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Updated: 48 min 7 sec ago

Catholic psychologist, abuse survivor, offers abuse advice for families

Tue, 08/28/2018 - 12:45pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Clodagh Kilcoyne, Reuters

By Zita Ballinger Fletcher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After recent reports describing clergy sex abuse, Paul Peloquin, a Catholic clinical psychologist and a clergy abuse survivor, shared advice for victims and their families.

"For Catholics who have been abused by a priest or clergy, it's doubly difficult because they have not only been psychologically traumatized, but spiritually traumatized," Peloquin told Catholic News. "Unless that is addressed, healing is very difficult."

His work as a Catholic psychologist is tied to his own journey as an abuse survivor.

"I'm a survivor myself," said Peloquin, who is based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "I left the church for over 30 years. I thought I had the perfect justification. I totally rejected the church and walked away."

Peloquin overcame the effects of the abuse by reclaiming his faith and helping fellow victims in his professional life as a psychologist. Once suffering from spiritual doubt, he now works to promote spiritual healing.

"If one says, 'the Catholic Church is bad' or 'all priests are bad,' that's too broad of a brushstroke. They're not," said Peloquin, who struggled with his beliefs for a long time. "I thought that way for a while."

His decision to return to Catholicism was difficult. It resulted from experiences that changed his perspectives over time.

"I came to a point in my life where I came to my senses and realized I wasn't finding what I was looking for in life -- that there was a great spiritual void," Peloquin said. "My heart started to soften over a period of time. It took many years."

He started going to church while escorting his terminally ill father to daily Mass. Peloquin did not attend to worship, but attended out of a sense of duty and obligation.

As time passed, Peloquin sought out a one-on-one experience with God -- not in a busy parish, but in the isolation of a Benedictine monastery in the mountains. He said he was able to develop his personal faith in God while experiencing the beauty of nature.

Peloquin said that going to a church can trigger traumatic memories for victims. He advised survivors to seek spiritual healing in a place where they feel peace.

"If people can find a way to be quiet and still, the Lord wants to reach out to them," he said.

He said that while many survivors feel the need to vent their anger, it is only a first step in the healing process. Peloquin also does not believe that money awarded in damages can restore victims to spiritual and emotional wholeness.

"If people say, 'Well, I'm just going to get money,' that's not going to heal anything," Peloquin said. "We're talking about a psychological and spiritual wound."

He advised parents to seek help from police or professional counselors if their child discloses sexual abuse.

"I would recommend that the parents get a consult with someone who is familiar with this, to see if they could ask the right questions, how they should react and how they are reacting," he said. "Don't go off and attack a priest or a teacher without getting the support of a professional."

Professionals trained to interview children can often uncover details that parents cannot, while still being sensitive to the needs of the child.

"Oftentimes abuse is committed by someone that is known by the family members," he said.

While most parents react emotionally because of disbelief or anger, Peloquin said it is important to keep calm. Open-mindedness, a caring demeanor and good listening skills prevent a child from "shutting down," he explained.

Many children hesitate to come forward because of fear that no one will believe them. Children who have been seduced over a period of time also feel guilty about being abused. Peloquin said parents must not allow their religious or personal views get in the way of listening to their child.

"The child needs to feel that they're respected and protected in all things," he said.

The psychologist said children should be educated about appropriate and inappropriate types of touching. Kids also should be encouraged to speak to a parent, teacher or other responsible adult if they feel uncomfortable with a particular adult. Doing so, Peloquin said, will enable children to recognize inappropriate behavior and not be seduced into an unwanted relationship. Children should also be encouraged to vocalize their concerns to others.

In advice to fellow Catholics who are struggling emotionally because of clergy sex abuse, Peloquin said panic is not the right response.

"Most priests are good people, but there are some who aren't," he said. "We need the priests. We don't have the sacraments without the priests. But we need good priests, who want to live the life of the priesthood and as servants."

Peloquin said that during his years as a professional psychologist, he has never seen any harm resulting from parents supporting and listening to their child. Problems arise, he said, when parents are close-minded.

"If parents deny it and say, 'this can never happen,' that's very harmful."

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NRB: Change in church's culture, including bishops, needed to end abuse

Tue, 08/28/2018 - 12:38pm

IMAGE: CNS photo illustration/Rick Musacchio, Tennessee Register

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- More committees are not the answer to stop the abuse of children and vulnerable adults by clergy, said an Aug. 28 statement by the National Review Board, which is charged with addressing clerical sexual misconduct in the Catholic Church.

"What needs to happen is a genuine change in the church's culture, specifically among the bishops themselves," the board said. "This evil has resulted from a loss of moral leadership and an abuse of power that led to a culture of silence that enabled these incidents to occur.

"Intimidation, fear, and the misuse of authority created an environment that was taken advantage of by clerics, including bishops, causing harm to minors, seminarians, and those most vulnerable," the NRB said. "The culture of silence enabled the abuse to go on virtually unchecked. Trust was betrayed for the victims/survivors of the abuse; the entire body of Christ was betrayed in turn by these crimes and the failure to act."

The purpose of the NRB, established in 2002 as part of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, is to work collaboratively with the U.S. bishops' Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People in preventing the sexual abuse of minors in the United States by persons in the service of the church.

But even the charter that created the NRB is wanting, the board's statement said.

"The members of the NRB have on numerous occasions pointed out the weaknesses in the charter given its deliberate ambiguity and its lack of inclusion of bishops. During the most recent revision process of the charter, many of the recommendations made by the NRB to strengthen the charter were not incorporated for a variety of reasons. These recommendations need to be reconsidered in light of the current situation, as well as the inclusion of bishops in the charter," the NRB said.

"The National Review Board has for several years expressed its concern that bishops not become complacent in their response to sexual abuse by the clergy. The recent revelations make it clear that the problem is much deeper."

The statement said, "The episcopacy needs to be held accountable for these past actions, and in the future, for being complicit, either directly or indirectly, in the sexual abuse of the vulnerable. Holding bishops accountable will require an independent review into the actions of the bishop when an allegation comes to light."

The statement added, "The NRB also believes that the statement of Episcopal Commitment is ineffective and needs to be revised into a meaningful, actionable commitment.

"In particular, the notion of 'fraternal correction' must outline concrete steps that will be taken when a bishop is alleged to have committed sexual abuse or has failed to respond immediately and without hesitation when a cleric is accused of sexual abuse," it said.

"To ensure that bishops undertake their obligation to act decisively when they have knowledge of incidences of sexual abuse committed by the clergy or their brother bishops, there must be substantive formation of newly appointed bishops on their responsibility as moral leaders within the church, especially in responding to sexual abuse, something which is currently lacking.

The NRB offered itself as the body with which to entrust an independent review of allegations against bishops, as outlined by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops.

"The NRB, composed exclusively of lay members, would be the logical group to be involved in this task," it said. "An anonymous whistleblower policy, as is found in corporations, higher education and other institutions in both the public and private sector, that would be independent of the hierarchy with participation by the laity, perhaps the NRB, who would report allegations to the local bishop, local law enforcement, the nuncio and Rome, needs to be established immediately."

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Trinidad's First Peoples were also nation's first Catholics

Tue, 08/28/2018 - 12:14pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Laura Ann Phillips

By Laura Ann Phillips

ARIMA, Trinidad (CNS) -- Past small family-owned businesses and homes tightly packed into well-worn streets, a procession of just over 300 St. Rose of Lima devotees snaked through the semi-rural borough of Arima, 45 miles southeast of the capital.

In its middle, a five-foot statue of the saint rode, elevated on a wooden, rose-framed litter at the back of a flatbed truck. For centuries, St. Rose has been a bridge between the Catholic Church and Trinidad's First Peoples -- an assortment of Amerindian tribes that inhabited the island for at least 6,000 years before Christopher Columbus stumbled upon them in 1498.

A wizened woman, a blend of East Indian and one of the nearly disappeared Amerindian tribes, walked in front of the saint-bearing truck as closely as the safety marshals allowed, holding aloft a matte-cream, plastic vase crammed with oversized pale pink artificial blooms.

Several names, neatly handwritten in fine black marker, covered the vase's surface: people alive and dead for whom she needed the saint's favors. When the statue was returned to its home in the St. Rose Parish Church, that vase was the first to be ensconced at the saint's feet.

"Santa Rosa is like mother to them," explained First Peoples Chief Ricardo Bharath Hernandez. "The faith and devotion people have placed in this saint has worked miracles for them."

Devotion some find objectionable, since Catholicism was brought by the Spanish, who decimated most of the island's indigenous tribes.

The Spanish didn't settle in Trinidad until 1592. About 40,000 indigenous people of varying tribes lived on the island, and there was light trading and a tenuous peace for some time. But, when Spain's encomienda system was introduced around 1644, Amerindian labor was seized.

The Nepuyo tribe of Arima mounted the strongest resistance, their Chief Hyarima leading a force effective enough to slow Spanish occupation of the island's north for decades.

Some Amerindians, though, were converted early by the Capuchins who staffed missions erected throughout the island, each dedicated to a particular saint; Arima's was dedicated to St. Rose. The newly baptized doffed their traditional names for that of their estate owner or the baptizing priest. This is why so many local Amerindian descendants carry Spanish names, said Hernandez. Records recovered from the missions have helped some people trace their tribal roots.

Still, it is nearly impossible to find pure-blooded descendants of any of the original tribes today; some think none exist. What was left of them dissolved, over the centuries, into Trinidad's myriad ethnicities.

Some find it difficult to wholeheartedly embrace the Catholic Church and its practices. Others find power in both.

"My Lord and my savior is Jesus Christ, his son, and that will never change," said Hilary Bernard, a dentist and First Peoples descendant.

In First Peoples' prayer, she noted, "The name Tamushi is given to almighty God. It's Taino, which is one of the Arawak languages, and it means, 'creator of the universe', 'almighty God.'"

Bernard is also a member of the Catholic charismatic prayer group that's heavily involved in youth ministry and social outreach.

"There's no separation for me, really. There's nothing to reconcile."

The First Peoples' "commitment to prayer and allowing prayer to transform and inform their lives is a very important thing," said Msgr. Christian Pereira, a former St. Rose parish priest for several years.

"They have a very deep relationship to the earth and the universe, which is their essential relationship of the Divine Spirit of the Holy One."

Western religions have allowed themselves to "become divorced from the universe," Msgr. Pereira said. "Pope Francis has tried to pull us back in "Laudato Si'," to remind us that the (Creator is present in all elements of the) earth, and the universe is the seat of the Creator."

The Amerindian devotion to St. Rose can be traced to a 17th-century legend which some call a miracle, others the oppressor's cunning.

