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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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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 '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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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 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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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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Bishops, faith leaders condemn Tennessee's first execution in nine years

Top Stories - Fri, 08/10/2018 - 5:00pm

By Theresa Laurence

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- Two Tennessee Catholic bishops called the execution of Billy Ray Irick Aug. 9 "unnecessary."

"Tonight's execution of Billy Ray Irick was unnecessary. It served no useful purpose," Bishop J. Mark Spalding of Nashville and Bishop Richard F. Stika of Knoxville said in a statement after Irick was executed at Riverbend Maximum Security Institute in Nashville.

"In this time of sadness, that began many years ago with the tragic and brutal death of Paula Dyer and continues with another death tonight, we believe that only Jesus Christ can bring consolation and peace," the bishops said. "We continue to pray for Paula and for her family. And we also pray for Billy Ray Irick, that his final human thoughts were of remorse and sorrow for we believe that only Christ can serve justice. "

They also said they prayed that the people of Tennessee "may all come to cherish the dignity that his love instills in every person -- at every stage of life."

Irick, 59, died at 7:48 p.m. CDT after Tennessee prison officials administered a lethal combination of chemicals. According to press reports, before he died Irick was coughing, choking and gasping for air and his face turned dark purple as the lethal drugs took effect.

He was the first person executed in Tennessee since 2009 and the first person executed in the United States since Pope Francis announced Aug. 2 that he had ordered a change in the Catechism of the Catholic Church declaring that the death penalty is inadmissible in all cases.

Irick was convicted in 1986 for the murder and rape of 7-year-old Paula Dyer of Knoxville and had been on death row ever since.

Attorneys for Irick had filed a last-minute appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a stay of his execution until their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Tennessee's lethal injection protocol could be heard by the state Court of Appeals.

Five hours before the execution, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal, with a dissent filed by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

"In refusing to grant Irick a stay, the court today turns a blind eye to a proven likelihood that the state of Tennessee is on the verge of inflicting several minutes of torturous pain on an inmate in its custody, while shrouding his suffering behind a veneer of paralysis," Sotomayor wrote in her dissent.

On a humid night at sunset, spiritual leaders led prayers and read Scripture to the group. Others who knew Irick from visiting him on death row shared memories about him.

"Being in that physical proximity, knowing that behind all the concrete walls and barbed wire a killing is going on is a very sobering thing," said Deacon James Booth, director of prison ministry for the Diocese of Nashville, who stood outside the prison with a group of about 20 fellow anti-death penalty activists as Irick was executed.

Before the execution, Deacon Booth was planning how he would minister to death-row inmates in the coming days. "I will let them speak," he said, to say whatever they want in order to process the emotions and the grief they might feel, akin to losing a family member.

While the men on death row are guilty of horrific crimes including rape and murder, Deacon Booth believes, and the Catholic Church teaches, that they still retain their human dignity and capacity for forgiveness and redemption.

Tennessee's bishops, in the weeks before the execution, issued two statements calling for the end of the death penalty and condemning Irick's execution.

Bishops Spalding, Stika and Martin D. Holley of Memphis also wrote a letter to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam in July, urging him to halt Irick's execution and the three other executions scheduled before the end of the year.

Irick's execution had been stayed twice before, in 2010 and 2014, as attorneys argued the state's lethal injection protocol constituted "cruel and unusual punishment" and that Irick's history of severe mental illness was not taken into adequate consideration during his sentencing or throughout the lengthy appeals process.

The timing of the execution, just one week after Pope Francis announced that he was officially changing the Catechism to oppose capital punishment in all instances, is disheartening to Deacon Booth.

"When the head of the largest Christian denomination in the world speaks out forcefully against the death penalty ' that should be kind of a force that should stay the hand of revenge, and it's hard to see this as anything but revenge," Deacon Booth said of Irick's execution. 

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Laurence is a staff writer for the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville.

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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.

Canon lawyers explain how Vatican abuse trials function

Top Stories - Fri, 08/10/2018 - 1:37pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Any member of the clergy accused of the sexual abuse of a minor is tried according to procedures outlined in the Code of Canon Law and specific norms spelled out in "Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela" ("Safeguarding the Sanctity of the Sacraments").

Normally those trials take place in the diocese where the crime occurred, but under the direction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. However, when the accused is a bishop, it is up to the pope to determine the way to proceed.

When the Vatican press office announced July 28 that Pope Francis had accepted Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick's resignation from the College of Cardinals, it also said the pope "ordered his suspension from the exercise of any public ministry, together with the obligation to remain in a house yet to be indicated to him, for a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial."

The "regular canonical trial" for an accused bishop, canon law experts said, usually would be a trial conducted by the apostolic tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. However, the phrase in the original Italian announcement referred to the "regolare processo canonico," which could be translated as "regular canonical process."

The regular process described in "Safeguarding the Sanctity of the Sacraments" includes the option of an "extrajudicial decree," an administrative process by which the accused is presented with the evidence and given an opportunity for self-defense, but there is no trial and no witnesses are called.

Two canon lawyers experienced with how the apostolic tribunals of the doctrinal congregation work spoke with Catholic News Service in Rome in early August, but requested their names not be used because they are not congregation staff members and cannot speak for the congregation.

Both lawyers said canon law also would view as a crime the sexual abuse or harassment of an adult by his superior, for example, in the case of a bishop abusing adult seminarians. The crime could be prosecuted as an "abuse of office" or as a "delict against the Sixth Commandment," which says, "You shall not commit adultery." The phrase in church law, one of them said, may sound vague, but it leaves room for prosecuting a variety of sexual crimes. And the punishment prescribed is to be commensurate with the offense.

A canonical trial at the Vatican differs in many ways from criminal trials in the United States, for example.

An apostolic tribunal of the doctrinal congregation has at least three and as many as five judges. In the past, accusations against bishops have been tried before a five-judge panel with all of the judges being bishops.

In canon law, there is a basic presumption of innocence but not to the extent seen in U.S. or British law. The accused has the right to defend himself and the right to counsel. But the promoter of justice, a role similar to prosecutor, does not have to prove motive, means or criminal intent.

Also unlike U.S. trials, the prosecutor and defense counsel do not question the witnesses. That is the task of the judges.

Both the prosecutor and the defense counsel propose a list of witnesses, but the judges must approve them. The judges have access to the report of the preliminary, diocesan investigation and are likely to use that to determine which witnesses are essential.

