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Pennsylvania prelate says bishops who hid abuse should resign

Top Stories - Fri, 08/17/2018 - 4:55pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Rhina Guidos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Citizenship question for 2020 census prompts strong criticism, lawsuits

Top Stories - Fri, 08/17/2018 - 2:46pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters

By Steve Larkin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Stories - Thu, 08/16/2018 - 5:53pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Reuters video

By Rhina Guidos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vatican wants accountability for abusers, those who protected them

Top Stories - Thu, 08/16/2018 - 5:34pm

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Stories - Thu, 08/16/2018 - 5:14pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Tyler Orsburn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maryland parish helps sister parishes in Nicaragua amid increasing unrest

Top Stories - Thu, 08/16/2018 - 4:00pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy St. John Vianney Parish

By Kelly Sankowski

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cardinal DiNardo announces plan to address 'moral catastrophe' of abuse

Top Stories - Thu, 08/16/2018 - 12:23pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Aug. 16 announced three key goals and a comprehensive plan to address the "moral catastrophe" of the new abuse scandal hitting the U.S. church.

The plan "will involve the laity, lay experts, the clergy and the Vatican," Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said. This plan will be presented to the full body of bishops at their general assembly meeting in Baltimore in November.

Cardinal DiNardo laid out three goals just established by the bishops' Executive Committee in a series of meetings held early the week of Aug. 13. They are:

-- An investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, a former cardinal and retired archbishop of Washington. With a credible allegation against him that he abused a minor nearly 47 years ago and accusations of sexual misconduct with seminarians, many are asking how he could have risen up the ranks of the church, as an auxiliary bishop, bishop, archbishop and finally cardinal.

-- An opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops.

-- Advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints.

"These goals will be pursued according to three criteria:  proper independence, sufficient authority and substantial leadership by laity," Cardinal DiNardo said.

"Two weeks ago, I shared with you my sadness, anger, and shame over the recent revelations concerning Archbishop Theodore McCarrick," the cardinal said. "Those sentiments continue and are deepened in view of the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

"We are faced with a spiritual crisis that requires not only spiritual conversion, but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past that are so evident in the recent report," he added.

MORE TO COME

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

Network of homes provides love, hope, help for pregnant women in need

Top Stories - Wed, 08/15/2018 - 4:23pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jeffrey Bruno

By Steve Larkin

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When Chris Bell was working in Times Square in the late 1970s, he was shocked to repeatedly see young mothers entering crisis shelters with their children, and he decided that he had to do something.

With the help of Father Benedict Groeschel, a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, and his spiritual director at the time, Bell founded Good Counsel, a network of pro-life maternity homes.

Currently, Good Counsel operates six homes -- four in New York state, one in New Jersey and one in Alabama -- and works with other homes all over the country. It also is looking to both grow and expand its network.

"Good Counsel is one of the founding members of the National Maternity Housing Coalition," Bell told Catholic News Service. "Most of the homes are small and limited in what they can do, but we can help find a place for any pregnant woman in the country."

Bell said that any pregnant women can enter the maternity homes for free, and the homes will help provide them with opportunities to go back to school and find jobs.

Good Counsel will even assist pregnant women with drug addictions or mental illnesses and help find suitable places for them.

They also can help plan adoptions. Bell said that many women don't realize that they can choose the couple who would adopt their child and fear that the child will be placed in the foster care system.

Bell said that many women who are told that their child will have genetic defects can benefit from maternity homes.

"I don't know why the only response so many medical people have is to tell the mother to get rid of it if it looks like the child will have genetic defects," he said. "Especially in the United States, where we're rich and have the technology to help them."

He told the story of a woman whose doctor told her that her unborn son had a defect in every cell in his body, and the doctor recommended she abort.

She then called Good Counsel, saying "I just want to be a good mother." Good Counsel took her in, found a different medical facility for her, and prayed with her because she wanted to pray.

When the boy was born, the fears of the doctor were unfounded. He had a hole in his heart, which required two surgeries, but by the time the mother left the home her son looked like any other one-year-old.

Bell also told another story of a mother who already had a 3-year-old when she came to Good Counsel.

When she told the father that she was pregnant, he kicked her in the stomach and she left him.

Within her first few months, she had obtained a home health certificate, and, after having the baby and staying with him for a few months, she found a job.

"When I think about where she was when she came to us and where she was when she left, it was a total turnaround," Bell said.

Bell said he thought that media coverage was one reason for a lack of awareness about maternity homes.

"I think the media has a strong bias against anything anti-abortion," he said.

Despite that, he intends on continuing his work.

"The question I ask: Isn't there enough love in the world for another baby? Where there's love, there's life, and where there's life, there's hope. We can change things by looking at one life at a time and one family at a time."

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Editor's Note: Information about the Good Counsel network of homes can be found by going to goodcounselhomes.org or by calling (800) 723-8331.

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Commentary: a crisis regarding the responsibility of church authorities

Top Stories - Wed, 08/15/2018 - 1:23pm

By Greg Erlandson

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When Catholic News Service posted a short video of the Pennsylvania attorney general's Aug. 14 news conference announcing a grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse in six dioceses, its editors had to add a warning about the graphic language viewers would hear.

The actual 900-page report chronicling 70 years of child sexual abuse by 301 priests is much, much worse. There are images of rape, perversion and blasphemy that will be hard to excise from a reader's imagination, vile and disgusting acts that have shattered the lives and faith of the more than 1,000 victims and their families.

Harder still is to understand how some leaders could have known about these acts of profound betrayal and not have been enraged into action to excise permanently such evil from our church.

And this goes to the dark heart of this crisis: That men of the cloth would sin so grievously against the most defenseless in their flocks, and that men of the cloth would fail to respond appropriately.

The clergy sexual abuse crisis has been, and remains today, ultimately a crisis regarding the responsibility of church authorities. The profound distrust of institutions -- law, science, education, government -- that permeates our society permeates our church as well. This distrust strikes at the heart of a hierarchical structure -- that those who bear the most responsibility and most power have at times failed us. "Put not your trust in princes," sang the psalmist. Indeed, many Catholics no longer do.

And yet we must not paint all bishops and priests today with the same brush that has tarred some. Many more bishops have met with victims, cried with them, and responded to their needs than in years past. Many more priests speak out forthrightly from their pulpits, addressing the scandals and encouraging those who have been hurt to come forward.

In the wake of the recent revelations involving Pennsylvania, Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick and other allegations that have come to light involving seminaries, there are four take-aways from this horrible new chapter in the life of our church.

First, the bishops today, as descendants of the apostles and descendants of those who previously occupied the positions they hold now, must convincingly demonstrate a spirit of repentance and recommitment. Their people, and society at large, are not looking for more generic apologies and corporate-sounding assessments of current performance. They must act boldly and concretely if their apologies are to be taken seriously.

Their recommitment must involve greater accountability and greater transparency. To do this, they must have the support of the Vatican. This won't be easy. There are many bureaucratic and institutional forces that do not want the sins of the fathers to be exposed and that are blind to the great peril our church is already in.

