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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 1 hour 31 min ago

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.”

Cardinal Wuerl's name vandalized on Catholic high school sign

Tue, 08/21/2018 - 18:28

Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug 21, 2018 / 04:28 pm (CNA).- A Catholic high school named after Cardinal Donald Wuerl was vandalized Monday, following continued criticism of the cardinal’s handling of sex abuse allegations during his time as bishop of Pittsburgh.

Red spray paint covered the cardinal’s name on the sign for Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School on Monday morning.

Police said they received a call at 7 a.m. on August 20 about the Pittsburgh-area school’s entrance sign, which had been painted over on both sides, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Students at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School returned for the first day of classes to find someone had spray-painted over Wuerl&#39;s name on a sign outside the school. <a href="https://t.co/P9E8plLeOv">https://t.co/P9E8plLeOv</a> <a href="https://t.co/MYAwhL810p">pic.twitter.com/MYAwhL810p</a></p>&mdash; KDKA (@KDKA) <a href="https://twitter.com/KDKA/status/1031707501044133888?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 21, 2018</a></blockquote>
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The vandalism took place amid a call for the school to change its name, removing Cardinal Wuerl from the title. A petition calling for a name change has received more than 7,000 signatures.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has not decided if the school’s name will change, but North Catholic Principal Luke Crawford said an executive session will be held to consider it. Recommendations for a new name would be forwarded to a group overseeing the diocese’s Catholic schools and ultimately decided by Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh.

The vandalism followed an 884-page report released on August 14, concluding an 18-month investigation into clerical sex abuse within six dioceses of Pennsylvania. The report found that some 300 priests had allegedly abused more than 1000 victims in a span of seven decades.

The report raised serious questions about Wuerl’s handling of abuse cases during his tenure as Bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006. In one case, Wuerl authorized the transfer and continued ministry of a priest who had been accused of committing acts of sexual abuse decades earlier.

Wuerl, who now heads the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., has denied having had knowledge of the allegations at the time he authorized the transfer, but questions remain unanswered regarding his management of that case and others.

The cardinal has also recently faced questions related to what he might have known about the alleged sexually coercive behavior of his predecessor as Archbishop of Washington, former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. In recent months, McCarrick has faced allegations that he serially sexually abused two adolescent boys, and spent decades committing acts of sexual assault and coercion toward seminarians and young priests. In 2005 and 2007, two New Jersey dioceses reached settlements with alleged victims of McCarrick.

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

 

Knights of Columbus announce St John Vianney relic tour

Tue, 08/21/2018 - 18:22

Hartford, Conn., Aug 21, 2018 / 04:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus announced Tuesday that the fraternal organization will sponsor a US tour of the heart of St. John Vianney, in the wake of the Archbishop McCarrick scandal.

“Beginning in November, the Knights of Columbus will sponsor, in cooperation with the Shrine of St. Jean Vianney in Ars, France, a national tour of the relic of the heart of this great patron saint of priests,” Carl Anderson wrote Aug. 21 in a letter to the chaplains of the Knights of Columbus.

Anderson opened his letter saying that the problems which have come to light concerning sexual abuse by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report are cause for grave concern among Catholics and Brother Knights. Many feel deeply betrayed by those whom they long held in high regard.”

“These sins of commission and omission have sent the Church we love … into convulsions. Sadly, the disgrace not only is borne by the perpetrators, it hurts us all.”

While there are “many wonderful and faithful laborers in the vineyard of the Lord among our priests and bishops,” he said that “we have seen many other moral failings by clergy that represent a crisis of commitment to the Gospel.”

He said the Knights of Columbus “will have an important role to play in rebuilding the Church. We must commit the Knights of Columbus to work for repentance, reform and rebuilding of the Church.”

“Repentance should include a full accounting of the misdeeds by those who have committed them. Archbishop McCarrick and others at fault owe us a full account of their actions, motivations and cover-ups,” Anderson wrote.

He suggested a number of possibilities for reform, and said that such reforms “will be difficult for a Church largely unused to them, and we must support our bishops and our priests in embracing these reforms in order to rebuild.”

Anderson wrote that the Knights can help rebuild the Church by embracing “love of God and love of neighbor,” which he said is “exactly the opposite of the rejection of God and exploitation of neighbor that our Church has witnessed in these scandals.”

“In the days ahead, the Knights of Columbus will help renew our Church on a national level through a Novena of Masses in reparation for these sins that have so grievously wounded the Body of Christ. I take this opportunity to ask that you offer this Novena of Masses for our Church at your earliest opportunity.”

The Supreme Knight also mentioned programs and initiatives which the Knights have to help strengthen families and parishes.

“Now is the time for all brother Knights to stand steadfast in faith, as Catholics and as gentlemen. We will assist priests, bishops and our fellow Catholics in helping the Church chart a course for the future that puts Christ at the center.”

After religious liberty win, judge orders payment to Catholic Benefits Association

Tue, 08/21/2018 - 17:56

Denver, Colo., Aug 21, 2018 / 03:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal judge has ordered that $718,000 in compensation be paid to the Catholic Benefits Association after its successful religious freedom legal fight against mandated health care coverage that would have violated Catholic beliefs.

“We are proud of a result which will benefit so many in coming years,” Doug Wilson, CEO of the Denver-based Catholic Benefits Association, said Aug. 20.

“In addition to our current and future members, Americans of all faiths will benefit from the legal precedents we have achieved and from the court’s affirmation of (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act).”

The payment goes to the group’s legal fees and litigation costs.

Dating back to 2012 under President Barack Obama, the Department of Health and Human Services has tried to mandate health plan coverage of sterilization and contraceptives, including some drugs that can cause abortion. The Catholic Benefits Association objected to this, as well as to a counseling mandate, on the grounds it would require the association and its employer members to violate their religious beliefs.

The Catholic Benefits Association was among the plaintiffs who challenged the regulation under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which bars substantial burdens upon religious freedom.

The health coverage mandates “had attempted to force CBA members to violate Catholic moral teaching by covering contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization procedures in employee health plans,” the association said. “Failure to comply with these morally objectionable mandates carried crushing fines which, in the case of CBA’s membership, were estimated to be as much as $19 billion.”

The association has more than 1,000 Catholic employer members including hospitals, colleges, religious orders, privately-owned Catholic businesses, 60 local Churches, and about 4,000 parishes. These employers have over 88,000 employees combined.

It filed lawsuits in 2013 and 2014 on behalf of its membership. The association was the largest plaintiff in the challenge, with more religious employers than the 100 other similar lawsuits combined.

In March U.S. District Court Judge David Russell agreed with the association’s case and issued a permanent injunction to prevent the federal government from enforcing the mandate upon it. Russell also ruled that this mandate had violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by attempting to force employers to provide contraception and sterilization against their sincerely held religious beliefs.

The companies that make up the CBA had collectively accrued $6.9 billion in fines, which were eliminated by the March ruling.

Wilson, the benefits association CEO, suggested that more religious freedom cases could be on the horizon.

