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Two priests ruled unsuitable for ministry in Philadelphia Archdiocese

08/21/2018 - 4:45pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Philadelphia

By Matthew Gambino

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — Two priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia have been found unsuitable for ministry, the archdiocese announced Aug. 19 following Masses at the parishes where Father Andrew D. McCormick and Msgr. Gregory J. Parlante most recently served.

The ministry for both priests has been restricted during the course of the church investigation and their respective legal proceedings.

For Father McCormick, 62, that course has been long and winding. Arrested and charged in July 2012 for allegedly sexually abusing a minor, he faced criminal trials in 2014 and 2015. Both ended indecisively in mistrials, and prosecutors later dropped all charges against him.

The civil lawsuit that followed concluded in an out-of-court settlement in early 2018, the details of which were not made available by the archdiocese.

The archdiocesan statement said the charges against Father McCormick stemmed from a report of alleged abuse first made directly to law enforcement and of which the archdiocese had no prior knowledge.

He had been placed on leave from ministry as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Swedesburg in 2011 on an unrelated allegation of misconduct.

As per archdiocesan policy, the church’s internal investigation of the 2012 allegation began only after criminal and civil legal actions against Father McCormick were concluded.

The Archdiocesan Professional Responsibilities Review Board found the allegation of sexual abuse of a minor to be substantiated. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput accepted the board’s recommendation and informed Father McCormick.

The statement said the priest “will either be laicized or enter into a supervised life of prayer and penance,” but did not indicate what the next step will be for Father McCormick, or when it will occur.

Laicization is the church’s legal, or canonical, process that relieves a priest or deacon from the clerical state, sometimes referred to as “defrocking,” rendering him a layperson.

The Prayer and Penance Program houses and supervises priests who voluntarily accept residence after admitting to sexual abuse of a minor. Currently it includes at least 12 priests, all of whom have accepted permanent restriction on their priestly ministry.

It has been located on the campus of Villa St. Joseph, the archdiocesan priests’ retirement home in Darby since 2005.

That was the year of the first Philadelphia grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse, followed by a second report in 2011. The Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse released Aug. 14 did not include Philadelphia or the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, which a grand jury investigated in 2016. The new report involved an investigation into claims of clergy sex abuse over a 70-year period in the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Erie, Allentown, Scranton and Harrisburg.

In the case of Msgr. Parlante, 61, it was not sexual misconduct but drugs that introduced him to the criminal justice system.

He resigned as pastor of St. Cornelius Parish in Chadds Ford in early spring 2017 and has been on leave from ministry since then.

By May of that year, a suspicious package found in his office by rectory staff was confirmed by Pennsylvania State Police to contain illegal methamphetamine, a highly addictive and destructive drug.

By January 2018 Msgr. Parlante was arrested and charged with two misdemeanor counts of drug possession and one felony charge of theft. Police had determined that he allegedly stole approximately $5,500 from St. Cornelius’ church collections and used it to buy drugs through the mail.

He entered into a Delaware County program for first-time offenders in which he was ordered to perform 64 hours of community service, pay back the $5,500 to St. Cornelius Parish and complete one year of probation.

Only after the conclusion of the sentencing did the archdiocese’s investigation into Msgr. Parlante’s suitability for ministry begin.

The archdiocesan review board determined that because of Msgr. Parlante’s violation of the archdiocesan policy on Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries, he is not suitable for priestly ministry.

According to the archdiocesan statement, the board was established in 2002 and functions as a confidential advisory body to the archbishop. Its 12 men and women, both Catholic and non-Catholic, possess extensive professional experience in investigation, prosecution, child abuse prevention, victim services and the treatment of sexual offenders.

The future status of Msgr. Parlante is undetermined at this time while his public ministry remains restricted.

While he would not enter Prayer and Penance because his case does not concern child sexual abuse, he could seek laicization, though it would not be required of him by the archdiocese at this time, according to church officials.

A Delaware County official has recently cited the sale and use of methamphetamine as a growing scourge in the community. “Meth is becoming the new heroin,” said Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood in an article in the Delaware County Daily Times.

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Gambino, director and general manager of CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Archbishop Sample ‘shaken to core,’ calls for lay-run abuse investigation

08/21/2018 - 4:27pm

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Ed Langlois

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) — Portland Archbishop Alexander K. Sample issued a letter Aug. 20 to western Oregon Catholics in which he expresses shock, anger and discouragement over revelations of clergy sex abuse in other parts of the country.

“I have been shaken to the core of my soul over them,” Archbishop Sample wrote in the five-page letter, which includes a call for renewed care of victims, reinvigorated prayer life among priests and an outside lay-run investigative body. Archbishop Sample also said that bishops should be held to the same standards as priests.

A grand jury investigation about decades of sexual abuse claims in six Pennsylvania dioceses followed revelations about crimes and misdeeds alleged against Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, a former cardinal and retired archbishop of Washington.

Abuse scandals, including cover-ups by bishops, also have shocked and saddened Catholics in Chile, Ireland and Australia in the past year.

“These horrific revelations are particularly painful in light of what victims in our own archdiocese have suffered and the impact that sexual abuse has had on the church here in western Oregon,” the archbishop wrote in the five-page letter. “I am sorry beyond words for the harm that has been done.”

The archbishop urged Catholics to read a letter from Pope Francis, which was issued the same day. The pope called what has happened part of the “culture of death.”

“These most-recent accusations and details expose — yet again — certain systematic and profound failures of episcopal leadership in our church,” Archbishop Sample wrote. “These failures are both institutional and spiritual in nature, and date back many decades.”

Archbishop Sample said that Archbishop McCarrick was entrusted with pastoral responsibility and care but instead acted “in a heinously sinful and criminal manner.”

“It is also an institutional failure that someone like this could rise to such a high level unimpeded and without being challenged or held accountable,” Archbishop Sample wrote. He also was critical of the cover-ups the Pennsylvania report said were carried out by church leaders.

“All of these allegations should have been brought to light much sooner; and then dealt with swiftly, justly and transparently,” the archbishop wrote.

He called clerical sex abuse a spiritual failure in that men called to be good shepherds instead act “in such a gravely sinful, evil manner.”

The archbishop wrote that when clergy and religious lose their personal relationship with God, careerism, clericalism and “ways of life at odds with the Gospel” often result.

Those who committed the sinful and illegal acts, or covered them up, are culpable, and at the same time their deeds are the work of Satan, the archbishop wrote.

“In the history of the church, whenever there was a moral or spiritual crisis, God has raised up saints who became agents of reform. This is a time for saints,” the archbishop wrote.

Saying he will get more serious about prayer, penance and sacrifice, he called for a “profound spiritual renewal” among clergy. He urged priests every day to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, spend an hour with the Blessed Sacrament and pray the rosary.

“We who are clergy must reject all tendencies toward a worldliness and secularity that is inconsistent with our vocation,” he wrote.

He also asked the lay faithful to pray, acknowledging that they are not responsible for the scandal.

The archbishop offered a plan of action that begins with caring for and supporting victims of abuse.

“Whatever we do as a church to address these atrocities, we must keep in mind those who have been seriously harmed,” Archbishop Sample wrote. “They have suffered greatly at the hands of those they should have been able to count on for spiritual care and support and in whom they should have experienced the love of the Good Shepherd.”

He urged that bishops be held to the same standards as priests in matters of improper behavior or abuse, with amendments to the charter that guides policy.

He also called for an outside investigation process with the “substantial involvement” of lay experts. “A body investigating itself does not inspire confidence in the objectivity of the outcome,” he wrote. Those who knew about abuse and did little or nothing should be held accountable, Archbishop Sample said, adding that all reports of misbehavior or abuse should be properly investigated.

The archbishop called the Archdiocese of Portland’s child protection policies, forged after a scandal more than a decade ago, “solid and extensive.”

The archbishop urged anyone who has been abused by a church worker to come forward to the archdiocese’s Office of Victim Assistance. “We want to help you,” he wrote.

“In dealing with all of this some are quite understandably tempted to give up on the church,” the archbishop concluded. “Yet our faith is finally in God, not in individuals who fail to live up to their calling in Christ.”

