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Updated: 2 min 32 sec ago

Pope, bishops look at what they have done, failed to do to prevent abuse

4 hours 41 min ago

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In an opulent Vatican room designed in the 16th century for papal meetings with kings, a cardinal read, "We confess that we have shielded the guilty and have silenced those who have been harmed."

"Kyrie, eleison," (Lord, have mercy) responded Pope Francis and some 190 cardinals, bishops and religious superiors from around the world to the confessions read on their behalf by Cardinal John Dew of Wellington, New Zealand.

After three days of meetings, nine major speeches and heartbreaking testimony from survivors of clerical sexual abuse, participants at the Vatican summit on child protection and the abuse crisis gathered in the Sala Regia (literally, "royal room") of the Apostolic Palace Feb. 23 for a penitential liturgy.

The centerpiece of the liturgy was the reading of the story of the prodigal son or, as the Vatican termed it, "the merciful father" from Luke 15:11-32 and a long "examination of conscience" that asked the bishops as individuals and as presidents of bishops' conferences to be honest about what they have done and what they have failed to do to protect children, support survivors and deal with abusive priests.

While Pope Francis presided at the penitential service as part of the Vatican summit on child protection and ending clerical sexual abuse, Archbishop Philip Naameh of Tamale, Ghana, gave the homily.

He told the pope and his brother bishops that they all preach often about the parable of the prodigal son, encouraging their people to return to God and seek forgiveness.

But, he said, "we readily forget to apply this Scripture to ourselves, to see ourselves as we are, namely as prodigal sons. Just like the prodigal son in the Gospel, we have also demanded our inheritance, got it, and now we are busy squandering it."

"The current abuse crisis is an expression of this," Archbishop Naameh said.

"Too often we have kept quiet, looked the other way, avoided conflicts," he said, adding that the bishops were often "too smug" to confront "the dark sides of our church."

Failing to act, he said, they "squandered the trust placed in us."

And, claiming brotherhood in the College of Bishops, he said, even those bishops who have not had to deal directly with an allegation of abuse against a priest in their diocese share the responsibility of having failed to act.

In the Gospel story, the archbishop said, the first step toward receiving the forgiveness of the merciful father is for the prodigal son "to be very humble, to perform very simple tasks and not to demand any privileges."

Like the prodigal son, the bishops must recognize their mistakes, confess their sins, speak openly about them and be "ready to accept the consequences," Archbishop Naameh said.

A survivor of abuse also spoke, calmly and softly telling the pope and bishops that as a victim, "what you carry within you is like a ghost that others cannot see. They will never see you nor completely know you."

The memory of the abuse is always there, said the man, who was not identified. "There is no dream without the memory of what happened. No day without memories, no day without flashbacks."

"I try to concentrate on my divine right to be alive. I can and should be here," he said, choking up. "This gives me value. Now it is over and I can continue forward, I have to go forward."

He went forward by picking up a violin and playing an instrumental piece for the group. Then, since it was a liturgy, he walked down the central aisle in silence.

During the liturgy, summit participants were asked to meditate on how they and the church in their countries have "responded to those who have experienced the abuse of power, of conscience and sexual abuse" and to consider "what obstacles have we put in their way?"

They were asked how they treated bishops, priests and deacons accused of abuse and how they dealt with those who were found guilty.

The examination of conscience continued, looking at how the bishops and religious superiors reached out to or failed to reach out to the communities where guilty clerics served and examining the steps taken to ensure that in the present and future children are safe in church institutions.

After a litany of "we confess" to failures to act, the pope and summit participants prayed "for the grace to overcome injustice and to practice justice for the people entrusted to our care."

 

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Copyright © 2019 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 must see press as allies, not enemies, Mexican journalist says

5 hours 1 min ago

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- If they are truly serious about fighting clerical sex abuse, bishops must join forces with journalists and not view them as enemies plotting against the Catholic Church, Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki said.

Alazraki, who has covered the Vatican for over four decades, told bishops at the Vatican summit on abuse Feb. 23 that journalists can help them root out the "rotten apples and to overcome resistance in order to separate them from the healthy ones."

"But if you do not decide in a radical way to be on the side of the children, mothers, families, civil society, you are right to be afraid of us, because we journalists -- who seek the common good -- will be your worst enemies," she warned.

The veteran journalist was invited to speak at the summit about the importance of transparency with journalists and media outlets.

Alazraki, who began covering the Vatican in the final years of St. Paul VI's pontificate, said church leaders too often blamed journalists' coverage of the abuse scandal as a plot "to put an end to this institution."

"We journalists know that there are reporters who are more thorough than others and that there are media outlets more or less dependent on political, ideological or economic interests," she said. "But I believe that in no case can the mass media be blamed for having uncovered or reported on abuses."

Recalling the words of Pope Benedict XVI, Alazraki told bishops that clerical sex abuse is neither a rumor or a gossip but a crime that "comes not from external enemies but arises from sins within" the church.

Addressing the accusation that reporters are often harsher on the church than on other institutions when it comes to sex abuse, the Mexican journalist said that is natural "by virtue of your moral role."

"Stealing, for example, is wrong, but if the one stealing is a police officer it seems more serious to us, because it is the opposite of what he or she should do, which is to protect the community from thieves," she explained. "If doctors or nurses poison their patients rather than take care of them, the act draws even more of our attention because it goes against their ethics, their professional code."

She also warned bishops on the dangers of concealing the truth, citing the case of Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, as the church's "most emblematic case of unhealthy, corrupt communication."

The case, she said, involved not only ignorance, lack of preparation and disbelief on the part of church officials, but also corruption.

"Behind the silence, the lack of healthy, transparent communication, quite often there is not only the fear of scandal, concern for the institution's good name, but also money, compensation, gifts, construction permits for schools and universities perhaps in areas where construction was not permitted," she said. "I am speaking of what I have seen and thoroughly investigated."

Journalists, she said, do not expect bishops to inform them of every accusation against a priest. Nevertheless, information pertaining to priests that have abused should be released as quickly as possible and "with clarity."

Offering advice to the bishops on how they can foster transparency when communicating, Alazraki stressed the need for bishops to meet with survivors which helps them not only in confronting the issue of abuse but "also in the way in which you communicate and resolve it."

"The pope has told us that he meets them regularly, at Santa Marta, that he considers them one of his priorities," she said. "You should do the same; I do not believe you have less time than the pope."

Open communication with journalists and media outlets will be an opportunity for the church to take the initiative in denouncing abuses and will allow the bishops "to play offense and not defense," Alazraki said.

"I hope that after this meeting you will return home and not avoid us, but instead seek us out," she said. "That you will return to your dioceses thinking that we are not vicious wolves, but, on the contrary, that we can join our forces against the real wolves."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Lack of transparency harms church, justice, victims, cardinal says

9 hours 4 min ago

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Transparent, reliable and respectful administration is critical for counteracting sinful behavior within the Catholic Church, said German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising.

"There are no alternatives to traceability and transparency," he said, adding that he saw no convincing reason why the "pontifical secret" should apply "to the prosecution of criminal offenses concerning the abuse of minors."

"It is not transparency which damages the church, but rather the acts of abuse committed, the lack of transparency or the ensuing cover-up," he said.

Cardinal Marx, who is president of the German bishops' conference, a papal adviser on the Council of Cardinals and coordinator of the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy, spoke Feb. 23 at the Vatican summit on child protection about the need for transparency in "a community of believers."

Noting his German nation's tendency to rely heavily on rules and bureaucracy, the cardinal said making use of the administrative world of facts and files does not diminish a faith community's mission of serving people and their needs with love and mercy.

Rather, a properly functioning system of administration helps the church fulfill its mission effectively, reliably, objectively and humanely, he said, and it serves as "an important building block" in addressing and preventing many forms of abuse, including financial misdeeds.

Transparent administration -- whose clear rules, procedures and sanctions all serve justice -- acts as "a counterweight to what can be commonly described as the sinfulness of humanity," he said.

However, the power of rules and regulations can be misused, he said, and "the sexual abuse of children and youths is in no small measure due to the abuse of power in the area of administration."