The accused can testify and can refuse to answer questions that might incriminate him. Also, in accordance with canon 1728.2, no oath is administered to the accused. One of the canon lawyers told CNS that the oath is so sacred to the church that it would not risk putting a person in the position of violating it with perjury.

The promoter of justice and the defense counsel are given copies of all the testimony, and it is their duty to summarize it and present the summary to the judges. Each lawyer sees the other's summary and comments on it, pointing out where they see weaknesses or inconsistencies in the testimony. The comment process can go back and forth several times, but when the promoter of justice says he is finished, the defense counsel is given the last word.

The judges deliberate in private, usually at the Vatican. Three verdicts are possible: guilty, not guilty or not proven. The last indicates that while there is no condemnation or penalty, the accusations raised enough questions that church officials should be cautious in the future about assigning the accused to unsupervised ministries with minors or vulnerable adults.

In a canonical trial, everything is covered by confidentiality, usually referred to as "pontifical secret." The phrase does not indicate a refusal on the church's part to report a crime to the police -- in accordance with local laws, such reporting already should have occurred when the crime was first reported to the diocese before the allegations were forwarded to Rome, one of the canonists told CNS.

If there is a guilty verdict and the penalty involves the accused being removed from ministry or from office or having limits placed on ministry, it is announced publicly because it impacts the Catholic community.

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

Archbishop Gregory: Weary of 'cloud of shame' shrouding church leaders

Top Stories - Thu, 08/09/2018 - 1:50pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By

ATLANTA (CNS) -- Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory issued a print and video statement Aug. 9 on the website of The Georgia Bulletin, archdiocesan newspaper, expressing his "profound anger, sadness and distress concerning sexual abuse by church leaders of children, young people and those over whom they exercised authority."

"My anger and disappointment, shared by Catholics and others, are only heightened by the reality that leaders who have engaged in or neglected to protect others from such damaging and deviant behavior have for many years failed to be held accountable -- and have even risen in leadership positions," he said. "We must do better -- for the sake of all victims and survivors of sexual abuse and for the sake of everyone whom we serve."

Archbishop Gregory said Catholics everywhere, including him, "are stunned and justifiably angry at shameful, unrelenting recent revelations of bishops accused of abuse or mishandling allegations of abuse -- behavior that offends and scandalizes the people of God entrusted to our care."

He said Catholics are specifically "enraged" about allegations of abuse by Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick and find "any pastoral negligence in protecting our people is similarly grievous."

"We are weary of this cloud of shame that continues to shroud church leadership and compromise our mission," he said, adding that he is "personally disheartened" because in 2002, as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, he made assurances that this crisis was over and would not be repeated.

"I sincerely believed that the unprecedented steps we took at that time would help to heal this wound in the body of Christ. And so they have, " he added, "though obviously not completely or even sufficiently."

The archbishop said he was saddened because many good priests are again "seen as suspect not because they have done anything wrong" and he was hurt that his respect and fraternal esteem for Archbishop McCarrick "were clearly misplaced."

He said he never personally worked with Archbishop McCarrick in any pastoral context and said he also "never knew or suspected the hidden side of a man whose admired public persona concealed that of a violator of foundational Christian morality and of young people who trusted him."

"Like any individual who discovers far too late that a friend has a history of moral misconduct, I now stand dumbfounded that I was so unaware and naive," he said, adding that he knows many other bishops feel the same way.

"People are angry, as well they should be, that our church is once again viewed as a haven for criminal deviant behavior," he said, adding that priests also are hurt and Catholics are disappointed with bishops in general "who seemingly cannot or will not act decisively to heal this festering wound."

Catholics are "perplexed and sickened," he said, "that the Holy See may well have dismissed multiple warning signs" that should have stopped Archbishop McCarrick and others earlier in their careers. He also said Catholics are disheartened that situations here and in other countries continue to "call into question everything the church has done to safeguard children and adults from manipulation and violation."

Archbishop Gregory said he recently met with archdiocesan seminarians and told them directly "that if any person in any context made advances or exhibited behavior that made them feel uncomfortable or threatened, they are to notify the director of vocations, one of the auxiliary bishops or me personally so that we may take swift and appropriate action -- pastoral and legal.

"Their parents and family members should know that these young men are in safe and respectful environments and that, as their archbishop, I will not tolerate any activity that threatens to harm or intimidate them."

He said that while the USCCB's current leadership considers its next steps, he strongly urges these leaders to "engage the laity in reviewing and recommending courses of action that will assure the faithful that we are serious in curing this blight from our church and from episcopal governance once and for all."

He pointed out that when the USCCB established a national lay review board in 2002, there was some pushback because some people felt they were "improperly ceding control of the ministry of bishops" but given the current situation, he said, oversight by laity "may well provide the only credible assurance that real and decisive actions are being taken."

"Our trustworthiness as bishops has been so seriously compromised that acting alone -- even with the best of intentions and the highest principles, policies and plans --may not move the hearts of the faithful to believe," he added.

The archbishop said he prays that this moment and the days, weeks, and months ahead will be an opportunity for light to break through the darkness; for victims and survivors of sexual abuse to come forward and receive the help, support and healing they need; and for church leadership to be renewed and have the courage to take the necessary next steps.

"Like so many of you I am angry, but I am not overcome by despair. I hope and I pray that the Holy Spirit will cleanse and strengthen the church," Archbishop Gregory said. "My anger has not led me to hopelessness; I pray yours has not either. I am grateful for your witness of faith and hope, even in difficult times."

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Editor's Note: Archbishop Gregory's print and video statement can be found at https://bit.ly/2AXKhgA.

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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.

Argentina Senate votes down abortion decriminalization bill

Top Stories - Thu, 08/09/2018 - 12:46pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Agustin Marcarian

By David Agren

MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- The Argentine Senate voted against a bill that would have decriminalized abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Senators voted 38-31 against the measure early Aug. 9 following a 15-hour debate. The measure had been approved in June by the lower house of Congress.

The Argentine bishops' conference hailed the vote, saying the debate in the country opened an opportunity for dialogue and a chance to focus more on social ministry.

The Senate debate revealed deep divisions in Argentina, where support for decriminalizing abortion drew stronger support in Buenos Aires, the capital, than in the more conservative provinces. Observers attributed that difference to the bill being voted down in the Senate, which includes more representation from outlying areas.