A Mass of healing for victims of sexual abuse is scheduled for St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland Aug. 26.

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Langlois is managing editor of the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

XU’s New Chapel has Long History

08/21/2018 - 4:00pm
The chapel’s intricately carved baldachin (an architectural feature, originally a cloth canopy, over a church altar) will be fitted with LED lighting and the bare wood beneath it will be covered with green cloth. CT PHOTO/GAIL FINKE A first look at Our Lady of Peace Chapel

By Gail Finke

A tiny new chapel on Xavier University’s campus opened only days ago, but that’s in its present life. Before being moved to a spot at the end of XU’s academic mall, it was the site of decades of baptisms and weddings for the Williams family, who built it as a private chapel.

The family, prominent in Cincinnati business and philanthropy, donated and built the university’s much larger Bellarmine Chapel in 1962. Their own 22-seat stone chapel, built on their Anderson Township property in 1938, hosted many events before the last of the original residents passed away.

Tom Williams, the youngest of the six Williams children whose parents built the chapel, immediately thought of giving it to the university. “When he approached me, I wondered where in the world we could put a chapel,” said Jesuit Father Michael Graham, XU’s president, who reluctantly turned down the offer. But while Williams looked for another site, XU acquired more property, and when Williams came back, XU said yes.

The chapel, moved stone by stone in December, now anchors a long greenspace that ends at Bellarmine Chapel. “Bellarmine will still remain the ordinary home for sacraments here,” Father Graham said. But the Williams Chapel, Our Lady of Peace, will be open every day for private prayer and will be available for small events, including weddings.

“This is wonderful for the community,” said Norwood resident Elyce Feliz, a Quaker who stopped in the chapel last week on her way to her meeting house. “It’s good to have things like this. People will be drawn to it.”

When “Telegraph” staff visited on a rainy August Thursday, the final improvements to the chapel were being made. The original stained glass windows had been cleaned and restored and the Ohio company that had made them, now called BeauVerre Riordan Stained Glass Studio in Middletown, created new windows to match using the original glass it still had in stock. Inside, the intricately carved wood walls and ceilings (“We’re not 100% sure, but we’re almost 100% sure, that the brother of Charles Williams, who founded Western & Southern, did all the carving,” Father Graham said) has also been cleaned and lit.

A new fabric panel, custom-made in Italy, had just arrived, and Vice President for Facilities Bob Sheeran had brought the new crucifix. Custom made to match the new altar, the metal crucifix replaces a carved wooden one too delicate for use. The Williams family will get that back, Father Graham said – and will be welcome any time for special Masses and events.

“We had Mass here for them in July – about 40 of them, standing room only,” Father Graham said. “They’re very enthusiastic about its new lease on life.”

Scroll down for detail photos of the chapel. “The Catholic Telegraph” will share photos of the gardens and the completed interior in coming weeks.

Tiny Our Lady of Peace Chapel, photographed in the rain, faces XU’s Bellarrmine chapel. An English-style garden behind it faces the road. CT PHOTO/GAIL FINKE The windows and carvings feature saints the six Williams children were named after. A family member may have done all the carving. CT PHOTO/GAIL FINKE Bob Sheeran, XU’s vice president for facilities, looks a the new crucifix with the installer. Behind them is the panel of hand-stamped Italian fabric that will hang behind it. CT PHOTO/GAIL FINKE The new crucifix and the fragile wooden original crucifix, wrapped up against the pouring rain, sit on the chapel’s altar. The new altar, which allows a priest to stand behind it, is made in part from the original marble cladding that covered a cinderblock structure. CT PHOTO/GAIL FINKE XU’s president, Jesuit Father Michael Graham, gave tours of the chapel while it was being finished. CT PHOTO/GAIL FINKE The original stained glass windows, which depict Mary and the saints family members were named for, were made by one of America’s finest stained glass companies. Still in business as BeauVerre Riordan, the company made new windows in the same style and using some of the same original glass. CT PHOTO/GAIL FINKE New windows feature Jesuit saints and Our Lady of Guadalupe. CT PHOTO/GAIL FINKE The rosaries on this statue belonged to Helen Williams. Helen and William Williams built the chapel in 1938. CT PHOTO/GAIL FINKE

Vatican confirms pope will meet abuse survivors in Ireland

08/21/2018 - 1:32pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Clodagh Kilcoyne, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis will meet survivors of sexual abuse during his trip to Ireland Aug. 25-26, but it will be up to the survivors to decide whether any information about the meeting will be released, said the director of the Vatican press office.

Greg Burke, press director, told reporters Aug. 21 that from the moment the Vatican decided the World Meeting of Families 2018 would be in Dublin, it was clear that the pope would have to acknowledge the crimes committed against thousands of Irish Catholics by priests in parishes and by priests, religious brothers and nuns in schools, orphanages and other institutions.

The date, time and location of the meeting and the list of survivors invited will not be released until after the meeting, and then only with the permission of the survivors taking part, Burke said.

Pope Francis wants the trip to focus on families, Burke said, which is why he is not going to Northern Ireland on the same visit. Even the moments dictated by protocol — for example, meetings with government officials — will focus on the family, he said.

Asked whether the pope and the Vatican were concerned that with renewed media attention on clerical sexual abuse the theme would overshadow the pope’s focus on the family, Burke responded, “Any trip to Ireland was not only going to be about the family.”

“The pope is well rested and ready and wants to talk about the family,” Burke said.

However, in discussing the individual events on the pope’s schedule in Ireland, the spokesman also mentioned that Aug. 25 Pope Francis would begin his visit to Dublin’s co-cathedral by praying silently before a candle in the Blessed Sacrament chapel that burns for the abuse survivors.

Without providing details, Burke also said the pope would talk about abuse in at least one of his speeches during the trip.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

New President Appointed at St. Rita School for the Deaf

08/21/2018 - 12:40pm

Cincinnati, OH: August 2018 – After 6 months of national and local searching and after interviewing several candidates, the search committee and the Board of St. Rita School for the Deaf, made their recommendation to Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr. The Archbishop interviewed and has appointed Angela Frith as the President of St. Rita School for the Deaf. Angela was serving in the role of Associate Executive Director of the school prior to the appointment.

“As the Board Chairperson of St. Rita School for the Deaf, I can personally say that the Board is excited for Angela to become our next President,” said Richard Meder, Brokerage Senior Vice President, Colliers International. “With her leadership and continued commitment, I am confident she will help lead our school into the future and will confidently face St. Rita’s challenges both current and future”.

Angela Frith is a graduate of Mount Notre Dame High School and holds a BA in Education from Mount Saint Joseph University. She has spent much of her life with the St. Rita community and is dedicated to the promotion of the mission and vision of the school. The past nineteen years of her career has been working at St. Rita where she has gained experience in leading and managing essential areas of school operations, educational programming, and development/fundraising. Frith is married with 3 children, and is a member of St. Bartholomew parish. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Management and Leadership from Western Governors University.

“I am extremely blessed to have the opportunity to serve in the role of President,” said Angela Frith. “It is a true privilege to work with a dedicated team who share their talents and treasures every day with the students who are in need of our specialized educational services. I look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead for the school and moving the school into the next phase of its history”

As the President of St. Rita School for the Deaf, Angela will lead a school of 85 staff and 122 students who have diverse needs who are deaf or have communication challenges.

About St. Rita School for the Deaf

Since its inception, 104 years ago, St. Rita has provided services to over 2,600 children with profound hearing loss and through the years we have expanded our services to include children with Apraxia, Down Syndrome and those on the Autism Spectrum.

Today it is one of the only schools in the country of its kind- a private school with day programs for the deaf and for those who need special methods of communication. We offer educational and socialization programs to meet the individualized special needs of each child so he/she is prepared for the same opportunities that we all hold to be most important in our society-an education, a family, a career, – a full life. Each child is treated as an individual coming to us from various backgrounds and with different needs. We do not mold the child to our way of teaching, we teach to the child’s way of learning.

Today’s Video: St. Pius X

08/21/2018 - 11:05am

Today is the Memorial of St. Pius X, known as the Pope of the Blessed Sacrament.

