CNA News

Subscribe to CNA News feed CNA News
ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa ( is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 27 min 27 sec ago

Ave Maria president denounces 'defiance' of pope by 'conservative Catholics'

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 08:00

Venice, Fla., Aug 30, 2018 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Jim Towey, president of Ave Maria University, said Wednesday that he unhesitatingly supports Pope Francis, in the wake of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò's call for the pope's resignation.

Archbishop Viganò, the emeritus apostolic nuncio to the US, alleged that Francis ignored sexual misconduct allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick (who resigned from the cardinalate July 28), lifting sanctions on the former Archbishop of Washington which had been imposed by Benedict XVI.

Towey's Aug. 29 statement “regarding the rift within the Church” characterized Archbishop Viganò's testimony as part of a “rift between Pope Francis and some conservative members of the Church hierarchy”, the “battle lines” of which were drawn “five years ago shortly after the Pope ascended to the chair of Saint Peter.”

Towey quoted the pope's 2018 apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, in which Pope Francis criticized "false prophets, who use religion for their own purposes, to promote their own psychological or intellectual theories. God infinitely transcends us; he is full of surprises.”

Affirming that God is full of surprises, the university president asserted that “the call for the Pope’s resignation by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò is not one of them. Neither is the challenge to the Pope’s authority by Raymond Cardinal Burke, an American prelate who has consistently opposed the direction Pope Francis has led the Church on certain matters.”

Towey also speculated that Cardinal Burke “may still be smarting” from his 2014 removal as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.

Towey stated that the timing of the release of Archbishop Viganò's testimony seemed to be meant “to inflict the maximum damage possible to the Pope’s credibility, and the choreographed chorus of support by others in league with them, was just as troubling.”

“Contrary to the popular narrative, most conservative Catholics are not following suit and embracing their defiance, and certainly not on our campus,” he added.

Towey said Ave Maria University is known “for our unqualified fidelity to the Church”, which he said “we do … not because we are conservative (we are) but because this is the requirement of discipleship. This explains why our students love Pope Francis and support him wholeheartedly.”

Noting that the Roman Pontiff is the successor of St. Peter, who “bears the anointing of the Holy Spirit”, Towey said that “conservative Catholics may legitimately disagree with Pope Francis’ take on everything from the environment and capitalism, to marriage and family.”

He called such “dissent” healthy “when properly channeled and respectfully communicated.”

“But when Church dissent becomes openly hostile and rebellious, and some members of the hierarchy assert their opinions as if they were elected pope instead of Francis, faithful Catholics like our students will rally to the Supreme Pontiff’s defense,” Towey asserted.

Towey added that “we forgive” Francis, who “has admitted that he failed in his own response to the clergy sex abuse scandal and its cover-up.”

He also said that Francis “wasn’t the only one to be charmed by now-disgraced Cardinal Theodore McCarrick,” saying that “Saints John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta also knew Cardinal McCarrick personally and were deceived by him, too.”

Towey said that “personal attacks against the Vicar of Christ and calls for his resignation are wildly divisive and patently wrong … at a time when the Church is roiled by scandal occasioned by so many within the hierarchy.”

“Those so-called conservative Catholics who now challenge the Holy Father’s legitimate authority and openly undermine his papacy, are betraying their own principles and hurting the Church they profess to love. They should stop now,” Towey maintained.

Among the US bishops, Archbishop Viganò's testimony has received a mixed response.

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago found it “astonishing,” and 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 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,” and Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego called the former nuncio's words a “distortion.”

By contrast, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler said that while Archbishop Viganò’s claims have not been investigated and are “still your shepherd I find them to be credible.”

Bishop David Konderla of Tulsa said Archbishop Viganò's allegations “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.”

Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City both also called for an investigation of Vigano’s claims, and both have affirmed their respect for the former nuncio.

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

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

Towey, who dismissed Archbishop Viganò's testimony as "personal attacks against the Vicar of Christ," has served as president of Ave Maria University since 2011.

When he was named president of the university, he told the National Catholic Register that his bishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, “twisted my arm a little bit when I was discerning to take the job.”

Archbishop Viganò wrote in his testimony that Cardinal Wuerl knew of McCarrick's misdeeds: “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.”

Ed McFadden, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington, told CNA that Wuerl categorically denies having been informed that McCarrick’s ministry had been restricted by the Vatican.

The bishops on the board of trustees of Ave Maria University are Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice in Florida, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, and Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

O’Malley is mentioned by Viganò’s testimony, which said that the cardinal’s “latest statements on the McCarrick case are disconcerting, and have totally obscured his transparency and credibility.”


