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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 1 hour 39 min ago

National Review Board calls for lay investigation of all misconduct claims

Tue, 08/28/2018 - 14:55

Washington D.C., Aug 28, 2018 / 12:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The body charged with advising the U.S. bishops on sexual abuse prevention has called for an independent lay-led investigation into all allegations of sexual misconduct in the Church and for revisions of the Dallas Charter.

The National Review Board (NRB), which is constituted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued the call in a sternly worded statement Aug. 28, in which it condemned a “culture of silence” in the Church hierarchy.

In a press release circulated by the U.S. bishops’ conference, the board, which is entirely composed of lay experts from different fields, said that they have been raising concerns about episcopal complacency “for several years” and called for specific reforms.

“The revelations of horrific incidents of abuse in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, along with the abuse perpetrated by Archbishop McCarrick point to a systemic problem within the Church that can no longer be ignored or tolerated by the episcopacy in the United States,” the statement read.

The board was constituted in June 2002 as part of the U.S. bishops’ response to the wave of clerical sexual abuse scandals which were revealed in the Boston Globe. The 13-member panel makes its recommendations to the USCCB’s Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People.

The board noted that, in the wake of the sexual abuse scandals of the early 2000s, new policies and procedures had been put in place – including the creation of the NRB itself. These, the board said, resulted in a “significant decrease” of incidents of abuse, but clearly underlying problems remain unaddressed.

“The National Review Board has for several years expressed its concern that bishops not become complacent in their response to sexual abuse by the clergy. The recent revelations make it clear that the problem is much deeper. We are saddened, angry, and hurt by what we have learned in the past few weeks.”
 
The statement said that “the evil of crimes that have been perpetuated” reach the “highest levels of the hierarchy,” and cannot be simply addressed with procedural and structural changes. The Board called for a “genuine change in the Church’s culture,” and singled out the bishops as particularly in need of change, noting that it was not just minors who were the victims of abuse.

“This evil has resulted from a loss of moral leadership and an abuse of power that led to a culture of silence that enabled these incidents to occur. Intimidation, fear, and the misuse of authority created an environment that was taken advantage of by clerics, including bishops, causing harm to minors, seminarians, and those most vulnerable.”

A central critique of the Church hierarchy was a “culture of silence” which, the NRB said, led to abuse running “virtually unchecked.” The need to hold bishops accountable required, according to the statement, an “independent review into the actions of a bishop” following any allegation and this could only be ensured by entrusting it to laity.

“The NRB, composed exclusively of lay members, would be the logical group to be involved in this task,” the statement observed.

The board recommended the creation of an anonymous whistleblower policy, mirroring some corporate and public sector structures, which would provide a clear, lay-led mechanism for reporting an allegation to the competent bishop, Vatican authorities, and civil law enforcement.

Existing policies should also be revised, the board said, including the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. While calling the document “helpful,” the NRB said it was a “living document” that needed continual revision in the light of experience – most notably its “deliberate ambiguity and its lack of inclusion of bishops.”

Currently, there is no clear USCCB mechanism or policy for handling abuse beyond a document called the Episcopal Commitment, which the bishops have agreed to abide by – though this document has no binding force.

The board’s recommendations called this document “ineffective” and said there need to be “concrete steps” for fraternal correction when a bishop is accused of either abuse or failure to respond to an accusation. At the same time, it said, there needs to be clear formation of new bishops on their responsibility as “moral leaders” in responding to accusations, saying that such leadership is currently lacking.

“We recognize that the overwhelming majority of our current bishops have, and continue to, take the sexual abuse of minors seriously and who act accordingly by adhering to the Charter, some even going beyond these basic requirements. However, every time one bishop fails to act, the entire episcopate is tainted.”

The statement ended by saying the Nation Review Board would consider making further recommendations in the coming weeks, and would continue to work with the USCCB.

“It is time for the laity to assume courageous leadership to help the Church respond and to heal and for the bishops to listen carefully to our recommendations.”   

Where did retired McCarrick live after alleged Vatican sanctions?

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 19:09

Washington D.C., Aug 27, 2018 / 05:09 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Washington has declined to confirm new details about the post-retirement living arrangements of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, and maintained that Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Washington’s archbishop, was unaware of alleged Vatican sanctions against McCarrick.

Archbishop Carlo Vigano, former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., claimed in an Aug. 25 statement that McCarrick was directed by the Vatican in 2009 or 2010 to discontinue living in a seminary, among other restrictions.

Vigano wrote that in 2009 or 2010 “Pope Benedict had imposed on Cardinal McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed on him by Pope Francis: the cardinal was to leave the seminary where he was living, he was forbidden to celebrate [Mass] in public, to participate in public meetings, to give lectures, to travel, with the obligation of dedicating himself to a life of prayer and penance.”

The archbishop said that McCarrick, the retired Archbishop of Washington, was at that time known by the Vatican to have committed acts of sexual immorality involving seminarians and priests.
 
On Aug. 25, the same day as the release of Viganò’s statement, a spokesman for Wuerl told CNA that “Cardinal Wuerl did not receive documentation or information from the Holy See specific to Cardinal McCarrick’s behavior or any of the prohibitions on his life and ministry suggested by Archbishop Vigano.”
 
Viganò wrote that Pope Benedict’s sanctions explicitly included an order to “leave the seminary where he was living.” At the time, McCarrick was a resident at the Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Seminary in the Archdiocese of Washington, where he had a self-contained apartment.
 
Two sources present at a 2008 meeting between McCarrick and Sambi told CNA that the nuncio instructed McCarrick to leave the seminary at that time. According to those sources, Sambi told McCarrick his departure was the direct instruction of Pope Benedict XVI. They stressed to CNA that they were unaware of any knowledge Cardinal Wuerl may have had of Sambi’s instructions.
 
McCarrick did make plans to leave the seminary at the end of 2008. His next home was the parish of St. Thomas the Apostle in Woodley Park, an upscale neighborhood in central Washington D.C.
 
One of the four priests resident in the rectory of St. Thomas’ parish in 2008-2009 recalls being told in December of 2008 that he would have to move out of his rooms in the parish to accommodate a “mystery VIP.”
 
“It was all very sudden,” he told CNA. “I was moved around but given another room in the rectory.” The priest told CNA he was informed by the pastor of the parish that it was McCarrick moving in, and that his arrival caused considerable upheaval.
 
“There was significant construction to create his suite, which took over two prior suites and two full baths, as well as the single guest room next to me which was converted into a private chapel for McCarrick's exclusive use.”
 
The construction apparently continued during the first two months of 2009, with McCarrick moving in either late February or early March.

Despite the preparations and expenditures being made for McCarrick’s arrival, Ed McFadden, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington, told CNA on Aug. 27 that “Archbishop McCarrick typically made his own housing arrangements and did not directly involve the Archdiocese of Washington.”

Archdiocesan policy requires that any expenditure by a parish of more than $25,000 have the explicit approval of either the archbishop or the Moderator of the Curia. When asked directly about the construction at St. Thomas, the Archdiocese of Washington refused to comment on who had approved or funded the renovations.  

The priest-resident of St. Thomas told CNA that he been told that McCarrick was “no longer allowed” to live in the seminary, and that Cardinal Wuerl had “ordered” the move, but he stressed that he did not have direct knowledge of those circumstances.

Fr. Rory McKee, pastor of St. Thomas in 2009, declined to comment, and directed enquiries to the archdiocesan communications office.

Despite repeated requests, the Archdiocese of Washington declined to confirm when McCarrick moved into St. Thomas, or when he left.

CNA previously reported that McCarrick next lived alongside a house of priestly formation belonging to the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE) on the property of St. John Baptist de la Salle is located in Chillum, Md.

Sources told CNA that the cardinal likely moved to the property in the summer of 2010, though the Archdiocese of Washington declined to comment.

McCarrick is reported to have had, for a time, an IVE brother in formation living in his residence, which was on the parish property but separate from the house of formation. At least two members of the IVE served as assistants to McCarrick between 2014 and 2018.

In July, the Archdiocese of Washington told CNA that McCarrick “made his own living arrangements for his retirement,” and declined to comment on his residence at the John Baptist de la Salle property.

On June 20, the Archdiocese of New York reported that it had found credible an allegation that McCarrick committed acts of child sexual abuse. Wuerl wrote at the time that he was “saddened and shocked” by the allegation.

On the same day, Cardinal Joseph Tobin confirmed that the McCarrick’s former dioceses of Newark and Metuchen had reached settlements with adults who said McCarrick had engaged in sexual misconduct. In response, Wuerl specifically denied that he had been told of several out-of-court settlements made on McCarrick’s behalf by his former dioceses of Metuchen and Newark.

On Aug. 14, a report by a Pennsylvania grand jury investigating clerical sexual abuse mentioned Wuerl, previously the Bishop of Pittsburgh, more than 200 times. Defending himself against charges of mishandling priests who had been accused of child sexual abuse, Wuerl reported in at least one case being uninformed about the scope of allegations against a priest whom he permitted to minister in the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas.

Wuerl has faced mounting pressure and calls for his resignation. Those close to Cardinal Wuerl insist that he has not asked the pope to accept his letter of resignation. Wuerl is said to be planning to attend the November plenary meeting of the U.S. bishops’ conference, which is expected to focus on the fallout of the McCarrick and Pennsylvania scandals.

 

Vigano testimony receives mixed response from US bishops

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 19:02

Washington D.C., Aug 27, 2018 / 05:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Multiple bishops have responded to a testimony published over the weekend by a former apostolic nuncio to the United States, which called for the resignation of Pope Francis and several cardinals and bishops, who are alleged to have covered-up of sexual abuse allegations against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

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

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

He added that this is how “the Pope replaced Cardinal Burke with Wuerl and immediately appointed Cupich (to the Congregation of Bishops) right after he was made a cardinal.”

In a statement issued Sunday, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago responded, saying that Vigano must be “confused about the sequence of these events,” as he was named to the Congregation of Bishops on July 7, 2016, before he was named a cardinal on October 9, 2016.