The abuse of administrative power has obscured, discredited and made the church's mission "impossible," he said. One example of how it hurts mission, he said, can be seen with what an abuse victim once wrote him, "If the church claims to act in the name of Jesus, yet I am treated so badly by the church or its administration, then I would also like to have nothing to do with this Jesus."

"Files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed or not even created," Cardinal Marx said.

"Instead of the perpetrators, the victims were regulated, and silence imposed on them," he said. Adding that "the rights of victims were effectively trampled underfoot and left to the whims of individuals."

The cardinal outlined what is required so that administration in the church is not only an important tool, but also "a symbol" that brings people together, lets them be heard and feel respected, and brings them closer to God -- in essence, "the theological mission of church administration."  

Key things that should begin "immediately," the cardinal said, included:

-- Define the goal and limits of pontifical secrecy and redefine confidentiality and secrecy, distinguishing them from "data protection," otherwise, "we either squander the chance to maintain a level of self-determination regarding information or we expose ourselves to the suspicion of covering up."

-- Publicly release statistics on the number and details of abuse cases "as far as possible and according also to the law of the state," he said. "Institutional mistrust leads to conspiracy theories" and "myths" about an organization, which can be avoided "if the facts are set out transparently."  

"Transparency does not mean the uncritical acceptance and undisciplined dissemination of abuse allegations," he said. But the church needs "a transparent process, which clarifies and specifies the allegations and follows generally accepted standards regarding when and how the public, the authorities and the Roman Curia should be informed."

-- Publish judicial proceedings since legal proceedings serve to establish the truth. "People in the church also have to see how did this judge come to this sentence? What is the sentence? All is, nearly all is, secret," which is "not good."

Outside experts can help the church build traceability and transparency into its procedures, Cardinal Marx said. But what is decisive in making it all work is people's attitudes -- those "who work in administration and those responsible for it."

"It is about the question of how far one is willing to justify one's own actions to others and to some extent also be checked by others," he said. "That's a problem. Are we ready to be checked by others also?"

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Church credibility ruined by silent hypocrisy, sister tells summit

10 hours 52 min ago

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The hypocrisy of Catholic leaders who claimed to be guardians of morality yet remained silent about clerical sexual abuse has left the church's credibility in shambles, an African woman religious told bishops at the Vatican summit on abuse.

"Yes, we proclaim the Ten Commandments and 'parade ourselves' as being the custodians of moral standards-values and good behavior in society. Hypocrites at times? Yes! Why did we keep silent for so long?" asked Nigerian Sister Veronica Openibo, congregational leader of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus.

Addressing Pope Francis and nearly 190 representatives of the world's bishops' conferences and religious orders Feb. 23, Sister Openibo insisted the church needed to be transparent and open in facing the abuse crisis.

In a poignant yet powerful speech, the Nigerian sister reminded the bishops of the church's universal mission to be a light for the world and a "manifestation of the Christ we know as both human and divine."

However, she said, the "widespread and systemic" sexual abuse of children by clergy and the subsequent cover-up have "seriously clouded the grace of the Christ-mission."

Clerical sex abuse, she said, "is a crisis that has reduced the credibility of the church when transparency should be the hallmark of mission as followers of Jesus Christ. The fact that many accuse the Catholic Church today of negligence is disturbing."

She also called out bishops, particularly in Asia and her native Africa, who dismiss the abuse crisis as a Western problem, citing several personal experiences she confronted while counseling men and women who were abused.

"The fact that there are huge issues of poverty, illness, war and violence in some countries in the global South does not mean that the area of sexual abuse should be downplayed or ignored. The church has to be pro-active in facing it," she said.

Church leaders cannot think they can "keep silent until the storm has passed," Sister Openibo told them. "This storm will not pass by."

Outlining steps the Catholic Church can take to move toward true transparency and healing, she suggested beginning with the admission of wrongdoing and publishing "what has been done since the time of Pope John Paul II."

"It may not be sufficient in the eyes of many, but it will show that the church had not been totally silent," she said.

Along with clear and comprehensive safeguarding policies in every diocese and devoting resources to help survivors heal from their suffering, Sister Openibo said the church also must give seminarians and male and female novices a "clear and balanced education and training" about sexuality and boundaries.

"It worries me when I see in Rome, and elsewhere, the youngest seminarians being treated as though they are more special than everyone else, thus encouraging them to assume -- from the beginning of their training -- exalted ideas about their status," she said.

Religious women also are susceptible to a way of thinking that leads to "a false sense of superiority over their lay sisters and brothers," she added.

"What damage has that thinking done to the mission of the church? Have we forgotten the reminder by Vatican II in 'Gaudium et Spes' of the universal call to holiness?" she asked.

Looking toward Pope Francis seated on the dais near here, Sister Openibo spoke directly about his initial denial and subsequent about-face regarding the abuse crisis in Chile and accusations of cover-up made against bishops.

"I admire you, Brother Francis, for taking time as a true Jesuit, to discern and be humble enough to change your mind, to apologize and take action -- an example for all of us," she told the pope.

Transparency, she said, also will mean treating equally all clerics who abuse children and not shying away from acknowledging the names of abusers, even if they are high-ranking churchmen or already have died.

"The excuse that respect be given to some priests by virtue of their advanced years and hierarchical position is unacceptable," she said.

Of course, "we can feel sad" for clerics whose offenses are being brought out into the open, Sister Openibo said, "but my heart bleeds for many of the victims who have lived with the misplaced shame and guilt of repeated violations for years."

By protecting children, seeking justice for survivors and taking the necessary steps toward zero tolerance of sexual abuse, she said, the Catholic Church can fulfill its mission to preach the good news, announce deliverance to the captives and "proclaim the Lord's year of favor."

"This is our year of favor," she said. "Let us courageously take up the responsibility to be truly transparent and accountable."

 

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Daniel Rudd: A pioneering leader in black Catholic journalism

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 4:09pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy National Black Catholic Congress

By Joyce Duriga

CHICAGO (CNS) -- With February being both Black History Month and Catholic Press Month, Daniel Rudd's story is worth knowing.

A pioneering Catholic journalist, he founded the national black newspaper the American Catholic Tribune and also was the founder of what is today the National Black Catholic Congress.

Rudd was born on Aug. 7, 1845, in Bardstown, Kentucky, to slave parents Robert and Elizabeth Rudd. His parents were Catholic, and he and all of his 11 siblings were baptized. It is unclear how Rudd's faith became so important to him, but it is clear that it did.

"I have always been a Catholic and, feeling that I knew the teachings of the Catholic Church, I thought there could be no greater factor in solving the race problem than that matchless institution whose history for 1,900 years is but a continual triumph over all assailants," Rudd wrote in his newspaper.

Following the Civil War, he moved to Springfield, Ohio, where his brother lived and where he attended high school.

In 1885, he began his first newspaper, the Ohio Tribune. Later that year, he expanded its mission and changed the name to the American Catholic Tribune, the first national Catholic newspaper owned and operated by a black man.

"We will do what no other paper published by colored men has dared to do -- give the great Catholic Church a hearing and show that it is worthy of at least a fair consideration at the hands of our race, being as it is the only place on this Continent where rich and poor, white and black, must drop prejudice at the threshold and go hand in hand to the altar."

Several American bishops endorsed his newspaper, and he listed them on the masthead: "Cardinal Gibbons, archbishop of Baltimore, Md., the most Reverend Archbishops of Cincinnati and Philadelphia, and the Right Reverend Bishops of Covington, Ky., Columbus, O., Richmond, Va., Vincennes, Ind., and Wilmington, Del."

Each issue averaged four pages targeting literate black Americans. He also had white Catholics among his subscribers. Correspondents in various locations such as New England; St. Louis; and Fort Wayne, Indiana, reported on news at various times around the country.

In 1886, Rudd moved the publication to Cincinnati. In addition to stories from correspondents, the newspaper reprinted stories from other newspapers, which was customary for small newspapers at the time. Some of these stories featured coverage of lectures Father Augustus Tolton gave in various towns.

Subscriptions and advertisements did not cover the cost of the newspaper's publication, so Rudd raised funds through donations. Revenue from a printing company in the Cincinnati office also defrayed costs.

Rudd was both a journalist and an activist. He featured news relevant to black Americans and championed the rights of blacks, writing editorials opposed to segregation and discrimination in all of its forms. As violence against blacks increased in the 1890s and hangings became more prevalent, Rudd spoke out against Americans' inaction over these atrocities.