The vote came as a movement of women and supporters of the measure -- wearing green handkerchiefs -- filled the streets outside the Congress as voting occurred. Catholics, meanwhile, celebrated the Eucharist.

"Everyone has time to express their viewpoints and be heard by legislators in a healthy democratic exercise. But the only ones that didn't have an opportunity de make themselves heard are the human beings that struggled to be born," Cardinal Mario Poli, Pope Francis' successor in Buenos Aires, said Aug. 8 in his homily at a what organizers called a "Mass for Life."

In an acknowledgment that the church could be doing more to work with women, Cardinal Poli said, "We have done little to accompany the women when find themselves in tough situations, particularly when the (pregnancy) has is the result of rape or situations of extreme poverty."

In a statement after the vote, the bishops' conference said it was time to address the "new divisions developing between us ... through a renewed exercise of dialogue."

"We are facing great pastoral challenges to speak more clearly on the value of life," the bishops said.

More than 75 percent of Argentines still consider themselves Catholic, but the opposition to the abortion bill also came from Protestant and evangelical congregations, prompting the bishops' conference to acknowledge that "ecumenical dialogue and inter-religious dialogue has grown at this time of joining forces to protect life."

Analysts in Argentina say church opposition to the abortion bill started somewhat quietly as the measure was not expected to pass the lower house. Pope Francis, a native of Argentina, also largely stayed on the sidelines, except for a strong denunciation of abortion in June. At the time he said, "Last century, the whole world was scandalized by what the Nazis did to purify the race. Today, we do the same thing but with white gloves."

"When the lower house result occurred, (the hierarchy) started to understand something similar could happen with the senators so the Argentine church and various movements and associations became frontally against the bill," said Jose Maria Poirier, publisher of the Catholic magazine Criterio.

"It's created tension" in the Argentine church "that the pope has not intervened directly," he added.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri had promised to sign the bill into law had it been approved. Observers said the relationship between the Catholic Church and Macri had deteriorated somewhat as the pope's statements on economic matters were not well received as president tried to implement difficult economic reforms in recent months.

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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 expert: Crisis is call to new vision of priesthood, accountability

Top Stories - Thu, 08/09/2018 - 8:39am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A Jesuit priest who has been on the frontline of advocating for survivors of clerical sexual abuse and developing detailed programs to prevent abuse said the crisis unfolding, again, in the United States is a summons to a new way of envisioning the church and taking responsibility for it.

"I am not surprised" by the new reports of abuse, "I do not think it will stop soon and, at the same time, I think it is necessary and should be seen in the framework of evolving a more consistent practice of accountability," said Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, a professor of psychology and president of the Center for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

"I know that people are deeply angry and they are losing their trust -- this is understandable. That is normal, humanly speaking," he told Catholic News Service Aug. 7 as newspapers were filled with information and commentary about the case of retired Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, misconduct in a Nebraska seminary and the pending release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse.

The courage of survivors to speak out, the investigative work of both police and church bodies, the implementation of child protection measures and improved screening of potential seminarians, church workers and volunteers mean that children and vulnerable adults are safer today.

But, as Father Zollner has been saying for years, that does not mean accusations of past abuse will stop coming out, and it does not guarantee there will never again be a case of abuse or sexual misconduct.

Dealing with the reality of potential abuse and the history of clerical sexual abuse in the church is a process, he said. "We see that people were first speaking out about the misbehavior of priests and now it's bishops, so there is a development there. I am not surprised, and I do not think it will stop soon."

After Archbishop McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals and was ordered to live a life of prayer and penance pending a church trial, many U.S. bishops began speaking publicly of devising a process to review accusations made against bishops.

Father Zollner agreed that is a good idea, but he believes it must be part of "a new way of coming together as the people of God" and taking responsibility for the church.

To make that happen, he said, "we need to honestly look at what we can learn from the way society and companies function in terms of accountability, transparency and compliance."

"A church body investigating allegations needs to have as much independence as possible," Father Zollner said. "When dealing with accusations against a bishop, there should be at least a mixed board -- meaning some bishops and some independent lay persons. If it is not possible to have a fully complete investigation by independent lay persons, there should be as many as possible and as experienced as possible. Our canon lawyers are trained in legal procedures; they are not trained in investigation."

But the response must go far beyond setting up another new structure, he said.

"Since God is the Lord of history, I understand all this as a call to a deeper understanding of what is the church about, what is priesthood about and what is the Christian life," he told CNS.

"From my point of view, the temptation can be to return to a very strict, closed-fortress idea of church, controlling everything," he said, but "that will not work anymore. We need a new model of accountability and responsibility and a new way of educating the whole people of God in Christian ideals."

The dominant understanding of priesthood and power -- described as clericalism -- is one key ingredient and was highlighted as a major contributing factor to abuse and a reluctance to report it in the December report of Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

In an essay published in January by Civilta Cattolica, the Jesuit journal, Father Zollner said, "Whoever in infancy or youth or as a candidate for priesthood learned that a priest is always blameless can easily develop the mindset that he does not need to justify himself to anyone. Anyone endowed with sacred powers can take anything he wants for himself. That kind of mentality can explain, at least in part, why some priests who have abused children or young people deny doing so or believe that they themselves were victims or merely accomplices ('he seduced me,' 'he liked it'), often making them blind to the suffering they have caused."

In addition to a renewed understanding of priesthood, Father Zollner told CNS, Catholics must reflect more fully on and articulate more clearly "what an integrated sexual life for married people, single people and clergy would look like. There is a lot to be done in that area."

Responding to comments that the clerical sexual abuse crisis is a result of the sexual revolution and the loss of sexual morals, Father Zollner urged caution and an objective study of the facts.

"The statistics from the Royal Commission report in Australia indicate that the abuse had its peak in Australia in the '50s and early '60s, which was way before the sexual revolution took place, so this goes against that argument," he said. Studies from the United States, Ireland and Germany also show that most abusers did their seminary training and were ordained before the sexual revolution.

"Among the clergy, the number of new allegations from the last 20 and especially the last 10 years has dropped almost to nil," he said.

At the same time, Father Zollner urged a renewed vigilance because of "the whole area of the internet and the availability of pornographic material and all kinds of sexual exploitation that are facilitated by that; it brings a new dimension to this and to society at large."

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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.

