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Council of Cardinals expresses 'full solidarity' with pope

Top Stories - Mon, 09/10/2018 - 2:45pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Members of Pope Francis' international Council of Cardinals expressed "full solidarity" with him in the midst of questions about his handling of the clerical sexual abuse scandal and said the Vatican is planning a response to allegations made against him by a former nuncio.

Only six of the nine cardinals who are members of the council participated in the meeting Sept. 10.

The six "expressed full solidarity with Pope Francis in the face of what has happened in the last few weeks, aware that in the current debate the Holy See is formulating possible and necessary clarifications," according to a statement released after the first day of what was expected to be a three-day meeting.

The September session of the council was the first since news broke in late June about an investigation finding credible sexual abuse allegations against then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, since the release in mid-August of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on how six dioceses handled abuse allegations and since the publication in late August of a document by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former nuncio to the United States, alleging that Pope Francis knew of Cardinal McCarrick's sexual misconduct yet allowed him to continue in active ministry.

Pope Francis formed the Council of Cardinals, often referred to as the C9, shortly after his election in 2013 to advise him on the reform of the Roman Curia and on church governance generally.

The statement Sept. 10 said that council members asked Pope Francis for a reflection on "the work, structure and composition of the council itself, also taking into account the advanced age of some of its members."

The six present for the September meeting were: Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Sean P. O'Malley of Boston; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; and Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.

The three who were absent were: 85-year-old Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile, who is facing questioning over his handling of abuse allegations; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo, who turns 79 in early October; and 77-year-old Australian Cardinal George Pell, who currently is on trial in Australia on sex abuse charges.

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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.

Fear leads to silence amid suffering of sick, needy, pope says

Top Stories - Mon, 09/10/2018 - 10:38am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Favio Frustaci, EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Fear often causes people to remain silent in the face of other's suffering and marginalize the sick and those most in need, Pope Francis said.

Instead of being viewed as "an occasion to manifest care and solidarity," the sick and the suffering are often seen as problem, the pope said Sept. 9 during his Sunday Angelus address.

After praying the Angelus prayer with an estimated 15,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, the pope led them in applauding the beatification of Blessed Alphonse Marie Eppinger, a 19th-century nun who founded the Sisters of the Divine Redeemer.

"Let us give thanks to God for this courageous and wise woman who, while suffering in silence and prayer, gave witness to God's love, especially to those who were sick in body and spirit," the pope said.

In his main address, Pope Francis reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. Mark, which recalled Jesus' healing of a deaf man who had a speech impediment.

According to the Gospel, Jesus healed the man as he placed his "finger into the man's ears and, spitting, touched his tongue" as he looked up to heaven and said, "Ephphatha" ("Be opened").

Pope Francis explained that the Gospel story emphasizes a "two-fold healing" that not only involves restoring the "physical health of the body" but also the "healing of fear" that "drives us to marginalize the sick, to marginalize the suffering, the disabled."

"There are many ways of marginalizing, also with pseudo-compassion or by removing the problem; one remains deaf and dumb in the face of the suffering of people marked by illness, anguish and difficulties," he said.

Jesus' command that the man's ears and tongue "be opened" is also a calling for Christians to be open to "our suffering brothers and sisters in need of help" and to reject selfishness and the closure of one's heart, the pope said.

The heart, he added, is what Jesus came to "liberate, to make us capable of living fully our relationship with God and with others."

Jesus became human so that human beings, "rendered interiorly deaf and dumb by sin, can listen to the voice of God, the voice of love that speaks to the heart and thus learn to speak, in turn, the language of love, translating it into gestures of generosity and self-giving," Pope Francis said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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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.

Clear response to abuse crisis is urgently needed, cardinal says

Top Stories - Mon, 09/10/2018 - 10:08am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Responding quickly and appropriately to the problem of abuse must be a priority for the Catholic Church, said Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

"Recent events in the church have us all focused on the urgent need for a clear response on the part of the church for the sexual abuse of minors" and vulnerable adults, he told Vatican News Sept. 9.

"Bringing the voice of survivors to leadership of the church is crucial if people are going to have an understanding of how important it is for the church to respond quickly and correctly anytime a situation of abuse may arise," he said.

The cardinal, who is the archbishop of Boston, spoke at the end of the papal commission's plenary assembly in Rome Sept. 7-9. Afterward, Cardinal O'Malley remained in Rome for the meeting Sept. 10-12 of Pope Francis' international Council of Cardinals.

Cardinal O'Malley told Vatican News that in cases of abuse "if the church is unable to respond wholeheartedly and make this a priority, all of our other activities of evangelization, works of mercy, education are all going to suffer. This must be the priority that we concentrate on right now."

The pontifical commission, he explained, is an advisory body set up to make recommendations to the pope and to develop and offer guidelines, best practices and formation to church leaders throughout the world, including bishops' conferences, religious orders and offices in the Roman Curia.

The commission is not an investigative body and does not deal with past abuses or current allegations, but its expert-members try, through education, leadership training and advocacy, to "change the future so that it will not be a repeat of the sad history" the church has experienced, he said.

"There are other dicasteries of the Holy See that have the responsibility for dealing with the cases and dealing with individual circumstances of abuse or negligence on the part of authority, and our commission cannot be held accountable for their activities," he said.

Most allegations of clerical sexual abuse are handled through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Commission members, however, have spoken with officials at various Vatican offices, including the doctrinal congregation. For those meetings, Cardinal O'Malley said he always brings a survivor with him "to talk to them about the church's mission of safeguarding, and I think those (moments) have been very successful."

Safeguarding training for bishops, priests and religious around the world is meant to help them become "aware of the seriousness" of abuse and negligence, "to be equipped to be able to respond" and to be able "to put the safeguarding of children and the pastoral care of victims as their priority," said the cardinal.

A critical part of building awareness, he said, has been making the voice of survivors be heard directly by leadership. Every year when new bishops attend a course in Rome, the commission also addresses the group.

Cardinal O'Malley said he usually invites former commission member, Marie Collins -- a survivor of Irish clerical sex abuse -- to speak to the new bishops "so that they can hear directly from someone who has experienced this horror in their own life, to explain to the them the consequences and repercussions for the individual, their family and the whole community."

Even though Collins was unable to attend this year, she made "a wonderful video" that the cardinal shared with the approximately 200 bishops appointed in the past year, he said.

Year after year, the cardinal said, "so many bishops have come up to me and told me that Marie Collins' testimony was the most important conference that they had heard during their entire week of conferences for the new bishops." That is why, he said, it is so crucial for the voices of survivors to be heard by leaders if they are ever to understand the importance of responding quickly and appropriately.

The cardinal also mentioned a number of new initiatives and resources the commission has been working on, such as special auditing instruments for bishops' conferences to measure the implementation and compliance of safeguarding policies as well as the idea of setting up "survivor advisory panels" in different countries to advise local bishops and the papal commission.

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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.

Letter confirms Vatican officials knew of McCarrick allegations in 2000

Top Stories - Fri, 09/07/2018 - 3:47pm

By Robert Duncan and Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A top official from the Vatican Secretariat of State acknowledged allegations made by a New York priest in 2000 concerning Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, according to a letter obtained by Catholic News Service.

Father Boniface Ramsey, pastor of St. Joseph's Church Yorkville in New York City, told CNS Sept. 7 that he received the letter dated Oct. 11, 2006, from then-Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, the former Vatican substitute for general affairs, asking for information regarding a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark who studied at Immaculate Conception Seminary and was being vetted for a post at a Vatican office. He made the letter available to CNS.

Then-Archbishop Sandri wrote to Father Ramsey, "I ask with particular reference to the serious matters involving some of the students of the Immaculate Conception Seminary, which in November 2000 you were good enough to bring confidentially to the attention of the then Apostolic Nuncio in the United States, the late Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo."

