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Pope Francis: A Christian's life should point to truth

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2018 / 05:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Christians are called to not only refrain from telling falsehoods, but to conduct their entire lives – both words and actions – as a witness to the Truth that is Jesus Christ, Pope Francis said Wednesday.

“Let us ask ourselves: what truth do the works of us Christians attest to, our words, our choices?” the pope said Nov. 14. “Everyone can ask themselves: am I a witness to the truth, or am I more or less a liar disguised as a true person?”

In his weekly catechesis, Pope Francis reflected on the eighth commandment: “you shall not give false witness against thy neighbor.”

“The truth,” he said, “finds its full realization in the very person of Jesus, in his way of living and dying, the fruit of his relationship with the Father.” As children of God, people are given this same access to truth, sent through the Holy Spirit, “who is the Spirit of truth, who attests to our hearts that God is our Father.”

Francis explained that “in every one of his actions man affirms or denies this truth. From small everyday situations to the most demanding choices. But it is the same logic: that which parents and grandparents teach us when they tell us not to lie. The same logic.”

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the pope said, the commandment against lying, “forbids falsifying the truth in relations with others.”

“Inauthentic communication” is a serious error because it prevents relationships and love, which require truth; and “where there is a lie there is no love, there can be no love,” he emphasized.

To tell the truth in one’s relationships means more than to just not tell a falsehood with one’s words, he continued, listing also “gestures, attitudes, silences, and absences,” as possible occasions of dishonesty.

“A person speaks with everything he is and what he does. We are always in communication. We all live by communicating and we are constantly poised between truth and falsehood,” he stated.

An element of telling the truth in relationships includes not gossiping, he said, departing from his prepared remarks to emphasize that to gossip is like dropping a bomb, which destroys the community and the reputation of others.

“Be careful!” he urged. “How much gossip destroys communion for inappropriateness or lack of delicacy!”

Just because one may have told the truth about another person, does not mean it was right to say it, or to reveal some personal or confidential information, Francis warned.

Christians are not exceptional people, but “we are children of the heavenly Father, who is good and does not disappoint,” therefore, Christians are able to live in the truth “not so much said with discourses,” he said, but as a “way of existing, a way of life, and it is seen in every single act.”

“Truth is a marvelous revelation of God, of his Father’s face, is his boundless love,” he said.

The question, “what is truth?” Francis noted, is what Pontius Pilate asked Jesus when he questioned him about his kingship before handing him over to the Jewish people to be crucified.

Jesus said: “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” Jesus gives this “testimony” by his passion and death, Pope Francis said. Through his manner of suffering and dying, “Jesus manifests the Father, his merciful and faithful love.”

“Not to say false testimony means to live as a child of God… letting the great truth emerge in every act: that God is Father and we can trust Him. I trust God: this is the great truth,” he concluded.

“From our trust in God, who is a Father and loves me, loves us, my truth is born; and to be truthful and not a liar.”

A look at blasphemy laws around the world

Islamabad, Pakistan, Nov 14, 2018 / 03:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While the world awaits the fate of Asia Bibi, who remains in hiding in Pakistan following the acquittal of her death sentence for blasphemy, religious freedom advocates are calling for an end to blasphemy laws across the globe.

“Blasphemy laws are a way for governments to deny their citizens – and particularly those of minority religions – the basic human rights to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression,” Dr. Tenzin Dorjee, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said in the statement in October.

However, Dorjee’s statement was not directed at Pakistan -- but Ireland.

Irish citizens voted to remove a provision criminalizing blasphemy from their Constitution on Oct. 26, although the law had not been enforced in recent years.

The Irish Bishops’ Conference said that the blasphemy reference, although “largely obsolete,” could raise concern because of how it could be used “to justify violence and oppression against minorities in other parts of the world.”

More than one-third of the world’s countries maintain laws that criminalize blasphemy -- defined as “the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God.” Punishments for blasphemy across the 68 countries range widely from fines to imprisonment and death.

In Sudan and Saudi Arabia, corporal punishment, such as whipping, has been used in blasphemy cases. Recently, Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 1000 public lashes, given in installments of 50 lashes every week, in addition to 10 years in prison separated from his wife and children, and a 10-year travel ban after his prison sentence.