Baltimore history, culture have a place at Knights of Columbus convention

Top Stories - Wed, 08/08/2018 - 12:37pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review

By Paul McMullen

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The chalice on the center of the altar was given by the pope to the third archbishop of Baltimore nearly two centuries ago.

The local welcome crew wore vests that included the outline of a Chesapeake blue crab.

Visitors to the 136th annual Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus got both boisterous and subtle reminders of their location the morning of Aug. 7, when Archbishop William E. Lori, their supreme chaplain, was the principal celebrant for the gathering's opening Mass.

Held in a ballroom at the Baltimore Convention Center more accustomed to boat shows, the liturgy was offered against a backdrop that incorporated an image of the dome of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It was a familiar sight to those Knights and their families, primarily from across North America but from far away as the Philippines, who might have already visited America's first cathedral, a little more than a half-mile to the north.

In his homily, Archbishop Lori mentioned those who came to Southern Maryland from England in 1634 seeking freedom from religious persecution, and the Knights' founder, Father Michael J. McGivney, who was ordained at the Baltimore Basilica in 1877.

According to the Mass program, during that ordination Cardinal James Gibbons "likely" used the aforementioned chalice, a gift from Pope Pius VII to Archbishop Ambrose Marechal in 1822, a year after the Baltimore basilica was dedicated.

"Just as the Holy Spirit guided those who went before us in faith," Archbishop Lori said, "so now the same spirit of truth and love accompanies us who seek to follow Christ as members of an order that is built on charity."

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, in remarks given later that day, reported that the order's charitable contributions in fraternal year 2017-18 totaled a record $185 million.

That figure does not include a $1 million gift presented to the Archdiocese of Baltimore Aug. 4 to go toward a project that will give Baltimore City its first new Catholic school in nearly six decades.

"Knights of Charity" is the theme of the first supreme convention in Baltimore since 1989, when the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the first diocese in the U.S., celebrated its bicentennial.

The opening Mass included 100 bishops and 200 priests. Concelebrants included Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, who is president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Archbishop Lori alluded to the recent demotion of Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick from the College of Cardinals and a soon-to-be-released Pennsylvania grand jury report on a months-long investigation into abuse claims in six of the state's Catholic dioceses covering a 70-year span.

"In the difficult and challenging days that are before us," he said, "may I urge you to continue working to build up and strengthen the church, especially by putting into practice the principles of charity, unity and fraternity."

Prelates with ties to Baltimore included Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien, who was Baltimore's archbishop 2007 to 2011, who is grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre; Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Delaware; Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of Springfield, Massachusetts; and Baltimore Auxiliary Bishops Adam J. Parker and Mark E. Brennan.

Priests of the Baltimore Archdiocese were among the concelebrants, including Conventual Franciscan Father Donald Grzymski, president of Archbishop Curley High School and past chaplain of the Knights' Maryland State Council.

Some of that council's members were visible for their custom red nylon vests, which included the outline of a crab on the back. In lieu of blue, its color scheme was the Maryland flag.

Stephen J. Bayliff, recognitions programs chairman for the Maryland State Council, did not need a conversation-starter. As Knights took an escalator down to Mass, Bayliff greeted each and every one by name and with a hearty handshake.

Bayliff is a member of Jesus the Divine Word Council 14775 in Huntingtown. In 2000 he moved from Midland, Texas, to Southern Maryland, and soon thereafter became a Knight.

"I was recruited by Larry Donnelly," Bayliff said, of a fellow Knight involved in a signature outreach for persons with developmental disabilities. "He was selling Tootsie Rolls outside the Walmart in Prince Frederick. We hit it off."

The approximately 2,200 Knights and their wives in attendance included first-time conventioneers Bret and Courtney Ladenburger of Casper, Wyoming. A Knight since 1994, when he turned 18, Ladenburger is the state secretary for Wyoming, where the March for Life is held in Cheyenne and the Winter Special Olympics in Jackson.

"I'm enjoying the fraternity," Ladenburger told the Catholic Review, Baltimore's archdiocesan news outlet. "I'm humbled when I talk to the guys."

Larry Lewandowski, past state deputy for North Dakota, is a convention regular. His first thought when he heard the 2018 convention would be in Baltimore was Johnny Unitas, the late Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback-- and Catholic, to boot.

Having spent 25 years in the U.S. Air Force, Lewandowski likens the Knights to a military outfit.

"There's a lot of brotherhood, and lot of discipline," said Lewandowski, a member of St. Mary's Parish in Grand Forks. "That allows us to do a great deal of the Lord's work."

Lewandowski described the fellowship he found at breakfast that morning.

"Cardinal Dolan was sitting at a table near mine," Lewandowski said, of New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan. "All I saw was his collar, and asked, 'Father, how are you doing?' Finally, I recognized him, and he just laughed. We had a great visit."

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McMullen is managing editor of the Catholic Review, the news website and magazine of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

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Catholic Church offers to mediate Zimbabwe election dispute

Top Stories - Tue, 08/07/2018 - 11:12am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mike Hutchings, Reuters

By Bronwen Dachs

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) -- The church in Zimbabwe said it is prepared to mediate between government and opposition leaders after six people were killed in violence that followed a disputed presidential election.

"We have offered to mediate any election disputes as well as broader concerns," Father Frederick Chiromba, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference, told Catholic News Service Aug. 6 in a telephone interview from Harare.

With their parish and other structures, Zimbabwe's churches would be well positioned to lead the activities of the national peace and reconciliation process that began early this year, he said.

Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared the winner in voting July 30, but opposition leader Nelson Chamisa has disputed the result and said he will challenge it in court.

Mnangagwa succeeded Robert Mugabe, who had led Zimbabwe since its independence from Britain in 1980, after a military takeover in November.

"We condemn the killing of the demonstrators and all the ruthless force used" by the army and police, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe said after security forces in the capital, Harare, shot at protesters who accused the government of vote-rigging.

Noting that the use of live ammunition to restrain unarmed civilians was "too extreme" and violated basic rights, the commission also criticized the protesters for violence including destruction of property.

It urged the security forces to apologize, particularly to the bereaved families.

"Saying 'sorry' would open doors for healing and rebuilding of good relationships between citizens and their defense forces," the commission said in an Aug. 2 statement signed by commission chairman Bishop Rudolf Nyandoro of Gokwe.

Zimbabwe's churches could mediate an "all-sides confidential dialogue," the commission said, noting that "an inclusive, objective, internally constructed process" is needed to resolve the electoral conflict.