Abuse victims say they felt hurt by ordinary Catholics’ lack of compassion

08/20/2018 - 4:13pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters

By Zita Ballinger Fletcher

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Sexual assault victims say they were hurt not only by individual priests, but by church officials and ordinary Catholics who treated them with intolerance and indifference.

Four survivors of sexual assaults by priests shared their stories with Catholic News Service. They are: Jim VanSickle and Mike McDonnell of Pennsylvania, Michael Norris of Houston and Judy Larson of Utah.

Many of them have not been to a Catholic church in years. They say the atmosphere of their former parishes created breeding grounds for abuse due to the hardhearted attitudes of diocesan officials, staff and ordinary churchgoers.

“Being raised Catholic, I remember — you don’t speak out against your own church,” said VanSickle. “Nobody’s going to listen to you.”

Most of them belonged to extremely traditional parishes and were attacked as vulnerable children. Their view of Catholicism changed when fellow believers showed them no compassion and acted to protect selfish interests.

“I’ve known others that came forward. They were ridiculed and ostracized — even by their own family members,” said VanSickle, 55. He stood next to Attorney General Josh Shapiro when grand jury findings were released to the public Aug. 14. He had suffered silently for 37 years after being sexually abused by a priest at age 16.

“We lived in a neighborhood where most of the people in the subdivision were Catholic. Everything in our lives revolved around the church,” said Larson, who is now retired and in her 70s. “To be in that kind of environment and try to say something horrible happened to you, by a person everybody thinks is a god on earth, you’re all alone.”

The abuses these survivors suffered at the hands of priests were not crimes of passion, they said, but cold exploitations of control. Most victims were not aware that their attackers were serial abusers. Each felt alone when he or she was victimized.

“I think it’s opportunistic,” said VanSickle. “I feel like I was targeted.”

“It’s a lifelong impact. I deal with it every single day,” said Norris, a chemical engineer. He said he was abused by a priest in Louisville, Kentucky, at age 10. After many years of struggle, he revealed the truth to his devout parents at a point when he “couldn’t take it anymore.”

When he acted to report the abuse, he and his family members were mistreated by fellow Catholics in the archdiocese.

“They discredited me,” he said. “Probably the biggest disappointment in my life was how the church responded to my accusations. Maybe I was naive, but I expected them to believe my story and take action. When they didn’t do what I saw as morally right, I became more disillusioned with their teachings.”

Survivors also faced a stigma caused by sexual assault. The victims were molested at an age when they did not know about sex. Confused, they realized what happened when they grew up. Feeling disgust, anger and shame, they feared hostile reactions from their traditional communities.

“When I was growing up, we were told, ‘It would be better for you to die than lose your virtue.’ This was told to me in fourth grade,” said Larson. “I didn’t know what ‘lose your virtue’ meant.”

She was raped by a priest one year later at age 10. After realizing the truth as an adult, she did not tell her parents. She knew they would not listen, since it was taboo to speak ill of a priest or nun in their presence.

Some Catholics viewed sex as scandalous and treated victims as if they were contaminated.

“People say, ‘You’re a bad person,’ or ‘You must have wanted it,'” said VanSickle. “It’s amazing that they attack their own people. They attack their own faithful.”

The survivors are disillusioned with the way church officials handle abuse cases. This disillusionment has affected their personal beliefs.

Norris is no longer Christian. “I personally can’t set foot in another church because of what’s happened and the way I was treated,” he said.

Larson hasn’t been inside a church in over 50 years. “For a lot of us, going to church is a triggering experience. It’s re-traumatizing to victims,” she said.

VanSickle said he has strong belief in Jesus and has become a Christian. His family members are Catholic. He welcomes interactions with Catholics and wishes to be reconciled with the church, but wants the institution to change first.

“To be away from the Eucharist in my life is a hard thing to deal with because of my belief as a Catholic,” he said. “But I can’t reconcile myself with the church until I see change.”

They feel sorry for Catholics who are struggling with their beliefs in light of the recent grand jury report. Norris and VanSickle say they do not wish for Catholics to lose their faith.

Despite the pain caused by recent revelations, they hope change will result.

“It reopens a wound from the past for me as a survivor. But I’m also extremely happy that this information is coming to light,” said McDonnell, a specialist at a drug and alcohol treatment facility in Philadelphia, regarding the recent grand jury report. “It is vindication and validation for many survivors and victims.”

He believes the church needs to stop withholding information about abuse and be honest with the public. “It will invite people back to the Catholic Church once they see that the church is not just publicly making a statement that ‘we’re sorry,'” he said.

As the church hierarchy considers change, Catholics can make simple changes in their homes and parishes. According to Larson, the average age for a clergy sexual abuse victim to come forward is 42. As child victims grow into adults, they begin to realize what happened to them — and fall silent due to religious and social pressures. Ordinary Catholics can solve this problem, she said, by treating others around them with openheartedness instead of moral superiority.

“Be compassionate,” said Larson, sharing her advice to families coping with revelations of abuse. “Believe your family member. They’re in pain. And they’ve held this terrible secret for many, many years because of their fear of your reaction when they tell you.”

One of the hardest things McDonnell experienced in his life was the shattering effect of the abuse on his parents. They did not find out about it until they were much older. One of the last things his father expressed on his deathbed was sorrow for what happened.

VanSickle said a family’s first responsibility is to love and believe a child who speaks out about sexual abuse by clergy.

“They need to wrap their arms around that kid and make them feel safe. That never happened for me,” he said. “You need to hug and protect your child first. Deal with the church after.”

McDonnell said victims recover with support from others, including fellow survivors.

“Part of the healing process is coming forward. I’m only as sick as my secrets,” he added. “Talk to somebody.”

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: Pope: Abuse victims’ outcry more powerful than efforts to silence them

08/20/2018 - 12:22pm

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — “No effort must be spared” to prevent future cases of clerical sexual abuse and “to prevent the possibility of their being covered up,” Pope Francis said in a letter addressed “to the people of God.”

“I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons,” the pope wrote in the letter dated and released Aug. 20.

The letter was published less than a week after the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on decades of clerical sexual abuse and coverups in six dioceses. The report spoke of credible allegations against 301 priests in cases involving more than 1,000 children.

“The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced,” Pope Francis said. “But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence them.”

“The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain,” he said, “and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.”

In his letter, Pope Francis insisted all Catholics must be involved in the effort to accompany victims, to strengthen safeguarding measures and to end a culture where abuse is covered up.

While the letter called all Catholics to prayer and fasting, it does not change any current policies or offer specific new norms.

It did, however, insist that “clericalism” has been a key part of the problem and said the involvement of the laity will be crucial to addressing the crime and scandal.

Change, he said, will require “the active participation of all the members of God’s people.”

“Many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred,” he said, are groups where there has been an effort to “reduce the people of God to small elites.”

“Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to a split in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today,” Pope Francis said. “To say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism.”

In his letter, Pope Francis acknowledged the church’s failure.

“With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives,” he wrote.

“We showed no care for the little ones,” Pope Francis said. “We abandoned them.”

“Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient,” he said. “Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.”

Recognizing the safeguarding policies that have been adopted in various parts of the world as well as pledges of “zero tolerance” for abusive clerics, Pope Francis also acknowledged that “we have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.”

As members of the church, he said, all Catholics should “beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others.”

Pope Francis also asked Catholics to pray and to fast so that they would be able to hear “the hushed pain” of abuse survivors.

He called for “a fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combating all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.”

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope Francis: Letter to the People of God

08/20/2018 - 7:28am

Pope Francis has responded to new reports of clerical sexual abuse and the ecclesial cover-up of abuse. In an impassioned letter addressed to the whole People of God, he calls on the Church to be close to victims in solidarity, and to join in acts of prayer and fasting in penance for those “atrocities”. Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis To the People of God

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.

1. If one member suffers…

In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims. We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side he stands. Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise he made to our fathers: “he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite.

With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency! Christ’s betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)” (Ninth Station).

2. … all suffer together with it

The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit. If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history. And this in an environment where conflicts, tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an outstretched hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 228). Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever endangers the integrity of any person. A solidarity that summons us to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption. The latter is “a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for ‘even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light’ (2 Cor 11:14)” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 165). Saint Paul’s exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the best antidote against all our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9).