Compulsory and correctional labor are the prescribed punishments in the blasphemy laws in Russia and Kazakhstan.

Iran has the world’s most severe blasphemy laws, followed closely by Pakistan, according to the U.S. Commission of International Religious Freedom. Both countries’ laws enforce the death penalty for an insult to the prophet Muhammad. In 2015 alone, Iran executed 20 people for “enmity against God.”

In addition to Iran and Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Qatar, and Egypt have among the world’s worst blasphemy laws, the USCIRF study found in 2017.

Although many of the world’s blasphemy laws are enforced in largely Muslim countries, they exist in every region of the world.

Some Western nations, such as Malta and Denmark, have repealed their national blasphemy laws in recent years, while other countries still enforce them.

In Spain, an actor was prosecuted in September for explicit comments insulting God and the Virgin Mary in Facebook posts that supported the procession of a giant model of female genitalia through the streets of Seville, mocking the Catholic tradition.

Spain’s penal code requires monetary fines for “publicly disparaging dogmas, beliefs, rites or ceremonies” of a religion, and include similar penalties for those who publicly disparage people without a religious faith.

Greek law maintains that “anyone who publicly and maliciously and by any means blasphemes the Greek Orthodox Church or any religion tolerable in Greece shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than two years.”

The Italian criminal code also includes provisions for “insulting the state religion,” however the government does not generally enforce the law against blasphemy.

In Thailand, the constitution calls for the state to “implement measures to prevent any forms of harm or threat against Buddhism” with potential punishment from two to seven years imprisonment.

In Pakistan, Catholic mother-of-five Asia Bibi was recently acquitted after spending eight years on death row. However, her life is still in danger, as the ruling is under government review as part of a deal to appease groups that were leading riots in the streets. And the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reports that at least 40 other people in Pakistan are either on death row or currently serving life sentences for blasphemy.

Nearly half of those facing the death penalty under Pakistan’s blasphemy law have been Christians in a country that is 97 percent Muslim.

“Bibi's case illustrates how blasphemy laws are used to persecute the weakest of the weak among Pakistan's religious minorities,” Religious Freedom Institute fellow Farahnaz Ispahani wrote earlier this year.

“As a poor Christian from a low caste, Bibi was among the most vulnerable and susceptible to discrimination. And the legal system -- which, in theory, should be designed to protect the innocent -- failed her in every way.”

 

Inmates building 250 confessionals for 2019 World Youth Day

Panama City, Panama, Nov 14, 2018 / 12:30 am (ACI Prensa).- Inmates from La Joya and Nueva Joya prisons have begun the construction of 250 confessionals to be used in the Sacrament of Reconciliation at World Youth Day in Panama in January 2019.

The confessionals will be set up in Omar Recreation Park in Panama City, which will be called “Forgiveness Park” during the youth event. In total, 35 inmates are working from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily, sanding, painting, and assembling the crosses and wooden confessionals.

Interior designer Lilibeth Bennet created different two models for the confessionals, both inspired by the WYD logo and using the same colors.

In an interview conducted by WYD organizers, the prisoners said that the project is not just “simple cabinetry work,” but allows them to contribute to a project aimed at young people who will be able to “take a different path” than they did.

“Even though we won't be able to be there (at World Youth Day) we still feel that we're doing something important, and I thank God for the opportunity he has given us as prisoners to contribute to a mission as important as World Youth Day,” explained Luis Dominguez, who is in charge of painting and supervising the sanding of the confessionals.

Jesús Ramos, another one of the inmates constructing the confessionals, said that even though he is an Evangelical, he is sure of the valuable contribution that World Youth Day is making to young people.

“I am grateful that they took me into account because I've learned how to use the tools here, to work based on respect and together toward the same goal…I feel included and happy to work for God,” he said.

The project coordinator for the prison system, Alma De León, explained that the work is being done with the support of an instructor from the National Institute for Professional Formation and Training for Human Development of Panama, and it is a way to demonstrate the capabilities of people in prison. 