The challenges Zimbabwe faces "are much deeper than the elections," Father Chiromba said. "There is still a lack of trust between the people and government" at all levels and the country's churches have "a big role to play in restoring that trust," he said.

"If we can manage to move forward as one people," much-needed development will follow, he said.

Most people in Zimbabwe, with a population of nearly 16 million, survive on $1 a day. They eke out a living in small-scale informal trade, mostly selling goods bought in South Africa.

"Investors were waiting for these elections. Now that they are over, we hope that Zimbabwe will be admitted into the community of nations, which will help in job creation," Father Chiromba said.

Mugabe's policies are widely blamed for the country's economic decline over the last two decades.

"There is now a conscious, sustained effort to restore the nation" and the economy "is in the early stages of recovery," Father Chiromba said.

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Pope thanks Chilean bishops for steps taken to address abuse scandal

Top Stories - Tue, 08/07/2018 - 10:50am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chilean bishops' conference

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After the bishops of Chile issued a formal apology for failing to listen to clerical abuse victims and drew up national guidelines for responding to abuse allegations, Pope Francis sent them a handwritten letter of thanks.

"I am struck by the work of reflection, discernment and the decisions you have made," the pope wrote in the letter dated Aug. 5 and posted on the website of the Chilean bishops' conference.

Addressed to Bishop Santiago Silva Retamales, the military ordinary and conference president, Pope Francis' letter praised the decisions as "realistic and concrete."

The bishops, who have been accused of interfering with the pursuit of justice by alleged victims, promised to draw up a formal agreement with the national prosecutor's office to share information; vowed to release information on investigations carried out within their dioceses and urged the superiors of religious orders to do the same; expanded the competencies of their national review board and appointed a laywoman lawyer to lead it; and appointed another laywoman to direct the new Department for the Prevention of Abuse within the bishops' conference.

Pope Francis told the bishops that what "struck me most" about the decisions made in early August was "the example of an episcopal community united in guiding the holy, faithful people of God. Thank you for this edifying example.".

The pope's letter, in tone and in its informality, was markedly different than one he sent them in April when he apologized to abuse survivors for making "serious mistakes in the assessment and perception of the situation, especially due to a lack of truthful and balanced information," presumably from the bishops.

He summoned the country's bishops to Rome for a three-day meeting in May. At the end of the meeting, most of the bishops offered the pope their resignations. By late June, he had accepted five of the resignations.

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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.

Indonesia's Lombok hit by another powerful quake; pope sends prayers

Top Stories - Mon, 08/06/2018 - 3:02pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Ahmad Subaidi, Antara Foto via Reuters

By

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNS) -- At least 91 people have been confirmed dead after a magnitude 7 earthquake struck Indonesia's Lombok Island on Aug. 5 a week after another powerful quake killed more than a dozen people.

The country's National Disaster Mitigation Agency said more than 200 people were injured in the latest quake, which also jolted the neighboring tourist island of Bali, damaged thousands of buildings and forced thousands of people to flee their homes, ucanews.com reported.

Pope Francis sent words of condolences and solidarity to Indonesia authorities Aug. 6 through Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

Cardinal Parolin said the pope was praying "especially for the repose of the deceased, the healing of the injured and the consolation of all who grieve the loss of their loved ones."

"In offering encouragement to the civil authorities and those involved in the search and rescue efforts as they assist the victims of this disaster, His Holiness willingly invokes upon the people of Indonesia divine blessings of consolation and strength," the message said.

A disaster mitigation agency representative said the victims urgently need medical supplies, clean water, food, blankets, mattress and tents.

Among the damaged buildings was St. Mary Immaculate Church in the West Nusa Tenggara provincial capital of Mataram.

"The quake was stronger than before. The church ceiling fell down, but the church's walls remain intact," Father Laurensius Maryono, a priest at the parish, told ucanews.com Aug. 6.

"There were no casualties as there was no religious activities going on in the church when the quake occurred," Father Maryono said.

"Some parishioners are currently trying to clean up the church and get rid of the debris," he added.

The parish emergency response team was coordinating with one from the Diocese of Denpasar.

"They will go to the worst-hit areas of North Lombok and East Lombok districts to collect data. We will continue collect aid for victims, something we had started doing for victims of last week's quake," the priest said.

The disaster mitigation agency reported that last week's quake killed at least 16 people, left 355 people injured and forced more than 5,100 people to flee their homes.

Meanwhile, Holy Spirit Cathedral Parish in Denpasar, Bali province, reported only slight damage in the quake.

More than 130 aftershocks were recorded following the latest quake.

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Maryland parish helps Puerto Ricans still rebuilding from hurricane

Top Stories - Fri, 08/03/2018 - 5:07pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Alvin Baez, Reuters

By Wallice J. de la Vega

MAUNABO, Puerto Rico (CNS) -- Although Puerto Rico's post-hurricanes coverage has disappeared from the daily news cycles, Catholic workers have not forgotten the fact that thousands in this Caribbean island are still in dire need of a helping hand.

Eighteen volunteers from St. Francis Builds, a program based in St. Camillus Catholic Church in Silver Spring, Maryland, recently demonstrated its continued commitment in Latin America. Its initial mission was to Guatemala in 2006.

St. Francis Builds brought its volunteers to Maunabo July 22-29. It is one of several southeastern towns that received Hurricane Maria's head-on impact last Sept. 20. Municipal authorities estimate 90 percent of Maunabo's wooden structures were damaged, many of them destroyed, in this mostly rural town of just over 11,000 residents.

For this mission to Maunabo's Calzada sector, St. Francis Builds teamed once again with the Fuller Center for Housing, based in Americus, Georgia. The goal of the seven-day mission was to repair roofs, finish cleaning indoor dangerous levels of fungus remaining after hurricane flooding and paint houses.

Calzada is a rural, unplanned neighborhood of tightly built concrete and wooden houses on a steep mountain side. Residents were not evacuated prior to Hurricane Maria's landfall.

St. Francis Builds was started by Franciscan Father Michael Johnson 12 years ago. He served at St. Camillus for 15 years, including some time as pastor, before being assigned to Boston three years ago.

"I was a chaplain at a safe house in Bolivia for six years, Father Michael said in Spanish. "My heart is already Latino."

