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Does the Pa. grand jury report mean changes for statutes of limitations?

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 05:23

Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug 17, 2018 / 03:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Following a major grand jury report on past sexual abuse in six Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania, discussions continue over whether and how to change the state’s legal limits on prosecution and civil lawsuits for sex abuse.

“We are devastated and outraged by the revelations of terrible sexual abuse crimes committed in the Catholic Church,” Amy B. Hill, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, told CNA Aug. 16.

“The time to discuss legislation will come later,” she said. “Our focus now is on improving ways that survivors and their families can recover as they continue through a difficult healing process.”

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

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

The grand jury report recommended creating a retroactive two-year legal window allowing victims of child sex abuse to sue even if the statute of limitations has expired.

The Pennsylvania legislature’s S.B. 261 would eliminate the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of child sex crimes. It would raise the age limit of underage victims seeking to file civil lawsuits from age 30 to age 50. The bill passed by a 48-0 vote in February 2017 and the House of Representatives could consider it during its next session, which begins in September.

State Reps. Aaron Bernstine and Chris Sainato are among the backers of the bill.

Bernstine said the incidents reported by the grand jury are “beyond troubling.”

“The greatest concern that I have is that our most vulnerable citizens of Pennsylvania and across the country remain safe,” he said, according to the Lawrence County news site New Castle News. “There is no place in our society for those who harm children.”

The legislation would provide additional tools to law enforcement “to hold criminals responsible for their actions,” he said.

Bernstine said he had been working closely with the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the state’s Catholic bishops “to implement policies that ensure this never happens again.”

“I am thankful for the steps that they have taken, and encourage them to take additional action to ensure that the aggressors within their organization are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.

Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh, in Aug. 14 remarks responding to the release of the grand jury report, backed changes to the statutes of limitations laws.

“Absolutely we would support the elimination of the criminal statute of limitations,” he said, according to New Castle News. “That is an important piece that should move forward with legislators. We support any sort of penalties for people who fail to report child abuse to public authorities.”

In states considering such bills, the local Catholic conference and other groups often voice concerns about whether abuse victims would have the equal ability to sue public institutions, which are often protected under a legal concept known as sovereign immunity, and whether a legal window for retroactive lawsuits will be allowed.

Others have argued that statutes of limitations are important, because claims from long ago cannot be investigated in-depth, or seriously defended against, meaning they are more likely to result in settlements, even when facts are limited.

In an April 7, 2017 message about a potential amendments to S.B. 261, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference said some amendments to the bill help “further equalize the opportunities for survivors of sexual abuse in public institutions to access recovery of damages through the civil courts.”

It voiced concern about any amendment to allow retroactive changes to the statute of limitations.

“This proposal would, in effect, force the people who make up an organization like the Catholic Church today defend themselves against a crime that was committed in their parish, school, or charitable program years ago,” the Catholic Conference said in 2017. “Last year, the Senate held hearings and determined that changing the law retroactively would be unconstitutional in Pennsylvania.”

“Regardless, it is definitely unfair to individual Catholics today whose parishes and schools would be the targets of decades-old lawsuits.”

Pennsylvania State Rep. Mark Rozzi, 47, is backing an amendment that would also allow a two-year window for past alleged victims of sex abuse to file civil lawsuits.

The legislator says he was raped by a priest at age 13. The priest, Rev. Edward Graff, is alleged to have raped “scores of children,” the grand jury report says. The priest died in 2002 in a Texas jail while awaiting trial on charges he sexually abused a boy.

Rozzi told CNN that allowing the retroactive window “is the only avenue for these victims who are in the grand jury report” to get justice.

In 2002, the Pennsylvania legislature voted to raise the age limit for reporting criminal sex abuse charges from 23 to 30, then raised it to age 50 in 2007.

Fourteen states are considering bills about statutes of limitations on sex abuse. About 41 states have eliminated statutes of limitations for criminal prosecution of sex abuse, Reuters reports.

Since July 2013, costs related to sex abuse cases have cost the Catholic Church in the U.S. nearly $600 million, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ May report said. A U.S. bishops’ conference report in 2012 said that reporting dioceses and eparchies had paid $2.1 billion in abuse-related costs since 2004.

Hill said the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference encourages anyone who has been abused to “report the abuse and seek help immediately by calling the toll-free Pennsylvania ChildLine number at 800-932-0313 or their local law enforcement.”

 

Beloved Texas priest asks for prayers after ALS diagnosis

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 02:05

Fort Worth, Texas, Aug 17, 2018 / 12:05 am (CNA).- Fr. Stephen Jasso said he knew something was wrong this past February, about two months after retiring as the pastor of All Saints Parish in Fort Worth, Texas.

On June 29, the 85-year-old Franciscan priest learned what exactly was wrong with him: he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Jasso is now asking for prayers as he nears the end of his life.

“This has become a new challenge,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I am asking people to pray with me all the way until the end.”

ALS is a disease that progressively weakens the muscles throughout the body. Most people diagnosed with ALS die within three to five years of their diagnosis. Jasso said he had no idea what ALS even was before he was diagnosed.

Since February, Jasso has lost the use of his left arm and left side, and uses a wheelchair.

While Jasso does not currently celebrate Mass as he is unable to stand, he still hears confessions each day and meets with parishioners to provide spiritual counseling. He also assists with writing references to help recent immigrants with gaining permanent status for themselves or for family members. He said he hopes he will one day be able to celebrate Mass from his wheelchair.

Despite these physical challenges, Jasso has remained steadfast in his faith and in his dedication for the Fort Worth community, telling a reporter that his “love for God and for people is stronger than ever.”

“I’m carrying the cross because I feel — this illness — for some reason, God has permitted it,” he told the Star-Telegram. He has embraced the suffering that comes with his disease, saying that he will “carry it as the Lord carried his cross for me.”

Beloved in his community, parishioners described Jasso to the North Texas Catholic at the time of his retirement as “always present” and “always on call.”

“He’s been an outstanding priest and pastor. He’s helped a lot of people,” one usher for All Saints said. “He’s been a good friend to my family and many others.”

There has been an outpouring of support from the community since the news of his diagnosis. Mayor Betsy Price proclaimed August 7 as “Father Jasso Day” by the City of Fort Worth. Faith leaders from varying religions and denominations were present at a ceremony. In a Facebook post, Price said that the city was “truly blessed to have a servant leader” like Jasso.

Jasso made a name for himself shortly after his arrival in Fort Worth in 1985. At the time, the city was a hotbed of teenage gang violence. Jasso was quick to integrate himself with young people in his parish, and worked alongside the mayor, police chief, and school superintendent to promote peace and education.

Throughout his priesthood, Jasso would continue to place a key emphasis on education.

“Leadership is not just something that happens. It's something you get ready for,” he told NBC’s local Dallas-Fort Worth affiliate last year.

In 2013, Jasso received the University of Notre Dame Sorin Award for Service to Catholic Schools.

Also an outspoken advocates for immigrants, he met with then-President George W. Bush in 2002 as part of a Hispanic Leadership Summit.

Jasso, one of 15 children, has been a priest for 53 years. Prior to Fort Worth, he was a priest in Peru and Mexico City. He survived the deadly Mexico earthquakes of both 1985 and 2017, telling the North Texas Catholic that despite the existence of natural disasters, “God has not created the world to destroy it, but to bring it to a state of perfection.”

Cardinal Burke: We face a grave crisis, touching the heart of the Church

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 20:31

Washington D.C., Aug 16, 2018 / 06:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Raymond Burke said Thursday that the Catholic Church is facing “a very grave crisis” due to the “grievous failure” on the part of certain bishops and that “a serious loss of confidence in our shepherds” needs to be restored after sexual abuse scandals in the United States.

“We are in the face of a very grave crisis, which is touching at the very heart of the Church because Our Lord acts on behalf of the flock through those shepherds who are ordained to act in His person, teaching, celebrating the sacraments, and governing the Church,” said Burke in an interview on Raymond Arroyo’s “World Over” Aug. 16.

Cardinal Burke, 70, is prefect emeritus of the Apostolic Signatura. He recently returned to Rome from an almost month-long visit to the United States, said that he had “never heard so much anger, so much disappointment, so much frustration from good, Catholic faithful” than during this visit to the U.S.

“We are dealing here with the gravest of sins … We have to focus our attention on that, and do what is just with regard to all parties involved.”

“For the bishop who has failed grievously in this area, the Church’s penal remedies are expiatory remedies for his good also. They address principally the good of the flock because a bishop is a bishop for the care of the flock.”

“For the bishop to prey upon the flock, committing mortal sins, this is simply unacceptable and it has to stop,” said Burke.

The only way this trust will be restored “is to get to the bottom of this whole matter and make sure for the future that this does not happen,” and this falls under the responsibility of the Holy Father, said Burke.

It is the pope’s responsibility to receive accusations against a bishop and investigate them, he stressed. “This is not a part of the responsibility of the conference of bishops,” he said, referring to the U.S. bishops’ Aug. 16 statement on investigation and reporting procedures for bishops’ misconduct.

“As far as developing new procedures, the procedures have been in the law of the Church for centuries. They simply, especially in recent times, have not been known and have not been followed,” he continued.

“The Catholic Church in the United States is undergoing possibly one of the worst crises that it has ever experienced,” said Burke. “It has to be recognized and it has to be dealt with in a thorough manner that is faithful to the Church’s moral law, to the Church herself, and to the office of the bishops.”

Burke said that the Pennsylvania grand jury investigation needs to be studied very carefully. “It is simply a matter that needs to be approached with reason and with truth. Where we discover that the appropriate action has not been taken, then that bishop has to be corrected. If the bishop had failed very grievously, then he would simply have to be removed.”


“What we are seeing right now in the Church, to the grave harm of so many souls and really also to the scandal of the world in general, is that the Church, which should be a beacon of light, is involved in such a crisis.”

“I think we have to recognize … an apostasy from the faith. I believe that there has been a practical apostasy from the faith with regards to all of the questions involving human sexuality; principally, it starts with the idea that there can be legitimate sexual activity outside of marriage, which of course is false, completely false.”

“I do believe in this present time, not only with regard to this crisis which we are speaking, but with regard to a number of other situations in the Church that the devil is very active,” said Cardinal Burke.

He emphasized that “we have to conduct all of the reasonable activity to get to the truth of the matters and try to restore justice in the Church, but at the same time all of us need to pray ever more fervently for the Church and to fast and undertake other sacrifices for the good of the Church. We really need to have some serious acts of reparation for the suffering that has been inflicted upon members of the faithful, upon the flock of our Lord, and that is our responsibility.”

“I can only urge everyone to draw closer to Our Lord who leads us and guides us. He will never abandon us.”

‘What do you want to know?’ The Catholic reaction to bishops and sexual abuse

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 14:08

Washington D.C., Aug 16, 2018 / 12:08 pm (CNA).- Among the sexual abusers mentioned in the Aug. 14 Pennsylvania grand jury report, one priest merits particular attention.

Rev. David Szatkowski, SCJ, is mentioned in the section of the report concerning the Diocese of Allentown. In 2011, he was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a child.

In August of that year, Szatkowski, a seminary professor, attended an academic conference in Wisconsin. The priest, drunk late one night of the conference, approached a group of teenage girls outside his hotel, talked with them for a while, telling them that he was a lawyer and acting, in the words of one witness, “touchy.” Eventually, witness accounts and police reports say, Szatkowski forcibly embraced a 15-year-old girl and groped her breasts.

Several months later, prosecutors announced in a statement that they had dropped the charges, in “consultation with the victim about her wishes regarding the outcome of the case.”

Szatkowski, charged with sexually assaulting a child but not convicted, serves now on the “formation team” of his religious community, working with young aspirants to priesthood.

The priest does not stand out in the grand jury report because of the gravity of his case. Indeed, allegations against Szatkowski are not mentioned in the report at all. Instead, Szatkowski is mentioned because, three years after facing criminal charges for sexually assaulting a child, he was permitted by the Bishop of Allentown to serve as the canon lawyer- the procurator and advocate, in technical terms- for Fr. Michael Lawrence, a priest accused of sexually assaulting two adolescent boys.

In fact, Bishop John Barres, then Bishop of Allentown, relied heavily on Szatkowski’s canonical advocacy in a 2014 letter written to oppose a Vatican plan to laicize Lawrence.