Sharon Diaz, deputy director general secretary of the prison system, said that the inmates form “a single team, and they know the importance of working on a project as unique as this one, regardless of the faith they profess.”

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

#47: Our God is Logical

Dan and Kimmy are joined by Marcus Otte to discuss the objectivity of the moral law. Marcus explains how accepting any form of reason means accepting all forms of reason, including morality. Ultimately, this helps us understand God’s goodness through being good.

Blessed John Licci

John Licci is one of the longest living holy men of the Church. His 111 years on this earth in a small town near Palermo, Sicily, were filled with many miracles. His mother died during childbirth, and his father was a poor peasant who had to work the fields, and so was forced to leave John alone as an infant.  One day, a neighbor took the crying baby to her home to feed him. She laid the infant on the bed next to her paralyzed husband, and he was instantly cured.  After receiving the suggestion of Blessed Peter Geremia to enter religious life, John joined the Dominicans in 1415. He wore the habit for 96 years which is the longest known period for any religious.  He was ordained a priest and founded the convent of Saint Zita in his hometown, Caccamo. The entire construction of the convent is a story of miracles, from the location of the site to the very last wooden beam set in place. For example, one day when the workers ran out of materials, a large ox-drawn wagon filled with what they needed arrived at the building site. When roofbeams were cut too short, John would pray over them and they would stretch. There were also days when John miraculously multiplied bread and wine to feed the workers.  When John and two other Dominicans were attacked by bandits on the road, one of the bandits tried to stab John, but his hand withered and became paralyzed. The gang let the brothers go, then decided to ask for their forgiveness. John made the Sign of the Cross over them and the thief's hand was healed.  His blessings also caused the breadbox of a neighboring widow to stay miraculously full, feeding her and her six children. He prevented disease from coming to the cattle of his parishioners, and cured three people whose heads had been crushed in accidents. Consequently, he is the patron saint of head injuries. John was born in 1400 and died in 1511 of natural causes.

Wednesday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Ti 3:1-7

Beloved:
Remind them to be under the control of magistrates and authorities,
to be obedient, to be open to every good enterprise.
They are to slander no one, to be peaceable, considerate,
exercising all graciousness toward everyone.
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deluded,
slaves to various desires and pleasures,
living in malice and envy,
hateful ourselves and hating one another.

But when the kindness and generous love
of God our savior appeared,
not because of any righteous deeds we had done
but because of his mercy,
he saved us through the bath of rebirth
and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
whom he richly poured out on us
through Jesus Christ our savior,
so that we might be justified by his grace
and become heirs in hope of eternal life.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 23:1b-3a, 3bc-4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
He guides me in right paths
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Alleluia 1 Thes 5:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
In all circumstances, give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 17:11-19

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying,
"Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!"
And when he saw them, he said,
"Go show yourselves to the priests."
As they were going they were cleansed.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
"Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?"
Then he said to him, "Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you."
- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Intense debate over handling of abuse scandal ensues at USCCB meeting

Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2018 / 07:25 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- More than 20 bishops and cardinals offered passionate interventions during an open floor discussion on the sex abuse crisis at the U.S. bishops’ meeting in Baltimore on Tuesday afternoon.

More bishops wanted to speak, but due to time constraints, their comments were reserved for the next morning.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), opened the discussions with the announcement that he had created a “deliberately small” task force, comprised of himself and the former presidents of the USCCB.

The task force, which includes DiNardo and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, and Archbishop Wilton Gregory, will work closely with the committees of the conference to examine instances of abuse and mishandling of abuse cases, and their work will culminate in a report presented at the next bishops’ meeting in June, DiNardo said.

Afterwards DiNardo opened the floor to any comments on the task force or the issue of the sex abuse crisis at large.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, who has been barred from public ministry in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for the mishandling and cover-up of abuse cases involving minors and priests there, opened up the comments from the bishops, urging them to seek a greater collegiality amongst themselves as “brother bishops.”

He said the bishops should look to the example of St. Charles Borromeo, who said “we are not bishops alone or separate, we belong to a college and have a responsibility to it.”