“While it is gratifying to reach a successful conclusion to this issue, there is so very much more to be addressed,” he said. Wilson cited the use of other federal regulations to attempt to coerce immoral actions by religious employers, such as transgender services. There are efforts to mandate insurance coverage for clinical trials involving embryonic stem cells, while state-level healthcare mandates lack sufficient religious freedom protections.

He said his organization would continue to defend religious freedom.

“Established as an association of Catholic employers, we can engage wherever we have a member,” Wilson said. “That now includes almost every state and a growing membership. We are here for as long as it takes.”

The association’s Aug. 20 statement said it is “committed to ensuring the right of Catholic employers to provide life-affirming health coverage consistent with Catholic teaching.”

The ruling in the benefit association’s favor follows the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. that closely-held corporations with religious employers opposed to the mandate cannot be forced to comply with it. Hobby Lobby is a craft store owned by Christians who were opposed to certain abortion-causing drugs included in the mandate.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic women religious who operate nursing homes for the elderly poor, also filed against the mandate. The Little Sisters of the Poor were granted an exemption from the mandate, but were back in court in November 2017 to argue their case again.

'Natural cycles' fertility app gets FDA approval to prevent pregnancy

Tue, 08/21/2018 - 15:14

Washington D.C., Aug 21, 2018 / 01:14 pm (CNA).- The FDA has approved a fertility-tracking app that boasts a lower unintended pregnancy rate than the pill, without the side effects of hormonal contraception.

The Natural Cycles app was developed by a Swedish nuclear physicist Elina Berglund and her husband Raoul Scherwizl. They created the app as a way to go “beyond contraception,” and to “get to know your body and unique cycles,” according to their website.

Berglund told Business Insider last year that the goal of the app is use scientific research to empower women with knowledge about their body, and to replace medication with technology.

In approving the app for use to prevent pregnancy, the FDA noted that its expected failure rate is 6.5 percent – lower than the 9 percent expected failure rate of the contraceptive pill, and 18 percent expected failure rate of condoms.

“Consumers are increasingly using digital health technologies to inform their everyday health decisions, and this new app can provide an effective method of contraception if it’s used carefully and correctly,” said Dr. Terri Cornelison, assistant director for the health of women in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, in a Aug. 10 statement.

Users of the Natural Cycles app record their temperature each morning with an extra-sensitive thermometer. This data is combined with information about the woman’s menstrual cycle into an algorithm that can help determine when a woman is ovulating. A woman’s body temperature rises slightly when she is fertile, allowing her track her fertility day-to-day.

The app had already been approved by German inspection and certification agency Tüv Süd.

As of last year, the app reported having more than 150,000 users in over 160 countries around the world.

While the Catholic Church teaches that the use of contraception is immoral, because it intentionally separates procreation from the sexual act, it does approve of fertility mapping methods like natural family planning, which helps married couples achieve pregnancy – or avoid it, if there is a just reason to do so – by tracking a woman’s natural fertility.  

While fertility-awareness methods are sometimes conflated with the decades-old rhythm method – which assumes a standard 28-day cycle and has high failure rates – modern methods track specific changes in an individual woman’s body that indicate fertility, including temperature, cervical mucus, and hormone levels.
 

 

Cardinal O’Malley apologizes for missed letter on McCarrick allegations

Tue, 08/21/2018 - 14:48

Boston, Mass., Aug 21, 2018 / 12:48 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston has issued an apology for not seeing a 2015 letter to his office, which detailed accusations of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s sexual misconduct and abuse of diocesan seminarians.

The apology came after media reports revealed that New York priest Father Boniface Ramsey had tried to warn church officials about McCarrick multiple times, including in the 2015 letter, which he sent to O’Malley because of his role as President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

O’Malley said his secretary Father Robert Kickham received the letter and responded to Ramsey himself, saying that the accusations fell outside of the jurisdiction of O’Malley’s office, as they did not involve minors. O’Malley said he only found out about Ramsey’s letter after the recent media reports.

“In retrospect it is now clear to Fr. Kickham and to me that I should have seen that letter precisely because it made assertions about the behavior of an Archbishop in the Church,” O’Malley said in his apology, posted on the Archdiocese of Boston’s website.

“I take responsibility for the procedures followed in my office and I also am prepared to modify those procedures in light of this experience.”

O’Malley’s lack of knowledge of the 2015 letter comes as a surprise from someone widely considered to be a “zero-tolerance” bishop on matters of sexual abuse.

As numerous McCarrick allegations continued to surface in late July, O’Malley issued a statement saying that the Church needed “more than apologies” to sexual misconduct cases.

He proposed that future allegations against bishops needed to be handled as a matter of highest priority; that a new system be put in place to handle complaints against bishops; and that these reforms be clearly announced, so there can be no doubt about how such cases should be handled in the future.

Ramsey told CBS News that accusations of sexual misconduct and abuse against McCarrick first came to his attention in 1986, and he was under the impression that “virtually everyone knew” about them, including many bishops.

"Archbishop McCarrick was inviting seminarians to his beach house...There were five beds...and there were six people. Archbishop McCarrick arranged it in such a way that somebody would join him in his bed," Ramsey told CBS.

He said that the 2015 letter contained not just rumors about McCarrick, but first-hand accounts of abuse from seminarians who had encountered McCarrick.

“I apologize to Fr. Ramsey for not having responded to him in an appropriate way and appreciate the effort that he undertook in seeking to bring his concerns about Archbishop McCarrick’s behavior to my attention,” O’Malley noted. “I also apologize to anyone whose concerns were reflected in Fr. Ramsey’s letter.”

O’Malley said that he recognized that his apology and lack of knowledge of the 2015 letter was probably still insufficient “given the way the Church has eroded the trust of our people.”

However, he said his hope is “that we can repair the trust and faith of all Catholics and the wider community by virtue of our actions and accountability in how we respond to this crisis.”

He added that the U.S. bishops are all “anxious to understand” how McCarrick became a bishop, archbishop, and cardinal if there were known allegations against him, given the vetting process that bishops have to go through before they are appointed to such positions.

“That is why the Bishops Conference are requesting an investigation by the Holy See with the participation of lay people,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley closed his apology by quoting an Aug. 20 his own letter of apology to sex abuse victims from Pope Francis: “Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sins helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.”

Cardinal Tobin denies knowledge of 'gay subculture' in Newark

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 21:00

Newark, N.J., Aug 20, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- In an Aug. 17 letter to the priests of Newark, Cardinal Joseph Tobin has said he has not been told by priests about a “gay sub-culture” in the Archdiocese of Newark.

The letter was written in response to a CNA report published the same day, in which Newark priests described their experience in seminary and ministry in the archdiocese. Tobin’s letter specifically addressed allegations, included in CNA’s report, of sexual misconduct on the part of two priests.

CNA's article included testimony about homosexual activity in the Archdiocese of Newark, from six priests who spoke to CNA on the condition of anonymity. The priests’ experience spanned across several decades under the leadership of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and Archbishop John J. Myers.

CNA reported that, in 2014, Fr. Mark O’Malley was – according to multiple sources – removed from his position as rector of the archdiocesan college seminary, and placed on medical leave following an incident in which he was accused of hiding a camera in the bedroom of a young priest.