Second, many are calling for a greater role for the laity in investigations and in future decision-making. It is a tremendously positive development that lay boards have become involved in assessing abuse allegations. Past scandals documented in Pennsylvania so often involved only clergy in investigative and decision-making roles. The church needs lay men and women to be actively involved in the purification and renewal of the church.

There also should be a renewed appreciation for the role of the church's own media in informing and forming Catholics. At least 39 bishops have spoken out about the initial scandal involving Archbishop McCarrick, yet some dioceses no longer have effective communication tools to make sure that their people are hearing the voices of their bishops. Worse still would be if diocesan publications are tempted to avoid publishing news of these scandals, even though their secular counterparts are putting it on the front page. This destroys the credibility of Catholic media and further undermines the leadership of the bishop.

Third, we must acknowledge how much has changed since the scandals that rocked the U.S. church in 2002. The church now is far different from even 16 years ago. Extensive procedures for training young people, for background checks and for reporting violations have been put into place. Victims are much more likely to be treated with sympathy and their reports taken seriously. Since the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was implemented in 2002, it is estimated that the church has spent $4.4 billion on these procedures as well as on payouts to victims and their attorneys. No other social institution even comes close to this level of commitment.

Which brings us to the fourth point. Solving the problem of sexual abuse and accountability in the church will not solve the problems of sexual abuse and accountability in society. There are an estimated 60,000 cases of child abuse in the United States each year. Multiplied over a span of 70 years, this number would be horrifying.

Abuse in the larger society is no excuse for the 301 priests (about 5 percent all priests who served in those dioceses over a period of 70 years) who are guilty of abusing at least 1,000 victims. Yet if any good is to come out of this long tragedy, it may be that the church -- humiliated and scorned as it now is -- may be able at some point to contribute to a much greater healing that needs to take place in our country and our world.

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Erlandson is director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service.

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

Catholics express despair, disbelief, anger at new abuse revelations

Top Stories - Wed, 08/15/2018 - 12:40pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After the first allegations of abuse against Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick were publicized in mid-June, employees at the U.S. bishops' conference headquarters in Washington were bracing for calls from Catholics confused, outraged or anything in between regarding the emerging scandal.

The big surprise: More Catholics were calling in -- and kept calling -- to ask how they could be foster parents to immigrant children who had been separated from their parents by the U.S. government at the U.S.-Mexico border.

That didn't last long, though.

The foster-parent calls receded and the abuse-related phone calls picked up in volume and intensity, according to Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the Secretariat for the Protection of Children and Young People at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Deacon Nojadera said he doesn't know exactly why people call his office. He suggested it may be that callers expect that the office can issue reprimands to any suspected cleric: "What are you going to do about it?"

But that's not the case, he told Catholic News Service in an Aug. 13 interview. Priests accused of abuse are subject to the discipline of their diocesan bishop or religious superior; if found guilty of misconduct, priests may be laicized by the Vatican. Accused bishops, though, are subject first to the Vatican.

Parents who call sound worried, the deacon added: "How do I know my child's going to be safe if he's in formation or if he's in seminary?"

The three most notable cases this summer involve Archbishop McCarrick, who is facing a credible allegation of abusing a minor and is believed to have harassed and abused seminarians even after they were ordained to the priesthood; the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, where a vocations director who died in 2008 has recently been accused of harassment; and the Archdiocese of Boston, where Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley ordered an investigation of the archdiocesan seminary after abuse reports surfaced in early August.

"Our first job is to listen, to be empathetic," Deacon Nojadera said. Some of the callers, he acknowledged, are angry. "Well, I'm angry, too," he told CNS. Without prayer, he added, "I can't do what I'm doing,"

Both the National Review Board and the bishops' Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People are scheduled to meet in September. Deacon Nojadera said his office hopes to be able to give each body guidance on strengthening the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," approved by the bishops in 2002.

"In 2002, we were responding to a very specific situation: the abuse of children by priests," Deacon Nojadera said. "I still hold it's a very good document. It's better than nothing. It has its strengths, it has its weaknesses." He added, "We need to have a very serous discussion on what we can do to improve what's mandated by the charter."

The charter, amended in 2011 and again earlier this year. did not take into account the possibility that bishops could be abusers, or that abuse victims could be adults, much less seminarians and priests whose path to -- and following -- ordination could be stymied by bishop-abusers.

The increased call volume experienced by Deacon Nojadera and his staff has not been experienced in two dioceses contacted by CNS.

"We've all spent time processing among staff and clergy, because this is another level of concern and another level of distress for all Catholics," said Beth Heidt Kozisek, victim assistance coordinator for the Diocese of Grand Island, Nebraska, in a phone interview with CNS. "But we really haven't had an increase in the number of calls from parishioners or general members of the community."

The allegations against Archbishop McCarrick, a former cardinal, weren't published in either the Omaha World-Herald, Nebraska's largest newspaper, or the local daily, The Grand Island Independent, Kozisek said. "I found it online but I didn't see any comments online," she added. "Is that a sign of our rural culture -- nobody's reading the news? They're busy farming and other activities?"

"Baton Rouge has not experienced an increase in allegations or calls in the last month due to the Cardinal McCarrick story," said an email to CNS from Amy Cordon, victim assistance coordinator for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

"My colleagues and I do not see our ministry to victims of clergy abuse as a job. We are ministers," Cordon said of herself and her fellow victim assistance coordinators. "And our boss, Jesus Christ, never disappoints.

"This is why you are not seeing a mass exodus of victim assistance coordinators when these stories continue to break 10-plus years after the charter was written," she added. "Most of us work under truly holy men of God and are very fortunate to have good bishops who care for those who have been harmed. I can certainly say that is the case in Baton Rouge."

Deacon Nojadera recalled the instance of one caller, who had worked with the resigned cardinal, first weeping with anguish over the phone and then voicing anger over the situation. "First, I have to listen," he said.

But the moment, he said, may signify the need for "a spiritual cleansing in the church."

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison

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

Report details rape of children, culture of secrecy that fanned it

Top Stories - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 8:04pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Reuters video

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The report begins dramatically, imploring its readers: "We, the members of this grand jury, need you to hear this."

Plain and simple, at least 1,000 children identified in the investigation were raped in Catholic places of worship, in schools, and in diocesan owned vehicles, and were "groomed" through diocesan programs and retreats so they could be molested, wrote members of a 23-person grand jury who heard those accounts over a period of almost two years of an investigation of clergy sex abuse said to have taken place in six dioceses in the state of Pennsylvania over 70 years. Their findings were unveiled Aug. 14.

In almost 1,400 pages, they describe graphic accounts of the abuse they say happened in the Catholic dioceses of Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Allentown, Scranton, Greensburg and Erie.

They detail accounts they heard of boys and girls whose genitals were touched, who were raped or made to perform a variety of sex acts. The report says one priest molested five girls in a family. In some cases the report details, girls became pregnant after being raped. One priest was "rendered irregular" after helping arrange an abortion for a minor he impregnated and mentions a letter that followed from church officials that "seemed to exclusively address the procurement of the abortion with little concern that (the priest) had impregnated a child."