He also encouraged bishops to pray more together and to consider establishing houses of prayer for priests and bishops, similar to one found in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Finally, he urged the bishops to “not allow outside influences to interfere with or attempt to break bonds of ecclesial union” that they have with each other.

Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico then gave a brief intervention, in which he suggested that bishops look to their priests to know how the faithful are reacting to the crisis and for any suggestions about possible solutions.

“It occurs to me that we might benefit from the wisdom of our brother priests, they are our closest collaborators, by tapping them in a more formal way,” he said.

Following Wester, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco then gave a long intervention in which he described what he has been hearing from Catholics in his area.

“We’ve heard how important it is to listen to our people, I’ve held listening sessions in my own Archdiocese” regarding the abuse scandal, he said.

From this listening, Cordileone said he has found that Catholics tend to fall in one of two camps regarding the abuse crisis: the first camp believes that the Church is not talking about the real problem, which is the prevalence homosexuality among the clergy and its correlation with abuse, he said.

The second camp believes that the real problem is an all-male hierarchy, “because women would never have allowed this to happen,” and therefore women must be invited in to all levels of the clergy.

Cordileone, who clarified that he was merely reporting what he found among his people, said that both conclusions are overly simplistic, but neither are without some merit.

“We do sometimes act as a good old boys club,” he said, with problems of “cronyism, favoritism, and cover-up.” He urged the bishops to find solutions to these “legitimate concerns” of Catholics in the second camp.

When considering the first camp, Cordileone cautioned against the “overly simplistic” conclusion that homosexuality causes sexual abuse. That “obviously cannot be true” he said, as some priests with homosexual tendencies faithfully serve the Church, while some heterosexually priests serve the Church poorly.

Still, the concern “has some validity,” he said, pointing to a recently-published study by Father D. Paul Sullins, a Catholic priest and retired Catholic University of America sociology professor. Sullins’ analysis found a rising trend in abuse, and argued that the evidence strongly suggests links between sexual abuse of minors and two factors: a disproportionate number of homosexual clergy, and the manifestation of a “homosexual subculture” in seminaries.

“The worst thing we could do is discredit this study so we can ignore or deny this reality,” Cordileone said. “We have to lean into it...to ignore it would be fleeing from the truth.”

The archbishop recommended further studies into the correlation between homosexuality and sexual abuse, one that avoids “quick and easy answers” and would attempt to find the root causes of this correlation.

Cordileone’s was the first intervention met with applause from many bishops.

Another California bishop, Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles, followed Cordileone’s comments by asking about the status of the Vatican investigation into the accusations against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and whether the bishops might “bring any respectful pressure to bear” to the Holy See on furthering the investigation.

DiNardo responded, saying that he knew that the four dioceses in which McCarrick had served had opened investigations, but he did not know of the status of a Vatican investigation on the matter.

In his intervention, Bishop Michael Burns of Guam asked about “meaningful constraints” on bishops accused of abuse, such as his predecessor Bishop Anthony S. Apuron, who was found guilty of sexual abuse of minors by a Vatican tribunal, but who has asked for an appeal.

“It’s been grating on the people of God” to have no concrete knowledge of the status of Apuron’s constraints, he said.

In his comments, Bishop Robert Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Illinois, said he agreed with an earlier suggestion of Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, that the remedy for the abuse crisis and accusations against bishops may already be found in the bishop’s charters and laws.

“People say the Church is hung up on sex, this is evidence of that,” he said regarding the debate about the sex abuse crisis. “We are capable of malfeasance in many other areas as well,” he said, and urged the bishops to consider more broadly the ways bishops may have gone wrong.

“I promised celibacy during (ordinations),” he added, “and I have to say I’m a little chagrined to be asked to sign something that says I will be accountable to certain standards.”

Bishop Andrew Cozzens of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said in his following intervention that he wished to see more fraternal correction among the bishops. He asked that bishops seek out the counsel of the bishops in their region if they are considering resigning, and also that bishops fraternally correct bishops in their region if they believe they should resign.