Amerindian hunters were in the hills and found a girl alone there. She was dumb, so they took her back to the village. That night, she disappeared, but she was found again in the forest the next day. They brought her back to the settlement, but she disappeared that night, too. The next day, when she was found, the people took her to the mission priest. He told them the mysterious girl was the manifested spirit of St. Rose and, after that night, would not return. Sure enough, the girl was never seen again.

The daughter of Chief Hyarima later became Catholic, followed by many of their peoples. The First Peoples' Carib queen, the community's titular head throughout the years, is said to be her descendant.

"Now, there are oral traditions, and there is the practical thing," stated Chief Hernandez, "because there are similar stories in other indigenous communities of the region where the Catholics took possession."

Still, he defends his community when their devotion to the saint and Catholicism are criticized by internal and external groups.

"I tell them we must remember that, for over 200 years, this has become part of the people's tradition and culture," said Hernandez. "The Santa Rosa festival allowed them a space to practice their indigenous culture."

For more than 230 years of the feast's celebration, following the Mass and procession, all assembled at the park in front of the church, where the First Peoples share their traditional dances, rituals, food, games and craft. Today, it is a modest food and craft operation run jointly by the parish and First Peoples with a more modern lean.

Still, their community's festival preparations are robust. On Aug. 1, a conch shell -- the shell of a large ocean mollusk -- is blown, a religious ceremony performed in the hills, and cannons fired. During the weeks following, the women prepare decorative roses, buntings and flags, with separate duties for the men. The community also participates in the parish novena.

"The First Peoples existed long before Jesus Christ was born," said Msgr. Pereira. "They hold the presence of the Great Spirit in nature all around them in reverence and, to this day, recognize God's presence in wider creation, as well as the particular presence of God in the person of Jesus Christ in our Catholic Church."

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USCCB president seeks papal audience, answers to former nuncio's questions

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 3:20pm


WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said he was "eager for an audience" with Pope Francis to gain his support for the bishops' plan to respond to the clergy sexual abuse crisis.

In an Aug. 27 statement, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston also said that the questions raised by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former nuncio to the United States, in a letter published by two Catholic media outlets "deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence."

"Without those answers, innocent men may be tainted by false accusations and the guilty may be left to repeat the sins of the past," the cardinal said.

In his 11-page letter, published Aug. 26, Archbishop Vigano accused church officials, including Pope Francis, of failing to act on accusations of abuse of conscience and power by now-Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick. Archbishop Vigano claimed he told Pope Francis about Cardinal McCarrick in 2013.

Archbishop Vigano, who served as nuncio to the United States from 2011 to 2016, wrote that he was compelled to write his knowledge of Archbishop McCarrick's misdeeds because "corruption has reached the very top of the church's hierarchy."

In his statement, Cardinal DiNardo reiterated an Aug. 16 call for an apostolic visitation, working with a national lay commission granted independent authority, to investigate the "many questions surround Archbishop McCarrick."

He also said he convened members of the USCCB Executive Committee Aug. 26 and that they "reaffirmed the call for a prompt and thorough examination into how the grave moral failings of a brother bishop could have been tolerated for so long and proven no impediment to his advancement."

The plan earlier outlined by Cardinal DiNardo also called for detailed proposals to make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier and improve procedures for resolving complaints against bishops.

Cardinal DiNardo again apologized to abuse survivors and their families. "You are no longer alone," he said.

The statement explained how since 2002, professionally trained staff have worked with the U.S. church to support survivors and prevent future abuse. He pointed to the steps the church has put in place in response to abuse including the zero-tolerance policy regarding clergy abuse: safe environment training in diocesan offices, parishes and schools, background checks for church workers and volunteers working around children, victim assistance coordinators, prompt reporting to civil authorities and diocesan lay review boards.

"In other ways, we have failed you. This is especially true for adults being sexually harassed by those in positions of power, and for any abuse or harassment perpetuated by a bishop," Cardinal DiNardo said.

"We will do better. The more she is buffeted by storms, the more I am reminded that the church's firm foundation is Jesus Christ. The failures of men cannot diminish the light of the Gospel."

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Puerto Rico getting back on feet 'step by step,' but long road remains

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 11:57am

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Knights of Columbus

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Nearly a year ago, Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico as a category 4 storm, and afterward 11-year-old Marco Lebron's first thought was about the monks who teach at his school, Benedictine-run San Antonio Abad School and Abbey in Humacao.

"A few days after the hurricane I just think my school is in the middle of the forest, they're monks, and they're elderly, they're retired," Marco said. "And I just told my dad, 'Hey, let's see if they're OK.'"

The monks have their own well but without electricity they couldn't get water from it, said Benedictine Abbot Oscar Rivera. "It was hurricane like I've never seen before. Basically, all your fundamental necessities, like water, were gone. ... We felt totally helpless."

Helping the monks get water was one of the first things Marco and his father, Jose Lebron-Sanabria, set out to do in those first days after Maria; that and take care of their own family's water needs. Lebron-Sanabria and his wife, Christina, also have a daughter, Natalia, 2.

He had even more people to help as a member of the Knights of Columbus and general insurance agent for the fraternal organization.

"We are getting back on our feet step by step," Lebron-Sanabria told Catholic News Service in a phone interview from Humacao. As of Aug. 14, nearly 11 months after the storm, 100 percent of the customers who lost power have had electricity restored, ABC News reported.

But the needs are still great, especially for food, water and major home repair, he said. "Everybody is doing a lot -- church, government, entities from around the world coming to help us." By mid-summer, he saw real improvement. "But we still have a long way to go," he added.

Lebron-Sanabria, Marco and Abbot Rivera recalled what conditions were like immediately after Maria hit Sept. 20 in interviews for a Knights of Columbus video in its "Everyday Heroes" online series. The Knights were among the entities donating funds for Puerto Rico's recovery; relief for the island was part of the $7.5 million the organization gave in disaster aid in 2017.

In the video other Knights describe what life is like post-Maria and the kind of material help they and others have pitched in on to help their fellow residents.

"All Puerto Ricans will live differently after Hurricane Maria," said one. "It felt as though something had been taken from us. It was though we had lost something."

In a report to Congress in August, Puerto Rican officials put the death toll at 1,427, with most of the deaths coming in the days and weeks after the storm. With emergency services stretched and transportation hindered by downed power linings blocking the roads, people could not get needed medical attention and perished.

Lebron-Sanabria has been a Knight since 2011 and became an insurance agent in 2014. Three years later the Knights named him general agent for Puerto Rico. In that role he became a central leader in relief efforts after Maria.

"My job as general agent is to take care of people with good financial advice so they can protect their family's economic future," he said. "The first thing I had to do after the hurricane was to make sure the members were alive, that they were safe and that my field agents were well enough to take care of the other members."

Jose's brother, Hector Lebron-Sanabria, who is one of those field agents, said in the "Heroes" video that since Hurricane Maria, "every week we are cooking 500, 600, 400 hot dinners for the affected people here in Patillas."

Added Hector Lebron-Lopez: "There is still a lot of poverty in the mountain area of Puerto Rico and Hurricane Maria emphasized that even more. For people who do not have usually have easy access to food and supplies it has now become even more difficult to have access to them."

Jose Lebron-Sanabria told CNS he has never experienced anything before like Hurricane Maria and the devastation is caused to the island. "(What) we've been through is very difficult to express," he said.

He feels his lifelong Catholic faith has helped him stay strong and truly believes feels Knights founder Father Michael McGivney has been looking out for all of them.

Son Marco also motivated him. "(He) was the guy who that pushed me through all of this. He's a Boy Scout -- he wanted to help with everything."

Last but not least is wife Christina. "I don't know what would happen if she was not side by side with me in this crisis," he said. "She is the real hero."

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Pope says he trusts people to judge archbishop's claims about him

Sun, 08/26/2018 - 7:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM DUBLIN (CNS) -- Pope Francis said Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano's long document calling on him to resign is written in a way that people should be able to draw their own conclusions.

"I read the statement this morning and, sincerely, I must say this to you and anyone interested: Read that statement attentively and make your own judgment," he told reporters Aug. 26. "I think the statement speaks for itself, and you have a sufficient journalistic ability to make a conclusion."

Speaking to reporters traveling back to Rome with him from Dublin, the pope said his lack of comment was "an act of faith" in people reading the document. "Maybe when a bit of time has passed, I'll talk about it."

Asked directly when he first learned of the former Cardinal McCarrick's sexual abuse, Pope Francis said the question was related directly to Archbishop Vigano's report and he would not comment now.

Archbishop Vigano, the former nuncio to the United States, claimed he told Pope Francis about Cardinal McCarrick in 2013.

In June, the Vatican announced that the pope had ordered the former Washington archbishop to live in "prayer and penance" while a canonical process proceeds against him. The pope later accepted Archbishop McCarrick's resignation from the College of Cardinals.

The issue of clerical sexual abuse and other crimes and mistreatment of minors and vulnerable adults by Catholic priests and religious and the attempts by bishops and superiors to cover up the facts dominated the news coverage of the pope's trip to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families.

The pope said his meeting Aug. 25 with survivors of abuse was "very painful," but it was very important "to listen to these people."

Marie Collins, a survivor and former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, told reporters after the meeting that she is still concerned that the pope has not established a tribunal to investigate and hold accountable bishops accused of failing to protect minors and covering up abuse.

Pope Francis said while he likes and admires Collins, "she is fixated" on the accountability tribunal, and he believes he has found a more efficient and flexible way to investigate and try suspected bishops by setting up temporary tribunals when needed.

The pope then went on to describe how "many bishops" had been investigated and tried, most recently Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron of Agana, Guam. In March an ad hoc apostolic tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found him guilty of "certain accusations."

Pope Francis said the archbishop has appealed the conviction and, while he has asked some canon lawyers for input, he plans to make the final judgment on the archbishop's case himself.

But the archbishop was accused of sexually abusing minors; the tribunal Collins was talking about was supposed to look specifically at bishops accused of covering up cases of abuse.

The pope immediately welcomed one of the suggestions made during the meeting with survivors: that he ask publicly and very specifically for forgiveness for the abuse that took place in a variety of Catholic institutions. The result was a penitential litany at the beginning of the Mass he celebrated in Dublin Aug. 26 to close the World Meeting of the Families.

Pope Francis said the survivors' meeting was the first time he had heard details about the church-run homes for women who were pregnant out of wedlock. Many of the women were forced to give their babies up for adoption and were even told that it would be a "mortal sin" to go looking for their children.