Vigano also claims in his testimony that Cupich’s appointment to Chicago and Bishop Joseph Tobin’s appointment to Newark “were orchestrated by McCarrick, Maradiaga and Wuerl, united by a wicked pact of abuses by the first, and at least of coverup of abuses by the other two. Their names were not among those presented by the Nunciature for Chicago and Newark.”

Cupich said he found these words “astonishing” because he had only ever received “supportive remarks and congratulations” from Vigano regarding his appointment to Chicago.

“As to the issue of my appointment to Chicago as well as the question of episcopal appointments in general, I do not know who recommended me for the Archdiocese of Chicago, but I do know that Pope Francis, like his predecessors, takes seriously the appointment of bishops as one of his major responsibilities,” Cupich said.  

Furthermore, Vigano asserts that Cupich is “blinded by his pro-gay ideology” because he has stated that the main issue in the sex abuse crisis is clericalism, rather than homosexuality, which Vigano says ignores findings “that 80% of the abuses found were committed against young adults by homosexuals who were in a relationship of authority over their victims.”

Cupich said that “any reference I have ever made on this subject has always been based on the conclusions of the ‘Causes and Context’ study by the John Jay School of Criminal Justice, released in 2011, which states: ‘The clinical data do not support the hypothesis that priests with a homosexual identity or those who committed same-sex sexual behavior with adults are significantly more likely to sexually abuse children than those with a heterosexual orientation or behavior.’”

At the end of his statement, Cupich called for a “thorough vetting of the former nuncio’s many claims...before any assessment of their credibility can be made.”

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark is mentioned twice by Vigano, first along with Cupich, in Vigano’s assertion that his appointment to his current position was “orchestrated” by McCarrick, Maradiaga and Wuerl.

Vigano also accuses Tobin of supporting Father James Martin, S.J., a “well-known activist who promotes the LGBT agenda.”

In a statement issued Monday, Tobin and the Archdiocese of Newark expressed “shock, sadness and consternation at the wide-ranging array of allegations...which cannot be understood as contributing to the healing of survivors of sexual abuse.”

“The factual errors, innuendo and fearful ideology of the ‘testimony’ serve to strengthen our conviction to move ahead resolutely in protecting the young and vulnerable from any sort of abuse” and guaranteeing a safe environment for all, the statement said.

“Together with Pope Francis, we are confident that scrutiny of the claims of the former nuncio will help to establish the truth.”

Pope Francis on Sunday responded to questions about Vigano’s testimony by saying that he will “not say a single word about it” and encouraged journalists and Catholics to study the testimony and its claims and draw their own conclusions.

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego is also mentioned by Vigano, who claims that his appointment to San Diego was also “orchestrated from above” by Cardinal Parolin. He also alleged that McElroy knew of “McCarrick’s abuses, as can be seen from a letter sent to him by Richard Sipe on July 28, 2016.”

In his response issued in a statement on Monday, McElroy slams Vigano’s testimony as a “distortion” that does not attempt to “comprehensively convey the truth.”

“In its ideologically-driven selection of bishops who are attacked, in its clear efforts to settle old personal scores, in its omission of any reference to Archbishop Vigano’s own massive personal participation in the covering up of sexual abuse by bishops, and most profoundly in its hatred for Pope Francis and all that he has taught, Archbishop Vigano consistently subordinates the pursuit of comprehensive truth to partisanship, division and distortion,” McElroy said.

“We as bishops cannot allow the pathway of partisanship to divide us or to divert us from the searing mission that Christ calls us to at this moment,” he added.

“We must make public our sinful past. We must engage and help heal the survivors of abuse. We must develop new, lay-governed instruments of oversight and investigation in every element of how we confront sexual abuse by clergy at all levels in the life of the Church. And we must reject all attempts to subordinate these goals to ideological or personal projects. For if we do not, we will have betrayed the victims of abuse once again.”

The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., of which Cardinal Donald Wuerl is the head, issued a statement reiterating that Wuerl has “categorically denied that any of this information was communicated to him” regarding any sanctions against McCarrick and his ministry.  

“Archbishop Viganò at no time provided Cardinal Wuerl any information about an alleged document from Pope Benedict XVI with directives of any sort from Rome regarding Archbishop McCarrick,” the archdiocese stated.

“Archbishop Viganò has not produced in his testimony any objectively verifiable proof that he in any way communicated to Cardinal Wuerl restrictions imposed on Cardinal McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI. In fact, Archbishop Viganò’s testimony says that he did not.”

Vigano wrote it was “absolutely unthinkable” that Archbishop Pietro Sambi, nuncio at the time the restrictions were imposed, would not have informed Wuerl about the restrictions placed upon McCarrick.

Wuerl’s spokesperson Ed McFadden told CNA on Saturday that Vigano “presumed that Wuerl had specific information that Wuerl did not have” regarding any specific allegations or sanctions against McCarrick.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and McCarrick, both mentioned in the testimony, have not issued responses as of press time.

While Archbishop Charles Chaput is not directly mentioned in the Vigano testimony, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which he heads, is mentioned several times, and its leader is mentioned as someone opposed by Francis and McCarrick.

Chaput’s spokesperson said that the archbishop “enjoyed working with Archbishop Vigano during his tenure as Apostolic Nuncio to the United States and found his service to be marked by integrity to the Church.”

However, Chaput declined to comment on Vigano’s testimony, “as it is beyond his personal experience."

Critics of Vigano have called the credibility of his testimony into question, in part because of Vigano’s own involvement of the case of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt, previously of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Nienstedt was accused of covering up multiple cases of clerical sexual abuse in his diocese at the time, and an investigation reportedly revealed further allegations of sexual misconduct towards seminarians on Nienstedt’s part.  

In 2016, a document was made public accusing Vigano of suppressing a 2014 investigation into Nienstedt. The memo, written by Father Dan Griffith, an archdiocesan priest who was a liaison to the lawyers conducting an independent investigation into Archbishop Nienstedt, reported that Vigano ordered the halt of the investigation into Nienstedt and the destruction of evidence once sexual and criminal allegations against Nienstedt were uncovered.

The move was “a good old fashioned cover-up to preserve power and avoid scandal and accountability,” Griffith said in the memo.

Some bishops not mentioned in the testimony have also issued responses to it, mostly calling for prayer and transparency.

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, issued a statement to his diocese saying that while Vigano’s claims have not been investigated and are “still allegations...as your shepherd I find them to be credible.”

He called for a “thorough investigation” of the testimony and said while he does not have the authority to launch such an investigation, “I will lend my voice in whatever way necessary to call for this investigation and urge that it’s findings demand accountability of all found to be culpable even at the highest levels of the Church.”

When asked by CNA why Strickland believed Vigano’s claims were credible, diocesan spokesman Luke Heinstschel responded, saying that Strickland had said “all that he wished to say for the time” in his original statement, and that “he asks that we all pray for bishops and priests at this time.”

Bishop David Konderla of the Diocese of Tulsa said on his personal Facebook page that he counts himself “blessed that it was Archbishop Viganò who called me to tell me that I was appointed fourth bishop of Tulsa.”

“The allegations he details mark a good place to begin the investigations that must happen in order for us to restore holiness and accountability to the leadership of the Church,” he added. “Now is the time for us to re-double our prayers for the church and for the victims of these crimes. St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.”

Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix said in a statement that he has known Vigano since 1979 and, “I have always known and respected him as a man of truthfulness, faith and integrity.”

While he said he had no personal knowledge of the allegations contained in his testimony, he asked that it be “taken seriously by all, and that every claim that he makes be investigated thoroughly. Many innocent people have been seriously harmed by clerics like Archbishop McCarrick; whoever has covered up these shameful acts must be brought to the light of day.”

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit issued a statement in which he said Catholics have “nothing to fear” in the face of Vigano’s claims because the “truth will set us free.”

“Whether the Archbishop’s claims are confirmed or proved to be unfounded, the truth which comes to light will show us the sure path to the purification and reform of the Church.”

He called on Catholics to pray for truth and transparency in the coming days, and urged Catholics to not lose hope.

“Christ has not abandoned us in this time of crisis. By his rising, he is Lord of all history. And in these trials, he seeks to restore the vitality of his Church,” he said.

“We must respond with abandonment to his designs, to identify the grace he offers us in this moment and to accept it willingly regardless of the cost. If we respond with hope, the Lord will take us to a new place from which we can go forth to unleash the Gospel with new power and new strength.”  

 

DiNardo calls for conclusive answers to questions raised by Viganò's testimony

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 18:13

Washington D.C., Aug 27, 2018 / 04:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, reaffirmed Monday the need for a “prompt and thorough examination” of questions surrounding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

The Aug. 27 statement of the Archbishop of Galveston-Houston was in response to a letter released by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio emeritus to the US, over the weekend.

The former apostolic nuncio’s 11-page written statement raised questions about the conduct and appointment of several U.S. cardinals and bishops, including Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, and Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore Frederick O’Brien.

Archbishop Viganò claimed that Pope Francis knew about allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and reinstated him in ministry, after Benedict XVI had imposed sanctions on him.

“The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence. Without those answers, innocent men may be tainted by false accusation and the guilty may be left to repeat sins of the past,” wrote DiNardo.

Viganò’s letter “brings particular focus and urgency” to the need for an “examination into how the grave moral failings of a brother bishop could have been tolerated for so long and proven no impediment to his advancement,” he continued.

DiNardo’s statement renews the cardinal’s earlier invitation to the Vatican to proceed with an apostolic visitation to the United States “to seek the truth.”

The cardinal said that he is eagerly awaiting an audience with Pope Francis to “earn his support” for the U.S. bishops’ plans to “seek out these answers, make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier, and improve procedures for resolving complaints against bishops.”

Dinardo apologized again to victims of clergy sexual abuse. He reaffirmed the positive steps that the Church in the United States has taken to implement a “zero-tolerance policy” since 2002, but continued:

“In other ways, we have failed you. This is especially true for adults being sexually harassed by those in positions of power, and for any abuse or harassment perpetrated by a bishop. We will do better.”

“The more she is buffeted by storms, the more I am reminded that the Church’s firm foundation is Jesus Christ. The failures of men cannot diminish the light of the Gospel. Lord, by the help of your mercy, show us the way to salvation.”