I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.

Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does. For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: “If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he wished to be identified” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49). To see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so, prayer and penance will help. I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command.[1] This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never again” to every form of abuse.

It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives.[2] This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people”.[3] Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism.

It is always helpful to remember that “in salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in the human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 6). Consequently, the only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within. Without the active participation of all the Church’s members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change. The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel. For “whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).

It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.

Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combatting all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.

In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1).

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it”, said Saint Paul. By an attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation. Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son’s cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus’ side. In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more upon prayer”, seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Spiritual Exercises, 319). She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.

May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.

FRANCIS

Indiana bishop announces he’ll release list of accused abusers in diocese

08/17/2018 - 9:52pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CNS) — At an Aug. 17 news conference, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, said that in response to the release of the grand jury report on abuse claims in six Pennsylvania dioceses over a 70- year period, he will collect and release a list of the names of priests in the diocese he currently heads who committed similar offenses.

Bishop Rhoades called the details of the grand jury “equally appalling and heartbreaking.” He expressed sympathy and support to the victims and their families, adding, “The church failed you. For that, I apologize.”

Emphasizing that during his tenure as bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend he has released the name of every priest removed from ministry as a result of a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.

He said he has learned, as a result of the grand jury, that it also important to victims to see the names of their abusers made public “for all to see. For everyone to know the pain caused by these priests.”

“It is my hope,” he said, “that by releasing these names, the innocent victims of these horrific and heartbreaking crimes can finally begin the process of healing.”

The list will be compiled beginning immediately. In closing, Bishop Rhoades reiterated the diocese’s efforts to regain the trust of the those it serves, and indicated a renewed vigilance regarding its efforts to protect young people.

The grand jury report on the six Pennsylvania dioceses included Harrisburg where he was bishop from 2004 to 2009.

He said in an earlier statement that the report “mentions two incidents during my time as bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg.”

“In both of those situations,” he added, “I followed all child protection policies and procedures, notified law enforcement, and took other action as appropriate, since each of the accused priests had already been removed from public ministry due to previous allegations.”

 

 

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Cardinal says ‘sorrow, disgust, rage’ are ‘righteous’ reactions to abuse

08/17/2018 - 9:32pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By

CHICAGO (CNS) — “Sorrow, disgust, outrage — these are righteous feelings” for all to have in reaction to the latest abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said in an Aug. 17 statement.

These are “the stirrings of the conscience of a people scandalized by the terrible reality that too many of the men who promised to protect their children, and strengthen their faith, have been responsible for wounding both,” he said.

His comments came in reaction to the Pennsylvania attorney general’s Aug. 14 release of a grand jury report detailing seven decades of child sex abuse claims in six Pennsylvania dioceses. Some weeks before that were the allegations against Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick that he abused a minor more than 47 years ago and was sexually inappropriate with seminarians.

“Anger, shock, grief, shame,” said Cardinal Cupich, who was chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People 2008 to 2011 when he was bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota. “What other words can we summon to describe the experience of learning about the devastating revelations of sexual abuse — and the failures of bishops to safeguard the children entrusted to their care.”

He described the grand jury report as a “catalog of horrors” that came on “the heels of news accounts of deeply disturbing sexual abuse and harassment allegations” against McCarrick.

“And yet whatever words we may use to describe the anguish of reading about these heinous acts, they can never capture the reality of suffering endured by victims of sexual abuse, suffering compounded by the woeful responses of bishops who failed to protect the people they were ordained to serve.”

He quoted a written Vatican statement issued Aug. 16 by Greg Burke, head of the Vatican press office, in a written statement: “The church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur.”

“I know that many of you are asking: How could this be happening again?” Cardinal Cupich continued. “Didn’t the U.S. bishops address this crisis sixteen years ago when they met in Dallas? What are they doing now, and why should we trust that this time they will do the right thing? These are precisely the questions that ought to be asked.”

As a former chair of the child protection committee, “I have asked them myself.”

He credited the “admirable work” of many in the news media who played “an essential role in bringing this crisis into the light.”

“Now, we have been made to face these scandals first and foremost by the courage of victim-survivors — the men and women who found the strength, even when doing so meant suffering again unimaginable pain, to come forward and seek justice from an institution that grievously failed them,” the cardinal said.

He reviewed the statement made Aug. 16 by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Cardinal DiNardo announced three key goals and a comprehensive plan to address the “moral catastrophe” of the scandal He said the “substantial involvement of the laity” from law enforcement, psychology and other disciplines will be essential to this process.

The goals are: A “full investigation” into “the questions surrounding” Archbishop McCarrick; the opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints. Three criteria, he said, will be followed: proper independence, sufficient authority and substantial leadership by laity.”

Cardinal Cupich said he and his brother bishops “must resolve to face our failures and hold each other accountable.”

“We must resolve to be clear-eyed about what we have done, what we have failed to do and what remains to be done,” the cardinal said. “We must resolve to live in the light of humility, of repentance, of honesty — the light of Christ. As your bishop, I pledge to continue holding firm to that resolve. And I ask for you to pray for all victims of abuse.”

In Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput addressed the release of the grand jury report in his week column posted Aug. 17.

He said it had been “an ugly week: first for the survivors of sex abuse; second, for Catholics across the state; third, for the wider public. For many, rage is the emotion of choice. The latest grand jury report is a bitterly painful text.

“But rage risks wounding the innocent along with the guilty, and it rarely accomplishes anything good,” he said.

He recalled the anger Philadelphians felt toward the archdiocese after the 2005 and 2011 grand jury reports, calling it “well placed and justified.”

“We’ve worked hard to remember the lessons of that time. Seven years later, we are keenly aware of the evil that sexual abuse victims have suffered. We understand our obligation, and we’re sincerely committed, to help survivors heal,” Archbishop Chaput said.

“We’ve worked hard to ensure the safety of children and families in church-related environments. In that task, the guidance and counsel of laypeople — including former law enforcement officials and professionals in assisting abuse survivors — have been especially valuable.”

He added: “We know that rebuilding the trust of our people and the morale of our good priests can only be accomplished with a record of doing the right thing over time. The roughly 100,000 laypeople and clergy we’ve trained in recent years to recognize and report the signs of sexual abuse are part of that effort.

Archbishop Chaput said that as a member of the U.S. bishops’ Executive Committee, “I support Cardinal DiNardo’s leadership on these difficult issues,” and he included in his column the full text of the cardinal’s Aug. 16 letter.

In the Midwest, Archbishop Michael O. Jackels of Dubuque, Iowa, echoed the same strong sentiments as Cardinal Cupich and Archbishop Chaput.

“Overwhelmed. Disheartened. Ashamed. And at a loss as to an adequate response,” he said in an Aug. 13 statement. “Those are some of my reactions to recent accounts of ‘ sexual abuse of children, young people, and vulnerable adults, perpetrated by the likes of team doctors, coaches, and clergy, here in the USA and elsewhere … the failure of people in charge, especially bishops, to hear accusers, to act on allegations, and to remove those who are predators from access to potential victims.”

He also said he felt the need “to state that the vast majority is good and faithful, and does so much to help us on the way to heaven. Thanks be to God. Moreover, I feel the need to state that there is nothing inherent in an all-male clergy, or mandatory celibacy, or diocesan priests living alone that is the cause of this problem.”

He said he looked forward to the bishops full discussion on the abuse crisis at their November meeting and he urged laypeople “to be a partner in this effort” prevent abuse and create safe environments.

He also listed other actions including prayer for conversion ‘ penance to make amends for past sins. Affirmation of church teaching “about the human person, sexuality, marriage and family” and being “vigilant.”

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Editor’s Note: The full of these statements can be found online: Cardinal Cupich, https://bit.ly/2wgtxMe; Archbishop Chaput, https://bit.ly/2MpqkF2; and Bishop Jackels, https://bit.ly/2Bj0PQq.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Priests’ group says it’s ‘sad, angry, frustrated’ by abuse scandals

08/17/2018 - 9:00pm

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests said its members are “sad … angry … frustrated” over continued reports involving fellow priests and a lack of accountability by bishops.