The now-notorious St. Mary's home for unmarried mothers and their children in Tuam was a specific case brought to the pope's attention personally by Katherine Zappone, Irish minister for children and youth affairs.

Pope Francis told reporters that Zappone had given him a memo about a "mass grave" found on the site of one of the homes and "it appears that the church was involved."

In May 2014 a local amateur historian in Tuam claimed that between 1925 and 1961, 796 infants died in St. Mary's home. She found burial records only for two of the children. The rest, she believed, were buried in a common grave on the site, including in a former septic tank. The home was run by the Bon Secours congregation of nuns.

The Irish government is still in the process of trying to determine the best way to remember the victims and decide what to do with the Tuam site.

Asked by reporters what lay Catholics can do about the clerical abuse scandal, Pope Francis responded, "When you see something, say something immediately," preferably to someone with the authority to investigate and stop it.

The role of the media is important for getting the truth out, he said, but journalists should be careful to write about accusations "always with the presumption of innocence, not a presumption of guilt."

He pleaded with Catholic parents to listen to their children, even if the thought of a priest abusing them is horrifying. Stating again that he often meets on Fridays with survivors of abuse, he told reporters, "I met a woman who has suffered with this wound for 40 years because her parents would not believe her."

During the inflight news conference, Pope Francis also was asked about Ireland's legalization of gay marriage and what advice he would give the parent of a gay child.

"What would I say to a parent whose son or daughter had that tendency? I would say first, pray. Don't condemn. Dialogue, understand, make room for that son or daughter, make room so he can express himself," the pope said.

"I would never say silence is a remedy," he said. And "to ignore one's son or daughter who has a homosexual tendency is a failure of fatherhood or motherhood."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

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Update: Pope begins Mass in Dublin with penitential plea for abuse scandals

Sun, 08/26/2018 - 12:21pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

DUBLIN (CNS) -- Before celebrating Mass in a Dublin park, Pope Francis solemnly asked forgiveness for the thousands of cases of sexual and physical abuse perpetrated by Catholics in Ireland.

"We ask forgiveness for the abuse in Ireland, abuse of power and of conscience, sexual abuse" by clergy and religious, he said Aug. 26. "In a special way, we ask forgiveness for all the abuse committed in the different institutions run by religious men and religious women and other members of the church."

In a litany of recognition and prayers for the Lord's mercy, Pope Francis formally asked forgiveness for the forced labor that even children were forced to perform in church institutions.

And, responding to a request made by two survivors he had met Aug. 25, the pope asked forgiveness for all the babies taken from their unwed mothers and put up for adoption without their mothers consent.

The mothers were told later it would be a "mortal sin" for them to try to find the children, but the pope said explicitly: "It is not a mortal sin. It is the Fourth Commandment," which states, "Honor your father and your mother."

"We apologize for some members of the hierarchy who did not own up to these painful situations and remained silent," he said. "We ask for forgiveness."

The pope's penitential plea followed the introductory remarks of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, who told the pope, "The Church in Ireland has gone through challenging times. People have been wounded in the depth of their being by church people; people's faith has been challenged and the church of Jesus Christ has been wounded."

"Faith in Ireland is strong," he said, and "faith in Ireland is fragile," but that is not necessarily a surprise. "There is an intrinsic fragility in faith can steer us away from arrogance and self-centeredness."

The Mass was the official closing of the World Meeting of Families, and Pope Francis used his homily to urge families from around the world to harness their joy and use it to transform the world into a place where all people feel loved, welcomed and supported in their commitments to each other.

"The church as a whole is called to 'go forth' to bring the words of eternal life to all the peripheries of our world," the pope told tens of thousands of people gathered in a slightly sodden Phoenix Park.

A view of the crowd from the altar was that of a mosaic of brightly colored rain gear flapping in the wind. But even close to the altar platform there were large open spaces set aside for people who never arrived.

At the end of his homily, Pope Francis urged each person present -- "parents and grandparents, children and young people, men and women, religious brothers and sisters, contemplatives and missionaries, deacons and priests" -- to share "the Gospel of the family as joy for the world!"

The Catholic teaching on marriage and family life is often challenging and not universally accepted, he said, but Jesus himself promised that his words "are spirit and life."

In fact, he said, it is the Holy Spirit who "constantly breathes new life into our world, into our hearts, into our families, into our homes and parishes. Each new day in the life of our families, and each new generation, brings the promise of a new Pentecost, a domestic Pentecost, a fresh outpouring of the Spirit, the paraclete, whom Jesus sends as our advocate, our consoler and indeed our encourager."

The world needs such encouragement, the pope said, and laypeople in families are the best ones to give it.

In St. Paul, in his Letter to the Ephesians, describes marriage as "a sharing in the mystery of Christ's undying fidelity to his bride, the church," he said. "Yet this teaching, as magnificent as it is, can appear to some as a 'hard saying.' Because living in love, even as Christ loved us, entails imitating his own self-sacrifice, dying to ourselves in order to be reborn to a greater and more enduring love."

That self-giving love, he said, is the only thing that "can save our world from its bondage to sin, selfishness, greed and indifference to the needs of the less fortunate."

Self-giving love is what Christians learn from Jesus. Self-giving love "became incarnate in our world through a family," he said, and "through the witness of Christian families in every age it has the power to break down every barrier in order to reconcile the world to God and to make us what we were always meant to be: a single human family dwelling together in justice, holiness and peace."

Pope Francis said participants, filled with enthusiasm after the World Meeting of Families, also need to "humbly acknowledge that, if we are honest with ourselves, we, too, can find the teachings of Jesus hard."

For instance, he said, "how difficult it is always to forgive those who hurt us; how challenging always to welcome the migrant and the stranger; how painful joyfully to bear disappointment, rejection or betrayal; how inconvenient to protect the rights of the most vulnerable, the unborn or the elderly, who seem to impinge upon our own sense of freedom."

But that is when Catholics must affirm that they believe and will follow the Lord, Pope Francis told them.

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Former U.S. nuncio alleges broad cover-up of McCarrick's misdeeds

Sun, 08/26/2018 - 11:14am

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A former apostolic nuncio to the United States accused church officials, including Pope Francis, of failing to act on accusations of abuse of conscience and power by now-Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick.

In an open letter first published by Lifesite News and National Catholic Register Aug. 26, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who served as nuncio to the United States from 2011-2016, wrote that he was compelled to write his knowledge of Archbishop McCarrick's misdeeds because "corruption has reached the very top of the church's hierarchy."

Archbishop Vigano confirmed to the Washington Post Aug. 26 that he wrote the letter and said he would not comment further. Despite repeated requests from journalists, the Vatican had not responded to the allegations by midday Aug. 26.

Throughout the 11-page testimony, which was translated by a Lifesite News correspondent, the former nuncio made several claims and accusations against prominent church officials, alleging they belong to "a homosexual current" that subverted church teaching on homosexuality.

Citing the rights of the faithful to "know who knew and who covered up (Archbishop McCarrick's) grave misdeeds," Archbishop Vigano named nearly a dozen former and current Vatican officials who he claimed were aware of the accusations.

Archbishop Vigano criticized Pope Francis for not taking action against Cardinal McCarrick after he claimed he told the pope of the allegations in 2013. However, he did not make any criticism of St. John Paul II, who appointed Archbishop McCarrick to lead the Archdiocese of Washington and made him a cardinal in 2001.

According to the former nuncio's testimony, the Vatican was informed in 2000 of allegations that Archbishop McCarrick "shared his bed with seminarians" by two former U.S. nuncios -- Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo and Archbishop Pietro Sambi. This corresponds to remarks by Father Boniface Ramsey, pastor of St. Joseph's Church Yorkville in New York City, who told Catholic News Service earlier in August he had written a letter "and it didn't seem to go anywhere."

Archbishop Vigano said that in 2006, as the official in the Secretariat of State that coordinated relations with nunciatures around the world, he sent two memos recommending that the Holy See "intervene as soon as possible by removing the cardinal's hat from Cardinal McCarrick and that he should be subjected to the sanctions established by the Code of Canon Law."

"I was greatly dismayed at my superiors for the inconceivable absence of any measure against the cardinal, and for the continuing lack of any communication with me since my first memo in December 2006," he said.

The former nuncio claimed that Pope Benedict XVI later "imposed on Cardinal McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed on him by Pope Francis."

"I do not know when Pope Benedict took these measures against McCarrick, whether in 2009 or 2010, because in the meantime I had been transferred to the Governorate of Vatican City State, just as I do not know who was responsible for this incredible delay," he said.

Then-Cardinal McCarrick, he said, "was to leave the seminary where he was living" which, at the time, was the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Archbishop McCarrick, he added, was also "forbidden to celebrate Mass in public, to participate in public meetings, to give lectures, to travel, with the obligation of dedicating himself to a life of prayer and penance."

However, no such sanctions, which normally are made public, were announced by the Vatican at the time.

The alleged sanctions, he said, continued to be in effect when Archbishop Vigano became apostolic nuncio to the United States in 2011 and were relayed to then-Cardinal McCarrick.

"I repeated them to Cardinal McCarrick at my first meeting with him at the nunciature. The cardinal, muttering in a barely comprehensible way, admitted that he had perhaps made the mistake of sleeping in the same bed with some seminarians at his beach house, but he said this as if it had no importance," Archbishop Vigano wrote.

Archbishop Vigano also said that Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C., was the first prelate informed of the sanctions against McCarrick. He said he spoke directly to Cardinal Wuerl on several occasions and that Cardinal Wuerl "failed to acknowledge receipt of my two letters, contrary to what he customarily did."

"His recent statements that he knew nothing about it, even though at first he cunningly referred to compensation for the two victims, are absolutely laughable. The cardinal lies shamelessly and prevails upon his chancellor, Msgr. Antonicelli, to lie as well," the archbishop wrote.

He apparently was referring to Msgr. Charles V. Antonicelli, vicar general and moderator of the curia. The Washington Archdiocese chancellor is a layman, Kim Viti Fiorentino.

Contacted by Catholic News Service, Edward McFadden, secretary for communications for the Archdiocese of Washington, said: "In spite of what Archbishop Vigano's memo indicates, Cardinal Wuerl did not receive any documentation or information during his time in Washington, regarding any actions taken against Archbishop McCarrick."

He also alleged that several U.S. prelates were aware or should have known about then-Cardinal McCarrick's behavior, including retired Bishop Paul Bootkoski of Metuchen; retired Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark; Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, head of the Vatican office for laity and family and former auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C., and Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Cardinal Farrell told Catholic News Service July 24: "I was shocked, overwhelmed; I never heard any of this before in the six years I was there with him."