Father Ramsey had been on the faculty of the seminary from 1986 to 1996 and had sent a letter in 2000 to Archbishop Montalvo informing him of complaints he heard from seminarians studying at the seminary, located in South Orange, New Jersey.

In the letter, Father Ramsey told CNS, "I complained about McCarrick's relationships with seminarians and the whole business with sleeping with seminarians and all of that; the whole business that everyone knows about," Father Ramsey said.

Father Ramsey said he assumed the reason the letter from then-Archbishop Sandri, who is now a cardinal and prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, only mentioned "serious matters involving " seminarians and not McCarrick's behavior was because accusations against the former cardinal were "too sensitive."

"My letter November 22, 2000, was about McCarrick and it wasn't accusing seminarians of anything; it was accusing McCarrick."

While Father Ramsey has said he never received a formal response to the letter he sent in 2000, he told CNS he was certain the letter had been received because of the note he got from then-Archbishop Sandri in 2006 acknowledging the allegations he had raised in 2000.

The 2006 letter not only confirms past remarks made by Father Ramsey, but also elements of a document written by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who served as nuncio to the United States from 2011 to 2016.

In an 11-page statement, published Aug. 26, Archbishop Vigano accused church officials, including Pope Francis, of failing to act on accusations of sexual abuse, as well as abuse of conscience and power by now-Archbishop McCarrick.

Archbishop Vigano stated that the Vatican was informed as early as 2000 -- when he was an official at the Secretariat of State -- of allegations that Archbishop McCarrick "shared his bed with seminarians." Archbishop Vigano said the Vatican heard the allegation from the U.S. nuncios at the time: Archbishop Montalvo, who served from 1998 to 2005 and Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who served from 2005 to 2011.

In late June, Cardinal McCarrick, the 88-year-old retired archbishop of Washington, said he would no longer exercise any public ministry "in obedience" to the Vatican after an allegation he abused a teenager 47 years ago in the Archdiocese of New York was found credible. The cardinal has said he is innocent.

Since then, several former seminarians have claimed that the cardinal would invite groups of them to a beach house and insist individual members of the group share a bed with him.

 

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

New York latest to launch probe of church sex abuse records

Top Stories - Thu, 09/06/2018 - 5:51pm

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The New York State Office of the Attorney General is the latest to announce that it is launching an investigation of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic Church clergy, and at least two of the state's eight dioceses confirmed receiving subpoenas seeking access to its records.  

In a Sept. 6 press release, the agency said it was seeking "a civil investigation into how the dioceses and other church entities -- which are nonprofit institutions -- reviewed and potentially covered up allegations of extensive sexual abuse of minors." Several news agencies, including The New York Times and The Associated Press, reported on Sept. 6 that subpoenas had been sent to New York's eight dioceses: Albany, Buffalo, New York, Brooklyn, Ogdensburg, Rochester, Rockville Centre and Syracuse.  

The state's Attorney General, Barbara D. Underwood, also announced a hotline the same day, specifically for those who may have been abused by clergy.  

Joseph Zwilling, director of communications for the Archdiocese of New York, said in a Sept. 6 email to Catholic News Service that "while we have just received a subpoena, it is not a surprise to us that the Attorney General would look to begin a civil investigation, and she will find the Archdiocese of New York, and the other seven dioceses in the state, ready and eager to work together with her in the investigation."

Zwilling said that since 2002, the archdiocese has shared with the state's previous district attorneys "all information they have sought concerning allegations of sexual abuse of minors and has established excellent working relationships with each of them."

"Not only do we provide any information they seek, they also notify us as well when they learn of an allegation of abuse, so that, even if they cannot bring criminal charges, we might investigate and remove from ministry any cleric who has a credible and substantiated allegation of abuse," he said.

The attorney general's office said it had taken a cue from the state of Pennsylvania and its probe for records that resulted in an Aug. 14 grand jury report detailing claims of sexual abuse of minors by clergy going back 70 years. Though the report identified more than 1,000 sex abuse claims, in Pennsylvania, only two cases resulted in prosecutions because the statute of limitations had expired in the majority of cases.

"The Pennsylvania grand jury report shined a light on incredibly disturbing and depraved acts by Catholic clergy, assisted by a culture of secrecy and cover-ups in the dioceses. Victims in New York deserve to be heard as well -- and we are going to do everything in our power to bring them the justice they deserve," said New York's Underwood.

She added that New York may face a similar scenario to Pennsylvania when it comes to prosecuting any cases since "many cases of abuse may not be prosecutable given New York's statutes of limitations."

The Diocese of Albany in a statement released Sept. 6 said it had contacted the Albany District Attorney's office, inviting its officials "to review our records and look at how sexual abuse cases have been handled historically in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, to what extent survivors were heard and believed, what processes were followed, and what consequences resulted." The letter was addressed to parishioners.

In an email to CNS, Albany's Director of Communications Mary DeTurris Poust confirmed that the diocese had received a subpoena, adding that Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger said "we have to do what is right, even if it is not easy."

"As Bishop Scharfenberger stated in his letter to the people of our diocese, when he made the decision to ask Albany District Attorney David Soares to review our records, we believe that only by shining a light on whatever might be hidden can we bring about true healing for survivors and for our church," she said in the email.

In Buffalo, where the diocese has been dealing with fallout following a series of television news reports that said Bishop Richard J. Malone did not remove two priests from ministry after receiving abuse allegations, George Richert, director of communications, said the office would work with state officials.

"Our diocese will cooperate with any investigation initiated by the New York State Attorney General or District Attorney," he said in an email to CNS.

Under New York law, only district attorneys can refer evidence to grand juries to investigate criminal complaints and recommend prosecution, as long as the potential charges meet the statute of limitations, according to the New York County Lawyers Association website.

A day before New York announced its probe, the Attorney General of Nebraska asked the state's three dioceses for sex abuse records going back 40 years.

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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.

Jimmy Carter joins volunteers, faith groups at Habitat for Humanity event

Top Stories - Thu, 09/06/2018 - 2:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Carter Habitat for Humanity

By Catherine M. Odell

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CNS) -- Although stormy skies often interrupted the hammering and sent volunteers ducking for tents, a Habitat for Humanity event in Indiana pulled together almost 2,000 volunteers, generous contributions, celebrities and faith groups.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, both in their 90s, were in Mishawaka helping to build 23 single-family houses during the last week of August. This year's "Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project" was awarded to St. Joseph County in northern Indiana and the Carters' special project was to build a porch for one of the houses.

"We want to help the houses look like they're part of a real neighborhood," said Habitat volunteer Paul Kil, who led a team from St. Therese Little Flower Church in South Bend that was landscaping and laying sod at the Carter site. Kil, who grew up in a family that built its own house, said his own carpentry skills are home-grown, but he's impressed with the training Habitat offers volunteers who come with minimal or no carpentry skills.

At an Aug. 26 opening ceremony for the building project, Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, said he was proud that Notre Dame's student Habitat chapter is one of the largest in the country.

The Carters were longtime friends of the late Holy Cross Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, who was Notre Dame's president from 1952 to 1987, Father Jenkins said.

Late-night talk show host and Indianapolis native David Letterman introduced the Carters and joked that while his enthusiasm for Habitat is huge, his building skills are limited. "What I quickly learned is that the only thing I can do is hammer. ... If there's a Hammering Hall of Fame, get me in!"

Letterman has been a Habitat volunteer and patron since he watched the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He wondered what he could do and Habitat became his answer, he said.

Jimmy Carter told the crowd: "Habitat is not a sacrifice for us. We sometimes get too hot or too cold or work overtime. But, we always feel that we've gotten more out of this than we put in."

He also said it brings hope, noting that he was pleased that he and Rosalynn have drawn international attention to the need for affordable housing since they began working with the organization in 1984.