Some cases were worse than others, the report said, when detailing a case involving a boy who was given holy water by a priest to wash out his mouth after he had the boy perform a sex act. Most of the children were teens and some were preteens, according to the report.   

What is depicted comes from internal documents made available by dioceses, from testimony of those who offered it, "and, on over a dozen occasions, the priests themselves appeared before us. Most of them admitted what they had done," the report says.

When the children or their families reported what happened, "all of them were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all," the report says.

"The bishops weren't just aware of what was going on; they were immersed in it. And they went to great lengths to keep it secret. The secrecy helped spread the disease," the report said.

Most of the crimes are too old to be prosecuted, but "for many of the victims, this report is justice," said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in an Aug. 14 news conference unveiling the report, as some of those who had testified for the grand jury attended.

"We're going to shine a light," Shapiro added. "We can tell our citizens what happened."

The report says that it recognizes that "much has changed over the last 15 years."

Grand jury members said they heard reports from the six dioceses investigated, "so that they could inform us about recent developments in their jurisdictions."

"In response, five of the bishops submitted statements to us, and the sixth, the bishop of Erie, appeared before us in person. His testimony impressed us as forthright and heartfelt," they wrote. "It appears that the church is now advising law enforcement of abuse reports more promptly. Internal review processes have been established. Victims are no longer quite so invisible. But the full picture is not yet clear."

Even though the report is long and its details painful, knowing what happened is "the only way to fix these problems," they write.

The report recommends that the Pennsylvania Legislature drop the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. They also ask for a "civil window" law that would let older victims sue the dioceses "for the damage inflicted on their lives when they were kids." It says better laws for "mandated reporting of abuse" are needed and say confidentiality agreement or non-disclosure agreements should not apply when it comes to criminal investigations.

The grand jury said it keeps in mind that there are likely more than the more than 1,000 victims identified and likely more offending priests it does not know about. It identified 301 priests in the report.

"What we can say, though, is that despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability," the report says. "Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades, monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, cardinals have mostly been protected; many, including some named in this report, have been promoted. Until that changes, we think it is too early to close the book on the Catholic Church sex scandal."

A grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence but whether there may be enough evidence or probable cause to support a criminal charge.

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

Statements from bishops of dioceses named in grand jury abuse report

Top Stories - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 7:50pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy of the dioceses

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The following are excerpts of statements, and links to the full statements, made by the bishops of the six Pennsylvania dioceses named in a grand jury report released Aug. 14 that detailed a two-year investigation of seven decades of clergy sex abuse claims. Many of the claims date back decades.

Pennsylvania officials say 301 priests were linked to sex abuse claims and more than 1,000 victims were identified by the grand jury investigation.

The bishops' statements were made on the day the report was released.

From Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh:

"It is difficult to stand here before you today. Yet, I wouldn't want to be, I couldn't be, any other place than with you at this moment. The women and men of the Grand Jury have spoken. They have spoken for victims. To those women and men and all those they have spoken for: We hear you. The church hears you. I hear you. ' We cannot bury our heads in the sand. There were instances in the past, as outlined in this report, when the church acted in ways that did not respond effectively to victims.

"Swift and firm responses to allegations should have started long before they did. For that I express profound regret. At the same time, I express gratitude to survivors who have taught us to respond with compassion to those who are wounded and with determination to remove offenders from ministry. To apologize and express sorrow for the past is an important step. But it is not enough. Continued action is necessary."

Bishop Zubik's full statement can be found at https://bit.ly/2KSdhWN. The Diocese of Pittsburgh's response to the grand jury report is at https://bit.ly/2MjWvov and a chart on abuse claims https://bit.ly/2Bc8tMx.

From Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg:

"I read the grand jury report on child sexual abuse with great sadness, for once again we read that innocent children were the victims of horrific acts committed against them. I am saddened because I know that behind every story is a child precious in God's sight; a child who has been wounded by the sins of those who should have known better. ' In my own name, and in the name of the diocesan Church of Harrisburg, I express our profound sorrow and apologize to the survivors of child sex abuse, the Catholic faithful and the general public for the abuses that took place and for those church officials who failed to protect children.

"We will continue to make amends for the sins of our past, and offer prayers and support to all victims of these actions. We are committed to continuing and enhancing the positive changes made, to ensure these types of atrocities never occur again. Since the turn of the century, the church has instituted policies that take clear and decisive action to prevent future abuse."

Bishop Gainer's full statement can be found at https://bit.ly/2nANol0. He also referred to the diocese's release Aug. 1 (and updated Aug. 6) of a list of 72 clergy, both dead and alive, accused of abuse at https://bit.ly/2OBYiTn. The diocese has other documents on its new Youth Protection blog, https://www.youthprotectionhbg.com.

"As I stressed last week when we released information regarding our own internal review of child sexual abuse in the Harrisburg Diocese," Bishop Gainer said Aug. 14, "I acknowledge the sinfulness of those who have harmed these survivors, as well as the action and inaction of those in church leadership who failed to respond appropriately."

From Bishop Alfred A. Schlert of Allentown:

"As your bishop, I am deeply saddened by these incidents. I sincerely apologize for the past sins and crimes committed by some members of the clergy. I apologize to the survivors of abuse and their loved ones. For the times when those in the church did not live up to Christ's call to holiness, and did not do what needed to be done, I apologize.

"I also apologize to you, the faithful of the diocese, for the toll this issue has taken over the years: the sadness, the anger, the doubts, and the embarrassment it may have brought you as a Catholic. I ask for your forgiveness, and I thank you for your perseverance and for your courageous witness to our faith. I want to assure you that as a church, we will learn from the report of the grand jury and use it to further improve our protections for children and young people."

Bishop Schlert's full statement, issued as a letter to the people of the diocese, can be found at https://bit.ly/2w7oHAK. A separate diocesan statement can be found at https://bit.ly/2MMBrUs. The diocesan website, https://sp.allentowndiocese.org, also has a video message from the bishop and a fact sheet on diocesan response to abuse claims.

From Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton:

"Many of you are aware of the statewide grand jury investigation into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. The grand jury has issued its report of findings. While this is an uncomfortable and unsettling topic, we must speak openly and frankly about it.

"First of all, none you deserve to be confronted with the behavior described in this report. It is unsettling, tragic and it breaks your heart. To all of you, most especially to those of you who are victims of such heinous actions by members of the clergy, to those of who have suffered because of misguided and inappropriate decisions of church leaders and to those of you who make up the blessed faithful of our church who are simply trying to live your lives as sincere and committed servants of the Lord, I offer my deepest apologies for such behavior and the consequences of this tragic reality in our church.

"There are simply no words that I can offer to take away the pain this has caused. Simply put child sexual abuse cannot be tolerated and must be eradicated from our church. Sadly, the church has taken far too long to do that. While the investigation and the report represent a disturbing and painful chapter in the life of our church, it is necessary for us to address them in order for us to move ahead in a more positive way."