This extraordinary turn of events bears repeating. In 2014, a bishop allowed a priest who had been charged with criminal sexual abuse of a child to serve as the canon lawyer for another priest charged with criminal sexual abuse of a child. Apparently no one in Szatkowski’s religious community, the Diocese of Allentown, or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith questioned the wisdom of that plan.

Anyone who finds it difficult to understand the anger and resentment of Catholics toward their bishops in recent weeks need look no further than that story.

--
It is not breaking news that priests have committed unspeakable acts of sexual abuse. Nor is it new news that bishops have acted negligently, failing to use their authority responsibly. Since at least 2002, sexual abuse committed by priests in the United States has been catalogued and made publicly available in media reports, depositions, lawsuits, and police reports. And in that same time period, the negligence of bishops has been well-documented.

But the grand jury report released Aug. 14 is unique- unparalleled, really- in scope, magnitude, and in the level of detail it provides. And the report was released as the Catholic Church in the United States was already in the midst of the serious crisis that began when credible sex abuse allegations against then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick were announced June 20.

Unlike the 2002 reports of clerical sexual abuse, the Pennsylvania report was also released in the wake of the #MeToo movement, and after revelations emerged of sexually abusive and coercive behaviors among figures in positions of power in other professional, political, and cultural contexts. The #MeToo movement has led to a more outspoken cultural opposition to coercive sexual behaviors and the abuse of power. That movement is the lens through which many Catholics are now viewing sexual abuse and cover-ups in the Church.

As a consequence of those things, the report has led to expressions of outrage, confusion, hurt, and mistrust from priests and deacons, religious sisters and brothers, Catholic and secular media outlets, ordinary lay Catholics, and from other Christians.

Commentators have condemned the alleged and suspected acts of abuse themselves, and the documented responses of bishops to that abuse. But they have mostly focused their anger on the apologies, statements of regret and contrition, and explanations that bishops have offered in recent weeks.

The response seems to exceed even the anger during the “Long Lent of 2002,” which could also be attributed, at least partially, to the fact that Catholics have already gone through this experience, and many expected that the crisis had been abated, and that bishops were not tolerating coercive sexual immorality in the Church. The McCarrick revelations dashed those expectations. The grand jury report has been like acid poured into the newly opened wound.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, formerly Bishop of Pittsburgh, has received some of the most serious criticism. Wuerl, already facing questions about his knowledge, negligence, or complicity in allegations against McCarrick, now faces the charge that he negligently permitted at least one sexual abuser to remain in priestly ministry after allegations were known to his diocese.

It should be noted that Wuerl has disputed many assertions contained in the grand jury report, as has Donald Trautman, the former Bishop of Erie. It should also be noted that the report contains allegations that have not been subject to a trial, and that serious objections have been raised about whether the due process rights of those named in the report have been respected. Eventually, sources tell CNA, questions will also be asked about Pennsylvania's attorney general, whose office drafted the text of the grand jury report, and about his political motivations.

It should also be mentioned that the grand jury reported predominantly on crimes that took place decades ago. The report recognized that “much has changed over the last fifteen years,” affirmed much about contemporary child protection policies, and noted the efforts of Pennsylvania’s current bishops to be transparent and forthcoming.

But at the moment, most Catholics are uninterested in explanations, or in discussions of the report’s finer points. The statements issued by Pennsylvania’s bishops, by Wuerl, and by the leadership of the USCCB have seemed only to fuel anger.

In fact, Wuerl and his staff have faced especially sharp criticism for launching a website, “thewuerlrecord.com,” that purported to “provide additional content not included in the [grand jury] report on Cardinal Wuerl’s work as longtime advocate and voice on this issue.” The site lasted fewer than two days before being taken down, amid calls from several prominent commentators for Wuerl’s immediate resignation.

It is worth asking what, exactly, Catholics now want from their leaders, what has prevented some bishops from satisfactorily addressing sexual abuse and the fallout from recent revelations, and how the Church can now respond to an obviously significant point of crisis.

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The grand jury report’s introduction says that in the face of sexual abuse allegations, bishops seemed preoccupied with managing “scandal,” rather than addressing problems. The report lists a series of actions it calls a “playbook for concealing truth,” among them the use of euphemisms like “boundary violation” in place of words like “rape,” the unwillingness to conduct investigations professionally, and the unwillingness to inform parishioners when a priest has been accused of sexual abuse.

In short, the report depicted a culture in which appearances are more important than reality. That culture seems at the root of the anger Catholics have expressed in recent weeks, over the McCarrick scandal, and over the grand jury’s investigation.

In commentaries, comments to CNA, and on social media, many Catholics have characterized episcopal responses to recent revelations and allegations as bureaucratic, robotic, and self-serving.

The hierarchy’s response to the grand jury report, and to the McCarrick scandal which preceded it, has also been criticized as “corporate,” more concerned with spin, damage control, and personal reputations than with the victims of sexual abuse, or with the Catholics who feel betrayed by bishops who promised, in 2002, “never again.”

Where, many Catholics have asked, is a bishop willing to take responsibility for what has happened, and willing to make amends?

Where, many Catholics have asked, is a bishop willing to change the culture of the Church? Where, they have asked, is honesty?

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Concretely, Catholics seem to be calling for three things.

The first is genuine expression of authentic contrition, sorrow, and regret. This is what many Catholics say has most been lacking in recent months.

We live in the age of the image- of the cultural and visual meme- and bishops seem to be expected to understand this. This means that expressions of contrition are expected to be more than words offered between explanations and calls for new policy. Catholics- especially young Catholics- say they are looking for simple, direct, and straightforward apologies, followed by signs of repentance.

Sackcloth and ashes may not prove necessary, but humility and authenticity will. Some have suggested Masses celebrated solemnly and penitentially with victims. Others have suggested public and personal pilgrimages and acts of repentance. The form matters. But what seems to matter most to many Catholics is hearing, and seeing, that bishops are genuinely horrified by things that have happened among their own brothers, and on their watch, and that they perceive, and admit, a sense of personal responsibility.

The second thing Catholics seem to be calling for is open disclosure of the Church’s problems, and consistent lay involvement in the adjudication of clerical personnel issues. This call is for a broad culture change. A call for transparency, openness, and direct lay involvement in handling priest personnel issues is, in short, a call for a rejection of the clericalism that, by many accounts, is endemic among bishops, without ideological or generational discrimination.

In short, many Catholics have told CNA in recent weeks they hope that their bishops will invest in a renewed sense of collaborative and missionary leadership, and that they believe that will require eschewing a common perception that bishops must be primarily overseers of diocesan business and administrative affairs.

But meaningful lay involvement in personnel matters is a difficult thing for the Church to mandate, beyond the existing requirement for diocesan review boards, because of the Church’s theological understanding of the governance ministry of bishops, and because lay professional Church administrators can become as institutionalized as clerical collaborators, and can be, for reasons of job security, reticent to blow the whistle when bishops act negligently.

Without clear guidelines and some protections for employees, “lay involvement” can easily become a kind of Potemkin consultation, where lay people are around, but decisions are mostly made after they leave the room.

To encourage broader and more meaningful lay involvement in episcopal decision-making, the Church would likely need to develop a means of listening to existing lay ecclesial administrators, considering their concerns, and training bishops for meaningful engagement with lay collaborators.

But more than any particular model, combatting clericalism seems to require bishops who are allergic to clerical insularity, and intolerant of it among their priests.

There are bishops in the United States who, by many accounts, embody and exhibit that approach to episcopal leadership. It remains to be seen whether they will emerge as leaders in the months to come.

Finally, Catholics seem to be calling for a plan to address sexual immorality among the episcopate, in seminaries, and among priests. Across ideological perspectives, there seems in recent weeks to be a recognition that predatory sexual behavior of any kinds is enabled by environments in which priests are not formed for chastity, and in which clerical obligations of continence and chastity are not taken seriously. Proposals for new episcopal oversight committees, for new review boards or charters have largely been panned.

What bishops will have to determine is how they can express a profound and serious commitment to sexual morality among clerics without seeming to abdicate their responsibilities, focus unduly on response rather than prevention, or pay only lip service to the development of healthy and chaste sexuality.

The challenge is going to prove incredibly difficult.  

--
There are several things that could derail the bishop’s efforts to restore trust in the Church, and to move forward from the crisis point the Church has reached.

The first is the threat of litigation. The effect of the fear of litigation on some parts of the Church can not be overstated, and there are actually some good reasons for this.

Bishops who genuinely want to do right by victims, and are genuinely incensed over clerical sexual abuse, still have reasons- good and bad- to fear the prospect of litigation.

Bishops are responsible to be the stewards of the resources their dioceses have accumulated for the work of the Church- for sacred worship, for education and formation, and for works of charity and mercy. They are eager to see that Catholic apostolates not be shuttered or sold, even when they are genuinely sympathetic to the suffering of victims, and especially because they recognize that a significant portion of money extracted from the Church will go not to victims, but to attorneys. And, even in Pennsylvania, bishops who face litigation today usually are asked to be responsible for bad decisions made by their predecessors.

Bishops have also pointed out that the Church sometimes faces inequitable laws with regard to litigation, that laws which protect public institutions but not the Church have made it a particularly attractive target for plaintiff’s attorney. There is legitimacy to that claim.

The Pennsylvania grand jury has called for a tort claims window that would allow alleged victims whose claims are impeded by the statute of limitations a period of time in which to file lawsuits. The Pennsylvania legislature is likely to take up that cause, and other state legislatures will likely follow suit. Bishops have argued in the past that statutes of limitations exist for good reason; that claims exceeding those statutes can not be seriously investigated or defended against. This, some have argued, means that cases exceeding statutes of limitation invariably lead to settlements, even when facts are scant. In many states, those arguments have kept tort claim window legislation at bay.

In Pennsylvania at least, the momentum from the grand jury report may make it difficult for the Church to oppose, or to even to be seen to oppose, such legislation.

How that will impact the bishops’ response to this crisis remains to be seen. Concern for litigation has, in the past, tempered expressions of episcopal contrition, sometimes even beyond recognition. That fear colored and characterized a great deal of the Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis of 2002, and, as several dioceses have since gone into bankruptcy, closing ministry centers, parishes, and charitable works, the fear has likely been heightened for some bishops since then.

The second factor that could impact the bishops’ response to the current crisis is overreaction to criticism that they are not acting quickly or rigorously enough. In the months to come, bishops will face serious pressure within their own dioceses to give evidence of their zero-tolerance with regard to abuse of any kind. Several priests have told CNA that they are concerned that fear could lead bishops to “scapegoat” priests- to single out priests accused even of non-criminal moral failures, to publicly disclose the private lives of priests, or to otherwise violate the canonical rights of priests, including their rights to due process, in order to be appear to be tough on abuse. Some priests have noted the experience of this kind of practice in their own dioceses in 2002 and 2003, and suggested it was an impediment, rather than an aid, to real reform.

A third thing that could derail serious ecclesial reform has to do with the call for episcopal resignations. Wuerl, in particular, has been the subject of ongoing calls for resignation, along with other bishops. While the Holy See might judge those moves to be justified, they could have the unintended effect of stalling more systematic and cultural change, if they are not managed carefully. If individuals bishops resign, and are then cast as the cause of the problems, the pressure for broader reforms could deflate. The Vatican must ensure that if it accepts the resignation of some bishops, the remaining members of the episcopate remain under pressure to enact the reform efforts the USCCB has said it would like to facilitate.

--
The grand jury report’s language is unambiguous, its analysis is direct: the report is emphatic in asserting that systematic patterns of negligence have allowed sexual abuse to take root in the Church.

“Failure to prevent abuse was a systemic failure,” the report said, “an institutional failure.” There seems to be broad Catholic agreement with that claim.

This October, Cardinal Wuerl is scheduled to publish a book entitled: “What do you want to know? A pastor’s response to the most challenging questions about the Catholic faith.”

In recent weeks, Wuerl has gotten an answer to his question: Catholics want to know what he and other bishops knew, what they’re really sorry for, and what they’re going to do about it.

It remains to be seen whether answers to those questions will be forthcoming.
  