"Because of Habitat for Humanity ... every 50 seconds, a family somewhere in the world is getting a new or improved home," the former U.S. president said.

Benito and Junixha Salazar were among the 23 families working on the homes going up in Mishawaka.

Like all Habitat "partner families," the Salazars were helping to pay for their home through sweat equity -- 250 hours of volunteer work. They are also attending Habitat-mandated partner family classes on budgeting and home maintenance. Habitat's partner families get zero-interest home loans.

Habitat involvement has bolstered their faith, said the Salazars, who will live in their single-story house with 4-year-old Isabelle and 2-year-old Benito Jr.

Benito, a Catholic, became a forklift operator to make more money before Isabelle was born, but that meant leaving a job he loved at La Casa de Amistad, a community center serving immigrants in South Bend. Junixha is a social worker who attends a Seventh-day Adventist church.

Working full time and having small children made it tough to attend weekly classes and get the required service hours done, but recently he saw the payoff, Benito said. His new neighborhood was becoming a loving community even before its families moved in. "I help build my neighbor's garage or put trim on the house. We don't just work on our own houses. We work on everybody's houses."

This Habitat trademark of generosity and community has drawn many volunteers across St. Joseph County.

Jane Pitz, a former religious sister for 32 years, who worked in campus ministry at Notre Dame, could be enjoying a lazy retirement but instead she leads a Habitat Women Build project in St. Joseph County and fundraises for the organization.

A Jimmy Carter quote about the demands of the Gospel and Habitat's mission echoes her own belief and that of many Habitat volunteers.

She said, Carter believes: "If you are a person of faith ... you learn certain basic lessons about truth, justice, love and sharing that shape your life" and through Habitat for Humanity you find a way to "reach out to fellow humans who don't have a decent place in which to live."

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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.

Bishop Murry, 'cancer-free,' details action against abuse in Ohio diocese

Top Stories - Thu, 09/06/2018 - 12:35pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Pete Sheehan

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (CNS) -- On his first day back at work Sept. 4, Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown spoke happily of his return, but he also addressed the somber subject of the sex abuse crisis now in the news.

In April, he was diagnosed with acute leukemia and admitted to the Cleveland Clinic, where he received aggressive chemotherapy for a month. After his discharge, he received follow-up treatment and spent time resting and recovering.

Speaking to reporters at St. Columba Cathedral Parish Hall, Bishop Murry said he was "100 percent cancer-free" following a bone marrow scan.

He thanked all those who supported him and provided his medical care.

"My energy level is almost back to normal. I look forward to returning to work and reconnecting with the people of the diocese -- part time for a short time, then later, full time," Bishop Murry said.

The next day, he presided at a weekly prayer service for diocesan staff at St. Columba Cathedral that began after his diagnosis, expressing gratitude to all for their prayers.

"Prayer is powerful. That is what got me through," he said.

The bishop also thanked diocesan leaders and staff for keeping the diocese running smoothly.

While speaking to reporters at the Sept. 4 news conference, he addressed the recent controversies in the clergy sex abuse scandal and calling for greater openness in the church and promising more concrete action from the Youngstown Diocese.

Specifically, he said the diocese would release the names of diocesan priests removed from ministry because of a credible accusation of abuse, and he welcomed county prosecutors in the six-county diocesan area "to review our files on priests who have been credibly accused."

Bishop Murry also noted the Youngstown Diocese's track record in dealing compassionately with victims and acting decisively to remove priests from ministry who face credible accusations.

On the broader church level, he said files relating to Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick should be "opened to a group of competent laypeople, to determine how his predatory behavior went unreported."

"At the same time mechanisms must be developed to report allegations against other bishops so that they can be adequately investigated," he added.

In response to a question about the "testimony" from Archbishop Carlo Vigano, former papal nuncio to the United States, which accused Pope Francis of covering up allegations about Archbishop McCarrick, Bishop Murry said the letter seems to have a tone of "settling scores" and "nothing he said is substantiated."

He also encouraged Pope Francis to more fully explain his position.

Bishop Murry, taking questions about his health, expressed gratitude for all who supported him and said the experience strengthened his faith.

He said he was overwhelmed by the many people "who sent any cards, letters, emails, books, prayer chains, homemade gifts and food," citing one letter from an 18-year-old and another from a 10-year-old girl who sent a picture of herself and her cat and a $5 bill "to help with your medical expenses."

He also quipped that he might start spending more time outside the office because the office seemed to run fine without him.

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Sheehan is the editor of The Catholic Exponent, diocesan newspaper of Youngstown.

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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 Bo slams Myanmar military for brutality in Kachin

Top Stories - Wed, 09/05/2018 - 12:00pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Seng Mai, EPA

By

MANDALAY, Myanmar (CNS) -- Myanmar's military continues to persecute ethnic Kachin, the predominant Christian group in a conflict-torn part of the country, as well as Rohingya Muslims, said Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, Myanmar.

Speaking Sept. 1 at a peace forum in South Korea, Cardinal Bo said the suffering the Rohingya have endured has captured the world's attention. He described their plight as an "appalling scar on the conscience of my country," ucanews.com reported.

Yet, he continued, other targeted groups are being overlooked as ethnic fighting rages on in northern Myanmar, with thousands of ethnic minorities having been injured, killed and displaced.

"Villages bombed and burned, women raped, churches destroyed, villagers used as human minesweepers and human shields," Cardinal Bo told peace experts at the Catholic University of Korea in Seoul.

The cardinal elaborated on military air strikes in Kachin in February and a major offensive in April that led to more than 7,000 people being displaced.

He said a series of "wars" were being waged in Myanmar against those who espouse religious freedom by forces preaching religious intolerance and hatred.

Cardinal Bo also lamented a several violent conflicts stemming from land ownership disputes and other concerns including human trafficking, environmental degradation, drug abuse by young people, poverty and a lack of protection of basic rights.

"These 'wars' continue even though Myanmar has moved over the past eight years through reforms and made a fragile transition from a military dictatorship to a fragile democracy," he said.

Sporadic fighting has occurred in the Christian stronghold of Kachin state since the country then known as Burma broke free of its colonial shackles in 1948 by gaining independence from British rule. The situation deteriorated in 2011 when some 100,000 people were displaced. Most of the state's 1.7 million Kachins are Christians, including 116,000 Catholics.

Cardinal Bo said the military retains supreme power, especially in its control of three key ministries, while the civilian government has little or no effective control over its activities.

This, combined with rising Buddhist nationalism and militancy, has created a dangerous cocktail of hatred and repression that denies ethnic and religious minorities the "peace and human dignity" they deserve, he said.

Cardinal Bo is known as a staunch campaigner for reconciliation in Myanmar, where peace negotiations with ethnic armed militias are ongoing and the Rohingya refugee crisis still is being settled.

Myanmar is facing harsh criticism over rights abuses in Rakhine state after a United Nations fact-finding mission found the military had committed gross human rights abuses in the state.

Cardinal Bo also talked about establishing permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula amid a recent series of high-profile meetings between the leaders of South Korea, North Korea, the United States and China.

He said the dream of nuclear disarmament and denuclearization on the peninsula was possible and urged continued dialogue.

However, he added, true peace cannot be realized when North Koreans still are being stripped of their human rights and basic freedoms.

The U.N. has described leader Kim Jong Un's repressive policies as crimes against humanity. In North Korea, more than 100,000 people remain incarcerated in prison camps, subjected to the most severe forms of torture, slave labor and abuse, in an environment where religious freedom is completely lacking.

"Peace is born from the concept of human dignity," Cardinal Bo said.

"Every human being, including those who hate us, is made in God's likeness. Hatred is taught through narratives of hatred. We can also teach every human soul to love," he added.