Pope Francis, asked whether it was true that Archbishop Viganò had informed him in 2013 about McCarrick’s alleged sexual misconduct with priests and seminarians, and if it was true Benedict XVI had previously imposed sanctions on the former cardinal, said he would have preferred to talk about his trip to Ireland, from which he was returning.

“I read the statement this morning, and I must tell you sincerely that, I must say this, to you and all those who are interested: Read the statement carefully and make your own judgment,” the Pope answered. “I will not say a single word on this.”

Bishops in Illinois plan to work with attorney general on sex abuse inquiry

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 13:55

Springfield, Ill., Aug 27, 2018 / 11:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Several Illinois bishops have indicated their desire to discuss with the state attorney general their dioceses' sexual abuse policies, noting the steps they have taken against clergy misconduct.

Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan said Aug. 23 that the Church “has a moral obligation to provide its parishioners and the public a complete and accurate accounting of all sexually inappropriate behavior involving priests in Illinois.”

She indicated that the Pennsylvania grand jury report on clerical sex abuse of minors identified “at least seven priests with connections to Illinois,” and that the Archdiocese of Chicago had already agreed to meet with her.

“I plan to reach out to the other dioceses in Illinois to have the same conversation and expect the bishops will agree and cooperate fully. If not, I will work with states' attorneys and law enforcement throughout Illinois to investigate,” Madigan wrote.

The following day, the Diocese of Rockford stated: “We look forward to discussing with the Attorney General’s office the Diocese’s sexual abuse policies and procedures.”

The diocese added that it has had policies for the proper handling of reports of sexual abuse since 1987, and that these are compliant “with the requirements of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, including notifying law enforcement and screening and training of our clergy, employees and volunteers, and the training of minors in the dignity of their bodies and how to resist and report inappropriate conduct. We have worked cooperatively with our law enforcement officials and the State’s Attorneys’ offices.”

The Rockford diocese also encouraged victims of sexual abuse by clerics, religious, or laity affiliated with the local Church to contact police and its own victims abuse hotline.

Also on Aug. 24, the Diocese of Joliet said, “we look forward to assisting the Attorney General’s office in answering questions about our policies and procedures regarding clergy misconduct with minors.”

The Joliet diocese noted its adoption of the policies of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and that since the charter's implementation in 2002, it “has been audited annually by a third party for our compliance with the Charter and has passed each year.”

It said it reports “all allegations of sexual abuse by clergy or other employees to the appropriate law enforcement agencies and State’s Attorney’s Offices,” and provided a link to its office for youth protection.

“The Diocese of Joliet is pleased to be a partner with state law enforcement officials to make every available effort to protect young people,” the local Church stated.

And Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois said Aug. 25 that “I certainly agree to speak with [Madigan] and pledge our diocese’s full cooperation with law enforcement officials to make every available effort to protect our people.”

“We welcome this opportunity to review the firm commitments we have made and the concrete steps we have taken to protect against clergy misconduct in our diocese.”

He said, “We are also willing to consider any additional actions that would be helpful in making our safe environment program more effective.”

Bishop Paprocki also provided information about the diocese's safe environment program and how to report abuse.

The Pennsylvania grand jury report which occasioned Madigan's statement was drafted by the office of the Pennsylvania attorney general. The report followed an 18-month investigation into thousands of alleged instances of abuse spanning several decades in six of the state's dioceses. It identified more than 300 priests accused of abusing more than 1,000 victims.

The report's release has led to calls for similar investigations in other states.

The Missouri attorney general does not have the authority to convene a like grand jury, but the Archbishop of St. Louis nevertheless invited the state's attorney general Aug. 23 to conduct an inspection of its files related to allegations of sexual abuse and to produce an independent report.

A lawyer who has represented clerical sex abuse victims in Minnesota has called for a grand jury to investigate that state's dioceses.

After 95 years, NY rules end Catholic adoption and foster services in Buffalo

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 06:01

Buffalo, N.Y., Aug 27, 2018 / 04:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Adoption and foster services through Catholic Charities of Buffalo are ending because state rules do not allow the agency to maintain its practice of only placing children in homes with a mother and a father.

“Because Catholic Charities cannot simultaneously comply with state regulations and conform to the teaching of the Catholic Church on the nature of marriage, Catholic Charities will discontinue foster care and adoption services,” Catholic Charities of Buffalo said Aug. 23.

The Catholic Charities affiliate said it cannot follow state requirements that require contracting agencies to allow same-sex couples to foster and adopt children. It cited Catholic teaching recognizing marriage as a union of a woman and a man.

Adoption services were one of the first services provided by Catholic Charities when it was founded almost 95 years ago.

“It is with deep sadness we acknowledge that the legacy of the high quality, exceptional services which our staff provides to children and families through foster care and adoption will be lost,” said Dennis C. Walczyk, CEO of Catholic Charities of Buffalo.

At present the affiliate has 34 children in foster care in 24 of its 55 certified foster homes. These children will stay in these homes, but responsibility for them will eventually pass to another agency.

Monica Mahaffey, a spokeswoman for the New York Office of Children and Family Services, said state law is clear.

“Discrimination of any kind is illegal and in this case (Children and Family Services) will vigorously enforce the laws designed to protect the rights of children and same sex couples,” Mahaffey added.

“There is no place for providers that choose not to follow the law,” she said, according to the Buffalo News.

On average, Catholic Charities helps arrange adoptions for five children per year, mostly those who are released from foster care for adoption.

“We’re a Catholic organization, so we have to practice what we do consistent with the teaching of the Church,” Walczyk said.

The Catholic Charities CEO said the affiliate’s decision was prompted by a same-sex couple’s recent application to become adoptive foster parents.

Catholic Charities’ contract with the Erie County Department of Social Services expires in March 2019.

The affiliate is working with New York state and Erie County officials to support “a smooth transition for children in foster care and foster parents” and also support those who have applied to provide foster care or adoption, its statement said.

Sister Mary McCarrick, Catholic Charities diocesan director, told the Buffalo News that Catholic teaching on marriage is commonly known and it is important for children to have both a mother and a father.

Catholic adoption and foster care agencies in several states have shut down after anti-discrimination laws or funding restrictions barred participation from agencies that place children only with married mothers and fathers.

The Buffalo announcement cited the March 2006 end of adoption services for Catholic Charities of Boston and the end of adoption services of Catholic Charities affiliates in Illinois in November 2011.

Catholic Family Center in Rochester, which is a division of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rochester, is reviewing its own policies following the decision in Buffalo, the Rochester ABC affiliate WHAM reports.

 

Former nunciature official: 'Vigano said the truth'

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 00:17

Washington D.C., Aug 26, 2018 / 10:17 pm (CNA).- Monsignor Jean-François Lantheaume, the former first counsellor at the apostolic nunciature in Washington D.C., has said that the former nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, told “the truth” in his explosive statement released to the press on Aug. 25.

The 11-page document contains specific allegations that senior bishops and cardinals have been aware of the allegations of sexual abuse against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick for more than a decade. Archbishop Viganò also states states 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 travelling and speaking in public.

In his statement, Viganò says that these were communicated to McCarrick in a stormy meeting at the nunciature in Washington D.C. by then-nuncio Pietro Sambi. Viganò directly cites Msgr. Lantheaume as having told him about the encounter, following his arrival in D.C to replace Sambi as nuncio in 2011.

“Monsignor Jean-François Lantheaume, then first Counsellor of the Nunciature in Washington and Chargé d'Affaires ad interim after the unexpected death of Nuncio Sambi in Baltimore, told me when I arrived in Washington —  and he is ready to testify to it —  about a stormy conversation, lasting over an hour, that Nuncio Sambi had with Cardinal McCarrick whom he had summoned to the  Nunciature. Monsignor Lantheaume told me that ‘the Nuncio’s voice could be heard all the way out in the corridor.’”
 
CNA contacted Msgr. Lantheaume and requested an interview with him to discuss the account attributed to him by Archbishop Viganò. Lantheaume, who has now left the Vatican diplomatic corps and serves in priestly ministry in France, declined to give an interview, and said he had no intentions of speaking further on the matter.

“Viganò said the truth. That’s all,” he wrote to CNA.

The full text of Viganò’s statement lists numerous senior curial cardinals, during the last three pontificates, as being aware of McCarrick’s alleged predatory behavior but either failing to act, or in some cases deliberately acting to cover-up McCarrick’s alleged crimes.

The former nuncio names three different Vatican Secretaries of State - Cardinals Angelo Sodano, Tarcissio Bertone, and Pietro Parolin - as having failed to curtail McCarrick’s behavior, or positively acting to support him.

“Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the current Secretary of State, was also complicit in covering up the misdeeds of McCarrick who had, after the election of Pope Francis, boasted openly of his travels and missions to various continents,” Viganò wrote.

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.” In a subsequent meeting with Francis, Viganò says he warned the pope about the long list of allegations against McCarrick but that the Holy Father did not respond.

Archbishop McCarrick is believed to still be residing within the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., under conditions of “prayer, penance, and seclusion” imposed by Pope Francis.

 

How seminaries help men discern the call to chaste celibacy

Sun, 08/26/2018 - 18:01

Denver, Colo., Aug 26, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When seminaries aim to form Catholic men to live a chaste, celibate life, it’s a matter of both the right habits and the right perspective: choosing celibacy as a way to show God’s love.

“Celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of God is a gift and as Scripture says, not all can accept this teaching, just as not all are called to live it out,” Dr. Christina Lynch, director of psychological services at the Archdiocese of Denver’s St. John Vianney Seminary, told CNA. “Seminary formation is a place of discerning this call and capacity to live it out. The man must discern with his spiritual director if he is called and the Church must also discern if she is calling this man to live this life.”

Father James Mason, President-Rector of the Archdiocese of St. Louis’ Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, reflected on celibacy from the perspective of a priest.

“When someone asks me about celibacy and the priesthood my first response is quite simple: Jesus. My desire to conform myself completely to Jesus and to give my life as he did as a sacrifice for his bride the Church,” he told CNA.