Catholic judge defends death penalty sentence on theological grounds

Wed, 08/29/2018 - 18:39

Cincinnati, Ohio, Aug 29, 2018 / 04:39 pm (CNA).- A Catholic judge in Ohio who recently sentenced a man to death defended his decision on both legal and theological grounds.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Patrick Dinkelacker sent convicted serial killer Anthony Kirkland to death row Aug. 28, agreeing with a jury’s recommendation of capital punishment.

Kirkland, 49, was convicted of killing three women and two teenage girls. He has been serving a life sentence for two of the adult murders, while the death sentence was handed down for killing a 13- and 14-year old girl.

“As a person who morally believes in the sanctity of life, to judge another to determine if the imposition of the death penalty is appropriate is not a duty I take lightly,” Dinkelacker said, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

He stressed the rule of law, saying without it, “those not able to protect themselves become prey for those like Kirkland.”

“I took an oath to follow the law and I will do that,” the judge said, according to Fox 19 Now. “To do otherwise, is morally, legally, philosophically and theologically wrong.”

But Dr. Kevin Miller, a theology professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, suggested that following the law does not require the use of the death penalty.

“Prosecutors in Ohio are never obliged by state law to request – and judges are never legally obliged to impose – the death penalty,” Miller told CNA.

He explained that the Church has taught since John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae in 1995 that the death penalty can only be justified when it necessary to defend society. Evangelium Vitae states that “as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

“Pope Francis has strengthened that part of the teaching,” Miller said, adding that there is still room for prudential judgement while taking into account these principles.

However, he cautioned, “A prudential judgment can’t be a simply arbitrary one. It has to be based on a reasonable reading of the evidence. It’s hard for me to see why the ones made by the prosecutor and judge in this case should be regarded as a reasonable reading of the evidence.”

Earlier this month, Pope Francis approved a change to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, to say that “the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”

Reasons for changing the teaching, the new Catechism paragraph says, include the increasing effectiveness of detention systems, growing understanding of the unchanging dignity of the person, and leaving open the possibility of conversion.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters, also a Catholic, pursued the death penalty in the Kirkland case and argued that the Vatican stance was misguided.

Fr. Paul Mueller, superior of the Jesuit community at the Vatican observatory, wrote a letter to Deters earlier this month, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. Mueller and Deters attended the same high school.

“I am disappointed, embarrassed, and scandalized that you, not only a Catholic but also a fellow alumnus of St. Xavier High School, have used the platform of your public office to oppose and confuse the moral teaching of the Church in so open a fashion,” Mueller wrote.

“As Prosecutor, you are obliged to enforce civil law. But as a Catholic, you are obliged to endeavor to conform your own mind and heart to the higher moral law and help others in their efforts to do the same – not to undermine their efforts. The teaching of the Church is clear: in defending society against evil, it is morally unacceptable to make use of the evil of the death penalty.”

Deters defended his position, saying it was his job to protect society from evil in the world.

According to local media, Deters called Kirkland “a homicidal piece of garbage” who had shown no remorse and would kill more people if he was not executed.

Miller objected to the claim that execution was necessary to prevent Kirkland from further killing.

“It seems unlikely that there is much evidence that this is true,” Miller said. He pointed to low prison rates in Ohio, as well as the fact that Kirkland had been in jail for more than nine years without killing anyone during that time.

Kirkland’s defense attorney plans to appeal the sentence. The attorney had asked for life in prison without the possibility of parole, arguing that Kirkland had suffered from severe physical, psychological and sexual abuse, as well as mental illness, and should be shown mercy.

Cupich says interview edited unfairly

Wed, 08/29/2018 - 18:24

Chicago, Ill., Aug 29, 2018 / 04:24 pm (CNA).- The Archbishop of Chicago said Wednesday a recent television interview was edited in a way that inaccurately portrayed him.

"An NBC Chicago TV report that aired Monday night was edited in such a way that gave the false impression that Pope Francis and I consider the protection of children to be less important than other issues, such as the environment or immigration. Nothing could be further from the truth," Cardinal Blase Cupich wrote in an Aug. 29 press release.

The cardinal was interviewed by Chicago NBC 5 reporter Mary Ann Ahern, about an Aug. 25 testimony published by a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Vigano. That testimony alleged that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick was instrumental in Cupich’s appointment as Archbishop of Chicago in 2014.

"The edited report created the false impression that my comment that the pope should not 'go down the rabbit hole' of the allegations in the Viganò letter was about sexual abuse. As the unedited footage shows, it was not," he added.