“At every level, our church is in pain,” the 1,200-member organization said Aug. 17.

The organization cited concerns over a Pennsylvania grand jury report that recounts seven decades of child sex abuse claims throughout six Catholic dioceses in the state, the recent resignation of Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick from the College of Cardinals over allegations he is an abuser, an investigation into alleged improper activities at a Boston seminary, and clergy abuse in Australia and Chile.

Father Bob Bonnot, chairman of the association’s leadership team, told Catholic News Service that repeated revelations about improper clergy behavior are “something that has flared up more frequently than any of us wish to remember.”

“We suffer with the Catholic people. While all of us priests and the Catholic people are not suffering nearly as much as the families and the individuals who have been abused, we need to let them know we’re suffering too,” said the retired priest of the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio.

“People need recognition and encouragement that they’re not alone in their feelings,” Father Bonnot added.

The organization’s statement also serves to support the vast majority of Catholic clergy who have not been accused of wrongdoing and “to raise the voice of hope and joy, a pastoral voice to those within the church and society,” he said.

The association offered a series of recommendations to Catholic leaders as they formulate their response to resolve the challenges posed by the recent revelations. First on the list was a call to “those responsible for the scandals” who “must publicly apologize and ask forgiveness for what they have done and what they have failed to do.”

The AUSCP statement also repeated the organization’s call for reform of the seminary formation process “to make it effective and adequate for our times.”

In March, the priests’ organization called for revisions in the way seminarians are prepared for ministry so that the U.S. Catholic Church can better address challenges that include declining membership and falling seminary enrollment. It urged that priests get closer to the people they serve and better understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus as envisioned by Pope Francis.

Priestly formation must include faithfulness to the outcome of the Second Vatican Council, a call to a life of service to God and God’s people, and “authentic human psychosexual development” of seminarians, the association said. In addition, it called for women to be involved in the “formation and decisive discernment of candidates for priesthood and integrated at every level, from top to bottom, in the power structure of the church.”

The association’s stance earlier was detailed in a March 29 letter and eight-page document addressed to Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. The committee, is reviewing the Program for Priestly Formation, the fifth and most recent edition of which was published in 2006. Committee members are expecting to submit revisions for a new edition of the guide at the November 2019 USCCB fall general assembly.

The new statement also offered prayers that all members of the church, including clergy and laypeople be given “the strength to root out the pride and ambition of clericalism and its scandalous behavior.”

Finally, the association offered support to Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, for his efforts to investigate the situation surrounding Archbishop McCarrick, establish a new channel for reporting complaints against bishops and advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints.

While the AUSCP represents a minority of priests, Father Bonnot said the organization felt it was important to respond to the rash of new related to clergy abuse by offering a “constructive and collaborative contribution to the issues we all face.”

“If we don’t speak, there is nothing for them to hear,” he told CNS.

“We want to be party to continue the effort to abolish this kind of behavior and the kind of attitude that leads to that behavior.”

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @Dennis Sadowski

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Pennsylvania prelate says bishops who hid abuse should resign

08/17/2018 - 8:55pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In an Aug. 16 interview with Eternal Word Television Network, Erie Bishop Lawrence T. Persico said the only way to regain the trust of the laity after decades-long claims of sexual abuse by priests and others at six Pennsylvania dioceses is by deeds and one of those deeds may mean getting rid of bishops who hid abusers.

During a report on EWTN’s evening show, reporter Jason Calvi asks him: “Should bishops who knew about or covered up abuse resign?”

“I think they should,” Bishop Persico answered. “I think we need complete transparency if we’re going to get the trust of the people back. We have to be able to demonstrate it.”

Bishop Persico was the only bishop who met in person with members of a grand jury investigating decades-long claims of abuse at six Pennsylvania dioceses. In an explosive report, the grand jury said it identified more than 1,000 who said they were victimized as children by priests and other church workers in the state.  

“I’ve been saying, we can talk about transparency and truth, but much is going to depend upon our deeds, how do we carry that transparency out and how do we act moving forward?” he said during the TV interview. “That’s going to be key to all of this and we have to show that we mean what we’re saying.”

Bishop Persico’s Diocese of Erie, as well as the dioceses of Harrisburg, Allentown, Scranton, Pittsburgh and Greensburg were named in the report released Aug. 14 after an investigation of almost two years.

A grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence but whether there may be enough evidence or probable cause to support a criminal charge. Almost all of the cases in the report were too old for charges to be filed and many of the 301 priests named are dead or no longer in ministry. But Catholic laity have been insisting on some form for accountability for those who may have known of and hidden the abuse.

“We need this transparency and we also need action, so that if there were other bishops or leaders that were negligent, then they need to be removed because the more we cover up, the less credibility we have,” Bishop Persico said.

He said it was important to note that the report documented 70 years of abuse, most of it from 1970s into the 1990s. Following the sex abuse crisis in 2000 in the U.S., the country’s bishops in 2002 approved procedures and protocols for addressing allegations of abuse.

“There’s less (abuse)” since then, Bishop Persico said, “but we still have to be on guard.”

In an interview with CNN’s “New Day” news show Aug. 17, Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette in Indiana, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, answered questions about how it was possible that given the procedures and protocols set in 2002, abuse seems to continue. 

As allegations of sexual abuse by former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick came light this summer, the procedures have come under fire because they contained no provisions for holding bishops accountable, leading many to ask whether they were enough because the church continues to deal with similar situations.

“I think all the bishops are asking that question and part of it is, there isn’t a great explanation,” said Bishop Doherty on the news show. “We’re still looking at the facts here. I could speak for bishops of my era and I know we came in without knowing much about this and having a great trust in our church and people that we work with, and so this is devastating.”

But because this has come out in the public, “a light has been shined on part of the culture that allowed this to happen and there is a great resolve not to let it happen again,” he said.

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Citizenship question for 2020 census prompts strong criticism, lawsuits

08/17/2018 - 6:46pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters

By Steve Larkin

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A U.S. Commerce Department decision that a question about citizenship status be included on the 2020 census has its fair share of critics and has prompted lawsuits.

The critics say such questions might make people less likely to participate in the census, especially members of immigrant communities.

“The faith community has powerfully spoken up against the unjust, dangerous addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Everyone counts, and faith leaders are organizing to make sure our government recognizes this,” said Sara Benitez, the organizing director of Faith in Public Life.

The Census Bureau set about adding this question in response to a letter from the Department of Justice. The DOJ said it wants to ask everyone living in the United States whether they are citizens to help it enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Congress delegated to the U.S. Commerce secretary the authority to determine questions to be asked on the decennial census. Regarding the citizenship question, the Trump administration considers the proposal as reinstating the citizenship question, not adding, what was on the census for decades

“The department (DOJ) needs a reliable calculation of the citizen voting-age population in localities where voting rights violations are alleged or suspected … the decennial census questionnaire is the most appropriate vehicle for collecting that data,” the DOJ letter says.

Having the citizenship data is important because “multiple federal courts of appeals have held that, where citizenship rates are at issue in a vote-dilution case, citizen voting-age population is the proper metric for determining whether a racial group could constitute a majority in a single-member district,” according to the letter.

The letter admits that the DOJ can get some of this information from the American Community Survey, which is sent to about 300,000 households each month and collects far more information than the census, but the DOJ believes that this survey’s data is not precise enough. In addition, the DOJ wants the data from the Census used in redistricting to be the same data used in enforcing the Voting Rights Act with regard to those districts.

Other critics of the proposal include the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which said in an open letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that “adding a new citizenship question to the 2020 census would destroy any chance for an accurate count, discard years of careful research and increase costs significantly.”

In addition, many states, cities, towns, and other organizations are bringing lawsuits against the Trump administration in an attempt to keep the citizenship question from the census.

The lawsuit brought by Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general, says that “the state of California, in particular, stands to lose if the citizenship question is included on the 2020 census. … Under-counting the sizeable number of Californian noncitizens and their citizen relatives will imperil the state’s fair share of congressional seats and Electoral College electors and will cost the state billions of dollars in federal funding over the next decade.”

During a public comment period, which closed recently, the Census Bureau received more than 39,000 comments about the citizenship question.