He said that while the respective situations in Myanmar and Korea are not exactly analogous, the principle objectives are similar.

The goal in both regions is "to build a lasting, genuine peace," he said, adding, "human dignity must be defended and injustice and impunity confronted."

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Editors: The original story can be found at www.ucanews.com/news/cardinal-bo-slams-myanmar-military-for-brutality-in-kachin-state/83234.

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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.

Lucky there's a 'Catholic Guy': Radio host taps into male zeitgeist

Top Stories - Wed, 09/05/2018 - 11:45am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit

By Jonathan Liedl

MINNEAPOLIS (CNS) -- Lino Rulli doesn't have any children of his own. Married two years ago, the 46-year-old and his wife, Jill, are hoping that changes soon.

But the Minnesota native and Catholic media personality is already the pater familias of his own unique brood: a devoted community of listeners to "The Catholic Guy," a weekday afternoon drive program on Sirius XM Radio's Catholic Channel, which Rulli has hosted since it started in 2006.

About 200 members of this tight-knit crew came to the Twin Cities Aug. 17-18 for "Catholic Guy Con," which sold out in 24 hours. The main event consisted of a recorded show and presentations from Rulli and his co-hosts, preceded the night before by a meet-up at a downtown Minneapolis brewpub. Mass celebrated by co-host Father Jim Chern, dinner catered by a St. Paul Italian eatery, and a visit to Rulli's high school alma mater, Hill-Murray in Maplewood, were other features.

"My biggest takeaway from this experience is just a feeling of gratitude," said Rulli, who admitted he had no idea the event would be such a success when it was being planned. "I've found myself thanking God over and over again for this career, and for our audience, and how lucky I am to be able to be in people's lives."

While the event was the first official Catholic Guy Con, for many fans it was not the first time they had gathered with each other and Rulli, who hosts several pilgrimages for Catholic Guy devotees each year. One Catholic Guy Con attendee had been on five.

But for listeners like Chuck Fanelli, who went to the Holy Land with Rulli in 2017, Catholic Guy Con was something special, a unique opportunity to be together with all four current members of the show and hundreds of other Catholic Guy fans.

"I said there's no way I'm missing this," recalled the 33-year-old New Jersey native, who has listened to every episode of "The Catholic Guy" since he first came across the program two years ago -- and still came even after he found out his wife was due to deliver their third child only days after the fan fest.

"(The Catholic Guy community) energizes me, renews my faith, and really helps me get back to being a better husband and father," said Fanelli, who made it home in time for the birth of his son, Michael Paul. "We all feel like family. A big, weird family."

For many Catholic Guy followers, the show provides the type of community they don't find elsewhere. When they listen to "The Catholic Guy," they're plugged into a relatable community of Catholics, and are encouraged in their Catholic faith.

During the show recording at a Minneapolis comedy club, attendees wore shirts with Catholic Guy catch-phrases, tweeted from Twitter accounts named after on-air gags, and called on Rulli to play favorite sound bites from the show.

"Wow, I feel like I'm the leader of my own cult," joked Tyler Veghte, the show's quirky but beloved atheist producer, after attendees sang along by heart to the musical introduction of the popular "What's on Tyler's Mind?" segment.

But while Veghte and co-hosts Father Chern and Mark Hart have their own unique followings among fans, make no mistake about it: "The Catholic Guy" begins and ends with Rulli, the Catholic Guy himself.

The show is infused with his personality, from the sarcastic, self-deprecating sense of humor that targets his big nose and his co-hosts alike, to the soundtrack provided by the Foo Fighters, his favorite band.

The show's approach to Catholicism is also Rulli's own. He believes being Catholic shouldn't be "compartmentalized," and mixes faith freely on air with humor and discussions on everything from sports to what he's watching on Netflix. It's this playful and occasionally irreverent style that makes "The Catholic Guy" "your home for pure Catholic pleasure," as its tagline states.

But the show isn't all laughs. For Rulli, who has won three Emmy awards for his previous media work as a television host and producer, it's also a craft he takes seriously. As his co-hosts noted at Catholic Guy Con, Rulli's goal is first and foremost to make a great radio show, one that normal people will want to listen to.

Rulli acknowledged this might be especially important now, in the midst of the unfolding crisis of cover-ups of clerical sex abuse. He briefly addressed the controversy on-air recently, but also recognizes that his program has a different role to play than news analysis.

"I think people need a respite from the bad news," he said. "So, without saying it explicitly, every day I go on the air and say -- in as entertaining a way as possible -- 'Here's why I'm Catholic. Here's why I love it. In spite of it all, here's what's beautiful and true about the faith.'"

"The bottom line is I host a funny Catholic radio show," Rulli told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. "That's what I get paid to do and people seem to enjoy it."

Rulli began honing the skills from his days in theater at Hill-Murray, to the campus radio program he hosted at St. John's University in Collegeville, where he earned a bachelor's degree in communications and a master's in theology. Rulli also got his television start in the Twin Cities, working for WCCO and KMSP before launching "Generation Cross," a Catholic TV show that combined fun and faith.

Though Rulli now resides in New York City, where he also serves as media advisor to Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, he says his Minnesota upbringing shapes the way he sees the world and the church. As he put it, "If it wasn't for my time on TV here, there wouldn't be 'The Catholic Guy' show anywhere."

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Liedl writes for The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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Jesuit priest and school president offers prayers at McCain memorials

Top Stories - Tue, 09/04/2018 - 1:08pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool via Reuters

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Jesuit Father Edward Reese, the president of St. Ignatius Prep School in San Francisco, offered prayers in both Phoenix and Washington, including a homily at the National Cathedral in Washington, after the death of John McCain, the senator from Arizona who died Aug. 25 at age 81 after a long struggle with brain cancer.

Father Reese knew the McCain family when he was president at another Jesuit high school, Brophy Prep in Phoenix, for 20 years. Two of McCain's sons attended Brophy and McCain's wife, Cindy, served on the board of trustees.

In his Sept. 1 homily, Father Reese quoted from Gerard Manley Hopkins, himself a Jesuit priest and poet: "What I do is me: for that I came. But, I say more: the just man justices; keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces; acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is -- Christ -- for Christ plays in ten thousand places, lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his, to the Father through the features of men's faces."

"Don't misunderstand me. We are not recommending John for sainthood. He was so very human and for that reason we can see God in his life," Father Reese said.

McCain "was the just man justicing," he added. "For John McCain, every human being deserved to be treated justly. He saw God our Father through the features of every person, especially those poor, persecuted by power and those in need."

The 31-year senator, who served in Vietnam and was held captive by the North Vietnamese for six years, "was a man who loved and knew that love is seen in action -- in doing," Father Reese said.

"He was so often surrounded by servicemen and women for whom he has a special affection." In death, McCain continues to be surrounded by fellow servicemen and women; he is buried at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland.

At an Aug. 31 memorial service at North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix, Father Reese reminded mourners that "Jesus, at his final meal with his friends, charged them to 'remember me ... in the breaking of the bread.'" Bread, the priest added, "must be broken to be shared. We celebrate the life today of a man who unselfishly was broken that we may all be put together again as one."

Father Reese said, "We now are called to re-member, put together again in our lives and heart, John McCain our brother, Jesus' brother."

He quoted from another poet, Henry Scott-Holland, an Anglican priest who died in 1918. His "Death Is Nothing at All" was not intended to be a poem, but was delivered as part of a 1910 sermon: "Laugh as we always laughed, at jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effect. Without the trace of a shadow on it."

McCain was a lifelong Episcopalian, but attended services at a Southern Baptist church for 17 years.