Cardinal Tobin’s letter, which surfaced on the internet over the weekend, addressed the matter directly.

“In April 2014, Father Mark O’Malley, who was serving at St. Andrew’s College, 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. He hopes to serve as a hospital chaplain.”

CNA also reported last week that Fr. James Weiner, currently pastor of the parish of St. Andrew’s in Westwood, NJ, was under renewed investigation by archdiocesan authorities. Weiner was identified as the previously unnamed man referred to in the allegations of sexual assault made by Fr. Desmond Rossi, now a priest of the Diocese of Albany, NY.

Rossi has alleged that, in 1988, he was sexually assaulted by two transitional deacons. In 2004, Rossi received an out-of-court settlement of approximately $35,000.

Recently, Rossi said that his allegation was found “credible” by an archdiocesan review board but that no action was taken.

Tobin’s letter confirmed that Weiner’s case had been examined by a review board in 2003 “even though it did not involve an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.” The cardinal also confirmed that he had ordered the matter reopened earlier this month because of “new information and out of an abundance of caution in these most difficult times.”

This weekend, the bulletin at Fr. Weiner’s parish carried a notice that Cardinal Tobin’s office had indefinitely delayed the ceremony formally installing Weiner as pastor of the parish because of a scheduling conflict. Tobin had been scheduled to install Weiner in the post on Sept. 15.

Addressing reports of harassment and active sexual behavior by some priests, both in the seminary and in the archdiocesan presbyterate, Cardinal Tobin said that “no one – including the anonymous ‘sources’ cited in the article – has ever spoken to me about a gay subculture in the Archdiocese of Newark.”

Tobin began his letter by acknowledging the ongoing scandal of sexual abuse in the Church, following the allegations against Archbishop McCarrick and the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report. The cardinal said that these events “have shaken and saddened the bishops and priests of the Archdiocese of Newark.”

Turning to the CNA report, Tobin said that while there was “much more to communicate about these open wounds,” he was writing the letter in response to “allegations of misconduct” against the two priests of the archdiocese, Weiner and O’Malley.

The cardinal closed his letter by expressing his hope that CNA’s sources were not actually priests of the archdiocese. However, CNA confirms that the sources for the story were priests of the Newark archdiocese, along with one priest member of a religious order.

The Archdiocese of Newark declined to offer comment or respond to questions from CNA regarding the letter.

Tobin’s letter concluded by encouraging priests to refer media inquiries to the archdiocesan director of communications.

Added Cardinal Tobin, “I repeat my willingness to meet with any brother who wishes to share his concerns regarding allegations in the press or personal experience in our local Church.”

Welcoming pope's letter on abuse, head of US bishops pledges action

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 18:57

Washington D.C., Aug 20, 2018 / 04:57 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, has welcomed Pope Francis’ letter to all the faithful addressing the recent sex abuse crises in the Church.

“I am grateful to the Holy Father for his Letter to the People of God, responding to the Pennsylvania grand jury investigation and other revelations that have surfaced,” DiNardo said in a statement released by the bishops’ conference.

“The very fact that he opens the letter with the words of Saint Paul: ‘If one part suffers, all parts suffer with it’ (1 Cor 12:25), shows that he is writing to all of us as a pastor, a pastor who knows how deeply sin destroys lives.”

In his letter, Pope Francis called the universal Church to “a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting.”

Responding to the call, Cardinal DiNardo said, “I find these words of the Holy Father particularly helpful: ‘penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils.’ These words must provoke action – especially by the bishops.  We bishops need to – and we must – practice with all humility such prayer and penance.”

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said that the Pope’s letter was not just about recent scandals in the Church in America.

“This is about Ireland, this is about the United States, and this is about Chile, but not only [those places],” he told reporters. “Pope Francis has written to the People of God, and that means everyone.”

Burke said that it was especially significant that the pope referred to abuse as “a crime, not only a sin” and that, while asking for forgiveness, he acknowledged that “no effort to repair the damage done will ever be sufficient for victims and survivors” and that the “wounds from abuse never disappear.”

Pope Francis wrote that “with shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”

Cardinal DiNardo acknowledged the need for a sincere and spiritually committed response to the abuse crisis.

“The Holy Father is also inviting, and I am asking this as well, that all the faithful join in prayer and fasting as a way to help foster conversion and genuine change of life wherever it is needed, even in the shepherds of the Church. Jesus remarked once, ‘This kind can only come out through prayer and fasting’; a humble reminder that such acts of faith can move mountains and can even bring about true healing and conversion,” DiNardo said.

The pope also wrote that “no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.”

This, Burke told journalists, meant “greater accountability is urgently needed - not only for those who committed these crimes, but also for those who covered them up, which in many cases means bishops.”  

Cardinal DiNardo said that the bishops of the United States accept the urgent need for accountability, and pledged an unflinching approach to addressing past crimes.

“On behalf of my brother bishops, I offer that only by confronting our own failure in the face of crimes against those we are charged to protect can the Church resurrect a culture of life where the culture of death has prevailed.”

 

Wuerl cancels World Meeting of Familes appearance

Sat, 08/18/2018 - 22:35

Washington D.C., Aug 18, 2018 / 08:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archbishop of Washington has cancelled his scheduled participation at the Church’s World Meeting of Families, which will be held next week in Dublin, Ireland.

The cancellation comes after a week in which Washington’s archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, has faced heavy criticism for the way he managed priests who had been accused of sexual assault during his tenure of Bishop of Pittsburgh, from 1988 to 2006.

On Aug. 14, a Pennsylvania grand jury released its report on an 18-month investigation into seven decades of clerical sexual abuse allegations in six Pennsylvania dioceses, including Pittsburgh. The report raised serious questions about Wuerl’s handling of abuse cases, including one in which Wuerl authorized the transfer and continued ministry of a priest who had been accused of committing acts of sexual abuse decades earlier.

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

The cardinal has also recently faced questions related to what he might have known about the alleged sexually coercive behavior of his predecessor as Archbishop of Washington, former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. In recent months, McCarrick has faced allegations that he serially sexually abused two adolescent boys, and spent decades committing acts of sexual assault and coercion toward seminarians and young priests. In 2005 and and 2007, two New Jersey dioceses reached settlements with alleged victims of McCarrick.

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

Wuerl has faced multiple calls for his resignation this week. In fact, the cardinal actually submitted a letter of resignation to Pope Francis in November 2015, upon turning 75, the age at which bishops customarily submit letters of resignation to the pope. While many insiders had expected Wuerl to remain in his post until the age of 80, it now seems likely that his resignation will be accepted before that time.

There has been no indication from the Vatican of when Wuerl’s resignation might be accepted. However, sources close to the cardinal speculate that he might remain in his position long enough to participate in initial discussions among U.S. bishops as they begin to address the fallout from the monumental sexual abuse crisis the Church is now facing.

 Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston also cancelled his participation this week in the World Meeting of Families. O’Malley withdrew from the event after announcing an investigation into allegations of sexual improprieties at the Archdiocese of Boston’s seminary.