In the academic year 2017-2018, over 3,300 seminarians in the US were enrolled in post-baccalaureate studies, also known as the theologate, for both diocesan and religious orders. There were just under 1,300 college-level seminarians, and 350 enrolled in the three remaining high school seminary programs, according to figures from the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

Father Paul Hoesing, who serves as Kenrick-Glennon Seminary’s dean of seminarians and human formation director, told CNA that celibacy is “choosing to be unmarried,” and there are good and bad reasons for making such a choice.

“Some may choose celibacy for the bad reason of disdaining or avoiding marriage,” he said. “The virtue of chastity does not necessarily accompany that choice.”

Citing Christ's words, Hoesing said that celibacy is “for the sake of the kingdom.” It is a response to God’s sacrificial, enduring love.

“The chaste celibate says: ‘I want to give my life as a gift.’ Both the chaste celibate and the chaste couple can say ‘This is my body given for you’ with undivided and very joyful hearts,” Hoesing said.

“The chaste celibate declares that God’s love is as concrete and satisfying as living a faithful married life. Moreover, because the chaste celibate and the married couple are choosing their way of life as a personal response to God’s love, there is no competition. “

Both celibacy and marriage “make God’s love as evident and fruitful ‘on earth as it is in heaven’,” he said. “Whether married or single, chastity ensures that our sexuality is deeply experienced as a gift and way of communicating free, total and faithful love.”

Lynch said that all people are called to live chastely.

“Living a chaste life enables the person to right order their sexual desires and more fully receive and give the gift of love,” she said. “God created man and woman to live chastely which means to be a self-gift to each other and not use each other for gratification.”

Lynch said Denver’s St. John Vianney Seminary has a “very integrated approach in forming men.”

“We have a program called ‘Formation in Priestly Identity’ that not only addresses living a chaste celibate life but helps form men to be healthy persons who will flourish in life no matter their calling, whether marriage or priesthood,” she said. “The program intentionally addresses many tough issues, and approaches each topic as a team approach incorporating each area of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral.”

“We begin by understanding what authentic manhood looks like and how one can grow into an authentic man given the distractions in today’s culture,” she said, adding, “chastity and celibacy are counter-cultural.”

The dangers of seminary life include thinking that men can “try to live as sexual beings,” rather than integrating their sexuality into their whole person, Lynch said. This comes amid other trends including excessive use of social media, lack of “real human contact” in face-to-face relationships, and “lack of involvement in communal settings.”

There are also some positive trends.

“Sexual psychology is becoming more aware of the addictive quality of certain sexual behaviors such as pornography, masturbation, and other online relationships,” said Lynch. “There is more of a trend to work on saving marriages rather than divorce.”

Hoesing said lay Christians can provide a model for seminarian formation.

“The healthy, holy, joy-filled married man provides a standard,” he said, resulting in questions like “Could I see this seminarian in a vibrant, life-giving marriage? Does the seminarian enjoy healthy friendships with married men? Does he have real friendships of any depth or maturity at all?”

He saw some danger in a seminary formation that creates a “bubble” between seminarians and families and couples who are developing their vocation. A seminary formation that is too “long and protective” might enable an unrealistic approach to parish life, making some seminarians, priests, and bishops seem removed from “real accountability and responsibility.”

Hoesing warned against an erroneous view of celibacy which sees it as simply a “bachelorhood” in which “marriage was never really considered or an option through circumstances or choice.”

In this case “celibacy is passively endured or drifted into, because marriage may be asking too much of the man’s personality or generosity,” he summarized. In other ways, celibacy is wrongly seen as “simply a discipline” that some rationalize by saying, “The Church requires it, so I imagine God can make it possible.”

Stresses on the “useful” or “practical” effects of celibacy can be “rationalizations for the painful absence of married life.” In Hoesing’s view, these include arguments that celibacy makes one better available to serve God’s people, that celibacy protects potential spouses and children from the difficulties of parish leadership, and that celibacy provides economic efficiencies and avoids practical difficulties for the Church.

“Availability, mobility, and efficiency do not mean intimacy,” he said. “Such negative justifications terminate in a kind of deadly disdain or ignorance for how to receive intimacy from God and others in chaste friendship.”

These errors, whether self-referential or pragmatic, have consequences, said Hoesing, who declared, “chastity is the first victim in the false views of celibacy.” These rationalizations will not promote “the integration of a man’s sexuality.”

Taking a too-practical approach to celibacy sees sexuality as something to be managed, which in turn fosters a false sense of self-reliance. Viewing sexuality as problematic risks playing into self-pity, while viewing it as “simply dangerous” traps a man into self-protection.

Church movements geared towards “intentional community living” or regular faith sharing are an aid to human formation, according to Hoesing.

“When young people learn how to share their faith in a small group or community, they can learn the art of living chastity,” he said. “The virtues, especially the chastity which governs our relational gifts, are best learned with others in a community.”

“Friendship is the school of virtue and chastity in particular,” he said. “While I may have a private life with rich friendships, I cannot have a secret life and real friendships. I will not have shared my heart. Too many unchaste people live in the misery of a self-made aloneness.”

The revival of sex abuse scandals has renewed concerns about seminary life. A Pennsylvania grand jury report, citing records from six diocese, said there were credible accusations against 300 priests for the sexual molestation, groping or rape of 1,000 minors in cases going back seven decades.

In June a New York archdiocesan board ruled credible a claim that Archbishop emeritus Theodore McCarrick of Washington had sexually abused a minor as a priest in the archdiocese. That report led to other accusations of sexual misconduct, including abuse of seminarians and young priests. Two New Jersey dioceses McCarrick had led agreed to make legal settlements in 2005 and 2007 with two men who said they had been sexually assaulted by McCarrick.

McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in late July, the first American cardinal to do so.

Lynch said a failure of chastity is one reason for the sex abuse crisis, but not the sole reason.

“Abusing another person is the result of being an underdeveloped personality, a disordered personality, it is the lack of development in emotional maturity, stunted in nature,” she said.

For Hoesing, the sex abuse crisis is “a terrific failure of faith.” He suggested the crisis in the Church resulted from “a perfect storm of factors,” including the sexual revolution, systemic fearfulness, and low accountability.

Churches tended to engage in worldly self-protection, seeking to avoid scandal, and ended up brushing off the victims, rather than taking a gospel approach. Legal advice at the time included a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement, which was intended to protect victims but ended up protecting abusers, he said. Abusers were sent to psychological facilities and repeatedly “treated and released.”

There is also the problem of dissenting theologians who, while rejecting abuse, “still blindly excuse or remain complicit in relativistic immorality,” Hoesing charged.

“Bad theology results in bad pastoral practices, and these can become a playground for perpetrating greater deviance,” he said.

Wuerl denies he was informed of Vatican restrictions on McCarrick

Sun, 08/26/2018 - 00:01

Washington D.C., Aug 25, 2018 / 10:01 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington has denied a report that he was informed about restrictions apparently placed by the Vatican upon his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

“Cardinal Wuerl did not receive documentation or information for the Holy See specific to Cardinal McCarrick’s behavior or any of the prohibitions on his life and ministry suggested by Archbishop Vigano,” the cardinal’s spokesman, Ed McFadden, told CNA.

On Aug. 25, Archbishop Carlo Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States from 2011 to 2016, released a “testimony,” alleging that in 2009 or 2010, after receiving reports of habitual sexual misconduct on the part of McCarrick, Pope Benedict XVI had ordered that “the Cardinal was to leave the seminary where he was living, he was forbidden to celebrate [Mass] in public, to participate in public meetings, to give lectures, to travel, with the obligation of dedicating himself to a life of prayer and penance.”

Vigano wrote it was “absolutely unthinkable” that Archbishop Pietro Sambi, nuncio at the time the restrictions were imposed, would not have informed Wuerl about the restrictions placed upon McCarrick, who was living in Washington at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary.

“I myself brought up the subject with Cardinal Wuerl on several occasions, and I certainly didn’t need to go into detail because it was immediately clear to me that he was fully aware of it,” Vigano added. The archbishop mentioned one specific interaction, in which he raised with Wuerl a vocations promotional advertisement inviting young men to meet with McCarrick. Wuerl, he said, immediately said he would cancel the ad.

Wuerl does not dispute that he discussed with the archbishop a vocational promotion. However, according to McFadden, “Archbishop Vigano presumed that Wuerl had specific information that Wuerl did not have.”

While McCarrick reportedly did move from Redemptoris Mater Seminary in 2009 or 2010, McFadden said that “Cardinal Wuerl categorically denies that he was ever provided any information regarding the reasons for Cardinal McCarrick’s exit for the Redemptoris Mater Seminrary.”

A source close to the cardinal told CNA that Wuerl had the impression some issues had arisen when McCarrick left the seminary, but neither McCarrick nor the apostolic nuncio spoke with him about the matter.

Vigano offered a different account: “Cardinal Wuerl, well aware of the continuous abuses committed by Cardinal McCarrick and the sanctions imposed on him by Pope Benedict, transgressing the Pope’s order, also allowed him to reside at a seminary in Washington D.C. In doing so, he put other seminarians at risk.”

McCarrick was removed from ministry on June 20, after the Archdiocese of New York deemed credible an allegation that he had serially sexually abused a teenage boy in the 1970s. Since that time, allegations have been made that McCarrick serially sexually abused at least one other teenage boy, and that he sexually coerced and assaulted young priests and seminarians during his decades of priestly and episcopal ministry. On July 28, McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals was accepted, and he awaits a Vatican trial.

A source close to McCarrick’s case told CNA that when Wuerl was informed that McCarrick was being investigated for an allegation of sexual abuse, he requested that McCarrick withdraw from public ministry, and McCarrick refused. The source said that Wuerl was not permitted by canon law to forbid McCarrick from exercising ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington, and that McCarrick has also refused requests from other Church leaders to avoid travel or ministry in their dioceses.

Archbishop Vigano’s “testimony” said that Wuerl’s “recent statements that he knew nothing about it, even though at first he cunningly referred to compensation for the two victims, are absolutely laughable. The Cardinal lies shamelessly.”

