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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.

Catholics minister to mothers and children in Texas detention centers

Thu, 08/23/2018 - 16:13

San Antonio, Texas, Aug 23, 2018 / 02:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Before being allowed to celebrate Mass for families housed at a migrant detention center in south Texas, a local priest was made to sign a confidentiality agreement promising that he would not divulge any information regarding the conditions inside.

There are 2,400 beds for mothers and children detained in the South Texas Family Residential Center, a privately-run detention facility in Dilley, Texas operated by CoreCivic, which received $135 million in 2017 for their immigration detention government contracts.

Father Ruben Garcia, a parish priest in Dilley, celebrates Mass and hears confessions at the detention center twice a week.

After Trump administration promised last month to reunite separated families detained on immigration-related charges or before asylum hearings, an expansion of family detention centers, where a child is detained with their parent, has been presented as a viable alternative to seperation.
“The Dilley” is the largest family detention center in the U.S. It costs taxpayers $298 per person per day to detain the mothers and children, who are mostly from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Many are seeking asylum.

Father Garcia told CNA that his homilies for the women and children often focus on the blessed motherhood of the Virgin Mary.

“Our Lady always says that she takes care of her children, and the mothers at the detention center take care of their children the best that they can,” said Garcia.

Garcia encourages the detained mothers to pray the rosary and said that he regularly shares the messages from the Virgin Mary’s apparitions in Fatima, Lourdes, and Mexico.

Archbishop Gustavo García‐Siller of San Antonio has also visited the Dilley detention center, as well as the other family detention center in Karnes, Texas that has 600 beds to house immigrant fathers and sons.

The archbishop opposed the expansion of family detention centers in a statement he issued before the facility in Dilley opened in 2014, during the Obama administration.

“Confining children and their mothers in such detention centers has proven to be damaging to them,” wrote Garcia-Siller.

“Many of these women are fleeing violence, in fear of their lives and the safety of their children. They need mercy and compassion, not derision and detention,” he continued.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, operates the largest immigrant detention system in the world, according to Dr. Sue Weishar, a policy and research fellow at Loyola University New Orleans.

“In fiscal year 2017, over 323,000 immigrants were detained in a patchwork of facilities in more than 300 locations. The fiscal year 2017 budget for ICE detention was $2.7 billion dollars,” she explained in an Aug. 6 webinar posted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Since 2003, over 155 people have died in ICE detention. Although ICE has made improvements in their standards for 31 of its newest detention centers, the standards are not legally enforceable.

Weishar led an “alternative to detention” program for migrants in the Archdiocese of New Orleans from 1999 to 2004, which used a case management method and cost $3.90 per person per day. Although people were not detained, over 97 percent of the participants appeared in court for their asylum hearings, she reported.

Sister Pam Buganski regularly visits a twenty-year-old woman who is detained in the Port Isabel Detention Center, near Brownsville, Texas. For the sake of this story, the detained woman’s name has been changed to Maria.

“After having removed my ring, cross, watch and everything except the clothing I was wearing, I was permitted to visit Maria via telephone with glass between us,”  Buganski told CNA. She said helps Maria to practice new English words, and asks her questions about her life.

Sister Buganski told CNA that when she asked Maria about her favorite Bible verse, the woman took no pause before answering.  

“Psalm 91,” Maria told her.

Buganski remembered this Psalm from a time she spent in Papua New Guinea. Her fellow Sisters of Notre Dame had memorized it, and would pray it by heart as traveled across the dirt roads:

Whoever goes to the Lord for safety, whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty, Can say to Him, ‘You are my Defender and Protector. You are my God; in You I trust.’ He will cover you with His wings; you will be safe in His care; His faithfulness will protect and defend you.”

Since fleeing her country with her younger sister, Maria has had to live in a situation that requires real faith Buganski said.

“The faithful," she said, "are those who know that all is in the hands of God."