The World Meeting of Families is organized by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, which is headed by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, formerly the Bishop of Dallas, and before that an auxiliary bishop, under McCarrick, in the Archdiocese of Washington.

The World Meeting of Families will take place Aug. 21-26. Pope Francis will celebrate an open air Mass in Dublin’s Phoenix Park on Aug. 26.

Bishop Morlino: 'Homosexual subculture' is source of 'devastation' in the Church

Sat, 08/18/2018 - 16:21

Madison, Wis., Aug 18, 2018 / 02:21 pm (CNA).- In response to recent sexual abuse crises, the Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin, has said that the Catholic Church must renew its conviction to identify and reject sin, and admit that a homosexual culture among some clerics has caused great harm in the Church.

The bishop also called Catholics to join him in offering acts of reparation for the sins of sexual immorality among Catholic deacons, priests, and bishops.

“For too long we have diminished the reality of sin — we have refused to call a sin a sin — and we have excused sin in the name of a mistaken notion of mercy. In our efforts to be open to the world we have become all too willing to abandon the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In order to avoid causing offense we offer to ourselves and to others niceties and human consolation,” wrote Bishop Robert Morlino in a pastoral letter released Aug. 18.

“There must be no room left, no refuge for sin — either within our own lives, or within the lives of our communities. To be a refuge for sinners (which we should be), the Church must be a place where sinners can turn to be reconciled. In this I speak of all sin,” he added.

Morlino said that he had been sickened by reading the stories of sexual abuse contained in a report on clerical sexual abuse released Aug. 14 by a Pennsylvania grand jury, and by allegations against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who has been accused of serially sexually abusing two teenage boys, and of sexually assaulting and coercing priests and seminarians for several decades.

“But my own sickness at the stories is quickly put into perspective when I recall the fact that many individuals have lived through them for years. For them, these are not stories, they are indeed realities. To them I turn and say, again, I am sorry for what you have suffered and what you continue to suffer in your mind and in your heart,” he wrote.

The bishop was particularly candid in his assessment of the cause of those problems: “In the specific situations at hand, we are talking about deviant sexual — almost exclusively homosexual — acts by clerics. We’re also talking about homosexual propositions and abuses against seminarians and young priests by powerful priests, bishops, and cardinals. We are talking about acts and actions which are not only in violation of the sacred promises made by some, in short, sacrilege, but also are in violation of the natural moral law for all. To call it anything else would be deceitful and would only ignore the problem further.”

"There has been a great deal of effort to keep separate acts which fall under the category of now-culturally-acceptable acts of homosexuality from the publically-deplorable acts of pedophilia. That is to say, until recently the problems of the Church have been painted purely as problems of pedophilia — this despite clear evidence to the contrary," he added.

"It is time to be honest that the problems are both and they are more. To fall into the trap of parsing problems according to what society might find acceptable or unacceptable is ignoring the fact that the Church has never held ANY of it to be acceptable — neither the abuse of children, nor any use of one’s sexuality outside of the marital relationship, nor the sin of sodomy, nor the entering of clerics into intimate sexual relationships at all, nor the abuse and coercion by those with authority," he wrote.

Morlino said that McCarrick was guilty of abusing power "for the sake of homosexual gratification." 

“It is time to admit that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is wreaking great devastation in the vineyard of the Lord. The Church’s teaching is clear that the homosexual inclination is not in itself sinful, but it is intrinsically disordered in a way that renders any man stably afflicted by it unfit to be a priest,” he added.

Morlino wrote to seminarians of his diocese that they should immediately notify him of any sexual abuse, coercion, or sexual immorality they might experience or witness in their seminaries.

“I will address it swiftly and vigorously. I will not stand for this in my diocese or anywhere I send men for formation,” he wrote, adding that he expects seminaries to address sexual immorality directly.

To the priests of Madison, the bishop explained his expectation that each one “live out your priesthood as a holy priest, a hard working priest, and a pure and happy priest — as Christ Himself is calling you to do. And by extension, live a chaste and celibate life so that you can completely give your life to Christ, the Church, and the people whom he has called you to serve. God will give you the graces to do so.”

He likewise called priests to notify him of abuse or sexual immorality they might become aware of.

Morlino also wrote to lay Catholics, asking them to bring forward any instance of clerical sexual abuse or immorality they might be aware of. The bishop promised to hold priests and seminarians accountable to chaste standards of behavior, and to call for reform in the Church.

The bishop asked lay Catholics to “assist in keeping us accountable to civil authorities, the faithful in the pews, and to God Almighty, not only to protect children and the youth from sexual predators in the Church, but our seminarians, university students, and all the faithful as well. I promise to put any victim and their sufferings before that of the personal and professional reputation of a priest, or any Church employee, guilty of abuse.”

The bishop concluded his letter with a call to holiness and prayer.

“More than anything else, we as a Church must cease our acceptance of sin and evil. We must cast out sin from our own lives and run toward holiness. We must refuse to be silent in the face of sin and evil in our families and communities and we must demand from our pastors — myself included — that they themselves are striving day in and day out for holiness. We must do this always with loving respect for individuals but with a clear understanding that true love can never exist without truth.”

“I ask you all to join me and the entire clergy of the Diocese of Madison in making public and private acts of reparation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for all the sins of sexual depravity committed by members of the clergy and episcopacy,” he wrote.

He added that he would be offering a public Mass of reparation in the diocese and explained that on Sept. 19, 21, and 22, the traditional “ember days” of the Church, he would be fasting “in reparation for the sins and outrages committed by members of the clergy and episcopacy and I invite all the faithful to do the same.”

“Some sins, like some demons, can only be driven out by prayer and fasting,” he wrote.

 

After roadblocks, film on abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell releases preview

Sat, 08/18/2018 - 08:04

Washington D.C., Aug 18, 2018 / 06:04 am (CNA).- The trial of a Philadelphia abortion doctor, whose shoddy clinics and gruesome practices led to his conviction of three counts of murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter, is the subject of a movie due to be released in October.

A trailer previews the movie “Gosnell: America’s Biggest Serial Killer”, a crowd-funded project produced by a team of filmmakers and journalists, some of whom were present for the trial which concluded in 2013.

The name takes its title from the grand jury report in the trial, which detailed the crimes and grisly malpractices of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell’s clinics, including the snipping of the necks of more than 100 babies who had survived abortion.

The film was given the green light to show in U.S. theaters after the producers settled with Judge Jeffrey Minehart, who was involved in the original Gosnell trial and sued to block the film’s release, arguing that he was portrayed in the film as “Philadelphia’s liberal corrupt government.”

The film’s producers told The Hollywood Reporter that it had been “a really hard road” but that they are anticipating the movie to show in as many as 750 theaters throughout the country.

“No matter what your stance is on abortion, you will have a more informed opinion after you see Gosnell,” director Nick Searcy said.

The filmmakers have said they are hoping to avoid an R-rating by alluding to, but not directly showing, some of the most gruesome details of Gosnell’s practices.