Vigano’s missive said that McCarrick has exercised influence over Vatican figures for decades, saying that the archbishop has had particular influence over Pope Francis. He said that McCarrick influenced several of the pope’s recent episcopal appointments, among them the 2014 appointment of Cardinal Blase Cupich to the Archdiocese of Chicago and the 2016 appointment of Cardinal Joseph Tobin to the Archdiocese of Newark.

The archbishop’s letter said that “Pope Francis must be the first to set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses, and resign along with all of them.”

The Vatican has not yet responded to Vigano’s testimony.

World Youth Day Cross and Marian Icon tour US

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 18:09

Washington D.C., Aug 25, 2018 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has organized a tour of of the official World Youth Day Cross and Marian Icon to mark the 25th anniversary of the World Youth Day which was held in Denver.

“Each of the five locations will feature special events and liturgical celebrations in commemoration of this historic journey,” according an Aug. 23 statement from the USCCB.

The Aug. 19-27 tour includes stops in Chicago, Miami, Houston, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

“We want women and men of all ages to come out and encounter these important symbols of faith when they are here in our country," said Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, who serves as the USCCB's chief liaison for World Youth Day.

“In addition to those preparing to go to Panamá, we hope that young people and young adults who are unable to travel to World Youth Day next year will be part of these local celebrations. We also hope that veterans of past World Youth Days, including those who went to Denver in 1993, will have a chance to join us along the way.”

From the US, the World Youth Day Cross and Marian Icon will go to Panama in advance of the January 2019 World Youth Day being held there.

The USCCB stated that “at least ten U.S. bishops will be part of the pilgrimage”, listing Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Archbishop Wenski of Miami, Bishop Caggiano, Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond, Auxiliary Bishop Roy Campbell of Washington, Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville-Rodriguez of Washington, Auxiliary Bishop George Rassas of Chicago, Auxiliary Bishop George Sheltz of Galveston-Houston, and Auxiliary Bishop Marc Trudeau of Los Angeles.

Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa Mendieta of Panama will be present at the events in Miami and Washington, D.C.

Senate amendment to defund Planned Parenthood fails

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 21:00

Washington D.C., Aug 24, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The Senate on Thursday rejected a measure that would have blocked federal government funding to Planned Parenthood. The amendment, proposed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), was defeated 45-48, needing 60 votes to pass.

 

The amendment was proposed for attachment to an appropriations bill funding the department of Labor and Health and Human Services. Speaking after the vote, Paul said that the result showed many Republican lawmakers prioritized increased government spending over life issues.

 

“While I am disappointed in the outcome of this vote, I will never apologize for standing up for life. If it took exposing the preference of so many in my own party to continue reckless spending over protecting the innocent, it was a fight worth having,” the senator said.

 

Paul had previously blamed GOP leadership for filling up slots for potential amendments to the appropriations bill with empty placeholders in order to keep his proposal from making it into the final version. He said that they did so out of fears that an attempt to defund the controversial abortion provider could hold up other spending increases contained in the bill.

 

“One of the top priorities for a Republican Congress that professes pro-life values on the campaign trail should be to stop taxpayer funding for abortion providers,” the senator said when announcing the amendment. “This is our chance to turn our words into action, stand up for the sanctity of life, and speak out for the most innocent among us that have no voice.”

 

Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska both voted against the amendment and won public praise from Planned Parenthood executive vice president Dawn Laguens for “standing up and protecting access” to abortion.

 

While Paul blamed Republicans for the amendment’s failure, several Democrat senators facing closely contested reelection battles also voted against it.

 

Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana are all facing serious challenges in November and voted against Paul’s amendment.

 

The Democratic Party has become increasingly insistent on strong pro-abortion credentials for candidates. A committee of McCaskill’s own Missouri Democratic Party voted to remove language acknowledging different views of abortion from their party platform earlier this month, and Senator Manchin, though previously considered to be a pro-life Democrat, has been increasingly public in his support for Planned Parenthood and abortion.

 

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said that the senate vote would have consequences in the mid-term election in November.

 

“Vulnerable Democratic Senators have betrayed their constituents yet again by voting to fund abortion giant Planned Parenthood, and will be held accountable at the ballot box,” she said.

Who might follow Cardinal Wuerl in DC?

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 18:56

Washington D.C., Aug 24, 2018 / 04:56 pm (CNA).- In the ten days since the publication of an Aug. 14 Pennsylvania grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse, newspapers around the country have run op-eds calling for Cardinal Donald Wuerl to resign as Archbishop of Washington.

His hometown newspaper, the Washington Post, even ran a guest column dubbing Wuerl the “con man in the cardinal’s cap.” Technically, of course, Wuerl resigned from his post in 2015, and is now only waiting for Pope Francis to accept that resignation. But, until recently, many expected Wuerl to stay in his post until 2020 or close to it. The popular movement calling for his resignation is a surprise even for many of those who watch episcopal appointments closely.

It was rumored last week that Wuerl would announce that his resignation had been accepted at an Aug. 20 meeting of his priests’ council. When that didn’t happen, rumors began to swirl that Wuerl’s tenure would come to an end Aug. 24, or that it would be announced Aug. 27.

Multiple sources close to the cardinal have told CNA that they have gotten no word that Wuerl’s resignation will be accepted imminently, and a few say that Wuerl could still be Archbishop of Washington when the U.S. bishops convene in November. But whenever it happens, it seems likely that Wuerl will leave his post in Washington sometime soon.

As the pope considers when to accept Wuerl’s resignation, he must also decide who should replace the cardinal as Archbishop of Washington.

The choice of Wuerl’s successor will be significant. In fact, the decision will likely set the tone for the Church’s ongoing response to the crisis that began June 20, when the Archdiocese of New York announced it had deemed credible an allegation that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick sexually abused a teenager in the 1970s.

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There are three prongs to the present crisis.

The first is that occasioned by McCarrick’s situation directly- the concern that a man alleged to have sexually coerced and abused two minors and several seminarians and priests was able to occupy prominent positions of ecclesial responsibility without intervention by Church authorities, even after he was the subject of legal settlements negotiated by dioceses in New Jersey. That concern was exacerbated by allegations raised by Pennsylvania’s grand jury report, which alleged that Wuerl, among others, did not sufficiently address or disclose allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct on the part of priests.

The second prong is the perception, which has been expressed broadly, that bishops have not sufficiently taken responsibility for the Church’s failure to act appropriately when faced with some allegations or evidence of sexual abuse or coercion; that they have called for new policies or procedures without sufficiently understanding the disappointment experienced by Catholics, or the desire for sincere expressions of contrition, even on behalf of bishops now retired or dead, and evidence, not of a policy solution, but of a moral resolve for change- what might be called a “firm purpose of amendment.”

The third prong is the emerging concern about sexual immorality among clerics and seminarians- the perception that, as one bishop put it, that there is a “homosexual subculture” among Catholic clerics, and that institutional tolerance for licentiousness has enabled would-be abusers or the sexually coercive to go unnoticed and unpunished. The idea that there is a decided “homosexual subculture” among priests and bishops is controversial- it is not universally held, and it is an idea that warrants further investigation- but it has become a focal point of attention in recent weeks.

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The next Archbishop of Washington will be expected, fairly or not, to lead the charge in addressing those concerns, because he will be successor to Wuerl and McCarrick, and because he will be seen to have a mandate from Pope Francis to lead the Church in the United States out of this crisis.

The selection process for the appointment of a new bishop generally involves a country’s apostolic nuncio- the pope’s representative in civil and ecclesiastical affairs- along with the outgoing bishop of a diocese, the metropolitan archbishop of a region, the country’s cardinals, and finally, the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops and the pope himself.

Identifying episcopal candidates is usually coordinated by the apostolic nuncio, who consults with bishops and other Catholic leaders when an appointment is pending, vets names, and prepares reports to be sent to the Congregation for Bishops. He usually gives special significance to the opinion of an outgoing bishop, and notes any other particular considerations.

When he has sent recommendations to the Vatican, they are considered by the members of the Congregation for Bishops, who meet regularly to consider open or soon-to-be open sees, and who prepare the terna, or list, of three candidates for each see, which is then sent to the pope for selection. Because the cardinal members of the congregation cannot be expected to know or understand every part of the world, members generally have the most significant influence on the nominations coming from their part of the world.  

In ordinary times, Wuerl would be expected to play an outsize role in the appointment of his successor. He is the metropolitan archbishop of his ecclesiastical province, a cardinal, and one of two American members of the Congregation for Bishops, along with Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago.

But these are not ordinary times. It is not clear how much influence Wuerl will wield with Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S., or with the Congregation for Bishops itself. Sources in Rome and Washington say that Wuerl expects to play a significant role in the appointment of his successor, but there is no way of knowing how this will play out. If Wuerl’s role in the selection is limited, this will likely mean that Cupich, as the other American on the Congregation for Bishops, will play a more significant role than he otherwise might have, or that Pope Francis will make a personal selection based on some other criteria or some other consultation.

There has been speculation about who will succeed Wuerl since he submitted his resignation in 2015. Though this summer seems to have changed a great deal, at least in public perception, some of those who have been rumored to follow the cardinal are still likely in consideration, along with some other possibilities.

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Bishop George Murry, SJ, has been long-rumored as among Wuerl’s own top choices for the Washington job. Murry, the Bishop of Youngstown, has a doctorate in history from George Washington University in DC, and has worked in Washington for other stints. Murry served a term as secretary to the USCCB, was personally appointed by Pope Francis to attend the 2015 Synod on the Family, and was appointed to chair a USCCB committee on racism established shortly after the 2017 Charlottesville riot.

In April 2018, however, Murry announced that he had been diagnosed with acute leukemia. He reports that the treatment is going well, but he reported beginning a third round of chemotherapy in mid-August, and, even if he had been seriously considered, it is likely that his health would not now permit him to take on the demanding job.

For almost a year, there has been a great deal of speculation that Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego would succeed Wuerl in Washington; a Vatican official told CNA last October that McElroy’s appointment was a strong possibility. McElroy is a Harvard graduate, and a historian with an interest in the Jesuit John Courtney Murray; he was a secretary, and later vicar general, to the late Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco, before becoming an auxiliary bishop in San Francisco and then Bishop of San Diego in 2015.