Throughout his editorials and features, Rudd's mission and philosophy came through: "The Catholic Church alone can break the color line. Our people should help her to do it."

On another occasion, he wrote: "The Negro of this country, ostracized, abused, downtrodden and condemned, needs all the forces which may be brought to bear in his behalf to elevate him to that plane of equality which would give him the status he needs as 'a man among men.' ... We need assistance and should obtain help whenever and wherever it can be given. The Holy Roman Catholic Church offers to the oppressed Negro a material as well as spiritual refuge, superior to all the inducements of other organizations combined."

Rudd saw the ordination of Father Tolton -- the first identified black man ordained for the U.S. church -- as a watershed moment for the Catholic Church in America.

His ordination showed that the universal Catholic Church considered blacks equal to all others. It also challenged the prevailing opinion that blacks were intellectually and morally inferior. An editorial in 1888 read: "The Catholic Church takes men from all the walks of life and if they but follow her example and teachings she will not only place them beyond the railings, but she will guarantee them a sure footing and endless happiness in the world beyond the grave."

The idea began to form in Rudd's mind of a national gathering of black Catholics in Washington. He first proposed the congress in the American Catholic Tribune in May 1888.

No group was more passionate or desirous of the advancement of black people than black Catholics, he said. For that reason they should gather and become leaven for their race in America, "to have our people realize the church's extent among them. We are hidden away, as it were. Let us stand forth and look at one another. ... Every Colored Catholic must, at times, feel that his Colored brethren look upon him as an alien, and may even be told so. Our Protestant friends have false notions of us," he wrote.

In all, five congresses took place in different cities: 1889 in Washington; 1890 in Cincinnati; 1892 in Philadelphia; 1893 in Chicago; and 1894 in Baltimore. The next National Black Catholic Congress would not be held until 1987. It is unclear why the congresses ended.

In 1894, Rudd moved his offices of the struggling American Catholic Tribune to Detroit, but no more issues were published. There is no doubt, however, that Rudd's story is an important part of the history of Catholic journalists in the United States today.

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Duriga is editor of the Chicago Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago. This story is adapted from a chapter on Rudd from her book "Augustus Tolton: The Church Is the True Liberator," published by Liturgical Press.

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Copyright © 2019 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 official urges reconsidering 'pontifical secret' in abuse cases

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 1:32pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Maria Grazie Picciarella, pool

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church should re-examine how "pontifical secret" is applied in clerical sex abuse cases so there is greater transparency in the cases and it is not invoked "to hide problems," said a canon lawyer and Vatican official.

Linda Ghisoni is a canon lawyer who serves as a consultant for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and is undersecretary for laity at the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life. She was the first woman to give a major presentation at the Vatican summit on child protection and the clerical abuse crisis.

Addressing the summit Feb. 22, Ghisoni described bishops' accountability, regular audits and lay review boards as essential to demonstrating with facts a profession of faith in the church as a communion of the baptized, each of whom are given gifts by the Holy Spirit and are called to share those gifts for the good of the church and the world.

At the end of her speech, Ghisoni suggested reviewing "the current norm on the pontifical secret."

Already in September 2017, members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors asked Pope Francis to reconsider Vatican norms maintaining the imposition of "pontifical secret" in the church's judicial handling of clerical sex abuse and other grave crimes.

The secret ensures cases are dealt with in strict confidentiality. Vatican experts have said it was designed to protect the dignity of everyone involved, including the victim, the accused, their families and their communities.

Ghisoni said there are values to protect, including the good name of the accused, unless and until he is proven guilty, but a revision could lead to "the development of a climate of greater transparency and trust, avoiding the idea that the secret is used to hide problems rather than protect the values at stake."

The second day of the summit was dedicated to accountability, and Ghisoni focused her remarks on how accountability is not simply a good practice from a public relations and organizational point of view, but that it is a necessary part of a church living its reality as a community.

"A bishop cannot think that questions regarding the church can be resolved by him acting alone" or only with other bishops, she said. Every member of the church is called to work together to ensure that children are safe.

She urged bishops to not resist having regular audits of diocesan safeguarding policies and of the ways he or he and his review board have handled allegations.

An audit, she said, "must not be misunderstood as mistrust of the superior or bishop, but rather considered an aid" for examining actions taken and sharing responsibility for them.

"Identifying an objective method of accountability not only does not weaken his authority," she said, "but it values him as the shepherd of a flock" whose responsibilities are "not separated from the people for whom he is called to give his life."

When a bishop works together with priests, religious and laypeople in designing procedures and accountability models, she said, mistakes and errors are not a "stain" on the bishops' honor, but a call for all involved to find a way to repair the damage and ensure it does not happen again.

Safeguarding children and fighting abuse must not be "a program" for the church, she said, but "must become an ordinary pastoral attitude."

After Ghisoni spoke, Pope Francis said inviting a woman to address the conference was not about "ecclesiastical feminism." Rather, he said, "inviting a woman to speak about the wounds of the church is to invite the church to speak about itself and the wounds it has."

The church, he said, is not an "organization," but is "a family born of mother church," which the bishops should keep in mind as they continue their deliberations.

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Harming a child must be 'line in the sand' for removal, cardinal says

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 12:03pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- For the Catholic Church, there is a "line in the sand," which can never be crossed, and that is to not allow anyone who harms or would harm a child to exercise public ministry, said Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston.

In fact, removing someone from public ministry for abuse should be seen not so much as a punitive act as much as it is an urgent pastoral and "prudential" measure to keep young people safe, added Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta.

The cardinal and archbishop spoke with reporters Feb. 22 at a news conference during the second day of a Vatican summit on child protection in the church.

They were responding to questions as to why there seemed to be resistance or reluctance to adopting "zero tolerance" policies and why, in some cases, leaders are hesitant to even use the term.

One reporter noted that, to the dismay of survivors gathered in Rome, "zero tolerance" was not mentioned on a list of 21 points Pope Francis distributed Feb. 21 for reflection -- points that had been compiled from ideas bishops had provided beforehand.

Cardinal O'Malley, who is a papal adviser on the Council of Cardinals and president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said, "I know there is a lot of resistance to using that terminology," perhaps it sounds too "secular, I don't know."

But he said zero tolerance reflects a principle that was "so clearly articulated" by St. John Paul II in 2002 when he said that there is no place in the priesthood or religious life for those who would harm the young.

That principle, Cardinal O'Malley said, "has to be a line in the sand."

Responding to a related question, he said he would advocate the removal of a person from ministry for all cases of abuse against minors everywhere and clarified that additional penalties -- such as dismissal from the clerical state or a life of prayer and penance -- would vary, following the principle of proportionality of punishment.

Archbishop Scicluna said another way to look at the situation would be to see removal from ministry as an action that "has nothing to do with punishment, but (is) a prudential and urgent" measure that is taken to guarantee the safety of minors.

The issue of proportionality applies to the variety and severity of penalties that an ordained minister could receive if found guilty, said the archbishop, who also serves as president of the doctrinal congregation board that reviews appeals filed by priests laicized or otherwise disciplined in sexual abuse or other serious cases.

But when looking at what should be done across the board with a person who has harmed a minor, there is no question that the person cannot remain in public ministry, he said.

"I think even those people who do not like the concept of zero tolerance because they do not exactly know what it is, they would never dare say, 'Well, there's someone who could do harm to young people' and they leave him in ministry," he said.  

Removal reflects the person's unsuitability for ministry and is not primarily a question about punishment, which can vary case by case, he said.

"I don't remove a person from ministry to punish him, but to protect the flock," the archbishop said.

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Cardinal Cupich asks for new structure to ensure bishops' accountability

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 9:08am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church needs "new legal structures of accountability" for bishops accused of sexual abuse or of negligence in handling abuse allegations, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago told the Vatican summit on safeguarding.

Addressing Pope Francis and some 190 presidents of bishops' conferences, heads of Eastern Catholic churches, religious superiors and officials of the Roman Curia Feb. 22, Cardinal Cupich provided details of what some people have described as a "metropolitan model" of accountability, although he insisted the model would involve laypeople.