"The fanatic subject matter poses a risk," executive producer John Sullivan told The Hollywood Reporter. "We were very careful not to make it too graphic. Gosnell saving feet of infants in jars as trophies plays a role, and you’ll see him take scissors out, but that part plays out as theater of the mind."

After reportedly being kicked off of crowdfunding site Kickstarter because of the film’s anti-abortion content, the multi-million dollar project was crowdfunded on Indiegogo, and was one of the most successfully crowdfunded films of all time, according to Gosnell producers.

“Almost 30,000 people donated over $2.3m in 45 days. When it ended it was the most successful crowdfunding campaign on the Indiegogo website,” the producers note on their website. “We want to thank all of our funders who helped make this project such a success. We literally could not have done it without you. This is your movie.”

Phelim McAleer, one of the film’s producers and a journalist who covered the Gosnell trial, said in an introductory video to the film that part of the motivation for the movie was the lack of attention to the trial in the mainstream media.

“The media have basically ignored his crime and his trial,” he said.

“He ran an abortion clinic in Philadelphia where he delivered live, viable babies and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors.”

"I've been on hard films before, but this one was particularly difficult," Sullivan told The Hollywood Reporter. "Hollywood is afraid of this content. It's a true story the media tried to ignore from the very beginning, so I wasn’t surprised to see Hollywood ignore us."

During Gosnell's trial, one Philadelphia-area reporter took photos of the courtroom showing that the courtroom benches reserved from the press were empty.

National media covered the case only after pro-life advocates launched a social media campaign to raise awareness about the case.

Gosnell's clinic had not been subject to oversight by the state of Pennsylvania since 1993. A federal drug raid in 2010 uncovered blood-stained rooms and filthy equipment.

According to the grand jury report, the clinic stored aborted fetuses in a basement freezer in plastic food containers and bags next to staff lunches. Gosnell kept severed feet of unborn babies preserved in specimen jars, allegedly for future identification or DNA samples.

Staff allegedly sent women to give birth into toilets, a doctor allegedly spread sexually transmitted infections to women through poor sanitary standards, and a 15-year-old staffer administered anesthesia to patients. The clinic also allegedly gave preferential treatment to white patients.

In addition to the counts of first degree murder, the abortion doctor was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient who died of an overdose in 2009.

Prosecutors had sought a third-degree murder charge in her case, saying Gosnell let his untrained and unlicensed staff give the 41-year-old Bhutanese immigrant woman a fatal combination of drugs.

Several of Gosnell’s former employees have pleaded guilty to murder and other charges. Gosnell himself is now serving several life sentences.

“Gosnell” opens in theaters throughout the country on Oct. 12 through GVN Releasing. It stars Dean Cain as Detective James “Woody” Wood, the main detective on the case, and Earl Billings as Dr. Kermit Gosnell.

Dan Burke appointed president, COO of EWTN News 

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 17:20

Irondale, Ala., Aug 17, 2018 / 03:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- EWTN Global Catholic Network announced Friday that Daniel Burke has been named President and Chief Operating Officer of EWTN News, Inc. Burke has been serving as Executive Director of EWTN’s National Catholic Register.

The appointment is effective immediately. In his new role, Burke will oversee and direct EWTN’s global news operations, including EWTN News Nightly with Lauren AshburnThe World Over with Raymond ArroyoEWTN Pro-Life Weekly, Force for Good, the Washington, D.C. News Production group, The National Catholic Register, Catholic News Agency, the ACI Group, ChurchPop, and EWTN’s Vatican Bureau.

“EWTN Foundress Mother Angelica changed the face of Catholicism in America as she advanced the Gospel through her use of the media,” Burke said in a statement.  

Today, Mother’s legacy continues through EWTN, he said, and Catholic news contributes to the network’s mission of worldwide evangelization.  

“I am honored to play a small role in this great work of God and look forward to serving the vital mission of EWTN News as we engage and examine the events of the day through the lens of the teachings of the Church.”

Burke will report to Michael Warsaw, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of EWTN.

“Over the past several years, EWTN has focused a great deal of effort on creating a global Catholic news platform through television, radio, print and digital,” said Warsaw in a statement.

“Dan Burke is a perfect choice to lead these operations,” Warsaw said. “He is uniquely suited to help facilitate cooperation and editorial collaboration across our multiple outlets. I am confident this will result in a greatly strengthened position for all of our news operations.” 

Burke has been part of EWTN since the network acquired the National Catholic Register in 2011. 

He has previously worked in global strategy development, organizational development, and business and technology consulting. He has written or edited 11 books on Catholic spirituality, and he founded the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, which teaches graduate-level courses in spirituality to priests, religious and laity.

EWTN Global Catholic Network was launched in 1981 by Mother Angelica of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. The largest religious media network in the world, it reaches more than 275 million television households in more than 145 countries and territories.

In addition to 11 television channels in multiple languages, EWTN platforms include radio services through shortwave and satellite radio, SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 AM & FM affiliates. EWTN publishes the National Catholic Register, operates a religious goods catalogue, and in 2015 formed EWTN Publishing in a joint venture with Sophia Institute Press. Catholic News Agency is also part of the EWTN family.

US bishops express anguish over abuse reports, encourage change in Church

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 17:12

Washington D.C., Aug 17, 2018 / 03:12 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a grand jury found thousands of alleged instances of sexual abuse in six of Pennsylvania’s Catholic dioceses, numerous U.S. bishops have called for renewal and change in face of these heartbreaking events.

Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the Church in the U.S. is in “a sad and confusing time.”

In his homily for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Aug. 15, the archbishop asked the Blessed Mother to intercede for greater purity and renewed love inside the Church.

“Let us ask the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary, the Mother of the Church. May she help us to have the courage we need to purify the Church and renew our love for holiness and our devotion to Jesus Christ and his Gospel.”

An 884-page grand jury report was released Aug. 14. The report states more than 1,000 victims had been sexually abused by some 300 priests over a span of seven decades. The report also points to the efforts to conceal or ignore the abuse by Church authorities.

Archbishop Gomez said now is the time for prayers and repentance in the Church, encouraging actions of forgiveness and healing.

“This is a time now for prayer and repentance and a time for examining our conscience, especially for those of us who are bishops and priests. And all of us need to pray for every person who has been hurt by the Church, and we need to work to help them heal.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said the report should also ignite a just anger, not an unhealthy rage, and he compared it to Christ's actions toward the moneychangers in the temple.

His archdiocese experienced similar reports on abuse in 2005 and 2011, he said, noting the “The anger Philadelphians felt toward the Archdiocese was likewise well placed.” Similarly, he said, this recent event calls for an anger which needs to be controlled and fruitful.

“Anger is also a righteous and necessary response – but it needs to be an anger that bears good fruit; an anger guided by clear thinking, prudence, and a desire for real justice. That kind of anger all of us should feel this week and carry with us into the days ahead.”

For his archdiocese, he said, anger motivated change. Since the abuse had been made known, the archdiocese has taught an estimated 100,000 laypeople and clergy to recognize and report abuse.