“I dream of a day when we as brothers are strong enough to say - we think you should resign, even if he’s not ready to hear that,” he said. “Those are difficult conversations to have, nobody wants to have them, but they can be very important.”

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, a “small rural area” with a minority Catholic population, gave a notably strong intervention, in which he asked the bishops to consider how McCarrick got to be in the positions that he was “if we really believed that what was going on was wrong?”

“It’s part of our deposit of faith that we believe homosexual activity is immoral,” he said. “How did he get promoted if we are all of one mind that this is wrong? Do we believe the doctrine of the Church or not?”

Strickland said that while homosexual people are “children of God who deserve great care” and not personal condemnation, the Church should teach clearly that homosexual actions are sinful, and help people move from sin to virtue.

“There’s a priest that travels around saying that he doesn’t (believe this teaching), and he’s well promoted in various places,” Strickland said. “Can that be presented in our dioceses? That same-sex marriage is just fine and that the Church may one day grow to understand that? That’s not what we teach.”

Strickland’s intervention was also followed by applause from numerous bishops.

Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane said he had heard from many concerned, faithful Catholic parents who want to encourage vocations in their children, but are growing impatient with a lack of answers on the abuse crisis from Church leadership.

It is a concern the bishops should “take very seriously,” he said. “My feeling is judging from their conversations, they’re running out of patience.”

DiNardo then commented that he personally reads “thousands” of letters that the “people of God” have sent to the USCCB.

“If there’s one thing that nags at everyone, it’s the Archbishop McCarrick thing,” he said. “It seems to be ubiquitous. This is the one that I think has to be addressed, it’s just bad for our people.”

In the next intervention, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, said he seconded an earlier suggestion from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, that metropolitan bishops be given greater authority over the bishops in their region and the ability to conduct their own reviews and investigations.

“We have an existing structure but it needs to be empowered,” he said. He also added that it should be clarified which accusations against bishops and clergy should be made public - those that are deemed credible, or those that have been further substantiated.

He added that the media “has been very negative” about the Church following the crisis and has perpetuated a “myth” that nothing has changed since the 2002 Dallas Charter, and that the bishops must do a better job speaking out about what has already changed.

Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, Neb., said in his intervention that the process for handling misconduct on the part of bishops must be made clear, transparent and expedient.

“How bishops are held accountable when there has been misconduct is not clear, it’s a process that happens sometimes, but it’s not timely, it’s not transparent,” he said.

He said that he was “very disappointed” by instructions from the Vatican to not hold votes on proposed changes, but said he saw it as an opportunity to be very clear with the Holy See about needs to be done at the meetings in February.

Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing, Michigan, gave a brief intervention in which he said he also favored the suggestions of strengthening the role of metropolitan bishops, and that it would likely be well-received in Rome.

Bishop Murry of Youngstown, Ohio said in his intervention that while lay people are angry, they want to help the Church, and the bishops should accept their help.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, Florida joked at the beginning of his comments that the bishops should be glad Donald Trump is president, otherwise the Church would be receiving even more attention and “bad press” than it already has.

He urged the bishops not to get “distracted” by the media, and not to give in to the “industry and addiction” of outrage. Most people are not hung up on the sex abuse crisis, he said.

“People are coming to Church, they're praying, they’re sending their kids to Catechism, the life of the Church is moving on. If you’re not reading the blogs, if you’re not watching cable TV, this is not front and center for most of our people,” he said.

“We’ve done a lot, we have to tell our story better and not get played in the outrage business and get back to what we’re supposed to be doing as pastors,” he said, to applause from some bishops.

Bishop George Thomas from Las Vegas followed Wenski, and said that he had heard from people who were “rightfully” angry and disappointed that the Vatican had put a hold on the votes of the bishop’s conference on any proposals regarding sex abuse.

“The perception is that justice delayed is justice denied,” he said. He said he still hoped the conference would hold an “advisory vote that reflects the gravity of the issue at hand, the urgency of the matter, the depth of the breach of trust…(in order to) remove a cancer and help heal this wound that is affecting so deeply the living body of Christ.”

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, where McCarrick had once served, provided an update on the two investigations ongoing in his diocese, which he said are moving along but can become complicated when they overlap.