Bishop Bambera's message in a video can be found in English and with Spanish subtitles can be found, respectively, at https://bit.ly/2vIWAbu and https://bit.ly/2Pep0T8. A diocesan statement on the grand jury report and a list released Aug. 14 of priests, religious, lay employees and volunteers credibly accused of abuse released can be found at https://bit.ly/2KSnX7P.

From Bishop Edward C. Malesic, Diocese of Greensburg:

"To the survivors of sexual abuse in the church, whether it was at the hands of a priest, a teacher, volunteer, or even a family member: I grieve for you and I grieve with you. In the Diocese of Greensburg, we stand ready to listen to you and, if you want it, we stand ready to help you heal as much as possible. It does not matter when it occurred, by whom it occurred, where it occurred, or how it occurred. We want to help. Jesus expects nothing less from us.

"Let me tell you this, just in case you have some misgivings because of your past experience with the church: We love you. And I ask all of the Catholic faithful to support you with the care and concern that you deserve.

"Specifically, to those of you who were abused by one of our priests. In the name of the entire Catholic church, I apologize to you for those men who stole your childhood innocence, and in some cases, robbed you of your faith. Those priests acted as wolves among us, even if they were dressed in sheep's clothing. I am sorry for that. In fact, honestly, I am extremely angry at them for what they did to you. I am outraged along with everyone else. I can understand your anger with bishops as well -- perhaps even with me. You deserved much better from us. I promise to do my best to continue to ensure that it will never happen again.

"Let me say this as clearly as possible. Priests who have abused our children have no place at our parish altars wearing the vestments of our sacred mysteries. They have forfeited the right to be called 'Father' by our people. Priests who have abused our children have no place in ministry."

Bishop Malesic's full statement -- in a video message and transcript -- can be found at -- https://bit.ly/2nCJHeD. The diocese Aug. 14 also released a list of clergy with credible and substantiated allegations against them: https://bit.ly/2MHSU0e. Other information and a special issued of The Catholic Accent, the diocesan paper, can be found at https://bit.ly/2w60c76.

From Bishop Lawrence T. Persico, Diocese of Erie:

"Today, I want to express my sorrow directly to the victims of sexual abuse that occurred within the Diocese of Erie. You have suffered in darkness for a very long time.

"As the grand jury report demonstrates, you have experienced unimaginably cruel behavior by the very individuals who should have had the greatest interest in protecting you. You were betrayed by people holding themselves out as servants of God, teachers of children or leaders in the community. ' I humbly offer my sincere apology to each victim who has been violated by anyone affiliated with the Catholic Church. I hope that you can accept it. I know that apologizing is only one step in a very long and complex process of healing.

"You may be aware that we recently unveiled new policies and implemented procedures to ensure that this criminal behavior is stopped. We just released another update of our website today, adding names in light of the grand jury report. This is one sign of our commitment to transparency.

"But this is not the moment to focus on our efforts. Today, I simply stand before you, humbled and sorrowful."

Bishop Persico's full statement can be found at https://bit.ly/2nFt5Dm. Other Bishop Persico statements can be found at https://bit.ly/2Mr0I9K, along with diocese's full disclosure list of credible abuse claims and diocesan child protection protocols.

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

Wuerl: In Pittsburgh, he 'established strong policies' on abuse claims

Top Stories - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 5:05pm

IMAGE: CNS/Bob Roller

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl said Aug. 14 that during his tenure as bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006, he "established strong policies that addressed the needs of abuse survivors, removed priests from ministry and protected the most vulnerable in the community."

He said he also "traveled to Rome to challenge successfully a Vatican decision to reinstate a (Pittsburgh) priest removed from ministry as a result of substantiated child abuse claims."

Cardinal Wuerl made the comments in response to the Pennsylvania attorney general's release the same day of a grand jury report on a months-long investigation of abuse claims in the Pittsburgh Diocese and five other dioceses in the state -- Harrisburg, Greensburg, Erie, Scranton and Allentown.

The report covers a span of over 70 years and many of the claims are decades old.

"There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church," the report says. "But never on this scale. For many of us, those earlier stories happened someplace else, someplace away. Now we know the truth: it happened everywhere."

In his statement, Cardinal Wuerl said that while he understands the report "may be critical of some of my actions, I believe the report confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse."

"I sincerely hope that a just assessment of my actions, past and present, and my continuing commitment to the protection of children will dispel any notions otherwise made by this report," he added.

In his statement and in an Aug. 13 letter to priests of the Washington Archdiocese, Cardinal Wuerl said that the part of the report he was allowed to see before its official release had references to 32 priests in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. His statement was accompanied by a fact sheet about his years in Pittsburgh.

It said "the facts are" that during his tenure as Pittsburgh's bishop, the diocese "promptly investigated" allegations of child sexual abuse and took appropriate actions, including removal of priests from ministry.

"The diocese required removal of a priest from ministry in the event of an admitted or substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse," the fact sheet said. "While allegations of abuse were being investigated, priests were placed on administrative leave and/or sent for professional psychological evaluation."

The grand jury report "does not distinguish between allegations and proven facts," it said. "The report assumes that mere allegations against a priest should have resulted in permanent removal from ministry. This assumption is mistaken."

During his 18 years in Pittsburgh, "scientific, psychological and medical understandings of child sexual abuse evolved significantly, as did civil and church law," the statement said. "Still, throughout his tenure in Pittsburgh, as well as afterwards, Cardinal Wuerl sought to implement child-protection policies that kept pace with or were ahead of that evolution."

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

In his letter to priests of the Washington Archdiocese, Cardinal Wuerl said the report "will be a reminder of grave failings that the church must acknowledge and for which it must seek forgiveness.

"It will also be a reminder that there are many survivors of such abuse whom we must continue to keep in our prayers, and whose pain we must seek to help bear and lessen through accompaniment and care."

He said that he could not "fully express the dismay and anger I felt, when as a newly installed bishop of Pittsburgh in 1988, I learned about the abuse some survivors experienced in my diocese."

"It moved me not simply to address these acts, but to be fully engaged, to meet with survivors and their families, and to do what I could to bring them comfort and try to begin a process for healing," he continued. "It also urged me to develop quickly a 'zero tolerance' policy for clergy who committed such abuse, and put in place a process to ensure that an y allegation of abuse was addressed as fairly and forthrightly as possible."

He also noted that while the grand jury report references 32 Pittsburgh priests, during the seven decades the report covers, "about 1,800 or so diocesan priests served the people of Pittsburgh in their parishes and schools."

In that time, he added, "more than 5,000 priests served across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania in that same time frame."

"Between 1988 and 2006, how the church -- and society as a whole -- dealt with the scourge of child sex abuse evolved: mandatory reporting and adjudication of such claims, for example," he added. "But what never changed was my commitment to the survivors of the abuse and their families."

He said to the priests that he expected the report would be critical "of some of my actions" in Pittsburgh, but he said he also believes "the report also confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the survivors and to prevent future acts of abuse."

"I sincerely hope that a just assessment of my actions, past and present, and my continuing commitment to the protection of children will dispel any notions otherwise made by this report," Cardinal Wuerl said.