The entirety of the paragraph in which Cupich referenced a "rabbit hole" is as follows: "But for the Holy Father, I think to get into each and every one of those aspects, in some way is inappropriate and secondly, the pope has a bigger agenda. He’s gotta get on with other things of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the Church. We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this."

After airing a story containing portions of its interview with Cupich, NBC 5 published five videos which contain more footage of Ahern’s conversation with Cardinal Cupich. For clarity, CNA has transcribed those videos.


Transcipt of Cardinal Blase Cupich interview on Vigano

Wed, 08/29/2018 - 17:03

Chicago, Ill., Aug 29, 2018 / 03:03 pm (CNA).- On Aug. 27, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago was interviewed by Chicago NBC 5 reporter Mary Ann Ahern, about an Aug. 25 testimony published by a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Vigano. That testimony alleged that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick was instrumental in Cupich’s appointment as Archbishop of Chicago in 2014.

After airing a story containing portions of that interview, NBC 5 published five videos which contain more footage of Ahern’s conversation with Cardinal Wuerl. For clarity, CNA has transcribed those videos.

Video one:

NBC: Does the pope need to tell Catholics exactly what he knew about Cardinal McCarrick and when he first knew it?

Cupich: Well I think that the Holy Father on the airplane had exactly the kind of answer that was needed.

He was asked about the letter of the Archbishop Vigano. He said he read it. He encouraged the media to read it carefully and to come to their own conclusions. And that he would not have any final statement - any other statement on it. I think what he was signaling is two things; the first is that, you have to see whether or not these remarks stand up to scrutiny.

There are so many things in there that he says about so many people that it’s impossible to try to get into the weeds on this. And he [the pope] trusts the media to use their skills, their expertise, and, he said, their maturity to explore these questions.

For instance, look at the language of the letter and compare it to the language that’s in these websites and news outlets that released the document. There’s so many parallels there in terms of the kinds of things that they’re attacking the Holy Father and other people about. The other is look at, look at- look at these things that were said on an individual basis.

That’s why I clarified it. I offered a statement that addressed the three areas that he said about me. I suspect others are going to be doing the same thing.

So the news media now needs to go and press him for information. I read the Washington Post and other major newspapers and their first line always is, he’s made these accusations but offered no proof. Let’s let the news media do their job here.

But for the Holy Father, I think to get into each and every one of those aspects, in some way is inappropriate and secondly, the pope has a bigger agenda. He’s gotta get on with other things of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the Church. We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this.

NBC: But, does there also need to be an independent investigation from top to bottom of who knew what when?

Cupich: Oh, in fact, you know the president of our bishops’ conference has already called for that weeks ago in saying that we need to know what happened here of how he was promoted, what happened in terms of McCarrick, but also we need to find out what happened in Pennsylvania. Let’s not overlook that. Let’s not let this letter take us away from the fact that there was something flawed in the way that the Charter, which should have been followed from 2002 on, was implemented. We have done it here in Chicago, and we’re proud of it. I’m deeply disappointed and somewhat angry that there were people in another state, in another jurisdiction, that were not doing the things that we promised to do. We should hold each other accountable and we need an independent review of that too.

NBC: By an independent review, would that be Lisa Madigan and the attorney general’s office? (ed note: Lisa Madigan is Illinois’ attorney general)

Cupich: Well, no no no. Independent review of what, nationally, has happened. I think, for instance, we need to call on lay people who are skilled to find out what happened.

Now, with regard to Lisa Madigan and the attorney general, we talked this morning. And I assured her of our full cooperation. I said, “First of all, we don’t mind at all because they have all our documents anyway. We turned them over in ‘14 and ‘15. We also have all the names of people who have any credible accusation against them through our review board that have been released to the officials. So we’re - The only thing I said is that if we’re going to move in this direction, let’s make child protection the priority. It’s not just about the Catholic Church. Let’s look at all the agencies and institutions that deal with children on a day-to-day basis because we’re seeing in the newspapers every day inappropriate behavior in various institutions, schools systems and so on, with regard to child safety. So let’s make sure that everybody who deals with children opens their files and their records . . . (video cuts off)

Video 2:

NBC: So does the rule that those who knew but did nothing, or perhaps worse - it is worse - covered if up, does that apply to everyone? For instance, if the pope knew something, some time ago, about these allegations, should he resign?

Cupich: Well I think that my answer to that would be very simple. My experience with the pope is that as soon as he knows about something, he acts on it. As soon as he’s given evidence about this, he acts on it. Let’s remember the accusation of Archbishop Vigano is that this information was known under the pontificate of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. But who was the one who took action? It was Pope Francis. When Pope Francis received the report from Cardinal Dolan, who did his job in accord with our Charter, he acted right away. So I think that the record shows that whenever there’s actionable information, Pope Francis acts.