An Aug. 15 statement from the bishops of New Jersey dioceses acknowledged “that media accounts of the details contained in Pennsylvania’s grand jury report show a heartbreaking departure from our fundamental belief in the dignity and value of every child. As a Church, our calling remains unchanged - to help children in our care encounter leaders who exemplify God’s commandment to love and protect the most vulnerable.”

“As Bishops, we hold that every parent and every child deserve a safe environment to learn and explore their faith. Every space where teaching, worship, and ministry take place must provide this safe environment. There must be no compromise on this principle. The children entrusted to our care are treasures.”

The New Jersey bishops said they will “remain vigilant to ensure that not one child will ever be abused on our watch,” adding that the state's dioceses have conducted background checks on all personnel who have regular contact with minors.

“We thank law enforcement agencies, child protection advocates and victims themselves who have helped us move beyond compliance to creating the safest environments for learning and worship. We are deeply thankful for those who have joined our efforts to extend both healing and hope to every victim and their family. We renew our commitment to foster healing and seek forgiveness.”

The bishops of New Jersey's dioceses urged “anyone who was abused by clergy to come forward to civil authorities.”

Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston said that while many sexual offenders have answered for their crimes, there are areas in need of improvement.

“While many perpetrators have been held accountable in one way or another for their crimes, we have yet to establish clear and transparent systems of accountability and consequence for Church leadership whose failures have allowed these crimes to occur.”

“The Church must embrace spiritual conversion and demand legal transparency and pastoral accountability for all who carry out its mission,” he added. “The way we prepare priests, the way we exercise pastoral leadership and the way we cooperate with civil authorities; all these have to be consistently better than has been the case.”

This will not be an easy task, admitted the cardinal. He said Catholics and others in society are frustrated with Church leadership. However, he promised there is still hope.

“I am not without hope and do not succumb to despondent acceptance that our failures cannot be corrected. As the Church we have the responsibility to help people not to lose hope, that was Jesus’ message to all those he ministered to, especially in times of great trial.”

“There is too much good in the Church and in our faith to lose hope. Often it is survivors who courageously teach us we cannot lose hope.”

Investigation launched into sexual harassment claims at Philadelphia seminary

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 14:01

Philadelphia, Pa., Aug 17, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Timothy Senior, auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, has announced that the archdiocese is investigating a claim of sexual harassment made by a former student at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

In a letter sent this week to the priests and deacons of the archdiocese, the bishop said that the allegations concerned actions by a former student against another during the 2010-11 academic year.
 
The investigation was confirmed in a statement made by the archdiocese Aug. 16.

John Monaco, a former student at St. Charles Borromeo, made the allegations public in an online account posted Aug. 9.
 
Monaco subsequently enrolled in St. John’s Seminary in Boston, and also detailed alleged “abuse and misconduct” there. Last week, Cardinal Séan O’Malley announced a “full independent inquiry” into allegations of misconduct in St. John’s.
 
The investigation at St. Charles Borromeo comes in the wake of the ongoing scandal surrounding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who is accused of sexually abusing minors and of sexually harassing seminarians during his time in ministry. On Aug. 17, new allegations emerged concerning a “homosexual subculture” among seminarians in his former archdiocese of Newark.
 
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s announcement also follows the release of a grand jury report into six other Pennsylvania dioceses. That report followed an 18 month investigation and contained the names of 300 priests accused of sexual abuse. Writing in response to that report’s release, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said that anger by the faithful was understandable and for Church leaders “the only acceptable responses are grief and support for the victims, and comprehensive efforts to ensure that such things never recur.”
 
Speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Monaco said that “it was painful to go back and re-experience the memories, but I am glad that I came forward …. A seminary should never be a place where a man does not feel that he can be protected and grow in holiness.”
 
The allegations made by Monaco concerning the seminaries in Philadelphia and Boston include accounts of excessive drinking by priests who would invite a “clique” of seminarians to their rooms for private parties.

In a statement made Aug. 16, Ken Gavin, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said that the archdiocese had “recently became aware of allegations of sexual harassment by one seminarian of another.”
 
“In keeping with the long-term policy of the seminary and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, this allegation was turned over the Archdiocesan Office of Investigations for appropriate handling in light of policy and applicable law. As it is an active investigation, we are not able to comment upon it further.”

After welcoming pro-lifers, Missouri Democrats quickly backtrack

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 13:11

Jefferson City, Mo., Aug 17, 2018 / 11:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Missouri Democratic leaders have voted to remove language acknowledging different views of abortion from their party platform, drawing criticism from pro-life Democrats who say they deserve to be recognized and the move could harm the party’s prospects this November.

Kristen Day, president of Democrats for Life of America, said the actions of state party chairman Stephen Webber “send the message that pro-life Missourians are unwelcome in the party.”

“If that is his intention, then he should state it clearly and explicitly in an official statement,” Day said Aug. 11. “Missouri pro-life Democrats are real Democrats who support labor and helped to defeat the right-to-work proposition this week. They support health care, a living wage, and a host of other issues on which all Democrats agree. We want to be in this party, and we will wait for a clear statement from Chairman Webber on where we stand.”

The previous party platform language was approved at a June meeting of the state party platform committee by a 31-25 vote, the St. Louis-based newspaper The Riverfront Times reports.

“We respect the conscience of each Missourian and recognize that members of our party have deeply held and sometimes differing positions on issues of personal conscience, such as abortion,” said the added language. “We recognize the diversity of views as a source of strength and we welcome into our ranks all Missourians who may hold different positions on this issue.”

The Missouri Democratic Party’s central committee voted to remove the platform language on Aug. 11. It then added language saying the party opposes “any efforts to limit access to reproductive health care” and backs “a woman’s right to choose and the right of every person to their own bodily autonomy and to be free from government intrusion in medical decisions, including a decision to carry a pregnancy to term.”

The central committee also added a preamble stating that the platform reflects the party’s values, though candidates must articulate their own policy positions.

“We made a mistake,” said St. Louis alderwoman Annie Rice, “Abortion is a legal healthcare procedure, and as a party we must support access.”

Rice tried and failed to block the change to the platform in June.

Webber, the party chairman, said the platform discussion wasn’t contentious, telling the Kansas City Star “We got it right, and the final product is something that can unify the whole party.”

Day, however, made the case for acknowledging Democratic voters who oppose abortion.

“Pro-life Democrats have stayed in the shadows and have been taken for granted long enough. We must be recognized and heard,” she said. “Right now, we are hearing that current leaders of the Democratic Party do not want us and we should look elsewhere.”

She said the unilateral removal of ratified platform language is “very unusual.”

“It makes you wonder about the kind of pressure supposedly ‘progressive’ groups exerted and why,” Day said. “They know that this removal will cause chaos.”

Day defended the platform language proposed in June by former Missouri State Rep. Joan Barry.

“Joan didn’t ask for much,” said Day. “She put forth a reasonable amendment that merely made a point of recognizing that while some Democrats do not agree with the party position on abortion, they should be treated with respect and included in the party.”

At the August central committee vote, Barry abstained. She said she was disappointed by the change but was committed to electing Democrats in the upcoming elections.