He urged prayers for anyone harmed by clergy, adding, "Our commitment to addressing this scourge and supporting survivors, and encouraging survivors to come forward for assistance and to seek justice must not waver."

"The Catholic Church can never express enough our deep sorrow and contrition for the abuses of the past, and we are now in the midst of a new era where our communal bonds of trust are once again being tested by the sin of abuse," he added.

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Follow Asher on Twitter: @jlasher

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

Pennsylvania grand jury says church was interested in hiding abuse

Top Stories - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 4:42pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tim Shaffer, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A Pennsylvania grand jury report issued Aug. 14 paints a picture of a Catholic Church in six of the state's dioceses that for decades handled claims of sex abuse of minors under its care by hiding the allegations and its victims.

More than 300 priests were linked to abuse claims and over 1,000 victims were identified, said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in a news conference following the report's release.

"The main thing was not to help children but to avoid 'scandal,'" says a biting sentence about the behavior of church leaders and officials in the report, detailing a months-long investigation of clergy sex abuse claims in the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Allentown, Scranton, Greensburg and Erie.

The report covers a period of 70 years, looking at the past and including information from the early 2000s, a time when news of the clerical sex abuse scandal erupted in the U.S. Before its release, some urged that the report be read keeping in mind that a lot has changed in the church since then, and also that not all of the report's claims are substantiated.

In the Diocese of Pittsburgh, for example, a few priests named in the report are still working there, Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik told local reporters in an Aug. 10 news conference, because, he said, church officials could not substantiate claims of abuse made against them.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper reported that Bishop Zubik said: "There is no priest or deacon in an assignment today against whom there was a substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse." He said he would explain the process of parishioners following the report's release.

But there are many painful claims.

In the news conference, Shapiro described allegations of a priest who physically molested a group of children by telling them he was doing a "cancer check," one who he said "impregnated" a girl, and others who had boys strike a religious pose naked to take pictures of them. He spoke of a "systematic cover-up" by church officials who took information to the Vatican, who also did nothing to help victims, Shapiro said. He also spoke of priests who "weaponized faith" and had the victims go to confession for the sins, even as they were being victimized.

"I read the grand jury report on child sexual abuse with great sadness, for once again we read that innocent children were the victims of horrific acts committed against them," said Harrisburg Bishop Ronald. W. Gainer shortly after the document's release. "I am saddened because I know that behind every story is a child precious in God's sight; a child who has been wounded by the sins of those who should have known better."

The grand jury said it found in its investigation that those who claimed sexual abuse of their children by Catholic clergy or other church workers were "brushed aside," and officials became more concerned with protecting the abusers because they wanted to protect the image of the church, the report says.

Some of those named in the report had their names redacted, or blacked out, after challenging the inclusion of their identities in it without having the legal opportunity to defend themselves. They are scheduled to have a hearing with the court in September.

Some of the dioceses involved said they would release the names of those facing "credible allegations" in the report when the document was made public and some of them did so, following the news conference.  

Some, such as the Diocese of Harrisburg, made its list public Aug. 1, updating it on Aug. 6, adding the name of an accused priest to it after receiving "additional information." Its list included 72 names.

"We again emphasize that this is a list of accusations; we did not make assessments of credibility or guilt in creating this list," a statement from the diocese said.

Not all who are accused of sexual abuse or of covering it up in the report are priests. Some on the lists released by dioceses are deacons, some are seminarians, teachers or other church workers, and some are no longer alive. Some are accused of being in possession of child pornography, others of inappropriate touching, kissing, soliciting a child for sex, but most are listed as "sexually abusing a child."

The development comes as the Catholic Church in the United States finds itself grappling with the late July resignation from the College of Cardinals of a beloved and respected retired prelate, now-Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, 88, a former cardinal and former archbishop of Washington, following decades-old allegations that he sexually abused seminarians and at least two minors. He has been removed from public ministry, as of June 20, and is awaiting a Vatican trial.

MORE TO COME

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Bishops 'shamed' by 'sins, omissions' of priests, bishops leading to abuse

Top Stories - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 3:33pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy of the dioceses

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops as "are shamed by and sorry for the sins and omissions by Catholic priests and Catholic bishops" that have led to sexual abuse and caused great harm to many, said an Aug. 14 statement from the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairman of its child protection committee.

"We are committed to work in determined ways so that such abuse cannot happen," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the president, and Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana, chairman of the Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People.

They pledged "to maintain transparency" and provide for "the permanent removal of offenders from ministry and to maintain safe environments for everyone."

Cardinal DiNardo also said he is hosting a series of meetings during the week to respond to "the broader issue of safe environments within the church," and will provide an update when the meetings are concluded.

The prelates' joint statement was issued in response to the release the same day of a grand jury report based on a months-long investigation by the state's attorney general into sexual abuse claims in six Pennsylvania dioceses -- Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Allentown, Scranton, Erie and Greensburg.

The report covers a span of over 70 years. Many of the claims go back decades.

"(The report) again illustrates the pain of those who have been victims of the crime of sexual abuse by individual members of our clergy, and by those who shielded abusers and so facilitated an evil that continued for years or even decades," said Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Doherty.

"We are grateful for the courage of the people who aided the investigation by sharing their personal stories of abuse," they said. "As a body of bishops, we are shamed by and sorry for the sins and omissions by Catholic priests and Catholic bishops."

They added, "We are profoundly saddened each time we hear about the harm caused as a result of abuse, at the hands of a clergyman of any rank."

Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Doherty said the USCCB committee headed by the Indiana bishop and the USCCB Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection at the bishops' conference in Washington "will continue to offer avenues to healing for those who have been abused. We are committed to work in determined ways so that such abuse cannot happen."

In 2002, the bishops adopted the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," which, they said, "commits us to respond promptly and compassionately to victims, report the abuse of minors, remove offenders and take ongoing action to prevent abuse." The charter was revised and updated in 2011 and again in 2018.

"We pledge to maintain transparency and to provide for the permanent removal of offenders from ministry and to maintain safe environments for everyone," the two prelates said. "All policies and procedures regarding training and background check requirements are made publicly available by dioceses and eparchies."

"We pray that all survivors of sexual abuse find healing, comfort and strength in God's loving presence as the church pledges to continue to restore trust through accompaniment, communion, accountability and justice."

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Editor's note: The full statement from Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Doherty can be found at https://bit.ly/2MvN7yc.

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Abuse in Ireland: Pressure mounts for pope to address scandal

Top Stories - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 10:10am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis is traveling to Ireland specifically for the World Meeting of Families, but the sex abuse crisis is dominating headlines before his Aug. 25-26 trip.

While coverage of clerical abuse in the United States, Chile and Australia continues, Irish news media have been filled with articles about how a top Vatican official allegedly tried to get Irish government officials to support deals that would protect church records of abuse allegations and limit the financial liability of the church.