NBC: Does that same rule apply to you?

Cupich: Oh well, I think that yes, I think that my record shows that I have acted. I’ve been in three dioceses now and if you look at the newspaper reports in Rapid City and Spokane about my handling of situations. And here in the archdiocese, even when there’s adult misbehavior by clerics. We’re public about it. We have been all the time. We’ve always put out information to parishes. So I’m fairly - I’m very sure that we have always followed those procedures.

NBC: So you did have a critical role as the chairman of the committee protecting children. Wouldn’t an allegation involving a bishop or a cardinal, including McCarrick, wouldn’t that have come to your attention?

Cupich: Yes, if somebody made it, it would have come to my attention. I can say that when I was chairman, and I have never had any knowledge of this ahead of time about this about this, I surely would have acted. For instance, he was invited to various events in the Church, life of the Church, that I attended with. If I had known that he was abusing people, either adults or children, I surely would have acted on it. That’s the way I have always done things.

So I think that - I think that it’s - but, you know, somebody told me something very interesting. They said, you know, there’s this business of grooming victims by predators. They kind of get them in a position. But the psychologist told me there’s also grooming of people around him or her, so that they are put in such a position that they can never, ever believe that something like that is true.

But you have that in your own industry. You have people who have been news anchors and heads of communications systems who have for years abused people and they have created this atmosphere that nobody would ever believe any rumor and so nobody acted on it. So I think that it is part of the illness, but also part of the clever tactics of abusers to build that scenario around themselves.

Video 3:

NBC: When did you become aware of the McCarrick allegations?

Cupich: Well after- right when, uh - right when the decision, I think I had a few days ahead of time that it was going to be announced, that it was going to be announced. And that’s - at the time, at the time that when the decision was made by the Holy See that to have him not only removed from public life as a cleric, but also to make it public, I was told that.

NBC: So, because of Archbishop Vigano’s claims that McCarrick had lobbied for you.

Cupich: Yeah.

NBC: I know you responded by a statement, but what do you say to that?

Cupich: Well, I would say - first of all - I’ve been appointed by three popes. Not just by Francis. I was appointed in 1998 by John Paul II, 2010 by Benedict XVI. It’s not as though I just fell out of the sky.

I worked at the Vatican embassy in the ‘80s, I was the rector of the pontifical seminary, the only pontifical seminary in the United States, so it’s not as though I was a newcomer. People knew me in Rome, and so on. I don’t think that I needed one person to be my advocate and I believe that- I believe that the pope wanted someone who was pastoral, as he said, and I was a candidate that he looked at seriously.

NBC: Were you involved in choosing Cardinal McCarrick for the Catholic Extension St. Francis Award?

Cupich: Yeah, I was consulted about that and I agreed to it and, in fact, had I known any of this I surely wouldn’t have. I think that’s a good indication that I didn’t have prior knowledge. I surely wouldn’t choose somebody that had that kind of record behind them and, and yes I was.

NBC: So those allegations, then, did not - they weren’t common knowledge, as some have suggested.

Cupich: No, they were not to me. I mean, if they were common knowledge, I don’t know who had that information. Maybe on the East Coast, where he was, on a day-to-day basis, but I surely did not know that. And I wouldn’t be so stupid and foolish as to allow him to be recognized by Catholic Extension, which does enormously good work, and have their reputation threatened if I knew this information about him.

Video 4:

NBC: Is this the Catholic Church's #MeToo scandal with adult clergy in positions of power not just abusing children but adults like seminarians who are subordinate to them?

Cupich: Right. Mary Ann, you are hitting the nail on the head, because this is not about sex. It’s about power and clericalism. That’s what has to change in the life of the Church, and that’s what the pope is talking about.

But let’s also be clear that people who want to make this about sex, in terms of homosexuality and all the rest of it, are a diversion from the real issue that we need to attack in the life of the Church. And that is that there are some people who believe that they are both privileged and protected. That has- that wall has to come down.

Any institution, like the Church or other larger institution, that have that kind of insular protection for their members, always gets in trouble. I have told other people that I’ve talked to, who have asked me to come to talk about the issue from their own perspective of kind of a lay clerical culture in their industries, is that if you circle the wagons when you have an issue, you’re gonna end up circling the drain. And that’s what’s happening.