Church territories are grouped into provinces with an archdiocese, which is the metropolitan see, and neighboring dioceses. Under the current law governing the Latin-rite church, the archbishop or cardinal leading the metropolitan see has very little responsibility for the province; that would change under Cardinal Cupich's proposal.

The guidelines also would name an alternate -- perhaps the neighboring metropolitan or the senior diocesan bishop -- in cases where the accused is the metropolitan archbishop.

The proposal made by Cardinal Cupich at the Vatican summit on child protection and the clerical abuse scandal was similar to one he made in November to the full U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The cardinal also included elements of proposals the U.S. bishops had planned to vote on in November, but the Vatican had asked them to hold off until after the Feb. 21-24 Vatican summit. The common elements included setting up a toll-free number or website for reporting bishops and establishing a fund to pay for investigations of bishops accused of abuse or negligence.

The Chicago prelate told reporters later that his presentation had two main differences from what the U.S. bishops initially proposed: using metropolitans gives the process a regional character that is especially important for ensuring outreach to and follow up with the victim; and the U.S. bishops' proposal was voluntary, whereas his would be obligatory.

Responding to questions about trusting bishops to investigate brother bishops, Cardinal Cupich said that is another reason why he insisted laypeople be involved in receiving and investigating allegations; it is essential for the transparency of the system.

Cardinal Cupich's presentation at the summit focused on increasing accountability but doing so in a "synodal" fashion by including laypeople "in a discernment and reform that penetrates throughout the church" and by formulating laws and procedures that flow from the church's reality as a spiritual institution.

"We must move to establish robust laws and structures regarding the accountability of bishops precisely to supply with a new soul the institutional reality of the church's discipline on sexual abuse," the cardinal told the summit.

Cardinal Cupich said the need for a system where bishops, aided by lay experts, hold other bishops accountable could be seen in the events of "this past year," presumably referring to the Pennsylvania grand jury report on abuse and the case of former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, who, in 2018, was found to be credibly accused of the sexual abuse of a minor and was dismissed from the clerical state in February after being found guilty.

"This past year has taught us that the systematic failures in holding clerics of all rank responsible are due in large measure to flaws in the way we interact and communicate with each other in the College of Bishops in union with the successor of Peter," Cardinal Cupich said.

Before the summit began, each participant was asked to meet with and listen to a survivor or survivors of abuse. The meeting included testimony from survivors, and the main speakers and the survivors gathered outside the meeting all insisted that listening to the victims is the first step.

The listening is not a courtesy and must not include conditions being placed on the survivors, the cardinal said. "Our listening must be willing to accept challenge and confrontation and even condemnation for the church's past and present failures to keep safe the most precious of the Lord's flock."

In general, Cardinal Cupich suggested each bishops' conference "establish standards for conducting the investigations of bishops," which, he said, "should involve and consult lay experts."

The Catholic faithful should know how to report allegations of abuse or negligence involving a bishop, he said, and should involve "independent reporting mechanisms in the form of a dedicated telephone line and-or web portal service to receive and transmit the allegations directly to the apostolic nuncio," who is the pope's representative in the country, and to the metropolitan or to a panel of lay experts, depending on the system designed by the local bishops.

Cardinal Cupich's model mirrored in many ways the procedure used for investigating an allegation against a priest. He would have a metropolitan archbishop and lay review board, or at least lay experts, conduct an initial review of the allegations. If the allegation seemed credible -- or as the cardinal said, "has even the semblance of truth" -- the metropolitan would request from the Vatican the authority to begin a full investigation; the Vatican approval is necessary because, according to church law, only the pope investigate and discipline a bishop.

The results of the full investigation would be forwarded to the Vatican, which determines whether a trial is warranted and how it should be conducted.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, who handles abuse cases as adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told reporters later, "the supreme pontiff -- the pope -- has a special jurisdiction over the bishops that has to be respected."

At the same time, he said, "it is within the context of communion that we have to live accountability," which means other bishops and laypeople always must be involved.

 

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Cardinal: Can the church step up, lead way in protecting children?

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 7:58am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Only together, by humbly sharing their experiences, encouragement and corrective advice, can the bishops and leaders in the Catholic Church work to prevent the abuse of minors and help bring healing to survivors, said the head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India.

Church leaders also must cooperate fully with local authorities because the sexual abuse of minors is also "criminal behavior," not just a violation of divine and church law, said Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India.

The cardinal, who also serves as a papal adviser in the Council of Cardinals, addressed Pope Francis and nearly 190 representatives of the world's bishops' conferences and religious orders Feb. 22 with a talk on accountability in a collegial and synodal church.

His 30-minute speech was punctuated with quotes from survivors he had met and the insights and impact that came from those encounters.

He said he was numb and speechless after a meeting with 12 victims two days ago. He said he could sense their "anger and bitterness, frustration, hurt and helplessness." However, he said, "We met just 12, but there would be tens of thousands more that we have not met. How do we respond to them? How do we help them? This is our challenge."

Cardinal Gracias said that by inviting presidents of national bishops' conferences and representatives of religious orders to the summit, the pope has shown the way "the church must address this crisis" -- with a spirit and process of collegiality and synodality.

No bishop should ever believe he is facing the problem of abuse alone, and no bishop must ever say the problem of abuse in the church "does not concern me because things are different in my part of the world."

Not only is that not true, he said, it neglects the bishops' Christ-given mandate to be "solicitous for the whole church" and recognize they are "jointly responsible to tackle the problem of sexual abuse of minors by clerics all over the world."

Bishops must examine their actions, face the facts, acknowledge inadequacies, ask for forgiveness and commit to taking the steps needed to prevent future abuse, all while extending concern beyond one's local diocese to "all the churches with which we are in communion."

Cardinal Gracias said bishops must recognize how they have been responsible for the crisis by asking, "Do we really engage in an open conversation and point out honestly to our brother bishops or priests when we notice problematic behavior in them?"

"We should cultivate a culture of (fraternal correction), which enables this without offending each other, and at the same time recognize criticism from a brother as an opportunity to better fulfill our tasks," he said.

Sometimes this need for collegiality and listening to brother bishops has been ignored by those who believe "only the pope can give us orders," he said.

Instead of a Rome-centered focus, the cardinal said, there should be more discussion between bishops' conferences and the Roman Curia to take into account and draw upon the diverse skills and competencies of "responsible shepherds" of the local churches.

He also asked whether further decentralization in dealing with abuse would "ensure speedier justice."

Cardinal Gracias underlined the importance of restoring civil justice when someone has been violated. After all, he said, "those who are guilty of criminal behavior are justly accountable to civil authority for that behavior."

"Although the church is not an agent of the state, the church recognizes the legitimate authority of civil law and the state," he said. "Therefore, the church fully cooperates with civil authorities in these matters to bring justice to survivors and to the civil order."

Throughout history, he said, the church often led the way in defending values, human rights, migrants, women, the family and the poor.

"Will the church become a model and be in the forefront in the protection of the rights of the child?" he asked.

"No easy or quick solution" will end the abuse crisis, he said. But "we are a pilgrim church learning from our mistakes, constantly trying to improve, to be faithful to the Gospel. We all make mistakes and need to learn from them."

"We must repent -- and do so together, collegially -- because along the way, we have failed. We need to seek pardon" and discern the next steps, the cardinal said.

"The path ahead is not mapped out with great detail and clear-cut precision," he said, and "we must be willing to pay the price of following God's will in uncertain and painful circumstances."

 

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Can the church step up, lead way in protecting children, cardinal asks

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 7:58am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Only together, by humbly sharing their experiences, encouragement and corrective advice, can the bishops and leaders in the Catholic Church work to prevent the abuse of minors and help bring healing to survivors, said the head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India.

Church leaders also must cooperate fully with local authorities because the sexual abuse of minors is also "criminal behavior," not just a violation of divine and church law, said Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India.

The cardinal, who also serves as a papal adviser in the Council of Cardinals, addressed Pope Francis and nearly 190 representatives of the world's bishops' conferences and religious orders Feb. 22 with a talk on accountability in a collegial and synodal church.

His 30-minute speech was punctuated with quotes from survivors he had met and the insights and impact that came from those encounters.