Prior to the memorial, Father Reese delivered an invocation for McCain at the Arizona state capital in Phoenix where McCain lay in state. "Loving God, see our tears for our brother, our father and husband, our fellow citizen and senator," he prayed. "Let these tears bring blooming in the desert he loved, in the country he served, in all our hearts! Amen."

Father Reese also said one of the opening prayers at the 2008 Republican National Convention that nominated McCain for president. He is the brother of another Jesuit priest, Father Thomas Reese, an author and journalist.

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Cardinal Wuerl addresses church's 'pain, confusion and disillusionment'

Top Stories - Tue, 09/04/2018 - 12:57pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard

By Mark Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Addressing the clergy abuse crisis in the church will require "wider lay engagement, more realized accountability and evident transparency," said Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl at the end of a Sept. 2 Mass in Washington.

In remarks after Communion, at the installation Mass for a new pastor at Annunciation Parish in Washington, Cardinal Wuerl said the church must follow a pathway to holiness and bring "Christ's renewing light" to the darkness of the abuse crisis and the pain it has caused.

The way forward must involve "a renewed commitment on the part of each priest to do what in fact the vast majority of priests do so well every day. You and I must continue to support them as they carry out their ministry that is such a significant part of the healing."

The cardinal also stressed the importance of church accountability and engaging the laity in the wake of the resignation of retired Washington Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick over abuse allegations and the Pennsylvania grand jury report documenting clergy sexual abuse against minors over the past seven decades in six dioceses, including Pittsburgh, led by then-Bishop Wuerl from 1988 until his appointment as archbishop of Washington in 2006.

Since the release of this report, Cardinal Wuerl has faced strong criticism and calls for his resignation for his record in confronting clergy sexual abuse in the Pittsburgh Diocese.

Following canon law, the cardinal submitted his resignation to Pope Francis in 2015 when he turned 75. The pope has not accepted it.

In an Aug. 27 letter to staff of the Archdiocese of Washington, Msgr. Charles Antonicelli, vicar general and moderator of the curia, said that in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, then-Bishop Wuerl reached out to abuse survivors, removed all priests with credible claims of abuse against them, and was a leader in child protection.

At the end of the Sept. 2 Mass, installing Msgr. Michael Mellone as pastor, Cardinal Wuerl said the prayers of Catholics are for the whole church wounded by the shame of the actions that caused the abuse crisis. "You too bear a deep wound, because you love the church -- that's why you're here, and you do not know what is coming next."

He acknowledged the "pain, confusion and disillusionment" that Catholics feel, and he said he wished he could wipe it all away.

"As we move forward, I hope to lead by action, not just by words," he said, and then quoted part of what he had written in an Aug. 30 letter to priests in the archdiocese: "I ask you for prayers for me, for forgiveness for my errors in judgment, for my inadequacies, as well as for the grace to find, with you, ways of healing, ways of offering fruitful guidance in this darkness."

Near the end of his remarks, a man shouted: "Shame on you!" and stormed out of church.

This was right after the cardinal had asked the congregation to "hold close in our prayers and loyalty to our Holy Father, Pope Francis. Increasingly, it is clear that he is the object of considerable animosity."

After the man's outburst, Cardinal Wuerl said he wished he could redo decisions that he had made in his three decades as a bishop "and each time get it right." He encouraged people to join him in seeking God's grace and mercy as the church moves forward. He asked for their prayers for him, and for all those who were abused and all those suffering in the aftermath of abuse.

"We do all of this first in prayer, mindful that the source of our contrition, of our healing, and of our pathway into the future is the victory Christ won for us on the cross," he said.

The cardinal received applause at the end of his remarks.

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Zimmermann is editor of the Catholic Standard, archdiocesan newspaper of Washington.

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Silence is Christ's response to lies, divisiveness, pope says at Mass

Top Stories - Mon, 09/03/2018 - 8:02am

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Jesus himself showed that the best way to respond to scandal and divisiveness is to stay silent and pray, Pope Francis said Sept. 3 as he resumed his early morning Masses with invited guests.

"With people lacking good will, with people who seek only scandal, with those who look only for division, who want only destruction," he said, the best response is "silence. And prayer."

The pope's Mass and homily came just over a week after Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former papal nuncio to the United States, called on Pope Francis to resign for allegedly ignoring sanctions Pope Benedict XVI had placed on then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick for sexual misconduct.

Asked about the archbishop's 11-page document, which included allegations of a "homosexual current" at the highest levels of the church, Pope Francis told reporters Aug. 26 to read the document for themselves and make their own judgments. The Vatican press office and most officials named in the archbishop's document also refused to comment.

The Gospel for Sept. 3 recounted Jesus' return to Nazareth and the fury of the townspeople when he refused to perform miracles for them. The reading from St. Luke ends: "They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away."

In his homily, Pope Francis said the reading should help Christians "reflect on how to act in daily life when there are misunderstandings," but also to understand "how the father of lies, the accuser, the devil acts to destroy the unity of a family, of a people."

According to a Vatican News report on the homily, Pope Francis said that it was with his silence that Jesus defeated the "wild dogs," the devil, who "had sown lies in the hearts."

"It wasn't people, it was a pack of wild dogs that chased him out of the city," the pope said. But Jesus is silent. "It is the dignity of Jesus. With his silence he defeats that wild pack and walks away because it was not yet his hour.'

"This teaches us that when there is this way of acting, of not seeing the truth, silence remains," he said.

Even in a family, he said, there are times when a discussion of politics or sports or money escalates into a truly destructive argument; "in these discussions in which you see the devil is there and wants to destroy -- silence. Have your say, then keep quiet."

"Because the truth is meek. The truth is silent. The truth is not noisy," he said.

Remaining silent and refusing to fight back is not always easy, he said, but it is what Jesus did and it is "anchored in the strength of God."

"May the Lord grant us the grace to discern when we must speak and when we must remain silence," he prayed.

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

Pope: Pray, act to protect clean water, guarantee access to it

Top Stories - Sat, 09/01/2018 - 9:03am

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Water is a gift of God that makes life possible and yet millions of people do not have access to safe drinking water, and rivers, seas and oceans continue to be polluted, Pope Francis said.

"Care for water sources and water basins is an urgent imperative," the pope said in a message Sept. 1, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, an observance begun by the Orthodox Church and now celebrated by many Christians.

With the world day 2018 focused on water, Pope Francis drew special attention to the more than 600 million people who do not have regular access to clean drinking water.

"Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights," he said, quoting from his encyclical "Laudato Si'" on the environment.

"In considering the fundamental role of water in creation and in human development," he wrote, "I feel the need to give thanks to God for 'Sister Water,'" as St. Francis of Assisi said. Water is "simple and useful for life like nothing else on our planet."

Fulfilling the Gospel mandate to give the thirsty something to drink involves more than individual acts of charity, although those are important, he said. It also involves "concrete choices and a constant commitment to ensure to all the primary good of water."

Believers have an obligation to thank God for the gift of water and "to praise him for covering the earth with the oceans," Pope Francis said. But they also have an obligation to work together to keep the oceans clean instead of allowing them to be "littered by endless fields of floating plastic."

Thinking of oceans and seas, also led the pope to think of the thousands of migrants and refugees who "risk their lives at sea in search of a better future."

"Let us ask the Lord and all those engaged in the noble service of politics that the more sensitive questions of our day, such as those linked to movements of migration, climate change and the right of everyone to enjoy primary goods, may be faced with generous and farsighted responsibility and in a spirit of cooperation, especially among those countries most able to help," he wrote.

Pope Francis also offered prayers for people who fish and others who earn their livings at sea, for those who minister to them and for all the scientists and public policy experts who help the public recognize the treasures of the sea and work to protect them.

And, as the Catholic Church prepares for a world Synod of Bishops on young people, he urged Christians to educate and pray for the young "that they may grow in knowledge and respect for our common home and in the desire to care for the essential good of water, for the benefit of all."