 

 

US bishops invite Vatican investigation into McCarrick scandal

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 12:26

Washington D.C., Aug 16, 2018 / 10:26 am (CNA).-  The U.S. bishops’ conference called for a Vatican-led investigation into allegations of sexual abuse and cover-ups surrounding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, as well for new abuse reporting processes, and greater involvement of laity in addressing abuse concerns.
 
“We are faced with a spiritual crisis that requires not only spiritual conversion, but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past that are so evident in the recent report,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, in an Aug. 16 statement.

“Stronger protections against predators in the Church and anyone who would conceal them,” are needed, said DiNardo, “protections that will hold bishops to the highest standards of transparency and accountability.”

The bishops will invite the Vatican to conduct an official Apostolic Visitation to the United States to address questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick, in consultation with the lay members of the National Review Board, DiNardo said.

Previously the U.S. bishops did not “make clear what avenue victims themselves should follow in reporting abuse or other sexual misconduct by bishops,” acknowledged DiNardo, who called for the development of “reliable third-party reporting mechanisms.”

Among the bishops’ goals is to make canonical procedures for complaints against bishops “more prompt, fair, and transparent” and “to specify what constraints may be imposed on bishops at each stage of that process.”

DiNardo outlined three criteria for how the bishops will approach past and future abuses: independence from bias or undue influence by a bishop, substantial involvement of the laity, and respect for proper authority in the Church.

“Because only the pope has authority to discipline or remove bishops, we will assure that our measures will both respect that authority and protect the vulnerable from the abuse of ecclesial power,” the statement added.

Lay involvement will include people with expertise in law enforcement, psychology, investigation, and other relevant disciplines, according to the statement.
 
In a meeting earlier this week, the U.S. bishops’ executive committee outlined “these necessary changes” and said that they will present their goals to the Vatican and to all U.S. bishops during the USCCB’s fall meeting in November.

DiNardo ended the bishops’ statement with an apology:
“I apologize and humbly ask your forgiveness for what my brother bishops and I have done and failed to do. Whatever the details may turn out to be regarding Archbishop McCarrick or the many abuses in Pennsylvania (or anywhere else), we already know that one root cause is the failure of episcopal leadership. The result was that scores of beloved children of God were abandoned to face an abuse of power alone. This is a moral catastrophe. It is also part of this catastrophe that so many faithful priests who are pursuing holiness and serving with integrity are tainted by this failure.”

“We firmly resolve, with the help of God’s grace, never to repeat it. I have no illusions about the degree to which trust in the bishops has been damaged by these past sins and failures.  It will take work to rebuild that trust. What I have outlined here is only the beginning; other steps will follow …”

“Let me ask you to hold us to all of these resolutions. Let me also ask you to pray for us, that we will take this time to reflect, repent, and recommit ourselves to holiness of life and to conform our lives even more to Christ, the Good Shepherd.”

 

Where is Jesus in the midst of the Church's sex abuse crisis?

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 05:16

Washington D.C., Aug 16, 2018 / 03:16 am (CNA).- Fr. Thomas Berg is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, a former Legionary of Christ, and professor of moral theology, vice rector, and director of admissions at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, NY.  He is author of Hurting in the Church: A Way Forward for Wounded Catholics. He spoke recently with CNA’s Courtney Grogan about the challenges Catholics face amid the Church’s sexual abuse and misconduct scandals. The interview is below, edited for clarity and length.

 

With everything that has been coming out in the news recently about sexual abuse in the Church, how do you think that your book, “Hurting in the Church: A Way Forward for Wounded Catholics,” could be helpful?

In the wake of the McCarrick scandal and ongoing revelations of priest sexual abuse, a very common reaction is one of betrayal.

That's what I have heard a lot of from persons who have reached out to me, especially persons who for years have collaborated with bishops, worked in chanceries, worked for bishops, collaborated in apostolates, have headed-up bishop’s capital campaigns, have been donors and so on. Part of the very common experience is this raw emotional wound of betrayal.

Much of my book speaks directly to that experience. That's where I really hope that persons who are going through that betrayal, profound discouragement, disappointment, the bewilderment of the moral failures of bishops, who either failed to report what they should have reported or did not act on what was reported to them.

That is scandalous and that opens up a wound of betrayal really in the whole mystical body.

I very much believe that the book can, hopefully, point to where is the good news in this -- Where is the hope in this? Where is Jesus in the midst of this crisis?

Where is Jesus in the midst of this crisis?

Jesus is the healer of wounds, and Jesus does not leave the members of his mystical body without healing when we seek it.

We are in the midst of a massive crisis, notwithstanding some resistance to that idea by some of our prelates.

And those wounds are opened up. This is where not only can Jesus bring healing, but he can also use that experience of woundedness, whether that is personally or institutionally or spiritually as the body of Christ. He uses those wounds to bring greater good, to bring grace and healing to His Church.

Part of what I do in the book is just to reflect, often with these individuals [victims of abuse] and sometimes in their own words, on this mystery that the Jesus who comes into this experience is Jesus who appeared with his glorious wounds. The wounds were still there. The wounds are mystically important and we can unite our wounds to Jesus and allow him to unite those in a mystical way, in a redemptive way to His redemptive work.

So, where is Jesus in all of this? Jesus is continuing in the midst of our brokenness, in the midst of the utter moral failures of our pastors, in the midst of our own sinfulness and brokenness. The risen Good Shepherd comes with his glorious wounds by which he intends to bring about healing in his Church and to bring about a much greater good and a much more glorious future precisely in and through the tragedies that we are experiencing.

We will also experience this in a much more glorious and beautiful day for the Church in the future, and certainly for the Church when all time has been consummated and we are all, by God's grace, caught up in the glory of the heavenly kingdom.

You discuss in the book how uprooting a betrayal of trust can be and how we really need to be grounded in Christ's love. What are some concrete ways that Catholics can really root themselves in Christ's love and find that grounding in a time when they might feel destabilized in the Church?

First, very practical immediate answer: Eucharistic adoration. No doubt about it.

That was essentially my homily when we were talking two weeks ago about the McCarrick thing from the pulpit. It means, as always in crisis, we need to be earnestly and deeply seeking the Lord by frequenting Eucharistic adoration and intensifying one's life of prayer.

In my own story, I had to go on retreat. I had to just go take some time to just be by myself to get that down to the solid foundation of what did I stand on. What was the foundation that everything that I believed stood on?

What one can come to in those experiences is that experience of Jesus -- the experience that our risen and glorious Lord still stands present in the midst of our lives. He is there.

When we are hurting, we need to do whatever it takes: adoration, retreat, increased prayer, asceticism, solid spiritual reading, all of the things that we can avail ourselves of God's grace to re-experience ourselves as rooted and grounded in His love.

God has a very big safety net for us and it is that reality of being truly rooted and grounded in Him and in His love that encompasses us.

It is just that when we are hurting, when we are scandalized, when we are angry, when we are experiencing all of this emotional turbulence, it is just -- it takes time and prayer and I think a lot of coming to silence and coming to quiet to get through that and to realize that our Lord is still there. Our Lord is still holding his hands out to us. Our Lord is still there to embrace us and pick us up and guide us and help us to move forward.

What would you say to the priest who just doesn't know how to address this from the pulpit, who is dealing with his own feelings of hurt and confusion, and maybe is on the fence about whether he should address it in a homily?

I think that the best thing that priest can do is to talk about that in his homily. It is emotionally exhausting for most of us. It is heartbreaking. When I preached a couple of weekends ago, I got emotional. I think it is very healing and good if priests allow themselves to feel and show that emotion. Feel and show how personally upsetting it is. If a priest is angry, tell your people, 'Yeah, I'm angry too, and you should be angry.' It should start there.

It is absolutely essential that this is addressed. No priest should be waiting for some directive from his bishop. I would hope that across the country most priests have already addressed this from the pulpit. If not, it absolutely has to happen.

People are very angry right now, and I do not think that they are identifying that anger as a hurt. Many people are channeling their anger into what needs to change in the Church. Some channel it at specific people in the Church.

You address healthy anger in the book, and I want to hear your thoughts on it in this context. What would you say to people who are very angry?

There is certainly such a thing as just anger. I would hope that most of the anger that what most committed Catholics are experiencing right now is precisely that -- “just anger.” I have experienced a good deal of bit of it in the past few weeks.

Hopefully that anger does get channelled into good positive, action steps that I think Catholics are taking. But people should also be very honest with themselves: This hurts.

I think that our brothers and sisters who are going through this right now, and they are many, need to own up to that.

That is a very healthy starting point to getting to a better place. In this context, it is an important part of rightly channeling our energies and our reactions prayerfully and in docility to the Holy Spirit. We have to allow the Holy Spirit to come fully into that experience of hurt in this ecclesial context.

The immediate victims of McCarrick, those who have suffered sexual exploitation, they are hurt in a very unique way, but in some sense this has inflicted a hurt on all of us. And those who failed, those who enabled him, those who pulled him up the ecclesiastical ladder, if they did so with knowledge of his sexual predation, that inflicts a real emotional hurt on all of us, and we should just admit that.

Many Catholics first faced these initial feelings of betrayal, shock, bewilderment in 2002. After positive steps forward like the Dallas Charter, these Catholics found some consolation in the fact that the Church had made positive changes. Now there are layers of hurt there, particularly the hurt of thinking that things were better and then discovering that they are not.

The Church might not change in our lifetimes. Reform in the Church takes so long. The Church is very good at reforming herself, but it can take centuries sometimes. I'm worried for people who are looking for a quick fix.

I think that you are hitting at the heart of the problem. One thing that we are being faced with in this crisis is the reality that effective change within the Church takes a very, very long time. Even within organizations, people talk about changing the internal culture of a business, even that in itself can take a long time.

First of all, there is no reason why we cannot continue to take genuine pride in the programs that have been set in place with the sacrifice and dedication by the way of hundreds of lay Catholic men and women who have jumped into this breach and who have instituted requirements for background checks, safe environment training, safe environment programs, who serve the Church as sexual abuse assistance coordinators in dioceses (these are people who deal one on one especially with victims of clergy sexual abuse.) So we have every reason frankly to be confident that we are in a much better place then we were 15 years ago to protect our children. There is no reason to doubt that.

What people are still reeling from, and this has been the real revelation, is that there has been, especially within the episcopacy, there has been an internal culture which allowed -- and I am not faulting all bishops here, but McCarrick is the child of an old boys school mentality, a culture where bishops too often understood themselves as members of this kind of privileged caste who used power and authority to manipulate and frankly to bring about all kind of harms and hurts in people's lives. Bishops have sadly often been the perpetrators of much of the hurt that has been experienced on many levels and in many forms in the Church. And that is a sickly culture and it has to change.

The Church desperately needs a healing in its episcopacy. This is very much a crisis of the episcopacy. The current ethos is in so many ways it is failing us. It is failing the Church. What we have is, in far too many cases, a kind of managerial approach. Bishops simply seek to manage, to contain, to bureaucratize our apostolates, and that is not a culture where the Church is going to thrive.

Is that going to change anytime soon? No, but I think that we have an opportunity. This crisis is putting a spotlight on that problematic culture within the episcopate. I think that we can be hopeful for some kind of change, maybe even sea change.

There are good and holy bishops out there who are as incensed about this as you or I or any of us are. It is my prayer and hope that they will begin to exercise some very kind of unprecedented leadership within the body of bishops and certainly within their own dioceses.

So what do Catholics do meanwhile? Well, we are challenged to exercise the supernatural virtue of hope. We are challenged to believe that that kind of change, if it is meant to be, will take time, but we have to support every bishop who shows signs that they are getting it.

We have to support every bishop who shows signs that they understand and that they are taking unprecedented steps towards transparency, toward addressing even the faults of their own brother bishops.

We need to be supportive and helpful, and I guess that is a long way of saying that we need to hang in there and trust in the Holy Spirit. Change does take a long time in the Church. We are called to continue to exercise hope and it is by sustaining hope and sustaining a healthy pressure on the bishops that can bring about some really positive change here, maybe faster than we think.

As outrageous as it is, I can imagine the temptation a leader might feel to keep something so scandalous secret, to think that they were protecting Catholics from scandal by a sort of false charity, if you will. How does a leader find the courage or strength to come forward with the truth after they have covered up?

In the context of the Church, bishops who get it have come to understand that the scandal has been the supposed effort to “avoid scandal.” The scandal has been covering this stuff up. The scandal has been keeping this stuff quiet.