Seton Hall announces ‘independent review’ of seminary accusations

Thu, 08/23/2018 - 12:10

Newark, N.J., Aug 23, 2018 / 10:10 am (CNA).- Seton Hall University has announced an independent review of accusations of sexual abuse and harassment against seminarians. The university is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Newark, and is home to Immaculate Conception Seminary and St. Andrew’s Hall college seminary.

In a letter published on the university website on Tuesday, Aug. 22, Seton Hall President Mary J. Meehan wrote that recent reports of sexual abuse and harassment by priests, and the “reported failure of many in the Church’s leadership to hold them accountable,” had prompted the university to take action.

“We at the University are particularly concerned with recent accusations against Theodore McCarrick, the former Archbishop of Newark, and other priests of the Archdiocese. Some of these alleged incidents may have involved seminarians at Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology and the College Seminary at Saint Andrew’s Hall.”

The president of Seton Hall’s board of trustees is by virtue of office the Archbishop of Newark, now Cardinal Joseph Tobin. From 1986 - 2001, the archdiocese was led by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

On August 17, CNA published a report detailing a series of allegations made by priests in the Archdiocese of Newark. Some of their accounts related to Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, others detailed allegations of recent or ongoing behavior at the two seminaries, including a specific allegation concerning a former rector of St. Andrew’s Hall.

One allegation raised by the CNA report related to Fr. Mark O’Malley, who was removed as rector of St. Andrew’s Hall in 2014 and placed on a medical leave of absence. Multiple sources told CNA that O’Malley’s removal followed an incident in which he allegedly hid a camera in the bedroom of a young priest.

Meehan wrote that the university’s leadership has authorized an “independent review” following “recent allegations.”

“Seton Hall has retained Christine A. Amalfe of the law firm Gibbons P.C. in Newark, N.J. as special counsel to lead the effort and commission the independent review. Gibbons P.C. has retained Theodore V. Wells Jr. of the law firm Paul, Weiss in New York to conduct the independent review,” Meehan announced.

Seton Hall’s announcement follows similar investigations being launched at St. John’s Seminary, Boston, and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, after former students made allegations concerning sexual harassment at those institutions. 

It is unclear if the initiative for the investigation came from the Archdiocese of Newark, or internally from the university administration.

The university was unavailable for comment.

Cardinal Tobin is in Ireland attending the World Meeting of Families. He was scheduled to participate in an Aug. 23 media briefing but was replaced at the last minute by Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago. It is not clear if the cardinal’s absence was linked to the Seton Hall announcement.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark told CNA that Cardinal Tobin was aware of the investigation and had “approved and encouraged” it.

The Archdiocese of Newark has declined to comment publicly on the allegations reported by CNA. However, on the same day CNA’s report was published, Cardinal Tobin wrote a letter to all priests of the archdiocese, denying that he had ever been told of a “gay subculture” in the archdiocese, and addressing the specific cases reported by CNA, including that of Fr. O’Malley.

In that letter, Tobin said that Fr. O’Malley was removed as rector when “experienced a serious personal crisis for which he received a psychological evaluation and subsequent therapy. In April 2015, he was deemed fit for priestly ministry, Tobin said, adding that O’Malley hopes to serve as a hospital chaplain.”

The letter appeared on numerous websites but the archdiocese refused to comment on it, or on the allegations it addressed.

On Aug. 19, the cardinal told the Newark Star-Ledger that "my default mode is for optimum transparency."

This parish was transferred to the Bismarck diocese from Fargo

Thu, 08/23/2018 - 05:01

Bismarck, N.D., Aug 23, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Earlier this year, St. John parish in Lansford, N.D., was formally transferred from the Diocese of Fargo to the Diocese of Bismarck. The bishops of both dioceses said Mass at the church on Sunday to mark the change and to celebrate with parishioners.

“The fraternal love of Catholics of North Dakota is symbolized in this wonderful parish,” Bishop David Kagan of Bismarck said during his homily at the Aug. 19 Mass.

“There's a beauty to this demonstrating the friendship and respect between two bishops who were friends and priests of the Fargo Diocese before being named bishop … This historical day is a sign of our mutual love and respect for one another and abiding love and faith in our Almighty God.”