Video 5:

NBC: Is there a Catholic civil war underway? I mean, today you would think the headlines are so-

Cupich: Well, I would say, I would say not a civil war. There’s a small group of insurgents, who have not liked Pope Francis from the very beginning.

They don’t like the fact that he’s calling for more lay involvement. They don’t like the fact that he is calling for a synodal Church, where we get the advice of people. They don’t like that he’s talking about the environment or the poor or the migrants or that the death penalty is something that we should outlaw. They don’t like the fact that he is saying that economies kill. There are people who don’t like that message. And so there’s an insurgency of people who don’t like that. And, quite frankly, they also don’t like him because he’s a Latino and that he is bringing Latino culture into the life of the Church, which we have been enriched by and I think that that’s part of all of this too.

NBC: When’s your next visit to Rome and do you believe that all of these issues - Archbishop Vigano, Cardinal McCarrick, the grand jury - will this something that will be discussed between you and the pope?

Cupich: I don’t think so. I’ll tell you why, because I know that the president of our conference is going to be going to Rome, as he said, to talk to the pope. He represents our conference. I’m consulted from time to time by our conference leadership and directly by the Holy See and I stand ready to do my part.

But let’s be clear, I think it’s important right now, in view of the letter that was issued today by the president of our conference, that this is not on the pope’s plate to fix. This is on us.

We, as the bishops’ conference of the United States, obviously need to look at what went wrong here and hold each other accountable. So before we give the pope another task to do, let’s look at what we’re supposed to do. What’s on our agenda to fix this? That’s where the failure is.


CNA's Kate Veik transcribed this interview.


Circuit court upholds 'In God We Trust' on currency

Wed, 08/29/2018 - 16:55

St. Paul, Minn., Aug 29, 2018 / 02:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The phrase “In God We Trust” does not violate the Constitution, a circuit court of appeals ruled on Aug. 28.

The 3-0 decision by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul, Minnesota came in response to an action brought by a group of 29 atheists and supporters. They contended that the national motto “In God We Trust” appearing on currency was a violation of the First Amendment clause against the establishment of a state religion and a violation of their freedom of speech.

Tuesday’s decision upheld a lower court ruling from December 2016. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a similar decision upholding the constitutionality of the phrase in May 2018, in which the use of the motto on currency was not deemed to be compelled speech.

Circuit Judge Raymond Gruender said that putting “In God We Trust” on currency did not establish a religion, and that it “comports with early understandings of the Establishment Clause.” Further, Gruender said, the motto appearing on money also did not constitute compulsory religious practice and was therefore not a constitutional violation.

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Michael Newdow, who represented the atheists and atheist groups, said in an email to Reuters that Tuesday’s decision was “utterly revolting.”  

In addition to attempting to remove “In God We Trust” from currency, Newdow has also litigated attempts to remove the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. He was not successful in that effort.

“In God We Trust” was made the country’s national motto in 1956, when President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law. The phrase had appeared on currency since 1864, and appeared on paper money about 100 years later.


Continued Hurricane Harvey recovery aided by Catholic Charities grant

Wed, 08/29/2018 - 15:46

Corpus Christi, Texas, Aug 29, 2018 / 01:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Hurricane Harvey victims still need recovery assistance one year later, and Corpus Christi Catholic Charities aims to continue its services thanks to a $1 million grant.

“Catholic Charities understands that without assistance survivors can sink into a spiral of non-recovery, especially vulnerable populations,” Kevin Branson, executive director of Corpus Christi Catholic Charities, said Aug. 27. “We need to walk with them throughout the recovery journey.”

Thousands of families still need assistance.

The storm dropped about 27 trillion gallons of water in Texas and Louisiana in August 2017. More than 12,000 homes were completely destroyed and 200,000 were damaged. Nearly 500,000 vehicles were ruined and many business buildings were damaged as well, the Catholic Charities affiliate said.

An estimated 738,000 people have requested assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Catholic Charities USA awarded the long-term recovery grant of just over $1 million. The grant comes from funds through the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ second collection.

Yiyi Dean, the grant writer and administrator for Catholic Charities of Corpus Christi, said the grant could help hurricane victims address multiple needs.

“We will only see clients by appointment and go through the person or family’s situation on a case-by-case system,” Dean told the Corpus Christi Caller Times. “But it can be for something like crisis therapy, helping young adults go to school or home reconstruction.”

The Catholic Charities affiliate serves 12 counties in Texas’ Coastal Bend area. Other services include emergency aid, family and individual counseling, housing counseling, immigration services, disability services, and rural outreach.

The affiliate is a member of Catholic Charities USA, the official domestic disaster relief agency of the U.S. bishops, which itself is a member of Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church’s international confederation of human development and disaster relief agencies.

