports to the contrary are inaccurate, untrue and unfounded,” the diocese said.

On file with the Sussex County clerk’s office is a deed dated June 11, 2015, in which Bootkoski ceded interest in property located at 4 Pine Point Lane, Stanhope, NJ, to Condorson, for total consideration of $1.

Bootkoski had acquired the property in 1988 for $130,000. The net assessed value of the property — land and improvements — is currently listed at NJParcels.com as $193,900. The property carries an annual tax burden between $6,000 and $7,000. The deed — recording the sale of the property for $1 — is dated June 11, 2015 and was registered with the Sussex County clerk’s office June 22, 2015.

The Diocese of Metuchen told CNA that Bootkoski decided to give the house to Condorson after deciding that he no longer had need of it, and after his family declined interest in it.

“Bishop Bootkoski was a longtime friend of [Condorson’s], having known him before he went in to seminary from his parish assignment in Elizabeth, NJ,” the diocese said. Bootkoski was pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Elizabeth from 1983-1990.

“When planning his will with a lawyer, he was advised to sell it to him for $1, rather than include it in his estate. So he did.”

As Bishop of Metuchen, Bootkoski authorized settlements in 2005 and 2007 to former priests who say they were sexually assaulted by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who himself led the Metuchen diocese before becoming Newark’s archbishop, and then Washington’s.

Bootkoski recently stated that he informed Church authorities about reports of McCarrick’s misconduct shortly after receiving them, though the New York Times has reported that the Diocese of Metuchen was aware of allegations years before the settlements were made.

In 2015, less than a year before Pope Francis accepted his letter of resignation for limits of age, Bootkoski made Condorson the director of the diocesan office for Hispanic ministry.

In the same year, Bootkoski sold Condorson the New Jersey property.

Condorson did not respond to requests for comment.

 

CNA staff contributed to the reporting of this story.

Bootkoski claims at odds with NY Times McCarrick abuse report

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 16:31

Metuchen, N.J., Sep 5, 2018 / 02:31 pm (CNA).- Bishop Emeritus Paul Bootkoski of Metuchen said last week that claims of abuse against then-Cardinal McCarrick made to his diocese were reported to the then-nuncio in a timely manner. Accounts from some alleged victims suggest the diocese had been aware of McCarrick’s misconduct long before it was reported.

An Aug. 28 statement from the office of Bishop Bootkoski said Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò “was mistaken in his recollection of facts regarding abuses committed by Archbishop McCarrick.”

Archbishop Viganò, the former apostolic nuncio to the US, had written that Bishop Bootkoski, as well as Archbishop Emeritus John Myers of Newark “covered up the abuses committed by McCarrick in their respective dioceses and compensated two of his victims. They cannot deny it and they must be interrogated in order to reveal every circumstance and all responsibility regarding this matter.”

According to the statement from Bishop Bootkoski's office, “the Diocese of Metuchen received the first of three complaints against Archbishop McCarrick in 2004,” after McCarrick had been transferred to Washington and made a cardinal.

“The Diocese of Metuchen promptly reported each claim it received to law enforcement in multiple counties in the different states where the reported offenses took place,” the statement said.

Bishop Bootkoski said he informed the then-apostolic nuncio to the US, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo Higuera, of the claims received by the Metuchen diocese regarding McCarrick in December 2005, first by phone, and then in writing.

“Any implication that Bishop Bootkoski failed to report the accusations against Archbishop McCarrick to the appropriate church officials and civil authorities is incorrect,” the statement said.

The bishop's office provided the cover letter which Bishop Bootkoski sent to Archbishop Montalvo Dec. 6, 2005.

When he sent the letter, Bootkoski enclosed two pages detailing "three individual claims against McCarrick by adults," his office said.

While the diocese could not publish the contents of the enclosure, it summarized its contents: a priest of the Metuchen diocese, who was subsequently dismissed from the clerical state, “alleged McCarrick had inappropriate physical contact with him”; that a former Metuchen seminarian “alleged to have heard rumors of parties held at the New Jersey shore home of Cardinal McCarrick; however, he indicated he was not at any of the parties and put no credence in the rumors”; and that a priest of Metuchen who was subsequently removed from ministry dues to allegations of sexual abuse of minors in the 1990s “alleged McCarrick had inappropriate physical contact with him, including sexual touching, when he was a seminarian, as well as similar encounters with other priests of the diocese.”