In a June 20 statement, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark said: "The Archdiocese of Newark has never received an accusation that Cardinal McCarrick abused a minor. In the past, there have been allegations that he engaged in sexual behavior with adults. This Archdiocese and the Diocese of Metuchen received three allegations of sexual misconduct with adults decades ago; two of these allegations resulted in settlements."

In a July 29 statement, Cardinal Wuerl said: "When the first claim against Archbishop McCarrick was filed in the Archdiocese of New York, the Archdiocese of Washington reviewed its own files and found no complaints of any kind made against Archbishop McCarrick. Further, the confidential settlements involving acts by Archbishop McCarrick in the Diocese of Metuchen and the Archdiocese of Newark were not known previously to Cardinal Wuerl or the Archdiocese."

Cardinal O'Malley has apologized for what he described as an administrative communication failure in which his secretary did not relay to him a 2015 letter from Father Ramsey about allegations against Archbishop McCarrick.

Archbishop Vigano himself has been accused of suppressing an investigation into alleged homosexual activity committed by retired Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

In a 2014 memo to St. Paul-Minneapolis Auxiliary Bishop Lee A. Piche. In the memo, Father Dan Griffith, a former delegate for Safe Environment for the archdiocese, said the former nuncio's call to end the investigation against Archbishop Nienstedt and to destroy a piece of evidence amounted to "a good old-fashioned cover-up to preserve power and avoid scandal."

Archbishop Nienstedt and Bishop Piche resigned in 2015 after the Ramsey County Attorney's Office filed criminal and civil charges against the archdiocese in its handling of sexual abuse perpetrated by former priest Curtis Wehmeyer in 2008-2011.

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Update: Families called to share joy, love, life with the world, pope says

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 6:34pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

DUBLIN (CNS) -- In a stadium of Catholic families from around the world, Pope Francis told the laypeople they are the vast majority of church members and that, without them, the church would be cold, a collection of statues.

"God wants every family to be a beacon of joy of his love to our world," the pope said Aug. 25, celebrating the Festival of Families in Dublin's Croke Park Stadium.

The Irish dance troupe Riverdance thrilled the crowd and brought a big smile to Pope Francis' face. "The Priests," a classical Irish trio of priests, performed, as did Nathan Carter, an Irish country singer, and tenor Andrea Bocelli.

Families from India, Canada, Iraq, Ireland and Burkina Faso stood on stage near the pope while pre-recorded video versions of their testimonies played.

The Canadian couple, Marissa and Aldo d'Andrea of Toronto, spoke about their 54 years of marriage, their four children and 13 grandchildren -- and one on the way.

The Iraqi couple, Enass and Sarmaad Mekhael, are refugees living in Australia. Enass' brother was Father Ragheed Aziz Ganni, a 35-year-old Chaldean Catholic priest murdered in 2007 at a parish in Mosul, Iraq.

The families, who have faced joys and heartache and have held on to each other and to their faith, are models of how each Catholic family is called to give a witness in the world to the love of God, the pope said.

"That is what holiness is all about," he said. "I like to speak of the saints next door, all those ordinary people who reflect God's presence in the life and history of the world."

Pope Francis insisted, "The vocation to love and to holiness is not something reserved for a privileged few," but is a call that comes with baptism.

One key aspect of God's love is God's willingness to forgive, and that is an essential part of family life, too, the pope said.

Every family experiences tensions and arguments, the pope said, but "sometimes you are angry and tempted to sleep in another room -- alone and apart -- but just knock on the door and say: 'Please, can I come in?' All it takes is a look, a kiss, a sweet word and everything returns to normal."

Pope Francis said the stories shared by the couples clearly show the strength and power that come from faith and from the grace of sacramental marriage.

"The love of Christ that renews all things is what makes possible marriage and a conjugal love marked by fidelity, indissolubility, unity and openness to life," he said. "God -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- created mankind in his image to share in his love, to be a family of families and to enjoy the peace that he alone can give."

Many seats in the stadium remained empty. Years of revelations of the extent of decades of physical, sexual and emotional abuse by church officials and their long-delayed response to the problem have devastated Irish Catholics, sent church attendance plummeting and contributed strongly to the waning influence of the Irish hierarchy in public discourse.

Earlier in the day, Pope Francis spent 90 minutes meeting privately with eight survivors of the abuse. One survivor, Father Patrick McCafferty, tweeted that it was "an excellent meeting in every respect."

"I think all this with the abuse is taking its toll," said Laura Egan of Dublin, who attended the Croke Park event. "I came to see the last pope in 1979. Pope Francis is a wonderful man. I do think he can bring the church through this abuse scandal, but it's those in the Vatican who need to do something about it. That insider circle has a lot of power. I think Francis can make that happen."

Paul Doherty, 53, a security guard from County Meath, told Catholic News Service, "the faith is still strong here, but this is a very different Ireland from the one Pope John Paul II visited. Hopefully this will strengthen the faith here.

Doherty, a eucharistic minister in his parish, added: "The church in Ireland needs new life, new thinking. We need to let the people speak -- about divorce, marriage, abortion, same-sex marriage. The people of Ireland have a voice. And they're using their voice."

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Contributing to this story was Gina Christian.

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Pope meets survivors of abuse in Ireland

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 4:12pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Clodagh Kilcoyne, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

DUBLIN (CNS) -- Pope Francis spent 90 minutes meeting privately with eight survivors of sexual, physical and emotional abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy or in Catholic-run schools and institutions.

The meeting took place at the Vatican nunciature in Dublin Aug. 25, the first day of Pope Francis' two-day visit to Ireland, the Vatican press office announced.

Afterward, two of the survivors published a statement describing the meeting. They said, "Pope Francis condemned corruption and cover-up within the church as 'caca' -- literally filth as one sees in a toilet, his translator clarified."

The Vatican named seven of the survivors who met with the pope and said the eighth asked to remain anonymous. Those named were: Marie Collins, a former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors; Father Patrick McCafferty, who was abused in a seminary; Father Joe McDonald; Damian O'Farrell; Paul Jude Redmond; Clodagh Malone; and Bernadette Fahy.

The sexual and physical abuse of children and vulnerable adults by clergy and religious occurred on an unprecedented scale in Ireland, leaving thousands of victims in its wake and toppling the authority and the social and political influence of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin told reporters Aug. 22 that the number of children physically, sexually and emotionally abused by Catholic clergy and in church-run institutions in Ireland was "immense." It included victims in church-run industrial schools, the Magdalene laundries, mother and baby homes and parishes.

Redmond and Malone, two of the survivors who met the pope, issued a statement afterward through their Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors. They were the ones who said the pope used the Italian word for excrement to describe the situation.

According to the statement, "Malone, who was born in St. Patrick's Mother and Baby Home in Dublin and adopted at 10 weeks old, asked the pope to clearly and publicly state that the natural mothers who lost their babies to adoption had done nothing wrong and (to) call for reconciliation and reunion for these families broken by the Catholic Church both in Ireland and around the world."

Evidence suggests that the babies of many of the unwed mothers who gave birth to their children in the Catholic-run homes were placed in adoption without the consent of the mothers.

Redmond was born in Castlepollard Mother and Baby Home, the statement said, and was adopted at 17 days. He asked Pope Francis to call on the religious orders that ran the homes "to accept their responsibilities for the horror that went on for generations in the homes."

"The pope did apologize to all of us for what happened in the homes," their statement said.

Redmond and Malone gave the pope a letter claiming some 100,000 single mothers were forcibly separated from their babies and usually were told "it was a mortal sin" to search for the children later.

"As a act of healing, Pope Francis, we ask that you make it clear to the now elderly and dying community of natural mothers and adoptees, that there is no sin in reunion and rather that it is a joyous event that should be encouraged and facilitated by the Catholic Church."

Major revelations about sexual and physical abuse in Irish Catholic institutions and how church officials covered it up started to become public in the mid-1990s. A series of judicial reports detailed a pattern of cover-up and a tendency to put the avoidance of scandal and the reputation of the church ahead of the needs of those who were abused. Four Irish bishops resigned after being criticized for their handling of abuse allegations.

When the crisis was at its high point in 2010, then-Pope Benedict XVI wrote a letter to the people of Ireland and addressed survivors directly: "You have suffered grievously, and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated. Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen."

Pope Benedict ordered an apostolic visitation of Ireland's four archdioceses, its seminaries and its religious orders.

Before the pope left Rome for Ireland, the Vatican had said the pope would meet with some survivors.

Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, told reporters that even in 2015 when Pope Francis chose Dublin as the site of the World Meeting of Families 2018, he knew that the history of abuse and the ongoing trauma it caused would be on the agenda.

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Pope acknowledges 'repugnant crimes' of abuse in Ireland

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 9:16am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

DUBLIN (CNS) -- Acknowledging the failures "of bishops, religious superiors, priests and others" in the Catholic Church to protect children from the "repugnant crimes" of physical and sexual abuse, Pope Francis began his two-day visit to Ireland.

Meeting with civil, cultural and religious leaders in Dublin Castle Aug. 25, the pope said he knew that the horrendous history of abuse and its cover-up in Ireland "has rightly given rise to outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community."

"I myself share those sentiments," the pope said.

Departing from his prepared text, Pope Francis said his letter to the people of God Aug. 20 included "commitment, a greater commitment to eliminating this scourge from the church whatever the cost."

With the welcoming ceremony held at the presidential residence rather than the airport, the mood as the pope descended the steps from his plane was subdued. Few people were on the road from the airport into the city. Close to Dublin Castle a group of teenagers held welcome signs, including one that said, "We love the pope. He gives us hope."

Before heading to the castle, Pope Francis stopped at "Aras an Uachtarain," the Irish president's residence, where planted a tree, just as St. John Paul II had done in 1979. The late pope's oak is now a mature, shade-providing tree. The Vatican press office said the pope and President Michael D. Higgins spent 15 minutes speaking privately.

Welcoming Pope Francis to Dublin Castle, Leo Varadkar, the 39-year-old prime minister or Taoiseach, acknowledged how much the Catholic Church had done over the centuries for the people of Ireland.

But he also spoke plainly of the way both the church and the Irish state failed its people, especially the most vulnerable.

"The failures of both church and state and wider society created a bitter and broken heritage for so many, leaving a legacy of pain and suffering," Varadkar said. "It is a history of sorrow and shame."

"In place of Christian charity, forgiveness and compassion, far too often there was judgment, severity and cruelty, in particular toward women and children and those on the margins," he said, citing the Magdalene laundries, where women considered promiscuous were forced to work, illegal adoptions arranged for children of unwed mothers without their consent and the sexual abuse of children by clergy.