He said the diocese is “committed” to sharing the findings with the Holy See. He added that if Catholic’s trust in the credibility of their bishops was so easily shattered by the sex abuse crisis, “what was there before? What was our credibility built on, that it could be so swept away?”

Cardinal William Levada, emeritus prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said in his intervention that the McCarrick situation may have been prevented if there were stronger investigations conducted when transferring bishops to different dioceses.

Bishop Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Missouri reiterated in his interventions the “necessity” of the laity, who could serve as a “tremendous resource” in responding to the abuse crisis.

Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Oregon, said the abuse crisis has caused him to “take a real good hard look at myself and how I’m living my life as a bishop in the Church today,” spiritually and pastorally.

“Have we lost sight about what our mission is truly all about?” he said. “Our mission is to sanctify the world,” through shepherding and being close to the people.

“Reform begins with us individually,” he said.

Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California said in his intervention that he disagreed with all of the proposals to strengthen the role of the metropolitan bishops, an effort which he said would be perceived by lay Catholics as too little, too late.

“Maybe that moment has passed and we’ve missed our opportunity to do that,” he said. “In the current time, the transparency and independent review seems to be more on the minds of the faithful. We have to continue to pursue what has been proposed by the committee.”

All other interventions were reserved for the following morning. Following an announcement about expected ice and snow, the bishops broke for the evening. Thursday is the final day for the fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which this year has focused almost exclusively on their response to the sex abuse crisis in the U.S. Church.

Alleged victim of Archbishop McCarrick speaks at rally outside USCCB meeting

Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2018 / 05:34 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- James Grein, the man who came forward this summer alleging he was abused for 18 years by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, appeared in public Tuesday for the first time and revealed his full name. Previously, the New York Times had identified him only as “James.”

Grein appeared at the Nov. 13 “Silence Stops Now” counter-rally organized by several groups critical of the bishops’ approach to addressing the sexual abuse crisis. The rally was held near the location of the USCCB’s Fall General Assembly in Baltimore.

Grein was visibly nervous taking the stage, where he delivered a short speech about his experience coming forward with his story, and received an extended standing ovation when he finished.

In July Grein came forward with his story to the New York Times. He said McCarrick began abusing him when he was 11 years old. At that time, McCarrick was 39 years old, and a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.  

This abuse continued for the next 18 years, he said, during which McCarrick was consecrated a bishop and served in the local Churches of New York, Metuchen, and Newark. In November 2000, he was appointed Archbishop of Washington, where he served the remainder of his career until his 2006 retirement. In 2001, McCarrick was elevated to the College of Cardinals. About a week after Grein’s allegation was published, McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals.

Grein credited the first survivor coming forward for giving him the strength to share his experience.

"That article would never have been written had it not been for a 16-year-old altar boy who accused McCarrick of abusing him," he said. After that survivor went public, and his claim was found to be credible, Grein said he felt as though “my time has come” and chose to share his story.

Previously, he felt there was “no place” for him to report his abuse, and that nobody would believe him even if he were to report it. Grein said he was motivated to go public Tuesday as a way to inspire other victims.

"I do this today so that others like me have the strength to come forward. Think about what you can do to help others. This movement must continue to gain strength,” he said.

“Our bishops must know that the jig is up.”

Grein said he believed that McCarrick’s punishment of a life of prayer and penance was a “necessary step” on the extended journey to “reform and reclaim the Church.” McCarrick is currently living in a monastery in Kansas until he is faces a canonical trial.

Despite his abuse, Grein said that he has continued to put his faith in Christ, and continues a regimen of prayer and fasting.

"Jesus' law is much higher than pontifical secrets,” he told the crowd.

“It’s not Francis' Church. It’s Jesus Christ's Church.”

USCCB discusses standards of conduct, independent commission

Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2018 / 04:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops have formally begun discussion of a new set of standards of conduct and a special commission to investigate accusations made against bishops.

The bishops, meeting in Baltimore for the fall general assembly of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, had hoped the two proposals would form the centerpiece of their response to the recent sexual abuse scandals.