He said he was numb and speechless after a meeting with 12 victims two days ago. He said he could sense their "anger and bitterness, frustration, hurt and helplessness." However, he said, "We met just 12, but there would be tens of thousands more that we have not met. How do we respond to them? How do we help them? This is our challenge."

Cardinal Gracias said that by inviting presidents of national bishops' conferences and representatives of religious orders to the summit, the pope has shown the way "the church must address this crisis" -- with a spirit and process of collegiality and synodality.

No bishop should ever believe he is facing the problem of abuse alone, and no bishop must ever say the problem of abuse in the church "does not concern me because things are different in my part of the world."

Not only is that not true, he said, it neglects the bishops' Christ-given mandate to be "solicitous for the whole church" and recognize they are "jointly responsible to tackle the problem of sexual abuse of minors by clerics all over the world."

Bishops must examine their actions, face the facts, acknowledge inadequacies, ask for forgiveness and commit to taking the steps needed to prevent future abuse, all while extending concern beyond one's local diocese to "all the churches with which we are in communion."

Cardinal Gracias said bishops must recognize how they have been responsible for the crisis by asking, "Do we really engage in an open conversation and point out honestly to our brother bishops or priests when we notice problematic behavior in them?"

"We should cultivate a culture of (fraternal correction), which enables this without offending each other, and at the same time recognize criticism from a brother as an opportunity to better fulfill our tasks," he said.

Sometimes this need for collegiality and listening to brother bishops has been ignored by those who believe "only the pope can give us orders," he said.

Instead of a Rome-centered focus, the cardinal said, there should be more discussion between bishops' conferences and the Roman Curia to take into account and draw upon the diverse skills and competencies of "responsible shepherds" of the local churches.

He also asked whether further decentralization in dealing with abuse would "ensure speedier justice."

Cardinal Gracias underlined the importance of restoring civil justice when someone has been violated. After all, he said, "those who are guilty of criminal behavior are justly accountable to civil authority for that behavior."

"Although the church is not an agent of the state, the church recognizes the legitimate authority of civil law and the state," he said. "Therefore, the church fully cooperates with civil authorities in these matters to bring justice to survivors and to the civil order."

Throughout history, he said, the church often led the way in defending values, human rights, migrants, women, the family and the poor.

"Will the church become a model and be in the forefront in the protection of the rights of the child?" he asked.

"No easy or quick solution" will end the abuse crisis, he said. But "we are a pilgrim church learning from our mistakes, constantly trying to improve, to be faithful to the Gospel. We all make mistakes and need to learn from them."

"We must repent -- and do so together, collegially -- because along the way, we have failed. We need to seek pardon" and discern the next steps, the cardinal said.

"The path ahead is not mapped out with great detail and clear-cut precision," he said, and "we must be willing to pay the price of following God's will in uncertain and painful circumstances."

 

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Clericalism, abuse of power, at heart of sex abuse crisis, cardinal says

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 12:15pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Evandro Inetti, pool

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is a call for bishops to unmask the deep-seated clericalism that placed protection of the institution of the church above the sufferings of victims, said the head of the council of Latin American bishops.

Addressing Pope Francis and nearly 190 representatives of the world's bishops and religious orders Feb. 21, Colombian Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, president of the council known as CELAM, said that bishops must recognize that "serious errors" in the exercise of authority have "increased the severity of the crisis."

"A brief analysis of what has happened shows us that it is not only a matter of sexual deviations or pathologies in the abusers, but that there is a deeper root too," Cardinal Salazar said. "This is the distortion of the meaning of ministry, which converts it into a means to impose force, to violate the conscience and the bodies of the weakest. This has a name: clericalism."

Delivering the third and final presentation of the first day of the Feb. 21-24 Vatican meeting on the protection of minors in the church, Cardinal Salazar spoke about the crisis in the church and the responsibility of bishops to face "conflicts and tensions" and instead act decisively.

The cardinal said that when faced with cases of abuse, a clerical mentality within the church has led bishops to act like salaried workers who "upon seeing the wolf coming, flee and leave the flock unprotected."

"And we flee in many ways," he explained. By "trying to deny the dimension of the denunciations presented to us; not listening to the victims; ignoring the damage caused to the victims of abuse; transferring the accused to other places where they continue to abuse; or trying to reach monetary settlements to buy silence."

To understand the full depth of the crisis, he continued, bishops must stop looking at outsiders as the cause of the damage within the church and recognize that "the first enemies are within us, among us bishops and priests and consecrated persons who have not lived up to our vocation."

Bishops, he added, must also stop minimizing the crisis by asserting that "abuses occur on a larger scale in other institutions," because the existence of abuse outside the church "can never justify the occurrence of abuses in the church."

"There is no possible justification for not denouncing, not unmasking, not courageously and forcefully confronting any abuse that presents itself within our church," Cardinal Salazar said.

Bishops also have a responsibility to guide priests and consecrated men and women their diocese toward holiness and establish a close relationship with them, beginning during the time of their formation.

However, when it comes to clergy and religious people who have abused, bishops must adhere to the protocols established by their bishops' conference that respect both civil and canon law and help "to distinguish between sin subject to divine mercy, ecclesial crime subject to canonical legislation, and civil crime subject to the corresponding civil legislation," Cardinal Salazar said.

Today, he said, "it is clear to us that any negligence on our part can lead to canonical penalties, including removal from ministry, and civil penalties that can even lead to imprisonment for concealment or complicity."

Finally, Cardinal Salazar told the bishops that they have a responsibility to be close to the people of God and a duty to listen to them, especially those who have suffered abuse.

"One of the first sins committed at the beginning of the crisis was precisely not having listened with open hearts to those who charged that they had been abused by clerics," he said.

Among the most egregious ways that some bishops have acted toward victims was by "minimizing the pain and damage" of the abuse by thinking that the only motive for survivors to report abuse was "to seek financial compensation."

"'The only thing they are looking for is money' was the recurrent phrase," the cardinal said. "There is no doubt that accusations are sometimes orchestrated. There is also no doubt that on many occasions attempts have been made to reduce the redress to the victims in terms of monetary compensation without taking into account the true scope of that reparation."

Nevertheless, while money "can never repair the damage caused," the church has a responsibility to offer compensation so that victims can afford psychological treatment and to provide economic support to those who cannot work due to the trauma of their abuse.

"The responsibility of the bishop," he said, "is very broad and covers many fields, but it is always inescapable."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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Cesareo urges greater role for laity in church's response to abuse

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 10:30am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Laypeople must be involved in a "more meaningful and influential role" to help Catholic bishops create "an environment of safety within the church," the chairman of the National Review Board said in an opinion piece published by The Boston Globe.

Writing Feb. 19, two days before Pope Francis convened an unprecedented four-day gathering of bishops from around the world to discuss the protection of minors in the church, Francesco Cesareo said the heightened role of laity would assist bishops in their response to clergy sex abuse.

Citing signals from "Rome itself that expectations for outcomes (from the meeting) should not be high," Cesareo cautioned that "it is difficult to imagine that concrete universal norms will emerge from this gathering, given the diversity of cultures and perspectives" that will be present.

Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board since 2013, then made the case for a greater role for laity as the bishops work to rebuild trust in the church hierarchy.

He wrote that "at this time in the church's history, it is necessary to acknowledge the co-responsibility of the laity for the church by increasing their role in assisting the bishops and the clergy who do not have experience in preventing and responding to allegations of abuse."

"The church should not fear such engagement by the laity, but rather welcome it," he wrote.

The all-lay National Review Board was established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 to oversee compliance by dioceses with the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." It has no role in oversight of bishops.

In his appeal, Cesareo, president of Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, said that the bishops' response to the sex abuse crisis "has been incomplete."

The column pointed to the loss of trust among laypeople and clergy "in the ability of their shepherds to lead."

He also cited abuse allegations described in last summer's Pennsylvania grand jury report, "with its limitations," and revelations about former Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, who was removed from the priesthood by the Vatican Feb. 16, which Cesareo said demonstrates the abuse crisis "transcends sexual abuse of minors." McCarrick faced credible accusations he abused minors more than 60 years ago but also allegations he was sexually inappropriate with seminarians.

"(This) represents a system failure to protect the most vulnerable and hold aggressors accountable," Cesareo said.