St. Camillus parishioners Beth Hood and Pat Zapor were team leaders on this mission to Maunabo. Both are longtime veterans of these kind of trips. Zapor's most recent mission was building roofs in Peru last summer.

"At first we did these all through Habitat (for Humanity) ... because they arranged housing, meals, transportation, everything," said Zapor. "As we have evolved over the years ... we have done this through other groups like Fuller; in Nicaragua we worked with Seeds of Learning, which builds schools and community centers."

St. Francis Builds has taken volunteers to serve in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Peru, Trinidad, Dominican Republic, Jordan and Mexico.

In the U.S., its missions have included projects in Houston, New Orleans, West Virginia and the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Groups also go on weekend missions to Philadelphia to work at a soup kitchen the Franciscans operate there.

Coordinating all aspects of the Calzada missions is Millie Lebron, an energized volunteer community leader who is a liaison between residents, government and visiting groups. She made the Fuller connection through the Rev. Pablo Rivera, a Puerto Rican ministering in Georgia.

"After the hurricane, he called me to inquire about my safety," said Lebron. "Having the information I gave him, he went to Fuller and asked about the possibilities of helping me rebuild my house." The organization agreed and sent Ryan Iafigliola, director of International Field Operations, to interview her and collect more data.

"So I got the idea to gather neighbors and explain what was going on and urged them to ask for Fuller's help," she continued. "Many didn't dare to do it, but 12 did, and so they were included!" she exclaimed. She was emotional but had a big smile.

Raul Cruz, 52, and his 98-year-old mother, Juana de Jesus, were among the beneficiaries of this St. Francis Builds mission. Although their house was built of solid concrete, its roof had been slightly leaking before Hurricane Maria came. At their home, volunteers were repairing concrete damage to the roof and applying liquid sealant.

"The roof cracked open," said Cruz. "The hurricane was too strong. If that door and windows hadn't been reinforced with bamboo, all of them would've blown away." De Jesus said the flood's muddy waters reached her while she was lying in her bed in the dark. Three Calzada residents died during the hurricane's passing and several others in the aftermath.

St. Francis Builds' volunteers were joined by some locals, like the Rev. Edgardo Soto, a Calzada native, who is pastor of a Disciples of Christ church and president of Fuller's Puerto Rico chapter.

"As president, the director and I identify homes that need urgent help, and who want it," the pastor said. "Many cannot afford to leave their homes in order (for them) to be repaired, because they don't have the resources (to go somewhere else)." His group, he said, "is ready to go anywhere in Puerto Rico, wherever the Spirit takes us."

Also, St. Camillus parishioners Rafael and Christine Quinones of Bowie, Maryland, have been bringing aid to Puerto Rico since flights became available after Hurricane Maria. Rafael is a native of nearby Yabucoa.

They have traveled with the nonprofit Global Solace of Beallsville, Maryland, and Solar Power for Puerto Rico, a Native American, crowd-funded solar project of Now!Solar company of Pasco, Washington. This work has focused on installing solar-powered phone and internet points in town squares up in the mountains and installing solar power systems in schools, libraries and nursing homes.

"When we go somewhere we want to teach people how to build (their own systems), to empower them," said Rafael. "And now we have two businesses doing it here."

As of late June, an estimated 11,000 homes were still without public electricity in Puerto Rico. The rest of the island has unstable service. Calzada received power to homes more than eight months after Hurricane Maria. Street lights remain out of order.

Fuller missions last up to three weeks. The center will sponsor 13 more missions to Maunabo between August and mid-March, with a two-month break for the peak of the hurricane season. The next one for St. Francis Builds is scheduled for Feb. 17-24.

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Editor's Note: More information about the Fuller Center is available at fullercenter.org.

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In Washington, former sacristan remembers life with Oscar Romero

Top Stories - Fri, 08/03/2018 - 2:40pm

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Marcelo Perdomo didn't think an earthly brush with holiness would take place in his native El Salvador next to the parish priest.

As a young man in the early 1960s, Perdomo worked in his native city of San Miguel, El Salvador, organizing the sacristy and decorating the altar among his duties as a sacristan at the local parish of El Rosario. That's where he worked with the meticulous "Father Romero," a detail-oriented priest who was particular about how things should be done and look, and Perdomo did everything he could to meet his standards.

Perdomo, now 71, soon will be decorating an altar to mark a milestone for his former priest, this time at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart, a predominantly Salvadoran parish in Washington, as the local community anticipates the last leg of Blessed Oscar Arnulfo Romero's official journey toward sainthood. The Salvadoran martyr, assassinated during the country's civil war in 1980, is set to become El Salvador's first saint Oct. 14.

Did Perdomo ever get the sense he was working with a saint back then?

"Never," he said in a July 26 interview with Catholic News Service in Washington. "Never. He was normal. It never occurred to me ... but he was a man of goodness."

Though their relationship was formal and never delved into the personal, Perdomo said that as a sacristan, working by his side, he witnessed Blessed Romero's immense kindness toward prisoners and the poor, and his deep life of prayer.

In Perdomo's native San Miguel, Blessed Romero began his pastoral life in 1944, a place where he would stay for more than two decades. Youth like Perdomo were greatly influenced by the pastor.

Perdomo was 12 or 13 when he first met the future saint and saw how he revived popular devotions to the country's patroness, Our Lady Queen of Peace, and the reconstruction of the cathedral in San Miguel that would ultimately become her home. When Perdomo fled El Salvador because of the civil war and went to live in Washington in 1981, he continued in his new U.S. parish the devotions to the Salvadoran Madonna that Romero had championed.

But in Washington, Perdomo came to hear falsehoods spread about Blessed Romero, including in church circles, about how he was aligned with the rebels, and other lies spread by the archbishop's enemies, painful calumnies that had traveled from his native country.

None of what was said matched the reality Perdomo had witnessed at the side of then-Father Romero, that of a man who always saw necessity, poverty, pain, and tried to alleviate it. When the pastor became archbishop of the country's Archdiocese of San Salvador, Perdomo began to think about the episcopal motto he chose: "sentir con la iglesia," to "feel with the church." Perdomo said he traveled from San Miguel when he could to the capital of San Salvador to hear Archbishop Romero's homilies in person at the country's main cathedral and kept track of what he was doing as archbishop.

"I saw him 'feel' with the poor," Perdomo said, "He 'felt' our poverty, that poverty that we the poor felt and lived. They were words chosen well and I continue to study them."