Pittsburgh priest: Catholics angered by abuse reports deserve a hearing

Wed, 08/29/2018 - 05:01

Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug 29, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics who are demoralized, angered, or scandalized by revelations about sex abuse must feel free to talk to clergy and other Catholics, and other Catholics must reach out to them, a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh has said.

“I would invite those who are wavering to be open about their concerns – their anger, their frustration, their questions – so that someone can respond to them,” Father Nicholas Vaskov, executive director of communications for the Pittsburgh diocese, told CNA.

“I would also encourage them to stay close to God in prayer so that he can hear their calls to him and respond with his compassion and love.”

Father Vaskov, who is also administrator St. Mary of Mercy parish in downtown Pittsburgh, reflected on the tendency of some people scandalized by abuse allegations to stop going to Mass. He encouraged Catholic clergy and laity to “be patient with those who are scandalized by the reports.”

“Listen attentively as they share what is on their heart,” he said. “I would also suggest that clergy and laity reach out to those who they know are particularly troubled by what they have learned. Thoughtful conversation can be such an effective way to process what is troubling us.”

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

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

Before the report’s release, Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh confirmed that some of the priests named in the Pennsylvania grand jury report into sexual abuse remain in active ministry, but stressed that none faced substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse.

Responding to the report, Zubik emphasized that “the Diocese of Pittsburgh today is not the Church that is described in the grand jury report,” and that “it has not been for a long time.” Data from the diocese showed that more than 90 percent of abuse incidents took place before 1990.

The bishop apologized to victims of clergy sex abuse and to “any person or family whose trust, faith and well-being has been devastated by men who were ordained to be the image of Christ.”

The Catholic response is ongoing. The grand jury report could affect the future of Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, a previous Bishop of Pittsburgh. Wuerl is already a center of controversy as critics ask what he knew of allegations of sex abuse and sexual exploitation against his predecessor, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

On Aug. 20 National Public Radio and its member stations had sought comment from listeners, asking, “Have you stopped going to Mass as often, left your church or left the Catholic faith entirely because of these revelations or ones that were previously reported?”

Pittsburgh-area couple Andy and Courey Leer were among those who had responded to NPR about their reaction.

“So it goes beyond just the priests and their superiors,” Courey, 31, told NPR. “It leads me to question entire Catholic communities. Who knew what? And not only why didn't they expose them, but, how long have people been turning the other way?”

Courey attended part of  Mass with her two-year-old daughter after the report was released but they didn’t stay.

“I think a part of me was thinking I’m going to go to Mass and I’m going to get an okay to leave and not come back,” she said. “And of course that’s not going to happen. Part of me just wanted someone to say ‘we really messed up, it’s all on us, and you guys use your own moral discretion to decide what's best because we have no moral authority’.”

According to NPR, she said the priest acknowledged the report and “offered little more than prayers.” She stood up with her daughter and left after the homily.

“And I’m thinking ‘is this our last Mass?’ And it’s hard. I can’t fathom when she’s eight years old saying ‘no we don't go to church, sorry you can't receive Communion, even though your mom and dad did, your grandparents did, you don't get to do that’.”

The Leers told NPR that they will miss the sacraments, community dinners, and the music ministry. They said they want to see Church leaders push for more investigations into sex abuse in dioceses around the country.

“They don’t need to be worried about our spirituality right now,” said Andy, 32. “They need to be worried about dealing with the corruption, and dealing with the priests that are out there that need to answer for what they've done, and the people that have potentially covered up and withheld information.”

Andy, 32, was a teenager when decades-old claims against his priest, Father Joseph Pease, surfaced. He thought the “bad apple” had been removed. He later watched the movie “Spotlight,” about sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston, but he said the issue “doesn't really hit until it’s in your backyard.”

The Leers said they don’t know what it will take for them to go back to church.

Father Vaskov cited his experiences with churchgoers who went to Mass in the wake of the latest news. He thought there was an upturn in attendance for the Aug. 15 feast of the Assumption, a holy day of obligation which came a day after the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

He also reflected on what churchgoers told him, such as one woman at Mass last Sunday.

“She said that while it was difficult for her to go, she knew that she couldn’t be anywhere else because it is only in the Eucharist that we can be renewed,” the priest said. “Another conversation with a recent convert to the Catholic faith revealed the depth of his love for Christ and His Church and his desire to stay close to the sacraments when he felt his frustration was getting the better of him.”