"Wounds are still open and there is much to be done to bring about justice and truth and healing for victims and survivors," he said, before asking the pope to "use your office and influence to ensure this is done here in Ireland and across the world."

The "heart-breaking stories from Pennsylvania of brutal crimes" against children detailed in the grand jury report in mid-August and the cover-up the report described "is a story all too tragically familiar here in Ireland," the prime minister said.

"There can only be zero tolerance for those who abuse innocent children or who facilitate that abuse," he said. "We must now ensure that from words flow actions. Above all, Holy Father, I ask to you to listen to the victims."

Pope Francis, speaking after the prime minister, acknowledged how thousands were mistreated by priests and religious. "It is my hope that the gravity of the abuse scandals, which have cast light on the failings of many, will serve to emphasize the importance of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults on the part of society as a whole."

The main purpose of the pope's trip Aug. 25-26 was to join celebrations of the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families. He told reporters traveling on the plane from Rome with him that he loves spending time with families. He also told them he was pleased "to return to Ireland after 38 years. I was there almost three months (in 1980) to practice my English."

Addressing Irish leaders at Dublin Castle, the pope spoke in Italian.

Ireland has seen major changes since then-Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio studied English there. In 1995, voters approved a referendum to legalize divorce; the Good Friday agreements bringing peace to Ireland and Northern Ireland were signed in 1998; gay marriage was approved in a 2015 referendum; and in May, 66 percent of Irish voters approved a referendum to legalize divorce. The legislation is expected to be signed in the fall.

Still, Pope Francis said, Catholics have and will continue to enrich the country with the values of their faith.

"Even in Ireland's darkest hours," he said, the people "found in that faith a source of the courage and commitment needed to forge a future of freedom and dignity, justice and solidarity."

As Ireland grows more diverse, the pope said, he hoped the country would "not be forgetful of the powerful strains of the Christian message that have sustained it in the past and can continue to do so in the future."

Thanking Ireland for hosting the World Meeting of Families, the pope said the Catholic Church wants "to support families in their efforts to respond faithfully and joyfully to their God-given vocation in society."

"One need not be a prophet to perceive the difficulties faced by our families in today's rapidly evolving society," Pope Francis said, "or to be troubled by the effects that the breakdown in marriage and family life will necessarily entail for the future of our communities at every level."

"Families are the glue of society," he said. "Their welfare cannot be taken for granted, but must be promoted and protected by every appropriate means."

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As survivors find voice, church leaders wrestle with how to address issue

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 5:35pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Chaz Muth

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- Pennsylvania survivors of clergy sex abuse spent the week after the release of the grand jury report finding their voice as bishops and priests in the state wrestled with how to address the growing scandal.

Several of the survivors traveled around the state to speak publicly about their victimization at the hands of predator priests, many of whom said their "coming out" is liberating them from decades of shame.

Ed Rodgers of Bradford said he found the courage to re-emerge more than 20 years after he accused a priest of molesting him as a youth.

Though Rodgers, now 45, said he was publicly shamed by the Diocese of Erie, lay Catholics in his hometown and the state legal system in the late 1990s, he said a recent scathing grand jury report inspired him to break his silence.

A Pennsylvania grand jury report released Aug. 14 detailed more than 1,000 claims of sex abuse in six dioceses in the state going back 70 years and identified 301 priests and church workers who may have committed the crimes. The report also singled out some bishops for their improper handling of accused abusers.

Rodgers, who spoke with reporters in front of Bradford's St. Bernard Catholic Church Aug. 21, had plenty of company from others in the state who say they were sexually abused by priests.

Many of them gathered with members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, better known as SNAP, in front of diocesan buildings throughout Pennsylvania beginning Aug. 20, telling their stories, demanding changes in the statute of limitation laws, and calling for accountability from bishops and the church.

Reaction by church officials was different from diocese to diocese.

The Aug. 20 SNAP news conference at the Diocese of Pittsburgh was tense, angry and confrontational, while the Aug. 21 event at the Diocese of Erie was congenial, with gratitude expressed by the survivors who organized it.

As news camera operators jockeyed for position on the crammed Pittsburgh sidewalk to hear the survivors' testimonials, a priest who works for diocese came out of the building to listen to the speakers.

The priest's presence angered a few survivors who called Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik a "coward" for not coming out himself.

While some of the survivors engaged in respectful dialogue with Msgr. Ron Lengwin, vicar for church relations for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, others began to shout, and the scene digressed into an anger-charged event laced with profanity.

By contrast, when the same group of survivors and SNAP organizers arrived at the Diocese of Erie the next day, they were greeted by Bishop Lawrence T. Persico, who invited them to move their news conference from the sidewalk along the street, which is a good distance from the front of the building, onto the diocesan headquarters property.

When the SNAP organizers said they were not allowed onto church property, Bishop Persico assured them it was within his power to grant them permission, at which time they appreciatively accepted the invitation.

Though the survivors still made demands and called for the church not to lobby against a change in the statute of limitations laws, the tone was in striking contrast to the event in Pittsburgh and organizers told members of the media they appreciated the bishop's presence.

"I'm quite surprised," said Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest regional leader. "I have done press events in many dioceses all over the country and he is the first bishop I have ever met."

About an hour before the event began, Bishop Persico told Catholic News Service he wanted to go out and listen and his only hesitation was that he didn't want his presence to overshadow what the survivors came there to say.

Ultimately, he opted to personally let the group know they were welcomed and that he was listening, which he said he thought was important for them and for the Catholic Church.

Though Bishop Persico acknowledged the institution was reeling from the blow of the grand jury report, he said it was self-inflicted wound and that it was a moral obligation of church leaders to not only do penance for these sins, they needed to begin the healing process by listening to all of those who are suffering.

Following the event, Bishop Persico had a private meeting with Pittsburgh resident Jim VanSickle, who has accused a former teacher at Bradford Central Christian High School, Father David Poulson, of molesting him in the late 1970s.

Father Poulson was charged last May with indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children and corruption of minors, stemming from an accusation from two boys.

Like most of the survivors who testified before the grand jury, VanSickle is prevented from filing charges or bringing a lawsuit, because his accusations are nearly four decades old.

Though he had told his parents and wife about an incident involving Poulson many years ago, he didn't speak out publicly until the priest's arrest earlier this year.

"Before I started to speak out, I told my wife (Trish VanSickle), 'If I do this, I'm doing it all of the way," he told CNS. "She understood that meant media coverage and relinquishing our privacy. She was supportive, like she always is, and encouraged me to do it."

VanSickle has given countless national media interviews since the grand jury report was released and has become a very public advocate to change Pennsylvania law to allow survivors to file charges and bring civil suits against their assailants decades later.

"It took me decades to come to terms with what happened to me, and I'm being punished for that with the statute of limitations, meaning, I won't get my day in court," he said.

Though his public crusade has drawn both praise and criticism, Trish VanSickle said it's been cleansing and therapeutic for her husband, who was prone to erratic mood swings and outbursts before he came to terms with what had happened to him.

Though people are often afraid to come forward about such abuse at the hands of predator priests, they usually find tremendous relief once they do, said Father Raymond Gramata, pastor at VanSickle's boyhood parish, St. Bernard Catholic Church in Bradford.

The #MeToo movement, a social media campaign that has emboldened women to call out sexual abuse and harassment without being publicly shamed for it, has made the current climate easier for those abused by priests to come forward with less fear of repercussions, Bishop Persico said.

In the past it wasn't unusual for accusers to be publicly shamed by parishioners who rallied behind their beloved priest, questioning their honesty and motives for coming forward, he said.

"We have to stop that kind of shaming," Father Gramata said, "or else there can be no healing. The people who were harmed and damaged can't heal if that happens and the church can't heal either.

"We can't continue to sweep this under the carpet," he said. "We need to air this out and deal with it. Trust me, everyone needs to heal from this."

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Prominent Irish abuse survivor backs Cardinal O'Malley

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 2:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/John McElroy, courtesy World Meeting of Families

By Sarah Mac Donald

DUBLIN (CNS) -- Marie Collins, a survivor of Irish clerical sex abuse, has given her backing to Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley as president of the Vatican's Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

At a news conference at the World Meeting of Families Aug. 24, Collins, a former member of the Vatican commission, said the cardinal had worked "very hard" to try to achieve safeguarding changes.

"The fact that the commission has not been able to achieve anything in the last four years is not down to Cardinal O'Malley. I don't think it is fair to lay it at the door of the cardinal; it is down to the resistance within the Vatican," she said.

Collins, 71, also said Cardinal O'Malley had helped put together the accountability tribunal proposals for church leaders, which were accepted by Pope Francis but ended up being shelved due to curial resistance.

In March 2017, Collins resigned in protest over the blocking of the commission's work.

"All the other recommendations came from the commission when I was there, and Cardinal O'Malley was fully behind and part of putting them forward. So, there is no question of him being an impediment. The impediment came from within the Vatican Curia," she said.

Collins was responding to the survivor group End Clergy Abuse, which called for Cardinal O'Malley to be dismissed from the pontifical commission over its failure to deliver more far-reaching change.

Gabriel Dy-Liacco, a psychotherapist and current member of the pontifical commission, also backed Collins' view: "What we have been able to get through is because of Cardinal O'Malley largely."

Both participated in the panel on safeguarding children Aug. 24. The session at the Royal Dublin Society was moderated by Baroness Sheila Hollins, a psychiatrist and former member of the Vatican's safeguarding advisory body. Hollins replaced Cardinal O'Malley, who withdrew the previous week to concentrate on allegations of inappropriate behavior at St John's Seminary in his archdiocese.

The fourth panelist was Barbara Thorp, former head of the Office for Pastoral Support and Child Protection for the Boston Archdiocese.

Collins outlined a series of measures she would like the church to implement to keep children safe.

She later told reporters that there is "denial" in the church over clerical abuse. "It is not imaginary, there are people who would prefer to believe that there are multitudes of false allegations, which we know that there aren't."

"They also go along with the myth that it is all down to homosexual priests and they like to think it is a media campaign against the church. They also like to think that survivors like myself, who have spoken out, are just enemies of the church who want to destroy the church. It is more comfortable to think that."

During the news conference, Thorp appealed for greater transparency from church organizations. She urged Pope Francis to instruct dioceses and congregations to adopt a policy of reviewing their files and making the findings public with the names of anyone identified as having abused a child, along with their assignment history.

"We went through this process in the Archdiocese of Boston and it was very challenging, but it was critical for us to be utterly transparent. I think that is something that could move this forward," she said.

Thorp also called for action to be taken to speed up canonical trials related to clerical abuse, describing the current pace as "beyond glacial."