It naturally hurt to hear others in his new home in Washington call Blessed Romero a "guerillero," a rebel, when Perdomo had seen firsthand that he "lived a life of sanctity."

Perdomo said he still remembers the day Archbishop Romero was killed, and that profound sadness that fell on those who knew him in San Miguel.

"It was difficult to hear because he was a man of goodness, not a man who did bad things ... he didn't deserve it. Yes, he was hated by some, but he also was loved by many."

Those who loved him largely were the poor Blessed Romero defended -- a majority in El Salvador. But even the rich had no reason to hate him. He didn't align himself with one political group of another, but he was simply unwilling to watch the innocent be killed without peacefully defending them, Perdomo said. And in that sense, with his death, Blessed Romero, too, "felt" the lack of safety the poor felt during the war, which led to more than 70,000 civilian deaths.

Most folks from San Miguel couldn't go to Blessed Romero's funeral because it was far and because the local priest warned about the masses of people at the funeral who made it impossible to enter the cathedral, Perdomo said.

Instead, Perdomo and others in San Miguel watched it unfold via television, only to see the funeral Mass descend into chaos as a bomb went off inside the cathedral and shots were fired into the crowd outside.

Perdomo doesn't like to dwell on Blessed Romero's death, why and how he was killed, and also says miracles attributed to him to attain his canonization are not the proof he needed to know of his holiness.

"What I say is that he lived life in sanctity. ... The church says he's a saint because of a miracle (after his death) but his sainthood was rooted in the way he lived and my joy is in having watched that sanctity in life," he said.

These days, Perdomo looks at a larger-than-life-sized framed portrait that will be displayed during a Mass at Washington's Sacred Heart shrine to mark Blessed Romero's canonization. Though Perdomo plans to be at St. Peter's Basilica when he is proclaimed a saint, he plans to leave the altar decorated at his parish before leaving for Rome. He looks at the portrait of Blessed Romero that towers over him and says he plans to put a red cloth underneath to symbolize Blessed Romero's martyrdom.

"Since I arrived (to the United States), my goal was to keep his memory alive in the church," Perdomo said. "Not as a saint, but I wanted to keep his memory alive as someone who gave his life for us and for others."

Through the Washington-based Comite Catolico de El Salvador del Mundo, a group of Salvadoran Catholics that each year marks El Salvador's patron feast in Washington, the feast of the Transfiguration, with a Mass and cultural events, Perdomo found kindred spirits, including Father Moises Villalta, Sacred Heart's pastor, who began little by little also incorporating Romero into the feast. They hoped that children born to Salvadorans in the Washington area would come to know, not the falsehoods that were spread about Blessed Romero, but the reality of his good works and sacrifice.

Ultimately, the Vatican agreed with those like Perdomo, who said they had always known of Blessed Romero's holiness, and announced earlier this year that he would become an official saint. Even so, it's still daunting, Perdomo said, to think that the very "normal" human being he knew and respected will become an official saint of the Catholic Church.

"It's one of those things that is strange and I still don't understand it," Perdomo said.

Perdomo said only God knows whether he'll be able to be a witness to Blessed Romero's canonization, but if it happens, "it will be a dream," he said. In 2015, he had wanted to go to the slain archbishop's beatification, one of the last steps before sainthood, in El Salvador, but health problems prevented him from traveling.

But attending the ceremony is not what's important, he said.

"I feel happy to have a known in life a person who will now be on the highest of altars," he said. "I ask him (Blessed Romero) to please intercede for me, to take care of me. My joy is that I saw him live happily a life of sanctity and he enjoyed that life and in the eyes of God, he is a saint."

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Update: Pope revises catechism to say death penalty is 'inadmissible'

Top Stories - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 8:37am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Building on the development of Catholic Church teaching against capital punishment, Pope Francis has ordered a revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to assert "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person" and to commit the church to working toward its abolition worldwide.

The catechism's paragraph on capital punishment, 2267, already had been updated by St. John Paul II in 1997 to strengthen its skepticism about the need to use the death penalty in the modern world and, particularly, to affirm the importance of protecting all human life.

Announcing the change Aug. 2, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said, "The new text, following in the footsteps of the teaching of John Paul II in 'Evangelium Vitae,' affirms that ending the life of a criminal as punishment for a crime is inadmissible because it attacks the dignity of the person, a dignity that is not lost even after having committed the most serious crimes."

"Evangelium Vitae" ("The Gospel of Life") was St. John Paul's 1995 encyclical on the dignity and sacredness of all human life. The encyclical led to an updating of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which he originally promulgated in 1992 and which recognized "the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty."

At the same time, the original version of the catechism still urged the use of "bloodless means" when possible to punish criminals and protect citizens.

The catechism now will read: "Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

"Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption," the new section continues.

Pope Francis' change to the text concludes: "Consequently, the church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that 'the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,' and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide."

In his statement, Cardinal Ladaria noted how St. John Paul, retired Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis had all spoken out against capital punishment and appealed for clemency for death-row inmates on numerous occasions.

The development of church doctrine away from seeing the death penalty as a possibly legitimate punishment for the most serious crimes, the cardinal said, "centers principally on the clearer awareness of the church for the respect due to every human life. Along this line, John Paul II affirmed: 'Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity, and God himself pledges to guarantee this.'"

Pope Francis specifically requested the change to the catechism in October during a speech at the Vatican commemorating the 25th anniversary of the text's promulgation.

The death penalty, no matter how it is carried out, he had said, "is, in itself, contrary to the Gospel, because a decision is voluntarily made to suppress a human life, which is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator and of whom, in the last analysis, only God can be the true judge and guarantor."

Cardinal Ladaria also noted that the popes were not the only Catholics to become increasingly aware of how the modern use of the death penalty conflicted with church teaching on the dignity of human life; the same position, he said, has been "expressed ever more widely in the teaching of pastors and in the sensibility of the people of God."

In particular, he said, Catholic opposition to the death penalty is based on an "understanding that the dignity of a person is not lost even after committing the most serious crimes," a deeper understanding that criminal penalties should aim at the rehabilitation of the criminal and a recognition that governments have the ability to detain criminals effectively, thereby protecting their citizens.

The cardinal's note also cited a letter Pope Francis wrote in 2015 to the International Commission Against the Death Penalty. In the letter, the pope called capital punishment "cruel, inhumane and degrading" and said it "does not bring justice to the victims, but only foments revenge."