A U.S. Census Bureau memo noted that Center for Survey Measurement research has “noticed a recent increase in respondents spontaneously expressing concerns about confidentiality” and that Spanish-speaking focus groups “brought up immigration raids, fear of government, and fear of deportation.”

Arabic- and Chinese-speaking focus groups expressed similar fears. Members of all groups recommended that the Census Bureau make it clear that none of the data it collected would be shared with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or other law enforcement agencies.

The U.S. census is established in Article I Section 2 of the Constitution, which reads in part:

“The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of 10 years, in such manner as they shall by law direct.”

Over time, the census has added more questions. The first census, conducted in 1790, asked for only the name of the head of each household, the number of free white males above and below 16, the number of free white women, the number of other free persons and the number of slaves.

The most recent census, conducted in 2010, asked four questions about the household and six about each individual person part of the household. It was, however, shorter than the long form of censuses from 1940 through 2000.

The long-form census, which was sent to one in six households, has been replaced by the American Community Survey.

A question about citizenship is not new on the census, although it has not been asked since 1950.

The 1820 and 1830 censuses asked about the number of foreigners not naturalized in each household, and the 1870 census and all censuses from 1890 to 1950 asked about each person’s naturalization status.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Bishops around U.S. respond with ‘sorrow’ to abuse report, vow to act

08/16/2018 - 9:53pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Reuters video

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In a tweet, a U.S. bishop said he had spent the night reading a grand jury report detailing seven decades of child sex abuse claims in six Pennsylvania dioceses and “it was like reading a horror book.”

Unfortunately, it was not a fictional account, wrote Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville early Aug. 15, a day after the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General published the mammoth document of more than 1,300 pages detailing accounts of the rape of children, secrecy by church officials and some law enforcement failures over 70 years.

“It is real and lives were destroyed and faith shattered,” Bishop Stika tweeted.

He joined at least a dozen or so prelates outside of Pennsylvania who, via Twitter, TV or in person, at Masses for the feast of the Assumption, took time to express the same sorrow and pain that lay Catholics have been feeling and expressing. But many bishops also spoke about the added layer of what to do about the pain of a shattered trust between shepherds and their angry and pain-stricken flock that many say they now must fix.

“This is extraordinarily painful, it is humiliating, it is nauseating,” said New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan during an interview with local CBS station WLNY in New York City. “This is a kick in the gut. I really worry about a loss of credibility, a loss of trust. There’s no use denying it. We can’t sugarcoat this. This is disastrous.”

Painfully aware of the anger Catholics are voicing after the revelations out of Pennsylvania, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley said Aug. 16 that something must be done right away.

“The clock is ticking for all of us in church leadership, Catholics have lost patience with us and civil society has lost confidence in us,” said Cardinal O’Malley in a statement. “But I am not without hope and do not succumb to despondent acceptance that our failures cannot be corrected.”

Transformation has to take place in the way the church prepares priests, “the way we exercise pastoral leadership and the way we cooperate with civil authorities; all these have to be consistently better than has been the case,” he said, adding that “we remain shamed by these egregious failures to protect children and those who are vulnerable and affirm our commitment that these failures will never be repeated.”

At the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, began a Mass on the feast of the Assumption Aug. 15 by making a brief reference to the developments.

“Mary, our patroness, has guided the church in America through many difficult moments,” he said. “Today, yet another moment of trial is upon us, a very serious crisis which has brought many of our people to the point of despair and anger and even the loss of faith.”

He said he offered the Mass asking for Mary’s intercession, so “that the bishops of our nation might accomplish a renewal of trust in the church and its leaders across the land.”

“And no less I ask Mary’s son, the Good Shepherd, for the graces of healing, reconciliation and justice for all the people of God among us, above all for those who have been abused and their families,” he said.

The report by a Pennsylvania grand jury of 23 people said the investigation of almost two years identified more than 1,000 people who say they were abused by some 301 priests, many whom are now dead.

However, some living priests named in the report are disputing some of the information and claims in the document and challenged to have their names blacked out, or redacted. They will be heard by the courts in September. The grand jury said it was likely that more victims as well as perpetrators were not identified in the months-long investigation.

Dallas Bishop Edward J. Burns told The Dallas Morning News he felt “sick” reading the accounts, “knowing that this occurred at the hands of men that you knew and even worked side by side with adds to a dimension of disbelief.”

Bishop Burns grew up in Pittsburgh and knew some of those named in the report, The Dallas Morning News article said.

Recalling one of the priests named in the report, Bishop Burns told the newspaper that the priest “was domineering, he was extremely bossy, he did not possess a shepherd’s heart, from my perspective,” adding that “now I have come to recognize that he not only had a different view of priesthood, he just had a double life.

But like others, he never suspected the horrors that were taking place.

Archbishop of Detroit Allen H. Vigneron said in an Aug. 13 statement, before the report became public, that it was disheartening, “for us once again to come face-to-face with moral failures in the priesthood, especially among us bishops.”

“These sins are marks of shame upon the church,” he said.

Though there may be the temptation to despair and think that change is not possible, “reform can only happen when hope lives,” he said.

“We must move forward with the conviction that God will not abandon his church. He wants her purified, cleansed of these sins and brought to new life,” he said.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez urged prayers during the feast of the Assumption for abuse victims.

“We are aware that this is a sad and confusing time for the church in this country,” he said in his homily. “In recent days and weeks, we have heard new revelations about sin and abuse in the church. This is a time now for prayer and repentance and a time for examining our conscience, especially for those of us who are bishops and priests.”

Bishop Michael F. Olson of Fort Worth, Texas, said in an Aug. 14 statement that it’s time to hold accountable “morally and legally” those who allowed the abuse in Pennsylvania to occur, as well as those who hid alleged abuses by former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick.

“Pledges of penitential prayer and actions on the part of church leadership are meaningless unless first preceded by contrition, confession, firm purpose of amendment and concrete actions of conversion,” he said.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Vatican wants accountability for abusers, those who protected them

08/16/2018 - 9:34pm

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In the wake of a grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse in six dioceses in Pennsylvania, a Vatican spokesman called the abuses described in the report as being “criminal and morally reprehensible.”

“Victims should know that the pope is on their side. Those who have suffered are his priority, and the church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent,” said Greg Burke, head of the Vatican press office, in a written statement Aug. 16.

“Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith. The church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur,” he wrote.

“The Holy See condemns unequivocally the sexual abuse of minors,” Burke wrote and, as such, “the Holy See encourages continued reform and vigilance at all levels of the Catholic Church, to help ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults from harm.”

“The Holy See also wants to underscore the need to comply with the civil law, including mandatory child abuse reporting requirements,” he added.

The statement, sent in Italian with unofficial English and Spanish translations, came after the Pennsylvania attorney general held a news conference Aug. 14 announcing a 900-page report detailing decades of child sexual abuse by 301 priests, who harmed more than 1,000 victims.

In response the report, Burke said, “there are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow.”

“The Holy Father understands well how much these crimes can shake the faith and the spirit of believers and reiterates the call to make every effort to create a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the church and in all of society,” the spokesman said.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Kentucky school example of embracing the different, loving one’s neighbor

08/16/2018 - 9:14pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Tyler Orsburn

HENDERSON, Ky. (CNS) — When it comes to sizable Hispanic populations, Henderson isn’t Los Angeles or New York City.

Nestled in the western part of the Bluegrass State, the Ohio River faithfully meanders by smooth fields of corn, soybean and patches of woods. Its most famous resident is naturalist and artist John James Audubon.

“Coming to Henderson, that’s where I learned I was Latino!” Abraham Brown, director of Latino ministry for Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, jokingly said about moving from the Lone Star State. “Because down there in Texas everybody looked just like me, spoke just like me. So, coming here was a challenge at the beginning.”

Brown moved to Henderson 15 years ago to work for a denim company. But when it closed, the Catholic parish, which is part of the Diocese of Owensboro, asked him to help with the growing Latino community.

Now he works with Latinos from 13 countries, and has seen the Spanish Mass turnout increase from 20 to 30 per week to 100 to 150, he said.