The column also called on the bishops meeting in Rome to discuss and give "serious consideration" to proposals that would hold bishops accountable for their actions which were to have been presented to the entire body of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in November. The proposals were withdrawn as the bishops opened their fall general assembly at the request of Vatican officials, surprising many of the prelates in attendance.

"Allowing our bishops to respond to the current crisis in a substantive way is critical if the church is going to begin to heal," he said.

Cesareo suggested several key roles for laypeople who serve on a diocesan review board or other "external entity" as they work with bishops.

First, he said, laity can assist bishops in thoroughly reviewing diocesan and seminary files and sharing them with the public. "It is the public's right to know of those who have been credibly accused of abuse," he wrote.

Numerous U.S. dioceses and archdioceses have conducted such reviews and released the names of clergy against whom credible allegations of abuse have been made. Other dioceses are continuing their reviews.

"Next, there must be full accountability of all bishops, including those who have abused their positions of power by ignoring credible allegations of abuse, buy committing abuse themselves, or by having engaged in sexual misconduct or harassment," Cesareo said.

The review board chairman said such accountability "must include investigations of all allegations regarding bishops by a lay commission that has independent authority and that can report the findings of their investigation to the (papal) nuncio (in Washington)."

He added that a third-party reporting system would provide a way to report "allegations of abuse, cover-ups or sexual misconduct by bishops outside of an independent from church bureaucracy."

"If bishops are found to have failed in their responsibility to protect the vulnerable, there must be consequences," Cesareo said.

In addition, Cesareo called for another revision of the charter so that bishops fall within its oversight. He said strengthening the regular audit of dioceses to determine compliance with the charter also was needed.

 

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Bishops must protect their flock from abuse at all costs, archbishop says

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 8:29am

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholics need to know that their leaders "mean business" when it comes to protecting minors from abuse, the Vatican's top abuse investigator told representatives of the world's bishops and religious orders.

"They should come to know us as friends of their safety and that of their children and youth. We will engage them with candor and humility. We will protect them at all cost. We will lay down our lives for the flocks entrusted to us," said Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta.

The archbishop, who is adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and a member of the organizing committee for the Feb. 21-24 Vatican meeting on the protection of minors in the church, spoke on the first day of the proceedings about "taking responsibility for processing cases" of alleged abuse and for preventing abuse.

In the presence of Pope Francis, the archbishop told the almost 190 church leaders that "one of the fundamental tests of our stewardship and, indeed, of our fidelity," is the way in which bishops and religious superiors exercise their ministry at the service of justice.

"It is our sacred duty to protect our people and to ensure justice when they have been abused," he said.

Archbishop Scicluna, a canon lawyer who worked at the doctrinal congregation for 10 years dealing with cases of alleged clerical sexual abuse, used his talk to outline what canon law says about how allegations of sexual misconduct should be handled and investigated, and what additional best practices are "advisable."

Underlining the importance of getting expert advice and maintaining a "collegial" atmosphere throughout the process of abuse investigations, he also called on bishops and religious superiors to remember they are a "shepherd of the Lord's flock" and need to understand "the deep wounds inflicted on victims of sex abuse by members of the clergy."

After meeting so many victims around the world, he said he realized that sitting down with a survivor is "sacred ground, where we meet Jesus on the cross."

"This is a Via Crucis we bishops and other church leaders cannot miss. We need to be Simon of Cyrene helping victims, with whom Jesus identifies himself, carry their heavy cross" with adequate and appropriate care, he said.

In fact, he urged leaders to make up for the gaps or areas not covered by canon law and current procedures by exercising greater pastoral stewardship and recognizing the abuse of children "is also a crime in all civil jurisdictions."

Archbishop Scicluna said the "stewardship of prevention" also includes helping the pope in the selection of candidates for bishop appointments.

"Many demand that the process be more open to the input of laypeople in the community," he said. But it is a bishop's and religious superior's "sacred duty" to assist the pope as he considers possible leaders.

"It is a grave sin against the integrity of the episcopal ministry to hide or underestimate facts that may indicate deficits in the lifestyle or spiritual fatherhood of priests subject to a pontifical investigation into their suitability for the office of bishop," he said.

A bishop's or religious superior's stewardship also should include preventing "sexual misconduct in general," in addition to the sexual abuse of minors, he said. This requires screening candidates, being vigilant, being a holy and fatherly role model and providing in-depth and ongoing formation in areas that include understanding "the demands of priestly celibacy and chastity."

"Prevention is better served when protocols are clear and codes of conduct well known," Archbishop Scicluna said. "Response to misconduct should be just and even-handed. Outcomes should be clear from the outset."

He said the "valid and positive" practice in some countries of offering church members specific training in abuse prevention needs to "grow in accessibility" and be spread around the world.

And, he added, a "culture of disclosure" is aided when there is a "ready availability of user-friendly access to reporting mechanisms."

"The faith community under our care should know that we mean business," he said.

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At summit, survivors expose 'cancer' of clergy sex abuse

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 8:10am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Evandro Inetti, pool

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- "Every time I refused to have sex with him, he would beat me," an abuse survivor from Africa told Pope Francis and bishops attending the Vatican summit on child protection and the abuse crisis.

The meeting began Feb. 21 with the harrowing stories of survivors of sexual abuse, cover-up and rejection by church officials.

The pre-recorded testimonies of five survivors were broadcast in the synod hall; the Vatican did not disclose their names, but only whether they were male or female and their country of origin.

In the first testimony, a man from Chile expressed the pain he felt when, after reporting his abuse to the church, he was treated "as a liar" and told that "I and others were enemies of the church."

"You are physicians of the soul and yet, with rare exceptions, you have been transformed -- in some cases -- into murderers of the soul, into murderers of the faith," he said.

Comparing the abuse crisis to a cancer in the church, the survivor said that "it is not enough to remove the tumor and that's it," but there must be measures to "treat the whole cancer."

He said he prayed that those who "want to continue to cover up" would leave the church, giving greater space "to those who want to a create a new church, a renewed church and a church absolutely free from sexual abuse."

A woman from Africa recalled the humiliation and suffering she endured when she was sexually and physically abused by a priest beginning when she was 15; he made her pregnant three times and each time forced her to have an abortion.

"At first, I trusted him so much that I did not know he could abuse me. I was afraid of him and every time I refused to have sex with him, he would beat me," she said. "And since I was completely dependent on him economically, I suffered all the humiliations he inflicted on me."

"It must be said that priests and religious have a way of helping and at the same time also destroying," she said. "They have to behave like leaders, wise people."

Another testimony was offered by a 53-year-old priest from Eastern Europe who, although grateful to God for his vocation, continues to bear not only the wounds of the abuse he suffered as teenager but also the wounds of the rejection he experienced after reporting it to his bishop.

Initially, the bishop did not respond at all, so, the priest said, he reported the abuse to the nuncio.

When he finally did meet the bishop, he recalled, "he attacked me without trying to understand me, and this hurt me."

"What would I like to say to the bishops?" the priest asked. "That they listen to these people, that they learn to listen to the people who speak. I wanted someone to listen to me, to know who that man is, that priest, and what he does."

A U.S. survivor told the bishops that what wounded him the most "was the total loss of the innocence of my youth and how that has affected me today."

"There's still pain in my family relationships," he said. "There's still pain with my siblings. I still carry pain. My parents still carry pain at the dysfunction, the betrayal, the manipulation that this bad man, who was our Catholic priest at the time, wrought upon my family and myself."

The church, he added, needs leadership, vision and courage from bishops to fight the scourge of abuse and "to work for resolution, and work for healing and work for a better church."

The final testimony was delivered by man from Asia who said he was "abused over 100 times" and continues to endure "traumas and flashbacks" that have caused him difficulty in living his life and connecting with other people.

Bishops and heads of religious orders, he said, must take concrete action to ensure that clergy members who abused are punished.

"I ask the bishops that they be clear on this matter because this is one of the time bombs occurring in the church in Asia. If they want to save the church, we have to work together and make the perpetrators give themselves up," he said.

"As Jesus always said, we need to 'be like children,' not sexual abusers of children."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

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Vatican summit opens with acknowledgment of evil committed

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 5:33am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Evandro Inetti, pool

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Opening the Vatican summit on child protection and the clerical sexual abuse crisis, Pope Francis said, "The holy people of God are watching and are awaiting from us not simple, predictable condemnations, but concrete and effective measures" to stop abuse.