"It is enormously frustrating that there is no transparency about charges. We had the archbishop of Guam, who had very serious charges against him, but we never knew what the actual charges were, it was never made public." She said years passed before he was found guilty, but what he was found guilty of was not communicated.

She added that the backlog of cases has caused suffering to survivors. "I would recommend that the Holy Father appoint a special prosecutor that would take on the cases and address them and that there would be far more transparency about the actual process."

She suggested that if the Pennsylvania dioceses investigated by the attorney general had a policy of carrying out file reviews and publishing their findings, and had they not stood in the way of those pursuing claims, the terrible suffering that emerged in the recent grand jury report would have been addressed sooner and by the church.

Asked to respond to the growing chorus of church people claiming the abuse crisis was a problem of gay men in the priesthood, Collins rejected the claim as "a red herring."

"I certainly don't agree with it. We have heterosexual predators and we have homosexual predators. When it comes to child abuse I don't believe homosexuality can be put down as the cause -- it may suit some people to think that and they would like to think that, but I don't think any studies have shown that this is the case."

Dy-Liacco also rejected the link. "Sexual orientation is not the issue here and it is not a cause; many scientific studies have shown this already."

The father of five said, "This is a sexual crime that arises out of a disordered use of power and affection and is expressed in this way through sexuality." He said experts suggested that the significant proportion of cases involving ephebophilia, or the sexual abuse of adolescent males, by older males was "a crime of opportunity."

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Film recalls Pope John Paul II's 1979 visit to Ireland, plea for peace

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 12:44pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Torchia Communications

By Steve Larkin

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A new documentary, "John Paul II in Ireland: A Plea for Peace," makes the case that the pope's trip to Ireland in 1979 played a key role in ending the Troubles and bringing about peace in Northern Ireland.

"When John Paul II arrived in Ireland, he confronted a giant tree of hate and terrorism that had been growing for a very long time," said Carl Anderson, the executive producer of the film and head of the Knights of Columbus. "At Drogheda, Ireland, he took an ax and cut at its roots. It would take some time for this poisonous tree to wither, but eventually it would."

The pope made his trip from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, 1979, and a third of the population came to see him.

The idea for the documentary came from Lord David Alton, who sits in the British House of Lords. He has an Irish mother, and he shared his conviction with Anderson and filmmaker David Naglieri that the pope's visit helped bring about peace in Northern Ireland. As a result, they decided to make a documentary about the pope's visit and its effects.

To make the film, Naglieri went to Ireland six times over an 18-month period and conducted about 40 interviews with political figures, leaders of social organizations, priests and others.

His aim was to "find these personal stories and extract the deeper meaning," he told Catholic News Service.

Naglieri said the most interesting interview he conducted was with Shane O'Doherty, a former member of the Irish Republican Army, whose turn away from violence was inspired by the homily Pope John Paul gave at a Mass in Drogheda.

Shortly before, while still a teenager, O'Doherty had carried out a campaign of letter-bombing for a summer in London.

"He's the sort of person with very strong convictions and a very strong personality," Naglieri said.

While serving multiple life sentences in prison, O'Doherty heard the pope's words and he began to understand the need for repentance and a turning away from violence.

"John Paul II preaching peace was the wind beneath his wings," Naglieri said.

One thing that interested and impressed Nalglieri was the work done in the peace process by Redemptorist Father Alec Reid, an Irish priest whose role as facilitator role in the Northern Ireland peace process has been described as "absolutely critical" to its success. He died in 2013 at age 82.

After hearing Pope John Paul's words, he reflected on how things might have changed, and was able to bring Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, and John Hume, the leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party, for talks.

He was inspired to do so because Pope John Paul also spoke to politicians.

"John Paul II told politicians that they must remove the causes that lead to violence, and said that political dialogue is the way forward," Nalglieri said.

The documentary, which is narrated by Jim Caviezel and for which the music was composed by Joe Kraemer, had its premiere Aug. 23 on WTTW in Chicago. It will be broadcast on public television stations across the United States.

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Editor's Note: For the complete schedule of airings of "John Paul II in Ireland: A Plea for Peace," visit The site has additional information about the film, as a well as a trailer and information on purchasing a DVD. The text of the pope's homily at Drogheda can be found at

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Prominent Catholics see larger role for laity in church's abuse response

Thu, 08/23/2018 - 12:41pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- An independent lay-run board that would hold bishops accountable for their actions, a national day for Mass or prayers of reparation, and encouragement to parishioners to become more involved in their diocese are among steps suggested by prominent lay Catholics to right the U.S. church as it deals with a new clergy sexual abuse scandal.

Those contacted by Catholic News Service said that it was time for laypeople to boost their profile within the church and help begin to dismantle long-standing clericalism that has sought to preserve the reputation of offending clergy at the expense of the safety of children.

"Their credibility is gone and the trust of the faithful is gone," Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, said of the U.S. bishops as they worked to develop steps to promote greater accountability on abuse.

The National Review Board, established by the bishops in 2002, oversees compliance by dioceses with the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." It has no role in oversight of bishops.

"The bishops have to put their trust in lay leadership and allow that lay leadership to develop the processes and oversight when these kinds of allegations occur, particularly holding bishops accountable," Cesareo said.

In a presentation at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' spring general assembly in June in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Cesareo cautioned the prelates against complacency in meeting the charter's requirements. He said that auditors preparing the 2016-2017 annual report on the charter's implementation nationwide discovered signs of complacency in some dioceses and eparchies.

"I've been addressing the body of bishops four, five times. I've driven the point that they can't be complacent, and here we are again with another crisis," Cesareo said.

"We went through the crisis in 2002 and had good policies and procedures in place, and allegations and current abuse have gone down," he said. "But when we see the bishops don't get it, that there's still the notion of self-preservation at the expense of the victim ... it just begs for lay leadership to come forward and to address this and help lead to healing.

"I really think that it's a cultural change that has to take place. We can have all the committees, all the structures and all the policies, but there has got to be a cultural shift in the mindset of the bishops that they too are accountable, that they cannot be held to a different standard," continued Cesareo, president of Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Cesareo was not alone in calling for a separate body to be established to handle accusations of abuse involving bishops. While details varied, the basic premise envisions that such a board would review abuse allegations or complaints of improper handling of an abuse claim by any bishop.

Just such a body has been sought since 2002, when the abuse scandal arose in the Archdiocese of Boston, by the church reform group Voice of the Faithful, said Donna Doucette, executive director.

"Having accountability from the bishops is absolutely the key. It is not possible for the bishops to police themselves. We as an organization believe that there must be an independent lay-led and dominated board," Doucette told CNS.

"It's heartening that finally after all these years, and we hope it's more than just verbiage, that the very things that the bishops attacked us for saying, they're saying it now," she added.

The USCCB continued working on a series of measures Aug. 23, nine days after a Pennsylvania grand jury detailed more than 1,000 claims of alleged sex abuse in six dioceses in the state over 70 years and identified 301 priests and church workers who may have committed the crimes. The report also singled out some bishops for their improper handling of accused abusers.

Prior to Cesareo's comments, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, called for laypeople to take a greater role in addressing the "moral catastrophe" of the latest abuse scandal.

He said Aug. 16 that the "substantial involvement of the laity" from law enforcement, psychology and other disciplines will be essential to the process of developing a comprehensive plan that was expected to be presented at the bishops' fall general assembly in November in Baltimore.

F. DeKarlos Blackmon, secretariat director of life, charity and justice in the Diocese of Austin, Texas, urged laypeople to "step up and speak up" to address the catastrophe described by Cardinal DiNardo.

He called on the bishops to heed the advice of laity in areas in which the bishops may not have expertise, particularly when investigating abuse claims.

"We as laity need to be able to walk with the leadership. Pope Benedict stated the church can never be without the dedicated laity. I think it's really important that we keep that in mind. We have a place at the table," said Blackmon, an adviser to the bishops' Subcommittee on African American Affairs.

Teresa Tomeo, host of a syndicated radio talk show, said it is the laity's job to convince the bishops that more oversight of their actions is good for the church.

She suggested that the new scandal will "wake up a sleeping giant" as laypeople "respectfully and lovingly" address the bishops about the issue of clergy sexual abuse and help set a new course for the church.

"We need to come together as a group and ... work with the hierarchy to come up with the steps that need to be made," Tomeo said. "We need to stay, pray and get organized and be willing to make a difference for the sake of the church."

By working together, laypeople can "help church officials catch up with the laity" in addressing sexual abuse, said Elizabeth Scalia, who blogs at The Anchoress.

"If we want to remain a eucharistic church, we're going to have to help shape the leaders. We have to help them bring about a churchwide metanoia," she said.

Scalia urged Catholics "to become really, really noisy" and begin writing "firm but respectful" letters to their bishop about their concerns. She said a presence or vigil outside of bishops' residences also may be fruitful.

"There's no reason not to go get a little protest group outside the bishop's residence and say, 'Bishop, we're going to stay here and pray our rosary until you come out and talk with us,'" Scalia told CNS.

As a cornerstone of Catholic life, prayer can begin to set the proper tone for action and repentance, Tomeo and Scalia said. Both called in addition for a nationwide day of Masses or holy hours for reparation.

"The priest or bishop can lay prostrate before the Blessed Sacrament to ask for forgiveness," Scalia proposed, hoping for more than a one-time "theatrical performance."

The blogger advocated for additional steps as well in calling on bishops to "put some actions behind their words" by, for example, selling their residence and using the proceeds for the benefit of abuse survivors.

"You can give me all those words, but until you put actions behind that, I can't judge the reality of that. It needs to be an impressive action," she added.

John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought at Georgetown University, recommended "a structure of accountability and responsibility and ways of collaboration" among the bishops and laity that advances the church's mission.

"This is a time for mission, not just apology and reform," he told CNS. "The only way forward is mission and laypeople have an essential role in carrying that mission forward."

And while laypeople have an important role to play in response to the abuse crisis, Carr didn't exempt them from contributing to the church's troubles. He pointed particularly to attorneys, who advised bishops to refrain from commenting on abuse claims and decline meeting with victims, and therapists who "thought they could fix this (penchant for abusing young people) and gave terrible advice" to the bishops.

In addition, the church needs priests who set aside clericalism, he said.

"We absolutely need priesthood, but we don't need clericalism. In that there are lots of great wonderful priests. Pope Francis has pointed out that clericalism is a disease that leaves people isolated and arrogant and loses why they became a priest," Carr told CNS.

"The priesthood isn't a club. It's not a fraternity with its own silence and rules. It's a vocation of service. In some places that got lost."