McElroy is seen to be an outspoken, politically and theologically progressive bishop who is often said to represent some of Pope Francis’ intellectual currents. He is also said to be well regarded by Cardinal Blase Cupich, who was a longtime friend of McElroy’s friend and mentor, Archbishop Quinn.

McElroy, however, has recently faced controversy, after it was revealed that he was informed by psychotherapist Richard Sipe in 2016 of allegations that McCarrick was involved in sexually immoral behavior with seminarians. While McElroy said recently that he did not find Sipe to be credible, the controversy surrounding the report would likely be exacerbated if he were appointed to succeed Wuerl. Church watcher Rocco Palmo, for example, tweeted Aug. 10 that the revelation of Sipe’s report had “effectively imploded” the possibility that McElroy would be appointed to Washington.

Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington has also been among those rumored to be in consideration for the position. Coyne, originally a priest of Boston and a trained liturgist, became the Archdiocese of Boston’s spokesman in 2002, as it grappled with the fallout of the Boston Globe’s reporting of sexual abuse in that diocese. Coyne became an auxiliary bishop in Indianapolis in 2011, and led that diocese as apostolic administrator after the early retirement of Archbishop Daniel Buechlein. In 2014 he was appointed to lead Vermont’s sole Catholic diocese. Coyne was elected to a term as the USCCB’s communications committee chairman in 2014, which will conclude in November, and has often spoken in alignment with Cupich during USCCB’s deliberations. While those factors seem to favor the likelihood of his appointment, in question is whether Coyne’s close work and association with Cardinal Bernard Law, who left Boston in disgrace, would be considered a hindrance to his appointment in this sensitive environment.

Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle has also been among those reported to be favored by Wuerl for the position. Wuerl himself served briefly as a kind of super-auxiliary in Seattle before being appointed Bishop of Pittsburgh; he was entrusted with broad swathes of governance in the diocese during the tumultuous period overseen by controversial Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen. Sartain, regarded as doctrinally orthodox and pastorally gifted, served a term as secretary to the USCCB, and was appointed in 2012 to oversee an apostolic visitation for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella organization for many religious communities of women in the U.S. He is generally regarded as having handled that difficult task with aplomb, and forming positive relationships on all sides of an investigation, that, but for his involvement, might have been considerably more tense.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, who now serves as USCCB secretary, has also been mentioned for the position. Aymond has led the U.S. bishops’ child protection and worship committees, and is regarded as moderate and administratively competent. However, the archbishop has faced criticism for his handling of some sexual abuse issues, especially a 1999 case in which Aymond, then an auxiliary bishop, was apparently made aware of an allegation of sexual abuse against a high school coach, but did not immediately remove him from his position. While Aymond apologized for his handling of the matter, it would likely raise a red flag regarding his appointment in Washington.

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There are two other bishops who, if not already in consideration, might be in contention, in light of the fallout from the McCarrick scandal and the grand jury report.

The first is Archbishop Bernard Hebda, the Archbishop of Saint Paul-Minneapolis. Hebda, a canon and civil lawyer who previously worked in the Vatican, was Bishop of Gaylord from from 2009-2013, before becoming coadjutor bishop of Newark. Hebda was well-regarded among priests and laity in Newark, but in 2015 became apostolic administrator in Minneapolis, after the sudden resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt. In Minnesota, Hebda arranged legal settlements and navigated difficult waters as the archdiocese prepared for a bankruptcy filing. At the same time, he is said to have won the trust of his priests and begun a period of spiritual renewal in the archdiocese, after the long difficulty of a protracted and local sexual abuse crisis.

Hebda, generally regarded as doctrinally orthodox but moderate, is affable, friendly, and has the trust of clerics in many parts of the United States. And he has the reputation of a reformer. While he has been in Minneapolis only a short time, sources in DC and Rome say that his appointment to follow Washington would send a strong signal that Pope Francis is serious about reform efforts.

There is a also less prominent archbishop who might be under consideration: George Lucas of Omaha. Lucas is known as a relatively soft-spoken and talented administrator, doctrinally orthodox, personally moderate, and capable of generating interest in priestly vocations. But Lucas has considerable experience that would assist him in Washington.

Lucas became Bishop of Springfield, Illinois, in 1999. His predecessor, Bishop Daniel Ryan, had been accused of engaging in homosexual relationships with young men, priests, and prostitutes. In 2002, Ryan faced the allegation that he had solicited a teenage boy for sex in 1984. Reports of homosexual activity among Springfield’s priests was widespread- in 2004, a priest was severely beaten in a Springfield park, after he allegedly propositioned two young men for sex.

Lucas called for an independent investigation into the activities of the diocese, and of his own leadership, organized lay involvement in reforms, saw to it that priests accused of malfeasance were removed from ministry, managed the difficulty posed by predecessor, and initiated a renewal of confidence in diocesan leadership. Shortly after arriving in Omaha, he addressed another problematic organization, the Intercessors of the Lamb, a movement rife with organizational and managerial improprieties, eventually suppressing the organization in 2010.

Those experiences seem the right kind of preparation for addressing the broader crisis now facing the Church.

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The Church will not quickly recover from the crisis it now faces. It will take time to identify and address the constellation of factors that have converged this summer. That process might also include an apostolic visitation from Rome, new mechanisms of accountability and lay leadership, and a period of serious prayer and sacrifice, as Catholics try to understand what has happened, and what that means about their trust in the Church.

Predicting episcopal appointments is usually an exercise in being wrong, and this analysis may be no exception. But one thing is clear: Healthy institutions depend on many factors, but the virtue of their leaders is one of them.

Canon law says that bishops must be “outstanding in solid faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls, wisdom, prudence, and human virtues, and endowed with other qualities which make him suitable to fulfill the office in question.” As Pope Francis considers what to do about the crisis in the United States, that list will likely prove to be critical reading.

 

Catholic sisters host trivia night to support elderly religious

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 17:10

Philadelphia, Pa., Aug 24, 2018 / 03:10 pm (CNA).- As part of a fundraiser to support elderly religious, Philadelphia sisters are challenging area Catholics to a battle of wits.

CBS 3 Philly reported that a team of religious sisters will host a trivia night at 7 p.m. Aug. 28 at Maggie’s Waterfront Cafe, along the Delaware River in northeast Philadelphia.

A variety of appetizers will be provided for free, and the drink special, “Sister Mary Margaritas,” will be available for purchase.

In addition to the trivia competition, the religious sisters will also share about their lives and ministries to attendees. Bonus questions will feature trivia on Catholic sisters. 

Organized by Supporting Our Aging Religious or SOAR, the sisters hope to raise awareness and funds for the needs of retired religious. The organization distributes grants to support the immediate needs of elderly religious sisters, brothers, and priests throughout the United States. Grants may go toward nurse call stations, hospital beds, handicap accessible renovations, and other necessities.

SOAR hosted a trivia night in Arlington, Virginia earlier this year, drawing a crowd of about 100.

The need for financial support for retired religious is significant, according to the U.S. bishops’ National Religious Retirement Office. A report commissioned by the office has predicted that 2034, religious organizations may face a $9.8 billion deficit in retirement funds.

'God saved my life through sports' - Catholics prepare for Ironman race

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 14:00

Dallas, Texas, Aug 24, 2018 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Competitors in an Ironman race swim 2.4 miles and bike 112 miles, and then run a marathon to complete more than 10 hours of racing that tests athletes’ highest levels of endurance. For some Catholics, preparing for an Ironman contest includes spiritual, as well as physical conditioning.

Karime Nevarez is a Catholic mother of two, who has not only competed in multiple Ironman races, but she is training to race the fastest endurance athletes in the world.

As she prepares to compete in the Ironman World Championship in South Africa on Sept. 1, Nevarez shared with CNA how faith has been the foundation of her training.

Nevarez wakes up at 4 a.m. six days a week to begin her triathlon workouts at 5 a.m., so that she can be home in time to take her children to school. However, lately she has been training at 11 p.m. to acclimate to the time change in Africa.

“If I did not have God in my life, I couldn’t be doing this,” she said, “Everything I do I offer to him. Everything for his glory. I’m sure that I couldn’t do this on my own. My own strength is not enough. I need spiritual help.”

Two years ago, Nevarez did not know how to swim. This proved to be her biggest challenge as she prepared to compete in her first half-Ironman race in Monterrey, Mexico in 2016.

“Before we started to swim, I prayed and asked God, ‘I know you are too busy, but you helped Peter walk on water. Allow me to finish swimming this 1.2 miles,’” she said.

Nevarez still prays the rosary as she swims. She also likes to meditate on Isaiah 40:31, “They who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings. They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.”

When Nevarez has young, she struggled with her mental health, even contemplating suicide. She said that God lifted her out of this struggle by giving her an opportunity to participate in sports, like basketball and running, as a teenager in Mexico.

“God saved my life through sports,” she said.

Sports and faith have also been a positive outlet for her children.

One of her children, Sergio, has autism. “My son is really in love with Jesus,” said Nevarez, who shared that her eight-year old often asks her to go to the church to see Jesus and touch the crucifix.

It was her son who inspired Nevarez to create a triathlon race for children in her neighboring community across the border in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico last year. Eighty children signed up, and it has since become an annual community event. Sergio, loved it. He says that he wants to be an Ironman when he grows up.

Her Catholic faith will be apparent to anyone who sees her triathlon suit in the international event.  She designed it to have a cross and the word, “fiat,” for the annunciation, on the front, and “A.C.T.S.” on the back, which stands for adoration, community, theology, and service.

Navarez is dedicating her world championship race to her son and to other children with autism.

Another athlete training for the Ironman race is using the competition to raise money for pregnant mothers.

Henry Olivi has never competed in a triathlon before, let alone an Ironman. As he attempts his first full Ironman in Florida this fall, he is asking friends and family to support a local non-profit, “In My Shoes.”

“In My Shoes” offers women who are pregnant and homeless housing, counseling, and spiritual support.

“I’m very pro-life,” said Olivi, who is a parishioner at St. Thomas Aquinas in Dallas, Texas.