According to a July 16 article in the New York Times, Robert Ciolek “filed for a settlement from the church” in 2004.

Ciolek had been a seminarian in the 1980s, and alleged abuse by McCarrick. He was ordained a priest, but left the priesthood in 1988.

In 2005, he received an $80,000 settlement from the Metuchen, Trenton, and Newark dioceses.

But the New York Times reported that Ciolek was contacted “around 1999” by Msgr. Michael Alliegro, who asked him “if he planned to sue the diocese, and then mentioned Archbishop McCarrick’s name.”

Msgr. Alliegro had served as McCarrick's secretary in Metuchen, and he was vicar of pastoral life for the diocese from 1987 until about 1999.

“And I literally laughed, and I said, no,” Ciolek told the New York Times, adding that Alliegro breathed a sigh of relief.

The New York Times reported another priest was in 2004 “forced to resign under the church’s new zero-tolerance protocols against child abuse.”

That priest told the New York Times that he had written to Bishop Edward Hughes of Metuchen in 1994 “saying that Archbishop McCarrick had inappropriately touched him and other seminarians in the 1980s.”

“He told Bishop Hughes that he was coming forward because he believed the sexual and emotional abuse he endured from Archbishop McCarrick, as well as several other priests, had left him so traumatized that it triggered him to touch two 15-year-old boys inappropriately. The Metuchen diocese sent the priest to therapy, and then transferred him to another diocese.”

The priest was paid a $100,000 settlement by the Church in 2007.

The office of Bishop Bootkoski said that “The Diocese of Metuchen received the first of three complaints against Archbishop McCarrick in 2004.”

It is evident that three men did contact the Metuchen diocese between 2004 and 2005 with allegations against McCarrick.

The first was Ciolek, whose settlement was paid in 2005. The Diocese of Metuchen was aware of his allegation at least as far back as 1999.

The second, a former seminarian, had heard rumors about McCarrick but did not allege having been abused himself.

The third is the unnamed priest who received a settlement in 2007. He first told the Bishop of Metuchen in 1994 that he and other seminarians had been sexually and emotionally abused by McCarrick in the 1980s, and that this had triggered him to touch inappropriately two underaged boys.

Before becoming Bishop of Metuchen, Bootkoski served under McCarrick in the Archdiocese of Newark for 14 years: 11 as a priest, and three as auxiliary bishop.

Diocese of Youngstown will release names of accused priests

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 14:55

Youngstown, Ohio, Sep 5, 2018 / 12:55 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Youngstown will release a list of priests who were credibly accused of sexual abuse and removed from ministry, Bishop George Murry SJ announced during a press conference on Tuesday. The Diocese of Youngstown is located in northeast Ohio.

Murry indicated that the list will be compiled over the next few weeks, before eventually being released to the public.

“During the next two months, we will bring together all of those names in one place and publish them on the diocesan website,” he said. He encouraged anyone who has been abused to share their story with the diocesan victim assistance coordinator.

Murry said that during his tenure in Youngstown, whenever a priest had been removed from public ministry after being accused of sexual abuse, any parish or school where the priest had worked was notified. Anyone who may have been abused by said priest, or knew of someone who had been abused, was asked to come forward and notify the bishop.

In addition to the creation of the public list of offenders, Murry said that the diocese is open to Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains reviewing diocesan files on priests who were accused of sexual abuse or misconduct, and that he will speak to prosecutors in the other counties in the diocese for their assistance as well.

Murry was installed as the bishop of Youngstown in March 2007. Prior to this, he was bishop of St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands. He was ordained a priest in 1979.

Tuesday marked Murry’s first public appearance following a diagnosis of acute myeloid lukemia in April. Since his diagnosis, he has undergone chemotherapy treatments and said he is “100 percent cancer-free.” At the press conference, Murry thanked the diocese for their thoughts and prayers.  

 

Despite McCarrick abuse claims, State Department leaves questions unanswered

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 05:00

Washington D.C., Sep 5, 2018 / 03:00 am (ACI Prensa).- Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick made several overseas trips with the U.S. State Department, including some documented on Wikileaks, but a State Department spokesman avoided direct questions about whether his alleged sexual misconduct has prompted a review of his work under U.S. auspices.
 
“These are very serious allegations. We refer any questions about the ongoing investigations to the appropriate law enforcement authorities,” a State Department spokesman, speaking on background, told CNA Aug. 30.
 