Priests of the Bismarck diocese had been serving the parish since 1949.

Sonia Mullally wrote in the August issue of Dakota Catholic Action that “After the change, which officially took effect on May 20, approximately 255 square miles were added to the Bismarck Diocese.”

Lansford is located in Bottineau County, 140 miles north of Bismarck.

When the Bismarck diocese was established in 1909 out of territory of the Fargo diocese, Fargo retained Bottineau County.

After the transfer of St. John's parish and its territory, most of the county remains part of the Diocese of Fargo.

The Diocese of Bismarck serves western North Dakota, while the eastern half of the state is included in the Fargo diocese.

“In truth, not much changes for the members of St. John. As usual, they will see Fr. Adam Maus at the altar each week. Many of them possibly didn’t even realize that they were a Fargo Diocese parish being served by their neighboring diocese,” Mullally wrote.

The change is rooted in the acknowledgement in 1949 by the pastor of St. Andrew parish in Westhope, Bottineau County, that as he aged, he could no longer manage the travel to Lansford, “especially during the long North Dakota winters.”

The then-bishops of Bismarck and Fargo agreed that priests of the Bismarck diocese “would take over providing for the pastoral and sacramental needs of the parishioners of St. John in Lansford.”

For more than 60 years, priests from Minot served St. John's; more recently, the pastoral care has been taken over by those at St. Jerome in Mohall.

The anomaly was noted by Bishop Kagan in 2012.

At the time, he was also serving as apostolic administrator of the Fargo diocese, following the transfer of Bishop Samuel Aquila to the Archdiocese of Denver.

When Bishop John Folda was appointed to Fargo the next year, Bishop Kagan informed him of the situation.

“A few years later, a more formal conversation began and got the ball rolling to make St. John an official parish of the Diocese of Bismarck,” according to the Bismarck diocese.

The discussion took 18 months, and paperwork for the transfer was submitted to the Congregation of Bishops. The congregation approved of the change in boundaries Jan. 13.

Lansford became a station in 1902, with Masses said in homes. St. John's was build in 1906, and dedicated the following year. A new church was built in 1963.

Catholic Charities Oregon looks to expand financial wellness program

Thu, 08/23/2018 - 02:34

Portland, Ore., Aug 23, 2018 / 12:34 am (CNA).- Catholic Charities Oregon is hoping to expand a program that offers financial classes and coaching for low-income workers in the state.

The Save First Financial Wellness program is part of the Family Success Center, run by Catholic Charities Oregon.

Molly O’Donnell, director of the Family Success Center, told CNA that the goal is not merely to provide temporary assistance, but to give people the tools they need to achieve financial independence.

“It really grew out of our work for those coming with rent and utility assistance, and realizing that that’s not enough to give them that Band-Aid, but if you really want to help a person you want to give them some tools and help move them up the economic latter.”

O’Donnell’s team administers an employee aid program for Providence Health and Services, which is Oregon’s largest private employer. Through the program, they offer financial assistance to low-income workers, helping them maintain housing, pay bills, and balance finances and saving.

The team hopes to expand to other businesses in the coming months, particularly in rural areas. The fees they collect for administering the employee aid programs are used to offer financial help to other clients who come through their doors – who may be homeless, pregnant, recently released from jail, or financially uneducated.  

O’Donnell emphasized that the fees from contracting with employers are what allow the model to become sustainable, and to then “serve those people who that cannot afford the service.”

Clients who come to the Save First Financial Wellness program begin with an individualized assessment, which helps identify underlying needs and challenges. These may include wage garnishment, mental health issues, domestic violence, identity theft and immigration status.

From there, clients are connected with local resources to help them in any obstacles that are identified. They are also able to take part in financial wellness classes through Catholic Charities, which teach about budgeting, cash flow, savings, debt reduction, and credit.

After completing the financial wellness courses, individuals may participate in a three to six month financial coaching program, where an instructor helps them identify their financial goals and the steps to accomplish them.