This is what I always tell our seminarians. Transparency is your friend. Light and truth are our friends. Institutionally, I think that we are understanding that. In the context of seminary formation, I really believe earnestly that the vast majority of our men understand that.

And I think understanding that also makes it easier to come clean when there has been a failure of any sort. In a sense, it all boils down to the old adage, 'Honesty is the best policy.'

Obviously, when you are talking about something as complex as sexual abuse and exploitation, that is obviously much more complex because sometimes you are dealing with victims who desire to remain anonymous.

It takes an enormous amount of courage for victims of abuse to come forward and go public. That's been one sad part of this whole tragedy. It is so difficult. The courage there is just amazing sometimes. I think the message of what we are learning in the sexual abuse crisis is that transparency is the only way to go.

Honestly trying to protect the requirements of justice and people's reputations is a difficult balance and it definitely requires that transparency.

What do you recommend for those who are specifically dealing with disillusionment? How do Catholics keep their eyes open to the truth without totally succumbing to cynicism?

I think that the level of cynicism and disillusionment right now is off the charts.

You know people often use that image of having a bandage ripped off a wound. I don't think that we have yet healed from -- I know we haven't healed from 2002. This isn't having a bandage ripped off. This is having that wound ripped open and stamped on.

I'm fully expecting that the level of disillusionment and just shear kind of numb confusion is going to be a very common experience. I think that there will be different outcomes. I hope that Catholics can believe that there is a way forward here, especially committed Catholics.

It leads you to question your faith. I have been there. I have had that experience. The more you expose yourself to this, the more faith is going to be severely challenged.

I would just hope though that Catholics can understand that Jesus can lead them through that fire. He can lead us through this fire and make it a purifying fire, so that we can emerge from this really sad and really critical chapter of crisis in the Church, that we can emerge from this as stronger disciples and more committed Catholic Christians.

What transformation the Holy Spirit brings about, I hope we could no matter how hard this is, I hope we could kind of look forward to that with a sense of hope and expectation and maybe even the sense that as bad as it is, I want to be a part of what happens now. I want to be a part of the renewal that the Holy Spirit is going to necessarily going to bring about. I want to be a part of the action here. I want to be a part of what the Holy Spirit is going to do now in the Church.

I am absolutely convinced that the Holy Spirit is working in and through this crisis in a very real way. I have experienced it myself. I have seen it and I have heard it from others.

We have to allow the Holy Spirit to bring us beyond this very profound disillusionment.

 

Combat racism with a childlike spirit, Springfield priest says

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 02:45

Springfield, Ill., Aug 16, 2018 / 12:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Mass in the Diocese of Springfield, Ill commemorated the anniversary of racially-motivated riots that destroyed black-owned business and homes in the city, and left at least 13 people dead during a three-day period in 1908. A priest of the diocese encouraged Catholics to counteract hatred with the spirit of universal brotherhood and childlike love.

Monsignor David Hoefler, vicar general for the Diocese of Springfield, celebrated the Mass Aug. 14 at Saint Patrick Church. He emphasized the universal origin of the human race and the need to imitate the receptivity of children.

“We have one set of parents, Adam and Eve. That's why we have one savior because he came to save...the human race, all races,” Hoefler said in his homily.

Christ came “that we all might be recreated, reunited, brought together, reconciled with God. It's not just something that's supposed to be meant for heaven for later, but hopefully we are working on that now,” he added.

On Aug. 14-15, 1908, nearly 5,000 people rioted violently throughout the streets of Springfield after trying unsuccessfully to lynch two black men, suspected of rape and attempted rape, who were believed to be held at a local jail. When it was discovered that the men were not at that jail, the mob destroyed African-American business, homes, and killed at least eight people. Five rioters were also killed during the melee, and an infant died during the riot as well, after her family’s home was destroyed.

Human brokenness and violence between people are nothing new, explained Hoefler. He pointed to conflict between Adam and Eve in the scriptural story of creation, and to racial hardships faced by Jewish people during the time of Christ.

He said that Adam and Eve each acted in from self-interest at the time of their downfall, distancing themselves from one another.

“Instead of checking with each other, instead of having a communion or a communication with each other, they started going their own way,” he said, noting the couple did not ask for forgiveness, but instead blamed someone else or something else.

“[Adam] throws his wife under the bus - 'she did it.' Scapegoating they call it. So the Lord goes to Eve, 'what did you do?' 'It did it!' Blames the serpent, Satan.”

The results of sin were immediate, he said and led to the murder of Abel by Cain. The priest said the same thing occurred during Springfield’s riots; that people made scapegoats of racial minorities rather than taking responsibility for themselves.

“People acted out of hatred, bigotry, racism, and they let their emotions run wild - destroyed property, and, worse, killed their brothers and sisters, other human beings. It gets that way all too easy. That was played out over, and over, and over again by this street.”

He pointed to parallels among the Jews of Jesus Christ’s time on earth.

“When Jesus was born… he came into the one of the most abused races that existed at the time,” he said. “He came into the depths of our suffering and the worst of it all. He assumed the worst that had been known to that point in history and redeemed it from there.”

However, the only way to embrace redemption is through a child-like spirit, he said, reflecting on the words of Christ in the Gospel of Mark – “anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

"In other words,” Monsignor Hoefler said “a child is somebody that does listen, somebody that likes to learn, somebody that doesn't impose other things onto other people, somebody that receives in all innocence what another says, somebody who receives people for who they are."

“It's the way we should be: that kind of innocence, receptivity, open heartedness.”

He gave a few examples of people who have put to practice this receptivity, noting especially the people of Rwanda. Next April, he said, it will be 25 years since the Rwandan genocide – a brutal slaughter, in which an estimated 800,000 Rwandans, primarily Tutsis, were killed in the span of a few months, between April and June in 1994.

Monsignor Hoefler said now the country is one of the safest places in Africa because the two groups learned from their mistakes. The people, he said, knew racism would perpetuate unless love was chosen over hate, namely listening to others and embracing forgiveness.

“God never asks something of us that he isn't willing to do himself,” he said, noting that Christ provided an example of this receptivity.

“He spent thirty years listening to the human the race… listening to his community, his town, and his people. He spent thirty years before he began speaking, being quiet, noticing the injustices, realizing what needed reconciliation, and then he went to move for healing.”

 

Bishop Trautman responds to release of Pennsylvania grand jury report

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 18:59

Erie, Pa., Aug 15, 2018 / 04:59 pm (CNA).- Bishop Donald Trautman responded Tuesday to the Pennsylvania grand jury report on allegations of clerical sex abuse of minors, saying he did not condone or enable such abuse during his tenure leading the Diocese of Erie.

Abuse victims “should understand that neither this Statement nor my Response to the grand jury Report is intended to diminish the horrible abuse inflicted upon them and the immense suffering they have endured. I desire only to clarify that I neither condoned nor enabled clergy abuse. Rather, I did just the opposite,” Bishop Trautman said in his Aug. 14 statement.

A redacted version of the report had been released earlier that day, following an 18-month investigation into thousands of alleged instances of abuse spanning several decades. The report detailed allegations made in the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton.

Trautman was Bishop of Erie from 1990 until his 2012 retirement, at the age of 76.

The grand jury report's section on the Diocese of Erie recounted priests' sexual contact with minors, and said that “Diocesan administrators, including the Bishops, had knowledge of this conduct and yet priests were regularly placed in ministry after the Diocese was on notice that a complaint of child sexual abuse had been made. This conduct enabled offenders and endangered the welfare of children.”

The report also said the Erie diocese made settlements with victims which contained confidentiality agreements, and that diocesan administrators, including bishops, “often dissuaded victims from reporting abuse to police, pressured law enforcement to terminate or avoid an investigation, or conducted their own deficient, biased investigating without reporting crimes against children to the proper authorities.”

It identified 41 offenders from the diocese, and gave lengthy accounts of what it called three “examples of institutional failure”: the cases of Fathers Chester Gawronski, William Presley, and Thomas Smith.

Bishop Trautman's statement indicated his “prayerful support to all victims of clergy sexual abuse” and “a sincere apology to all who have been harmed by clergy abuse.”

“My time spent as Bishop of the Diocese addressing sexual abuse has been the most demoralizing, trying and pain-filled experience of my priestly life. I have seen first-hand how the terrible acts of clergy abusers devastate the lives of innocent victims,” he said.

He commended the grand jury's efforts to help abuse victims, saying its report “rightfully chastises clergy who committed horrible crimes against children. Unfortunately, the grand jury Report neglects to also emphasize the concrete steps some Church leaders took to correct and curtail abuse and to help victims.”

The bishop said that his record “includes disciplining, defrocking and ultimately laicizing pedophiles in the Diocese.”

He added that it “also includes efforts to provide care and support for victims,” which statement he supported with appended letters from victims expressing gratitude for his pastoral care.

“As a pastor of souls, I shepherd the good – the innocent victims of abuse – as well as the bad, the abusers who undeniably engaged in despicable acts and were rightfully removed from ministry,” Bishop Trautman wrote.

Noting the report's lengthy discussions of three priests whose situations it called “examples of institutional failures”, the bishop emphasized “that I removed each of them from ministry and had each laicized. All of their improper conduct with children pre-dated me becoming Bishop of Erie.”

He maintained his faithful fulfillment of the Charter for the Protection of Childen and Young People, adopted by the US bishops in 2002, and his faithful fulfillment of all Pennsylvania laws on sex abuse.

“From the day I took office as Bishop of the Diocese of Erie, I did my best to correct the sin of sex abuse,” Bishop Trautman said. “I personally met with and counseled abuse victims. I removed sixteen offenders from active ministry … As early as 1993, I established new guidelines concerning clergy abuse.”

He also recounted the several measures he took from 2002 onwards regarding clerical abuse.

“These are not the actions of a Bishop trying to hide or mask pedophile priests to the detriment of children or victims of abuse,” he wrote. “I did not move priests from parish to parish to cover up abuse allegations or fail to take action when an allegation was raised … There simply is no pattern or practice of putting the Church’s image or a priest’s reputation above the protection of children.”

Bishop Trautman said that the report “does not fully or accurately discuss my record as Bishop for twenty-two years in dealing with clergy abuse. While unfortunate, these omissions are consistent with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s findings that the grand jury process that produced the Report suffered from 'limitations upon its truth-finding capabilities' and lacked 'fundamental fairness.'”

The bishop concluded that “In the end, the focus should be on the victims and helping them heal. I send my prayers and deepest support to all victims of abuse, not just those abused by clergy, but victims of abuse across all segments of our society. Hopefully, the grand jury Report, despite its flaws, aids in the healing of all victims and furthers the just cause of stamping out abuse. Let God’s law prevail; let healing continue.”

Attached to Bishop Trautman's 923-word statement were his June 20 response to the report, with several appended exhibitory documents, and an Aug. 2 joint stipulation to dismiss appeal, from the bishop and from state attorney general Josh Shapiro, in which the attorney general agreed that several statements in the report are “not specifically directed at Bishop Trautman.”

The bishop's 15-page response to the report focused on his desire “to clarify, contrary to the tenor of the Report, that he neither condoned nor enabled clergy abuse.”

The response noted that “While the Grand Jury adopted and issued the Report, under typical grand jury practices, the language of the Report was drafted by the [Office of the Attorney General] not the Grand Jury.”

It mentions that the report made no mention of letters sent to Bishop Trautman by abuse victims expressing appreciation for his pastoral care (which letters were provided to the grand jury), and that written testimony submitted by Bishops Trautman and Persico, his successor, “is not substantively discussed in the Report, let alone included in it in full.”

“What these examples demonstrate is that the OAG, via the Grand Jury, with an agenda, has selectively chosen the words in the Report, what words to include in the Report, and how to portray those words in a manner – often a misleading one – that best suits their agenda.”

The response also noted that Bishop Trautman met personally, or attempted to do so, with each abuse victim. And, “when victims would permit him, he personally provided pastoral counselling for the victims’ well-being. He also helped ensure that victims had appropriate mental health treatment paid for by the Diocese.”

“Certainly, with hindsight, some isolated decisions made by Bishop Trautman concerning certain priests … might be subject to critique. But, what is clear from his overall conduct – and complete actual record – is that he cared deeply about the victims of abuse, did his best to help the victims both pastorally and financially, did not condone the horrific conduct of priests who abused minors, and consistently took action to remove abusers from active ministry.”