“We do have a very proactive approach for integration,” Brown told Catholic News Service. “Not just assimilating but actually sharing of their own values and culture (through dance, food and worship) with our community.”

Father Anthony Shonis, associate pastor at Holy Name of Jesus, credits the late Owensboro Bishop John J. McRaith for helping this assimilation.

“Toward the end of the 1980s, you might start seeing Hispanics at the Dairy Queen or Walmart,” the bilingual pastor told CNS while sitting in the rectory dining room. “Bishop McRaith (during that time) sought funding and wrote grants so that all priests where Spanish was spoken had an ‘ayudante.'”

An “ayudante” is a bilingual helper who is respected in both the Hispanic and Anglo community that helps migrants meet both their parish and well-being needs. “They’re a bridge builder,” Father Shonis said. “This person is worth their weight in gold.”

Brown, Father Shonis’ “bridge builder” says the Latino population in western Kentucky, southern Indiana and southern Illinois has doubled in the past five years. “A lot of people say that, ‘Oh, it’s just because there are a lot of job opportunities.’ But job opportunities without a welcoming spirit, it (integration) doesn’t work.”

One place where it has worked is the school. Situated near a barbershop and about a block-and-a-half from the steeple, the downtown school has native Spanish speakers in every grade.

And Susana Solorza is the ladle that stirs the vernacular melting pot. The El Paso, Texas, native said she’s the only K-8 Spanish teacher in the district, and if her seventh and eighth grade students earn B-averages for both years, they’ll rake in a “Spanish I” high school credit.

“What I’m trying to do is shake the stereotypes Caucasians have of Latinos by speaking to them in English and letting them hear me speak Spanish to other students,” she said describing part of her teaching technique. “By being their teacher, letting them get to know me through music, (food) and talk about my family (which helps break the stereotypes).”

For her Hispanic students, she shows them there’s a teacher like them and brings some normalcy to what is different about them. “I think having a teacher to fill that cultural gap, the linguistic gap, is very important because our families are here, and they want to be involved, and they try to be involved, and they want to see their students succeed,” Solorza told CNS.

“Probably something that the Hispanic community has added most to our school is the diversity and knowing that just because someone is different doesn’t mean they’re weird,” Scottie Koonce, principal at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School said describing how students sometimes view life. “And probably the thing Hispanics have added to our community is that they’ve taught the kids that Catholicism isn’t local, it’s global.”

Koonce went on to describe how the students love acknowledging the Latino celebrations of the Day of the Dead and Las Posadas. “I feel like our kids are starting to understand each other better, and that’s really where it starts — because if the kids start understanding each other better and respect each other it carries over to the adults.”

“Pope Francis has said, ‘You have to take risks and go across barriers,'” Father Shonis said describing wide city streets and railroad tracks. “This effort of going to the other side can never end. And this is the foundation of Catholic schools, to bring minorities into the mainstream.”

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Maryland parish helps sister parishes in Nicaragua amid increasing unrest

08/16/2018 - 8:00pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy St. John Vianney Parish

By Kelly Sankowski

PRINCE FREDERICK, Md. (CNS) — For many parishioners of St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Prince Frederick, the violence happening in Nicaragua is more than just headlines flashing across the screen.

“The parish here is impacted by it a lot,” said Father Dan Carson, the parish’s pastor. “People (are) constantly asking about it.”

For 10 years, the parish has been working with sister parishes in San Juan de Limay and more recently in Esteli to build homes for the poorest of the poor in Nicaragua. The parishioners of St. John Vianney raise money to build simple brick and mud houses, which cost about $2,600 each, and then send the funds to their sister parish.

Since there is so much unemployment in Nicaragua, Don Mueller, the parishioner who leads the project, said the group does not go down to build the houses themselves, but instead pays a foreman and two workers to do the building, assisted by the volunteer labor of the people receiving the house.

Each house is 20-by-20 feet, which is roughly the size of a master bedroom in the United States, and has no electricity, indoor plumbing or running water. Nevertheless, Father Carson and Mueller both recalled how the people receiving the house say it is like a mansion to them, since they have often been living in three sided shelters made out of things like sticks and plastic bags.

Since St. John Vianney began this work in 2008, they have built about 450 houses.

“People who have nothing really treasure their faith, family and friends,” said Father Carson told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington. “They have a joy that we don’t in our country because we have so much stuff. They just appreciate the little things.”

Mueller takes about two trips per year down to Nicaragua, along with a group of eight to 12 other parishioners, to visit with the families whose homes have been built and to pray with the committee that helps select the families who are receiving homes.

“Our only rule is it has to be the poorest of the poor, without regard to race, religion politics or anything like that,” said Mueller. “The committee looks at everybody and decides who is the poorest of the poor.”

Their last trip was in January, and it was Father Carson’s first time there, since he had been newly appointed to the parish. While they were there, he blessed the newly constructed homes.

Mueller recalled the faithful dedication of the people who they have met in Nicaragua, who often live in remote areas. One man in particular whom they had met hiked three and a half hours with his guitar in order to get to the church to sing at Mass on Sunday.

The group from St. John Vianney had intended to take another trip this summer, but could not go because of safety concerns. The housing program continues to operate, even though the parishioners from St. John Vianney are unable to go visit the parishes and families.

In recent months, unrest in the country has increased, with police and paramilitaries killing people who are peacefully protesting the regime of the country’s president, Daniel Ortega. Many of the protesters are young students.

Since the protests began April 12, the death toll has reached 448, according to human rights groups in the country. Ortega has labeled Catholic clergy as enemies and those supporting them as terrorists.

Bishop Juan Abelardo Mata Guevara of Esteli, whom the St. John Vianney group always visits when they go to Nicaragua, has been attacked and shot at on multiple occasions. As far as they know, the parishioners of their two sister parishes are still OK.

“Bishop Mata has become a friend over the years,” said Mueller. “He has been attacked and shot at and threatened by the government and that really hurts. I consider him a friend, he has been to the states, he has been to our parish, he has been to my house.”

To help their friends from afar, donors from St. John Vianney Parish sent $20,000 to Bishop Mata to be used at his discretion for emergency purposes, which they sent in small installments so as not to raise suspicion.

Just a day after the money arrived, Ortega ordered the public hospital not to treat injured protesters, so Bishop Mata treated them at the medical school he had opened, with medicine bought with the money that St. John Vianney had sent.

“He called it a miracle that the money had just arrived the day before,” said Mueller.

Now, the Nicaraguan government has declared any doctor who treats injured protesters a terrorist.

St. John Vianney raised $464 for the housing project with a recent fundraiser at the parish picnic. Also, in solidarity with those facing violence, the parish is praying the prayer of St. Michael as the bishop and priests in Nicaragua say the same prayer.

Father Carson remarked that the circumstances are particularly sad for such a poor country, where it is tough “to see the people that have nothing there hurt even more.”

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Sankowski is on the staff of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr’s Statement on sexual abuse crisis

08/16/2018 - 4:00pm

On Tuesday of this week, a Pennsylvania Grand Jury released a report detailing the names of 301 priests who sexually abused over 1,000 minors over a 70-year period in that state. This report, coupled with the recent revelations regarding the former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, shocks, saddens, and angers Catholics everywhere, including myself. The depth of depravity and evil described in these reports is stunning. No words can diminish the level of revulsion one feels at reading them.

From the depths of my heart, I am sorry for the terrible pain and suffering experienced by the victims of abuse throughout their lives. I am sorry for the deep shame that Catholic lay people rightfully feel at the inexcusable behavior of certain cardinals, bishops, and priests, the emotional exhaustion of having to defend their faith to friends and co-workers, and the discouragement of having to relive a deep tragedy that we all hoped was behind us. I am sorry for the stigma that good and holy priests who are committed to their vocation and vows have to endure wherever they go. I am sorry for the trust that has collectively been violated.

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is unequivocally committed to the protection of all people, children and adults, involved with any of our various ministries. At this time, there are no active cases of clerical abuse of minors anywhere in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. If you suspect abuse on the part of any agent of the Archdiocese, please report it to the appropriate civil authorities, as well as to the Coordinator of Ministry to Survivors of Abuse in the Archdiocese at 513-263-6623 or 1-800-686-2724, ext. 6623. If you see something, please say something.