“Diversity has been a matter of strength in this party,” Barry told the Kansas City Star. “I just felt that we needed to be sure pro-life Democrats are recognized as members of the party. Some people in the electorate don’t believe that you can be pro-life and be a Democrat. But that’s not true. We are Democrats. And I’ll do everything I can to help the party this fall.”

Pro-abortion rights groups praised the platform change.

Alison Dreith, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, characterized the previous platform language as “anti-choice.”

“The Democratic Party’s overwhelming vote to re-prioritize reproductive freedom has put the party back on track just in time to pick up wins in November,” she said.

Rachel Sweet, who is regional director of public policy and organizing for Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, welcomed the change, saying, ”Democrats across the state have let their party leaders know that a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions is non-negotiable.”

After the June vote, Sweet had said “Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes will hold accountable any party or candidate who doesn’t believe in every person’s right to make their own personal medical decisions without government interference,” the Kansas City Star reported.

Day compared the previous language to the 1996 national Democratic Party platform language included by U.S. Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio). She characterized the language as non-combative. While it suggested the party has an official position on abortion, it also suggested “that the party does not want to lose the votes of Democrats who may disagree on that one position.”

The platform change could have political consequences for Democrats, Day argued. She cited the competitive race facing incumbent U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), who backs legal abortion but has said she welcomes votes opposed to abortion. According to Day, the McCaskill race could have a pivotal role in determining the outcome of U.S. Supreme Court nominations and even impeachment of President Donald Trump.

“Missouri Party Chairman Stephen Webber thinks that the best way to support Senator McCaskill and other Democrats in Missouri is to create an unnecessary battle over abortion,” charged Day.

Day said that efforts to silence pro-life Democrats have produced poor results for the party in Missouri. Democratic legislators have been in the minority in both houses of the state legislature since 2002, they hold only two of Missouri’s eight Congressional seats, and Democrats “have a difficult time winning seats outside the urban cores,” she argued.

“If I were the party chairman, I would try to decipher what was going wrong and try to unite the party, not highlight the divisive issue of abortion by reversing a moderate amendment that says we are a big-tent party,” Day said.

 

 

Appeals court protects Texas bishops' communications in abortion case

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 12:30

Austin, Texas, Aug 17, 2018 / 10:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The privacy and religious freedom of Texas bishops and other religious groups was upheld by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, after the bishops’ internal communications were subpoenaed by an abortion group.

In the 2016 case Whole Woman’s Health v. Smith, an abortion group sued the state of Texas, challenging a law that would require abortion facilities to bury or cremate aborted fetal remains.

As of now, remains can be disposed of through incineration or disinfection and then discharged into a landfill, disposed of into sewer systems, or any other “approved alternate treatment process, provided that the process renders the item as unrecognizable, followed by deposition in a sanitary landfill.”  

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB) voiced their support for the state of Texas and offered free burials for the remains of aborted babies. Whole Woman’s Health responded by subpoenaing the bishops - although they had not been named in the lawsuit - and demanded access to all internal communications regarding abortion, including any theological and doctrinal debates on the issue.

The bishops released more than 4,000 pages of abortion-related communications with outside individuals, but did not turn over private, internal communications between bishops on the matter, and appealed for emergency protection of these communications.  

In June, a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court protected the bishops’ emails and communications, after which Woman’s Health appealed for a full court hearing.

The bishops’ right to protect their internal communications from government interference or opposition groups was again upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans yesterday.  

“It turns out that suing the Good Samaritan was a bad idea,” Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said in a statement. Becket has represented the bishops in court.

“The Church should not have been dragged into this lawsuit solely because it offered free burials for babies. We’re glad the full Fifth Circuit recognized that.”

A final decision on the original lawsuit will come from Federal District Judge David Ezra at a yet unspecified date.

New allegations surface regarding Archbishop McCarrick and Newark priests

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 07:00

Newark, N.J., Aug 17, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA).- Recent allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick include reports that he made sexual advances toward seminarians during his tenure as Bishop of Metuchen and Archbishop of Newark.

CNA recently spoke to six priests of the Archdiocese of Newark, and one priest member of a religious order who was a seminarian in New York in the early 1970s, while McCarrick was a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

Citing archdiocesan policy and concerns about ecclesiastical repercussions for their candor, the priests agreed to speak to CNA only under the condition of anonymity. The priests spoke individually to CNA, and their accounts were compared for confirmation.  

The religious priest who spoke to CNA said when he studied in a seminary in New York, McCarrick, who was then an aide to Cardinal Terence Cooke of New York, would sometimes visit the seminary. The priest said that McCarrick’s reputation was already well established by this time.  

“The dean of our theology school was a classmate at CUA with McCarrick, and he knew about the rumors,” the priest told CNA, “he spoke about them with the other faculty and theologians very openly.”  

So well-known was McCarrick’s reputation, the priest said, that when McCarrick would accompany Cooke to visit the seminary there was a standing joke that they had to "hide the handsome ones" before he arrived.  

The same reputation reportedly followed the archbishop years later, when he served from 1986-2000 as Archbishop of Newark. One priest of the Archdiocese of Newark told CNA it was an uncomfortable experience when McCarrick came to visit the seminary.  

The priest said that McCarrick would often place his hand on seminarians while talking with them, or on their thighs while seated near them.  

“It was really unnerving. On the one hand you knew – knew – what was going on but you couldn’t believe it.”  

Several other priests from Newark spoke to CNA about similar experiences.

One priest worked in close proximity to the archbishop in the archdiocesan chancery for a number of years. “There were the ‘nephews,’ for sure,” he said. “He had a type: tall, slim, intelligent  - but no smokers.”  

The priest told CNA that, in addition to trips to a house on the shore, McCarrick would invite young men to stay the night in the cathedral rectory in central Newark.  

“Priests would tell me ‘he’s sleeping with them’ all the time, but I couldn’t believe it – they seemed like perfectly normal guys,” the priest said.  

Another priest, a former priest secretary to McCarrick, told CNA that McCarrick frequently ordained classes of priests among the largest in the country, and that the archbishop prided himself on recruiting young men from the diocese to enter the seminary.

But many in the archdiocese say that the high numbers of ordinations came at a cost. One priest said that some graduating classes from the middle 1990s have seen nearly half of their members leave ministry, and concerns have been raised about the behavior of some of those who remain in ministry.  

Fr. Desmond Rossi was a seminarian in Newark in the late 1980s. He has publicly alleged that, in 1988, two transitional deacons sexually abused him.

According to Rossi, he told archdiocesan authorities about the assault and went before a review board. He said that his story was “found credible, but nothing happened.” Instead, he claims the archdiocese turned against him for bringing the allegation forward.

“They tried to turn it on me," Rossi said.  

Rossi eventually left the archdiocese and now serves as a priest in the Diocese of Albany. In 2004, the Archdiocese of Newark agreed to an out-of-court settlement of approximately $35,000 with Rossi in response to his accusations. At least one of the alleged abusers is still in active ministry in the Archdiocese of Newark, Rossi said.  