This individual coaching is key to Catholic Charities’ success with the program, O’Donnell said. One-on-one financial coaching nearly doubles the success rates of those who have already taken financial education classes through the organization.

“While people leave us with the hopes and the tools to make a change, because it is a behavior change we are talking about, really they need support and accountability and relationship and trust in putting that into practice,” she said.

“So that’s why we developed our financial coaching program, where we work with the clients, one-on-one, really to meet their financial goals.”

Some clients also qualify for a match savings program through Catholic Charities.

“Those clients who express they want to buy a home or go to college…we can help them get into a house by matching their savings over a period of time,” she said.

O’Donnell recalled one client who had fled domestic violence and was living in a van with her three children.

Several years ago, the woman came to Catholic Charities, which was able to help her find temporary housing, domestic violence support groups, and counseling services. Eventually, she was able to take part in the financial coaching program.

The woman has now been promoted at work and found housing close to her kids’ school. She is also saving for a home with the organization’s match saving opportunity and is expected to have saved $12,000 in three years.

O’Donnell believes that financial education is a necessity for everyone, regardless of background. As an important component of a healthy family life, it is a skill that the Church should encourage, she emphasized.

“When you think about the reasons for divorce in our country, the number one reason is finances,” she said. “We should be addressing that as the Catholic Church, as far as the pre-marriage prep.”


Why this man spent his last years caring for the dying

Wed, 08/22/2018 - 21:00

Denver, Colo., Aug 22, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- By the time he passed away, death was familiar to Joe Doak.

Doak was a devout Catholic, and a veteran, who died July 29 at 96 years old. But before his own death, Doak had spent days and nights sitting beside dying men and women in a hospice, offering them a word of comfort and the encouragement of prayer.

In 2011 Doak became a vigil volunteer for Hope-West hospice in Grand Junction, Colorado. There, he would comfort the dying with prayers, hymns, discussions, or just the consolation of his silent presence.

A devout Catholic, Joe told the Daily Sentinel in May that he wanted to be a source of hope, letting those patients know that someone would be with them during their last hours.

"The main thing is to tell them that they're not alone. They're not dying alone,” he said. "I just hope that I've comforted and consoled them and given them hope," he added.  

Doak was an electrical engineer and raised six children with his wife Phyllis, getting married about 10 years after World War II, when he served as a communications officer in the United States Navy.

His family eventually moved to Gunnison, Colorado, where Doak owned an electronic store specializing in computers. He then moved to Montrose, where the Catholic engineer spent a large portion of his retirement time volunteering.

He volunteered in a variety of community activities – he taught seniors computer skills, he aided immigrants in their English, and he helped children with their reading skills. He was also a driver for Meals on Wheels.

"That is the makeup of my dad. He wants to help people, wants to comfort people that may be alone. He is a very religious person, so I think this played into him being a devoted Catholic," his son, Roger Doak, told Colorado Public Radio

Doak was inspired to hospice ministry after caring for his wife Phyllis during a seven-year struggle with Alzheimer’s. After she died in 2011, he saw an ad for the vigil volunteers and decided to use his experience with Phyllis for other people.

Each time Doak received a call about a person dying, he would go to introduce himself, usually to a complete stranger. Doak would sit with patients, offering his hand, making conversation, and singing Christian hymns. A favorite of his was “Open my Ears” by Jesse Manibusan, the Daily Sentinel reported.  

Roger Doak told Colorado Public Radio that his father had most likely died alone, but expressed hope that the people he comforted were there to receive him in the end.

"I'd like to think that all those people that my dad had comforted when they died, were actually there with him when he died."


In Minnesota, young people respond to abuse scandals with prayer

Wed, 08/22/2018 - 18:56

St. Paul, Minn., Aug 22, 2018 / 04:56 pm (CNA).- More than 100 young adults in Saint Paul, Minnesota, gathered this week to pray for the healing of sexual abuse victims and for a purification of the Church in the face of recent scandals.