Any steps that eventually will be undertaken will require broad collaboration among the laity and clergy and for each party to hold the other accountable, said Hosffman Ospino, associate professor of Hispanic ministry and religious education at Boston College.

"What can the laity do? Get involved," Ospino said. "This (challenge) should galvanize our energy because we need to reclaim our church.

"Because we care for the community and care for these children, the vulnerable and families, we need to get involved. We need to be vocal about it. We need to find ways to help in our own church," he said.

At the same time, Ospino cautioned about the potential rise in laicism, that only laypeople have the best answers to what is confronting the church. Such thinking is no better than clericalism, he said.

"We are all in the same boat and we need to hold each other accountable."

Since the Second Vatican Council, the church has worked to include laypeople in key roles within the church including some levels of governance and Ospino called for "potential adjustments to canon law" to broaden the role of laity.

"I think that countless people are ready for this. The ball is on the clergy's court."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

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Anderson calls for 'full accounting of misdeeds' that have led to scandal

Wed, 08/22/2018 - 5:17pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After years of Catholics having to confess their sins to the clergy, it is now time for priests and bishops "to come clean about what they have done and what they have failed to do," the CEO of the Knights of Columbus said in a letter to his brother Knights and the organization's chaplains.

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson's letter, dated Aug. 21, came in response to the recent release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on abuse claims in six dioceses and reports of a cover-up by some church leaders and the allegations of past abuse and other sexual misconduct made against Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick.

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

The abuse crisis represents "a crisis of commitment to the Gospel," Anderson said. He called for repentance, reform and a rebuilding of the church and said the Knights of Columbus -- laymen, priests and chaplains -- "will have an important role to play in rebuilding the church" and recommit themselves to doing that.

"Many feel deeply betrayed by those whom they long held in high regard," Anderson wrote. "Such concerns are shared not just in the United States, but in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere.

"These sins of commission and omission have sent the church we love, the church we serve and the church that Jesus Christ established into convulsions," he said. "Sadly, the disgrace not only is borne by the perpetrators, it hurts us all, as does the silence of shepherds who have ignored the cries of their flocks."

He praised the "many wonderful and faithful laborers" in the Lord's vineyard among the priests and bishops, but "it is clear that in addition to devastating criminal acts, we have seen many other moral failings by clergy that represent a crisis of commitment to the Gospel."

Anderson said that victims' needs too often "have been subordinated to a distorted sense of mercy toward the perpetrators or an instinct for clerical self-preservation."

"The sexual acts -- both criminal and non-criminal -- highlight the need to recover a respect for and a renewed commitment to the priestly promises of celibacy," he added.

He noted that the Knights of Columbus have supported the pastoral and charitable work of bishops and priests since the fraternal organization was founded by Father Michael McGivney. The Connecticut priest, who is a sainthood candidate and has been declared "venerable," started the Knights in 1882.

"We understand that the priest should lead the parish and the bishop should be the center of unity in a diocese," Anderson continued. "But we -- like all Catholics -- are painfully aware of the wreckage that ensues when elements of this leadership are abdicated by evil actions whether directly perpetrated or covered up."

Anderson outlines actions that should be taken on repentance, reform and rebuilding.

Repentance and a full accounting of misdeeds "will help increase the recognition that clerical sexual abuse is a global problem that must be addressed at the highest levels of the Catholic Church," he said.

"Moreover, priests and bishops who refuse to live according to their promises of celibacy should be removed from public ministry, not out of retribution, but for the protection of the faithful and to prevent future variations of the scandal we now suffer," he said.

As for reform, he said a lot of good ideas have already been proposed, including a lay-led independent investigation, complete transparency by the hierarchy and the expansion of the "zero tolerance" policy to include bishops.

But in addition, Anderson called for establishing "an independent ethics hotline for reporting of criminal and other conduct at odds with Catholic teaching on the clerical state of life; and there must be protections against retaliation."

"Such reforms will be difficult for a church largely unused to them, and we must support our bishops and our priests in embracing these reforms in order to rebuild," Anderson said

He said the Knights can help rebuild the church "in several ways."

"Above all else, Knights -- and our chaplains -- must embrace love of God and love of neighbor," Anderson said. "This is Christ's great commandment and the founding mission of our order. It is also exactly the opposite of the rejection of God and exploitation of neighbor that our church has witnessed in these scandals."

On a national level, he said, the Knights plan to have a novena of Masses in reparation " for the sins that have so grievously wounded the body of Christ" and urged local churches to offer such a Mass as soon as could be done. At the parish and family level, the Knights have a Building the Domestic Church program. "Imbuing families with faith and strengthening parish life are critical to rebuilding the church based on Gospel principles," Anderson said.

He also said the Knights plan to sponsor a national tour of the relic of the heart of the patron saint of priests, St. John Vianney. The tour will be organized with the cooperation of his shrine in Ars, France.

He asked all Knights "to stand steadfast" in their faith.

"We will assist priests, bishops and our fellow Catholics in helping the church chart a course for the future that puts Christ at the center, so that truly we may say, 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,'" Anderson said, "This is the moment in which Knights -- including in a special way our priest members -- can be part of a great renewal for good in our church."

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Editor's Note: The full text of Carl Anderson's statement can be found at

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Clericalism: The culture that enables abuse and insists on hiding it

Wed, 08/22/2018 - 10:07am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis blamed "clericalism" in the Catholic Church for creating a culture where criminal abuse was widespread and extraordinary efforts were made to keep the crimes hidden.

Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has targeted clericalism as an illness in the church, an ailment that pretends "the church" means "priests and bishops," that ignores or minimizes the God-given grace and talents of laypeople and that emphasizes the authority of clerics over their obligation of service.

"To say 'no' to abuse is to say an emphatic 'no' to all forms of clericalism," the pope wrote in a letter Aug. 20 to all Catholics.

Clericalism, he said, involves trying "to replace or silence or ignore or reduce the people of God to small elites," generally the clerics.

Kathleen Sprows Cummings, a professor of history at the University of Notre Dame and author of an Aug. 17 New York Times op-ed piece on the abuse scandal, told Catholic News Service, "I was blown away" by the pope's focus on clericalism as the problem, "because that's what I felt."

What was different with the Pennsylvania grand jury report, she said, was not just the overwhelming scale and magnitude of abuse, "but that it really indicted the culture -- the culture of clericalism -- that allowed this abuse to continue and allowed it to be hidden."

"It's not just 'a few bad apples,' as we used to say, but it's this entire culture that makes it possible," Cummings said.

Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a professor of theology at Manhattan College, told CNS: "There is no doubt that clericalism is at the root of the abuse crisis. Clericalism is isolating and insular -- it cuts off the 'oxygen' of genuine solidarity and sharing-of-life with laypeople by creating a separate class, even a separate caste, within the church."

When people create "small elites" as Pope Francis called them, she said, "the temptation is to preserve 'us' and 'our vision/lives/privilege' at the expense of 'them' -- the laity, 'those who don't understand,' 'those who aren't burdened the way we are.'"

For more than two decades, Russell Shaw, an author and writer, has been warning of the disaster clericalism poses for the church. His book, "To Hunt, To Shoot, To Entertain: Clericalism and the Catholic Laity," was published in 1993.

Writing Aug. 6 for Angelus News, the news site of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Shaw looked particularly at accusations of sexual abuse and misconduct leveled against now-Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick.

"Clericalism doesn't totally account for what happened," he wrote in Angelus. "But it is an important part of the explanation, and it's essential that we understand how that was so," particularly in explaining how the archbishop was able to rise so high in the church's hierarchy.

Giving any kind of integrity to a church investigation of the scandal will require the participation of laypeople, Shaw wrote, because "it would be a serious mistake to investigate the damage done by clericalism in a clericalist manner."

Australia's Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse issued its report last December after five years of hearings and investigations, and it concluded that "clericalism is at the center of a tightly interconnected cluster of contributing factors" to abuse within the Catholic Church.

"Clericalism is linked to a sense of entitlement, superiority and exclusion, and abuse of power," the report said.

In addition, it said, "clericalism caused some bishops and religious superiors to identify with perpetrators of child sexual abuse rather than victims and their families."

The bishops of Australia plan to release a formal response to the report at the end of August. But in the meantime, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, conference president, told CNS that while the report is "essentially a secular eye upon church," it "seems to me fairly accurate to claim that 'clericalism is at the center of a tightly interconnected cluster of contributing factors.'"

"In seeking to combat clericalism," he said, "we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Clearly, it requires a radical revision of how we recruit and prepare candidates for ordination. Much has changed in our seminaries, but one has to wonder whether seminaries are the place or way to train men for the priesthood now.

"There will also have to be a change in the culture associated with the Catholic priesthood, which of course is more easily said than done," he continued in an email response to questions. "Part of that change will involve proper professional supervision for the sake of greater accountability, but also a greater sharing of responsibility with laypeople -- which in turn requires a reconsideration of our structures of decision-making."

"It will also involve a serious and practical consideration of the diagnosis of clericalism offered by Pope Francis over the years of his pontificate -- a diagnosis which is both disruptive and consoling, just like the Holy Spirit," Archbishop Coleridge wrote. "To accept and act upon that diagnosis won't in any way diminish the priesthood -- as some fear -- but will show what the priesthood can be in the very different circumstances we now face."

The Royal Commission report also tried to tackle some Catholic theology, claiming, "The theological notion that the priest undergoes an 'ontological change' at ordination, so that he is different to ordinary human beings and permanently a priest, is a dangerous component of the culture of clericalism. The notion that the priest is a sacred person contributed to exaggerated levels of unregulated power and trust which perpetrators of child sexual abuse were able to exploit."

Archbishop Coleridge said his acceptance of the idea of clericalism as a contributing factor to the abuse crisis obviously does not mean he accepts the Royal Commission's understanding of the theology of holy orders.

The phrase "ontological change" is what the church uses to describe what happens in ordination, he said; it affirms that "God actually does something in ordination, something which reaches into the depths of a man's being" and that "once a man is ordained, his relationships with other people and with God are radically and permanently changed."

So, while teaching that ordination brings a permanent change can contribute to clericalism, it does not have to, the archbishop said.

Imperatori-Lee also mentioned the teaching when commenting to CNS on how clericalism can infect the laity as well as priests and bishops.

"The laity, told repeatedly that the priest is special and uniquely holy -- 'ontological change,' 'indelible mark' -- is not inclined to believe the clergy capable of sin," she said, "and then when these allegations arise, and are corroborated, the breakdown in trust is irreparable."

"There are ways in which clericalism hurts everyone," she said: "The laity is victimized and infantilized; the clergy is isolated and expected to be superhuman."