“The United States condemns the abuse or exploitation of children wherever it exists, and we offer sincere condolences to victims,” the spokesman continued.

CNA had asked for information about McCarrick’s roles with the State Department, a summary of his trips, and whether the State Department is reviewing the trips for potential misconduct. The department was also asked whether it had any knowledge of misconduct or rumored misconduct by McCarrick and whether it had been informed of any Catholic disciplinary action taken against the former Archbishop of Washington.

McCarrick served in diplomatic roles for both the Holy See and the U.S. State Department. In November 1996, McCarrick was invited to serve on the U.S. Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad. From 1999 to 2001 he was a member of the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom.
 
In the year 2000, the U.S. Secretary of State recommended him for the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award, a recommendation approved by then-President Bill Clinton. At the award ceremony Dec. 6, 2000 Clinton said that two years prior he had sent McCarrick as one of his representatives on “a groundbreaking trip to discuss religious freedom with China’s leaders.”
 
“In tough places, where civilians are struggling to get out, chances are you will find Archbishop Theodore McCarrick working hard to get in and to help them,” Clinton said. “The litany of countries he has visited sounds more suited to a diplomat than an archbishop: the former Soviet Union, the Balkans, the countries devastated by Hurricane Mitch, East Timor, Ethiopia, Burundi, Cuba, Haiti, Colombia.”
 
The Archdiocese of New York’s June 2018 announcement of a credible accusation that McCarrick had abused a minor decades previously set in motion a wave of allegations about misconduct, including misconduct with seminarians. It is now known that Archbishop McCarrick was the subject of two legal settlements in 2005 and 2007 with men who said he sexually abused them while they were seminarians for the New Jersey dioceses he headed until his move to the Washington archdiocese in 2001.
 
McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals on July 27, the first American ever to do so, and Pope Francis ordered him to observe “a life of prayer and penance in seclusion” until the conclusion of the canonical process against him.
 
Questions about his alleged misconduct became even more controversial after Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former apostolic nuncio to the U.S., released an 11-page statement charging that senior bishops and cardinals for more than a decade had been aware of the allegations of his misconduct against priests and seminarians. Archbishop Viganò also stated that, in either 2009 or 2010, Pope Benedict XVI imposed sanctions on McCarrick “similar to those now imposed upon him by Pope Francis” and that McCarrick was forbidden from traveling and speaking in public.
 
Most controversially, Archbishop Viganò alleges that Pope Francis acted to lift the restrictions on McCarrick shortly after his election as pope, in 2013. Viganò says that he met McCarrick in June 2013 and was told by the then-cardinal, “The pope received me yesterday, tomorrow I am going to China.” Vigano said he met with the pope the next day and told him there was a record of misconduct.
 
Whether these actions, and McCarrick’s record of abuse of adult men, were known to Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, the Holy See’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Pope Francis is now an intense matter of debate.
 
In his statement Vigano said in 2014 he read in the Washington Times a front-page report on McCarrick’s State Department-backed trip to the Central African Republic. While Vigano did not name the story, a report about McCarrick’s visit by reporter Meredith Somers appeared in the Washington Times on April 17, 2014. Titled “No rest for the retired: Cardinal McCarrick on a mission for peace in Africa,” it says the trip was a humanitarian visit.
 
Vigano said he then wrote to Parolin asking if the sanctions were still in effect, but received no reply.
 
McCarrick, who was ordained a priest by the deeply influential Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York in 1958, has spent decades in global affairs.
 
His record can be tracked through various websites, such as Wikileaks’ Public Library of U.S. Diplomacy. This includes declassified sets of State Department cables from 1973 to 1976, 1978 and 1979, as well as a set of diplomatic cables ranging in date from 1966 to February 2010 that were anonymously leaked to Wikileaks.
 
The document sets are incomplete and even those which mention McCarrick do not necessarily show direct State Department collaboration.
 
The earliest cables mentioning McCarrick, from the U.S. mission to the United Nations in 1975, discuss McCarrick’s work as secretary to Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York to help bring thousands of Vietnamese orphans and abandoned children from Saigon area to the United States. The effort included collaboration with Catholic Relief Services.
 
Some year 2007 cables include reports from McCarick's visit the Balkans at a time when Croatia was preparing to join NATO and the European Union. These cables discuss McCarrick’s advice to State Department officials and his outreach efforts to leading Croatian Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo. Local State Department personnel were focused on support for a continued Bosnian Croat presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina, lest these ethnic Croats leave for Croatia and possibly destabilize relations among Bosnian and Serb peoples in the country.
 