Since the report detailed the cases of  Fathers Chester Gawronski, William Presley, and Thomas Smith, Bishop Trautman's response addressed these at length.

The response explained that “New allegations against priests made while Bishop Trautman was in office resulted in the priest being taken out of active ministry.”

The exceptions to this rule were priests who “had been sent for a psychological evaluation” under Bishop Murphy, Trautman's predecessor.

Each of these – including Gawronski, Presley, and Smith –  were “already on a monitoring/aftercare program that had been recommended by psychiatric professionals. While in hindsight he might now act differently, given the recommendations and plans made before Bishop Trautman came to the Diocese from Buffalo and out of deference to Bishop Murphy, Bishop Trautman continued the monitoring/aftercare plans and assignments recommended by the professionals and put in place by his predecessor.”

And according to the response, “In several instances, even though mental health professionals advised that a priest could be returned to ministry, Bishop Trautman kept the priest out of public ministry.”

The response also noted that neither Gawronski, nor Presley, nor Smith “is known to have reoffended. During the time period each of these priests remained in active ministry after initial allegations were made, no allegation that they offended while in such ministry was or has been made.”

“When allegations of prior (usually decades old) abuse by each priest were raised while Bishop Trautman was in office, he acted to take each priest out of any ministry that would include contact with children and ultimately took each out of ministry all together,” the response stated.

Each of the three priests were dismissed from the clerical state in processes which were initiated by Bishop Trautman.

The bishop’s response included examples of potentially misleading writing in the grand jury report, authored by the Pennsylvania attorney general's office.

For instance, it noted the report's mention that Bishop Trautman allowed Fr. Gawronski to hear confessions for persons with disabilities in 1996.

The report stated: “By 1996, there was no possible doubt that Gawronski had spent most of his priesthood preying on the vulnerable. However, even as complaints continued, on November 6, 1996, Gawronski was notified that Trautman had approved his request to hear confessions for persons with disabilities.”

“What the Report does not include,” the response states, “is that this was a one-time event, with multiple priests and church personnel participating, that the event would take place at the St. Mark’s Center (the building where the Diocesan offices, including the Bishop’s office, are located), and that Gawronski’s participation was at the request of a religious sister who served as Coordinator for the Ministry to Persons with Disabilities. Why not disclose the full facts about the request? Does the request lose its sensational nature when put in actual context?”

The response also pointed to potentially misleading statements in the report regarding Fr. Presley.

The report mentioned an April 2003 press release from the Erie diocese regarding the removal of Fr. Presley's faculties, in which the diocese stated it had “no information to provide on other possible allegations against the priest.” The report called the press release “false and misleading.”

The response noted that the press release quoted in the report, while “inartful … is simply a statement of 'no comment.' Contrary to the allegation in the Report, this was not a false statement.”

The response also addressed the report's presentation of a 2005 diocesan investigation undertaken with a view to having Fr. Presley, who had retired in 2000, dismissed from the clerical state.

The investigation was led by Msgr. Mark Bartchak, who wrote to Bishop Trautman Aug. 25 of that year indicating he had gathered sufficient evidence for Presley's dismissal, and asking if he should continue to follow up on further potential leads. Bartchak indicated that Trautman said that would be unnecessary.

The report called this a “curb” of the diocese's investigation intented “to prevent finding additional victims.”

“When read in context,” the response says, “Bishop Trautman is simply answering an inquiry from Rev. Bartchak and, using the same words from the inquiry, telling him that, if the Diocese had enough evidence to succeed in the laicization process (which they did), he need not further investigate facts that likely would not lead to a violation of Cannon law [sic] because of the age of the victim. Again, this simply is not an effort to somehow hide Presley and his conduct.”

The report also read that with regard to Presley, “The truth was that Murphy, Trautman, and the Diocese of Erie intentionally waited out the statute of limitations and curbed their own investigation to prevent finding additional victims.”

The response called the allegation that Bishop Trautman had “intentionally waited out” the statute of limitations “baseless.”

“The allegations brought to Bishop Trautman’s attention in 2002 – on which he quickly acted – concerned conduct that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. The statute of limitations had, unfortunately, expired long ago,” the response said.

“Despite their artful (and sometimes misleading) construction, a close reading of the summaries found in the Report’s Appendix reveals the same course of action throughout Bishop Trautman’s 22 years in office,” the response concluded: “Bishop Trautman consistently acted to protect children and remove priests from ministry.”

 

Cardinal O’Malley will not attend World Meeting of Families

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 18:15

Boston, Mass., Aug 15, 2018 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap. of Boston will not be attending next week’s World Meeting of Families in Dublin due to the ongoing investigation into St. John’s Seminary, the Archdiocese of Boston announced on Wednesday.

Previously, O’Malley had been scheduled to moderate a panel and discussion in Ireland titled “Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults." O’Malley is President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

In a statement from the archdiocese, it was explained that “important matters pertaining to the pastoral care of St. John’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston and the seminarians enrolled in the formation program there require the Cardinal's personal attention and presence,” and he therefore would not be making the trip to Ireland.

After it became public that other dioceses had paid settlements to adult seminarians allegeing abuse against the former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a handful of other, younger, former seminarians took to social media to share their own stories about what they experienced while in seminary. Several of these stories came from men who had studied at St. John’s.

St. John’s Seminary educates seminarians from most dioceses in New England, as well as those from the Dioceses of Oakland, Ca., and Rochester, NY.

In response to allegations of “activities which are directly contrary to the moral standards and requirements of formation for the Catholic priesthood” at St. John’s, last week O’Malley announceda "full, independent inquiery" of the seminary. As part of the invesitgation, the cardinal placed Msgr. James P. Moroney, the seminary rector, on “sabbatical” for the fall semester and installed an interim rector.

The inquiry will examine the culture at St. John’s “regarding the personal standards expected and required of candidates for the priesthood,” as well as issues related to sexual harassment, sexually intimidating behavior, and discrimination.

“The allegations made are a source of serious concern to me as Archbishop of Boston,” said O’Malley in a statement last week, recognizing that being a priest necessitates earning the trust of both people in the Church as well as in the community.

“I am determined that all our seminaries meet that standard of trust and provide the formation necessary for priests to live a demanding vocation of service in our contemporary society.”

What did Wuerl know about alleged abuser- and how did he respond?

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 18:00

Washington D.C., Aug 15, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Donald Wuerl and the Diocese of Pittsburgh say that when the former Pittsburgh bishop approved the transfer of a priest accused of serial sexual abuse, he was unaware of the allegations made against the priest. The transfer is described in the Aug. 14 report issued by a Pennsylvania grand jury charged with investing clerical sexual abuse in six Catholic dioceses.

Fr. Ernest Paone was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1957. The grand jury reports that Paone served in five different parishes in the first nine years of his ministry, and that he was accused of sexually molesting boys during that time period.

In 1964, a criminal investigation into allegations against Paone was halted by a Pennsylvania district attorney, “in order to halt bad publicity,” according to records presented by the grand jury.

Paone was without assignment for about a year, and in 1966 he was granted an indefinite leave of absence from the diocese “for reasons bound up with your psychological and physical health as well as your spiritual well-being.”

The Diocese of Pittsburgh does not dispute that timeline, or the fact that allegations of sexual abuse were made against Paone.

After being granted a leave of absence, Paone relocated to southern California. In 1968, he requested that the diocese of Pittsburgh recommend him to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for priestly faculties; a letter from the Chancellor of the diocese came in response, asserting that Paone was on a “legitimate leave of absence” from Pittsburgh and there were “no objections” to his being given faculties by Los Angeles.

During this time, and for the rest of his life, Fr. Paone remained incardinated in the Diocese of Pittsburgh and, wherever he went, remained under the authority of Pittsburgh’s bishop.

In 1975, Paone requested another letter from the Pittsburgh diocese attesting to his suitability as a priest. The diocese issued a letter, addressed “To whom it may concern,” that Paone was a priest in “good standing” of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The grand jury notes that almost no paperwork relating to Paone exists from the time of Bishop Anthony Bevilacqua’s term as Bishop of Pittsburgh from 1983-1987, suggesting that the priest was effectively forgotten about, and allowed to continue in ministry “in good standing,” while living and working in California. The priest eventually moved to San Diego and became a public school teacher, while remaining a “priest in good standing” certified by the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and continuing to serve in parish ministry.

In its official response submitted to the grand jury, the Diocese of Pittsburgh did not contest that narrative, saying that “No one still involved with the Diocese of Pittsburgh is able to speak to the thinking or decision-making of the Diocesan leadership 50 years ago.”

In question is whether Wuerl, who served as Pittsburgh's bishop from 1988-2006, knew about Paone’s past when he endorsed the priest’s continued ministry.

In 1991 Paone wrote to the Diocese of Pittsburgh requesting permission to move to Nevada, which was then covered by the single Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas. The request was granted and Wuerl gave no report to Reno-Las Vegas of Paone’s past.

But sources close to Cardinal Wuerl told CNA that in 1991, the bishop had no idea of the allegations that had been made against Paone.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh’s statement said that “At that time, neither Bishop Wuerl nor anyone in the Clergy Office was aware of Paone's file and the allegations lodged against him in the 1960s.”

“Because he had been outside of the Diocese for nearly 30 years, Paone's files were not located in the usual clergy personnel file cabinet” and were not found at the time, the diocese said

In 1994, however, the Diocese of Pittsburgh exhibited full knowledge of Paone’s history of allegations. In that year, a new accusation that Paone committed sexual abuse in the 1960s was made in Pittsburgh, and the matter was brought to Bishop Wuerl’s attention.

According to the grand jury report, Wuerl was then briefed by Father David Zubik, then Director of the Office of Clergy, on past allegations against the priest, and told of “questions about Paone's emotional and physical health [which] were raised as early as the 1950's, while he was still in seminary.”

The report claims that “Zubik further advised [Wuerl] of Paone's various assignments and correspondence over the years, before also describing the multiple records documenting the diocese's knowledge of his sexual abuse of children as early as 1962.”

Both the grand jury and the Diocese of Pittsburgh agree that Wuerl wrote to the Dioceses of Los Angeles, Reno-Nevada, and San Diego – where Paone had lived and worked as a priest – informing them of the newly made allegations.

The grand jury report asserts that “Wuerl did not report the more detailed information contained within Diocesan records. The Diocese did not recall Paone; nor did it suspend his faculties as a priest.”

The diocese states that “Wuerl sent letters notifying the relevant Dioceses in California and Nevada of the 1994 complaint. Specifically, on August 26, 1994, Wuerl wrote to the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas saying that had he known in 1991 of the allegations, he would not have supported Paone's request for a priestly assignment.”

CNA obtained a copy of Wuerl’s letter to Bishop Daniel Walsh of Reno-Las Vegas. In the letter, Wuerl wrote that he had “only [just] become aware of this matter” and wished to inform the bishop.

However, Wuerl’s letter only disclosed the allegation made against Paone in 1994, and did not acknowledge the prior allegations and concerns contained in the priest’s file. Although the Diocese of Pittsburgh claimed that Wuerl’s letter acknowledged more than one allegation of misconduct, in the text reviewed by CNA, Wuerl wrote only that if he had  “been aware of this allegation in Fr. Paone’s past I would not have supported his request for a priestly assignment in your diocese.”

Wuerl’s letter also made clear that he knew Paone had, by this point, returned to California and, while he wrote that Paone had been “invited to meet and examine the situation” with Fr. Zubik, there is no indication that his faculties as a priest had been revoked.

Instead, Paone was sent for a period of “assessment” at the St. Luke’s Institute, a center for psychological screening, testing and therapy for clergy and religious.

By 1996 he was back in San Diego, and apparently continuing to serve in occasional priestly ministry.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh says that it informed the Diocese of San Diego that Paone’s faculties as a priest had been removed in a January 30, 1996 letter. However, the grand jury report says that the Diocese of San Diego was not informed that Paone’s priestly faculties had been removed until 2002, and does not make mention of a January 1996 letter.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh did not respond to CNA’s request for comment.

Whether Wuerl removed Paone’s faculties in 1996 or 2002, or both, it was not until 2003 – following a further allegation from the 1960s – that Wuerl accepted Paone’s “resignation from ministry.” According to the grand jury report, the Diocese of Pittsburgh received a final complaint in 2006, alleging that Paone had been assisting at confessions for adolescents and asking the young people “inappropriate questions.”