Fr. Vaskov said that in response to the abuse scandals, many parishes had organized holy hours, days of Eucharistic adoration, discussion groups, and listening sessions. He said he has had “beautiful moments” praying with people for “strength in their lives and in the lives of those who have been harmed by abuse.”

“I have also had some very fruitful conversations with parishioners, friends and strangers over the past weeks because they were willing to open up about their concerns,” the priest said. “That doesn’t mean that every issue is resolved or every suffering is healed, but it is the beginning of an important discussion that needs to happen.”

Participation in Mass on Sundays is “at the heart of the Church's life”, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, and “participation … in the Sunday Eucharist is a testimony of belonging and of being faithful to Christ and to his Church.”

By attending Sunday Mass the faithful together “testify to God's holiness and their hope of salvation. They strengthen one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” according to the Catechism.

Participation in the sacrifice of the Mass is the means by which “we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life” and render worship to God.

The Catechism adds that “the institution of the Lord's Day helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives.”

Father Larry Adams, a priest at St. Ursula’s Church in the Pittsburgh diocese, told NPR that he understands the frustration of his fellow Catholics, but the struggle to confront abuse is why he became a priest.

“To a certain extent. I’m kind of a ‘spotlight’ priest — the movie Spotlight,” he said. “When this broke, (it) was kind of the time when I was discerning what my vocation would be. And in a certain way, what has formed me is the desire to be part of this Church, and be part of the solution.”

Catholic Charities school supply giveaway brings joy to Virginia families

Wed, 08/29/2018 - 02:27

Arlington, Va., Aug 29, 2018 / 12:27 am (CNA).- For the third year in a row, Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia has given away free school supplies for children in need, ages 5-17.

This year’s giveaway was held on Aug. 24 at Catholic Charities’ food pantry Christ House in Alexandria, and began with a prayer led by Bishop Michael Burbidge, followed by a meal. Backpacks filled with supplies were then handed out to the students by Burbidge and Catholic Charities president and CEO Art Bennett.

The backpacks, prepared by volunteers, were stuffed according to the specific grade level of each child, with high schoolers receiving supplies such as three-ring binders, protractors and spiral notebooks while elementary students received supplies such as crayons, glue sticks and pencil pouches.

Each child also received a gift card to Payless shoe store as well as snacks and water.

“We really care about these families who come to Christ House,” Bennett told The Arlington Catholic Herald. “This event makes a real difference for them. And it brings children and parents - and us - a lot of joy. We want to help parents help their kids feel excited about school and ready to go right out of the gate. That happens here.”

This year, 130 students received school supplies through the giveaway.

Lashay Bailey, who attended the event with her seven children, told the Herald that the giveaway was “a blessing” and “means a lot. We’re going through a tough time right now.”

Junice Talbert, a single mother of three, came to the event to pick up a backpack for her 5-year-old son who is starting kindergarten.

“You spend so much for everything and, as a single mom, it’s hard to also pay for these supplies,” she said. “The prayers help a lot sometimes; it’s really stressful.”

The giveaway was funded by the Basilica of St. Mary in Alexandria and individual donors through Christ House, the St. Lucy Food Project and the Emergency Assistance Program (EAP).

Catholic Charities in Arlington provides the region with a myriad of services, including a food pantry, emergency financial assistance, crisis pregnancy counseling, foster care, refugee resettlement services and other programs and ministries.

After controversy, Calif. bishop to put planned retirement home up for sale

Tue, 08/28/2018 - 21:01

San Jose, Calif., Aug 28, 2018 / 07:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A 73-year-old bishop in California has changed his retirement plans after media reports sparked criticism of his decision to purchase a five-bedroom home for $2.3 million in California’s overheated housing market.

While Bishop Patrick McGrath of San Jose said the purchase made economic sense as a good investment, he said he “erred in judgment” to purchase the house.

“I failed to consider adequately the housing crisis in this valley and the struggles of so many families and communities in light of that crisis,” he said Aug. 27. “I have heard from many on this topic and I have decided that I will not move into this house.”

The diocese will put the house up for sale “as soon as possible” and any profits will go to Charities Housing, under Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County.

“I assume full responsibility for this decision and I believe that the sale of the house is the appropriate action. I thank those who have advised me,” he said.

The 3,300 square-foot home sits on one-third of an acre in San Jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood.
The bishop first considered living in a diocese-owned house on cemetery property, but the retrofitting would have been too expensive.

Liz Sullivan, communications director for the Diocese of San Jose, told CNA the renovation’s exact costs are not certain but the return on investment would not be good, “since few people would choose to live in a cemetery.” The house’s future would have been uncertain after the bishop left.

“The bishop is in good health for a man of 73, but a single-level house was desirable because of the stairs,” Sullivan added.