“In the world we live in, with abortion being easily and readily available, ‘In My Shoes’ gives these women hope and encourages them to bring new life into the world, like God intended. That is near and dear to my heart,” he told CNA.

“I have always been a person who likes to do extreme things, a competitor, and God has given me the ability to have the endurance to keep going,” he explained.

“Anything that I want to do, I try to do it for the glory of God,” Olivi continued, “I thought that this would be a good way to use my gifts and give back.”

Questions raised about McElroy's response to 2016 McCarrick allegations

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 13:00

San Diego, Calif., Aug 24, 2018 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The Bishop of San Diego has explained why he did not respond to a 2016 letter alleging sexual misconduct on the part of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and other Catholic clerics.
 
The letter was sent to Bishop Robert McElroy by psychotherapist Richard Sipe.

McElroy has been reported as a frontrunner to succeed Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC. Calls in recent weeks for the cardinal’s resignation follow an Aug. 14 Pennsylvania grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse, which questions the cardinal’s handling of sexual abuse allegations during his tenure as Bishop of Pittsburgh.

McElroy now faces questions regarding accountability and transparency surrounding abuse reports.

A former Benedictine priest, Sipe left the priesthood in the 1970s and married a former nun. He then spent several decades studying clerical sex abuse and calling for reform, and was a source for the Boston Globe team of reporters who broke the story of the 2002 Church sex abuse scandal.

Sipe estimated that 50 percent of priests are living unchastely, and 6 percent of clergy are abusers, though those estimates have faced frequent challenges from other researchers, including a 2004 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, commissioned by the U.S. bishops’ conference.

Sipe wrote to Bishop McElroy in 2016, listing allegations against half a dozen bishops – including then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick – and warning of a broader problem of chastity violations among clergy.
 
“Sooner or later it will become broadly obvious that there is a systemic connection between the sexual activity by, among and between clerics in positions of authority and control, and the abuse of children,” Sipe wrote in the letter.
 
“When men in authority – cardinals, bishops, rectors, abbots, confessors, professors –are having or have had an unacknowledged-secret-active-sex life under the guise of celibacy an atmosphere of tolerance of behaviors within the system is made operative.”
 
The letter, which was published on Sipe’s website, drew media attention following the psychotherapist’s death earlier this month.

On Aug. 17, McElroy issued a public statement on the matter, noting Sipe’s death on Aug. 8. He said that Sipe had requested to meet with him about clergy sex abuse in 2016.
 
Over the course of “two long, substantive, cordial and frank discussions about the history of clergy sexual abuse in the United States,” McElroy said, Sipe made allegations against several bishops – including some who were then in ministry – and said that he was planning to approach the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, about the issue.
 
McElroy said he raised concerns that some of the Sipe information may be inaccurate.
 
“In two instances we discussed, I had certain knowledge of individuals being investigated and cleared yet he still leveled accusations against them,” the bishop said.
 
“Dr. Sipe stated that he was making many of his allegations against existing bishops based on information that he had received from his work in legal cases on behalf of survivors of abuse,” McElroy said, but asked if he could share specific corroborating documents, Sipe said he was unable to do so.
 
After Sipe requested a third meeting but was told by the McElroy’s assistant that the bishop could not meet with him that month, he hired a process server who came to the office, posing as a donor wishing to hand-deliver a check, McElroy said. The process server delivered a letter from Sipe.

McElroy said he did not respond to that letter because Sipe's use of a process server, and apparent dissemination of the letter, made him untrustworthy.

“After I read it, I wrote to Dr. Sipe and told him that his decision to engage a process server who operated under false pretenses, and his decision to copy his letter to me to a wide audience, made further conversations at a level of trust impossible.”
 
Sipe’s July 28, 2016 letter warned of a widespread culture of illicit sexual activity among clergy. Pointing to his time as a staff member at three major seminaries, he said that patterns of sexual behavior are often established “during seminary years or in early years after ordination when sexual experimentation is initiated or sustained.”

“A serious conflict arises when bishops who have had or are having sexually active lives with men or women defend their behavior with denial, cover up, and public pronouncements against those same behaviors in others,” he said. “Their own behavior threatens scandal of exposure when they try to curtail or discipline other clerics about their behavior even when it is criminal as in the case with rape and abuse of minors, rape, or power plays against the vulnerable.”
 
In the letter, Sipe listed allegations against several bishops, including reports of misconduct by Archbishop John Neinstedt and Bishop Robert Brom, abuse by Bishop Thomas Lyons and Bishop Raymond Boland, and cover-up by Cardinal Roger Mahony.
 
He also said that he had interviewed 12 priests and seminarians who described sexual advances and activity on the part of then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
 
Sipe referenced a settlement against McCarrick, which he said described the cardinal’s sexual behavior and included correspondence from him.
 
McCarrick’s sexual propositions and harassment were covered up by intimidation, Sipe said, with priests and seminarians unwilling to speak up about it, for fear of risking their reputation and facing retaliation.

In one case, he said, a priest was told by the chancery office, “if you speak with the press we will crush you.”

In a recent letter to diocesan clergy, responding to the Pennsylvania grand jury report, Bishop McElroy lamented “the complicity of the leadership of the Church, which magnified abuse in so many instances by placing fear of scandal and a clerical culture above the foundational need to protect minors at all costs.”

He added that “(e)very bishop in our land bears a collective debt of guilt for these acts of abuse,” and called for cooperation in creating “not only a new structure, but also a new culture within the life of the Church.”

Ordained a priest in 1980, McElroy became the secretary of San Francisco Archbishop John Quinn two years later. He continued in graduate studies and parish work until he was appointed vicar general under Quinn in 1995.
 
Quinn would resign the following year, at age 66, amid complaints over his plan to close some of the city’s historic churches, and accusations that the archdiocese had failed to act on allegations of sexual abuse by two priests.
 
In 2017, McElroy delivered the homily at Quinn’s vigil. He praised the late archbishop as “a man who combined continuity and transformation, and in that identity lay his greatness as a leader in the church in the United States.”
 
McElroy remembered Quinn for his work in nuclear deterrence and outreach to AIDS victims, as well as his collaboration with laity and women religious, and his call for “a rearticulation of Catholic teaching on responsible parenthood.”
 
McElroy would go on in 2010 to become an auxiliary bishop in San Francisco, and was named Bishop of San Diego in 2015. In that role, he has echoed Pope Francis’ emphasis on poverty and care for the environment.

Reports that McElroy might succeed Wuerl in Washington first surfaced in the fall of 2017. Wuerl, 77, submitted a letter of resignation to Pope Francis in 2015, at the customary age of 75, though it has not yet been accepted by the pope.

Faith, life and learning: Catholics in Arkansas get a new high school

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 05:01

Little Rock, Ark., Aug 24, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Northwest Arkansas has its first independent Catholic school with the Aug. 16 opening of Ozark Catholic Academy.

“Our goal has not been to just open the doors, but to open them well,” John Rocha, the academy’s head of school, told the Arkansas Catholic newspaper.

Ozark Catholic Academy has enrolled 24 students for ninth and tenth grade in its first academic year, with its first senior class set to graduate in 2021.

It is temporarily based at St. Joseph Church in Tontitown, Ark., about 200 miles northwest of Little Rock. It is drawing students from the area, including some as far as Subiaco, a small town about a two-hour drive away.

One student, Matthew Moix, said his three older brothers attended Catholic grade school and junior high.

“But, nobody in my family has been through Catholic high school so I was the first one, and obviously, my parents were very excited,” Moix told the Fort Smith CBS television affiliate KFSM.

He said Ozark Catholic Academy “integrates the Catholic faith into everything.”

Beth McClinton of Fayetteville said her son would leave another private school to attend the school.

“We had hoped and prayed for a Catholic high school in northwest Arkansas since we experienced the fruits of having our children attend Catholic school in their primary years,” she said. “It has been 80 years since a new Catholic high school has opened its doors in Arkansas and northwest Arkansas has the highest number of registered Catholics in the state.”

Four of the state’s five largest Catholic parishes are in northwest Arkansas.

Ozark Catholic Academy has a college preparatory program with an emphasis on service and Catholic identity.

Its vision “aims to implement the Catholic Church’s mission of sanctification and evangelization through the Catholic intellectual tradition,” according to its website. Its mission is to engage students in “a rigorous, integrated education that enables them to behold the fullness of reality through both faith and reason and to live the virtues that make one fully human and truly free.”

The school's coat of arms includes, in Latin, four words: freedom, docility or openness, truth, and sanctification.

Rocha, the head of school, was a founding staff member of the independent Catholic liberal arts boys’ school Western Academy in Houston, Texas. He served the school as development director and as a member of its administrative council.

The school will run a student leadership trip to Auxier, Ky. Students there will work with Hand in Hand ministries, an immersion experience intended to teach them about real world needs and how to serve with compassion.

“This will provide a Catholic world view for those students in understanding social justice issues and the drug epidemic that plagues this part of the country,” said Rocha. “For teenagers it is easier to help others, but we will challenge them to come back and truly love those around them in small actions, as well.”

He also noted Ozark Catholic Academy’s advisory program, which is one-on-one mentoring between a faculty member and a student.

“Building this relationship will help build stronger relationships among staff and students,” he said. “We believe strong relationships both with faculty and other students will help build a strong culture for the school. We also want students to continue to build relationships at home.”

Rocha said the push to launch the school began four-and-a-half years ago through the work of two sisters, Ashley Menendez and Adriana Stacy. Community supporters worked about 20,000 volunteer hours to launch the school.

Norma Ascenscio of Rogers, Ark., the mother of a new student, told the Arkansas Catholic her daughter went to a Catholic elementary school, adding, “I want her to be sure of her faith.”

“In today’s world, so many things occupy first place in their lives, but I want my daughter to be a person who loves God and is loved by God,” Ascenscio said.

Mark Breden of Fayetteville, a retired Procter and Gamble employee who is acting president of the school’s board of governors, said the new school should help companies recruiting families to move to the area. He said the school would emphasize building wisdom and character through Catholic education.

While the school is not operated by a parish, religious order or diocese, its religious curriculum must be approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and it must follow the directives of the local bishop, Anthony Taylor of Little Rock.