Paone died in 2012.

Colorado baker back in court for declining gender transition cake

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 15:04

Denver, Colo., Aug 15, 2018 / 01:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Less than three months after winning a Supreme Court case backing his religious freedom of expression, Colorado Christian cake artist Jack Phillips is finding himself at the center of yet another cake and faith-based battle.

A new complaint was recently filed against Phillips with the Colorado Civil Rights Division after an attorney approached him and asked him to make a cake celebrating the anniversary of a gender transition. The attorney requested that the cake be pink on the inside and blue on the outside, representing a transition from male to female. Phillips declined to make the cake based on his religious beliefs.

This week, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys representing Phillips and his Masterpiece Cakeshop filed a federal lawsuit to fight the new complaint against him, which they said constituted a “doubling down (of) anti-religious hostility” on the part of Colorado officials.

“The state of Colorado is ignoring the message of the U.S. Supreme Court by continuing to single out Jack for punishment and to exhibit hostility toward his religious beliefs,” said Kristen Waggoner, ADF senior vice president of U.S. legal division.

“Even though Jack serves all customers and simply declines to create custom cakes that express messages or celebrate events in violation of his deeply held beliefs, the government is intent on destroying him - something the Supreme Court has already told it not to do. Neither Jack nor any other creative professionals should be targeted by the government for living consistently with their religious beliefs.”

On June 4 of this year, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, backing Phillips’ right to refuse to create cakes celebrating same-sex weddings due to his religious beliefs.

The Masterpiece Cakeshop case dates back to July 2012, when owner Jack Phillips was asked by two men to bake a cake for their same-sex wedding ceremony.

He explained to the couple that he could not cater to same-sex weddings – to do so would have been a violation of his Christian beliefs. He said he has also declined to make a number of other types of cakes, including cakes for Halloween, bachelor parties, divorce, cakes with alcohol in the ingredients, and cakes with atheist messages.

The couple then filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for discrimination.
The commission ordered Phillips to serve same-sex weddings and to undergo anti-discrimination training.

Alliance Defending Freedom took up Phillips’ case in court. The case was eventually appealed to the Supreme Court and was re-listed repeatedly throughout the winter and spring of 2017, before the Court decided to take the case.

Phillips had said that he started his Lakewood, Colorado business in 1993 as a way to integrate his two loves – baking and art – into his daily work. Philips named his shop “Masterpiece” because of the artistic focus of his work, but also because of his Christian beliefs. He drew from Christ's Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, specifically the commands “no man can serve two masters” and “you cannot serve both God and mammon.”

The new lawsuit filed on Phillips’ behalf by ADF states that the government’s anti-religious targeting of Phillips is in violation of the Constitution of the United States.

“For over six years now, Colorado has been on a crusade to crush Plaintiff Jack Phillips…because its officials despise what he believes and how he practices his faith. After Phillips defended himself all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won, he thought Colorado’s hostility toward his faith was over. He was wrong,” the lawsuit says.

“Colorado has renewed its war against him by embarking on another attempt to prosecute him, in direct conflict with the Supreme Court’s ruling in his favor. This lawsuit is necessary to stop Colorado’s continuing persecution of Phillips.”

ADF Senior Counsel Jim Campbell said in a statement that the complaint against Phillips showed evidence of continued hostility against the baker’s religious beliefs.

“The arbitrary basis on which the state is applying its law makes clear that its officials are targeting Jack because they despise his religious beliefs and practices,” he said.

“Jack shouldn’t have to fear government hostility when he opens his shop for business each day. We’re asking the court to put a stop to that.”

The new lawsuit, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Elenis, was filed by ADF lawyers in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

Benedict XVI Institute At San Quentin

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 03:08

San Francisco, Calif., Aug 15, 2018 / 01:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When the Benedict XVI Institute in San Francisco formed a choir to teach Gregorian chant and sacred music to interested parishes, they landed the most unlikely of first gigs – a concert at San Quentin State Prison.

“God works in his mysterious ways,” Maggie Gallagher, executive director of the institute, told CNA.

The traveling and teaching sacred music choir (schola) from the Benedict XVI Institute put on a concert and sacred music workshop for the inmates in the San Francisco-area prison Aug. 5.

The concert was a hit, Gallagher said, and many of the men flocked around the singers at the end of the concert to talk more about sacred music. Twenty-five inmates signed up to join the prison’s own schola, which will perform at a Traditional Latin Mass celebrated about once a month at the prison.

The Benedict XVI Institute was founded by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco in 2014, with the mission of providing practical resources to help parishes have more beautiful and reverent liturgies, and to promote a Catholic culture in the arts.

“The important thing about our primary mission is that its practical resources, so we’re not a think tank about the liturgy,” Gallagher noted.

While the institute has existed for four years, the traveling, teaching schola only began this March, with the goal of teaching parishes how to use Gregorian chant and sacred music for more beautiful Masses.

“The archbishop kept emphasizing that until we were getting into parishes we were not succeeding,” Gallagher said.

Archbishop Cordileone was also a driving force behind the schola’s gig at San Quentin, a place he goes “fairly regularly” to celebrate Mass with the inmates. While celebrating Mass at the prison over Mother’s Day, Cordileone was approached by the prison’s chaplain, Fr. George Williams, who said he was interested in having the teaching choir come to San Quentin.

On Aug. 5, music director Rebekah Wu and a number of singers performed for and trained the men in chant. The twenty-five men who now form the prison’s schola will officially perform for the first time on Aug. 25, when the Traditional Latin Mass will be celebrated at San Quentin for the first time in three generations.

“This is our brand-new teaching choir and you are our first gig!” Cordileone told the men on Aug. 5, a comment met with “thunderous applause,” Gallagher said.

“I love telling people our first teaching gig is the San Quentin Schola!” Cordileone added.

Gallagher said the concert and formation of the schola had an overwhelmingly positive response from the inmates, some of whom are practiced musicians in their own right.

“They have a number of talented musicians with good voices, and as the archbishop said, they like to sing and they worship well,” she said.

"One young man told me that he felt the Holy Spirit buzzing in his soul while he joined the choir in some chanting during the concert. I was especially delighted to see that so many men want to learn Gregorian chant and classical sacred choral music, and help bring the Latin Mass to San Quentin,” Wu said after the concert.

Gallagher said she heard another man tell the choir: “I really don’t want to be in (prison), but if I have to be in here, I want to be in here listening to music like that.”

After the concert, Cordileone told Gallagher that through the music, he saw the inmates “lifted up to God by sacred beauty and given new hope.”

“The Benedict XVI Institute teaching choir is clearly fulfilling an important need in ordinary parishes but also for those at the margins of society,” Cordileone added.

The large turnout and positive response to the concert showed Williams that “the men at San Quentin have a hunger for beauty and prayer. The concert by the Benedict XVI Institute was clearly enjoyed by those who attended. They also appreciated the support and presence of Archbishop Cordileone who has made it a point to visit the prison often.”

The schola has been positively received by a number of different parishes and groups throughout the diocese that have expressed interest in learning sacred music, Gallagher said.

There’s something about Gregorian chant and polyphony “which for many many people just blows them away, just blows them up towards heaven,” Gallagher added.

Gallagher said she has often found that even for the most trained musicians, chant and sacred music is a new and powerful spiritual experience.

She added that sacred music also has an effect that seems to transcend typical ideological boundaries when it comes to the liturgy, and that it especially resonates with younger to middle-aged audiences who are tired of the so-called “liturgy wars.”

“I think this has a reach that gets beyond the normal ideological categories and that a lot of people are hungry for,” Gallagher said.

“We like to say if you’re being brought closer to God by the Mass that you’re experiencing, bless you, we’re not trying to take that away from anyone that’s being well fed. But there is a hunger out there that is not being fed, and it’s exciting to watch the interest (in sacred music and chant) unfold.”

The history of the Assumption – and why it's a Holy Day of Obligation

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 02:01

Washington D.C., Aug 15, 2018 / 12:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Today, Catholics around the world mark the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, commemorating the end of her earthly life and assumption into Heaven. But while the feast day is a relatively new one, the history of the holiday – and the mystery behind it – has its roots in the earliest centuries of Christian belief.

“As her earthly life comes to an end, the Assumption helps us to understand more fully not just her life, but it helps us to always focus our gaze to Eternity,” said EWTN Senior Contributor Dr. Matthew Bunson.

“We see in Mary the logic of the Assumption as the culmination of Mary’s life,” he continued. “A Eucharistic requirement for that day is very fitting.”

The dogma of the Assumption of Mary – also called the “Dormition of Mary” in the Eastern Churches – has its roots in the early centuries of the Church. The Catholic Church teaches that when Mary ended her earthly life, God assumed her, body and soul into heaven.

This belief traces its roots back to the earliest years of the Church. While a site outside of Jerusalem was recognized as the tomb of Mary, the earliest Christians maintained that “no one was there,” Bunson said.

According to St. John of Damascus, in the 5th century, at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, Roman Emperor Marcian requested the body of Mary, Mother of God. St. Juvenal, who was Bishop of Jerusalem replied “that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven,” the saint recorded.

By the 8th century, around the time of Pope Adrian, the Church began to change its terminology, renaming the feast day of the Memorial of Mary to the Assumption of Mary, Bunson noted.  

The belief in the Assumption of Mary was a widely-held tradition, and a frequent meditation in the writings of saints throughout the centuries. However it was not defined officially until the past century. In 1950, Pope Pius XII made an infallible, ex-cathedra statement in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus officially defining the dogma of the Assumption.

“By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory,” the pope wrote.

Within the decree, which was passed beforehand to dioceses around the world, Pope Pius XII surveys centuries of Christian thought and the writings of a number of saints on the Assumption of Mary.  

“We have throughout the history of the Church an almost universal attestation of this,” Bunson said of the Christian tradition’s testimony to Mary’s Assumption.

“We have this thread that runs throughout the whole of the history of the Church in support of the dogma. That’s significant because it supports the tradition of the Church, but it also supports a coming to a deeper understanding of the teachings of the Church of how we rely upon the reflections of some of the greatest minds of our Church.”

What’s also notable about the dogma, he added, is that it “uses the passive tense,” emphasizing that Mary did not ascend into heaven on her own power, as Christ did, but was raised into heaven by God’s grace.

Today, the Feast of the Assumption is marked as a major feast day and a public holiday in many countries. In most countries, including the United States, it is a Holy Day of Obligation, and Catholics are required to attend Mass. Dr. Bunson explained that on major feast days, it’s important to mark the significance of the feast as especially vital by emphasizing the necessity of celebrating the Eucharist that day.

“What is more fitting than on the Assumption of the Blessed Mother to, once again, focus on her Son, on the Eucharist?” he reflected.

 

This article was originally published on CNA Aug. 15, 2017.

Pennsylvania bishops respond to sexual abuse grand jury report

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 17:12

Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug 14, 2018 / 03:12 pm (CNA).- Following the Aug. 14 release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on sexual abuse allegations in six Catholic dioceses, the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton released separate statements acknowledging failures to protect children, and pledging to make amends.
 
Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg said in a statement that he was “saddened” by the report, “for once again we read that innocent children were the victims of horrific acts committed against them.”
 
Gainer also apologized again to the survivors of child sex abuse and to the public, both for past abuses and for the Church officials who allowed the abuse to occur.
 
Harrisburg’s bishop also sought to reassure the faithful that policies had changed to ensure a safer environment, and that “there is nothing we take more seriously than the protection of those who walk through our doors. [...] The safety and well-being of our children is too important not to take immediate and definitive action.”

Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton released a seven-minute video in response to the grand jury report’s findings.

“While this is an uncomfortable and unsettling topic, we must speak openly and frankly about it,” said Bambera.

“I offer my deepest apologies for such behavior and for the consequences of this tragic reality in our Church.”

Bambera described the incidents in the report as a “dark chapter” in the 150-year history of the diocese.

“You have a right to be angry,” he said. “I am angry too,” noting that it was “particularly abhorrent” that abuse is alleged to have occurred in a Church environment. Bambera also outlined the steps his diocese has taken to protect children, including background checks and abuse training.