Furthermore, in a modern "state of law, the death penalty represents a failure" because it obliges the state to kill in the name of justice, the pope had written. On the other hand, he said, it is a method frequently used by "totalitarian regimes and fanatical groups" to do away with "political dissidents, minorities" and any other person deemed a threat to their power and to their goals.

In addition, Pope Francis noted that "human justice is imperfect" and said the death penalty loses all legitimacy in penal systems where judicial error is possible.

"The new formulation of number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church," Cardinal Ladaria said, "desires to give energy to a movement toward a decisive commitment to favor a mentality that recognizes the dignity of every human life and, in respectful dialogue with civil authorities, to encourage the creation of conditions that allow for the elimination of the death penalty where it is still in effect."

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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 Wuerl: Next steps in wake of Archbishop McCarrick allegations

Top Stories - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 3:50pm

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Catholic Standard, archdiocesan newspaper of Washington, published a question-and-answer interview July 31 with Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl about the next steps for the archdiocese in light of the sexual abuse allegations made against Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, a former cardinal and retired archbishop of Washington.

This story includes excerpts of that interview where the cardinal discussed his hope that all victims of abuse would come forward for healing and mentions his conversations with priests and seminarians in the archdiocese about the allegations.

"The news regarding Archbishop McCarrick was a great shock to our church in Washington. There is understandable anger, both on a personal level due to the charges, but also more broadly at the church," Cardinal Wuerl said.

He said Catholics have "lived through such scandals before and they are demanding accountability."

The cardinal said it was "understandable that some people hear this latest news and see it as confirmation of their lack of faith in the church, or their lack of trust in its leadership. People were rightfully angry over the child sex abuse scandals, which we continue to address. It means we must work harder."

He also said the action taken by Pope Francis, accepting then-Cardinal McCarrick's resignation from the College of Cardinals July 28, shows "an understanding that we must move swiftly to address claims of any form of abuse or serious breach of trust by ministers of the church, no matter who they may be or what position they may hold. Acknowledging such grave breaches of trust and seeking forgiveness open the doors for healing."

Cardinal Wuerl noted that as details have unfolded in this case, he has continually emphasized that the archdiocese's first concern "must always be with those who have suffered abuse. In this case, as with other cases, it is imperative that the leadership of the Catholic Church encourage survivors to step forward, address abuse claims, and focus its attention and care on the survivors of abuse."

He said the archdiocesan spiritual and pastoral ministries will "continue to console, heal and nurture those most in need. We will support them and their families and provide assistance to help them find peace and experience the healing power of God's grace."

News about Archbishop McCarrick, who was archbishop of Washington from 2001 to 2006, also impacted archdiocesan priests and seminarians and the cardinal said he has had frank discussions with them about it.

The priests, he said, "in particular feel the pain of the failure of a brother priest." They also told him that when there is a failure in the actions of one priest, they "all are somehow held accountable."

During the discussion with them, he said: "We all recognized the pain and sadness of the human condition, our need for God's grace every day to carry out our ministry and our need to support one another just as we struggle to support the faithful entrusted to our care."

"We discussed the media accounts of rumors involving Archbishop McCarrick and that until the New York allegation was made public, there really had been no substantiation of them, certainly not here in Washington. And I was asked whether I had any knowledge of the specific allegation in New York, which I had never heard before. So it was frank conversation."

Regarding his discussion with archdiocesan seminarians, the cardinal said his concern was that "they would not have their zeal and idealism in any way tarnished by the failure of any priest."

"One of the consoling things for me in that meeting, as I listened to their comments and observations, was the recognition that these young men are firmly grounded in their faith and their spiritual life is truly focused on Jesus, the Lord," he said.

He also said he was impressed with their maturity. "They are the heirs of the experience of social media and so are really not completely shocked by such tragic news. Disappointed yes, but sexual abuse in our culture and society is not news to them."

Cardinal Wuerl said that at every ordination and throughout the year when he talks with priests and seminarians about the priestly vocation, he reminds them of the "holy life to which we are called, and about the faithful love that is at the heart of priestly ministry."

"Remaining true to that call, trying to be icons of Christ in our community and our world, is needed today more than ever," he said.

In the wake of the allegations against the retired archbishop of Washington, the cardinal said he hopes Catholics in the archdiocese "would not lose sight of the larger vision of our church." Across the archdiocese, he noted, "we have many, many fine priests, deacons, and religious; we have lay staff and volunteers in parishes and Catholic Charities, who do amazing things for their neighbors every day."

He said for all of the "necessary attention we must give to the current crisis, I would hope that as part of the healing process we come to see the good we accomplish every day and that we continue to share God's love across our archdiocese."

The cardinal said the archdiocese continues to make every effort to address abuse, pointing to its enforced child protection policy and the Child Protection Advisory Board that meets regularly. He also said the annual audit by an outside professional audit team "has consistently affirmed the quality of our protection and education programs and our fidelity to the 'Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.'"

The attention currently being paid to make sure abuse doesn't happen "does not mitigate in any way the pain these alleged actions have brought on the survivors and their families, and on the members of the church," he said. "We are at a moment where, again, we must acknowledge such wrongdoing whenever it occurs. We must continue to press forward with what was started in the June 2002 meeting in Dallas to address, as a conference of bishops, the question of clergy abuse."

Cardinal Wuerl said the "starting point for our own healing is the recognition that God is with his church and that the church does not depend on any individual human being" because "God's grace is at work among us."

He urged Catholics to pray, saying it "helps us see beyond the failure of any person and helps us hold fast to the mystery of God's goodness at work in this world and in the church, the mystical body of Christ, and in the priesthood that is lived in so many good, effective, caring and faithful priests."

"We should pray for all who may have in any way been harmed by Archbishop McCarrick, and we should also pray for him," he said.

The cardinal said he has personally "drawn great consolation" from recognizing the church's divine and human aspects that the "church is the home of Christ's continuing presence in the sacraments" but it "all that is transmitted through human beings."

"In the long history of the church," he noted, "not all bishops, the successors to the apostles, have been perfect. That is a reality which we live with because we understand that we are all sinners in need of God's grace and mercy."

"In the meantime," he said: "Our task is to support one another and to help one another to be everything that Christ asks us to be, to stand for and live in his truth."

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Editor's Note: The text of the full interview is available at https://bit.ly/2AtpAco.

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