Former Irish President Mary McAleese said Cardinal Angelo Sodano, then the Vatican secretary of state, approached her in November 2003 about an agreement or concordat to protect church records, and Dermot Ahern, Ireland's former foreign minister, said Cardinal Sodano asked him in November 2004 about the Irish government indemnifying the church against court-ordered compensation for victims. Many of the institutions where the abuse took place were supported by the state or subject to state inspection.

Cardinal Sodano, the now 90-year-old dean of the College of Cardinals, has not responded to the claims, nor has the Vatican press office.

Writing Aug. 7 in the Irish Times, Marie Collins, who had been one of the abuse survivors Pope Francis named to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said that in Dublin the pope "should admit the responsibility the Vatican and church leadership hold for past events in Ireland and set out how he is going to deal with the abuses happening today in other parts of the Catholic world."

"He needs to do more than make promises," Collins wrote. "He must commit to action."

U.S. Dominican Father Thomas Doyle, who has spent decades working with survivors of clerical sexual abuse, told the Irish radio RTE Aug. 13 he hoped Pope Francis would have the courage to admit publicly that the Vatican itself was involved in covering up abuse crimes.

"I believe that kind of a statement coming from him is absolutely necessary because the day is long gone when people will tolerate them saying, 'Well, we're sorry for the pain you suffered, for the mistakes that were made.' No," he said, "it wasn't mistakes. It was an intentional program, an intentional, systemic program" to protect the church above all else.

Officials chose to "sacrifice the thousands of victims for the image and the welfare and the power of the institution," Father Doyle said. "The apology has to come from the top."

A meeting with Irish survivors of abuse is not on the pope's official schedule, but in the past, such meetings were announced only after they had taken place.

Irish newspapers reported Aug. 1 that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said he was certain Pope Francis would speak of the abuse scandal, but he was not sure that the pope would have time to meet with survivors given that he would be in Ireland only 36 hours.

Collins told RTE the next day Vatican officials "are delusional" if they believe not meeting survivors would keep the topic of abuse out of the news while the pope is in Dublin. "Ignoring an issue is not going to make it go away."

What the pope "needs to do, particularly now as the flood gates are opening around the world," she said, is to state clearly "what he is going to do about this crisis in the church. At the moment it is not being addressed."

A session on "safeguarding children and vulnerable adults" is scheduled for the World Meeting of Families' pastoral congress Aug. 24, the day before the pope arrives. It will be moderated by Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, president of the pontifical commission, and Collins is scheduled to be one of the presenters.

The magnitude of abuse inflicted by Catholic priests, religious brothers and women religious in Ireland is staggering.

Beginning in the mid-1990s, the church in Ireland was rocked by a series of very public revelations about sexual abuse and, particularly, about how the abuse and allegations of it were mishandled by senior church leaders. The abuse included thousands of cases of sexual and physical abuse in Catholic residential schools and care facilities, including the so-called Magdalene laundries where young women were sent for having children out of wedlock or being suspected of sexual promiscuity.

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.

One of the judicial reports, released in 2009, focused on the Archdiocese of Dublin in the years 1975-2004. An independent Commission of Investigation, headed by Judge Yvonne Murphy, looked at the handling of some 325 abuse claims in the archdiocese over that 30-year period.

The report concluded that during those years, rather than being concerned about the victims, Catholic leaders were more interested in "the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church and the preservation of its assets."

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 also ordered an apostolic visitation of Ireland's four archdioceses, its seminaries and its religious orders and put U.S. Archbishop Charles J. Brown, a longtime official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in charge of the nunciature in Ireland. The move came after the previous nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, was recalled in 2011 after an independent judicial report accused the Holy See of being "entirely unhelpful" to Irish bishops trying to deal with abuse.

In July 2014, Pope Francis held his first meeting as pope with survivors, including two from Ireland. They were accompanied by Collins, who was then serving on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Collins resigned from the commission in March 2017, saying some Vatican offices were blocking the implementation of recommendations made by the commission.

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

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

Abuse letter to Cardinal O'Malley was second priest sent officials

Top Stories - Mon, 08/13/2018 - 6:12pm

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a June 2015 letter to Boston's Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley obtained by Catholic News Service, a New York priest tells the prelate about "sexual abuse/harassment/intimidation" allegations he had heard concerning then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick and asks that if the matter doesn't fall under his purview, to forward it to the "proper agency in the Vatican."

The letter "has taken me years to write and send," writes Father Boniface Ramsey, pastor of St. Joseph's Church Yorkville in New York City, who made the letter available to CNS in early August. But it was the second time he had attempted to tell church officials in writing.

In it, he describes for Cardinal O'Malley conversations with the rector of a seminary in New Jersey about trips then-Archbishop McCarrick, as head of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, would take with seminarians to a beach house.

During the time period he mentions in the letter, 1986 to 1996, he says he was teaching at Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. He writes of the accounts he'd heard of Archbishop McCarrick's repeated trips to a New Jersey beach house where, after too many seminarians were invited for too few beds, "the extra seminarian was then told that he could share the archbishop's bed."

"Some of these stories were not presented to me as mere rumors but were told me by persons directly involved," he wrote.

In an Aug. 13 phone interview with CNS, Father Ramsey said he didn't know any sexual acts were taking place, "but I thought his (McCarrick's) behavior was extremely inappropriate at the least." He said he was careful about what he wrote in the letter to Cardinal O'Malley because he didn't want to be spreading rumors he'd heard, but he had concerns about the bed-sharing after hearing that it weighed on one of his friends who was tasked with finding seminarians for the archbishop's beach visits.

"I'd never heard of any adult who had sex with McCarrick," he said, but felt the constant bed sharing he'd often heard about was "something he shouldn't have been doing."

The letter dated June 17, 2015, was sent just shortly after the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, headed by Cardinal O'Malley, received its statutes in May 2015. Father Ramsey said he sent it then because he had heard of the formation of the commission and had recently been at the funeral for New York Cardinal Edward M. Egan, who died in March 2015, and saw Cardinal McCarrick there. At that point the prelate was archbishop of Washington.

"I was angry," Father Ramsey told Catholic News Service. "I said 'this guy is still out and about.'"

Father Ramsey said it made him "upset" to see that Cardinal McCarrick, after "this long history which so many people knew about, he could continue to show his face."

He had written a letter about his concerns more than a decade before, in 2000, and it didn't seem to go anywhere, but his new motivation came about when he saw Cardinal McCarrick and "wanted this stuff to stop with the seminarians," he said in the interview. So, he sat down to write a letter - again.

"The matter does not have to do with the abuse of minors, but it does have to do with a form of sexual abuse/harassment/intimidation or maybe simply high-jinks as practiced by Theodore Cardinal McCarrick with his seminarians and perhaps other young men when he was the Archbishop of Newark," writes Father Ramsey to Cardinal O'Malley.

In a July statement, Cardinal O'Malley said he did not "personally" receive the letter but the statement said "at the staff level the letter was reviewed and determined that the matters presented did not fall under the purview of the Commission or the Archdiocese of Boston..." However, the response from the cardinal's office did not say whether it had been forwarded to the proper agency, as Father Ramsey had requested.