McGrath said the Diocesan Finance Council and the College of Consultors approved the home purchase which later became a matter of controversy.

“I agreed with them that in economic terms the purchase of the home made sense in terms of financial return on investment,” said the bishop.

The median sale price of a home in the city is now over $1 million, compared to a California-wide home price of $600,000, a record high as of May 2018, Business Insider reports. In the last year, the median sale price of San Jose homes increased by 24 percent ($210,000), the real estate site Trulia reports.

The bishop, who became head of the Diocese of San Jose in 1999, said when his retirement planning began he wanted to stay in the diocese.

“This has been my home for nearly 20 years,” he said.

Under policy set by the U.S. bishops’ conference, the Diocese of San Jose is responsible for paying the bishop’s housing and upkeep when he retires.

McGrath said the home was purchased using a fund dedicated to housing retired bishops and using proceeds from the sale of a Menlo Park condominium where his predecessor, Bishop Pierre DuMaine, had lived before he moved into assisted living.

“The fund is a fund that can be used for nothing else,” the bishop said. “When I’m not around anymore, the house can be sold. It’s a good investment in that sense. It probably makes more money this way than if it were in the bank.”

One McGrath critic said that the house purchase “seems very inappropriate.”

“Our diocese is greatly underfunded as it is,” said the parishioner, who asked the Mercury News not to be identified to avoid harming relationships with other Catholics.

The Mercury News’ report cited Bishop McGrath’s own advocacy for affordable housing, such as a 2016 commentary piece backing a $950 million bond measure for affordable housing.

In his initial remarks, McGrath said he had looked at places “way out in the East Bay,” but he liked the valley.

“I thought it would be nice to be here, to be of assistance if I can,” he said.

The bishop has not announced a retirement date, though he has asked the Holy See permission to retire before the required retirement date of 75 years to allow a younger man to become bishop.

Bishop Oscar Cantú, 51, was named Coadjutor Bishop of San Jose in July; as such, he will succeed as Bishop of San Jose upon Bishop McGrath's retirement.

The retiring bishop had looked forward to a house with a yard.

“I like to putter around in the garden,” McGrath said. “So I think it would be good for me.”

McGrath acknowledged to the Mercury News that many retired clerics live in retirement communities, in rectories, or in other accommodations.

“But I’d like to live in a house so I would have the freedom to help the diocese but not disturb the priests in the rectories,” he said.

Cupich dismisses Viganò claims as a 'rabbit hole'

Tue, 08/28/2018 - 17:45

Chicago, Ill., Aug 28, 2018 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- Archbishop of Chicago Blase Cupich has dismissed recent allegations made by a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., saying that Pope Francis has a “bigger agenda” to worry about, including defending migrants and protecting the environment.

Speaking Aug. 27 to Chicago’s NBC 5, Cupich said that the pope has “got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the Church.”

Cupich described the contents of Archbishop Carlos Maria Viganò’s 11-page testimony, published Aug. 25, as a “rabbit hole” that he does not think the Church should be going down.

Vigano’s testimony claimed that Pope Francis had removed restrictions on Archbishop Theodore McCarrick that had been imposed by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. It also stated that McCarrick was instrumental in Cupich’s appointment as Archbishop of Chicago in 2014.

McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in July of this year, following a series of public allegations against him concerning the sexual abuse of minors, seminarians, and priests. The dioceses of Newark and Metuchen subsequently confirmed they had previously reached two out-of-court-settlements with adult accusers.

Cupich dismissed the claims of McCarrick’s influence in his appointment, telling NBC 5 that “It’s not as though I just fell out of the sky.”

Cupich was elevated to the College of Cardinals in November 2016. He was ordained a bishop in 1998. Prior to becoming the Archbishop of Chicago, Cupich led the Rapid City and Spokane dioceses.

The cardinal also defended Pope Francis’ record on combating sexual abuse, saying that “the record shows, whenever there’s actionable information, Pope Francis acts.”

Cupich also implied that racism was a motivating factor behind the release of Viganò’s letter and the ensuing criticism of the pope.

“Quite frankly, they also don’t like him because he’s a Latino,” said Cupich. Pope Francis was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to parents of Italian descent.

Last week, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said that the Catholic 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.” Each of the state’s six bishops agreed to assist with this report.

During the Monday interview, Cupich noted that child sexual abuse is not a problem limited to the Catholic Church, and that the state should be investigating other organizations as well.

“It’s not just about the Catholic Church. Let’s look at all the agencies and institutions that deal with children on a day-to-day basis,” he said.