An estimated 120 people attended a prayer vigil outside the Cathedral of St. Paul on August 20, reported the Catholic Spirit, the diocesan paper for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Attendees from parishes throughout the Twin Cities prayed the Liturgy of the Hours and offered petitions for healing and cleansing. Four priests and local Archbishop Bernard Hebda also attended.

A group of Catholic young adults organized the event in wake of recent abuse scandals, including the Pennsylvania grand jury report that identified more than 1,000 abuse allegations and numerous reported instances of cover up from the last 70 years, as well as accusations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick released earlier this summer.

Through word-of-mouth and a Facebook invite, the organizers appealed for young adults to band together in prayer.

“It will be a simple evening on the steps of the Cathedral to pray for the Lord’s healing, mercy, justice to be made present in these dark times. It is also an opportunity for us, as young adults, to band together and not be swayed by the evil that is so clearly present,” the Facebook invite said.

Prayers of petition were offered for the healing of victims still alive, for the repose of the souls of victims who committed suicide, for a purification of the Church, and for holy vocations to the priesthood, the Catholic Spirit reported.

Father Paul Baker, parochial vicar of a church in Brooklyn Park, said he came to offer reparation for sins committed by clergy members and the lack of response by some leaders in the Church.

“It’s just completely tragic and awful, just to see what has gone on,” the priest told the Catholic Spirit.

“I really just think it would behoove all dioceses and religious orders just to completely come clean with what they have, so we can definitively put this behind us.”

Archbishop Martin: Family is part of Church's 'good news' for the world

Wed, 08/22/2018 - 15:20

Dublin, Ireland, Aug 22, 2018 / 01:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- God’s plan for the family may sometimes feel countercultural, but it is nevertheless part of the Church’s “good news” for society and for the world, said Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh.

In his keynote for the first full day of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, the Irish bishop recalled the words of Pope St. John Paul II, who called the family “the domestic church.”

Throughout the week, he said, the World Meeting of Families will “distill for our times this beautiful and prophetic vision of God’s plan for marriage and the family.”

Martin’s Aug. 22 speech replaced that of Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, who cancelled his appearance at the family meeting after facing criticism for the way he managed priests who had been accused of sexual abuse during his tenure as bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006.

In his speech, Martin acknowledged that abuse scandals on several continents have made it difficult to share the “good news of family.”

“Pope Benedict XVI alerted us to the fact that the sins and crimes of sexual abuse in the Church have not only had tragic consequences in the lives of victims and their families, but they have also ‘obscured the light of the Gospel.’ For me, that is particularly true about the Gospel of the family,” he said, recognizing that many people have been left shocked, hurt, and distrustful of the Church’s message.

Families must not give up hope, he said, because as John Paul II once said, “the future of the world and of the Church… passes through the family!”

Reflecting on the role the family plays in society, Martin stressed that family life is where children learn values, wisdom, and the difference between right and wrong: “It is in the family that we first are loved and where we first learn how to love… discover who we are, where we have come from, our intergenerational relationships,” and our connection with the Church.

He also quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which calls family “the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life.”

“Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society,” the Catechism says.

The archbishop encouraged cooperation between the Church and the State in protecting the family, and listed some of the many challenges and pressures faced by families around the world, many of which were discussed during the Synod of Bishops on the family in 2015.

“The overwhelming sense among the bishops at the Synod, I found, was a desire to be with all families,” and especially those who have faced tragedy, breakdowns in their relationships, or who feel excluded for other reasons, he said. We have to find “sincere and truthful ways of welcoming and including [those people] in the life and worshipping community of the Church.”

He encouraged Catholics to help all people to know they are included in the Church. He also expressed gratitude for those families who are doing their best during what are challenging times.

“The wellbeing of the individual person, and of human and Christian society, is intimately linked with the healthy condition of that community produced by marriage and family,” he said.

“For, God Himself is the author of marriage, endowed as it is with various benefits and purposes. All of these have a very decisive bearing on the continuation of the human race, on the personal development and eternal destiny of the individual members of a family, and on the dignity, stability, peace and prosperity of the family itself and of human society as a whole.”