St. Louis archdiocese invites attorney general to review files

Thu, 08/23/2018 - 20:00

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 23, 2018 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Robert J. Carlson has invited the Missouri attorney general’s office to conduct an inspection of its files related to allegations of sexual abuse and to produce an independent report.

In an Aug. 23 letter to Missouri Attorney General Joshua D. Hawley, Carlson said that he was aware of requests from members of the public for an investigation into the Catholic Church in the state.

“We have always cooperated with law enforcement in any investigation into these matters and will continue to do so,” Carlson said.

In Missouri, the state attorney general does not have the power to convene a grand jury such as the one which published an Aug. 14 report into the handling of sexual abuse allegation in six dioceses in Pennsylvania. That report identified allegations of sexual abuse involving 300 priests and more than 1,000 potential victims over 70 years.

Hawley, in a conference call with journalists, said that he was “heartened” by the offer of full cooperation from the archdiocese. He thanked the archbishop for the invitation in a letter issued today.

“We appreciate your leadership and your commitment to public transparency and accountability,” Hawley wrote.

The attorney general confirmed that he would assemble a team of experienced attorneys and prosecutors to conduct a “vigorous, searching, and comprehensive inquiry” which would review documents and interview potential victims and witnesses to alleged abuse.

Archbishop Carlson’s letter noted that steps had already been taken to ensure that its processes for handling complaints were sufficient.

“Last year, I instructed that a review of our safe environment protocols to protect children and vulnerable individuals be undertaken by a former member of the FBI with experience in this area. She found our protocols to be appropriate and robust.”

In a statement released before the letter, Carlson said that he found the Pennsylvania grand jury report deeply disturbing.

“Priests are called to be spiritual fathers to their people, and bishops are called to be shepherds of their flock, to protect the people in their care. We know that in many cases that has not happened. The trust of the faithful has been violated.”

Archbishop Carlson has led the Archdiocese of St. Louis since 2009, when he replaced Cardinal Raymond Burke. Burke served as archbishop in St. Louis from 2004-2008, when he was appointed the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura - the Vatican’s highest court. The archdiocese had previously was led by Cardinal Justin Francis Rigali from 1994-2003.

In his call with reporters, Attorney General Hawley said that the investigation would be “probing and comprehensive” and begin as soon as possible, with the resulting report and any recommendations it may include being presented to local prosecutors.

Archbishop Carlson said in his statement that “we must act on behalf of the victims of this abuse in order to bring to them the love, healing, and light of Christ.”

 

US appeals court rules against abortion restriction in Alabama

Thu, 08/23/2018 - 19:09

Atlanta, Ga., Aug 23, 2018 / 05:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An injunction blocking the enforcement of an Alabama law that would have banned a second-trimester abortion procedure was upheld by a federal appeals court on Wednesday.

The 2016 law in question would have criminalized dilation and evacuation abortions (D&Es), dubbed “dismemberment abortions” by the state Alabama, which are the most common type of abortion performed in the second trimester.

Dilation and evacuation abortions are only used by two abortion clinics in the state, West Alabama Women’s Center and Alabama Women’s Center, which challenged the law with representation from the American Civil Liberties Union.

In a 3-0 decision Aug. 22, the judges of the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit found the law to be unconstitutional. The law was similarly blocked last October by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson, who said it was unconstitutional because it would have effectively banned abortion in the state after the first trimester.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall told reporters that while he was disappointed with the court’s decision, he was encouraged that the court “recognized the state's important and legitimate interests in ending barbaric abortion procedures - in this case, procedures that literally tear apart babies living inside their mothers' wombs."

In his decision, Chief Judge Ed Carnes wrote that “the State has an actual and substantial interest in lessening, as much as it can, the gruesomeness and brutality of dismemberment abortions. That interest is so obvious that the plaintiffs do not contest it.”

“But the fact that the Act furthers legitimate state interests does not end the constitutional inquiry. The legitimacy of the interest is necessary but not sufficient for a pre-viability abortion restriction to pass the undue burden test,” he said.

Carnes wrote that the Alabama law posed an “undue burden” on women seeking second trimester abortions because the alternatives were not considered “safe, effective or available.”

“In our judicial system, there is only one Supreme Court, and we are not it. As one of the ‘inferior Courts,’ we follow its decisions,” Carnes wrote.

U.S. District Judge Joel Dubina wrote separately to concur with Carnes, adding that he agreed with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ criticism of the Supreme Court’s “abortion jurisprudence”, which “has no basis in the Constitution.”

“The problem I have, as noted in the Chief Judge’s opinion, is that I am not on the Supreme Court, and as a federal appellate judge, I am bound by my oath to follow all of the Supreme Court’s precedents, whether I agree with them or not,” Dubina wrote. “Therefore, I concur.”

U.S. District Judge Leslie Abrams wrote separately to note that she agreed with the court in its final decision only.

Marshall has said his office may appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

Alabama has had mixed results in passing recent pro-life legislation. In August 2017, a federal judge struck down an Alabama law requiring more scrutiny for minors who seek an abortion without parental consent.

The state is still considered to be one of the most restrictive in terms of abortion law. Alabama law requires that women be given counseling and an ultrasound prior to having an abortion, though it is optional for the woman to view the ultrasound image. It also has restrictions on the health insurance coverage of elective abortions that are not performed for reasons of life endangerment, rape or incest.

Texas priest missing amid abuse allegations

Thu, 08/23/2018 - 18:43

Dallas, Texas, Aug 23, 2018 / 04:43 pm (CNA).- A Texas priest under investigation for sexual abuse has disappeared, the Diocese of Dallas announced this week. Officials believe he may have fled to his native country, the Philippines.

Father Edmundo Paredes was the pastor at St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Oak Cliff, Texas, before he was investigated by the church last year for stealing from the parish. Paredes acknowledged financial irregularities and was suspended from ministry in June 2017, the diocese said in a statement.

Church leaders suspect the priest took an estimated $60,000 to $80,000 during his 27 years at the parish.

At the time of his suspension, the Church had no knowledge of abuse allegations, the diocese said.

In February 2018, the Diocese of Dallas was informed of allegations that Paredes had molested three teenage boys between 10 and 20 years ago. The diocese said that it “immediately filed a report with law enforcement agencies so that an investigation could be launched.”

The allegations have been deemed credible, and the Church has hired two private investigators to locate the missing priest, Dallas Bishop Edward Burns said. The Church has also been in contact with the Filipino authorities.

Bishop Burns informed parishioners at St. Cecelia of the allegations against Paredes at Mass over the weekend. He remained after Mass to meet with parishioners.

Father Paredes has been banned from functioning or representing himself as a priest, the bishop said.

In a statement, the diocese said it had not made the allegations public sooner because it “did not want to hinder the investigation by law enforcement.”

“Bishop Burns was prepared to announce this allegation in March, but there was concern for the victims who asked that he would be committed to his anonymity in the community,” the diocese said.

“Because [Paredes] had not been at St. Cecilia or any other parish since June 2017, Bishop Burns tried to be sensitive to the victims' request. When the Pennsylvania report was made public the Bishop believed [he] needed to inform the community of the allegations against the now suspended priest.”   

During Mass, Bishop Burns vowed to be transparent, with respect to the victims’ privacy, and offered his prayers and sympathy to the victims and community.

“With the utmost sensitivity to victims, I have pledged to continue efforts of transparency and need to make you aware of this atrocious and sad event,” he said.

“I offer my heartfelt apologies that these crimes have happened in your parish and please know I am praying for all victims of sexual abuse and for all of you here in the St. Cecilia community.”
 

 

Priests call Word on Fire conference a consoling encounter with scripture

Thu, 08/23/2018 - 18:01

Orange, Calif., Aug 23, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Returning from Bishop Robert Barron's conference held this week on preaching, several priests said the experience was a grace-filled time to focus on one of the most important roles with which they are tasked.

The inaugural Word on Fire National Conference for Priests was held Aug. 20-22 in Huntington Beach, Calif., fewer than 20 miles southwest of Orange. Sponsored by the Napa Institute and led by Bishop Barron, an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, the gathering of more than 300 priests focused on homiletics.

“It was very helpful,” Fr. Matthew Magee of the Archdiocese of Denver said, to hear Bishop Barron “talk about [how] the first office, the primary office we have as priests, is to preach.”

Fr. Magee told CNA it was wonderful to have re-instilled the “importance of the gift of preaching … and to open up our hearts to experience what that is from a different perspective, and then to be able to collaborate with other priests about what that means for our ministry.”

The conference was meant to help priests guide parishioners through the Bible, to preach Christ-centered homilies, to present the gospel as a yes to life and to love, and to use beauty in preaching.

Along with Bishop Barron, another presenter was Dana Gioia, the California Poet Laureate and a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Fr. Joe McLagan, also of the Denver archdiocese, said Gioia “gave a talk on beauty which was quite good … he used several, about five, different pieces of literature to coalesce into the fact that beauty needs to be brought back into the world,” and how the words of preaching can do that.”

Bishop Barron's talks focused on theory of preaching, as well as philosophy, theology, and scripture, and finally practicalities. He also shared insights from the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, whom he served as a priest for nearly 20 years.

“It's putting preaching back to a level of importance that some people can relegate it from,” Fr. McLagan said.

Fr. Eric Zegeer, a priest of the Archdiocese of Miami who will be teaching homiletics this autumn, is studying for a doctorate in preaching.

“I found it still very informative and helpful,” he said, “so at any level of study in homiletics, or experience, there's a lot to get out of it.”

Fr. Zegeer also described the conference as a consoling time of priestly fraternity.

“The fraternity and fellowship … was a great source of consolation, a wonderful experience of fraternity. It was a grace-filled, restful, and prayerful few days.”

Fr. Jason Keas of the Diocese of Colorado Springs called it “a God-anointed time … to gather as brother priests to focus on the word of God and our mission, to kind of get back to the basics of the teachings of the Church.”

“It was great to gather as priests, to build each other up, to encounter the Word, to be a support to one another.”

He said it was wonderful to consider the gift of the intellectual life and the importance of studying scripture to find Christ.

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