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Former nuncio now says sanctions against McCarrick were 'private'

Top Stories - Sat, 09/01/2018 - 6:33am

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former nuncio to the United States who called on Pope Francis to resign for allegedly lifting sanctions placed on Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, now says those "sanctions" were "private" and neither he nor now-retired Pope Benedict XVI ever was able to enforce them.

While Archbishop Vigano went into hiding after publishing his "testimony" Aug. 25 about Archbishop McCarrick -- and about Pope Francis and a host of other current and former Vatican officials -- the former nuncio has continued to speak to the writers who originally helped him publish the document.

Pope Francis has not said anything since Aug. 26 when he told reporters traveling with him to study the document and do their own research. Even if the sanctions were private, Archbishop Vigano claimed Pope Francis was aware of them.

The measures imposed by Pope Benedict were in response to reports of Archbishop McCarrick's sexual misconduct with and sexual harassment of seminarians. After allegations that Archbishop McCarrick had sexually abused a minor were deemed credible in June, Pope Francis publicly imposed sanctions on him and accepted his resignation from the College of Cardinals.

Archbishop Vigano also had said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, Archbishop McCarrick's successor, had long been aware of Pope Benedict's sanctions, but the Archdiocese of Washington said Aug. 27, "Cardinal Wuerl has categorically denied that any of this information was communicated to him."

One of the outlets that originally published Archbishop Vigano's text, LifeSiteNews, published an article Aug. 31 with Archbishop Vigano explaining how, after Pope Benedict allegedly imposed sanctions on Archbishop McCarrick in "2009 or 2010," Archbishop McCarrick continued to concelebrate at large public Masses and visit the Vatican and Pope Benedict himself.

Archbishop Vigano now says Pope Benedict made the sanctions private, perhaps "due to the fact that he (Archbishop McCarrick) was already retired, maybe due to the fact that he (Pope Benedict) was thinking he was ready to obey."

The former nuncio said that in November 2011 he was sent as nuncio to the United States with specific information about the sanctions from Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. The cardinal has not responded to a Catholic News Service request for an interview.

Archbishop Vigano appeared publicly with then-Cardinal McCarrick at a May 2012 gala in New York honoring the cardinal. LifeSiteNews said the archbishop explained that "he was just beginning his role as the pope's representative at the time" and that "the nuncio is not somebody who may enforce restrictions directly, especially with a cardinal, who is considered the superior."

The other English-language outlet that originally published Archbishop Vigano's text was the National Catholic Register, a newspaper owned by EWTN. The Register had reported that it "independently confirmed" that Pope Benedict "remembers instructing Cardinal (Tarcisio) Bertone to impose measures but cannot recall their exact nature."

In a Register blog post Aug. 31, the author of the original story, Edward Pentin, provided more information from his source, saying the retired pope is now "unable to remember very well" how the supposed sanctions were handled. "As far as (Pope) Benedict could recall, the source said the instruction was essentially that (then-Cardinal) McCarrick should keep a 'low profile.' There was 'no formal decree, just a private request,'" Pentin wrote.

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Dallas bishop asks pope to convene synod to discuss clergy abuse

Top Stories - Fri, 08/31/2018 - 2:35pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jenna Teter, The Texas

By David Sedeno

DALLAS (CNS) -- Dallas Bishop Edward J. Burns has asked Pope Francis for an extraordinary synod to address issues in the latest Catholic clergy sex abuse crisis, including "abuse of power, clericalism, accountability and the understanding of transparency in the church."

The letter, posted to the Diocese of Dallas' website Aug. 30, was signed by the bishop and priests who serve in leadership roles in various consultative bodies in the diocese. It had been sent earlier in the day to Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the U.S. papal nuncio, so that it could be forwarded to the pope as soon as possible.

"The current crisis of sexual abuse by clergy, the cover-up by leaders in the church and the lack of fidelity of some have caused great harm," the letter said. It suggests that this synod should include topics such as "the care and the safeguard of children and the vulnerable, outreach to victims, the identity and lifestyle of the clergy, the importance of healthy human formation within the presbyterate/religious community, etc."

"We are working diligently at the local level to deal with these issues but increasing accountability at all levels of the church is of utmost importance," Bishop Burns said in a statement. He also noted that the priests who signed the letter "believe a real solution must be found to the heinous issue of clergy abuse of minors."

One of the signers was Father Rudy Garcia, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Frisco, who serves on the diocesan presbyteral council.

"It's important to come together at this time of crisis in community of faith and respond to it through the lens of faith and with a firm resolve to create a safe environment for our young and vulnerable adults," he said, adding that priests must go through the same Safe Environment training that lay individuals who work or volunteer in parishes and schools are required to do annually.

"I think the bishop does an excellent job in drawing the community together and addressing this difficult issue at this difficult time and marshalling us around a solid plan of spirituality and of guaranteeing the safety of our environment now and in the future," he said.

In a news conference Aug. 30, Bishop Burns told reporters that he did not know whether the letter would move the pope to call a synod, but he said that numerous priests encouraged him to send it anyway.

The bishop's call for the special synod follows a similar one from the bishop of Portsmouth, England, on Aug. 22 and comes after weeks of news of clergy abuse, not only across the United States and abroad, but also within the Diocese of Dallas.

On Aug. 19, Bishop Burns told parishioners at St. Cecilia Catholic Church that their former pastor, Father Edmundo Paredes, had not only stolen church funds, but had also been accused of sexual misconduct by three individuals, later revealed to be three now-adult males, who said the abuse happened more than a decade ago. The bishop said that those allegations were found to be credible.

"If we are ever going to restore trust or credibility in the church, it's only going to come after we consistently do what is right," Bishop Burns said Aug. 26 at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Plano.

"My friends, let me say to you that if this church of ours has to go through a purification, so be it," he said to applause. "And let us pray for the fire of the Holy Spirit, so as to purify us, in what we need to do, in being the church that we say we are. I'm not going to cover my ears or cover my eyes or cover my mouth and we are going to look at this head-on."

In the case of Father Paredes, Dallas diocesan officials have said that the former pastor is accused of theft of approximately $80,000 and that a settlement had been reached with the victims, who wished to remain anonymous.

Bishop Burns has said that in the future the diocese would:

-- Hold a Ceremony of Sorrow at St. Cecilia Catholic Church.

-- Schedule four town hall meetings, beginning with a liturgy, across the diocese to allow Catholics to ask questions.

-- Expand Safe Environment protocols with wider participation from parishioners.

-- Survey parents, grandparents and parishioners as to the effectiveness of the Safe Environment Program within their parishes.

-- Contract a researcher to look at Pennsylvania grand jury report about the inefficiencies of safeguards in the six dioceses there and to compare those inefficiencies to the Diocese of Dallas.

-- Ask priests across the diocese to pray the rosary prior to each Mass in October, whenever possible.

Diocesan officials have not said when the ceremony at St. Cecilia would occur or when or where the town hall meetings would be scheduled.

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Sedeno is executive editor of The Texas Catholic and Revista Catolica, the English- and Spanish-language newspapers of the Dallas Diocese.

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Australian bishops, religious say they can't violate seal of confession

Top Stories - Thu, 08/30/2018 - 10:00pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Royal Commission

By

SYDNEY, Australia (CNS) -- Australia's Catholic bishops and religious orders, responding to recommendations from the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, accepted 98 percent of its suggestions, but said they could not accept recommendations that would violate the seal of confession.

"We are committed to the safeguarding of children and vulnerable people while maintaining the seal. We do not see safeguarding and the seal as mutually exclusive," said the preamble to a 57-response to dozens of recommendations concerning child safety, formation of priest and religious workers, ongoing training in child safety and even out-of-home care service providers.