After the Vatican intervened to prevent the measures being voted on, the bishops have chosen to proceed with discussion of the proposals even though they can no longer enact them.

Bishops have been invited to propose amendments to both documents for further discussion tomorrow but were given an initial opportunity to raise any questions or observations about the two draft documents.

Presenting the Standards of Accountability for Bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark told the conference Nov. 13 that a consensus among the conference members and the exercise of working through the provisions and amendments would be of definite assistance to the conference president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, when he travels to Rome in February to attend a meeting of the heads of world’s bishops’ conferences.

In what was perhaps an indication of the broad support for the Standards, no questions or observations were raised.

Many, including some familiar with the Vatican’s decision to prevent a vote by American bishops, have expressed surprise and confusion that the draft Standards were included in the Congregation for Bishops’ injunction against voting to adopt new measures since they appeared to contain no obvious conflicts with Church law or controversial provisions.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit presented the draft proposal for the creation of a special commission to examine accusations against bishops.

In his introduction, Vigneron said that the initial goal had been to present the conference with a substantial outline for the new entity, though leaving some of the details unresolved to allow for collaborative discussions during the Baltimore meeting. The original aim was to arrive at a final plan by June 2019. Now, he conceded, it was “much harder to predict” what final results would now be possible.

Despite clear, if unelaborated, concerns by the Holy See about the plan, Vigneron said the commission was “designed to avoid infringing upon the jurisdiction of local bishops or the Holy See” and was intended to be a resource of “expertise and independence” available to both.

Spelling out how the new body would function, he told the conference that complaints would be received by the commission through a third-party reporting mechanism, with civil law enforcement being immediately informed if they regarded the abuse of minors.

The commission would look into each complaint, having first informed the apostolic nuncio in Washington. Following each complaint, there would be an investigation producing a “substantial report” which would be given to the nuncio to “do with as he sees fit,” comparing it to the conclusions of a diocesan lay review board.

The nine-member commission would have six lay men and women and three clergy, including experts in law enforcement, civil and canon law, psychology and social work. It would also include a woman religious and a clerical abuse survivor as members. Further experts and consultants would be taken on as the case load demanded.

Vigneron said that the independent body would be registered as an independent not-for-profit organization with a board of directors and produce an annual report detailing how many cases it investigated each year. He also explained that, as part of its independence from the bishops’ conference, the commission would be funded through contributions by dioceses directly, with an expected annual cost projected of $500,000, plus expenses for individual investigations.

While being itself totally independent, Vigneron underscored that the authority of local bishop would be respected, saying the work of the commission would not “over-ride the will of the bishop but rely on his consent” to work in the diocese of each complaint.

During an extended question and answer session, a number of bishops raised questions about the proposals as they were presented.

Archbishop Sample raised the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, which he said appeared to show that the breakdown in the current system took place at the level of the nunciature, with allegations either not being forwarded to Rome, or not being acted upon when they arrived there.

Sample noted that “we can do whatever we want here but there needs to be a partnership with the Holy See” so that allegations were not “swept under the rug.”

Archbishop Wenski of Miami noted that the active support of the nuncio was crucial; otherwise the plan would be “an exercise in futility.”

Several bishops seemed to speak against creation of the commission all together.

Bishop Gerald Kicanas told the conference that “we already have a process” and that proposals were “adding something that doesn’t have a particular purpose.”

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago suggested that the plan was unnecessary and separated the process from “the life of the Church.” “We already have a system [to handle accusations against bishops] through metropolitans,” he told the bishops. He called the proposed commission a way of “outsourcing” problems instead of “taking responsibility for ourselves.”

Archbishop Vigneron responded to Cupich, saying that the commission was “a form of assistance” for bishops and “an act of communion, engaged in mutual communion to support one another.”

Vigneron told Cupich it would function “in harmony with each of us as bishops exercising governance.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia raised a similar point, noting that the existing structures organized around metropolitan archbishops could provide a more cost-effective option but would simply not be feasible without a strengthened canonical authority for metropolitan bishops.

Chaput said it was the conclusion of the executive committee that it might be easier to get Roman approval for a whole new structure than a change in canon law to make this possible.