Bishop Lawrence Persico of Erie, who was the only bishop singled out for praise by the Pennsylvania attorney general, offered in a statement in an apology to the victims of abuse, saying they suffered from “unimaginably cruel behavior” for which they bore no responsibility.

Perscio praised abuse survivors for having the courage to come forward with their stories, while he also acknowledged that there are others who have not yet shared their experiences.

“I humbly offer my sincere apology to each victim who has been violated by anyone affiliated with the Catholic Church. I hope that you can accept it,” said Perscio.

“I know that apologizing is only one step in a very long and complex process of healing.”

Perscio instructed churches within his diocese to be open for a 12-hour period on September 15, the feast of Our Mother of Sorrows. He pledged to stand with the victims of abuse, and said that he was willing to meet with any survivor who wished to do so.  

Bishop Alfred A. Schlert of Allentown issued an apology “for the past sins and crimes committed by some members of the clergy,” as well as “to the survivors of abuse and their loved ones,” and then to the entire diocese, for any doubts or anger the crisis has wrought.

“For the times when those in the Church did not live up to Christ’s call to holiness, and did not do what needed to be done, I apologize,” he said.

He reiterated that his “first priority” as a bishop was the protection of children.

“To those women and men and all those they have spoken for: We hear you. The Church hears you. I hear you,” said Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh in a statement after the report’s release.

Zubik also apologized to victims of clerical abuse, as well as to “any person or family whose trust, faith and well-being has been devastated by men who were ordained to be the image of Christ.” He also said he is willing to meet with any victim to apologize in-person.

Zubik emphasized that “Diocese of Pittsburgh today is not the Church that is described in the Grand Jury Report,” and that “It has not been for a long time.” Data provided by the diocese showed that over 90 percent of abuse incidents occurred prior to 1990, and Zubik explained the steps the diocese has taken to prevent abuse.

Bishop Edward Malesic of Greensburg released a video homily that will be shown at each Mass in the diocese this coming weekend. In it, Malesic apologized to the victims, who were “robbed of their childhoods” by the abuse, noting that some had been “robbed of their faith” as well.

The behavior in the report “cannot be accepted,” he said, and “it is a cause of shame for us.”

Malesic stated he was “truly proud of the victims who came forward to tell their story,” and encouraged others to come forward as well, and for the faithful to be vigilant in reporting suspected abuse.

“To the survivors of sexual abuse in the Church [...] I grieve for you, and I grieve with you.”

In a statement released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB president Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Timothy L. Doherty, chairman of the bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, expressed “shame” at the report’s conclusions.

“As a body of bishops, we are shamed by and sorry for the sins and omissions by Catholic priests and Catholic bishops… We pray that all survivors of sexual abuse find healing, comfort and strength in God’s loving presence as the Church pledges to continue to restore trust through accompaniment, communion, accountability and justice.”

The report claims to have identified more than 1,000 victims of 300 credibly accused priests and presents a devastating portrait of efforts by Church authorities to, ignore, obscure, or cover up allegations - either to protect accused priests or to spare the Church scandal.

 

Cardinal Wuerl named in Pennsylvania grand jury report, responds to criticism

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 16:30

Washington D.C., Aug 14, 2018 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and the former Bishop of Pittsburgh, has been named more than 200 times in a Pennsylvania grand jury report, released Aug. 14, after an 18-month investigation into historic allegations of sexual abuse in six Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses.

The cardinal released a statement in response to the report, underscoring the gravity of the sexual abuse for the Church and the real need for repentance for past failures.

“As I have made clear throughout my more than 30 years as a bishop, the sexual abuse of children by some members of the Catholic Church is a terrible tragedy, and the Church can never express enough our deep sorrow and contrition for the abuse, and for the failure to respond promptly and completely,” the cardinal said. 

In total, 99 priest from Pittsburgh were named in the report, 32 priests were referenced by the grand jury report in relation to Cardinal Wuerl’s time as bishop. Of these, 19 involved new cases or allegations which arose during his 18 years in charge of the diocese, during the years 1988-2006.

Of the 19 cases which arose during Wuerl’s time as bishop, 18 were removed from ministry immediately. The other cases Wuerl addressed in Pittsburgh principally concerned actions and allegations that arose during the reign of his predecessor, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.

Several of these cases inherited from Cardinal Bevilacqua’s time were subject to the report’s most stringent criticisms.

In one case, an abuser-priest left the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1966, following allegations of abuse. He was allowed to seek ministry in dioceses in California and Nevada. The report says Wuerl authorized him to move from Los Angeles to the diocese of Reno-Las Vegas in 1991, but sources familiar with the Pittsburgh case said that Wuerl was unaware of the 1966 allegations at the time.

A further allegation, concerning past actions by the same priest, was made in 1994 at which time Wuerl immediately informed the dioceses where the priest had been living.

In another case highlighted by the report, Wuerl agreed to a settlement with an abuse victim in his first weeks as bishop of Pittsburgh in 1988. The victim received a total of $900,000 and signed a confidentiality agreement  - such agreements were once common in settlements and have been heavily criticized as a means of silencing victims.

While acknowledging that the report contained specific criticisms of his time in Pittsburgh, Wuerl defended his record of handling sexual abuse allegations.

“While I understand this report may be critical of some of my actions, I believe the report confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse. I sincerely hope that a just assessment of my actions, past and present, and my continuing commitment to the protection of children will dispel any notions otherwise made by this report.”

The report also specifically criticized Wuerl for maintaining financial support for priests who had been removed from ministry, although providing that support is a canonical obligation for bishops. Many dioceses, including those covered by the report, have found themselves obligated to continue providing minimum benefits and support for priests.

Sources close to the cardinal also point out that the grand jury report does not distinguish between proven incidents of abuse and other allegations, saying that the report presumes that any priest accused of abuse should have been permanently removed from ministry, whether the allegation is proven or not. That assumption, they say, is not consistent with canonical norms on the subject.

As the most senior sitting bishop to be named in the report, and having served for so long as the head of a diocese as prominent as Pittsburgh, it was widely expected that Wuerl would be singled out for special attention by the report, and by the state’s Attorney General, Josh Shapiro.

Perhaps the most eye-catching allegation against Wuerl contained in the more than 1,000 pages released is the use of the phrase “circle of secrecy.” These words, the report claims, “were his own words for the church’s child sex abuse cover up.” This allegation is vehemently denied by both the diocese of Pittsburgh and the cardinal.

In an official response released with the report, the Diocese of Pittsburgh said that the phrase “circle of secrecy” appears in paperwork related to the request of a particular priest to return to ministry, and that it was used to make clear that there could be no “circle of secrecy” about the priest’s past problems. The diocese also says that the handwriting in which the phrase is written cannot be definitively attributed to anyone, including  Wuerl.

Ed McFadden, spokesman for the cardinal, said that “the handwriting does not belong to then-Bishop Wuerl as the writers of the Report mistakenly assumed. Indeed, the cardinal confirmed the handwriting is not his, and confirmed he neither wrote nor used the phrase while serving as Bishop of Pittsburgh. When the Cardinal’s legal counsel informed the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office about this error – prior to the release of the report – the Attorney General and his Senior Deputy refused to acknowledge the mistake and refused to take any steps to correct the dramatic use and misattribution of the phrase in the report.”

McFadden called the report’s attribution of the phrase “another example that in factual ways, large and small, the Attorney General’s office was more concerned with getting this report out than getting it right. Such a focus detracts from the shared goals of protection and healing.”

In a letter sent to the priests of the Washington archdiocese on Aug. 13, Wuerl wrote that he was shocked at having to confront allegations of abuse almost from the beginning of his ministry in Pittsburgh.

“I cannot fully express the dismay and anger I felt, when as a newly installed Bishop of Pittsburgh in 1988, I learned about the abuse some survivors experienced in my diocese,” he said.

The cardinal said that the experience of meeting with victims of abuse “urged me to develop quickly a “zero tolerance” policy for clergy who committed such abuse,” and that he put in place procedures to ensure allegations were addressed “fairly and forthrightly.”

In his written testimony to the grand jury, Wuerl recounted that in his first months as Bishop of Pittsburgh he had to meet with two brothers who had been victims of abuse. Wuerl said he was profoundly affected by the experience and came away with “a permanent resolve that this should never happen again.”

In 1989, Wuerl established a diocesan committee to evaluate policies for responding to abuse allegations. This committee grew to become the Diocesan Review Board, nearly a decade before the Dallas Charter called for every diocese to have such a body.

In his letter to the priests of Washington, he said that he had tried to live up to his own zero-tolerance standards.

“The diocese [of Pittsburgh] investigated all allegations of child sexual abuse during my tenure there and admitted or substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse resulted in appropriate action including the removal of the priest from ministry,” Wuerl wrote to the Washington presbyterate.

What constitutes “appropriate action” is something that has changed in the years since the sexual abuse crisis at the turn of the millennium and the formation of the Dallas Charter by the United States bishops.

As Bishop of Pittsburgh, Wuerl says he implemented of a policy that formally encouraged Catholics making complaints to also report them directly to law enforcement agencies, and sometimes informed civil authorities himself, even against the express wishes of the person making the allegations.

Of the 19 priests whose original allegations were handled by Wuerl, 18 were immediately removed from pastoral assignments and a kept away from any further contact with children.

But, when allegations could not be satisfactorily established,  many of these were given administrative positions in the diocesan chancery, something which would be considered inappropriate under current standards. Unlike the worst examples of earlier abuse cases in dioceses like Boston and Los Angeles, Wuerl is adamant that he never moved an accused or suspected abuser from parish to parish, or left them in parish ministry.

Indeed, from his first year in Pittsburgh, Wuerl acted publicly on issues related to clerical sexual abuse, even in the face of Church opposition.

In 1988, the year he arrived in Pittsburgh, Wuerl removed Fr. Anthony Cipolla from ministry following accusations the priest had molested a teenage boy. Following appeals by Cipolla, the Vatican ordered that the priest be returned to ministry but Wuerl categorically refused, flying to Rome and presenting evidence and arguments in person to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. Rome eventually reversed its position and upheld Wuerl’s decision.

While cases of suspected abuse since 2002 have been handled according to the USCCB’s “Essential Norms,” the Cipolla case served as an important template in the 1990’s, making it easier for other bishops to remove priests accused of abuse from active ministry. 

Coming hard on the heels of the revelations about Archbishop McCarrick, who preceded Wuerl in Washington, D.C., the cardinal has found himself on the receiving end of very pointed and sustained criticism. Appearing on “CBS This Morning” ahead of the report’s release, he was pointedly asked if he had any intention of resigning. He is likely to face renewed scrutiny and even more difficult questions in the weeks ahead.

Pennsylvania grand jury report details decades of clerical abuse allegations

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 16:27

Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug 14, 2018 / 02:27 pm (CNA).- A redacted grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse in six of Pennsylvania’s Catholic dioceses was released Tuesday, following an 18-month investigation into thousands of alleged instances of abuse spanning several decades.  

The report, detailing allegations made in the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton, was released Aug.14. It reported on evidence of systematic abuse and cover-ups going back seven decades within these dioceses.

About half of Pennsylvania’s nearly 3 million Catholics live within these six dioceses.

The 884-page report was written by 23 grand jurors, who spent some 18 months investigating the six dioceses, examining half a million pages of documents in the process. The FBI assisted with the investigative process.

The report claims to have identified more than 1,000 victims of 300 credibly accused priests and presents a devastating portrait of efforts by Church authorities to, ignore, obscure, or cover up allegations - either to protect accused priests or to spare the Church scandal.

The report also identified a series of practices present in different ways across the dioceses which together amounted to a “playbook for concealing the truth.”

These include use of phrases like “boundary issues” or ”inappropriate contact” instead of explicitly referring to rape and sexual abuse, assigning priests to investigate their peers, instead of using qualified and objective personnel, and a reliance on psychological assessments and diagnoses  

Due to laws regarding the statute of limitations, nearly every abuse allegation cannot be criminally prosecuted, although two indictments have been filed. So far, one priest, Fr. John Sweeney, has been convicted of sexually assaulting a student in the early 1990s.

The released report was partially redacted, which Attorney General Josh Shapiro was displeased about. The redactions were due to ongoing appellate litigation.

The grand jury report contains the names of 301 men. Some names were not released due to the aforementioned ongoing court cases. Details of their crimes were also redacted.