The response, published Aug. 31, came eight-and-a-half months after the Royal Commission released its 17-volume report on child sexual abuse. The report was based on five years of hearings, nearly 26,000 emails, and more than 42,000 phone calls from concerned Australians. In February 2017, Australian church leaders spent three weeks testifying before the commission.

The Royal Commission recommended that the bishops consult with the Holy See to clarify whether "information received from a child during the sacrament of reconciliation that they have been sexually abused is covered by the seal of confession" and whether "if a person confesses during the sacrament of reconciliation to perpetrating child sexual abuse, absolution can and should be withheld until they report themselves to civil authorities."

The commission also recommended that confession "only be conducted in an open space within the clear line of sight of another adult."

The response from the bishops and religious said dioceses would examine confessional spaces and practices. It said confessions of groups of children were normally conducted in the open and that the Catholic Professional Standards Limited it had established was developing standards and protocols.

"However, the 'seal of confession' is inviolable for the priest confessor," it said.

"Children will be less rather than more safe if mandatory reporting of confessions were required: the rare instance where a perpetrator or victim might have raised this in confession would be less likely to occur if confidence in the sacramental seal were undermined; and so an opportunity would be lost to encourage a perpetrator to self-report to civil authorities or victims to seek safety," said the response.

"Mandatory reporting of confessions would also be a violation of freedom of religious belief and worship," it added.

The bishops and religious noted that they had marked a few recommendations "For further consideration," and about a dozen that mentioned the Holy See had been noted to the Vatican. In October, leaders of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and the chair of the church's Truth, Justice and Healing Council met with Vatican officials to discuss issues emerging from the royal commission investigations.

For instance, the Royal Commission said the bishops should urge the Vatican to change canon law so that "the pontifical secret" -- the confidentiality surrounding a canonical investigation and process -- "does not apply to any aspect of allegations or canonical disciplinary processes relating to child sexual abuse." The response said the bishops had sought canonical advice and consulted with the Holy See, but noted that the pontifical secret "does not in any way inhibit a bishop or religious leader from reporting instances of child sexual abuse to civil authorities."

The Royal Commission asked that the bishops urge the Vatican to eliminate the "imputability test" of canon law when dealing with cases of clerical sexual abuse; the imputability test basically means that a person's level of guilt for a crime is lessened to the degree that he or she was not aware that the action was wrong; if the imputability is diminished, canon law would recommend a lesser penalty for the guilty.

In response to a recommendation that the bishops work with the Vatican to amend canon law to remove the time limit for commencement of canonical actions relating to child sexual abuse, the bishops said this was already the practice in Australia. According to rules issued in 2003, the statute of limitation is 20 years after the victim reaches the age of 18; however, church law also says that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith can set aside that limit.

Several recommendations from the royal commission concerned celibacy -- the promise not to marry. The response said the bishops noted "that the Royal Commission made no finding of a causal connection between celibacy and child sexual abuse; that voluntary celibacy is a long-established and positive practice of the church in both East and West, particularly for bishops and religious life; and that inadequate initial and continuing formation of priests and religious for celibate living may have contributed to a heightened risk of child sexual abuse, but not celibacy as a state of life in and of itself."

In March, Pope Francis authorized an Australian plenary council, a meeting in which decisions become binding on the church in the country. The bishops said it was time to look at where the church in Australia was headed.

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Bishop echoes pope: The poor's plight is 'the Gospel, pure and simple'

Top Stories - Thu, 08/30/2018 - 3:14pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jim West

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Echoing what Pope Francis said during a Mass in May, the bishop who heads the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development said, "The struggle of working people, of the poor" is not first a "social or political question. No! It is the Gospel, pure and simple."

In the bishops' annual Labor Day statement, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, said the recent economic news may not "give an entirely accurate account of the daily lives and struggles of working people, those who are still without work, or the underemployed struggling with low wages."

The statement, "Just Wages and Human Flourishing," dated Labor Day, Sept. 3 this year, was released Aug. 30.

"Wages for lower-income workers are, by various accounts, insufficient to support a family and provide a secure future," Bishop Dewane said. "A recent study examined whether a minimum wage earner could afford an average two-bedroom apartment in their state of residence. Shockingly, in all 50 states, the answer was no."

He also took note from a recent Federal Reserve report that showed that four in 10 adults could not cover a $400 emergency expense, or would have to borrow money or sell something to do so.

"Taking into account inflation and the rising cost of living, workers at the lower end of the income spectrum have seen their wages stagnate or even decrease over the last decade," Bishop Dewane said. "From 2015 to 2016, the rate of (income) growth was highest at the top."

"Another alarming trend is the continuing disparities in median incomes between different racial and ethnic groups and between women and men," he added, citing 2016 data that showed the median household income of non-Hispanic whites was $25,500 more than that of blacks, and the real median earnings of women were $10,000 lower than that of men.

"Clearly no examination of our economy, in light of justice, can exclude consideration of how discrimination based on race and sex impacts the just distribution of wages," Bishop Dewane said, later citing three popes' encyclicals on income and wages.

St. John XXIII in "Pacem in Terris" "described wages that 'give the worker and his family a standard of living in keeping with the dignity of the human person,'" while St. John Paul II in "Laborem Exercens" "elaborated on the systematic implications of just wages, describing them as 'the concrete means of verifying the justice of the whole socioeconomic system,'" Bishop Dewane noted.

"However, when a society fails in the task of ensuring workers are paid justly, questions arise as to the underlying assumptions of that system. A society that is willing to exclude its most vulnerable members, Pope Francis suggests in 'Evangelii Gaudium,' is one where 'the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root.' Pope Francis warns that absent a just response, these disparities can lead to deep societal divisions and even violence," Bishop Dewane said.

He also cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says, "Economic life is not meant solely to multiply goods produced and increase profit or power; it is ordered first of all to the service of persons, of the whole man, and of the entire human community," and that the fact that workers and employers have agreed to a certain wage "is not sufficient to justify morally the amount to be received in wages."

"The economy must serve people, not the other way around," Bishop Dewane added. "Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of participating in God's creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected, including the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to organizing and joining unions, to private property, and to economic initiative."

The Christian's task, Bishop Dewane said, was threefold: "to live justly in our own lives whether as business owners or workers. Secondly, we are called to stand in solidarity with our poor and vulnerable brothers and sisters. Lastly, we should all work to reform and build a more just society, one which promotes human life and dignity and the common good of all. We also need to recognize the gifts and responsibilities that God has entrusted to each of us."

He added, "As Christians, we believe that conflict or enmity between the rich and the poor is not necessary or inevitable. These divisions are in fact sinful. But we live in the hope that our society can become ever more just when there is conversion of heart and mind so that people recognize the inherent dignity of all and work together for the common good."

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Bishops of Atlanta province consider ways to lead in the face of crisis

Top Stories - Thu, 08/30/2018 - 1:29pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Douglas Deas, for the Catholic Miscellany

By Christina Lee Knauss

CHARLESTON, S.C. (CNS) -- Priests and bishops from the Province of Atlanta recently spent time considering the abuse crisis in the church, how to respond to it and how to best carry on in serving the faithful.

The discussion took place during the Provincial Assembly of Priests and Bishops, Aug. 20-22 at the Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston.

The gathering's theme, "Catholic Parishes of the 21st Century," was meant to give the prelates and clergy a chance to look at trends in thought and practice among people in the pews and develop more effective ministry at the parish level.

They reflected on that information against the backdrop of recent news, including the Pennsylvania grand jury report documenting sexual abuse in Pennsylvania dioceses, as well as Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick's resignation in the wake of abuse allegations.

Discussions focused on ways to reach out to increasingly large and diverse parishes in the Southeast, how to reach millennials and others leaving the church and how to improve communication among pastors, parish staff and the laity. Workshops were led by Charles Zech and Michael Castrilli from the Center for Church Management and Business Ethics at Villanova University.