The summit meeting Feb. 21-24 brought together almost 190 church leaders: the presidents of national bishops' conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic churches, superiors of some men's and women's religious orders and top Vatican officials.

In his brief opening remarks, the pope prayed that with "docility" to the Holy Spirit, the bishops at the summit would "listen to the cry of the little ones who ask for justice."

The pope's main address to the assembly was scheduled for Feb. 24 after the discussions, a penitential liturgy and a concluding Mass.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, gave the first formal talk of the gathering, acknowledging how church leaders for so long ignored the suffering of the victims of clerical sexual abuse and covered up the evil crimes of the priest-perpetrators.

Sometimes, he said, bishops were simply afraid to look at the wounds caused by their priests, but he insisted that one cannot profess faith in Christ while ignoring the wounds inflicted on the people Jesus loves.

Using the Gospel stories of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances to the disciples, especially the story of Jesus inviting St. Thomas to put his hands into the wounds on Jesus' hands and side, Cardinal Tagle told the bishops, "Those who are sent to proclaim the core of our Christian faith -- the dying and rising of Christ -- can only do so with authenticity if they are constantly in touch with the wounds of humanity."

The Christian faith itself and the ability of the Catholic Church to proclaim the Gospel is "what is at stake in this moment of crisis brought about by the abuse of children and our poor handling of these crimes," the cardinal said.

But, he asked, "how do we as bishops, who have been part of the wounding, now promote healing?"

First, the cardinal said, the bishops must "draw close to their wounds and acknowledge our faults" and then take concrete steps to ensure all children and vulnerable adults are safe in the church's care.

Justice for the victims is an absolute necessity, he said, but justice by itself "does not heal the broken human heart."

The church can never ask victims to forgive and move on -- "no, far from it," the cardinal said.

But, knowing that forgiveness often aids healing, he said, church leaders must "continue to walk with those profoundly wounded by abuse, building trust, providing unconditional love and repeatedly asking forgiveness in the full recognition that we do not deserve that forgiveness in the order of justice, but can only receive it when it is bestowed as a gift and grace."

 

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Vatican summit opens with acknowledgement of evil committed

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 5:33am

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Opening the Vatican summit on child protection and the clerical sexual abuse crisis, Pope Francis said, "The holy people of God are watching and are awaiting from us not simple, predictable condemnations, but concrete and effective measures" to stop abuse.

The summit meeting Feb. 21-24 brought together almost 190 church leaders: the presidents of national bishops' conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic churches, superiors of some men's and women's religious orders and top Vatican officials.

In his brief opening remarks, the pope prayed that with "docility" to the Holy Spirit, the bishops at the summit would "listen to the cry of the little ones who ask for justice."

The pope's main address to the assembly was scheduled for Feb. 24 after the discussions, a penitential liturgy and a concluding Mass.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, gave the first formal talk of the gathering, acknowledging how church leaders for so long ignored the suffering of the victims of clerical sexual abuse and covered up the evil crimes of the priest-perpetrators.

Sometimes, he said, bishops were simply afraid to look at the wounds caused by their priests, but he insisted that one cannot profess faith in Christ while ignoring the wounds inflicted on the people Jesus loves.

Using the Gospel stories of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances to the disciples, especially the story of Jesus inviting St. Thomas to put his hands into the wounds on Jesus' hands and side, Cardinal Tagle told the bishops, "Those who are sent to proclaim the core of our Christian faith -- the dying and rising of Christ -- can only do so with authenticity if they are constantly in touch with the wounds of humanity."

The Christian faith itself and the ability of the Catholic Church to proclaim the Gospel is "what is at stake in this moment of crisis brought about by the abuse of children and our poor handling of these crimes," the cardinal said.

But, he asked, "how do we as bishops, who have been part of the wounding, now promote healing?"

First, the cardinal said, the bishops must "draw close to their wounds and acknowledge our faults" and then take concrete steps to ensure all children and vulnerable adults are safe in the church's care.

Justice for the victims is an absolute necessity, he said, but justice by itself "does not heal the broken human heart."

The church can never ask victims to forgive and move on -- "no, far from it," the cardinal said.

But, knowing that forgiveness often aids healing, he said, church leaders must "continue to walk with those profoundly wounded by abuse, building trust, providing unconditional love and repeatedly asking forgiveness in the full recognition that we do not deserve that forgiveness in the order of justice, but can only receive it when it is bestowed as a gift and grace."

 

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Update: N.J. priest at Vatican, removed in 2018, was accused of abuse in 2003

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 4:13pm

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- U.S. Msgr. Joseph R. Punderson, a senior official of the Vatican's highest court, was instructed by his bishop to resign his Vatican post late in 2018 and then was removed from ministry 15 years after he was found to be credibly accused of the sexual abuse of a minor.

The abuse was reported to the Vatican, and Msgr. Punderson offered to resign in 2004, but the Vatican allowed him to continue working.

Msgr. Punderson's named was included on a list of credibly accused clergy published by the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey, Feb. 13. Bishop David M. O'Connell heads the diocese.

After initially declining to comment, Alessando Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office said Feb. 20 that Msgr. Punderson "is no longer in service at the tribunal of the Apostolic Signature and has been in retirement since last fall."

Rayanne Bennett, director of communications for the Trenton Diocese, said in a statement Feb. 20 that diocesan records indicated Msgr. Punderson "was credibly accused in 2003 of the sexual abuse of a minor 26 years earlier."

"The allegation, the first and only claim against Msgr. Punderson, was promptly reported to the appropriate prosecutor, who declined to pursue criminal charges," Bennett said.

"The allegation was also reported to the Holy See, and Msgr. Punderson submitted his resignation in 2004," Bennett said. "The Holy See, however, permitted him to continue in office but under specific restrictions regarding public acts of ministry initially imposed by the Diocese of Trenton in 2003."

Msgr. Punderson, who was named defender of the bond at the Apostolic Signature in 1995, "was instructed to resign his Vatican position by the bishop in late fall 2018 and his resignation was accepted. He has been removed from all public ministry," Bennett said.

 

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Pipeline struggle reveals value of community to religious congregation

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 3:18pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Stephanie Keith, Reuters

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- For the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision not to hear the order's religious freedom claims in a legal challenge to a natural gas pipeline through their land in Pennsylvania came as no real surprise.

"But we needed to see it through and that's what we did," said Sister Janet McCann, a member of the Adorers' leadership team in St. Louis.

Without comment, the Supreme Court announced Feb. 19 that it had declined the congregation's petition for a hearing.

The Adorers' argument centered on their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA. They maintained that allowing construction of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline and its use would be contrary to their 2005 Land Ethic, which holds that all of creation is sacred and that it must be protected from desecration.

Sister McCann said despite the court's decision her congregation realized the 19-month ordeal had given it ample opportunity for "continuing to educate ourselves and educating other people and heightening the awareness of what is happening with our earth."

"Also we learned the process of how to stand up and speak out to big, powerful multibillion-dollar corporations," she told Catholic News Service Feb. 20. "We're hoping that our willingness to kind of stumble through all of this will give some encouragement to other individuals, other communities or other entities to do the same."

The Adorers' opposition to the 42-inch transmission line operated by Oklahoma-based Williams began in July 2017. It found them becoming allies with other faith-based and grass-roots activists, namely Lancaster Against Pipelines, which continues to hold vigils and nonviolent protests along parts of the 183-mile pipeline route.

Early on, the sisters allowed Lancaster Against Pipelines to construct a symbolic chapel on their property adjacent to the project's route.

In their petition to the court, the sisters asked the justices to determine how widely government agencies must regard claims under RFRA and whether a lower court's review of an agency's order satisfies the religious freedom guarantees under the law.

Attorney Dwight Yoder, who filed the Adorers' case, credited the sisters for their prayerful presence as their appeals wound through the court system.

He also predicted that the Supreme Court's decision will have ramifications for other faith-based communities and organizations as they consider legal action based on religious freedom claims.

"This is a violation that's going to continue indefinitely," Yoder told CNS from his office in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. "Here are sisters that have committed their lives to living their faith and part of that is to care for the earth and use their own land in a way that is critical to their faith.