In the letter to Cardinal O'Malley, Father Ramsey says that he had in the past told Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly of Louisville, who died in December 2011, about his concerns. Archbishop Kelly told him that "stories about Archbishop McCarrick had been circulating among the American bishops," the letter says, and that Archbishop Kelly mentioned to him a story involving a flight attendant.

In the interview with CNS, Father Ramsey said the story was about a male flight attendant whom Archbishop McCarrick "picked up" on a flight, telling him that perhaps he had a vocation, and ended up enrolling him in a seminary, but there seemed to be reasons other than religious for wanting him there. The flight-attendant-turned seminarian was later kicked out of the seminary.  

Father Ramsey writes in the letter that after Archbishop McCarrick was appointed to the Archdiocese of Washington in 2000, he tried to speak to the apostolic nuncio in Washington, who was then Gabriel Montalvo Higuera, about what he knew. The nuncio told him to write him a letter, which Father Ramsey said he sent. He told a priest friend about the letter and that friend tried to dissuade him from sending it, telling him it could hurt him.

"I never received any acknowledgement, although I have certain knowledge that the letter was received, and that the information was forwarded to somewhere in the Vatican," he wrote Cardinal O'Malley.

The writing of the letter didn't seem to hurt Father Ramsey, as his friend had feared. But its revelations also didn't seem to hurt Archbishop McCarrick.

"I found it shocking at the time that Archbishop McCarrick was ever advanced to the Archdiocese of Washington, since I have little doubt that many persons in the Vatican were aware of his proclivities before he was named," he wrote in the letter to Cardinal O'Malley. "And then, of course, on to the cardinalate, which was to be expected for the Archbishop of Washington, but still distressing."

Mentioning cases of high-ranking officials disgraced because of sexual misbehavior, he said in the letter that "it seems bizarre to me that Cardinal McCarrick is out and about, a conspicuous presence at religious (including papal) events, being interviewed, giving speeches, serving on committees and the like. Was not what he did at the very least highly questionable? Was it not taking advantage of young men who did not know how to say no to their archbishop? Has it not, for the many laity and clergy who were aware of his actions, contributed to cynicism about the church and the hierarchy?"

Father Ramsey said he did not keep a letter of the one sent in 2000 to the nuncio, but in between the first and the second letter he sent, he said tried to speak with others, including Cardinal Egan, about stopping then- Archbishop McCarrick.

"He (Cardinal Egan) didn't want to hear about it," Father Ramsey said to CNS.

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Paul Haring, senior photographer at the CNS bureau in Rome, contributed to this story.

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

Discalced Carmelites use time-honored skills to construct new monastery

Top Stories - Mon, 08/13/2018 - 2:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness

By Jen Reed

FAIRFIELD, Pa. (CNS) -- The grinding sounds of an excavation and construction site yielded to the intonation of a solemn pontifical Mass and prayers for the future on a vista in Fairfield July 25, where construction is underway for a second monastery for the Discalced Carmelite nuns in the Harrisburg Diocese.

A little more than two years ago -- on June 13, 2016 -- Mother Stella-Marie, prioress, stood at this same site gazing at the grassy and tree-lined farmland overlooking southern Adams County, and expressed her trust in the Lord that "one day we will see here a beautiful monastery that is dedicated to the glory of God."

While the building materials for the cloistered monastery are still being prepared for construction -- namely, the excavation of stone from the land on which it will stand -- the early development of its farmstead can already be seen.

True to Carmelite tradition and architecture in the footsteps of their foundress, St. Teresa of Avila, the nuns are creating a type of settlement that will include a chapel, a novitiate, a building for the professed, an infirmary, a guest cottage chaplain's quarters, walkways, gardens and a small farm.

Harrisburg Bishop Ronald W. Gainer celebrated the July 25 Mass in the carmel's newly constructed barn that will serve as a temporary chapel until the permanent stone chapel is built. The new barn also includes a kitchen, refectory, choir, an area where people can leave prayer requests, donations and food, and a speak room that allows the nuns to receive limited visits from behind a grille.

Nine Discalced Carmelites, including Mother Stella-Marie, moved from the at-capacity Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Elysburg to the Fairfield site July 20. They will sleep in their individual cells in a temporary mobile home until the monastery is built.

This community of Discalced Carmelites first came to the Diocese of Harrisburg from Lincoln, Nebraska, in 2009, due to their growing numbers. Initially 11 arrived at the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Elysburg, after the previous Carmelites moved to their current location in Danville.

Since their arrival in Elysburg, their numbers have more than doubled, with the monastery there filling to capacity with 28 nuns. Among them was Sister Mary Magdalene of the Divine Heart (formerly Channing Dale of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Lancaster), who entered in 2013, and is currently enclosed in the Discalced Carmelite community in Philadelphia.

The Carmelites continue to attract young women to the congregation, and so the available farmland in Fairfield -- owned by the parents of Mother Therese -- offered an opportunity for expansion from Elysburg.

Like St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux, the Discalced Carmelites practice the traditional aspects of Carmelite and monastic life -- prayer, fasting, enclosure and union with God.

Entering the cloister from locations throughout the world -- including Australia and Ghana -- they dedicate their lives to prayer and sacrifice to give themselves totally to God for the world. 

Enclosed in the monastery, and leaving behind family and friends, they spend their days in scheduled times of silent prayer, the Divine Office, holy Mass, recitation of the rosary and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. They also have time for work in making clothes, baking bread, and tending to the garden and farm; and recreational time for sewing, artwork and storytelling.

"I think young women are drawn to what is authentic," Mother Stella-Marie said of the growing number of vocations to the community. "They are looking to live in our day and age exactly as St. Teresa of Avila did. They want to be enclosed because they want to give everything. Most of the women tell us that if they are going to dedicate their life to God, they want to go all the way and give absolutely everything to him."

For this reason, it is critical that the new monastery in Fairfield be built in the Carmelite tradition, said Mother Therese.

Watching as excavators wrenched stone from the land for construction, she told The Catholic Witness, Harrisburg's diocesan newspaper, earlier this summer, "People expect us to be real nuns, all the way through. They don't want to see a nice veneer on the outside, but then something different inside.

"We have a lot of young vocations coming. We need to be able to teach them not just one or two hours a day about tradition. They need to learn 24/7 from these stone walls, which are authentic all the way through," she said.

The blueprints for the monastery farmstead illustrate buildings designed to stand the test of time: a chapel, a refectory, a novitiate, a building for the professed, a caretaker's home, chaplain's quarters and a guest cottage.

Their construction requires authentic materials and craftsmanship as the Carmelites build for future generations of their congregation.

Throughout the project's development, the nuns have continued to be the beneficiaries of generous donors and volunteers who have offered their time, talent and treasure.

They include stonemasons and timber framers, among them a mason from Scotland who instructed local volunteers in the craft, notably a "dry build" of the all-stone woodshed.

Benefactors have donated barn wood and stone that will be used to construct the buildings. Volunteers have spent time deep-cleaning the donated wooden beams. Others have been providing meals for the workers. Still others have helped with the build, including men of the local Amish community.