Participants said the information will be helpful as priests and bishops consider ways to help the church confront the latest crisis.

Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said in an interview with The Catholic Miscellany, diocesan newspaper of Charleston, that the meeting provided an important chance for the region's leaders and clergy to talk and pray together during an era that he called "probably the most destructive moment we have faced as a church in our nation."

Archbishop Gregory urged the faithful around the Atlanta Province to share their feelings and opinions in response to the abuse crisis.

"I would ask the people to speak boldly to their priests, to share their anger and their hearts' concerns," he said. "I would also ask them to face this moment with trust and confidence in Christ and not necessarily in individuals."

Other bishops in attendance were Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of the Diocese of Charleston, Bishop Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte, Bishop Luis R. Zarama of Raleigh and Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer of Savannah, plus Atlanta Auxiliary Bishops Bernard E. Schlesinger III and Joel M. Konzen.

The clergy attended a Mass at St. Patrick Church on Aug. 21, celebrated by Archbishop Gregory. Many of the priests who attended concelebrated from the pews, reciting the prayers and extending their hands in prayer during the consecration. Members of the parish sat beside them and joined in song and prayer.

In his homily, Archbishop Gregory said it was more important than ever for the clergy and the laity to remember the value that Christ placed on humility. It is an important time, he said, for the church's leaders to remember the importance of children and the respect owed to them.

"There is a different order in God's kingdom, where being little is more important than being significant," he said. "We have been reminded recently of that proper order, and the reminders have not always been easy. God continually calls us back to the order of his kingdom, where the little ones are the first and the important ones are their servants."

During closed discussion periods, the priests had the chance to share their feelings and concerns about the recent abuse revelation with the bishops. Bishop Hartmayer said the emotions expressed ranged from anger to disgust.

"It was important for the priests to have the opportunity to share their concerns as to what is going to be done to prevent this moral crisis from ever happening again," Bishop Hartmayer said.

Bishop Jugis said the assembly was valuable because it offered a chance both to confront the abuse crisis and consider ways to better serve the faithful in a province where the Catholic population is booming.

"It is beneficial for us to consider how to prepare for the growth that is still expected," Bishop Jugis said. "I would ask both the clergy and the laity to remember that we are all here to serve Christ the Lord."

Bishop Guglielmone said the assembly's theme and the discussions on ways to confront the future were especially important.

"We recognize that for many people there may be anger and disappointment right now, and a fear that the church they knew and loved is falling apart," Bishop Guglielmone said. "By looking at ways to make the parishes stronger, we're also considering ways to rebuild the sense of trust in the people we serve, to focus on what we're all about and to do what they have entrusted us to do, which is to spread the Gospel."

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Knauss is a reporter at The Catholic Miscellany, newspaper of the Diocese of Charleston.

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Faithful uphold the quiet tradition of lighting candles in churches

Top Stories - Thu, 08/30/2018 - 11:22am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Emily Benson, The Evangelist

By Emily Benson

WESTMERE, N.Y. (CNS) -- Linda Brown approached the candle stand at her parish, Christ the King in Westmere. She dropped a donation in the collection box and lit two candles.

Her husband, Ed, stood beside her as she bowed her head and said a silent prayer. He explained that the two candles were for his wife's mother, who recently passed away, and their son Jason, whom they also lost.

Ed Brown told The Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, New York, that being able to light a candle says "we still remember" loved ones who have passed from this life to the next. Linda Brown agreed that the candle stand, a new feature at Christ the King that had been requested by parishioners, has been helpful to her.

"I think it's comforting," she explained.

The act of lighting candles is a quiet but ever-present tradition in the Catholic Church and beyond. Candles appear at makeshift memorials after a tragedy and at official memorials when Catholics gather to pray. Candles are used at every Mass; at the Easter Vigil each year, a special candle is lit from a new fire and its light passed to individual candles held by parishioners.

Candle stands are often tucked away in the corners of churches, but they make an important impact on the faith of many parishioners.

"Candles have a special place in our faith journey," said Lou Ann Cleary, liturgy and music ministry director at Christ the King. "When I was a kid, I remember going and lighting a candle with my mom."

The candle stand at Christ the King was recently added. People can light a two-hour candle for $1. A sign over the stand reads, "Lighting a candle can symbolize the remembering of a loved one or a petition of prayer we make to God. We ask the saints to pray with us and for us during our most dire need. The light of the candle prolongs our prayer beyond our presence in church and shows our desire to remain in God's presence as we go about our day."

Father James Fitzmaurice, pastor at Christ the King, said parishioners had asked about getting a candle stand for quite some time.

Candle lighting is "just kind of a tradition," he said. "People would think of someone, an individual, as they lit a candle; or they say, 'Oh, I'll light a candle for you,' so it's for the living and deceased."

Visitors also partake in the tradition. Cleary recalled that, when her son and his wife visited Christ the King for the first time, her daughter-in-law immediately asked whether there were candles available to light.

"What we remember about church is that you can go in and light a candle," Cleary said.

At St. Mary Parish in Albany, many parishioners and guests light candles to remember lost loved ones or connect with God. A parishioner of Blessed Sacrament Church in Albany said she has lit many candles at St. Mary over the years: "It could be for a number of reasons -- just to honor the blessed mother or Lord, or for my family."

Candle lighting helps her, she said: "Oh my gosh, yes! I can't live in a world without God's graces."

Joe Krivanek visits St. Mary Church on his lunch hour while working in downtown Albany. He lights a candle at the church about once every week.

"I just feel that it's something to do" in memory of family and loved ones, he said.

Leo Wang of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, also was lighting a candle at St. Mary Church on a recent afternoon. He said he does so every time he stops by the church.

"It is almost always for my family," he told The Evangelist. The candle "is here when I'm not. I like to visit churches, but when I leave, it's something here."

Lighting a candle, Wang added, "is like signing a guest book" at a parish: though no else will know he lit a particular one, God knows he was there.

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Benson is a staff writer for The Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany.

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

Pope serene despite 'pain' over archbishop's testimony, cardinal says

Top Stories - Thu, 08/30/2018 - 10:22am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While recent accusations by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano have created tension in the Catholic Church, Pope Francis is approaching the situation calmly, the Vatican secretary of state said.

In an interview posted Aug. 30 by "Vatican Insider," the online news supplement to the Italian newspaper La Stampa, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that in situations like the current crisis "that obviously creates so much bitterness and worry," the pope "has the ability to take a very serene approach."

"From what I saw -- I haven't seen him today, but I have seen him in these days; I was with him during the trip to Ireland and after -- he seems serene," Cardinal Parolin said.

In an 11-page statement, published Aug. 26, Archbishop Vigano, who served as nuncio to the United States from 2011 to 2016, accused church officials, including Pope Francis, of failing to act on accusations of abuse of conscience and power by now-Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick. Archbishop Vigano claimed he told Pope Francis about Cardinal McCarrick in 2013.

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

Speaking to reporters traveling back to Rome with him from Dublin Aug. 26, Pope Francis called on them to read Archbishop Vigano's statement carefully "and make your own judgment."

"I think the statement speaks for itself, and you have a sufficient journalistic ability to make a conclusion," the pope said.

Cardinal Parolin said that "one can only express pain, great pain" in a situation in which a bishop makes serious accusations against the pope.

"I hope that we can all work in the search for truth and justice, that those may be the points of reference and nothing more," the cardinal said.

However, when asked his opinion of the veracity of Archbishop Vigano's accusations, Cardinal Parolin said he deferred to Pope Francis' response.

"It is better not to enter into details on those things," Cardinal Parolin said. "I repeat what the pope said: You must read and make your own judgments; what was written speaks for itself."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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