Bishop Anthony DiMarzio of Brooklyn offered the last observation of the discussion, noting that the confidentialy or publicity of the process was a serious concern. He said that the lesson to be drawn from the treatment of many priests publicly accused of abuse but later found innocent was that a person’s good name often could not be recovered.

DiMarzio said that the proposed commission was bound to do everything possible to restore an innocent bishop’s good name, this would likely prove an impossible task.

The discussion of both proposals will continue tomorrow, by which time bishops will have submitted proposed amendments to the plans.

Jesuits in western U.S. to name members credibly accused of abuse

Portland, Ore., Nov 13, 2018 / 04:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- More names of clergy and religious accused of sex abuse are set to come out this December from a western U.S. province of the Society of Jesus, which says the decision to name the credibly accused is an effort for transparency that supports victims.

The province includes the territory of the former Oregon Province, which declared bankruptcy due to abuse lawsuits in 2009.

“While the vast majority of these offenses occurred in the past, the People of God rightly demand and deserve transparency on the part of Church leadership,’ Father Scott Santarosa, S.J., provincial of the U.S.A. West Province of the Society of Jesus, said Nov. 9. “Such transparency is important to support victims in their healing and to rebuild trust in the Church.”

He said the province will release the names of Jesuits credibly accused of sex abuse since 1950. The list is presently being compiled and is planned for a Dec. 7 release. The province will also engage an external review to ensure the completeness of the list and to ensure that previous allegations were handled properly.

“If the review identifies additional names of Jesuits with credible allegations of abuse, we will release those names as well,” he said.

The Portland, Ore.-based province presently has 484 Jesuits, a spokesperson for the West Province told CNA. Its priests and brothers serve throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Its territory includes the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. The province was created in a 2017 merger of the California and Oregon provinces.

“On behalf of the Society of Jesus, I apologize to victims and their families,” Santarosa continued. “There is no greater betrayal of pastoral care than the abuse of a minor by someone with a sacred duty to protect and care for the People of God.”

Santarosa said the Church in the U.S. has been “reeling” since the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report. That report named 300 priests from six dioceses who had been credibly accused of sex abuse of 1,000 children and underage teens going back decades.

Saying that the Catholic Church in the U.S. has since undergone “significant reform,” he added, “we are now called to deepen that reform by becoming more transparent.” He said the Jesuit province hopes that issuing the list of accused clergy and religious and calling for an independent review will offer victims and their families “a step forward in the healing process.”

“Since 2002, Jesuits have enforced stringent policies to ensure the safety of minors,” Santarosa said. He encouraged anyone who has felt victimized by a Jesuit to contact both the province’s victim advocacy coordinator and the appropriate law enforcement and child protection agencies.
“I ask you to pray for the victims of abuse and for our Church,” Santarosa concluded. “May we find in this moment the courage to move forward with integrity, transparency and accountability.”

Santarosa said his conversations with abuse survivors have been “moments of grace as I encounter people of courage and conviction, people who realize that although the Church has failed them, God never will.”

As of 2015, there were 2,325 members of the Society of Jesus in the U.S., a decline from 7,628 in 1970, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reported in its Fall 2015 newsletter.

In February 2009 the Oregon Province filed for bankruptcy soon after 200 claims of sex abuse of primarily Alaskan children were pending or threatened against the province. Before filing for bankruptcy, the province had settled more than 200 claims for about $84 million, the Seattle Times reported.

At the time, the province had 235 Jesuit priests and brothers across Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington state.

In 2011 the province agreed to pay $166.1 million to about 500 abuse victims, many of whom were Native Americans or Alaska Natives, as part of its bankruptcy settlement. About two dozen of the victims were physically abused, while about 480 suffered sex abuse.

About $48.1 million of the settlement came from the Jesuits themselves, with the rest coming from insurance companies. About $6 million of that settlement was set aside for victims who could come forward in the future.

Worldwide, the Society of Jesus has about 17,000 priests and brothers worldwide. It is the largest men’s religious order in the Church. Their numbers peaked in 1965 at 36,000.