"To have a multibillion-dollar private company to force its way onto your own property and use the federal government to do so seems counter to the basic principles that the country stands for," he said. "The sisters are grieving that they're going to have the pipeline on their land."

Yoder is unsure if any other legal avenues remain for the sisters to explore. He said the option for the Adorers to seek monetary damages for the pipeline's construction seemed to have been left open by the federal court.

I'm not sure it's something we can pursue," he said, "but we're going to examine it."

Despite the denial, Sister McCann said the effort had been "God-led."

"We've learned about this whole thing, what religious women are learning and relearning, is what it means to live the common life, what it means to live in community, especially these days when our world seems to be so at odds with each other," she told CNS.

"Perhaps that's a call for all religious women or communities like Lancaster Against Pipelines, all of us, how we can use that gift of community."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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Tolton sainthood cause advances; next step would be 'venerable' decree

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 1:40pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Chicago Catholic

By Joyce Duriga

CHICAGO (CNS) -- The canonization cause for Father Augustus Tolton is just one step away from going to Pope Francis for the priest to be declared "venerable."

On Feb. 5, the feast of St. Agatha, a nine-member Vatican theological commission unanimously voted that Father Tolton's cause be moved forward to the cardinals and archbishops in the Congregation for Saints' Causes for a final vote to send a decree of the priest's "heroic virtues" to Pope Francis for his approval.

Upon the promulgation of that decree, Father Tolton would receive the title "venerable," which indicates he lived the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance at a heroic level.

The next steps would be beatification and canonization. In general, one miracle attributed to the sainthood candidate's intercession is needed for beatification, and a second such miracle is needed for canonization.

Father Tolton, the first African-American to be ordained a Catholic priest for the United States, was born into slavery, ordained in 1886 in Rome because no U.S. seminary would take him and died serving in Chicago in 1897.

Father James Healy (1830-1900) is considered by some to be the first black U.S. Catholic priest in the U.S. He was biracial; his father was Irish. Born in Georgia, he was ordained in 1854 in Paris for ministry in the U.S. He later became a bishop, heading the Diocese of Portland, Maine.

If canonized, Father Tolton would be the nation's first African-American saint.

"Father Tolton's story represents the long and rich history of African-American Catholics, who have lived through troubling chapters and setbacks in our American history," said Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry, archdiocesan postulator for the cause.

"Lessons from his early life as a slave and the prejudice he endured in becoming a priest still apply today with our current problems of racial and social injustices and inequities that divide neighborhoods, churches and communities by race, class and ethnicity. His work isn't done. We will continue to honor his life and legacy of goodness, inclusivity, empathy and resolve in how we treat one another."

Bishop Perry said unexplained physical healings have been reported to the cause and are under investigation.

The Archdiocese of Chicago formally opened Father Tolton's cause for canonization in 2010.

Norbertine Father Gerard Jordan holds the canonical title "promoter of the cause" and travels the country sharing the message of Father Tolton and the canonization efforts on behalf of Bishop Perry.

He said Father Tolton's story transcends the lines of race, gender and priesthood.

"If we start with the black part, then it's just a nice Black History Month story. If we start from the priesthood part you only include the ordained," Father Jordan told the Chicago Catholic, the archdiocesan newspaper. "First off, he didn't start off as a black man or an ordained priest. The first thing that Tolton was was a created child of God. You gotta start there."

"The first experience Tolton would have recognized, and it would have had a physical and spiritual effect on him, was his baptism," Father Jordan said. "If we connect with his baptism, then everybody is included and can relate to his story."

All the baptized are connected, he said.

"The baptism of Tolton tells the real story that we're supposed to be paying attention to and that's the story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Father Jordan said. "Everything that Tolton experienced in life is the Gospel story."

Father Tolton had great love for the church, the people of God.

"He saw himself connected to the church who loved him. His mother, Martha Jane, was his physical mother but his spiritual mother was very real to him," Father Jordan said. "He said himself that the Catholic Church was the only thing that would help him to beat the double slavery of his mind and his body."

In his lifetime, Father Tolton also talked about how his mother the church took him as a poor slave to become fully who he was in the eyes of God.

"Everybody has to realize that the greatest inheritance we will ever receive is our baptism," Father Jordan said. "It is your decision whether or not you're going to keep that inheritance and invest in it or whether you're going to squander it or give it away or abandon it. Tolton never abandoned his inheritance."

His story begins and ends there, the priest said.

"Once people relate to Tolton's baptism they will find pieces of their life that they can relate too."

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Duriga is editor of Chicago Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

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Update: Blaming homosexuality for abuse of minors is distraction, victims say

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 9:40am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

ROME (CNS) -- People must stop using homosexuals as scapegoats for the sexual abuse of children, two male survivors of abuse by priests told reporters.

"To make this link between homosexuality and pedophilia is absolutely immoral, it is unconscionable and has to stop," said Peter Isely, a survivor and founding member of the survivor's group SNAP.

Speaking to reporters outside the Vatican press office Feb. 18, he said: "No matter what your sexual orientation is, if you've committed a criminal act against a child, you're a criminal. That's the designation that counts. Period."

Isely and other survivors were in Rome to speak with the media ahead of a Vatican summit Feb. 21-24 on child protection in the Catholic Church.

Phil Saviano, who founded SNAP's New England chapter and is a board member of BishopsAccountability.org, told reporters Feb. 19 that he felt "there has been a lot of scapegoating of homosexual men as being child predators."

To lay the blame for the abuse of children on homosexuality "tells me that they really don't understand" the problem and have made a claim "that is not based on any source of reality."

"I will admit that if a priest is abusing a 16-, 17- or 18-year-old boy, that part of the element that is going on there is homosexuality, but that is not the root of the problem" of abuse by clergy, he said at an event at the Foreign Press Association in Rome.

Saviano was a prepubescent boy when he was abused by Father David A. Holley of Worcester, Massachusetts, and he said, very often, a perpetrator is no longer "interested" in his victim when the child goes through puberty.  

Saviano, whose story of abuse triggered the Boston Globe investigation and was featured in the film Spotlight, said he hears from victims from all over the world "and many of them are women who were abused as children."

"Trying to lump it all together under homosexually," he said, is "a dodge" and will not "lead to a proper solution."

"It is also an insult to all the women who have been sexually abused as children," he added.

U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke and German Cardinal Walter Brandmuller released an open letter Feb. 19, urging the Vatican summit to take up the theme of homosexuality in the priesthood and other evidence of a more general questioning of traditional Catholic morality.

With the summit, they said, it seems that the "difficulty" in the church "is reduced to that of the abuse of minors, a horrible crime, especially when it is perpetrated by a priest, which is, however, only part of a much greater crisis. The plague of the homosexual agenda has been spread within the church, promoted by organized networks and protected by a climate of complicity and a conspiracy of silence."

The report of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on clergy abuse in the Catholic Church in the United States found there was no "causative relationship" between either celibacy or homosexuality and the sexual assault of children by church members.

The report concluded clerical sexual abuse of children was more a crime of opportunity with abusers violating whomever they had more unsupervised access to -- regardless of age and gender -- and that abusive priests almost always had more access to boys.

Barbara Dorris, a survivor and former executive director of SNAP, told reporters in Rome Feb. 19 that in the past 17 years, she has spoken to "thousands, thousands of victims" and close to half of them were women.

"Survivors only come forward when they feel they will be believed, when they feel they can get help or when reporting the crimes will make a change, when it will help others protect children," she said. "Most of the stories in the media in the past have been about the altar boys; the abuse of women and girls has not been the focus of coverage and when it has, unfortunately, words like 'affair' and 'relationship' have been used."

Too many women feel they will not be believed or "will be blamed" as having tempted a priest, Dorris said. "It's a vicious cycle," because victims speak up when they see other victims have been believed.

Framing the abuse crisis "as a homosexual issue," she said, takes the focus away from "the real issue, which is criminal sexual assault."

Focusing on homosexuality also "acts as a smokescreen; people now are discussing homosexuality, rather than the crimes themselves," she said. Pretending clerical sexual abuse is a result of homosexuality in the priesthood "automatically removes the women from the discussion and, magically, half the victims have been made to disappear."

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Contributing to this story was Liam McIntyre in Rome.

 

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