The number of victims was estimated to be in the thousands, but the true number was not quantifiable, the report said. The majority of the victims in cases examined by the grand jury were male. The ages of the victims ranged from pre-pubescent to young-adult seminarians.

The offending priests are accused of a variety of crimes, including rape, molestation, and groping. The report states that some of the priests were able to manipulate their victims with alcohol and pornography.

Approximately two-thirds of the accused priests have died. The youngest offender named in the report was born in the 1990s.

Overall, nearly one-third of the accused priests came from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the highest percentage. The second-highest by number was the Diocese of Scranton, with 55 priests within the diocese, as well as four members of the Society of St. John, identified in the report.

A total of 10 priests from Pittsburgh were identified only as “Pittsburgh Priests #1-10,” as they could not be directly identified. Two priests from Harrisburg were similarly only identified as “Harrisburg Priest #1” and “Harrisburg Priest #2.”  

The Dioceses of Harrisburg and Erie have already released the names of the priests who were credibly accused of sex crimes, and the remaining dioceses pledged to do so upon the release of the grand jury report.

On August 1, Harrisburg released a list of 71 accused priests, deacons, and seminarians, which the diocese admitted was “overinclusive.” The grand jury report contained 45 names from Harrisburg, including three former seminarians.

Erie’s list included 62 people, including laypersons, who were accused of sex crimes over the last 70 years. A total of 41 people from Erie were included in the report, including one former seminarian.

In the Diocese of Allentown, 31 priests were listed, plus two members of the Carmelites, and a lay person employed as a basketball coach at a school in the diocese.

The Diocese of Greensburg had the fewest number of accused priests, with a total of 20 priests identified.

The grand jury report covered all accusations of abuse during the last 70 years, from 1947 until 2017 within the dioceses subject to investigation.  

Data provided by the Dioceses of Greensburg and Pittsburgh showed that most of the alleged abuse occurred during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Greensburg did not list any abuse claims from the 2000s or 2010s.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh saw the number of reported abuse incidents spike during the 1980s, with slightly more than 80 allegations. In the 2000s, there were fewer than 10 reported.

The Dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Harrisburg, and Scranton did not provide hard numbers on the timeline of abuse incidents, but each explained how they have taken steps since the mid-80s to early 90s to implement policies within their dioceses to prevent abuse.

Over the past several decades, the Church in the United States implemented a series of proactive steps intended to create a safer environment for children. These included a tougher screening process for seminarians, trainings for parish workers on how to identify and prevent abuse, and new policies on how a diocese should respond to reported misconduct.

 

 

Denver archbishop reflects on McCarrick abuse crisis

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 15:01

Denver, Colo., Aug 14, 2018 / 01:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver issued a letter to the archdiocese on Monday, offering practical advice on and spiritual insights into the sexual abuse scandal centered on Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

During his annual silent retreat last week, the archbishop said he reflected on the scandal in his prayers. He encouraged the clergy and laity to work toward healing and greater prevention methods.

“Some have felt that the Lord has abandoned the Church,” he said in his Aug. 13 letter. “Personally, I am deeply sorry that both laity and clergy have had to experience this type of betrayal.”

The archbishop challenged the archdiocese to participate in opportunities of healing.

“I am asking every priest in the archdiocese to offer a Mass each month in reparation for the sins committed by cardinals, bishops, priests and deacons, and for all sins committed by clergy and lay people against the commandments of our Lord, as well as to pray for healing for the victims of sin.”

“Too many seminarians, priests and bishops knew of Archbishop McCarrick’s behavior and did not restrain him,” he said. “Due to this, I call on the U.S. bishops’ conference to ask for and allow an independent investigation that includes members of the lay faithful and those clergy who had nothing to do with the matter.”

In June, Pope Francis removed McCarrick from ministry after an allegation he sexually abused a minor almost 50 years ago was ruled credible. In late July he resigned from the College of Cardinals, and the pope ordered him to adopt a life of prayer and penance pending a canonical process. Other allegations of sexual abuse and coercion have since been raised, and have brought to the public eye past legal settlements involving alleged misconduct while head of two New Jersey dioceses.

Archbishop Aquila said the Church’s abuse scandals originate from complacency, and a culture influenced by the sexual revolution.

“We must recognize that complacency about evil and sin is present both in the Church and the world and has led us to where we are today. This culture of complacency among clergy and laity must come to an end!”

“Sadly, too many, both clergy and lay, have listened more to the world than to Christ and the Church when it comes to human sexuality.”

He said the sexual revolution pushed the culture from the proper understanding of the human dignity. The Church has taught on human sexuality for centuries, said the archbishop, noting Catholics have given testimony to “the healing, freedom and joy it brings” in its practice.

The Church, he said, must respond with a greater closeness to Christ and return to the path of grace that highlights the dangers of sin and the fulfilment of truth. He stressed the aspects of the faith which strengthen the Church’s members.

“Charity and truth must always go together. A disciple should never lead someone into sin or condone sin,” he said.

“The Father has given us his son Jesus, the Beatitudes, the Gospels, the truth, and his commandments out of love for us to keep us on the narrow way of love. He is merciful in all that he has given to us.”

Workshop teaches how to teach Gregorian chant to children, teens

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 18:42

San Francisco, Calif., Aug 13, 2018 / 04:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Parish music directors, teachers, priests, and religious sisters gathered near San Francisco last week for a workshop helping them learn how to teach children and teens how to sing Gregorian chant.

The Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship held a Teaching Children's Chant Camp Workshop in Menlo Park, about 30 miles south of San Francisco, Aug. 9-12.

Among those participating were three religious sisters of the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa.

“Our mission at the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa is to teach joyfully the truth, goodness and beauty of our faith; we work with a lot of children and teens in Catholic schools,” Mother Teresa Christe explained, “So we are very grateful for this Benedict XVI Institute workshop.”

The Marian Sisters were founded by Bishop Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa in 2012. The community has a focus on teaching and evangelizing in parishes and schools.

Two Missionaries of Charity also attended the workshop. One of them, Sister Maximiliana, said they were participating because of their after school program “which prepares the children we work with from poor families for consecration to Mary. We want to learn how to teach children so they can sing beautifully for the Mass.”

Before the workshop, 25 Missionaries of Charity from across the San Francisco bay area had attended another event organized by the Benedict XVI Institute to learn how to chant more beautifully.

The workshop was directed by Mary Ann Carr-Wilson, who has helped pioneer chant camps for children.

Carr-Wilson emphasized the importance of respecting children as you teach them: “Give them a high aim. Let them know what they are doing in helping sing the Mass: praying not performing, with all the angels and saints. They respond.”

Rather than focusing solely on performance techniques, the institute incorporates catechesis and works to help participants deepen their understanding of the Mass, including their ability to offer intentions for their participation in the liturgy.

The workshop aims to help both teachers with experience with music generally, or with chant in particular.

Aaron Fidler teaches music at Kolbe Academy and Trinity Prep, a Catholic classical school in Napa. A violinist with extensive teaching experience, he expressed appreciation for help with his new task of preparing the school's choir to chant at Mass.

And Mary Castaneda, a music director from Washington state, said she has long taught chant to adules, but is “now teaching chant to children and teens. It’s really useful to get a sense from Mary Ann what she does that young people respond to.”

The Benedict XVI Institute was founded by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco in 2014.

It aims to form the Catholic imagination through beauty, and to promote the vision of the Second Vatican Council, whose constitution on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, said that Gregorian chant is “specially suited to the Roman liturgy” and that “therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.”

With inmate's fate unclear, Florida bishops pray to end death penalty

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 18:41

Tallahassee, Fla., Aug 13, 2018 / 04:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic bishops of Florida have asked for continued prayers for an end to the death penalty following the stay of an inmate’s execution. They had previously asked Gov. Rick Scott to commute the inmate’s death sentence and cited Pope Francis’ new catechism revisions on the death penalty.

“Please continue to pray for victims of crime, those on death row, and for an end to the use of the death penalty,” the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops said Friday afternoon.

Jose Antonio Jimenez, now 54 years old, was convicted of the 1992 murder of Phyllis Minas, a 63-year-old woman. He had been scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Aug. 14.

On Aug. 10 the Florida Supreme Court unanimously granted a request to grant the stay, without stating a reason, the Florida News Service reports.

Jimenez’s lawyer Marty McClain had requested the stay, citing several issues. These included a pending Supreme Court decision that could affect Florida’s lethal injection protocol.

McClain also said he had discovered that the North Miami Police Department had not previously provided to Jimenez’s lawyers the 80 pages of records related to the investigation of the murder.

McClain told the Florida News Service that the records include handwritten notes by investigators who interviewed Jimenez after his arrest that contradict their testimony. He contended that they show the investigators were willing to give “false and/or misleading deposition testimony” in order to facilitate Jimenez’s conviction.

Catholic prayer vigils had been scheduled across the state to pray for the victim, the aggressor, their families and society, as well as to pray for the end of the death penalty.

After the stay was announced, many of these vigils were set to continue in the dioceses of St. Petersburg, Orlando, Pensacola-Tallahassee and Venice.

However, organizers canceled some Catholic prayer vigils that had been scheduled in the Archdiocese of Miami and the dioceses of St. Augustine, Pensacola-Tallahassee, and Palm Beach.

“We pray for Ms. Minas and for consolation for her loved ones. All of us are called to stand with victims in their hurt as they seek healing and justice,” Michael Sheedy, executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in an Aug. 9 letter. “We invite people across Florida to join in this prayer. Both victims of crime and offenders are children of God and members of the same human family.”

Sheedy, speaking on behalf of the state’s Catholic bishops, said Gov. Scott has a “difficult task as governor” but still asked him to commute Jimenez’s death sentence and all death sentences to life without possibility of parole.

The letter to the governor cited Pope Francis’ revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty.

The Florida bishops’ conference further commented in an Aug. 10 statement.

“Given the development of doctrine involving the death penalty, the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s treatment of the topic was revised earlier this month,” the bishops’ conference said.

The relevant section of the Catechism now reads “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” It calls for the Church “to work with determination for its abolition worldwide,” the bishops’ conference said.

Drawing from the Catechism, Sheedy told the governor that the change “reflects the growing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of great crimes and that more effective forms of detention have been developed to ensure the due protection of citizens without definitively depriving the guilty of the possibility of redemption.”

In addition to prayers for Minas, her family and her friends, Sheedy voiced prayers for Jimenez and “all those facing execution.”

 

Veritatis splendor to be theme of Courage conference

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 17:31

Hartford, Conn., Aug 13, 2018 / 03:31 pm (CNA).- An upcoming conference in Connecticut will offers Catholic leaders in medicine and ministry the practical and pastoral tools to reach out to people with same-sex attraction while upholding Church teaching.

The 2018 Truth and Love Conference will be held at St Thomas Seminary Conference Center October 22-24 in Bloomfield, Connecticut. At the center of the formation event will be the encyclical Veritatis splendor, written 25 years ago this August by Pope John Paul II.

The theme of the event will be “Proclaiming the splendor of truth with love.” The gathering will look to answer questions about sexual identity and instruct pastoral leaders and medical professionals to care for people with same-sex attraction.

The fourth event of its kind, the conference is an initiative of Courage International, a Catholic apostolate that offers support for people with same-sex attraction who have chosen to pursue a chaste lifestyle. As part of the same organization, EnCourage supports family members and friends of people with same-sex attraction, aiding them in encountering their loved ones with compassion.

Speakers for the event will include experts on natural law, psychology, and Christian anthropology. Participants will be given practical resources to compassionately communicate the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

Presenters at the conference will include Father Philip Bochanski, executive director of Courage International; Dr. John Grabowski, theological advisor to U.S. bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family, and Youth; and Dr. Michael Horne, director of clinical services for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington.

Testimonies of people with same-sex attraction will also be shared, witnessing to the importance of the Church and friendships that have led them to grow in chastity and sanctity. Testimonies will be heard from Daniel Mattson, Catholic author of the book “Why I Don't Call Myself Gay,” and Courage members Paul Darrow and Rilene Simpson, featured in the documentary Desire of the Everlasting Hills.

The first Courage meeting was held in 1980, and the initial group developed the five foundational goals of Courage – chastity, prayer and dedication, fellowship, support, and good role models.
 

 

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