A 2007 cable from the U.S. Embassy to Israel discusses the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land. According to the embassy, the council was founded in late 2006 “at the initiative of Cardinal McCarrick” and Tony P. Hall, the Rome-based U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Agencies for Food and Agriculture. The council, which aimed to help religions serve as a peace-building force in the region, had financial support from USAID and the Norwegian Government.
 
A July 2007 cable from Damascus, summarizing news sources, reported that McCarrick visited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to discuss Iraqi refugees. He was joined by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Brooklyn Diocese.
 
Year 2009 cables discuss McCarrick as a potential resource in advancing U.S.-Indonesia interfaith dialogue, and also his long-time role in China.
 
In a 2009 visit to China, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi conveyed McCarrick’s greetings to Bishop Aloysius Jin of Shanghai, a priest who was a leading Chinese Jesuit, then spent decades in prison on charges of aiding counterrevolution before his release in 1982. He was ordained an auxiliary bishop without Vatican approval in 1985, though he received Vatican recognition in 2005. The bishop said he and Cardinal McCarrick had exchanged visits “beginning when the latter was Bishop of Newark(sic.).” Pelosi said she would convey the bishop’s greetings back to Cardinals McCarrick and William Keeler, then an Archbishop emeritus of Baltimore.
 
In September 2011 McCarrick was part of a religious leaders’ delegation to Iran to secure the release of American hikers detained on accusations of espionage. A reference to this trip is made in the State Department website’s record of the emails of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a Sept. 12 email from then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice to Jacob J. Sullivan, Director of Policy Planning at the State Department. Sullivan forwarded to Clinton the email, in which Rice said that the delegation was fully expected to succeed.
 
While CNA had sought information on the State Department’s internal response to reports of McCarrick’s alleged misconduct, the department spokesperson instead discussed Catholic Church action and policy.
 
“We note that Pope Francis has committed the Church to ‘act decisively with regard to cases of sexual abuse, first of all by promoting measures for the protection of minors, as well as in offering assistance to those who have suffered abuse, and carrying out due proceedings against the guilty’.”
 
“The United States expects the Holy See fully to meet its obligations to criminal justice and to ensure full implementation of its reforms and policies designed to protect minors,” the spokesperson said. “We would refer you to U.S. law enforcement and church officials on the current state of those efforts.”
 
The spokesman also left unanswered CNA’s questions about current State Department policy in response to misconduct by someone in McCarrick’s roles.
 
McCarrick’s international work included a founding role at the Papal Foundation and service as a Catholic Relief Services board member from 2000 to 2014. He served on the relief agency’s Foundation Board from 2006 to 2018, when he was removed.
 
After McCarrick was suspended from active ministry in June 2018, Catholic Relief Services said it had recently completed a “thorough global review” and asked staff to report “any knowledge of previously unreported or unresolved allegations of misconduct.”
 
“There were a few issues that needed attention and have been addressed, but none of them were related to program visits,” the July 28 statement said, which noted that agency policy barred any visitors or CRS employees from being alone with children and program participants.
 
CNA sought additional comment from CRS, including clarification whether the review was implemented as a result of the McCarrick revelations, but did not receive a response by deadline.

'Shame on you!' Cardinal Wuerl hears from protester after Sunday Mass

Tue, 09/04/2018 - 18:36

Washington D.C., Sep 4, 2018 / 04:36 pm (CNA).- As Cardinal Donald Wuerl spoke about the sex abuse crisis after Mass in Washington D.C. on Sunday, one man stood up and yelled, “Shame on you!” in protest.

“We need to hold close in our prayers and our loyalty, our Holy Father Pope Francis. Increasingly it is clear that he is the object of considerable animosity ...” Wuerl said before a Catholic in the congregation, Brian Garfield, shouted at Wuerl and walked out of the Church of the Annunciation, where the cardinal had just completed the installation Mass of a new pastor.  

At least one other woman walked out in protest of the cardinal, while another turned her back. Wuerl responded, “Yes, my brothers and sisters, shame.” He expressed regret that he had not “always been right” during his past 30 years as a bishop.

Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington D.C. and successor of former-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, came under increasing scrutiny in August because of his role in sex abuse cases listed in an Aug. 14 Pennsylvania grand jury report and because he has been accused of negligent oversight of his predecessor, McCarrick, who is alleged to have sexually abused priests, seminarians, and two minors.

Both Cardinal Wuerl and Pope Francis were directly accused of being aware of McCarrick’s misconduct in an Aug. 25 letter released by former Vatican ambassador Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.

“We confess as a Church that there has been a terrible evil present,” Wuerl said at the Sept. 2 Mass, “This confession calls on all of us, but certainly those responsible for leadership in the Church for apology, contrition, atonement, and it is never ever too late to begin that essential action of prayerful penance.”

The cardinal expressed his personal regrets in an Aug. 30 letter sent to Washington priests.

“I ask you, as I did at the Cathedral, for prayers for me, for forgiveness for my errors in judgment, for my inadequacies, and also for your acceptance of my contrition for any suffering I have caused, as well as the grace to find, with you, ways of healing, ways of offering fruitful guidance in this darkness,” wrote Wuerl in the letter.

“I would give anything, as would all of us, to turn the clock around and have the Church do everything right,” he continued.

After the Mass with Wuerl on Sept. 2, one of the protesting parishioners, Mary Challinor, told CNN, “Just because you didn’t mean to do something does not mean that there weren’t terrible consequences for lots of people … I feel he should resign as cardinal.”

Wuerl’s spokesman countered in comments Sunday to CNN: “Cardinal Wuerl has spoken extensively over the past two months, conveyed his profound sadness, apologies and contrition and addressed every issue as it has arisen in a straightforward and transparent manner.”

Protests as US Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh hearings begin

Tue, 09/04/2018 - 18:29

Washington D.C., Sep 4, 2018 / 04:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh began Tuesday. Before Kavanaugh could utter a word, Senate Democrats repeatedly interrupted the proceedings and attempted to delay the hearing, and multiple protestors were escorted from the room.

While the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing began at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 4, opening statements did not begin for more than an hour. Senate Democrats said that they had not been given enough time to review the thousands of documents released on Monday by the White House, and that the hearing should therefore be moved to another date. Senate Democrats also argued that they did not have access to documents from Kavanaugh’s time working for President George W. Bush.

Those files were not released as the White House claimed executive privilege.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) told Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that refusing to move the hearing violated the Iowa senator’s “sense of fairness, decency, and the commitment [he] made to transparency.”

Grassley said that on the contrary, this was the “most open” production in U.S. history, and that he had gone through 15 previous Supreme Court nomination processes without this kind of scene occurring.

Senate Democrats were not the only ones attempting to disrupt or move the hearing. The Women’s March, as well as Code Pink, took credit for several vocal protests that repeatedly interrupted the hearings, and multiple people were removed from the hearing room. Kavanaugh’s two young daughters were escorted out of the room after protests turned heated.

In an emailed statement, Rachel O’Leary Carmona, chief operating officer of the Women’s March, said that the reason people were disrupting Tuesday’s hearing because their “lives are at risk” and that “women will die if Kavanaugh is confirmed.”

O’Leary Carmona also said that politicians who refuse to stop Kavanaugh will be made to “pay” this November and in 2020, saying, “if you’re a Democrat, we’ll primary you - if you’re a Republican, your seat will be flipped.”

There is significant concern among abortion-rights proponents that Kavanaugh would work to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion throughout the United States. Kavanaugh has said he believes Roe to be “settled law.”

Prior to being nominated to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Kavanaugh served on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals since 2006. Before that, he was a secretary in the George W. Bush administration and was a clerk for Justice Kennedy.

In prepared remarks, Kavanaugh described himself as a “team player” who would work alongside others on the “team of nine.”  

“A good judge must be an umpire—a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no litigant or policy,” said Kavanaugh.

“I don’t decide cases based on personal or policy preferences. I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge. I am not a pro-prosecution or pro-defense judge. I am a pro-law judge.”

Chicago priest arrested in Miami has ties to shuttered program

Tue, 09/04/2018 - 17:30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Archdiocese of Chicago could not be reached for comment.

 

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

 

Why organized labor is (still) a Catholic cause

Mon, 09/03/2018 - 18:49

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bishop highlights need for just wages in Labor Day message

Mon, 09/03/2018 - 06:06

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How Catholic Charities is tackling California's housing crisis

Sun, 09/02/2018 - 18:02

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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