Rossi’s allegations have resurfaced in the wake of the current scandals and on August 2, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, current Archbishop of Newark, announced that he would reexamine the matter, and that he had referred it to his Office for Canonical Affairs.  

While the Archdiocese of Newark declined to confirm the name of the accused priest remaining in active ministry, several priests in the archdiocese identified him as Fr. James Weiner, and told CNA that he has a reputation among the clergy, dating back to his time in the seminary, for active homosexuality.  

In recent years, several priests said, Weiner is known for hosting cocktail parties in his rectory, which other homosexual priests of the archdiocese are known to attend.

Three Newark priests independently gave CNA nearly identical accounts of being invited to these parties when they were newly ordained.  

One recalled that he attended a cocktail party, thinking he had been invited to a simple priests’ dinner. “I was led into the room to a chorus of wolf-whistles,” he said. “It was clear right away I was ‘on display.’”

Another priest told CNA that he was also invited to a party hosted by the priest. “They were all carrying big mixed drinks, pink ones, it was like something out of Sex in City.”

He recalled that after asking for a beer, he was told by his host, “you need to try something more girly tonight.”  

All recounted overtly sexual conversation at the cocktail parties.   “I was fresh meat and they were trying me out,” one priest said.

All three said they left quickly upon realizing what was going on. “Everyone was getting loaded and getting closer on the couches, I wanted out of there,” a priest told CNA.  

“Everyone kept calling me a ‘looker’ and saying they had to ‘keep me around’ from now on,” a third Newark priest told CNA.

The archdiocese declined to answer questions related to those parties.

All three priests told CNA that while the experience was deeply unpleasant, they had seen similar behavior in Newark’s seminary.

Seminarians and priests from ordination classes spanning 30 years, during the terms of McCarrick and Myers, reported to CNA that they had observed an active homosexual subculture of priest and seminarians within Newark’s Immaculate Conception Seminary.  

One priest ordained in the early years of McCarrick’s term in Newark said that “a lot of people lost their innocence in the seminary.”

He told CNA that there were two distinct groups of students. “You had the men who were there because they had a deep love of the Lord and a vocation to serve his Church,” he said, adding that those men were the majority of seminarians.

“But there was a subculture, with its own group of men, that was openly homosexual and petty and vindictive with everyone else,” he explained.  

The same priest said that before he entered the seminary he was warned he would “see things that weren’t right.” He said he was counseled by an older priest to “just remember who you are and why you are there.”  

Several Newark priests told CNA that the same atmosphere existed under Archbishop John Myers, who led the archdiocese from 2001-2016.

One priest who studied during that period recalled being told, as a newly arrived seminarian, to lock his bedroom door at night to avoid “visitors.”

“I thought they were kidding – they really weren’t,” he said.  

Another priest told CNA that, as a senior seminarian and transitional deacon, young seminarians would come to him in tears.

“They were just so scandalized by what they saw, these upperclassmen flagrantly carrying on with each other in gay relationships.”  

A third priest says that these seminarians were frequently visited by other priests of the diocese, some of whom he later saw at the rectory cocktail parties.

“There was definitely a group of, well I guess we’re calling them ‘uncles’ now. They would come by to visit with the effeminate crowd, bring them stuff and take them out,” he said.  

One priest told CNA that, in his judgment, many of Newark’s priests felt resigned to that culture, even after McCarrick left.

“It is so horrible, so repulsive, no one wants to look straight at it,” one priest said. “You don’t want to see it and at the same time you can’t miss it.”

Another told CNA that among diocesan authorities “there is a huge culture of toleration.”

“It is generational at this point. In seminary you’re told to mind your own business, keep your head down and not start trouble - they are over there doing whatever and you leave them to it. And then you’re ordained and it is the same story - you don’t win prizes for picking fights.”

Nevertheless, some cases still have the power to shock.

One Newark priest told CNA that he had direct knowledge that Fr. Mark O’Malley was in 2014 removed as rector of St. Andrew’s Hall, the archdiocesan college seminary, after an allegation that he hid a camera in the bedroom of a young priest at the seminary. Two additional Newark priests independently reported to CNA they had been informed in 2014 that O’Malley had been removed for that reason.

Additional sources close to the archdiocese confirmed that they had heard this allegation, with one characterizing it as a kind of open secret among Newark’s priests.

The Archdiocese of Newark announced in 2014 that O’Malley was seeking a ”medical leave of absence.” He has since returned to ministry, albeit not in a parish setting.

The archdiocese declined to comment on that allegation.

All three priests who relayed the story said incidents like that embittered them.

“It isn’t that a guy did a bad thing - that happens. It’s that it’s just not acknowledged. Everybody talks about it, everybody knows, but nobody looks right at it,” one of the priests said.

All six Newark priests CNA spoke to expressed hope that the sexual abuse scandals now embroiling the Church will lead to change. Several stressed that reforms of the seminary had already begun by the end of Myers’ term in office, and that a recent succession of diocesan vocations directors had imposed newly rigorous standards on prospective seminary candidates.  

“When I was sent for graduate studies I heard the jokes from guys from other dioceses - ‘what the world disdains, Newark ordains’ they’d say. Those days are over and that’s a real comfort to me,” one priest said.

As for the problems with priests already in ministry, the priests agreed it was demoralizing, for priests and lay Catholics alike.

One said that priests living unfaithful lives are a scandal playing out “with the mute button on.”

“Our people aren’t stupid. They know who their pastors are, for good and bad. They know who drinks too much, they know if their priest is celibate or not. But they see nothing is done about it and they understand that the Church doesn’t mean what it says, or even care.”

Another told CNA, “nobody is fooled by the medical leave thing anymore. I’m terrified I might actually get sick, my parishioners would probably think I’d done something terrible.”

One priest said that expectations of change were raised during the brief tenure of Archbishop Bernard Hebda, appointed in 2013 to be Myers’ coadjutor archbishop, his successor-in-waiting.

Hebda chose to live in a dormitory at Seton Hall University and was a frequent sight around the archdiocesan seminaries. He was also reported to make unannounced visits to parishes, suddenly knocking at the back doors of rectories or sliding in to a back pew at Sunday Mass.

In 2015, before Hebda could become Newark’s archbishop, he was asked to serve as apostolic administrator of Minneapolis- St. Paul, in the wake of Archbishop John Nienstedt’s resignation. Hebda was appointed Nienstedt’s permanent replacement in 2016.

“He wasn’t kidding around. You could tell he wanted to know everything, who was who and what was what - and who was into what,” one pastor who received a surprise visit from Hebda told CNA.

Newark priests told CNA that they are still waiting to see what changes Cardinal Joseph Tobin, who became Archbishop of Newark in 2017, will bring to the archdiocese. Sources in the Newark chancery describe the cardinal as reserved, eager to listen to suggestions and proposals, but unwilling to be drawn into making decisions quickly.

Meanwhile, in parishes the priests of Newark wait to see, wondering if the current crises might bring about change.

“You hope that at some point the cardinal will act, that there will be nothing left to lose by acting, but we will see.”

 

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