After grand jury report, new allegations raised in Pennsylvania

Wed, 08/22/2018 - 14:46

Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug 22, 2018 / 12:46 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Pittsburgh has received about 50 new allegations of abuse, and a state abuse hotline has received more than 500 calls after the Aug. 14 release a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing an investigation of sexual abuse in six dioceses, including Pittsburgh.

All of the allegations reported to the diocese “are from prior to 1990 and go back as far as the 1940s,” according to diocesan spokesman Rev. Nicholas Vaskov.

“We are taking all of them seriously and following our regular process for responding to them.”

The allegations to the diocese came through an abuse hotline and by e-mail the Pittsburgh Post- Gazette reported. The diocese said they came from “people who had not previously contacted us.”

Diocesan policy and canon law require that allegations be reported to law enforcement, and that priests currently in ministry be removed as allegations are investigated.

A hotline for reporting sexual abuse established by Pennsylvania’s attorney general has received 544 calls since Aug. 14, the attorney general’s office told CNA.

“Office of Attorney General agents are responding to every call, listening to each caller, recording facts, and then decisions are being made on where further investigations are appropriate,” said attorney general spokesman Joe Grace.

Grace told CNA that “a sizable number of calls concern allegations of sexual abuse by clergy and priests,” but did not specify whether allegations had also been made of abuse in other contexts.

He added that Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office “investigates and prosecutes child sexual abuse and its cover up wherever we find it.”

“Since taking office in 2017, Attorney General Shapiro and his team have charged a police chief with child predator offenses, a deputy county coroner with sex offenses, a group of prison guards in Lackawanna County with abusing female inmates, and other similar cases,” he added.  


Attack on Byzantine priest in Indiana investigated as hate crime

Wed, 08/22/2018 - 13:00

Gary, Ind., Aug 22, 2018 / 11:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Monday morning's assault of a priest of the Ruthenian Eparchy of Parma is being investigated as a hate crime, a police official has told the Chicago Tribune.

A statement attributed to the eparchial chancery said Fr. Basil Hutsko “was attacked and knocked unconscious” in the altar server's sacristy at his parish after celebrating the Divine Liturgy.

Fr. Hutsko, 64, is pastor of St. Michael parish in Merrillville, Ind., immediately south of Gary.

The priest was choked and his head slammed to the ground, making him lose consciousness.

According to the statement, the attacker said, “This is for all the kids” as he assaulted the priest Aug. 20.

“All clergy are now targets and need to be vigilant. However it must also be clear that Fr. Hutsko was a random target. He is NOT guilty of any sex abuse,” read the statement, which was signed by Fr. Thomas J. Loya, who is pastor of Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glen, Ill.

Jeff Rice, spokesman for the Merrillville police, said the local force alerted the FBI because “it is considered a hate crime” given the attacker's words, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The attack comes in the wake of the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on clerical sex abuse of minors which discussed abuse of more than 1,000 minors by some 300 priests in the mid-Atlantic state.

Fr. Hutsko was attended to by medics at St. Michael's, and was then examined at a nearby hospital. Rice said that the priest was “definitely bruised and banged up.”

Fr. Steven Koplinka of St. Nicholas Byzantine parish in Munster, Ind., told the Chicago Tribune that the priest was “attacked from the back and he didn’t see who it was.”

“It’s just like they’re targeting the wrong guys, you know?” Fr. Koplinka said. “The rest of us try our best to be good priests and unfortunately this happened.”

Depending on the circumstances, in addition to a civil crime, the attacker could have committed a delict under canon law.

If the attacker were a Latin Catholic, he could have violated CIC 1370.3, which says that “A person who uses physical force against a cleric or religious out of contempt for the faith, the Church, ecclesiastical power, or the ministry is to be punished with a just penalty.”

Were the attacker an Eastern Catholic, he would be subject to CCEO 1445.2, which says one who uses physical force against a cleric “is to be punished with an appropriate penalty.”