Since 1993, the Archdiocese has embraced and promulgated the Decree on Child Protection, which now also covers vulnerable adults, including:

• Complete background checks on all clerics, employees and volunteers;
• Ongoing required training for clerics, employees, and volunteers on recognizing the signs of abuse of children and vulnerable adults;
• Procedures for reporting suspected abuse;
• Immediately reporting all allegations of abuse to the appropriate civil authorities;
• A Child Protection Review Board that is comprised primarily of lay people;
• Training of children in Catholic schools and religious education programs on warning signs and appropriate responses for their own protection; and
• Onsite independent audit of policies and procedures by an outside firm.

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is committed to transparency. To that end, for the past 15 years, we have published the names and status of all priests credibly accused of abuse on the archdiocesan website. This can be found at http://www.catholiccincinnati.org/protecting-children/resources-and-publications/status-report-on-clerics-accused-of-child-abuse/.

The Archdiocese is also committed to ensuring that the men who will be ordained to the priesthood are indeed suitable for ministry in the Church and worthy of the trust of the Catholic faithful. Every applicant to the seminary undergoes a full battery of psychological testing prior to acceptance into the seminary program. Once accepted, the candidate has, at a minimum, four years of formation in which he is taught what he needs to know in order to be a priest. During this time, his disposition, behavior, self-awareness, and stability and goodness of character are also evaluated. When a man discerns that God might be calling him to the priesthood, the Church has a duty to discern that call as well, to make sure he is truly called and of the right character to serve faithfully and well.

Many of you may be feeling that Jesus has forsaken the Church. This is not true. Rather, some members of the Church have forsaken Jesus and the call to be disciples. Jesus established His Church on earth and promised to never leave us. As we know from the Gospel of John, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:5).

Today, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, announced the foundation of a plan (included below) to comprehensively address the issue of abuse and the failure in leadership among our bishops. This plan will include the active involvement of both the laity and the Holy See. I pledge my personal dedication to this effort and to keeping you informed of its progress.

Please join me in praying for the healing of all victims of the grave sin of sexual abuse. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, patroness of the Catholic Church in the United States, continue to intercede for us. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide and protect us.

Most Reverend Dennis M. Schnurr
Archbishop of Cincinnati

 

President of U.S. Bishops’ Conference Announces Effort That Will Involve Laity, Experts, and the Vatican stating, “Let me ask you to hold us to all of these resolutions,” as U.S. Bishops’ Offer Firm Resolve to Address “Moral Catastrophe”

August 16, 2018

WASHINGTON— Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has issued the following statement after a series of meetings with members of the USCCB’s Executive Committee and other bishops. The following statement includes three goals and three principles, along with initial steps of a plan that will involve laity, experts, and the Vatican. A more developed plan will be presented to the full body of bishops at their general assembly meeting in Baltimore in November.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

“Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Two weeks ago, I shared with you my sadness, anger, and shame over the recent revelations concerning Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. Those sentiments continue and are deepened in light of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report. 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. Earlier this week, the USCCB Executive Committee met again and established an outline of these necessary changes.

The Executive Committee has established three goals: (1) an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; (2) an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and (3) advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints. These goals will be pursued according to three criteria: proper independence, sufficient authority, and substantial leadership by laity.

We have already begun to develop a concrete plan for accomplishing these goals, relying upon consultation with experts, laity, and clergy, as well as the Vatican. We will present this plan to the full body of bishops in our November meeting. In addition, I will travel to Rome to present these goals and criteria to the Holy See, and to urge further concrete steps based on them.
The overarching goal in all of this is stronger protections against predators in the Church and anyone who would conceal them, protections that will hold bishops to the highest standards of transparency and accountability.

Allow me to briefly elaborate on the goals and criteria that we have identified.

The first goal is a full investigation of questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick. These answers are necessary to prevent a recurrence, and so help to protect minors, seminarians, and others who are vulnerable in the future. We will therefore invite the Vatican to conduct an Apostolic Visitation to address these questions, in concert with a group of predominantly lay people identified for their expertise by members of the National Review Board and empowered to act.

The second goal is to make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier. Our 2002 “Statement of Episcopal Commitment” does not make clear what avenue victims themselves should follow in reporting abuse or other sexual misconduct by bishops. We need to update this document. We also need to develop and widely promote reliable third-party reporting mechanisms. Such tools already exist in many dioceses and in the public sector and we are already examining specific options.

The third goal is to advocate for better procedures to resolve complaints against bishops. For example, the canonical procedures that follow a complaint will be studied with an eye toward concrete proposals to make them more prompt, fair, and transparent and to specify what constraints may be imposed on bishops at each stage of that process.
We will pursue these goals according to three criteria.

The first criterion is genuine independence. Any mechanism for addressing any complaint against a bishop must be free from bias or undue influence by a bishop. Our structures must preclude bishops from deterring complaints against them, from hampering their investigation, or from skewing their resolution.

The second criterion relates to 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.

Our third criterion is substantial involvement of the laity. Lay people bring expertise in areas of investigation, law enforcement, psychology, and other relevant disciplines, and their presence reinforces our commitment to the first criterion of independence.

Finally, 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. I will keep you informed of our progress toward these goals.

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.”

President of U.S. Bishops’ Conference Announces Effort That Will Involve Laity, Experts, and the Vatican as U.S. Bishops Resolve to Address “Moral Catastrophe”

08/16/2018 - 11:19am

WASHINGTON— Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has issued the following statement after a series of meetings with members of the USCCB’s Executive Committee and other bishops. The following statement includes three goals and three principles, along with initial steps of a plan that will involve laity, experts, and the Vatican. A more developed plan will be presented to the full body of bishops at their general assembly meeting in Baltimore in November.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

“Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Two weeks ago, I shared with you my sadness, anger, and shame over the recent revelations concerning Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. Those sentiments continue and are deepened in light of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report. 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. Earlier this week, the USCCB Executive Committee met again and established an outline of these necessary changes.

The Executive Committee has established three goals: (1) an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; (2) an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and (3) advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints. These goals will be pursued according to three criteria: proper independence, sufficient authority, and substantial leadership by laity.

We have already begun to develop a concrete plan for accomplishing these goals, relying upon consultation with experts, laity, and clergy, as well as the Vatican. We will present this plan to the full body of bishops in our November meeting. In addition, I will travel to Rome to present these goals and criteria to the Holy See, and to urge further concrete steps based on them.

The overarching goal in all of this is stronger protections against predators in the Church and anyone who would conceal them, protections that will hold bishops to the highest standards of transparency and accountability.

Allow me to briefly elaborate on the goals and criteria that we have identified.

The first goal is a full investigation of questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick. These answers are necessary to prevent a recurrence, and so help to protect minors, seminarians, and others who are vulnerable in the future. We will therefore invite the Vatican to conduct an Apostolic Visitation to address these questions, in concert with a group of predominantly lay people identified for their expertise by members of the National Review Board and empowered to act.

The second goal is to make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier. Our 2002 “Statement of Episcopal Commitment” does not make clear what avenue victims themselves should follow in reporting abuse or other sexual misconduct by bishops. We need to update this document. We also need to develop and widely promote reliable third-party reporting mechanisms. Such tools already exist in many dioceses and in the public sector and we are already examining specific options.

The third goal is to advocate for better procedures to resolve complaints against bishops. For example, the canonical procedures that follow a complaint will be studied with an eye toward concrete proposals to make them more prompt, fair, and transparent and to specify what constraints may be imposed on bishops at each stage of that process.

We will pursue these goals according to three criteria.

The first criterion is genuine independence. Any mechanism for addressing any complaint against a bishop must be free from bias or undue influence by a bishop. Our structures must preclude bishops from deterring complaints against them, from hampering their investigation, or from skewing their resolution.

The second criterion relates to 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.

Our third criterion is substantial involvement of the laity. Lay people bring expertise in areas of investigation, law enforcement, psychology, and other relevant disciplines, and their presence reinforces our commitment to the first criterion of independence.

Finally, 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. I will keep you informed of our progress toward these goals.

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.”