Marie Collins, an abuse survivor and former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, also welcomed the pope's aim at clericalism.

Tweeting Aug. 20, she said, "The condemnation of clericalism in the letter is good to see, as it plays a big part in the ignoring of the laity, survivors and experts. It gives rise to the ease with which church leaders can feel comfortable protecting fellow clerics despite their crimes against children."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

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Pope: God's name is revealed through authentic faith, not hypocrisy

Wed, 08/22/2018 - 10:00am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The power of God's name is manifested in the lives of people who live their faith in an authentic way, while it is taken in vain by those who live in hypocrisy, Pope Francis said.

By adhering to the commandment to not take the name of the Lord in vain, Christians can show the beauty of baptism and the Eucharist, as well as "the sublime union there is between our body and the body of Christ; he in us and us in him," the pope said Aug. 22 during his weekly general audience.

"If there were more Christians who would take upon themselves the name of God without falsehood, practicing the first request of the Our Father -- 'hallowed be thy name' -- the proclamation of the church would be heard more and become more credible," he said.

Continuing his series of talks on the Ten Commandments, the pope turned to the Second Commandment, which he said is correctly interpreted as "an invitation to not offend the name of God and use it inappropriately."

Recalling its Hebrew and Greek translations, Pope Francis said the Second Commandment means not taking upon one's self the name of God "in a way that is devoid of content" and shrouded in hypocrisy, formalities and lies.

The commandment, he said, is a reminder for Christians of their baptism and the call "to live out our daily actions in a real and heartfelt communion with God, that is, in his love."

However, Christians may also succumb to the temptation of "taking upon themselves the name of God in a hypocritical way" and "living a false relationship with God."

A sincere relationship with God, the pope explained, is seen not only in the lives of the saints, but also in the lives of the "saints next door," especially "parents who give their children the example of a coherent, simple, honest and generous life."

The Second Commandment, he said, "is precisely the invitation to a relationship with God without hypocrisy, to a relationship in which we entrust him with all that we are."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Archbishops call for 'penance, purification' to rebuild, renew church

Tue, 08/21/2018 - 5:54pm


LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said penance and purification is needed to rebuild the U.S. Catholic Church and respond to the abuse crisis.

He stressed the importance of strong procedures and protocols for addressing abuse claims, helping the victims and creating safe environments for all children and young people.

"Programs, protocols, and best practices are essential. But they are not enough," he said in an Aug. 17 letter to the people of the archdiocese.

"We need to hold people accountable and we need to atone for these sins as a church," he said.

He called it "a sad and confusing time for all of us" with the abuse allegations against Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, followed by the Pennsylvania grand jury report on a months-long investigation into abuse claims spanning 70 years in six Catholic dioceses in that state.

"I am praying for you and your families and for our young people; and for our bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians and religious," he said. "I am praying most intensely for the victim-survivors of these crimes, and am trying to offer what small penance I can for everyone who has suffered abuse by pastors of the church."

Archbishop Gomez also addressed what he sees as "the deeper crisis today in the church," a spiritual and moral crisis.

"I believe we need to respond to this crisis with a new call to penance and purification and a new dedication to leading holy lives," he said.

"Renewal of the church is first of all a duty for bishops and priests," Archbishop Gomez said. "We need humble penance for what has been done by our brothers. We need to live with simplicity and integrity and be models of conversion and holiness.

"Now more than ever, I pray that every bishop and every priest will rediscover his love for Jesus Christ and burn with new desire to bring holiness and salvation to our people."

He said priests, like all Christians, "are all called to holiness and to grow in our relationship with Jesus and to glorify God by our lives. But the priest above all is consecrated to serve 'in the person of Christ.' That is why the evil at the heart of these scandals is so terrible."

"A sacred trust has been broken by men whom Jesus entrusted to be his representatives on earth," he continued. "These priests have betrayed Christ and done violence to his children. The cruelty they have done casts a shadow on the priesthood and the vast majority of priests who are good and faithful servants of the Gospel."

Archbishop Gomez said he understands the anger and frustration that people have against the church "and her leaders right now." He said he feels "a deep sadness" and is "horrified that such crimes could be committed against innocent children of God.

He noted that as vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, he is on the Executive Committee, which has issued two statements so far. Among other initiatives, the committee has outlined a plan to have "substantial involvement of the laity" from law enforcement, psychology and other disciplines in investigating abuse and responding to it. Another component is "addressing the culture of clericalism that contributed to these abuses and failures in leadership," he explained.

He also emphasized the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has an effective system in place for reporting and investigating suspected abuse by priests and for removing offenders from ministry, conducting background checks and creating safe environments. He encouraged anyone who is a victim or knows a victim to contact the archdiocese.

"What has happened is the responsibility of bishops and priests. That is clear," Archbishop Gomez said. "But the way forward will mean laypeople and clergy working together. ' We need to begin again right now, starting with those of us who are bishops and priests.

"All of us in the church need to commit ourselves again to the basic practices of our Christian life: personal prayer, the Eucharist and confession, the works of mercy, growing in the virtues," he said and he urged Catholics to not "lose hope in the church."

"In this moment, our Lord is counting on us. So please do not give in to discouragement," the archbishop said. "Put your hope in God's promise: Where sin increases, his grace will increase even more."

In a letter to Catholics of his archdiocese, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone also emphasized that the archdiocese has strong policies and protocols for addressing abuse and creating but that he would review them with archdiocesan officials.

But beyond that, he, like Archbishop Gomez, said that "what is called for at this time is penance in reparation for sins against faith and morals."

"This is how we keep the righteous indignation that so many of us feel at this time from becoming an anger that divides the body of Christ," he said.

He said the reports of episcopal negligence and malfeasance in the face of clerical sexual abuse, coupled with some reports of bishops themselves guilty of sexual predation, have "reopened old wounds" for Catholics and the larger society.

He also decried the "spirit of raw ambition on the part of some, who will stop at nothing to advance their careers and climb the ecclesial corporate ladder over investing themselves in serving the people of God. Such behavior on the part of church leaders is despicable, reprehensible, and absolutely unbecoming of a man of God."

Archbishop Cordileone said he will designate a day "when together we will make an act of reparation, and how that will be conducted."

In the meantime, he asked all Catholics in the archdiocese, including the priests, "to engage in prayer, penance and adoration as an act of reparation for sins against chastity and the reverence due to the Blessed Sacrament, in accordance Our Lady's wishes."

The archbishop invited all to join him in:

-- Praying the rosary daily. (He urged families to pray the rosary together at least once a week.)

-- Practicing Friday penance by abstaining from eating meat and one other additional act of fasting (e.g., another form of food or drink, or skipping a meal).

-- Spending one hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament at least once a week.

"While I pledge to attend to policies and their observance, we all must be engaged at this time on the spiritual level," Archbishop Cordileone said. "Without prayer, penance and adoration in reparation for the horrendous sins rampant in our church for very many years now, any efforts of the temporal order will be meaningless."

He also asked Catholics "to stay close to your parish priest."

"Our priests make great sacrifices to serve their people with generosity and compassion. They are there for you, attentive to providing you pastoral care," he said. "I am grateful to them for their labors in the Lord's vineyard, and pray that the divine assistance may be with them as they minister to you during this time of crisis"

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Victims call for federal investigation of sex abuse in Catholic Church

Tue, 08/21/2018 - 5:49pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Some victims of clergy sex abuse and their supporters are calling on federal and state entities to investigate sex abuse within the Catholic Church and root out abusers and anyone who has protected them.

Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, and Voice of the Faithful, a Catholic group that provides support to victims of clergy sex abuse, held childhood photos of sex abuse victims at a news conference Aug. 21 outside the headquarters of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington.

They said they have contacted the U.S. Department of Justice about investigating sex abuse of children by clerics in the Catholic Church and called on attorneys general in every state to open probes similar to the one carried out by a grand jury in Pennsylvania.

The investigation by the Pennsylvania grand jury, made public in a report released Aug. 14, detailed more than 1,000 claims of alleged sex abuse in six dioceses in the state over 70 years and identified 301 priests who may have committed the crimes. It took almost two years to compile. The dioceses of Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Scranton, Greensburg and Erie were named in the report.

The majority of the cases, however, could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations, which allows a limited period of time to pursue legal action, had come and gone.

One of the those present at the news conference, Judy Lorenz, whose husband, David, was sexually abused by a priest in Kentucky in the 1970s, also called on Catholics in the pews to take action, by supporting anyone who has been victimized by a member of the clergy, and by joining any public protest against Catholic clergy who may have covered up possible crimes, to stop tithing or donating to the church until those responsible step down.

"I want them to do something," she said. "Stop sitting in the pews."

In a statement, Lorenz called on Catholics to attend an action Aug. 26 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, the seat of Washington's archbishop, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl. He has come under fire after the publication of the report. He was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 until 2006, and the report criticized his handling of abuse cases during his tenure there.

"If they're upset," she said, referring to Catholics, "show up."

Becky Ianni, director of the Washington, Virginia chapter of SNAP, who also was present at the news conference, said she was "not shocked" by the secrecy and failure to report and prosecute the crimes against minors detailed by the Pennsylvania grand jury. 

Ianni told Catholic News Service she was abused by a priest who befriended her family and molested her at age 8. It took her 40 years to be able to talk about it, she said. When she approached her diocese about her abuse, nothing was done, she said.

She said she felt abandoned, began struggling with life and eventually left her Catholic faith. But she now helps other victims and tries to advocate on their behalf to prevent what happened to her, she said.

"As I read the report, I was just so sad thinking of every one of those children who could have been protected," she said.

She said she worried about the victims who are not included in the report, those who did not or could not come forward.

"I want them to know that we believe them, and we support them," she said, encouraging anyone who is suffering to seek help and support from groups such as SNAP.

Lorenz and Ianni said that even though they don't attend the Catholic Church anymore, they have family members who are still part of the faith and they want the best for church members. But neither one seemed encouraged by the statement Pope Francis made Aug. 20.

In a letter addressed "to the people of God," the pope said that "no effort must be spared" to prevent future cases of clerical sexual abuse and "to prevent the possibility of their being covered up."

They have heard "words" from past popes before, Lorenz and Ianni said, but the church needs actions, specifically, that all dioceses in the U.S. post names of accused clerics on church websites, as well as where they are now, and support state laws that extend or get rid of statutes of limitations for victims of child sex abuse, they said

The same day as SNAP's Washington news conference, members of the organization held a news conference in front of the headquarters of the Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania. Erie Bishop Lawrence T. Persico invited the group onto the diocese's St. Mark Catholic Center property and attended the news conference.

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