"It has been a beautiful way for us to evangelize and to connect with people we otherwise would not have contact with," said Mother Therese. "We are hoping to continue to build on these connections and find ways to channel them into lasting relationships."

As Mother Stella-Marie and Mother Therese walked the new grounds in Fairfield, they also spoke of long-fostered relationships with family and within the community, and how they change with time.

The nuns are experiencing a degree of separation in their community as this new chapter begins. Nine of the total 28 from the monastery in Elysburg are now forging a new foundation in Fairfield, and parted ways from their counterparts who remain enclosed some two hours to the north.

"It is a sacrifice to break away from each other, but it is a sacrifice that we make for the future of the congregation," said Mother Stella-Marie. "We will stay united. Even though we won't see each other any longer, we will remain close in prayer."

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Editor's Note: Information about the Discalced Carmelite nuns, the progress of the monastery in Fairfield and volunteer efforts can be found at www.fairfieldcarmelites.org.

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Reed is the managing editor of The Catholic Witness, newspaper of the Diocese of Harrisburg.

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

Fight scandal by giving witness to the Gospel, pope tells young people

Top Stories - Sat, 08/11/2018 - 4:09pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- Members of the Catholic Church sin and give scandal, it's true, Pope Francis said, but it is up to each Catholic to live the faith as authentically as possible and witness to the world the love of Jesus.

"The best way to respond is with witness," the pope said Aug. 11 in response to a young man who said, "The useless pomp and frequent scandals have made the church barely credible in our eyes."

Pope Francis spoke about witness, dreams and true love during an evening meeting with some 70,000 young adults, aged 16 to 30, gathered at Rome's Circus Maximus at the end of a pilgrimage. Most of them had walked at least 50 miles over the previous three or four days. Representatives came from 195 of Italy's 226 dioceses, and 150 bishops walked at least part of the way with groups from their dioceses.

The young people began congregating at the dusty site of the ancient Roman stadium early in the afternoon when temperatures were already in the 90s. They gathered together on the shady slopes of the field, under the loudspeaker towers and even set up their pup tents seeking relief from the bright sun.

Five young people were chosen to share their stories with the crowd and ask Pope Francis questions. They asked his advice about keeping their dreams alive when the future seems so uncertain, how to prepare to marry and start a family and how to get church leaders to listen to them rather than preach at them.

"He put his finger in the wound," the pope said in reference to the last question, which was posed by Dario, a 27-year-old hospice nurse. He told the pope, "For young people, commands from on high are no longer enough, we need signs and the sincere witness of a church that accompanies us and listens to the doubts our generation raises each day."

Dario's judgment of the church's pastors is "strong," the pope said, and it is true that "sometimes we are the ones who betray the Gospel."

But Pope Francis also told the young people they need to recognize that they, too, are part of the church. Thinking only religious, priests and bishops are the church is "clericalism" and "clericalism is a perversion of the church," he said.

The best way to respond to a stuffy, lifeless church or to church scandals, the pope told them, "is with witness. If there is no witness, there is no Holy Spirit. The church without witness is just smoke."

Letizia, 23, told the pope she wanted to be an art historian, but was advised to study economy because it would pay better. Lucamatteo, 20, told the pope dreaming big dreams is frightening, and Martina, 24, said she wants to start preparing for marriage and a family, but everyone seems to think it's more important to have a career first.

"Dreams are important," the pope told them. "And the dreams of the young are the most important of all; they are the brightest stars, those that indicate a different path for humanity."

Of course, he said, dreams must grow, be put to the test and purified. Those worth pursuing -- those the Bible would call "great dreams" -- always are those that will help others and make the world a better place. "Great dreams include, involve others, reach out, share and generate new life."

One of the greatest dreams of all, he said, is the dream of finding true love, pledging oneself to another for life and creating a family. It is so important and so holy, he said, that it should never take second place to one's career.

True love is not simply infatuation, the pope told the young people. It involves giving all of oneself to another; "you have to put all the meat on the grill, as we say in Argentina."

"To choose, to be able to decide for oneself seems to be the highest expression of freedom," he said. "And in a certain sense, it is. But the idea of choice we breathe today is that of a freedom without bonds -- pay attention to this -- without bonds, without commitment and always with some kind of escape route."

But true joy and happiness come from finding what is most precious, what "is worth saying 'yes' to and giving your life to," the pope said.

The evening ended with a prayer service and the reading of the Gospel story of the apostles running to Jesus' tomb after Mary Magdalene told them Jesus was no longer there. John arrived first, but waited for Peter before going in, the pope noted in his homily.

Young people should run with the same passion for Jesus, Pope Francis said. "The church needs your enthusiasm, your intuitions, your faith. And when you arrive where we have not yet been, have the patience to wait for us like John waited for Peter before the empty tomb."

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

Cardinal O'Malley calls for investigation at Boston seminary

Top Stories - Fri, 08/10/2018 - 5:27pm

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Archbishop of Boston said in an Aug. 10 statement that he has asked the rector of its main archdiocesan St. John Seminary to go on sabbatical leave immediately and is asking for an investigation of allegations made on social media about activities there "directly contrary to the moral standards and requirements of formation for the Catholic priesthood."

"At this time, I am not able to verify or disprove these allegations," said Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley in a statement sent to media via email. He does not say in the statement what the allegations are about.

However, a post on the community section of a Facebook page for the Archdiocese of Boston has a comment by someone named Andrew Solkshinitz? with a link to a blog post that describes seminarians at "conservative seminary" drinking heavily, "cuddling" after a drunken party, and being involved in sexual behaviors and acts. Solkshinitz says on Facebook that the seminary not identified in the blog post is St. John.

"As a former Boston seminarian for 3 years I am calling upon the church to seriously examine the seminary located on Lake street," Solkshinitz writes in the post he made on the page. "The church has not learned her lesson and maybe if the stories are once again made public then things will finally change."

In a statement released by the archdiocese, Cardinal O'Malley said that Father Stephen E. Salocks, professor of sacred Scripture, will serve as interim rector at St. John Seminary as Msgr. James P. Moroney, its rector, goes on sabbatical leave for the fall semester, "in order that there can be a fully independent inquiry regarding these matters," he wrote.  

Cardinal O'Malley said he also has appointed a group "to oversee an inquiry into the allegations made this week, the culture of the seminary regarding the personal standards expected and required of candidates for the priesthood, and any seminary issues of sexual harassment or other forms of intimidation or discrimination."

He said he has asked the group to submit its findings as soon as possible.

"The allegations made this week are a source of serious concern to me as archbishop of Boston," he wrote. "The ministry of the Catholic priesthood requires a foundation of trust with the people of the church and the wider community in which our priests serve. I am determined that all our seminaries meet that standard of trust and provide the formation necessary for priests to live a demanding vocation of service in our contemporary society. "

Cardinal O'Malley is one of Pope Francis' chief advisers on clerical sexual abuse and heads the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Boston was the epicenter of the abuse scandal that erupted in the church in 2002. The Boston Archdiocese was then headed by Cardinal Bernard F. Law.

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